Question: Bediüzzaman mentions that the totality of the rewards that correspond to the collective deeds pertaining to the Hereafter will be included in every individual contributor’s book of good deeds without missing anything. Would you elucidate the conditions for being blessed with the reward mentioned in his glad tidings?
Answer: In different parts of the Risale-i Nur collection, Bediüzzaman clearly points out the issue of shared blessings that correspond to collective deeds pertaining to the Hereafter and states that every individual who stands within the sphere of serving faith and the Qur’an will have a full share of the blessings granted for the entire collective.1 I do not remember such an explicit reference to the issue in the literature of Sufism and Qur’anic exegesis prior to Bediüzzaman. Although some great personages alluded to this point in different ways, his approach to the issue is very explicit and clear.
Actually, this approach is in perfect compliance with the fine nature of the metaphysical realm, which has a character of light, and things with the nature of light are reflected exactly as they are. For example, the image of a lamp placed in a room with mirrors on its four walls will be reflected as it is in each of the four mirrors simultaneously. In the same way, the blessings that correspond to collective deeds of goodness are included in each contributor’s book of good deeds without being divided into smaller shares.
A Viewpoint According to the Qur’an and Sunnah
We can comfortably say that this approach of Master Bediüzzaman is a truth he drew by distilling from the essential principles of the Qur’an and Sunnah. When we study the miraculous Qur’an and authenticated tradition of the Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, we see in many instances that God Almighty’s granting success depends on maintaining concord and unity and that He bestows an exclusive abundance and reward for deeds realized in a spirit of unity and togetherness. For example, the following two verses from the Qur’an allude to this fact: “And hold fast all together to the rope of God, and never be divided. Remember God’s favor upon you: you were once enemies, and He reconciled your hearts so that through His favor you became like brothers. You stood on the brink of a pit of fire, and He delivered you from it. Thus, God makes His signs of truth (revelations) clear to you that you may be guided (to the Straight Path in all matters, and be steadfast on it)” (Al Imran 3:103).
“He has attuned their (the believers’) hearts. If you had spent all that is on the earth, you could not have attuned their hearts, but God has attuned them. Surely He is All-Glorious with irresistible might, All-Wise” (al-Anfal 8:63).
In a way, victory, dominance, and success which concern the benefit of all are related to Muslims’ concord and unity.
Acting collectively on an issue leads to great success at worldly affairs. If we view the issue with the example Bediüzzaman gives, when ten people separately try to produce sewing needles, each of them can only produce three or four needles a day. But when they act collectively by division of labor, and each specializes at a certain task, such as burning the furnace, supplying the iron, piercing the hole, sharpening the tip, etc., some 300 needles fall to each of them daily. Another example of Bediüzzaman is if four or five people unite and if one of them brings lamp oil, another one brings fuse, another one lamp glass, and another one brings the base, each one of them fully benefits from the light emanating from the lamp in the end. I think a person who sees that the principle of collectivity facilitates even worldly tasks in this degree and renders them so fruitful understands better how it will become a means of abundance and blessings in otherworldly deeds, which have a character of light.
By looking at the issue with this perspective, we can say the following: The entirety of the blessings that correspond to the acts of goodness realized in the four corners of the world by God Almighty’s support and grace will be completely reflected in the book of good deeds of each individual who endeavor for this sake, thanks to the truth of shared blessings in collective good deeds. That is to say, every individual included in this wide circle will benefit from the endeavors by millions for the sake of God. The good deeds recorded for each will be recorded for the rest as well. This being the case, a person’s turning away from such a total reward and being preoccupied with individual considerations, being crushed under egotism, and saying “I can do something on my own” means that person will be deprived of that immense reward. No matter how capable a man is, even if he has the talents of some 50 geniuses, he can neither realize a permanent service for the good of humanity, nor gain such a great otherworldly reward, on his own.
The Essence of Good Deeds: Sincerity
When we have an overall view of Bediüzzaman’s explanations on the subject, we see that there are certain conditions required for such a great total attainment. The questions we then need to ask ourselves are: What kind of a stance do we need to adopt within the movement we are trying to uphold? How must we walk together on this path, and how must we be unified so that we can be blessed with the attainments stated? As the first condition, Bediüzzaman mentions “contribution with the secret of sincerity.”
Ikhlas, or sincerity, means doing a certain deed for the sole reason of fulfilling God’s command, relating its result to God’s good pleasure, and leaving the fruits of that deed to the Hereafter. In this respect, what matters according to a person who takes sincerity as a basis on every issue and deed oriented to the Hereafter is the fulfillment of certain services of goodness, and not their being necessarily done by this or that particular person. If we put it in other words, what really matters is sometimes sounding like a reed flute to enrapture those whose hearts are beating in unison, and sometimes speaking up for truth as a chorus to let people hear the truth, helping them experience the Sufi states of astonishment, passion, and stupor, and thus letting them reach the presence of God. Given that this is the target and purpose, no matter who realizes such a purpose, others must feel glad, as if he or she personally accomplished it. While Bediüzzaman exemplifies this issue, he mentions that he told one of his students that a certain other student had better calligraphy, and the person who heard this felt glad about it. Bediüzzaman also says that he checked the heart of that student and sensed that his heart was beating with the same genuine feelings. So this is a very striking and beautiful example of contributing with the secret of sincerity.
In the same way, master Bediüzzaman compares this issue to a task of carrying a heavy treasure and states that bearers of the treasure should feel happy about more hands with fresh strength coming to their aid. Every one of us will hold from one side of this treasure and nobody will care about which side falls to their part. Given that there is a share for everyone who contributes to the carrying of the treasure, everyone must thoroughly fulfill the task that falls to his or her part and not engage in rivalry and dispute with anyone while doing that.
A person’s effectuating sincerity in this degree is possible by abstracting from one’s personal hue, being imbued with the collective hue, and being proud of the merits of fellow brothers and sisters. Individuals devoted to the ideal of serving faith and the Qur’an should never forget that they undertake a very important duty and responsibility that surpass various other titles of glory and honor. In this respect, if they say, “You achieved this; you did that…” to a man who is aware of the path he walks, he will respond by saying, “I do not remember… I do not deem it probable either. Our friends worked and endeavored. I may have been among them during this time.” This is the criterion for contribution with the secret of sincerity Bediüzzaman mentions.
A Complete Spirit of Solidarity and Brotherhood
As the second condition of benefiting from the shared blessings for collective deeds, Bediüzzaman emphasizes the principle of cooperating within a spirit of brotherhood. If genuine brotherhood is found somewhere, mutual support and solidarity is also found. As the noble Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, tells us about the brotherhood between believers, he draws attention to the relationship among the organs of the same body. Remember, that in the case of an ailment in one of these organs, other organs share the suffering through fever and loss of sleep. In the same way, believers must establish such a sincere and serious bond of brotherhood among them that, in the case of a trouble concerning Muslims in general, every Muslim must feel suffering about it.2 Believers devoted to the path of truth must lean on and support one another like stones forming a dome, and throughout the journey they must not let any of their brothers and sisters remain on the way. If volunteers of service become one within the frame of this understanding, share such a spirit, and attain true unity and togetherness, then good deeds of millions will be included in each individual’s book of good deeds without loss to those performing them.
Acting in Concord with Collective Reason
The third condition mentioned at this issue is cooperation through the mystery of unity—namely, division of labor, tasks, duties, and responsibilities with a spirit of unity and togetherness. In other words, avoid acting individually but rather work in cooperation and acquire the habit of acting in collective. For this reason, it is first necessary to make a division of labor before beginning a task. Everybody should endeavor to do whatever his or her capability is and whatever he or she can do well.
Given that these three conditions we tried to express and explain are fulfilled, if the volunteers join their minds to entrust matters to their collective reasoning, by God’s grace and permission, they will not fall to the mistakes made by individual reasoning. According to probability calculations, it is perhaps one out of a million possibility for ten minds joined together to come to a mistaken conclusion. If the joined minds amount to twenty, the negative probability will diminish in the same degree.
It thus follows that it is very important to run issues in accordance with a collective consciousness. So much so that, even if a single person has genius capabilities, he must never decide alone on matters that concern the general collective. I do not know even a single person in history who acted on his own, made decisions on his own, and achieved permanent success. None of the people like Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Hitler, Mussolini, nor other tyrants who lived after them, had lasting achievements. They shone as a flash in the pan at the beginning but quickly faded, reduced to a sad heap of ruin. As for real leaders who make use of the collective consciousness, they succeed in the same degree as their acting upon consultation, and they build their society’s future with the services they realize.
To sum up, for the sake of gaining what the principle of shared blessings from collective good deeds, both in this world and the next, it is necessary to have pure intention and sincerity, a spirit of brotherhood and solidarity, as well as common reasoning and a collective consciousness.
1. Nursi, Bediüzzaman Said, The Gleams, “Twenty-First Gleam, Your Fourth Principle,” New Jersey: Tughra, 2008, p. 229.
2. Sahih al-Bukhari, Adab, 27; Sahih Muslim, Birr, 66.
This text is the translation of “Heyetin Sevabına Nail Olmanın Şartları.”
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