A Spirited and Active Life of Service
Question: How can we realize the ideal of constantly remaining spirited and active, both in our individual and social lives, as Islam teaches us to be?
Answer: Islam leaves no place for stagnancy or complacency in its worldview. From human to soil, and from things in existence to time, everything is active. For example, Islam commands that a person must be spirited and active in their pursuit of good deeds, and that money, soil, time etc. must be used in the most fruitful way possible.
The essentials of faith are the most important issues a Muslim must be lively and spirited about. For this reason, we always say in our prayers, “Our Lord! Increase us in knowledge, faith, and certainty.” To achieve these ends, believers should utilize books and consider the fruitful lives of the Righteous Believers of the classic period, sometimes by reflections, and sometimes by remembrance and recitations. Concentrating prayers on the Imploring Hearts, and benefiting from their depth even a little bit, will open very different horizons before them.
Being spirited, vigorous, and active is very important. This will enable us to solve the century-long problems which have harmed the Islamic world. It will allow believers to live their lives without being crushed and dominated. Unfortunately, as Muslims have lost this vigor and liveliness for the last few centuries, they failed to save their position as a factor of balance between world powers. Therefore, they first lost their leading position, and then they came under different sets of domination in political, cultural, economic, and other fields.
A Society Condemned to the Galleys
When Bediüzzaman said, “O you miserable walking dead who abandoned Islam, which is like the spirit of the two lives! Do not stand in the way of the coming generation. The grave awaits you. Step aside and make way for the new generation who will wave the truth of Islam over this universe!” he was drawing attention to this reality: The universal religion cannot be represented by worn-out people, stale thoughts, and those of minimal effort. It is for this reason that Bediüzzaman demanded slothful souls devoid of excitement who could present a bad example for the future generation to get aside; so that the active and lively generation to come after them can take the right shape and carry out the right actions.
It is very important not to set a bad example. I do not want to commit the sin of mentioning the wrongs of our ancestors here. However, let me express one truth I see as essential to point out: What lies behind this stagnant and passive state of ours is, in a way, our fathers, mothers, grandfathers, and grandmothers. The wrongs of the previous generations underlie their wrongs as well. They carried out their responsibility in terms of their belief in God and observing the acts of worship, though. However, since they failed to surpass simple patterns of thought when evaluating the world and failed to catch up with their time’s horizons of comprehension, they paved the way for a period of sheer drought with respect to positive action.
In this respect, we Muslims can view ourselves, in a way, as lost generations. As we were not brought up in accordance with our era’s horizons of comprehension, we have not acquired the right qualities to become the future inheritors of the trust; we failed to be at the wheel. Therefore, we were always made us to pull the oars.
When the issue is viewed from a sociological perspective, you can either be at the wheel concerning the balance of world powers, or live as slaves condemned to the galleys. There is no middle way in it. If you are not at the wheel, then you continue your life condemned to the oars. To put it in other words, you either become a factor of balance among world powers, or you lead your life within the lines drawn by others. If you are the one who determines the balance, then you become a determiner. Otherwise, you will be stamped as “passively determined.” Being passively determined means captivity. Namely, it means falling to the situation of a slave in shackles. Actually, this situation is little different than that of the people who were captured in Africa and then taken to the West. Unfortunately, this has been the condition of Muslims for the last few centuries.
Falling into such a condition means failing to preserve the dignity and honor of Islam and thus causing Islam to be underestimated. It can be said that if Islam is seen as contemptible because of this wretched condition of ours, then we will also be held in contempt in God’s sight to the same degree. It is for this reason that we must re-attain the position we are supposed to have at all costs. And for this reason, one must always target the highest citadels, make the best of one’s efforts, and continuously try to keep the standard high.
Heroes of Willpower and the Dignity of Islam
God endowed humans with willpower. People neither beasts nor inanimate creatures. As long as individuals give their willpower its due and use their God-given power and strength effectively, then—with God’s permission—they may blow breaths of resurrection to the entire world. Like in the story of Nasreddin Hodja, they can use their willpower to ferment all seas to make them into yogurt. When willpowers are spurred and others’ torches are kindled, then the whole world can be illumined like a place of festivity.
Try viewing the Age of Bliss from this perspective, if you wish: Is it not a fact that the noble Prophet realized accomplishments which would normally take more than a few centuries within twenty-three years? Is it not a fact that our master, Abu Bakr, overcame the two superpowers of the time with only twenty thousand people? In the meantime, he also dealt with eleven incidents of apostasy in large groups. Musaylima the Liar and his followers, which was only one of those incidents, had a power some ten times greater than the terrorist organization in Turkey, which has taken decades to deal with! By giving his willpower its due, Abu Bakr overcame all of those problems with God’s permission and grace, and his case is a striking example of being spirited and active.
The Essentials of Remaining Spirited
As for the essentials of remaining active and spirited, the following can be mentioned concisely: Showing everybody a lane they can walk, giving them a field of activity, and saying “here is your task” is one of the most important factors for keeping people active. Even if a person breaks free from arrogance and acts in the name of the collective, one still wishes to know the frame of the work he or she carries out and the point it reaches. In addition, receiving appreciation for one’s personal endeavors spurs that person’s zeal and enthusiasm. Even though some grow more arrogant as they make different achievements, it is necessary to guide them to the thought of sincerity in an appropriate fashion.
On the other hand, if you help bring others to life, you also help yourself to stay alive in spirit. It is unthinkable for a person who resurrects others to personally remain dead. If you help some others to their feet, give them a start, and make them run like a marathoner, then you cannot just stay behind and look at them as they run.
Knowing the true worth of time, which is but a relative line, is also very important in terms of remaining active and spirited. For a long time, we failed to recognize that time itself corresponds to a certain worth. However, given that it is wisely used, it is a matchless treasure by which Paradise is gained. If it can be wisely used, a person steps to timelessness within a short and narrow segment of time, and gains eternity with it. In this respect, knowing the essential value of time and blowing life into every moment with good deeds and positive action is an indispensable essential for the sake of a life of serving faith in an active and spirited way.
This text is the translation of “Aktif ve Canlı Hizmet Hayatı.”
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