Posts Tagged ‘Gulen Movement’

Suicide

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: What is the Islamic perspective on suicide, which has become a social disaster in our time? What are the underlying reasons that lead a person to suicide?

Answer: Even though no explicit statement is found in the Qur’an, we can say that the prohibition against taking life is also true for a person’s taking his or her own life. Killing oneself is murder in the same way killing another person is murder. God Almighty considers taking one life equal to killing all of humanity: “He who kills a soul unless it be (in legal punishment) for murder or for causing disorder and corruption on the earth will be as if he had killed all mankind” (al-Maedah 5:32). Indeed, human life is among the five essentials people are responsible for protecting. It can even be said—as Shatibi systematically expounds on in his Muwafaqat—all of Islamic law is based upon these five essentials of protecting a person’s life, religion, property, mental health, and offspring. Protection of life is the foremost among these essentials. It is so important to protect one’s life that somebody under assault is allowed to harm the assailant in self-defense.

Breaching the Trust

Human life is an important trust from God. In other words, just as faith is a God-granted trust in the name of serving the religion, the blessing of life, which makes all of these possible, is such a trust as well. For this reason, a person’s taking his or her own life willfully means ruining this Divine bestowal through which people are commissioned to fulfill certain responsibilities.

People come to this world like recruits to an army, to undertake a responsibility. What is required of people is waiting patiently until the appointed time when they will be summoned to the Divine presence. Just as a soldier that leaves his regiment without a leave signed by his commander is considered a fugitive, a person who leaves the duty of life without a Divine command is similarly considered a fugitive deserving punishment. All of the good actions a person did in their lifetime will be wasted. In fact, even wishing that God would end one’s life due to certain sufferings is a sin; making such a wish means rebelling against the fate ordained by God Almighty. For this reason, somebody who utters such words of rebellion by mistake needs to seek Divine forgiveness in prostration as if they committed a grave sin. Given that such wishes—much less severe in comparison to taking one’s life—is so wrong, then it is a much worse disrespect toward God Almighty to commit suicide, because it is an attempt to interfere with the time of dismissal from duty without waiting for the command of God, the rightful authority. Just as He is the one who sends people into the world, He must also be the one to send them to the next world. No human is given the right for self-decided intervention.

A person can even die in the lawful defense of their life, religion, or property. Even though there may seem to be an outward human intervention, this is actually a form of passing to the next world within the command of God Almighty. The Messenger of God stated that one who is killed in defense of their property, religion, life, or family is a martyr.1 Therefore, dying in such situations is a form of taking leave from service with Divine permission. Some scholars of Islamic jurisprudence made the judgment that a person who commits suicide is like a person who renounced faith and therefore is not eligible for an Islamic Funeral Prayer. However, there is also the consideration that a person might commit suicide during a temporary state of insanity. Since people in such a state are not responsible for their actions, it is possible to carry out a Funeral Prayer with this consideration.

Sometimes, intolerable sufferings might lead one to suicide. Indeed, such an incident took place during the time of the blessed Prophet. A person named Quzman was wounded during the Battle of Uhud. To end his suffering, he committed suicide by leaning his body weight on the tip of his sword. Seeing this, the Messenger of God stated that the man is a dweller of the Hellfire. Imagine that he fought near the beloved Prophet for the defense of Medina and received a fatal wound that would make him a martyr, but this unfortunate man became a loser in a zone of winning for not being patient with the suffering. Without waiting for the Divine decree, he made the judgment for himself and thus became deserving to be a dweller of the Hellfire. What befalls a believer, however, is showing patience during such times of trouble. A person is supposed to remain patient against all odds, until they are summoned by the Divine will. In other words, one must seek what God wills even while dying.

The commandment “O you who believe! Keep from disobedience to God in reverent piety, with all the reverence that is due to Him, and see that you do not die save as Muslims (submitted to Him exclusively)” (Al Imran 3:102) also implies that people should not end their own life. However, suicide is a consequence of not submitting to God and is contrary to this commandment. In addition, just as killing oneself means ruining an entire past, suicide means ending one’s life in a very ominous way.

A Multiple Murder: Suicide Attacks

There is another form of suicide called a “suicide attack” that started in the West first and then, unfortunately, became present in some Muslim countries as well. Those who commit this act try to justify it by asserting that it is a meaningful suicide. In other words, with these attacks they undergo for the sake of their ideologies, they are pretending to ascribe a positive meaning and value to suicide as if it were possible to protect their religion with it. However, when we look into the truth of the matter, we see that such suicide bombings are no different than the suicide we previously mentioned.

Suicide attacks can even be seen as a form of murder, because just as those heedless murderers who have nothing to do with humanity and who have no idea about the true spirit of Islam go to Hell headfirst by killing themselves, they kill so many innocent people as well. Therefore, just as they will be called to account on the Day of Judgment for taking their own lives, they will have the same trouble for the people they killed—for every child, woman, man, Muslim, and non-Muslim victim one by one.

In Islam, laws and disciplines explicitly define the acts that are permissible during peace and wartime. Nobody can declare a war or decide to kill another person by himself, and nobody has the right to kill children, women, or the elderly on the opposite side during battle. This being the case, suicide attacks or other similar acts of terrorism can never be compatible with Islam. To shed light on the issue, we take the statement of the noble Prophet that a person does not commit adultery as a believer, does not drink wine as a believer, does not steal as a believer, and does not commit murder as a believer.2 We understand from this hadith that a murderer is not a believer while committing murder. In other words, a person committing these sins cannot be called a Muslim in terms of their state, intents and plans while committing them. When you study their character during these moments, what appears before you is not the portrait of a Muslim; indeed, such character cannot fit within the Islamic frame. For this reason, let us emphasize once more that a person who acts as a suicide bomber and kills innocent people, no matter what country or religious group they are from, the murder they commit has absolutely nothing to do with being a Muslim. A person taking so many lives cannot be saved in the next world. Of course, it is always possible for a person who commits those grave sins to repent and ask forgiveness from God, and the Almighty One can forgive their sins. In this case, God knows how they will be treated in the Hereafter.

On the other hand, it is a reality that such murders smear the beautiful face of Islam. The crimes, which are committed by those appearing to be Muslim and pretending to commit murder for the sake of religion, are attributed to Islam in the sight of people who do not know the original teachings of Islam. Therefore, it becomes exceedingly difficult for believers to change this mistaken image. Clearing people’s minds of this negative image will take intensive effort for many years. For this reason, no matter who commits those suicide attacks, they can be defined as twice as bad, or rather a manifold worse form of murder. A few people who were not very knowledgeable about the genuine teachings of Islam asked me once, “Is it the love of going to Paradise that leads Muslims to become suicide bombers?” I answered them saying, “If those people are acting on such a motive, then they hold a mistaken consideration, for a person who makes such an attempt does not go to Paradise but goes headfirst into the Hellfire.”

In conclusion, those horrible murders committed under the name of suicide attacks are hidden under the guise of religion, which takes the issue to much more dangerous dimensions. In this respect, let us state once more that no matter what motive and method such brutality is committed, it is a condemnable act God Almighty dislikes and is not pleased with and is never compatible with Islam whatsoever.

1. Sunan at-Tirmidhi, Diyat 22; Sunan an-Nasa’i, Tahrimu’d-Dam, 23
2. Sunan an-Nasa’i, Qasama, 48, 49

This text is the translation of “İntihar

Reflections on the Day of Hunayn

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: What are the messages that can be drawn from the verse (translated as): “God has already helped you on many fields, and on the day of Hunayn, when your multitude was pleasing to you, but it availed you nothing, and the earth, for all its vastness, was too narrow for you, and you turned back, retreating” (at-Tawbah 9:25).

Answer: After the conquest of Mecca, the tribes of Thaqif and Hawazin were allied with other tribes and prepared to attack the Muslims. In addition to being an excellent head of state, the Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, was a unique commander. Upon receiving the news, he immediately took action to launch a preemptive strike. Thus, he aimed to win without much bloodshed and not to give way to much rancor. As a matter of fact, so many people from those tribes became Muslim later on. As a matter of fact, the noble Prophet utilized the same practice and strategy during the process that started with the Treaty of Hudaybiya and resulted in the conquest of Mecca. Imagine that the Messenger of God, a person who is held in high esteem beyond the heavens, accepted the articles of the treaty although they asserted demands seemingly disadvantageous to the Muslims for the sake of gaining the hearts of those people. Later on, the Meccans themselves breached the treaty. Upon this, the Pride of Humanity gathered an army and camped outside Mecca. During that time, he could easily have said “might is right” and charged at them. However, that noble soul never did and would not do such a thing, because, had he entered Mecca through bloodshed, it would have hurt the people’s pride and possibly given way to long-standing bitter feelings.

Hunayn: A Hard Test

Getting back to our main subject, 2,000 new Muslims from Mecca were added to the 10,000 Companions who conquered Mecca and an army of 12,000 marched toward Hunayn. Therefore, those the army was compiled of mostly young soldiers who were dizzy from the conquest of Mecca and people who had newly embraced Islam. In this state, such a thought may have occurred: “Nobody can stand before this army. Just as we have conquered Mecca by God’s grace, we are going to defeat Thaqif and Hawazin as well.”

At this point, let me note that I always have a spirit of showing respect toward the Companions, seeing them as pure souls, and choosing carefully selected words when talking about them so much so that I take heed not to use the slightest expression of questioning where the Companions are concerned. However, in this incident, some of the blessed Companions may not have adhered to the refined state God Almighty expected of them that was becoming of their distinguished position. Consequently, they may have received a Divine warning, so that they gave the due of their elevated status. However, this is a matter between God Almighty and them. Our making off-handed remarks regarding this issue will be impertinence and a transgression.

Now, keeping this point of view and criterion in consideration, let us look closer at the mood of the Companions on their way to Hunayn. First of all, they had formed the greatest army until that day. In addition, they had won so many battles against greater forces than theirs, by God’s grace and permission. Despite the adverse conditions they faced, they had always emerged victorious. Now they were marching upon the enemy with the Pride of Humanity riding his camel in front of them and they were very hopeful; may our souls be sacrificed for them and may God make us steadfast upon their righteous path. Describing their state, the Qur’an first reminds us how they received Divine help, “God has already helped you on many fields…” alluding to the instances such as the battles of Badr and Uhud and the conquest of Mecca. God Almighty makes the first reference to Hunayn by stating that they received Divine support on that day as well. Later, He describes their mood at the time, but it needs to be reminded once more that the mistakes of theirs must be approached with the consideration “The good, righteous deeds of the virtuous would be regarded as vices for those who are nearest to God Almighty.” For example, just as you can be held responsible for something negative you thought about, they might even be responsible for such a thing merely passing their imagination. God Almighty states, “and the earth, for all its vastness, was too narrow for you.” The same expression is used in another verse for Ka’b ibn Malik and his friends. In fact, there is an idiom meaning, “to feel suffocated” that happens when some place is not as roomy as you expected. So, the temporary troubled state experienced by the Companions at Hunayn is described as the earth’s being too narrow for them, and this is underlined by the fact that they came to the point of retreating. Despite all of this, God Almighty sent down His gift of sakina (inner peace and reassurance) upon them, as is expressed in the next verse: “Then God sent down His gift of inner peace and reassurance on His Messenger and the believers…” (at-Tawbah 9:26). Hearing this, they experienced heartfelt repentance, pulled themselves together, and became victorious by God’s permission and grace.

Dizziness That Comes along with Glory

Let us consider the lesson to be drawn from this historical event, as expressed in the initial question. Just as the blessed Companions of the Prophet had Divine providence and support behind them, today’s Muslims can be granted different Divine favors and blessings as well. What really matters is to keep one’s inner purity at such times by acknowledging Him as the only one who really makes things happen. Even in the face of the greatest achievements that seemingly depend on our free will and efforts, we need to shatter the veil of causality and see the Causer of causes beyond and say, “Everything is from You.”

From a worldly perspective, success and achievements can be seen as good things to sing praises about, but such things must never make a believer feel dizzy or forget their position of servitude for God. No matter how great the accomplishments we make, we always need to see ourselves as loyal slaves at His door. In fact, if we can achieve to see ourselves as His slaves, we will be freed from being slaves to everything else. This, at the same time, means freedom from different systems of manipulation and abuse. Those who do not become slaves to God Almighty become slaves to different things—some to lust, bohemianism, worldly benefits, and fame, while others become slaves to power and commit different forms of oppression thinking that might set everything right. You can view all of these people as captives. I can even say that if you swear they’re being captives, you will not have made a false statement, because, some of those people bear two, five, or even ten shackles of captivity around their necks. Ones devoid of wisdom might ascribe good things being achieved to certain individuals and groups on stage and extol them. Those with character flaws and a weakness for fame and praise might grow arrogant and insolent in the face of such applause. They might have claims on what does not belong to them. In truth, it is a downfall to make such claims by forgetting that their achievements are blessings granted by God Almighty. For example, if a preacher sees that the audience is deeply moved and are listening to him in tears, he will corrupt what he did if he takes any personal pride and sees it as a consequence of his powerful oratory; in reality, people’s hearts are in God’s hand of power. Being granted oratory skills is both a blessing and a test. Making a claim of such things is a form of usurpation. Let us not forget that a love and desire for fame is such a trouble that one with such a character flaw can make claims on what belongs to God, the Prophet, and the Qur’an when they keep being extolled. May God protect us from such a disaster!

In conclusion, if you wish to build up the statue of your soul one more time, you need to know that this can neither be achieved through worldly opportunities nor through different means of power. As the poet Mehmed Akif put it, “One must always rely upon God, work diligently, and comply with what wisdom requires.” With this understanding, if you try to always speak up for the truth by taking Qur’anic reasoning as the basis and without engaging in polemics, God lets you see and speak correctly; eventually, He makes the impossible become real for you and grants you success on the path you walk.

This text is the translation of “Huneyn Gazvesi’nin Hatırlattıkları

A Balanced Figure of Love and Enthusiasm: Jalaluddin Rumi

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi is misunderstood in our time by some and is subjected to unfair criticism concerning his Sufi path. Could you evaluate the Sufi path of Rumi with respect to his compliance with the essentials of Islam?

Answer: There have been so many great personalities throughout the history of Islam whose knowledge, spiritual depth, love, and enthusiasm made their voices reach beyond the centuries. Particularly, there are some exceptional figures with immense personalities such as Imam al-Ghazali, Imam Rabbani, and Mawlana Khalid al-Baghdadi; they are in a rather distinguished position. Jalaluddin Rumi is one such monumental personality. Those great people that enlightened the spiritual darkness of different eras had excellent insight into their time, analyzed it well, and concentrated on the issues of the highest priority in order to answer the needs of the people. Jalaluddin Rumi must be seen from this aspect. The matters he emphasized served as an antidote against the poisons and negative influences prevalent in his time and an elixir to cure even the worst diseases.

Rumi and the Emergence of the Ottomans

The era in which Rumi lived was a difficult time period. On the one hand, there were the damages inflicted by the Crusader attacks. On the other hand, there was the Mongolian invasion that shattered Muslim lands into different fragments, causing discord and sedition throughout the Muslim world. As a result, the Seljuk state was greatly weakened, the royalty lost authority of their people and all of these negative effects extended throughout Anatolia. During this troubled era, Jalaluddin Rumi opened his arms wide with an immense understanding of tolerance and magnanimity to embrace everyone. Thus, he virtually offered a cure for that environment of chaos, discord, and fragmentation. This immense understanding represented by Rumi and other spiritual masters prepared new ground to cultivate people with Islamic values.

At the same time, the princedom of the Ottomans found an opportunity to stand on their feet in a small corner of Anatolia. Such an understanding of agreement and unity was needed more than anything else in that era. Rumi saw this urgent need at a time when Anatolia was shattered into fragments, different princedoms emerged, people became disoriented, and everyone was going about their own ways. By uniting people around a certain understanding, he paved the way for the birth of the Ottomans. I think this understanding, which we can refer to as the spirit of Rumi, played an important role in their successful flourishing in just a short time period. Had the Ottomans displayed brutality instead of leniency and magnanimity, they would have become stuck and would have been unable to further their progress. In this respect, along with the distinguished qualities of the people who governed the state, the contributions and efforts of Rumi and other dervishes must not be overlooked when examining the continuity of the same dynasty for six centuries, something unparalleled in the history of humanity.

An immense figure of spirituality who took flight with love and enthusiasm to the horizons of knowing God, Rumi formed such a warm atmosphere during his time that most people came under its influence and stepped into his circle. At a certain period, even the famous Yunus Emre1 joined his circle. The great master poured the inspirations of his soul into the hearts of the people who gathered around him and raised exemplary guides to light up the ages after him.

Attracted toward the Divine (jadhb and injidhab) within the Axis of Faith and Knowledge of God

Rumi possessed an understanding of extending a hand of immense tolerance and compassion to everyone. On the other hand, overlooking his depth of worship and devotion as well as his loyalty to the Qur’an and Sunnah might lead one to some misconceptions about him. Indeed, if he had not been so sincerely devoted to the essentials of religion, as is claimed by some, neither would the people of Konya allow him live among them nor would the devout Muslim rulers let him convey his radiant teachings. In addition, none of the scholars among his contemporaries criticized him. For example, his contemporary Sadreddin Konevi was a great scholar who wrote explanatory commentaries about Ibn Arabi’s Shajarat al-Numaniyya and Qadi Baydawi’s Qur’anic exegesis. When we study the life and works of this great scholar, we do not find a single word of criticism for Rumi. Rumi displayed immense compassion and magnanimity by embracing others, and he adhered to the essentials of Islam and did not possess any attitudes or behaviors that contradicted the religious commandments. Unfortunately, some people today view him as a person who jumped to his feet in momentary excitement, put on a costume and started whirling ecstatically, and who contributed to others taking up his whirling. Actually, there is no issue with whirling itself. Rumi was a person of great spiritual depth who weaved a pattern of knowledge of God by constantly moving his shuttle of reflection between human, universe, and God; he became saturated with the knowledge of the Divine and thus made others overflow with love and zeal.

Bediüzzaman follows a system of thought regarding this issue: faith in God, knowledge of God, love of God, and spiritual pleasure, respectively. Accordingly, one must have perfect faith first, then practice Islam without any flaws, and then try to feel sincerity (ikhlas) in their conscience with its complete profundity and try to awaken the consciousness of ihsan, a state of constant awareness of the omnipresence of God. They must be on the way to know God thoroughly by means of the conscience and make their good deeds become a depth of their character so that they can attain the level of spiritual pleasure and zeal for God. In other words, attaining true love and zeal is not possible without sound faith, sound practice of Islam, sound awareness of God, and a deep knowledge and love of God. Rumi’s attraction toward the Divine and becoming enraptured with love and zeal needs to be seen from this perspective.

An Immense Inclusiveness within the Framework of Essential Disciplines

On the other hand, certain words Rumi uttered while in a trance or while he whirled to a particular level are related to the spiritual states he personally experienced. These stem from the entranced states of hayrah, dahshah, hayman, and qalaq.2 Although acting in vigilance is essential for a person in a wakeful state and of a sound mind, consideration of the words and behaviors of a person while in an entranced state of spiritual intoxication should be considered accordingly.

For this reason, what is incumbent upon people like us is to take the special cases of the great figures like Jalaluddin Rumi into consideration and find a plausible explanation for their words and behaviors that are likely to be misinterpreted. For example, one of the most criticized statements of Rumi is his famous call: “Come, come, whoever you are; even if you are an unbeliever, a fire-worshipper, or idolater… come. Our lodge is not a place of hopelessness, even if you have backed from your vow of repentance for a hundred times, still come.”

We are not sure whether these are the exact words that were originally uttered by Rumi or not. However, even if this statement is not his, Rumi has many other statements reflecting this spirit. I believe those who criticize these words are not fully aware of the point being made. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong in making such a statement. When Rumi’s life and works are viewed as a whole, it is clear that they reflect the meaning of “come, whoever you are, discover the beauties in our world, and find your true essence.” On the other hand, as Rumi himself expressed, one of his feet walks through the nations of the world, and the other stays fixed in the center of Islamic principles. As a person who never wavered in his fidelity to religious ways and essentials, it is unthinkable to say that he abandoned any religious practices that were obligatory (fard), necessary (wajib), or commendable (sunnah) to do. It is not correct to solely approach him in terms of his relations with others without seeing the excellent depth of his religious life.

Jalaluddin Rumi has two sides. On the one hand, he lives in strict adherence to the essentials of Islam; on the other hand, he lives among people and teaches the religion to them in a form that they can love and sincerely embrace. Those that criticize him see the second side only and fail or refuse to see the depth of his spiritual life. As a matter of fact, today as well, certain volunteers with love for God and humanity try to show sensitivity in observing acts of worship and complying with the essential disciplines of the religion on the one hand, and they try to come into contact with the entire world on the other. Similarly, those who criticize the volunteers do not pay attention to their religious devotion but only see their efforts for dialogue with others from a narrow-minded perspective. However, in our time when the world is full of antagonism and weapons of mass destruction, dialogue activities centered around love, respect, compassion, and tolerance are very important. If you really wish to eliminate the menacing, negative tension in humanity, you need to use the mysterious key of love. Actually, there is no door this magical key cannot open, no heart it cannot enter, and no face it cannot make smile. Still, it should not be forgotten that one could convey positive thoughts and feelings to others not through a frown but with a warm smile. When others step into your heart, they must find a magnanimous conscience so that nobody worries about failing to find a seat reserved for them. It is commendable to follow the ways and methods presented by heroes of guidance such as Jalaluddin Rumi, Imam Rabbani, Mawlana Khalid al-Baghdadi, and Bediüzzaman Said Nursi, whose guide was the Qur’an and Sunnah. Although they possessed certain differences of secondary importance, all of those great figures of immense conscience beamed with love, overflowed with mercy and showed compassion to all; they opened their bosom to everyone and they neither returned any negative behavior with a physical or verbal response, nor did they respond by breaking others’ hearts as they did to them. What is incumbent upon us in our time is to take the lesson we learn from these historic figures and use this mysterious and magical power of love for the good of humanity.

1. Yunus Emre (d. 1321), Turkish Sufi poet
2. For further reading, see the relevant chapters in Key Concepts of the Practice of Sufism, volumes I and II.

This text is the translation of “Dengeli Bir Aşk u Heyecan İnsanı: Hazreti Mevlânâ

How Muslims Benefit from Their Own Sources to the Maximum Degree

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: It is stated that a true disciple of the Qur’an should benefit from Islamic sources directly and from other sources by filtering them. What are the points of consideration for benefiting from Islamic sources in the most efficient manner?

Answer: Before directing people to the essential sources, evoking a feeling of curiosity and an ardor for learning is necessary. In other words, love for the truth must be evoked in the conscience of society and then a thirst for knowledge and exploration in order to reach that truth must be present to such a degree that people become ardent seekers of knowledge who study phenomena tirelessly. If such ardor can be evoked, then a wish for studying the sources that constitute the identity of Muslims will begin to form in the hearts of the people. When hearts are seized by a passionate desire for learning, people will turn to their own sources and wish to drink abundantly from that fountain of knowledge.

You Cannot Direct Stagnant Water Anywhere

I would like to give an example from another issue. The volunteers who wish to revive their own thought or realize a revival within their own line of thinking must possess enthusiasm to the degree of madness; this excited state makes them unable to contain themselves to stay where they are. It is very difficult to save people from inertia, languor, and weariness without such an excitement. As for a person full of enthusiasm, although they might go to excesses in some respects, it is easier to moderate them within the disciplines of the religion they respect. For example, you can tell them, “You are so enthusiastic, but going to extremes will bring more destruction than progress, and this contradicts the values you cherish and the essentials of your religion. Instead, let us use your enthusiasm in a constructive way. Perhaps, your enthusiasm will be a seed of active patience for a few centuries and and an example of remaining steadfast on this path. Even if it takes centuries, let us exert our brains to come up with beautiful projects.”

This may help channel their enthusiasm to constructive projects. The same fact is true for deepening one’s knowledge and reading more. In other words, it is very difficult to direct people toward reading certain sources without evoking in them a passion for knowledge, truth and exploration. No matter how much you try to encourage people who are devoid of such enthusiasm to read certain sources, they will remain sufficed with a single reference book. A passion for knowledge must be stimulated first, and then it must be channeled to a productive course; it is not possible to channel stagnant water anywhere.

The Essentials Should Be Known First

The second point of consideration here is to determine our priorities with respect to our own world of thinking. In other words, what should our priorities be with regards to learning and establishing a base and criteria to follow? What are the essentials that serve as our standard to test the new things we learn and where are they found? The answers to these questions lie in the essential sources of religion which consists of the primary sources—the Qur’an, Sunnah, ijma (consensus of Muslim jurisprudents), and qiyas (logical deduction by analogy in Islamic jurisprudence)—and the secondary ones (i.e. taking decent customs into consideration, choosing the better option etc).

Reading different sources without understanding the primary sources and learning the established principles set forth in them confuses minds most of the time. An example of such confusion happened with the Ottomans, with the process that began with the Tanzimat Period and continued later on. Their failure to show fidelity to a methodology is evidenced by their accepting everything they found to be true without testing whether they were right or wrong. Thus, they ran after different fantasies leading to a period of confusion. For example, it is a reality that much discussion has been made concerning issues of self-improvement nowadays. However, if we do not refer to the invaluable statements of the noble Prophet regarding this important matter and only read self-improvement theories devoid of metaphysics, so many aspects of the issue will remain deficient. If we cannot guide people toward becoming heroes of spirit that glorify God in a universally comprehensive sense within the essentials taught by the ultimate guide, the Messenger of God, then it resembles—God forbid—seeing the system he brought as a deficient one, as if the Qur’an left many things incomplete, or as if the great scholars of the classic period did not understand Islam at all. All of these are examples of obvious deviation. Then why should Muslims follow other ways? What others wrote or said may have a point within their own discourse, terminology, and system, but Muslims are supposed to evaluate matters from the perspective of their own values and essential sources so that they do not conflict or contradict the essentials of faith while making a statement about pedagogy, psychology or other sciences.

If we begin to travel without determining the qibla first, then we wander here and there in a perplexed fashion but cannot find the right way or direction. If establishing this qibla can be assured well, namely, after Muslims first learn their own sources and internalize the essentials in them as their criteria, they can read any book they wish. I do not even object to reading Sartre and Marcus, whose thoughts might misguide particularly young believers. There can be some good things to be taken from their philosophies, but if you are to take what you wish in the correct way, you definitely first need a criterion in hand. Before making embroidery, you first need a canvas to work on. If you do not have an established structure of values, then you may drift away in pursuit of different currents and will not obtain anything in the end. Unfortunately, this has been the miserable condition of some intellectuals from Muslim lands for a few centuries.

The Tripod

The knowledge obtained from other sources by one who understands the essential sources well can elevate one to a different kind of richness. Until the fifth century of the Islamic Calendar, and even until the 11th and 12th centuries in way, Muslims took what they could from other sources, benefited from them, and experienced no serious problems with regards to this issue. They filtered things they took, revised them, and determined very well what to take and what to leave out. If we can realize this same methodology today, then we can attain a serious wealth of knowledge.

On the other hand, in order to benefit from our invaluable essential sources efficiently, we need to have a magnanimity of conscience that allows us to journey through the horizons of the heart and spirit and enables us to identify what we need to know; in addition, we should also possess a perspective that draws the correct meanings while reading the universe like a book in order to benefit from those sources of knowledge and interpret them correctly. I doubt many people with such horizons and understanding can be found in our time. For a long time, we have been deprived of the establishments that raise individuals with a holistic approach and appeal to all of their material and spiritual aspects—their heart, spirit, reason, and thinking altogether. Unfortunately, the madrasas (traditional Islamic schools), that were once the centers of knowledge and wisdom and where so many great personalities were raised, lost their progressive qualities. They just began to repeat what had previously been said. Since they could not keep pace with their time, eventually they were far behind and, as a result, unable to meet the needs of their society. Sufi lodges, which had flourished within the Islamic tradition, similarly lost their progressive quality. Since they did not take the principles of Islamic theology and the methodology of jurisprudence into consideration, they interpreted religion according to certain personal feelings and experiences. As the understanding of religion was built upon certain subjective considerations, it was pushed into the frame of mysticism. When this became the case, the reactionary movements against them totally ended up in naturalism and materialism. Therefore, the schools and Sufi lodges, which were supposed to support another, fell into serious conflict. Imitating the West, some even took it to the extreme of completely separating the fields of science and religion.

In the end, Muslims were the ones to pay the price. As the madrasas and Sufi lodges were closed to the world, the spiritual and scholarly life of Islam became separated from one another. As these two were devoid of the support of “time,” an important interpreter, they condemned themselves to narrowness of ideas. Consequently, the religion was shattered into pieces and it lost its true identity. In this respect, without striking a balance between the madrasa and the Sufi lodge—or between reason and spirit—and then completing this into a tripod of discipline, it is impossible for Muslims to become themselves again or to think like themselves and analyze matters related to their true identity.

I would like to mention one final point here. If we have a serious love for truth and knowledge, and if this becomes reflected in our character, then I think we give the message we wish to convey by our representation of it. The most influential, permanent, and consistent lesson is the one that individuals give through their attitude and behaviors. The most important dynamic for making hearts feel a reality is presenting a practical example of the truths one believes and seeks. The real duty of books and speeches must be shedding light on the points that are not clear through practical examples. However, we suffice with solely transferring information as if it could possibly convey everything. Unfortunately, the Holy Qur’an has been waiting desolately in a special corner of Muslims’ homes, unable to guide them even though it is shown ceremonial respect by being placed in velvet covers. If the meaning and contents of the Qur’an, the Book of Wisdom, begin to be practiced and becomes the spirit of our lives, then the Divine Word will be given its due. Only then will you be able to hear the voices from beyond the physical realm and feel the breathing of the angels in it. If you concentrate on it in an even more resolved fashion, then you can listen to it as if it were coming out of the blessed mouth of the Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him. A scripture that is not practiced and whose language is not understood will not tell you much, no matter how exalted it is. For this reason, all of our spoken or written statements must be under close inspection and command of the heart.

This text is the translation of “Kendi Kaynaklarımızdan Azamî Derecede İstifade

Seeking Recognition

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: People have an innate inclination towards self-appreciation and seeking recognition. What is the suitable attitude for a believer to have to counter such urges?

Answer: One can sometimes realize good things with the help and support of God Almighty. However, we cannot always be sure that we did everything in the best way possible. Perhaps it was possible to do something better with the means available. For this reason, even in the face of seemingly great accomplishments, believers must reflect on their actions by questioning themselves and their deeds thinking, “I wonder whether I was efficient in using the means granted to me. Have I given a satisfactory performance and did I really do my best?”

If this self-examination is done, I think even in the face of one’s greatest accomplishments, one will realize that they were not able to carry out their actions properly and failed to act in a way that complied with the intent of God Almighty; one will not be satisfied with her or his efforts. Thus, let alone taking pride in their actions, they will even begin to blame themselves and find avenues for improvement through this process of self-evaluation.

Carry out or Establish?

The Turkish people use the verb kilmak (to carry out) when referring to the observance of Prayers. However, the Qur’an and Sunnah refer to the same issue using the word iqama for establishing the Prayers. This means separating one’s self from anything other than God and perfectly fulfilling the Prayer’s inward and outward dimensions. In other words, one gives that Divine trust its due with perfect sensitivity and performs that pillar in a flawless fashion with its special hues, patterns, and lines. For this reason, if someone says, “I have established the Prayer” then others may ask that person “have you really fulfilled the Prayer thoroughly with all of its outward and inward requirements?”

As for the use of the term “kılmak” it rather gives a sense of finishing a task one has to complete. Therefore, I find it safer to refer to the Prayers with the phrase “kılmak”; it sounds humbler. It calls to mind a consideration that if the Prayer has not been perfectly fulfilled with its inward and outward dimensions, then one cannot say they have established it. Instead, I performed the Prayer to the best of my ability. However, I have hope in the infinite mercy of God that He will forgive a person like me who carries out the Prayers imperfectly. I truly love this way of thinking, because I believe it is a reflection of a humble and modest personality.

When this is not the case, then there is a danger inone’s becoming confident in their good acts. Instead, one must think, ‘I could not do it properly,’ and seek to do better and to hold the firm belief that God Almighty may forgive His servants even with deeds performed imperfectly and accept them. Hopefully, God Almighty will fill the gaps in the deeds of a person who possesses this type of attitude with regard to their intention and treats that person accordingly. It is wrong to think about the good things one accomplished, to seek recognition for them, and to wish for their good deeds to be talked about; similarly, it is wrong to claim the appreciation and compliments of others. Other people can say, ‘this person made such and such achievements’, but we are supposed to take it as an exaggeration that stems from their positive view and take such remarks as mistaken judgment.

In fact, mistaken judgments based upon thinking positively of others cannot be evaluated as a sin. In Islamic ethics, it is better to prove wrong a good opinion of a person than prove right a negative opinion. Muslims are supposed to hold a good opinion of one another with the condition of not losing the balance of making exaggerations in singing someone’s praises. Otherwise, this resembles dealing a fatal blow to them by evoking arrogance.

Do Not Reduce the Reward for Good Acts into the Expectation of Appreciation from People

It is very important for a believer to aspire to make others love God and His Messenger with an insatiable ambition. However, even if a man succeeds in becoming a means for making all hearts feel and appreciate the true spirit of the noble Prophet, he should see what he did as insufficient; he should not reduce the value of those good acts by seeking recognition in return for them. Even others’ appreciative remarks should not change his feelings and opinion with regards to this issue. Those who seek an opportunity to talk about their achievements and live with this feeling will not find the opportunity or time to detail what they really should. However, our care and concern should be only for God and His Messenger. We should see this as the greatest ideal and act upon it all the time. It is the right of God Almighty to be loved by people, whereas its realization is a duty and responsibility for the believers. One of the most dangerous factors for those who try to serve for this sake is trying to express and prove oneself by mentioning certain things one achieved. In fact, if others heedlessly praise a person’s ideas, suggestions, projects, and organizational or communicative skills, then the situation is more dangerous. When we cherish a worldly goal such as recognition by others, although it is possible to realize in this world, it reduces the reward and will bring a disappointment beyond description in the next one. For this reason, a true believer should see the issue from the perspective of the immensity of Divine Mercy, always seek God’s good pleasure, and never render their actions worthless by attaching them to simple expectations.

It is not a virtue for a person to memorize personal achievements and acts of goodness. There is a proverb that reflects this meaning: “Do a good deed and let it into sea; even if the fish do not appreciate it, the Creator will.”

When someone performs an act of goodness, it is possible to praise God and offer thanks to Him for making it possible for one to perform that good deed. That is a different issue. However, if someone mentions his or her achievements and good deeds in a boastful manner, it will cause them to lose the otherworldly rewards that would have accompanied their good deeds. Believers must act so sensitively with regards to this issue that when someone comes and mentions their good act, they should be able to say that they do not even remember that and not spare any place in their memory for it. If needed, they should make serious efforts to erase it from their memory.

The Greatest Shortcoming: Not Seeing One’s Own Shortcomings

Someone with sound belief should have a guilty conscience even about a single bad deed and feel remorse as if it was done yesterday, even if they committed it seventy years ago and asked forgiveness for it seventy thousand times. They must kneel in shame and keep asking for forgiveness from God. Perhaps the mistakes that existed in the mind and imagination will never be recorded in a person’s record of deeds; however, if a person commits a mistake even at such a level, he or she must feel ashamed, saying, “My God! How could I even think such unbecoming things before You… How could I allow such things to enter my imagination? What a disrespectful person I am!” In other words, a person should feel ashamed for the wrongs they commit. A person who acts in this manner will not lose anything. On the contrary, one who leads a life in this way will attain the reward of so much repentance by seeking forgiveness. The Messenger of God gave glad tidings to those whose record of deeds is rich in seeking forgiveness (istighfar). In one instance, he stated that he asked forgiveness from God at least seventy times a day, and another time, he said it was a hundred times a day. However, we already know that God Almighty did not let him commit the slightest wrong in his entire lifetime. The beloved Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him, was born innocent and always lived innocently. He led his life under the protective shade of Divine revelation. Despite this fact, he still asked for forgiveness seventy or a hundred times a day.

In conclusion, it is a great gain for a person to rise from bed at night with a guilty conscience about a single sin, shed tears about it, and say, “O God, I ask forgiveness a million times from You.” As for those who are dizzy from their achievements, which see themselves as free from guilt and live in the magical atmosphere of their own virtues, it is very difficult for them to turn toward God in humility and humbleness. It is only those who see themselves as criminals even for making the slightest wrong that turn toward God with complete sincerity, open up to Him and start imploring Him to forgive them. Therefore, a person that seeks appreciation from others is contemptible, whereas questioning oneself is a virtuous deed. May God include us among His fortunate servants who criticize themselves in the true sense!

This text is the translation of “Kendini İfade Etme Arzusu

Are We Faithful to the Trust?

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: There is a prayer at the end of “The Sixth Word”: “O Lord, forgive our sins and accept us as your servants. Enable us to remain faithful to Your trust until the time of restitution (returning the trust) arrives.” Could you explain what is meant by “the trust?” Is it only the blessing of “life?” Could you also elucidate the term “trust,” with respect to our duties and responsibilities?

Answer: Since trusts are the first blessings God Almighty grants human beings, each thing a person gains—through giving freewill its due and making good use of the first blessings—is a trust as well. Actually the real catalyst in what a person gains is God, too. However, there is a general principle of law: “If the real catalyst is not apparent, then an action is ascribed to the closest cause.” Based on this principle, when a man gains something by using his freewill, we accept him as the cause of the act, even though he is not the actual catalyst.1 Therefore, as the attributes God Almighty grants people are blessings, what people gain through using their freewill should also be considered among the Divine blessings granted to them. If people can acquire this perspective, they will be able to discern that what actually operates behind those blessings, with all of their internal and external dimensions, is the hand of the Almighty Power. Those who possess this perspective will be full of of praise and gratitude for the One who grants them those blessings. They will sing praise for God from the bottom of their heart, and feel that blessed phrase resonate through their entire body.

Faith: The Greatest Trust

As viewed from this perspective, the issue is extensive. For example, just as our life is a Divine trust to us, the seeds of eternal bliss such as faith, constant awareness of God’s omnipresence (ihsan), knowledge of God (marifah), and love of God (muhabbah) are also important blessings. Without faith, people spend a temporary life in this world, like other creatures do; they condemn themselves to non-existence. Attaining eternal bliss depends on faith.

For this reason, exerting oneself to protect an important trust like faith by erecting barriers and using research to bring evidence in support of faith still does not give this important issue its proper due. What befalls on individuals is regarding such a valuable trust is to ask for more all the time and keep on walking in the path of servanthood. Imagine that a box of valuable jewels is given to your custody and you risk losing your head if anything happens to it. That trust will surely be treated with the utmost seriousness. However, the worth of such a box is nothing next to faith. For this reason, believers should build fortifications around their faith, being certain not to leave any gaps that the devil and the carnal soul can sneak through; such behavior stems from remaining faithful to such a great trust. In addition to being steadfast in faith, diligence in observing worship is also a very important part of preserving the trust of faith. A person needs to continuously pray to God for this sake, seeking refuge in His protection and help. As such, the Messenger of God never gave up praying as, “O God, Turner of hearts! Bind my heart to Your religion!”

Who Is Islam Entrusted To?

The Holy Qur’an is also a trust given to believers. It is necessary to preserve it not only in the minds, through memory, but also by being loyal to its meaning and content. If the Qur’an is not understood in meaning and content, its value is not appreciated. It should not be forgotten that we cannot pretend to be faithful to the Qur’an by entrusting its message to vocal performers, and by finding consolation while listening to them. To be truly faithful to this trust, we must keep Qur’anic values alive in society by exerting ourselves to make it the most cherished teaching in the world, and by blowing its spirit to other souls.

If we cannot be faithful to the Qur’an in this way, then we are actually betraying it, even though we might show shallow respect by hanging it in velvet covers on our bedroom walls. The Islamic teaching, with all of its essentials and principles that must be practiced in real life, is a trust to all Muslims from God Almighty and His Messenger. The Pride of Humanity has presented the framework for this teaching and showed the truth of everything explicitly; he showed believers the ways to true happiness in this world and the next. Therefore, the noble Prophet entrusted Islam to his Companions first, and then to generations to follow. With the hopes of making it more practicable in their age, every one of the saintly figures (mujaddid, mujtahid, awliya, asfiya, and abrar) of later centuries brought clarity to certain vague religious points; with their judgments and elucidations, they revealed the fact that Islam can be lived afresh in every era. Thus they fulfilled their duty and entrusted it to the following generations.

The trust that was placed on the shoulders of earlier generations is on our shoulders now; it will be transferred to the next generation tomorrow. It would be terribly irresponsible to transfer that trust to later generations in a deformed condition. If we are not faithful to the trust, protect it as we should, and hand it to our successors in sound condition, we will have betrayed this trust and done a grave disservice to the next generations. Particularly in our time, serving faith and the Qur’an has gained more importance owing to neglect. In the past, people risked their lives for this lofty ideal. Under difficult circumstances, they responded in the best way possible; they upheld this trust so it could reach our hands. Now it is our duty to uphold the service of faith as it was entrusted to us, ensuring its message does not lessen during our lives by conveying this message, untainted, to those who need it. If we fail and the trust is tainted, we have betrayed God Almighty, and He will bring us to account in the Hereafter.

Let me state an example: If a volunteer of faith, without working for sixteen hours, says that things are not running smoothly and asks for an assistant, then this person can be seen as giving in to laziness. If a devoted soul works for sixteen hours and still feels that certain things are left undone, then he can ask for a helper. If we really care about not bearing the stigma of betrayal in the sight of God Almighty, we must approach the trust with this mindset, and then seek refuge in Divine Power and Mercy through considerations and prayers such as, “My God! Please send trustworthy people eligible to bear the trust as soon as possible, so that we can transfer these trusts to them untainted.”

Betraying the Trust is a Characteristic of Hypocrites

The noble Prophet stated that anyone who has the following four characteristics is a pure hypocrite; if he has one of them, he possesses some hypocrisy until he gives it up: When he is trusted, he betrays this trust; when he speaks, he lies; when he makes an agreement, he breaks it; and when he becomes hostile he has no limits.2 Accordingly, neglecting the trust—taking all of the points we mentioned into consideration—can be taken as a sign of hypocrisy. This also means losing one’s trustworthiness, which is among the characteristics of the Prophets. People gain value in so much as much as they adopt characteristics of the Prophets, and vice versa.

Let me make a final point that those who act in such a carefree manner regarding issues concerning all Muslims’ rights commit a serious wrong by betraying the trust without even being aware of it. Therefore, all of us must shake with anxiety at the thought of ruining this trust, which is bestowed on our shoulders by the Divine. Taking fellow believers into consideration as well, we should constantly pray: “O Lord, protect us from a wrongdoing like betraying the trust and make us trustworthy bearers until the day You take it from us.”

1. As it is revealed in the Qur’an, “…it is God Who has created you and all that you do” (as-Saffat 37:96). This means that it is God Almighty Who creates us and enables us to do things. He has given us will and power so that we are able to will something and do it. However, it is He Who creates and gives external existence to what we do. Our performing an action does not mean that that action must come about. Were it not for His creation, we could do nothing. We are doers or agents, while God is the Creator. If we had no ability to do something and God did not create our actions, then our having freewill would be meaningless and we would have no responsibility for our deeds. (Ed.).
2. Sahih al-Bukhari, Iman, 24

This text is the translation of “Emanette Emin miyiz?

The Devoted Souls with Enthusiasm and Commonsense-2

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

One of the most important means of evoking such an enthusiasm is stimulating a person’s tafakkur (reflection) and deepening their system of thought. The Arabic definition of tafakkur means a person does more than just think; they make serious mental efforts. Therefore, the perspective of tafakkur is acquired when one makes reflecting deeply their habit. Tafakkur does not mean sitting there and brooding over matters, or making superficial and simple connections about things one sees or hears. On the contrary, tafakkur means taking the beginning and end into consideration together; moving one’s reason between the cause and effect like a shuttle and developing wisdom through that thinking; absorbing the consequent inspirations into one’s soul and making these inspirations into a part of their feelings; and even seeking to make more of these inspirations by examining them further. For people to learn fervor and enthusiasm, they must become habituated to serious thinking and reasoning, and they must be able to see right and wrong correctly.

One Should Always Be Spelling the Name of God, Living with This Truth, Each and Every Night

Continuity of the mind is very significant. It is so important that even if we think those around us are journeying down the paths pointed out by the verse, “It is in the remembrance of, and whole-hearted devotion to God, that hearts find rest and contentment,” (ar-Ra’d 13:28) one should never see his or her own spiritual level, or rather another’s level, as sufficient. Believers need to support one another in this pursuit. As the great thinker Bediüzzaman put it, like stones that make up a dome, we need to support one another in order to not fall. Taking this example solely as advice about avoiding disagreements and upholding social unity is a deficient understanding. We need to tackle it from a wider perspective: We should adopt serving religion as the highest ideal of our lives and always support one another at maintaining our spirituality on the path to realizing this lofty ideal. Accordingly, when we gather to worship, we should never be unserious. We should make the assembly meaningful by reading and discussing subjects to make us more conscious of God. After such gatherings, we need to question whether we experienced any of the truths expressed in the supplication:

“O God, increase us in knowledge (ilm), faith (iman), certainty (yaqin), reliance on You (tawakkul), surrender to You (taslim), commitment to You (tafwiz), knowledge of You (marifah), love of You (mahabbah), intense love of You (ashq), yearning for reunion with You (ishtiyaq ila liqaik), chastity (iffah), innocence (ismah), perspicacity (fatanah), and wisdom (hikmah).” Even at our gatherings for worldly matters, when we find a chance, we should shift the subject to such topics and try to whisper the beauties of faith into our hearts.

Knowing what happens in our present culture, it is understandable that people are influenced by popular norms. Knowing what happens in our day and following certain matters of actuality is surely acceptable. However, given that there are so many people immersed in these matters, those who devoted themselves to serving the truths of the Qur’an should try to fulfill their spiritual potential, and deepen their faith. For this reason, they should always be spelling the Name of God, and living with this truth each and every night.

In short, we are supposed to do whatever must be done to help people passionately love God Almighty, and to cherish their love for the blessed Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him. This love should be so intense that upon hearing his blessed name, the listener should feel a shiver down his spine. Sustaining our enthusiasm for this cause, and keeping our devotional spirit fresh, requires continuous maintenance.

The same principle is true in our physical life. For example, when a certain limb is not used for a long time, the muscles atrophy until they finally become completely useless. The same is true of our heart and spirituality. We cannot overlook the wisdom in the commandments to pray five times a day and to fast during the month of Ramadan. Believers who release their buckets into the fresh fountain of Islam five times a day are washed and purified with what they receive from it. That is, they try to feel Him, sense Him, and know Him five times a day. We are supposed to grasp this essential point in the act of worship, and orient our behavior and our time toward sustaining the Islamic love and enthusiasm born of prayer.

The Seas before Us Cannot Be Passed with a Ramshackle Ship

In order to emphasize the importance of continuous spiritual maintenance, the beloved Prophet’s advice to his Companion Abu Dharr is very important: “Restore your ship, for the sea is deep. Take your provisions perfectly, for the journey is long. Lighten your load, for the ascent is steep. Be sincere in your acts, for the Watchful One sees everything.”

As the distance to be covered is very long, and the sea to pass is very deep, there is no tolerance on the journey for the slightest heedlessness. May God forbid, but in the face of temptation, one can sink like the Titanic to the bottom of the sea. If the ship represents our spiritual life, and our heart’s relation with God Almighty, then we need to restore it with every new dawn. It is not possible to undertake a long journey with a ramshackle ship, a neglected heart, and a faulty mentality.

The wise pieces of advice continue. The noble Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, advised his companion to take his provisions perfectly, for the journey would be very long. That long journey begins in this world and ends in the next. The provisions are neither food or drink, nor weapons; they represent a person’s servitude and obedience to God. For example, our prayers will accompany us in the intermediary realm of the grave, and our fasting will help us pass through the Rayyan gate of Paradise. If these are not taken here, on Earth, as provisions for the afterlife, then a person will face misery there.

There is also the warning about the steep ascent, and the recommendation to lighten one’s load. Accordingly, believers are supposed to avoid immersing themselves in worldliness—to keep the load on their backs light so they can surmount that steep ascent. Finally, we are reminded to be sincere in our actions, for the Watchful One sees us every moment.

Although such preparations are important to our worldly life because they uphold the truth, establish justice, and continue efforts to dignify believers, they are even more important to our eternal life.

God Almighty reveals the following truth in the Qur’an: “If He so wills (for the fulfillment of His purpose in creation), He can put you away and bring a new generation (of humankind in your place)” (Ibrahim 14:19 / Fatir 35:16). Here, rather than meaning a new people appearing on the stage of history, we can take the phrase “a new generation” to mean enthusiastic souls devoted to God—ones who did not give in to weariness, who did not take their religion for granted but felt its profundity freshly. In the next verse, it is stated, “That is surely no great matter for God” (Fatir 35:17). When He wills something to happen, He says “Be!” and it happens immediately. Unless they welcome a spiritual revival, those who become weary, who resemble worn-out goods, and who lose their spirit of religious enthusiasm are replaced by a new generation, through the noble lives of the Great Prophets or the activities of the respected expounders of Islamic laws, or the renovations of the great revivers of faith.

If those who experience a revival by showering God with favors become proud of their status as the “new generation,” they risk losing the Divine blessings and support. This support depends on humility and modesty. When we are given a responsibility, we should carry it out in the best way, while still remaining humble by remembering our servitude to our Creator. Only through an active understanding and faith can we survive long journeys, even those that take centuries. With a renewed enthusiasm and devotional spirit, we can walk toward the future.

This text is the translation of “Heyecanla Dopdolu Adanmış Ruhlar-2

The Devoted Souls with Enthusiasm and Commonsense-1

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: What are the indications of being devoted to serving humanity for the sake of God? What are your suggestions for evoking enthusiasm in new generations and making it last?

Answer: First of all, developing a spirit of devotedness depends on people’s having a sound belief in the religion they represent. A spirit of devotedness cannot be evoked without a sound faith, and the formation period for such faith can differ according to individuals. Very short rehabilitations might suffice for some people; they get what they should within forty hours. On the other hand, some others may need forty days, months, or even forty years to make the same progress. Even Junayd al-Baghdadi, a person with a good potential for spiritual progress, expressed that he began to sense and feel certain things after the age of sixty. Surely, this should not be misunderstood as he did not have any spiritual experiences until the age of sixty, which would be obviously disrespectful to that noble soul. But how are we supposed to take that statement? Junayd al-Baghdadi always targeted the horizon of being al-insan al-kamil (the universal man).1 Sensing certain breezes of that horizon can take time. Or maybe, he wished to draw attention to the difference in potential between people. In short, whatever he intended, we need to be cautious and avoid making off-handed remarks and having negative thoughts about those great guides. Regarding the possibility of speaking ill of them, and invoking Divine wrath, we need to seek refuge in God.

The Greatest Favor That Can Be Done to Today’s Generations

Returning back to our essential subject, illuminating the feeling and thought of devotedness in hearts has become more difficult in our time. This is an era where the home does not offer much in terms of metaphysical immensities. Educational institutions do not offer that feeling and thought either. Our streets have become enemies of spirituality. Mosques do not inspire hearts with love and enthusiasm, and establishments to guide people to the horizons of the heart and spirit do not exist… In such a period, making hearts feel the spirit of devotedness depends on certain specific efforts. We must help people resist their body’s influence, and save them from being held captive by their carnal desires. We must orient them toward the level of the heart and spirit, and make the attainment of God’s good pleasure their ultimate purpose in life. Lastly, we must teach them to pray all the time as, “My God, I ask for forgiveness, well-being, and Your good pleasure.” Maintaining this requires very serious effort.

A desire for the world and its temptations is inherent in human nature. Particularly in our time, as worldly goals and ambitions have gained priority, people have been consumed by these wordly issues. For this reason, I think that the best kind of goodness for today’s generation is evoking in their hearts a desire and enthusiasm to live for others. Such love and enthusiasm is a very important principle that belongs to the very essence of Islam. When this feeling is reflected in prayer, it reveals itself as consciousness of God, and awe; when it comes to glorifying the name of God, it reveals itself as an urge to be constantly on the move with a spirit of devotedness. No matter what you teach someone whose heart is devoid of such essential love and enthusiasm, you will not see much effort in terms of selflessness and sacrifice.

Being Devoid of Enthusiasm Means Death for the Heart

First of all, believers need to have a boundless enthusiasm; this makes them restless with suffering to reach this lofty ideal. They must feel a throbbing in their temples from the intensity of this suffering, and be exhausted by the strain on their hearts and minds. If a person possesses such an intense enthusiasm, you can temper their feelings with reason and the sensibility of Islam. In other words, you can channel this overflowing enthusiasm toward goodness. For example, you can help them use their love and enthusiasm for maintaining steadfastness and continuity on the righteous path. This enthusiasm is essential; it is not possible to make any permanent and long-term achievement in the spirit solely with reasoning and logic. It is only with this love and enthusiasm that people will have the resolve to spend a lifetime upholding this noble ideal.

As is the case with every laudable virtue, the noble Prophet presents the best example for us, as confirmed by the Qur’an: “Yet, it may be that you (O Muhammad) will torment yourself to death with grief, following after them, if they do not believe in this Message,” (Kahf 18:6) and “It may be that you (O Messenger) will torment yourself to death because they refuse to believe” (ash-Shuara 26:3). The meaning of these verses show the level of enthusiasm the Messenger of God possessed. God Almighty tempered his enthusiasm with the commandment “You cannot guide to truth whomever you like, but God guides whomever He wills” (al-Qasas 28:56). Therefore, if anybody overflows with such an Islamic enthusiasm, it can be tempered with the commandments of the Qur’an. We can tell that person to appraise the possible costs of acting impulsively, and to reckon the requirements of time, conjuncture, the feelings of people they address, and how they will probably respond. But if there is no initial enthusiasm, what is there to be tempered? A fully enthusiastic mood like this is necessary in order to maintain continuity and determination. However, reason and commonsense should never be sacrificed to emotion and over-enthusiasm. These can give way to imbalance and extremism. For this reason, while hearts need enthusiasm, reason and commonsense must always supersede emotion, and passion must be channeled constructively.

Sensibility and Enthusiasm Should Support One Another

In addition, if there is a lofty ideal we pursue, some obstacles on the way should not deter us from our path. As faithful servants, when we come up against an obstacle, we find an alternative way and keep walking from there. If the same thing happens with that path, then we find a new one again. If all the roads become impossible to walk, we continue striving for a lifetime without losing hope and say, “if we cannot, then the next generation will; if they cannot either, then, with the permission and help of God, the generation after them will realize this lofty ideal.” If necessary, we will bring down the stars in the sky as if they were playthings. We always try to keep our standards high, with the consideration that making no efforts for progress kills a person spiritually.

On the other hand, we abide by the requirements of reason and commonsense and thus pay attention to making realizable plans. There should never be contradiction between the reason and enthusiasm of a believer. On the contrary, these two must support and feed one another. Many people, despite acting in the name of righteousness, have harmed Muslims because they were guided only by emotion. Others used straightaway logic and thought that they could give good messages through pompous talks, demagogy, and dialectics. Yet they failed to make a lasting influence on others; they just lost energy and failed to carry on.

To find proper balance, we need enthusiasm at full gallop, but also sound principles tested through the essentials of the Qur’an. In fact, all of our attitudes and behaviors must be constantly tested to see whether they are right or wrong from the perspective of the Qur’an and Sunnah. The beloved Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, stated that what Muslims need is to follow his Tradition and that of the Rightly Guided Caliphs. He told his followers to keep a firm hold on these, as if with clenched teeth. Accordingly, another important criterion by which to test our behaviors on a certain issue is the approach of Rightly Guided Caliphs.

As we believe in the righteousness of the cause and ideal we are totally committed to, the path we use to reach that ideal must inspire trust in others’ hearts. This can only be achieved by following the way of the Companions, particularly that of the Rightly Guided Caliphs, and the way of the Qur’an and the Sunnah.

1. For more information, see Emerald Hills of the Heart, Vol. 2.

This text is the translation of “Heyecan ve Mantık Buudlu Adanmış Ruhlar

Perfection and Modesty

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: It is stated that the devoted souls who will realize a new revival are supposed be no different than ordinary people. On the other hand, they are continuously encouraged to be the cultured people who represent the best way by personal example. How can we strike the balance between these seemingly conflicting aspects?

Answer: If we evaluate the issue from the perspective of guiding others and conveying the Divine message to them, it is essential to believe that the following two qualities constitute the “must” of this path: targeting perfect standards along with adopting an understanding of nullifying oneself. For being able to convey relevant points to others and making an impact on consciences by God’s grace, it is essential to make an effort to be well-equipped with the knowledge and practices of faith, as well as possessing humility and modesty, and viewing oneself as an ordinary person among other people. Any attempt to guide that is not based on knowledge and actual spiritual depth will not evoke any trust in those being addressed. Word polluted with arrogance and pride will never diffuse into hearts; and even if they do, their effect will never be permanent. Consider the works of Bediüzzaman: He highlighted how serious a problem ignorance was. On the other hand, he also emphasized that arrogance has become a widespread disease in our time.

Two-Winged Spirit of Guidance, with Knowledge and Humility

Let us expound on these two aspects a bit. In order to achieve a thorough representation, a Muslim, first, needs to “read” very well the contemporary age, social structure, contemporary events, and Divine principles operating in the universe, and then interpret them correctly. On the other hand, a Muslim also needs to know religious commandments and what they mean in our age, and thus become a “child of the time.” Otherwise, so many truths will be victimized by their poor representation, and their values will be condemned to seem worthless in the eyes of others. As everything depends on knowledge, it is very important for Muslims to express their own values well. What we mean by knowledge (ilm) here is not having information about a particular subject as it is commonly used in our day; it is the knowledge based on an evaluation of realities with their internal and external dimensions, which can help us draw a conclusion and deepen in knowledge of God. In fact, it is not possible for a believer to make any individual progress without such knowledge, let alone guide others. Until the moment people are equipped with knowledge, including knowledge of God, they will not be able to refuse their carnal self, and not be able to rid themselves of confusion and instability. Individuals who do not solve the problems of their own heart and mind will have real difficulty conveying the truths of faith to others; unaware, they will probably resort to demagogy and dialectics. Until the moment they overcome the doubts and suspicions in their own mind, they will not be able to avoid faltering at their statements. For this reason, we firstly need to have insight into our own matters, knowing them deeply, with their spirit, essence, background, and basis. After that, we need to feel and sense in our conscience that, with the initial theoretical knowledge we have, we can attain knowledge of God (marifah), then love of God through that knowledge, and then zeal and yearning for God through their totality. If we can truly make these ingrained in ourselves, and behold in our heart and mind a picture of what comes out of our mouth, then we can be saved from having inner conflicts and falling into contradictions. For this reason, those who wish to guide others and share the beauties of their teaching with others must definitely do everything they can to have a profound and multi-dimensional knowledge that will be pleasing to God Almighty. However, mere knowledge does not suffice for conveying the message to others. At the same time one needs to be conscious of the fact that these very important inspirations and gifts are pure blessings and bestowals of God Almighty. As Bediüzzaman points out in The Letters, all of these blessings can be compared to a fur coat presented by a king. Their value should not be overlooked. On the other hand, we should never give up the consideration that they do not essentially belong to us. That is, what we need to do is to direct the appreciation to the One who truly deserves it. If we can attain this perspective, we will have started opening the doors of modesty, humbleness, and humility. Thus we will have realized the truth expressed by Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib: “Live among people as one of them.” And this means combining absolute humility and perfection. Ingraining this feeling and thought in ourselves depends on acknowledging the True Owner of everything we possess, and making our conscience accept the fact that we are nothing. I would like to reiterate one point I previously made. If we were to be asked to put aside what essentially belongs to God and stand before Him with what remains, nothing would be left, I think. For this reason, what befalls on us is constantly being oriented to him in humbleness, modesty, and humility. As a matter of fact, it can be said that these points are related to the wisdoms behind the command to pray five times a day. Standing in awe of God five times a day at prayer is an expression of submission to Him. As bowing before God is a form of modesty, prostrating oneself before Him is an expression of humbleness; it is a person’s closest state to God Almighty, as related in a hadith. Actually, the time of prostration is the moment when a person is freed from one’s own self and dyed with the hue of manifestations from Him. That is, you reach such a state of “I” during prostration that, this “I” is nothing but a work of His manifestations. Then, closeness to God depends on a person’s nullifying oneself.

The Most Modest Person

As it is stated in the Qur’an: “Assuredly you have in God’s Messenger an excellent example to follow…” (al-Ahzab 33:21), the Messenger of God presented the best example in every respect in all of his attitudes and behaviors. The Prince of both worlds was honored with the Divine address “I would not have created the existence, had it not been for you.” In the words of the poet Necip Fazıl: “He, for whose sake we exist.” As his blessed light was the first light that appeared in the realm of existence, he is the most perfect fruit of the tree of existence. In other words, the light of Muhammad is the seed of the tree of universe and the ink of the pen of Divine Power that writes this “book of universe.” And he is the curator in this great exhibition of the universe. In the words of insightful scholars, the Prophet is a person who was gifted with the beginning and end of wisdom, with respect to the knowledge of the Divine. By God’s grace, every kind of problem was solved in the hands of that blessed settler of problems. He is the teacher for everybody to learn how to evaluate the world and its contents with the eye of wisdom. In addition to being such a distinguished person, God’s Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, is at the same time a monument of modesty and humility. When somebody addressed him as “our master,” he expressed his protest for such address—even though it was true. At another case when the following Divine command was revealed, “So wait patiently for your Lord’s judgment, and do not be like the companion of the fish, when he called out choking inwardly (with distress)…” (al-Qalam 68:48), he stated, not assuming superiority, “Do not prefer me over Yunus ibn Matta.” At another time, he told someone who felt overawed before him “Do not be afraid, I am the child of a woman who ate dried meat.” During the construction of the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, he carried two bricks on his back while others carried a single brick. While they needed to cook during travel, as all of his Companions contributed to it, he undertook the task of collecting firewood; he always made an effort to not avoid at any kind of responsibility. So the most perfected guide, under whose blessed feet the stars were like a stairway, combined such opposite virtues in his person, and thus he reached into souls with his most perfect and trustworthy example. Then what befalls believers should be faithfully following the footsteps of that perfect guide.

This text is the translation of “Mükemmellik ve Tevazu

The Devoted Souls and Life Standards

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: Those who work at the establishments based on the philosophy of devotedly serving humanity, sometimes begin to develop expectations of a better payment and life standards, owing to factors like long working hours or having produced high quality work. Could you share with us your considerations on this issue?

Answer: Let me first state one thing—that not all people will be on the same level of devotedness, as it is the case with other moral virtues. Even if a certain spiritual guide has an ability to make surprising impact on the hardest hearts, it is not possible for him to bring all of the people he guides to the same level of spiritual progress. As the guide is expected to give the message perfectly, those who are to receive the message need to be capable of receiving the message with their potentials and abilities. Let us say that you run to help a certain man with a water tanker, but he only has a bucket in hand. Even though you empty the contents of the entire tanker, the water will pour out once the bucket is filled.

When the Age of Happiness is viewed from this perspective, it becomes apparent that there were serious “level differences,” even between the Companions of the noble Prophet, the most influential guide, who consisted of, and emanated, blessed light in every way. It is not possible for ordinary people like us to categorize those radiant figures. Despite this, it is definite that few Companions shared the same level with people like Abu Bakr and Umar. We can say that every one of the Companions of the Prophet benefited from God’s Beloved one, who was the focal point of Divine manifestations, in-as-much as their personal aptitudes and capacities allowed.

Such a difference of level is also true for the devoted souls in our time. For example, some of them can live of barely enough food for sustenance—sometimes they even starve; but they still do not ask anything from others, and keep their dignity.

However, some of them cannot forebear such sacrifice; they might adopt attitudes and expectations to violate the principle of dignified contentment. Similarly, as some people lead their lives by keeping up a serious consciousness of death, the dominant feeling in others might be a longing for worldly goals and delusion of permanence. I heard a few days ago that an old person—who has one foot in the grave as they say—visited a doctor and asked: “I heard some rumors, is there anything real as the potion of immortality?” In my opinion, delusion of immortality for a person of that age is nothing but seeking disgrace. It is a reality that a wish for an everlasting life, together with the feeling of cherishing worldly goals and endless desires, is inherent in human nature. However, it should not be forgotten that this feeling in human nature is supposed to be directed to the eternal afterlife.

As is the case with devotedness and other qualities, despite spending time with the devoted ones, a person may not quite share the same spirit. Some people always have their eye on higher worldly benefits. For this reason, they do not feel content with the payment, title, and status they have; they expect to have these increased at certain intervals. And when they get what they desire, they set about seeking even more. Their lack of thankful contentment causes them to complain all the time. For this reason, it needs to be accepted as a reality that such people can be found even within the sphere of the devoted ones.

Responsibilities Must Be Entrusted to Eligible Ones

When needs to be done about dealing with this reality? First of all, people in certain positions should discern well the personality and natures of the people they are responsible for; they should consult with as many people as possible. This shared information should serve as a criterion that can assess the levels of individuals who act with commonsense and ascend to higher steps in life. If this can be done, people with worldly ambitions will not be able ascend to certain positions and breach the principle of dignified contentment. In fact, sometimes you need to employ someone in an important position, and cannot find anybody that suits your criteria. The only candidates for the job might possess some weaknesses, such as greed and envy. Then, even though they do not meet your standards of virtue, you may choose the lesser of two evils, and will temporarily entrust that important responsibility to such a person, rather than leaving things undone. But when you find the eligible one to carry out the job, you shift the former to a more suitable position and let the deserving one assume control. Entrusting a duty to someone else while there is an eligible one will be a betrayal to that duty, or a breach of trust.

When somebody asked the noble Prophet about the Last Day, he told him that breach of trust would herald the coming of the Last Day. And when the man asked about this breach of trust, the beloved Prophet told him to expect the time of Last Day when responsibility is given to the ineligible.1 Accordingly, if you entrust some responsibilities to one who is not eligible for them, then it is a kind of “Last Day” for that particular responsibility. If this state becomes general and permanent, then the Last Day can come. It appears that when the appointed hour for the world comes, betraying the trust will have become a grave, worldwide issue.

Having More Abundant Means and Real Economy

Another thing that needs to be done about people who never feel satisfied but always have their eye on more worldly benefits is to remind them that self-sacrifice and sufficing with the available means is not a principle only to be followed during hard times; it is necessary to help them attain a character of living with economy and dignified contentment in all conditions.

Gaining access to more abundant means should not change our general discipline. As the noble Prophet stated, even a person making ablutions near a river should avoid wasting water. Accordingly, as it is a waste for such a person to dip one arm in water and wait for 2–3 minutes; washing the limbs 4–5 times instead of 3 is wastefulness as well. A religious teaching that places so much emphasis on frugality also requires the same sensitivity in other matters. That is, if a person near a sea needs to act frugally, then a person in charge of a wealth like the sea should also live frugally, avoid wastefulness, and never change his or her lifestyle. For example, they should keep their habit of eating within the limits brought by Islam and never waste anything. As it is known, Bediüzzaman pointed out the fact that unnecessary eating triggers a false appetite. Then instead of sufficing with a single kind of food, having a diverse spread and tasting various dishes will trigger such a false appetite, which is harmful to health. Therefore, no matter how much wealth God Almighty grants, individuals should eat the necessary amount and avoid excess.

Some of the Companions led very austere lives in spite of being very wealthy. For example, Uthman ibn Affan had abundant means to donate three hundred camels and also to provide ten thousand soldiers with equipment. In spite of that, he never changed his life standards. He mostly spent his life on the sands of the Prophet’s Mosque. He would make a little heap of sand and use it as his pillow. He ate the same meal with others. Ali ibn Abi Talib, who also lead his life in the same simplicity, had only one dress to wear. He wore it both in summer and winter. As a matter of fact, he was a caliph who ruled an affluent state in a very extensive region. He and other great personalities followed the way of the blessed Prophet and continued to lead a simple life. These are very important examples for us. If we are to change our lives after gaining access to better means, then—may God forbid—it means that we have stepped into a vicious circle of unending negative change.

A Bohemian Life Has No Limit

You need to be so steadfast on this issue, so that even if God Almighty makes money shower down from the sky and form a heap before you, you should still say, “no matter how abundantly you come, you cannot find any way into my heart. I know where to use you.” Some saintly figures spent all of the goods God bestowed them without leaving anything for the morrow. A report included in the collection of Imam Bukhari teaches us the attitude to be adopted in the face of worldly means. Accordingly, while the Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, was about to lead a Prayer at his mosque, he suddenly stopped and rushed to his room. After that, he returned and led the Prayer. When the Prayer was over, he turned to the puzzled congregation and explained that at the moment he was about to start the Prayer, it occurred to him that somebody had given him a present. Since this worldly property could occupy his mind during the Prayer, he told his wife Aisha to give it to someone else so that he could free his heart and stand in God’s presence thus. This perfect lifestyle of God’s Messenger, together with his blessed light and atmosphere, made such an impact on those around him that their attitudes and behaviors were never changed by their opportunities. Bediüzzaman’s treatise “On Frugality”2 is a very important guideline on this issue. Reading it from time to time will be very helpful in terms of getting used to living contently with frugality. Otherwise, there is no limit to leading a bohemian life. If people indulge themselves in such a life—may God forbid—they spend an entire life controlled by their carnal desires. For this reason, frugality and contentment is an important value for everyone, poor or rich.

Particularly for the believers dedicated to serving faith, thankful contentment has a special significance. It is the duty of those who employ them to provide them with a sufficient payment for a decent living; on the other hand what falls on the devoted souls is to live with frugality and contentment, and to not compare their own lives with their counterparts outside their spiritual sphere. Home and abroad, wherever they are, the volunteers had better become accustomed to living with a modest income, like the scholarship of a student. Other people’s working for very high salaries cannot be an example for those who soar through the horizons of self sacrifice. They do not care about owning worldly property; they rent an apartment to reside and support their family with what God Almighty grants them. This is the basic discipline of devotion. The desire to be like those who chase money and status is a violation of this discipline. Others may lead a heedless life by eating and lying lazily. This cannot be a criterion for the devoted soul. God Almighty grants some worldly means to some of those who run lawfully on His path, such as the private business they run; that is a different issue. However, those who are paid through the financial means of serving the truth need to be very careful on this issue. Nobody must take anything more than they deserve. When Abu Bakr was given a little more than the sufficient amount to support his family, he put the remaining amount to a pot and willed it to be given to the next caliph after he passed away. When it was brought to Umar ibn al-Khattab, in accordance with the will, he could not hold back his tears and said, “You presented an inimitable example of righteousness and responsibility for those to come after you.” Thus he voiced the greatness of the first caliph. Actually, this is how the devoted souls in our time have to be. If they look at the means and payment others enjoy and hold the mistaken idea, “it seems that these are the real rewards of the job I am doing,” they should know that even if they run breathlessly on that path, this very thought will cause them to consume the blessings meant for the afterlife.

Constant Self-Criticism

Another point that needs concern on this issue is having in mind the question, “I wonder whether I really deserve this salary I get?” We need to maintain this self-criticism by praying somewhere open to the public, or by eating at an establishment and asking ourselves: “I am consuming the water, using the carpet, and eating the food here, so I wonder whether…” Even if we are in the places that belong to the circle we are devoted to, we need to be suffering with such concerns in our inner world.

Even things gained while fighting for a righteous cause are lawful to take only in certain conditions. According to a hadith related in Sahih al-Bukhari, making personal claim on any possession left from a particular enemy depends on having eliminated him personally. But when a nameless hero was offered a share from the gains of a battle he joined, he rejected the offer since was fighting not to gain benefits but to sacrifice himself. As our way is “serving” for the sake of God, we are supposed to adopt the philosophy of selflessness and lead our lives in dignified contentment. God loves those who sincerely act this way. Attitude and behaviors of such people have an effect on others, and seeing them reminds others of God. There is no need for them to tell so much with words. Their attitudes become an eloquent tongue and an articulate speech. Otherwise, those who cannot maintain this fine state cannot convey any good message even if they start shouting. Even if such people hold others’ attention temporarily, they can never help others make spiritual progress. Maybe some of us find it very difficult to lead such a life. But we mean to attain the difficult. The Qur’anic address to the noble Prophet “…the Hereafter (what comes after) will be better for you than this world (what has gone before)…” (ad-Duha 93:4) is also true for ordinary people like us. God Almighty makes the following warning to those who think otherwise, “but you (people) love and prefer what is before you (the present, worldly life). And abandon that which is to come later (the Hereafter)” (al-Qiyamah 75:21). In one of the letters he wrote to his students, Nursi refers to the same fact by stating that this age made (most) followers of Islam prefer this life over the afterlife, willfully and gladly. That is, he pointed out that the greatest disaster in the contemporary age was that love for this material world gained priority over love for the Hereafter; he commented that this verse refers to our time. From a perspective of Qur’anic exegesis, the original Arabic word in the verse is inflected in simple present tense (mudari); we can infer that this situation is one that continues for a long time. Therefore, it is possible to say that this understanding of preferring this worldly life over the next is likely to continue in the years to come. Probably in criticism of such facts, Muhammad Qutb chose the title “Are We Muslims?” for one of his books. According to the commentary of the great Imam Abu Hanifa in his Al-Fiqh Al-Akbar, making such a statement in the sense of not really being sure whether one really accepts faith or not is an expression of unbelief. But there is nothing wrong in this one, for it is used in a sense of making self-criticism. The poet Mehmed Akif referred to the same problem thus:

Let alone being Muslim, we can hardly be called human;
Let us make no pretence, we cannot fool anyone.
All the true Muslims I knew are already in their graves.
The real Islam is I guess, nowhere else but in heavens.

It is a reality that this is a diabolical age. We are living in an era of people whose sole concern is to indulge in consumption, to satisfy their appetites, and to lead an indolent life; their notion of Hereafter was destroyed, buried under the ground and huge boulders were heaped on it so that it could not be resurrected. Then, it should never be forgotten that the influence we are to make on others is closely related to the shadow we cast on the ground. If we are really upright, so will be our shadow, and our state will have a relevant effect in the hearts of others.

1. Sahih al-Bukhari, Ilm, 2
2. Included in The Gleams as “The Nineteenth Gleam.”

This text is the translation of “Adanmışlık Ruhu ve Hayat Standardı

Slanders and Conspiracies

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: The tolerance and dialogue process that began in Turkey years ago and was met with opposition is now a fact that almost everyone accepted. Would you please give your views on this phenomenon?

Answer: It doesn’t surprise me. I see that the resistance to the above-mentioned process appears to be an extension of the struggle between believers and unbelievers. As I have said on different occasions, it is not a new phenomenon for unbelievers to act against believers or for insults to be hurled at the faithful. It has gone on from time immemorial: It is a phenomenon that began with the first battle between Satan and Adam and has continued on, changing according to the times and conditions, sometimes gaining in intensity, sometimes easing up. At certain junctures, the deniers of our day are planning particular games, and they continue their fighting by changing arguments, instruments, and strategies. Here the attitude against faith never changes. Their hearts don’t change; their resentment, hatred, animosity, and hostility toward religion never change. The Holy Qur’an and the sound hadiths call this type of people “Satan’s minions,” meaning those who assist Satan. Because Satan has not changed, it is not possible for Satan’s minions to change either.

From the beginning Muslims really had to accept that this was the reality. Because of that, very trustworthy, angelic people may come and say, “The devils have changed now. The snakes embrace the doves and the wolves graze with the lambs.” But you should not believe them in any way. Otherwise, we will be people who are always lied to, deceived, and cheated.

Against this, we don’t have even one thing in common with them. We have the attitude towards them as we would towards the most monstrous animals that are committed to opposing us. As history has established, our attitude is always humane, because our religion commanded that we should be like that or behave like that. We are even saddened when a fly falls into the jam and is struggling, because our compassion and mercy are centered on even the smallest creature. Many years ago, my beloved friend, who was a flawless theologian, broke the back of a snake in the countryside. I think I didn’t speak to him for a month or two. “What right did you have? Why did you cut that animal’s life short and keep him from living,” I said in reproach.

Now our manner of interpretation is like this. Even people who have the natures of snakes and scorpions are treated with compassion and mercy.

Question: This approach means that they have not changed their attitude at all—why do they fail to soften their stance?

Answer: As I tried to express before, this is in the nature and character of unbelievers. To change one’s nature is hard—as in the folk-saying, “A leopard can’t change its spots.” Don’t forget: From the time of the creation of Adam and Satan’s people until now there has been a continuous rising animosity between these two groups. Before, this animosity was connected to ignorance, today it is based on their interpretations of science, philosophy, and the social sciences. Because of this, now the matter is a little more difficult to resolve and has taken the form of an enigma.

Yes, this hostility that is inherent in the character of unbelief impels them into rebellion against faith. They haven’t the least bit of forbearance for the things that come from faith. They have no ability or intention to share. These people have not matured enough to share. Rather than unite against a common enemy, they will wolf each other down, don’t doubt it. There are their clubs and organizations. If you’re not in their circle, they will not even accept you as a visitor. And our mosques? We need to think very seriously about them.

Question: In your opinion, do Muslims know about this as much as they should?

Answer: I don’t believe that they know. Of course, if you don’t know about something, you can’t be opposed to it either. Thus in the times when there were serious attacks against a group of Muslims, there were also Muslims who supported these attacks through deeds and publications. A number of false sheiks and scholars, perhaps unconsciously, served the misguided clan. They used their mouths, they published intrigues. Didn’t they really know what they were doing? I don’t know. But I can say this much: If these people—people of unbelief and misguidance—did not think about why there was this much hostility toward Muslims who were already exposed to a thousand kinds of brutality, then they were both enmeshed in behaviors that were disrespectful to religion and they were completely naive. And even further, they will be punished for their credulousness.

Really, isn’t it necessary to think, “Why are the enemies of God and the Prophet so hostile to them?” Isn’t it necessary to say, “Why do the enemies of the mosques take such a hostile attitude toward them?” Shouldn’t we ask, “What is the reason they declared their hostility to the religion?” On the other hand, a Muslim who can discern even the smallest detail should understand that these people are nothing but Satan’s servants, his representatives and accomplices who take his attitude.

Question: What gave rise to the most recent slander?

Answer: Everyone who lives in this country knows that in this type of structure, people with intelligence and character have so far heard of fifty types of slander and allegations against me. Maybe “conspiracy” would be a better word. The biggest was the “cassette storm” that I went through in June 1999. From the beginning to the end, there was this scenario, but there were details that they didn’t take account of. They didn’t realize there were serious holes in their logic. They said, let’s finish everything up quickly, but they couldn’t do it either strategically or technically without making mistakes. This is the way it was. They hurried through everything and tripped over their own feet. They made fools of themselves in the eyes of the public. Every time I hear it, I admire the prudence: According to the results of a survey of Turkish society, 85 percent said “We don’t believe this.”

We can learn this from looking at a point in history. Let me express my perceptions and feelings: The Prime Minister of the time, Mr. Bülent Ecevit, bravely spoke up and came out against this matter, saying in a loud voice, “I don’t believe this,” and “I don’t understand anything about these allegations.” He reacted to this bravely every time something happened. History will always remember his behavior with appreciation.

Yes, that was a storm but it never really died down. From that day to today, just as they did before, they try to destroy me. Every time they ignore the truth, they say brazenly, “This man has nine lives.” As you’ve seen, they may think you’re dead, but you aren’t really dead at all. I want this to be known: I am ill but I am not afraid of death. I see death as something like a holiday. People who do not believe in God should fear death. I am stubbornly longing to meet with God and our Prophet. Death is the greatest jewel that can be given to me. It is like a pearl found on the road.

There are several possibilities we could consider as to why this last slander arose. Let’s start with the flimsiest possibility: Some sly person wanted to get something into the media. He sat down and wrote some fake news and sent it to one of the news agencies. As it happens all the time with us, it was published on a website without anyone checking to see if it was accurate. Even though there are press ethics, they are not enforced because there is no penalty for false news. The press and publication houses have a relevant set of laws, but as I heard from Oktay Ekşi himself, we have a problem with enforcement.

On the other hand, they don’t even think about how this deceptive news affects my family, relatives, and those close to me. Previously, I said that they had tried to kill me. I’ll never forget: A while ago, my brother called me and said, crying, “We heard some news that someone attacked you as you left the mosque and split your head in two.” After that, his voice cut out—I think he fainted. As evidenced by the publication of this sort of false news, they clearly have no respect for people or for human values. In Turkey no one goes out and says, “All right, enough. Fear God. This issue has gone completely overboard.” Because no one says this sort of thing and the law has not been framed appropriately, lies and those who lie are allowed free reign. With these lies, the liars make a premium, increase circulation, and win new customers. And with that they can earn more from the increased advertising, too.

Second:—God knows, this is how it seems to me—Turkey is moving in a good direction toward cooperation through the united efforts of the state and smart politicians in the government. With a certain degree of agreement and compromise—even though there are always opposing voices—good things have been accomplished. For forty or fifty years we’ve had this dream of joining the European Union, and for the first time we are taking real concrete steps toward that goal. Turkey has successfully taken ownership of its role by hosting a meeting of NATO. We are experiencing many important developments, such as improvements in the field of economics, a reduction in inflation, foreign capital invested in Turkey’s development, an increase in tourism, etc.

God knows, there are people, as well as groups, neighborhoods, internal and external powers, who want to undermine and sabotage these developments. Whenever Turkey goes through a good period, there are those who always do underhanded things to all that has been accomplished. There’s no Turk who is unfamiliar with this. The people who have risen to such peaks, haven’t they just worked to benefit their allies? Didn’t they smuggle goods right in front of the eyes of the intelligence agencies? I’m embarrassed even to say it—what should we say about the whole embezzlement affair? Rather than talk about these things, they just shoved it all under the carpet, and instead switched the daily news topics to “reactionaries” in Turkey, “Fethullah Hoca,” and news like that. They turn the eyes of the public in another direction so they can comfortably continue their fraud!

That’s another possible explanation for this slander: Because of what they were doing, they put out this false news because they wanted to change the topic away from themselves.

Third: They think I’m at the threshold of death, and they say I always wanted to pass my last days in Turkey. All right, how did a person such as this come to stay in a different country for the past five years? The people who like to show off want to create an environment of pageantry when I arrive at the airport, with thousands of people who would come and meet me and form a convoy. People always think that everyone else is just like them. So it is thought that I want what those spectacle-loving people want.

On the other hand, throughout my life I have never wanted more than one or two people to meet me when I have arrived from another place. I wanted someone to come to meet me because I don’t know how to drive and I didn’t own a car. When I returned to Turkey from the United States in 1997, I called only one person from the plane and let him know I was there. I didn’t want either the media or my friends to come. Those close to me, including my siblings, only heard after I had already arrived in Turkey.

This is my nature. When I was little I used to do this when I would come home. Was everybody really waiting for me? If they were, so what? All right, it isn’t important if they looked for me or not. When I return to Erzurum, I would prefer to come home at night. My father, may he rest in peace, used to say, “Our stork, he comes home at night.” Let people—the neighborhood, guests, and neighbors—say “He came and he went, etc.”, but I didn’t want them to say anything. My character compelled me not to like those things.

By the way, let me say one more time that I consider it an insult to attribute to me all the educational activities and worldwide achievements made by the workers, teachers, women, and men of this altruistic group (Hizmet). I am not of the opinion that I did anything. Everything is done by these generous people. But some people misjudge and ascribe all this to me. I’ve been here for years in voluntary isolation, as you see and know. But work continues everywhere, with God’s guidance and favor. Even despite all the obstinacy and unbelief.

Let’s go back to the earlier point: If I return to Turkey and I am met by thousands of people coming to the airport in convoys and in the middle of it someone can stick in some provocateurs, they will change the focus. Come on, didn’t they do this in even the most innocent demonstrations? 

Fourth: With this false news, they may have wanted to interfere with people who just want to be in their own home, in their own garden, with wife and friends, enjoying the summer, or innocently reading the Qur’an or hadith. It’s not just my individual perception; it is general common sense that they snitch on people. As a result they come and seize innocent people and—excuse me—work you to a pulp until they can get you to spill everything. And no matter how much you protest your innocence, they’re sure you are guilty. That is, they work opposite of the law. You will be declared guilty, and then you have to prove your innocence. But they should follow the basic principles of law: “You can’t prove a negative.” “People are innocent until proven guilty.” “Allegations must be proven.”

In order to blacken the reputations of such innocent people, it is not difficult to sneak into people’s homes and plant a bunch of CDs and books, and things like that. Right now in the world of terrorism, this is a most common method. With these sorts of sneaky plans they can enthusiastically declare innocent people to be terrorists and portray innocent acts to be somehow connected to terrorism. You can see this is a basic conspiracy theory, but you cannot assure me that this isn’t what is really going on.

Fifth: I heard that some people influenced by the evil suggestions of Satan would say a certain person is dying and that would act be a curse to make that death possible. When they did, people think he really is dying, and people give up on him. I don’t believe in such things, but it is certainly within the realm of possibility that such false news with this aim could be fabricated. It is possible, as I discussed before, that false sheiks and scholars are capable of doing such a thing.

Question: How do you want us to behave in the face of all of these things that are happening?

Answer: You know of the behavior of our blessed Prophet and the Companions during the Slander Incident. Now the Companions were a discreet group. Despite this, there were some hypocrites mixed in with them. In order to get revenge against the Messenger of God, they spread slanders about our noble mother Aisha. This was the scenario. Behind this was the well-known hypocrite Abdullah ibn Ubay ibn Salul. It is always like this—pardon me—there are always people who will believe such ridiculous scenarios. There were even those among the Companions who started to believe this. I’m not going to say their names, but all together there were three people. I think there are some Muslims in Turkey who are like this. As I said before, I am all for discernment, but there might be those among our people who believe in such lies, misrepresentations, and conspiracies. Because of a lack of evidence and despite the fact that I haven’t had any influence for years, they can believe the lies because they don’t see me since I am living far away as an expatriate. And those people who have these beliefs fill the airport and this situation benefits the conspirators. As I said on STV in a live telephone interview—and as I am saying again—I do not give my blessings for people to act this way.

Question: How do you feel about these slanders?

Answer: I can’t say I’m not sad. Of course I’m sad. I’m sick at heart. But I found this consolation: People slandered our blessed mother Aisha during the Age of Happiness. The heretics even slandered God. How many times are such slanders against God mentioned in the Holy Qur’an? God forbid! “God has a child,” they said. “The angels are God’s daughters” they said. These expressions that are so disrespectful of the Divine Essence always fill me with compassion. First the heretics did this to God and to our dear mother Aisha. Now in our day, the heretics do this to a simple man like me. But I don’t suffer that much, I cheer up.

Question: Finally, is there anything you would like to add?

Answer: Well, the people who have the ability to oppress always oppress. Your work is painful—actually, you decide if it is painful or delightful. If you don’t have the capacity to hurt people, then you won’t hurt them. In my opinion, this is better. If there are such oppressors, let them continue oppressing. Let’s call down God’s mercy and forgiveness upon those with an aptitude for caution and vigilance. Let’s wish for them to be saved from the path that leads us astray.

Second, you will be subject to slander whatever you do. It has been the fate of those who walk this road to face conspiracies and this will continue. But sagacity sweeps it all away. Against wisdom no conspiracy or slander can work.

Third: It is ungrateful to ignore the activities of people who bring Turkish culture and language to all corners of the world. I say these activities are like the sun. The sun can’t be covered up with wet clay. Let them do what they do, this wise society sees and knows everything. Because those who oppose us can’t help but see the good things that are happening—the light has not been extinguished—they are driven to delirium. They become unbalanced. This also needs to be known. Those with that mentality are like those who believe in the caste system. I dare not say it—they think they were created from God’s mouth and ear, but the pure children of Anatolia were created from His fingernail (God forbid!). No matter how improper it is, they make this judgment against those who do the good activities, “Give no quarter! Don’t save them, shoot them! Kill them!” Their basic logic is based on the idea: “Kill them, and later we’ll find proof.” It is also important to know this.

Finally: Don’t be discouraged. Those who serve this nation and this nation’s future and even serve all people will continue with God’s permission and grace. Like a caravan, they will forge ahead. This caravan—again with God’s favor and generosity—will not be stopped by slander or by deceit.

This text is the translation of “İftiralar-Komplolar.”

The Broken Jug: Droplets of Wisdom from the Heart

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Introductory Note

The phrase Broken Jug is a valuable metaphor and a symbol worth pondering upon. It gets its name from the following tale by Rumi:

Once upon a time there was a Sultan who set up his marquee on a hill overlooking the Euphrates. The people of the land dearly loved this Sultan, a great man who not only conquered their lands, but also their hearts. They desired to be known and loved by this auspicious man. For this reason, they would come to his presence and offer him gifts.

On one such day, when the rich and wealthy were presenting the Sultan with precious gifts, a poor man went in search of finding a present fitting for the Sultan. When he couldn’t find a valuable enough gift, he remembered the broken jug lying on one corner of his home. He filled the jug with ice-cold water from his village and set off to see the Sultan. Soon after, he came across a villager who asked him where he was going, and when the poor man answered, the villager mockingly said, “Don’t you know, the Sultan owns and is presiding over the water source of these lands? The water from your village is also his. He does not need whatever is left from your broken jug!”

The poor man blushed and said “So what? To the Sultan belongs the noblest of manners, just as servitude befits a slave. Even if I don’t have a gift valuable enough for the Sultan, this broken jug filled with his water symbolizes my heart filled with his love, and that is why I will go and present this to him.”

Just like this poor man, Gülen is a self-attributed “slave” who is offering his humble sermons as his only gift to God Almighty, and to the benefit of others.

We, too, have a broken jug in our hands and our aim to present it as a gift to God, the Sultan of sultans. We wanted to share this gift with our readers, a gift which is comprised of all the beauties and blessings He has bestowed upon us. Initially, it was a few of us who were blessed to be acquainted with this fountain of wisdom, but we humbly wished to share these  sermons with others so that they, too, could quench their thirst for knowledge.

The Symbolism

The Broken Jug is symbolic of the water of life, an elixir so deep and abundant that we can only truly understand it and contemplate upon its depth from the water seeping through its cracks. Even though the seeping is small, it is enough of a trickle for those who want to find their way and reach the Fountain of Truth…

The water seeping through the Broken Jug is like a mirror reflecting the inner dynamics of Gülen’s heart and soul, his profound knowledge, asceticism and piety. The water also symbolizes abundance and blessing, but at the same time it is symbolic of pain and suffering. It is as if each word in every sermon has been washed with the author’s tears, and we can almost hear the cries of pain, anguish, love and passion seeping through…

The Broken Jug is symbolic of love and humility. We all have a jug to offer as a gift to God, the Sultan of sultans and it is rarely in a neat condition. Some are broken, some are cracked, and some are covered in dirt and soil. Regardless, it is not the condition of the jug that matters; rather, it is the act of offering the gift to Him that matters most. It is knocking on His door over and over again, being aware of one’s impotence and weaknesses, in spite of what is in the jug and however little of it there may be left…

The real gifts in life are those hidden in trickling tear drops, heart-felt prayers, and the enthusiastic hands raised towards the heavens. The real gifts in life are hidden in the prayer: “O Lord! I may have fallen once, twice, so many times to have lost count. But now I am bent double and standing at Your door. For I have no other refuge or sanctuary to go to. Yes, to make mistakes is what I do best, and to forgive is what You do best.”

The story of the poor man with the broken jug continues when he arrives in the presence of the Sultan. The Sultan was such a man that, befitting of his status, he responded to the poor man with mutual love and humility, and before parting, he ordered his men to fill the broken jug with gold coins.