GEMUHLUOĞLU, İrfan Fethi
He was born in Göztepe, İstanbul. He is the son of Mr. Neşet and Mrs. Fatma Saniye, a family of Turkmen origin from Arapkir. He spent his childhood in Erenköy and Göztepe districts where last Ottoman intellectuals lived. His family and his surrounding have had a great influence in his upbringing, his broad history knowledge, and in his relation with literature and mysticism. After finishing Haydarpaşa High School, he continued his education at the İstanbul University Faculty of Law. He worked as a teacher of Turkish language and literature between 1950-1955 and as the director of İstanbul Sport and Exhibition Center between 1955-1963. Afterwards, he worked as a freelance journalist for two years in Germany. From 1965 thru 1966, he held the executive assistant position at the Ministry of National Education. Between 1966-1970, he worked as the press adviser in Ankara and İstanbul bureaus of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey. Gemuhluoğlu has held management and advisory board membership positions in many foundation, association, and charitable institution and was the general secretary of Turkpetrol Foundation for eight years, which he founded. He died on 5 October 1977 in İstanbul. His grave is at the Sahrayıcedid Cemetery.
Fethi Gemuhluoğlu, who stood out as the man of heart of service during the era he lived because of his services to the society, formed an intellectual circle around himself due to his strong and solid character, his tolerant attitude that embraced the society as a whole, and his warm-hearted approach toward everybody. In his speeches he gave with an eloquent Turkish, letters and writings, he became the defender of values such as faith, love, labor, liberty, noble social ethics, and hard work, and he played an important role in engraining these values in the young students of higher education. In his all missions, he exerted great effort in rehabilitating the Turkish society from the destruction that westernization caused.
Gemuhluoğlu, who published his thoughts in newspapers and magazines such as Yeşilada, Arapgir Postası, Türk Yurdu, Düşünen Adam Mecmuası, Yeni Sabah, Göldağı, chose his topics from life itself. He wrote in almost every subject from the dangers of rural depopulation to supporting Hungarian freedom fighters and the independence of oppressed and ingenuous nations, from the significance of convergence of İslamic nations to wrongness of Muslims criticizing each other, from art to politics, from ethics to education and history. On the one hand, he brought official’s attention to the national affairs and offered suggestions for solution, and on the other hand, he worked on some international affairs. He worked with great enthusiasm until the end of his life to train academic staff that would solve these issues. Gemuhluoğlu pursued his activities in such a principle and discipline that transformed his activities into a school of love and friendship. He did not only advocated the youth in material and spiritual mean, he also guided those in whom he saw the spark of knowledge, intelligence, courage, and artistic ability, and therefore he had influence not only in academic life but also in Islamic thought, art, and culture.
Islamic Sufism was the key element that formed the character of Gemuhluoğlu, who belonged to Halveti order’s Sabani branch. Throughout his life, Gemuhluoğlu remained loyal to the notion of Sufism, which preached to stay away from hypocrisy and fame, and he accepted serving to his friends from distant places. without looking out for his own benefit, as worship. He consider the fact that people being friendly with themselves and being balanced and consistent as a an essential part of existence and believed that the beauty of an individual’s inner world played a fundamental role in his/her attitude toward humans, the world, life, and the facts. He carried the friendship between man and man, man and things, and man and abstract notions to a further point and insisted on the necessity of being friend with all things except fame, possessions, and sleep. From this point of view, he emphasized that a Muslim must be a friend to death knowing that the afterlife started in physical world without making a distinction between the world and the afterlife.
Fethi Gemuhluoğlu, who conscientiously elaborated the notions of love and friendship through his speeches, writings, and letters, stated that the measure of that is to serve Islam and humanity, the love does not requite a response, and human life is based on love and ecstasy. He said that it is possible to bring the good side of a man to the fore with love and friendship and love brings flexibility to life by smoothing man’s rough edges. The flexibility helps to overcome difficulties and enables the solidarity and mutualisation between human beings.
While telling to the young people that the love is the main path in connecting the past to the future, in binding people together, and in looking at the future with hope, he strived to make them to internalize these thoughts instead of pushing his thoughts on them. Gemuhluoğlu became an exemplary contemporary Muslim with his friendly approach to humans, his political consciousness genius that carries the past to the future, his personality that masterfully connects the institution and man, and the coherence between his words and his deeds. He believed in the need of people who are equipped with the skills, knowledge, and morals that would transform the nation’s natural resources into wealth and dedicated his life to create the conditions that would call forth such people.
After his death, some of his speeches, conversations, letters, memoirs, and writings were collected in a book called On Friendship, and one of his conversations from this book was separately published later under the name of Regarding Friendship (İstanbul 1988).
Ferman Karaçam, TDV Islamic Encyclopedia