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vmnfafnaFethullah Gülen was born into a humble family in Erzurum, Turkey, in 1941 , and was raised in a spiritually enriching environment. He attended a public elementary school for three years but could not continue due to the appointment of his father to a village where there was no public school. He later obtained his diploma by self-studying and passing a comprehensive examination. His religious education consisted of studies in classical Islamic sciences such as Qur’anic recitation and memorization, exegesis (tafseer), Arabic language, Prophetic Tradition (hadith) as well as the spiritual tradition of Islam (tasawwuf), which he studied under renown scholars and spiritual masters around his hometown such as Muhammed Lutfi Efendi of Alvar.

During the 1950s Fethullah Gülen completed his religious education and training under various prominent scholars and Sufi masters leading to the traditional Islamic ijaza (license to teach). This education was provided almost entirely within an informal system, tacitly ignored and unsupported by the state and running parallel to its education system. At the same time, Fethullah Gülen pursued and completed his secondary level secular education through external exams. In the late fifties, he came across compilations of the scholarly work Risale-i Nur (Epistles of Light) by Said Nursi but never met its famous author.

After passing an exam administered by the Turkish State’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet Isleri Baskanligi) in 1958, he was awarded a state preacher license and began to preach and teach in Edirne, a province on the European part of the country. In this period of his youth, he had the opportunity to deepen his knowledge in the Islamic tradition, informally study social and natural sciences, and examine the classics of both Eastern and Western philosophy and literature. Among the historic figures who had the most impact on his intellectual life we can mention Abu Hanifa, Ghazali, Imam Rabbani, Rumi,...
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