Question: In his works Seeds of Truth and Sünuhat (Occurrences to the Heart), Bediüzzaman states that what causes most common people to follow guidance is the holiness of the source rather than bringing substantial proofs. Could you elucidate on this statement?
Answer: The phrase “most common people” in this context refers to those who are not very knowledgeable in Islamic disciplines, who lead their religious life by imitation, and who do not have sound insight into the spirit of religion. Such people in general do not/cannot know reasonable, logical, and philosophical proofs, and making scholarly deductions appears too difficult for them. In the same way, they also have difficulty at understanding the data provided by positive sciences. It therefore may not be very productive to address them by using reasoning and philosophical deductions. If you say instead, “The Qur’an absolutely gives such at decree at this issue,” or “the noble Prophet said the following at this issue,” it will leave a far more substantial and effective impression on them. In their view, and in reality of course, the Qur’an and Sunnah are two very sound and holy sources to be trusted and followed.
Thus, while discussing some truths to common people, it is necessary to give priority to Qur’anic verses, together with the words and practices of the Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, rather than to analyses of jurisprudence and explanation of general rules. Using words that relate the relevant issue to the life of God’s Messenger himself—“The Master of the Prophets behaved this way, sat that way, ate and drank this way… ,” etc.—will have a much more convincing and guiding effect on the people addressed.
As understood from the explanations so far, when we talk about ma’haz or essential sources of religion, what should first come to mind are the Qur’an and Sunnah. Additionally, some great personages led their lives precisely oriented to the Qur’an and Sunnah, gaining people’s love and trust and, in a way, they became relative sources in this respect.
The Upright Stance of Righteous Scholars
It is stated that Imam Abu Hanifa, may God have abundant mercy on him, had thousands of students. Although some of them such as Imam Abu Yusuf, Imam Muhammad, and Imam Zufar had studied with scholars before him, there were many others who joined that circle and listened to him from a corner, even if they did not understand his words completely. It is very difficult for most common people to understand deep scholarly issues, their details, the principles of Islamic jurisprudence that pertain to them, and the systematic of scholarly deductions. However, that blessed Imam turned to God in such a way, had loyalty to the noble Prophet and stood upright on the path of religion in such a way, that his very stance effected a more powerful impact in the hearts of those people than a thousand proofs.
Scholars like Imam Shafi, Imam Malik, and Ahmad ibn Hanbal never made concessions from their upright stance on the righteous path, retaining this state until the end of their lives. Imam Shafi was brought to Baghdad in shackles on the orders of Muslim rulers and was subjected to interrogation there. When those around him witnessed his immensity, they stopped tormenting him and began to show him respect. In the same way, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal was thrown into prison, whipped, and tortured, but he did not change his stance at all. If you view the stance of Imam Ghazzali who lived in a later period, you see that he never lost his straightforward course, always stood upright, and expressed the Divine teachings to his audience with a consideration of revivalism. Ordinary people, therefore, viewed the upright stance of righteous scholars and took them as guides to follow.
An Utterly Upright Stance at Calling to Truth
Bediüzzaman, as well, tried to be the voice of the era, to rebuild faith with reasonable, logical, and scholarly arguments against some deviances brought by materialist science and philosophy. He tried to present Islam to people anew in a form that minds, souls, and feelings would welcome. If you can enter the world of the thoughts he presented, you can reach plentiful ores in their depths. In addition, when you consider his letters published under the title of “Supplements” (Lahikalar), you see that he set very important principles and guidelines that will prevent those who wish to serve faith and the Qur’an from being misled or confused. It is still possible to say that even had there not been any of the dizzying works that he wrote, his upright stance alone during his life of more than eighty years would suffice. Like the letter alif, his perfectly upright stance pointed to truths that would take volumes to express.
So we can say that common believers all along have put their trust in the words and attitudes of people of such horizons, those totally oriented to God, rather than reasonable deductions and logical comparisons, and take their place behind them. They view the standpoint of such people as the point that should be stood on and the direction that these righteous people turn as the direction to turn toward.
Resurrection in the Horizons of the Heart and Spirit
In the movements of revival that emerged in different times (rather than those who used their reason and logic by neglecting their horizons of the heart and spirit and who tried to address others with theoretical knowledge in spite of their lack in practical observances), the people who dealt with their inner world, who engaged in serious self-supervision, who lived in accordance with the horizons of their own spirit, and who led their lives as oriented to the heart and spirit realized a revival in their society. Such heroes of the spirit and the heart have been behind the resurrections and movements of revival that have taken place. It is possible to exemplify these heroes with resurrecting breaths with personages from different schools of spirituality such as Bediüzzaman, Mawlana Khalid al-Baghdadi, Muhammed Lütfi Effendi, his brother Vehbi Effendi, the respected İhramcızade, and his disciple Hulusi Effendi. In the atmosphere they formed around themselves, these great guides, who unconditionally dedicated themselves to the path of God without thinking at all about the attainments in the end, edified personages much greater than a thousand people you would educate in your schools.
These remarks should not be taken as implying a completely negative stance toward science and scientific facts or suggesting that they are not good for anything. Surely sciences, means of attaining sciences, and scientific truths are very important dynamics in terms of Muslims’ revival. The point we tried to make here, however, is the fact that the holiness of the source has a very significant impact because there is sincerity, closeness to God, connection and relation with Him, the very factors that affect a profound impact on the people addressed.
This text is the translation of “İrşad Ruhu ve Hakperestçe Duruş.”
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