Posts Tagged ‘Hizmet’

Crying of Those with Sad Hearts

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: It is stated that sometimes God grants mercy to an entire world upon the crying of one sad heart. Today, it seems that we do not feel deeply troubled and sympathize enough for humanity’s suffering, so as to weigh heavily on our consciences and prey on our minds. What can be the possible reasons?

Answer: The human factor lies at the basis of all individual, familial, and social problems, which people have faced ever since the time of the Prophet Adam, peace be upon him. The same is true for the basis of all the cases of anarchy, oppression, strife, and crises. Given that all problems can be traced back to the human factor, the solution of these problems is possible through approaching it anew, with a system of moral training oriented to Divine truths and appealing to the conscience. Otherwise, people cannot be saved from misguidance, misery, debauchery, and poverty.

Realizing One’s Being at the Bottom of the Well

The greatest problem of humanity today is the neglect of the human factor. But how many of us feel deeply troubled by this grave problem and feel due suffering within? Unfortunately, since most of us live within the same sort of environment, the vast majority of people are unable to grasp even the scale and size of the debauchery and poverty, the deviation and fall. Let me clarify my point with an example: After having stayed in the city for a while, I visited my uncle who lived in the village. The moment I poked my head in through the door, I said how bad the smell was. On hearing this, my uncle’s grandchildren started laughing at me, because I had stayed in the same house for about a month in my childhood and did not feel disturbed at all. Rumi tells the story of a man who gets accustomed to the stench of a leather tannery workshop. When that man passes near perfumery shops and smells the beautiful fragrances, he cannot tolerate them and faints. This story depicts to us the situation of corrupted human nature. As people of the contemporary age, we take for granted everything to such a degree that we feel no shame or suffering, even before the most shameful sights. We see nearly all wrongs as normal. As a poet stated, “Somebody who is full thinks everybody in the world is full; a hungry one thinks there is no bread in the world.” Similarly, since we do not feel suffering and have not come to grips with reality, we do not feel a need to say, “Enough!” as a spontaneous reaction of our conscience and then try to fix it. The reason is that we are inevitably influenced by the atmosphere and conditions in which we live. It diffuses into all of our senses and, in a way, influences the cortex. Thus, individuals perceive and evaluate their surroundings accordingly and cannot overcome this framework.

People fail to realize that there is a very distinguished position that they are supposed to take vis-à-vis their Creator and that they stand far below this position in reality. They think themselves to be in an enjoyable clime in spite of staying at the bottom of a well. For this reason, they make no effort to climb out of the well. Human beings possess the gift of adapting to the conditions in which they live. For example, the ears of a person in a noisy environment adapt themselves to the noise, and they become senseless to sounds of a certain frequency that they normally would hear. Similarly, we have always seen people who are content to lead a world-oriented life, seeking only to have good time. And, therefore, we fail to realize our own heart-rending spiritual wretchedness.

However, suffering is a very important invitation for Divine inspirations. It whispers to people very different ways first to realize and then be saved from the troubled state that they are really in. For instance, if a man at the bottom of a well or dungeon is aware of his situation and feels due suffering, he will try to get out in many different ways and will achieve his goal in the end by God’s grace. Even if he does not possess any tools, he will try to climb out by using his hands like claws. He strives on and makes two small holes where he can insert his feet. After managing to stand on them, he does the same above the first ones. Continuing like this, he makes his way out of the well after a certain period of time. But a man living contentedly down there, even unaware of his situation, will never make such an effort.

The State of Misery That Invokes Divine Compassion

If people suffer deeply over the fall and deviation that they have undergone and turn to God wholeheartedly, as Bediüzzaman puts it in The Gleams, at such a moment when all the apparent causes show no sign of hope, one can witness the secret of Ahadiyya being manifest through the light of Divine Oneness and Unity.1 As it is well-known, when Prophet Jonah, peace be upon him, was swallowed by a whale, the animal’s body, waves of the sea, and the dark night enveloped him with no sign of hope. But that great Prophet prayed in that manifold darkness saying, “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). By praying thus, he appealed to Divine Mercy and Compassion and was delivered in a miraculous fashion. At this point, the words of Ibrahim Haqqi are also meaningful:

When you are in dire need,
Divine Providence opens a door;
For every trouble, He sends a cure.
Whatever the Almighty will do
He will do the best for you.

Now, consider our spiritual life: Aren’t we in a worse condition than Prophet Jonah in the belly of the whale? Bediüzzaman states in The Gleams that our carnal soul is like such a whale to us. That is, we are in a way swallowed by our (evil-commanding) carnal souls. We have been taken by worldly considerations and fancies of the carnal soul. But the worst is that we are not even aware of our wretched condition. We act as if we are heartless creatures in the face of severe oppression, misery, and subjection in different lands.  Therefore, we first must ask ourselves, “Who were we and who are we now?” The next thing to do is to establish a connection between the age we are currently living in and the Age of Bliss (i.e., the Age of the Prophet), and then make a sound comparison. We should even include the following decades when Islamic civilization flourished and try to find out how competent statesmen dealt with the troubles of their time and how they exerted themselves to find solutions for the problems that confronted them. By comparing those lustrous days with ours, we should try to understand how disastrous our condition is. I think such racking of our brains will lead us to knocking on the door of the Merciful God, and He will show us alternative ways out. To the extent we see our state as normal, we will neither find alternative ways, nor discover new methods in the name of deliverance.

The Seeds of Suffering Sown into Hearts

Consciousness of the (Age of Bliss and the following) golden ages where true Islamic spirituality was practiced and realizing our present miserable state is the key to feeling the suffering that we are supposed to feel. Bediüzzaman voiced his suffering about the grim picture before him by saying, “I even have no time to think about the troubles I am subjected to. I gladly welcome going through a thousand fold greater difficulties if only I saw the faith of people in safety.” Similarly, he stated that he would even gladly welcome burning in Hell, given that the faith of his people is secured. These sublime thoughts are an expression of having attained the level of true humanity. Given that humanity is heedlessly heading for Hell before our eyes, and that we consider ourselves as conscientious believers, we cannot help but to be appalled by this picture.

It is a reality that not everybody can sense and feel matters with such magnanimity in their consciences.

In addition, it may not be proper for everybody to know about every trouble and problem, since some people cannot resist even the pettiest viruses. However, when those with strong immune systems face a virus attack, this does not cause them anything more than a temporary stagger. In the same way, even the persons who try to serve for the sake of faith may not have the same strength of immunity. For this reason, telling them all of the grim realities might push them to hopelessness.

I would like to express how I feel: if my parents and grandparents were alive today, and if all of them passed away in one moment, I swear by God that this grief would not equal the suffering I go through for the fate of Islam in half a day. Sometimes, I leave my room in the middle of the night bent in two with this suffering and wander in the corridor as if I were crazy. In spite of this, I am trying not to tell everybody about the monstrous souls lying in wait at every corner, each one of them running after a different conspiracy and plot. This can make some people lose courage and give in to hopelessness. Therefore, I prefer not to reveal my concerns about it. But if I knew that they could bear the truth, I would wish to sow the seeds of suffering and pour embers into people’s hearts, so that they too would become concerned for humanity’s troubles, so that they too would lose sleep and walk around restlessly as if they were insane, exerting themselves to find solutions.

Indeed, if one is not called insane for suffering for his religion, it is difficult to say that he has attained perfect faith. That is, others will look at such a person and say, “Instead of enjoying this world with its natural beauties and resorts, why does he busy himself with such concerns?” This is an indication of being seen as insane, as the great Sufi Yunus Emre stated, not caring about losing what you possess after having found the ultimately absolute value. What about those who do not feel so? Are they destined to be losers? Never, I cannot dare say that. Since the Pride of Humanity related that a person who passes away with the smallest amount of faith will, finally, enter Paradise. We cannot blame anyone on this issue, nor try to block anybody’s way to Paradise. This is a different issue. However, feeling agonized over humanity’s suffering and it preying on your mind, and embracing all of humanity with an attitude that befits the Prophets, is a completely different issue.

1. Ahadiyya expresses God Almighty’s being one, single, and unique. He also has manifestations or blessings (of Ahadiyya) particular to each thing and being. When one realizes his or her absolute helplessness, he or she can unfold this secret of Ahadiyya manifestly through the light of his conviction of the Oneness of God, Who has absolute control over everything. This is because apparent means and causes have no part of their own in the creation of results. Since Prophet Jonah saw with the eye of certainty that there was no refuge other than the Causer of Causes, and he, through his utmost conviction of God’s absolute Oneness and His dominion over the universe, fully perceived that in addition to His overall manifestations that reign supreme over all of creation, God also has manifestations particular to each thing and being as the All-Compassionate. (Ed.)

This text is the translation of “Mahzun Kalblerin Ağlaması

A Social Disease That Paralyzes Sound Reason: Bigotry

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: What is bigotry? And what are the differences between being steadfast in faith and being bigoted?

Answer: The term “taassub” (used for “bigotry” in the English language) means evaluating matters only according to one’s own understanding without considering it from different aspects and being pertinacious even in matters that contradict reason and the essence of religion. This very fact is expressed in the sayings of the Messenger of God with the word “asabiyya,” which literally means “nervousness,”1 because a bigoted attitude (taassub) is completely based on nervousness and emotionalism; it is an outward reflection of animalistic feelings in human beings. The term taassub in this inflected form denotes forcing. In this respect, it conveys meanings such as insisting on a certain issue to the degree of excess, continuing to be headstrong with a complete disregard for others, refusing to see or hear, and considering one’s own self as the very focus or basis for everything. As will be seen, “taassub” has nothing to do with reason, sound judgment, or sensibility. For this reason, as bigoted ones cannot act with common sense, it is not possible for them to have true spiritual experiences, which are felt through a certain faculty of the conscience.

A Barrier against Faith

Those who persecute believers have always been bigoted. For example, the polytheists and hypocrites at the time of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, were bigoted against Islam and Muslims. They were deaf and blind to the message of the Pride of Humanity. However, if they viewed the noble Prophet in a neutral way, they would also see what sensible ones did; if they paid attention to his words of wisdom even a little bit, they would also hear what sensible ones did. If his adversaries turned over the truths he conveyed in their minds and pondered over them, they would see, understand, and appreciate. Unfortunately, they were blind to these beauties by bigotry, grudge, and hatred, and they drifted to unbelief.

Along with arrogance, wrongdoing, and the deviations from the sound point of view, one other factor that prevents a person from accepting faith is blind imitation of their forefathers, without questioning whether they had been right or not. Actually, such blind imitation is a different form of bigotry. The polytheist people of the Age of Ignorance, therefore, opposed Islam with the arguments that they inherited from their forefathers. Their preventing Muslims from visiting the Ka’ba prior to the Treaty of Hudaybiya was an outcome of the same bigotry. The Qur’an names this attitude of theirs as “hamiyyat al-jahiliyya”—zealotry particular to the Age of Ignorance. They adopted this zealotry to such a degree that they kept on blindly sticking to their traditions and practices as before, so that their pride was not broken in the sight of other Arab tribes. Thus, they even prevented Muslims from entering Mecca.

Indeed, such events are experienced in today’s world as well. For example, when you wish to express yourself with reference to your faith and heavenly values, certain people immediately take action and try to deprive you of this freedom with a harsh and reactionary attitude you cannot understand. You may come up with different plans and projects in order to contribute to the welfare of the society and elevate it to a better status; but in spite of that, some circles will try to prevent you, since your attempts will mean altering their accustomed ways and claim, “These people actually want to harm our values under the pretext of improvement and welfare.” Even though you say nothing wrong about their Marxist, Leninist, and similar understandings and do not say anything against the figures they esteem, when your understanding and values are accepted by society, they feel neglected and claim that your activities are against them, purposefully intending to push them and their values into oblivion. Moreover, even if you somehow find a way and show them a staircase leading directly to Paradise, certain people will still remark, “By doing that, they are trying to make us forget our ideology.” All of these attitudes and behaviors are based on “zealotry,” as in the Age of Ignorance.

A Dangerous Disease

Such an example of zealotry can be seen in any society or country. There is no particular homeland for bigotry. This negative attribute can pass to any people with different understandings and thoughts. Seemingly religious people can also be under the influence of such bigotry in such a way that some evaluate everything from their own narrow perspective, by solely taking their primitive knowledge as absolutely true. Therefore, they can present a very strict and intolerant attitude toward matters of secondary importance. In our time, suicide attacks—so called “in the name of religion”—are results of such bigotry, given that the attackers are not under the effect of any drug or illusion, that they are not brain-controlled or robotized to commit these attacks. This is such a terrible disease that people ruin their own spiritual lives, for the sake of such delusion of their understanding of righteousness. Those who commit suicide attacks and thus casually take the lives of innocent people, including children, elderly ones, and women, do not become eligible for Paradise but for Hell with such a deed. How grievous an ending it is, when somebody falls into Hell instead of taking the path to Paradise and guiding others toward it!

Being Steadfast in Faith

Since a true believer is a righteous person, they already have nothing to do with bigotry. It is unthinkable for those who have taken the righteous path to stand against what is right and become indifferent to the truth. Otherwise, they will have shown disrespect to the truth. For this reason, what becomes believers is steadfastness in faith and not being bigoted. 

“Steadfastness in faith” relates to the words, behaviors, and state of a believer. It does not mean being strict, harsh, and intolerant. Being steadfast in faith means presenting a complete resolution and sincerity in practicing all aspects of the Islamic teachings, against all odds. In other words, it is continually seeking the good pleasure of God in all of one’s attitudes and behaviors, even if everybody else gives into worldly temptations; it means not being slothful in any religious practices and being resolved to preserve one’s identity in every situation. In order to maintain such steadfastness, a believer must strive to attain true faith based on inquiry, then constantly delve into the truths of faith, and then base all matters on reliable knowledge after having assessed them with sound reason and judgment. Such a journeyer, with knowledge of God, relies on Him in the face of every event, holds onto piety, fulfills what causes require, takes every step with precaution, is not deluded, and never acts emotionally, because the honeycomb formed in that journeyer’s soul by wisdom, love, and yearning for God shows the way at every instance. For this reason, bigotry is found in the attitude and behaviors of those whose practices are mostly based on hearsay and imitation. For believers to attain steadfastness in faith free from bigotry, they first need to know thoroughly and digest the main essentials in the Qur’an and Sunnah; then, they filter and check their knowledge with these two sources, and then, they test what they have learned from the Qur’an and Sunnah, according to the pure understanding and common agreement of the distinguished scholars. After all of these, believers must entreat God in all of their decisions saying: “Our Lord, do not let our hearts swerve after You have guided us, and bestow upon us mercy from Your Presence. Surely You are the All-Bestowing” (Al Imran 3:8). 

As much as bigotry is a contemptible trait, steadfastness in faith is a laudable one in the same degree, as steadfastness denotes an unshakable stance like an upright monument. In fact, it is very difficult for a bigoted person to maintain an unwavering course and be steadfast in faith, since he does not act under the light of reason and judgment but upon emotional motives. For this reason, those who become bigoted in the name of a certain ideology will do the same for another ideology in the future. You see that they are bigoted defenders of a certain ideology that sees the material and animal aspect as everything; when they come under the influence of spiritualism, this time they become zealots furiously propagating it. On the other hand, wherever true believers stood at the time of the Prophet with respect to their essential values, they keep the same upright stance fourteen centuries later.

As for making new judgments according to the requirement of new conditions, it is a different issue that does not contradict steadfastness in faith. The importance of referring to the opinion of competent scholars is related in the Qur’an (an-Nisa 4:83). Answering to newly emerging situations with the methodology of the reliable scholars is a kind of progress. Undoubtedly, such progress is completely different from degeneration, making exaggerated rulings in order to become popular, or showing bigotry at a certain issue without reasoning over it; it is the name of reaching into infinity with a finite body of principles, of the universality of Islam and its encompassing nature.

1. Sunan Abu Dawud, Adab, 111; Sunan ibn Majah, Fitan, 7

This text is the translation of “Akl-ı Selimi Felce Uğratan İçtimaî Bir Hastalık: Taassup

Rights of Neighbors

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: Rights of neighbors are commonly ignored in our time, just like many other rights. What is the importance of observing neighbors’ rights in Islam? What are the benefits of such observance at the formation of a healthy society?

Answer: Observing neighbors’ rights is an issue that the Qur’an emphasizes, along with treating one’s parents kindly, being faithful to relatives, and caring for orphans. It is commanded in a verse (which can be interpreted as): “…worship God and do not associate anything as a partner with Him; do good to your parents in the best way possible, and to the relatives, orphans, the destitute, the neighbor who is near (in kinship, location, and faith), the neighbor who is distant (in kinship and faith), the companion by your side (on the way, in the family, in the workplace, etc.), the wayfarer, and those who are in your service. (Treat them well and bring yourself up to this end, for) God does not love those who are conceited and boastful (an-Nisa 4:36).

Here, directly following the command to worship God and not to associate any partners with Him, doing good to parents is commanded. In principle, when love, respect, and yearning to meet someone are concerned, what comes after God’s right is His Messenger’s: We recognize our Lord thanks to him; we learn the way to perceive and interpret creation correctly thanks to him, and we understand that we are created and meant for eternity thanks to the messages he brought. In these respects, we are greatly indebted to him. However, as the verse in discussion addresses this issue, not in terms of fundamental principles but in terms of practical deeds, parents’ rights, not the Prophet’s, are mentioned second. The fact that the beginning of the Divine command is not related to faith in God but to worship Him also indicates this practical side.

After mentioning parents, the verse commands doing good to relatives, orphans, and the destitute, respectively. Then, the verse draws attention to the rights due to neighbors by commanding the doing of good to both near and distant neighbors. Accordingly, all people living around us are included in this meaning, and they deserve to be treated well.

A Way to Attain Perfect Faith

An authenticated saying of the Prophet, confirmed by great scholars including Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim,1 stresses the importance of neighborliness. Indeed, Archangel Gabriel gave such insistent advice to the Prophet about neighbors that he thought Gabriel would nearly declare neighbors as inheritors to one another.

Given that a person’s inheritors are their closest relatives, we can imagine how important neighbors’ rights are in the sight of God. Actually, we do not know all of the advice concerning neighbors’ rights that Gabriel gave to the Prophet as the Messenger of God did not relate the details of the case. However, the fact that the Prophet nearly thought neighbors would become inheritors to one another indicates how much emphasis Gabriel placed on this issue.

Another saying of the Prophet relates this issue to faith: “Whoever believes in God and the Day of Judgment, let him be good to his neighbor. Whoever believes in God and the Judgment Day, let him treat his guest. Whoever believes in God and the Judgment Day, let him speak goodness or be silent.”2
As it is seen, being good to neighbors is mentioned as a requirement of having belief in the true sense. There is another point to note here: Faith in God naturally requires belief in other essentials of faith, including belief in the Judgment Day. It is additionally mentioned in this context, since goodness done here for the sake of God will be rewarded generously when the Judgment Day comes.

Good Neighbors Who Offer the Key to Eternal Bliss

The Messenger of God also gave warnings that a person who comfortably sleeps with a full stomach while his neighbor is hungry cannot be a believer in the true sense, and that a person whose neighbors are not safe from his harm cannot enter Paradise. If the rights of neighbors are stressed so much in the verses of the Qur’an and in the sayings of the Prophet, it is an issue of great importance. In this respect, a Muslim should embrace—near or distant—all of their neighbors magnanimously. People with sound faith should know how to share all of the beauties they possess with their neighbors; it is a requirement of Muslim ethics. When rights of neighbors are mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is the material kind of aid, such as offering them food, clothes, and the like. As it is known, zakah—the prescribed alms—is given to Muslims only; however, other kinds of alms can be given to non-Muslims. For example, one can provide financial aid to near or distant neighbors whether they are Muslims or not, because these are basic human needs. Particularly in circumstances of poverty, Muslims should never let their neighbors starve, no matter who they are, and should absolutely provide them with support. Helping a neighbor find a job is also a very important means of doing good.

However, it is not a correct approach to reduce neighbors’ rights to material aid alone. Greeting neighbors and asking about their well-being, getting acquainted better through mutual visits, paving the way to friendly relations between people, and making efforts to eliminate negative feelings—if there are any—are also very important points. It is essential to establish a relationship with one’s neighbors, particularly for Muslims living in a foreign country. For example, they can take the opportunity on special days to make their neighbors happy with presents and visits. In this way, they can find chances to warm hearts, eliminate biased opinions about Muslims, and introduce their values to others. When the issue is seen from this perspective it is more easily understood that rights of neighbors should not be reduced to a notion of material aid.

Grounds of Sin That Grow into a Disaster

There is another matter worthy of attention concerning neighbors that the Prophet mentioned. Adultery is many times over a graver sin if it is committed with a neighbor. As it is well known, forbidden and disliked acts have a certain ranking. For example, attributing certain things to God Almighty is such a grave sin that, as related in the following verse , it would nearly bring a great destruction: “The heavens are all but almost rent, and the earth split asunder, and the mountains fall down in ruins…” (Maryam 19:90). Similarly, there are certain kinds of sins that nearly shatter the heavens and earth asunder. As fornication between relatives fall into this category, such a sin between neighbors is evaluated by the noble Prophet in the same way—as an evil made worse many times over because the predominant feelings between relatives and neighbors must be trust and safety. Therefore, an evil committed by the people whom you trust will not be an ordinary evil; rather it will grow into an evil of manifold ramifications.

Bridges of Friendship Build through a Bowl of Pudding

Unfortunately, it is a bitter reality that there exists a serious void in terms of neighborly relations, as a result of neglecting our own values. To such a degree that even in Muslim countries, an entire society lives in their own worlds, retreated in their apartments. Neighbors knock on one another’s door only when there is a disturbing noise, in order to warn the latter. Therefore, we need to do our best to make use of every possible means in order to eliminate this chronic problem.

However, it should not be forgotten that changing the established notions and understandings in people’s minds is not something easily done like taking off a suit. This issue requires persistence and resolved efforts. Sometimes, you take this chance through the tradition of cooking Noah’s pudding and offering your neighbor upstairs a bowl of pudding. Sometimes, you contact them while celebrating the birth of the Messenger of God, or sometimes, you show your good intentions on some other day that is important to your neighbor. Let us not forget, benevolence is a part of human nature and we do appreciate kindness. Therefore, acts of kindness will definitely make their effect one day, sooner or later. Maybe your neighbors will try you for a long time but once they see that you seek no personal benefit, they will gradually open their doors and mutual visits will go on. The Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, compared the situation of believers with respect to one another to a good building whose bricks are soundly integrated.3 Naturally, all the factors—observing parents’ rights, strengthening bonds of kinship, caring for the needy, and observing neighbors’ rights—mentioned in the verse in discussion play an important role at building such a society.

Since neighborly relations undergo serious destruction in modern life, the first attempts to enhance relations may not be welcomed at the beginning. However, acts of kindness—even an individual gesture of goodwill—continued in a resolved and steady way will melt the icebergs between people. After a while, they will stimulate good feelings in hearts and, over time, turn into such a strong connection that they will become solid bonds between individuals. Thereafter, individuals will support one another without any expectations in return. When one falls, the other will lend a hand, and they will set about a race of goodness toward one another. An ideal society, without clash and conflict, can only be built from individuals such as these.

Finally, in the words of Bediüzzaman, a society whose elements and building blocks are made up of sins cannot be a healthy one. Thus, in order to become a healthy society, it is an important duty for individuals to support one another at protecting against sins and getting rid of vices. God Almighty reminds believers of their responsibilities toward one another with the command (which can be interpreted as): “…help one another in virtue and goodness, and righteousness and piety, and do not help one another in sinful, iniquitous acts and hostility” (al-Maedah 5:2). In the name of maintaining such a feeling of help and solidarity, relationships between neighbors provide a very significant ground and opportunity, in my opinion, and is a responsibility that should never be ignored. 

1. Sahih al-Bukhari, Adab, 28; Sahih Muslim, Birr, 141
2. Sahih Muslim, Iman, 74; Sahih al-Bukhari, Adab, 31
3. Sahih al-Bukhari, Salat, 88

This text is the translation of “Komşuluk Hakkı

Transforming Knowledge into Practice

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: When we study the life of the Companions, we see that as soon as a Qur’anic verse was revealed, they would immediately begin to act upon the Divine command. We are, however, unable to put forth the same attitude. What would be the reasons for our inefficiency at putting our knowledge into practice, and how can this ideal be realized?

Answer: In order to implement what we know in practical life, first of all, knowledge must be saved from being rough and simple information; it needs to be transformed into “ilm,” in the sense of knowing a matter with its true nature and grasping that matter through consciousness and systematic thinking. Otherwise, if what we know does not amount to anything beyond superficial information, it will not yield any practical behavior, for it does not make an impression on the heart. In this respect, the first thing to do to turn knowledge into practical behavior is to try to reach true knowledge and, from there, to certainty in faith, with an insatiable and fervent desire to learn. In the Qur’an (Ta-Ha 20:114), God Almighty gives the command to His Noble Messenger (which can be interpreted as follows): “…say, ‘My Lord, increase me in knowledge.’” Each and every one of us as the follower of the Prophet is then supposed be a fervent seeker of knowledge always trying to grow deeper in knowledge. For example, it is a religious obligation to recite the Qur’an. However, even if we commit the entire Qur’an into memory, if we do not make efforts to understand and delve deeper into it, we will fail to benefit from the treasures of the Qur’an, the eternal source of light. There are such meanings and inspirations to be derived through full concentration and sincere efforts that they cannot be attained in any other way.

Offering Gratitude for Knowledge

After the first phase of transforming information into true knowledge (ilm), there are other points to be taken into consideration. You may attain a magnificent profundity in theoretical knowledge and gain the certainty of knowledge (ilm al-yaqin), even to the degree of the certainty of vision (ayn al-yaqin). However, if you fail to implement such theoretical knowledge in practical life, then you will fail to recognize the truth of Divinity with the Divine Names, Attributes, and Qualities, and fail to be a loyal servant at God’s door. In addition, there is a glad tiding about the issue by the beloved Prophet, “Whoever acts upon what he knows, God lets him acquire what he does not know.”1 Accordingly, having a share from true knowledge requires acting upon what one knows. If God Almighty grants you a certain level of knowledge, you should strive to give gratitude for this blessing, without taking any personal pride in it. For example, if others perform forty units of Prayer a day, together with the Sunnah Prayers, you should think, “Having been honored with abundant Divine blessings, I should do as much as eighty units a day,” and thus ascend to the immensities of subjective responsibility.

Incidentally, I would like to relate a memory that is especially significant for me. In one of my visits to my late mother, she told me, “I read the Jawshan al-Kabir2 every day from beginning to end. Is there anything additional you would recommend for me to read?” This is a reflection of the spirit of someone asking for evermore and thus making continuous progress. A person honored with Divine blessings must turn to Him in due gratitude. The Prophet would pray until his blessed feet were swollen as narrated by his wife Aisha. Imam Al-Busiri expressed this in a poem, “I failed to follow the Practice of the Prophet who kept vigil until his feet were swollen at the Prayer.” On witnessing that, Aisha asked the Prophet, “O Messenger of God, although God has forgiven your (possible) past and future sins, why are you praying to the degree of tormenting yourself?” The Pride of Humanity gave the following answer to her, “Should I not be a thankful servant (in the face of such blessings of my Lord)?”3 There is a very important message here in terms of consciousness of being a servant: Every servant of God is obliged to offer thanksgivings to Him and praise the Almighty to the degree of the Divine blessings and favors bestowed upon him, and thus put his knowledge into practice in proportion to the profundity of his knowledge.

Practical Reason

At this point, it is possible to mention a consideration in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. Kant states that God cannot be known through theoretical reason and that knowledge of God can only be attained through practical deeds. If this can be realized, in other words, if theoretical knowledge is efficiently put into practice, believers can feel a profound knowledge of God inside of them and consequently feel a deep love for Him—to such a degree that they will be saved from the gloom of this world and be seized by an intense yearning for reunion with God, craving, “Reunion with You O God, reunion!” Bediüzzaman mentions faith in God as the essence of worship. Knowledge of God comes after this faith in God, then comes love of God, and then spiritual pleasure, which is granted as an extra Divine favor. When such a spiritual pleasure is experienced, we will naturally feel an irresistible flood of eagerness to see the true source of beauties, given that all beauties are merely faint shadows of the Divine Essence. If we do not feel such eagerness in our inner worlds, then we have not passed through this process and are still wandering outside. I do not mean to push anyone to hopelessness; however, we need to know that this is the result of the course we have taken. In this respect, let me reiterate that no matter how much you delve in theory, you are doomed to not make any progress but stay where you are as long as you fail to further rise to the level of practice. If you start practicing, but this time fail to deepen in the meaning of that practice and to acquire knowledge of God, you will not make further progress, unable to go beyond mechanical forms—to such a degree that you will view worship as if it were a daily chore; you do the relevant acts but fail to attain knowledge of God, and unable to feel love for Him, and savor spiritual pleasure. Those who do not implement their theoretical knowledge in practical life are likened to “a donkey carrying a load of books” in the Qur’an (al-Jumua 62:5). One needs to avoid from falling into such a situation, so that knowledge does not become a burden on the back. Otherwise, his or her knowledge will be useless. At this point, we can benefit from the power of prayer at putting knowledge into practice, as the beloved Prophet did by saying, “O God, I seek refuge in You from the knowledge that is not beneficial…”4

Broader Horizons through Reading Circles

Although it is commendable for individual believers to carry out reading, thinking, research, to scrutinize things and phenomena, to reflect upon the relationship between human, universe, and God, it will be a means for much different blessings to attend a gathering of faithful ones who cherish considerations and thoughts in this direction and benefit from that blessed atmosphere. Somebody who steps into such an atmosphere will unite with the other individuals in the group together and they will journey toward different horizons with this special connection among them, pervaded by the same spiritual hue (insibagh). As it is revealed in the Qur’anic verse, “God’s Hand is over their hands” (al-Fath 48:10). Also, the Messenger of God stated, “God’s hand (of support) is with the community,”5 and drew attention to importance of being included in a group. In another case, the Prophet emphasized the danger of being alone by stating that a stray sheep is to be devoured by wolves. Accordingly, one who acts against collective consciousness, who leaves the circle, and who does not fall into step with the group is doomed to be devoured by wolves. Therefore, we must try to be included in a righteous circle against all odds, support one another at that, and avoid acting individually. However, a very important point to be careful about here is to keep our gatherings or circles free from useless talk and amusements, and to benefit from them in the name of deepening in knowledge and spirituality, without even wasting a second. Unfortunately, we do not present the required sensitivity to do this. It is such a pity that even when we come together in the name of religion, faith, and serving for God, we sometimes talk about irrelevant matters that are of no benefit to our worldly or otherworldly life, or we adopt lighthearted attitudes, which lead people to heedlessness. In my opinion, a true believer must try to lead a disciplined life as was once lived truly in Sufi lodges. In an authenticated narration, it is reported that the Pride of Humanity laughed to the degree of chuckling only three times in his entire lifetime.6 As it is known, his blessed face was always smiling, but he never gave up being serious. That blessed person had such a manner that His consciousness of the omnipresence of God was reflected in his entire being. And one could not help but remember God Almighty upon seeing the Prophet’s state, manners, and even the depth of his looks.

In a nutshell, we must try to benefit efficiently from all the assemblies, all of our gatherings and the circles we attend in the name of reviving the horizons of our heart and spirit, in order to be well-equipped in knowledge and then implement it in our lives, thus making it very spirit and way of our lives in the true sense. If we wish to walk on the straight path, without any collisions and straying, all of our feelings, thoughts, senses, conversations, and discussions need to be straight; they need to be oriented toward becoming deeper and richer on the horizons of the heart and spirit.

1. Abu Nuaym, Hilyat, 10/15
2. A voluminous prayer book compiled by Bediüzzaman, including the Jawshan prayer, which consists of one hundred parts, transmitted from the Prophet 
3. Sahih al-Bukhari, Tahajjud, 16
4. Sahih Muslim, Dhikr, 73

5. Sunan at-Tirmidhi, Fitan, 7
6. Sahih al-Bukhari, Tafsir as-Surah (39), 2

This text is the translation of Bilginin Amele Dönüşmesi

The Qur’an and Scientific Discoveries

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: Right after any scientific discovery or invention, it is expressed that there are certain allusions to it in the Qur’an. From this perspective, what should be researchers’ general attitude toward the scientific truths in the Qur’an? What is the message such verses convey particularly to those who study natural sciences?

Answer: The Qur’an and the universe are two different books of God Almighty. Therefore, it is inconceivable for them to contradict one another. The Qur’an, the Miraculous Exposition, is a manifestation of Divine Speech; it is an eternal interpreter, an expounder, and a lucid proof of this Great Book of the Universe, which is a manifestation of Divine Power. The Qur’an expounds the Book of Universe, and thus the universe gains light with it. In other words, the Qur’an proclaims the principles prevalent in creation, Divine mysteries, and Divine disposals.

Since the Qur’an expounds and interprets the universe as the word of the Almighty, it contains allusions to certain sciences exploring the creation. For this reason, from very early on scholars have studied the verses alluding to scientific truths, along with those on faith, worship, and morality, and have expressed different considerations on their meanings and implications. For example, when you consider the interpretation of certain verses by Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, who lived in the fourth century of Hijra, it will be seen that his commentaries are very close to scientific findings in our time, in spite of living eleven hundred years ago. The conclusions drawn and commentaries made by this great interpreter of the Qur’an are far beyond the scientific level of his age. For example, with respect to verse 22 of Surah al-Hijr which means, “And We send the winds to fertilize…,” Ibn Jarir expounds upon the role of winds at fertilizing seeds. The interesting fact here is that, at a very early time when nobody knew about positive and negative charges of clouds, he points to the fact that this verse alludes to the fertilization of clouds by winds, which paves the way for rainfall. 

It was not only Ibn Jarir, but other scholars as well, who made many remarkable commentaries and conclusions about the verses concerning the “creative commands” (the laws of God’s creation and maintenance of the universe and the laws He has established for life). However, until the last century or two, this issue was not taken as a separate branch of study. Toward the contemporary age—in a way with the influence of the positivist understanding of the time—more emphasis began to be laid on this issue. For example, Muhammad Abduh, who interpreted the Qur’an until the Surah Yusuf in fifteen volumes, also made some modern commentaries about verses related to scientific facts. And Rashid Rida, one of his foremost students, corrected some points in his teacher’s work and completed the remaining chapters himself. However, there are certain mistaken commentaries that contradict the general acceptances of former Sunni scholars. For example, the final verse at the end of the Surah al-Fil (105:5) meaning, “And so He rendered them like a field of grain devoured,” is explained with a commentary that the relevant army was destroyed by the smallpox virus brought by the birds. In fact, the metaphor of devoured grains here describes how the bodies of the soldiers were pierced like leaves eaten by insects. Shortly after this interpretation was published, the scholar Tantawi wrote an interpretation entitled, Al-Jawahir, in which he explained Qur’anic verses from the perspective of developments in science. Even though the desired profundity is not maintained throughout this work, he tried to explain many verses under the light of the findings of modern science. However, other interpreters of the Qur’an saw his work more as an encyclopedia than an exegesis. The late Said Hawwa also made efforts in this direction. As a result, studies and efforts by many scholars led to a new era in the name of scientific interpretation of the Qur’an, and a great deal of studies have been carried out in Turkey and several Arab countries.

For example, Zaghloul al-Najjar, who I followed on a Saudi television channel for a long time, is a person with important studies in this field. This valuable scholar is both deeply knowledgeable about the Qur’an and is an academic with high scientific achievements; he knows his field well and is able to explain scientific matters after scrutinizing them in meticulous detail. As for Bediüzzaman, he did not go into great detail on this subject in his works, but sufficed with explaining certain verses that were challenged, such as how Moses struck a rock and made water gush from it and how Prophet Solomon had the Queen of Sheba’s throne teleported. But one thing that he highlighted was that the miracles of the Prophets mark the furthest horizons sciences can reach and encourage people to explore. In my opinion, this is an extremely significant remark and an approach to be considered seriously. 

The Place of Scientific Inventions within the General Purposes of the Qur’an

As for how often scientific discoveries and inventions are mentioned in the Qur’an, Bediüzzaman’s approach tells us that the verses of the Qur’an mention everything in accordance with their ranking among the general purposes of the Qur’an. When the Qur’an, the Miraculous Exposition, is viewed with a holistic perspective, it will be seen that it shows humanity the ways to eternal bliss by primarily expounding on the pillars of faith and religion. At the same time, it provides happiness in this world by making the necessary regulations about the individual and society. Namely, the Qur’an gives priority to the crucial matters that are necessary for humanity’s happiness in both worlds. When the issue is seen from this perspective, it will be clear that the matters related to scientific discoveries and inventions are of a secondary importance in comparison to these crucial issues raised in the Qur’an. Furthermore, the Qur’an is not a scripture that is addressed to scientists exclusively. On the contrary, it addresses the whole of humanity. Therefore, as its contents are addressed to everyone, the style it uses allows everyone to receive a message. If the Qur’an had explained matters in accordance with the horizons of scientific experts, whose number do not even amount to five percent of humanity, ninety-five percent of humanity would not be able to benefit from it. 

Inferiority Complex and Overstated Commentaries

On the other hand, while commenting on verses related to scientific truths, it is a mistaken attitude to blow things out of proportion and seek fantasy, attaching irrelevant things to the Qur’an with an ambition to make scientific commentaries. Additionally, attempting to test the Qur’an through knowledge presented by natural sciences is a great disrespect against the Word of God. Pretending that issues of science and technology are essential and trying to fit the explanation of the Qur’an to them in some way, and taking every scientific discovery and development as a base and trying to support them with Qur’anic verses by pushing the limits of obvious religious truths is an approach of great disrespect toward God’s Word. Moreover, the Qur’an alludes to different scientific matters in its own style. It uses a style that addresses both the understandings of its contemporaries and the people of our age, when science has made a great deal of progress. In other words, although the verses of the Qur’an made perfect sense to the people of the Prophetic period, they do not contradict at all the scientific truths of our time. To give an example, chapters in the Qur’an such as al-Hajj, al-Mu’minun, and al-Mursalat openly tell about the phases an embryo passes through in the womb. As the people of those days read these verses and benefited from them as far as their horizons allowed, the gynecologists of our time cannot help but be fascinated by the truths revealed about embryonic development in the Qur’an. 

There is another issue that requires us to be careful about: While interpreting verses of the Qur’an and sayings of the noble Prophet under the light of scientific developments, we need to present matters with alternatives, or at least keep in mind that there can be other meanings pointed out or alluded to by these verses, leaving the door open for other possibilities and never sealing the issue. Particularly, if research is being conducted in a new field and on a different subject, making decisive judgments about the interpretation of verses before matters gain clarity can lead to serious mistakes. In addition, it is absolutely necessary to refer to earlier studies and know about the commentaries about the issue in basic reference sources of Qur’anic interpretation from past to present. 

Underlining one more issue can be beneficial here: Scholars that deal with Qur’anic interpretation must be experts in several different fields. For example, they need to know the Arabic language very well, together with disciplines of Tafsir (the Qur’anic Exegesis), Hadith studies, Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence), Usul at-Tafsir (the Methodology of the Qur’anic Exegesis), and Usul ad-Din (Theology). In addition to knowing these, they must have sufficient knowledge to understand the scientific explanations. Likewise, a researcher must have adequate knowledge of religious disciplines in addition to knowing his own scientific field profoundly, if truth is to be reached. Unfortunately in our time, these two fields advance along separate paths. We see that an expert of natural sciences knows the depths of his own field but does not know very much about religion. I would like to clarify the point I am trying to make by saying, “does not know”: Knowing basic facts about religious practices does not mean knowing religion. Even if a person learns by heart Imam Bukhari’s collection of the Prophet’s sayings, this does not mean that he knows religion. Memorizing the entire Qur’an is not sufficient to have a saying in this field either, because, in addition to committing the sayings of the Prophet and verses of the Qur’an to one’s memory, it is necessary to know the disciplines of religious methodology in order to understand Divine purposes correctly. 

Believing Hearts Burning to Discover

Today, Western scientists are meticulously studying the existence with the researches they conduct. One cannot help admire their boldness and efforts in exploring. However, since most of them have not discovered the true identity of the Prophet and his teachings, they interpret everything within the narrow dimensions of material objects and happenings. For this reason, the systems they establish are bound by materialism, positivism, or naturalism. In other words, the extent allowed by these systems—which see matter as everything—restricts the horizons of a researcher from the West. As researchers on the history of science and philosophy insistently emphasize, until the fifth century of Hegira when Muslims lived their renaissance, Muslim scientists made staggering scientific advancements. At a time when many such matters were not even discussed in the West, they conducted serious research, leading to discoveries in medicine, geometry, astronomy, and more bitter fact is that after the fifth century of Hijra, Muslims gave up their scientific pursuits for about ten centuries and the West took the flag, carrying it further. When this happened, the Western scientists were the ones who set the framework of the present system. Since they established the system in their own way, they evaluated the existence through their own understandings. However, reason alone has its limits with respect to perceiving the truth. Reason can only take one to a certain extent and can only explain the issues of research to a certain degree. There are such matters that cannot be understood without using Divine revelation as the touchstone; revelation must have the final say in all fields, including science.” 

To reiterate, in the fields of science and research the spirit and the metaphysical must be considered along with the physical. Only with such a balance can you correctly see and evaluate the things that you study by telescopes, microscopes, and x-rays. These expressions should not be misunderstood. We do not adopt an approach that condemns everything discovered by the West. Since the power of reasoning also given to humanity is a wisdom, there are many correct things stated by basing them on reason but all of the theories that have been developed by only taking physical matter into consideration must undergo a critical revision, distinguishing what is right with them and what is wrong. And this necessarily depends on considering natural and social sciences from the perspective of the Qur’an and Islamic faith. And only those who understand the Qur’an correctly will achieve this. 

At this point, some Muslims talk about transferring or “Islamizing” knowledge. I think this is a defective approach that cannot lead to the proper conclusion; it is like putting on a borrowed shirt. Instead, we must evaluate issues together with their fundamental principles and re-examine the present sciences with the united perspective of sound reason, reliable senses, as well as authenticated knowledge from Divine sources. Using this criterion, Muslims must then come up with their own truths. Success in this regard depends upon raising individuals thirsty for truth, knowledge, and discovery. If we are to write a real Qur’anic interpretation that appeals to the understanding of people of our time, we must first form a council of scholars with encyclopedic knowledge on all fields of sciences. This council must initially consider matters among themselves and then decide what is right or wrong by using the well established methodologies of the Qur’anic Exegesis and Theology. The interpretations and commentaries made only after the affirmation of such a collective consciousness must be included in religious literature. If such a council comprised of both experts on Islamic disciplines and natural and social sciences can be formed, then with the help of God, the consequent study of interpretation should be free from artificial commentaries seeking fantasy. It is our hope and expectation that the contemporary scientists whose hearts are firm in and content with faith come together and collaborate in order to form a Qur’anic interpretation of the desired level, so that Muslims will have, to some extent, paid part of the tribute they owe toward the Noble Qur’an.

This text is the translation of Kur’an ve İlmî Keşifler

Those Who Become Dizzy with Worldly Pleasures and Remain Behind

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: What are the messages to be drawn from the verse (which means), “Those who were left behind in opposition to God’s Messenger rejoiced at staying at home, and abhorred striving with their wealth and persons in God’s cause. And they said: ‘Do not go forth to war in this heat.’ Say (O Messenger): ‘The fire of Hell is fiercer in heat.’ If only they had been able to ponder and penetrate the essence of matters to grasp the truth!” (at-Tawbah 9:81) by those devoted to serving humanity?

Answer: According to the books of Qur’anic exegesis that provide the context of the verses, this verse criticizes the hypocrites’ attitudes and behaviors against striving for the cause of God. This verse also holds a very significant warning and lessons for any believer who presents laziness in terms of serving in the Name of God and indulges in a life of ease. Relatively speaking, so many great figures—Aisha, Abu Dharr, Umar ibn Abdulaziz being the foremost—even saw the verses revealed about the hypocrites as somehow relating to themselves and drew so many lessons for themselves from the issues related in them. One must be careful, though, because with respect to religious belief, it is definitely not correct for believers to see themselves as hypocrites, since being a hypocrite in the real sense means unbelief. It is not possible for a Muslim to accept that. Therefore, as Bediüzzaman expresses in The Gleams, a believer must always say, “All praise and thanks are for God for every state, save unbelief and misguidance.”1 Thus, accepting unbelief makes a person an unbeliever. For this reason, a Muslim is supposed to keep away from hypocrisy and unbelief as if they were poisonous creatures.

Children of Adam Can Turn to Any Direction

Human beings, however, do have certain weaknesses and faults. Satan saw in Adam’s mold—not in his essence—many human weaknesses and faults, such as pursuing fancies of the carnal self, seeking fame, greed for laudation, seeking comfort, addiction to home, fearing beings other than God, and misappropriation. Then he said: “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” (al-A’raf 7:16–17). All of these latent faults in human beings allow Satan to operate. In this respect, we can say that a human being is potentially susceptible to misguidance, hypocrisy, and unbelief. We can also paraphrase this fact as follows: Even if a person is a believer, he or she can possess some qualities associated with misguidance, hypocrisy, and unbelief. But as it is not correct to see that person as misguided, it is definitely wrong to label him as a “hypocrite” or “unbeliever.” What befalls on individuals is for them to continuously watch their inner worlds and to evaluate in themselves whether they possess contemptible qualities, as well as to try to rid themselves of these as soon as possible if they detect any. 

The Misfortunate Ones Who Cheered at Their Own Loss

Returning back to the initial question, it is stated in the relevant verse that the hypocrites rejoiced at staying at home. Who knows, perhaps they thought themselves to be very smart and said to themselves: “Look at them! They are going to confront the great empire of Rome. They will not only be scorched in the desert heat, but also will be struck by a great power and come running back.” With similar expressions, they made fun of the Muslims who joined the expedition and rejoiced. As it is known, the Tabuk Expedition was made during July and August when the desert heat was as high as 50–60 °C (122–140 °F). At home in Medina, the trees yielded fruit in that season and their pleasant shade was a real temptation. Thus, it was extremely difficult to leave spring waters, the shade, and ripened fruits to set out under intense heat. Also, this expedition was against the powerful Romans, who had come as near as Jordan. By launching a campaign against the Romans in a period of adverse conditions, the Sultan of Prophets wanted to make everybody realize that there was an independent power centered in Medina and to maintain security and peace in the desert. Thus, against all odds the Pride of Humanity set out with his army in order to stop the Roman advance and parried the danger with the consent and grace of God. In such a situation, where the conditions were very hard, a few hundred hypocrites did not want to join the expedition, preferring to stay at home and using various pretexts to avoid going. In addition to the hypocrites, three people from the Muslims failed to show due sensitivity at responding to the order and did not join the expedition, remaining behind. Who knows, perhaps they misjudged the situation that not everybody was responsible for joining this expedition. However, God Almighty described their case as they well-nigh “swerved” (takhalluf). Since swerving was a behavior associated with the hypocrites, they also received a Divine punishment through a temporary boycott. However, those chivalrous souls passed their test in the best way and attained Divine forgiveness in the end. Concerning the verse in the question, God Almighty states that the hypocrites’ behavior was realized “in opposition to the Messenger of God.” It can then be inferred that straying from the way of the Prophet is a very serious mistake, which leads to destruction. For this reason, one needs to keep following his way no matter what happens. 

Passing the Virus to Those Around

The hypocrites whose attributes are related in this verse not only stayed back from striving with their wealth and persons in God’s cause, but they also influenced other people by telling them, “Do not join an expedition under such heat!” There are certain people that their horizons always possess a potential for sedition and discord. They send arrows of discord all around. They continuously try to prevent righteous acts. So these people programmed to sedition and discord wondered among the Muslims and tried to change their mind about forming a counterforce against the Romans, by emphasizing the heat and likely troubles. In response to this verse, God Almighty revealed the words which mean, “Say (O Messenger): ‘The fire of Hell is fiercer in heat.’ If only they had been able to ponder and penetrate the essence of matters to grasp the truth!” The Arabic verb used in the verse is not a commonly used word like “ya’lamun” (they know) or “ya’qilun,” (they reason) but “yafqahun,” which denotes to ponder deeply, to approach the issue within a consideration of a cause-and-effect relationship, or to evaluate the issue on a priori and a posteriori grounds; thus, this word choice is very meaningful. The meaning sensed from this wording is: “If only they had some horizons of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence, penetrating to the essence of matters), so that they could grasp the relationship between the cause and effect. Unfortunately, they failed to do so despite all of the warnings.” 

Would the Mistakes Ever Recur If They Had Learned a Lesson?

When we compare these past events with the events of today, we see that nothing has changed much. As the hypocrites of those times failed to recognize the importance and necessity of walking on the path of God, multitudes today do not comprehend this fact. As in the past, today as well, some people underestimate migrating for a lofty cause and serving for the sake of God, caring nothing at all about introducing the example of the Prophet and the essence of his message to others. Indeed, any place where the truth of his message has not germinated is no different than a prison. Hence, realizing that so many people are condemned to live in prisons in this sense and standing up against every kind of difficulty in order to take them to serene immensities are matters of deep insight—and not to be understood with a superficial view. 

In conclusion, it is necessary in our time to undertake every kind of difficulty and troubles for the sake of helping people to remember and recognize their Creator and eliminating the obstacles between people’s hearts and God. For the sake of conveying the inspirations of our soul to others’ hearts and letting others know about a spiritual heritage of more than a thousand years, we must run incessantly and never fall into lethargy concerning this issue. Also, it should never be forgotten that the way to being saved from hellfire in the next world depends upon enduring the heat in this one. And the suffering experienced in this world is a means of attaining bliss in the next, just as the difficulties faced in this one are a means of attaining eternal ease in the next.

1. Nursi, Bediüzzaman Said, The Gleams, New Jersey: Tughra Books, 2008, p. 15

This text is the translation of Yaşama Zevkiyle Başı Dönüp Geride Kalanlar

Horizons of Spiritual Knowledge

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: The poet Niyazi Mısri states, “With fasting, Prayers, and pilgrimage/ It’s not over O ascetic!/ Spiritual knowledge is what is needed/ in order to be a perfected soul (insan al-kamil),” and thus draws attention to the importance of spiritual knowledge. In addition to fulfilling the essential religious duties, what other ways are there in order to gain spiritual knowledge?

Answer: Although different religious responsibilities constitute the foundations of worship, the secret key to opening the door to essentials of faith and worship is the proclamation of faith. In this respect, it is a blessed phrase which holds both the beginning and the end. In other words, the proclamation of faith is both the start and the ultimate point. Without that, neither belief in angels, Divine books, and Prophets, nor belief in the Hereafter and Divine Destiny and Decree bear any meaning. In the same way, acts of worship gain value and meaning by entering through the door they open. As it is related in the famous hadith about Gabriel, faith (iman) comes first. Then comes Islam, and in the end the believer reaches ihsan (perfect goodness, acting and praying as if seeing God, and knowing that He sees you though you do not see Him). Namely, faith is the essence and starting point of religion, its consequence and ultimate fruit is perfect goodness.

Acts of Worship Crowned with Consciousness

As for spiritual knowledge, it is a concept to be contemplated within considerations of perfect goodness. For this reason, a person who wishes to reach horizons of spiritual knowledge must have sound faith first, then do good deeds, and then make it into a “culture of conscience” in the long run. The most important way to attain spiritual knowledge is to observe worship in a meticulous and conscious way. If there is no consciousness in worship, it will not be possible to attain spiritual knowledge. And for a person who fails to attain spiritual knowledge, it is not possible to attain love of God and the Prophet in the true sense. It should not be forgotten that since these are concentric depths, one is reached only by passing from the other. When the issue is seen from this perspective, the poem cited at the beginning makes very good sense: “With fasting, Prayers, and pilgrimage/ It’s not over O ascetic!/ Spiritual knowledge is what is needed/ in order to be a perfected soul.” Because, for individuals devoid of consciousness of being seen by God (ihsan) and the light of spiritual knowledge, acts of worship they do may not amount to anything beyond a repeated formality and practice of culture. They observe the fast because everybody does; they perform the Prayers because their parents did; they go to Hajj because others do. Therefore, since such acts of worship do not go beyond the physical act, one fails to capture their spirit and meaning. In order to express this situation, the Most Noble Messenger of God stated that there are many people who fast but they have no share of the fast except for hunger, and there are many people who get up for the Prayer, but they have no share of the Prayer except for drowsiness.1 Thus, the value of worship depends on the spiritual depth it holds. For example, the Prayer can be offered with such a deep spiritual consciousness that the worshipper feels to be in the Divine presence. This can be to such a degree that even while moving the hands and feet, it is as if he or she is touching the covers of the Divine throne. Such worshippers shake with the idea that any unmannerly move of the hands and legs can be disrespectful in the Divine presence. As a matter of fact, God Almighty relates the situation of the Glorious Messenger of God at the Prayers: “He Who sees you when you rise (in the Prayer, and in readiness to carry out Our commands), as well as your strenuous efforts in prostration among those who prostrate.” (ash-Shu’ara, 26:218–219). Believers who cannot attain such a level of worship must at least willfully believe that God Almighty always sees them and try to fulfill every movement during the Prayer with such consciousness. Acts such as keeping hands and feet in the proper position, knowing where to turn one’s gaze at the Prayer, and knowing what considerations to have at prostration are indications that the consciousness of being in Divine presence is reflected in the worshipper’s manners.

In order to attain spiritual knowledge, acts of worship must definitely be crowned with consciousness. For example, a person at the Prayer must be in full consciousness of worship from the beginning to end. As for making the intention for the Prayer, it is not correct to reduce it to uttering certain words ceremonially, “Here, I intend to perform the Prayer…” True intention is felt in the worshipper’s heart. That is, erasing everything other than God from one’s entire soul and thoughts, having a deep feeling of being in the Divine presence in complete obedience, and even forgetting one’s own self to the degree of completely being erased. Indeed, one should not even be aware of that self-erasing, and he or she should try to keep up this mood throughout the Prayer. From time to time, one might be exposed to certain negative breezes during the Prayers. But at each time, he should use his willpower effectively in order to overcome them. In addition, one must know the meaning of the verses and prayers recited during the Prayer, be aware of the truths that they should evoke in one’s heart, and keep these truths up consciously until the end of the Prayer. These efforts made for the sake of conscious worship are important and reliable references for spiritual knowledge. 

Wonders Worked by Keeping a Steady Course

In addition to having a serious, resolved, and conscious relationship with God Almighty, keeping a steady course in this regard is of utmost significance in terms ofspiritual knowledge. God’s treatment of you will be in proportion with the quality and continuity of your relationship with Him. As the Prophet, who was at the peak of horizons of spiritual knowledge stated, the most lovable of deeds to God is the one constantly observed, even if it is of little amount.2 It should not be forgotten that what pierces marbles is not drops of water, but the constancy of the drops. Even though water is a liquid, it is this constancy that makes a hole through marble. In this respect, a person’s constant observance of worship in patience, steadfastness, determination, and resolution is very important in terms of opening up to knowledge of God (marifa). Therefore, I think that the consideration of Imam Abu Hanifa that the blessed Night of Qadr could be hidden in all nights of the year, reflects a very fine understanding of this fact. God Almighty could have hidden it among any night of the year. Of course, it is laudable to spend the final nights of Ramadan in worship, with an intention to benefit from this blessed night, but that is a different issue.

What really matters is taking every night as such a blessed one to spend in worship, in accordance with the approach of this great imam. With this intention and consideration, one must get up every night and offer the Tahajjud (Late Night) Prayer, at least as an effort of having a blessed light in the grave, and thereby revealing one being true hearted to God Almighty. What value can be found in being a guest of one’s bed, while it is possible to be a guest of God! Ibrahim Haqqi voices this idea beautifully:

O eyes! What is sleep? Come, wake at nights!

Watch comets lighting up the sky at nights

Look and watch those wonders in the sky of the world;

Find your Maker and host Him at nights.

The Mysterious Key to All Kinds of Goodness: Modesty

As a way to reach spiritual knowledge, it is also possible to follow the steps of spiritual journeying. In the same way, it is possible to take the alternative path of “impotence, poverty, joyful zeal, and thankfulness” that Bediüzzaman derived from the Qur’an as a remarkable discipline to reach the horizons of spiritual knowledge. In other words, individuals can attain a state of spiritual alertness and relevant enthusiasm by constantly reminding themselves that they cannot really do anything without the help of God, that they live like kings although nothing really belongs to them in essence, and thus everything that they own comes from the Absolute Owner of everything.

Reading the Qur’an with reflection is also one of the important means on the path to knowledge of God. Setting sail to the special profundities of the Qur’an from the perspectives of great scholars such as Hamdi Yazır of Elmalı, Qadi al-Baydawi, Ebussuud Efendi, or Al-Alusi and feeling the revelation as it is freshly being revealed are factors making a person take wing toward the horizons of spiritual knowledge and helping him to maintain his spiritual alertness.

In order to experience in one’s conscience the opening of mysteries with respect to knowledge of God, it is essential to live in modesty, humility, and self-nullification. As one of great figures of spirituality Yusuf ibn al-Husayn al-Razi expressed, the mysterious key to all kinds of goodness is modesty, and the key to all kinds of evil is arrogance and selfishness. Even if arrogant and selfish people prostrate for a lifetime, they still will not reach the point they expect. Indeed, as decreed in a hadith qudsi, greatness absolutely belongs to God Almighty and if someone attempts to compete with Him in this respect, He seizes that person and throws him into Hell.3

As this discussion shows, so many means can be tried in terms of attaining to the horizons of spiritual knowledge, as the paths leading to God are as many as the breaths of creatures.

1. Sunan ibn Majah, Siyam, 21; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Al-Musnad, 2/373
2. Sahih al-Bukhari, Riqaq, 18; Sahih Muslim, Salatu’l-musafirin, 218
3. Sahih Muslim, Birr, 136; Sunan Abu Dawud, Libas, 26

This text is the translation of “İrfan Ufku

Key Concepts for Interpreting Existence

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: Bediüzzaman states that in his forty years of life he learned four words and four phrases, and “viewpoint” (nazar) is one of these words. Would you please tell us the meaning to be inferred from the word “viewpoint”, and how do you describe a “viewpoint” that becomes believers?

Answer: In his work: Al-Mathnawi al-Nuri (Seedbed of the Light), Bediüzzaman draws attention to the importance of four key phrases: mana-i ismi (self-referential meaning), mana-i harfi (other-indicative meaning), intention, and viewpoint.1

Since these are closely interrelated, let us briefly introduce the first three phrases before we expound on the fourth.

Mana-i İsmi and Mana-i Harfi

These two phrases essentially belong to Arabic grammar. An ism (noun) has a meaning on its own. That is, when you say it as a word, the person addressed understands its meaning. However, a harf (letter) cannot be understood on its own, since it does not bear an individual meaning. For example, prepositions such as “with, from, to, in” do not give a meaning on their own. In order to understand their meaning, they need to relate with other words. Just as Bediüzzaman attaches special meanings to the phrases juz (part) and kull (whole), here he similarly gives new meanings to the concepts of mana-i harfi and mana-i ismi. Specifically, he uses these as key concepts for interpreting existence. He believes it is a mistaken perspective to view the universe with mana-i ismi, that is, simply seeing things as beings on their own or products of causes. Instead, he states that things in the universe should be viewed with respect to what they point to. Accordingly, blessings should bring to mind the Giver of blessings; the beauty and art in creation should bring to mind the Artist, and causes should bring to mind the True Causer who creates them. 

Intention, Which Changes the Nature of Deeds

As for intention, Bediüzzaman states that intention resembles an elixir that turns daily habits and acts into worship, and a spirit that enlivens dead conditions, bringing life to them with a meaning of worship. He also posits that even some wrong acts can turn into good deeds due to the intention behind them. It can be said that making a wrong decision can be a means for spiritual rewards if the intention is sincere. There are certain points in religion that are left to the flow of time. When time and conjuncture generate some gaps in them, they need to be “filled” with certain disciplines and principles in conformity with the spirit of religion; this is called ijtihad (the process of deriving legal judgments from the established principles of the Qur’an and Sunnah to meet new circumstances). The mujtahid (a scholar authorized to deduce new laws) is the person who strives to fill such a gap. Therefore, he will gain a reward for his sincere intention even if his decisions are not correct. On the other hand, the deeds of a person who does not aim to seek the good pleasure of God but instead to gain fame, or to demonstrate his courage, generosity, and knowledge, will gain him sins instead of rewards. At this point, you can think of a hadith related in the Sahih Muslim: Three unfortunate men were called to account in the presence of God. The first one fought in the world so that others appreciated his bravery. The second one donated to charity so that others appreciated his generosity. And the third one tried to make people admire him as a great scholar. Thus, if a man writes articles and books, if he pretends to give great sermons and tries to present examples of eloquent speech, it means that such a person closes his eyes to the good pleasure of God, in return for appreciation from people. One who acts on such a simple and contemptible consideration resembles an ignorant one who sells the priceless jewel in his hands for the price of a piece of rough iron. However, if he had sought an infinite reward such as the good pleasure of God, what he obtained through his efforts would have been completely different. 

Viewpoint and Being Able to See

As for the word “viewpoint”, above all else, a person needs to know how to see. As it is known, looking and seeing are different things. If a person with open eyes does not look consciously with an intention to see, it will not be possible for him or her to tell the difference between things. For example, if a man turns his eyes absentmindedly to the bookshelf in front of him, the books, writings, colors, and patterns there will not register with him. Seeing is something beyond looking. It means realizing the objects in sight and having a perspective of them.

Another dimension of viewpoint is about determining what to look at and how. For example, if people view everything according to the criteria of the three-dimensional realm, they will not be able to see, sense, and feel so many things. In the past, a comment by a cosmonaut appeared in the media. He made a remark that he had toured around the world but did not see God. The famous poet Necip Fazıl responded to this mistaken point of view as follows: “You fool, who told you that God was a balloon in space!” If one tries to see God Almighty, who cannot be contained by time and space whatsoever, like a physical object in the sky, then he can never see the truth and can never be saved from making such mistakes. For this reason, let us state once more that not being able to adopt a correct viewpoint is one of the obstacles to faith, along with other factors such as arrogance, wrongdoing, and imitating ancestors. On the other hand, the entire existence bears witness in every way to the existence and oneness of God. Bediüzzaman voices this truth in his Al-Mathnawi al-Nuri as follows:

Ponder the lines of the universe,
For they are messages to you from the highest abode.

However, a materialistic, naturalistic, and positivistic viewpoint of the universe makes it impossible to hear the voice of creation, which proclaims the Creator through millions of tongues. Even if people with such an outlook study the universe meticulously—since they cannot see in spite of looking, since they cannot pass beyond the apparent reality—they will conclude every issue with naturalism again. In other words, since they do not know what to look at and how, they will fail to attribute the things and phenomena that they study to their true Divine source. 

The viewpoint Bediüzzaman presents through an imaginary debate with Satan about the Qur’an is important for our subject here. There, Bediüzzaman draws attention to the fact that a person who considers the Qur’an needs to see it as the word of God. The reason is that, if the Qur’an is assumed to be a body of human words, it will have been degraded from the heavens to the level of a simple text. It is a reality that the Qur’an is Divine speech revealed in a comprehensible form for humanity as a blessing. Still, one first needs to look at it with a correct viewpoint in order to feel this Divine message coming from beyond, with its true depth and immensity. 

A Comprehensive Look

Another point to be mentioned concerning the issue of viewpoint is having a comprehensive view of creation. This can also be called a perfected viewpoint. Nevertheless, let me note that it is not easy to obtain such a comprehensive viewpoint, particularly while pondering the outside world, and everybody may not be able to achieve such a viewpoint. For this reason, Bediüzzaman suggests the principle of “thinking deeply with respect to one’s inner world, and having a comprehensive look with respect to the outer world,” during reflection (tafakkur). That is to say, one may recognize his or her own being, by looking at one’s own anatomy and physiology under the light of medicine (rather than looking at other beings) and can delve into it more easily. For example, when a person monitors the systems working in his or her body with a conscious view, it is possible to see the absolute power and infinite knowledge beyond that splendid order and dizzying harmony. In the same way, when individuals look at the depths of their inner world such as the heart, soul, and other mysterious human subtle faculties—sir (the secret), khafi (the hidden), akhfa (the most hidden)—that make up their spiritual structure, they can hear the voice of their heart, understand the meaning of their feelings, comprehend what consciousness truly means, and realize their willpower. Thus, individuals can reflect upon, contemplate, and ponder their own self with respect to both their physical and metaphysical (mulk and malakut) dimensions and thus attain great profundities and immensities. As for the universe, one is supposed to adopt a comprehensive look. According to Bediüzzaman, knowledge gained from the outer world cannot be free from apprehensions and groundless fears. However, knowledge from one’s own inner world is free from delusions and suspicions. Thus, it is more sensible to look from the center to the periphery, from the inside to the outside.

Individuals can more easily look at the universe through the scope of their inner world, using it like a field glass, because it is possible to see the laws prevalent inside in the outer world as well. If one follows these patterns, it becomes possible to gain profundity in the inner world first, then to witness that all of the systems in the outer world take place with His infinite power, then to see that the same laws operate in the great book called universe, and then it will be possible to read the outside world with a comprehensive look.

1. Nursi, Bediüzzaman Said, Al-Mathnawi al-Nuri, New Jersey: Tughra Books, 2007, p. 67

This text is the translation of “Varlığı Yorumlamada Anahtar Kavramlar

God Is Sufficient for Us

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: All of the Prophets sought refuge in God’s might and power in the face of misfortunes that befell them and pointed out that only God grants success. So, what is the role of reciting prayers of “hasbiya” (God’s sufficiency) for devoted souls who face lots of difficulties and troubles?

Answer: Human beings, who are essentially weak and needy, can overcome any kind of difficulty only by seeking refuge in God, Who is the All-Powerful and the All-Wealthy. It is essential for them to seek refuge in God against the troubles they face by saying, “God is sufficient for us, how excellent a Guardian He is!” (Al Imran 3:173). Above all, those who utter this phrase with sincerity have entrusted their affairs to Him and believe with conviction that only He is their Guardian and that He will never forsake them when they seek refuge in Him.

Confidence in God

When some people turned away from the Prophet and his way, God Almighty revealed the verse which means, “Still, if they turn away from you (O Messenger), say: “God is sufficient for me; there is no deity but He. In Him have I put my trust, and He is the Lord of the Supreme Throne” (at-Tawbah 9:129).

Bediüzzaman wrote the following commentary on this verse:

If the people of misguidance turn away, diverge from your way, and do not heed the Qur’an, do not worry. Say, “God Almighty is sufficient for me. In Him I put my trust. He will raise up others in your place who will follow me. His Throne of rule encompasses everything. Neither the rebellious can escape its bounds, nor are those who ask for help left unaided.”1

There is a prayer of the Messenger of God that is to be recited in the morning and in the evening. It is as follows:  “O God! It is Your Mercy that I hope for, so leave me not alone for the blinking of an eye and set right all my affairs! O Living, Self-Subsistent Lord!”2

Expounding on this, we can say: “O God, please, let not distractions corrupt my deeds while I strive on Your way. Do not leave me to my carnal self and the devil even for a moment; for if they take over, they might lead me straight to the pits of Hell. Since the carnal self can never be trusted, I will be a loser if it holds the reins. If You are my Guardian, however, then I can find guidance and walk on the true path. For neither the carnal self nor the devil can manipulate anything if there is strength and support from You.”

God’s Absolute Dominion

When their people turned away from them, Prophet Abraham and those who believed in his message relied on God as well. They said: “O Our Lord! It is in You that We have put our trust, and it is to You that we turn in utmost sincerity and devotion, and to You is the homecoming. O Our Lord! Do not make us a prey to those who disbelieve. And forgive us, our Lord. You are the All-Glorious with irresistible might, the All-Wise” (al-Mumtahanah 60:4–5).

Their words present an upright stance against the disbelievers and virtually challenged all their threats. At the same time, they proclaimed that anything worshipped other than God bears no true value and deserves no praise. Their words indicate their personal realization of the Divine Power’s absolute dominion over all things, as well as the illumination of belief.

Here, I would like to draw attention to another point. When one reads about the behavior and words of our Prophet along with previous Prophets from a comparative perspective, it is apparent that the laudable virtues God granted him are repetitions of the prayers of the previous Prophets. For example, Moses prayed and asked God to grant him serenity in his heart saying, “My Lord, expand my breast” (Ta-Ha 20:25).

Indeed the Qur’an mentions this asking, “Have not We expanded your breast?” (al-Inshirah 94:1). This is one of the blessings granted to Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him and all the Prophets. As we mentioned above, Prophet Abraham and his followers were in a position where they realized only God could change their situation. Similarly, another verse describes the situation of the Companions of the Prophet in the following way:

Those (believers) to whom some people said: “Look, those people have gathered against you, therefore be fearful of them.” But it increased them only in faith, and they responded: “God is sufficient for us; how excellent a Guardian He is” (Al Imran 3:173).

As the above verse demonstrates, even in situations where people normally feel fear and distress over the unknown, the Companions of the Prophet had complete faith and trust in God.  They faced the enemy unafraid because they were filled with spiritual alertness.

Complete Confidence in God

When Bediüzzaman was completely isolated during his exile, the world seemed exceedingly gloomy. It was during this gloomy period that he was inspired by the verse, “God is sufficient for us; how excellent Guardian He is” (Al Imran 3:173). Suddenly, a new understanding of this verse occurred to him. From that point on, he began reciting the verse five hundred times a day and, consequently, various mysteries revealed themselves in his soul. Indeed, the spiritual power he obtained through the lessons he garnered from this single verse gave him a powerful faith that sufficed him not only against his persecutors in the exiled land, but also against the entire world. A person whose heart attains such a level of ease will neither be seized by worry and grief nor imprisoned or pressured to change his course.

Prisons become like a school of Joseph for Bediüzzaman, and he continued his mission there. When his release from prison was possible, he would opt to stay in prison for the sake of not leaving their fruitful services halfway and being beneficial to the inmates there. This is the meaning of ease, serenity, and inner peace in its truest sense. On the other hand, a person with a depressed heart and spirit experiences such stress, anxiety, and anguish that no possessions in the world can provide a cure for it. Those who are not awakened to the truth in their souls can never be saved from the spiritual darkness even if they manufacture thousands of yachts and luxurious cars every day. True serenity and happiness is in the God-granted peacefulness of the heart. Those who attain such a state can stand up against troubles of great magnitude, turn the fires into colored flames and sparks in their hearts, and let those around them enjoy the spectacular display of fireworks.

As a matter of fact, the moment when the impact of the troubles and sufferings we go through strikes the horizons of our imagination and batters the conception and reasoning processes in our mind, inspirations like those granted to Bediüzzaman may enter our heart as well. Particularly, those who eagerly seek perfect faith and sincerity and strive to keep up a sound relationship with God Almighty may be honored with the experience of such manifestations. However, most of us overlook such manifestations since we do not listen to our inner voice or may perceive such inspirations as ordinary things that occur to everyone. Spiritual figures, however, view inspirations on a different wavelength of manifestations coming to them not as casual and ordinary, but rather as something with meaning and wisdom in them. Indeed, they take such occurrences as important signs and warnings. So Bediüzzaman appreciated the precious truth that occurred to his heart and concentrated on it; he recited this Qur’anic verse five hundred times every day in hopes of gaining wisdom and inspiration.

Given that he repeated the verse five hundred times, one can assume that there must be a mysterious wisdom in repetition in terms of feeling the truth of a matter profoundly. In that case, ordinary people should seek refuge in the Divine Power against the evil of their enemies, target high horizons and say five hundred or even perhaps a thousand times a day this supplication of the Prophet, “God is sufficient for me; there is no deity but He. In Him have I put my trust, and He is the Lord of the Supreme Throne.

As individuals, we can use the following method for realizing this lofty aim: When a group of people share a certain long prayer amongst themselves by reading smaller parts of it, they can complete it in an easier way, whereas each participant benefits from the total blessings that correspond to the collective deed. So this prayer can be recited in the same way. For example, if ten friends agree to recite it a hundred times per person, the collective deed—God willing—will gain each one of them the reward as if they recited it a thousand times individually.

Saying “God Is Sufficient for Us” in the Face of Achievements

A believer is supposed to seek refuge in God not only against trouble and misfortune, but also in times of success and achievement. In this respect, the profundity of the issue in question may differ from person to person, for some say “God is sufficient for us; how excellent Guardian He is,” against misfortunes only. By turning to God this way, they witness all their problems being solved with the help of Divine Providence. This is the refuge those in distress need. As for others, they make it their habitual prayer and seek refuge in God’s Power with their supplications to Him day and night. Those whose spiritual faculties are open to the horizons of Divine mysteries sense the Power of God Almighty over everything, down to the most trivial matters of their personal lives. Even when performing simple tasks such as threading a needle or taking a morsel of food to one’s mouth, these enlightened people seek refuge in the Divine Power. In fact, they hold the belief that God creates their actions when they choose to do anything, since they do not have any power to create their own actions save making a choice in favor of an thing or another; thus, they say, He is always “the One who creates” our acts. This belief reflects pure faith in the Oneness of God.

Indeed, when we follow the tradition of the Prophet and repeat the prayer “God is sufficient for me; there is no deity but He. In Him have I put my trust, and He is the Lord of the Supreme Throne” seven times in the morning, we proclaim our acknowledgement that He is the ultimate Guardian to eliminate the problems we face during the day. Then, when the evening comes, we entrust our night to the Lord of Infinite Mercy by repeating the same words. May God enable us to weave every moment of our lives with the radiant rays of the tradition of the Prophet!

1. Nursi, Bediüzzaman Said, The Gleams, New Jersey: Tughra Books, 2008, p. 66
2. Al-Hakim, al-Mustadrak, 1/545

This text is the translation of “Allah Bize Yeter

The Architects of Thought Who Will Build the Future

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: Some educators state that in addition to certain material shortages and difficulties, they are badly affected by students’ disinterest and unwillingness to study. What is your stance on this issue?

Answer: By taking into consideration certain religious principles, we can say that learning and teaching are two exalted duties whose ends extend into the heavens. In so many verses of the Qur’an and sayings of the Prophet, the importance of knowledge (ilm) is emphasized and people are encouraged to pursue it. For example, God Almighty points to the fact that those who know are more superior than those who do not, with the verse meaning, “Are they ever equal, those who know and those who do not know?” (az-Zumar 39:9). In another verse, He compares those who know to those who can see, and those who do not to blind people, “Are the blind and the seeing alike? Will you not, then, reflect?” (al-An’am 6:50).

The Inheritors of the Prophet’s Way

As the supremacy of Prophet Adam over the angels is mentioned in the Qur’an, his having a potential for knowledge is also emphasized, which is a meaningful indication of the importance the Qur’an lays on knowledge. After teaching all the names to Adam, God Almighty asked the angels about them, who did not know, whereas Adam told the names taught to him (al-Baqarah 2:31–32). It is understood from here that what gives supremacy to humanity over the angels is the teaching of “names” to them; in other words, their having a potential for sciences.

In a way, the Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, encouraged learning as the Prophets’ heritage and stated that “The Prophets do not leave behind money or wealth as their heritage; the heritage they leave is knowledge (ilm); whoever attains that knowledge attains a great share indeed.”1 In another statement, the Messenger of God said that he was sent (to humanity) as a teacher.2 Thus, he both, emphasized the importance of acquiring knowledge and teaching it to others.

So a teacher is a representative of such a lofty mission, a worker, and an architect of ideas. I think a teacher with spiritual concerns can enlighten the minds and souls of his or her students by utilizing the advantages of the contemporary age and reaching into the essential points of sciences, finding ways through every branch of science such as math, biology, physics, chemistry, anatomy, physiology, and geology. Thus, it can be said that the most suitable way of shaping people and making a monument of them is by being a teacher. It is for this reason that the Qur’an lays so much importance on learning, and the Prophet insistently emphasized this matter. In this respect, individuals who wish to be beneficial to their society, people, and all humanity must face all kinds of difficulties and serve in this field against all odds, and definitely make use of such an important tool.

A Field of Influence That Extends from a Student to All of His Relatives

On the other hand, even though children cannot be legal witnesses in religious matters, they actually are the strongest witnesses of the world in terms of human psychology. Everybody believes what a child says. Therefore, the person a teacher addresses is not only the child in sight; students have many relatives who are in contact with them. When the child comes home, he will naturally relate what happened at school and their relations with the teachers. Therefore, when the teacher expresses himself to the child, he will reflect it to his family in the same way. For example, about a teacher who did kindness to him, the student will say, “he did such and such kind act for me. He listened to our troubles. He found a solution for such and such problem. When we felt sad, he dispersed our doom and gloom and consoled us thus…” and statements to that effect. This kind of reports will form a good opinion of the teacher among the family. And if the teacher establishes a sound dialog with them by taking the opportunity of family visits and other similar ones, then you sometimes see that a single student helps establishing a relation with an entire group of relatives. In this respect, a teacher who is caring for a student can be doing the same for a home, even all of the relatives who have some kind of relation with that home. For this reason, a teacher’s field of influence is a really wide one.

In my opinion, a profession with so much gaining must definitely be performed no matter how difficult it is. If necessary, one must get by with a minimal earning, and material drawbacks, like low salaries must not be perceived as obstacles. It is not the money everything depends on. Perhaps the Prophets were the most financially disadvantaged people in the world. However, it was the Prophets again who won people’s hearts, guided them to righteousness, and offered a fresh life to the world. With these words, I do not mean to say that teachers should seek poverty artificially. The point I am trying to make is that money is not everything, and besides that, there are many different riches like gaining hearts, reaching into spirits, and orienting people toward lofty goals. Particularly at a time when the world is globalized through education, teaching has gained a different importance. While some try to carry out this job with coercion and extreme dislike in spite of all positive feedbacks and reactions, you should do it trying to realize journeys to the hearts of people with your gentleness and affection. And the impulsive force behind that kind of approach is teaching. In this respect, I hold the opinion that students of all levels should be motivated in this sense and encouraged to become teachers. Let there be no misunderstanding; all of the professions that make a society stand and survive should be given importance for sure, not leaving gaps in any field of life. However, we should not forget that teaching has an outstanding position of giving life to a society.

Gaining People to Pray for You in Gratitude for a Lifetime

Let us come to the issue of naughty behaviors of students and their indifference to learning. First of all, we need to accept from the very beginning that all students can present such behaviors. An important aspect of teaching is acknowledging these kinds of troubles and putting up with them. Even a sculptor makes so much effort to make a dry body of marble into a work of art. The sculptor sweats, gets tired, and tries to give a certain shape to the marble in the end. A teacher’s job is no easier than that! The teacher takes the potential human, and tries to raise them to the level of true humanity by rounding their sharp pointed sides. In other words, by working all of the precious potentialities in them like a jewel-smith, the teacher helps them make a monument of their souls. Like a gifted artist, the teacher almost builds the human anew. Despite all of these, if there are still certain students that pose serious problems and disturb the general harmony, they can seek different solutions such as meeting their parents or applying alternative guidance programs for them, in order to prevent them from harming those around at least. This way, these students will also have been taken under protection in a certain way. For example, if necessary, it is possible to invite the family members of such students and let them watch the situation of their children from afar; then they can seek different methods of solutions in consultation with the teachers. The Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, turned the most bigoted, savage, and uncivilized people into teachers for a civilized world, and thus, he became the beloved one of so many hearts. This was to such a degree that people who once came to the Prophet’s presence and shouted, “Who is Abdulmuttalib’s son Muhammad?” started to listen to him attentively, as if they were afraid of startling a bird on their heads. So this is the greatest example of teaching and guidance. Given that the Prophets made wildest people into upright figures to be role models for all, this must be possible at all times. Then the teacher will endure pains and suffering if need be, but in the end he or she will gain individuals to pray for them in gratitude for a lifetime. In addition, their students’ good deeds will also add to the teachers’ as well. For such an outcome, it is worth bearing whatever it takes. A teacher may not be able to bring all of the students under his responsibility to a certain desirable quality and fail to gain all of the students he maintains contact with. Nonetheless, some people abandoned the circles of even the most perfect guides and prepared their own ruin. In this respect, what befalls on the teacher is to show all the effort they can. The one to create the outcome is God Almighty. But it should never be forgotten that if a teacher takes the task he does as the prime goal, and strives to fulfill the due of his job, God Almighty never lets his efforts be wasted, grants him different favors, and inspires him different ways of solution.

There Is No Matter Unsolved with the Message of a Person’s Disposition

An important point that should not be neglected by teachers is providing guidance to students with the language of their disposition and with the depth of their representation of values by personal example. Controlling the evil feelings in human beings—with a potential for evils and bad morals, such as wrath, lust, grudge, hatred, and violating others’ rights, all of which can make one fall to the lowest of the low—who are doomed to go corrupt when left on their own, and cultivating benevolent feelings, in them can only be realized through a good guide whose attitude and behaviors are envied and who is taken as a role model.

Finally, let me share a feeling of mine, I hope it will not be misinterpreted as pride. I am seventy four now. But still, if they give me a duty in the wooden hut where I used to stay when I was a mentor long years ago, I will gladly run there and try to fulfill that duty. Perhaps, some of our friends can see that task as a simple and trivial one. But I have not underestimated this duty and would never do so. Even today, some people may consider our having lessons with the small circle of young scholars here as a simple and trivial job. However, in my opinion, this is the most important occupation that can take human to the highest levels.

To conclude, one needs to take teaching very dearly, perceive and consider it as the Prophets’ way. The truth is that, among the people who serve a nation, it is not possible to show anybody of equal importance to teachers, since service and investment for humanity are more sacred than everything. If you become the gardener of all of the world’s gardens, this does not compare much next to teaching something meaningful to a few people. Let alone that, even kingship is not of equal value as a duty in comparison to making people ascend to true humanity. After all, weren’t great rulers of the human history apprentices in the hands of excellent teachers? Taking all of these into consideration, we can say that the people closest to God are teachers who devoted themselves to being beneficial to others. For they are the ones who build the human; they are the ones who build the society. The ones to build the present and future, and the ones to put their stamp on the future are teachers.

1. Sunan Abu Dawud, Ilm, 1
2. Sunan ibn Majah, Muqaddima, 17

This text is the translation of “Geleceği İnşa Edecek Fikir Mimarları

Becoming the Soil for Roses

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: People holding certain posts or having attained particular statuses would, in time, develop an assumption of superiority. What are the essential principles to help believers avoid arrogance?

Answer: As the blessings of God Almighty come showering down, what befalls the children of Adam, who were created from a mere drop of liquid, are feelings of gratitude, thanksgiving, humility, and—whatever position they are in—seeing themselves (not above but) below others. What really matters is being able to say, as Muhammed Lütfi Efendi stated,

Everybody is refined but I am rough;
Everybody is wheat but I am chaff.

You can call this consideration modesty, self-effacement, or reducing oneself to zero if you like, but it is a definite fact that true existence flourishes in the bosom of this consideration.

A Meteor Could Fall!

How beautiful one poet’s expression is:

Without dropping down to the earth a seed cannot attain blessings,
Those who are truly modest flourish by Divine Providence.

Meaning, if a seed does not drop and let itself decompose to germinate, it cannot sprout its shoot and produce crops. The process of having fruitful crops depends on being crushed under the soil, becoming soil, and being no one; only then a second existence becomes possible. So whatever status one has in society, true wisdom requires one to see oneself this way. Individuals with such considerations are already prepared for self-effacement and will therefore not lose in the face of even the hardest tests by God’s grace. Such people do not feel dizzy before victories, and do not give up in the face of pressures, attacks, and insults, because a man who sees himself as a seed under the soil does not mind others walking on him. As for those who pay tribute to their ego, they would draw negative meaning from the looks, gestures, and innocent smiles of others and would feel discomfort even with trifle and very irrelevant things when they cannot receive the treatment they expect from others.

However, those who get themselves in a cocoon of humility, assuming a modest position below ground level, will neither be disturbed by any insults nor by being walked on. Not only will they not be disturbed, they will deem that all of those negative situations are their just deserts, taking it as a chance for a new self-criticism. For example, if a walnut falls on their heads, they say, “It serves me right. Considering my present state, it could have been a meteor.” They believe that there is definitely much wisdom behind every event, since God Almighty would never ordain futile, unreasonable things to happen but decrees everything with infinite wisdom.

Particularly in our time when arrogance has grown out of control, modesty, humility, and self-effacement bear even more importance in terms of being able to provide guidance to others. Think about it; roses do not grow on emerald, ruby, coral, gold, or silver. Although these substances are among the most precious materials that are formed with the permission of God in the earth or sea, no roses grow on them. Roses grow in soil. Even the Pride of Humanity was created from soil. His blessed ancestors were also created from soil. In this respect, if we wish to cultivate beautiful roses, we have to be modest like the soil.

Liberating Oneself from Selfishness

Acting in compliance with the manners taught by the tradition of the Prophet is very important in our relations with others, in terms of not being seized by considerations of superiority and establishing the idea of humility as an ingrained depth of our character. For example, the noble Prophet once said, “Wish for others, what you wish for yourself, so that you become a believer (in the true sense).”1

Accordingly, one who is so immensely thoughtful, sensitive, and magnanimous to the degree of wishing for others what they wish for themselves possess the character of a true believer. Let us consider the opposite: If people do not wish for others what they wish for themselves and if what they wish for others is what they do not wish for themselves, then such individuals are distant from the protective atmosphere of true faith and stand on a slippery ground where they can stumble and fall any time.

Moreover, we are supposed to have a good opinion of others’ attitude and behaviors even if these do not seem quite right. We need to think that they may have behaved that way for a reason that is not clear to us. To put it differently, we had better try to give a good meaning to others’ behaviors which might seem wrong outwardly but is possible to explain with a plausible base and reason. As having such an approach towards others is an important shield against having baseless negative perceptions about them, it is a similarly powerful incentive for keeping a good opinion of others. In addition, not taking any personal pride depends on having such considerations.

Making Modesty into an Ingrained Character Trait

Everybody should know that they need a good rehabilitation through education and training in terms of making modesty into an ingrained character trait in them. For this reason, by taking refuge in the Divine name Rabb (“Lord” as the Creator, Trainer, Upbringer, and Director of all creatures), we need to carry on our lives under the protection of our Lord and be resolved to acquire an ideal morality in conformity with the Divine training and instruction; we need to make a self-supervision every day with respect to religious criteria.

Naturally, being steadfast and consistent is of great importance. As the Messenger of God stated, “Most lovable of deeds in the sight of God is the continuous one, even though it is of little amount.”2 As is known, steady water drops have the ability to form a hole even on a marble surface. In this respect, rehabilitating the carnal self, spiritual training, and continuous attendance to religious talks are among the most important points of the issue.

At a certain period in history, the traditional madrasa schools and Sufi lodges embraced all areas of life and jointly fulfilled this mission. People who surrendered themselves fully to their education and guidance ascended to the level of true humanity by undergoing serious spiritual training and letting the faculties of their mind, heart, and spirit thrive. Along with keeping the mind ready to welcome scientific matters in their own circumstances, those blessed places showed their initiates the ways of soaring on the horizons of the heart, spirit, and sir (a spiritual faculty meaning “secret”). Otherwise, if matters are evaluated merely within the field of reason, then it becomes inevitable to be trapped within the narrow boundaries of rationalist and Mu’tazilah thought. As a matter of fact, it is very difficult to say whether those who adopt such schools of thought provided sound guidance to those around them, in spite of these favorable conditions. As for those who achieved to whisper some things into people’s hearts in the true sense, they have been the ones who led their lives on the horizons of the heart and spirit.

1. Sunan at-Tirmidhi, Zuhd, 2; Sunan ibn Majah, Zuhd, 24
2. Sahih al-Bukhari, Riqaq, 18

This text is the translation of “Gül Toprakta Biter

Self-Criticism and Asking Forgiveness from God

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: What are the points to be considered in the face of misfortunes, so that a person can endure different tests in this world as a believer?

Answer: It is stated in the verse (which means): “Whatever good happens to you, it is from God; and whatever evil befalls you, it is from yourself” (an-Nisa 4:79). People who believe in this Divine decree must first of all ascribe every trouble and misfortune that strikes them to their own faults and sins. For example, if they drop a glass or plate and break it, they must wonder what wrong they committed for this to happen, since there is no event that takes place by blind chance in this universe. When flow of life is observed meticulously, it will be noticeable that even very trivial things going wrong are warnings and all that happens gives a signal. If people take notice of that signal, turn to God repentantly, and commits a good deed to serve as a shield against the oncoming greater trouble, they can be saved by God’s grace. Lesser misfortunes, such as a broken glass, may prevent the oncoming misfortunes and serve as expiation for sins. As it is stated in a hadith,1 there is no case of tiredness, illness, grief, worry, trouble, gloom, or even pricking one’s foot on a thorn but it surely serves as expiation for the sins of a believer. Those who fail to recognize the real causes of the troubles or misfortunes that befell them usually start saying (unacceptable) things which can be interpreted as complaining about God.

On the Way to Finding the Right One to Blame

We may not always clearly see the underlying reasons behind events. However, people with sound faith are supposed to think about the wrongdoings they may have committed, even in the face of seemingly irrelevant adversities. Because being self-critical is a very significant step in the process of finding the one to blame. Otherwise, those who always look for somebody else to put the blame on will not succeed, even if they continue their search their entire lives. Concerning this issue, Bediüzzaman wrote in one of his letters: “Now I have understood the real reason for the wrongdoing and tortures I have been suffering from. Here I say with true remorse that my fault was taking my service in the way the Qur’an as a means to progress spiritually.” These words of this great figure show the profundity of his self-criticism. Moreover, we can infer from these words that serving in the way of faith should not be seen as a means of making spiritual progress or being favored with Divine inspirations and blessings—not even of sublime goals like entering Paradise or being saved from Hell. Taking these as real motives means sabotaging our own way. Our primary and sole concern must be sincerity and gaining God’s pleasure and approval. Neither love of Paradise nor fear of Hell must have priority over true worship. God Almighty gives generous rewards for deeds sincerely done. The blessings of God are infinite whereas our worship and servitude is limited. Even if you become king of the world and a multi-millionaire in wealth, you still feel shy while giving, since your wealth decreases in proportion with the amount you give. But the blessings of God are beyond count. Therefore, things you ask for are so minor in comparison to what He grants.

Refraining from all Kinds of Complaint

As we have said, those who fail to recognize the real reason for the troubles and misfortunes that befall them say things which can be taken as complaining about God Almighty. It is acceptable to complain about wrongdoers to the authorities to defend our personal rights. In other words, people who think that they are subjected to wrongdoing  would naturally seek justice through petitioning God or the people of justice. However, no person in no form has the right to complain about God to anybody else. Let alone doing that overtly, even the act of puffing and other gestures that show grievance in the face of troubles and misfortunes will be regarded as complaining about God. Therefore, it is commendable to keep away from all kinds of words and attitudes that express complaint in an overt or covert fashion.

Indeed, blaming oneself for troubles and misfortunes depends on a consciousness of serious self-criticism—this in turn depends on a sound faith in God and the Day of Judgment. It is narrated that Umar ibn al-Khattab said, “Call yourselves to account before being called to account.” This clearly shows that self-criticism is directly related to one’s faith in being called to account on the Day of Judgment. When we study the personal prayers and litanies of great saints, it is understood that each of them lived with a serious consideration of self-criticism out of their concern for the accountability of their deeds. For instance, Abdul Qadir al-Jilani debases himself  in one of his  litanies to such an extent that we will probably never do ourselves in an entire lifetime. Likewise, after debasing himself with certain negative phrases, Abu’l-Hasan ash-Shadhili implores God with hope and asks for forgiveness by saying, “So many people like me knocked on Your door of mercy, and were not let down.” Hasan al-Basri’s weekly litany, which is included in the Imploring Hearts,2 also sets an important example. This monumental figure who recited a separate habitual prayer for each day of the week virtually makes a mountain out of a molehill at blaming himself. This hero of faith, who was one of the foremost among the second generation after the Prophet, directly benefiting from the Companions of the Prophet, who stood up as a scholar against the misguided schools of thought in the Basra region, and from whom Imam Azam Abu Hanifa greatly benefited, was a person who kept away from sin even in his dreams. This great man expresses his wrongdoings in such a way that he virtually sees himself as the worst of sinners. He turns to God as if he were an ultimate loser in the spiritual sense, as if he had been one who incessantly committed sins. He would criticize himself every single day.

The Feeling of Self-Criticism That Results in Asking Forgiveness

Individuals who are aware of their wrongdoings with a consciousness of self-criticism consequently resort to repentance and ask forgiveness. After God Almighty mentions different wrongdoings and states that the one who commits them deserves punishment, He gives tidings about the truly repentant: “. . . except he who gives up his way in repentance and believes, and does good, righteous deeds—such are those whose (past) evil deeds God will efface and record virtuous deeds in their place. God is the Forgiving, the Compassionate” (al-Furqan 25:70).

According to this verse, if the ones undergoing spiritual deformation with sins and wrongdoings immediately turn to God in repentance and ask forgiveness, then God will replace their wrongdoings with good deeds. Bediüzzaman approaches this verse differently and says that the unlimited human potential for evil turns into a potential for goodness. Then turning to God in sincere repentance becomes a means for them to undergo such a great transformation.

Asking Forgiveness: A Life Spring for Personal Revival

The Messenger of God, most perfect blessings and peace be upon him, stated the importance of asking forgiveness from God by saying, “Whoever wishes to be rejoiced at the book of his deeds (on the Day of Judgment), let him increase the amount of asking forgiveness (istighfar) in it.”3 Being a hero at asking forgiveness, the Messenger of God also stated that he made istighfar one hundred times a day. We can interpret this situation as a sign of his continuous progress at spiritual journeying, while regarding it as a presentation of the ideal example for all other people to follow. A person with a leading position in a community presents a role model with all of his attitudes and behaviors for the entire community. For example, a corrupt leader of an organization will most probably drift his subordinates to corruption as well. In the same way, the presence of a guide who constantly strives for goodness is a very important incentive in terms of guiding people toward goodness. In this respect, it can be said that the Messenger of God, who was such an ideal role model and who elevated his followers to the horizons where angels hover, made istighfar one hundred times a day. In fact, no matter what level, believers who question their lives in retrospect can find lots of wrongdoings to make them ask forgiveness from God. They might have cast lustful looks at forbidden sights while going somewhere or they might have backbitten somebody in another case, without even realizing this grave sin. Thus, people must realize that even one such sin can bring them to eternal ruin, so they must immediately seek refuge in asking forgiveness. In The Gleams,4 Bediüzzaman drew attention to the fact that seemingly little things might cause someone to be lost for good: “So be alert and careful, always act with caution and in fear of sinking. Do not drown in a morsel, a word, a grain, a glance, a beckoning, or a kiss! Do not cause your faculties—that are so extensive that they can contain the whole world—to drown in such a thing.” People make very serious plans even about worldly matters. For example, before starting a new business, they conduct in-depth feasibility studies and invest accordingly. Then they make monthly analyses to monitor progress and profitability. If even business in this passing world takes so much planning and evaluation, should we not take much more of eternal life into consideration?

I think it will be useful to mention another point related to this issue. Bediüzzaman says, “Prayer and trusting God greatly strengthen our inclination to do good, and repentance and seeking God’s forgiveness defeat our inclination to evil and break its transgressions.” That is, as repentance and seeking God’s forgiveness (tawba and istighfar) serve as a barrier against human inclination for evil and neutralize sins by slamming them with a sledgehammer, supplicating to God similarly strengthens our inclination for goodness. Accordingly, people moving with the wing of repentance and asking forgiveness on the one hand and supplication on the other, by God’s grace, may ascend to the peak of human perfection and find themselves below the feet of the Pride of Humanity, upon him be peace and blessings.

On the other hand, let me express how I wish that—instead of struggling to restore their hearts and spiritual lives—people could build up barriers against their destruction from the very beginning, for it is very difficult to restore something after it has been destroyed. As I have mentioned in different talks, when I was assigned as a young imam to the Selimiye Mosque in Edirne, restoration work had begun. During my stay of six to seven years in Edirne, the restoration of the mosque, which had been built at the time of Sultan Selim III in six years, was still not completed. Because restoring something ruined into its original condition is far more difficult than constructing it anew. So, spiritual restoration of a person who underwent sinful deformation is not as easy as thought. Then one must try to be cautious of destruction from the very beginning and remain vigilant of sins. 

1. Sahih al-Bukhari, Marda, 1
2. Imploring Hearts (Al-Qulub ad-Dari‘a) is a collection of prayers and supplications selected and compiled into a volume by Fethullah Gülen from various Islamic sources. (Ed.)
3. Kanz al-Ummal, 1/475, 2065
4. The Gleams is one of the four main volumes of the collection of the Risale-i Nur (The Epistles of Light) by the leading Islamic scholar Bediüzzaman Said Nursi (1876-1960). The other three main volumes in this modern commentary of the Qur’an are The Words, The Letters, and The Rays. (Ed.)

This text is the translation of “Muhasebe ve İstiğfar

Enemies of a Happy Marriage

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: It is mentioned in a saying of the Prophet that driving a wedge between spouses and spoiling a marriage is among Satan’s favorite deeds. How would you recommend married couples stay away from this danger and not have their marriage end in divorce, which is known as the ugliest of lawful deeds in the sight of God?

Answer: Satan is the instigator of all evil deeds and destroyer of good, righteous deeds. We see that negative deeds are ascribed to Satan in the Qur’an, as in: “…Satan decked out their deeds to be appealing to them” (an-Nahl 16:63) and “Then Satan made an evil suggestion to both of them…” (al-A’raf 7:20).

The Stealthy and Sworn Enemy

Satan is further mentioned in the Qur’an as gharur (deluder), as in “…nor let the deluder delude you (in your conceptions) about God” (Luqman 31:33). The original word gharur (deluder) is inflected in the verb form that denotes extreme degree, so its actual meaning is “extremely delusive one.” Thus, Satan has a terrible and dizzying way of deception. He continuously tries to misguide the children of Adam by corrupting their intentions and thoughts with his own twisted ones and intrigues. The term khannas (sneaking whisperer) is used for him in the final chapter of the Qur’an. Because Satan is a stealthy creature who tries to tempt people every which way he can, who withdraws and re-attacks them at every suitable chance, who approaches them in the disguise of being helpful and “seemingly righteous,” who makes beautiful deeds seem ugly, and who does his best to make people slip and fall. As Bediüzzaman puts it, one of the most significant deceptions of Satan is making people deny his own existence (thereby rejecting his influence and interference over their actions). To such a degree that even though some people completely come under his influence and move with satanic impulses, they see themselves as the thinker, decider, planner, and doer in all of such acts. And the carnal soul, which is an innate aspect of human essence, serves as the central control unit or the agent for Satan. As the Qur’an reveals, the carnal soul does not leave a person alone and continually makes evil suggestions. To clarify this with an example, Satan constantly sends different messages to the carnal self similar to those written in Morse code. The carnal self decodes these messages and prompts the person to act accordingly. In the face of such a situation, the children of Adam might act upon the impulses from Satan and the carnal self, and thus commit many evils. Therefore, ending a marriage, separating children from their family, and subsequent material and spiritual misery is one of such grave sins.

Size of the Damage

As mentioned in the initial question, the noble Prophet stated that Satan rejoices at nothing more than a married couple breaking up. Here is the full version of this Prophetic saying. The Devil sets his throne on water: This teaches us about the places frequented by devils and where those creatures are more likely to make people slip and fall. In other words, the Devil resides in places used for immoral pursuits and places—such as beaches—suitable for every kind of evil. Then he sends his forces here and there to do evil: Some of them make people involve usury; some provoke the eye to look at forbidden sights, triggering bohemian feelings and making people act upon their lusts. Some of them control the mouth and make it lie, backbite, or slander others. It can be said that each one of his aides does what they will according to their special ability to tempt. The nearest to him in rank are those that cause greatest dissension. All of them go to the Devil to tell him what they did. One of them comes and says: “I did this and this.” But the Devil tells him, “You have done nothing”: Actually, the Devil is pleased with every sin committed, for in every sin there is a way leading to unbelief. Every sin brings about a dark spot on the heart. At the same time, a person committing a sin virtually takes a step to distance him/herself further from God. However, the Devil expects more from his aides. Then one of them comes and says: “I did not spare such and such man until he broke up with his wife.” The Devil calls him to come nearer and compliments him: “You have done well!”1

This refers to a very common social problem in our time. Breaking up a family is such an important matter for the Devil. While he does not praise many of his aides who have people commit other evils, he may praise much and even reward those who achieve separating married couples. But why is this so important for the Devil? Because, by destroying a marriage, he not only harms the lives of two people, but also that of the children, parents, relatives, loved ones, and in a way an entire society. Given that families are the molecules of a society, broken up families mean dysfunctional society causing serious societal deformations. In addition, separated spouses pose a negative example to others, and this situation might pass to other homes as if it were a contagious disease. Although it appears to be a small scale problem at first sight, this evil done by the Devil and his aides upsets so many things in reality. In this respect, it should never be forgotten that the Devil will not give up striving to turn a cozy home into a hellish pitfall; he will do everything possible to drive a wedge between spouses. Also, he will continually try to damage the family set-up through the acts of devilish people under his control. Undoubtedly, the children of a family caught in such a web of confrontation and conflict will be the ones gravely harmed, since it is not possible for children to grow a sound soul in a family atmosphere of constant unrest. In an environment of constant conflict between a mother and father a child, often stuck in the middle, is put in a difficult situation and every bad word used by the parents against one another will be engraved in the child’s memory. Then the child will go through a series of disappointments and in time, the parents will completely lose respect and credit in the eye of the child. Now think about it, why should the Devil, the sworn archenemy of humanity, not be so rejoiced at such a scene?

Divorce is the Final Solution

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, stated that divorce is the most displeasing of lawful deeds in the sight of God. Therefore, it will be very wise for both sides to have the necessary knowledge about marriage in order to avoid initiating a process doomed to failure. If it was up to me, I would not let anybody get married without taking a few seminars and reading a few books on marriage. For one or two months at least, I would educate the spouses-to-be so that they would be knowledgeable of the significance of married life, mutual rights and duties, how their relations with one another should be, how to raise children, and the like. It is very difficult to have a sound marriage between two people unaware of their spousal responsibilities. On the other hand, it will be a wise precaution to set the marriage on reasonable grounds from the very beginning, for marriage has no tolerance for emotionalism. Besides emotional inclinations, reason must definitely be there to the utmost degree. It is very difficult to have a peaceful and long lasting marriage solely based on good looks and attraction—married life may enter a difficult period and then end when these are lost with time. Therefore, although emotions have a degree of importance, reason, logic, and judgment must absolutely not be ignored; there must be serious thinking before marriage. Let me add that a person considering marriage should not suffice with his or her own thoughts, but should absolutely consult with other people for sound advice. Also, the traditional process of family visits during the engagement period should not be ignored as this will help create an understanding, within acceptable limits, whether there is conformity of character between the two people.

In addition, beginning from the early days of the marriage, the couple must hang on to the religious principles established for the protection of family and show utmost sensitivity at being discreet about confidential family matters. If this can be maintained, the devil’s aides and human devils will not have any opportunity to penetrate into the home and damage it from within. In addition to such precautions, taking a spiritual shield by praying and seeking refuge in Divine protection all the time is also very important for the continuity of a happy marriage.

However, although all the necessary measures are taken and no flaw of reason and judgment is left, the couple might still not get on well or experience serious disharmony. Satan can abuse this situation via his aides from among the jinn and human beings, and set spouses up against one another by constantly goading them with evil whisperings. As a result of all of these, the opinion may arise that the marriage will not last in terms of the apparent conditions. So divorce can be resorted to as a final solution for such a marriage, if no hope of getting along together remains and an atmosphere of peace cannot be maintained. The Qur’an spares pages for telling how spouses who enter such a sensitive process should act. There is even a chapter (at-Talaq) named after divorce. The Pride of Humanity, peace and blessings be upon him, clarified the details about the relevant verses through his Tradition. His Companions and the great scholars of later generations also pondered over the issue and they drew different conclusions and gave rulings. All of these reflect that divorce is no simple matter but a very sensitive issue. Thus, divorce can be considered under the guidance of reason, logic, sound judgment, and conscience—free from emotionalism and egotism—and within a lawful frame, only after trying everything in the name of continuing the marriage but still no light of hope is seen.

1. Sahih Muslim, Munafiqun, 67; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Al-Musnad, 3:314

This text is the translation of “Mutlu Bir Yuvanın Düşmanları

Thoughts of Eid

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

The Eid of Sacrifice has always been a symbol of heroism, self-sacrifice, not waiting any worldly gain, and surrendering oneself to God since the time of the Prophets Abraham and his son Ishmael. Eid of Sacrifice comes booming with proclamations of greatness of God, and the sound rings out everywhere. The melody of these proclamations sounds out like a great epic. During the Eid of Sacrifice homes, streets, places of worship, mountains, and rocks resonate with glorification of God. As the calls to prayer with the exaltation of God rising from minarets permeate in enrapturing notes and reach into our homes, everybody—in urban or rural areas alike—joins this heavenly state, and even pastures ring out with sound of lambs joining in. In that blessed section of time, almost everybody, everything and every place begin to talk. The teeming Plain of Arafat resembles a ground for the Judgment Day, it breathes with anxiety and hope, like a ground of reckoning. Muzdalifa and Mina fill with the hubbub of those on the way. All of these sounds rise to heavens, like cries of most blessed persons supplicating to God. With these sounds with a hint of eternity, we feel the treasures of our feelings open up, as if declaring the boundlessness of our feelings and infinity of our dreams. And our most special feelings pour out to all sides, like beads whose string is broken. As we hear these magical sounds frothing everywhere and rising to heavens, we experience a heavenly joy and feel as if we were drinking a resurrecting potion distilled from love, zeal, and charm of the Eid. We view the path we walk and read our book of destiny from the peaks our hearts are elevated to by faith, servanthood to God, and consciousness in this servanthood. We say, “This is our book!” and smile sweetly at our fortune. The delight of these blessings enfold our souls so softly that our eyes reflect gratitude and our feelings become verdant as if spring has come. And then the inspiration flowing into our souls and the prayers rising to the realms beyond on the wings of Divine providence amount to a heavenly meaning, a state, and an effect transcending our nature. In such a way that every new hour, minute, task, and opportunity gains a quality that is worth experiencing more profoundly and utilizing more consciously. Then the consciences enraptured with spiritual pleasures pray for more Divine blessings and seek further rapture. As worship and spiritual delights permeate the days of Eid in the serene atmosphere of faith and decent traditions, we more clearly feel attaining a new form of existence, being eternalized, our hearts’ expanding like the space, and our minds’ illumination with Divine inspirations. And then we think we transcend our physicality and become completely spiritual beings… We flow towards eternal promises heralded to our hearts by faith. With the intense feelings we experience during the days of Eid we mostly feel as if we were flying in the air or sliding towards the climate of spirituality through a joyful, harmonious, and smooth way. And sometimes we acquire an elegant and poetic state like birds soaring in the sky without flapping their wings, like branches swaying on treetops, or like flowers emitting fragrances as they bow with the blowing breeze. Sometimes we become completely immersed in sentimentality that we start weeping with every glorification and otherworldly sound we hear and end up drenched in tears. And sometimes we feel overjoyed and think ourselves to be riding fireworks and zooming in lights through the sky. And sometimes we feel to be journeying between stars on a magic prayer rug. Sometimes we feel moved with bleating of sheep and lambs and start to melt inside like candles, under the influence of some strange feelings. And sometimes we see these in such a natural, well placed, and dizzying harmony that we feel fascinated before the mysterious weaving of destiny and say “there cannot be anything more perfect than this.” Sometimes the prayers, glorifications, and recitations rising from minarets and the resonances they make in consciences become so poetic, flow into people, and charm them in such a way that I think no other delight in our heart can reach such profundity nor can they ever become so influential. And when the breezes of daybreak join these sounds and words like background music, our excitement rises to an indescribable level, and our emotions become a deluge. Particularly during major pilgrimage, the words expressing the greatness of God and surrender to Him ringing out everywhere let us proclaim our most venerated feelings in the highest pitch and our most special feelings in the most touching tunes; we virtually make a rehearsal of the Judgment Day. Before these scenes, which are both heartwarming and awe-inspiring, and with these words as deep and natural as can be we journey through different places and carry out different duties, but we always turn our back to ways to Hell, our eyes are enraptured with the Paradise beckoning on the horizon, and our hearts set to seeking good pleasure of God.

With all of these feelings, we transcend our limits, leave behind endless self-concerns, set our thrones on the horizons on the heart and spirit, and we scatter the ashes of the body and physicality with their worldly sides… and then re-ignite the sparkles brought from heaven we keep in a corner of our consciences… under that flame, heat and light we heartily salute this new existence of ours, and smile at our fortune.

This text is the translation of “Bayram Düşünceleri

Not Inclining Towards Those Who Do Wrong

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: After the verse meaning, “Pursue what is exactly right, as you are commanded…” (Hud 11:112), believers are told not to incline towards the wrongdoers in the least. What are the lessons to be drawn from these verses?

Answer: God Almighty commands all believers to pursue that which is right in the character of the Prophet. Therefore, we are supposed to understand this verse as, “O believers, pursue what is right as you are commanded…

The Wisdom in Singular and Plural Forms

The meaning of this verse contains a compliment and praise for the noble Prophet at the same time. It is as if God Almighty strokes the head of His Messenger and commands him to be perfectly upright. This resembles a situation of a good child being complimented by his teacher, who wishes for him to keep up the good behavior he always displays. Otherwise, it would definitely be a mistake to think that there was something wrong with the beloved Prophet and that God called him to strive towards what is right. In my opinion, the verse holds no implications in this sense whatsoever, because all feelings, thoughts, and actions of the Messenger of God were perfectly upright at all times. Therefore, the verse in question suggests the meaning, “Keep on pursuing what is right, as you have always done.” The decree to strive towards the righteous path is used in the singular imperative form in Arabic. The next command meaning, “…and do not rebel against the bounds of the Straight Path” is used in the plural imperative form and this also seems to support our point. When this verse and several similar verses are studied, one can derive from them, that the commands about being good are used as singular imperative sentences directly addressing the noble Prophet, whereas those forbidding transgression are in plural form. Based on this notion, we can infer that the real command is to all the believers, but is addressed to the Messenger of God, for he is the best example for all.

In addition, there appears to be a fine point presented about the warning against inclining toward the wrongdoers, right after the command to pursue what is right; it is a warning against a gradual shift toward transgression and misguidance.

Keeping Away from Every Kind of Wrongdoing

As it is mentioned in the question, the next verse (Hud 11:113) gives a command meaning:

“…do not incline towards those who do wrong (against God by associating partners with Him or transgressing against His commands, or against people by violating their rights), or the Fire will touch you. For you have no guardians and true friends apart from God; (but if you should incline towards those who do wrong,) you will not be helped (by Him).”

A person who leans by a slightest degree toward those who do wrong runs the risk of gradually being included in the same evil. As a matter of fact, wrongdoing (zulm) is extensively covered in the Qur’an. As this word is used to express the transgressions of unbelievers and hypocrites, it is also used to describe specific mistakes of Muslims, as in: “Those who have believed and not obscured their faith with any wrongdoing – they are the ones for whom there is true security, and they are rightly guided” (al-An’am 6:82). When this verse was revealed, the Companions felt great distress. Seeing their situation, the Messenger of God consoled them with the verse meaning, “Associating partners with God is a tremendous wrong” (Luqman 31:13), and stated that the wrongdoing mentioned in the other verse refers to associating partners with God, also known as shirk. This being the worst transgression, there are other various forms of wrongdoing from persecution to abusing bureaucratic powers. Considering the verse mentioned in the initial question, the Divine command warns against all kinds of wrongdoing; furthermore, believers are also forbidden from inclining toward those who commit the acts of wrongdoing. An important point that should not be missed is that wrongdoing should not be solely associated with obvious injustice and transgressions. As it is a misdeed for a bureaucrat of any level to favor certain people over others, allocating even a gram of what belongs to the people is also a violation. Relatively speaking, the verse indicates that inclining toward someone who commits any level of wrongdoing is a reason for being touched by Hellfire. In other words, spending time with wrongdoers as a normal order of affairs, being fond of them, or being like them are all included in the meaning of showing inclination. As a matter of fact, there is another decree meaning, “When you meet such that indulge in (blasphemous or derisive) talk about Our Revelations, turn away from them until they engage in some other talk” (al-An’am 6:68).

As a matter of fact, a person who always displays righteousness in their intention, way of living, words, attitudes, and behaviors will naturally stand against misdeeds and injustice. Another verse gives glad tidings to such people, “As for those who say, ‘Our Lord is God,’ and then follow the Straight Path (in their belief, thought, and actions) without deviation, the angels descend upon them from time to time (in the world as protecting comrades, and in the Hereafter with the message): ‘Do not fear or grieve, but rejoice in the glad tidings of Paradise, which you have been promised’” (Fussilat 41:30).

Question: Why are people inclined to wrongdoers?

There can be different reasons for this. Sometimes, one may feel obliged to side with wrongdoers out of fear. Throughout the history of humanity, so many unfortunate people did just that by fearing to lose their rank and position. In the present as well, many people flatter wrongdoers in order to retain their status and enjoy its advantages. Love of position is one example of the presence of such a virus. In addition, love for being applauded, hedonism, addiction to comfort and one’s family are weaknesses of the same kind. A person concerned with making his children enjoy wealth will be doomed to salute wrongdoers along the way. In fact, even though such people perceive themselves as walking on the righteous path, they are actually on a slippery slope and have a great possibility to fall at any time.

It is possible to list many other similar causes/viruses within this issue. Each one of them is like a door to keep away from, which is opening to misdeeds. Keeping away from anything that might pave the way for sins, sadd al-zarai, is a principle of Islamic Jurisprudence. Relatively speaking, one must close and bolt up all the doors, such as love of status, passion for applause, fear and the like.

As we keep away from infectious environments in the material sense, we need to do the same with spiritual diseases. Otherwise one can shift towards committing misdeeds unintentionally. It is stated at the end of the verse, that such people receive no help, for their acts cut their connection with Him. As a final point, let me draw attention to the verse that follows the ones mentioned above, “Establish the Prayer at the beginning and at the end of the day, and in the watches of the night near to the day. Surely, good deeds wipe out evil deeds” (Hud 11:14). In terms of the coherence between verses, the command to establish prayer is very meaningful. Accordingly, if one can go beyond apparent forms of faith and establish prayer thoroughly with not only its outward, but also its inward dimensions, then he will have protected himself against accepting wrongdoing.

This text is the translation of “İstikameti Muhafaza ve Zulme Meyletmeme

Hajj and Praying

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: What are the points that we should be careful about in order to optimize our benefits during Hajj? What should our priorities be while petitioning to God in those blessed lands?

Answer: Muslims who have the means to do so must go to Hajj, in accordance with the verse meaning, “Pilgrimage to the House is a duty owed to God by all who can afford a way to it” (Al Imran 3:97). It is a reality that in our time travel conditions are rather comfortable, Hajj is fulfilled more easily, and people have much better means to complete the requirement. More importantly however, the Muslim world, which has been in a still state for a few centuries, is finally awakening to the practices of their faith. Every year, in addition to the four or five million people who go to Hajj, a considerable number of people wait to be given permission. When you witness dejected people who return from Hajj application centers without having received permission, you become aware that people are reawakening and reconnecting to religious feelings and thoughts.

A change in people is not a quick process similar to a seed sown in a field growing into wheat. Investments made to people yield their fruit many years later. Therefore, we believe that this positive progress of revival in faith will continue increasing. Perhaps, ten million people will simultaneously supplicate to God in Arafat in the years to come; consequently, blessings of God will pour upon us, believers will stand up once more on their own two feet and attain sound faith, peace, contentment, and trust.

Years’ Worth Compacted into Seconds

Hajj is a type of worship, which must be carried out since God commands it. This is His essential right and it is our duty to offer worship to our Bounteous Lord, who is the Absolute One to be worshipped and the Rightful One, whose good pleasure is sought. In this respect, believers must first carry out the Hajj requirement in obedience to the command of God Almighty, who showers His blessings upon us. They must turn to God with tremendous purity in intention and try to immensely and richly benefit from the holy lands. For this particular reason, they need to first be conscious of the meaning of their destination. As pilgrims set forth, they must be conscious of the fact that they are journeying toward the realm favored by God Almighty—the realm which is a projection of the Lote Tree of the Furthest Limit (Sidrat al-Muntaha)on earth—and that they are advancing toward the ultimate shrine of humanity directing them to their Creator. Their hearts must be filled with these feelings. At the same time they should try to fulfill the obligation of Hajj by observing all the manners from the major to minor thoroughly and always turn to God in full submission. In other words, all throughout the duty of Hajj, one must sit, stand, walk, and do everything with the consciousness of doing them for the sake of God; they should keep up this consciousness while opening their hands before the Ka’ba, putting their faces to the Gate of Repentance (Multazam), greeting or kissing the Black Stone, going to Mina, staying in Arafat, and passing to Muzdalifa. In short, they should carry out all of the required acts for the sake of God and thus try to render their valuable seconds by compacting years’ worth into them.

In addition, a person needs to avoid environments that might lead to heedless and lighthearted behaviors during this sacred journey. In order to stay aware of this, it is better to isolate ourselves from unnecessary pursuits and people that may waste our time. Instead of engaging in useless talk while at our special destination, one must long for the places where hearts soften and tears stream down. When I was in Medina, the words of a person with a deep love for the noble Prophet pierced through my heart. He was saying “O Messenger of God, I have been here for days, I haven’t heard a sound from you. Now I am about to leave for the Ka’ba. What am I supposed to say if they ask me what I brought from here?” He said so many similar things of this kind that it was impossible not to be moved. So we had better look for such experiences to move our hearts and remind ourselves that we might not find another chance for such a journey again.

Exerting Ourselves in Prayer during the Day of Arafat

The days in the holy lands must be taken as invaluable chances to implore God Almighty; we must always strive to represent the hearts of all Muslims and try to pray with that eagerness. For example, the moment of seeing the Ka’ba for the very first time is a magical one. Therefore, such a moment must be utilized carefully in terms of praying. Similarly, when someone goes to Mina, they should see it as the first station of purification before going to Arafat, and open up to God without wasting a second.

God Almighty accepts the prayers made in Arafat, as saintly figures confirmed—maybe it is not correct to cite a percentage, but let me do it for the sake of expressing the multitude of the prayers accepted, ninety nine percent. We can safely say that for the people who turn to Him wholeheartedly, God Almighty accepts the prayers even of those who are not eligible for it.

As it is known, the noble Spirit of the Master of Humankind, may millions of peace and blessings be upon him, always prayed for his followers in Arafat. He exerted himself in asking for forgiveness even for those who violated others’ rights. It is narrated that this wish was not accepted due to some certain wisdom. However, when the Prophet of Mercy and Compassion came to Muzdalifa dejected, he opened his hands there as well and prayed for his followers until the morning with no sleep at all. Ibn Abbas reports that he was near him during those prayers, and that the noble Messenger of God smiled toward the end of his supplication; Ibn Abbas states that he took it as a sign of glad tidings in regards to what the beloved Prophet prayed for. How much I wish for that to be true, for it would mean redemption for us as well.

The Ka’ba, Mina, Arafat, and Muzdalifa are like heavenly windows that were opened for praying to and imploring God Almighty, Who does not let down those who supplicate to Him in full devotion while at these locations. One needs to sincerely believe this. Nevertheless, the Pride of Humanity also counsels us to pray with the belief and hope that the prayers will be accepted. For this reason, instead of saying, “I opened my hands and prayed, it doesn’t matter what happens after that,” we better exert ourselves in heartfelt prayer with conscious statements like, “My Lord, I have happened upon You! Here I am at Your door, seeking refuge with Your Greatness and the immensity of Your Mercy. My God, please do not leave me with my own vices! My God, I have come here to be purified! Please purify me O Lord!”

Hearts Imploring for All Muslims

People who go to these holy places during the blessed days can pray for themselves and their families alike. However, the Muslims’ condition, especially during our times, bears much greater significance than our personal matters do. The condition of Muslim lands is obvious and clear; we have never been so miserable throughout the history of Islam. We cannot stand on our own two feet, and we are trying to stand behind notions brought forth by others, whose real aim we aren’t aware of. Most of the time, this type of foundation is pulled away from under our feet and we inevitably topple over. Bediüzzaman, who suffered in agony about this condition, states that thinking about the Muslim world naturally prevents him from thinking about himself. In this respect, the Muslims who find the opportunity to go to Hajj and see the Ka’ba for the first time, should open up their hands and beg the Almighty, “My Lord, grant deliverance to, have mercy on and grant forgiveness to the followers of Your Messenger! My God, enable Muslims (the ummah) to straighten up! Show them the ways to a revival!” exerting themselves in prayer. While walking to Mina or if spending the night there, they should prostrate and pray for all Muslims in the same way, for Mina is the name of a blessed place of a very special importance. Imagine that in the early years of Islam, the Pride of Humanity, peace and blessings be upon him, found the positive response exactly in that special region that he could not even receive from the people he addressed in other places; it was the place where he found support. Thus that place holds a special value in terms of support. Therefore, while in present at the special place that God Almighty favors so much, we should raise our hands with the hope of finding Divine support, and pray, “Oh Lord, please help Muslims shake off misery and attain this process of revival!”

We must be conscious of the importance of our destination while walking toward Arafat. Who knows, of all the places on earth, it is likely the one of greatest proximity to God. Even people who are not saints can sense the preciousness of it. He may bestow extraordinary blessings upon people present there. For this reason, one must take the chance of opening up to God Almighty in this station of greatest proximity to heavenly realms and begging Him for all the believers. Pilgrims must not waste their time with eating and drinking while visiting. By taking a few morsels to subside the feeling of hunger and necessary function, they must strive not to waste any second of that brilliant segment of time. They must spend all of their time begging and entreating God Almighty until the sunset, presenting the due sincerity and loyalty that the blessed place requires.

Let me reiterate one point: it is not wrong to pray for oneself and relatives in that special place. However, it is of great importance to hold a self-sacrificing and altruistic attitude and make wishes for all Muslims, by being able to say, “My Lord, I have effaced myself at the moment; I have crossed out my person. I have completely turned my gaze to the faithful. I am only thinking about them, only making wishes for them…”

Referring the Matter to God

On the other hand, in addition to essential wishes, like people embracing faith in all corners of the world, it is also possible to pray against those who persecute believers with animosity. They can say for example, “My God, grant guidance to them and make them decent if they will be. If they will not, then let them get their justice.” Today, there are still oppressors and tyrants on Muslim lands, far worse than tyrants of the past. There are some unfortunate ones who cannot tolerate seeing people praying and filling the mosques, who are irritated by a fit of anger when they see a woman with a headscarf, who are committed to attacking Islam using all methods they can possibly find. Referring such people to God is a requirement of being faithful to Islam. The antagonists of religion who become enraged at seeing people practicing their faith can be mentioned in prayers by name. In Muslim countries, there are certain hypocrites who, although consistently claim they are not against religion, cannot tolerate even the simplest aspect of Islam in reality. Those hypocrites who do not wish to allow the believers enjoy democratic rights in their own country must be referred to God. Such prayers constitute another dimension of making the best of those blessed places.

Everybody may not feel this issue weighing on their conscience in the same way and level. In other words, everybody may not share this sensitivity, since they fail to recognize the significance of living for others. But still, if you can come together with one or two hundred people in those blessed places and form circles of prayer, then you can share your sad supplications to God from the bottom of your heart, kindle a fire in the hearts of people, and then beg God with the sorrows of those believers with burning hearts, asking for a revival, and encourage them to say “amin.”

This text is the translation of “Hac ve Dua

Lifelong Contentedness

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: It has been stated that one of the most important dynamics in the spirit of devotion in regards to serving humanity is “istighna” (contentedness, feeling no need for anyone but God, indifference to and independence from anything, but God). What are the ways to keep up an attitude of istighna for a lifetime in all aspects of life?

Answer: Firstly, let me state that istighna is such a treasure, that one who has internalized it can challenge the entire universe. Since a person who takes wing with istighna closes up all doors of material and spiritual expectations, he does not feel obliged to bow down to anybody but God.

However, it should not be forgotten that the concept isn’t merely an attitude against seeking material gain; istighna is the term for taking a resolved and upright stance against every kind of position, status, appreciation, praises, and all other kinds of temptations of the carnal soul. For example, if ten people insist that you become a manager, consultant general, or senator, you need to ask yourself whether you can keep up the spirit of istighna in the position mentioned. In other words, you need to make a self-critique, questioning yourself whether initiating such a process stems from any egoistic wishes or from an intention to serve people for the sake of God. If egoistic concerns seem dominant, then you should strive to resist against that wish. One may wonder whether things will be left unattended if we become indifferent to certain positions. If there are any competent people due for that position, then your stepping forth will cause rivalry, jealousy, and conflict. For example, if there are ten people in a place of worship who are eligible to lead a prayer, expressing your wish to lead the prayer will bring more harm than benefit with respect to that duty. One of those ten people will end up carrying out the task regardless. As Bediüzzaman also underlined in The Gleams, we better “prefer being a follower to leadership, which brings responsibility and therefore is risky.” Being an imam is tricky business, since he bears the responsibility of all the people he leads in prayer. A mistake made by the imam is not an individual one. The same goes for a governor. Such a person takes on the responsibility of all the people in his jurisdiction in a case that he makes a mistake. Similarly, when a person leading the state makes a mistake that affects the entire nation, he bears the responsibility of all those people before God. In result of this, instead of wishing to be elected, it is wiser to prefer to remain as a voter. Regarding those that are ambitious to get elected, there is no single individual who does not make serious mistakes. On the other hand, few people make mistakes among who say, “It does not matter who holds office, as long as they are competent.”

The Most Difficult Form of Istighna

The top level of istighna is becoming a self-effacing person, who feels discomforted by praise from others. Even though the carnal soul enjoys being praised, the conscience of ideal believers must take compliments as if they were insults. When they receive praises, they should ask themselves, “Why are they offering me a reward in this world that is to be received in the afterlife? Is it me who made them think this way?” Then they should take the humble path of acknowledging their impotence and poverty before God and pray, “My Lord, allow me to forget about my own self and help me dislike talking about myself.” A person may be indifferent to wealth and not care about holding office. However, istighna in the face of recognition and praise, is most difficult. Therefore taking a firm stance against applause and praise from the very beginning, not cherishing any instances of this kind whatsoever, and even interrupting people, who are about to praise us, bear great significance.

The Unsung Heroes

I see the contributing teachers of the Turkish Olympiad competition as the most self-sacrificing people of our time, because they went to different corners of the world to raise students in order to serve on the path of love and humanity. However, as their students were applauded by millions of people, they humbly remained anonymous. May God not prove us wrong in our good opinion of them. May God let them keep up their work with heartfelt modesty. They present exemplary behavior. After sowing seeds in the soil and completing our various tasks, we need to be able to walk away without seeking to be noticed. We should not hold on to any expectations about witnessing the harvest. Naturally, all Muslims wish to see that the message of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, to humanity reaches everywhere and that the truths he taught are welcomed by the people. Even a simple man like me is no exception. In spite of such a wish, if you had a little bit of contribution to this ideal, you need to say, “My Lord, you know how I wish to see those days, but I do not wish to see anyone praising me for any contributions I may have made. I wish to see that after I pass away.” They should also target attaining a genuine feeling of istighna to make them sincerely say, “If I am also included in this process, who knows what troubles I will cause. It is better for me to watch the blessings of God in the other world.”

Indifferent to the World, Turned toward God

Actually, the most important means to keep up the spirit of istighna is leading one’s life with an ethics of altruism (ithar), preferring others to one’s own self. The devoted ones should make altruism a part of their nature and be able to prefer others to their own selves not only at material benefits, but even in spiritual blessings and inspirations. They should think that saintly wonders—such as viewing the Ka’ba during prayer—are happening to others, and become indifferent to everything else but God Almighty. This is the spirit of altruism and the stance of istighna in the true sense. Above all, we need to adopt such an outlook in our time.

To conclude, we should be indifferent to material gains, praise, and their worldly benefits. We need to strive not to cherish even otherworldly expectations, but expect possible rewards to come in the afterlife as extra blessings out of God’s infinite grace. People can obtain nothing valuable if God does not grant it. They can neither enter Paradise, nor be saved from Hell. All of these can only be maintained by Divine mercy, providence, and grace. Also, God opens numerous doors to somebody who turns away from everything else, but Him. Try closing your doors to worldliness and you will see a thousand others opened by God Almighty, the Opener of Doors. That is, He is the only one who opens doors. Thus, if you wish His door of providence, good pleasure, and appreciation to open to you, then you must keep your doors closed to all worldly expectations for a lifetime.

This text is the translation of “Ömür Boyu İstiğna

Exaggerated Compliments

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: When a person achieves something that deserves praise, we express our appreciation to motivate them further. However, such praise and recognition may sometimes lead to arrogance, pride and boasting. What are your considerations on this issue?

Answer: It is a reality that we are weak to strike a balance after receiving praise and recognition for our achievements. If you exaggerate a matter and praise someone above their worth, which is a behavior God dislikes, Divine Justice might teach you a lesson about it. In this respect, you need to act in a balanced manner on this issue, so that no disrespect is made against God Almighty. When you exaggerate your comments about certain people, telling them how they worked wonders like the greatest saints, God Almighty may give you a worldly punishment and make you see the truth about these people.

Those Who Become Objects of Envy

In addition to the above mentioned points, praises towards someone have another potential side to it. When we sing praises about a person, this admiration might invoke envy in others, who might wish to belittle that person in consequence. Thus, we might provoke other people with what we say, and we need to be careful about that. For example, a person who learned the truths of faith and religion through the works of Bediüzzaman may love him very much. They can be full of admiration and gratitude toward him for helping them broaden their horizons about faith and understand the noble Prophet’s teachings correctly. However, this love should never lead them to exaggerate their admiration and perceive him like a Prophet; this is something Bediüzzaman would never dream about. In addition, if highly positive opinions about that great figure are voiced near people who follow another Islamic figure, it might trigger a reaction and feelings of rivalry and envy.

Furthermore, we need to be extra careful when talking about the Pride of Humanity, peace and blessings be upon him, for whose sake we would give anything. That blessed person is the means of happiness for humanity in both worlds. He is the one who unearths mysteries of creation and turns this world, which seems to be a chaos and confusion, into a corridor to Paradise. If we are able to feel peace and contentment within the magical atmosphere of belief, in accordance with the depth of our faith, it has become possible through him. In spite of all of the above mentioned however, we can never attribute anything to the Prophet that can be interpreted as deifying him.

All Praise Belongs to God

In regards to praising God Almighty, there is never a limit for that. As there is nothing comparable to Him, there can be no rival to Him whatsoever. Therefore, nobody is ever heard saying, “Why are they praising God, but not the spiritual master I follow?” As God is the Master of all of us, He is the absolute Master of all masters, including the Prophet. As the noble Prophet also stated, our real Master is God; He is the Master of everybody and everything. You can even fade away like a firefly that has lost its light, before the Eternal Sun of all suns. There is no other way to feel Him anyway. Seeing and knowing God, and His manifestation with true understanding, depends on a person’s complete effacement of himself, becoming nearly non-existent. How beautifully a poet expresses this concept:

You are not manifested while I exist on the screen,
My becoming non-existent, is the condition for Your manifestation…

Given that two sights cannot exist on one screen at the same time, one needs to get non-existent, to feel the Truly Existent, so that he can reflect on and witness Him. We need to accept that our existence is like a shade, so that we can see the Original. So many servants of God, like the Great Prophets, the reputable scholars of purity, and the respected saints, acknowledged their existence being like a shade; we can only be a very faint shade far behind them. Who knows, maybe the ones who will be blessed with the honor of seeing God in the afterlife will be the ones who humbly see themselves as mere shade. God Almighty will tell them, “Given that you lived in the world as shades, the time has come to take refuge under My shade, on the day when no other shelter exists.” Even though we cherish such thoughts about God Almighty, we should never give up being cautious about other human beings. As a matter of fact, no matter who speaks and towards whom—all praise escaping our lips belong to God only. In fact, all Muslims who observe their daily prayers voice this truth by reciting Surah al-Fatiha, which begins with the words meaning, “All praise is due to God, Lord of the worlds…” since the definite article “al” at the beginning of the word “hamd” (praise) denotes that all kinds of praise belong to Him only. Therefore, even the praises we express towards people we love essentially belong to Him as well. 

A Great Wrongdoer in a Pitiable Condition

In short, just as we need to be very careful while talking about great figures who deserve appreciation, we need to avoid voicing our sublime pride in them near people who might show a negative reaction. Because doing so might provoke feelings of jealousy and rivalry, which will serve nothing, but raising opposition and pushing those innocent people to sin. People who feel jealousy commit sins and destroy their good deeds. The great saint Hasan al-Basri stated that he had not seen any other wrongdoer like the one who becomes jealous, and ironically appears as if he was wronged, in spite of being the wrongdoer. That is, one who becomes jealous commits such a grave sin, that he falls into a pitiful condition. We have no right to put somebody in such a situation. Even though not everybody can observe the same sensitivity towards others, people in particular positions, where this can be encountered, need to be more cautious and careful on this issue.

This text is the translation of “Övgüde Mübalağa ve Zararları

Remembrance of God and Contentment of Hearts

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: It is stated in a verse that “. . . it is in the remembrance of, and whole-hearted devotion to, God, that hearts find rest and contentment” (ar-Ra’d 13:28). Could you describe characteristics of remembrance (dhikr) that lets hearts find rest and contentment?

Answer: According to the verse, hearts finding rest and contentment (itminan) depend on remembrance of God. Then, we first need to expound on remembrance in general.

As a matter of fact, remembrance is like the lifeblood circulating in all forms of worship. No limitations are placed on remembrance with respect to time and condition; it therefore has a very extensive meaning.

The Greatest Remembrance: The Qur’an

The most exalted form of remembrance, which forms the basis of worship, is the Qur’an; it makes us remember the Archangel Gabriel, the Trustworthy Prophet, and God. The Qur’an is a sacred trust from the Giver of Trust brought by trustworthy hands to a trustworthy person. On the other hand, when you delve into the meanings of the Qur’an and journey through its valleys, that sublime message will stay with you throughout. For example, when you enter into the initial chapter al-Fatiha, think about what you come across: Right from the beginning you offer thankful praise for the blessings of God Almighty from the bottom of your heart, and feel due awe before God, Lord of the Worlds. As you experience such awe, Divine Names, such as “the All-Merciful” and “the All-Compassionate,” come to your aid and then you declare and confess that you only worship Him and seek help only from Him. When you see that the path you take is a very safe one, your request for guidance becomes clear and you ask for the way to the Straight Path. That is, you virtually say “My God, the first help I ask from Your Divine Court is to keeping up a moderate, straightforward, righteous, just, and balanced line at every matter.” After you have been guided to that Straight Path, you remember your potential fallibility and with this concern you ask for not ending up like those who incurred God’s wrath or went astray. Therefore, each word in the chapter of al-Fatiha has serious relevance for people like us, in dire need of God and remembrance of Him. Thus, when you travel through the Qur’an from the beginning to end, trying to understand its intended meaning and read it as if each verse is directly addressing you, you understand how that exalted message is a great remembrance throughout, and how it addresses human character, logic, thought, and psychology, or in essence all of humanity with its extensive dimensions and profundities.

Listening to the Remembrance of the Universe via the Qur’an

Trying to contemplate the existence within the Qur’an is a different type of remembrance. At the end of “The Seventh Word,” Bediüzzaman states how the Qur’an explains the meaning of the universe: “In the greatest mosque of the universe, the Qur’an interprets the universe, so let’s listen to it. Let’s become filled with its light and act according to its guidance. The Qur’an is the truth, since it comes from the Creator. It speaks the truth, spreading its light everywhere.” Were it not for the blessed light the Qur’an shed on the face of the universe, it would be reduced to some chaos and nightmarish phenomena filling us with fear. Thanks to the pure light of the Revelation, we learned that every being is a radiant piece of Divine art; thanks to this awareness, we sometimes overflow with love for creation and feel like kissing trees and other plants one by one, saying, “You are also His work.” As the poet Recaizade Ekrem puts it, “The entire universe is a great book of God; whichever letter you study, its meaning will spell His Name.” Bediüzzaman makes a similar point and states that studying the lines of this book of the universe carefully reveals meaningful messages sent to humanity from the High Assembly (in the heavens). That is to say, somebody who walks through its pages and lines, who picks its words and holds its letters, will see that meanings spell the name of God, which will be echoed in their hearts. Such a perfect system cannot be ascribed to anything else. As it is God who created the heavens and the earth and established a splendid system in them, the one who maintains harmony in human essence and physiological structure is nobody but God. So every being, thing, and event that reminds us of our Creator is another form of remembrance.

Solar Systems as Prayer Beads

Also, there is another form of remembrance by taking into account the blessings God Almighty has granted us when He said: “My God! Here we glorify You in concert with the particles of the entire universe! My God! If we had mouths as many as the particles of the universe and ability to express ourselves, then we would glorify You in its entirety.” Nevertheless, practicing Muslims repeat the words of remembrance, Subhan Allah (Glory be to God), Alhamdulillah (Praise be to God), Allahu Akbar (God is the Greatest) thirty-three times each, five times a day after prayers. Although the number of repetitions are few, in order not to make things too difficult for believers, it is always possible to do much more. One of the loyal disciples of Bediüzzaman Said Nursi related a memory of him about remembrance. Bediüzzaman told them that when great saints such as Hasan ash-Shadhili, Abdul Qadir al-Jilani, Mustapha Siddiq al-Bakri, Ahmad Rifai, Muhammad Bahauddin al-Naqshband, and Mawlana Khalid al-Baghdadi touched each one of the prayer beads, they glorified God Almighty in concert with all the particles of the universe and felt this in the immensity of their conscience. These persons considered the greatness of God and thought that a single phrase of glorification would be too simple; they did it in unison with all the grains of sand in seas, drops of rain, and breaths of the creation. Bediüzzaman liked their way so much that he wished to do the same, wishing to feel trillions of glorifications in unison with the creation at touching every single prayer bead. Toward the end of his life, that blessed person told one of his close companions, “my brother, praise be to God now I can feel, as Hasan ash-Shadhili or Abdul Qadir al-Jilani did, that I glorify God Almighty in unison with all of the particles of the universe.” Remembrance is our duty, and a right of God upon us. We should not suffice by glorifying God as a single being but seek to magnify the act into a countless one. If a man glorifies God by saying, “Subhan Allah” as a single person, he carries out his basic duty; that is a different issue. On the other hand, why on earth should we suffice with only one while we can increase the due blessings to trillions! Why should we limit ourselves to one, while we can seek to attain proximity to Him, attain constant awareness of His omnipresence, and be blessed with shafts of Divine appreciation?

Remembrance in the Early Days

During the heyday of Sufism, phrases of remembrance, such as “La ilaha illa’Allah” (There is no deity but God) and “Astaghfirullah” (I seek forgiveness from God), were probably repeated a hundred thousand times each. Whenever possible, people can practice the act of remembrance through different words. For example, a group of people are going to travel for six hours. It is possible for them to say “La ilaha illa’Allah” a hundred thousand times. Although they are supposed to be conscious of the words they utter, they should not be preoccupied with keeping up this consciousness. They should make an effort to do it consciously of course. If remembrance is not associated with such immensity, one can never achieve to realize deeply felt remembrance. In certain times, no Sufi titles had appeared, but the spirituality was there. Everywhere, hearts were full with remembrance of God. He was the one cherished in people’s hearts, which had virtually become His places of manifestation. There came a period when some used special titles for spiritual experiences and Sufi orders got to be named after their masters. Thanks to those sincere guides, the treasure did not remain behind locked doors. Hearts came to life in the true sense and this profound experience did not go unnamed. One phrase they uttered bore a thousand-fold greater meaning. Their saying “Subhan Allah, Alhamdu Lillah, Allahu Akbar” referred to thousands; their hearts found contentment and rest. For a certain period, there were both meaning and titles. But after a grim farewell, that sweetest fountain began to dry up. The essence and spirit was lost, and the issue was reduced to passing a nominal title between generations. I hope heroes of the heart and spirit bring back the meaning once more, and make us witness an “era of roses” anew. And I hope some of who reach those days, as the poet Mehmed Akif put it, “become nightingales.”

Prophet Abraham and His Wish

The next verse after the one in the initial question gives glad tidings about those who remember God: “Those (whose hearts have attained to rest and contentment,) who have believed and who do good, righteous deeds—for them is the greatest happiness and the most beautiful of destinations” (ar-Ra’d 13:29). So we see that the benefit of remembrance is not limited to this world. However, since finding inner peace is a very significant issue in the worldly sense as well, the Prophets included it in their prayers. For example, Abraham was a great Prophet—according to narration—who revealed his absolute trust in God even while he was about to be thrown into the fire. He told the angel who came to help that God knew his fate anyway. He was a hero of faith and contentment at heart, who defied all of his stubborn people wanting to burn him. Still, we see that on one occasion he expresses a wish for his heart being at rest; knowing is not like seeing. He had received a greatly awe-inspiring lesson in the knowledge of God; he shook like a leaf before God and bent twofold with the impact of that lesson. However, this lesson motivated him further. He kept on asking for more and opened his eyes in a different circle to a different truth. He received his lesson from there as well, but still did not feel satisfied; the spiritual journey toward infinity has no end. There is no coming to end on the path leading to God. As God Almighty is infinite, so are His Names and Divine Attributes. Each one of them can bring a person different inspirational blessings. The peak of this issue is bearing witness of God, the Absolute Truth. So, Prophet Abraham, peace be upon him, wished to crown his knowledge of God by beholding His overwhelming power, evident will, and glorified wishing and voiced this wish by saying, “My Lord, show me how You will restore life to the dead. When the Almighty One asked, ‘Do you not believe?’ he replied, ‘Yes, but that my heart may be at rest’” (al-Baqarah 2:260). Prophet Abraham targeted such a level of rest and contentment at heart that it would completely free his reasoning, conception, and imaginings from any negative thoughts; it would let him give a sigh of serenity instead of lamenting even at the most grievous situations. In response to such a demand, God Almighty showed how He bore witness, and His overwhelming power, evident will, and glorified wishing gave life to dead birds. We do not exactly know how Prophet Abraham, peace be upon him, experienced this wondrous phenomenon in the deep horizons of his feelings and senses, how stunned he was by it, and how he filled with reverent awe and bent twofold with the feeling. From this window to contentment and rest, we can gain insight into the matter as much as our horizons of comprehension and capacity allow; we can experience a projection of that contentment and rest of heart within. And this depends on bringing light and life to every moment and phase of our lives with remembrance of God in a disciplined, ceaseless, and constant line.

This text is the translation of “Zikir-İtminan Münasebeti

Spirit of Chivalry

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: We see that the religious notion of chivalry (futuwwa) is taken in an extensive frame with different definitions from past to present. Considering the conditions of our time, what is chivalry and what are its characteristics?

Answer: The word futuwwa, or chivalry, is derived from the word fata, which means young man. It denotes to have sound faith, treat others kindly, devote oneself to living for others, undertake duties for serving humanity without any considerations of primacy, make sacrifices for the sake of sacred values, persevere in the face of crazing flow of time and show active patience, stand up to every kind of evil by taking conditions of the time into consideration and without being unreasonable or illogical, and not panic or shake when confronted with troubles and torments life brings.

One of the hadiths reads: “There is no chivalrous man like Ali, and no sword like Zulfiqar.”1 It draws attention to the fact that Ali ibn Abi Talib was a hero who represented chivalry in every way. Actually, Ali ibn Abi Talib was not the first who deserved to be called chivalrous since futuwwa dates back to far earlier periods. Every one of the Prophets can be seen as a significant representative of chivalry on a very lofty level, since they did not live for themselves but for the cause they were devoted to. Some Prophets only had a few followers. And some had no followers at all. However, they continued their mission unwaveringly without complaint.

Seeing Success as God’s Grace

The Prophets’ carrying out their mission in the best possible way, complying with the requirement of causes and keeping up acting sensibly, taking perfectly strategic action in every condition, and seeing consequent success as God’s grace in spite of everything constitute an important profundity of their chivalry. Being fervently dutiful at the beginning and enjoying the gratification of having completed one’s duty in the end is a significant indication of the spirit of chivalry. In other words, it is a very important principle of conveying the divine teaching to continue without giving in to disappointment and hopelessness, and to hold the consideration of being thankful to God for He enabled them to carry out their duty, even without people sometimes accepting the message. Furthermore, He did not take away this honor by discharging them from their duty. The true representatives of the spirit of chivalry kept on fulfilling their mission, even if they risked crucifixion. They disregarded the pressures and intimidations of those in power, did not worry about their lives, and always kept walking on the righteous path. In spite of severe oppression by the Romans, Jesus the Messiah did not hesitate risking his life, turned people’s attention to the next world, and then ascended to heaven. In this respect, it can be said that the spirit of chivalry Jesus represented served like a launcher for his ascension to heaven.

The story of Moses and his young companion meeting Khadr, as narrated in the Qur’anic chapter of Kahf, points out another dimension of chivalry. Accordingly, an important profundity of true chivalry is transcending the narrow forms of physicality and journeying into the immensities of metaphysics; it is an ascension from animal life to the realm of the heart and spirit, subsequently continuing that journey. Even though the physical dimension does not cease to exist on that level of life and continues within vital necessities, wishes and desires of the animal side are given secondary importance. For this reason, another important lesson we learn from the parables about the subject is that believers should not suffice by knowing sciences of the physical world; they should also try to gain insight into spiritual secrets by activating their heart and spirit in the true sense.

Devotion and Chivalry

One of the most important aspects of chivalry is keeping up a spirit of devotion. Namely, being devoted to one’s sublime cause and pushing aside all other considerations. Truly devoted souls must think that their essential duty is to glorify the Name of God on this earth. Actually, as it was mentioned in other talks, the Name of God is already glorified in its essence; however, efforts must be made for conveying the truth to everyone. People devoted to their cause are supposed to pursue this ideal in all of their feelings, thoughts, initiatives, and actions; they must entreat God Almighty so that He makes them steadfast on this path. Devoted souls must be full of the zeal to offer others true life so as to virtually forget the way to their home and the faces of their children. Let it not be misunderstood, however, that fulfilling one’s responsibilities as much as possible—unwillingly or not—toward family members is essential to this path.

Chivalry and Being Upright

In addition to devotion, another very important aspect of chivalry is keeping up an unwavering course. In the face of all adversities one must be able to stand upright and say, as a Sufi poet did, “I may be suffering from misfortunes, or enjoying Your grace; They’re equally pleasant to my soul; Your grace and wrath are both welcome.”2

What I mean by standing upright is not panicking, not toppling over, and not abandoning one’s duty against all odds. He who becomes a believer is—like the shape of a question mark—always bowing before God; then, complete that shape into a horseshoe and prostrate. This is the state of the greatest proximity to God Almighty. Thus, these two points should not be confused.

Real Chivalry Is Nullifying Oneself

In addition to displaying this kind of performance and attaining such an ideal state, the greatest difference of the volunteers who serve faith is that they do not consider themselves apart or to have primacy. Those who see the chivalrous volunteers will probably describe them as “archetype of virtue,” but even that would not suffice in describing them. Truly chivalrous people have such spiritual profundity that even if their body is cut into pieces, they will not give up the path to God. In spite of being so brave, what befalls them is to establish the consideration of not having any primacy or superior sides in comparison to others as a deeply ingrained idea in their souls. The idea of having primacy should not even cross their minds, and when it accidentally does, they should turn to God in repentance as if they committed a great sin. As for all the good works realized by their hands, they think that what happens before their eyes is the germination of the seeds others sowed previously—the emergence from the soil and shooting buds, with every bud giving thousands of grains—and they see everything as the outcome of sincere efforts of those who preceded them without taking any personal pride and assuming primacy. Laying claim on this beauty means both violating others’ rights and disrespecting God.

Chivalry necessitates forgetting one to be wiser, older, more experienced, etc. These factors or complimentary remarks by others may sometimes evoke a sense of superiority in a person. On the other hand, having manners requires a respectable form of address toward people who started serving faith long before us. Observing a measured code of respect toward seniors is a means of maintaining better coherence between individuals, given that this is done without exaggerating the matter by calling them a saint or a savior and without evoking dislike in other circles with an assumption of superiority for belonging to a certain religious group. However, if people showing respect fail to adopt the idea of inherently being inconspicuous, then they risk danger of feeling flattered. For example, some of them might say, “I am sixty years old now, and so many people treat me with respect, seeing me as their teacher. Therefore, I am a worthy person.” This dangerous thought might cause a person to lose balance and be ruined. Utilizing one’s experience at work is a responsibility, but that is a different issue. When compliments for one’s experience or mental powers turn into a consideration of primacy and domineering behavior toward others, it is nothing but a blatant transgression of one’s limits.

The Must of Chivalry: Humility

There is a saying by Ali ibn Abi Talib telling us to live among others as one of them. This gives us a very important criterion. If we wish to be adorned with the virtue of chivalry, we need to go unnoticed like an ordinary person. In my humble opinion, this is a very important depth of true chivalry and a very important discipline. I did not have the chance to meet Bediüzzaman Said Nursi. However, from what I heard from his students, despite the fact that he was the person they were deeply indebted to, he never had an air of primacy. He always referred to himself as “your brother,” and explained his approach as follows: “The basis of our way is brotherhood. My relation with you is not like that between a father and children or a Sufi sheikh and his disciples. It is rather a relation between brothers. At the very most, my position of teaching may have some part in it. Our philosophy requires the closest friendship. Close friendship requires being the best, most self-sacrificing friend, the most appreciative companion, and the most magnanimous brother or sister.” The relationship between the noble Prophet and his Companions teach us important lessons as well. As the Companions got to know the Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, better and realized what the dues of being near him is, they behaved so respectably with most refined manners toward him. For example, Abu Bakr, may God be pleased with him, was a person God rendered a paragon of virtue, who gave fascinatingly powerful sermons, who even moved the polytheists when he recited the Qur’an. Still, he entered to the presence of the noble Prophet so humbly and he was so careful near the Messenger of God that you would think he was afraid of startling a bird on his head. I think if the words he uttered in the presence of the beloved Prophet are to be compiled, they will not amount to more than two hundred. Then, who was the person shown so much respect? Even though the relevant Hadith Qudsi is open to criticism in terms of hadith authentication methodology; all Muslim saints agree that he is the person for whose sake the universe was created, since he is the unique guide at reading the universe like a divinely authored book, as well as understanding the Qur’an, which teaches the principles of religion. Being respectful toward such a guide was the duty of the Companions, and that respect was his deserve. When the Pride of Humanity set foot somewhere, even rotten bones in the earth stood up. However, when the Companions stood up for him, as Persians did for their authorities, he told them not to. In the same way, he did his own work; perhaps he prepared his own meals when necessary, washed the dishes, and prepared his bed. If he had allowed them, the people in his household would have done everything for him and never let him do a thing. However, the noble Messenger of God, may the most excellent benedictions and the best blessings be upon him, did not let that happen and did his own personal chores; greatness in great figures lies in their modesty, humility, and humbleness. As for trying to look great, it is a complex of little people. Putting on an air of superiority to demand respect from others is not appreciated. The Messenger of God, millions of peace and blessings be upon him, never adopted anything that would not become him. Everything he did became him so much that even celestial creatures admired his virtues. To conclude, like other virtues, his example represented chivalry in the best way with all its depths and immensities.

1. Dhahabi, Mizan al-Itidal, 5/390. Zulfiqar is the name of a famous sword that Ali ibn Abi Talib used.
2. Ibrahim Tennuri.

This text is the translation of “Fütüvvet Ruhunun Temsilcileri

Giving Dues to One’s Position

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: God Almighty reveals that the wives of the noble Prophet are not like any other women, and that they must be much more careful in their behaviors. What lessons should people today draw from this divine message?

Answer: The verses you refer to are from the Surah al-Ahzab in the Qur’an:

O wives of the Prophet! You are not like any of the other women, provided that you keep from disobedience to God in reverence for Him and piety (and, therefore, act with awareness of your special status). So (even more than other believing women) do not be complaisant in your speech (when addressing men), lest he in whose heart is a disease should be moved to desire, but speak in an honorable way.

And (prefer to) remain in your homes (unless there is a need. If you do go out for a need) do not go out flaunting your charms as (women used to do) in the former times of Ignorance. And establish the Prayer in conformity with its conditions, and pay the Prescribed Purifying Alms, and obey God and His Messenger (in whatever they command). God only wills to remove from you, O members of the (Prophet’s) household, all that may be loathsome, and to purify you to the utmost of purity. Keep in mind and study what is recited in your homes of God’s Revelations and the Wisdom (which especially includes the Sunnah of His Messenger). Surely God is All-Subtle (penetrating down into the innermost part of people’s heart and mind), All-Aware” (al-Ahzab 33:32–34).

Subjective Responsibility according to a Person’s Position

With these verses, God Almighty provides people with signposts so that they can give dues to their honorable position. Wives of the beloved Prophet lived in an atmosphere where divine messages poured on them like a heavenly shower. They had the honor of always being in company of the Messenger of God, peace and blessing be upon him. This is a blessing worth giving worlds in return. Considering the perspective of Imam al-Maturidi, we can also say that as God Almighty knew with His eternal knowledge the mission they would carry out, He honored them with this address from the very beginning and reminded them of how sensitively they must act, guiding them to a “subjective responsibility” of a higher level.

At the beginning of the verse God reminded them that they were not the same as ordinary women. If they had been, then God Almighty would not grant them this honor. The Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, chose all of his wives from among people who made serious sacrifices for the sake of God, who left their homes for this cause, and dedicated their souls to the path of the noble Prophet. So, God Almighty granted special favors to those noble souls who proved their eligibility, and honored them by joining the family of His Messenger.

Special Status Requires Utmost Piety

After reminding them of the significance of their special position, God required them to give their dues and commanded, “Keep from disobedience to God in reverence for Him and piety (and, therefore, act with awareness of your special status). So (even more than other believing women) do not be complaisant in your speech (when addressing men), lest he in whose heart is a disease should be moved to desire, but speak in an honorable way.”

The first point emphasized here is taqwa (piety, or fear of God). If we consider the meaning of taqwa in all its immensity, it includes being sensitive at living in compliance with the commands of God, refraining from anything unclear whether it is allowed by religion or not, and even refraining from certain—possibly allowed—things with the same consideration. In addition to observing the rules of religion, the meaning of taqwa includes discerning the laws made prevalent in the universe and acting with due sensibility.

After reminding them of their need to live within a frame of taqwa, they were then warned of being careful at talking to others and not letting their voice reflect feminine charm. Since not everybody has the same level, there can be people with a moral weakness in their hearts. Nevertheless, before these verses were revealed, someone even said, “When the beloved Prophet passes away, I may marry such and such a woman.” However, such feelings and thoughts were eliminated from the beginning when it was revealed that the wives of the noble Prophet are mothers of all believers and that marrying them was forever forbidden: “It is not for you to cause hurt to God’s Messenger, as it is unlawful for you ever to marry his widows after him” (al-Ahzab 33:53).

So the wives of the noble Prophet were warned about being serious and measured in order not to attract those with a weakness in their hearts. The same verse commanded that they would speak to strangers from behind a curtain: “When you ask something of them (his wives), ask them from behind a screen. Your doing so is purer for your hearts and for their hearts.” Particularly, mothers of believers such as Aisha, Hafsa, and Umm Salama conveyed the encyclopedic religious knowledge they had received from the noble Messenger of God, peace and blessing be upon him, to women and men from all over the world. As they carried out this exalted duty, they spoke from behind a screen when they addressed men. Even then, they acted with utmost sensitivity and followed the Qur’anic command to the point. They spoke in the same serious and dignified manner as a judge does in the courtroom.

By stating in the next verse: “And (prefer to) remain in your homes (unless there is a need. If you do go out for a need) do not go out flaunting your charms as (women used to do) in the former times of Ignorance,” God Almighty warned them against going out dressed in a tempting fashion and acting in a lighthearted manner, as women of the Age of Ignorance did. At this point, one may ask the following question: The people in question are the wives of the noble Prophet, who were already ordered to talk to strangers behind a screen, not talk in a lovely manner, and marry those who are eternally forbidden to others and who are the mothers of believers. Then is it ever possible for believers to bear certain negative feelings and thoughts about their mothers deserving so much respect?

In my opinion, there are two points we really need to recognize here: It is always possible for the latent evil inclinations in human nature to manifest themselves, like a scorpion preparing to sting. The slightest inclination of this kind about the wives of the beloved Prophet is a dangerous situation that can ruin a person’s eternal life. For this reason, the divine decree is meant for preventing even the slightest of these feelings before they appear.

If these matters are so delicate concerning the pure wives of the noble Prophet, who are the mothers of believers, it is better understood how careful other people need to be in relation to the opposite gender. In other words, even though the prime addressees of the verses are the wives of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, these verses essentially give a message to all believing women in the person of those blessed mothers.

Inner Purity besides the Outer One

The verses above teach believing women the essential logic of modest dress. Limiting the issue to a dress code will be a deficient perspective; the issue at hand is an entire code of manners. Accordingly, a Muslim woman outside the home should not accentuate her feminine qualities but mind her manners very carefully, even adjusting the tone of her voice. In the same way, it is not approved of Muslim women to wear ornamented clothes or put on noticeable perfume since these can make them attractive to others. Even if heedless behaviors of this kind evoke dangerous feelings in only five percent of men, the Qur’anic measures on this matter definitely need to be observed. In addition to being covered, inward purity should also be observed; manners and behaviors presented must call for respect toward women. In other words, one who sees a Muslim woman should find an exemplary lady with her modest dress and manners, wishing to be included in the prayers of that pious person.

On the other hand, when the words chosen by the Qur’an are considered by their characteristics, the following meaning can be drawn from the warning to the noble Prophet’s wives: Some people are brought to certain positions not because of their merit but as an extra blessing of God Almighty on them. As it is expressed in The Words, while others take the path to the left, they suddenly take another path after receiving a sign. And then they are showered with divine favors and benisons. Bediüzzaman calls these extra blessings “the blessings and bounties that God compels humanity,” since our free will does not play a direct role behind those favors. However, from the perspective of the Maturidi school of thought again, we can say that God Almighty takes individuals’ free will into consideration as a minor factor and grants such favors with respect to the future deeds of the people concerned. However, those who are honored with such favors need to humbly view the matter as a pure blessing beyond what they deserve, and then express their gratitude practically by giving dues to that blessing.

The Danger of Falling

As every favorable position is a bestowal, there are responsibilities due and that need to be carried out. As a principle, Divine punishment for ingratitude is proportional to the blessings granted. If someone allowed into a royal chamber does not appreciate this great honor and disregards the requisite etiquette, then that person will be ejected. It is for this reason that Bediüzzaman warns (in “The Twenty-First Gleam”) that one who destroys sincerity and falls from the pinnacle of friendship may possibly fall to the bottom of a very deep pit, not just on even ground. Relatively speaking, if those who are honored with a position to serve for the sake of God today do not appreciate this divine favor and act apathetically, they might receive Divine admonitions. Nevertheless, Bediüzzaman relates, by permission, examples of what he terms as “slaps of goodwill” as experienced by some of his students. As for the troubles he personally went through, he humbly interpreted them as a Divine admonition for taking his service in the way of the Qur’an as a means of spiritual and material progress. When his life is considered from the beginning to the end, it appears that he lived with utmost sensitivity. Nevertheless, he was a person who sincerely said, “If I see the faith of my people secured, I gladly accept burning in the flames of Hell,” and therefore it is unthinkable for his modest self-reproach to be true. Then you, as volunteers serving for the sake of God, can take his remarks as a guide’s words of wisdom showing the proper approach toward matters you need to consider, and thus apply these words to your own lives. That is, in a way, he guides your inner voice and virtually gives a warning: “Take heed! The position and bestowals you are granted are different. You are the earthly inheritors walking on the path of the beloved Prophet. If you take your serving humanity for the sake of God as a means of attaining spiritual or material benefits, worldly status, receiving due praise for distinguishing oneself, and to be treated as a respected figure, then you receive a ‘slap’ of admonition. Then, know the value of your position and act accordingly!”

This text is the translation of “Konumun Hakkı

Disputes over Inheritance

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: One of the gravest social problems of our time is disputes over inheritance. It is seen that sharing inheritance causes disputes and bitter feelings between family members. What is the correct attitude that becomes a believer at sharing inheritance?

Answer: Islam is a system of values, which sets guidelines for a person’s otherworldly life and makes worldly life run in an orderly fashion. Therefore, as in every other issue, the attitude that becomes a believer is acting in compliance with the principles of religion by taking good pleasure of God as a basis and consenting to the share decreed by religion.

Sacrifice and Objectivity

One can make voluntary sacrifices and leave their share to other inheritors who are not as prosperous as them. However, this is a matter to be personally decided by the rightful inheritor. If such voluntary sacrifice is not made, what befalls on other inheritors is to respect everybody’s rights, as decreed by religion.

I would like to refer to a Sufi approach here in order to clarify the situation of inheritors, showing the different levels of attitude according to one’s depth in faith: some people act upon basic religious requirements (shariʿa), some act upon Sufi manners (tariqa), and those who awakened to the truths of faith act upon profound wisdom (haqiqa). In the first understanding: “that belongs to you, and this belongs to me.” In the second, one is ready to share everything: “this both belongs to you and me.” In the third: “this neither belongs to you nor me.” In other words, God is the true owner of everything and mortals are actually nothing more than seeming owners. Now, the basic principles are objective and count for all people. Rights of inheritors are explained by Islamic jurisprudence in detail, under the topic of faraiz (obligatory acts). Therefore, everybody should consent to their share, as explicitly decreed by religion. To reiterate, making sacrifices for the benefit of poorer relatives is encouraged. For example, if they tell me that my father left me some property, I may easily renounce my right of the inheritance since transitory worldly wealth does not deserve so much concern while we are supposed to be concerned about the Hereafter to come. Imposing this attitude on others by overgeneralizing the idea, without their voluntary choice, is an unrealistic expectation that goes against human nature. Such demands naturally cause tension between people. For this reason, decrees of religion are the objective basis. 

Disputes between People without Fear of God

As for contemporary disputes of inheritance in our time, in my opinion, the real problem lies with the excessive love for worldly goods and money and the subsequent mentality of, “O Lord of all, let me get it all.” In fact, a person’s calling God “Lord of all,” but wishing to “get it all,” in a selfish way that implies opposing the Lord, is incompatible with the thought of respect for God and righteousness. This consideration stems from greed for wealth and worldliness. However, such passions and fancies are in inverse proportion to religious thought, feelings, and a consciousness of being called to account by God. In other words, having weak faith, taking this world as everlasting, and unending desires lie at the root of these problems. Therefore, the only factor to bring the entirety of such negative feelings under control is consenting to the relevant decrees of religion and believing that this world is transitory. There are numerous pieces of poetry on the transience of this world, celebrated in folk wisdom:

Behold through the eyes of wisdom, this world is but a guesthouse;
No soul stays there for good, what a strange abode it is.
The share of a king and subject alike, is nothing but a plain shroud.
Heavens, who fall for its vanity, don’t they deserve to be called mad?

Given that this is the true face of the world, I see no point in fighting over worldly goods. However, as there is an excessive greed in human nature for worldly possessions, such problems can always arise if not brought under control with the Divine teaching. Nevertheless, one of the ten most illustrious Companions of the Prophet, Abu Ubayda ibn al-Jarrah brought abundant goods from Bahrain and some of the Companions waited for a share. The noble Prophet swore by God and stated that he was not concerned about them being poor, but enjoying prosperity as earlier peoples did and then engaging in jealous rivalry, which would bring them to destruction.

Negative feelings like love of status, greed for profits, passion for worldly goods, and jealousy are like deadly viruses, not for the body but for the soul. However, what makes a person truly human is not the body but the soul. When the soul dies, as pointed out by the Qur’an, a person falls to the level of an animal, or even lower.

Deviation from Lofty Values and Insatiable Greed

Unfortunately, when people lose their values, they run after things of no true worth and do everything in pursuit of their worldly desires and fancies. If people do not receive a serious spiritual training and a feeling of obedience to Divine commandments is not cultivated in them, it is not possible to put a stop to such social diseases. The same factor underlies in all cases of embezzlement, greed for power, wish for destruction, and different forms of oppression. For this reason, when believers turn away from the essential spiritual dynamics to guide them, there is nothing surprising about so many troubles. As far as values taught by religion do not guide individual life, it does not solve these problems effectively any other way. Even if we were to send a secret agent after every corrupt one, they would probably become partners in crime and carry out their job in a more organized fashion. Then you would need to send new agents, with no guarantee that they will cooperate instead. As Bediüzzaman puts it, the real way to solve the problem is to leave an agent in the conscience of each person. Accordingly, if those with fear of God in their hearts lose their balance while trying to put on their shoes and step on another pair of shoes accidentally, they find the owner of those shoes and ask forgiveness for the damage they may have done, with the consciousness of being called to account by God Almighty. When people with such sensitivity sit at a dinner table, they first think whether what they are about to eat is their lawful right or not, whether there is any grain that belongs to someone else is found in it; thus, they lead an entire lifetime along such lines of spiritual discipline.

If the Stones of Charity Could Talk

I think it will be sufficient to consider the example of the charity stones in the Ottoman times, when high morals and spiritual purity were prevalent in society. As it is known, those who would give alms to the poor left the amount they donated in the cavities of those stones, and poor people only took the amount they actually needed. This saved the rich from showing off, and the poor from being humiliated. Those who gave knew—from the blessed saying of God’s Messenger—that alms given in secret extinguishes the wrath of God, as fire extinguishes water. In another hadith, as the seven classes of people who will be provided shelter by God are listed, those whose right hands give without making their left hand realize are counted among those fortunate ones. We can interpret this to mean that when one gives charity with one’s right hand not to even let the person on one’s left notice. So the act of leaving money to those stones of charity reflected this characteristic. And it shows how well they were oriented toward seeking the good pleasure of God. This fine understanding of almsgiving is at the same time a reflection of high morals established in that society, where every individual had a certain spiritual discipline. Nobody took more than the amount they needed. According to Islam, poor people can receive alms, and as far as the amount they take it does not put responsibility on them to give alms themselves. Those who acted with higher sensitivity probably took their daily need only and waited what Divine Providence would show them. Someone else would come, only to take the necessary amount to feed his children. People acting so sensitively will not steal even a single grain. Those who have belief in being called to account on Judgment Day, Paradise and Hell practically need no security forces. Think about the Messenger of God; he transformed the morally corrupt people of his time whose barbarous traditions, for instance, required burying baby girls alive if they were born before a boy, into such an exemplary society that we know no cases of theft except for one or two incidents. We witness no case of immorality except for the hearsay of two or three cases of fornication. In the same way, during the Ottoman rule that encompassed a large geographic area and included millions of people, cases of immorality were extremely few in number. It is understood that in the world made up of individuals who attained an exemplary morality through spiritual training of Islam, an entire society lived as if they had been directly connected to the Hereafter. They lived as if they were walking on a path to Paradise and took every step cautiously, in order not to slip and fall into Hell. This sensitivity made the world a more peaceful place to live. When the world virtually becomes a corridor to Paradise, it is possible to feel the delights of Paradise and the pleasure of living a way that becomes humanity. As for today, with my apologies, you cannot tell how many such cases of immorality take place everywhere. Therefore, we should never forget that until the moment believers find the values that build up their true identity, insatiable greed, disputes over inheritance, and other vices will continue to survive.

This text is the translation of “Miras Kavgaları

Considerations of Eid

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: What are your recommendations to thoroughly feel the blessings of Eid, the holy days of rejoice, and benefit from them in compliance with religious commandments?

Answer: In Islam, every form of worship or issue bears a special meaning of its own. Feeling this meaning profoundly depends first on a person’s faith and subsequently on his efforts of renewal by making efficient use of willpower against the human tendency to take blessings for granted. Those who can constantly renew themselves with respect to their belief and thoughts can feel everything afresh. In other words, feeling something anew depends of keeping pure. As in the Divine command, “If He so wills (for the fulfillment of His purpose in creation), He can put you away and bring another generation” (Ibrahim 14:19), God Almighty puts emphasis on people who do not lose color, become weary, take blessings for granted as a result of familiarity, and who can always feel faith with all its depth freshly in their souls. It is for this reason that other issues, such as appreciating the value of Ramadan or Eid and trying to benefit from them efficiently, first of all depends on a sound faith and constantly renewing one’s faith. It is very difficult for those who reduce Islam to a culture of repeating certain practices they learned from their ancestors to experience Eid in heartfelt purity.

Relation between Ramadan and Eid

Although it can be questionable according to the criteria of authentication, the Messenger of God is thought to have said, “Renew your faith by ‘La ilaha illa Allah.’”1 This conveys that you must frequently revise your relationship with the Divine Essence together with your perspective of both the creative commands and the commandments of religion, and try to continue your life with pure faith by constantly coming to grips with yourself and making a new start in the Name of God. This is similar to the meaning of the hadith, “One whose two days are equal is in loss.”2 Accordingly, it is a very significant matter for a person to make progress in terms of his spiritual state every passing day and feeling beauties of faith better; those who pursue this goal are the ones to feel the essence of Ramadan and Eid in its true sense.

On the other hand, as Eid al-Fitr contains the essence of an entire month of Ramadan, feeling Eid in all its beauty depends on one’s resonance with Ramadan; only those people can become truly resonant with Eid. The hearts that become tuned to Ramadan spend the month in devotion solely for their faith in God, fulfilling the acts of worship—the fast, Tarawih Prayers and others—with a consciousness of responsibility and obedience to Divine commandments. Still, they humbly say, “O God, we tried to worship in the month of Ramadan, but we are afraid of having wasted it. We wonder whether we have been able to observe fasting, which the beloved Prophet described as a shield against hellfire, properly and spent the month behind that shield.” On the one hand, they feel sad with the possibility of not having given the due of Ramadan; on the other hand, they see Eid as a chance of being forgiven by God, and being filled with feelings of hopeful expectation.

Eid: A Ground for Remembrance and Thankfulness

The days of Eid are a magical segment of time when heavenly blessings and bestowals come showering down on the servants of God. What needs to be done in the face of these Divine graces is to overflow with feelings of praise, gratitude, and zeal. Otherwise, it is not correct to take the days of Eid only as a time for being merry; each of them is a chance of forgiveness granted as a Divine favor. Then, the wise thing to do is to spend these blessed days in vigilance of the heart and feelings, with their otherworldly depth and metaphysical immensity. Bediüzzaman also underlines this point in “The Twenty Eighth Gleam”: “… For this reason, the noble Prophet strongly encouraged giving thanks to God and remembering Him on religious festive days so that heedlessness should not prevail or lead to acts forbidden in religion. It is hoped that through thanksgiving and God’s remembrance, the bounty of joy and happiness on these days may be transformed into thankfulness, which in turn may cause that bounty to continue and increase. Giving thanks increases bounty, but heedlessness dispels it.”

Traditions of Eid within the Lawful Sphere

As a matter of fact, neither at the time of the noble Prophet nor in the following periods there were no activities—as it happens today—transgressing the lawful frame drawn by religious sources about Eid. That is, in the earlier period of Islam there were no traditions of trips, festivals, fireworks, and visiting all relatives and children expecting pocket money from elders. However, as Turks accepted Islam, they tested their own traditions according to the established criteria of religion, and they continued certain traditions that did not contradict those criteria. Therefore, certain traditions like kissing the hands of elders (as a sign of respect), visiting relatives, and welcoming people with a smile have continued up to our time since they did not go against the essential teachings of religion.

A Warm Atmosphere of Tolerance That Embraces Everyone

 As the days of Eid are a blessed and bountiful segment of time where deeds are rewarded so generously, every moment of theirs needs to be efficiently spent in friendly love, brotherhood, sisterhood, and acts of goodness. For example, the welcoming atmosphere of Eid which embraces everyone can be taken as a chance for eliminating bitter feelings, organizing activities to bring people closer, visiting the elderly and win their hearts, making children happy with good words and gifts, and also for building bridges of dialogue with non-Muslims in a peaceful atmosphere and break the ice. Undoubtedly, respect toward faith, religion, and the truth the Messenger of God stands for has a separate place and significance. On the other hand, honored with the best pattern of creation, being human has dignity in its essence and deserves to be respected. Particularly, at such a time when brutality is rising tremendously, bombs are being used against humanity, and when man-made viruses are unleashed as biological weapons, the world is in desperate need of a general peace based on this understanding. In order to save humanity from being destroyed between collisions of lethal waves, certain breakwaters need to be built to stop them.

Such activities did not take place in the time of the beloved Prophet or thereafter, and them not being included in the religious sources of reference is not an obstacle to our taking these blessed days as important chances for organizing certain goodwill activities. Apart from the sacred quality of the qandil nights, there were no special activities for those blessed nights. There were even no particular acts of worship for those nights. Together with that, it is commendable to spend them in devotion by praying, reading the Qur’an, touching beads, and supplicating to God. As those precious days resemble envelopes, they greatly add to the value of the deeds offered in them. The same goes for the location. You can pray to God anywhere; however, praying in Arafat purifies a person in such a way that he virtually becomes sinless as in the day he was born. If there are any stains that still remain, Muzdalifa takes them away. Similarly, circumambulating the Ka’ba is a means of a separate purification. As it is seen, this is realized by the envelope of “location” adding a transcendent value to deeds. In this respect, it is of great importance to turn to God Almighty in certain blessed locations or blessed segments of time in the Islamic calendar, and also to strive for friendly love, brotherhood, and humanity in order to attain God’s good pleasure.

1. Al-Hakim at-Tirmizi, Nawadiru’l-Usul, 2/204. La ilaha illa Allah: There is no deity but God.
2. Ali al-Muttaqi, Kanz al-Ummal, 16/214, no. 44236.

This text is the translation of “Bayram Mülahazaları

Jealousy

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: What should an appropriate attitude be towards those who envy us and cannot stomach our achievements?

Answer: First of all, it needs to be known that not being able to stomach others’ merits is a serious spiritual illness. The example of Satan’s attitude towards Adam and his later going completely astray is the most striking example of just that. Considering the words of Satan in different verses of the Qur’an, it is seen that he is a creature that knows God. But in spite of that, he refused to prostrate himself before Adam for the sole reason of his jealousy and not being able to stomach God’s honoring Adam. While mentioning Satan’s disobedience to the Divine command, the Qur’an uses the word “aba” (refused), which denotes insistent refusal. That is, he was insistent at his haughty refusal to prostrate himself before Adam. Since he was full of grudge and hatred, this prevented him from seeing goodness and thinking positively. Had it been easy to overcome jealousy and inability to stomach others’ merits, Satan’s end would probably not be so pitiful. Perhaps, realizing Adam’s relation with the Almighty Creator and the angels’ respect for him would bring Satan to his senses. However, that poor victim of jealousy fell headlong and is still falling. It is narrated in a parable that Satan once asked God Almighty, “You forgive so many people, should my punishment and suffering not be over?” God Almighty reminded him of the first test that he failed, “Go and prostrate yourself before the grave of Adam. Then I will forgive you.” However, Satan was totally seized by his jealousy and inability to stomach Adam’s merits once again that he continued his refusal and denial. Jealousy has such a compact potential for evil that Satan threw himself headfirst into disbelief.

From Jealousy to Fratricide

On the other hand, God Almighty relates the parable of Adam’s two sons in the chapter al-Maedah of the Qur’an (5:27–31), in order to show where jealously and inability to stomach others’ merits can destroy a person. Although the names of the two sons are not specified in the Qur’an and the Tradition of the noble Prophet, earlier scriptures refer to them as Cain and Abel. They were born into a family blessed with Divine revelations, which was also a nucleus for the final Prophet. One of these two sons, whose father was mentioned as “the pure servant of God,” was an unfortunate one who could not stomach the merits of his brother and turned so furious as to kill him in the end.

When we review history, we come across many examples of this kind. The lesson to extract from these is that jealousy caused many people to fall. Grudge and jealousy even caused some people to be antagonistic toward the Pride of Humanity, who would not hurt anybody in the slightest degree. At one instant, Abu Jahl confessed this truth with the following words, “All that he conveys is true. He does not lie; we have never witnessed that. However, his tribesmen (Banu Abdul Muttalib) already said, ‘We have the honorable duties of giving Zamzam water to pilgrims, keeping custody of the keys of the Ka’ba, and offering food to pilgrims.’ If they say now, ‘The Prophet has appeared from among us,’ I cannot stand that!”1 Until the day he met his end at the Battle of Badr, that unfortunate one spent all of his days in enmity towards the Messenger of God, and then drifted to eternal perdition in the vice of his jealous grudge. He could perhaps be granted Divine forgiveness if he had said even as late as a few minutes before his death, “Until this moment, I have always been trying to destroy what you built up. But now, I am asking for forgiveness,” and then accept faith. However, he was absorbed in a jealous grudge, arrogance and envy even during his death throes. Let us give it a thought; his inability to stomach others’ value was like an inauspicious iceberg not melting even in the significant atmosphere of the Messenger of God.

Not even a Ladder to Paradise

Some people might entirely object acts of benevolence for the sole reason that they did not personally take part in initiating, planning, and realizing these initiatives, no matter how significant, beneficial, and beautiful they could be. For example, in recent years, Language Olympiads have been held in Turkey with students from four corners of the world. The organization is realized by devoted teachers, selfless tutors, and philanthropic people of Anatolia; it is a fruit of the concerted efforts of so many self-sacrificing souls. This organization does not only stand for teaching language, but also for sharing significant values. The values of a deep-rooted spiritual heritage are presented for others to see, without missionary like intentions or imposing things on any of the contestants or audience members. Every language carries with it the culture and world of thought it is based on. People of Turkey did not achieve an organization of such success, even in their most prosperous periods. Now, at a time of economic crises, philanthropic souls of Anatolia face variations of possible difficulties, send help to different areas, and carry out a very important service by the grace of God. However, still you see that some people of the same land express their uneasiness by remarking that the concept is exaggerated. At another instance, a columnist makes an accusation and defines all those altruistic services as mere show. Although the educational activities are realized through so much suffering and troubles, some cannot find acceptance towards these and attempt to discredit them in many different ways. Some even take jealousy to the degree of wishing to destroy all these acts of goodness. Sometimes, this feeling causes them to make groundless accusations and complaints to the authorities in different countries, with an intention to eliminate the services. Even “jealousy” is too innocent a term for such a degree of loath and grudge. I think the word “envy” could petition to be excluded from a relevant glossary; such a destructive spirit can only stem from animosity toward faith. Those people do not show their true face and it would be too unmannerly for us to label them hypocrites. But their souls are seized by such malignant feelings that even if you offer them a ladder to Paradise, they will do everything to destroy that blessed ladder. 

Stomaching the Inability to Stomach

In sum, we need to take into consideration that such negative attitudes are always present. Not only those hostile to faith, but even those who supposedly share the same feelings, thoughts and teachings with the volunteers, will present their jealousy and inability to stomach the achievements from time to time. The becoming response for us is to stomach these as an outcome of human nature and embrace everyone despite this factor. Ideal believers are described in the Qur’an (Al Imran 3:134) as ones who are ever-restraining their rage (even when provoked and able to retaliate), and pardoning people their offenses. Accordingly, you should swallow your anger, forgive people, and even if you meet some evil, you should leave this evil one sided by not responding in the same way. If a vehicle crashes into a stationary one, the damage will be halved. However, when two vehicles crash into one another with speed, both will be compressed into a heap of metal. In the same way, you can halve the damage by leaving vice on its own; you must condemn the jealousy and intolerance of the adversaries to melt the vices away.

On the other hand, for the sake of overcoming such problems, you must help others around you by showing them the ways to deepen their faith, emphasize the importance of sincerity (ikhlas) and brotherhood, and constantly rehabilitate them with circles of religious talks. Thus, you must struggle to help them realize annihilation (in the Sufi sense) of their carnal soul and arrogance, and then take wing in their spiritual life to the horizons of Baqa Billah (Subsistence with God).2 Our religious talks must be revising our relations with God, whether we stand where we should or not, and whether we are in line with the Qur’anic teachings in terms of our world of thoughts. We must be rekindled with “Talk of the Beloved,” to become revitalized and reinvigorated. Issues such as founding schools or universities in various countries are too simple in comparison to this notion. When matters are seen from this perspective, it is more possible to spot our shortcomings. Since we do not constantly burn to engage in the Talk of the Beloved, we don’t bring up the subject of God and His Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, all the time, and we do not keep trying to orient others toward sound faith, we fail to seal up the mouth of the green-eyed monster that is unable to stomach others’ merits. Since we fail to do that, this monster is making Muslims talk in an unbecoming fashion and is pushing them to unbecoming behaviors.

1. Ibn Ishaq, As-Sirah, 4/191
2. “Baqa Billah” is covered as an entire chapter in the second volume of Gülen’s The Emerald Hills of the Heart: Key Concepts in the Practice of Sufism, New Jersey: Tughra Books, 2010.

This text is the translation of “Hazımsızlık

Properties of Perfect Intention-2

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Intention is of a crucial importance with respect to a person’s eternal bliss. However, the intention that helps a person to be saved is one that serves as a motive for good deeds. In other words, perfect intention is a complementary component for good deeds and this makes it resemble a mysterious key unlocking doors to infinity in this finite worldly life. To clarify that with an example, if people observe the Divine commandments for worship such as the prayers and fasting as much as they can, these acts will not amount to even a tenth of the due of the blessings to be granted by God Almighty in Paradise; not even when these deeds are multiplied by twenty, or a hundred, because Paradise is a place adorned with blessings surpassing human imagination. Bediüzzaman also stated that thousands of years of happy life in this world cannot be compared to one hour in Paradise. The blessings of Paradise narrated in the Qur’an and authenticated sayings of the noble Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him,  provide us with some food for thought; they give us an idea about the issue. Otherwise, the blessings in Paradise are far beyond human conception and imagination. Therefore, it is not possible for us to become eligible for and deserve such a Paradise with our acts of worship. But let’s say that you try to avoid sins and carry out Divine commandments—observe the prayers, speak the truth, follow right guidance, give the zakat, go to Hajj, and strive to uphold the Divine teaching—all along this finite worldly life. All of these will be too little with respect to the worth of Paradise. However, through your attitude and intention, you virtually say, “O God, to the Ruler belongs the Royal manner that befits Him, just as servitude befits a slave. As a poor servant, this is what I can do.” Thus in return for such an immense intention, God Almighty will say, “This servant of mine lived for sixty years and spent his (or her) life in obedience to Me. If he were to live for a million years, he would spend his life in the same way. So I consider him as if he worshipped Me that much.” That is, God Almighty will replace a person’s intention with their practical deeds, and count their intention as better than their deeds. 

Keeping up the Initial Sincere Intention

There is another reason for an intention being better than the deed: a person can be sincere with respect to their initial intention. However, when the deed is being put to practice, other considerations such as showing off to others and taking sanctimonious pride can spoil sincerity. As for intention, it does not face such a degree of risk as the deed does. Since it is a will in the heart, it is not possible for others to see it. For example, one man can say, “I gladly accept it even if God takes my life a thousand times, if only the blessed name of the Messenger of God was honored in these lands.” Even his closest friends cannot exactly know the feeling and the excitement in his heart. Seeing the entire world dark without him, believing that everywhere will gain light with him, feeling agony with this concern, suffering with shame for failing to be true to him, and living with a troubled conscience with this concern—such feelings and considerations enveloped by sincerity in one’s heart have great value in the sight of God, for they cannot be spoiled by sanctimonious concerns of showing off to others. In this respect, it can be said that as these feelings and thoughts inside are not exposed to the destructive effect of negative considerations, God Almighty accepts them as if they were actions carried out, counts them as compensation for the gaps one’s deeds fail to fill, and grants that person eternal bliss in return for them.

People can erase their wrongs and sins through repentance and penitence. However, even if sins are removed, there will be certain gaps in one’s record of deeds. The mysterious capital to fill up those gaps is a person’s sincere intentions, orienting oneself heavenwards, and their intents and wills bound to put into practice. We hope that God Almighty accepts them as if they were actual deeds and fill the gaps in the record of deeds with them, and thus will not let His servant in shame on the day of reckoning. In this respect, great guides gave much importance to intention. 

One of the Most Eloquent Invitations for Divine Providence

As intention is an invitation for Divine help in order to realize the intent, then one should never refrain from making it. In the face of loads of work to do, one should make an intention and begin working, do as much as she can do, which is an invitation of great significance in the name of asking from God Almighty to make it possible to complete the task, instead of waiting idly in hopelessness. Then it is not right for a person to neglect this petty task they are responsible for in terms of apparent causes. People should target great ideals and keep their standards high, at least in terms of their intention. Besides that, when they cannot realize all that they desired to, they should not give in to disappointment, be respectful to how Divine Justice operates, and after having done what they were supposed to, they should wait for the right time to do what remains undone. 

Intentions that Surpass the Available Means

Those who fail to do what they planned to do owing to valid excuses beyond their power will be treated in accordance with their intentions. For example, the Qur’an praises the ones who felt sad since they could not find the means for making a contribution to the Tabuk Campaign: “…they returned, their eyes overflowing with tears in sorrow that they could not find anything to spend” (at-Tawbah 9:92). As those who donated for the campaign were praised for their deed, the ones who could not were appreciated for the purity of their intention, depth of their heart, and immensity of their feelings. Referring to those who could not join the army for a valid excuse, who could not find a mount or who had relatives they had to look after, the noble Messenger of God stated, “There are some men in Medina who are with you (on account of their intention) wherever you march and whichever valley you cross…”1 and gave the glad tidings that they would also have their share of the Divine reward like others. In other words, the noble Prophet meant to say that if they had the same means and conditions as others, they would also join them, practically make the same efforts, and therefore receive the same reward. In one case, the Pride of Humanity even spared a share from war gains for Uthman ibn Affan, who was unable to join the Battle of Badr for a certain reason, and that distinguished Companion was also counted among the blessed souls who attended the Battle of Badr.

As it is seen, those who cannot realize what they wish to do for a valid reason are excused according to the Qur’an and Sunnah, and they are counted as if they realized their intent. Even during our times, there are various people who serve in different areas of life enthusiastically. They are full of enthusiasm for carrying out the duty that falls on their part. So those people, by God’s grace, will be rewarded as people who strived for a sacred cause. Their intention, determination, efforts, and resolution will meet them in the other world as such a pleasant surprise that most others will not be able to help but envy them for the blessings God Almighty will grant them. For this reason, it is always commendable to cherish high intentions and ideals. It should never be forgotten that a person whose intention embraces a nation is like embracing an entire nation; further than that, a person whose intention embraces the entire humanity, is like a huge humanity.

1. Sahih Muslim, Imara, 159

This text is the translation of “Kamil Niyetin Özellikleri (2) 

Properties of Perfect Intention-1

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: What does “perfect intention” mean? What are the properties of an intention, which is stated as being better than one’s deeds?

Answer: Scholars of both Islamic Jurisprudence and discipline of Hadith defined intention as “what the heart truly wills.” As for what is meant by perfect intention, as the true will of the heart, it can be defined as a person solely turning toward God, who is the Absolute One to be worshipped and the True Desired One, and seeking His approval in all their deeds. As it is known, the most famous saying of the Prophet about intention is the first one Imam Bukhari included in his classic work:

“Actions are judged by intentions, and a person will get a reward according to the intention. So, whoever emigrated for God and His Messenger, his emigration will be for God and His Messenger; and whoever emigrated for worldly benefits or for a woman to marry, his emigration would be for what he emigrated for.”1

According to this hadith, if somebody observes the prayers to deceive people by attempting to appear pious, they find no reward in the Afterlife for such deeds; since their heart was not oriented to God but to appreciation by people. Actually, such an attitude is the character of hypocrites. They do not believe in making ablution, observing prayers, guiding others, and serving their people and humanity with altruistic attitude. By stating that actions are judged by intentions, the hadith lets us know that actions which do not seek God’s good pleasure bear no value.

Varying Degrees of Intention
On the other hand, we need to admit that not everybody is on the same level. A person’s purity of intention is directly proportional with their horizons of knowledge of God. Their intention will vary in accordance with how sound their faith is, how immersed they are in knowledge of God, and how the consciousness of omnipresence of God flourishes in their hearts. For this reason, those with broad horizons in regards to knowledge of God need to aim higher with their intentions, which can be seen as the starting point of worship. One who makes a sound intention, which we can call the basmala of worship, can offer acts of worship—such as the prayers, fasting, and zakat—with due awareness and consciousness.

In the Hanafi school of thought, pronouncing one’s intention was seen as preferable. On the other hand, even though he is not renowned as a jurist, the great guide Imam Rabbani objected pronouncing the intention. Accordingly, since intention is what the heart truly wills, the heart must become oblivious to all other things than God and totally become fixed on Him in full concentration. Pronouncing the intention with the mouth must not busy the mind and having such additional concern might make it difficult to become fully concentrated. Therefore, that great imam held such a profound and immense consideration about intention for prayer. Personally, even though I say the intention with my tongue, I favor this view of Imam Rabbani, since making the intention with the tongue might sometimes be misleading. Believers might feel content with having said the words but fail to orient themselves to God Almighty with all of their outward and inward faculties. They may not achieve a full concentration of the heart. The voice of their heart may not have accompanied the voice coming out from the mouth. However, words being uttered are not the basis for intention; they only bear a meaning as far as they are the voice of the heart. On the other hand, holding everybody responsible for such a level of intention means expecting everybody to be at the same horizons of the heart and spirit, which will not be a realistic expectation. For this reason, it is best to believe that the acts of worship will be accepted from those who turn to God with a sincere intention at their giving alms as zakat, fasting, and going to Hajj. At the same time, such an approach is an expression of taking into consideration that Divine Providence will help the worshipper, the principle of easiness in religion, and having a positive opinion of people. It should not be forgotten that holding a positive opinion about others is one of the branches of worship.

The Connection between Pure Intention and Deeds
We need to expound on what we mean by “what the heart truly wills,” the phrase we used while defining intention. “What the heart truly wills” does not denote something passing a person’s mind or heart. On the contrary, it denotes being resolved at one’s intention and making a serious effort to put that intention to practice. In other words, as orienting oneself to God is the theoretical side of intention, attempting to do this is the practical side. In this respect, one needs to be resolved at putting the intention into practice by achieving such concentration. In other words, although intention is an issue to be considered within religious commandments, its realization depends on an individual’s religious practices. And seriousness of intention reveals itself in having the theory and practice together. This is not only limited to essential acts of worship such as fasting and prayers, but applicable for all acts of goodness. The practical value of intention can be understood from the following statement of Bediüzzaman: “The intention to be humble spoils humility, the intention to be great provokes contempt…” Lowering one’s wings of humility down to the ground is an important virtue in Islamic morality, but the thought “let me appear a tad humble,” eliminates it; because it is an indication of running after one’s desires and fancies. It may turn out that the speaker’s intent is not being humble, but being appreciated, applauded, and becoming a person recognized by others. Similarly, attempting to appear great provokes contempt in others, the exact opposite of the intended purpose. Or, for instance, assuming a proud attitude toward a proud person is not an indication of being proud, since there is a different intent. In sum, an intention finds its value in practice, the real motive is revealed through its practical dimension.

The Reward that Corresponds to the Intention

As the Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, once stated in the name of stressing the importance of intention, a man’s intention is better than his deed. At another instance, he stated that a person who intends to do something bad but then desists from it, and a person who intends to do something good but does not find the chance to do it will also gain rewards for their intention. Accordingly, if someone who intends to do an evil act and is determined to do it desists from that act for the sake of God, this will be recorded as one good deed. In the same way, someone who cannot find the chance to do and intended an act of goodness will be rewarded for this intention.

To give an example, the volunteers disperse to the four corners of the world for the sake of humanity to share their values and spiritual heritage, and they act sincerely. Their devotion reaches such a degree that when they think about it, their eyes fill with tears and they cry their hearts out. At the same time, they make use of every opportunity for the sake of their sublime ideals. However, they cannot realize their intent owing to adverse conditions. So the glad tidings of the noble Prophet are true for believers in this situation; their intention is more valuable than their deed, and they will be rewarded as if they realized that deed, according to their intention.

1. Sahih al-Bukhari, Bad’ul-Wahy, 1

This text is the translation of “Kamil Niyetin Özellikleri (1)

Loving One’s Nation

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: You make a distinction between theoretical and practical nationalism.1 Could you explain your conception of these terms?

Answer: From the past to the present, there have been very different conceptions of nationalism. What I mean by nationalism is the consciousness of being the children of the same heritage, which may date back as far as a few thousand years, who shared the same destiny, joys, and troubles throughout history, who held a composition of common values and were fed from the same spiritual teachings, and whose world of thought was made up of the essences distilled from these values. As for the people of Anatolia, they found what they sought in Islam. Islam enabled them to hear the voice of their spirit and heart; they discovered the concept of eternity, struck a balance between this world and the next, and found a means of opening into different dimensions.

In other words, as descendants of a people who established different states throughout history, they found what they sought in Islam, completed their quest, and transformed into their natural state with it. Indeed, the Qur’an states that true perfection was revealed with Islam: “This day I have perfected for you your Religion (with all its rules, commandments and universality), completed My favor upon you, and have been pleased to assign for you Islam as Religion” (al-Maedah 5:3).

In other words, religion was truly perfected with the example and the message of the noble Prophet and the Qur’an, and the people of Anatolia found their ideal state when they were honored with Islam. 

A Composition of Values Filtered by Religion

The customs and traditions dating back to the distant past reached our time after being filtered and distilled by religious commandments and Divine criteria, and they have become the character of our people. Since these customs and traditions were already filtered through religious criteria, they should be seen as values allowed by our religion. Indeed, Islamic jurisprudence is based upon the Qur’an, the sunnah, the consensus of the Muslims (ijma), and the interpretation of scholars (qiyas). In addition, there are other criteria of a complementary nature2 and some scholars counted custom (urf) of a given culture as one of them. According to the Qur’an, following custom is counted as a good act that God Almighty commands us to carry out. In this respect, custom denotes a composition of values that do not conflict with the essential teachings of Islam. The main components that form the make-up of the people of Anatolia are the entirety of the essences that were distilled from their spiritual heritage. 

Racism and Hypocrisy

The people of Anatolia lived together for centuries and shared the same culture, belief, joys, troubles, and sorrows. It is such a bitter reality that in the unfortunate regions where Muslims live, some hypocritical thoughts and behaviors have dominated the fate of the region for a few centuries. Some people whose words and behaviors are in total conflict with one another tried to divide societies by causing dissent and thus did the greatest evil to them. In a way, this was a greater threat to Muslims than disbelief because those who absolutely denied God and reduced everything to materialism were soon to fade away in the sight of people. However, the hypocrisy that continued under different masks is much more difficult to fade away. For this reason, what really paralyzed Muslims for the last few centuries is the virus of hypocrisy that has cut through the veins of society and is sucking its blood. The notion of nationalism was a means of abuse for these circles of hypocrisy. Nationalism was a tool for dividing society through chauvinistic heroism. Even though some appeared to work for the future of their society, the practical result was bloody clashes.

To give a concrete example, we were put into prison together with people who fought against one another for different ideologies during the 70s and 80s. On both sides, there were sincere young people who possessed the chivalrous spirit of their Anatolian heritage. Those young people were misguided, provided with arms, and provoked to fight on streets on opposite sides. Unfortunately, they were obsessed with the thought of bloodshed. However, when one gained insight into their inner worlds, as if conducting psychoanalysis, one would see that their hearts beat for their people. Unfortunately, the circles of hypocrisy hiding behind different ideologies and currents turned those sincere people into enemies against one another.

As a matter of fact, Persian culture had a negative effect on Muslims. This issue dates all the way back in Islamic history to the first emergence of hostility toward the caliphs, Abu Bakr and Umar. Hypocritical thoughts continued ever since then under different names and titles. The idea of racism is also a product of such a hypocritical understanding. During the final days of the Ottomans, the national cause was corrupted with racist considerations, the religion was disregarded, and some people tried to present the spirit of the Turks to be rebellious against their Prophet and God Almighty. When the reality of the situation became apparent later on, a certain philosopher-poet expressed which facts were distorted and how and wrote an apologetic poem confessing and expressing his regret for misunderstanding the great ruler, Sultan Abdulhamid II. For this reason, it is not possible for us to exclude the considerations of God, the Prophet, and the Qur’an from our understanding of loving one’s nation; even the attitudes that imply taking them lightly cannot have a place in this understanding. We cannot use such holy concepts in our arguments as if they are ordinary objects. We can only show respect and pay tribute to them. This is the foundation of our nationality. 

The Embodiment of Love for One’s Nation

We believe that the Muslim nations’ continuity depends on cherishing these values, and their gaining a place in the balance of powers and taking the lead in representing human virtues also depends upon keeping this composition of values.

Indeed, we believe that the right and lawful will find their true meanings, blood and tears will come to an end, justice—absolute or relative—will take place, and humanity will regain peace in safe hands. Why should a person who believes this ideal not try to proclaim this composition of values to the entire world?

At this point, there comes a distinction between theoretical and practical nationalism. Let me remind you of our approach to religious life: establishing belief as an ingrained part of our character through practical actions. In The Critique of Pure Reason, the German philosopher Immanuel Kant says that God can be known not through theoretical reason but only through practical reason. This idea is in compliance with Bergson’s “intuition.” Bediüzzaman also referred to sensing the conscience; he emphasized that people must feel how helpless and poor they really are and turn to God with this consciousness and realize their actions and give thanks to Him. In the same way, theoretical nationalism without practical goodness means paying lip service to the issue and comforting oneself with stories of chauvinistic heroism.

However, what really matters is working ceaselessly for lofty ideals without expecting any benefit and doing what needs to be done. Why should I not teach my language to anybody else? As English has become a world language, why should mine not become a worldwide means of attachment between people? Referring to the Arabic, Turkish, and Persian in use today, Ali Shariati said that it is not possible to develop knowledge with such shallow languages. In fact, we can enrich Turkish by referring to the Central Asian languages of Turkic origin, bringing different locally used words into common use, benefiting from stories and novels, and by reviving the words forgotten between pages of dictionaries. If we are to practically prove that we love our people, then we should try to develop the language and also seek to introduce the positive feelings of our people and the values of our historical heritage to the entire world.

Introducing Turkey to others is an ideal for so many people. But how are they supposed to do it? So much investment was made, but to what extent did it work? I saw a TV program, in the middle of New York, the speaker extended a microphone to passersby and asked whether they had ever heard of a country called Turkey. Most of them had not heard of it, and some even said, “I think it is a country in Africa.” This is a clear indication that the efforts to introduce Turkey to others have been insufficient.

Nowadays however, some volunteers made up their minds to realize this ideal in different parts of the world by God’s grace and permission. I wish the country had better economic means so that the schools opened by the faithful people of Anatolia would number two thousand, instead of one. Then, the number of people learning Turkish would amount to a million; they would love our country and people. If the slightest amount of harm came to Turkey, people in different parts of the world would voice their sorrow about it. Let me also add that in spite of everything, the people of Anatolia showed a great example of faithfulness and realized good works both at home and abroad by making use of their means to the utmost degree. Taking no notice of those praiseworthy activities is akin to being unfaithful. We see that there is serious public support and concern for these benevolent activities that have become a source of joy for many people. If God Almighty does not send an adverse wind, we hope that the establishments supported by those altruistic people will increase manifold and the regions where they exist will turn into a land of dreams envied by all. What we call practical nationalism means to strive for a sublime ideal and present an excellent performance for this sake.

In short, if you really believe that your values are of Divine origin and you see them as having the utmost importance and vitality with respect to their extending to eternity toward the past and future, then you cannot contain yourself from sharing them with all of humanity. The people you address may not accept all of them, but at least they appreciate you and your true identity and inner beauty. In this way, you will have formed friendly circles around you and will be saved from confining yourself to isolation in a shrinking world.

1. The original word Gülen uses is not exactly nationalism, but “milliyetperverlik,” a term that rather means “loving one’s nation,” which is an allusion to Bediüzzaman’s criticism of the negative sense of nationalism in “The Twenty-Sixth Letter.”
2. There are secondary criteria in Islamic jurisprudence such as istishab, istihsan, maslahah, and sadd al-dharai. For example, if something has benefits but no harm, it is accepted as lawful in Islam.

This text is the translation of “Nazarî ve Amelî Milliyetperverlik

Suicide

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

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

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

Breaching the Trust

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

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

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

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

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

A Multiple Murder: Suicide Attacks

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

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

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

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

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

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

This text is the translation of “İntihar

Reflections on the Day of Hunayn

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

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

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

Hunayn: A Hard Test

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

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

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

Dizziness That Comes along with Glory

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

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

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

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

A Balanced Figure of Love and Enthusiasm: Jalaluddin Rumi

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

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

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

Rumi and the Emergence of the Ottomans

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Immense Inclusiveness within the Framework of Essential Disciplines

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Muslims Benefit from Their Own Sources to the Maximum Degree

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

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

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

You Cannot Direct Stagnant Water Anywhere

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

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

The Essentials Should Be Known First

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

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

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

The Tripod

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

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

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

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

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

Seeking Recognition

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

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

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

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

Carry out or Establish?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Greatest Shortcoming: Not Seeing One’s Own Shortcomings

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

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

This text is the translation of “Kendini İfade Etme Arzusu

Are We Faithful to the Trust?

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

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

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

Faith: The Greatest Trust

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

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

Who Is Islam Entrusted To?

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

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

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

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

Betraying the Trust is a Characteristic of Hypocrites

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

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

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

This text is the translation of “Emanette Emin miyiz?

The Devoted Souls with Enthusiasm and Commonsense-2

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Seas before Us Cannot Be Passed with a Ramshackle Ship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Devoted Souls with Enthusiasm and Commonsense-1

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

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

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

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

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

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

Being Devoid of Enthusiasm Means Death for the Heart

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

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

Sensibility and Enthusiasm Should Support One Another

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perfection and Modesty

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

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

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

Two-Winged Spirit of Guidance, with Knowledge and Humility

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

The Most Modest Person

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

This text is the translation of “Mükemmellik ve Tevazu

The Devoted Souls and Life Standards

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

Responsibilities Must Be Entrusted to Eligible Ones

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

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

Having More Abundant Means and Real Economy

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

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

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

A Bohemian Life Has No Limit

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

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

Constant Self-Criticism

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slanders and Conspiracies

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Question: What gave rise to the most recent slander?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Question: How do you feel about these slanders?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Broken Jug: Droplets of Wisdom from the Heart

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Introductory Note

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Symbolism

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

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

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

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

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