Question: Could you elucidate on Bediüzzaman’s statement: “For the sake of saving the people’s faith, I have sacrificed my life of this world and the Hereafter!”
Answer: Personages who lived before this monumental figure of our time, such as noble Abu Bakr, may God be pleased with him, Mansur al-Hallaj, Imam Rabbani, and many others, made similar statements. They virtually acted like guardian angels waiting before the gate of Hell and exerting themselves to save other people from falling there. In the words of the poet Necip Fazıl, they opened their arms wide to divert masses and warned, “This is a blind alley!”
He Firstly Sacrificed His World
In this statement, Bediüzzaman first mentions that he forsook the world for the sake of saving others’ faith. Indeed, a person who looks at this great man’s life will see that his whole life affirms this statement, because the lifestyle he chose was not one to be lived and tolerated by an ordinary person. His entire life was full of exiles, prisons, pressures, and other examples of receiving mistreatment. Sometimes, they did not even suffice with a prison cell and—may that pure soul excuse me—they imprisoned him in a place like a latrine. Moreover, they opened the windows of that cell during the cold and freezing winter days, basically leaving him to die. Not even sufficing with that, they poisoned him nineteen times in prison. In addition to the physical tortures and mistreatment in prisons, after this great personage was released, he was under the surveillance of street wardens.
Had he wished, however, Bediüzzaman could have gained a status and worldly position like others and led a comfortable and luxurious life, benefiting from worldly pleasures. Since his youth, he possessed a prodigious sagacity which made him able to produce great plans and projects. He influenced masses with what he spoke and wrote. As early as the years of the constitutional monarchy, he wrote his work Sünuhat (Occurrences to the Heart) on the chaotic developments during those years. In the same way, when he wrote his work Muhakemat (The Reasonings), he even revolutionized the accustomed thoughts of scholars. By traveling through Anatolia, he convinced the tribes preparing for a rebellion not to go through with their plans, and with the public speeches he made, he moderated other rebellious groups. He had a degree of courage that enabled him to shout, “Long live Hell for all tyrants!” without making any concessions with respect to his feelings and thoughts, even after being tried in a court martial. If such a magnificent personage had the least bit of concern for the world and chose to comply with those around him, he would have lived like a king.
During the years that followed the struggle for independence, he could have also obtained a seat in the Parliament, sitting there shyly and thus favored at all times. Some fortunes and benefits could have been allocated to him from discretionary funds. Like others, he could have also enjoyed orchards, gardens, mansions, villas, and other comforts and luxuries of this world. However, he knew to push aside all of these for the sake of his cause and opted for an unbearable life for the sake of saving others’ faith.
What Is the Meaning of Sacrificing the Hereafter?
Bediüzzaman states that in order to save the people’s faith, he sacrificed his Afterlife as well. He does not consider himself even with respect to this issue. That is, he did not take a course of life where he would draw to a corner for strengthening his relations with God as a hermit, realize his personal progress, experience spiritual pleasures, work wonders, and be held in esteem. Since the issue of assuring the people’s faith had become his primary ideal, just as he did not seek to gain this world, he did not seek to gain the next world either. So, did not he have any expectations from God in the Hereafter? He did, of course. However, he expected that as an unmerited favor of God, out of His generosity, and as His special mercy.
By the way, it is also necessary to add that Bediüzzaman and the people who shared his same feelings and thoughts had become a whole with the people and a part of the general body. Each of them virtually resembled neurons that took place inside the head of that body. Therefore, as part of the body, they felt deeply everything bitter or sweet and were seriously affected by that. Such a person can say like Abu Bakr, “My God, magnify my body in such a way so that I fill Hell and others will not enter there.” Or they can say, “I do not mind even burning in Hell, given that I see my people’s faith secured.” However, it is not possible for a person without an immensity of conscience like Bediüzzaman to understand these words in their true sense. In order for a person to understand this horizon of sacrifice, it is necessary for people to sense within like a fire, not only the suffering people are presently experiencing, but also the consequent suffering they will possibly endure. This depends on having an immense conscience that embraces the entire humanity. You can also call it the universal conscience if you wish. So people with such a conscience feel sad with others’ grief and feel joy with their delights. So much so that wherever in the world misfortune befalls somebody like a piece of fire, it burns them too, because they feel the pain of that fire in their conscience.
Therefore, even though we cannot generalize it to all, it is not possible for ordinary people like us to thoroughly understand these immense considerations. Even if we can feel the suffering of our child, spouse, and friend to a certain extent, we do not possess an immense conscience to embrace the entire humanity. As we cannot share such horizons of knowledge of God and immensity of conscience, we have difficulty understanding the suffering of these great personages.
Once some people took a person I know to a sermon by Yaşar Tunagür. As usual with his sermons, the late preacher spoke with a deep enthusiasm and shed many tears. I thought that the newcomer would be moved by this, but I heard him say to my surprise, “Why does this man keep sobbing so sickeningly?” It made me feel very sad. On the one hand, there was a rude mind, devoid of ability to understand and feel. On the other hand, there was an immense conscience, an example of kindness reflected outwardly. Understanding what such immense conscience felt and sensed was only possible by sharing the same horizons with him.
God’s Rights Must Come before Everything Else
Since personages such as Sheikh al-Jilani, Imam al-Ghazali, Imam Rabbani, and Bediüzzaman were focused on a very large sphere and were interested in a very large area, they did not think about themselves. As for those who were so fortunate to meet such monumental personages, they must also seek to share the same horizons of altruism. The devoted souls must never run after mundane pursuits such as going to a cool mountainside during summer days or moving to the seaside to enjoy themselves in mansions when the winter comes. They must know how to push aside such thoughts that may possibly occur to them. They must also sacrifice exceptional spiritual blessings such as working wonders, reading people’s thoughts, having spiritual experiences, and taking wing alongside with spirit beings, instead devoting themselves solely to saving people’s faith. In the face of such inspirational blessings that come along in spite of not having demanded them, a person must feel concerned and say, “I wonder whether God is trying me with this?” At the same time, they must have such a righteous attitude to say, “My God, if these are not part of a stratagem that will lead me to perdition, then I offer my praises to you, but they are not what I seek.” Such a careful approach denotes at the same time giving priority to God’s rights over everything.
It can be useful to draw attention to a point that can be misunderstood here: sacrificing one’s Hereafter or feelings of spiritual delight does not mean forsaking devotions and remembrance or neglecting them. On the contrary, together with observing these in the highest possible level, it means that the goal is not to work wonders or attain spiritual pleasures, but rather to fulfill one’s duty of servanthood and try to help others feel and taste what one personally experienced. It is not possible for a person who does not protect one’s own faith with devotions and remembrance to save others’ faith anyway.
Let me make a final point: constantly living selflessly with a feeling of making others live, always speaking God’s Name, and spending one’s day and night with concern for saving humanity is a Prophetic attribute. When people are divided into certain categories in the next world, those who keep striving for the sake of religion, faith, God, the Qur’an, and humanity will—God willing—be resurrected together with the Prophets. For this reason, it is necessary to target high horizons and always run after the ideal of making others live by leaving aside the feeling of living for oneself.
This text is the translation of “Ahirete Ait Zevk ve Lezzetleri de Feda Etme Ufku.”
Tags: altruism, commonsense, conscience, devotion, dialogue, faith, Fethullah, Fethullah Gulen, Gulen, Gulen Movement, happiness, heart, Hizmet, Islam, love, modesty, peace, philanthropy, religion and science, sincerity, spiritual guide, spiritual journeying, spirituality, Sufism, tolerance, virtue, wisdom