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Necmettin Erbakan: Father of the Turkish Evolution

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On the 27th of February 2011, an 86 year old Turkish man died in a hospital in Istanbul. However, he was no ordinary person. Necmettin Erbakan was one of the great Muslim leaders of the last century and a reviver of Islam in Turkey. The son of an Ottoman Qadi, Necmettin was born into a turbulent and unsettled world. The Ottoman Empire that had ruled large parts of the Muslim world for five centuries had just been dismembered and the Caliphate was abolished 2 years before he was born. His pious family were now faced with an entirely new reality – the aggressive militant secularism of Mustafa Kemal.

Within a few tumultuous years, Turkey had gone from being the last bastion of the Islamic world to a strange land where the absolute majority were Muslims but the adhan was banned in Arabic, Medrasa were closed down and all displays of faith disparaged. The fez and the veil were discarded as if they were chains holding back the march of progress. [1] The emphasis on Muslim unity was replaced with an even greater emphasis on Turkish Nationalism. To top it all off, the one-time Ghazi (or Islamic Warrior) Mustafa Kemal had now transformed himself into a “benevolent” dictator who was infallible, cultivating an increasingly extreme personality cult. [2]

The Turkey that Erbakan grew up in was one in which it was profoundly disadvantageous to be a man of faith, yet this did not dent his zeal. In his years at University, he used to lead the prayers for the few students who still followed even the most fundamental tenets of Islam. Interestingly, his colleague who performed the duties of the muezzin was Suleyman Demirel, who would go on to become the President of Turkey as well as an implacable foe. Soon after graduating as a mechanical engineer, Erbakan set forth his vision of a post-Kemalist Turkey that would return to the religion of Islam in a manifesto called “The National View.” [3]

He founded a party by the same name to help bring about this transformation. The party began to gain popularity and just as it was about to achieve critical mass, it was banned.

He then set up another political party with the same aim, but this too was banned. Undaunted, Erbakan picked himself up and started the process again. This time, due to infighting between the other parties, he actually got to become Prime Minister. However, the military elite decided that they could not tolerate a leader who openly believed in promoting brotherhood and cooperation between Muslims at home and abroad. Just over a year after he became Prime Minister, they sent in the tanks and forced him out. [4] Erbakan was back to square one again.

But Erbakan was more than just a politician with an Islamic outlook. In a lifetime of struggle and sacrifice, he kept the flame of Islam burning during the darkest days of the secular repression. His regular Islamic speeches and refusal to be cowed by intimidation, lifetime bans, and military coups showed to his countrymen and the world that not all Turks had abandoned the faith of their forefathers. Perhaps another leader would have been tempted to give up or turn to violence. The fact that Erbakan never despaired of raising Islam to its rightful place at the heart of the Turkish nation speaks volumes about his faith and determination.

Today, the President and Prime Minister of Turkey are his former students [5] and Turkey moves ever closer to taking its rightful place at the heart of the Muslim world. All this would have been unthinkable before a young engineering graduate decided that he must begin the process of change in his society. Necmettin Erbakan had his shortcomings; however, it is impossible to imagine the evolution in the psyche of the Turkish nation without him. Lest we become complacent, his final words, “work hard” were a reminder to his followers that the process of changing the situation of the Muslim Ummah is just beginning. May Allah have mercy on the soul of Necmettin Erbakan who earned his name “star of the faith.”

Dr. Muhammad Wajid Akhter - Doctor, Medical Tutor (Social Media, History & Medicine) - Islamic Historian - Founder of, and current board member to Charity Week for Orphans and needy children. www.charityweek.com - Council member, British Islamic Medical Association

19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Musa

    June 7, 2011 at 3:25 AM

    Great article… May Allah bless the man and the people in turkey working for Islam… I guess the current Turkish prime minister is one of the best Muslim rulers in this time. He is strengthening Turkey’s Muslim relations, and has visionary foreign policy.

  2. Avatar

    Abu Kamel

    June 7, 2011 at 4:16 AM

    As salam alaikum

    May Allah forgive him of his wrongdoings and misguidance and have mercy on him.

    It is unbecoming to speak poorly of the dead, but the matter of Erbakan politics should be made public as they currently affect how Muslims around the world percieve politics.

    Erbakan deemed it was necessary to work within the existing political system of Turkey to bring about change. This, except that Turkey’s system was strategically designed to resist Islam, to repress it, to halt its natural growth. Erbakan stepped down when the military ordered him to despite being elected by a majority. This showed his willingness to avoid harming Muslim people. But it also shows that the system of Turkey was NOT worthy of compliance and obedience as it stood.

    In this instance, when the Prophet Muhammad (saaw) was offered all kinds of worldly powers in exchange for his compromise and compliance with Jahili Makkan system, he refused. He refused t comply with a system designed to oppress, to spread corruption, to perpetrate association with Allah.

    This is the correct methodology of political action. Compliance with tyranny, oppression, corruption does not serve the cause of Islam.

    From Allah we come, to Allah we return.

    • Avatar

      Usama

      June 7, 2011 at 6:40 PM

      As Salamu Alaikum,

      If you try to overthrow the system and you fail, you and your followers will face a great deal of harm. Many times in this world you simply have to work within the system until you are strong enough to offer an alternative.

      Usama

      • Avatar

        Kashif H

        June 7, 2011 at 9:17 PM

        Nobody should have been protesting in Tahrir Square in Egypt then, since they could have faced “great harm” in doing so.

      • Avatar

        Abu Kamil

        June 8, 2011 at 5:27 AM

        Nobody should be protesting in Syria or bahrain then, since they will face “great harm” in doing so.

        • Avatar

          Usama

          June 8, 2011 at 6:44 PM

          The difference between Turkey, and other countries such as Egypt and Syria, is that in Turkey, Islamists weren’t always the majority, or even a respectable minority–Kemalism and Secularism was embraced by a lot of people, and Islam’s basis was effectively eroded, so many Turks lost attachment to it. If there was a revolution, very few people would have been a part of it, it would have been crushed immediately and suffered a further greater setback.

          Because Muslims in Turkey have been working within the system all these years, and not engaging in open rebellion, change has come and Islam is becoming a respectable presence.

          And by the way, don’t think for one second that what has happened in Egypt is a good thing–Egypt is full of fasad. Moreover, the military is extremely powerful at the moment, and trampling on people’s rights.

    • Avatar

      ZAI

      June 8, 2011 at 5:38 PM

      Didn’t Rasulallah agree to the Hudaibiyyah truce that contained many clauses unfavorable to Muslims? Didn’t many Sahabah, including Umar(R), not see the wisdom in it at the time but realize it later on? Was his strategic vision and wisdom not eventually realized when Makkah fell?

      Incremental change is NOT a negative thing necessarily.
      If the system allows for it and one can also avoid violence, anarchy and civil war…why is it not better to change the system that way?

      Unfair to compare the situation in Turkey over the century to straight out brutal dictatorships like Egypt, Bahrain or Tunisia. Incremental change is/was not POSSIBLE there because the uncle at the top would resort to crushing protests as in Syria or Bahrain, or throwing people in jail enmasse and rigging elections as in Egypt.

      Turkey has MANY flaws, but it is still a real democracy where governments can be peacefully changed and incremental slow progress made through the system. They’ve been moving in a positive direction: Erdogan is freeing up the public arena and introducing many laws to protect the rights of religious people and end discrimination against them and he is also slowly and steadily sidelining the secular ideologues in the military or opposition from carrying out coups or interfering in government. They are even going to amend the constitution to reflect the changes, a mandate by about 70% of the Turkish population that plans to vote the AKP back to power.

      Incremental progress within the system is not a bad thing if the system allows for it to be done. Even if it’s a struggle and we won’t see its fruits in our lifetimes, perhaps our children or their children will…and that’s preferable to anarchy and civil war. Fighting or mass rebellion where hundreds or thousands will die should be a last resort and taken only in places like Syria, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, etc. where there is ZERO chance the dictator will allow any change…

  3. WAJiD

    WAJiD

    June 7, 2011 at 9:29 AM

    Asalaam alaikum brother Abu Kamel,

    JazakAllah khairun for your comment. I actually agree with what you are saying.

    However, for the general public, the aim of the article was to inform them of someone who had worked hard for the cause of Islam (in the way he felt was best) and perhaps inspire them to do likewise inshaAllah.

  4. Avatar

    BrownS

    June 7, 2011 at 9:56 AM

    Very interesting article. Jazakallahu khair. I’ve always been fascinated with this man.

  5. Avatar

    HFZ SP

    June 7, 2011 at 2:16 PM

    Having just returned from Turkey, I, together with my friends were disgusted and saddened to see the state of Islam in an Islamic country. The Islamic environment, we thought was a million miles away from being islamic. However, after reading about its modern Islamic history, it must be said the Islamic state of the country is also a million miles further away from the Islam during the time of Ataturk. So overall, Alhumdulillah, Alhumdulillah the country is heading in the right direction regardless of its pace.

    P.S it was sickening to see the hundreds of Turkish flags with the face of a man who caused unimaginable damage to Islam. Although not as pertinent as practising the Islam, who knows, maybe in the next century the government may ban his face from flags and replace it with someone who deserves to be like Necmettin Erbakan. (may Allah reward him abundantly, ameen)

    • Avatar

      Abu Kamil

      June 8, 2011 at 5:34 AM

      Having just returned from Turkey, I, together with my friends were disgusted and saddened to see the state of Islam in an Islamic country’

      Turkey is NOT an Islamic country
      It is a SECULAR country
      secularism is enshrined in the constitution
      in fact, most turkish political parties (even islamist like AK or Refah) have to give allegiance to a secular state and secularism, just like the president does when he gives the oath of office.
      Turkey is NOT Saudi Arabia or Iran…Its not even a pakistan or malaysia (where islam is only state religion)

      • Avatar

        HFZ SP

        June 8, 2011 at 9:52 AM

        Yes secularism maybe enshrined in its constitution without a state religion but only because of Ataturk and his efforts to make it as such, had another guy with a religious side such as Necmettin Erbakan or even Recep Tayyip Erdogan it may have been different. The majority (more than 90%) of the Turks are muslim so there should still be some form of an islamic environment and it is because of the huge % of muslim in Turkey which make me and many others consider Turkey to be a Muslim country.

  6. Avatar

    Nahyan

    June 7, 2011 at 6:39 PM

    That was very insightful.

    May Allah reward him and continue to improve the state of Turkey and its people

  7. Avatar

    Carlos

    June 7, 2011 at 7:21 PM

    I do not profess to be a scholar of Turkish politics, society or culture, but I do know some things about Turkey. It is unique in being a Muslim nation with an openly secular state. I believe that commitment to state secularism, an idea that has done so much to maintain peace and justice, and to advance humanity in the Western world, is part of the reason why Turkey is more economically, politically and socially developed than most other countries in the “Muslim World.” The Muslim World should be proud of Turkey, or at least respectful of it. The Turkish experiment is admirable, and reflects well on Islam. The Turkish experience shows that state secularism and Islam are not necessarily incompatible.

    Turkey’s commitment to secularism, however, was taken too far, when its military interfered with democracy by nullifying the results of fair elections. The military should stay out of governing. While secularism in government is an important component of freedom, justice and human dignity, democracy is also important. People need to feel they have a fair say in governing themselves, or they might not respect the rule of law, and might not accept the results of elections that their side loses. If political change cannot be accomplished through peaceful means, what happens? Anybody?

    Any party that seeks to gain and maintain power through peaceful means should be allowed to make its case to the voters, and to engage in and even win free and fair elections, even if that party is one that advocates theocracy. And if Islamic governments make Turkey more of a theocracy, that is okay, as long as the freedoms of individuals are respected, as long as the theocracy does not seek to undermine the democracy that put it in power, and as long as is does not seek to maintain its power through force. All governments must respect the will of the majority and the rights of individuals, and a religious government is no exception. The alternative is dictatorship, the loss of freedom and human dignity, and, potentially, conflict.

    • Avatar

      Drm

      June 9, 2011 at 11:55 PM

      Well, you were right about one thing, you’re not a scholar of Turkish politics. In fact your opinions are largely based on pro-western nonsense. Here’s a newsflash, the overwhelming majority of Muslim countries are failed secular(including Saudi Arabia) banana republics which were carved out by Europe. Ataturk was not even a Muslim, but a sabbtean Jew of the Donmeh tribe, much like the rest of the “young Turks” which played a key role in the destruction of Armenian population and the Ottoman Khilafa.
      Learn some real history for a change.

      http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2633759824917228395#

      • Avatar

        Carlos

        June 11, 2011 at 3:44 PM

        Drm, with all due respect, how can you seriously write that Saudi Arabia is a secular state? Non-Islamic places of worship are illegal there. State-enforced sharia is practiced there probably more strongly than almost anywhere else in the world, including even public corporal punishment. Women are not even allowed to drive a car or go anywhere without a male relative. And, if SA is a banana republic, then they must have a whole lot of bananas to be able to afford all the things they can afford. I presume you are implying the US really controls SA. I find that hard to believe, considering SA is overflowing with oil and money, and the US practically has to go to SA with hat in hand, asking for both. And to call the most powerful and absolute monarchy in the world a “republic” is ironic.

        True, some of the borders in the Middle East were drawn by European colonial powers, but how much influence have European countries had in that region since World War II? I have been to the ME, and I would hardly describe the society and government I witnessed there as being secular. Of course, one does not need to physically go somewhere to learn about it. If that were the case, only Neal Armstrong and a handful of other American astronauts would know anything about the Moon, and nobody would know anything about the other planets, stars and galaxies. One can learn plenty about the Middle East from books, newspapers, magazines, internet, etc. I have read much in my life, and little of it suggests, to me, that the majority of Muslim countries are actually secular republics.

        I just read the Wikipedia articles on Ataturk and the Young Turks, and did not see anything indicating they were Jewish, other than a reference to Ataturk’s religious opponents accusing him of being a secret Jew (which sounds suspiciously like the way some American nationalists accuse Obama of being a secret Muslim, despite there being no evidence of that).
        Even if, for the sake of argument, Ataturk’s ancestry might possibly have contained some people who were Jewish by ethnicity or religious persuasion, what does that have to do with what we are discussing? I thought we were discussing secularism in Turkey, not Judaism in Turkey. I am having trouble understanding what you are trying to communicate.

        You imply that I am more ignorant of Turkish history than you, but your posting does not provide any enlightenment on the subject, either for me or for the other readers. I would go to the video link you provide, but my computer does not have a sound card. :-(

  8. Avatar

    Serhat

    June 10, 2011 at 4:54 AM

    Esselamu Aleykum ve Rahmetullah ve Berakatuh,
    Hayr Fridays to all Muslim brothers and sisters.

    This is Serhat from Istanbul – Turkey [Masters Degree in Computer Science – New York]

    I see you guys talking about Muslims of Turkey. I would like to give my opinion as well. Man count is nothing. Quantity is not important. What important is that true believers. Imagine a country with 100 million people or more but people are so called Muslim. They drink alcohol or they do zina they talk behind each other and they don’t stick together against Kufr. On the other hand if there is a small country or small group in a country with people obey Allah c.c. and Prophet Muhammad s.a.v. its a lot more precious then first example.
    I would like to remind this Ayah to all of you:
    Sure: Baqara 2-249:
    So when Talut departed with the forces, he said: Surely Allah will try you with a river; whoever then drinks from it, he is not of me, and whoever does not taste of it, he is surely of me, except he who takes with his hand as much of it as fills the hand; but with the exception of a few of them they drank from it. So when he had crossed it, he and those who believed with him, they said: We have today no power against Jalut and his forces. Those who were sure that they would meet their Lord said: How often has a small party vanquished a numerous host by Allah’s permission, and Allah is with the patient.

    Talut was heading fight with greater enemy. And Allah c.c. even eliminated munafiqs withing them.
    Now Talut has even smaller army but ALL TRUE BELIEVERS and we know who won the war.

    Now Turkey has changed over the last decades. Thanks to Mahmut Ustaosmanoglu (Efendi Hazretleri) leader of Nakshibendi Tariqah and other Tariqah leaders.
    Now thousands of his followers follows shariah and sunnah. They wear hijabs and men are in proper dresses gown etc. Please see 2011 umrah picture:
    http://img197.imageshack.us/img197/2981/mahmudefendihazretleri2.jpg

    This is important because for decades we were pushed away from Islam and forced to cut bears change dresses etc. They collected qurans. They forbid everything about Islam. Now Elhamdulillah we are coming back.
    Key is the Shariah. If we live Shariah then we will live the life we deserve.

    Little info about Turkey and Islam.
    As you all know Turkey is in the middle of eastern and western world. Land of Turkey has been attracted by khafirs for centuries. So we have had more pressure then other Muslim worlds. Recently western world started playing with mid-east and you all see what is happening. But this game has been played on us for centuries. Now looking back and i see every place Ottoman Empire lost having a chaos such as Palestine, Chechnya, Bosnia etc…
    Because Islam lost its amir al-mumin. And Muslims could not stick together. They fought with each other and who won ? Others.

    We have to live shariah and we have to love each other. Islam is hard to live and follow alone. Join a group but make sure they follow shariah.

    Esselamu Aleykum

  9. Avatar

    truthbetold

    June 23, 2011 at 2:03 AM

    What kind of a Muslim collects money (10 mio DM) for the cause of Bosnia, deposits it in a bank and consumes riba? Erbakan’s right hand man, Mercumek, did that in 1994.

    Erbakan’s “Lost Trillion” Case:
    In 2003 Erbakan was sentenced to two years and four months for falsifying documents to cover up the misuse of state funds granted to his Welfare Party.

    Islam in Turkey means only a means to gain worldly power. Never mind the official Muslim rate 99% or the 50% of the votes in the last 3 elections for the “Muslim” parties. The real practicing Muslims (who have at least established the salah i.e. 5 daily prayers on time!!!) are around 1-3 % of the population. Unfortunately we have never understood and appreciated Allah Azza wa Jal’s deen so we elect only munafiqun as our leaders and follow the kuffar down the lizard’s hole. If neither a mu’adhin calls the adhan nor the imam gets up for fajr because of a stupid football match and nobody shows up at the mosque except the one who almost missed it, what else can I say?

    May Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala forgive us and have mercy on us. Without Him we are truly lost!

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