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The Horizons of Faith

by Fethullah Gülen on . Posted in Sufism and Metaphysics

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The Horizons of Faith

There are two sides to the love of truth; one is constituted by knowledge while the other is constituted by faith. Indeed, while on one side of the relationship is the discovery and determination of the truth, i.e., what creates the link between human knowledge and consciousness, on the other side is the attitude adopted in relation to the truth. The former is pursued by the sources of knowledge of religion and by science. The latter is determined by religion itself. Science which does not possess a love or purpose that is intent on analyzing and explaining existence and discovering the truth is blind, and the determinations of such types of scientific endeavor are not free from contradictions. It is always true that any scientific pursuit based on considerations of personal, familial, or social interests will run into some obstacles, and it is unavoidable that any knowledge attained with such a mentality, thought, or doctrine should lead to a very tortuous path. Religion, being a bountiful basin for science with its sources of knowledge, is an essential element, an important dynamic, a guide that has a clear method in matters that go beyond the horizons of knowledge; it is a guide that has a profound benevolence that does not mislead.

It is always possible to turn science into a punishing, spectral and frightening ghoul standing in the way of truth by leaving it at the disposal of a particular thought, a particular happening, or a particular doctrine, and thereby limiting its horizons; it is also possible that religion, which is a celestial truth, can be presented by some as possessing feelings of resentment, hatred, fury, and revenge. What a great contradiction that something can be twisted into appearing as its total opposite!

Now try to imagine a science—which in truth should be considered as holy as a temple—that has one way or another linked itself to a particular philosophical current, and has even become subservient to it. This means that science is now a slave to a bigoted thought; it is in no way free, and thus is so cursed as to make the greatest ignorance appear favorable in comparison. And try to imagine a religion which has been sought to be made into a vehicle for the interests of some political or non-political parties; then, the temple becomes the fortress of that party, and the prayers that take place there become some sort of political ritual. In this case there is no doubt that both religion and the holiness of religion have been sacrificed.

Indeed, if in a society some people speak of "knowledge" and then use the dwelling places of this knowledge as their own villas, as showcases for their desires, fancies, and ideologies, then these abodes for science have long ceased to be temples and have become arenas where desires, ambitions, and hatred are sharpened. Again, if in a society some people speak of "piety," and then are able to call those who do not think like them and who do not share the same political considerations "heathen," "atheist," or "infidel," then the fault lies with those who have assumed the position of representatives. They have turned religion into a phobia that alienates people from God, which blackens their hearts, and closes the doors of hope in their faces; this is an image that is in total contradiction with why religion was sent down in the first place. Just as the enmity toward religion that emanates from mouths foaming with resentment, hatred and fury and from pens which blacken the soul constitute bigotry and are gifts presented to the Devil, quoting "religion" and then raising one's fists in the air in protest of a particular view or thought is equally bigotry and ignorance; such things sadden the inhabitants of the heavens.

Whatever a person's appearance may be, to consider someone who does not know what true faith is, who does not know with what the conscience calls, who has not partaken Divine love and affection, and who does not accept things that are petty in God's consideration as being petty, or notable things as being notable, as a pious person would be to show great disrespect to the celestial and universal nature of religion. The greatest harm we can do to religion and science is to accept our fancies, aspirations and desires as reasonable thoughts, and to present these as piety. This is a deep wide cavity in every human being and the source of this emptiness is their weakness. One of the greatest weaknesses is wishing to seem better than we are, and having expectations above our capabilities. It is this weakness that needs to be cured with certain values, values which are accepted by the collective conscience as being pious and that pertain to science and religion. In other words, some people want to use religion as if it were something to fill in the cracks of their emptiness. The most powerful weapon of conscience—which is indivisible from justice—against such human weaknesses is the love of truth and the struggle toward knowledge. If there is indeed an elixir which will wipe away the corrosion from the minds of those who appear learned, and the rust from the thoughts of those who seem to be siding with religion, it is undoubtedly the love of God, and the love for all existence and the love for truth, all due to Him. When hearts are imbued with love and souls are moved into action with affection, all human emptiness and weaknesses are smothered or are transformed into an elixir of life.

The world came to know and accept the love of truth that leads people to the love of God and brings them into close encounter with existence through the prophets. From the very first day, every prophet has guided people on his way as a lord of love and has embroidered his dealings with them with adornments of love; this Divine love has melted in its basin, reaching its true value. The Holy Messiah composed a poem out of his life that was based upon love for humanity and he continued his mission, voicing this feeling in various ways. If we examine how it was expressed through Fuzuli's poetry, the Pride of Humanity said "My word is the flag bearer of the army of lovers" and thus honored the world and continued as the breath and voice of love. When this divine love reached a transcendence, its eye upon transformation, it walked toward the hereafter. When the Qur'an is read with faith and concentration, apart from being vocally and musically enchanting, it is also seen to be the voice and breath of love, the point of convergence for longing and reunion. The passion for truth, the love of knowledge, the effort for research and serious investigation, and the attempt to get close are issues that are stressed in the Qur'an often in order to attract the attention of believing hearts. They are like brilliant quarries where attentive souls discover new gems each time they visit. Each traveler in thought who pursues the Qur'an attentively will most certainly find themselves in an artery which will take them to one of those brilliant reserves, and who knows what sort of delightful scenes will greet the traveler when they arrive.

But quite curiously, its spotless purity has a shadow thrown over it and doubts are cast in wavering souls because this book, which is richer than the richest tome in content, this book, which has been created to release us from all our pain and to provide the antidote for ancient wounds, is being misrepresented by deficient souls, people whose passion and love lie in opposing ways. Their search is superficial and they are skewed in their evaluation. Their investigation is always directed at others whose feelings are eternally linked to ambition and interest, whose intellect and reason block their feelings, whose judgment yields to fancies and who dart between "showcase" and "vision" rather than concerning themselves with inner depth and content. They are partly to blame for the fact that some of those who look on this glory see it with a little less luster. In truth, though they may seem to be on a path that leads to the world beyond and on the valleys of the metaphysical, since material interest has blinded their eyes, they are unable to comprehend or reflect a world that has been shaped by the soul and meaning. Moreover, examining the worlds of others founded upon human weakness, they fall into the trap of arming themselves with the same weapons, of using the same material and, in other words, of sharing the same things with the people whom they call "the others." By so doing, they will, in a matter of days, be imitating the evil they used to reprimand in others, and will follow exactly in their footsteps. To date, no one has ever benefited from such an aimless and purposeless struggle. On the contrary, in a struggle in which all express a multitude of regrets, it is our collective personality that is defeated and it is we who are damaged.

The Qur'an descended to the Earth with a deep understanding of balance; it has balanced the relationship between individuals, families, society, and with all creation and has heralded to its followers a path that leads to universal harmony. However, we have imprisoned the Qur'an in the tight confines of our own reason; first we have limited that great vastness, localizing the universal, and then we have demeaned its love to the base of the commonplace, subjecting its brilliant face to one eclipse after another. People of high ideals, like Said ibn Jubayr,[1] Abu Hanifa,[2] Ahmad ibn Hanbal,[3] Imam Serahsi,[4] never were party to inflicting oppression, on the contrary, they did not yield one inch, always deciding in accordance with the voice of their conscience that is ever open to God. They chose the agony of dark places—may God forgive us—instead of the delight and pleasure of palaces and they found the true depths by worshiping the All-Wise and thus they chose freedom of thought and conscience.

Indeed, those who live with an aim, or die with an aim live on. When they die, their tombs live like hearts, or even like a collective conscience, for eternity. Standing opposite these lofty souls are the unfortunate ones; slaves to their personal interests and thinking of themselves as being so clever that they do not need to concern themselves with anything in this world, yet they remain slaves enchained in their own desires and fancies—thus their lives are slavery, what they leave behind is cursed, and what they attain is disaster upon disaster.

Faithful students of the Qur'an—you can call them people of ideal—are the riders of eternity, who take up others onto their saddles, carrying them to eternity. They are able to transcend their own ardor, aspirations, and passions. As students of the Qur'an ride toward the horizon, idealized according to their inner world of contemplation, they gallop over many things that others call reality, while some who have long suffered from their ideals and have even lost these ideals think them to be fools.

In truth, purpose and aim are like catapults which hurl us into the midst of the realm of souls, a metaphysical atmosphere beyond this world, surrounded by matter which blocks our way and holds us to our feelings, interest, gain, and reputation. Everyone who is placed within that catapult one way or another, if not today, then one day, will go into orbit around the sphere of God; while they are waiting they are like a satellite waiting on the launch pad. Religion, in its entirety, is a bountiful source which feeds this ideal and the Prophet is the affectionate attendant of this source, the sincere representative and commentator who provides the most comprehensible explanations that are in keeping with its celestial origins. In that respect, he is an innovator, a revealer, a revolutionary who recommends the best, the excellent and the most human interpretation for those who come after him, and the one who is open to the most distant future with the principles that he preaches. Those who cannot see the Qur'an with their own inner depth and those who do not accept the person of the Prophet as the most skilful navigator of the depths of the Qur'an are unfortunates who have drowned in their own depths—if indeed we can call this a depth. They are sometimes shaken and stopped in their tracks by the echo of their own shallowness as reflected in the Qur'an, they sometimes seek refuge in historical murmurs, voicing their own emptiness. In their interpretation and representation, religion—more precisely Islamic theology—is either a monstrosity which has been riddled with fairy tales, or a non-contemporary system which has been defeated by time and which is vainly still trying to struggle against it.

In fact, the Qur'an is a source which has an enigma so deep and a purity so vast, a source with such richness that all those who address it can see that it is beyond the horizon of the sphere of their understanding, and they can experience the security of having such a source. Then with the discovery of their own horizon of understanding, they watch like a rainbow, a triumphal arch that is always just beyond the point that the follower has reached. Piety is such a transcending interpretation of the source of light that pours into life through a chrysolite prism, molding and shaping it, that those who feel it witness an inimitable "ease of flawless expression," even though they can see their level of understanding always expressed in the Qur'an.

[1] Said ibn Jubayr (d. 721): An imam of great renown, whose father Jubair ibn Mut'im an-Naufali was a Companion acknowledged as a traditionist.
[2] Abu Hanifa (700-772): The Imam of Hanafi sect. A great Muslim jurist whose doctrines are widely accepted in the Muslim world.
[3] Ahmad ibn Hanbal (780-855): The Imam of Hanbali sect. Author of Musnad, which contains more than 30,000 traditions, Imam Hanbal acquired a high reputation from his profound knowledge of both the civil and spiritual law, and particularly for the extent of his erudition with respect to the precepts of the Prophet.
[4] Imam Serahsi (d. 1090): He expounded the jurisprudence of Abu Hanifa in his work Al-Mabsud.