Question: When a person achieves something that deserves praise, we express our appreciation to motivate them further. However, such praise and recognition may sometimes lead to arrogance, pride and boasting. What are your considerations on this issue?
Answer: It is a reality that we are weak to strike a balance after receiving praise and recognition for our achievements. If you exaggerate a matter and praise someone above their worth, which is a behavior God dislikes, Divine Justice might teach you a lesson about it. In this respect, you need to act in a balanced manner on this issue, so that no disrespect is made against God Almighty. When you exaggerate your comments about certain people, telling them how they worked wonders like the greatest saints, God Almighty may give you a worldly punishment and make you see the truth about these people.
Those Who Become Objects of Envy
In addition to the above mentioned points, praises towards someone have another potential side to it. When we sing praises about a person, this admiration might invoke envy in others, who might wish to belittle that person in consequence. Thus, we might provoke other people with what we say, and we need to be careful about that. For example, a person who learned the truths of faith and religion through the works of Bediüzzaman may love him very much. They can be full of admiration and gratitude toward him for helping them broaden their horizons about faith and understand the noble Prophet’s teachings correctly. However, this love should never lead them to exaggerate their admiration and perceive him like a Prophet; this is something Bediüzzaman would never dream about. In addition, if highly positive opinions about that great figure are voiced near people who follow another Islamic figure, it might trigger a reaction and feelings of rivalry and envy.
Furthermore, we need to be extra careful when talking about the Pride of Humanity, peace and blessings be upon him, for whose sake we would give anything. That blessed person is the means of happiness for humanity in both worlds. He is the one who unearths mysteries of creation and turns this world, which seems to be a chaos and confusion, into a corridor to Paradise. If we are able to feel peace and contentment within the magical atmosphere of belief, in accordance with the depth of our faith, it has become possible through him. In spite of all of the above mentioned however, we can never attribute anything to the Prophet that can be interpreted as deifying him.
All Praise Belongs to God
In regards to praising God Almighty, there is never a limit for that. As there is nothing comparable to Him, there can be no rival to Him whatsoever. Therefore, nobody is ever heard saying, “Why are they praising God, but not the spiritual master I follow?” As God is the Master of all of us, He is the absolute Master of all masters, including the Prophet. As the noble Prophet also stated, our real Master is God; He is the Master of everybody and everything. You can even fade away like a firefly that has lost its light, before the Eternal Sun of all suns. There is no other way to feel Him anyway. Seeing and knowing God, and His manifestation with true understanding, depends on a person’s complete effacement of himself, becoming nearly non-existent. How beautifully a poet expresses this concept:
You are not manifested while I exist on the screen,
My becoming non-existent, is the condition for Your manifestation…
Given that two sights cannot exist on one screen at the same time, one needs to get non-existent, to feel the Truly Existent, so that he can reflect on and witness Him. We need to accept that our existence is like a shade, so that we can see the Original. So many servants of God, like the Great Prophets, the reputable scholars of purity, and the respected saints, acknowledged their existence being like a shade; we can only be a very faint shade far behind them. Who knows, maybe the ones who will be blessed with the honor of seeing God in the afterlife will be the ones who humbly see themselves as mere shade. God Almighty will tell them, “Given that you lived in the world as shades, the time has come to take refuge under My shade, on the day when no other shelter exists.” Even though we cherish such thoughts about God Almighty, we should never give up being cautious about other human beings. As a matter of fact, no matter who speaks and towards whom—all praise escaping our lips belong to God only. In fact, all Muslims who observe their daily prayers voice this truth by reciting Surah al-Fatiha, which begins with the words meaning, “All praise is due to God, Lord of the worlds…” since the definite article “al” at the beginning of the word “hamd” (praise) denotes that all kinds of praise belong to Him only. Therefore, even the praises we express towards people we love essentially belong to Him as well.
A Great Wrongdoer in a Pitiable Condition
In short, just as we need to be very careful while talking about great figures who deserve appreciation, we need to avoid voicing our sublime pride in them near people who might show a negative reaction. Because doing so might provoke feelings of jealousy and rivalry, which will serve nothing, but raising opposition and pushing those innocent people to sin. People who feel jealousy commit sins and destroy their good deeds. The great saint Hasan al-Basri stated that he had not seen any other wrongdoer like the one who becomes jealous, and ironically appears as if he was wronged, in spite of being the wrongdoer. That is, one who becomes jealous commits such a grave sin, that he falls into a pitiful condition. We have no right to put somebody in such a situation. Even though not everybody can observe the same sensitivity towards others, people in particular positions, where this can be encountered, need to be more cautious and careful on this issue.
This text is the translation of “Övgüde Mübalağa ve Zararları“