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Getting to see important responsibilities as mundane tasks and the Qur’anic method of tasrif (renewal of format)

by Fethullah Gülen on . Posted in Endeavor for Renewal

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Getting to see important responsibilities as mundane tasks and the Qur’anic method of tasrif (renewal of format)

Question: Concerning the duties we are responsible for, we are sometimes taken by a feeling of carrying out a mundane task. What are your recommendations for breaking this feeling?

Answer: Even at actions and services that take start with the deepest love and enthusiasm at the beginning, people will be doomed to monotony and doing things in a spiritless fashion, if works and activities carried out are not revitalized by bringing new aspects and depths to the project. This can be done with new hues, patterns, and designs. In such a situation, even if the task you carry out is a vital one, it will seem to you as ordinary, and thus you will try to finish it quickly, in a careless fashion. For this reason, if you have a noble ideal, such as making people love God and His Messenger, then you need to continuously make variations, not let people be weary due to the same format, and not view your responsibilities as mundane activities.

Renewed enthusiasm through renewed formats

It is possible to relate our topic with the revelation and message of the Qur’an, in terms of its method of tasrif—presenting a truth in renewed formats. When you study the miraculous Qur’an from this aspect, you see that the same concept and meaning are used in different parts in different styles and formats. For instance, the parable of Moses is repeated in different parts since it is a good example to help solve different problems, to show different ways out, and to emphasize a Prophetic determination and struggle. In spite of that, no parable of Moses is a copy of another one in a different part. Every time, the same parable comes up with different statements. In terms of voicing the same truth with different words, God Almighty changes the speaker to Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, peace be upon them all. This is the meaning of tasrif, or presenting the message in varied forms.

Presenting issues in such a renewed form and voice has a refreshing effect on people. Giving your message in renewed forms will present their true depth and immensity, and also draws attention to those truths. This will evoke respect toward the matters you represent. The values in our hand are precious in themselves. Therefore, they should be presented not in a blacksmith’s but a jeweler’s shop. There are so many beautiful truths that they seem worthless in the hands of people who fail to present them as they deserve to be presented. On the other hand, so many pale truths gain a different majesty through the tongue of people who compose and present the matter very well and thus fascinate people. Sometimes, falsehood might gain acceptance through cunning rhetoric whereas truth may be deprived of the appreciation it deserves for not being presented successfully. For this reason, if the matters you are trying to tell are truthful—they definitely are—then you must evoke due respect in others toward those truths by the Qur’anic method of tasrif.

Being in recognition of the era

Another important means of avoiding exhaustion and always staying fresh is recognition and consciousness of the era. Given that believers are supposed to be “children of their time” then we need to know the requirements of our time well and follow appropriate methods. For example, if I start speaking today in the same way as I gave sermons in İzmir or Edremit some thirty or forty years ago, it would be too simple. Today’s listeners are very different than those in the past; most of the current audience knows those matters already. What needs to be done today is to take the issues with their philosophical depths and show their reasonableness.

For example, if an Islamic topic you are going to tell is related to jurisprudence, you should be able to view the issue from Shatibi’s viewpoint or discuss the issue within the frame of the ideas in Taftazani’s Talwih. If you can do that, people will find it worthwhile to listen to you. Otherwise, they may not be willing to listen to the truths you are to tell. Given that God Almighty, the Eternal Teacher, shows us a way by using tasrif in the Qur’an, then we are supposed to utilize it well.

Having pointed out the importance of grasping the meaning of being children of our time, I would like to draw attention to another point that might be misunderstood. As it is not correct to be detached from the conditions of the time one lives in, it is also not correct to attach the issue completely to the time and dismiss everything with a historical approach as a thing of the past. If I give such a sense with what I have told above, I seek refuge in God from that; the eternal truths of the Qur’an never change. However, there are open-ended points both in the Book and the authenticated Tradition of the noble Prophet that are left to conditions of the time. So the children of their time are supposed to fill those points with due scholarly judgment and deduction (ijtihad and istinbat). In addition, choosing from judgments and rulings made in different periods to suit the needs of contemporary believers is another important issue to be considered. These are the fields where time becomes an interpreter. This is the meaning of Bediüzzaman’s pithy statement: “Time is an important interpreter; it is not to be objected when it reveals its ruling.”[1]

Self-criticism and a new revival

Another means of renewing oneself is making a critical evaluation of works and activities at certain intervals. I heard that Japanese people retreat together to a place for some time each year and then discuss what they did and what they will do. They say that in those meetings, things done in the past are conceptualized once more in imaginations, re-formulated, and new targets are also determined in order to prepare for the future and to keep up spiritual vigilance. If such programs are held, even for the sake of industrial and commercial life, then the constant need for rehabilitation on an issue as crucial as spiritual guidance, which concerns people’s eternal lives, is obvious. Given that this is the case with worldly matters, doing the same for otherworldly matters needs to be seen as an absolute necessity of vital importance. For this reason, we can say that if journeyers on the path of spiritual guidance do not join a seminar to enrich their own capacity, to purify their minds, revise their past mistakes and take due precautions for the future, they keep repeating the same mistakes and cannot succeed at what they do.

This is the kind of rehabilitation we need. Because the responsibility we undertake is really serious and great. We are trying to be worthy of a trust from God and His Messenger. Let me clarify the situation with an example: The great scholar and Companion Ibn Mas’ud did not dare to report anything about the noble Prophet without displaying signs of serious concern brought by this heavy burden. He would pray to God for help and showed different signs of uneasiness due to the fear of saying something wrong. He was so afraid of saying something contradictory to the spirit of the matter because of his awareness of the gravity of his responsibility.

Sometimes, one word can destroy everything. Sometimes you see leading figures delivering great talks. But sometimes, they upset everything when they mix a raven’s cry in between the song of a nightingale. People under responsibility can never talk in a carefree fashion. A patient can express certain considerations about his or her own illness, but a disciplined physician with ethical concerns who intends to abide by the Hippocratic Oath—will and can—never make casual statements based on hearsay. Otherwise, a wrong statement can cause much more serious complications for the patient he is supposed to treat. The gravity is obvious when the issue under question is religion, which regulates your worldly life and shows you the ways for eternal bliss in the next world, which lets you gain a sound conception of Divinity and Messengership. Such an important responsibility cannot be carried on without such rehabilitation and adding to one’s previous knowledge.

Those who make mistakes most

Some may have been within a circle of ones who strive to serve humanity. However, if they did not feed the heart and mind efficiently, their level of knowledge could remain some ten years behind others who joined the circle later. The bitter fact is that, the earlier joiners do not realize this gap. For this reason, it is necessary to take a fresh start and consider, understand, and analyze matters anew. Otherwise, so many mistakes can be made without anyone being aware of them. Those who make the most mistakes are the ones who take confidence in their seniority. New ones make fewer mistakes in comparison; because as they get concentrated on what they will do with one eye, they watch the guide before them with the other. Whenever they begin to hold considerations as, “I have been included in this for years, after all, I have a certain degree of knowledge…” they should know that they are already out of the issue and are not really aware of what is happening. In order not to fall in such a situation, everybody should gather together once or twice a year, revise where they stand and reflect on the mistakes they have made. In order to not repeat the same mistakes, they need to take into consideration the precautions to be taken, and the tasks and projects to be done in the future.

[1] Nursi, Münazarat, p. 73