Question: God Almighty decrees in the Qur’an, “This day I have perfected for you your Religion (with all its rules, commandments and universality), completed My favor upon you, and have been pleased to assign for you Islam as Religion” (al-Maedah 5:3). He thus expresses that His good pleasure depends on perfection and completion. What are the points of consideration that should be targets for Muslims seeking perfection and completion?
Answer: Islam is the name and title for a body of values without faults, which is perfect and complete. For this reason, followers of Islam are supposed to seek the perfected and complete. To put it in simpler words, followers of the final and perfected religion should seek to fulfill their duty and responsibilities in the most perfect and complete fashion, in order to attain the beautiful and good results promised in the best possible way. As it is understood from the explicit meaning of the verse, this is the way of being able to walk to the horizons of God’s good pleasure.
The Failures and Fiascos that Happened Are Because of Me
As to the conditions for attaining such horizons, the first one is a person having the intention and resolution to use all of the opportunities and abilities granted by God in an efficient way. For example, some people have beautiful voices, some have the ability to manage businesses and administer people; others write well, and some speak well… Whatever merits a person has, they must utilize the opportunities presented to them most efficiently for the sake of expressing what is true and right. When mistakes and flaws appear, a person must self-criticize and seek ways for atonement, instead of seeking others to lay the blame on. This is particularly true for individuals devoted to serving faith and the Qur’an; no matter what their duty is, they must see themselves responsible for the failure to attain perfection and completeness, and they must see these problems as consequences of their own faults.
Actually, such admissions of mistake—including phrases like, “I did not fulfill the due of the duty on my shoulders as I should; I failed to continue this duty efficiently; this job faltered owing a personal mistake of mine”—are considered indirect forms of turning repentantly to God, and even acts of penitence and contrition (awba and inaba),1 depending on the immensity of the person’s heart and the sincerity of their repentance. God Almighty responds to such a suffering heart with His favors and grace, and, God willing, He compensates for what that person missed with His extra graces. On the other hand, if a person constantly sees the deeds he does as perfect and believes his own deeds to be flawless; sees his plans and projects to be faultless; and ascribes any faults to other people who did not listen to, understand, or obey him, this is simply a different version of the pharaoh’s delirious state as he said, “I am your supreme Lord” (an-Naziat 79:24).
Self-criticism in the face of lapses and stumbles should vary in direct proportion with the duty a person is responsible for. Therefore, as the scope of one’s duty increases, their self-criticism should also be deeper. One must think that all of these mistakes and lapses stem from personal gaps, such as one’s inability to maintain sound relations with God, to feel and sense Islam deeply, to properly interpret the principles raised by the noble Prophet, to correctly discern present circumstances, or to accurately recognize possible problems.
Beauties are from Him; Shortcomings and Faults Are from Us
Actually, this explicit principle of the Qur’an leaves no place for much talk in this respect: “Whatever affliction befalls you, it is because of what your hands have earned, and yet He overlooks many (of the wrongs you do)” (ash-Shura 42:30). Mistakes and flaws arise when the eye looks, the ear hears, the mind evaluates, the mouth speaks, the hand holds, the foot walks, or emotions are revealed in a way that contradicts their purpose of creation. Yet God still forgives most of these, as directly expressed by verses of the Miraculous Qur’an. By stating in one of his sayings that, “Every son of Adam sins, and the best of the sinners are the repentant,”2 the noble Prophet pointed out the fact that the potential for sinning exists in human nature. What really matters is a person realizing their mistake and trying to make up for it. Even the Rightly Guided Caliphs interrogated themselves with remarks like, “I wish I had done such and such deed in a different way,”3 and expressed their mistakes with respect to their own horizons.
Interpreting What Happens Correctly
Individual believers must hold themselves responsible for troubles and misfortunes that befall them, even if these do not originate from their own will and intent in terms of how they happened. For example, a believer should not see a needle that pricks their foot as blind chance, but think that it is a consequence of their sins. I can exemplify this with the following: a certain diabetic friend of ours gives an insulin shot to himself two or sometimes three times a day. If the cap of the syringe falls down from his hand by accident, he attributes it to the fact of his not mentioning the name of God while doing it. Then he says, “My God, had I done that with Your Name, it would not have fallen.” In the same way, sometimes the tip of the needle hits a nerve or capillary and causes bleeding. Then he ascribes it to his inner wrongs, failure to have a straight course in thought, or not establishing sound relations with God, etc.
I think this should be the attitude that needs to be taken in the face of troubles and misfortunes; if a man does not self-criticize over a fault, shortcoming, or flaw, he cannot be saved from having unfairly negative opinions about others and accusing them of wrongdoings. Such a person constantly thinks that the people around him render his own positive attitude and behaviors into negative ones and put his tasks at risk. Naturally, as he cannot see his own faults, he does not make any attempts to compensate for them. On the other hand, a person who sees his mistakes and is aware of them will think carefully before each negative happening and seek alternative solutions for not repeating the same mistake again. A person who puts the blame on himself for a failure or fiasco will act in a plausible and reasonable way in order not to make the same mistake again and will try to take all necessary precautions. For example, an administrator will draw lessons from a situation where discord arises between the people he is responsible for; he will revise all possibilities so that the same disagreements do not recur; and he will generate solutions for every possibility. That is, for every plan and project he comes up with, he will also devise solutions to any possible problems that may arise.
Appealing to Collective Reason
An Appealing to collective reason is an important safe guard to ensure that tasks are carried out in a perfect and thorough fashion. The master of speech pointed out that one who makes consultation will not experience loss.4 Just think about it: even though the Messenger of God had the support of Divine revelation and established contact with realms beyond the heavens, he would still bring every matter to consultation. And he did that with those whom he taught the truth, right, and meaning of consultation. He would put aside his virtue in the absolute sense and meet with his Companions about the problems he faced, as an individual among others. He did this even though he was such a noble person that he would not be mistaken in his personal decisions anyway. For people like us, who are prone to mistakes, the way to minimize the possibility of such errors is to leave our issues to collective reasoning.
We encounter many problems in our lives, at both the individual and social level. If we do not consult the collective reasoning about these problems, it is far more likely we will make grave mistakes and then find ourselves in a state of guilt, in which we try to blame others, thus offending everyone around us. Although personally being the one to lay the blame, you shake their trust in you by constantly blaming them. As a poet put it, what really matters is:
“Stately authority, wealth, and gold… none will enjoy these for good;
The real merit that counts, is making up a heart that’s been ruined.”
If gold and wealth were to be enjoyed for good, they would help Korah, first of all. However, he sunk into the ground together with his riches. It did not just stop there, for he was also condemned in the spiritual sense by being cursed in the Qur’an.5 In this respect, if there is a heart that needs to be built up, the real merit is in mending it. The Yunus Emre, a contemporary of Rumi, also said, “We have not come to knock down hearts but to build them up.” As the volunteers, our duty is also repairing hearts. This being the case, laying the blame on others for personal mistakes, accusing them of wrongdoings, and thus knocking down many hearts is unacceptable.
1. For further reading, see Emerald Hills of the Heart: Key Concepts in the Practice of Sufism, vol. 1, M. Fethullah Gülen, New Jersey: Tughra Books, 2011.
2. Sunan at-Tirmidhi, Qiyamah, 49; Sunan ibn Majah, Zuhd, 30.
3. For an example about the respected Abu Bakr, see Tabarani, Mu’jamu’l-Kabir, 1/62.
4. Tabarani, Mu’jamu’l-Kabir, 6/365.
5. Al-Qasas 28:76–83.
This text is the translation of “Mükemmel Dinin Mensupları Mükemmelliğe Talip Olmalı.”