Question: What are the indications of being devoted to serving humanity for the sake of God? What are your suggestions for evoking enthusiasm in new generations and making it last?
Answer: First of all, developing a spirit of devotedness depends on people’s having a sound belief in the religion they represent. A spirit of devotedness cannot be evoked without a sound faith, and the formation period for such faith can differ according to individuals. Very short rehabilitations might suffice for some people; they get what they should within forty hours. On the other hand, some others may need forty days, months, or even forty years to make the same progress. Even Junayd al-Baghdadi, a person with a good potential for spiritual progress, expressed that he began to sense and feel certain things after the age of sixty. Surely, this should not be misunderstood as he did not have any spiritual experiences until the age of sixty, which would be obviously disrespectful to that noble soul. But how are we supposed to take that statement? Junayd al-Baghdadi always targeted the horizon of being al-insan al-kamil (the universal man).1 Sensing certain breezes of that horizon can take time. Or maybe, he wished to draw attention to the difference in potential between people. In short, whatever he intended, we need to be cautious and avoid making off-handed remarks and having negative thoughts about those great guides. Regarding the possibility of speaking ill of them, and invoking Divine wrath, we need to seek refuge in God.
The Greatest Favor That Can Be Done to Today’s Generations
Returning back to our essential subject, illuminating the feeling and thought of devotedness in hearts has become more difficult in our time. This is an era where the home does not offer much in terms of metaphysical immensities. Educational institutions do not offer that feeling and thought either. Our streets have become enemies of spirituality. Mosques do not inspire hearts with love and enthusiasm, and establishments to guide people to the horizons of the heart and spirit do not exist… In such a period, making hearts feel the spirit of devotedness depends on certain specific efforts. We must help people resist their body’s influence, and save them from being held captive by their carnal desires. We must orient them toward the level of the heart and spirit, and make the attainment of God’s good pleasure their ultimate purpose in life. Lastly, we must teach them to pray all the time as, “My God, I ask for forgiveness, well-being, and Your good pleasure.” Maintaining this requires very serious effort.
A desire for the world and its temptations is inherent in human nature. Particularly in our time, as worldly goals and ambitions have gained priority, people have been consumed by these wordly issues. For this reason, I think that the best kind of goodness for today’s generation is evoking in their hearts a desire and enthusiasm to live for others. Such love and enthusiasm is a very important principle that belongs to the very essence of Islam. When this feeling is reflected in prayer, it reveals itself as consciousness of God, and awe; when it comes to glorifying the name of God, it reveals itself as an urge to be constantly on the move with a spirit of devotedness. No matter what you teach someone whose heart is devoid of such essential love and enthusiasm, you will not see much effort in terms of selflessness and sacrifice.
Being Devoid of Enthusiasm Means Death for the Heart
First of all, believers need to have a boundless enthusiasm; this makes them restless with suffering to reach this lofty ideal. They must feel a throbbing in their temples from the intensity of this suffering, and be exhausted by the strain on their hearts and minds. If a person possesses such an intense enthusiasm, you can temper their feelings with reason and the sensibility of Islam. In other words, you can channel this overflowing enthusiasm toward goodness. For example, you can help them use their love and enthusiasm for maintaining steadfastness and continuity on the righteous path. This enthusiasm is essential; it is not possible to make any permanent and long-term achievement in the spirit solely with reasoning and logic. It is only with this love and enthusiasm that people will have the resolve to spend a lifetime upholding this noble ideal.
As is the case with every laudable virtue, the noble Prophet presents the best example for us, as confirmed by the Qur’an: “Yet, it may be that you (O Muhammad) will torment yourself to death with grief, following after them, if they do not believe in this Message,” (Kahf 18:6) and “It may be that you (O Messenger) will torment yourself to death because they refuse to believe” (ash-Shuara 26:3). The meaning of these verses show the level of enthusiasm the Messenger of God possessed. God Almighty tempered his enthusiasm with the commandment “You cannot guide to truth whomever you like, but God guides whomever He wills” (al-Qasas 28:56). Therefore, if anybody overflows with such an Islamic enthusiasm, it can be tempered with the commandments of the Qur’an. We can tell that person to appraise the possible costs of acting impulsively, and to reckon the requirements of time, conjuncture, the feelings of people they address, and how they will probably respond. But if there is no initial enthusiasm, what is there to be tempered? A fully enthusiastic mood like this is necessary in order to maintain continuity and determination. However, reason and commonsense should never be sacrificed to emotion and over-enthusiasm. These can give way to imbalance and extremism. For this reason, while hearts need enthusiasm, reason and commonsense must always supersede emotion, and passion must be channeled constructively.
Sensibility and Enthusiasm Should Support One Another
In addition, if there is a lofty ideal we pursue, some obstacles on the way should not deter us from our path. As faithful servants, when we come up against an obstacle, we find an alternative way and keep walking from there. If the same thing happens with that path, then we find a new one again. If all the roads become impossible to walk, we continue striving for a lifetime without losing hope and say, “if we cannot, then the next generation will; if they cannot either, then, with the permission and help of God, the generation after them will realize this lofty ideal.” If necessary, we will bring down the stars in the sky as if they were playthings. We always try to keep our standards high, with the consideration that making no efforts for progress kills a person spiritually.
On the other hand, we abide by the requirements of reason and commonsense and thus pay attention to making realizable plans. There should never be contradiction between the reason and enthusiasm of a believer. On the contrary, these two must support and feed one another. Many people, despite acting in the name of righteousness, have harmed Muslims because they were guided only by emotion. Others used straightaway logic and thought that they could give good messages through pompous talks, demagogy, and dialectics. Yet they failed to make a lasting influence on others; they just lost energy and failed to carry on.
To find proper balance, we need enthusiasm at full gallop, but also sound principles tested through the essentials of the Qur’an. In fact, all of our attitudes and behaviors must be constantly tested to see whether they are right or wrong from the perspective of the Qur’an and Sunnah. The beloved Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, stated that what Muslims need is to follow his Tradition and that of the Rightly Guided Caliphs. He told his followers to keep a firm hold on these, as if with clenched teeth. Accordingly, another important criterion by which to test our behaviors on a certain issue is the approach of Rightly Guided Caliphs.
As we believe in the righteousness of the cause and ideal we are totally committed to, the path we use to reach that ideal must inspire trust in others’ hearts. This can only be achieved by following the way of the Companions, particularly that of the Rightly Guided Caliphs, and the way of the Qur’an and the Sunnah.
1. For more information, see Emerald Hills of the Heart, Vol. 2.
This text is the translation of “Heyecan ve Mantık Buudlu Adanmış Ruhlar“
Tags: altruism, commonsense, dialogue, enthusiasm, faith, Fethullah, Fethullah Gulen, Gulen, Gulen Movement, happiness, Hizmet, Islam, love, peace, philanthropy, religion, sincerity, spiritual guide, spiritual journeying, spirituality, tolerance, virtue