Posts Tagged ‘Hizmet’

Targeting the Horizons of God’s Good Pleasure

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: What does the following prayer mean to a Muslim?

“We are content with Allah as our Lord, with Islam as our religion, and with Muhammad as our Messenger…”1 What is the ideal manner of reciting this blessed phrase?

Answer: The noble Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, gave the glad tidings2 that God Almighty will be well pleased with a Muslim who prays in the morning and evening, “We are content with Allah as our Lord, with Islam as our religion, and with Muhammad as our Messenger.” Thus, this phrase is a blessed one that should become a habitual prayer for Muslims in the morning and evening. A person who recites this prayer acknowledges that he or she is well pleased with God—and thus with all of His doings, with Islam as the Divine system, and with the Prophet as the guide to follow. Indeed, the way to be a true Muslim depends on cherishing such a thought and feeling and having certainty of faith. With this pearl of wisdom, the Messenger of God teaches us such an important truth, and he encourages Muslims to act in a way to develop this feeling, make it take root, and let it deepen within.

The Polestar of the Good Pleasure of God

By declaring at the beginning his being content and well pleased with God, together with his exemplary life woven in accordance with this truth, the Prophet evinced the fact that he is the polestar of gaining the good pleasure of God. He holds the center point of the horizons of gaining God’s good pleasure. Therefore, every time we say, “We are content with God as our Lord,” we need to know and see him as the guide who walks before us—so much so that even if a person takes wing during spiritual journeying to God and directly hears the Divine address, “I am well pleased with you,” and—imagining the impossible—even if God Almighty lets that person sit together with the Prophet at the same table and while sending revelation to him, if God gives the same lesson to both as a Divine favor to that journeyer, what befalls on that person is to still see the Prophet as the ultimate guide walking ahead. This is due to the fact that that journeyer only attains such feeling, thought, reasoning, philosophy, insight, and profound level of reflection because of the Prophet’s guidance. If it was not for him, the journeyer’s life in both worlds would be reduced to a dark prison. For this reason, it is very important for a believer to always see the Master of the Prophets as the guide and teacher from the very beginning, in terms of aiming for the horizons of God’s good pleasure. As some people who obtain a certain level at spiritual journeying increase their regard for the Prophet, for those who fail to weigh everything with the objective criteria of religion—may God forbid—it can be a cause of improper behaviors by losing the balance, sometimes to the degree of making claims such as, “My blessed light (nur) is as bright as his.” Yet the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, is the nur at the beginning, in the middle, and in the end. It is not possible for anybody to equal that nur and attain the level that he did.

The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, continued this blessed statement with an expression of contentment with Islam as the Divine system. There is no other person who can comprehend Islam as soundly as he did, who can reach his degree of contentment with the Divine system, who has devoted his or her life to this system, and who thinks only about establishing it as much as he did. Even if you add up the virtues as the truthfulness of Abu Bakr, Umar ibn al-Khattab’s devotion to distinguishing right from falsehood, Uthman ibn Affan’s deep interest for the Qur’an, and Ali ibn Abi Talib’s being a hero of heart and spirituality, you will see that it does not amount to even one tenth in comparison to the level of the Prophet’s contentment with Islam. Let my words not be taken as a failure to appreciate the worth of these great figures. On the contrary, I chose them as examples of greatness, precisely to show what a hero of contentment the Prophet was at the issue of Islam.

As a final point, the Prophet expressed contentment about his being God’s Messenger. Actually, the Beloved servant of God was a person fixed on modesty and humility to such a degree that he constantly acted with the consciousness of his being a servant of God: he ate together with his servant and did not start eating before the servant did; he did not consider himself different than a person of the lowest level. For these and other reasons, he was commissioned with the duty of conveying the Divine teaching to people, a very heavy responsibility on his shoulders. It is so crucial that even if a person accepts God as the only deity by saying, “La ilaha illa’llah,” he or she cannot become a Muslim without acknowledging Prophet Muhammad as God’s Messenger by saying, “Muhammadu’r-Rasulullah,” because accepting his prophethood is an essential article of Islam and faith.

There may seem an apparent contradiction between his matchless humility and proclamation of his mission of prophethood. It is for this reason that his expression of contentment with the fact that Muhammad is the Messenger of God has a separate value, as it is something decreed by God Almighty. 

Knowledge of God and Consciousness of God’s Good Pleasure

As for the manner of reciting this blessed phrase, it is very important to say it free from contempt bred by familiarity, and with a love and enthusiasm coming from the bottom of one’s heart. Actually, being content and well pleased with God, the Prophet, and Islam first of all depends on recognizing them well. One who knows will love in accordance with the degree of his knowledge, whereas one who does not know will remain indifferent to what he does not know. In this respect, if you fail to know God with respect to His greatness and His majesty, with respect to the secrets of His Lordship and Divinity, you cannot ascend to the horizons of contentment. Unless you recognize the Pride of Humanity with his true character and virtues, you cannot welcome his prophethood as you should. In the same way, if you do not know the Islamic teachings with their true immensity and depth, down to methodology and subsidiary issues, you cannot appreciate Islam as you should.

Today, as well as in the past, the reason for most people’s indifference toward the Pride of Humanity is their lack of knowledge and being unfamiliar with him. If it were possible to kindle love of him in hearts, people would become curious and find a chance to know him for real. However, as the streets do not offer this atmosphere, and the schools, and even mosques do not offer people an opportunity to know him as they should. No such atmosphere is generated at homes either. Therefore, many people are brought up devoid of the true recognition of the Pride of Humanity. In spite of so much negligence and loss, meanings about him still shine in Muslims’ hearts, and they keep saying, “La ilaha illa’llah, Muhammadu’r-Rasulullah”; this needs to be seen as an extra blessing of God Almighty. 

Praying Constantly for the Greatest Blessing

Given that God’s good pleasure is a greater blessing than those in Paradise, we need to open our hands and supplicate to attain God’s good pleasure by saying constantly, اَللّٰهُمَّ إِلَى مَا تُحِبُّ وَتَرْضَى “My God, (guide me) to what You love and are well pleased with.” We need to live and breathe for attaining God’s good pleasure, praying all the time, اَللّٰهُمَّ عَفْوَكَ وَعَافِيَتَكَ وَرِضَاكَ “My God, I am asking from You forgiveness, goodness, and Your good pleasure,” because God Almighty promises that He will grant what a believer earnestly prays for. However, one needs to be insistent on this issue. The granting of what is asked for may be due only after having prayed for some five, ten, or twenty years. For this reason, if we really wish God Almighty to be well pleased with us and wish for our heart to beat with contentment before His every doing, we need to implore for this outcome even if it takes ten or twenty years. In my opinion, it is worth to engage in a long marathon of prayer for this sake, because God Almighty revealed that there is a blessing greater than entering Paradise, ascending to its highest degree, or seeing His Beloved Prophet: “…and greater (than those) is God’s being pleased with them” (at-Tawbah 9:72). But I suspect that none of us have prayed for such a long time for gaining His good pleasure. We did not open up to God praying as, “My God, Your good pleasure, Your good pleasure…” for some twenty-five years. Actually, not just twenty-five years, but it would be proper for us to pray for two hundred fifty years if we were given such a long life.

In conclusion, the noble Prophet points to a very lofty goal for Muslims with these words. What then befalls on Muslims is to do whatever they can do in order to attain this goal. Every believing individual should embrace this goal and ache for attaining it. A person who truly adopts a goal lives with the dream of realizing it—so much so that most of the time—while making ablutions, going to offer the prayer and during prayer—the believer busies his or her mind with this issue. In consequence, these thoughts one muses upon can be accepted as a prayer in the sight of God and He does not let them go wasted. It is for this reason that we need to constantly strive for the sake of attaining the horizons of God’s good pleasure; we must live and breathe this fact, occupied with it day and night. This must be the idea that permeates our thought all of the time.

1. Sahih al-Bukhari, Ilm, 29; Sahih Muslim, Siyam, 197
2. Sunan Abu Dawud, Adab, 100

This text is the translation of “Rıza Ufkunu Talep.”

Murders under the Guise of Islam

Herkul-EN | | BREEZES OF REVIVAL

Question: It is a sorry state of affairs that in a wide range of Muslim countries many evil deeds are committed under the guise of Islam. As though it is a Qur’anic command, people are beheaded or mosques and churches are bombarded. Is it possible to explain terror attacks by certain groups in various parts of the world only by foreign powers and external pressures?

How could it be possible for terrorists like suicide bombers to come from Muslim communities?

Answer: Albeit unfortunate, these are facts which drag the good name of true Islam through the mud. They serve nothing but the purpose of disgracing Islam. And they have done much worse harm to Islam than wars, than some armies that razed Muslim countries throughout history. Some ostensible Muslims, who pretend to act for Islam, perform repugnant acts like suicide attacks, setting off suicide vests among innocent people, driving vehicles filled with explosives toward innocent and indifferent crowds, or ruining temples. None of these can be associated with the Qur’an or with the Prophetic Tradition. Actions that cannot be associated with the Qur’an or the Prophetic cannot, therefore, be associated with Islam.

Courage and braveness are important; just as important as the properness of method and trustworthiness. You will be brave and unflinching, especially when you are in the position of protecting your ethos. Yet you will not go hog wild doing this.

He that would have eggs must endure the cackling of hens to protect his cause.

The Pride of Humankind, lived in the noble Mecca for thirteen years, suffering more than flesh and blood can stand; however, he never even wished evil to them. On the contrary, he prayed for them asking for God’s guidance as they did not know him well enough or his mission. In addition, all of our noble Prophet’s warfare was defensive. Take any of his battles as an example; in none of them was any bloodshed, or any outrage committed, or any hostility furthered. He made every effort to deal with things in a moderate manner. He was never harsh, nor was he ever enraged, and he never took a hard line with others, unlike what is done today.

Had he wanted, he could have signaled to his followers to go down fighting and not give up. Yet, they were long-suffering. They never employed violence, not like the barbaric acts of today.

In no other period in the history of Islam has anything like today’s ferociousness taken place. In particular periods, like the Muwahhidun, the Qarmatians, the Batinites, others were devoid of truth, and the ignorant may have been exceptions that proved the rule and done evil things. However, under no circumstances did they wear a suicide vest, take their own lives at the cost of killing others, and hence, go to Hell forever.

We should judge the current situation on its own merits. As Muslims, we acted crudely which gave cause to the enemies of Islam who do not want Muslims to gain power and the beauties of Islam to be in the public eye. We gave them the chance to pick Islam to pieces. Potentially, some Muslims can act crudely, be corrupted, which is used against all Muslims by some others. Some foreign elements could manipulate some gullible people during the Caliphate of the noble Ali and recruit them as anarchists; and alas, they slung mug at the bright face of Islam.

In a sense, Islamophobia is not simply without rhyme or reason. Moreover, there occurred a series of depravities in the Islamic world, especially after the collapse of the Ottoman State. Today, Muslims struggle for a return to their true identity, and to find their true spirit.

You cannot order people to destroy churches because your mosques have been insulted. I believe that we, Muslims, may not be as clean as a hound’s tooth. Some members of our religion burn churches to get even. Some others kill a priest, who took refuge in a church, or a rabbi.

Why would you not consider turning the other cheek to those who treat you inhumanely to reduce the heat of their anger?

As I stated before, a terrorist cannot be a true Muslim; and, a true Muslim cannot be a terrorist. When the Pride of Humankind enlisted soldiers, encouraged them and sent them off against those who made war against Muslims, he would tell them to not touch those who took refuge in temples, women, or children.

Religion means “A system of rules promulgated by God which people follow at free will.”  If you can represent it well, indicating its promises for people and for the future; since man is appreciative, he may change his decision for what you would expect. You must give him free rein with his choice. You cannot invade or occupy anywhere you want. You cannot impose your system on others. This is what religion is about.

Relation of Living on Pure Sustenance and Doing Good Deeds

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: It is stated in a verse (which means): “O you Messengers! Partake of (God’s) pure and wholesome bounties, and always act righteously. I have full knowledge of all that you do” (al-Muminun 23:51).

Could you explain the relation between pure sustenance and righteous acts?

Answer: The Qur’an and Sunnah place great emphasis on the issue of forbidden and lawful. Islamic scholars who know this fact well summarize Islam as knowing the lawful and forbidden (as they set the fundamental framework of leading a good, righteous life on both the personal and social levels), and then living accordingly. In a pithier form, we can say, “Religion is in good, righteous acts and dealings.” Umar ibn al-Khattab emphasized the importance of this matter as follows: “Do not take a person’s prayers and fasting as basis; you should see whether a given person speaks truth, remains faithful about something entrusted to him, and observes what is lawful and forbidden while carrying out worldly affairs.”1 Surely, acts of worship such as the Prayers and fasting are very valuable in the sight of God and extremely meritorious. Nobody can dismiss their worth. However, a person’s being careful about one’s food, drink, and clothes, refraining from violating rights of individuals or the public, and leading a righteous life—that is, showing utmost sensitivity concerning what is lawful and forbidden—is a must for being truly Muslim, and it can be said that fulfilling this in practice is more difficult than observing individual acts of worship. Thus, in order to be able to practice Islam thoroughly, one must always stick with the lawful, seek the lawful, stand firm against the forbidden adamantly, and not let a single morsel of unlawful food pass down one’s throat. If we consider the behaviors and attitude of great figures it will be seen that they are the spiritual guides and role models for other believers in this respect as well. They lived in such a sensitive way and presented such willpower that, God Almighty protected them from eating something forbidden, even when they were unaware of it. There are such people that when they extend their hand not knowing that something is forbidden, they notice that thing’s being forbidden (haram) from the shaking of their hand or the racing of their pulse and are taken aback. In the same way, when some of them take a forbidden morsel of food to their mouth unknowingly, they are unable to swallow it. And if they ever learn that such a thing reached their stomach, they try to regurgitate it right away. The first two caliphs are examples to this final case. This was what Abu Bakr did on learning that the food he had eaten had been bought with the money his servant had earned (in pre-Islamic days) by fortune telling, and what Umar did on learning that the milk he drank was from the camels donated as zakah. They both put their fingers in their mouth and regurgitated everything, until nothing remained in their stomach. Thus, such sensitivity against eating anything forbidden and an upright stance are very important with respect to being truly Muslim.

The Greatest Means of Spiritual Progress

The issue of observing what is lawful or forbidden is also very important in terms of being a manifestation of obeying God’s commandments and respecting Him. In addition, every kind of effort one makes for the sake of opting for the lawful and refraining from the forbidden is counted as worship offered by that person. Resisting temptations or suffering misfortunes with patience is counted as a “negative” form of worship (which is not actually performed, but endured and thus leads to sincerity of worship); the same holds true with respect to making efforts in search of the lawful. It is also possible to relate this truth with the verse (which means): “To Him ascends only the pure word (as the source of might and glory), and the good, righteous action (accompanying it) raises it.” (al-Fatir 35:10). Accordingly, it is revealed that blessed words of praise, glorification, proclamation of God’s greatness, and invoking blessings on the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, will ascend to God Almighty by means of righteous action only. That is, be it the literal form of worship as prayers, almsgiving, and fasting, or be it “negative” form of worship as taking a stance against forbidden things and making due efforts, both forms of worship are like wings for blessed words to ascend to God. For this reason, the issue should not be seen as something simple, and much sensitivity must be shown with respect to the issue of the lawful and forbidden.

Concerning food, distinguishing pure from impure and not letting the impure pollute the pure, and showing utmost sensitivity in this respect will bring a person otherworldly rewards as if he or she offered worship. If a person reviews the ingredients of a certain medicine or of a product bought from supermarket to determine whether there is anything forbidden by religion, inquires whether the meat he or she buys is in compliance with Islamic rules, and is careful about having completely lawful earnings, these will be a means of spiritual progress for that person. On the other hand, not giving the willpower its due at this issue, and acting in a heedless and lighthearted manner will paralyze the individual’s religious life, kill that person’s spiritual faculties, and be that person’s ruin. Consuming unlawful earnings is referred in the Qur’an while depicting the most corrupt state of a society: “Listening out for lies and falsehood eagerly, and consuming unlawful earnings greedily” (al-Maedah 5:42). Nourishment bought by unlawful earnings is mentioned in the verse as “suht;” it circulates in one’s bloodstream, and it is mentioned in several hadiths that even that person’s worship and prayers will not be accepted. For example, the Messenger of God pointed this out as follows: “Whoever eats a forbidden morsel, his Prayers will not be accepted for forty nights and his supplications will not be answered for forty mornings. What becomes for every (piece of) flesh developed by the forbidden (food) is Hellfire. And (it should be known that) even a single morsel develops flesh.”2

The Bitter End of One with Forbidden Food in His Stomach

In another hadith recorded in Sunan at-Tirmidhi, Abu Hurayra narrated the negative effects of the unlawful as follows: “The Messenger of God described the situation of a prolonged traveler covered in dust and raised his hands to supplicate God, saying ‘O Lord, O Lord!’ Then the Prophet said, ‘What he eats is forbidden; what he drinks is forbidden, and what he wears is forbidden. So how can his supplications be answered?’”3 In another hadith, it is stated that when a pilgrim who came with lawful earning calls out “(Labbayk) At Your beck and call O Lord, You have called and we have come,” a caller from Heavens will respond as, “Welcome, how glad you are. Your food is lawful; your mount is lawful, and your pilgrimage is accepted; it is not polluted by sin.” Whereas, a pilgrim who came with unlawful earnings will be responded by a caller from Heavens as, “No beck and no call, you are not welcome. Your food is forbidden; your earnings are forbidden, and your pilgrimage is not accepted.”4 How can the pilgrimage and supplication of such a person immersed in forbidden things be accepted? How dare can he say, “My Lord! I came here in obedience to You. I am at your beck and call. I am hoping for Your mercy and forgiveness. I expect Your favor and graces!” Even if he does, will not his words be slammed on his face like shabby clothes? For this reason, living within the lawful sphere and eating lawful food are of great importance in terms of letting acts of worship ascend to God. The verse mentioned in the question points to the same fact. That is, a person’s consumption of lawful sustenance has a significant effect on the acceptance of his or her worship for God.

There is another thing that needs to be pointed out here. In many verses of the Qur’an, God Almighty commands eating lawful food. This depends on a struggle to seek the lawful from the very beginning. Actually, as every forbidden thing is an invitation to other forbidden things, every lawful thing similarly is an invitation to other lawful things; everything demands things of its own kind, so that they go together well, have the same character, and keep company. As this is true for people as well; our behaviors, works, and actions similarly run after what resembles them. In the same vein, it is pointed out in a verse, “Corrupt women are for corrupt men, and corrupt men for corrupt women…” (an-Nur 24:26).

It is also possible to describe this as follows: purity, goodness and wholesome things are invitations to other good things. Likewise dirty, foul, and wicked things always invite dirty things. Therefore, when one pursues the lawful and shows due effort, it will form a “virtuous circle” leading to further good, righteous deeds over time (as opposed to a vicious circle), and that person will live accordingly. For this reason, the distinction of lawful and forbidden must be abundantly clear from the beginning.

Forbidden Things Becoming Common Cannot Be an Excuse

Unfortunately, lawful and forbidden are intermingled in our time, and people have lost sensitivity in this respect. However, it should be stressed that a person’s neglect of  this issue will bring no benefit at all. As Bediüzzaman stated at the end of the Fourteenth Word, “Do not say ‘I am like everyone else.’ Everyone befriends you only as far as the grave. The consolation of a common misfortune cannot help you on the other side.” Others’ eating from the forbidden, looking at the forbidden, engaging in forbidden, and empty talk may look like a consolation while in this world, but they have no use beyond the grave. Having a common misfortune with some others does not alleviate one’s misfortune in the next world. What befalls on a believer then is to determine where every morsel he or she eats come from, where it will go, and what troubles it might cause that person to face. It should not be forgotten that being heedless on this issue and leading a carefree life will cause serious troubles in the next world. On the Day of Judgment, people will be called to account even for (something as little as) one seventh of a grain of barley. Although we aphoristically say “one seventh of a grain of barley,” the Qur’an refers to the same truth with a dharrah (smallest piece of matter): “…whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it; and whoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it” (az-Zilzal 99:7–8). Accordingly, as one who does an act of goodness as little as an atom’s weight will see what it corresponds to, and one who commits this amount of evil will also see for sure what corresponds to it. Individuals will be called to account for everything: the words that came out of one’s mouth, the food and drink that went into the stomach, words a person listened to, sights he or she looked at… If a person does not watch one’s step carefully in this world, the reckoning in the Hereafter will be painstaking and—may God protect us—a grim one. Thus, those who have lost their sensitivity in this respect must reconsider what they eat, drink, earn, and spend, and face themselves anew.

Let me make a final point: there is no reason to become pessimistic by looking solely at certain people’s lighthearted attitude. If particularly, those who seem on the fore show scrupulous attention to leading a vigilant life, their state will pervade their surroundings, and this consciousness and sensitivity will be embraced by the society in time, given that we as believers can rid ourselves from superficial practice of Islam and become intent upon distinguishing the lawful and forbidden, or the beautiful and ugly in everything, by considering seriously and pondering deeply.

1. Al-Bayhaqi, As-Sunan al-Kubra, VI, 288; Shuab, IV, 230, 326
2. As-Suyuti, Jami al-Ahadith, 20/55; Ali al-Muttaqi, Kanz al-Ummal, 4/15
3. Sahih Muslim, Zakah 65; Sunan at-Tirmidhi, Tafsir, 3
4. At-Tabarani, Al-Mujam al-Awsat, 5:251

This text is the translation of “Helal Rızık – Salih Amel Münasebeti.”

Orphanhood of Hearts

Herkul-EN | | BREEZES OF REVIVAL

يَا رَبَّنَا يَا رَبَّنَا طَهِّرْ قُلُوبَنَا، نَجِّنَا

“O Lord! Purify our hearts and save us.”

In this prayer, the word “save” is stated to be subject to the purity of the heart. The purer the heart, the more likely it is for its owner to be saved, to be redeemed, and to attain a blessed rank.

For God, the heart matters. He judges people by their hearts and assesses us by how our hearts are. Our looks, skin color, or nationality do not matter to Him.

Spiritual weightiness is very important at the Scales in the Hereafter. 

What we refer to as “the heart” is not the muscular organ that pumps blood. It is entirely associated with our spirituality; yet, it is related to the organ as well, which is described as “the spiritual faculty sensing God directly.” Given that the purity, whiteness, profundity and sensitivity of the heart is what matters, I believe we should check up on it, day in and day out.

The Pride of Humankind talks about “rayn” when he warns us of factors that can put the heart in harm’s way. These can stem from misusing it. Another cause might be the imagination of negative notions. 

I cannot speak for all Muslims, but most Muslims are orphans of the heart. Since the day our hearts deceased, we have been orphans. It is the main cause that lies behind the dissension among today’s Muslims. Other causes include the orphanhood of sentiment and sensibility, and of relationship with God.

“O Lord! Please do not let our hearts stain. Do not leave me to my carnal self and the devil even, for a moment, or even shorter than that. Do not leave me to anyone else. God, I cannot do without You.”

Keeping a Straight Course within the Central Sphere

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: As it is known, a little breakdown in the center will cause greater problems in the periphery. Taking this truth into consideration, what are the essential disciplines to be observed by people in central positions?

Answer: Attitude and behaviors of people who are in a position to represent a lofty ideal are very important, since those who come behind will do the same. If those in front walk straightly, those who come behind will also proceed on a straight line, as they follow the footsteps of the former. However, if those who walk in front—may God forbid—commit wrongs, then the wrongs will grow manifold among those who come from behind and spread rapidly like a virus. 

The Collective Rights 

Unfortunately, from the past to present, as certain people who seemed to be on the fore in different movements of revival failed to give their position its due, they became victim to some uncalculated words, slips of tongue, deviations of thought, and making too many exaggerated statements. As the effect of such situations reverberated through lower levels, they grew much more harmful. Sometimes an unbecoming word, attitude, or raising one’s voice in an unbecoming fashion, and making gestures with hands and feet paved the way for animosities that became impossible to make up for. Even when such wrongs of those who seem on the fore were not taken in an exaggerated fashion, but copied as they were, they caused very serious damage. Moreover, such wrongs are never transferred exactly as they are. According to an individual’s own character and receptors, he or she makes his or her own interpretations of those wrongs, and the effect grows worse as the issue spreads in the periphery. It is for this reason that those who are on the fore owing to their administrative positions have to be very sensitive and careful of their attitude and behaviors. When I make a criticism of my own past, I see so many things in retrospect to be corrected in this respect that for every one of them I say, “I wish it had not been this way, but that way instead…” On the other hand, I am aware that such considerations cannot correct things bygone. Actually, in order not to have some useless considerations for things in the past, one must adjust his or her attitudes, behaviors, words, and actions in a way that will not require correction in the future and live accordingly. As a single mind cannot suffice to manage that, people in administrative positions in particular must consult with others. They must form committees of consultancy and not make any decision with respect to any issue without discussing it first. Although we have the fundamental sources of Islamic culture and the values inherited from the past, interpreting them in a way to suit our day still requires seeking consultation and shared wisdom.

In addition, it needs to be known that the ideal of conveying truths to others concerns everybody’s rights. For this reason, any flaws in this respect will be a violation of collective rights. From a perspective of Islamic jurisprudence, as public rights are God’s rights at the same time, committing a wrong in this respect will have violated God’s rights as well.  It can further be said that doing wrongs will also violate the rights of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, of those who served in the way of God previously, and those who run on the same lane with us for the cause of God now. 

Living in spite of Oneself

Actually, consultation in a way means choosing to act in spite of oneself. A person’s acting in spite of oneself does not necessarily signify a loss. On the contrary, one becomes a winner thanks to acting in spite of oneself in certain respects, and becomes a loser because of acting one’s own reasoning. The noble Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, stated that there are seven types of people whom God will shade with His shade on the (Judgment) Day when there will be no other shade. And then he mentions a just ruler in the first place.1 It is understood that it is a difficult matter for a person in power to remain just. If a person is leading the people, represents power, and has the control of the resources of an entire nation, his remaining as a just, upright, righteous, beneficent, and humane person depends on his living in spite of himself.

In another hadith, the Pride of Humanity stated: “There are three categories of people whom God will not talk to, purify, and (even) look at their faces on the Day of Judgment. And there is a terrible punishment for them: an old one who fornicates, a sovereign who lies, and a poor one who is arrogant.”2

Certain facts are brought to attention through the negative examples here. We know that fornication is forbidden for all. However, for an elderly person who should be turning away from the world, it is heaping sin upon sin. Such a person deserves to be reprimanded as, “Shame on you! You are such an immoral one in this old age! If you are unashamed of people, you should feel shame before God!”

The second type deserving of a severe punishment is a sovereign who is a habitual liar. As lying is a sin for everybody, when it is told by a person who governs all, the sin grows much worse. The third one mentioned is an arrogant one in spite of being poor, one too big for his breeches in spite of not having a decent pair of trousers. It is surprising how such a person can put on airs and graces. This attitude by such a person is a serious deviation to make the sin twice as worse. Incidentally, let me state that the opposite is also true. By thinking the other way round, we can understand how valuable in God’s sight a rich but modest person is, because such a person acts against his or her carnal soul that is prone to evil, in contrast with the former. The first hadith refers to a person’s living in spite of oneself, while the second is about living in pursuit of the desires of the carnal soul. As Hell is surrounded by carnal desires, one who indulges in them will be destined to fall there eventually. As for Paradise, it is surrounded with things unpleasant to the carnal soul. That is, entering Paradise depends on a person’s living in spite of human nature and overcoming oneself. 

One Who Consults Does Not Experience Disappointment

The Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, stated that one who makes consultation will not be upset.3 Accordingly, one who does not wish to become lost in distress must consult with others, even with respect to matters he or she could handle individually.

Personally, I have always tried to consult even about most trivial matters with a few people around me. When a problem bothers me at one o’clock in the morning, and if I cannot find anybody here to consult with, I make a phone call to some friends in Turkey and ask for alternative suggestions for solving the issue. So far, I have suffered no damage at all by doing this. If we were mistaken, it was all of us. That is, we shared the mistake. When we are called to account before God, we will be able to say, “O Lord, we talked and consulted about it, but could not manage to find the best option. So it seems, even the totality of our intellect did not suffice for this issue.”

Some people may have certain experience and knowledge to make them say, “I know this well.” But it should not be forgotten that others may consider issues in a broader and holistic perspective. Such people do not only look at the particular issue at hand, but also take other factors relating to it into consideration. In addition, one course of action seeming to be favorable from one person’s perspective may turn out to be unfavorable. Actually, a person may claim to have made a sensible remark beginning with, “In my opinion…,” but this does not mean that it is really sensible. Commonsense is not limited to “one person’s opinion.” “Sensible” denotes a course of action found reasonable by all accounts. As Harith al-Muhasibi puts it, it is a truth confirmed by Qur’anic logic and reasoning. Therefore, if one wishes to test whether a certain thought is reasonable or not, that person should first judge it with the criteria of the Qur’an and Sunnah. If this is not done, something a person sees as reasonable might actually be a desire of the carnal soul.

A Muslim who observes the Daily Prayers recites Surah al-Fatihah forty times a day and thus repeats the verse (which means), “You alone do We worship, and from You alone do we seek help” (al-Baqarah 1:5). Thus, he or she learns to say “we.” Worship observed individually might not suffice to save a person. In a way, deliverance of an individual believer depends on maintaining real brotherhood or sisterhood in a row and being eligible for receiving all the manifold Divine rewards for their collective good works. In the same way, an administrator’s finding the option closest to the right one and remotest from the wrong is possible through saying “we” and then acting with collective reasoning and due consciousness.

To sum up, in order to let all the ongoing philanthropic services grow further, people who seem on the fore need to live in spite of themselves and by giving up the consideration that “my reasoning, my thoughts, my understanding etc. suffice me” and instead ascribe every word they say and every decision they make to a systematic consultation process. An administrator who wishes to be a “just leader” as referred to in the hadith must value the thoughts of the people around him, consult with them, and be able to give up one’s own thoughts if necessary, in order to find the most sensible and reasonable course of action. If matters are entrusted to the discussion and consultation of a committee, then exchange of ideas will let the truth emerge and prevent mistaken decisions. However, no matter what area or subject is concerned, if people act by leaving issues to personal initiatives, mistakes will be inevitable.

1. Sahih al-Bukhari, Adhan 36; Sahih Muslim, Zakah, 91
2. Sahih Muslim, Iman, 172
3. At-Tabarani, Al-Mu’jam al-Kabir, 6/365; Al-Qudha’i, Musnad ush-Shihab, 2/7

This text is the translation of “Merkez Muhit Hattında İstikamet Çizgisi.”

True Success

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: The educational activities by the movement of volunteers yield very good examples of success, as happened in the Science Olympiads. Can we say that a success of the desired level has also been achieved regarding the spirit of devotedness and human virtues? If there are any shortcomings, what can be their possible reasons?

Answer: There are so many factors—we know and we don’t—behind the activities and works that are seen as success and thus appreciated. For example, factors such as systematic working, presenting a good performance, determination, perseverance, and acting with a spirit of consultation and collective consciousness are all related to the outer aspect of the issue. In addition to these outer aspects, there are also points related to a person’s inner world that makes it impossible to make a certain judgment about others in this respect. For example, we cannot know whether individuals hold the secret intention of bringing their own person to the fore, whether they carry on their service with considerations of personal benefit, and how deep their relationship with God is. We are responsible both for taking objective facts as criteria and having a positive opinion of others. For this reason, we assume the builders of an existing success to be sincere, and concerning the matters we cannot be sure about, we come to our senses with the Prophet’s admonition “Did you cleave his heart open?” Thus we avoid making presumptions about others’ inner worlds. These issues related to one’s inner world are completely between God and the individual, and are out of our sphere of judging. If we have any worries, we open our hands and pray as

  اَللّٰهُمَّ يَا مُحَوِّلَ الْحَوْلِ وَالْأَحْوَالِ حَوِّلْ حَالَنَا إِلَى أَحْسَنِ الْحَالِ

 (O my God, You are the One who puts His creatures from one state into another with different manifestations of His Divine Names and exalted Attributes! Put us into the best condition with Your grace, help, and benevolence!).

In addition, when we consider the performance presented by the volunteers of education and its continuity, we see that these tasks are not easy to achieve, and they take serious forbearance and patience in the face of time. For this reason, it is so hard to believe such things can ever be realized with considerations of showing off or personal gain. Particularly, when we consider the troubles encountered by people who serve out of their native countries, it will be understood that the services carried out require a serious degree of conviction and devotedness. Therefore, in addition to judging by the outward dimension and thus having a positive opinion, when the issue is seen with respect to the difficulty of the tasks carried out, it is a duty that befalls on us to think that the people who support these services on the path of knowledge and wisdom are sincere.

Trustworthy Bearers of Responsibility

For example, they wish to form islands of peace in different parts of the world and to build bridges of tolerance and dialogue between different mentalities and cultures by expressing the virtues and merits they possess with the silent language of their heart and state. People build some breakwaters against certain geological phenomena and try to prevent a disaster in one place by passing the effects off to another area, in an effort to save the people there. In the same way, the devoted souls are realizing activities of education and dialogue for the sake of building breakwaters between different societies and cultures by preventing clashes to be generated by bias and ignorance, and by preventing the spread of such negativities, which might grow worse with a mob psychology. So people devoted to such a cause must be very well equipped in spiritual terms, so that they can bear such a heavy responsibility. Their faith and reliance on God must be very strong so that they can keep conscious in the face of every event and always know that all kinds of success are from God, while some occasional adversities stem from personal faults. Obviously, it is not correct for individuals to judge others this way, but the main idea is to be self-critical. As it is understood from the explicit statements in the Qur’an and Sunnah, people should know that they personally cause all kinds of spiritual or material adversities they face.

The Essence of the Matter Is Purity of Intention

As people’s visible, material mistakes cause certain things to go wrong, there are other factors that cause the person to be punished by Divine destiny and face some adversities, such as lacking purity of intention, pursuing carnal desires, and giving priority to personal plans. Besides causes of occasional adversities, the question of whether a certain task will be achieved or not works in a similar way; the metaphysical dimension is no less important than the physical one in effecting a certain outcome. Our inability to see the metaphysical dimension does not change the reality of its importance. What we can see is only limited to the realm of apparent causes. For example, sowing a seed in a field is an act carried out within the physical realm. However, some other factors we cannot see play a role in allowing that seed to germinate and flourish as a plant. Even if we see water and sunlight, we cannot see the seed’s faculty of flourishing. And we cannot even see air, which exists within the realm of physical causes as one of the agents that plays a role in the seed’s growth. In the same way, events that take place in individual and social life not only have dimensions related to the physical realm but also metaphysical ones. For example, factors as determination, resolution, sticking with a sense of permanence, sincerity, faithfulness, standing upright, pursuing a lofty ideal, respecting the will and works of God… these are such spiritual causes that probably each one of them, alone, are more powerful factors than material causes. For example, we never know how God grants favors when the time comes to a man who has cherished good thoughts since his childhood and pursued great ideals. Those lofty ideals and dreams can serve as a prayer, as an invitation for Divine Providence to make them come true. It is possible to take it vice versa, too. That is, evil feelings, dark intentions, acts based on hypocritical considerations, jealousy and the like are important causes that give way to certain negative outcomes. For example, the Prophet warned people against envy (hasad), and stated that it devours a person’s good deeds, as fire devours firewood. Then this inability to stand what others enjoy is such curse that it devours the good deeds you do. If somebody builds a school as a reaction against certain people they do not like, just for the sake of preventing them, then this ill feeling may one day cause the school to burn down, either in the material or spiritual sense. God Almighty punishes them for those negative feelings within. However, it is not possible for people taken by the whirlpool of envy to understand such spiritual causes. Therefore we can say that spiritual causes play a no less important role than material ones regarding God’s granting success. As Bediüzzaman puts it, “Those who attribute everything’s existence to matter limit their intellectual capacity to what they can see, yet eyes cannot see what is spiritual.” However, along with eyesight, there are certain things rather related to having insight, or seeing through the eye of the heart. This spiritual sense of seeing depends on perception and discernment, inner sensation and intuition, faith and the inner faculty sensing God directly as well as Divine inspirations. One should not ignore the existence of these things. Even though some people do not recognize them, there are such people that recognize spiritual factors very well, understand their tongue, and can virtually hold them, the way a normal person holds physical objects.

For attaining true and lasting success, ones devoted to serving God need to know very well the material and spiritual causes that lead to God’s granting success and be aware where the limits of those causes begin and end. In other words, the devoted ones try to serve in different places, develop projects for opening institutions like schools and universities, and with all of these they share the inspirations of their soul with the hearts that welcome them; at the same time, they need their spiritual state to be fully prepared. Not shaking in the face of some adversities, not giving up the struggle, and standing upright in the face of storms—by God’s grace, depends on appreciating the value of spiritual means.

Retaining the Spiritual State

The chivalrous ones of deep spirituality, who defy their self a few times a day and are so virtuous as not to forgive even the sins that just pass their minds, must constantly seek to raise their level, together with their companions, through continuous rehabilitations, and thus bring permanence to their desired spiritual state. Not only attaining such a state, but also retaining it, is very important. Sometimes, one attains such spiritual positions that he or she sees, feels, and perceives existence very differently; that person begins to live with a complete consciousness of the omnipresence of God (ihsan) and awareness of being seen by Him. However, what really matters is to keep up this feeling and consciousness, because sometimes intervals in this state take away very important attainments. So many gains might pour into even just a moment’s void. It is necessary to attain a desirable spiritual state; on the other hand, whatever one’s position is, it is necessary to keep that state in the same level.

In conclusion, even if you do your best and become very strong with respect to material causes—to the point of monitoring space with your satellites, it still makes up only one side of the issue in terms of gaining God’s good pleasure. You should know that what really makes you strong is your trust in the infinite power of God Almighty and always keeping a sound relationship with Him. I think the devoted souls must always remind one another of this truth and weave their lives in accordance with this truth.

This text is the translation of “Gerçek Başarı ve Kıvamın Korunması.”

Chastity for God’s Sake

Herkul-EN | | HEARTSTRINGS

Unlike the rank and file, guides should think twice before they say something for the sake of their followers. Failure to do so might cause quite a commotion, which is hardly ever made up for.
As a poet puts it, “Spear wounds can be healed, but the wounds of a sharp tongue cannot!”
I wish people could act with no benefit to themselves; or, they laid down their lives but asked for nothing in return.
In fact, this is the path of Prophets who spent their lives for their cause but asked for nothing in reciprocation. Some kings like Prophet Solomon and Prophet David, led very humble, contented, decent and chaste lives. God still gave them kingdoms which they used for the cause of the true religion of their times. However, their kingdom did not corrupt them, make them egoists, or make them change their humble way of living. They were always chaste, sinless, loyal to God, wise and, committed to communicating their message. They were always faithful to their Prophetic qualities as they lived. Hence, those who follow the path of Prophets should also be representing these Prophetic qualities.
It is possible for those who do not follow the path of Prophets to stray to the path of Satan.
In particular, for the members of an eminent group devoted to follow the path of Prophets, even the smallest indecency they exhibit, a seemingly minor unchastity, or a minor unfaithfulness, might turn out to put the entire community under suspicion.
The prayer of a saintly figure says: “God! Please do not put my comrades to shame because of me. As well, do not put me or my comrades to shame because of one of us.” It would be a breach of the rights of the entire community.
We should not put a foot wrong, lead chaste lives, be honest to goodness, fend off hypocrisy, be loyal, zero in on communicating God’s message, call attention to God, constantly work for the cause of spreading the word of our beloved Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, all over the earth and dream of achieving it, and look for ways to make the Prophet’s message heard even in the poles.
The sole requirement of success on that path is to lead a decent and chaste life.
To neglect worldliness and not have a soft spot for it.
To complete one’s lifetime keeping their hands off anything that is carnal.
Not to swerve towards hypocrisy…
To refrain from deceiving others…
To stop showing off…

Ramadan and Softening Hearts

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: Every year, the month of Ramadan comes like a heavenly serenity and assurance felt in the spirits; it softens believers’ hearts, virtually melts them, and gives them an otherworldly hue. What are your suggestions to make the most of this blessed month with respect to our individual and societal life?

Answer: The month of Ramadan appears on our horizons with its charming beauties with fasting, the Prayers of Tarawih, the fast-breaking dinners, and the pre-dawn meals. Ramadan brings about a heavenly atmosphere of its own. Even at times when different tensions follow one another, violence and aggression become excessive, contradiction is seen as virtue, and ice-cold winds blow between the masses, Ramadan makes its influence by reconditioning souls, fostering sound hearts, feelings, and thoughts, along with abating every kind of hardness and harshness. Muslims already show serious respect toward this month, when peace and gentleness perceptibly prevail. For this reason, in spite of different adversities, if we give our willpower its due and manage to open our heart to this very special and distinguished segment of time with heartfelt trust in its blessings, and thus become oriented to it with sincere belief, awe and respect, then it will cuddle us and shower us with blessings. Anger, violence, and rages will cease, and an atmosphere of peace and reconciliation will prevail.

Not Variety of Dishes, but Richness of Guests

In order to put these ideas into practice, believers—a Muslim family residing in an apartment for instance—should invite their neighbors to a fast-breaking dinner, no matter what their philosophy of life is, preferably by letting them know of the dinner a few days in advance. They can present a very good example of kindness and hospitality. They can even say, “You have shown kindness to accept our invitation and bothered to come here. Please also accept this small present for your kindness.” If possible, the hosts should give presents to their guests’ children and make those innocent ones happy. Similarly, Muslims who teach at schools and universities or work at other establishments can contribute to societal peace by opening their table to everyone, without discriminating between different sections of society.

We should make use of this blessed month in such a fruitful way, to the degree of not having any fast-breaking dinners without guests. These dinners should be enriched with abundance and diversity of guests, rather than richness of dishes. As it is known, the Messenger of God stated,

“A meal for two suffices for three, and a meal for three suffices for four.”1 For this reason, there is no reason to worry about a multitude of guests in Ramadan, the month of abundance. Acting this way is an important means of diplomacy to eliminate the huge rifts between different sections of the society and of overcoming prejudices. So many problems that cannot be tackled with power or security forces can be solved by this means. If you sincerely open your heart to everyone, conquer the hearts of others with human virtues, and reserve in your heart a seat for all—and thus lean on the power of hearts—it will put a stop to unending grudges, hatreds, rages, bloodsheds, and killings. Indeed, in no time in the history of humanity has it ever been possible to resolve problems and cure troubles through threats. On the contrary, threats only serve to inflame grudges and intensify people’s inclination for destruction.

As it is expressed in a Turkish proverb, “One little cup of coffee is not to be forgotten for forty years.” Therefore, the sentimental value of a dinner invitation will similarly continue no less than forty years, insha’Allah. Thus, this act of kindness to effect very beautiful consequences should be carried out—perhaps the secret of the blessed Ramadan’s abundance lies in them. Namely, as we can attain otherworldly rewards by fasting and observing the Tarawih Prayers, we can also gain different blessings by gaining people’s hearts.

The Heavenly Call That Echoes in Hearts

The believers striving to serve humanity in all corners of the world can try to give Ramadan its due as a very important means of gaining hearts. Remember that the sacrificial meat collected for Eid al-Adha is taken to poor people in different corners of the world, from Africa to Asia; this is an indication of the benevolence and generosity of the people of Anatolia, and sacrificial meat is now a means of conquering hearts. For those who receive this meat, they feel that there still exists a people to inspire them trust. In the same way, it is possible to open the doors of fast-breaking and pre-dawn meals to all as a Ramadan campaign, and thus seeking the good pleasure of God by gaining so many hearts. This is especially evident when the guests who accept such invitations in different countries are so impressed by these activities that when you listen to their feelings, you better understand the significance of the issue. For example, they find the call to Prayer made right before fast-breaking so original and lovely. So it is necessary to take this opportunity in the best way to let others meet the beauties and richness of Muslim culture. Perhaps these activities will only build a positive opinion of Islam in their sight; even this much should definitely not be underestimated, I think. Who knows, though, maybe the guests who feel everything freshly will awaken to the beauties of Islam in a different way and then rocket to the horizons of their own spiritual perfection. In this respect, not just inviting them to dinner once in the month of Ramadan, but even spreading a table for them a few times a day is worth for the sake of having such positive changes.

Unfortunately, people of our time have been deprived of the beauties of Islam. They have not witnessed attitudes and behaviors that become true Muslims. So our most important duty is to show them the genuine Islam within our family structure, relationships between family members, invitations, and gentleness. If some see Muslims as monsters today, eliminating this image depends upon building good relations with them. Thus, whatever position Muslims are in, they should act with reason, logic, judgment, and consultation, and try to realize this issue in an agreeable way.

No Deed Can Make up for the One in Ramadan

The acts of worship that God Almighty holds us responsible for will assume a different nature depending on the way we offer them, and they will bear witness for us on the Day of Judgment. If we can give this month of forgiveness its due, it will bear witness in our favor and perhaps admit us to the highest level of Paradise through the gate of Rayyan. For this reason, we must respectfully observe the acts of worship that God has decreed for us, hold them in reverence, and strive to fulfill them in the best way.

In addition, a believer will know in the Afterlife which good, righteous deeds in the world brought the blessings he or she enjoys there; this will double the delight of those blessings. In the face of such benevolence, people will likely say: “Praise be to my Lord! First he honored me with good, righteous deeds, now he honors me with their reward.” There, believers will recognize the rewards of their good, righteous deeds committed with all their limbs.2 In the same way, they will experience the otherworldly meanings of their hunger, of their efforts at the Tarawih Prayers, their excitement for waking up for the pre-dawn meal, and their generous treatment of others, and feel due delight.

Some acts of worship owe their depth to fulfilling their outer forms and conditions. This is true for worship offered in Ramadan, a month when deeds gain a different value, when people gain proximity to God very differently. No other fasting can be compared to the one in Ramadan. No other twenty-unit Prayer to be offered in other nights can replace the Tarawih. The same holds true for the rewards for the pre-dawn meals or waiting patiently before breaking the fast. In short, no deeds can substitute those done in Ramadan. It is for this reason that believers who feel this truth deeply in their consciences feel serious grief when this blessed month is gone, longing for it until the next Ramadan comes. We do not know; perhaps this yearning gains them an extra blessing of another Ramadan’s worth.

1. Sahih al-Bukhari, At’imah, 11; Sahih Muslim, Ashriba, 179
2. This is due to the fact that the believers protect their tongue, ears, eyes, feet, and all other limbs from every kind of evil, in addition to abstaining from food, drink, and sexual intercourse from dawn until sunset. (ed.)

This text is the translation of “Ramazan ve Yumuşayan Kalbler.”

Warning People against Wrongs without Giving an Alluring Account of Them

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: It is stated that an elaborate account of wrongs may pollute people’s minds with temptations. On the other hand, we need to make warnings against wrongs in order to avert people from them. How can we strike a balance here?

Answer: It needs to be known that warning that something is evil and giving an alluringly, detailed account of it are different. In order to avert people from attitudes and behaviors that harm the individual and the society and make them feel disgusted by such things, it is naturally necessary to warn people about them. However, such warning should not be too elaborate of an account of the wrong in such a way as to form a clear picture in their minds. A clear picture of certain actions might make some feel tempted toward them. For this reason, in order not to make the opposite of the intended effect, it is better to refer to wrongs concisely, tell about their harms, and then about their negative consequences in this world and the next. For example, while warning a man who immerses himself in sins, it is possible to remind him that he will lose his receptivity of spiritual blessings, not feel delight in devotions, blunt his insight, become unable to activate the latent fine faculties of his heart, or even become totally unaware of them. Such a person will be condemned to a mechanical practice of religion, will know God solely in theory, and will fail to feel the awe of standing in His presence. In short, it is wiser to draw attention to the bad consequences of a sin than giving a detailed account of it.

The Destructive Impact of Negative Connotations

As it is known, Satan takes advantage of certain negative feelings in human nature very astutely, and it is very important not to awaken and trigger them. Too detailed accounts of wrongs might serve as impulses to activate latent negative feelings, which provides a good opportunity to Satan for leading people astray.

We usually associate the issue in question with lusts of the flesh, but narrowing it down is misleading. The points we have made here are true for any wrong people might feel tempted to commit. Let us assume that you are trying to describe how evil hypocrisy is. If you present it in a way to be perceived as an artistic ability, you might unintentionally evoke fondness toward that vice. Accordingly, about all attitude and behaviors within the frame of wrongs, you must adopt a deterrent style and tell how dreadful a punishment the transgressors will face on the Day of Judgment.

Even the issue of associating partners with God requires much sensitivity in this respect. For example, there is no point in repeating the names of certain things asserted as deities instead of God; we may not mention their names at all if necessary. We should refer to such things concisely and lay emphasis on the fact that one might lose an eternal life of bliss and face an eternal life in Hell instead.

The same applies to issues such as rebelling against one’s parents, bearing false witness, theft, slander, and backbiting; we need to build a feeling of resistance toward them in people.

Actually, this method is the way of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. In order to tell what a great gain it is to keep away from disasters of the tongue and extramarital relations, he stated: “Assure me (of the parts) between the jaws and legs, I will assure that you will enter Paradise.”1 As it is seen, the matter is presented in a very discreet and concise way, and the reward to be attained on the condition of behaving oneself is drawn attention to.

Also, it needs to be known that the minds of those who are exposed to too detailed accounts of wrongs may remain adulterated for days, or even weeks. Certain negative things can busy their minds even during worship. For this reason, one must be strong and resolved at taking a stance against such negativities from the very beginning. On the other hand, they should continuously strive to fill their minds with good and beautiful things. So much so that, whenever they open a file in their cortex, they should always meet good words, good thoughts, and good scenes. If anything pollutes their eyes, ears, and minds, or anything negative occurs to their heart involuntarily, they should run to the nearest prayer rug and seek refuge in prayer as a fount of purification, without giving sins an opportunity to survive.

A Pure Mind and a Good End

Particularly in our time, pollution of minds is a serious problem, not only when we go out for shopping or other reasons, but also while we sit at home, the safest haven for believers. In time, accumulation of negative descriptions and sights pollutes a person’s memory and cortex. They occupy that person’s mind and trigger certain negative feelings in human nature. Such pictures pressurize their world of feelings and thoughts, and assert their own desires. When they find the opportunity, they paralyze willpower and lead people to sins that will ruin their eternal afterlife.

In fact, such negative mental pictures accumulate in the subconscious and even begin to pollute dreams. Believers should always be oriented to be pure, even in their dreams. When Muslims follow the example of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and recite his prayers before going to bed, they seek refuge in God and say, “My God, the Trustworthy One! Here I entrust my feelings and thoughts to You. Please do not let them be polluted so that I will not wake up with some impure feelings!” With such considerations, we entrust the horizons of our night to His protection. Believers’ acting sensitively towards this issue bears great importance with respect to their afterlife. It should be known that all of their intentions, prayers, and efforts in this respect are recorded as good, righteous deeds for them. Sometimes such an effort for protecting their imagination from pollution and not letting subconscious impurities pressurize their feelings can be more important than offering a hundred units of Prayer. However, wandering confidently and graciously in pure realms, even in one’s dreams, depends upon giving the willpower its due by adopting a seriously resolved stance.

Keeping away from means that might lead to sin and from thinking of wrongs signify a person’s degree of safety from sins. The Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, showed the importance of keeping away from wrongs by praying, “My God, distance me from my errors, as You distanced East from West.”2 Those who sail close to the wind might not find an opportunity to get back to the shore. For this reason, believers must constantly try to keep their minds, thoughts, and feelings pure; they must be alert against the traps of the carnal soul and Satan.

1. Sahih al-Bukhari, Riqaq, 23
2. Sahih al-Bukhari, Dawat, 44

This text is the translation of “Kötülüklerden Sakındırma ve Bâtılı Tasvir.”

Essentials for Fruitful Criticism

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: What do we need to be careful about while making constructive criticism, which is an important means of seeking the better at everything, so that it will be effective and fruitful? What are the essential points to be observed both by those who make and receive criticism?

Answer: Criticism means criticizing a statement or behavior, revealing its negative and positive sides, and making a comparison between what is and what should be; it is one of the important scholarly essentials that facilitates progress toward the ideal. In this respect, it has been employed since the early generations of Muslims. For example, in the methodology of Hadith, a given report would be evaluated with a critical approach in terms of its text and the reliability of its chain of narrators. Indeed, criticism took its place in the methodology of Islamic disciplines from the beginning, in order to unearth the truth at issues such as finding the right meaning to be derived from Divine commandments and interpreting them correctly. This scholarly discipline of criticism served as a sound filter against alien elements incompatible with Islam. As the discipline of munazara (comparing and discussing ideas) also developed, the new interpretations that emerged as a consequence of fruitful discussions were also put to criticism, tested with established criteria, and sparkles of truth were attained in the end.

Particularly at questioning the reliability of the chain of narrators in the field of Hadith, there was a serious accumulation of literature. Numerous volumes of work sought to help authenticate whether statements reported as Hadith genuinely belonged to the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him. But even while making judgment and evaluation at such an important issue, scholars showed the utmost sensitivity at refraining from excessive remarks. For example, Shu’ba ibn Hajjaj, one of the important Hadith scholars of the classic period who systemized the subject of criticism (naqd) for the first time, once used an interesting term while referring to the critical evaluation of narrators. Addressing a fellow scholar, he said, “Come, let us make some backbiting on the path of God,” drawing attention to both the necessity of doing this vital task and that it must solely be done for the sake of God.

The method of criticism was successfully employed particularly during the first five centuries of the Islamic calendar in the fields of both religious and positive sciences, for the sake of reaching the most appropriate. Therefore, this scholarly method can be employed in our time as well, given that fairness, respect, and mindfulness are maintained. At this point, let’s refer to the manners and method of criticism briefly.

Adopting a Fair Attitude and Soft Style

The issue criticized must be presented in a very sound style and utmost care must be shown at using a polite manner of speaking. That is, the criticism is not meant to evoke a negative response, but to be easily welcomed. When you present your alternative thoughts and plausible approaches for solving certain matters, you will be shown respect if you do it in agreeable politeness. For example, suppose that you are stating your opinion on a certain subject and the person you are addressing thinks the opposite. If you say, “This is what I knew about the matter, but I see that it has a different side as well,” that person will likely come to you after a while and confess that your opinion had been more appropriate. And this time, you will respond by thanking that person for being so fair. In this respect, one should know how to—to some degree—dismiss one’s ego, experience, and knowledge for the sake of upholding righteousness. In other words, if you expect the reasonable to be met reasonably, you should even evaluate others’ not-that-reasonable thoughts within their own reasonability, adopt a welcoming attitude toward them, and form an atmosphere of sincerity where people can be welcoming toward truths.

Making General Statements without Targeting the Person

History has witnessed that, in whatever field, those who do not show respect to others’ thoughts and who continuously dismiss others as worthless, ruin so many worthy things without even noticing it. For this reason, whatever is the nature of the element before us, we should adopt the principle of treating them all with a certain degree of respect. This is a very appropriate means of making people before us accept the truths that we present. Otherwise, no matter how great the projects that we offer, statements slammed on others’ heads will not be welcomed. When criticism is not expressed politely, it will inevitably be received negatively, even if the matter that we criticize is an obvious mistake of someone that conflicts with the decisive and established teachings of religion. For example, you might witness that your friend has gazed at a forbidden sight. If you jerk into telling his embarrassing mistake to his face in a direct way and reproach him, he may respond by trying to justify some devilish considerations—God forbid! In particular, if the individual in front of you is not ready for a criticism of his attitudes and behaviors, then every criticism of yours will evoke reactionary behavior and disrespect against truths, or even make that person hostile against his own values. Even if such people understand what they hear is true, they will do their best to devise new arguments to get the better of the person before them, owing to the trauma of receiving that criticism like a mighty blow on their head; they will be continuously imagining the best way to answer the criticisms directed toward them, even when they retire to their bed at night.

Thus, matters need to be told indirectly, without taking individual persons as targets.Indeed, when the Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, witnessed a person’s wrong, he did not directly criticize that person. Instead, he gathered people together and spoke about that act in general, which allowed the doer to hear the lesson. On one occasion, for example, a man who had been commissioned to collect taxes said, “This amount is the tax I have collected and these were given to me as presents.” Upon hearing this, the Prophet addressed his followers from the pulpit and made a general statement about when he commissions a person to carry out a certain commandment of God and that person states that a part of what he collected belongs to the state and the rest is a present to him. To show how mistaken this idea was, the Prophet asked whether those gifts would have been presented had he sat in his parents’ home.1

The issue of who makes the criticism is also very important. If something needs to be told to someone, one should not be too eager to do that personally, but rather leave the issue to another person whom the one to receive criticism loves very much. In such a situation, even criticism from a beloved friend will be taken as a compliment. If it seems likely that a criticism you need to make will receive a reactionary response, you should leave it to someone else because what really matters is not who voices the truth but whether the truth meets with a heartfelt acceptance.

At this point it is useful to relate a relevant parable of the two grandsons of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him. Although this parable about Hasan and Husayn does not take place in the reliable sources of Hadith, it conveys important lessons.

Accordingly, the two boys came to make ablutions somewhere and they saw a man who splashed water all around but did not wash his limbs properly as required for a valid ablution. These two young talents of keen insight sought a way to show him the way without humiliating him. With this intention, they asked the man to tell them which one of them made ablutions correctly. They made ablutions exactly as they had learned from their blessed father Ali ibn Abi Talib, may God be pleased with him. When they were done, they asked which one of them did it better. With the ease of being free from humiliation, the man calmly replied that they both did it so well and that his own way was wrong. Therefore, it is important to reiterate that the style we use at correcting wrongs bears great importance in terms of acceptance.

Educating Individuals to Accept Criticism

Additionally, making people able to accept criticism and evoking a righteous feeling of respect in them constitute a separate dimension of the issue. The Companions, who had attained an ideal level of righteousness, could comfortably warn one another about any wrong that they had committed without causing any negative reaction at all. For example, during a sermon, Umar ibn al-Khattab, may God be pleased with him, reminded people that it was necessary to keep bridal dues (mahr) within affordable limits and told them not to ask for too high amounts. What he suggested was a reasonable solution to prevent possible abuses. Even today, an understanding attitude of this issue will definitely fulfill an important function at solving a social problem. While Umar was drawing attention to this fact, an old woman spoke up and asked the caliph, “O Umar, is there a Qur’anic verse or hadith on this issue that you know and we do not? The Qur’an commands, ‘But if you still decide to dispense with a wife and marry another, and you have given the former (even so much as amounts to) a treasure, do not take back anything thereof’ (an-Nisa 4:20), thus not setting a limit to the amount of bridal dues.” In spite of being the caliph governing a great state that challenged the two superpowers of the time, Umar said aloud to himself, “O Umar, you do not know your religion even as much as an old woman.”2 This degree of righteousness caused Umar to be referred as “al-waqqaf inda’l haqq” (one who halts when he meets the truth). That is, when he faces a righteous argument, he stops like a car that suddenly comes to a halt while moving downslope. It is necessary to effect this feeling in people. For this reason, we should make a deal with a certain friend and authorize him or her to comfortably criticize any wrong that arises in our personal attitudes and behaviors. 

In conclusion, a person who intends to criticize, or rather to correct certain matters, must first understand the issue well and make a serious effort in terms of making the correct remark. Secondly, the other person’s feelings must be taken into consideration and fathom whether that other person is ready to welcome what we are about to say. If a negative reaction seems likely, one should not think, “I definitely want to be the one who expresses this truth,” but instead leave the criticism to another person whose remarks will be more influential. Considering the circumstances of our time, when arrogance has become so prevailing and people cannot tolerate even a little criticism, these principles have gained a greater importance. As for those who receive criticism, they should uphold righteousness above everything else and respond to criticisms with gratitude instead of reacting negatively. Bediüzzaman advises us: if someone warns us about a scorpion on our back (in other words, one who warns us about our wrongs), we should only express gratitude, which is an indication of maturity. 

1. Sahih al-Bukhari, Ayman, 3
2. Al-Bayhaqi, As-Sunanu’l-Kubra, 7/233

This text is the translation of “Faydalı Tenkidin Esasları.”

 

338. Nağme: Yeni Bir Dünya ve Hizmet’in Selameti

Herkul | | HERKUL NAGME

Kıymetli arkadaşlar,

Muhterem Fethullah Gülen Hocaefendi’ye

“Toplumu siyah beyaz diye çok koparmışlar. Bunu ancak dipten gelen hareketler tamir edebilir.” buyurdunuz. Bu tesbit, dünyanın değişik toplumları arasındaki münasebetler için de söz konusu mudur? Türkçe Olimpiyatları’yla sergilenen eğitim faaliyetleri dünya açısından “dipten gelen hareket” fonksiyonunu eda edebilir mi?

sorusunu tevcih ettik. Kıymetli Hocamız verdiği cevapta şu hususlara değindi:

*Kendini üstün görme ve başkalarını hafife alma duygusu eski medeniyetlere dayanmaktadır. Hint dinlerinden kaynaklandığı ve Hindistan’da doğduğu söylenen “kast sistemi” inancı, aslında, Enbiyâ-i izâmın mesajıyla iyi bir terbiyeden geçmeyen bütün insanların tabiatında vardır. Vahyin ışığına sırt dönen bütün toplumlarda havas ve avam, zenginler tabakası ve ayaktakımı sınıfı ya da soylular ve köleler şeklindeki ayırımlar mutlaka olmuştur/olmaktadır. İlahi mesajın gölgesinde nefsini dizginleyememiş kimseler bazen soya-sopa, bazen mala-mülke, bazen de şana-şöhrete bağlı olarak kendilerine bir nevi kudsiyet, bir fevkalâdelik ve bir farklılık atfetmişlerdir. Kendilerinin dışındakileri de hep ikinci ya da üçüncü sınıf vatandaş olarak görmüşlerdir. Tabiat-ı beşerde bir virüs olarak saklı bulunan farklılık ve üstünlük mülahazası, hemen her fırsatta ortaya çıkmıştır; maalesef, günümüzde de her toplumun içinde sorgulanamaz zümreler mevcuttur.

*Türkçe Olimpiyatları’nda bir kısmı sahnelenen eğitim faaliyetleri Cenâb-ı Hakk’ın sevkiyle başlayıp bugünlere gelmiştir ve hem ülkemiz hem de dünya sulhu açısından çok önemlidir. Fakat, yapılan hizmetlerin dünyanın kaderini değiştireceği, insanlara yeni bir mahiyet kazandıracağı ve onları birbirleriyle sarmaş dolaş hale getireceği şeklindeki iddialara girmemek lazım. Bu türlü iddialar, bazı şahıslar itibariyle enaniyet işmam eder; bazıları itibariyle de aidiyet mülahazalarına sebebiyet verir. Oysa ki, bir kobradan kaçıyormuşçasına enaniyetten fersah fersah kaçmamız icap ettiği gibi, -ci, -cu, -ca misillü aidiyet ifade eden mülahazalardan da kaçmamız gerekir.

*Herkes kendi mesleğinin muhabbetiyle yaşamalı, fakat katiyen başkalarını hor hakir görmemeli; başkalarına karşı tenâfüs, haset ve düşmanlık duygusu beslememeli.

*Türkçe Olimpiyatları’yla çok küçük bir bölümü sergilenen hizmetlere şafak emaresi nazarıyla bakılabilir. Bu fecir, yalancı şafak bile olsa, unutmamak lazımdır ki, Üstad Hazretleri’nin yaklaşımıyla, fecr-i kazib, fecr-i sadığın en sâdık emaresidir.

*(Türkçe Olimpiyatları’na katıldıktan sonra ülkelerine dönmek üzere vedalaşan öğrencileri) birbirlerine sarılıp ağlarken görünce ben de ağlıyorum. Siyah beyaza sarılmış ağlıyor. Bunlar birbirlerini düne kadar farklı görüyorlardı. Fakat, Anadolu insanı dünyanın dört bir yanında bambaşka bir beyazlık ortaya koydu ve bu her renkten öğrencinin sarmaş dolaş hale gelmesine vesile oldu.

*Güzel şeylerin güzelliği bir kıymettir, fakat o güzelliklerde temadi ondan daha derince bir kıymettir; işte o derinceye talip olmak lazım.

*Adanmış ruhlar, hizmetlerini dünyanın hiçbir yerinde siyasî cereyanlar içinde götürmemeliler. Elden geldiğince onlarla vuruşmamaya, sürtüşmemeye ve iyisi hakkında kendilerine göre kanaatlerini ortaya koymaya özen göstermenin yanı başında, meseleyi onlara bağlı götürmemeye de dikkat etmeliler. Meseleyi halkın halkla münasebeti şeklinde ele almalılar ve böylece o meseleye kalıcılık kazandırmalılar.

*Tepeden, dinamik güçle başlarına vurmak suretiyle insanları hizaya getirme anlayışından sakınmak lazım. Meseleyi dipten, genç nesillerden, insanların şuuraltı müktesebatının beslendiği dönemlerden ele almak ve statik gücü hakim kılmak lazım. Nitekim, Rasûl-ü Ekrem (sallallahu aleyhi ve sellem) Efendimiz, “Nasıl iseniz, öyle idare edilirsiniz!” buyurmuştur. İşte o “Nasıl iseniz..” blokajına bakmak, zemin yoklaması yapmak ve temel dinamikleri sağlam kurmak lazımdır ki ancak bu şekilde bina edeceğiniz şeyler kalıcılık vaad eder.

Bu çok yeni ve ehemmiyetli hasbihali 15:51 dakikalık ses ve görüntü dosyaları halinde sunuyoruz.

Hürmetle…

The Carnal Soul, Satan, and Those Who Straddle the Fence

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: The Qur’an relates the example of an unfortunate man whom God made well-informed of His signs and Revelations, but the man cast them aside, and Satan overtook him. He then became of those who went astray, following his carnal desires and Satan (al-A’raf 7:175). What are the reasons that cause one to go astray so gravely while trying to walk on the righteous path?

Answer: The foremost reason for such deviations is forgetting the fact that this life is a testing ground and everything, at every moment, is a component of that test. Those who go astray forget this fact and fall for the deceptions of the carnal soul and Satan. Indeed, man is always faced with both the internal mechanism of the carnal soul and Satan who can never be known when, where and how he will approach and play new tricks on him. These two archenemies usually approach us with a friendly face and try to misguide us by making right seem wrong and vice versa. One needs to always be alert against these tricks. Otherwise, a momentary heedlessness can take one to deceptions that are difficult or even impossible to overcome. In terms of their appeal to our carnal soul and physicality, you can see the temptations of this world as tools of illusion used by Satan, the relentless deceiver. At unexpected moments he makes certain things seem unpredictably very inviting. However, those things that are seemingly pleasant may have disastrous consequences as pointed out in the verse (which means): “It may well be that you dislike a thing but it is good for you, and it may well be that you like a thing but it is bad for you. God knows, and you do not know” (al-Baqarah 2:216). In other words, poisonous honey that you initially enjoy might soon trouble your stomach severely. In the same way, there are certain things people face that they seem bitter and bothersome outwardly, but by putting up with their trouble you can take wing to felicity. For example, Satan wants to make a river in front of your home appear to you as a deep and sinister torrent. However, when you evaluate the issue with sound reason, common sense, and a pure heart and thus gain insight into the issue, this helps to purify you. You see that the river that you feared does not even reach your ankle and furthermore has a purifying quality. As Satan tries to get you into negativities by his illusion, he tries to avert you from doing good by his positive-illusion on the other hand. As the Qur’an states, he is the one that deceives and embellishes; he decks the ugly sins to be appealing. 

The Watcher

Satan, the archenemy of humanity, relentlessly watches for our weak moments, figuring out the best time to attack. He takes advantage of weaknesses such as lust, fear, comfort, love for position, or seeking benefit, and topples a person over when he finds the chance.

The Qur’an describes Satan’s grudge against humanity: “Now that You have allowed me to rebel and go astray, I will surely lie in wait for them on Your Straight Path (to lure them from it). Then I will come upon them from before them and from behind them, and from their right and from their left. And You will not find most of them thankful” (al-A’raf 7:16–17). Other verses also describe this unappeasable enemy (translated as): “Then (I swear) by Your Glory, I will certainly cause them all to rebel and go astray” (as-Sa’d 38:82). Taking into consideration these and other verses in the Qur’an, we can say that what lies behind all of people’s misguidance, transgressions, rebellion against God, and heedless indulgences are the goadings and whisperings of Satan.

Who Suffices with What Is in Hand Is a Deceived One

Undoubtedly, what befalls us in the face of such a relentless enemy is not standing somewhere in the middle but adopting a resolved stance and verifying all the values one believes in with reasoning, judgment, and following the established principles in the Qur’an and Sunnah. That is, one needs to have sound faith and due reliance on God in order to be saved from Satan’s evil: “Surely he has no power over those who believe and put their trust in their Lord” (an-Nahl 16:99). It is not possible to be saved from Satan and his traps for those who may content themselves only with the acculturation they received from the environment in which they grew up without deepening their faith through reflection and investigation or trying to internalize the values they believe in.

The Situation of a Person Straddling the Fence

As mentioned in the question, the Qur’an gives the example of a person who does not adopt a clear position with respect to faith and following Divine commands: “Tell them (based on Our Revelation) the story of him whom We made well-informed of Our signs and Revelations, but he cast them off, and Satan overtook him, and he became of those (followers of Satan) who rebel (against God’s way) and go astray” (al-A’raf 7:175).

The Qur’an relates this story to teach us a lesson. That man witnessed manifest signs and had evident works of wonders—to guide him to truth, which would make him see and hear correctly, which would guide his heart to wisdom, but he ignored all this and left everything behind. So it seems this poor man, in spite of being granted certain blessings, failed to define a clear position and take a sound stance; he could not save himself straddling the fence. In other words, although he lived in a suitable environment for practicing faith, he failed to ingrain in himself the truths he had learned from the culture he was raised in. That poor man did not show any personal effort to verify what he inherited, did not ponder it, nor try to rebuild the world of his feelings, thoughts, and beliefs by giving his willpower its due; ultimately, he became a loser. According to the statements of some interpreters of the Qur’an, his knowing the Ism al-Azam (greatest Divine Name) and Divine secrets did not do him any good; he did not make them an integral part of his character or nature, and thus they did not belong to him. In this respect, if people do not restore the thoughts they inherit from their ancestry and have an unshakable faith by verifying and internalizing every piece of the information they possess, then Satan can cast doubts and hesitations into them, polluting their hearts and minds. 

Talk of the Beloved All the Time

The verse continues by stating, “If We had willed (to impede the way he chose by his free will), We could indeed have lifted him (towards the heaven of perfections enabled by faith) through those signs and Revelations, but (by his own free choice) he clung to the earth and followed his desires” (al-A’raf 7:176). That is, he was taken by comfort, physicality, fame, imitation, praises, fancies, and desires, and thus forgot that the bestowals he enjoyed essentially belong to God. When he became oblivious of this fact, God left him to oblivion. The verse then states (translated as): “So (in his being surrendered to greed), his likeness is that of a dog: if you move to drive it away, it pants with its tongue lolling out (still hoping to be fed more), or if you leave it, it pants with its tongue lolling out” (al-A’raf 7:176). And a few verses later, the situation of such people is described as: “They are like cattle (following only their instincts)—rather, even more astray” (al-A’raf 7:179). Due to their carnal, animalistic desires, they fall down to a status lower than the lowliest creatures.

Humanity is indeed honored with the best pattern of creation, as candidates for exaltedness. Although human essence is potentially even superior to angels, their downfall does not take them to ground zero but to a deep pit much lower than that. That is, a man who has become a slave to his desires and fancies, he cannot even keep the level of an ordinary man but falls to a level below animals. While describing the situation of such a person—owing to the gravity of the matter—the style of the Word of God changes here significantly and the conduct of the person in question is likened to animal behavior. To conclude, if a person is not walking determinedly, not improving his abilities to comply with the needs of walking on this righteous path, and lacking the resolution for constant self-renewal, if he is not upholding the truth of the Prophetic statement, “Renew your faith by La ilaha illa’llah,”1 it is always possible for him to be stopped by one of these obstacles. In order to overcome all of these obstacles and reach their target, individuals must concentrate their powers on retaining their faith; they should build insurmountable walls around it and continuously feed their heart and spirit with good, righteous deeds and attending religious talks.

1. Al-Hakim at-Tirmidhi, Nawadiru’l-Usul, 2/204

This text is the translation of “Nefis, Şeytan ve A’raftakiler.”

Regardless of Others, We Should Not Be Involved in Backbiting, Defamation, Conflicts or Sedition

Herkul-EN | | BREEZES OF REVIVAL

Figuratively speaking, there are times when you cannot stand on your feet without leaning against something, such as during Prayers. Sometimes, you cannot prostrate or stand back up after prostration without getting help from your hands. You accept this as a law of creation, and believe that as you get older, you are bound to have such needs. Still, it is not always possible to fully understand things like that before you actually experience them. Muslims can use such states to their advantage by regarding them as Divine tests, which will add to their relationship with God, and by thanking God for these tests, since they are only related to worldly matters. As Bediüzzaman cites, some scholars say:

“Al-hamdu lil’lahi ala kulli hal, siwa’l-kufri wa’d-dalal” (All praise be to God for every state except for infidelity and deviation); or “Al-hamdu lil’lahi ala kulli hal, siwa ahwali’l-kufri wa’d-dalal” (All praise be to God for all states except the states of infidelity or deviation).

If God has granted you the maturity to say these, it means He has granted you the key to stand against the most despairing situations; this key is another “wave length” of the Divine manifestation of His Mercy. For every age group, this Mercy has its own meaning: for youth, for maturity, and even for childhood. Although God always grants us things to be happy with, we do not always cherish them. In fact, we are surrounded by His favors; however, since it is left to people whether or not to regard events as His favors, choosing to cherish them is important. Therefore, whoever employs their logic and reasoning in this direction, they may be granted much more than what is normally expected out of such an act of cherishing. The more sincere the intention is, the higher the grant.

Also, metaphorically speaking, there may be times when you have an even temper which you hardly ever lose. But when things seem to go wrong, and you feel like you are losing your temper, you should be aware that such times are opportunities that you can exhibit your chivalrous qualities in the eyes of God by handling such difficult situations with tenderness. For instance, when you see a person, a thinker, or an opinion that is totally opposite of you and your viewpoint, instead of losing your temper and thinking negative things about them, you should choose to think altruistically. You should say “Astaghfiru’llah Ya Rabbi” (O God, I ask for Your forgiveness), and pray to Him saying “God! Please set right my feelings and thoughts, my mood and also that person’s mood.” 

This attitude should be promoted and encouraged, especially nowadays. Otherwise, it brings about a vicious circle of negative actions inducing one another. Just like faults in the earth’s crust, tensions in a society, between groups of people, or between nations, cause earthquakes. Depending on several factors, you may just have an earthquake, or suffer a tsunami after one another; you may well see its effects in the world’s atmosphere and weather conditions; some insects or other life forms may disappear. There may be such similarities between the laws of creation and social dynamics. 

Once there is a quake in a society, people start blaming each other for the sake of pinning the blame on others. If they have no basis for such claims, this is slander. Slander is two levels closer to the Hell than backbiting; where our noble Prophet identifies backbiting as “More violent than adultery.” Adultery is licentiousness; it is depravity and bohemianism, for which Islamic law has imposed severe punishments and taken extraordinary precautions against. Some types of backbiting are even more violent than adultery since they make vicious statements about someone when that person is not present, even if you tell the truth. Something as simple as criticizing somebody’s clothes is considered backbiting in Islam; or making a comment about how someone trimmed their mustache is also backbiting. In this accord, making vicious statements about someone for their opinions, beliefs, attitudes, lifestyles, and so forth, are considered as violent backbiting. Finally, doing so about a group of people, or a leader who represents a group of people, is not equal to backbiting one person, but equal to backbiting several people. This means, unless such a backbiter asks for, and is granted, forgiveness by each individual in that group, the backbiter cannot enter the gate of Paradise.

Please be reminded that the comments above are not my personal opinions, but an Islamic rule. Again, such a backbiter is doomed even if he delivers Islam from annihilation. May God protect us from it. As mentioned before, backbiting and slander are like the aftershocks of such an earthquake; because, once this vicious circle starts, it is difficult for a true Muslim to not get involved. Fending off this cycle means such a person is considered a person of stature and high standing by the Guardian Angels and in the eyes of God.

It is crucial to put up with some inconveniences even though they seem unbearable. This way you do not get dragged into their violence, negativity, backbiting, and slander; hence, the blame is not shared. If you fight fire with fire, you help the conflict, the chaos, the backbiting, the slander, to escalate. This acts like a chain reaction, and may result in a more serious outcome, including murder and assassination.

Expecting a collective agreement on holding this vicious cycle back may be too optimistic. That is: not every individual or broadcasting institute may agree to not circulate rumors, to not avoid provocative news, or to not increase social tension. However, those who could agree should be talked into using a tender language and attitude, and to wear their good heart on their sleeves. This may help fix the problems and the violence for our part. If one action of yours breeds chaos, it would escalate incrementally in the actions of others. If you add to it once, others would do the same in a greater magnitude and amount. Regardless of your initial intention, things might turn against you. May God protect us from it.

Mildness and agreement are crucial. We can find examples of these behaviors in the Messiah or our noble Prophet, both of whom are interrelated, and exemplified the principle of turning the other cheek. I should add that some Muslim scholars have not validated the principal of turning the other cheek, probably due to its possible abuse during wars. However, it is definitely an important one, especially in times of conflict, like the End Times where disorder and corruption, backbiting and slander, tactlessness prevail and lead to pillages, murders and assassinations. In such a period of time, when bestiality is represented by humans, we need mildness and agreement the most. What we need is “to be without hands against those who strike you, and without speech and complaint against those who curse you.”

We have such great figures in our culture like Khoja Ahmad Yasawi, who said “You should be numb,” meaning numb against negativities like the present ones. Another one is Yunus Emre, who uttered the principle I have just rephrased above. He also says “A dervish should be uncomplaining. Being a dervish does not only mean to bear habiliments or a headdress; once you negotiate, you will not need either of them.” Moreover, we have Jalalu’d-Din ar-Rumi, who we shortly call Mawlana. He was inclusive towards everyone, and tolerated all faiths. He said “One of my feet is on the center of Islam and the other, like a leg of a compass, is in the realm of 72 nations.” 

These are easier said than done. What matters, especially for those whose role is to guide others, is not only implementing them in our lives by putting them into practice, but also demonstrating that they are realizable. Instead of only achieving such virtues at an individual level, they need to be implemented at the public level, regardless of the difficulties and challenges. This can only be done through leading a social life. 

What the speaker means with the line “One of the feet being on the center of the religion” is to avoid any contradiction with the principles of Islam; and by “the other foot like a leg of a compass” is that we must tolerate and admit all faiths. It should be considered natural for someone to show a more comprehensive inclusiveness towards people of their own faith and to embrace them more eagerly. Still, channels should be kept open with those who are neutral, or rather, in between. God honored them by granting them humanity; regardless of their faith, they are human, and deserve humane conduct. 

This way, disorder can be minimized and confined, if not resolved totally.

In addition, if you can act as a role model, even in a small way, you will serve as an example to be imitated. People all around the world will take your example, and want to employ it as a nucleus of their desired society. Once you can realize your utopia, it will be admired worldwide and you will see similar formations. This is possible for all of us as long as we act with determination, persistence, and purity of intention, by relating everything to God.

Like I said, it is easier said than done to refer to the morality of Yunus Emre, Khoja Ahmad Yasawi, Haji Bektash Veli, Jalalu’d-Din ar-Rumi, or other great figures such as Messiah or of the Pride of Humankind, peace and blessings be upon him. It is essential that such morality be implemented and internalized. It can be achieved by living a life in spite of one’s own self, by ignoring one’s own self, despite every external factor. We need self-sacrificing generosity, the devotion of ourselves to the lives of others in complete forgetfulness of all concerns of our own, the spirit of devotion, and commitment to humanity, Muslims, our nation, and our lofty ideals. God will grant peace and restoration through such people only.

People of these virtues would be charmed by anyone. 

I personally believe Abu Bakr was poisoned just like the other three caliphs; hence, they are all martyrs. Umar had such perspicacity that he could warn Sariyah, his commander in chief, to back up towards a mountain while they were about a hundred miles away, and while Umar was giving a sermon at his podium and Sariyah was in the battlefield. It does not sound reasonable for Umar to have seen Sariyah but not Abu-Lu’lu’ah, who assassinated him. It was his tender-mindedness that let him lead Prayers unguarded. 

Likewise, noble Ali, whose vision could embrace centuries ahead of him, who put forward answers to the questions of centuries ahead of his time, could not have overlooked Ibn Muljam, his assassin. I am very confident that he had seen him; yet, he did not choose to show harshness.

When his enemies appeared at his doorway, Uthman ibn Affan said he did not want to be a Muslim who kills other Muslims—just like Abdul Hamid II did—at the cost of his own life. Another example is Saladin, who is falsely blamed by his Fatimid wife for unfaithfulness. He turns his back to her and says, “If it is true, you can stab me in my back,” which makes her see she is wrong.

In sum, those who have committed to act as role models and guides should have the same spirit as all of the examples above. They should sacrifice their lives to save their nation from disorder, and they should say, like Murad I, “You can take my life and martyr me, but do not touch the integrity of my nation.”

Violence yields and rebounds upon itself; so do anger and hatred. Once perpetrated, hatred leads to counter-hatred, and this wounds an entire nation. Had violence, harshness, and violence proven any good, the 30-year-old problems in southeastern Turkey would have already been resolved. They cannot solve such problems. Some people should consecrate themselves to the lives of their community in complete sacrifice of all concerns of their own—so that not only can problems be solved, but also to prove, before history and collective conscience, the rightness of their way.

Finally, “Be killed but do not kill. Get hurt but do not twist a finger. Be disgraced but do not put anyone to shame.” This looks like the only way to heal our excessively disintegrated community. 

May God bestow sagacity and understanding on us. May God set our and their hearts right.

This text is the translation of “329. Nağme: Bari Biz Gıybet, İftira, Kavga ve Fitnelere Geçit Vermeyelim!

Different Kinds of Tests the Devoted Souls Go Through

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: There are so many different factors that put people to the test. What are the most dangerous of such factors, particularly for the devoted souls of today?

Answer: Divine Justice puts people to various kinds of tests throughout their lives. As an acid test separates gold from stone and dust, God Almighty, Who already knows our real worth, makes people see it for themselves. By these tests, He makes us see what we can endure until when, what kind of an attitude we adopt before misfortunes, and whether we will be steadfast or complain, which implies covert criticism of Divine Destiny. Worldly tests batter people, apply different filters to them, and put them into melting pots. The saintly dervish Yunus Emre voiced this truth as follows:

This road is long,
Many ranges along…
Not even a gate,
Deep waters ahead.

Difficulty of the Test is Proportional with the Ideals Targeted

God Almighty states that He will test people in different ways and then He gives glad tidings for those who endure:

We will certainly test you with something of fear and hunger and loss of wealth, and lives, and fruits (earnings); but give glad tidings to the persevering and patient” (al-Baqarah 2:155).

Accordingly, as worship increases a person’s spiritual rank, tests and trials of this life—considered as negative form of worship—purify one from sins if patience is not given up; they take the individual to the highest levels. In addition to enduring consecutive tests patiently, what befalls a believer is taking those tests as opportunities to face oneself, ponder upon one’s deeds by calling one’s self to account, and evaluate one’s own performance.

Given that difficulties increase in accordance with the greatness of the consequent reward, then intensity of tests increases proportionally with the value of the ideals sought. For example, becoming a martyr while serving humanity and ascending to a different level of life is an important attainment. However, having this honor depends on serving in the way of God and taking due pains; there must be utter self-sacrifice. It is for this reason that people devoted to a lofty ideal who try to fulfill its requirements must bear any trouble or misfortune that befalls them. They must show due patience and continue their life in spite of themselves.

You can remember the statements of Bediüzzaman concerning the issue: “In my life of more than eighty years, I did not enjoy anything as worldly pleasures; my life always passed in battlegrounds, prison houses, and different places of exile and suffering. There is no torment I haven’t been subjected to. I was brought to court-martials and treated like a murderer. I was sent from one exile to another like a vagabond. I was banned from communicating with people for months in the prisons of my country. I was poisoned many times over. I underwent various kinds of insult. There were times when I had gladly preferred death to life. If my religion had not prevented me from suicide, this Said would have become dust long ago.” Because the tests he went through were so hard, God Almighty took him to the peak of human progress. You never know, maybe due to the troubles he went through enduringly, by the grace of God, he was rendered a guide for those who remain behind.

And There Are People Who Remain Halfway

The life of this world is a chain of tests from beginning to end, but these are not only comprised of troubles and misfortunes. Material and spiritual achievements and bestowals serve as a means of testing as well. People will pass such stages and stations in their lives that some places will make them dizzy; some positions and titles—God forbid—will make them slip, and some germs on the places they pass will infect their spiritual life. In short, individuals will pass through tests sometimes by ease and comfort, and sometimes by glory, fame, status, and applause. Imam al-Ghazali gives the following example about the tests people face in this world: A man sets off determined to go to a beautiful Garden of Paradise, having heard much about the beauties of his destination. However, he sees an inviting place with babbling rivers, singing birds, and pleasant tree shades, all of which seems so inviting. The man forgets about his destination and decides to settle there. He builds a hut for himself and begins to live there.

Actually, this parable summarizes the life of this world in a striking and pithy fashion. You may picture different versions of the factors that make one forget the true destination. One may be held by many different factors along the way in addition to comfort. However, it is not possible to attain Paradise and good pleasure of God without leaving those places behind.

Greed for Fortune

One of the most important examples of the tests one faces in life is the desire for money and worldly possessions. It can even be said that it is the greatest weakness for most people. The Messenger of God refers to this fact in one of his sayings. Accordingly, if the son of Adam possesses one valley of gold, he would like to have two. And nothing fills his (greedy) mouth but soil. However, God accepts the repentance of the one who repents.1

Thus, asking for more with an insatiable greed, trying to possess bigger companies and firms, and the desire for taking control of everything are the weaknesses of most. Indeed, such a competition for personal interests and benefits underlies so many fights and clashes in society.

When Muhyiddin ibn Arabi was under pressure in Damascus, he stamped his foot on the ground and said, “The deity you worship is under my feet.” Some take these words as a denial of faith. However, he had the opinion that the love of money had seized the hearts of the people he addressed to the degree of worshipping it. As for their deity being under his feet, it turned out centuries later that he had indeed referred to a great treasure of gold buried under the very spot where he stood.

Unfortunately, so many people are virtually dying for it. They begin with, “Let me have a house,” and continue with, “Let me have one for my son and one for my daughter” and “There should also be a villa for my grandchild…” You can see so many worldly ones living with these considerations. You may even meet people who set forth to serve humanity for the sake of God but then begin to run after such desires as if they worship money, to the extent that some of those people do not suffice with the payment that they receive, and with the intention of earning more, they abandon services of vital importance for people and faith. Thus, they stray from the path of righteousness to the path of worldliness.

Lusts of the Flesh

Lustful passions constitute one of the most difficult tests in our contemporary age. It has always been a difficult test all throughout history, but it has assumed a much more dangerous form today.

Rumi tells a story about weakness of lust in his Mathnawi. Satan speaks with God Almighty, or rather he uses an insolent language towards his Lord. The Qur’an and the sayings of God’s Messenger relate insolent expressions Satan used demagogically. However, Rumi’s parable is different: Satan complains to God that He made him disgraced and suffer deprivation. And then he asks some things he can use for deviating and tempting people. God Almighty grants him factors like wealth, status, and fame. But Satan does not feel happy with any of them. In the end, God gives him the chance to use men and women against one another; Satan feels greatly pleased and begins dancing out of joy.

Even though this parable is not mentioned in essential sources of religion, what really matters here is the truth that it conveys. Particularly for certain character types, lust is the greatest factor of testing in this world. We can take it into consideration together with the following hadith: “The Hell is surrounded with lust. And Paradise is surrounded with difficulties and things unpleasant to the carnal soul.2 There are long roads, many stopovers, forbidding waters, and other obstacles on the path to Paradise, while things pleasing to the carnal soul, such as indulging in food and drinking, lying lazily, and running after carnal desires, are on the way to Hell. A person who gives in to these will keep sinking gradually toward the lowliest levels unawares.

Love of Fame

Running after respect, status, authority, and expecting appreciation are among the tests most people lose. Bediüzzaman refers to “love of fame, post and position” among the six routes of (Satan’s) assault in his “Twenty-ninth Letter” and to fame as “poisonous honey” in his Al-Mathnawi Al-Nuri. They are among the greatest weaknesses of some, and it should never be forgotten that one who has become a fool for fame will do anything for this sake. May God save us from falling into these deadly pitfalls and make us pass to the next world with a visa of faith and consciousness of ihsan (perfect goodness; living carefully as if one were able to see God, or at least living with a consciousness of being seen by Him).

1. Sahih al-Bukhari, Riqaq, 10
2. Sahih al-Bukhari, Riqaq, 8

This text is the translation of “İmtihan Çeşitleri

The Protests of Taksim Gezi Park and the Root of the Problems

Herkul-EN | | BREEZES OF REVIVAL

Since we do not use the way of the Prophets, their inheritors, saints and sincere friends of God, we are unable to handle problems. We are committing so many wrongdoings just to eliminate one wrongdoing. We cause various kinds of wrongdoings and injustice to happen. We only add fire to the flames of grudge and hatred. We cause things to grow out of control. And today you see the examples in the streets. There are worse examples, perhaps. In the books of hadith referring to chaotic events of the future (Kitab al-Fitan wa’l-Malahim), the Prophet foretells worse events. The current turmoil can then be seen only as a sampling of those larger chaotic events; accordingly, people will kill one another but none of them will know why these killings are taking place. There will be repeated damage to people and properties, but none of them will have any reasonable, licit and lawful basis. Things will happen helter-skelter. Predictions of God’s Messenger relate such events in detail; thus, these current events seem to be micro-scale samples.

If we take these events lightly, we will resemble the forty fools: they took each other by the hand so that they could get down to the bottom of a cliff, but of course they all fell down together. Thirty nine of them died and only one survived with serious injuries and broken bones. When people asked him what happened, he answered that they would nearly get into trouble, treating the situation much too lightly. This is how the insensitive people disregardful of the consequences usually view this issue.

And on the other side, some people say, “Why are they engaging in violence and causing harm? Why are they breaking the glasses of innocent people’s windows? They throw Molotov cocktails into houses, dorms, schools, universities, and even into banks!” Illogical and inhuman behavior prevails. Yet, if you make sweeping overgeneralizations by saying: “This has nothing to do with the issue of standing up for some rights,” then this means turning a blind eye to the innocent demands of the innocent people among them. We neglected these people first of all. These generations are a fruit of our neglect. Secondly, they may have some acceptable demands. They can express themselves saying, “The park needs to be preserved, and trees should not be uprooted. Ecosystem should be protected, and so on.” That said, the crowd may not, however, keep the balance while trying to protect a park they enjoy. As opposed to their very aim, they can damage the environment themselves, upset the general harmony and leave nothing behind for an ecosystem. Therefore, insensitivity on one issue, or failure to understand it, may lead to excessive behavior in some people while it may lead to a different form of apathy in others. May God protect!

On the other hand, some people both at home and abroad try to take advantage of our weaknesses and abuse innocent people’s innocent demands (by provoking the masses). As some creatures are all ears for hearing sounds, such abusers are all ears for opportunities to abuse. The media throughout the world are against Turkey now; they are unfortunately acting as if the apocalypse has started. Significantly worse disasters happen in Syria, but the media does not care at all. Similar things happen in Iraq, but once again, the media is silent. They do not even care about suicide attackers in different parts of the world. Turkey, however, is in a critical position to become a balancing factor in the region. It has made certain kinds of progress.

On the one hand, there are those innocent demands. On the other hand, there is the abuse of those demands by certain circles within the country, or the use of those demands as a counter move by certain ideologies. Others from abroad take full advantage of the events for their ulterior motives. Our negligence and inability to see the well-planned strategies of abuse by others has resulted in the current conflicts.

In fact, the Messenger of God told about this picture. He said it would happen after the general public was alienated from their spiritual heritage. For this reason, we need to revise our point of view.

 “Who is to blame for this unrest? Those who overlooked the protests by labeling it as ‘this and that’? Or should we blame those who are involved in the violence? Or should we blame the system overall?” Does the problem lie with our failure to raise and develop good generations? Or to not have guided them as we should? If so, then the system needs to be revised. We need to revise our own thoughts again. If we do this – if we face ourselves honestly, and openly self-criticize – we can be saved from greater concerns. If we do not face ourselves now, we will be facing issues we cannot tackle later, may God protect us. We need to revise our moral education systems. Whose children are those youth who act so unreasonably on the streets? They pursue no righteous cause; if they did, they would gather somewhere, express their feelings in a civilized way, and then leave. Some would receive their message, and they could gather to repeat it for those who did not understand. They could become organized in a way. Given that people make their choice through elections, they could work seriously towards that avenue. They could try to convince people by telling them about their positions and complaints. They vote for what they like. If they do not like the choice, they can wait patiently for the next election and choose a different one.

It seems we have damaged ourselves. The matter lies with the grass roots. Since the ground has lost its fertility, and the atmosphere has become corrupt, we witness such illegitimate events, and certain generations who represent these events. Until the time we tackle our human failings, the problems will remain unsolved. We need to see what we did. We failed to revise the system. “How is it possible for us to raise a generation that will honestly self-supervise? How can we raise a humane generation that will not respond to destruction with more destruction but instead with construction?” This is the real question, and we failed to think about it.

The Qur’an says, “…Your responsibility is your selves (so consider how you are faring along your own way). Those who go astray can do you no harm if you yourselves are rightly guided (and so follow your right way without deviation)…” (al-Maedah 5:105). That is, your unity and unswerving course on the righteous path will mitigate even the most negative factors. We failed to look at ourselves. We did not check whether we were on the righteous path. We failed to raise generations who were conscious of right and wrong. We watched without concern, dismissing them as “just a small bunch.” And they began to run amok, attacking here and there. What they really need is to be treated with sympathy and compassion. They are trampling human values under their feet; they are trampling their own values. Even though it seems too late for today’s generation, there should be systems to develop them beneficently for tomorrow. What can we do to develop them? What can we do to remind them that God created them in the best pattern and bring them into line with humane ways? How can we prevent them from harming people and human values? How can we remind them not to harm their country so that they do not let others abuse this against their own country and make all of us face certain plans impossible to overcome?

If you display some weakness, others usually plan to take advantage of it. While you are already in such a weak state, they shatter you into pieces, as they did it with the Ottoman State. The most critical factor right now is our own weakness, our internal conflicts. Even if we cannot change the situation today, community leaders, scientists, psychologists, and educators should come together to generate relevant projects. What can we do to bring the generations who failed to pursue a humane course into line with humanity? How can we convince them of the value in serving their own country, of developing it into a great country by God’s grace? 

One should not ignore or underestimate what goes on, just as one should not take fire or war lightly. As Imruu’l-Qays, one of the poets of the pre-Islamic Arabia, rightly said, “There are two things that you can start but cannot stop, even when you really wish to: One is fire and the other is war.” We have seen both, indeed. You can take this statement both literally and figuratively. Actually, the current events that we are going through are not much different than fire. And there is the issue of war. As is well-known, because of a few adventurers, who did not really know how to govern a state, unnecessarily firing at Russian ships on the Black Sea engaged the Ottoman State in World War I. A great state was thus brought to ruin. It is an essential of our culture to talk about previous generations with respect, but I cannot manage to forgive those who caused the destruction of a state, which had served as an important factor of balance among world powers. Let them account for what they did in Divine court; but I am not saying, “Let them enter Hell.” They will be called to account before the Divine court. That state was so important. A profane play by Voltaire, disrespectful toward the Prophet, was performed in Europe. It was the time of Sultan Abdulhamid II. The Ottomans were known as the “sick man of Europe” when the sultan gave an ultimatum, saying that he would declare war on them as the caliph of the believers and make the Muslim India march on them. Even during a period of such decline, like a wounded lion roaring, he made everybody in the forest straighten. Those few adventurers, however, brought that state to ruin and this is the truth that lies behind our wretched condition today. They joined the war but were unable to stop it when they wished. It took away everything, like a flood. Fire and war, they stop only when they will! For this reason, if you are able to put out a fire while it is small, do it right there. Otherwise, by the time it covers an entire field, it is too late. For this reason, even when faced with the smallest fire, we need to call all the fire brigadiers to help by shouting, “Get your equipment and come, there’s fire!” 

If centers of learning are bombed, innocent ones are being killed, people are stopped with gas bombs, and if some turn a blind eye to all this by failing to see the underlying reasons, then the fire grows—God forbid! 

I do not think that the character of the nation has been corrupted to that degree; not even bad ones are that bad. However, others who do not wish to let you grow into a factor of balance can take advantage of this. Turkey is a ball of problems, and those who surround it can take advantage of these problems. Even one of them can make everything into a mess. There is a covert agreement among them to not let you advance even one step further. You may console yourselves with an apparent “spring” here and there, when in reality, you are faced with the ice cold winds of fall. 

We therefore need to be alert and act intelligently. We need to see the smallest problems as consequential, and we need to handle them in a smart way. If you are facing an invasion of ants, do not dismiss it. They reach into your pots of butter and honey, and pollute them with toxins; do not dismiss it. Taking problems lightly stems from light thinking, light reasoning, and light judgment. It is very important to see everything clearly, as they are. Then it becomes possible to generate well-placed projects and plans. 

The souls devoted to building a new revival must be very cautious at this issue, very cautious. What is in our hands is a trust we inherited from the previous generations. If we face a betrayal or murder concerning our own personal life, we may be indifferent to that if we wish. But a betrayal concerning rights of the public—we can also call them God’s rights—cannot be ignored. God judges the responsible ones gravely. If we do not put a barrier against events that will result in a betrayal against an entire nation—may God protect—the issue grows so much that our neglect becomes a betrayal of the trust. However, we have to protect the trust against all odds, just as we protect our life and honor, until we hand it to the trustworthy generations to come. Let’s fulfill our responsibility, and put our trust in God, and then see what God will decree for us. God Almighty makes even the oppressors say, one day, “God has preferred you above us,” like his repentant brothers once said to Prophet Joseph. 

We need to recite prayers against malevolence. You can divide sections of a prayer book, such as Al-Qulub ad-Dari‘ah, between friends, and thus complete reciting its prayers and litanies collectively. You can also read the names of the Ashab al-Badr; the blessed souls of those Companions are no different than heavenly spiritual beings. It has been tried on different occasions; such prayers became an invitation for Divine Providence, and seemingly unsolvable matters are solved by God’s grace. 

There is really not much people like us can do; maybe I have been talking in vain. Until the moment we straighten ourselves… I heard a story from Osman Tarı, a former member of the parliament. There was a scholarly person known as Tahir Efendi among the members of the first parliament of Turkish Republic. As others gave enthusiastic talks, he preferred to keep silent in a corner. One day, his supporters insisted he also talk; they said that others were taking pride in their representatives’ talks, and they also expected the same. Tahir Efendi was a person who made short but concise remarks. He answered thus: “Dear congregation, know that you are the electors and I am the elected. We are destined for the house of elected ones (Parliament). The act you did is called intihab—election. “Intihab” comes from the word nuhbah, which means “cream.” Do not forget that the cream will be of the same nature with the substance used. The cream that gathers on top is the same with the substance in its base. Accordingly, yoghurt, milk, or lime will have a cream of the same kind with them.” 

Upon hearing this anecdote, I said that what Tahir Efendi had expressed was indeed a very good paraphrasing of the hadith, “You are governed however you are.” 

The issue needs to be dealt with at the grassroots level by restoring a morally wrecked generation. As Bediüzzaman puts it, our duty is to repair a fort that has been wrecked for centuries. For centuries, it was damaged from different directions. We need to grasp our responsibility, and begin cultivating the new generations. We need to let them embrace the values of their own spiritual heritage; they need to be taught such thinking and manners. Otherwise, these transgressions will continue. And continuing to respond to them in a reactionary fashion only makes us into bullies. The issue needs to be dealt with from the bottom-up. What is our problem? How can it be settled? The matter needs to be solved in compliance with the path of the Prophet. The Messenger of God, for whose sake God split the moon in two in an instant,1 strived so diligently during his entire twenty-three year period of Messengership to educate his people in patience. Had he prayed for it, God would immediately turn their hearts into angelic ones, as a miracle. But he was a teacher to guide people. What are the ways for a good upbringing, how much effort is required, how much brainstorming is needed? The Messenger of God showed it by suffering personally. This is what it takes; it is beyond human power to change it. God’s creational laws do not change. However, most people don’t know this; they are deaf and blind to it. This is the way to follow. As the famous poet Necip Fazıl puts it, “The rest are trivial matters.” What needs to be said to the miserable, crawling generations of long years is, as the poet says, “You have crept much with your face down; it is high time you stood upright!”

1. The manifest miracle of the moon split upon the gesture of the Noble Prophet is mentioned in the following verse of the Qur’anic chapter of al-Qamar (The Moon), which derives its name from the word “al-qamar” (the moon) in its first verse: “…and the moon has split” (al-Qamar 54:1). (Ed.)

Asking Forgiveness-2

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: What are your recommendations concerning the manners of istighfar, which is a means of purification for believers?

Answer: While beginning to make istighfar, one should first remember the greatness of God Almighty and make due glorification. There are many statements of the noble Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, related to this issue reported by the Companions. By these reports, we should begin to ask God’s forgiveness as follows:

اَللهُ أَكْبَرُ كَبِيرًا وَالْحَمْدُ لِلهِ كَثِيرًا فَسُبْحَانَ اللهِ بُكْرَةً وَأَصِيلًا لَا إِلٰـهَ إِلَّا اللهُ وَحْدَهُ نَصَرَ عَبْدَهُ وَهَزَمَ الْأَحْزَابَ وَحْدَهُ لَا شَرِيكَ لَهُ

(God is great infinitely, praise be to God abundantly, and glory be to God night and day incessantly. There is no deity but God, He is One. He has supported His servant, and He alone defeated the enemy troops. He has no partners.)

After expressing the greatness of God with these words, invoking blessings on the Beloved Messenger of God is very important in terms of the acceptance of the istighfar. Salawat, or invoking peace and blessings on the Prophet, is an ever-accepted supplication. Words of salawat are a very important means for establishing a connection with the Pride of Humanity. Turning to God by having the Prophet, who ever-turned to his Lord with his prayers, as an intercessor will be a special means for being honored with proximity to God. Also, it is possible to ask forgiveness for all Muslims before beginning istighfar, as we do before the Prayer of Need (Salatu’l-Hajah). As it is included among the prayers of the saints known as Abdal,1 it is possible to habitually recite the following litany in one’s recitations of the dawn and dusk:

اَللّٰهُمَّ اغْفِرْ لِأُمَّةِ مُحَمَّدٍ اَللّٰهُمَّ ارْحَمْ أُمَّةَ مُحَمَّدٍ

(My God, forgive the followers of Muhammad! My God, have mercy on the followers of Muhammad!)

Thus you will have made a good wish for all Muslims. In addition, all of these serve as a prelude for making an istighfar to be accepted by God. You can even hold the humble consideration of seeing yourself as one the most blameworthy one among all Muslims, adding yourself to the prayer and say: “My God, forgive me and the followers of Muhammad! My God, have mercy on me and the followers of Muhammad!”

Seeking Forgiveness through the Most Beautiful Words

After such an initiation, a believer should turn to God with the petition of forgiveness of his or her sins with the following blessed words of the Qur’an in the form of prayer:

لَا إِلٰهَ إِلَّا أَنْتَ سُبْحَانَكَ إِنِّي كُنْتُ مِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ

(“There is no deity but You, All-Glorified are You [in that You are absolutely above having any defect]. Surely I have been one of the wrongdoers [who have wronged themselves].”) (al-Anbiya 21:87)

أَنِّي مَسَّنِيَ الضُّرُّ وَأَنْتَ أَرْحَمُ الرَّاحِمِينَ

(“Truly, affliction has visited me [so that I can no longer worship You as I must]; and You are the Most Merciful of the merciful.”) (al-Anbiya 21:83)

رَبِّ اغْفِرْ وَارْحَمْ وَأَنْتَ خَيْرُ الرَّاحِمِينَ

(“O my Lord, forgive me and have mercy on me [always treat me with Your forgiveness and mercy], for You are the Best of the merciful.”) (al-Muminun 23:118)

رَبِّ إِنِّي ظَلَمْتُ نَفْسِي فَاغْفِرْ لِي

(“My Lord! Indeed I have wronged myself, so forgive me.”) (al-Qasas 28:16)

رَبَّنَا اغْفِرْ لِي وَلِوَالِدَيَّ وَلِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ يَوْمَ يَقُومُ الْحِسَابُ

(“O our Lord! Forgive me, and my parents, and all the believers, on the Day on which the Reckoning will be established.”) (Ibrahim 14:41)

رَبَّنَا اغْفِرْ لَنَا ذُنُوبَنَا وَإِسْرَافَنَا فِي أَمْرِنَا وَثَبِّتْ أَقْدَامَنَا وَانْصُرْنَا عَلَى الْقَوْمِ الْكَافِرِينَ

(“Our Lord! Forgive us our sins and any wasteful act we may have done in our duty, and set our feet firm, and help us to victory over the disbelieving people.”) (Al Imran 3:147)

In addition to the prayers mentioned in the Qur’an, there are very beautiful words of prayer that can be recited for making istighfar. For example, the great Companion Abu Bakr asked the Messenger of God to teach him a supplication he could recite during the Daily Prayers. The noble Prophet taught him the following one:

اَللّٰهُمَّ إِنّـِي ظَلَمْتُ نَفْسِي ظُلْمًا كَثِيرًا وَلَا يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ إِلَّا أَنْتَ فَاغْفِرْ لِي مَغْفِرَةً مِنْ عِنْدِكَ وَارْحَمْنِي إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ (My God I surely did much wrongdoing to my own soul, and You are the only one to forgive sins. Grant me a special forgiveness from Your side, and have mercy on me. You surely are the Forgiving, the Merciful.)2

It is most appropriate to recite this prayer, which can be recited during the Daily Prayers at the prostration position and after the final sitting (tahiyyat right before giving the salam to both sides), as an important means to seek God’s forgiveness.

Another prayer, famously known as “Sayyidu’l Istighfar,” (the master of istighfars) is a very important one in this respect:

اَللّهُمَّ أَنْتَ رَبِّي لَا إِلٰهَ إِلَّا أَنْتَ خَلَقْتَنِي وَأَنَا عَبْدُكَ وَأَنَا عَلَى عَهْدِكَ وَوَعْدِكَ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُ أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ شَرِّ مَا صَنَعْتُ أَبُوءُ لَكَ بِنِعْمَتِكَ عَلَيَّ وَأَبُوءُ لَكَ بِذَنْبِي فَاغْفِرْ لِي فَإِنَّهُ لَا يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ إِلَّا أَنْتَ

(“O God, You are my Lord, there is no deity but You. You have created me, and I am Your servant. I try my best to keep my covenant with You. I seek refuge in You from the evil of what I have done. I acknowledge Your favors upon me and I acknowledge my sins. So, forgive me, for truly no one forgives sins except You.)”

The Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, stated that whoever recites this prayer at daytime with true belief in its reward and excellence and passes away before the evening, that person will be one of the dwellers of Paradise. And whoever recites this prayer after nightfall with true belief in its reward and excellence and passes away before the morning, that person will also be one of the dwellers of Paradise.3


Keep Imploring until You Really Feel Purified!

It is also possible to prostrate oneself and keep reciting the following prayer until really feeling contentment and being purified:

يَا حَيُّ يَا قَيُّومُ بِرَحْمَتِكَ أَسْتَغِيثُ أَصْلِحْ لِي شَأْنِي كُلَّهُ وَلَا تَكِلْنِي إِلَى نَفْسِي طَرْفَةَ عَيْنٍ

(O the Living, O the Self-Subsistent, for the sake of Your mercy I beg for help. Rectify for all my states and leave me not to myself even for the blinking of an eye!)

Some narrators of this prayer made the following addition, “…not even for shorter than that,” which means, “Leave me not to myself even for a moment shorter than the blinking of an eye!”

Another prayer of the Prophet that he recited upon waking up can be expressed as the voice of the heart:

سُبْحَانَكَ اللّٰهُمَّ أَسْتَغْفِرُكَ لِذَنْبِي وَأَسْأَلُكَ رَحْمَتَكَ، اَللّٰهُمَّ زِدْنِي عِلْمًا وَلَا تُزِغْ قَلْبِي بَعْدَ إِذْ هَدَيْتَنِي وَهَبْ لِي مِنْ لَدُنْكَ رَحْمَةً إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ الْوَهَّابُ

(Glorified are You, O God! I seek Your forgiveness for my sins, and I ask You for Your mercy. O God! Increase my knowledge, and let not my heart stray after You have guided me, and grant me Your mercy, for truly You are the One Who bestows.)4

Additionally, everybody should take their own mistakes, faults, and sins into consideration and say: astaghfirullah/subhan Allah, thousands of times every day. It is reported that the famous Companion Abu Hurayra said subhan Allah 12,000 times a day. When others expressed that it seemed too much, he replied that he was saying it in proportion with his sins.5 I do not think that blessed Companion had a sin. Abu Hurayra came from Daws6 and joined the scholarly group of Ashab al-Suffa (People of the Bench), who stayed near the beloved Prophet for a long time. He reported the Prophet’s sayings more than any other Companion and was a great source of reference after the Messenger of God himself; I would call him the Lion of Daws. However, with respect to his high level of piety Abu Hurayra saw it as a necessity. When we consider our own life, tainted with sins, even making istighfar 30,000 times a day is not too much.

It is also possible to recite the istighfars of great spiritual guides as included in the compilation, Imploring Hearts (Al-Qulub ad-Daria). For example, Hasan al-Basri was a person of dizzying spiritual depth who severely criticized his soul. If possible, one can read his recitation that he distributed over the days of the week in the same way. After beginning his words by invoking peace and blessings on the Prophet, Hasan al-Basri mentions that he committed so many sins, and then he similarly ends with peace and blessings upon the Prophet. Actually, the prevalent ethos of his time and his personal character would not allow for sins anyway; it was impossible for him to have such sins mentioned in the prayer, one who spent his days and nights worshipping and who was dedicated to striving on the righteous path. Still, it seems that he asked forgiveness even for things that passed his imagination. As we are not better than him in terms of our religious life, we are in no better position in terms of sins. Therefore, it will be too little even if we repeated his nightly recitations twice every night.

When one concludes the words of imploration overflowing from the heart to the tongue, it is better to invoke peace and blessings on the Prophet (salawat) again, given that a prayer between two acceptable prayers will be accepted as well; thus, enveloping our petition for forgiveness between salawat will make it more likely to be accepted.

Let me mention one final point: every word uttered for the sake of seeking God’s forgiveness must be pronounced consciously. As words spoken heedlessly show disrespect to God Almighty, they can also be taken as a lie. For this reason, every word uttered should be coming from the bottom of one’s heart, and they should leave a trace when they pass. So much so that when one opens up to God with this consciousness and ask forgiveness, he or she must be uneasy with the shame of their sins, shiver with remorse, and the heart should virtually come to the verge of stopping.

1. The term Abdal (plural for badal) is usually translated as “Substitutes.” The term is used to describe the “men of the Unseen” who have certain degrees of knowledge of God, who are supported by God, and who, with their refined hearts and purified souls, are open to certain Divine mysteries. These Substitutes are the pure, honest saints who help people with their affairs without being seen and who function as veils in the reflection of Divine Acts. When one of the Substitutes dies, he is replaced by another saintly person. (Ed.)
2. Sahih al-Bukhari, Da’awat, 17; Sahih Muslim, Dhikr, 48
3. Sahih al-Bukhari, Da’awat, 2
4. Sahih al-Bukhari, Da’awat, 7–8; Sahih Muslim, Dhikr, 59
5. Ibn Abi Shayba, Al-Musannaf, 5/345
6. Daws was one of the tribes of Arabia living in the south of Mecca.

This text is the translation of “İstiğfar-2

Asking Forgiveness-1

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: In this contemporary age when sins have spread like an epidemic, what does istighfar (asking forgiveness) promise for believers? Would you talk about particular segments of time that may be preferable for seeking God’s forgiveness?

Answer: Every child is born with the pure primordial nature, as stated by the Messenger of God.1 The essential idea in man’s responsibilities in this world is preserving this original nature until the time of death. All of the good acts that can lead one to eternal bliss are apt to protect this original nature, whereas all of the forbidden acts that might lead one to destruction are apt to corrupt it. While believers should build up sound sets and barriers against destructive sins on the one hand, they should constantly seek ways of preserving their original nature in untainted form. Every sin committed is a deformation with respect to human nature. Restoring one’s original nature after such deformation is only possible through istighfar—asking the forgiveness of God Almighty. Sometimes a heart contaminated by sins may come to the point of inability to fulfill its function.2 Thus, freedom from sins, which take one nearer to unbelief, and clearing up the stains sins leave on the heart are only possible through seeking God’s forgiveness and protection from sins.3

Preventive Medicine

Indeed, believers must adopt a resolved stance from the very beginning and not step toward even the pettiest kind of sins. They need to strive for an auspicious atmosphere to keep them clean from sins and avoid dangerous grounds, just like one escapes from (the venomous bites of) snakes and scorpions. Such resolution and alertness can be achieved only by those with a believing heart and profound conscience that feel as if he or she is falling into Hell with every sin. If one does not feel disgusted at a sin, then it is possible to judge that that person’s heart has already lost its vitality. A heart that does not feel upset and react against one’s wrongdoings or a heart that does not cause the person to lose sleep in remorse resembles a dead body. For this reason, a true believer’s heart reacts against sin. And the foremost reaction to be shown is istighfar—seeking God’s forgiveness and protection from wrongdoings.

As a believer says “Astaghfirullah” (I seek the forgiveness of God), he or she actually says—with the immense meaning of the Arabic present tense (mudhari)—that I seek Your forgiveness all the time as I am now asking and will always ask forgiveness from You. In this way the repentant one renders the wish for forgiveness of a past sin as a petition that includes an entire future. In fact, the All-Forgiving God may accept a single repentance and demand for forgiveness as forgiving of all sins of that person. However, what befalls on us is not sufficing with a single petition but continuing to ask forgiveness for a lifetime and bearing the remorse within. One must think how shameful it is to have committed the sin despite being shown the right guidance, what an insolence it is to dismiss a promise like Paradise and indulge in sin, always feel due shame within, and thus constantly make istighfar, to the degree of asking forgiveness ten thousand times for a single sin. Sometimes one should be unsatisfied even with that much, and say “alfu-alfi (a million times) Astaghfirullah,” trying to feel it within a million times over.

The Elixir That Cuts Out the Root of Inclination toward Evil

As istighfar restores the damaged human nature, it cuts out the root of inclination toward evil as well. A person who continuously purifies oneself by istighfar eliminates a ground of sins at the same time and no virus to invite others remains in the heart. In addition, God Almighty may curtail the feelings of inclination toward evil in a person who makes istighfar continually. In the Qur’an, God Almighty gives the glad tidings about the repentant ones who do good, righteous deeds that He will efface their sins and record righteous deeds in their place (al-Furqan 25:70). As He erases the record of deeds from sins, He can fill those gaps with beautiful things out of His infinite mercy. It is a different manifestation of the fact that His mercy surpasses His wrath.4

Bediüzzaman interprets this verse with a different approach and states that a person’s abilities for evil can transform into ability for goodness, as a consequence of repentance and asking forgiveness. Accordingly, when a person shows loyalty to God by turning to Him repentantly, He may respond as, “Now that you have turned to Me, I will change your potential for evil into potential for goodness.”

Important Time Segments for Istighfar

It is a tradition of the Prophet, upon whom be peace and blessings, to ask forgiveness three times right after performing the obligatory (fard) Prayers.5 The following two points can explain the wisdom of asking God’s forgiveness right after carrying out this act of worship—which is most lovable to God—with the prostrations during which the worshipper is expected to ascend to the nearest proximity to his or her Lord: firstly, people’s inability to maintain full concentration at the Prayer, failing to sense standing in the Divine presence but still roaming through their own world and running after their own pursuits. Such attitude constitutes a kind of disrespect toward God, especially during the Prayer, which is, indeed, the believer’s ascent to the proximity of God. If one is immersed in personal considerations instead of seeking the meanings the Prophet felt during his Ascension, that person needs to make istighfar for such a light hearted attitude.

Secondly, as the Prayer signifies a (lofty spiritual) state in which requests from God are more likely to be accepted, supplications made right after the Prayers have a different value. Therefore, the Messenger of God recommended using this opportunity and asking forgiveness three times. In this respect, the five prescribed Prayers are important grounds and opportunities for seeking God’s forgiveness and protection from sins.

A Qur’anic verse points out an important segment of time for making istighfar: “They used to sleep but little by night (almost never missing the Tahajjud Prayer). And in the hour of early dawn (sahar), they would implore God’s forgiveness” (adh-Dhariyat 51:17–18). This verse expresses appreciation for the believers who get up during the final hours of the night and make istighfar, who open up to God imploringly, and who prostrate and nearly forget to rise back up from the prostration position; it announces this appreciation to all dwellers of heavens, spiritual beings, and to all believers. As certain praiseworthy qualities of believers are related by the Qur’an or the Prophet, others who do not yet have those desirable qualities are encouraged to acquire them. Therefore, it is extremely important to rise during the final hours of the night when others are sound asleep and offer servitude to God by two units of Tahajjud Prayer, at the least.

Also, there are times when the heart is softened, when one feels the weight of sins on the conscience and overflows with emotion… they must be taken as great opportunities for istighfar. We can call them times for breezes of proximity to God. Additionally, turning to God repentantly right after one commits a mistake or sin will mean taking the opportunity of “the first moment of realization that one has stepped into mistake and sin,” for such moments are among the time periods when istighfar is most acceptable. Sins resemble whirlpools and they pull the individual into them like an addiction. It is difficult to rid oneself of sins after a person is immersed in them. If somebody in such a situation does not give the willpower its due and make resolved efforts to be freed from swamp of evils, that sinner may begin to wish for the non-existence of the Divine commandments that forbid those evils, and this wish might lead to one’s ultimate spiritual downfall by losing faith completely. This has been the general pattern for those who fall. This is why it is so important to step back from sin immediately, fearing to come to a point of no return.

Let me conclude with one final point. Even though the times we mentioned above are important opportunities for istighfar, it is not necessary to allocate a special time for seeking God’s forgiveness and protection from sins; indeed, limiting istighfar to those segments of time is wrong. One can and should ask forgiveness from God at any time during night and day, taking every moment of life as an opportunity for it. Whenever possible, one can draw to a corner, sit on bent knees, or prostrate oneself, and turn to God repentantly and ask forgiveness. One can open up to God through istighfar while walking somewhere, driving, or waiting for someone; one should make use of every available moment in this respect. Death can come any time, and meeting death with lips mumbling istighfar is a very important means in terms of walking to the realms beyond in a purified state.

1. Sahih al-Bukhari, Janaiz, 80, 9
2. This does not refer to the marvelous blessing of the physical heart in the chest that pumps blood throughout human body, but to its spiritual counterpart. (Ed.)

3. Sunan at-Tirmidhi, Tafsir al-Surah, (83) 1
4. Sahih al-Bukhari, Tawhid, 22
5. Sahih Muslim, Masajid, 135

This text is the translation of “İstiğfar

Ego… Ego… Ego… and Heroes of Self-Suppression

Herkul-EN | | HEARTSTRINGS

If, by accident, a stone stubs a golden bowl,
the stone does not gain value,
nor does the bowl become less valuable.

What is important is for us, with regard to our inward relationship with God, is to be like the gold in a bowl.

The Qur’anic Commentary class this morning was about the beloved Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. Thousands of peace and blessings be upon him, millions of peace and blessings, billions of peace and blessings be upon him.

The Pride of Humankind, despite being stoned so much, was never away from his duty of Messengership. He arrived at the lofty horizon of his spirit when he passed away, since there was no more room for improvement in this world; he was promoted to the Highest Rank of Humanity, he was promoted to the company of God, glorified and exalted be He.

We live in particularly troublesome times.

On the one hand, egotism is too powerful; every individual has an ego the size of an iceberg. They would not even allow others to say “You have an eyebrow above your eye” as a Turkish proverb says.

Each sound they utter has the word “I” all over it: “I,” “I,” “I.” When they recite the Qur’an, they spell “I,” when talking about their service, they spell “I,” when they give a talk, they spell “I,” and when they perform the Prayers, they spell “I.”

On another hand, since all institutions of education and upbringing, have collapsed, we have become a nation that has suffered the absence of upbringing and manners.

Mehmed Akif, may God’s comprehensive mercy be upon him, says:

Modesty has been ruined,
shamelessness is all around,
What ugly faces that thin veil
proves to have disguised!
There is no fidelity, no loyalty to one’s promises,
not a hint of the word “trust.”
Trustworthiness is a meaningless word,
lying is prevalent.
Lies are favored, betrayal required,
and right is out of sight.
How dreadful, my Lord,
how shocking a revolution it is!
There is no religion, no faith left;
religion has been destroyed,
and faith razed to the ground.

The Great Prophets, the reputable saints, the respected scholars of purity, and the ones nearest to Him should be taken as guideposts to evaluate our own Muslimness, and the validity of our own objectives.

Selfishness, selfishness, selfishness.

Conceit, conceit, conceit.

Egotism, egotism, egotism.

Trust me when I say, people who have followers like these, can never raise the statue of their souls. They first need to purify their carnal souls; which means, they need a purification of their elementary, passionate nature.

Bediüzzaman prescribes the rationale of self-purification as “Do not be proud of your services to God’s religion.” Our noble Prophet says: “Inna’llaha layuayyidu hadha’d-din bi yadi’r-rajuli’l-fajir,” meaning “God may as well sustain Islam through a shameless dissolute man.” Since you are not refined, that is, since you have not refined and developed your soul in purity, you should consider the possibility that you are that shameless dissolute person.

When you examine the present state of the world you will see that every corner suffer from this grunting sound.

The Muslims of the present time have suppressed these virtues, in favor of their egos.

Why do we not take an oath? Let us all take an oath for God’s sake, that we will express sincere gratitude to anyone who points out our mistakes and viciousness, in accordance with the Qur’an and the Prophetic tradition and the main highway of the Righteous Predecessors; that we will say “That is very kind of you to alert us to the scorpion or snake that was about to hurt me.”

Bediuzzaman always dreamed of a new generation, one that is incorrupt, one that is not defective, one that is intact, one that has not indulged in sins, and one who is self-critical.

Muhammed Lütfi Efendi says:

I do not have any knowledge, or good deeds,
nor do I have the vim for deeds or worship.
I am drowned in defiance, and full of sin.
I have my heart in my mouth
about my fate in the Day of Judgment.

This is the way great people think.

Another example is Mehmet Niyazi Misri, who says:

I had concluded no trade;
the capital of life was all wasted away.
I found the road only to find the caravan had moved on while I had been unaware.
Lamenting, I too set off, all alone, a stranger;
With eyes weeping, heart in anguish,
mind bewildered and unaware.

This guidance comes from the owner of a heart and conscience. The architects of the future will be the heroes of this understanding, this philosophy, and this way of thinking; not grandstanders, or ill characters revealing conceit. They have integrity, they are courageous, they are vigorous and in a strong relationship with God.

God willing, your generation and the next one, the new generation will become a means for goodness, and will realize Bediüzzaman’s cause; hence, you will please him, please the Pride of Humankind, and of course, first and foremost and above all, you will win the pleasure of God.

When you go to the other world, I hope He says “I am pleased with you,” personally, and to your face. This is something for which we shall sacrifice our souls, our worldly and bodily pleasures, our freedom in this world. We shall sacrifice all.

The Periods of Insanity and the Murders Committed for the Sake of Religion

Herkul-EN | | BREEZES OF REVIVAL

In his latest talk, Fethullah Gülen pointed out that humanity virtually goes through periods of delirium after certain intervals, and he referred to the possible causes and underlying reasons for the cases of madness in those periods. No matter the perpetrators or the reasons, Gülen stated that every suicide attack is a multi-dimensional murder. He made particular emphasis on the following points:

  • God Almighty decrees: “And it has never been the way of your Lord to destroy the townships unjustly while their people were righteous, dedicated to continuous self-reform, and setting things right in society” (Hud 11:117). Such people are referred to with the Arabic noun “muslihun.” Such a noun-sentence in Arabic denotes having the stated quality as an established character, and that the people mentioned do such things continuously. Then the muslihun refers to the altruistic souls who are continuously concerned about the miserable condition of humanity, and plan to elevate others to peaks of humanity, who generate projects for that goal, and put them into practice. They are devoted souls who virtually have no other concerns other than that. God will not destroy a land as far as such people reside there. Reading this verse, it is possible to say, “As far as there is a group of people who take the Qur’anic teaching to heart, and wish to serve humanity, who take this as the ideal of their lives, and strive on this path, men and women alike, then God will not send heavenly or earthly calamities to that land.” Nevertheless, it is narrated that after the earthquakes in Izmir and Erzincan, Bediüzzaman expressed his opinion that either nobody served there as their faith required, or they were very few in number and inefficient.
  • Answering about the reasons for the troubles in their time, sheikh Najmaddin al-Kubra1 said: “The reason for them is our failure to keep up our line. For disunity and love of the world, God sent wrongdoers as retribution upon us. After we serve our time, God will give wrongdoers their just deserts.”
  • When Muslims deserve to be punished, God Almighty uses wrongdoers to teach them a lesson: the oppressor is the sword of God. Firstly, He uses it for retribution. And then He gives the oppressors their retribution.
  • The means for reaching a lawful and righteous end must also be lawful and righteous. For people who adopt an Islamic course of life, it is a right to have an ideal at every issue, and it is a necessity that the means of obtaining that right be lawful. As the good pleasure of and reunion with God cannot be attained without sincerity, serving Islam and directing Muslims to their true path can absolutely not be realized through devilish means. Others might act brutally; but Muslims cannot, and must not, abandon upright conduct.
  • A murder is especially dangerous if it is considered “holy,” and is committed under the assertion of religious reasons. If the perpetrator is not under the influence of psycho-active drugs, then it is not possible for the murderer to be saved in the next world. Even if suicide bombers commit their act in the name of religion and meet death by making the proclamation of faith, the attackers themselves fall headfirst into the Hell. Because, what needs to be done during peace and warfare are clearly defined by certain laws and disciplines in Islam. Just as nobody is authorized to declare war on his own, or make a decision to kill a person during peace, nobody is authorized to kill children women, or the elderly during warfare. For this reason, from whatever perspective they are viewed, it is absolutely impossible for suicide attacks or similar terrorist acts to be compatible with Islam.
  • When Usama ibn Zayd, one of the blessed Companions of the Prophet, was about to kill somebody during battle, the man proclaimed faith. Still, Usama ibn Zayd thought that the man did not say it sincerely but for fearing the sword and killed him anyway. It was unthinkable for such a great Companion to act emotionally and kill a person out of hatred. It seems that he did not know the main idea of the issue at that point. In that period, the Messenger of God taught everything freshly, and the Companions practiced the teaching right away. How could they know without the Prophet telling them?
  • When the Messenger of God learned what happened, he reprimanded Usama by asking if he cleft that man’s heart open to see whether there was faith (asking how could one be sure the man did not have faith). That brave commander, who was the son of Zayd ibn Haritha, wished he had newly accepted Islam so that he could avoid that severe reprimand by the Messenger of God.
  • This age is an era of conflict and antagonism. During such a period, people of sound mind and faith in God must balance the delirious currents of extremism with their love and logic. They should be saying, “How is it possible for us to abate this violent anger and restore a peaceful balance?” and make relevant efforts to achieve that goal.
1. Rumi’s father Bahauddin Walad was among the disciples of Najmuddin al-Kubra.
 

A Time to Listen to Our Soul: The Three Months

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: What are your suggestions for feeling the elation of the three months of Rajab, Sha‘ban, and Ramadan deep within us and making the most of their spiritual atmosphere?

Answer: First, we need to state that the three months are the most important blessed segments of time when believers can attain greatest proximity to God Almighty, become eligible for His immense mercy, and journey through the horizons of the heart and spirit by abandoning sins. Every year believers need a process of heavenly rehabilitation to purify the carnal self, discipline the spirit, and purify the heart. These months are a very important means to realize such rehabilitation.

Obviously, a person’s being able to rid oneself of carnal burdens, ascend to a certain horizon, and maintain a certain level of spirituality requires a serious devotion of remembrance and reflection. However, while doing this, one needs to keep the heart and spirit receptive to religion and spirituality. That is, as people try to grasp matters related to faith and the Qur’an with their mental powers and discussion, they should also try to benefit, sip-by-sip, from the showering of Divine blessings and light.

The One Who Cherishes the Divine Will Be Cherished

So many people have praised those special segments of time and have drawn attention to the various beauties of these blessed months in accordance with their viewpoint and horizons. Analyzing these invaluable works, word-by-word, through reading circles and internalizing their meaning are very important in terms of understanding and sensing the spiritual blessings these months can make one gain. In order to benefit properly from what is written about the three months, it is necessary to leave aside a causal manner of reading and delve into the depths of the issue. Otherwise, if such feeling and way of thinking are not developed, it will not be possible to thoroughly benefit from the sources about the three months.

In addition, for feeling the particular beauties of these three months and their delights that are reflected on human heart, it is necessary first to appreciate them as “the months full of surprising Divine gifts and favors” and then seriously try to make the most of their nights and days in devotions, without wasting a second. For example, those who do not determinedly wake up in the middle of the night for the supererogatory Prayer of tahajjud and turn to God in devotion, sipping the blessings of the night, cannot profoundly feel the spiritual beauties told about these months, taste them, or feel their delight. If somebody does not seriously maintain a state of metaphysical vigilance and become immersed in devotions with a consciousness of servitude, they cannot sense or feel the meanings these months convey, even if the blessings keep pouring down in abundance. They might even evaluate others’ statements about these segments of time according to their limited horizons and see those experiences as mere fantasy.

Benefiting from the abundant blessings of these days depends first on having belief in them and cherishing them. Attentiveness is reciprocal. If you are not attentive to the spirit and meaning found in these months, they will not open their doors to you, and the most enthusiastic statements about these months will remain faint in your sight. Even the touching expressions of Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali or statements of Imam al-Ghazali that move hearts with enthusiasm do not make sense to you, as the impact of a statement does not only depend on its real worth but also on the listeners’ mental and spiritual receptiveness to the issue, together with their viewpoint and intention.

In this respect, one must own the issue to the degree of being permeated by the hue of the sacred months; only then will they be able to hear and feel what those blessed months whisper into the human soul. If believers do not rid themselves from superficiality as well as their mundane routines and try to gain insight into these months’ truths, they will not heed even the most exquisite words expressed about these sacred months as they would go in one ear and out the other without any effect. Those who prefer acting lightheartedly, who do not exert an effort for self-renewal at a season of such abundant blessings, and who fail to act seriously can hardly benefit from these months.

Gatherings Becoming for These Heavenly Segments of Time

Another aspect of the issue is related to the societal spirit and general acceptance of the society. In fact, feeling the true depth and immensity of the blessed months is an attainment peculiar to those who have deepened with respect to the horizons of their heart and spirit. It is a reality that Muslims have begun to grow aware of the value of these months, are attending to mosques, and are becoming oriented to God Almighty. Taking this valuable opportunity, it is possible to help people learn certain truths and feel these in their souls by different events and activities. In the same way it is possible to hold spiritual gatherings to appeal to the believers of this contemporary age during the blessed nights of Raghaib, Mi‘raj, Bara‘ah, and Qadr, with the condition of being true to the spirit of the religion. This will mean seizing the opportunity of making people closer to God and feeling the essence of religion within. It is also possible to make different gatherings more meaningful through reading circles or religious talks. Thus the expectations of believers will have been answered correctly.

I would like to draw attention to one more important thing that I have realized about these programs: all of such activities should be meant for helping people to become one more step closer to God Almighty with respect to their world of thoughts and feelings. If such events and activities do not take believers to their own identity and guide them toward finding themselves, then they are nothing but a waste of time. Instead of voicing Divine truths and evoking love for the Prophet, make God bless him and grant him abundant peace, making people enjoy themselves by appealing to their fancies and desires only serves to waste one’s time, and even can lead to transgression. Every means that does not take one closer to God Almighty and His Messenger is a delusion. It is not the job of devoted souls to make people have fun.

In addition, it is necessary to be aware that people of the modern age have a general inclination towards entertainment in terms of their lifestyles. For this reason, their positive response might be deceptive. By looking at their pleased manner, you may think you did a good job. What really matters, however, is whether what you did was right according to the criteria of the Qur’an and Sunnah, rather than catching their interest. In this respect, even if there is no large-scale attendance to a program, one should always seek the right conduct. In other words, what really matters is whether the program stands for anything meaningful in terms of hearts and spiritual life.

At such fruitful periods, when the heavens are filled with blessed light and the earth is adorned with heavenly tables, we should always guide people toward deepening their heart and spiritual life; we should always pursue sublime goals in everything we do. So much so that we should convey a new meaning and spirit into the hearts of people at every time, and let them set sail toward the horizons, always asking for more and more at spiritual journeying.

In order to realize all this, either traditional hymns, prayers, and eulogies in praise of the Prophet or new ones can be recited. But no matter what happens, with every gathering and activity, we must always try to evoke a yearning for eternal bliss in people and eventually help them awaken to the very spirit of religion.

This text is the translation of “Ruhumuzu Dinleme Zamanı: Üç Aylar

The Time of Corruption and the Nucleus of a Society

Herkul-EN | | HEARTSTRINGS

If we comprehended Islam deeply, and exhibited the sincere sound of our conscience, you would see signs of ardent longing in the people of the Muslim world who jam-pack mosques.

I always feel troubled about whether we are being misrepresentative. Are we misleading other people by our misrepresentation, which they interpret as being a Muslim? What if we never spoke but kept silent and let the wisdom of silence take over? These were the thoughts keeping me busy just before I came to the room.

In this accord, I myself faced a dilemma of whether to come here or not. Both considerations weighed equally… yet I decided to come albeit reluctantly.

Oscar Wilde says, “Of all the things that were done to me, I have done the most harm to myself.”

I wish there was a group of people to serve as role models in this time of corruption.

I wish the people of the world could see true integrity, profound belief, unblemished Muslimness, transcendent ikhlas (sincerity), exalted ihsan (God-consciousness), amazing marifah (knowledge of God), and such a love of God and zeal and ecstasy that it would blow their minds. I wish they could see awesomeness at its every level.

If this comes to pass, you will see similar formations in the world, at various magnitudes. You will see individuals, families and actions paralleling your example, at various magnitudes.

They will admire that you have solved the problem of mankind as the Earth has been introduced to problems by mankind, who is the leading instigator of problems.

That is why, unless you solve the problem of mankind, you cannot solve the problems regarding the family, education, the house of worship, politics, the government, or the like.

Of course I do not mean any -isms, -ists, or the like, because all of these associations are rejected terms in my understanding.

In this time of corruption being a Muslim straight as an arrow is demanding; however, those who manage to be like that are heroes who can overcome any other difficulty in life. May God make you one of them.

In Order Not to Feel Remorse When It Is Too Late

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: It is stated in the Qur’an that wrongdoers will feel remorse on the Day of Judgment: “On that Day, the wrongdoer will bite at his hands, saying (with remorse), ‘Oh, would that I had taken a way in the company of the Messenger. Oh, woe is me! Would that I had not taken so-and-so for a friend!’” (al-Furqan 25:27–28). What kind of mistakes is this remorse related to? What are the points to be careful about in this world, in order not to feel remorse in the next one?

Answer: The verse begins by referring to “that day,” a dreadful one, and then describes how a wrongdoer will bite at his hands in remorse on such a day of grimace and grief. “Biting at one’s fingers” is an idiom in Arabic and it describes a state of remorse in deep feelings of woe, grief, and yearning.

Then the wrongdoer will express his deep regret for not having followed the way of the Prophet: “Oh, would that I had taken a way in the company of the Messenger.” His regret, however, is not limited with that; he will further express his remorse by saying, “Oh, woe is me! Would that I had not taken so-and-so for a friend!” That is, “I wish I had not fallen in with such and such wrongdoers and unbelievers and sided with them. I wish I had not followed in the footsteps of evildoers and transgressors and thus taken the wrong way!” However, saying “I wish” in the next world will not help at all. On the contrary, it will double the remorse. In other words, as it will only mean wasting one’s breath, it will only add to the suffering. Just as those words can be uttered in the Hereafter, they might be uttered when the dying person’s soul comes up to the throat as he is about to leave this world for the intermediate life of the grave, the first step toward the eternal afterlife. No matter when they are uttered it is definite, however, that these words express deep remorse by somebody who blatantly wasted the great chances that they had.

The Greatest Kind of Regret

Even though there are many sins and wrongs that will burn people within and make them say “How I wish” with a deep sorrow, the foremost of them is unbelief, because the entire universe proclaims God—letter by letter, word by word, phrase by phrase… When somebody leaves aside all biases, gives a fair ear to creation, and tries to read this universe like a book of wisdom, they will discover that everything in the universe points to the Almighty Creator. Owing to this evident truth, the great scholar Imam Maturidi stated that even the peoples who did not have a Messenger from God to guide them are responsible for knowing Him. In fact, even if such people cannot know God Almighty in detail with His Attributes and Names within the framework of a Divine teaching, they can come to the conclusion that this splendid universe has a Creator. Umar ibn al-Khattab’s uncle Zayd voiced this thought before the advent of Islam: “I know that there is a Creator, but I do not know what am I supposed to do. If only I knew what He wishes me to do, so that I could exert myself to carry it out.”1 In short, the greatest “I wish…” to make one seized with remorse is to give one’s last breath as being devoid of faith.

Forsaking faith after having found guidance is another grave sin to make one grimly say “I wish…” in the next world. There is a thin veil between belief and unbelief and there is always the risk of finding oneself on the other side with the slightest move. For this reason, we believers ask from God for guidance to the Straight Path forty times in total through the five Prayers we offer every day. And then by stating “to the path of those whom You have favored,” we wish to be on the path of the rightly guided ones. As stated in another verse (an-Nisa 4:69), those whom God has favored are the Prophets, truthful (siddiq) ones, martyrs, and righteous (salih) ones. This is the wish we repeat forty times a day. Right after that, we seek refuge in His greatness and mercy and ask for being saved from deviating “to the path of those who have incurred His wrath and of those who are astray.” It is nothing but a delusion to be confident for having found right guidance and to see oneself immune to a possible fall or deception by Satan. Nobody has a guarantee to keep on the righteous path until they give their last breath. People who feel confident at this issue put their own faith in danger. A man who does not worry about his end is a man to be worried about his end. For this reason, one must shake with the fear of straying to unbelief after having found guidance and be constantly vigilant about it. A believer should constantly implore God not to leave him or her alone with his or her carnal soul and seek refuge in Him against whisperings and goading of devils. Faith is an invaluable treasure that makes one eligible for Paradise, gains the good pleasure of God, and lets one witness Divine Beauty. There are jinn and human devils lying in wait to steal it. What befalls believers is to treasure their faith, protect it against attacks, and being constantly alert in this respect.

The Weaknesses That Can Make One Sink into the Ground

Being taken by human and Satanic intrigues (Hücumat-ı Sitte, or “The Six Assaults”) Bediüzzaman mentions at the end of “The Twenty-ninth Letter” might also make one stray from the Straight Path and say “How I wish…” grimly in the other world. Actually each one of the human weaknesses he explains is powerful enough for a believer’s spiritual downfall. Namely, as love of status or fame is such a virus, fear is no less powerful. The same goes for greed, racism, egotism, laziness, and love of comfort. Given that each one has the potential to bring a believer down, having all of these does not make one just fall, but rather makes one sink deep into the ground. Even a person within the circle of faith is under the constant risk of being overtaken by them. For instance, love of fame can easily mar the essence of the good deeds a person does in the name of serving faith. Another person can present distinguished works and secretly wish to become famous, which eventually makes him sink deep into the ground. In addition, giving in to such negative feelings invites other types of negativities as well. For example, if love of fame seizes a person, you cannot know what further sins it will cause that person to commit. All of these are possible dangers within a circle of faith, and they will cause grim remorse in the next world. One who lays personal claim on the success granted by God, as a result of failing to adopt the principles of sincerity2 as guidelines, will say, “I wish I had not fouled up all of those good deeds for the sake of worldly appreciation and applause; I wish I had not set sail to the void for the sake of nothing! I wish I had not be taken by deadly currents…” They will agonize in useless woes and laments of perpetual remorse. Grimly, their wail will be to no avail; on the contrary, it will only double the suffering of their misfortune.

Shields to Protect from Feelings of Remorse in Vain

For this reason, believers should act sensibly in this world. On the one hand, they should count being saved from unbelief as the greatest favor of God; on the other hand, they should shun from the alleys that may cost them their faith. As Bediüzzaman stressed, there is a pathway to unbelief in every kind of sin. The Messenger of God stated that every sin leaves a dark spot on the heart, which can cover the entire heart in time3 (unless removed through repentance). Every dark spot forming on the heart is an invitation to another one. In the Qur’an, God Almighty refers to the hearts contaminated and darkened with evil: “…By no means! But what they themselves have earned has rusted upon their hearts (and prevents them from perceiving the truth)” (al-Mutaffifin 83:14). If people do not remove sins darkening the heart through repentance and asking forgiveness, God Almighty will seal up their hearts: “God has set a seal upon their hearts…” (al-Baqarah 2:7) and “…a seal has been set upon their hearts” (at-Tawbah 9:87). These hearts become unable to receive anything from the pure message descended from heavens, and they end up continually saying “How I wish…” in the next world. In order not to fall into the grip of useless remorse, what needs to be done here is trying to carry out the responsibilities of servanthood to God without any flaws, in a balance of fear and hope. Realizing this depends on a heart in awe of God. The Messenger of God referred to a certain man and stated that if his heart had been in awe of God, so would have been his body parts.4 Awe of God in a believer’s heart will be reflected in the behaviors of that person; in time, even the body parts of that believer begin to shake with the awe of God—so much so that this shaking can be perceived by some in the iris of their eyes. On the one hand, a believer doubles up on feeling the greatness of God; on the other hand, if he or she trusts the immensity of His mercy and leads a life of such sensitivity and balance, this will be a means of deliverance from woes and regrets in the next world.

At the same time, people can prevent the negative factors to ruin their afterlife by attending circles of religious talks—or “sohbet-i Canan” (talk of the Beloved). As Süleyman Çelebi stated:

“Constantly say God’s Name with every breath

It is with God’s Name everything becomes complete.”

Another Sufi poet (Yahya of Taşlıca) voices the same truth thus:

“I wish my love was shared by all people of the world

If only all of our words could be talk of the Beloved.”

If we make mention of Him everywhere we go and make our gatherings blessed with His name, and make our time gain a depth uncontainable by dimensions, then we put a stop to so many negativities that might make us feel regret in the other world.

Saying “I Wish…” in the Sense of Asking Forgiveness

Question: Can there be useful examples of “I wish…” as opposed to useless ones? What should be our criteria?

Answer: As there are useless kinds of “I wish…” to be uttered in the next world, there are positive kinds of “I wish…” that are acceptable, and even laudable, in Islam. Those uttered by our master Abu Bakr are of this type. As it is known, he once said, “I wish I had asked the Messenger of God about the meaning of the verse referring to one who dies leaving behind no lineal heirs, so that I would not leave the issue to the judgment of scholars.” He voiced the same regret about the judgment concerning the share of a grandmother’s inheritance, as it is not openly stated in the Qur’an. He also expressed similar regrets about some political decisions he had to make. In my opinion, such phrases of “I wish…” are uttered as a consequence of deeply felt suffering and a feeling of self-criticism, which stem from comprehending religion correctly and rendering it the spirit of one’s life. They took Abu Bakr the Truthful to a great spiritual level beyond our comprehension. Imagine that the Pride of Humanity confirmed Abu Bakr’s worth by stating that if Abu Bakr’s faith were to be weighed against the faith of all people, his faith would weigh heavier.5 He was the greatest truthful one who realized through God’s grace—within two years and ten months (of his caliphate)—what others could not achieve in one and a half centuries. He did not simply overpower different lands as tyrants did, but poured the inspirations of his soul into them. Every place he went or turned his eyes came to life with the teachings of the Prophet. Indeed, he was the one who prepared the ground for the great conquests and breakthroughs realized during the next caliph, Umar ibn al-Khattab. Therefore, his statements of “I wish…” added to the worth of that great figure, whose worth was already greater than the totality of all people.

In the same way, there are positive kinds of “I wish,” for every believer to elevate their ranks. For example, “I wish I had made better use of my youthful days in terms of worship! I wish I could spare two hours for a hundred units of Prayer every night! I wish I could save myself from carnal desires! I wish I could thoroughly restrain my hands, feet, sight, and hearing even while carnal desires boiled over at youth. I wish I had not turned my gaze anywhere else and not beheld anything else except for what is oriented toward seeking the good pleasure of God…” Even though one did not fulfill certain things previously, such statements of remorse, which express a resolution to take positive action to make up for what one has missed so far, actually lead to a person’s spiritual progress. If left to the other side, it will mean nothing but anguish and misery, whereas those we make here can be considered as istighfar (asking forgiveness). We say, “Astaghfirullah,” at remembering such things; we then feel ashamed of saying it only once and say, “Alfu-alfi Astaghfirullah,” (I ask forgiveness for a million times) and continuously seek refuge in God with a spirit of heartfelt penitence and remorse (tawba-inaba-awba).6 So when believers knock the door of Divine mercy with all of these “Astaghfirullahs”, God will hopefully not leave their petitions unanswered and will treat them with His immense mercy and grace.

1. Sahih al-Bukhari, Manaqib, 24
2. Nursi, Bediüzzaman Said, The Gleams, The Twenty-first Gleam,  New Jersey: Tughra Books, 2008
3. Sunan at-Tirmidhi, Tafsir al-Surah (83) 1
4. Al-Hakim at-Tirmidhi, Nawadir al-Usul, 2/172
5. Bayhaqi, Shuab al-Iman, 1/69
6. For a detailed explanation of these concepts of Tawba, Inaba, and Awba, see Fethullah Gülen, The Emerald Hills of the Heart, Vol. 1.

This text is the translation of “Faydasız ve Faydalı ‘Keşke’ler

A Builder of Spirituality: Muhammed Lütfi Efendi, the Imam of Alvar

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: Could you share your feelings about the Imam of Alvar (d. 1956), the saintly guide, with respect to his messages for society and his influence on you?

Answer: Actually, describing that great person properly is beyond the abilities of a humble servant like me. For this reason, I should confess from the very beginning that I do not possess a capacity of discernment to have deep insight into his life, world of thought, or his horizons of heart and spirituality. In addition, when that great personality passed away, I was only 16 years old. Although I spent some time near that pure wellspring, a young man at that age obviously cannot benefit from that great figure with an immense horizon in the real sense of the word. For this reason, it needs to be known that the points I am going to tell will be limited by my narrow comprehension, lack of ability, and childish consideration.

A Lustrous and Fruitful Home

The family of the Imam of Alvar was like a blessed source of spirituality. His father Hüseyin Efendi and brother Vehbi Efendi were very great personalities. I did not see his father Hüseyin Kındığı Efendi, but even one particular event I previously narrated to you will suffice to give an idea about the virtues of that blessed person:

One day, the Imam of Alvar and his father Hüseyin Kındığı Efendi, who are from the lineage of the Prophet, traveled to the city of Bitlis in order to become disciples of Sheikh Kufrawi. As he probably discovered their potential immediately, Sheikh Kufrawi showed special care to them and gave them importance. Without any processes of spiritual journeying or Sufi retreats, the sheikh authorized both of them as spiritual guides, as the true worth of jewels is appreciated by masters of the field. So Sheikh Kufrawi was such a master who recognized the worthy jewels before him, and confirmed that they were eligible to guide people. In the face of this unexpected development, the disciples who had been near to the Sheikh until then expressed their protests at night and began to ask the two newcomers questions to see whether they were really eligible to guide others. In the meantime, the door burst open and the Sheikh came in; he addressed them as follows: “You disciples! Hüseyin and Muhammed Lütfi Efendis did not need me. What brought them here is their very perfection.” If a person has nothing to do with spiritual maturity, what difference does it make, even if he owns a treasure equivalent of the Korah (a.k.a. Qarun)!

His brother Vehbi Efendi was also a sea of wisdom. He was predominantly a quiet person, but even his quietness had an influence that would cause different undulations in our souls. Both of my parents had deep respect and loyalty to them. Sometimes those great persons would come and stay in my grandfather’s guesthouse. My grandfather had a deep respect for them as well. Vehbi Efendi was older than the Imam of Alvar and passed away when I was about five years old. I think the Imam wrote the lines meaning, “I drifted apart from beautiful ones, now I woe with this longing…” after his brother passed.

The Touching Melodies That Light up Fever in Souls

The Imam of Alvar was a person with a deep inner world, a man of God overflowing with love and enthusiasm. His state at circles of remembrance was a living example of this richness of heart. Both the Naqshbandi and Qadiri orders inspired him, and it was possible to witness both types of remembrance in the Mosque. There used to be a crowded circle in the mosque. In Sufi tradition, the head of the circle goes to the contributors to teach them to say the words of remembrance. Since that blessed person was very old in those days, he would not go through the circle but sit somewhere, like the prime one among prayer beads and behold those in the circle from there. Anyway, a short while later those in the circle would become enraptured and unable to realize their surroundings. There would be some people who choked with tears and some even fainted. Despite his serious health problems, the Imam of Alvar would sit with folded legs (as in the Prayer) on the sheikh’s mat for two to three hours. Religious poems, eulogies in praise of the Prophet as well as litanies would be recited from his work, Khulasatu’l-Haqaiq (Summary of Truths), with a rhythm of a simple frame drum (daire). There was a hafız—memorizer of the Qur’an—with a very beautiful voice in the village. He was the one who beat the frame drum. At that moment, the Imam of Alvar would be oriented to God Almighty with his entire being. Sometimes he would be entranced with the sublime atmosphere generated by the hymns, effect a similar mood in those around him, and would kindle in hearts the fire of love for the Divine. When a few people lost themselves in ecstasy, or someone became enthusiastic with tearful eyes, this would pass to the other participants and form an atmosphere of love and enthusiasm in everyone. Such powerful atmospheres that even though I witnessed these in my childhood, I can say that I am still under their effect.

That blessed man was a devoted lover of the Prophet at the same time. When somebody who returned from Medina remarked near him, “I saw so many creatures with mange,” he reacted right away: “Stop that! Do not talk like this even of the dogs of Medina. For the sake of the Prophet, I am ready to be sacrificed for the mange of Medina!” He would say such things from the bottom of his heart, with his entire being, to such a degree that he was virtually melted in the spirituality of the Prophet, and passing into a state of fana fi’r Rasul (becoming immersed in the love of the Prophet to the degree of forgetting oneself). This deep love for the Prophet is reflected in his following poem:

O the Sacred Witness, O the Sun embellishing the universe
Your clothes are melodious, your eyebrows are lovely
A strand of your hair is dearer than the entire world
Your hair disseminates a pure fragrance to both worlds

Such eulogies in praise of the Prophet would often be recited in his presence; he and all the people there would burst into ecstasy. Sometimes he lamented in such a way and his voice rose to such a high pitch while reciting the following stanza that the place where he was would resonate with awe of God and everybody in the circle would shake:

This heart is so fond of you, O beloved: why?
Your beauty is shining like the bright day: why?
Your eyebrow is like the “two bow-length’s nearness to God”
Your face brings to our minds the chapter of Ar-Rahman (The All-Merciful): why?

He Appreciated Everybody Virtuous

He was a master of verbal expression. He voiced the inspirations of his soul in different metric styles. However, in addition to being an authority on verbal expression, he would never be disturbed by sayings and poems of other great figures recited in his presence; he would even encourage that. For example, I heard Ketencizade’s following poem in praise of his master Sheikh Kufrawi being recited in the presence of the Imam of Alvar:

My dear master, spiritual guide, shining light,
My remembrance of God is the illumination in both worlds
All of my disciples agree with the hopeful prayers
Help us, O noble Spiritual Pole, the greatest Spiritual Helper, the king of all time
Never neglect these servants, O our dearest Sultan.

Normally, a feeling of envy could easily arise, but the Imam of Alvar trampled such negative feelings under his feet. He would salute any truthful words no matter whom they belonged to. I memorized many poems, including the following ones he would frequently recite:

Does one who seeks the Beloved struggle for his own life?
And can another who seeks his own life be in quest of the Beloved?
We have entered the path of love; we are lovesick,
O my heart, are you ready for this? (By Seyyid Nigari)

I found he had left his home already
The beloved Prophet passed away, leaving his headquarters empty
The bottles of love were broken, and the drinks spilt
The cupbearers left the scene.

***

On which mountain can I find that doe?
In what desert should I look for the eyes of that gazelle?
Just like a gazelle that lost her fawn,
wandering indecisively from desert to desert. (By Zihni of Bayburt)

As well as,

Growing tired of my life, doesn’t my beloved get tired of the torments?
Heavens burned from my sigh; doesn’t the candle of my will burn?
My beloved gives the cure to every patient;
why not me; am I not a patient?
My soul burns at the night of separation; my crying eyes shed tears of blood
My cries wake people; doesn´t my bad fortune wake up, too?
To your rose-like cheek, bloody water falls from my eyes
My beloved, this is the season of roses; do the rivers not blur?
I was keeping my grief secret; they say “Make it known to the beloved”
If I say this, I don´t know whether the unfaithful would believe or not
I was not interested in you, you made my mind perish
Wouldn’t that careless person reprimanding me be ashamed when he sees you?
Fuzuli is madly in love, and is always shameful in the eyes of folk
Ask what kind of love this is, isn’t he sick of it? (By Fuzuli)

I can even say that he would see these words no different than the fruits of his own mind and appreciate all of them. I think this is an important criterion in terms of giving an idea about his horizons, world of thoughts and feelings, maturity, and greatness.

Salih Özcan, a student of Bediüzzaman, related a memory about the Imam of Alvar, which I find very meaningful in terms of reflecting his maturity and level of thankful contentment. Brother Salih came to Erzurum in early 1950s and visited the Imam of Alvar. He told the Imam about the famous scholar Bediüzzaman and his works on faith. Brother Salih told the imam that they were disciples of Bediüzzaman and were trying to guide youths of the time with the works of their guide. On hearing that the Imam of Alvar responded: “I wish my eyes could see, so that I could join you as well.” Real virtue is being able to appreciate others’ virtues and being respectful toward them.

The Words Ringing in My Ears

I also would like to relate a few unforgettable memories of my own about that person I deeply feel the honor to have met. Here is one of them:

I was about fourteen or fifteen years old. I had a good friend whom I truly liked. One day he said, “There were such centers of spiritual teaching in Istanbul that they take someone to the top level of spiritual journeying within six months and make them eligible to preach.” My friend convinced me with these words. I packed my belongings without asking the teacher who was responsible for me and the great imam, and then left for the train station with that friend of mine. I would learn later that in the meantime another friend of ours, who was the grandson of Vehbi Efendi, warned my relatives about my intention to leave. When I extended my hand to the ticket booth to get my ticket, somebody suddenly caught me by the wrist. It was my father’s cousin and he took me back right away. The next day, my teacher told me that the imam wished to see me. I went to his presence shaking with fear. I had never seen him so angry before. He said, “I swear to God, if you had left, you would be perished!” These words he uttered are still ringing in my ears. For years I wondered, “Was my attempt really that bad that I would be perished if I had left?” and could not understand why he had said so. But in time, I started to somewhat understand his reaction. Possibly, he worried that a teenager could easily melt in an immense sea like Istanbul. Besides, leaving his blessed atmosphere without permission could mean losing. In addition, if that guide envisioned a certain duty for you to carry out in the future, you could not be where you should be by leaving for another destination. Therefore, I better understand now the intensity of his reaction and say, “Fortunately he did so and protected me under his spiritual shelter.” After making that warning, he made different complimentary remarks considering that I would be brokenhearted. I felt like an excited child whose pockets were filled with candies and decided to stay at that madrasa against all odds. Perfected guides’ treatment of others is different. That great figure fathomed the character of people before him well and treated them accordingly.

Here is another memory: We had newly started studying (the reference book known commonly as) Molla Jami and I went to him with some of my friends. A group of 5 to 10 rich people of Erzurum was sitting with him. He told them: “Now I am going to ask questions to my student. If he answers correctly, you will give him (this much amount of) money.” He asked from the parts I knew best, so I answered everything. Those rich men then gave me the amount that he had told them to give me. I think the total amount was two hundred liras. Considering the currency of those days, it was enough to send a man to pilgrimage to Mecca. He could not see how much I had due to the cataracts in his eyes. He asked how much money there was and I told him. Then he said, “This amount is too much for you. Let me give it to Demirci Osman Efendi so that he spends it for the needs of the students of the madrasa.”

While we studied in Erzurum, we were really poor and we sometimes could not find basic foods to eat, like bread and cheese, for a few days. My father gave me modest pocket money from what he earned as an imam, but it was too little to support a student. Most days, we had no money to buy bread. On such a day when we were starving, we went to the Sufi lodge, three or four students together. The Imam’s grandson Tayyib Efendi was also with us. There was a shed beside the Sufi lodge used for storing food. Through the spaces of the wooden wall, we saw watermelons inside. The Imam was praying inside. After a while, the door opened and he said, “Come in boys, let me slice a watermelon for you.” As we witnessed in very different examples, he was an immense figure of deep spirituality, understanding of others’ wishes and what passes through their minds, whose heart could sense beyond the physical reality.

In short, although I failed to fully benefit from him, I am so thankful to my Lord for the blessing of having known him.

I remember the day he passed away. My late father had come to Erzurum and we were resting in the house of my father’s aunt. All of a sudden I heard some distant voice saying, “The Imam of Alvar passed away!” I immediately broke into a run toward the madrasa of the Kurşunlu Mosque. When I arrived there, I saw my friends crying. From there, I went to the Imam’s house, which was in the neighborhood known as Mumcu. Sadık Efendi, who was the mufti of Erzurum, and the great scholar Sakıp Efendi had also come and personally washed his blessed body, not leaving this honor to anybody else. After the washing in a winter day, the body was taken to the village of Alvar and buried there. All the people attended the burial in spite of the severe winter cold. May God Almighty resurrect that great guide together with His Beloved Prophet and grant him eternal bliss in the highest Paradise of Firdaws, amin!

This text is the translation of Bir Gönül Mimarı: Alvarlı Efe Hazretleri

Respect for the Sacred

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: What is the right stance and attitude that become believers in the face of insults and disrespect against religion and sacred values?

Answer: When insults and disrespect are directed toward a certain individual, it is a very important virtue in Islam to show patience without reacting, take such “stones” into his or her atmosphere of tolerance and let them disappear, like meteors hurled into the atmosphere of the earth. However, there are such rights as the rights of God, the Prophet, and the Qur’an that, since they are not personal issues to be shown personal tolerance, individual believers are not authorized to forgive insult and disrespect toward these. True believers cannot overlook them, show forbearance, or remain unresponsive. However, as they do in everything else, they must always act in a way that becomes a believer. Their actions should reflect a believer’s character; they should show their reaction in a civilized fashion, take their style as their honor, and never consent to lower this down.

Those Who Expect Respect Need to Be Respectful First

Unfortunately, we witness very different forms of extreme behaviors in our time. Every day so many events triggered by grudge, hatred, and animosity are taking place. There are various unbecoming remarks and behaviors coming from different sides. Sometimes, an unfortunate event occurs somewhere; even before the doers are identified, somebody remarks—with a horrible grudge and hatred—that it is necessary to do away with all Muslims. Then another one makes a different insult. At another place you see people trying to provoke others by hanging posters. In all this confusion, one point is being missed: if somebody makes an insult against the Prophets, angels, God Almighty and His Divine Names, he also is insulting all of the people who cherish these values. We can even say that an insult related to certain issues, such as resurrection after death and the otherworldly bliss, disturbs not only Muslims but also followers of other religions as well, because with respect to their essence, such matters of belief are also accepted by people who follow other faiths. For this reason, when you add the followers of other faiths with a belief in the Hereafter to the nearly 1.5 billion Muslims, the total number will amount to 4 or 5 billion people; you can picture the actual scale of the insolence. Therefore, such a person should expect the same scale of a responsive insult toward himself or herself. If someone does not mind stabbing a dagger into the sacred values of 4 or 5 billion people, he or she should not be disturbed by the needle that stings in return. No matter who you are, whenever you insult another person, you trigger a relevant response, whereas showing respect toward that person will elicit respect toward you.

In fact, it is definitely not acceptable for a person to comment on a field in which he or she has no knowledge. For example, if a man who never studied philosophy severely criticizes a certain school of philosophy, he will both expose himself to ridicule and commit disrespect toward those scholarly methods. In the same way, if a man who has nothing to do with music starts making remarks about musical keys like an authority, he becomes an object of ridicule. The same is true for journalism and other fields of expertise. Still, so many people can become experts in such fields after a certain deal of effort and relevant study.

When you view the situation today, however, some people who have no serious knowledge about Islam—a faith that has realized significant transformations and breakthroughs in world history and, at the same time, conduced to a dizzying renaissance that had continued for about five centuries in a vast territory—are making insulting remarks about the faith and its followers, and then call it, “freedom of thought and expression.” We are living at a time when there are fields of expertise. When someone makes offhanded remarks about a subject without having any expertise whatsoever, it is sheer disrespect toward that field, to oneself, to sound reason, commonsense, and conscientiousness. If someone who commits such disrespect receives certain responses from some inflamed people, they should not complain about it, since they personally presented improper behavior at the beginning. As the scale of the insult covers as many as 4 or 5 billions of people, it is always possible that some people in such a large population will act upon their emotions.

If Your Home Is Made of Crystal…

The devoted believers, on the other hand, are always supposed to be very sensitive about their words, attitudes, and behaviors; they need to consider how the words they utter will be responded to and carefully refrain from sudden outbursts of emotion. It should never be forgotten that words uttered in an angry mood are always prone to abuse. And others’ feelings need to be taken into consideration before speaking. If your home is made of crystal, you should not hurl anything harmful toward others people’s houses. Otherwise, you indirectly cause damage to your own building. This fact is pointed out in the Qur’an as follows: “And do not (O believers) revile the things or beings that they have, apart from God, deified and invoke, lest (if you do so) they attempt to revile God out of spite and in ignorance” (al-An’am 6:108). If you begin to insult others’ deities, they will do the same for what is sacred to you. Indeed, there is no command or recommendation in Islamic sources to insult the idols and deities others worship. Believers always voice the truth and proclaim the Oneness and Unity of God: this is a different issue. But believers have no responsibility to revile things that bear no value in their sight. In this respect, I wish we could always speak, write, and act in accordance with the criteria of the Qur’an and Sunnah, because certain attitudes and behaviors that have their root in emotional reactions may cause grave effects with respect to our values. As it will be remembered, the Holy Qur’an was insulted recently. Right after that churches were attacked and buildings were destroyed in another place. Certainly, it is an outrageous behavior to insult the Qur’an. But destroying buildings and places of worship in reaction to such insolence is another type of extremism. Therefore, before resorting to offensive attitudes and behaviors, individuals—whoever they are—need to consider well what the likely results will be, and speak and act accordingly. Those who are subjected to insults should keep their reaction within acceptable limits; they should prefer correcting ugliness through scholarly and legal means, never sacrificing their refined character and adopting mistaken manners. The response toward such an attack should be a civilized one, later regrets will be of no use.

How I wish an international agreement on respecting the sacred could be maintained! I tried to make my voice heard to certain authorities, but I suppose that I failed to express myself properly. Freedom of thought and expression in our time is an issue that has much emphasis placed on it. Unfortunately, as insulting faith, religion, and sacred values are seen as a form of freedom of expression and thought in some circles, similar ugly remarks and comments concerning other fields are not acceptable; on the contrary, they are considered hate crimes. Actually, a real believer, who should be a representative of assurance and trust, must never speak against others for no reason; they should never intend to behave in an offensive and insulting way. However, declaring some acts free in certain fields and forbidding them in some other fields is an obvious double standard; it is a contradiction.

In short, there is serious need for making respect for the sacred a thought owned by the entire humanity and for evoking this feeling in everyone. It is high time international institutions, joined by all nations, settle this issue with clear-cut lines that do not allow further speculation. Certain disciplines to serve as decisive criteria must be decreed. How I wish the whole of humanity could agree on this issue! How I wish everyone knew his or her limits. Because, if the principle of respecting others’ sacred values—an important component of peaceful coexistence—is not observed, conflicts arising from such incidents of disrespect will make their presence felt as much more horrible and greater problems in today’s globalized and shrunken world.

This text is the translation of “Kutsala Saygı

Balance and Moderation

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: In almost every area of life today, serious deviations of thought are seen and extremism is credited. What are the points to be careful about for those who wish to avoid extremism?

Answer: Being balanced and maintaining moderation is very important for being able to practice religion in the way God Almighty meant and to make it become the spirit of our lives. For when balance is lost, one strays to one of the two extreme levels—excessiveness or apathy (insufficiency). As these two extremes evoke one another in a reactive pattern, they give way to a vicious cycle. In fact, freedom from the two extremes is through adherence to the Practice of the Pride of Humanity, who always counseled moderation to his community.

The Middle Way

The Qur’anic concept of the Sirat al-Mustaqim (Straight Path) has usually been defined with reference to following the “middle way,” or moderation, at the three main human faculties of desire, aggression, and reasoning.1 However, it is possible to evaluate other factors, such as rivalry, envy, intention, and viewpoint, within the same perspective. Indeed, it is possible to talk about following a middle way for every feeling and thought inherently found in human nature.

For example, if we take “viewpoint” (nazar) in terms of gaining insight into phenomena and evaluating them, being an optimist represents the upper extreme, whereas a pessimist represents the lower extreme, and a truthful one represents the middle way. As the first two only tend to see the good or bad side in everything, a truthful person tries to evaluate everything realistically. Nevertheless, (as seeing things and phenomena happening around one through the eye of wisdom make the person think, and thereby act, positively) Bediüzzaman expressed in his Seeds of Truth, “Those who see positively, think positively; those who think positively take delight in life.” In addition, even with respect to things that do not seem very pleasant, it is better to hold positive considerations as far as it is possible to do so. But this does not mean overlooking the reality and living in a world of fantasy. What needs to be done is to see things as they are without escaping realities or giving into hopelessness, which means having the “middle way,” or a “balanced viewpoint.”

Actually, when the middle way is taken and moderation is maintained, even the human carnal soul, which seems to be evil, can serve as a positive factor for spiritual progress. Even Satan, who leads people astray with his temptations and deceptions, can be a means for spiritual progress as a factor that makes people turn toward God (as far as the wisdom of his creation and his position is correctly understood). On the other hand—may God forbid—if Satan is assumed as a separate power who is able to exert force, it will lead people to deviation, like the situation of those who think that light and darkness have a force and power on their own. Those who hold this belief think that light and darkness are individual powers, that light brings no harm, but the representatives of darkness have to be pleased. Hence, they commit undreamed-of evils with this deviant consideration. Satanists who act with this philosophy try to please Satan so that they can be saved from its evil. Imagining a powerless creature who has no weapon but deceit and beguilement—God forbid—as a being that possesses a part of the power and force that belongs to the Creator, is the upper extreme, to the degree of insanity. On the other hand, dismissing its deceit and beguilement and turning a blind eye to its goading and whisperings, and thus ignoring the warnings in the Qur’an and Sunnah, is the lower extreme. Satan is a clear enemy of man; if someone does not give his willpower its due and becomes heedless, he risks losing eternal bliss through the hand of his relentless and faithless archenemy.

Victims of Success

As it is very important to strike a balance at the negative factors that can lead one to destruction, it is also very important for people to strike a balance with respect to their feelings concerning the achievements that they are blessed with. That is, it is also necessary to watch one’s step concerning the deeds of the heart and body realized in the name of faith, worship, and morality by not straying from the middle way. For example, believers must do their best and seek perfection in observing all their acts of worship such as the daily Prayers, alms, pilgrimage, fasting, supplicating to God, and reflecting on His works. As decreed in the Qur’an, “Work, and God will see your work, and so will His Messenger and the true believers” (at-Tawbah 9:105), all the righteous  works must be realized in the best way with a consciousness of presenting them to God, His Messenger, and believers. In short, believers must not feel content with what they do but should seek perfection in all of their acts of worship. However, even if they attain a nearly perfect performance, they should never become insolent by laying claim on the consequent success; it is God Almighty who creates success. If being superficial, slothful, and heedless at worship is the lower extreme, then the upper extreme is having insolent pride in one’s acts of worship and laying a claim on the blessing which is granted by God after the servant’s meticulous efforts. Because, even though the worshipper exerts oneself and seeks perfection, laying claim on the consequent success leads to ruin through arrogant sanctimony.

Therefore what becomes a person who attains success are modesty, humbleness, and humility. One must always say, “It is not deserved of a servant like me; how has this kind favor been granted to me?” As believers should try to do their best, they should also know to tan their carnal soul by beating it up, as tanners once did for tanning hides. In addition, they should never forget that the achievements and success they are granted might, indeed, be tests for them, which may lead to their ruin if personal pride is felt.

Imagine that some false prophets—such as Aswad al-Ansi and Musaylima the Liar—appeared even at a period when the true light illuminated everywhere. Those poor people became victim to certain gifts they saw in themselves and perished in the claws of pride and egotism.

An Inflation of the “Divinely-guided” Saviors, in an Age of Arrogance

Surely such cases of deviation and misguidance are not limited to a particular period in history. Almost every period witnesses such events. Today, as well, you can see some people who can talk or write impressively or have taken a few steps on the spiritual path, who lose their balance and seek to become an idol and display due arrogance. When they display themselves and when a circle of naïve ones begins to form around them, they start seeing themselves like a bright star immediately. For this reason, there is an inflation of Mahdis—the so-called “Divinely-guided” people, today. Even a humble servant like myself knows five or six such “saviors” who have appeared in Muslim community. Three of them even tried to contact me—in fact, one of them came here recently. He said he was twenty-two years old. He then told me, “I thought that I was from the lineage of the Prophet’s grandson Husayn, but after extensive research I learned that I was also from the lineage of the Prophet’s other grandson Hasan.” I tried to remind him of some points about humbleness and modesty. I tried to tell him that the sign of worthlessness in worthless ones is their assuming greatness, virtually standing on their toes to look greater than they really are; and the sign of worth in truly worthy ones is their humbly curved stature, in order to look lesser than they really are. After I spoke to him, I thought that he was convinced. To my surprise, the last thing he said before leaving was: “All right sir, but what can I do if I have [been divinely chosen and appointed and thereby] not been given a right to choose at this issue?” However, there is no spiritual rank or title in Islam—including the imamates of the Sunni schools of thought (Hanafi, Shafii, Maliki, and Hanbali) or being the Mahdi—that puts one under obligation of proclaiming it to others, except for Prophethood.2 However, it is very difficult to tell anything to those who are obsessed with such a thought. May God guide all of the egotist and arrogant ones obsessed with a claim of being Mahdi to the Straight Path.

Let me add one final point here. It should never be overlooked that people with similar claims might surface even in an auspicious circle that is based on an understanding of humbleness, modesty, sincerity, and making no claims whatsoever. Since such people base their arrogance on their affiliation with a certain group, it can be much more difficult to bring them to their senses. For example, one of them might say, “Until recently, I had been a disciple of such and such guide, who was supported by a thousand angels or spirit beings. But now, nine hundred of them have left him and come to support me.” As different examples are seen in every period, people can become a slave to their carnal soul and Satan through various delusions.

Thus it should not be forgotten that even at the time when the seeds sown have begun to flourish and gardens are filled with roses, an invasion of thorns is always possible. Believers should always be vigilant on the path on which they walk. There will always appear some people to misguide naïve ones. As thorns can exist near roses, ravens might begin to crow near nightingales. Thus, those who have not heard the nightingale, who are not accustomed to its beautiful singing, can be enthralled by the crowing of the raven. For this reason, believers must be alert against such deceptions and constantly maintain vigilance with a good insight—like that of the Caliphs Abu Bakr and Umar, may God be pleased with them—and act sensibly.

1. The Sirat al-Mustaqim is the “middle way” having nothing to do with any extremes. It is the middle way, considering human psychology and the realities of life and creation. In educating people, it disciplines and ennobles the faculty of “reasoning,” saving it from the extremes of demagogy, cunning and stupidity, and so leads to sound knowledge and wisdom. The disciplining and ennobling of the faculty of “aggression” and impulse of defense saves that faculty from wrongdoing, oppression and cowardice, and leads to justice and valor. The faculty of “desire” is saved through discipline from dissipation and hedonism and grows into chastity. (Ed.)

2. The Prophets who were Divinely chosen and appointed with the mission of Prophethood were required to declare their Prophethood and convey the Revelations they received to their people. (Ed.)

This text is the translation of “Denge ve İtidal

Problems Settled within the Individual and Reforming the Society

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: You stated that a person who has not been able to settle the problems within his or her own self is not able to solve the problems related to their environment and the society. Would you explain the relationship between reforming oneself (nafs) and reforming the society.

Answer: With respect to its dictionary meaning, the word “nafs” refers to the essence of something or the thing itself. As a religious term, nafs, or the “carnal soul,” refers to the essence and center of the potentially harmful feelings like grudge, hatred, lust, wrath, and the like, all of which are placed in human nature for certain wisdom; it is the title for the mechanism that is prone to whisperings and goading of Satan and which functions as a center for him. But it needs to be known that this mechanism has a potential for transformation and progress at the same time; it is the most important means for a person’s ascending to spiritual realms. However, its being able to fulfill this desirable mission depends on its being disciplined and purified under the guidance and control of heavenly disciplines, like taming a wild horse before it becomes suitable to ride. Otherwise, if the nafs, or carnal soul, is left to its own devices, it will continuously run after its fanciful inclinations and desires, become a slave to animal desires and physical pleasures and go after the evil. In the end, it will cause a person to fall headfirst into eternal ruin.

The Child Who Did Not Give up Sucking Milk

In his famous eulogy, Imam Al-Busiri describes the situation of an undisciplined carnal soul as follows: “The carnal soul resembles a suckling infant. If you do not cease breastfeeding when the time comes, its appetite strengthens and it asks for more. If you can once exert your willpower to cease breastfeeding, then it just stops.”

If the carnal soul is made to cease its appetite for breastfeeding by using significant and convincing arguments at the right time, it will then be possible to keep its insatiable appetite under control. But—may God forbid—if the carnal self is left prone to bohemianism and gains strength under the influence of negative thoughts and feelings, it becomes disobedient, spiraling out of control; it begins to continually impose its own desires, fancies, and caprices on the individual, which results in screens between the truth and the individual; a kind of spiritual eclipse occurs. For this reason, a person captivated by the nafs, or carnal soul, and burdened heavily with its problems cannot set a good example for others and guide them to goodness. The duty that then befalls the person is to first solve his or her problems within. This can be realized by giving the willpower its due and calling a halt to the endless desires and wishes of the carnal self, making it suffice with the delights within the lawful sphere and not allowing it to step toward transgression. Thus, it will have been saved from the state of “ammara”—a soul which continually commands to commit evil, and rise to the level of “lawwama”—one that continuously makes self-criticism and questions whether the behaviors are right. Furthermore, it can even ascend to the horizons of “mutmainna”—the soul with a clear and satisfied conscience that is content with respect to its relationship with its Creator. In addition, just as people seek refuge in God against so many harmful things and factors, they must, night and day, seek refuge in Him against their own selfhood and evil-commanding soul, which serve as a center for Satan in human nature. Otherwise, as the carnal soul will not give up generating problems, the individual will not be able to avoid being heavily laden with the many problems of the carnal soul.

The Greatest Striving on the Way of God

While returning from a military campaign, the Messenger of God warned his Companions that they were returning from the lesser jihad, or striving on the way of God, to the greatest one.1 His use of the term “greatest” is noteworthy, for it indicates the significance of the issue. Furthermore, this intimidating statement was made on the way back from an absolutely critical, great battle for Muslims, and thus it gives us a perspective of comparison between struggling against the carnal soul and engaging in hand-to-hand combat with the enemy. In addition, it is very meaningful that it was uttered at a time when people felt the delight of victory. Sometimes, a very important remark can be made without taking people’s mood into consideration (and thus being unable to raise their awareness for that remark). Therefore, it does not have an impact on hearts at the desired level. When seen from this perspective, the timing of this blessed saying is very important in terms of saving Muslims from the dizziness of victory. With this remark, God’s Messenger, upon whom be peace and blessings, aimed to keep clear of the possible negative thoughts that may emerge among the victorious military of the Companions while returning back to Medina as the conquering army.

Indeed, we always hold a good opinion of the Companions of the Prophet, in compliance with the meaning of the Qur’anic prayer: “O Our Lord! Forgive us and our brothers (and sisters) in Religion who have preceded us in faith, and let not our hearts entertain any ill-feeling against any of the believers. O Our Lord! You are All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate (especially towards Your believing servants)” (al-Hashr 59:10). On the other hand, as the Pride of Humanity was responsible for their spiritual purification and training, he may have taken their souls into consideration, and he may have intended with his warnings to prevent certain negative feelings from the beginning, even before they emerge. As a matter of fact, on the way to Hunayn, it may have occurred to some that their crowded army was an invincible one. Afterwards, they experienced a temporary defeat, but by the extraordinary efforts of the Pride of Humanity, peace and blessings be upon him, the temporary defeat was transformed into a victory again. This example is also closely related to our subject. People may go through much hardship while striving on the way of God, sometimes at the expense of serious losses. And as a consequence, God Almighty might grant them material or spiritual victories. Right at such a moment of victory, it is very important to keep under control certain negative feelings (of arrogance) that may arise in a person. In his treatise on sincerity, Bediüzzaman raises very important arguments against such tendencies of the carnal soul: “O my ostentatious carnal soul! Do not be proud of your services to God’s religion. As stated in a Prophetic Tradition, God may strengthen this religion by means of a dissolute person. You are not pure, so regard yourself as that dissolute person.” Let alone ordinary people, even saintly figures may not keep up their humbleness in the face of such achievements and triumphs.

Indeed, somebody who does not turn towards his or her own carnal soul for the sake of its taming and gaining of moral virtues loses so much in terms of happiness in both this world and the next. What makes people truly human is not their body but their carnal soul, or their very selves. The noble Prophet once said, “God does not look at your bodies and your physical appearances, but He looks at your hearts and deeds (that stem from the heart).”2 If one truly possesses a feeling of reverence and respect in his or her heart, this will be reflected in all of that person’s attitude and behaviors. Another time, the Prophet referred to a certain heedless man and stated that if his heart were in awe of God, so would be his body parts.3 For this reason, it is very important for a person to turn first toward his or her own human essence, engage in a struggle with the carnal self, and settle the problems within. It is for this significance of the issue that the Messenger of God referred to it as the “greatest struggle.”

Blessings That Become a Curse

As the carnal soul can tempt someone into committing sins, sometimes it can cause a person to fall by the way of blessings showering upon that person. As an example, the Qur’an relates the story of Qarun: “Qarun (Korah) was one of Moses’ people, but he betrayed and oppressed them” (al-Qasas 28:78). He was led astray by the wealth and means God Almighty had granted him, because he had not believed in God in the way that he should have, and failed to settle the problem with his carnal soul. Even though he seemed to have belief, he failed to transform his belief into certainty in faith, never ascending to a horizon of heartfelt acceptance. That is, he did not transform mere information into knowledge of God with practice, nor gain certainty based on or arising from that knowledge, and he had nothing to do with attaining certainty based on being able to see the truth. Therefore, there came a time when he said: “All this has been given to me only by virtue of a certain knowledge that I have” (al-Qasas 28:76). Although Korah had spent time with Prophet Moses and lived among his people, he was tempted by worldly means and was among the losers.

Similarly, as-Samiri (the Samaritan), who was from the people of Prophet Moses, was a person who had certain merits of speech and craftsmanship. However, he also abused the gifts God had granted to him by making an image of golden calf to worship, thereby bringing about his own ruin. As stated in the Qur’an, “(Moses) said: “Be gone, then! (The sentence) upon you is that in this present life, you say ‘Touch me not!’ (to warn people against proximity to you)…” (Ta-Ha 20:97). As-Samiri lived in abject misery until the end of his life.

So it seems that when the problem is not settled within the individual, even God’s blessings may become curses for people. In other words, things seeming like blessings can transform into retribution unawares: skills, power, opportunity to rule, appreciation of people, and gaining status can all be considered in this respect. When a person gains such means without taming his nafs, he will stray from the path of the Messenger of God to that of the pharaohs without even being aware of it.

I would like to elucidate the issue further with a narration from the time of Prophet Moses, peace be upon him. Actually, certain parables may be questionable whether they really took place or not, but what really matters with parables is the meaning that they convey and the lesson we learn from it. Accordingly, on the way to Mount Sinai Moses sees that somebody has buried himself in sand because he had no clothes to wear. This man asks Moses to pray to God so that he has worldly goods. As Moses petitions God Almighty about it, he learns that the man’s present state is better for him. After that, Moses conveys this message to the man, but the man still insists on his wish. Finally, God Almighty commands Moses to help that man. Moses provides him some support and after a while the man has enough money to buy a sheep. In time the man owns flocks of sheep through geometrical increase. One day, when Prophet Moses is traveling to Mount Sinai again, he sees a crowd of people. He decides to get closer to see what is happening.  He is told: “There used to be a very poor man. In time, God granted him abundant means. But richness did him no good. He started to drink. One day he got drunk, engaged in a fight, and killed someone. Now the man is going to be executed in retaliation.”

In conclusion, as it is seen in history and many examples in our time, a person who does not settle his or her problems within can often make material and spiritual bestowals into means of their own ruin. In fact, if a blessing makes one forget God Almighty and causes that person to become a heedless one, then that seeming blessing is a “curse in disguise.” Even if what distances a person from God is a great victory, it should be known that it is a calamity sent by God—it makes one suffer the greatest loss, where it is fairly possible to win (i.e. one could have been among the righteous if he had truly tamed his carnal self). So the way to protect oneself from all of these dangers is never giving up the struggle against the nafs, or the carnal soul, and being constantly alert against its tricks and traps.

1. Bayhaqi, Zuhd, 1/165
2. Sahih Muslim, Birr, 34; Sunan ibn Majah, Zuhd, 9
3. Hakim at-Tirmidhi, Nawadir al-Usul, 2/172

This text is the translation of “Nefiste Çözülen Problemler ve Toplumun Islahı

The Luminous Spiritual Bonds between Muslims

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: As Bediüzzaman lists the drawbacks against Muslims’ progress in his famous Damascus Sermon, he refers to “not knowing the spiritual bonds that attach believers to one another” as an important reason. Could you elucidate “the spiritual bonds between believers”?

Answer: When Bediüzzaman gave the Damascus sermon, Muslims were going through the most disastrous period in our history. People turned out to be so inefficacious over the long years that they went rusty in the end; they were grimly atrophied in every way and Bediüzzaman sought the ways of revivifying them with all of their spiritual and material, or outward and inward, faculties. Instead of dispiriting people with mournful elegies, he strived to be a source of hope for lifeless willpowers at a time when people could not see any hope for the future and roared with statements such as: “Be hopeful; the highest and strongest voice in the changing world of the future will be the voice of universal truths.” I suppose expressing certain facts about hope as a new dawn breaks is not unwise, but it cannot be considered a great merit either. Real merit is being able to utter the words to invigorate people in a period without the slightest sign of dawn.

Bonds of Brotherhood as Many as the Divine Names

Nearly a century ago, Bediüzzaman gave a sermon in the Umayyad Mosque of Damascus. There, he firstly diagnosed the “diseases” that impede progress of Muslims, and then he presented the prescriptions needed for reviving the Islamic world. One of the most important diseases he diagnosed was the ignorance of the luminous spiritual bonds that attach the faithful. Accordingly, the solution he proposed was revivifying the understanding of unity and concord through a spirit of consultation. Actually, he briefly referred to this issue in The Damascus Sermon and expounded on it later in some letters1 and in the treatises he wrote On Sincerity and On Brotherhood. For example, in the treatise “On Brotherhood,” after stating that there are bonds of unity, agreement, and brotherhood between Muslims as many as the number of the Divine Names, he cited some of these shared bonds, such as having faith in God and the Prophet, the qiblah (direction of the Prayer), and the lands in which they live. By stating that the number of such bonds can be cited up to ten, a hundred, or a thousand, he drew attention to the significance of the issue. 

In one hadith, the most noble Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, stated that faith has more than sixty or seventy branches.2 It is possible to take this number as a round figure indicating a multitude. Every one of those branches is an unbreakable bond that attaches Muslims together. In the same way, each one of the truths stated by the Qur’an is a very powerful bond between Muslims.

On the other hand, when believers are taken as a community, it will be seen that they have so much in common. They are children of the same fate, same lands, same culture, and same moral upbringing. Within these common points, they underwent the same oppression, suffering, and condemnation. Thus, Bediüzzaman underlined how great a wrongdoing it is to present attitude and behaviors to cause disunity, hypocrisy, grudge, and enmity among believers in spite of having so many common points that necessitate unity, concord, love, and brotherhood.

Being Righteous Enough to Give up One’s Personal Conception of “Right”

Maintaining these spiritual bonds between believers without any harm depends on every individual’s being able to give up their personal conceptions, preferences, and judgments when needed; it depends on living in spite of oneself for the sake of finding common ground. If we put this from the perspective of Bediüzzaman again, if it is possible to agree on “good,” there is no point in raising disagreement for the sake of “better.” In other words, if seeking the better option will raise disagreement among Muslims, they should stop there and suffice with what is good, without generating any means of contradiction. We know that receiving Divine guidance and assistance depends on having unity and concord. Accordingly, the apparent “good” agreed upon by Muslims is better than the best in actual reality. For this reason, avoiding to make trivial matters into factors of disagreement bear utmost importance in terms of keeping up the spirit of brotherhood. Individuals should be able to give up their own priorities by taking others’ feelings into consideration and not let secondary matters result in disagreement.

For example, it is so important to observe the Prayer (salah) in compliance with its truth. As Imam Muhammed Lütfi Effendi of Alvar put it: “The Prayer is the main pillar and luminous light of the religion; the Prayer makes that ship carry on; the Prayer is the master of all the acts of worship…” The truth of Prayer is disregarding one’s selfhood and feeling one’s standing before the Divine presence, as if experiencing a journey of ascent to the Lord (miraj). In accordance with the scope of one’s horizons of spiritual knowledge (irfan), one must clear his or her heart from all considerations other than God while making the intention to pray. They must become oblivious of everything else and then they must establish the Prayer in a state of rapture, as if they were witnessing different manifestations in a different dimension. Most of us are unlettered ones, however. Therefore, the Prayer of such ordinary people is usually formalist and superficial. But it should never be forgotten that if somebody observes the Prayer in compliance with its conditions and requirements, they are considered to have fulfilled their duty with respect to its outward dimension, even if they did in a formalist fashion. At this point, it is decidedly wrong to adopt an accusing language and manner if a certain person does not observe the Prayer with its true meaning and essence. What needs to be done is to accept what happens as it is, even if it is formalist and superficial, and not create disagreement for the sake of targeting the most ideal. Otherwise, one can commit different kinds of ugly acts unintentionally while seeking the better or the best. And this means causing the Divine favor, support, and help to cease.

The same considerations are true for zakah (the prescribed alms). For example, for the sake of encouraging people to giving for the sake of God, you may see a zakah of one fortieth proportion as “penny-pincher’s alms” and tell people to give one twentieth, tenth, or fifth. Although this can be allowed in terms of encouraging more, if this attitude is to give way to disputes, you should suffice with the objective judgments of religion. In fact, when somebody from outside who wished to learn the religion came to the Messenger of God, he told the man to observe the Prayers and fasting, and give the prescribed alms. When the man said he would neither do less nor more, the Messenger of God stated that the man would be saved if he were telling the truth.3 This case is an example of the point we made. In this respect, if you take subjective standards of seeking the best and see it as the threshold of deliverance for all, you then distance other people with lower standards from you and deprive them certain good acts they possibly would have done. Perhaps, you might evoke a feeling of jealousy and envy towards yourself. You can compare other acts of worship and duties with what has been mentioned.

In conclusion, encouraging people to target high horizons is a different issue; narrowing down the matter only to a certain level is a completely different issue. If you really try to keep up within a certain horizon in terms of your heart and spirituality, then you should try calling others to it. But taking points of agreement as basis and knowing where to stop is more important. In this respect, we should always seek means of unity and agreement, and make every kind of sacrifice to maintain this spirit.

1. Apart from his book The Letters, Bediüzzaman’s correspondence with his students was compiled into separate volumes named after the places Kastamonu, Emirdağ, and Barla, where he spent many years in persecution, exile and imprisonment.
2. Sahih Muslim, Iman, 57
3. Sahih al-Bukhari, Ilm, 6

This text is the translation of “Nuranî Kardeşlik Bağları

True-Hearted, but Not a Chauvinist

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: Would you please explain the points that we need to be careful about while talking about certain spiritual guides who have a special place in our personal spiritual enlightenment, and thus whom we deeply love and respect?

Answer: As the believers strive to pour the inspirations of their soul into others’ hearts, they might sometimes have to express certain good things about the circle they are affiliated with. They must, however, definitely take into consideration the feelings of the people whose spirituality developed in a different lane. Others may tell or write about certain beauties they witnessed as becomes their understanding and style. However, a person with sound belief should never be chauvinistic or zealous and never make exaggerated statements about the people they love profoundly and respect deeply. If the points to be stated are not directly related to the spirit of religion but to secondary issues and details, and if stating them is likely to raise disagreements, then utmost sensitivity must be shown to avoiding talking about such issues.

A person may, for instance, be a very loyal follower of Sheikh Bahauddin Naqshbandi to such a degree that he or she may gladly be ready to sacrifice his or her life a thousand times for the sake of that blessed guide. However, there are different schools among the Naqshbandi order, such as the Mujaddidiyya, Khalidi, Kufrawi, and Taghi orders, and their followers might have some feeling of competing with one another (tanafus). Actually, tanafus does not mean competing with one another, but striving for more goodness with the consideration of “let me not fall behind the others on my path.” In other words, tanafus is a way of acting and competing for good, with the idea of not separating from fellow believers on the way to Paradise. But if one fails to hold this feeling in a balanced state, to maintain it, and in a way starts to abuse it, then it might give way to rivalry. Furthermore, the feeling of rivalry can turn into envy and intolerance. Such feelings are very dangerous for believers. For this reason, the believing souls should never narrow down issues to affiliation with certain groups in order to avoid provoking feelings of envy in those who walk on neighboring lanes; they should restrain their feelings for the sake of maintaining unity and concord among the wider circle of believers.

Steadfastness as the Greatest Rank

Indeed, what really matters is not following a certain person but being steadfast and true to the cause one’s guide tried to germinate by devoting his or her life to it, as people are mortal but the cause is everlasting. There is no title higher than being truthful. As revealed in a Qur’anic verse (an-Nisa 4:69), the truthful ones (who are loyal to God’s cause and truthful in whatever they do and say) come before martyrs and saintly ones. Abu Bakr, may God be pleased with him, is regarded as the greatest person after the Prophets and he was honorably referred by the Prophet as “The Truthful One.” In this respect, true wisdom is not to make exaggerated claims about the persons we love and respect by declaring them as Mahdi or Messiah, but to follow their example as much as possible on the path they walk.

Also, a person who claims to feel genuine and a great deal of attachment and love for a certain guide, but is not deeply saddened when remembering him, and does not shed tears after him, and does not open up his hands after performing one hundred cycles of Prayer at night and supplicate  “O Lord, resurrect me together with him!”, and most importantly, does not sacrifice whatever he has in the path of his guide and in the name of his sublime ideals, I believe he is not sincere in making such a claim. But this is only a criterion to be followed for the people themselves while making individual self-criticism, as we should not, indeed cannot, charge anybody with being insincere.

In addition, it also needs to be known that if you set to extoll the virtues of a certain guide, you might unintentionally provoke others and raise many different oppositions against him. We can even say that your exaggerated words, attitudes, and behaviors do not only provoke anti-religionist circles but also other circles of faithful ones. When you narrow down the issue to certain individuals, you even provoke other circles trying to serve faith and cause their ruin with the sin of envy. In this respect, let me reiterate that what really matters is not the individual himself but perfect loyalty to his cause.

Exaggerated Remarks as Harmful as Betrayal

Attributing good acts and achievements solely to people seeming on the fore, and thus making exaggerated statements about them, is evident injustice and wrongdoing. If there is any success and achievement, it is a Divine bestowal for the sake of the collective spirit. Therefore, ascribing all the services carried out to the ones seeming on the fore is both a grave disrespect toward God—that might lead to associating partners with Him—and unfairness toward the efforts of other people who exert themselves for His sake.

As for seeming on the fore, we should never forget that we are brothers and sisters. Some people may have come earlier and thus have been placed in certain positions in the first ranks as a dictated Divine blessing—that is, Divine destiny may have decreed certain people to come to this world earlier; nobody can determine the time of his or her birth. Therefore, preceding others in time cannot be criterion for absolute value. The noble Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, stated that those who do not show compassion to the young and those who do not respect the elderly are not one of his followers. Accordingly, we always respect the elderly. However, this does not mean attributing titles to them that they are not eligible to bear and singing their praises near others with exaggerated statements. For example, those who learned truths of faith from the students of Bediüzzaman, such as Hulusi Yahyagil and Tahiri Mutlu, may their abode be Paradise, can view those righteous people as the qutbs, or the axes of the spiritual hierarchy. However, if they express their feelings about these people and their master chauvinistically, it will be a betrayal to the cause of those great guides.

In our time as well, there may be certain volunteers who migrated to different parts of the world and made important achievements. Even if it is based on innocent and sincere thoughts, speaking too highly of those persons under different spiritual titles will be a betrayal against the Movement of Volunteers as a whole, because this means forming new opposition groups envious of their achievements. People who are unaware of your sincerity may exceed all bounds of fairness and respond by making unbecoming claims. You cannot hold others’ tongues. However, you can willfully save your own tongue from exaggerated and chauvinistic statements. I find this issue extremely significant to the future of the Volunteers’ Movement. For this reason, I believe in the importance of constant and overall counseling on this issue. In some respects, this can be seen as one of the requisites of serving on this path.

Seeing Oneself as “Nothing within Nothing”

Additionally, when you come together with the believers who serve on other lanes, it is very important to refer to the people whom they respect by expressing their virtues and appreciating them—if you show respect, you will be shown respect. But if you give in to narrow-mindedness and only speak of love for your own way, you distance others from yourself and raise negative reactions against the circle you are affiliated with. People who cherish deep love for their own path and seek to make others love it must consider whether this can best be accomplished by emphasizing only the people from their own circle or by appreciating others and feeling respect for them.

In conclusion, even though we walk on different lanes for the sake of upholding the truth, as fellow believers we resemble bearers of a lofty treasure, each of who holds it from one side. Making a remark such as, “This person bears the heaviest side of this treasure,” is not at all sensible as it might evoke feelings of rivalry. If it really is the truth, God Almighty will already give him the greatest reward. But if we sing the praises of certain people from among us in this world, we will have both committed the sin of associating partners with God—by ascribing Divine works to certain individuals—and sabotage the spirit of concord and unity. In fact, people whose primary concern is upholding the belief in the Unity of God and fighting against the idea of associating partners with God should avoid the slightest trace of what they fight against. God Almighty is the One who brings everything to existence. In the Qur’an, He declares that it is He who created us and our actions (see as-Saffat 37:96). Therefore, the notion of “I did it! I made it!” is an anathema that Greek philosophy inflicted upon Muslims. We need to rid ourselves completely from all such things and subscribe to a thorough understanding of Divine Unity.

A person’s conception of himself or herself vis-à-vis God Almighty is an important essential for attaining Divine Unity by attributing everything to the Almighty God. As Bediüzzaman states in the conclusion of “The Twenty-Sixth Word,” you must say: “O my arrogant carnal soul. Do not be proud of your services to God’s religion. As stated in a Prophetic Tradition,1 God may strengthen this religion by means of a dissolute person. You are not pure, so regard yourself as that dissolute person.” With this example, he reveals how he sees himself as nothing and teaches a lesson on how we should view ourselves. Likewise, he addresses his carnal soul in “The Eighteenth Word”: “Do not say: ‘I am an object of Divine manifestations. One who receives and reflects Divine beauty becomes beautiful.’ That beauty has not assumed a perpetual form in you, and so you may reflect it for only a short time.” Given that such a great guide sees himself as nothing, what befalls upon us is to see ourselves as “nothing within nothing.”

1. Sahih al-Bukhari, Jihad, 182

This text is the translation of “Hamaset ve Sadakat

Temporary Retreats in Serene Corners and Reading Sessions

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: People of the modern age who feel suffocated in the hectic flow of daily life feel a need for a quiet corner, a haven of peace they can take refuge in. The believing souls like to organize occasional retreats in serene corners for the sake of a refreshment of their heart and spirituality. What are your suggestions to benefit from these retreats most efficiently?

Answer: Everybody has certain responsibilities to fulfill in the society. If believers wish to be beneficial for the society, guide the people they address to a certain lofty horizon, and let others feel their values profoundly, then they have to live among other people. A person with sound belief in God and the Day of Judgment must live among other members of the society and become a compass of truth and righteousness. The Pride of Humanity, peace and blessings be upon him, stated that a Muslim who lives in the society and endures the troubles from others is better than one who does not.1 Accordingly, a permanent retreat will mean escaping from one’s responsibilities to be carried out in the society. For this reason, even though it is done for the sake of personal spiritual progress, a person who escapes from these responsibilities will commit a sin, because what matters in Islam is maintaining one’s connection with the Almighty while living among others and striving to serve humanity.

However, it is a reality that while we are among others for the sake of lofty ideals, sometimes we face certain undesired situations—to such a degree that we might walk on mud unawares and get our skirts spattered with mud. Without even realizing it, our eyes and ears may have been polluted in the societal life; improper situations may have violated the purity of our inner world.

So, those who forbear many negative effects for the sake of their high ideals need purification from pollutant exposures in the societal life; they need to (allocate a period of time to spend in a quiet place for the sake of a refreshment of their heart and spirituality,) retreat to a clean atmosphere, fill their lungs with fresh air, and thus recharge themselves. In my opinion, all of the discussions and reading sessions oriented toward this goal can be regarded as a kind of worship.

However, there is one point to be careful about: people who retreat to those serene havens, which entail certain troubles and incur certain expenses, should make the most of the retreat without wasting a second. They must organize a program with disciplined reading sessions and bring life to it with remembrance and glorifications of God. Through the spirit of collective consciousness, heartfelt remembrance and glorifications of God must make up such choruses, such symphonies to make the heavens and the earth vibrant that even the inhabitants of heavens should wish to join them.

An Atmosphere Open to Spirituality

During the summer programs that we held many years ago, the recitations of the Qur’an, prayers and litanies recited by our friends, each of whom withdrew to a corner for nocturnal devotions, moved me so much. At the same time, they would read an average of 200-300 pages on truths of faith during the day and discuss different issues. In addition, conditions were so simple. For example, people would sleep on mats made of straw. This humble servant cooked the meal and served it. Once, an important guest witnessed that atmosphere and remarked, “This must be the best place in the world to feel true spirituality.” He attended the program the following year as well.

At the same time, in those pure environments we had better face ourselves and look critically at what we have thus far done with the intent of serving for the sake of God. We need to see our mistakes and make a self-criticism about where we stand and where we should stand. We need to make a resolution for journeying in the orbit of the heart and spirit by turning our backs on physicality and the animal side, and try to steer toward spiritual courses. For the sake of clarification, let me relate a consideration at this point: during those summer retreats, I thought of telling our friends to observe a hundred units of supererogatory Prayer every night. But I hesitated, wondering whether it would be too difficult of a task for them. When we view the lives of great spiritual masters, however, it is seen that they observed a hundred units of Prayers each and every night, even at very young ages. In this respect, those who are able to do so should observe a hundred units of Prayer every night, if possible. They should benefit from the mysterious and somber silent hours of the night in the best way with devotions by entreating and asking forgiveness from God, along with certain remembrances and recitations.

The Great Works Victimized by Indifference and Benefits of Comparative Reading

For the sake of making good use of those temporary retreats, one should try to read 300 pages of religious books a day, if possible. If this target can be realized, a person who joins a 15-day retreat program will be able to read 4500 pages in total. If such programs can be held twice a year, it will allow a great deal of reading in terms of being nourished by Islamic sources.

In addition, it will be very beneficial to read the essential books of religion and spirituality by comparing them with other works, which will greatly help breaking the monotony. Realization of this depends on collective acceptance. Therefore, those who try to initiate such activities of comparative reading should know that they will find it a bit difficult at the beginning until they rid themselves from old styles and habits. But there is another thing to keep in mind—people should adjust themselves according to the ones supposed to guide them. If those who walk in front consider this a matter of serious concern and persevere in practicing it, others will follow them in doing the same. Unfortunately, our friends have fallen into the clutches of a narrow minded consideration of reading through those precious works in a shallow fashion—without making an effort of gaining insight into their true depth. Since no method of reflective, pensive and comparative reading had been established, reading that treasure of jewels is being taken for granted and is now seen as an ordinary task. I think that the authors of those works feel heartbroken toward us.

Let me state one final point: maintaining such purity in a quiet place, be it only temporary, will serve as a protective shield with respect to the participants’ later societal life. It is a reality that Muslim society has never been this polluted in history. The streets are dirty; downtown is dirty; courtyards of the mosque are dirty, and educational institutions are dirty… So in terms of leading the rest of one’s life in a pure and virtuous line, I believe it is very important to be purified from all of the dirt and become oriented toward purity, feel purity, and invigorate with it once more.

In addition, seeking refuge in the Divine Will through prayers and remembrance is a mysterious source of power that brings one under His protection. God Almighty commands: “… always remember and make mention of Me (when service to Me is due) so that I may remember and make mention of you (when judgment and recompense are due)” (al-Baqarah 2:152). Accordingly, if we remember God Almighty with glorifications and praise and proclaim His greatness, He will remember us and see us through hard times. It is also possible to understand this verse thus: “You turn toward Me by acknowledging your impotence and poverty, so that I support you with My Power.” This agreement is actually a mode of manifestation of Divine blessings. That is, God Almighty addresses us as if we are one of the parties of an agreement and says, “You do this, and I will do that.”

In conclusion, we all need temporary isolations in order to clean our eyes, ears, and tongue from sins, purify our hearts, and recharge our spirituality. However, minds should focus on reading and hearts should be immersed in the remembrance of God at such gatherings; things related to worldly fancies should not be spoken in lieu of sublime issues.

1. Sunan at-Tirmidhi, Qiyamah, 55

This text is the translation of “Asude Mekânlar ve Okuma Programları

Keeping up Sincerity of Intention and Having a Consciousness of Self-Criticism

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: What are the points of consideration in terms of keeping up sincerity in our intentions?

Answer: In order to gain the good pleasure of God Almighty, it is very important for a person to say what they are saying sincerely and do what they are doing sincerely. Because, if deeds are like a body, sincerity is like the soul; if deeds are like a wing, sincerity is the other wing. Neither can a body live without a soul, nor can a wing function without the other. A word uttered or an action realized sincerely is so precious in the sight of God that angels take that word to their mouths and include it in their habitual prayers; spirit beings keep reciting it as if it were a phrase of glorifying God. If the words coming out of one’s mouth are the true voice of his or her heart, then those words make their way from mouth to mouth until they reach the Holy Sphere (Hazirat al-Quds). In addition, it needs to be known that as far as such words uttered sincerely remain in memories, the Divine reward for the goodness keeps flowing into the speaker’s record of good, righteous deeds, and thus every word uttered gains infinity through their replicas.

Spoiling Good, Righteous Deeds by Revealing Them Sanctimoniously

However, if someone adds a personal emphasis on his or her good act by the tone of voice, facial gestures, and other sanctimonious attitudes, that person becomes a loser on a ground of winning and becomes deprived of the abundant reward in consequence.

For example, the Daily Prayers are an exalted form of worship that takes one’s journey through the skies of infinity. It is so wonderful to glorify the greatness of God at bowing and prostration, and to praise the Lord while rising from bowing; the Prayer is such a laudable form of good, righteous deed. However, if a thought such as, “Let others also hear how I am glorifying Allah in the bowing and prostration positions,” passes the mind of the person at the Prayer, the glorification will be ruined; the words will become lifeless, and that beautiful act of worship will be turned into a movement devoid of spirit and a title without meaning. If one holds any consideration of showing off to others, even one percent of weight, he or she expels the spirit of those words and let it fly away.

You can evaluate all acts of worship, such as making the (first and second) calls to Prayer, reciting a portion from the Qur’an during the Prayer, and the recitations and prayers made right after the Prayer within this frame. It should be kept in mind, however, that tuning into the inner voice and musicality of the Qur’anic verses recited during the Prayer, thereby letting oneself into that stream naturally, and trying to impress others by showing off with their vocal skills are two completely different things. It should be known that a person who shadows his deeds with his ego, in a way, allocates a share for himself from what belongs to God, proportional with the degree of this shadowing. This resembles breaking the wings of a bird, and thus preventing that good deed to take wing to the realms beyond.

Therefore, a person must consider his or her sincerity in all he or she does. With the condition of not becoming a negative example, one must look simple when viewed from the outside. That is, one must be unpretentious and look like a simple hut, but should be more dazzling and noble than the greatest palaces with respect to his or her inner world.

Self-Criticism as a Shield

 Believers need to see themselves so lowly to the degree of saying, “How surprising, when I view my inner world, I consider myself as a person who fell from level of humanity to that of animals. But as a Divine favor, God still lets me continue my life in human form.” As for their contribution to the services carried out for the sake of God, they should say, “I could have used these opportunities granted by God Almighty in the best way and exerted myself to tell the truths of faith to others. But I haven’t been able to make efficient use of these opportunities for His sake; I wasted them. For this reason, I am a contemptible person who has not been faithful toward Islam and the Qur’an. I feel surprised that I did not turn to stone.” They must come to grips with their carnal soul and continuously be at its throat. Seeing oneself in such a low position triggers a wish for spiritual progress as well. If seekers of perfection wish to reach higher levels, they need to see themselves as being in a lower position than they are. Also, journey to the Infinite One is infinite. God Almighty has revealed for us the horizons of perfection and completeness: “This day I have perfected for you your Religion (with all its rules, commandments and universality), completed My favor upon you” (al-Maedah 5:3). We must become insatiable journeyers on the path to infinity in such a way that, even if God Almighty openly grants us Divine love in a bowl in a miraculous way without or beyond any manner and measure, we would still be asking for more and more of it. Attaining such perfection and completeness depends on constant self-criticism. Otherwise, those who perceive themselves as already perfected individuals and who act as if further progress is not possible will be condemned to remain where they are; it is impossible for such people to taste and thus become acquainted with perfection.

In addition, there is another negative side of not facing oneself: a person who does not make self-criticism begins busying himself with a fruitless concern about others’ shortcomings unawares that he is doing so. And if the pride of being affiliated with a certain group adds to one’s personal arrogance, that person has a greater risk to become a loser. As Bediüzzaman emphasizes, communal arrogance gives strength to personal arrogance. Therefore, it can be said that communal arrogance is a fatal and destructive calamity of great danger. The way to be saved from all of such dangers is to constantly face oneself and make self-criticism.

For example, God Almighty may grant one man the opportunity to carry out very important services in different parts of the world. Indeed, this man may have conquered the hearts of all people in a place and may have realized a breakthrough in knowledge and spirituality there. But our consideration in the face of such achievements must always be: “Since I have been in charge, so many other things have not been completed. Had it been for another one enlightened in heart and mind, God knows how the services here would have further flourished. I wish the services had not been narrowed down or hindered because of me.” This must be the true spirit of self-criticism that journeyers to God must possess.

In fact, avoiding a stumble and fall in the face of praises and flattery depends upon maintaining a practice of self-criticism. That is, a person must criticize himself several times a day, keep himself under self-surveillance, and adjust his relationship with God Almighty, accordingly. Thus, even if others sing his praises and extol his virtues, he still says, “I know myself. This can be an intervention of Satan here,” thereby saving himself from giving into pride and arrogance.

May God fill all of our hearts with such a high consciousness of self-criticism. May He enable us to give the due of the duties He granted us as a blessing! Amin!

This text is the translation of “Niyet İbresi ve Muhasebe Şuuru

Chastity of Thoughts

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: Could you please elucidate the phrases “purity of ideas” or “chastity of thoughts” which you draw upon from time to time?

Answer: Thought and action are the two most important dynamics that show us the way to truly exist, help us stay as ourselves in the face of fierce storms, and help us change ourselves in the progressive sense. Although thought in its general meaning comes before actions, a certain thought with its intricate and detailed meanings develops within the very process of (putting it into) action. That is, a person can concentrate on a certain subject first, give much thought to it, and try to fathom it correctly. However, only after putting the issue into real life practice will one gain further insight into it, accept and accommodate themselves to it, and found it on a sound basis. This is because implementing what one has thought about will make one face some new situations which will, in turn, lead to deeper thoughts on the issue, and thus the general ideas at the beginning will rest upon unshakable grounds. So be it in a general context or a specific one with lots of details, the most important essential we need to pursue in all of our intentions and thoughts is “purity of ideas.” In this respect, we need to remain faithful to the purity of ideas, seeing it as part of our very character, and protect it under our wings against all odds.

Sound Thoughts Produce Sound Conduct

It is possible that some people may adopt negative opinion and attitudes toward us, but others’ wrong attitudes should never lead us to reflect back a similar sort of attitude. Wherever we stand with respect to our essential values, we need to stand our ground against all odds. Otherwise, once our thoughts and feelings begin to waver according to others’ attitudes and behaviors, the wavering will continue and eventually take us off the righteous course. What we need to do, however, is not even let others distract and keep us busy—let alone taking us off course—and try to keep away from every kind of influence that might serve as a provocative factor against our course and our stream of thought. We should know that the real purpose of provocations is to avert the volunteers devoted to high ideals from their path and make them change course, not with the purpose of achieving something else but for achieving this very end.

For this reason, representatives of sound thinking should never change in the face of the inconsistent and baseless claims made by others—of course with the exception of making legal claims by appealing and refuting in order to protect one’s reputation against defamation and using their lawful right to sue them for slander and other violation of rights—and always try to keep up their purity and innocence. We need to think straight at all the times so that the actions we are to build on those thoughts are right and straight. Otherwise, if we move away to one side with every storming wind, we might lose track, fall to other trails, becoming adrift in the end.

Those Who Think Positively Take Delight in Their Lives

The Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, once stated that a believer’s silence should be reflection (tafakkur) and his speaking should be wisdom.”1 Taking this radiant statement into consideration, we can say that thinking,  imagining, and shooting for good things will be counted as worship for a believer. Even though busying ourselves with seemingly impossible thoughts normally means wasting our energy, if a person cherishes a wish to transform the color and pattern of the world into a more beautiful and vivid one, I think even the dreams and imaginings of that person will take on a hue of worship. Thus, what befalls on believers is to become oriented to such beautiful considerations and lead their lives accordingly. In one of the epigrams at the end of The Letters, Bediüzzaman states: “Those who attend to the good side of everything contemplate the good; those who contemplate the good enjoy life.” Therefore, someone’s turning his life into a delightful melody and spending his life as if he were walking through the corridors of Paradise depends on his thinking beautifully. However, one’s thoughts also could take people to negative ways, such as hedonism and bohemianism, unless he uses it in a positive way. Also, even imaginings and conceptions that are not channeled toward goodness can make one face such negativities. For this reason, believers must continuously be preoccupied with thoughts that take root in their values, overflow with them, continuously read and think, and feed on their essential sources without leaving any voids in their life. At the same time, they must give their willpower its due to such an extent that they always remain close to the feelings and thoughts that are not granted a visa by their pure conscience. If they are prone to negative winds in spite of all their efforts, they should—as advised by the Messenger of God—try to free themselves from that atmosphere immediately. Otherwise, a person who sets sail into dreams that might corrupt the purity of his mind sometimes may go too far and not have the opportunity to return to the shore (of safety). Therefore, if one does not control the feelings of grudge, hatred, vengeance, and lust, they might break down barriers and thereby cause them to take wrong decisions and commit evil acts. One must give their willpower its due on one hand and ask protection from God on the other. Those who can achieve this will lead their lives in a greenhouse of Divine protection. But still one should never forget that even the most upright people might topple over, and thus we must never give up our vigilance. When we stumble and lose our balance, we must turn to our Lord and ardently pray like our forefather Prophet Adam did: “Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves, and if You do not forgive us and do not have mercy on us, we will surely be among those who have lost,” (al-A’raf 7:23) then straighten up, and turn toward Him again. 

Desires and Fancies in Guise of Ideas

 Another point to raise in terms of chastity of thoughts is that there is always the possibility of desires and fancies masquerading as ideas to misguide a person. The touchstone to distinguish desires and fancies from true ideas is the religious criteria. For example, if you feel enraged when someone’s words and attitudes bother you, you first need to determine whether there is anything that goes against the Truth. If this is not the case, it means that you are getting angry in the name of your carnal self, which shows that the angered reaction stems from personal desires and fancies. The criterion to use in the face of evil as decreed in the Qur’an is to “repel evil with what is better (or best)” (Fussilat 41:34). Accordingly, if someone does evil to you, the primary response towards him or her must be a smiling face intended to defuse the intensity of their strong dislike and malice. But if the evil in question is directly related to sacred values or public interest, as an individual, we do not have the right to forgive his or her act; one can only forgive and show tolerance towards violations against his or her personal rights. God Almighty did not assign anybody as a substitute authorized to forgive violations of His rights. No one should dare make such claims, which are clearly disrespectful of God’s rights.

Getting back to our main subject, desires and fancies with no sound base sometimes present themselves in the guise of ideas and try to misguide people, in cooperation with the devil and our carnal soul. One might commit certain wrongs in consequence. You can clearly see this on some debate programs where people try to outwit one another. As if they are fixed on controversy, they always try to say the opposite of what the people before them say, not caring whether it is right or wrong. Let us suppose that one of the people with whom such a person argues says, “Now I am going to show you, by God’s grace and permission, a way directly leading to Paradise.” If the gates of Paradise miraculously and suddenly appear wide open before him and enable him to see the wonderful blessings beyond imagination, he will still say, “No, we do not want to enter Paradise. We are trying to win here, and you are trying to stop us and push us to inactivity.” That is, such a person will try to respond with demagogy even against the most plausible words and thoughts. Such words actually stem from one’s desires and fancies and are uttered under the influence of the devil. However, people mistake all of them as stemming from their own thoughts and ideas.

Sometimes, people from among believers can also fall for this trap of the devil and carnal soul. When you ask help from such a person, he might say that he needs to stay where he is so that he can guide many others, attempting to hide his desire for spending more time with his family and enjoying worldly life under the guise of altruism. However, a sincere believer burns with a desire for reunion with God, overflows with a desire for meeting the noble Prophet, and wishes to sit at the table of the Rightly Guided Caliphs and share their atmosphere. In spite of these feelings, a sincere believer watches his step and says: “My God, I do not know whether I served my time in this world or not. Therefore, I am afraid of committing disrespect towards You.” The conscience is a very important reference point here. For this reason, one must always judge the words one utters with his or her conscience and seek its righteous counseling at every choice and decision made. If someone can achieve this, he or she will be saved from confusing fancies with guidance and carnal desires with commonsense.

1. Daylami, Al-Musnad, 1/421

This text is the translation of “Fikir İffeti

Worldly Means and the Criteria for Planning the Future

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: The Messenger of God enjoined being like a stranger or traveler in this fleeting world. Some Muslims of the early period regarded even planning what to eat the following day as a form of cherishing long-term worldly objectives and delusion of eternity. Considering the conditions of our time, however, making certain plans about the future is deemed as necessary, particularly at issues such as choosing which schools to attend and what profession to learn. How can we strike the balance at making plans for the future?

Answer: As it has been mentioned in the question as well, the noble Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, did enjoin being like a stranger (gharib) or traveler (abiru sabil) in this world.1 The term “gharib” used in the Prophetic saying denotes a person who somehow leaves his or her hometown and migrates to somewhere else, thereby staying there for a while as a guest, and who has thus no deep relation with the things and people around. And the other term or phrase is “abiru sabil.” The root of the first word is ubur, which denotes journeying or crossing a road. As a matter of fact, every individual is a “traveler” journeying from the mother’s womb to childhood, from there to youth, maturity, to old age… from there to the grave—an intermediate realm between this world and the next, and finally (rise up from the grave to go) to the Plain of Great Gathering for judgment. Thus, the beloved Prophet counsels taking the journey of worldly life as if passing from one side of the road to the other.

The noble Prophet pointed to this same fact another time when he rested on a plain rough mat, which made marks on his body. With eyes full of tears, Umar ibn al-Khattab mentioned how the Sassanid and Roman kings lived (in luxury) and implied that the Prophet could benefit from worldly blessings. It is reported that the Messenger of God replied that he did not have anything to do with this world. The noble Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, compared his position in this guesthouse of the world to a traveler who takes shade under a tree for a while and then continues on his way.2 All of us know that had he wished so, the Companions would have brought anything they could find to make him feel comfortable. However, the Pride of Humanity, peace and blessings be upon him, likened himself to someone who stops temporarily under a tree for a rest and then goes on his journey, and this was the scope of his relation to the worldly life. He maintained this understanding until his blessed soul passed to the next world.

Fortunes Spent for the Sake of God
When the issue is seen with a holistic view and the commands of religion are taken as a whole, we understand that the noble Prophet does not tell us to absolutely neglect the world, but rather to refrain from indulging in worldliness in pursuit of lowly pleasures and delights. The following verse, for example, decrees that the Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, is authorized to handle one-fifth of war gains: “And know that whatever you take as gains of war, to God belongs one fifth of it, and to the Messenger, and the near kinsfolk, and orphans, and the destitute, and the wayfarer (one devoid of sufficient means of journeying)” (al-Anfal 8:41). Even if the noble Prophet chose to take only one tenth out of the one fifth of the war gains for himself, he could have led a very prosperous life and lived in palaces. However, he preferred to lead his blessed life in a little cell instead. It was so little that, as his wife Aisha reported, when the Messenger of God stood in the Prayer at night and before prostration, he would touch his hand to the feet of Aisha, and only after our blessed mother receded her feet did he have enough space to prostrate.3 Imagine, he could not even find sufficient room for prostrating in his cell—let our souls be sacrificed for that cell. However, as we take into consideration the riches allocated to his use we see that he had the means to equip an entire army. He spent them for the sake of God and preferred to live an austere life. In terms of his personal life and abstention from worldly pleasures, he acted in such a careful, cautious, and measured way that he fulfilled the due of the virtuous conduct God Almighty demanded from him: “Pursue, then, what is exactly right (in every matter of the Religion) as you are commanded (by God)” (Hud 11:112).

The Representatives of Dignified Contentment (Istighna)
Undoubtedly, the Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, was a transcendent person with respect to his relation with God, his position, state, profundity, and immensity. He had such a lofty and different nature that he expressed how he felt delight in worship, as other people take delight in physical pleasures. To relieve his aching for worshipping his Lord, the Prophet would frequently ask his wives to be excused and get up in the middle of the night to be nourished from the fount of worship and devotion. In this respect, let alone comparing him to ourselves, even comparing him with the Companions is not right: no other person can be compared to him. And I dare say that even comparing the Archangel Gabriel with him is a mistake. As an angel, Gabriel did not bear any burdens related to carnal desires and physicality. In spite of bearing the burdensome side of human nature, the Prophet was far beyond angels in spiritual progress. It is for this reason that as the Prophet, millions of blessings and peace be upon him, returned from the Ascension back to live among us, he descended from his high horizons to the level of ours to convey objective truths for our understanding and spiritual life. When we look into the matter within these criteria, although nobody can be compared to him, we can say that believers should lead their personal lives in dignified contentment, in compliance with his teaching. Indeed, all the great figures who were true to his path preferred to live this way. For example, if you study the life of Bediüzzaman, you see that dignified contentment is one of the important principles he held throughout his life. He would sometimes spend his days on his little platform on a tree; sometimes he would stay in the mountains for months, and sometimes he resided in a wood cabin, which was not really suitable for habitation. In short, he preferred to live a very austere life until the end of his life. Actually, not only people from the Muslim tradition, but also followers of others teachings who changed the fate of the societies to which they belonged, similarly lived a life of dignified contentment. In this respect, we can say that such virtues, which can be taken as a sign of greatness with respect to universal human values, are the same in almost everyone, but with one difference—in believing hearts, this virtue is more soundly established and it promises permanence, because they have Divine approval behind them. For some others, even though they temporarily possess virtues becoming of believers such as dignified contentment, self-sacrifice, and altruism, they do not necessarily promise continuity and permanence. And one thing that needs to be known is that God Almighty grants success in this world to anyone who possesses characteristics and qualities becoming of believers, because He treats His servants according to their good character and conduct. Therefore, even if someone is a saint flying miraculously in the air, God Almighty will not treat him in a way that becomes true believers, given that he acts in a lethargic or lazy way, or becomes a selfish one who runs after personal benefits; those who act thus fail to fulfill the meaning of being human in the true sense. Indulging in worldliness, leading a physical-oriented life, and acting upon animal desires are unacceptable for a believer, who should be proceeding toward realizing the God-given spiritual potential for human perfection. Obviously, such a lifestyle is not the way of the Prophet.

The Way to Eternalize Transient Means
Surely, today’s believers need not push aside everything about the world and live like ascetic dervishes in retreat. This is contradictory to the ideal of becoming a powerful community upholding justice; Muslims must try to have worldly means as much as they can. However, they must make use of the means they acquire in a benevolent way to eternalize them. At this point, I would like to express a feeling of mine: sometimes I imagine and wish that when I step into the room I find a great amount of money, out of nowhere, and distribute it to the people volunteering for benevolent services for humanity so that they can establish schools and cultural centers in different corners of the world and thus conquer hearts of people. This is just a dream of course. Since it is a dream, I realize no practical goodness with it. But let me point out that if such a dream did not belong to me but to a friend of mine, and if he shared this consideration with me, I would tell him that even such an imaginary action can bring you manifold rewards and blessings to be gained at worship. Sharing the inspirations of our heart with others, illuminating worlds with the torch in our hand, taking the beauties we learn from the Prophet to everywhere the sun shines upon, exerting ourselves with this thought, and becoming oriented to such a lofty goal even in our dreams are all very important.

Returning back to our main subject, though, let us reiterate that as far as worldly means are used correctly, there is nothing wrong with having them. However, adoration for  one’s worldly goods, status, home, children, or carnal pleasures as if one worships them, leads a person toward worldly and otherworldly disaster. A person must adore and worship God Almighty only and love anything else solely for His sake. He must be the One to be remembered at the beginning and end of something and everything must be attached to Him. Otherwise, when we act in the name of physicality and our carnal side, everything will be condemned to our own narrowness and it will mean wasting ourselves and our God-given spiritual potential. A human being, who is as worthy as all the worlds and who is endowed with a vast potential to ascend to otherworldly ranks as great as the earth and sky, should not be condemned to such narrowness I think. One the contrary, he or she must run after eternity and seek His good pleasure all the time—so much so that a title of “conqueror” should not be anything desirable as far as it does not take one to God, as such a thing does not bear any meaning on its own. What makes an action valuable is the depth of a person’s sincere intention. An accomplishment will be truly valuable as far as it is meant to gain the rewards heralded by the noble Prophet, to hold Islam in esteem, and to share the values we learn from the Prophet with the entire world.

Intention as a Determining Factor
The same point holds true for the efforts directed to graduating from certain schools and performing certain jobs. In other words, if a person wishes to do something for the sake of their lofty ideals and pass through certain stages, they will naturally carry out what they need to do. For example, a student who wishes to have a good education must say, “I cannot go to the university without finishing high school. I cannot reach a good position to serve my people without finishing the university. I cannot be welcomed and respected without having such means to serve others. And if I do not become worthy of respect, I cannot do anything serious for the sake of my people and lofty ideals.” And a student must make such an intention from the very beginning.

We cannot stop ourselves from questioning previous generations and blaming them for having failed to see certain things, leaving gaps in certain fields, and losing continuously. But if we do not wish the next generation to question us in the same way, we must exert ourselves to fill the gaps left by the earlier ones and not let new gaps appear. We have to take certain pains in order not to receive righteous criticism from our children and grandchildren. What needs to be done first is to have a strong faith and to try not having any flaws in our worship, and then to attach everything we do to a sincere and sound intention. If this can be realized, a person’s studying at high school, finishing the university, and every other achievement they plan to do will be counted as worship and gain them blessings; because, whatever is the intention of attaining a goal, the means used to obtain it will assume the hue of that very intention. In this respect, everything that is done must be woven according to the pattern of a sound intention.

In conclusion, true believers never do—and must not do—anything in order to receive praise from others or for worldly concerns. They always strive for conveying the heavenly values distilled from their spiritual roots to others and make continuous efforts so that the representatives of these high values gain an esteemed status in the world. For this sake, they sometimes face difficulties, experience pain, and bend in two with suffering. But they know that their troubles and suffering for the sake of a sublime ideal will gain them so many blessings that such progress could not be attained even through a process of spiritual journeying.

1. Sahih al-Bukhari, Riqaq, 3
2. Sunan at-Tirmidhi, Zuhd, 44
3. Sahih al-Bukhari, Salat, 22

This text is the translation of “Dünyevî İmkânlar ve Geleceği Planlamada Ölçü

Our Era and the Ways Leading to God

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question:What are the points of consideration for the people of the contemporary age striving to remove the barriers between people and God and thus let their hearts meet the Truth, particularly in terms of a spirit of unity and togetherness?

Answer: Until our time, different ways, methods, and means have been tried in the name of reflecting the very spirit and essence of the perspicuous religion of Islam through various paths and practices. For example, the path followed by the Naqshbandi order is formulated as follows:

“On the path of Naqshbandi, there are four things to turn your back on:
the world, the Hereafter, your existence, and the idea of renunciation.”

This means that four things must be renounced to take the Naqshbandi path. The first two are renouncing this world and the next. That is, initiates of this path must first push aside the temptations of this world; second, they should never attach their worship to a consideration such as, “Let me observe worship, so that I can go to Paradise.” This is because the real reason for worship is the Divine commandment and its outcome is the good pleasure of God. In this respect, believers must move their shuttle between the commandment and good pleasure of God and weave their lives accordingly; they must work such a beautiful pattern that even the angels would admire it.

Third, a traveler on this path must also renounce himself, or more precisely, his carnal soul, taking a stance against its never-ending demands and fancies, in addition to adopting an absolute attitude of dignified contentment (ghina) towards everyone but God. Finally, the journeyer must renounce even the very idea of having renounced all of these, in order to avoid feelings of pride and self-appreciation. When a thought such as, “I am a hero of such and such renunciation” passes their mind or even imagination, they must seek purification by asking forgiveness from God.

The Characteristics of an Era of Arrogance

In our time, however, arrogance has become widespread and people act upon egotistic motives. Therefore, it might be difficult to maintain such an advanced degree of renunciation; it is probably with this concern that Bediüzzaman presented an alternative approach in “The Fourth Letter” in his Letters where he says:

“The path of helplessness takes consciousness of four things:
poverty, helplessness, thankfulness, and enthusiasm in the absolute sense.”

On this way or path, therefore, depending on one’s perception of his or her nothingness, the following four things are necessary: perception and admission of one’s absolute poverty (faqr) vis-à-vis the Divine Riches, of absolute helplessness (ajz) vis-à-vis the Divine Power, of absolute gratitude or thankfulness to God (shukr), and of absolute enthusiasm (shawq) in His cause:

Thus, Bediüzzaman stresses the importance of adhering to these four essentials in our time. That is, one must first perceive and admit their helplessness and adopt the understanding: “I cannot do anything unless God wills.” In the same way, believers on this path must see themselves essentially so poor that they become aware that whatever they possess is granted by God Almighty. In spite of their helplessness and poverty, they must be filled with gratitude before the Divine blessings and favors so generously granted, and they must strive to let everyone’s hearts feel God Almighty with never-ending ardor, energy, and enthusiasm. In the “Addendum of the Twenty-sixth Word” in his Words, Bediüzzaman lists the essentials of his path (by switching the last two) as “helplessness, poverty, compassion, and reflection (tafakkur),” which indicates that the system he put forth has six different depths. In my opinion, these considerations of that great master, which convince the reason and satisfy the hearts of contemporary people, are very important points that need to be pondered. Nevertheless, so many people who benefited from his works feel obliged to him for having let their hearts feel the truth of Divinity, setting a throne for the Prophet in them, and for having presented the truth of resurrection and afterlife to cognitions nearly with the certainty of eye witnessing, by God’s permission and grace. Actually, expressing this indebtedness to such people is a duty. It is stated by the Messenger of God that one who does not thank people, does not thank God either.1 Then one must possess a character of offering thanks and a feeling of gratitude. Therefore, people who attained the blessing of knowing God, the Prophet, and life after death through the works of that person will naturally have deeper respect for him. However, this respect should not give way to taking pride in being affiliated with a certain religious group and growing arrogant; it should not lead to excessive approaches about him. There are so many people walking on other lanes of the great highway of Islam who attain true faith, salvation, and good pleasure of God by means of the lane on which they proceed. For this reason, expressing gratitude should not be turned into an advertisement and show of the achievements of a certain group; narrow-mindedness, which stems from self-admiration, should be avoided. Means and ends (or goals) should not be confused, and it should not be forgotten that, no matter on which lane one travels, the ultimate goal is to gain the good pleasure of God.           

The Souls that Found Reunion through Migration

Those who move to different lands for the sake of helping people know God and sharing their values with them are also on a separate line to attain the good pleasure of God. As a spiritual confirmation of being on a righteous path, let me relate that in hundreds, maybe thousands of instances, people saw the Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, in their dreams, or sometimes in wakeful state, and received glad tidings from him. For example, one man related that they kept vigil on a blessed night and invoked blessings on the Prophet for a few thousand times. And then a vision of the noble Prophet appeared and said that he stood behind their services on the way of God. And another one saw that cobras were attacking his friends, who could not protect themselves from them. Suddenly, the door opened and people with radiant faces came in; the Prophet was leading them with his blessed staff in his hand. After dealing a blow on the cobras with his staff, he said to them, “Do not fear, we are behind you.” Actually, I feel embarrassed to relate subjective things of this kind. But since the issue has nothing to do with me, I see benefit in relating such visions from time to time. To tell the truth, with respect to the circle of serving faith in which we are included, thanks to Divine guidance and Providence, I have always held the following thought: “If I could give the due of my position and make good use of the favors and opportunities granted by God Almighty, the services would run faster reaching more people all over the world. More important achievements could have been made had it been for more sincere people instead of me.” In addition, one should compare the glad tidings given in these visions to candies given to children in order to spur them on and keep up their hope. Otherwise, a true seeker of Truth must not expect any of these. As the one with the most faults in this movement, even I say in my prayers: “My God! Do not let us consume the blessings You will grant in the Hereafter by giving us some good things in this world! Do not let us be among the ones to be reprimanded on the Day of Judgment as described in the verse (translated as): “…you consumed in your worldly life your (share of) pure, wholesome things, and enjoyed them fully (without considering the due of the Hereafter, and so have taken in the world the reward of all your good deeds)” (al-Ahqaf 46:20).” But in spite of everything, if some people see such visions as important for boosting morale in times of trouble and take them as a reference from the Prophet, there should not be anything wrong in telling them.

On the other hand, in spite of so many antagonistic circles trying to prevent people from benefitting from the perspicuous Religion, the volunteers who migrate for lofty ideals are welcomed everywhere they go; this is obvious support by Divine Providence. In the same way, although these people did not have enough opportunity to receive professional seminars on peaceful coexistence with others from different cultures in a globalizing world, they did not experience failures in the very different regions but rather gained acceptance there. This can be considered a different indication of their gaining acceptance from God and His Messenger and that they act in compliance with the Divine Will, as it is difficult to talk about an opening of this scale, after the time of the Companions.

The volunteers inspired by the essential principles of helplessness, poverty, thankfulness, enthusiasm, reflection, and compassion set out on the road in modesty, humility, and self-effacement. These people join hands and serve as a port of guidance for journeyers destined for the Truth. In short, for all believing hearts, God is the ultimate goal (to be sought), human beings are the travelers on the way to Him, and the ways leading to Him are as many as the breaths of all creatures. In this respect, what befalls on us is to applaud those trying to serve by seeking the good pleasure of God and implore to Him for their success.

1. Sunan at-Tirmidhi, Birr, 35; Sunan Abu Dawud, Adab, 11
 
This text is the translation of “Hakk’a Ulaştıran Yollar ve Çağımız

The Role of the Spiritual Guide

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: Some see it as an obligation to follow a certain “murshid” (spiritual master) and assert that it is not possible to be saved without pledging allegiance to such a master. Could you state your opinions on this?

Answer: There are two meanings for the word murshid, the first being a general term and the second being associated with a Sufi context. In its general sense, murshid denotes a guide who averts people from straying to ominous trails and shows them the righteous path, who awakens hearts to the Divine, who opens minds, feelings, eyes, and ears to certain truths, and thus who guides them to the horizons of the heart and spirit. In this respect, it is possible to see a person giving a sermon in a mosque or giving a religious talk in a circle as murshid. In the same way, a shopkeeper who pours the inspirations of his heart into another’s by talking with a visitor to his shop about the truths of faith can, in a way, be seen as a murshid, or spiritual guide, as well.

As for the more specific meaning of “murshid” in a Sufi context, it refers to a person who had initially become the disciple of another murshid, who went through rounds of forty-day retreats (chila), who ate and drank little, who slept little, and who passed different levels at spiritual journeying. That is, murshid is a person who experienced astonishment before the Divine (hayra) and annihilated his carnal soul in God (fana), who attained a certain spiritual rank on the path to find Him, and who in the end was entitled as a new spiritual master by his own master to guide others to the Truth and convey the Divine messages to them. This entitlement is named khilafa (vicegerency) and the person who is entitled is named a khalifa (successor or vicegerent). I think the initial question was related to this Sufi sense of the word murshid; therefore, I would like to elaborate on it a bit further.

Perspicacity of the Murshid and the Potential of the Initiate

From past to present, there have been so many great figures who were raised by following one of the Sufi paths that lead to truth—Naqshbandi, Qadiri, Shadhili, Rifai, Badawi, and the like. Particularly, when some people with potential and ability find a perfected master, they experience a metanoia and become radiant light sources. For example, when Muhammed Lütfi Efendi of Alvar and his father Hüseyin Kındıği Efendi, who were from the lineage of the Prophet, arrived at Sheikh Kufrawi’s Sufi lodge in the province of Bitlis, the sheikh paid attention to them and treated them as special guests, probably since he discovered their potential. Eventually, he entitled both of them as spiritual masters. On witnessing this, the disciples who had served the sheikh until then accosted the two newcomers at night. Suddenly the door burst open; Sheikh Kufrawi came in and brought them to their senses: “You disciples! Hüseyin and Muhammed Lütfi Efendis did not need me. It was their perfection that led them here.” Some people have such a God-given potential that they are ready to give light without a touch of fire, as it is referred to in the verse (translated as), “…The oil almost gives light of itself though no fire touches it,” they can rocket to certain spiritual ranks by a single puff. And there are certain initiates who, in spite of having potentials to thrive elsewhere, prefer to serve loyally to their sheikh. For example, in spite of having completed his education at Islamic disciplines, Mawlana Khalid al-Baghdadi served as a sweeper at Abdullah Dahlawi’s lodge for twenty years, and then returned to Baghdad. As it is known, Khalid al-Baghdadi is accepted as the reviver (mujaddid1) of his time. With respect to his character and way of guidance, he resembles Bediüzzaman Said Nursi very much. When we study his letters, we see that he invited his students to sincerity, brotherhood, and dignified contentment (ghina): “Never ask for posts and positions for which you would most certainly pay a price and refrain from becoming obliged to anyone, do not establish relations with authorities (in order to gain material benefit from them), do not covet what somebody else possesses, and be indifferent to anything inviting you to worldliness…” In terms of their main approach, these pieces of advice coincide with the points Bediüzzaman makes in his epistles on Sincerity2 and on Brotherhood3. Such a great figure humbly served as a sweeper at a Sufi lodge for twenty years.

Even if the Murshid is a Perfected One

Getting back to our main topic, in Sufi tradition there is a rank of being murshid in its true sense. The important figures who attained this rank appraised the people who became their followers very perspicaciously—sometimes from their faces, looks, and even from the irises of their eyes—and discovered their aptitudes and capacity. Accordingly, they guided their disciples to realize their spiritual potentials and commissioned them to guide others in different places when the time came. In this respect, if there are any guides like Abdul Qadir al-Jilani, Mawlana Khalid al-Baghdadi, Muhammad Bahauddin Shah an-Naqshband, Alaaddin Attar, and Abu’l Hasan ash-Shadhili, who are truly profound in every aspect, then it is very important to benefit from their guidance in order to realize one’s spiritual potentials. But it should not be forgotten that God Almighty appointed different persons to guide others through different methods according to the conditions and needs of their time. In this respect, it can be said that had the great guide Abdul Qadir al-Jilani been alive today and used the same methods he used for guiding people in his time, which was inspired from the original teachings of the Prophet, it probably would not help much for curing the troubles of our time. In the same way, if a great figure like Imam al-Ghazali, who was honorably referred as the Proof of Islam, were to suggest the same arguments he used against the anti-Islamic discourses of his time as a prescription to cure today’s troubles, it would not suffice against today’s complicated problems. I am not trying to make any comments with negative connotations about those great masters, let me not be misunderstood; those exalted figures complied perfectly with the requirements of their age and even transcended it.

However, the point I wish to highlight is that the Divine message always comes in accordance with the addressees’ level of cognition, comprehension, and needs. For this reason, I only tried to express a reality. Surely, today’s people have a lot to learn from those great guides and their very valuable works in terms of broadening their horizons of spiritual knowledge. However, struggling against the contemporary form of hypocrisy and antagonism toward faith under the guise of science and philosophy requires relevant background knowledge and arguments. There must be a murshid who can see and read our era correctly, who uses his means accordingly, who distills facts as he should, and who can write appropriate prescriptions so that he can derive appropriate cures for the troubles of our day. When such a guide is found, following him is very significant in the name of taking wing toward the horizons of the heart and spirit. If people remain loyal to such a perfected guide, he can broaden their horizons, clear up the way before them, and thus they can travel in a faster and safer way in their journey toward God. But in my opinion, even if they find a perfected guide who comprehends his age perspicaciously and suggests important solutions for the troubles of the time, people should refrain from reducing and narrowing the issue down only to this person. If you adopt a pressurizing attitude toward other believers and dare to say, “If you do not take a pledge of allegiance to that guide, obey what he says, and read what he writes, then you are misguided,” you will have reduced the issue to bigotry and subscribed to a horrible view about other believers. This is because another person who does not exactly think like you and who has adopted a different line of spiritual journeying can, by God’s grace, walk behind the Messenger of God—the ultimate murshid and the most perfected guide—and can enter Paradise. For this reason, even though it is important to love the circle one is affiliated with, taking the matter to the degree of being unable to stand others and even becoming antagonistic toward them is absolutely wrong.

The Blow on the Spirit of Unity

Since this humble servant also spent his childhood in different Sufi lodges, I occasionally witnessed some people make such remarks. For example, some people quote out of context a saying ascribed to Bayazid al-Bastami, “the murshid of someone without murshid is Satan.” They misinterpret this saying with a narrow understanding and assert that it is obligatory to follow a sheikh from a particular Sufi tradition. In my opinion, this saying of that perfected master stresses the significance and necessity of the issue, but interpreting it in such a narrow frame will mean reducing this statement to a disagreeable one that conflicts with the universal and encompassing nature of Islam, which can give way to subscribing to negative opinions and partisanship. We have the essential disciplines of the Qur’an and the Sunnah in our hands; they possess the immensity and inclusiveness to embrace all of the hearts that believe in them.

Bediüzzaman stated that narrow-mindedness stems from loving one’s own carnal soul—in other words, a person’s attempt to orient everything toward his or her own ideas is a kind of egotism. A different form of this is partisanship of a religious circle, which means seeing the absolute truth as limited to the particular Sufi order, religious group or movement that one belongs to and believing that others are striving in vain. Again, it should be noted that such an approach means subscribing to a horrible view of other believers, which can lead one to a total downfall.

If a person’s arrogance is based on taking pride in being affiliated with a certain religious group, it grows stronger. Those who are affiliated with a certain Sufi tradition, a religious group, or a movement will naturally think they have chosen the right guide and love that person profoundly. On the other hand, they must shun from being unfair about others and condemning them to fallacy. Otherwise, they will have strayed to a devilish path while trying to walk on the righteous one. This danger is possible for everyone. If one of the great figures I admire—such as Imam al-Ghazali, Izz ibn Abdis-Salam, Fakhruddin ar-Razi, Najmaddin al-Kubra—were alive today and gave such a mistaken counsel to the people around them, I would humbly put my head under their feet, kiss their soles, and say, “Sir, you are mistaken on this subject.”

In sum, believing that salvation can only be possible through affiliation with a certain Sufi order, religious group or movement, seeing it as compulsory to follow a certain traditional Sufi master, and seeing those who do not follow that person as misguided is absolutely wrong; it denotes losing in a zone of winning. May God protect believers from such deviations and disasters in these days when we are in such dire need of solidarity and unity.

1. God Almighty sends a distinguished spiritual guide (mujaddid) in every century to realize a revival in religion. (Ed.)
2. Nursi, Bediüzzaman Said, The Gleams (Trans.), The Twenty-first Gleam, New Jersey: Tughra Books, 2008, pp. 225–235
3. See Nursi, Bediüzzaman Said, The Letters (Trans.), The Twenty-second Letter, New Jersey: The Light, 2007, pp. 281–294

This text is the translation of “Kalb ve Ruh Hayatında Mürşidin Rolü

Offhanded Attitudes toward the Sunnah

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: Some people in order to justify their personal wishes say, “If the Prophet were alive today, he would act in the same way.” And when they come up with some religious matter that they do not like, they make an offhanded remark with a similar claim saying, “My Prophet would not say so.” How do you evaluate such remarks? And if new interpretations can be made, what are the necessary qualifications for someone to be eligible to do that?

Answer: Such words can be evaluated differently with respect to the situation of the individuals and on which considerations they made such remarks. The noble Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, did not solely convey messages from God, but he was a mujtahid1 who clarified and established religious matters with his Sunnah (Tradition) through words, practices, or silent approval. We can consider his identity as a mujtahid and say, in the name of finding solutions to such and such problems, according to the changing conditions of the time that the Messenger of God would most probably act in this way with respect to this issue and fill this gap thus. This could be an agreeable approach, and it is possible to find a reasonable basis for it.

Time is an important interpreter. It serves like a pointer at making judgments about certain issues that depend on conditions and conjuncture. In other words, the Qur’an and the Sunnah leave certain issues to the requirements of changing conditions; to the “time” which can be regarded (and thus be referred to) as the mufti giving legal opinions and rulings on religious matters. However, the people qualified to make such interpretations and rulings according to the time and conditions must know whether there is a clear statement about the issue in the Qur’an and the Sunnah, and they must make a thorough inquiry into it, as it is not acceptable to say anything contradicting the essentials in the Qur’an and the Practice of the Prophet. Similarly, if the great mujtahids, or expounders of the Islamic law (like the founders of the various Sunni schools of thought) who established matters with their verified evidences and agreed on a certain judgment, contradictory comments are unacceptable. Even though some refuse to take ijma (consensus of scholars) as substantiation, it is very sound substantiation in accordance with the statements of the Prophet: “My community does not agree upon misguidance;”2 “God’s support and power is with the collectivity;”3 and “I petitioned God so that my community would not agree upon deviation, and He accepted this petition.”4 As it is seen in these lustrous statements, ijma is rather sound substantiation. In addition, it is a very important proof for ijma being substantiated that people who are so pure with respect to their heart, soul, reason, conscience, and inward and outward senses agree on a certain issue with no dispute or ill will. Thus, as it is not possible to contradict the Qur’an and the Sunnah under the title of ijtihad, the same is true for ijma, which tells us how to understand the essentials in the Qur’an and the Sunnah and how to interpret them. For this reason, we need to make a distinction between these two conditions: making offhanded remarks out of one’s desires and fancies by ignoring the essential sources is one issue, but on the other hand, stating scholarly opinion on a certain matter, with reliable knowledge and insight about the subject in conformity with the essential sources and established judgments is a totally different issue. Therefore, when seeking solutions to familial, political, social, or economic problems, the established sources come first. If no clear solution is found in these, it is important to be careful so that the new ideas suggested in the name of filling a certain gap do not contradict the essential disciplines.

Hearts Must Shiver While Giving a Legal Opinion

It should be emphasized, however, that in order to arrive at reliable scholarly solutions for problems arising in different areas of life, the person giving legal opinions must be sensitive enough to fear saying something against the Divine will and must shiver with this concern. Otherwise, people who are lax in their religious practices, who continually make indulgent remarks about religion, and who seek recognition with sensational remarks can say, “The Prophet would also do the same in this issue,” or they can say with respect to matters that they feel lazy about, “The Prophet would not act this way.” Their asserting the name of the Prophet as so-called evidence is surely not an acceptable approach whatsoever. Indeed, when people make such remarks at issues that do not suit their fancies, they are making an imaginary Prophet speak in accordance with their personal desires and whims, causing him give rulings that suit their fancies. However, the matters that concern people’s happiness in both this world and the next have no tolerance for such offhandedness. The righteous scholars of the early period (Salaf as-Salihin) acted with great caution concerning matters of ijtihad, such that when they tried to find an answer to a particular question, they searched through the entire Qur’an, solely for an answer to that question. In addition, great figures such as Imam Azam Abu Hanifa would discuss a certain matter with their disciples for several days. But this scholarly discussion (munazara) should not be confused with today’s debates on TV programs. Such kind of scholarly discussion, or munazara, does not mean trying to refute one another’s opinions; rather, it means to discuss matters by comparing them with similar and established issues. That is, scholarly discussion on a religious issue aims to find a solution by making an evaluation according to the meanings of essential commandments and comparing it with similarly established issues. Sometimes, the disciples of Abu Hanifa would accept their teacher’s opinion on a certain issue, but that great Imam would ponder upon the essential commandments through the night, and in the morning he would say: “You accepted my view on that issue, but I failed to take certain commandments into consideration. Your opinion is better placed.” This was their degree of righteousness. Another example was the great imam Abu Hasan al-Ash’ari, who had a profound knowledge of the Qur’an and Sunnah, excellent command of language, and powerful oratory. For a while, he favored the rationalist approach of the people of i‘tizal, who accorded creative effect to human will and agency. Later, he suddenly—most probably on hearing compelling scholarly evidence from someone else—relinquished that view, which sees everybody as the creator of their own actions, as commonly asserted by many people today. As a great scholar who had gained a deserved fame with his peak scholarly level, Imam Ash’ari gathered everyone he could find and proclaimed his acceptance of the opinions of the majority of Muslims5 by declaring, “Whatever I said on this issue was wrong. And the correct opinion is thus…”

Those Who Take Their Lusts and Fancies for Their Deity

Unfortunately, we witness today such offhanded approaches to religion that some try to deny obvious Divine commandments such as modest dress, which is an issue directly referred to in various verses of the Qur’an, and one explicitly established by the detailed clarifications and practices of the Companions of the Prophet and the great figures of the following period. Even if we have adopted a measured manner (without reacting in a counter-attitudinal way) about those who deny such explicit principles in religion, the ruling of the Islamic law about the people who deny their existence is crystal clear.

To reiterate, if a ruling (ijtihad) is to be made in the face of personal, familial, social, political, and administrational issues, first the Qur’an and the Traditions of the Prophet must be known well and the judgments and considerations of the righteous scholars of the early period must be referred to. Then, possible equivalent matters in the essential sources must be searched for. After completing these, a solution to the problem in question must take into consideration the era and the present conditions. For example, the Qur’an advises to assign a person to mediate between a couple with bitter feelings toward one another and states that peaceful settlement is better (an-Nisa 4:28), thus presenting such a discipline to ponder over the issue. In the same way, the ninth verse of Surah al-Hujurat commands making peace between two parties fighting against one another. These essential principles can be generalized for matters between greater parties and can even be taken as basis for matters on an international scale. Given that peaceful settlement is better for a married couple, the smallest unit of the society, then peace between different sections, cultures, currencies, or nations will obviously be good. The significance of peace will increase directly proportional with the scale of the matter in question. When a married couple is at odds, the situation of their children will resemble orphans. When two societies clash, however, the consequent damage will be far greater if the issue is not settled by peaceful means. In this respect, the volunteering believers of our time must seek ways for peace in the name of solving social problems of any scale and by taking possible means and present needs into consideration. They must establish grounds for dialogue, form platforms of agreement, and even assemble mediatory councils, if necessary.

As a matter of fact, this point that we have tried to make can be seen from the perspective of the discipline of qiyas (logical deduction by analogy) in Islamic jurisprudence. In Islamic methodology, qiyas means giving a judgment on a certain issue by comparing it with similar ones. When done in the name of righteousness and faith, God Almighty will reward it even if the personal judgment is mistaken; those who give a correct judgment at ijtihad can gain, in accordance with their depth of intention and significance of the issue, from two to one hundred blessings, or even more. If they make a mistake, they will still be rewarded for the effort that they made. As for those who evaluate matters according to their own fancies, the Qur’an refers to them in the verse, as translated, “Do you ever consider him who has taken his lusts and fancies for his deity…” (al-Jathiyah 45:23).

To conclude, from believers’ perspective, in all of personal, familial, or social matters, God Almighty and then His Messenger have the final word. When they have made a clear judgment on something, what befalls on people is to keep silent. For this reason, if somebody asserts a personal wish against a clear commandment by God or His Messenger, they should know that they will be among those who have taken their desires and fancies as their deity.

1. A practitioner of ijtihad who is authorized to deduce new rules through juristic reasoning from original sources—the Qur’an and Sunnah—if these two sources present no decisive ruling on a particular matter. (Ed.)
2. Sunan ibn Majah, Fitan, 8
3. Sunan at-Tirmidhi, Fitan, 7
4. Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Al-Musnad, 6/396
5. Ahl as-Sunnah wa’l Jama’ah, or those who follow one of the four Sunni schools of thought. (Ed.)

This text is the translation of “Sünnetin Arzu ve Heveslere Göre Yorumlanması

The Elixir of Truthfulness and the Safe Route of Honesty

Herkul-EN | | HEARTSTRINGS

Question-1: Bediüzzaman Said Nursi, in his book Münazarat (The Discussions), answered the question, “What do we need the most?” by saying sidq (truthfulness), and repeated it three times. And he promotes truthfulness both as an individual virtue, and also as the elixir of social advancement. Then he supports his statement, saying “Unbelief is a lie, while belief is truth. Is this not proof enough that our survival is possible through belief, truthfulness, and solidarity?” What do these bring to your mind?

When Bediüzzaman contrasts the situation of our beloved Prophet and of Abu Jahl, he identifies Abu Jahl’s as kizb (falsehood), and our Prophet’s as truthfulness. The rank, or rather, station of truthfulness stands much higher than the station of iman (belief in God), than that of ihsan (God-consciousness), than that of ashk (love of God), and than that of marifah (knowledge of God). It is unconditional loyalty, and to be sincere and altruistic to sacrifice personally important, luminous and vital things for that cause.

When he defines falsehood, he says that falsehood is one’s speaking on the contrary of what they actually believe, and making statements to the contrary of what they feel and have witnessed. It is, for instance, saying “I have not seen anyone,” despite seeing all of you here. It is also, in some way, telling a lie to one’s self.

Secondly, although there is an external reality, stating its opposite is falsehood. Another example of falsehood is denying the laws of God’s creation, although these Creative Commands confirm God with their existence. Like Recaizade says, “The entire universe is a great book of God; whichever letter you study, its meaning will spell His Name.” Bediüzzaman focuses on this too. On the one hand, in “Ayat al-Kubra” (The Great Sign), he asks, “Isn’t there more?” and talks about the hero who has aimed for the highest of the high, about the hero of “Isn’t there more?”

On the one hand, it is our character; the promise of security, and the promises of trustworthiness and trust. Hence, stating what we see, hear and feel without altering the truth is truthfulness. On the other hand, reading the laws of creation properly, reading the Divine messages properly, and comprehending them, and reading them in accordance with their true essence and confirming them by saying ‘Yes, it is true’ is also truthfulness, and a statement of trustworthiness.

This has its own levels. For commoners like us; honesty has a very basic significance. For noble Abu Bakr, however, it is fully represented. For the Pride of Humanity, we do not possess the tools to measure his truthfulness. We do not have any measurement system or criteria for his truthfulness. Any humanly tool would collapse if used to measure it.

In one of his poems, Yavuz Sultan Selim says:

The concerns of dispute and disunity,
Unsettle me even when I am in my grave.
The best defense against enemy is unity,
If the nation does not unite, it greatly saddens me.

Solidarity is also a Qur’anic command, which appears twice in the chapter Al-Maedah (Wa ta’awanu alal-birri wa’t-taqwa wa la ta’awanu alal-ithmi wa’l-udwan) Help one another in virtue and goodness, and righteousness and piety.

Bediüzzaman also says, “Concord and alliance lead to Divine guidance and assistance.”

In the Islamic world, it was hypocrites that pushed Muslims away from Islam. All of the tyrants and troublemakers of the Islamic world have been hypocrites. Bediüzzaman says that hypocrisy is worse than infidelity; hypocrites will suffer the lowest level of inferno, which means they are much lower than even Abu Jahl.

Hypocrites have led the entire Islamic world to degeneration. That is why the Islamic world has been exposed to continuous deformation. 

Question-2: In the various verses of the Qur’an, it is said that a Muslim’s path from this world to the other world should be entered by truthfulness, exited by truthfulness, remembered for truthfulness, stepped and acted truthfully, and settled with truthfulness. The path should constantly revolve around truthfulness. What do these expressions mean with regards to the path, the provisions, and the destination of a Muslim?

We use the term route frequently, as in a route of safety, by which we refer to acting carefully, against the groups of heretics, of unbelievers, of envy and of rivalry. In this way you can advance smoothly. The route of safety, in this sense, should always be maintained.

The Qur’an says: “Adkhilni mudkhala sidqin wa akhrijni mukhraja sidqin,” so if I am to enter somewhere, I should enter as the representative of the truth, and when I exit, I should exit by leaving a mark or image of truthfulness, only the truth.

In fact, truthfulness is a meaning inside you, a sense in your heart. Those who have it inside say “We are content with Allah as our Lord, Islam as our religion, and Muhammad as our Messenger. Being content with Allah is the ultimate truth, the summit of one’s servanthood. It is called the “Station of Contentedness” about everything God wills, and hence the ultimate truth. Affirmation, contentedness and acceptance that Islam is the true religion is one of the utmost truths. Also affirming the Prophethood of our Prophet is another ultimate truth.

It is essential that we tell the truth meticulously. That is why some scholars of Hadith have objected to narrating hadiths through meaning. Nevertheless, since not everyone is capable of memorizing hadiths perfectly they have narrated hadiths through meaning, which has brought about the variations in the wordings of hadiths. However, they were also linguistically knowledgeable, they have not sacrificed the entire utterance; they have used synonyms or words with close meanings which, like I said, brought about the variations.