Question: Would you please explain the points that we need to be careful about while talking about certain spiritual guides who have a special place in our personal spiritual enlightenment, and thus whom we deeply love and respect?
Answer: As the believers strive to pour the inspirations of their soul into others’ hearts, they might sometimes have to express certain good things about the circle they are affiliated with. They must, however, definitely take into consideration the feelings of the people whose spirituality developed in a different lane. Others may tell or write about certain beauties they witnessed as becomes their understanding and style. However, a person with sound belief should never be chauvinistic or zealous and never make exaggerated statements about the people they love profoundly and respect deeply. If the points to be stated are not directly related to the spirit of religion but to secondary issues and details, and if stating them is likely to raise disagreements, then utmost sensitivity must be shown to avoiding talking about such issues.
A person may, for instance, be a very loyal follower of Sheikh Bahauddin Naqshbandi to such a degree that he or she may gladly be ready to sacrifice his or her life a thousand times for the sake of that blessed guide. However, there are different schools among the Naqshbandi order, such as the Mujaddidiyya, Khalidi, Kufrawi, and Taghi orders, and their followers might have some feeling of competing with one another (tanafus). Actually, tanafus does not mean competing with one another, but striving for more goodness with the consideration of “let me not fall behind the others on my path.” In other words, tanafus is a way of acting and competing for good, with the idea of not separating from fellow believers on the way to Paradise. But if one fails to hold this feeling in a balanced state, to maintain it, and in a way starts to abuse it, then it might give way to rivalry. Furthermore, the feeling of rivalry can turn into envy and intolerance. Such feelings are very dangerous for believers. For this reason, the believing souls should never narrow down issues to affiliation with certain groups in order to avoid provoking feelings of envy in those who walk on neighboring lanes; they should restrain their feelings for the sake of maintaining unity and concord among the wider circle of believers.
Steadfastness as the Greatest Rank
Indeed, what really matters is not following a certain person but being steadfast and true to the cause one’s guide tried to germinate by devoting his or her life to it, as people are mortal but the cause is everlasting. There is no title higher than being truthful. As revealed in a Qur’anic verse (an-Nisa 4:69), the truthful ones (who are loyal to God’s cause and truthful in whatever they do and say) come before martyrs and saintly ones. Abu Bakr, may God be pleased with him, is regarded as the greatest person after the Prophets and he was honorably referred by the Prophet as “The Truthful One.” In this respect, true wisdom is not to make exaggerated claims about the persons we love and respect by declaring them as Mahdi or Messiah, but to follow their example as much as possible on the path they walk.
Also, a person who claims to feel genuine and a great deal of attachment and love for a certain guide, but is not deeply saddened when remembering him, and does not shed tears after him, and does not open up his hands after performing one hundred cycles of Prayer at night and supplicate “O Lord, resurrect me together with him!”, and most importantly, does not sacrifice whatever he has in the path of his guide and in the name of his sublime ideals, I believe he is not sincere in making such a claim. But this is only a criterion to be followed for the people themselves while making individual self-criticism, as we should not, indeed cannot, charge anybody with being insincere.
In addition, it also needs to be known that if you set to extoll the virtues of a certain guide, you might unintentionally provoke others and raise many different oppositions against him. We can even say that your exaggerated words, attitudes, and behaviors do not only provoke anti-religionist circles but also other circles of faithful ones. When you narrow down the issue to certain individuals, you even provoke other circles trying to serve faith and cause their ruin with the sin of envy. In this respect, let me reiterate that what really matters is not the individual himself but perfect loyalty to his cause.
Exaggerated Remarks as Harmful as Betrayal
Attributing good acts and achievements solely to people seeming on the fore, and thus making exaggerated statements about them, is evident injustice and wrongdoing. If there is any success and achievement, it is a Divine bestowal for the sake of the collective spirit. Therefore, ascribing all the services carried out to the ones seeming on the fore is both a grave disrespect toward God—that might lead to associating partners with Him—and unfairness toward the efforts of other people who exert themselves for His sake.
As for seeming on the fore, we should never forget that we are brothers and sisters. Some people may have come earlier and thus have been placed in certain positions in the first ranks as a dictated Divine blessing—that is, Divine destiny may have decreed certain people to come to this world earlier; nobody can determine the time of his or her birth. Therefore, preceding others in time cannot be criterion for absolute value. The noble Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, stated that those who do not show compassion to the young and those who do not respect the elderly are not one of his followers. Accordingly, we always respect the elderly. However, this does not mean attributing titles to them that they are not eligible to bear and singing their praises near others with exaggerated statements. For example, those who learned truths of faith from the students of Bediüzzaman, such as Hulusi Yahyagil and Tahiri Mutlu, may their abode be Paradise, can view those righteous people as the qutbs, or the axes of the spiritual hierarchy. However, if they express their feelings about these people and their master chauvinistically, it will be a betrayal to the cause of those great guides.
In our time as well, there may be certain volunteers who migrated to different parts of the world and made important achievements. Even if it is based on innocent and sincere thoughts, speaking too highly of those persons under different spiritual titles will be a betrayal against the Movement of Volunteers as a whole, because this means forming new opposition groups envious of their achievements. People who are unaware of your sincerity may exceed all bounds of fairness and respond by making unbecoming claims. You cannot hold others’ tongues. However, you can willfully save your own tongue from exaggerated and chauvinistic statements. I find this issue extremely significant to the future of the Volunteers’ Movement. For this reason, I believe in the importance of constant and overall counseling on this issue. In some respects, this can be seen as one of the requisites of serving on this path.
Seeing Oneself as “Nothing within Nothing”
Additionally, when you come together with the believers who serve on other lanes, it is very important to refer to the people whom they respect by expressing their virtues and appreciating them—if you show respect, you will be shown respect. But if you give in to narrow-mindedness and only speak of love for your own way, you distance others from yourself and raise negative reactions against the circle you are affiliated with. People who cherish deep love for their own path and seek to make others love it must consider whether this can best be accomplished by emphasizing only the people from their own circle or by appreciating others and feeling respect for them.
In conclusion, even though we walk on different lanes for the sake of upholding the truth, as fellow believers we resemble bearers of a lofty treasure, each of who holds it from one side. Making a remark such as, “This person bears the heaviest side of this treasure,” is not at all sensible as it might evoke feelings of rivalry. If it really is the truth, God Almighty will already give him the greatest reward. But if we sing the praises of certain people from among us in this world, we will have both committed the sin of associating partners with God—by ascribing Divine works to certain individuals—and sabotage the spirit of concord and unity. In fact, people whose primary concern is upholding the belief in the Unity of God and fighting against the idea of associating partners with God should avoid the slightest trace of what they fight against. God Almighty is the One who brings everything to existence. In the Qur’an, He declares that it is He who created us and our actions (see as-Saffat 37:96). Therefore, the notion of “I did it! I made it!” is an anathema that Greek philosophy inflicted upon Muslims. We need to rid ourselves completely from all such things and subscribe to a thorough understanding of Divine Unity.
A person’s conception of himself or herself vis-à-vis God Almighty is an important essential for attaining Divine Unity by attributing everything to the Almighty God. As Bediüzzaman states in the conclusion of “The Twenty-Sixth Word,” you must say: “O my arrogant carnal soul. Do not be proud of your services to God’s religion. As stated in a Prophetic Tradition,1 God may strengthen this religion by means of a dissolute person. You are not pure, so regard yourself as that dissolute person.” With this example, he reveals how he sees himself as nothing and teaches a lesson on how we should view ourselves. Likewise, he addresses his carnal soul in “The Eighteenth Word”: “Do not say: ‘I am an object of Divine manifestations. One who receives and reflects Divine beauty becomes beautiful.’ That beauty has not assumed a perpetual form in you, and so you may reflect it for only a short time.” Given that such a great guide sees himself as nothing, what befalls upon us is to see ourselves as “nothing within nothing.”
1. Sahih al-Bukhari, Jihad, 182
This text is the translation of “Hamaset ve Sadakat“