Posts Tagged ‘spiritual journeying’

Respect for the Sacred

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

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

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

Those Who Expect Respect Need to Be Respectful First

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

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

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

If Your Home Is Made of Crystal…

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

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

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

This text is the translation of “Kutsala Saygı

Balance and Moderation

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

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

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

The Middle Way

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

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

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

Victims of Success

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This text is the translation of “Denge ve İtidal

Problems Settled within the Individual and Reforming the Society

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

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

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

The Child Who Did Not Give up Sucking Milk

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

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

The Greatest Striving on the Way of God

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

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

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

Blessings That Become a Curse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Luminous Spiritual Bonds between Muslims

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

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

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

Bonds of Brotherhood as Many as the Divine Names

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This text is the translation of “Nuranî Kardeşlik Bağları

True-Hearted, but Not a Chauvinist

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

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

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

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

Steadfastness as the Greatest Rank

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

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

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

Exaggerated Remarks as Harmful as Betrayal

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

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

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

Seeing Oneself as “Nothing within Nothing”

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

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

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

1. Sahih al-Bukhari, Jihad, 182

This text is the translation of “Hamaset ve Sadakat

Temporary Retreats in Serene Corners and Reading Sessions

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

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

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

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

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

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

An Atmosphere Open to Spirituality

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

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

The Great Works Victimized by Indifference and Benefits of Comparative Reading

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

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

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

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

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

1. Sunan at-Tirmidhi, Qiyamah, 55

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

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

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

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

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

Spoiling Good, Righteous Deeds by Revealing Them Sanctimoniously

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

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

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

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

Self-Criticism as a Shield

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chastity of Thoughts

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

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

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

Sound Thoughts Produce Sound Conduct

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

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

Those Who Think Positively Take Delight in Their Lives

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

Desires and Fancies in Guise of Ideas

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

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

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

1. Daylami, Al-Musnad, 1/421

This text is the translation of “Fikir İffeti

Worldly Means and the Criteria for Planning the Future

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Era and the Ways Leading to God

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

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

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

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

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

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

The Characteristics of an Era of Arrogance

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

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

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

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

The Souls that Found Reunion through Migration

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

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

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

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

The Role of the Spiritual Guide

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

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

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

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

Perspicacity of the Murshid and the Potential of the Initiate

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

Even if the Murshid is a Perfected One

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

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

The Blow on the Spirit of Unity

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

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

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

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

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

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

Offhanded Attitudes toward the Sunnah

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

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

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

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

Hearts Must Shiver While Giving a Legal Opinion

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

Those Who Take Their Lusts and Fancies for Their Deity

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Elixir of Truthfulness and the Safe Route of Honesty

Herkul-EN | | HEARTSTRINGS

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

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

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

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

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

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

In one of his poems, Yavuz Sultan Selim says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Most Eloquent Invitation for Divine Providence

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: In The Gleams, Bediüzzaman lists the basic principles to attain true sincerity (ikhlas) for the volunteers serving faith. He relates the fourth principle as such: “As if it were you who possess the merits and virtues of your brothers and sisters, take pride in them and be thankful to God for them.” Taking into account the feeling of envy in human nature, what are your recommendations to ingrain this perspective in us?

Answer: While the Qur’an emphasizes in different verses that worship must be carried out solely for the sake of God, the issue is mostly presented with reference to the notion of sincerity, as in: “…so worship God, sincere in your faith in Him and practicing the Religion purely for His sake” (az-Zumar 39:2). In the next page, the Qur’an draws attention to sincerity again: “Say: “I am commanded to worship God, sincere in faith in Him and practicing the Religion purely for His sake” (az-Zumar 39:11). A few verses later, the importance of sincerity is emphasized once more: “Say: “I worship God, sincere in my faith in Him and practicing the Religion purely for His sake” (az-Zumar 39:14).

The Most Important Means for Divine Support

Giving so much importance to the issue of sincerity, Bediüzzaman wrote two separate chapters in The Gleams on Sincerity, and summarized the essentials of this issue. The first principle to attain sincerity is, in the words of Bediüzzaman, “seeking good pleasure of God in one’s actions.” That is, the volunteers not cherishing any worldly or otherworldly expectations while carrying out their duty and taking God’s good pleasure as the essential purpose. If unintended fruits and rewards come along, they should be received with gratitude to God and by offering due praise to Him, within a consideration of acknowledging Divine blessings.

However, we should never forget that we are living in an age of arrogance, and we need to wonder whether the blessings showered upon us denote “istidraj”—everything going perfectly well before the wrath of God comes, as in the case of the Pharaoh. In order not to become a loser in a zone of winning, we must always say, “These are not the deserve of a humble slave like me; what could be the reason for bestowing all these blessings so benevolently?” We also need to be vigilant against the possibility of a “gradual advance toward perdition” (istidraj), as we have mentioned, like the calm before the storm. Obviously, we are being granted Divine favors far beyond our eligibility. It is seen that so many great figures of profound discernment could not achieve a service as carried out by today’s volunteers, a great blessing God Almighty bestows by means of ordinary people. For this reason, we need to seek refuge in Him by opening our hands in prayer and saying, “O God, if these blessings we are granted are to pave the way for us toward growing insolent and arrogant, we seek refuge in You against it! Please do not let us go astray!”

Attaining sincerity, which is of central importance to one’s spiritual life, is actually in direct proportion with the strength of a person’s faith. For this reason, if believers gain insight into the creative commands (the laws of God’s creation) and the commandments of the Religion and then seek the ways of progress from faith by imitation to faith based on verification, if they, at the same time, try to become constantly oriented toward God in words, actions, and state, as God Almighty has lit the torch of faith in their hearts, He can similarly light the torch of sincerity one day. Thus, you can be able, by God’s grace and permission, to practice the values you believe with heartfelt sincerity.

Actually, suppressing the urges of placing emphasis on oneself, being able to see one’s shortcomings, coming to one’s senses after any assumptions of self-importance and seeking forgiveness from God immediately, and slamming a sledgehammer on the ego depends on two dynamics: becoming totally oriented to sincerity and attaining stronger certainty in faith. Someone who possesses these two qualities will be able to act in harmony with his or her fellow volunteers, because they know that it is not possible to realize anything of a grain’s worth without the help of God. And the most important means of that person receiving Divine help is maintaining harmony and unity among the volunteers. It is for this reason that Bediüzzaman emphasized from different angles the importance of the collective spiritual person of the volunteers. He saw this collective person as a significant factor in terms of attaining sound faith and passing to the next world with faith. In addition, he also stated that the good, righteous deeds of each person acting with such collective consciousness would be included in every member’s record of good deeds. Thus, the deeds of every single person will increase a thousand-fold through the secret of “shared blessings for good deeds realized collectively.”1 For example, a man may have initiated a process in a certain place in the name of guiding others. If there are ten other fellow volunteers sharing the spirit of brotherhood and taking the same step, every one of them may gain blessings as if each took a thousand steps. Since such people gain so much blessings unawares, they are not in danger of feeling confident in their good deeds; they do not ruin the beautiful results realized through their hands by making a claim on them. The Almighty Creator who sees and knows all of these approves of their breaking into step in harmony. And He makes them succeed at their services for the good of humanity in both worlds, He includes the total blessings for their collective deeds, in each one’s record of good deeds. Thus, even their seemingly little personal good deeds grow into a tremendous totality.

Surprise Rewards

Sometimes, God Almighty grants exceptionally abundant blessings for seemingly little deeds, in special conditions. For example, a soldier’s keeping guard near the border for an hour may amount to a year’s devotions. Similarly, martyrdom can raise him to the highest levels of human perfection. In the same way, one blessed Night of Qadr spent in devotions can bring a reward more than eighty years of worship. As it is seen in all of these examples, God Almighty may increase the worth of good, righteous deeds so greatly under certain conditions that they become fruitful like ripened ears yielding a thousand grains for a single grain sown. As in these examples, acting as a part of the collective person, which is a different dimension of sincerity, and even beyond that, taking thankful pride in the good, righteous deeds realized by their fellow volunteers, has an exceptionally high worth in the sight of God. One day, Bediüzzaman wished to test whether such brotherhood and sincerity existed among his disciples. He praised the calligraphic skills of a certain disciple in the presence of another. The one who heard this was sincerely pleased and proud of his brother’s better skills. Bediüzzaman saw that it was genuine appreciation; he thanked God for granting his disciples such lofty feelings, which would be a means of great service by God’s grace. As a matter of fact, it does not really matter which person had the honor of writing a book, who printed the copies, and who distributed them… We can even say that it is safer to feel happy about somebody else’s realizing the relevant achievement in terms of retaining one’s modesty.

Achievements bring along their risks, such as taking personal pride in them. Even though no pride is taken initially, others’ appreciation and praises may lead one to ascribe the achievement to their own knowledge and abilities. Therefore, what befalls on a person in the name of being saved from such risks and not letting things go undone or unfulfilled is to feel happy about a fellow volunteer’s realizing that task, taking thankful pride in the other’s merits, and gaining due blessings for his or her sincere gratitude to God. One who behaves this way should know that the same reward for the good deeds realized by that fellow volunteer will be included in the record of his or her own deeds as well, as one of the virtues of acting collectively in the name of goodness. In addition, suppressing arrogant inclinations within one’s self and applauding fellow volunteers instead will bring such a person a great reward of a very different kind. Furthermore, those who receive this kind of encouragement can develop their potentials and present better performance at more important actions and deeds, and those who give support will have their share again from consequent blessings. 

Doors Opening to Perfect Sincerity through Discussion Groups

To reiterate, being sincere and true are in direct proportion with one’s degree of faith. The sounder one’s faith is, the more that person will succeed in acquiring sincerity. Believers should never stop striving to attain sounder faith; they should always ask for more, trying to gain insight into knowledge of the creative commands and the Religion, in an effort to make continuous progress at faith and knowing God. They should make a ceaseless effort in this regard, climbing degrees of certainty in faith, and ascending from one level to the next.

On the other hand, we need to support one another at making the principles of attaining purity of intention and sincerity prevalent in our lives. We need to discuss this issue when we get together. However, this does not mean making brusque remarks about one another. This evokes a memory from my school years: I used to have only one pair of trousers, and I put them under my mattress, so that they looked neat. Since I came from a poor family, you can take it as a weakness if you wish. One day, a good boy I knew came to me and, referring to my wearing ironed trousers, said, “Why don’t you wear untidy clothes and become more pious?” May God bless him, he had no bad intentions, but I still cannot get the connection between wearing ironed trousers and being pious. Even if we are sincere in our remarks, it is not right to be as blunt as a kick in the shins. Moreover, considering oneself to be purely innocent and taking it to the degree of giving sanctimonious advice to others is obvious transgression. As for the commendable way to follow, it is talking matters over without offending anyone and discussing in the mildest and most befitting manner.

Considering the significance of the issue, Bediüzzaman recommended reading the treatise on Sincerity every fortnight. I think some of the volunteers have already read it fifty to hundred times. If you only prompt the initial word of a paragraph, some people can recite the rest by heart. However, in order to attain sincerity as an ingrained character and establish it in one’s heart and spirit, the issue needs to be considered with a profound and comprehensive approach, rather than doing a flat, shallow reading. People can, however, bring fresh profundity and liveliness to the subject by changing the format of their study. For example, the issue of sincerity can be studied with reference to the Qur’an and the Traditions of the Prophet. Also, this study can be realized in an interactive way with the contribution of people in the group. If that happens, you will most likely say, “Thank God, I have benefited from it. There was so much I did not know. It seems that Bediüzzaman drew attention to very profound and crucial issues at such an early period. Although I had read it so many times, I now understand the importance of the issue with its different aspects.”

It is so important to evaluate matters in discussions. There is an old saying about it: “Knowledge is a deep well, and discussion is its bucket.” Therefore, [just like arriving at a source of water with a bucket to take some water,] obtaining the sweet water of faith down inside the well depends on discussion. The noble Messenger of God, millions of peace and blessings be upon him, referred to the issue with the word “tadhakur” (mutual discussion). The inflection of the word denotes that the relevant act is done between two or more people. Accordingly, it is commendable to evaluate matters in circles. The late Muhammed Lütfi of Alvar was a great Sufi master and he voiced the significance of such circles as follows: “O seeker of Divine inspirations, come and step into the circle; O lover of the Divine light, come and step into the circle.” As it is stated by the Prophet, angels honor such circles formed by seekers of knowledge and truth by visiting them and bearing witness for them before God Almighty.

We should as well, in the name of attaining true faith and sincerity, act with a consciousness of brotherhood and practice the discipline of discussing matters in groups. As we do these in terms of fulfilling the requirements of causes, we should at the same time hold onto prayer and ask for Divine help. At such a difficult age where arrogance has become so widespread, may God Almighty grant all of us a spirit of true brotherhood and perfect sincerity!

1. Ishtiraq al-amal al-ukhrawiyya. e.g. a group of people reads the Qur’an by sharing the sections among them, but every contributor receives blessings as if each read the entire text. (Ed.)

This text is the translation of “İlahi İnayete Sunulan En Beliğ Davetiye

Vigilance against Transgression

Herkul-EN | | WEEKLY SERMONS

Question: What does “fisq” (transgression) mean? What are the factors to be careful against it in order not to bear any characteristics of this kind?
Answer: In terms of the meanings it holds, fisq is a comprehensive word. If we make a brief definition, fisq means transgressing the limits set by religion; it means stepping out of the sphere of obedience to God by committing major sins or insisting on lesser sins. The Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, stated: “That which is lawful is explicit and that which is forbidden is explicit. But, between the two are doubtful matters about which many people do not know. Thus, he who avoids doubtful matters clears himself with regard to his religion and honor…”1

That is, as there are forbidden zones surrounded with mine fields and barbed wire in this world, there are divinely forbidden zones in order to protect people from ruining their lives in the next life. Thus, those who disregard the limits and stray from the main road to forbidden trails commit transgression. This is the situation of those who go astray by indulging in certain weaknesses after having found guidance, as stated in the verse (which means),  “whoever does not judge by what God has sent down, those are indeed the transgressors” (al-Maedah 5:47).

In Arabic language, vermin such as rats, scorpions, and snakes that come out of their “holes” and harm people in their homes are termed as “fawasiq al-buyut” (transgressors of houses), because they transgress out of the area where they are supposed to remain. The noble Prophet named five animals that are allowed to be killed, even within the boundaries of the sacred areas in Mecca: rat, scorpion, snake, raven, and mad dog.2 This hadith should not be taken as a command to kill these animals wherever they are found. It is a permission to kill the creatures that are likely to harm people. Indeed, it is forbidden to kill animals within the sacred zone of the Haram, or Sanctuary, in Mecca.3 Even killing a single locust there necessitates giving alms for atonement. However, as the vermin mentioned above recognize no limits and harm people, they are considered transgressors and can be eliminated. In other words, people are given permission and the opportunity to protect themselves against these creatures, which transgress out of their nature.
 
Characteristics of “Fisq” in Believers
Rather than referring to individual persons, the Qur’an describes the negative qualities of those without faith; guidance requires directing the criticism to the qualities not to individuals, so that they can correct themselves. In addition, this method conveys a very important warning to believers. As Bediüzzaman stated, just as an unbeliever does not possess solely negative qualities, every quality of a believer may not be befitting for a believer. Sometimes, you see that some believers assume certain qualities of unbelief or transgression in a certain period of their lives. For this reason, believers have a lot to learn from verses referring to hypocrites or unbelievers.
Sometimes, believers who observe the basic acts of worship might transgress into forbidden areas without knowing it by lying, backbiting, or slander; they stray from the main road and cause traffic problems in different alleys. Even if such people claim to have very strong faith, such acts indicate their bearing a certain quality of transgressors. As far as they keep living with that quality, it is not possible for them to guide others with the Divine teaching; God Almighty grants success in this respect only to those who adorn themselves with laudable virtues. An ideal believer’s character is in keeping with accepting faith, gaining insight into faith, elevating it to the horizons of spiritual knowledge, crowning the attained spiritual knowledge with love of God, and then crowning that love with a yearning and zeal for God; and, at the same time, deepening such faith through worship, and adorning worship with ihsan, or a consciousness of the omnipresence of God. When somebody possesses these laudable virtues, they can succeed at conveying the Divine message to others. Even if they cannot, God Almighty rewards them generously with His blessings as if they have succeeded. What really matters is having fulfilled one’s responsibility. There are certain Prophets that had no followers at all, while only a few people followed some others. However, even the worth of all other human beings cannot be equal to a single Prophet’s worth in God’s sight. In other words, if it were possible to extract human values from all people and make them into a statue, it would still not amount to a Prophetic one, because those blessed people are chosen ones, specially adorned with refined virtues of the highest kind. In spite of that, some of them only reached two or three people, some even none. Even so, they were never discouraged and continued their mission in a resolved fashion.
At this point, one may wonder the wisdom of sending a Prophet who would be followed by only a few people. First, let me state that since a Prophet in such a situation carries out his duty thoroughly, he still gains the reward for the Prophetic mission and becomes eligible for God’s special favors. On the other hand, if a Prophet becomes a reference for future guides with the beautiful example he presented to a handful of believers, and if those new guides achieve a moral reform by following his traces, the wisdom of that Prophet’s coming is fulfilled. In addition, pioneering ones will be granted blessings for the goodness realized by those who come later, having paved the way for them. Actually, this fact is not limited to the Prophets. For example, if it was not for Bediüzzaman Said Nursi,4 who exerted himself for making hearts awakened to the truths of faith and who blazed a trail of faith through the heart of Anatolia with the two or three hundred people behind him, the people of Anatolia would probably have not welcomed the idea of serving faith as much as they do now, and they would not go voluntarily to the far corners of the world in order to share this beauty. For this reason, let me reiterate that what really matters is a person’s walking toward sublime ideals adorned with laudable virtues, seeking the good pleasure of God with pure intention, that becomes a believer, without narrowing the issue to the achievement of certain results.
 
The Blind Alley before the Transgressor
As for transgressors, even if their lifeline somehow intersects with an auspicious circle of volunteers serving for the sake of God, they mostly dislike things that do not comply with the expectations based on their fancies and desires, and they set about different quests of their own. Even though they do not openly state it, such people have unending expectations of this kind. Mostly, they fail to meet these requirements and sulk. It is as if such a person expects those around him to read his mind, and he feels disappointed as an unappreciated genius that has been let down with respect to his wishes when they do not. On the pretext of trivial matters, such people leave their friends with whom they shared certain feelings and thoughts and, for a while, believed in the same ideal. They then try to start personal initiatives. This is a different type of fisq. Surely, such a renunciation does not mean forsaking one’s faith. However, their position in a circle of righteous ones is a blessing by Divine Providence. By leaving the circle out of personal fancies, such people put themselves in a perilous situation as mentioned by the Noble Prophet. At one instance, one man did not make any effort to find a place in the circle formed around the Prophet by his Companions. Instead, he turned away and left. The Messenger of God drew importance to the gravity of the matter by stating that as the man turned away, God Almighty turned away from him as well. In short, it is a type of fisq for people to hold different expectations, to think that their true worth is not appreciated, and to believe that they deserve a higher reward and payment than others with the abilities and capacities that they possess, not satisfied with the blessings in hand and then setting about new quests. This kind of fisq mostly leads one to a very different end than the one intended. And when such individuals are brought to account in the Afterlife, they will be asked why they left a righteous circle and strayed to a dangerous zone that might make them devoured by wolves.5 Along with this, if somebody backbites others in an arrogant manner and raises discord and strife, in a way it means that they are marring the beautiful activities realized by the efforts of so many volunteers.
 
Love of Status and Doors Opening to Transgression
The greatest test to pass in such slippery ground is overcoming the love of status in human nature. Sometimes, destiny brings someone—maybe someone twenty years younger than you— to a higher position. For example, this can happen between an experienced teacher and an administrator of younger age. What befalls on the administrator is to benefit from more experienced staff members and not make them feel ignored. What befalls on the staff, however, is to comply with the person in charge of them. Otherwise, they commit transgression. Even imagining to do such things is a kind of transgression in the mind. For this reason, individuals need to rehabilitate themselves continuously and do not leave any room for transgression, even in their imagination.
At this point, we can remember the example of Usama ibn Zayd. Shortly before the Pride of Humanity, peace and blessings be upon him, departed from this world, he prepared an army to stop the Roman advance under way and appointed Usama as the commander, who was about eighteen years of age. Imagine that the greatest figures among the Companions, such as Abu Bakr and Umar, were soldiers in that army. After the army reached the first stopover after Medina, the news came that the Messenger of God had passed away and Usama ibn Zayd returned to Medina, thrust the flag into the ground outside the door of the Prophet, and waited. Right after this news, Abu Bakr had become the caliph after the electoral meeting in the land of Bani Saida tribe. As soon as Abu Bakr became caliph, the first thing he did was to carry out what the noble Prophet’s initiative, and he accompanied the army until they were outside Medina. In the meantime, Caliph Abu Bakr approached Usama, who was only the age of his grandson, held his arm and humbly asked, “Could you let Umar ibn al-Khattab remain in Medina to assist me?” This is the ideal level of mannerliness to be targeted by every believer. No matter who they are, if a person is charged with a certain duty, what becomes believers—with the exception of the right and responsibility of mannerly warning in case of mistaken practices—is avoiding to question others’ eligibility and not raising strife by adopting negative attitudes. Otherwise, social harmony will be damaged. As a matter of fact, the Messenger of God stated that believers are supposed to obey the person appointed as their leader, even if he is a black slave.6 This is where true triumph lies. Indeed, if everybody cherishes expectations out of their own desires and fancies, discord and rout will be inevitable. Therefore, in the name of inhibiting transgression and strife, one must virtually declare war against the love of status inside them and learn to be satisfied with whatever position and duty appointed for them.

1. Sahih al-Bukhari, Iman 39; Sahih Muslim, Musaqat, 107
2. Sahih Muslim, Hajj, 67; Sunan ibn Majah, Manasiq, 91
3. The Haram (Sanctuary) is the region of security and safety that covers the Ka’ba and the surroundings, where any act of violence, like killing a human being, or cutting any green grass or trees, disturbing the natural environment, harming animals, or interfering with the lives of beings is haram, or prohibited, in conformity with the command of not violating the sanctity of this place. Its borders were defined by Prophet Abraham under the instructions of Archangel Gabriel, and later redefined by the noble Prophet. (Ed.)
4. In the many dimensions of his lifetime of achievement, as well as in his personality and character, Bediüzzaman (1877-1960) was and, through his continuing influence, still is an important thinker and writer in the Muslim world. He represented in a most effective and profound way the intellectual, moral and spiritual strengths of Islam, evident in different degrees throughout its fourteen-century history. He lived for eighty-five years. He spent almost all of those years, overflowing with love and ardor for the cause of Islam, in a wise and measured activism based on sound reasoning and in the shade of the Qur’an and the Prophetic example. (“Bediüzzaman and the Risale-i Nur” in Belief and Worship, Said Nursi, translated from Turkish by Ali Ünal, New Jersey: The Light, 2006, p. ii) (Ed.)
5. An allusion to the hadith stating that wolves eat the one who strays from the flock. (Ed.)
6. Sahih al-Bukhari, Ahkam, 4

This text is the translation of “Fısk ve Fısktan Korunma Yolları 

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

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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)