Those Who Remain in the Distance despite Their Proximity, and the Need for Ceaseless Action


Question: History shows that there has been a considerable number of people who were contemporaries of great personages, and even lived in their proximity, but could not benefit from them at all. Could you elucidate the reasons? What kind of an attitude must be adopted in order not to fall to such a position?

Answer: Sometimes individuals may not see and appreciate the priceless values beside them on account of failing to have the right viewpoint, or possessing some preconceived ideas and prejudices, or even sometimes on account of the jealousy they are seized by. Not only can they not appreciate the great person, they might even become a ruthless and relentless foe. If you wish, you can call this “blindness in proximity.”

A Prototype in the Whirlpool of Envy: Abu Lahab

Even if they are constantly near greatest personages and always keep in their company throughout the day, those who suffer from such blindness cannot see what they are supposed to see, owing a fault in their point of view—just as in the example of Abu Lahab. As it is known, Abu Lahab was the noble Prophet’s paternal uncle. He shared the same family atmosphere with the Pride of Humanity, peace and blessings be upon him. Abu Lahab had cuddled that great guide many times in his early years. He had even assigned his bondmaid Suwaybah to serve as the wet nurse of that blessed baby.[1] For years, his home and that of the Prophet were side by side. They passed came across one another most days. By marrying his sons with the Pride of Humanity’s daughters, Ruqayyah and Umm Kulthum, he had established a further tie of kinship. In short, he had witnessed the beautiful morality of the Pride of Humanity throughout every phase of his life. 

However, this unfortunate one, who was overwhelmed by blindness in proximity, did not acknowledge the Divine mission of the prince of the Prophets. Let alone not acknowledging, Abu Lahab became one of his archenemies. One of the closest relatives of the Pride of Humanity, under whose blessed feet the stars were no more than cobble stones, did not see, or refused to see, his greatness.

In this respect, it should be known that persons whom God Almighty employed at very great services might sometimes meet contempt and derision by those in their close proximity, despite all of their remarkable activities which call for appreciation. They might even face betrayal and animosity from such people. The most important reason for this situation is the enviers not consenting to the judgment of Divine destiny, their inability to stomach God’s decree, and their being taken by a whirlpool of intolerance and envy. However, all means and talents a person possesses are Divinely decreed. The judgment entirely belongs to God on this issue.

Great Duties to Little Ones

As God Almighty sometimes lets great personages do great deeds, He sometimes grants very little persons very important missions and lets them fulfill excellent services. What falls to a person is petitioning God in this respect by fully turning to Him with a pure heart and never scorning anyone. There are many people who outwardly look poor, but are actually full of treasures within. The great guide İbrahim Hakkı expresses this as follows:

Hakkı, let you not reveal your secret,

On this path, if you intend to be matured.

Do not contempt the wretched, my dear;

There are ruins that hold a treasure.

It is narrated that the venerable İbrahim Hakkı had two sons named Shakir and Dhakir. Dhakir was a virtuous person who was constantly busy with devotions. On the other hand, Shakir was a drunkard who spent most of his time in pubs. One day, İbrahim Hakkı took Dhakir into his company and they walked together. They came near a bar. İbrahim Hakkı told his son to wait outside and went in. He found the other son, Shakir, passed out at a table. He asked the bartender how much his son owed him and paid it all. Then he left and kept walking together with Dhakir.

When Shakir sobered up, he wished to pay his debt and leave. But when the bartender said, “You owe nothing; your father has paid it all,” he was consumed with shame. He went after his father right away and found him near a cliff with his brother. Shakir witnessed their conversation. İbrahim Hakkı told his religious son Dhakir, “My son, one of the forty saints have passed away. Jump down from this cliff, so that you join them to replace the late one.” But the son hesitated; he could not jump. Overhearing their talk, Shakir asked, “Father, is it alright if I jump?” Then he asked his father’s blessing, jumped down, and joined the forty saints. Upon this, before the perplexed looks of the religious son Dhakir, İbrahim Hakkı said his famous lines we quoted above. 

What matters in parables is not the factual reality, but the message they convey. Whether this is a true story or not, the truth it means to convey is very important. As an expression of this meaning, the blessed Prophet stated that there are many people who may be shabby in appearance, and who are treated as objects of scorn. If they swear that a certain thing will happen however, God does not make them wrong in their word. He added that Bara ibn Malik was one of them.[2]

There are people you disdain and do not even pay attention to, but God sometimes lets them make great accomplishments, leaving you dumbfounded before its greatness.  Note that God Almighty lets termites’ buildings far excelling their own size; He can similarly let little and simple people build up gigantic towers. Indeed, commanders such as Abu Ubayda ibn Jarrah, Ka’ka, and Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas, were common people raised in the desert culture. In a very short time, however, they brought into the line the Byzantine and Persian empires, which were thought to be invincible, and guided their people to the road to true humanity.

Laying Personal Claims on Success and Words That Imply Associating Partners with God

God Almighty stated: “…That is God’s grace and bounty, which He grants to whom He wills” (al-Maedah, 5:54).

As Bediüzzaman put it in “The Fourteenth Ray,” “the soul is inferior to everyone, duty is greater than everything.”

Although we are little people, God Almighty can employ us in very great services with His Infinite Power and support; this is a favor and bestowal that entirely belongs to Him. Every remark like, “we achieved, we realized, or we planned these while others even did not dream about it…” imply associating partners with God. Therefore it is necessary to keep away from such claims as much as possible.

Bediüzzaman also pointed out in “The Seventeenth Word” that, “…a negation negated is an affirmation.” Therefore, you will not have affirmed your value unless you negate your ego. To clarify the issue with an oft-repeated statement, “the Infinite is one and there are no other relative infinites.” If we are supposed to determine a worth for other beings vis-à-vis the Absolutely Infinite, they are only zero. Therefore, the relation between God Almighty and the human is like the relation between infinite and zero. God is infinite and the human is zero.

On the other hand, although zero does not possess any value on its own, it gains a value when it comes after other figures. In the same way, a person who relies on God with his impotence and poverty resembles a zero placed near the alif, which is both the first letter when writing the name of God and stands for the figure one; thus, such a person becomes ten, a hundred, or even a thousand.

Oppression Does Not Last Forever

The second point in the initial question was about the attitude to be adopted in order not to fall into such a position. The sincere souls devoted to serving humanity for the sake of God may be surrounded from all sides by merciless oppressors: oppressors who misunderstand competing on the path of God, who act with feelings of rivalry, and who are intent on not letting nobody else survive other then themselves. However this will last forever, for oppression has never been long-lived. As expressed in a saying of the noble Prophet, God gives respite upon respite to the oppressor; but when He seizes him, He does not let him escape.[3] “Unbelief lasts, but oppression does not.”[4] Unbelief is left for the Day of Judgment. God punishes deniers in His Divine presence, but as oppression is a violation of innocent people’s rights in general, it sooner or later finds punishment in this world. Oppressors receive their just deserts in the end.

In addition, this is the path of God, and He has not let down anyone who walks sincerely on this path. On the other hand, as God Almighty stated in the verse, “Such days (of joy and sorrow)—We deal them out in turns among people…” (Al Imran 3:140), He sometimes lets His servants experience temporary defeats, tries them with troubles and misfortunes, and lets events unfold in accordance with the Divine Will. This helps them realize different wisdoms. For this reason, if these are days of celebration for some, it will be so for others tomorrow; if these are days of mourning for some, it will be so for others tomorrow. Then, the heroes who wish to let humanity hear the inspirations of their soul should not busy themselves with what the ignorant say. On the contrary, they should fill their minds and hearts with considerations like, “How can we represent in the best way the diamond truths of the Qur’an and beauties of Islamic teaching by personal example?” Those whom they address voluntarily welcome the message or reject it; the result is not our concern. But what we need to do is to dress these values of ours in the best way with the most pleasant engravings to suit their worth, and then display them in the fairs of the world in the most charming fashion.

Periods of undergoing oppression should be seen like the darkness of a night: One must never give in to hopelessness or pessimism. As every winter has a spring, every night has a morning. Therefore, it should not be forgotten that a day will follow the night, and one should make plans for a bright future in the darkness of the night.

In the same way, it should also be taken into consideration during the day that a night will follow afterwards. In other words, while a believer spurs his horse in the bright and pleasant light of daytime, he must not forget that another night awaits beyond the day, and that he needs to prepare a separate plan and strategy for that night too. As obstinacy has never failed to exist in this world, it will keep existing in the future as well; obstinate people with underlying motives will lie in wait for you with intrigues and traps. Therefore, one should neither act with panic at nighttime nor act in a carefree fashion during daytime; one must make plans and projects for the day at night, and strategies for the night at daytime.

Continuous and Ceaseless Action

Thus, believing hearts must utilize every moment of their lives in an axis of good deeds. They must carry the light of day to nights, and the warmth of spring to winters. Essentially, faith makes righteous acts incumbent on a believer in every situation and condition in accordance with what circumstances allow.

In order to better understand continuous and ceaseless action of this sort, it is possible to compare them to the situation of a person circumambulating the Ka’ba. As it is known, a person at circumambulation walks faster, as if running in short steps (ramal), if it is possible. But when it is crowded, he keeps jumping in his place in order not to disturb anyone. Either way, he keeps moving and retains his spirit of vigilance. With God’s permission and grace, he continues walking when time and conditions allow.

Stagnancy is a type of inaction. Things are inactive by nature and it is God who makes them move. Humanity is also bound by the rules of the physical realm: they get stuck in a process of falling and disintegrating as soon as they stop. Just like meteors, when they go through a void, they come under the influence of another gravitational force, are worn out by friction, and finally diminish and terminate. Even if a person retains his position, if he constantly keeps spinning and moving, as it happens with the sun, the stars and the moon, then he both keeps up his vitality and begins to emanate lights of truth.

The fact that God Almighty distributed acts of worship to different phases of the day is a striking example in terms of understanding the principle of constant action.

Under the light of the verse, “And in some part of the night, rise from sleep and observe vigil therein as additional worship for you…” (al-Isra 17:79), you rise up from bed at a certain hour of the night, read from the Qur’an, and observe the Tahajjud Prayer. Similarly, in the very early hours of the day, you ask forgiveness as referred to in the verse, “And in the hour of early dawn, they would implore God’s forgiveness” (adh-Dhariyat 51:17–18). Then the time of the Fajr Prayer comes; you observe the sunnah and obligatory part respectively. When the sun rises and the time of karahat[5] is over, you observe the Ishraq Prayer; and before the noon draws near, you observe the Duha Prayer. You observe the Zuhr Prayer at a time when daily chores are almost pressing on you. By running to Divine presence for the Asr Prayer, you virtually turn the increasingly crushing tiredness of the day into a trip on the horizons of the spirit and find relief. Similarly, you observe the Maghrib and Isha Prayers with the same feeling and thoughts, and you do not fall into any spiritual void.

Just as our daily life of worship is scheduled this way, as God Almighty commanded, and no gap has been left, it is necessary to schedule the weeks, months, seasons, and even years with such an understanding of action. On this issue, every believer must virtually work like a strategy expert: they must determine what they can do for themselves, their family, and for the society they live in. Thus, they will have retained their vitality and resourcefulness as well; as the Turkish proverb says, “A working iron shines brightly.” A person remaining ever bright without getting rusty depends on constant action.

In almost in every verse of the Qur’an that refers to those who have faith, their aspect of action is highlighted by stating that they do good and righteous deeds.[6] A good or righteous deed refers to a task perfectly fulfilled. For example, in order to observe the Prayer thoroughly, it is necessary to comply with not only certain conditions before and within the Prayer, but also with the inward dimension. That is, just as one should stand in awe of God and seek inward depth at Prayer, it is similarly necessary for a believer to carry out all of their tasks by complying with the outward and inward requirements. Thus, after a believer gains the attribute of having sound faith and being a trustworthy person, he must not leave his belief as a theoretical matter, but confirm it with his action.

The time of the Rightly Guided Caliphs being the prime example, it has been at different times—like the early years of the Seljuks and Ottomans—that the individuals and societies who constantly keep moving have remained steadfast on their path, by God’s permission and grace, without falling down. Although I do not mean to speak against a glorious people—I regard even the pettiest of them like a crown on my head—it is possible to say, with a perspective of perfectionism, that whenever some voids occurred in terms of ideas and action, the administrators did not go on campaigns leading their armies, but began to lead a life in magnificent and pompous palaces. Naturally, the people let themselves give in to ease and comfort in parallel to this, forgot to strive for a lofty ideal, and were taken by a desire for their cozy homes. Thus, those who let themselves to the temptations of worldliness were ruined in the web of their own worldly wishes and carnal desires. At such periods, when the understanding of society had entirely shifted from its axis, some administrators, like Osman II and Osman IV, were aware of the stance they were supposed to take in spite of everything, but the inner and outer dark powers of the time finished them off, through different means.

To conclude, those who gave in to the ease and comfort of the world and indulged in carnal pleasures ended up as victims of their ease and comfort, albeit unawares.

[1] Sahih al-Bukhari, Nikah, 20; Bayhaqi, Sunan al-Kubra, 7/162.

[2] Sunan at-Tirmidhi,  Manaqib, 54; Hakim, Mustadrak, 3, 331.

[3] Sahih al-Bukhari, Tafsir Surah (11), 5; Sahih al-Muslim, Birr, 61.

[4] Munawi, Fayd al-Qadr, 2:107.

[5] One of three periods of time during the day when the Prayers are not offered.

[6] See: Al-Baqarah 2:25.

This text is the translation of “Yakında Uzaklığı Yaşayanlar ve Kesintisiz Aksiyon.”

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