WHAT WE DO
We organize a range of tailored projects and activities:
|Sohbet||Sohbet Society takes its name from one of its most widespread activities. Sohbet is a Turkish word derived from Arabic (suhba, which means to befriend) and means ‘to talk, converse, discuss and engage with one another in a friendly, caring, warm and informal manner’. For us, sohbet means to converse with one another in the form of a religious circle or study group on the big questions of God, purpose, faith, religion, and society. Our sohbets or circles comprise between five to ten participants with one facilitator. The facilitator will usually convene the group once a week for a two-hour session where a short text is read (usually an excerpt from the Qur’an or a religious commentary) which is then elaborated on by the facilitator and discussed by the group. The aim of the circles is to reinvigorate faith through discussion and to provide a safe space to critique, reflect, and discuss.
|Mentoring||We provide one-to-one religious mentoring to adult Muslims on the requirements of religious and spiritual life. The mentoring is done through visits.⚑ Also referred to as ‘rehberlik’ in Hizmet
|Retreats||We organize a number of retreats throughout the year focused on reading, prayer, and spiritual communal activities and discussions. In the UK these retreats usually last between three and five days and take place at rural country homes. In spite of the name, they are not usually carried out under canvas.⚑ Also referred to as ‘kamp’ in Hizmet
|Excursions||We believe in the importance and value of outdoor excursions and trips. A trip away, however short, allows us time to think, reflect, and renew, especially if it is organized with this aim in mind. We, therefore, organise a number of short excursions throughout the year.⚑ Also referred to as ‘gezi’ in Hizmet
|Qur’an lessons||Undoubtedly, the main focus of our circles and all other activities is on learning the meaning of the Qur’an. In addition to understanding and living its meaning, learning how to read the Qur’an in its original Arabic is vital for spiritual gain and prescribed prayer. Therefore, we run classes and one-to-one lessons in Qur’an reading for adults.
|Social events||Religion is as much social as it is personal. Faith can and should bring satisfaction, especially in the social and familial context. At the Sohbet Society, we believe that our religion requires social engagement. As a result, we organize medium- to large-scale social events to bring people together to explore and experience religion in the public space through public conferences, celebrations, and summer fairs.
|Fundraising||We organize an annual fundraising dinner where we ask our beneficiaries to consider supporting the work that we do by making an annual donation payable over monthly or quarterly installments.⚑ Also referred to as ‘himmet’ in Hizmet.|
HOW WE DO IT
There are a number of dynamics that explain how we work:
How did it start?
Sohbet Society is not a new idea or concept. Sohbet, that is, learning in small circles through conversation is a classical form of religious learning in Islam, dating back all the way to the Prophet (sas). Furthermore, Sohbet Society as it is particularly conceived is based on the work and practice of Hizmet, as explained above in About Us, which has been active since the 1970s. Therefore, the Sohbet Society practice and tradition is well-grounded and not new.
How is it funded?
The Sohbet Society founders (trustees) are its donors. Sohbet Society is able to run projects through the donations and support of its participants and beneficiaries, local professionals, and self-employed individuals. Sohbet Society is not funded by any government.
How is it staffed?
Sohbet Society achieves its aims and objectives primarily through the work and effort of its volunteers who are inspired by the teachings and example of Hizmet, as articulated by Fethullah Gülen. At Sohbet Society, we channel that inspiration and motivation of our volunteers into the work of the Society.
How is it run?
Sohbet Society has a board of trustees which is responsible for determining the Society’s priorities and strategies and appointing and holding to account the Executive Director, as well as for securing funding for the Society and its works. Sohbet Society is run by the Executive Director, who is responsible for managing the Society in accordance with the priorities and strategies set out by the Board of Trustees. The Executive Director, in turn, hires and oversees the Community Organisers, members of staff responsible for Sohbet Society’s work in a given area. Sohbet Society has two types of meetings where executive decisions are made. The first is the Board of Trustees meeting, which all Trustees and the Executive Director attend, and the second is the Staff Meeting, which the Executive Director and Community Organisers attend. Decisions are made through deliberation and consensus.
Before being formalized under the Sohbet Society, Community Organisers were referred to in Hizmet as elder brother (Turkish, abi) or elder sister (Turkish, abla). Their role then, as now, was to coordinate and organize Hizmet’s grassroots religious activities in a given constituency. This geographical designation of grassroots religious activism was, and in many places, is still, referred to as bölgecilik, which contextually means constituency-based activism. The informal Sohbet Society had the same types of meetings that it has now. The Board of Trustees meeting used to be referred to in Turkish as mütevelli (literally, trustee or administrator) and comprised the businesspeople that sponsored the activities and some elder brothers and elder sisters, and the Staff Meetings were referred to (again in Turkish) as istishare (consultations or deliberations). Through Sohbet Society these pre-existing and well-established practices and roles have become formalized.