Posts Tagged ‘religion’

In Order Not to Feel Remorse When It Is Too Late


Question: It is stated in the Qur’an that wrongdoers will feel remorse on the Day of Judgment: “On that Day, the wrongdoer will bite at his hands, saying (with remorse), ‘Oh, would that I had taken a way in the company of the Messenger. Oh, woe is me! Would that I had not taken so-and-so for a friend!’” (al-Furqan 25:27–28). What kind of mistakes is this remorse related to? What are the points to be careful about in this world, in order not to feel remorse in the next one?

Answer: The verse begins by referring to “that day,” a dreadful one, and then describes how a wrongdoer will bite at his hands in remorse on such a day of grimace and grief. “Biting at one’s fingers” is an idiom in Arabic and it describes a state of remorse in deep feelings of woe, grief, and yearning.

Then the wrongdoer will express his deep regret for not having followed the way of the Prophet: “Oh, would that I had taken a way in the company of the Messenger.” His regret, however, is not limited with that; he will further express his remorse by saying, “Oh, woe is me! Would that I had not taken so-and-so for a friend!” That is, “I wish I had not fallen in with such and such wrongdoers and unbelievers and sided with them. I wish I had not followed in the footsteps of evildoers and transgressors and thus taken the wrong way!” However, saying “I wish” in the next world will not help at all. On the contrary, it will double the remorse. In other words, as it will only mean wasting one’s breath, it will only add to the suffering. Just as those words can be uttered in the Hereafter, they might be uttered when the dying person’s soul comes up to the throat as he is about to leave this world for the intermediate life of the grave, the first step toward the eternal afterlife. No matter when they are uttered it is definite, however, that these words express deep remorse by somebody who blatantly wasted the great chances that they had.

The Greatest Kind of Regret

Even though there are many sins and wrongs that will burn people within and make them say “How I wish” with a deep sorrow, the foremost of them is unbelief, because the entire universe proclaims God—letter by letter, word by word, phrase by phrase… When somebody leaves aside all biases, gives a fair ear to creation, and tries to read this universe like a book of wisdom, they will discover that everything in the universe points to the Almighty Creator. Owing to this evident truth, the great scholar Imam Maturidi stated that even the peoples who did not have a Messenger from God to guide them are responsible for knowing Him. In fact, even if such people cannot know God Almighty in detail with His Attributes and Names within the framework of a Divine teaching, they can come to the conclusion that this splendid universe has a Creator. Umar ibn al-Khattab’s uncle Zayd voiced this thought before the advent of Islam: “I know that there is a Creator, but I do not know what am I supposed to do. If only I knew what He wishes me to do, so that I could exert myself to carry it out.”1 In short, the greatest “I wish…” to make one seized with remorse is to give one’s last breath as being devoid of faith.

Forsaking faith after having found guidance is another grave sin to make one grimly say “I wish…” in the next world. There is a thin veil between belief and unbelief and there is always the risk of finding oneself on the other side with the slightest move. For this reason, we believers ask from God for guidance to the Straight Path forty times in total through the five Prayers we offer every day. And then by stating “to the path of those whom You have favored,” we wish to be on the path of the rightly guided ones. As stated in another verse (an-Nisa 4:69), those whom God has favored are the Prophets, truthful (siddiq) ones, martyrs, and righteous (salih) ones. This is the wish we repeat forty times a day. Right after that, we seek refuge in His greatness and mercy and ask for being saved from deviating “to the path of those who have incurred His wrath and of those who are astray.” It is nothing but a delusion to be confident for having found right guidance and to see oneself immune to a possible fall or deception by Satan. Nobody has a guarantee to keep on the righteous path until they give their last breath. People who feel confident at this issue put their own faith in danger. A man who does not worry about his end is a man to be worried about his end. For this reason, one must shake with the fear of straying to unbelief after having found guidance and be constantly vigilant about it. A believer should constantly implore God not to leave him or her alone with his or her carnal soul and seek refuge in Him against whisperings and goading of devils. Faith is an invaluable treasure that makes one eligible for Paradise, gains the good pleasure of God, and lets one witness Divine Beauty. There are jinn and human devils lying in wait to steal it. What befalls believers is to treasure their faith, protect it against attacks, and being constantly alert in this respect.

The Weaknesses That Can Make One Sink into the Ground

Being taken by human and Satanic intrigues (Hücumat-ı Sitte, or “The Six Assaults”) Bediüzzaman mentions at the end of “The Twenty-ninth Letter” might also make one stray from the Straight Path and say “How I wish…” grimly in the other world. Actually each one of the human weaknesses he explains is powerful enough for a believer’s spiritual downfall. Namely, as love of status or fame is such a virus, fear is no less powerful. The same goes for greed, racism, egotism, laziness, and love of comfort. Given that each one has the potential to bring a believer down, having all of these does not make one just fall, but rather makes one sink deep into the ground. Even a person within the circle of faith is under the constant risk of being overtaken by them. For instance, love of fame can easily mar the essence of the good deeds a person does in the name of serving faith. Another person can present distinguished works and secretly wish to become famous, which eventually makes him sink deep into the ground. In addition, giving in to such negative feelings invites other types of negativities as well. For example, if love of fame seizes a person, you cannot know what further sins it will cause that person to commit. All of these are possible dangers within a circle of faith, and they will cause grim remorse in the next world. One who lays personal claim on the success granted by God, as a result of failing to adopt the principles of sincerity2 as guidelines, will say, “I wish I had not fouled up all of those good deeds for the sake of worldly appreciation and applause; I wish I had not set sail to the void for the sake of nothing! I wish I had not be taken by deadly currents…” They will agonize in useless woes and laments of perpetual remorse. Grimly, their wail will be to no avail; on the contrary, it will only double the suffering of their misfortune.

Shields to Protect from Feelings of Remorse in Vain

For this reason, believers should act sensibly in this world. On the one hand, they should count being saved from unbelief as the greatest favor of God; on the other hand, they should shun from the alleys that may cost them their faith. As Bediüzzaman stressed, there is a pathway to unbelief in every kind of sin. The Messenger of God stated that every sin leaves a dark spot on the heart, which can cover the entire heart in time3 (unless removed through repentance). Every dark spot forming on the heart is an invitation to another one. In the Qur’an, God Almighty refers to the hearts contaminated and darkened with evil: “…By no means! But what they themselves have earned has rusted upon their hearts (and prevents them from perceiving the truth)” (al-Mutaffifin 83:14). If people do not remove sins darkening the heart through repentance and asking forgiveness, God Almighty will seal up their hearts: “God has set a seal upon their hearts…” (al-Baqarah 2:7) and “…a seal has been set upon their hearts” (at-Tawbah 9:87). These hearts become unable to receive anything from the pure message descended from heavens, and they end up continually saying “How I wish…” in the next world. In order not to fall into the grip of useless remorse, what needs to be done here is trying to carry out the responsibilities of servanthood to God without any flaws, in a balance of fear and hope. Realizing this depends on a heart in awe of God. The Messenger of God referred to a certain man and stated that if his heart had been in awe of God, so would have been his body parts.4 Awe of God in a believer’s heart will be reflected in the behaviors of that person; in time, even the body parts of that believer begin to shake with the awe of God—so much so that this shaking can be perceived by some in the iris of their eyes. On the one hand, a believer doubles up on feeling the greatness of God; on the other hand, if he or she trusts the immensity of His mercy and leads a life of such sensitivity and balance, this will be a means of deliverance from woes and regrets in the next world.

At the same time, people can prevent the negative factors to ruin their afterlife by attending circles of religious talks—or “sohbet-i Canan” (talk of the Beloved). As Süleyman Çelebi stated:

“Constantly say God’s Name with every breath

It is with God’s Name everything becomes complete.”

Another Sufi poet (Yahya of Taşlıca) voices the same truth thus:

“I wish my love was shared by all people of the world

If only all of our words could be talk of the Beloved.”

If we make mention of Him everywhere we go and make our gatherings blessed with His name, and make our time gain a depth uncontainable by dimensions, then we put a stop to so many negativities that might make us feel regret in the other world.

Saying “I Wish…” in the Sense of Asking Forgiveness

Question: Can there be useful examples of “I wish…” as opposed to useless ones? What should be our criteria?

Answer: As there are useless kinds of “I wish…” to be uttered in the next world, there are positive kinds of “I wish…” that are acceptable, and even laudable, in Islam. Those uttered by our master Abu Bakr are of this type. As it is known, he once said, “I wish I had asked the Messenger of God about the meaning of the verse referring to one who dies leaving behind no lineal heirs, so that I would not leave the issue to the judgment of scholars.” He voiced the same regret about the judgment concerning the share of a grandmother’s inheritance, as it is not openly stated in the Qur’an. He also expressed similar regrets about some political decisions he had to make. In my opinion, such phrases of “I wish…” are uttered as a consequence of deeply felt suffering and a feeling of self-criticism, which stem from comprehending religion correctly and rendering it the spirit of one’s life. They took Abu Bakr the Truthful to a great spiritual level beyond our comprehension. Imagine that the Pride of Humanity confirmed Abu Bakr’s worth by stating that if Abu Bakr’s faith were to be weighed against the faith of all people, his faith would weigh heavier.5 He was the greatest truthful one who realized through God’s grace—within two years and ten months (of his caliphate)—what others could not achieve in one and a half centuries. He did not simply overpower different lands as tyrants did, but poured the inspirations of his soul into them. Every place he went or turned his eyes came to life with the teachings of the Prophet. Indeed, he was the one who prepared the ground for the great conquests and breakthroughs realized during the next caliph, Umar ibn al-Khattab. Therefore, his statements of “I wish…” added to the worth of that great figure, whose worth was already greater than the totality of all people.

In the same way, there are positive kinds of “I wish,” for every believer to elevate their ranks. For example, “I wish I had made better use of my youthful days in terms of worship! I wish I could spare two hours for a hundred units of Prayer every night! I wish I could save myself from carnal desires! I wish I could thoroughly restrain my hands, feet, sight, and hearing even while carnal desires boiled over at youth. I wish I had not turned my gaze anywhere else and not beheld anything else except for what is oriented toward seeking the good pleasure of God…” Even though one did not fulfill certain things previously, such statements of remorse, which express a resolution to take positive action to make up for what one has missed so far, actually lead to a person’s spiritual progress. If left to the other side, it will mean nothing but anguish and misery, whereas those we make here can be considered as istighfar (asking forgiveness). We say, “Astaghfirullah,” at remembering such things; we then feel ashamed of saying it only once and say, “Alfu-alfi Astaghfirullah,” (I ask forgiveness for a million times) and continuously seek refuge in God with a spirit of heartfelt penitence and remorse (tawba-inaba-awba).6 So when believers knock the door of Divine mercy with all of these “Astaghfirullahs”, God will hopefully not leave their petitions unanswered and will treat them with His immense mercy and grace.

1. Sahih al-Bukhari, Manaqib, 24
2. Nursi, Bediüzzaman Said, The Gleams, The Twenty-first Gleam,  New Jersey: Tughra Books, 2008
3. Sunan at-Tirmidhi, Tafsir al-Surah (83) 1
4. Al-Hakim at-Tirmidhi, Nawadir al-Usul, 2/172
5. Bayhaqi, Shuab al-Iman, 1/69
6. For a detailed explanation of these concepts of Tawba, Inaba, and Awba, see Fethullah Gülen, The Emerald Hills of the Heart, Vol. 1.

This text is the translation of “Faydasız ve Faydalı ‘Keşke’ler

Respect for the Sacred


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

Reflections on the Day of Hunayn


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

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

Hunayn: A Hard Test

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

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

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

Dizziness That Comes along with Glory

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

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

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

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

A Balanced Figure of Love and Enthusiasm: Jalaluddin Rumi


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

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

Rumi and the Emergence of the Ottomans

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Immense Inclusiveness within the Framework of Essential Disciplines

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Devoted Souls with Enthusiasm and Commonsense-1


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

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

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

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

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

Being Devoid of Enthusiasm Means Death for the Heart

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

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

Sensibility and Enthusiasm Should Support One Another

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perfection and Modesty


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

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

Two-Winged Spirit of Guidance, with Knowledge and Humility

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

The Most Modest Person

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

This text is the translation of “Mükemmellik ve Tevazu

The Devoted Souls and Life Standards


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

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

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

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

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

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

Responsibilities Must Be Entrusted to Eligible Ones

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

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

Having More Abundant Means and Real Economy

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

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

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

A Bohemian Life Has No Limit

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

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

Constant Self-Criticism

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Broken Jug: Droplets of Wisdom from the Heart


Introductory Note

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Symbolism

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

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

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

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

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