What are the ways of making the essentials of Islamic ethics and morality a part of our nature and internalizing them?
Virtues such as sincerity, loyalty, faithfulness, refraining from backbiting and making negative assumptions about others are among the principles of morality that every believer has to adopt and with according to which they should lead their lives. In my opinion, this is something that everybody can agree on. However, my optimist views don't mean much. What matters is that every individual should adopt this understanding and struggle for it to be prevalent in society. Naturally, this is not something that will happen quickly. For the essentials of good moral conduct to be practiced in everyday life and for them to become a part of one's nature is a very long process.
The most important thing we should think about in this long process is our determination. For instance, take ikhlas (sincerity). Sincerity in faith is a desirable thing for anyone who observes the prayers; we pray for it day and night. However, have you ever considered how serious we are with this desire? Being a good servant to God, attaining sincerity in worship and focusing on God's good pleasure... how much do they matter for us? We seem to pray for them with our words, but what about contributing to these prayers with our acts? When we are to make a choice-whether it be about marriage, having children, sticking with or abandoning our job etc-can we comfortably say we choose the option that we think will please God? Are we able to prefer to seek His good pleasure even over the highest levels of Paradise? We can extend questions like these. If we do not prefer seeking sincerity and God's good pleasure in all of these matters, this undoubtedly means that we are being disrespectful against God, or we are "lying to God." Actually this last point is mentioned in a verse from Surah An'am (6:21) and it is considered equal to unbelief.
Please, if we do not desire sincerity in faith, attaining God's good pleasure, loyalty, or faithfulness as much as we care about marriage, having children, a car, a house, success at work and other worldly things, or if these spiritual goals do not have a place in our hearts that is as great as the latter, let us not be disrespectful against God and let us refrain from uttering that we aim to attain His good pleasure; this lofty aim is so great as never to be compared with any other worldly or otherworldly thing. Then we should never treat matters that we should scorn as having equal importance in attaining God's good pleasure. As I repeat many times over, we should care about this world and the Hereafter in accordance with their importance.
What I have stated so far constitutes one aspect of this topic. Another aspect is that we should never cease to mention these essentials of high morals in our prayers. This statement may seem to be in conflict with what we said previously. Actually, there is no conflict at all. The former remarks are aimed at presenting a new horizon and offer us a target. We will go through a natural process until we have attained that target. If there is one thing we never give up in this process toward our target it must be praying to God. Prayers give us a target, feed the conscience, elevate our hearts, let us comprehend that our power is limited, and let us feel the need to take refuge in "Someone Who has infinite power." As Said Nursi said, praying sincerely from the bottom of one's heart is a deep form of worship. Sooner or later, God Almighty accepts the prayers of those who have such a faith.
I would like to give two examples about prayers that give us targets. One day, God's Messenger saw Umama al-Bahili sitting in the mosque; the man looked shaken. When the Messenger asked why, the answer was "poverty." Then God's Messenger taught him the following prayer: "O God! I take refuge in You from worry, grief, incapacity, sloth, cowardice, miserliness, the burden of debt, and subjugation by men." We can take these expressions into consideration one by one and see how they are related to poverty and how they give us a target:
Now, if one says "I take refuge in You from worry, grief..." does such a person just idly sit and wait, does such a person let himself be dominated by things that will lead to worry and grief? On the contrary, he gets up and seeks ways to get rid of these because of the words that follow in this prayer.
"(I take refuge in You from) incapacity and sloth..." Are not incapacity and sloth sitting in a corner and saying "I am poor," and expecting from others-even if it happens to be in the Prophet's Mosque?
"I take refuge in You from cowardice, miserliness," and finally "the burden of debt and subjugation by men." As we can see, all the components of this prayer not only help the man who had taken refuge in the mosque from his poverty to find a solution to his problem, they also give him a target. What befalls a servant of God at this stage is to put into action what they have prayed for.
The second example is an event I witnessed when I was a child. Once, my father told me that whoever recited Sura Nasr two thousand times would see the Prophet in his dream.
I believed this with the heart of a child and read Sura Nasr two thousand times. I was ready to recite it even if it would take me into morning to finish it. Since my eagerness to see the Messenger of God was so great I could give up many nights' sleep. So, if somebody truly desires something, they must seek a way to realize it.
In conclusion, not only should one pray to be endowed with faculties of good morality, one should also be careful about their actions and ensure that they practice good morality. These are just two halves of a whole and prayer, in many ways, is so important that it cannot be compensated for by anything else.This article is the translation of a article in Turkish language from a series of books entitled Prizma.