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Religiousness and religious sensitivity

by Fethullah Gülen on . Posted in Endeavor for Renewal

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Religiousness and religious sensitivity

Question: Could you explain the meanings conveyed by the terms “religiousness” and “religious sensitivity”?

Answer: Religiousness has different degrees, from being reverent toward religious principles in theory, to practicing religious commandments and making religion the pervading spirit in one’s life. For example, some people know and believe in the essentials of faith and observe daily worship accordingly. On the other hand, some take faith in a rather immense sense; they follow what it commands and keep away from what it forbids with this approach. They go so far that, in addition to refraining from sin and fulfilling the obligatory commandments, they even take a stance against doubtful things, concerned about the possibility of committing something forbidden. They try to lead their lives as God-fearing believers. As for those who practice religion with a deeper consciousness, they always observe worship with a feeling of offering it to Divine inspection, and live with a full consciousness of God and His omnipresence. In this respect, there are various degrees of religiousness, stretching from the ground level to the stars in the sky. Incidentally, let me add that even with its primary level, religiousness bears a crucial value for people, and it should never be dismissed whatsoever.

As for religious sensitivity, it refers to very meticulous observation of religious principles in one’s personal life first, and then being exceedingly sensitive about the religious practices of one’s family members, close environment, and other people willing to benefit from his or her spiritual guidance. In other words, religious sensitivity means living with the fervor and enthusiasm as expressed by a saintly figure: “If only all people in the world loved the One I love; if only all of our words would be a narrative of the Beloved One” (Yahya of Taşlıca).

I wish i could kindle love of God in hearts

A believer with religious sensitivity has the following feeling and thought about others: “How I wish I could tell these brothers and sisters about God and kindle love for Him in their hearts! How I wish I could evoke a passion of togetherness with God in them! How I wish, they could feel so close to God as to supplicate every time they raise their hands, as if saying: ‘My God, I am asking from You forgiveness, goodness, Your good pleasure, Your care, Divine zephyrs, company, closeness, the ability to love You as becomes Your glory, togetherness, protection, victories with Your help, and for You to be my guardian.’”

According to his or her degree, a believer who has such sensitivity will calculate how to help others attain such horizons, not only for people in their close sphere for but all of humanity. They will figure out how to evoke such enthusiasm in everyone. His cause will be to make others love the noble Spirit of the Master of Humankind, peace and blessings be upon him, to the degree of feeling a spasm deep in their spine when his majestic name is mentioned. On the other hand, such a believer feels agonized by witnessing people stagger, fall, or lapse, and exerts himself by finding out what else he can do to keep people away from the slippery grounds that cause people to fall into misguidance. In conclusion, he leads a very sensitive life with respect to guiding society, preventing falls, and putting a stop to detachment from religion.

Sensitivity of bringing others to life

As we have described, a true believer is not content with the Prophet’s blessed name ringing out from the minarets in his own country, but takes the hadith stating that his name will reach everywhere the sun rises and sets[1] as an ideal; thus, he tries to lead his life accordingly. While pursuing his ideals, he never worries about his own pettiness and does not say, “What can a man like me do?” Knowing that God makes little things realize great works,[2] he always keeps walking with determination and dynamism, and always acts with a spirit of responsibility. He holds the understanding: “If there is a bosom full of faith somewhere, he can find a way and let all the hearts feel the inspirations of his spirit.” It needs to be known that if the horizons of one’s ideals cover an entire nation, God lets that person achieve great tasks, which would normally take an entire nation. As it happened with Prophet Abraham and the Pride of Humanity, God Almighty grants the honor of accomplishing such a lofty duty to that person as well.

All of these indicate being very sensitive in religious life, far beyond being merely religious. In other words, you can name this as a sensitivity of reviving or giving life to others. In this respect, it can be said that being religious and having religious sensitivity are different. However, these two have certain parallels. The furthest limit of religiousness can be summarized as refraining from doubtful things,[3] seeing oneself like a murderer for having missed a Prayer, and carrying out the necessity of Divine commandments in a flawless fashion with the utmost sensitivity. This also includes feeling glad with a consciousness of having received a Divine blessing after having fulfilled God’s commandments (instead of laying claim on that blessing and taking personal pride), and then having concerns as “I hope I did not adulterate this deed with sanctimonious considerations.” These points, which are considered as the furthest levels of religiousness, mark the beginning of religious sensitivity. As a consequence of that sensitivity, a believer who has a sensitivity of such immensity and depth wants to let others also experience what he feels and let them enjoy the blessings he enjoys.

Let us destroy the monuments we build to ourselves first

People of these horizons are sufferers for their cause. They continuously think about their noble ideals and suffer mental anguish. They even continue their actions while—excuse me—answering a call of nature. They generate new thoughts and note down these new thoughts coming as soon as possible, and when they cannot note them down, they then save them in the neurons of their brains to consider later. Sometimes, the concern for their cause seizes those suffering souls to make them err at their Prayer. Even though there is no such established concept in terminology, we ascribe the errors of the muqarrabin (those closest to God) to such a lofty consideration. For example, concerning the Pride of Humanity’s few minor mistakes in his Prayers,[4] we think, “God knows how the noble Spirit of the Master of Humankind, millions of peace and blessings be upon him, who is open to highest spiritual horizons, pursued such lofty goals that the Prayer remained, in a sense, secondary.” He was not even dizzied by the Ascension (Miraj), and after he attained unattainable levels, he returned back as a necessity of his mission.[5] As a matter of fact, Abdul Quddus makes the following comment about this truth: “By God, Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, attained the unattainable and saw things impossible to see. He reached such levels that a man will never consent to return from there. By God, if I reached there, I would not return!” Another saintly figure who comments on this consideration says, “Here is the difference between a saint and a Prophet.” That is, a saint continues his spiritual journeys, ascending from one stage to the next; a Prophet does not only make personal progress but, after having reached the highest peaks, he returns back to guide people and direct them to the same horizons.

We can ascribe to the same consideration Umar ibn al-Khattab’s mistake during a Prayer. After finishing the Prayer he led, the congregation told him that it was mistaken. He replied that he was transferring soldiers to the Iraqi region in his imagination.[6] As it is seen, the duty of glorifying the Name of God occupied his mind even during the gaps of Prayer. This is an indication of an amazingly sensitive concern for religion. It is not possible for a person of such religious sensitivity to be inclined toward temptations or to leave any cracks in observing the obligatory commandments.

In conclusion, a community whose members carry out worship in a casual manner with a consideration to get rid of it cannot possibly build up the statue of their souls and become heroes of revival. If we are to build a real monument to our spirit, a spectacular one that gives relief to and enchants those who see it, then we need to take an axe and destroy the monuments we built to ourselves. Then we need to build up a new monument that consists of religious commandments and whose cement is God’s good pleasure, so that it does not ever come down. Therefore, a selfish understanding as “Observe your own Prayers and fasting; do not care about the rest,” can never be acceptable, and such an understanding can never fulfill the responsibility of glorifying the Name of God.

[1] Sahih Muslim, Fitan, 19; Sunan at-Tirmidhi, Fitan, 14; Sunan Abu Dawud, Fitan, 1 (All footnotes were written by the editors.)
[2] Bediüzzaman Said Nursi, Lem’alar, p. 350, 398–399; Şualar, p. 646 [3] Sunan at-Tirmidhi, Qiyamah, 19; Sunan ibn Majah, Zuhd, 24
[4] Sahih al- Bukhari, Salah, 88; Adhan, 69; Sahw, 1; Sahih Muslim, Masajid, 97–99; Sunan an-Nasa’i, Sahw, 21
[5] Al-Isra, 17:1; Sahih al- Bukhari, Badu’l-Khalq, 6; Manakıbu’l-Ansar, 42; Sahih Mulim, Iman, 264
[6] Sahih al- Bukhari, Amal fi’s-Salah, 18; Ibn Abi Shayba, Al-Musannaf, 2/186