The movement, which is not sponsored by a government or by a political party, is a transnational civic initiative rooted in the spiritual and humanistic tradition of Islam. One of the main goals of the Hizmet organization has been the elevation of a Muslim consciousness that is compatible with modern civil democracy and opposed to Islamism. Muslims cannot act out of ideological or political partisanship and then dress this partisanship in Islamic garb, or represent mere desires in the form of ideas; strangely enough, many groups that have put themselves forward under the banner of Islam export a distorted image of Islam and actually strengthen it.
As a Muslim movement, Hizmet seeks to revitalize religious faith, and it also believes Islam has a role to play in enriching and sustaining civic and democratic political life. But in sharp contrast with Islamists, the participants of Hizmet do not seek to become a political party, nor do they seek political power for themselves or for the purposes of spreading a particular political ideology.
Instead, the movement aims to improve modern society and advance human flourishing by strengthening spirituality and individual piety. Indeed, the importance of Sharia law is mentioned only two times in the Holy Book and whereas the exigency of faith is manifest on numerous pages. Through a learned reconstruction of traditional Sufism and concepts, the study shows, among other things, the limits and fundamental poverty of Islamist thought and it helps to overcome the seeming incompatibility of Islam and civil democratic modernity.
His sermons are full of symbolism, allegories and aphorisms; instead of canonical interpretation, the spiritual and internal dimensions of Islamic belief are accentuated.
Such emotional performances serve as an expressive vehicle to establish connections between the earliest Muslims and contemporary ones. Through this, a type of saintly personality is suggested as a model for emulation, and believers are encouraged to take as their life-project the goal of triumphing over carnal desires, politicized ambitions and the fleeting pleasures that the world offers to the egotistical self.
In this, members of the Hizmet depart from the ways of the dervishes of the traditional Sufi brotherhoods. Indeed, as Paul Heck has argued, in contrast to the puritanism of Wahhabism, the anti-modern pietism of Tablighism, and the harsh and enmity-filled ideology of contemporary jihadism, reformed Sufism as practiced by the Hizmet movement adopts a positive view of the modern world.
For Hizmet members, self-negating service to others can be regarded as a form of modern religious practice.
This service to others is a function of individual choice; unlike in some traditional Sufi orders where prayer is imposed on individuals by the larger community, service to others is not externally-imposed or strictly systematized in Hizmet practice. Instead, individuals are encouraged to choose the intensity and frequency of their practice. Because of this core teaching, it is not surprising that the movement has expanded rapidly—and not only in Muslim countries, but also in non-Muslim ones.
Hizmet practitioners have rendered service to others in more than countries. Instead, Islam is a call to critical engagement and communication with others and to working together for shared goals like the betterment of human society. Of course, in some secularist contexts—such as in the post-Soviet countries of the larger Turkic world—this could be seen as a challenge to the normative framework and to purely a-religious forms of sociability. This may be one reason why critics have mistakenly suspected the Hizmet members as crypto-Islamists and of harboring hidden agendas.