Educator and theologian Mustafa Hatipoğlu is one of the first volunteers who migrated to Pakistan with a sublime ideal of service. The stones of this path were actually paved with the Imam-Hatip dreams he set up during the primary school… Hatipoğlu narrates his journey starting from the time he was tagged as a member of the ‘noisy Mustafas’ in her Kayseri dormitory to the day when he was unexpectedly sent to continue his education in Izmir where he came to know Fethullah Gülen Hodjaefendi and leading to Pakistan, the country of President Zia-ul-Haq whom his mother lauded as ‘an exquisite person’…
My passion for taking admission in an Imam-Hatip School dates back to my childhood. When I was in the primary school, I idealized the older students in our neighbourhood who attended to the Imam-Hatip School, and dreamt of going to the same school, chanting the call to the Prayer in the mosque, and reciting hymns in communal gatherings and weddings the same as they did.
I took admission in the Kayseri Imam-Hatip High School in 1986. A year later, the top student in our class showed me a flyer. It read: “Students with certificates of merit or excellence are invited to stay in our dormitory for free!” For two consecutive years then, I was awarded with certificates of merit. So, I asked myself, “If that intelligent classmate of ours stays in that dormitory, why can’t I do the same?” Even though my parents lived in Kayseri and I attended to the Kayseri Imam-Hatip School, I decided to be a boarding student in that dormitory. At that time, I was not fully aware of this fact, but I was totally encouraged to stay in that dormitory only because of the flyer the top student of our class had shown to me.
‘Go wherever you wish, just leave me alone!’
When I went home and told my mother about my wish to stay in the dormitory, her reaction surprised me. A diabetic for many years, my mother was not feeling fine on that day and she was reclining in an armchair. She turned to me in her ailing state and exclaimed, “My son, go wherever you wish! Just leave me alone!” I have always remembered my late mother’s these words. Of course, I was a child then and I did not sense the slightest hint of what they meant. If I had been a bit aware, her words would have broken my heart for sure. When I sensed a signal that read, “My son, go and stay in the dormitory”, I rejoiced on my own and decided to stay there.
I started staying at the Keykubat Dormitory for Boys near the Kayseri Sugar Mill. It was a miniature dormitory with 25 students only. Names like Ahmet, Mahmut, and Mustafa are very common in Turkey and, including myself, there were four Mustafas in the dormitory. I remember four of us were beaten twice in a row, because I and my namesakes were considered the most prankish. Whenever they heard a commotion in the dorm, the supervisors would first grill us Mustafas and later move on to other boarders. That was my first year in the dormitory, and I would become a more composed and more hardworking student in the second year…
Dorm Supervisor’s Izmir surprise
Having witnessed the change for good in me, our dorm supervisors chose me as one of the two students for attending the high school in Izmir. I have no idea exactly why they decided so, but I remember my parents had invited our dorm supervisors to have dinner at our home. I think the supervisors must have observed my parents as serene and sensible. Possibly, they may have thought, “If we propose sending this student to another city, his parents may not oppose that.”
Following this decision, I and my friend travelled to Izmir in 1989 and took admission in the Izmir Imam-Hatip High School. We were received in Izmir by one of our dorm supervisors from Kayseri, and he placed us in the Hancıoğlu Dormitory for Boys. This dormitory was adjacent to mosque and a portion of the compound was in the mosque’s basement with interconnected rooms. We were placed in a noticeably dark room. Some days later, our dorm supervisor from Kayseri, who had received us Izmir, phoned us to know how we were. We did not know he also let our sad conversation heard on the speakerphone by some boarders in his room. Later we learned that as they heard us wailing and complaining, he and our fellow boarders at times broke into silent laughter or were emotionally moved…
The dormitory which Hodjaefendi visited
In those years, the Soviet Union had collapsed and we started to hear increasingly about our elder brothers and teachers who migrated to the Central Asian countries for educational services. It was then we started to feel the urge to go abroad and render services for the sake of humanity. In those days, we had the opportunity of directly listening to the sermons Fethullah Gülen Hodjaefendi delivered in Şadırvan and Hisar mosques in Izmir. As a matter of fact, Hodjaefendi visited the Hancıoğlu Dormitory for Boys four times during the period I stayed there. If I remember it correctly, I heard Hodjaefendi say in those times, “The future belongs to the theologians.” As an Imam-Hatip High School student, I was thinking of taking admission in a Faculty of Divinity at a university. When I heard those words, I adopted this as an objective…
When in 1993, the year of our graduation from the Imam-Hatip High School, our dorm supervisors asked us “Would like to have your higher education abroad?”, I answered without hesitation, “I would! I would like to have education, work as a teacher, and serve other people abroad.” Indeed, they named two countries: Malaysia and Pakistan; I came to know about the International Islamic University Malaysia and the International Islamic University in Islamabad, Pakistan then. I also heard Mr. Sukru Arslan, who was in Pakistan in those years, was a madrassa-educated scholar with the excellent command of Arabic.
‘I do not forget my mother’s words’
I wished to become a resident student in Hodjaefendi’s teaching circle; moreover, I also had the option of migrating to Pakistan and learn Arabic from Mr. Sukru Arslan and learn English at the universities there. This is why, I opted for Pakistan. When I told my mother about my decision, I once again got an unexpected reply from her. I do not forget the way she said, “My son, there’s Zia-ul-Haq there. He was an exquisite person. When he died, I wept a lot.” I was to take the two-tier Student Selection and Placement Examination in 1993. I qualified in the first tier (OSS) and, without waiting for taking the second (OYS) exam, I betook myself to Pakistan.