Interviewer: Seyhmus Nayir / World Bulletin
'Verily, I am Allah. There is no god but I: So serve thou Me (only), and establish regular prayer for My remembrance.' Allah says to people in Surah Ta-ha: 14. A civil initiative was started under the name of Platform of Prayer Volunteers with the participation of many people including Turkish authors, journalists, academicians and those from art world, who see this verse as a guide of their own. The platform whose aim is just to give people the happiness and consciousness of performing prayer reminded people of Allah’s command by organizing more than 70 conferences and meetings within six months. Platform of Prayer Volunteers is a formation that combines just as 'prayer movement for prayer', shows people the social dimension of prayer along with the inherent dimension and also whose common purpose is love for prayer. People not only home but also from places like Cyprus and Germany come to the platform and say they want the platform to give a conference to them. Even the platform is very surprised at such intensive interest and support. They make such an assessment, 'The first step towards clean community is to reach the consciousness of prayer.' We talked to Abdullah Yıldız, spokesman of the platform for World Bulletin.
When was the Platform of Prayer Volunteers established?
We gathered with the authors, who have written books whose topic is about the spirit and essence of prayer and we can call them 'the books for prayer consciousness', rather than how to perform prayer approximately one year ago. My book called 'Prayer, an Action of Unity' was published in 1991. Moreover, the author Vehbi Karakas has books called 'Why Prayer', 'What Kind of Prayer'. There is a book called 'How to Get up for Morning Prayer' selling nearly one million copies, whose author is Cemil Tokpınar, one of the founders of the platform. The others are 'Consciousness of Prayer' of Hasan Buyur, 'Prayer My Light' of Mehmet Goktas, 'Prayer/ The miracle stopping minds' of Kerim Buladı, 'Prayer, the call to resurgence' of Ahmet Bulut etc. We as the authors of these books gathered and decided to start a move. Because it is not enough just to write a book. It is very necessary effectively to be introduced what is in these books to people. We have to give an impressive presentation to the community especially the young in order to make them persuade of the necessity of prayer by using every possible means including meetings, radio and TV. Teaching people how to perform prayer takes only a few hours whereas it requires longer time and bigger effort to make it liked and tell the importance, necessity and indispensability of the prayer, which is the actual important matter. We came together and talked about what to do. In the end, we decided to start our activity by making a statement to the public on 19, August 2006 a day before blessed night of Miraj approximately six months ago. Of course this activity could not be confined to the authors who have books about prayer but they are our core team. We formed an advisory board and often met. On August 19th we finally announced a declaration saying that we started a move called 'Campaign for Resurgence with Prayer' as the Platform of Prayer Volunteers together with about 100 consisted of authors, thinkers, artists, novelists who actively support us –also those signed it as many- in Seyhzade Mehmet Restaurant near Seyhzade Mosque. On the same day we started to give out the booklet called 'Resurgence with Prayer' that includes the articles of our eleven friends who are authors. Until now this booklet has been distributed to 500 thousand people and we organized 73 panels within six months. I hope I will be in Germany at the weekend and give a conference in Frankfurt and Stuttgart. This is briefly establishment story of the platform.
PRAYER FOR PRAYER
Why did you start such an activity? What is your target?
We determined three-stage target in the declaration and we underlined that this activity’s aim is just 'prayer' because other aims are tried to be achieved upon one work sometimes. We started it as 'movement of prayer for prayer' as Prof Dr. Hayrettin Karaman described in that first meeting of the Platform of Prayer Volunteers. This is a comprehensive and connective target. Our target has three stages:
The first one is to make those who can not pray meet prayer, who we detected they are the majority. According to one statistical figure, 75% of Turkish people said they could not pray five times a day. The rest 25% prays but they have some problems that they can not pray with awe, sometimes interrupt to pray and especially can not get up for Morning Prayer. Namely there is a serious 'disease of not praying' with our description. In addition to this, there is a problem that one prays but can not be aware of what it means. We set out to show solutions to these problems. Our first target is to make the majority like 75% meet prayer, which can not pray. The second one is to make them gain consciousness of prayer, who say they pray but can not get any taste, feel the awe.
The third one is to make prayer turned into a way of life because Allah says, 'Indeed prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds in Qur’an (al-Ankebut 29:45)'. Prayer prevents shameful, ugly deeds and immorality that Allah does not approve. The target of establishing ‘clean community’ that is once talked about can be achieved with prayer. We set out with this intention. We made a three-stage plan as a target. Of course these targets can not be achieved within one or two years and may take years or more. But for now we made one year plan and have just made an assessment meeting regarding the results we got within six months. Until now we have talked to more than 100 thousand people face to face about the beauties of prayer in 73 centers, distributed about 500 thousand booklets. Our web site (www.namazladirilis.com ) that we share news and information about prayer has been clicked by 2.5 million. The books about ‘prayer consciousness’ have been reached to 2, 5 million people and we have addressed millions of people home and abroad through radio and TV programs etc.
What kind of feedbacks did you get after establishing the Platform of Prayer Volunteers?
Actually I can say that I did not hope we encountered such a positive response and demand. There are more demands than we expected. Every day we get calls from Anatolia, stating that 'come to us, too and tell us about it'. Also we face people asking that ‘We want to help you as a volunteer for prayer. What can we do?” from various circles. Almost all the responses are positive. Moreover there is something to be achieved for the first time in Turkey thanks to prayer. People from different schools, scholars that have different comments, authors and caricaturists from almost all associations and foundations joined this platform. We comment this situation with the truth 'prayer is connecting' as Prof Dr. Hayrettin Karaman often repeated. We say that we have achieved the first with prayer and this is 'unity in prayer'. Well, there is a specialty of prayer ranks. Those who come to mosque earlier stand up on the front ranks but those who come to mosque later are on the back ranks. There is no discrimination of title, class, sect, color, community on mosques in this point. This specialty of collective prayer passed the spirit of unity to the Muslims in Turkey. We think this activity has been a means of big mercy and will continue to be. And we say prayer is an opportunity of mercy, aid, unity.
Where have you made meetings until now?
We have been to 40 to 50 cities (total 73 centers) except several cities we could not go because of winter conditions. We have been to almost cities in Turkey including Agrı, Van, Sanlıurfa, K.Maras, Adana, Samsun, Kayseri, Corum, Aydın, Izmir, Tekirdag etc. And we will go to the remaining cities, I hope. Not only our authors join the program but also the scholars and muftis in that region join the program, too. We advise NGOs that demand us programs that ‘Please do not do program as individual and plan and organize it all together’ because we formed this platform as a move that includes all the parts who are sensitive to prayer. Elhamdulillah, they pay attention to our advice. Isparta is the place we could manage to move together at the most and maybe do it at the peak. In Isparta 20 associations got together and made a successful organization. Exactly 6 thousand people came to Suleyman Demirel Convention Center. We witnessed such crowded events in other places. For example in Inegol there were 2500 people in the center that can include only 1500 people, even there was no space to stand up. We made a meeting two times in Manisa where we went to a city in Anatolia for the first time. Each time the center was very full and even some people had to return back. The same thing happened in Trabzon and Antalya etc. Even we had to get the audience on the stage in many cities. Almost all our meetings were overcrowded, elhamdulillah. There is excess demand in this sense. The profiles of our audience are very different. Everyone comes to the program, man and woman, old and young, those praying or not praying. Even we have heard things like that ‘I brought my cousins (brothers, friends or brother in law) who did not pray to the program and they started to pray at that night.’ But I have to underline that especially the young come to the meetings and get the books.
HOW I COULD NOT KNOW YOU, MY ALLAH
Can you give us examples about what you have mentioned just before?
After telling you one more thing, I want to answer this question. The news about the meetings is usually on TV and Radio. Also the meetings are recorded on CDs and these CDs are spread through people. For example we appeared on local TVs in Inegol, Erzincan, Tekirdag etc., too. So we can reach more than people who attended our conferences through local TVs and radios. Our friends already told people about prayer movement on national TVs during Ramadan month and gave some information about the platform’s activities. But certainly it is much more influential to talk face to face. Just a few examples are enough for us to get excited, motivated and say “right away we should go there” no matter where the demand is from.
For example when we went to Tekirdag, an old lady with a hat came to us and said, “Well, I am retired and just getting interested in religious topics. When I heard this meeting, I have come here. I did not think I would listen to such nice things. Today is my birthday. I am opening a new page in my life. But I have to say that I wish you had come before….” We were very touched and our eyes were full with tears there.
Friends who are police told us a pretty interesting story. There was a theft-case. They thought who could do that. The first thing that came to the mind was street children addicted to glue- sniffing. They raided the place that these children stayed. Guess what they saw there. There were books about prayer on the table and prayer rugs on the floor… The police asked them, ‘Are not you cheating us?’ and insisted to ask them that. But then they started to realize that those children had read the books, started to pray and so got rid of terrible things like theft, drug etc. what we can conclude from this is that if we really want to have a clean community, we should tell and teach people to pray consciously and rightly. That is when police have less work to do as they said to us.
There are many similar examples. For instance a case that our friends faced in Sutanbeyli is very significant. A group of students gathered and came to the panel Resurgence with Prayer. Of course among them were those praying and not praying or believing and not believing. While the meeting was about to start, a girl student came to Mr. Ahmet and said, “I am in the last class in high school. I came here with insistence of my friends but I wonder what you will tell us because I am atheist, do not believe.” When our friend heard that, he was shocked. He said to her, ‘the meeting is about to start. Let’s make a deal with you. Listen to the talks. Take notes what you do not understand or wonder. We should talk about them at the end of the meeting.’ They waited for her at the end of the program but she did not come. Forty days later, our friend attended another event in the same region and that girl student came there and asked to Mr. Ahmet, ‘Did you know me?’ Then she started to tell him. She said to him that she left the meeting with different state of mind although she came there as prejudiced, she was very impressive with what was talked and she could not sleep at that night although she was turning right and left. She got up and then said “why I could not know You, my Allah, please excuse me. Then she had an ablution as she could know and prayed. And she said she had prayed without interrupting since that day. She has seen Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) one or two times in her dream. Recently that girl came to thank us and brought a bunch of flowers. There are a lot of examples like that. One of the audiences brought his brother in law to a meeting and he started to pray after that day.
Can one person change at one night?
Yes, one can change at one night, we witnessed that. The atmosphere of the meetings affects people. Even there are people who said they read this booklet (Resurgence with Prayer) and started to pray. As the Platform of Prayer Volunteers, we believe that people really want to pray. For example there are funerals of their relatives, they get upset and they wait at one corner. Make sure they all would say that we wish we would pray at the funeral but maybe since they could not know or there is not an opportunity to connect them with prayer, they do not. We want to connect them with prayer, which is our target.
A survey was conducted among the young during Ramadan month. Results of the survey are meaningful for us. In the survey conducted upon 4449 students at 30 universities by Metropol Research Company, 70 to 80% of the students said they fasted and 65% of them went to Friday Prayer. We think the young who pray Friday prayer are the part that is ready at the most for praying five times a day and they have such potential. This is very satisfactory situation. According to our detection, 80% of those who bought the books that were sold 2.5 million copies in Turkey about ‘prayer consciousness’ consists of the young. Most of those who came to make us sign books are the young. This means that the Movement of Resurgence with Prayer has been concluded in good results and will do that. We get messages saying we should go abroad and make programs in the emails, phone calls. There are a lot of interests from many places and we get invitations from each side. We believe that these activities will increase the rate of praying and enable those who pray to feel more peace and awe and make it easier for them to become conscious, which is our exact target.
UNITY IN PRAYER
From which circles did you get support as Platform of Prayer Volunteers?
Firstly I should say that Platform of Resurgence with Prayer was established as a civil initiative. It is an activity that people get together, share and organize for a joint purpose. At the beginning we began our activity with the authors who have written books about prayer consciousness such as Cemil Tokpınar, Ahmet Bulut, Kerim Buladı, Muhammed Emin Yıldırım, Vehbi Karakaş, Veysel Akkaya, Esma Sayın Ekerim etc. Then we added other authors, artists, scholars and radio-television programmers to this activity such as Hayreddin Karaman, Ali Bulaç, Mustafa Karataş, Ali Rıza Demircan, Abdurrahman Dilipak, Ramazan Kayan, Mehmet Akça, Münib Engin Noyan, Senai Demirci, Haşim Akten, Mustafa Demirci, Ömer Karaoğlu, Sibel Eraslan, Yıldız Ramazanoğlu, Mesut Uçakan. Not just them, for example we face people asking ‘how they could help us’ after coming to our meetings or conferences and listening to us somewhere. They want to help and ‘volunteer for prayer’. Briefly we got serious support from each individual who wants to meet prayer and pray along with the support of various circles of the community. It is increasingly growing each day, elhamdulillah. Believe me we are surprised, too.
What are you planning to do after that?
We have made some assessments and got some results regarding our activities until now. We received hundreds of offers from NGOs, scholars, authors in the second consultative meeting. We have intent to realize some of them. We want to focus on the young and children and make activities that will attract them. We are planning to use the media more effectively to spread prayer to masses and do works that will address only women or the young. Moreover we will benefit technology tools more such as CD, VCD, internet, TV, cinevision. We are planning to stress unity in prayer more and make activities in compliance with this principle. All Islam ummah seriously needs the call to unity in prayer, not just us. We believe that prayer will be a tool for mercy and unity in the atmosphere that some want to expand Sunni-Shiite divide from Iraq to Islam world. So sensitive Muslims prayed on the same ranks as mixed Sunni-Shiite, Turkish-Kurdish-Arab and showed how important collective spirit of prayer was. To sum it up, we believe that our people and Islam world that suffered great difficulties and pains since they 'wasted prayer' will awake by regaining prayer as stressed in Surah Maryam(Mary): 59.
For more detail click here:
This interview was translated by Ulku ESER for World Bulletin.
Last Mod: 18 Haziran 2007, 19:28