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A Life OF Hizmet by Jon Pahl Book Signing Event


Fethullah Gulen is an Islamic scholar, preacher and social advocate, whose decades-long commitment to education, altruistic community service, and interfaith harmony has inspired millions in Turkey and around the world. Described as one of the world’s most important Muslim figures, Gulen has reinterpreted aspects of Islamic tradition to meet the needs of contemporary Muslims. He has dedicated his life to interfaith and intercultural dialogue, community service and providing access to quality education. He was the first influential Muslim public figure to publicly condemn the 9/11 attacks and express sympathy for the American people.

Gulen’s lifelong work on interfaith cooperation has earned him recognition from Christian and Jewish leaders in his homeland Turkey and a personal audience with the late Pope John Paul II. He is also the recipient of New York-based East West Institute’s 2011 peace award. His efforts have also been praised by other global leaders who recognize his vital role in fostering mutual understanding and peace as well as his leadership in humanitarian initiatives. In 2008, Gulen was ranked among top 100 in Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines’ joint poll of the “Top 100 Public Intellectuals.” In April 2015, he was awarded with 2015 Gandhi King Ikeda Peace Award by Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel at Morehouse College in recognition of his life-long dedication to promoting peace and human rights.

Gulen currently lives in relative solitude at a retreat facility in Pennsylvania, where he dedicates his time to reading, writing and personal worship, and to promoting shared values, dialogue and peace. Despite living in a remote retreat center in Pennsylvania, Gulen continues to be a source of inspiration for hundreds of thousands of people across the globe.

In the popular media, Gulen is often remembered with the dispute in his homeland, Turkey, especially after the brutal crackdown on his followers in the aftermath of the coup attempt in July 2016. However, the story of Gulen’s upbringing and rise to global recognition has seldom been explored. In the first-ever authorized biography, "Fethullah Gulen: A Life of Hizmet; Why A Muslim Scholar in Pennsylvania Matters to the World," author Jon Pahl offers a new spotlight on Gulen’s rise from a young boy in a tiny Turkish village to a scholar whose teachings have generated a movement of education and interfaith dialogue.

Jon Pahl takes us on a journey where we discover wisdom and controversy, from 1940's Turkey to the U.S. in the twenty-first century. Pahl tells the story of a pious Muslim boy from a tiny and remote Turkish village who on the one hand has inspired a global movement of millions of individuals dedicated to literacy, social enterprise, and interreligious dialogue, but who on the other hand has been monitored by Turkish police, seen as a threat by autocrats, and recently declared number one enemy by the current Turkish dictator. With lively prose and extensive research, Pahl traces Fethullah Gulen's life and thought in its contexts, states clearly his own positions, and then lets readers draw their own conclusions from the evidence about this undeniably significant historical figure.

Dr. Pahl weaves Gulen’s fascinating life into a narrative marked by five key elements, patterns, or relationships in Gülen’s life: integrity of participation in the nonviolent practices of Islam; principled pluralism—manifest in a commitment to dialogue; engaged empathy—deep feeling for the suffering of the world, and willingness to engage on behalf of alleviating that suffering; a commitment to spiritual and scientific literacy; and an organizational model of social enterprise.

Drawing on extensive interviews from supporters and critics, Pahl offers an analytical account into Gulen’s life, whose work and activism continues to stir controversy in the Turkish presidential palace, the Middle East and beyond. Though many of Gulen’s followers venerate him, others perceive him as a controversial political figure. In this insightful new book, Pahl explores these dueling identities. In the midst of Turkey’s harsh crackdown on dissent and press freedom, comes a one-of-a-kind book exploring the life and mission of Erdogan’s most despised enemy.

Dr. Pahl, a strong believer of religions as catalysts for peace, crafts through the story of Gülen and the Hizmet Movement an introduction to Islam for non-Muslim readers, for the questions he brings to Gülen’s life story are also the questions others bring to Islam more broadly. In this perspective, this will be a great opportunity for Salt Lake community to engage with the author directly, learn more about the movement in the proposed book signing event. We believe that both the academic interest from various backgrounds such as history, religious studies, sociology and the general interest from communities that engages in interfaith dialogue will be very high. 


Jon Pahl is the Peter Paul and Elizabeth Hagan Professor of the History of Christianity in North America and Director of MA Programs for The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, and has been Visiting Professor at Temple University and Princeton University. 

Dr. Pahl received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago Divinity School, where he studied with noted historian Martin E. Marty. Jon is the author or editor of seven books, and has spoken to audiences from Ankara, Turkey to Anaheim, California. He has appeared on media outlets from the BBC to ABC, and was featured in a documentary film, Malls R Us, which had its world premiere at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. 

Jon lives with his wife, Lisa, in the Mt. Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia, where he enjoys sports, gardening, and playing the saxophone with various jazz and rhythm and blues bands. Jon and Lisa have three grown children and one grandson.


Emerald Hills Institute aligns with the ideas of the transnational social movement called Hizmet, which means “service” in Turkish. The Hizmet movement is a worldwide civic initiative rooted in the spiritual and humanistic tradition of Islam and inspired by the ideas and activism of Mr. Fethullah Gülen.

The movement is dedicated to literacy, social enterprise and interreligious dialogue. The movement funds thousands of schools and religious centers throughout the world, championing Islam’s commitment to spiritual and scientific literacy. This transnational movement is a centerpiece of social and political discussion in Turkey and around the world.

The movement finds its meaning in the principle that service to humanity. It is a faith-inspired, non-political, cultural and educational movement whose basic principles stem from Islam’s universal values, such as love of the creation, sympathy for the fellow human, compassion, and altruism. The movement is not a governmental or state sponsored organization. It focuses on the betterment of the individual toward a positive change in society. The movement is distinguished for its support of democracy, its openness to globalization, its progressiveness in integrating tradition with modernity, and its humanistic outlook. Mr. Gülen himself describes it as “a movement of people united around high human values,” and disapproves of the attribution of the movement to his name.