Iman, or belief in God; Islam, or practicing belief; ihsan, or excellence in belief to the point of being aware of the Divine presence all the time; ikhlas, or purity of intention; ridha, or God’s good pleasure; longing for reunion with God… all are such great blessings that they can hardly be compared to anything in the material world. If someone were granted with the rule or reign of a city, a country, or even the entire world with all its assets and beauties, that would not correspond to one-thousandth of these blessings. In this regard, the most fundamental concern of a believer in this world is to attain a sound belief, establish a strong bond with God, awareness of the Divine presence, ensure purity of intention in deeds and secure God’s good pleasure. Indeed, this is all we need to depart from this world and move on to the next in a clean and immaculate state. This is how we can respond properly to the questioning by the angels in our graves, how we can be saved from the agonies on the Day of Judgement, go through the lengthy travel in the Intermediate Realm (barzakh) without stumbling on hindrances, and eventually attain the Heavenly blessings and His eternal contentment.
No greater blessing can be imagined for a believer than to walk to God in a purified and immaculate state. If the troubles and tribulations suffered in God’s way in this world are to turn into Divine blessings and otherworldly favors in the Hereafter – indeed they are – then we should treat them as golden opportunities and bear with them with assent and resignation. Indeed, every suffering in this world will turn into eternal pleasures in the Hereafter as long as it is met with patience and consent here. Besides, the earthly pleasures usually come with a toll in proportion to their taste. No pain tags along the otherworldly pleasures.
It is best that we design and plan our world with the Hereafter in mind and assess our deeds according to their consequences in the Hereafter. We should see this world as a gateway to the next or as an arable field or orchard whose produce we will receive as eternal rewards in the Hereafter. For those who set sail on a voyage to Paradise, the duties performed and hardships endured in this world will turn into heavenly sustenance and become inexhaustible provisions in the Hereafter. As the distances that must be covered in the Hereafter are longer and the slopes that must be climbed over are steeper, we have to be prepared accordingly and take our provisions adequately.
The real gain for a person who sincerely believes in God is to be a recipient of God’s good pleasure, contentment, seeing His Divine Majesty, favor, and kind treatment, and is ultimately to be the recipient of God’s addressing, “I, too, am contented with you.” As scholar Bediüzzaman Said Nursi notes, a thousand years in Paradise cannot be compared to even one moment of seeing His Divine Beauty, Perfection and Majesty. In Bad al-Amali, a lyrical manuscript summarizing the Sunni creed, it is noted that believers will forget about the bounties of Paradise upon seeing the Beauty and Perfection of God. It is Him, Who is the source of everything good and beautiful in terms of order, system, harmony, essence, content, and aesthetics in the universe and the beyond. It should be remembered that thousands of years of blissful life in this world is not worth, and will not correspond to, a single moment in Paradise. If we look at the depictions and magnitude of the blessings of Paradise in the Qur’an, we realize that they cannot even be compared to earthly ones.
Indeed, just as anyone who happens to see the Divine Beauty become oblivious to everything else in Paradise, all the beauties of this world will be lost in the sight of the bounties of Paradise. Otherworldly blessings and bounties will fascinate and enrapture believers at such a scale that they will not help but acknowledge, “Indeed, this is the life.” As noted earlier, becoming entitled to such a life depends on belief in God, worship, consciousness of God’s omnipresence, purity of intention, and ascending toward the levels of the life of the spirit and heart. That is, as Sufis put it, it is journeying across the heavenly stations toward God (sayr ilallah), in God (sayr fillah – from the Divine Names through the Attributes to His Oneness), with God (sayr maallah), and from God (sayr anillah – which is the return journey to creation while subsisting in God and seeing all things as manifestations of His Names and Attributes). It is to refrain from being lured by the transient face of this world and make this world a place where they can secure the Hereafter.
It is sad to note that today’s Muslims have long alienated themselves to such considerations. Having fallen for appearance, forms and formalities, they have abandoned meaning and essence. Political rulers and administrators are largely responsible for this decline as they have not only failed to come up with a good representation of Islam, but also sullied the bright face of Islam with their wrongful deeds. Although they have claimed to be Muslims and even protectors of Muslims, they have indulged in oppression and suppression, violated the rights and interests of the people, involved in corruption, graft, bribery, triggered confrontation of people along linguistic, racial, sectarian, and religious lines, and oppressed the dissident… And they did all those acts of depravity and turpitude allegedly in the name of Islam. This has eventually led to such an egregious deformation and decadence that would go beyond the subversive and disruptive acts committed by even the bitterest enemies in previous centuries. For, those enemies were confronted by heroes of faith and purity of intention like Alp Arslan, Malik-Shah, Kilij Arslan, Saladin, Nur al-Din al-Zangi, and Shirkuh. They stood up to the hostilities against the true religion of Islam and defended its dignity, just as the light confronts and revolts against the dark.
Today, the picture is completely different. Those who are supposed to uphold and promote Islam use, or more correctly abuse, it knowingly and willingly based on their personal perceptions and interests, distort religious provisions, and do so while lying bluntly and shamelessly.
This, in turn, leads to the misconception in people’s minds as if it is ever possible for Islam to allow commitment all sorts of corruption, filth, or atrocities. People fall for the wrong assumption that Islam can be practiced without prayers or worship. Even worse, injustices, oppressions, and corruption are being disguised in a religious package. Then people start to nurture the distorted understanding that one can still be considered as a perfect Muslim even if s/he commits all sorts of evil. On the other hand, people who question this understanding are accused of apostasy and deviation. The religion is subjected to a horrible deformation and Islam is being reduced to hypocrisy. This deformation is so extensive that even if the most ingenious people, exceptional minds, and most intelligent individuals of Muslims were to come together and use the state-of-the-art science and technology to reach out every corner of the world, it would take at least two decades, if not more, to repair the damage, unless we are supported with some extra Divine help.
Unfortunately, the correct sense of belief, worship, and religious enthusiasm have been ruined in our time. People are not able to receive correct education or training about Islam in and out of the family, at schools, or in places of worship. Everything is ascribed completely to worldly considerations, interests and benefits. Even, the religion is instrumentalized to such worldly ends. Political leaders are concerned solely with how to preserve their office and dominance. To this end, they go to any length and smear any person or community. They resort to all sorts of lies and slander or commit even the most disgraceful sins for the sake of attaining their dark and shady goals. Their dirty politics misguides, deviates, and corrupts masses and poisons their hearts and minds. As a result, scores of people are driven away from true Islam, sincere servitude to God, the life of the spirit and heart, and excellence in belief.
In no period of history has Islam gone through as miserable time as it did during the 21st century. In the past, enemies of the religion, belief and the Qur’an staged diverse forms of attack at different periods of time, which pounded at but were eventually warded off by the stronghold of Islam; hypocrites tried to undermine it from inside, and there were assaults from various oppressors and tyrants, but none of those attacks caused as much harm as is the case today. Those attacks were thwarted through sincere efforts by the people of stature and high standing some of whose names we have mentioned above as well as by so many unknown heroes of Islam. Yet, the deterioration and putrefaction of recent centuries started from inside and, therefore, their destructive effects have become far greater today. As a matter of fact, as emphasized by a verse in the Qur’an, God does not take back His favors and blessings to a community or change them as long as that community does not go through inner deformation and as long as it sticks to the path of the Prophet and his Companions. This is a Divine promise. Yet, if transformation starts from inside, i.e., if Muslims are alienated from the essence and spirit of the religion, then God will take back His favors and blessings to them, and replace them with another community.
It is essential that heroes of peace and reform should take up all challenges, ride tall in their saddle, and carry on their path with their eyes fixed on belief, Islam, and excellence in faith. Those who care only about worldly matters cannot understand or accept them, and, as such, they will not leave those heroes alone, but make them go through various trials and tribulations. Despite this, heroes of Islam will focus on positive aspects of the trial and tribulations to which they are subjected, and turn them into opportunities for getting closer to God and for getting better prepared for the Hereafter. With those trials, the worldly life and its allurements will be erased from their eyes, and they will prefer eternal bliss to transient pomp and glory.
Those who set their hearts on God’s cause should treat their grievances as fly bites and should not be shaken by them. If you are certain that the place where you stand is the ground of fairness and justice, you must know how to stand firm there. Sometimes we wonder why humans are obstinate. The wisdom of obstinacy is when we can manifest it as resoluteness to persevere in what is right and fair. If you believe that the path you are on is right and fair, no storm should be able to take you away from it. You have to know how to be well-established in your place just like centennial trees with strong roots.
Those paranoiac spirits who seek to establish a system in this world for their own accounts and to pass it on to their children have categorically given sincere believers no respite so far. They made God’s great prophets like Abraham, Moses, and many others leave their own home. So many prophets and saints had to migrate from their homeland to other countries due to pressures and oppression from their oppressors who sowed discord and dissension. Wherever they went, however, they managed to sow seeds and generated gardens and orchards.
Indeed there will be similar cases of oppression and cruelty in the future, too. You should see them as a form of test from God and be pleased with it, for then you would know you are walking on the path of the Prophet, the Rightly Guided Caliphs, Hasan and Husayn (Prophet’s grandchildren). They will keep martyring Husayns in Karbalas, and may God save us from being tyrants like Yazid. May God protect us from being Hajjaj at a time when so many Muslims are being killed at the hands of so-called Hajjajs. If your duty is to ensure that people can find God and eliminate the obstacles between people’s hearts and God, then it is our good opinion that the residents of the heavenly realms will acclaim and applaud you and give you glad tidings. Some thugs will keep bothering you – you cannot help it. This will mean nothing if the world attains peace and tranquility in the future through your agency.