Steering securely

by Fethullah Gülen on . Posted in Endeavor for Renewal

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Steering securely

Question: What do you mean by the phrase “route safety”? What are the essentials of steering securely in terms of both individual volunteers and their collective group?

Answer: The word güzergah I use in that expression is a word of Persian origin that means “road” or “highway,” but it refers to a main road that takes one to the targeted destination. These targets can differ as worldly or otherworldly. However, as worldly targets cannot be real purposes for sincere believers, they make even worldly purposes gain otherworldly meanings.

Good pleasure of God is the sole target

When a man with sincere belief takes responsibility as a village administrator, his purpose is not, and should not be, solely gaining an advantageous worldly position. On the contrary, he strives for the village people’s happiness in both worlds for the sake of making God pleased. He works night and day for the building of schools, mosques, libraries and the like; he guides people toward noble ideals and benefiting the whole of humanity, beginning with their own nation. Otherwise, what can worldly positions and titles mean for a true believer? In terms of its material aspect, the entire world is not worth a fly’s wing. The Messenger of God stated that if the world bore the value of a fly’s wing in God’s sight, He would not let an unbeliever take a sip of water from it.[1] However, the world bears great importance with respect to its being a road that leads to the Divine Names, the Hereafter, Paradise, the Beauty of God, and gaining the good pleasure of God.[2] In this respect, a sincere believer takes the good pleasure of God as the intended—and the greatest possible—target in all of one’s actions and efforts. What follows next is introducing the Pride of Humanity—a means like a target in itself—to humanity and making people love his teachings, but even these two are means for gaining the good pleasure of God. Although they are important means we cannot do without, what really matters is God’s good pleasure; all efforts made toward this end can be regarded as having reached their target. So güzergah is such a road that takes one to such a lofty target. In order to keep steering on that road without being taken by obstacles, one needs to adopt a holistic perspective from the beginning to the end, and envision dangers and risks beforehand. Thus that person ensures safe travel on his lane and does not give way to any traffic jam.

The problem that began with Satan

If a person realizes splendid acts of goodness and works wonders for the good of humanity, then he should be a more careful person. It is necessary to take into consideration that there will always be some who will not stomach the situation and fume viciously like magmas. Even people who run together for the same cause may not be able to stomach the other one but enviously think, “Why is it him, not me!” They might be influenced by the goading of Satan, act with feelings of rivalry, and see themselves more eligible for works to be appreciated. Actually, the first example of jealousy began with Satan, who showed his grudge, hatred, envy, and inability to stomach Adam. As Goethe also puts it, the Mephisto-Faust game is not over. It is the Devil on one side and humanity on the other. There are even human devils who completely surrendered to jinn devils. The Qur’an mentions “devils of humankind and the jinn” (al-An’am 6:112). This refers to people who completely act by the guidance of jinn devils and lead their lives accordingly.

Now if so many evil eyes, from the severest to the lightest, are on a person steering in pursuit of good acts, then what befalls on such a person is the need to check their course time and again. In other words, in order not to cause anything wrong to happen, they need to envision possible incidents. By taking care of how they proceed, they need to secure the good works they do or will do. So this means steering securely on the road.

The greatest trust

The Messenger of God stated that his name would reach everywhere the sun rises and sets.[3] Then it brings an important responsibility to sound believers. In comparison to such a responsibility, even an event like the conquest of Istanbul—heralded by the noble Prophet as definite to happen and celebrated annually with pompous ceremonies—will be a drop in the ocean. If bearers of such a trust act without caring to steer securely, it might mean betraying the trust. If they take it from a perspective of personal benefit and say, “Let me not suffer any damage and let me save the day,” they will have upset the trust unawares, in spite of the seeming safety of their course. Sometimes you thunder against injustice as an outcome of your faith. Your thundering can be sincere and spontaneous. But if the works you are trying to do make noise and raise ill will, this also means harming the trust unawares. The Messenger of God stated that “Fitna (discord and ill will) is asleep. May God’s curse be upon who wakes it.”[4] For this reason, when the service of faith is harmed in certain respects, we need to make be self-critical, wonder what kind of a mistake we made and whether we led others to groundless apprehensions with our behavior. For this reason, the dedicated volunteers in our time must represent Islam in the best way, like the Companions of the noble Prophet, and show the perfect beauty of the truth in their hands.

They must open up their hearts to the world and conquer others’ hearts. Otherwise, claiming one’s rights through violent means leads one to badness while seeking to do goodness. In spite of being treated so harshly in Mecca, the Messenger of God did not hit anybody even with the tip of his finger. Easier said than done: from the age of forty to fifty-three he spent a thirteen-year life of severe persecution in Mecca but put up with all of their torments. Nobody can say that he made the slightest harm to anyone; he would not hurt a fly. From the closest to the most distant person, he always inspired trust in all around him and never provoked anyone.

A responsibility to the degree of obligation

When all of the above mentioned points are taken into consideration—though Islamic scholars of jurisprudence in our time may object—I see maintaining safe steering as a real obligation (fard al-ayn). That is, making the trust reach where it should securely is an important duty; if you do not reckon everything meticulously, consider every possible danger you can meet on the way, and do not make out the meaning on the looks turned toward you, then you will have failed to fulfill the responsibility of the trust. This is the degree of sensitivity it takes. This issue has no tolerance at all for populism, expressing oneself, or holding worldly expectations.

As the great spiritual master Bediüzzaman said “Said does not exist, nor does he have any power or authority. What speaks is only the truth, truths of faith.”[5] In the same way, everybody should say, “I do not exist and neither does my personality. If my existence, considerations, worldview, and claims of selfhood are to do a grain’s worth of damage to this cause, then let God take my soul.

But if I will serve faith in the least and realize that noble ideal, then let my Lord allow me to survive long enough to carry out that little amount of service. One must be fair enough to say that. A devoted soul should completely hold this consideration and act with utmost modesty, humbleness, and humility by nullifying the ego. It is a reality that a person who keeps banging the drum for oneself and sounding out the same note as “Me! Me!” who always wishes to be the center of attention, and who tries to emphasize his or her personal worldview and philosophy of life can realize nothing good. Even though such people start quickly, it is inevitable for their efforts to end up in failure. For this reason, not only for a temporary period but from beginning to end, it is essential to be self-critical. Since making a mistake in this respect will mean betraying the trust, we will feel regret and embarrassment in both worlds.

Before completing my compulsory military service, I served as an imam at a very young age, although I was far beyond being eligible for such a duty. Afterwards, God Almighty enabled me to work as a preacher. In retrospect, I see the mistakes I made once or twice a week, though not every day. I say to myself “Shame on you! People came near the pulpit, sat there and listened to you. Why did you not use empathy and take those people’s feelings into consideration? Why didn’t you seek ways of reaching into souls through the way of people like Rumi? Why did you slam your words on heads with your rough style? Even though your word choice was not so, you made people feel so with the emphases you made…” This is how I criticize the past. I really blame myself so much, you cannot know. God will call me to account about all of those days. He might say, “I enabled you to give sermons in the mosque. People sat around the pulpit and I directed their hearts to you. Why did you not conquer their hearts? Why did you not make them love Islam? Why did not you make them crazy for God Almighty and the noble Prophet?” This has been a personal example, but every believer who bears the responsibility of reflecting the beauty of his or her faith must act very sensitively with respect to the responsibility and trust they bear. The Pride of Humanity states that saying “I wish,” in the sense of criticizing Divine destiny is a disaster.[6] Such phrases of “I wish” are useless utterances a failure will resort to. In this respect, “I wish…” is an unbecoming expression forbidden to believers. There is another type of “I wish…” that deserves praise and these two should not be confused. For example, our master Abu Bakr expressed his wish that when he assigned Khalid ibn al-Walid for a certain duty, he should have assigned Umar ibn al-Khattab for another, so that he would have settled two different problems.[7] Some of the Companions made statements like “I wish I had asked such and such thing to the Messenger of God.”[8] Such phrases of “I wish…” indicate that the speaker is a person who seeks to do the best. They reflect the speaker’s good intention and God rewards them for that. The condemnable form of “I wish” is the one uttered as an arrogant reaction to cover up one’s mistakes. These are words uttered by Satan’s goading while referring to the wrongs Satan caused that person to commit.

In this respect, we need to watch our step today in order not to double the weight of our sins by saying “I wish…” tomorrow. Taking every step with the Name of God, sensibility, and prudence, we should start and do everything for the sake of God, and act with the consideration that the destination we target is His good pleasure.

[1] Sunan at-Tirmidhi, Zuhd, 13; Sunan ibn Majah, Zuhd, 3
[2] Nursi, The Words, p. 366
[3] Sahih Muslim, Fitan, 19; Sunan at-Tirmidhi, Fitan, 14; Sunan Abu Dawud, Fitan, 1
[4] As-Sarahsi, Al-Mabsut, 10/124; Al-Ajluni, Kashfu’l-Khafa, 2/108
[5] Nursi, Emirdağ Lâhikası-2, p. 72 (Konuşan Yalnız Hakikattir)
[6] Sahih Muslim, Qadar, 34; Sunan ibn Majah, Muqaddima, 10
[7] At-Tabarani, Al-Mu’jamu’l-Kabir, 1/62; Abu Ubayd Qasim ibn Sallam, Al-Amwal, p. 175; Az-Zahabi, Tarikhu’l-Islam, 3/118
[8] Abu Ya’la, Al-Musnad, 1/20–22; At-Tabarani, Al-Mu’jamu’l-Kabir, 1/62; Al-Hakim, Al-Mustadrak, 4/381