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System blindness and the lifespan of a society

by Fethullah Gülen on . Posted in The Broken Jug

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Fethullah Gülen: System blindness and the lifespan of a society

Question: While serving on the path of God, the tasks we are responsible forcan become ordinary and monotonous to some of us. Is this a consequence of system blindness? What can be done to prevent us succumbing to such blindness?

Answer: People gathered around such a lofty ideal as making the face of humanity smile and letting the breezes of happiness blow worldwide have so far seriously endeavored in order to realize this ideal. So it seems that God Almighty has rendered their endeavor fruitful, let theirefforts yield athousand fold fruits, favored them with showers of blessings, and made them successful on their chosen path. For these achievements, which are butthe results of Divine favor, to continue, the sincerity of purpose and commitment to the core ideal of this issue must remain. May God protect us, if we ignore the showers of blessings pouring down on us abundantly, lay personal claim to the achievements we are blessed with, orlet the means replace the purpose; for then we will also fall like all previous societies did. Actually, when the underlying reasons for the losses experienced in different periods by Muslim societies are thoroughly investigated, such deviations of thought will turn out to be the cause.

Recognizing the divine help in achievements

To elucidate further, the volunteers that migrate to the four corners of the world are favored with great blessings that outweighthe efforts they make. No people are risking their lives like the army commanders in Muta or combatting with an enemy like the heroes at Yarmuk did. The volunteers are welcome in every land they go to, and receive appreciation for the services they fulfill. Nobody is suffering for the good of humanity to the degree of forgetting their way home, theirspouse’s face, or their children’s names. However, the endeavors they make in the places they go are becoming a means for good works with worldwide benefit. So, failing to recognizethe Divine support, guardianshipand protection behind all of these beautiful services, laying personal claim to them or thinking that what has come about as a result of Divine grace and favors will always continue, even without keeping up our spiritual state, is a serious kind of blindness.

Acknowledging the blessings in the face of achievements

All of the factors, such as:havingdifferent achievements, rising to an esteemed position, becoming institutionalized, or establishing a well-built system, might cause a person to becomeblind to the truth. In addition, people affectedby such blindness might then fail a Divine test or fall for a Divine stratagem by laying personal claim to the graces granted by God. Thus, instead of acknowledging blessings in the face of success and turning to God with thankful praise, they might be overcomeby pride and conceit. All of these are factors which willbring about a person’s fall.

As stated by sociologists and social historians as well, after enjoyingcertain achievements, almost every people and society experienced, todifferent degrees, a period of blindness as a result of thedizziness of victory. This situation caused societies to disintegrate, and consequently brought about their end. Gaining insight into the fall of Rome, the Byzantines, the Seljuks, and the Ottomans will reveal that all of them actually shared the same destiny in this sense. It is possible to say that some countries that have cometo the fore in the balance of powers in our time have entered such a process. After making a healthy analysis, it is possible to say that the countries that took certain parts of the world undertheir dominance and achieved certain things have developed system blindness and their disintegration has begun.

Lofty purposes and relevant duties

In order to save a society from such blindness and increase its lifespan, it is necessary to constantly focusitonhigher targets and give peoplerelevant duties to busy them with good works. With their functioning mind, open spirit and a conscience that embraces the entire universe, they must constantly be engaged in an activity and never lose their metaphysical vigilance. If you do not direct people to high ideals and then occupy them with certain tasks for the sake of realizing these ideals, the devil will findwork for their idle hands to do.

Renewal of format

On the other hand, it is necessary to take into consideration different cultural environments in the world and make favorable use of common points and correctly determine the common ground. Afterwards, it is necessary to renew the good works you are occupied with and find some new ways and methods according to conjuncture so that you do not develop blindness. Otherwise, it is inevitable that you will become dull, lose your purpose, and rot.

Closing the door on worldliness

In particular, the people who are at the forefront with the most responsibilities must close their doors to self-indulgence and worldliness. When worldliness beckons temptingly they must answer, “Do not waste your energy in vain, the door is bolted shut!” Let alone worldly expectations, they should not even cherish otherworldly expectations in return for the services they fulfill. Their philosophy of life should be in line with Bediüzzaman (who said): “Neither do I have a passion for Paradise, nor a fear of Hell. Given that I see the faith of my people is saved, I accede to burning in the flames of Hell; for while my body is burning, my heart will be a rose garden. ”[1]

Orbit of the heart and mind

Those who ascribe issues to themselves will experience—tomorrow if not today, or the day after that—a “fatigue of excitement” and die in spirit. As for self-effacing people however, they will have proven the existence of God in a way and taken refuge in His power and strength. Since such people rely on theInfinite Source of power and strength, they pass mountains and rivers, but never experience fatigue ofspirit and lose nothing from their power or strength.

In this respect, people atthe forefront of society must constantly keep alertso that they can enliven those around them. People who do not act in the orbit of the heart and spirit cannot serve as a means for others’ revival. Those who have lost their liveliness and enthusiasm, who are spiritually decayed, areno good to themselves, let alone able to kindle vitality, love or excitement in others. In particular, those who give in to fear, comfort, self-indulgence and home-addiction, orwho take advantage of their position in order to allocate a personal share from what belongs to the people, definitely cannot breathe life into others.

During the Era of Bliss and the time of the Rightly Guided caliphs, people constantly busied themselves with struggling in both senses, against their carnal self and against their enemies. Thus, they always kept up their vitality and realized very important triumphs. They had no worldly possessions and lived incrude houses made of stones and clay. However, those peopleof great standing, who had begun soaring to the immensity of horizons, served as a means for the advent of brilliant civilizations in the world. In this regard, the only way to prevent blindness frombeing the result of the system and success is attaining this lively state as represented by the Companions, as well as edifying individuals to live for noble ideals.

Making societies live longer

The factors mentioned so far may not suffice to prevent the death of a society completely, since death is inevitable for societies, as it is for people. I remember that once upon a time a person of high status asked doctors a bit reproachfully: “Cannot you find a cure for death?” However, there is no possible cure for death. As a matter of fact, God Almighty, may His glory be exalted, created life and death together. Death cannot be killed off in this world.

As was stated by the noble Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, when people take their places in Paradise and Hell, death will be embodied in the form of a ram, which will be slaughtered. Then it will be announced that non-existence has been rendered non-existent. Both the residents of Paradise and Hell will hear that they will stay there forever. [2] As a matter of fact, the Divine Names meaning “The One Who Revives” (Al-Muhyi) and “The One Causing to Die” (Al-Mumit) are mentioned alongside this in the Qur’an and the noble Prophet’s sayings; this fact also alludes to this truth. [3] Namely, as God is the One Who creates life, it is also Him Who creates death. As it is stated in the Qur’an: “He Who has created death and life, so that He may try you (and demonstrate to yourselves) which of you is better in deeds; and He is the All-Glorious with irresistible might (Whose will none can frustrate), the All-Forgiving (Who forgives many of His servants’ sins so that they learn from being tested) (al-Mulk 67:2).

In this respect, death is inevitable for everybody in the world. However, by being careful about the points mentioned above, it is possible to delay a seemingly inevitable fall or collapse for a society and lengthen itslife span. This is exactly what happened with the Ottoman example. Although its lifespan included peaks, paralysis and periods of intensive care, it lasted longer than any other state. Even while paralyzed, itplayed an important role in the balance of powers.

[1] Nursi, Bediüzzaman Said, Tarihçe-i Hayat (Tahliller), p. 616.
[2] Sahih al-Bukhari, Tafsir Surah (19), 1; Sunan at-Tirmidhi, Sifat al-Jannah, 20; Darimi, Raqaiq, 90.
[3] Ar-Rum 30:50; Sunan at-Tirmidhi, Da’awat, 82; Sunan ibn Majah, Dua, 10.

This article has originally been published in Turkish on 04/04/2016.