Question: What are the characteristics of people in whose hearts a love is kindled for constant renewal in religious feelings and thoughts?
Answer: It is not possible for Muslim societies to have a revival in spirit and spirituality without correcting distorted thoughts and conceptions, and without making an endeavor to make up for the many destructions of an extinguishing spiritual life, to a great extent caused by the geography where Muslims live, the shackling up the tongue and hearts by making people oblivious of religious love and ecstasy, the adoption of strict positivism by intellectuals, the replacement of sound faith and righteousness with crude bigotry, and even while praying for the Hereafter and Paradise, doing it with a consideration of continuing the accustomed happiness in the world.
Surely with God’s permission and grace it is possible to shake off the vices enshrouding our souls for the last few centuries. As Muslims, however, we first need to get rid of feelings such as worldly passions, laziness, ambition for fame, love of status, egotism, and worldliness, which are the real reasons and factors that brought our total collapse and disintegration. We then need to turn to God with hearts contented with Him and indifferent to the rest, with courage, religiousness, and deep devotion to God, and thus purify and mold our hearts with a feeling of truth. Without setting to work with this understanding and endeavoring with due diligence, it is so difficult for us, to the degree of impossibility, to put things right. Additionally, if there are—and I think there are—certain chivalrous souls, those with a will for revival and restoration, who can embrace the age while being true to the essence, then this repair and renewal will definitely be realized.
Not Even for the Blinking of an Eye
It is possible to view from this perspective the life of Imam al-Ghazali, honorably referred to as the “Proof of Islam,” as an example for our discussion. He first attained a high level in outward knowledge to such an extent that he read all the essential references that existed in his time and filled libraries, and then produced very fruitful works for the later generations. He lived in the fifth century after Hijra, which was a prolific age when Islamic renaissance was at its peak. After excelling in outward disciplines, he did not remain stuck in the narrow forms of those fields, but he turned to the horizons of spirituality and deep devotion to God, which gave a separate value and depth to his outward knowledge. According to him, the words scholars write in their books do not go beyond theory, unless they have a spiritual and metaphysical dimension. Attaining the knowledge of truth and transforming the theoretical into practical are only possible through a life experience a person has on the horizons of the heart. For this reason, those who lead a life oriented to the heart and spirit are less prone to lapses and falls in comparison to their counterparts who solely possess outward knowledge.
As far as a person who has ascended to the life level of the heart and spirit, who has stopped obeying the desires of the carnal soul, who has become annihilated in terms of his ego but has found permanence in God is concerned, it is unthinkable for the Divine Mercy to leave that person on his own in his thoughts, considerations, and feelings. God does not let such people fall into vice by leaving them alone with their carnal soul, not even for the blinking of an eye.
As it is known, the Messenger of God prayed:
يَا حَيُّ يَا قَيُّومُ بِرَحْمَتِكَ أَسْتَغِيثُ أَصْلِحْ لِي شَأْنِي كُلَّهُ وَلَا تَكِلْنِي إِلَى نَفْسِي طَرْفَةَ عَيْنٍ
“O All-Living, Self-Subsistent [Lord]! For the sake of Your Mercy I beg for help. Rectify for all my states and leave me not to myself even for the blinking of an eye!”1
He taught this prayer to his followers, showing them the target. The heroes of restoration who adopt the prayers of the Master of the Prophets as the highest target for themselves and who endeavor in the same direction always advance under radiant rays of God’s light, with His permission and grace.
God Almighty Does Not Let Any Effort Be Wasted
By basing on what we said above, it is possible to say that God Almighty inspired the due considerations for reasoning, deduction, and renewal to the hearts of those great personages, who stamped their influence on centuries. If you look at the books of Ismail Haqqi Bursawi, you will see that he uses statements such as: “It occurred to my heart in the morning”; and “It occurred to my heart thus…” It is understood from these expressions that God Almighty sheds light on the path of those great personages and clears the way for them, and thus they see and interpret everything correctly. Thereafter they do what needs to be carried out in accordance with the conditions of the time, character of the society, and the duty they are responsible for.
God Almighty states in the chapter az-Zalzalah: “…Whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it; And whoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it” (99: 7–8).
It will be a defective understanding to take the meaning of this verse solely as: “A person will receive his or her due in the Hereafter for what he or she does here.” In my opinion, the issue needs to be understood thus: Even if the deeds are as petty as an atom’s weight, the return of good and evil deeds will be met in this world as well to a certain extent. Given that even acts of goodness as little as an atom’s weight will be seen here as well, then it means that acts of goodness fulfilled for the sake of lofty ideals, as heavy as the earth, will primarily be seen and manifested as Divine graces.
In this respect, it is unthinkable for God Almighty to leave on his own with his carnal soul a hero of revival who has devoted himself to his people and a spiritual revival of humanity, who makes sacrifices from his personal enjoyments for this sake and does not care about his own fortune and future at all. God Almighty directs a person sometimes openly, and sometimes in a way that the person does not realize at all the Divine guidance. No matter how confusing the roads such a hero of revival takes, no matter in what deep valleys he wanders in, he will keep walking on the right path with God’s permission and grace.
Such heroes of truth, whose horizons have been broadened by God, sometimes see everything as clear as day right at the very beginning that they very comfortably say right away in the face of the problems that they encounter: “What is there, after the truth, but error?” (Yunus 10: 32) They point to the right way and voice the truth. And sometimes in response to the obscure nature of the situation they are faced with, they seek refuge in God with sincerity and vehemence, and pray, “My God, I only demand Your good pleasure; I wish You to make me take whichever course of action is in compliance with Your good pleasure!” As a result, they see the right; they voice the right, and direct people in the right way with God’s permission.
Nobody Returned Empty-handed from That Door
My God! Here I knock on Your door for help against the misfortunes and troubles I cannot resist, which are beyond my power, and I say, “There is neither strength nor power save with God!” My God! I knock on Your door again for the sake of being freed from the heavy pressures of faults and sins, and even for the sake of leading an immaculately pure life by being saved from the pollution of my conceptions and imagination, and I ask for Your support again by, “There is neither strength nor power save with God!”
My God! Do not leave me on my own in any of my words and actions oriented to making people revive in spirit. Do not ever leave me without Your rays of guidance upon me! Always guide me to the right way! Endow me with sincerity in all of my attitude and behaviors. Do not leave me without Your support and supervision, so that my words have an influence on others.
My God! I know that the representatives of misguidance will not leave me alone while striving to guide others; they will march upon me on the pretext of trivial matters. In order to stand up to every kind of trouble and misfortune that might come from them without bowing, making concessions, and staying upright only to bow before You, I seek refuge in Your support and protection; I knock on Your door once more and I say, “There is neither strength nor power save with God.”
My God! I fail to keep my heart pure and observe Your rights as I must. Here I knock on Your door so that my heart becomes so pure as You created it, and I say, and I say once more, “There is neither strength nor power save with God.”
If you reveal your fidelity and sincerity this way, God Almighty does not let Your turning to Him wholeheartedly be in vain; He will not leave you on your own with your carnal soul in your reasoning, deductions, and preferences—not even for the blinking of an eye.
If you lead your life with these considerations, keep knocking on His door night and day, and present your wishes to that door like a petition all the time, then God Almighty who hears, knows, and sees your situation will respond to you and never leave you unanswered. As it is mostly stated in saintly personages’ deep and moving supplications that touch the heart, nobody who went to His door returned empty-handed so far. Although they had been stumbling on their way with lapses and sins, so many others knocked on the same door, sought refuge in His forgiveness, and were eventually wrapped with His Mercy, bestowals, and support.
In short, given that journeyers of restoration and revival, who are spiritually poor but truly sincere, constantly implore to Him, “My God! Exquisite faith! Immaculate practice of Islam! Utter sincerity!” God Almighty will never leave them on their own, even if they have not experienced self-annihilation in God or subsistence by and with God, even those who have not reached the Absolute One by passing the subsequent levels of certainty based on knowledge, seeing, and experience.
1. Nasa’i, Al-Sunan al-Kubra, 6/147; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Al-Musnad, 13/49.
This text is the translation of “Yenilenme Ruhu ve İlâhî İnayet.”
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