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Action and Thought

by Fethullah Gülen on . Posted in The Statue of Our Souls

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The field of our struggle for the inheritors of the Earth can be summarized as "action and thought." In fact, the true path of existence in life goes through a potentially transforming action and thought which is also able to transform others. In fact every existence, from this perspective, is the product of an action and some disciplines, and its continuance also depends on that action and those disciplines.

Action is the most important and necessary component of our lives. By undertaking particular responsibilities through continuous action and thinking, by facing and bearing particular difficulties, almost in a sense, by sentencing ourselves to all these, even though it may be at the expense of many things, we always have to act, to strive. If we do not act as we are, we are dragged into the waves caused by the thrust and actions of others, and into the whirlpools of the plans and thoughts of others, and then we are forced to act on behalf of others.

Remaining aloof from action, not interfering in the things happening around us, nor being a part of the events around us and staying indifferent to them, is like letting ourselves melt away, like ice turning into water. Such a melting away, which does not preserve our own molecules and molecular shape, is surrender and submission to events and occurrences which are contrary to our selves and our essence. Those who desire to remain true to themselves should really seek their essence with all their wishes, desires, hearts, conscience, behavior, deeds, and thoughts. For, in order to exist, the whole essence of the human being should be alert. Existence and its maintenance demand from humans the action of our arms, limbs, heart, and head. If we do not now devote our hearts and heads to our future existence, others may demand them insolently in a place and at a time which does not yield any benefit to us.

Being ourselves, uniting our wishes and desires with the wishes and desires of others, and then finding a course or direction of action for ourselves within existence as a whole, flowing as ourselves within our own course within the general currents and movements in the universe, preserving our own line while being integrated with the whole of existence are the most obvious aspects of Islamic action and thought. As regards one's own world, a person who is unable to connect with or relate to the whole of existence and does not perceive a connection or relation with the universe is attached to and bound by their individual and trivial wishes and wants. Those who are closed to general and universal truths are those who cleave, alienate, and exclude themselves from existence as a whole and condemn and cast themselves into the death cell of egoism. All the carnal desires and ambitions, all the struggles around the material and corporeal and all the empty and self-delusive consolations which are sought in carnal desires, the corporeal and the material, arise undoubtedly from the complete detachment from true existence of a person and thus being left all alone. The real world of the person of action and thought and their real happiness in it are colored with the tones of universality and engraved within the frame of eternity. In this way, their world appears as one without beginning and without end; and should it have any beginning or end, it exceeds our conception and imagination. From this aspect, when we talk of a "happy person," we have in mind this sort of person. It is indeed impossible to call happiness which has a beginning and an end true happiness.

Seen from another, better angle, action is the embracing of the whole of existence with the most sincere and heartfelt deci- sions, the analysis of existence and the journeying toward eternity through the corridors of creation, and then by using the full power of the intellect and willpower, by means of the secrets and strength gained from the Infinite, placing one's own world into its true orbit and course that was preordained in its creation, disposition, and natural constitution.

As for thought, it is an inner action. Systematic and purposeful thought is enquiring into the universe we are faced with for all the secrets and enigmas in its process of creation, and finding and exploring these answers. In other words, thought is the activity of a truth-seeking consciousness which establishes a kinship between the whole of existence and humanity everywhere and in the language peculiar to each thing. It is by means of thought that the human spirit becomes intimate, inextricably interlaced, and intertwined with the universe, and thus continuously acquires greater and greater depths in itself; by breaking into pieces the narrow patterns of calculating reason or everyday understanding, it overflows and saves itself from the conjectures, delusions, and narrow confines of the mind, thus awakening to the realities, the absolute truths, which never mislead. In other words, thought is the emptying of the inner being to prepare room for metaphysical experiences in the depths of the inner being. If this is the first step of thinking, then the last step is active thinking. The underlying dynamic of our life of action and thought is our spiritual life; it is not possible for us to separate our spiritual life from our religious thoughts. Our struggle for existence was carried out by relying on the Islamic spirit and essence. Just as any seed sprouts when it is dropped into the soil and any bud blossoms when it is exposed to sunlight, so too did we come to be with the profundities and qualities in our essence when we turned to and embraced Islam. This turning to and reaching for our essence caused the skills and the potential in our nature to develop, and secured our existence and continuance for centuries. Again, just as our partaking of the level of heart and soul within the inner world was achieved by worship, remembrance, and thinking, so embracing the whole creation, feeling Him in our pulse, and sensing Him in all the faculties of the mind are again dependent on the consciousness of worship and our endeavor in reflection and remembrance. Indeed, every act of a true believer is an act of worship; their every thought is an act of self-discipline, of self-control, of self-supervision; their every speech is a prayer, supplication, and episode of spiritual knowledge; their every observation of existence is a close study and investigation; and their relationships with others are divine compassion. To reach such a degree of spirituality or saintliness is dependent on being open to perception, logic, and reasoning, and thence to thoughts and inspiration from the Divine. In other words, it is very difficult for a person to reach this peak, to acquire such a state, unless experience has been sieved by the filter of reason, reason has surrendered to the greatest intellect and foresight of the prophets, logic has turned completely into love, and love has evolved into love of God. If these have been accomplished, then as a result science turns out to be a dimension of religion and becomes religion's servant; intellect turns out to be a ray of light which reaches everywhere with the hand of inspiration; knowledge gained through experience turns out to be a prism reflecting the spirit of existence; and everything resounds with the song of spiritual knowledge, love and affection, and spiritual joy. Although certain sections of our society share the same feelings and thoughts and the same or almost the same spiritual mood, despite so much common ground, they are unable to act as positively as may be expected. If they sometimes err, go astray and fall repeatedly into opposition, the reasons for their conduct should be sought in the fact that that they are not or have not been able to become believers in the true sense. For no matter what conditions, pressures, or negative influences a true believer may be prone or subjected to, their behavior must always be colored in faith and their actions well-considered and thoughtful.

Therefore, the inheritors of the Earth who plan to build the world of the future should be aware of what kind of world they would like to build and of what kind of jewels they should use in its construction, so that they will not feel obliged later to destroy with their own hands what they have built with the same hands. Our essentials and spiritual roots are certain and obvious. The architects of the light of the future, by using their power of thought along with their dynamism of action, by benefiting fully from the flexibility, vastness, and universality of the historical dynamics on which they will base our religious and national life, and of course by preserving observance of the Qur'an, Sunna and the authentic judgments derived from the Qur'an and Sunna by the early Islamic scholars, will once more try to receive the voice of Islam, to catch its line of thought, to read its pulse, and to listen to its heart, according to the comprehension, manner, and understanding of the age lest they experience the inactivity of the intermediary world after death (barzakh) on the way to resurrection.

This, first of all, depends on distancing oneself from all the drives and pressures of the carnal, and on being open to and sailing forth to spirituality, and on knowing and accepting this world as the waiting room for the beyond. In other words, this could be realized by enhancing the quantity of our religious practice and worship with quality; remedying that deficiency which is due to the mere mechanical counting of devotions in our remembrance and recitations with the depth and sincerity of our intention; and praying and supplicating with the awareness, caution, and reverence of addressing and petitioning the Being Who is closer to us than we are to ourselves. These are all under- stood and accomplished by those who pray and experience prayer as if they were walking toward the Mi'raj[18]; by those who experience fasting as if they were withdrawing into seclusion in Divine secrets; by those who give alms with the attitude of a trustee relieved of his charge, saying "Oh, I am relieved, freed from the burden of safeguarding these"; and by those who experience the pilgrimage as attendance at an international congress at which the issues and problems related to the Islamic world will be discussed, in a place where both the heart and soul can observe the luminosity, splendor, awe, and majesty of the beyond, of the higher realms of existence.

The sighting and achievement of all the above-mentioned noble aims depend on there being spiritual physicians who can diagnose and treat our inner and outer ailments and on there being guides who are always in constant contact with the beyond and never mislead, guides whose world of thought stretches from the material to the immaterial, from physics to metaphysics, from philosophy to Sufism. Such people were, and have always been, behind all the periods of prosperity in the past, and such will also represent the next movements of reconstruction and revival. This representation will be achieved by developing new judicial doctrines, based on the Qur'an and the Sunna, in the light of the latest events, developments, and future happenings; by adorning their own views with the new perspectives and understandings of world affairs; by clarifying and improving their national spirit and consciousness with the perspective of Islam; by developing the freshest interpretations of art, attached to the sense of contemplative abstraction and congruous with the universality of Islam; and by re-molding our own culture, which combines the world and religion, and which has survived and endured for some thousand years.

Such representation, with this range, will advance our life of science, knowledge, philosophy, art, and religion ahead of other nations of the world in the coming years. It will direct all aspects of life and will make all our children, whether they have received schooling or not, and who are idle, aimless, and on the street, turn into people of ideas, skill, knowledge, and craftsmanship. As a result, all the streets will have the air of schoolrooms, the prisons will turn into centers of education and enlightenment, and homes will be transformed into corners of Paradise and emit the air of Paradise. The sciences and knowledge will walk hand in hand with religion everywhere; belief and reason, intertwined in close embrace, will yield and spread their fruit everywhere; the future, within the bosom of hope, aspiration, and resolution, will sprout and flourish, more colorfully, elegantly, and richly than in the utopias; all the media—radio, television, newspapers, journals—will shower enlightenment, abundance, and light all around; and every heart, except the fossilized, will walk around tasting and enjoying kawthar[19] in this heavenly spring.

This new genesis will be born of our own historical values, civilizations, culture, and romanticism. It will arise, on the one hand, from the mood and state of suffering, ill-treatment, injustice, condemnation, and oppression we have endured over the ages, and on the other, from the enthusiasms of our hearts, which are satisfied, saturated with faith, and which are always spiritually alert and ready to exert themselves.

To fulfill such a vital mission depends firstly on the power which will move the decayed spirits in this decayed ground. The levers pushed up and down over the last fifty years to set this process in motion seem to have begun to shift. In the words of the Turkish poet M. Akif Ersoy, we can say, "Strike with your pickaxe. Most is gone, little is left." The first action is the action of the soul, and it is now like the softness of serenity (sakina[20]); like the warmth and gentleness of a promising spring cloud, and like the arc of a rainbow over our heads, it greets us wherever we go. We believe it will not be long before that action of the soul will embrace warmly the land of the oppressed, ill-treated, and wrongly-condemned, and shower its mercy, compassion, and blessings on them.

Today might, to a large extent, has almost completely dissolved into the pattern of truth, and has surrendered to it. Of course, there is reason or justification for the existence of might, and many matters are almost impossible to resolve without it. Yet there is no doubt that might which deviates from truth and even opposes it is harmful; we can accept might which unites and coheres with truth as being the truth. Courage which arises from the integration of might with truth is not unjust, cruel, or tyrannical, but rather is the protector of the oppressed, the wronged, and the ill-treated, and it is the tongue which speaks for truth. What is important after this is its representation by the people of action and thought. In the following section, we shall present some of our people of action.

[18] Miraj: Prophet Muhammad's ascension, or night journey, to the Heavens.
[19] Kawthar: Paradisiacal water, beverage; abundance.
[20] Sakina: peace, serenity, calmness, tranquillity. The angels and spiritual beings through whom such a state descends are also called so.