Do not, then, be faint of heart, nor grieve, for you are always the superior side, if you are (true) believers. (Qur’an, 3:139)
The situation before our eyes is as horrific as it could be, but with faith, hope, and turning to God it is not impossible to rise above it. Walking towards the sun, a person’s shadow falls behind them, but if one turns one’s back to the sun, one will look only into the darkness of one’s own shadow. Our eyes should always observe the infinite source of light. In the words of Akif the poet, it is necessary to “rely on God, hold tight to our efforts, and submit to wisdom.” Although we are currently in a string of uninterrupted crises, whenever we have been aware of the causes and confronted them with faith, hope, and determination, we have almost always triumphed over such periods. At other times, once these crises have been stirred up with groundless fears and delirium or abused for political means, problems appeared inflated to a size larger than they really are, and their psychological damage has yielded no way out.
Today, another cycle of historical events is recurring. There are disasters all over, society is shaken by misfortunes of all kinds-earthquakes, floods, fires, road deaths; tyranny, oppression, conspiracies, murders, subjugation of conscience. In the face of all this misery and abuse, on the one hand there are people devoid of willpower, who are mute, senseless, revealing no sign of restlessness in these troubles; while on the other hand we have deceitful tyrants who act cruelly and shed crocodile tears in an effort to incriminate the oppressed; there are unbalanced masses incessantly rising in rage for various reasons; exclusive circles pushing these masses further into violence and fury: despots, people impervious to sympathy, incapable executives, and provocateurs; we see bandits for whom fraud is smart and robbery is virtuous, opportunists who cooperate with the bandits, victims of a sinful life deprived of any morality taking refuge in legal immunities; we see the sons of Yazid and Shimr1 who exploit to the bottom their self-proclaimed birthright immunities claiming “right belongs to the powerful”; we witness corrupt individuals, extortionists, robbers, arms traffickers, drug networks and all kinds of narcotics; and there are so many other accursed organizations yet to be given a name.
The season of fall has hit every town, humane values are trodden underfoot everywhere; respect for humankind and universal values is nowhere to be seen. Only a handful of people behave respectfully, but in fact they are after a reward in return. The masses with all their sub-groups are of no more value than mobs, mobs which are so pathetic that even seeing them in this way is heartbreaking. Promises of jobs and food are frequently heard during election campaigns. Not having yet found any truth in them, no one takes such promises seriously any more. Search for knowledge (‘ilm) is in a deplorable situation... knowledge of God (marifa) is in a far away land behind Mount Qaf; art is in the service of ideologies; most learning centers have surrendered to imitation; love for truth, passion for knowledge, motivation for research all go without praise; unrewarded efforts to learn are perhaps nothing more than hobbies. There is no single sign of life in those key institutions to which the fate of our present day and tomorrow are entrusted. According to the propaganda, we are powerful enough to challenge multiple worlds; but in reality our power is not enough even to govern a town. We are way below universal standards in terms of moral values, sense of responsibility, observing human rights, and upholding justice. Most of us do not possess any sense of shame, good manners, or respect for others’ rights or thoughts. Fear of God and a sense of virtue have long been consigned to oblivion, and we are now trying to rid ourselves of that “disturbing” sense of shame before our fellow humans. Our faces tell what a heartless, spiritless mob we have become; we have long forgotten mercy, compassion, and respect. The number of those who consider religion and religious life as prehistoric and tattered is not small. Religious sentiments are destroyed, religious life is defeated. Insolence is abundant, and morality has collapsed. Betrayal permeates everywhere and cries of agony are in every home. Apathy and dullness govern spirits from which human sentiments have been eroded. “Am I supposed to save the world all by myself?” is the excuse uttered by many. Hearts enslaved to fervor and imbalance; some are restless chanting, “Today is the day, the time is ripe.” God knows the number of those who are committed to becoming rich the easiest way or to grabbing a higher position. In the face of all this, those minds that can still just about perceive and think have to endure brute force; those who serve the society are doomed to be trampled on. Sincere hearts face wicked traps at every turn. For now, those who keep quiet are untouched. We will wait and see what will ensue tomorrow or the day after.
A marginal but audacious group, which always stands against belief, Islam, and humane values, shows atrocious impertinence towards free thought, true democracy, and human rights with the same degree of loathing they have for religion and belief in God. This group declares war the very moment they encounter a thought or an idea that they do not endorse; they defame all those who think differently, harm their good reputation, and they go so far as to silence all those opposing views they cannot otherwise defeat by terminating them with counter-guerilla operations. From among such people are there some unprincipled types who by no means have no true allegiance to their self-proclaimed philosophy or “uprightness in spirit.” They can consider a lie tomorrow something they call true today; or they could condemn tomorrow someone they praise to the skies today. These two-faced abominations have two features that never change: they swing from one camp to another constantly and they enjoy being as venomous as snakes. Do not even ask about their blasphemous fundamentalism! They do not acknowledge God Almighty or any of His Messengers; they are blind in their hearts, they cannot see; they are deaf, they cannot hear. They have no connection whatsoever with their spirit or with their intellect. Respect for God or admiration for the Prophet is out of the question. Most of them are so swamped with ignorance that they have no knowledge and they are not aware of it, but they fancy they know everything.
In brief, today on the one hand the world is replete with all kinds of vice we never wished to happen, while on the other hand there seems to be no sign of the things we have been looking forward to for years. Given all this, it is not easy to speak about hope or determination, but we have to overcome this challenge. Today’s challenge could emerge multiplied tomorrow. The world may turn into a graveyard; the determination or hope of our society may turn into its burial shroud; rivers may turn into Revan,2 deserts into Karbala, enemies into Shimr, months into Muharram.3 Acts of sabotage may come one after another, causing conflagrations which will turn to ashes not only our homes but also our expectations and plans. We may be abandoned by both our friends and enemies; we may even be stabbed in the back by the least likely assailant. But even if the circumstances are so inauspicious that the roar of our enemies overpowers the voices of all others and the disloyalty of our friends leaves us all alone, we still should not surrender or bow; relying on our faith and hope, we should stand upright and race like a thoroughbred that never slows until its heart bursts.
No matter if the calamities and fears of the present spread on a massive scale and we are surrounded by cries of pain that reach the heavens; no matter whether sufferings swell like magma burning hearts and people are doubled over in the agony of helplessness; notwithstanding swords slicing through the air over severed heads and brains crushed with hammers; even if all corners of the world echo the growl of tyrants and pitch-dark despair covers the most animate and purest souls; even if all settlements are demolished and our homes destroyed; though the moon sets, the sun burns out, hearts as well as eyes are blinded in darkness; if indeed the powerful grow wild and the truth is quashed under the belts of brute force; even though those who have teeth stroll displaying their sharpness and the weak remain silent; no matter if all souls who cannot resist fall one after the other and those without heart are toppled over… No matter what happens, we must do our duty and stand our ground without changing the way we are. We must strive to be a source of power for everyone to seek refuge in, a source of light and hope to revive all the torches that have almost died away.
If our faith in God is firm, then hope and perseverance must be our distinctive feature and community service our duty. So vast must be our respect for God and so immersed must we be in seeing our existence as bound to the happiness of others that once they see how we do not eat our fill but let others do so, how we do not dress up but let others do, and how we sacrifice our own desires, others will feel the pleasure of meeting some people who are trustworthy. In such an untainted fashion must we pursue a living that not only our physical presence but even the horizons of our dreams are kept free of the contamination of forbidden things-who knows to what unexpected levels we are lowered because of such contamination. Salvation is not to be expected for those who cannot make the best of their positions and who lose their footing. Let alone worldly ambitions, for us just the craving for life or seeking personal interests are like suicide. We must even abstain from considering Paradise as a goal in our servanthood to God; our hearts must be fixed on the infinite blessings of God’s good pleasure, and we must raise resolute objections to our personal desires. We must always give, without the slightest thought of taking anything. We must grant with no expectation of return. And on this path of righteousness toward the Beloved, we must never fall into the love of our own souls.
Under circumstances when antagonism was fanned and unfaithful allies acted in favor of foes, at times when some monsters-whose existence is bound up with revenge and detestation-marched against the devoted souls of this righteous path, these souls never lost heart or hope, and they never even conceived of retaliation or hatred and hostile motives. They have always paid back evil with kindness, rehabilitating ill-treatment with good behavior, kind words, and favors; in this way they restored all breakages and damage and responded to destructive thought with constructive action. If, God forbid, one day everything in the world were to fall apart, the masses were to drown in darkness, all roads and bridges were to be destroyed, since for these devoted souls panic is disrespectful to their faith and willpower, instead of projecting deadly views of despair and inactivity, they would attempt to act upon events so as to inspire life in others and cry out that the roads are open for those who are willing to walk.
I wholeheartedly believe that a helping hand will be extended to these heroes of determination tomorrow, if not today; thunderstorms that obstruct their path will subside; the ice will melt away, and the surrounding deserts that dried out a few centuries ago will turn into heavenly gardens; their fate will smile warmly on them one day.
Despair is a ghoulish bandit, and delusions of incapacity and helplessness are a disease that kills one’s spirit. Those who covered long distances were successful in their faith and hope. Submitting to despair has always left travelers stranded. Those who lack attentiveness and activity cannot make progress; those who slumber cannot reach their goal; those who have lost their determination and willpower cannot stand for a long time.
If tomorrow is our consideration and if we are dreaming of fresh successes in the future, we must always remember that distances are covered by increasing pace and peaks can be reached by perseverance, willpower, and planning. So many times have impossible mountaintops and insurmountable heights bowed before determination and willpower. In any era, those who were aware of the path they were following, the goal they were heading towards, and the power they were relying on have triumphed over these summits repeatedly thanks to their awareness and internal dynamics. The surface of the earth shrank beneath their feet, the heavens embraced their knowledge, distances greeted their efforts, and obstacles became bridges to their destination. Darkness has always been defeated by these heroes, calamities have transformed into mercy, troubles have become salvation, and oppression a ramp toward progress.
Someone of this nature heads for tomorrow if today is completely destroyed; if their tomorrow is also lost, then they spur their horse on to the days after. Such people cannot be held back and they should not. With their faith, resolution, and hope, they have always become rejuvenated by the prospects of new achievement and victory even when repeatedly defeated or knocked down. They never fall into despair or alarm, notwithstanding any rancor or hatred swelling against them, and the fact that their horizons are covered with darkness, for their belonging is not merely to yesterday, nor today or tomorrow. They are the masters of the day, children of their time. They can speak the language of their time just as well as they can observe the spirit of their faith in awareness of the mysteries of the Book. In every place where they are found or their presence is perceived, the community of the Age of Happiness is remembered. With their decent feelings and thoughts, unspoiled, innocent nature, loyalty, faithfulness, and firm character that cannot be twisted, each of them is like a granite statue; even if everything around them topples down, not even a sliver will be detached from them, by God's will.
It is our heartfelt hope that, thanks to this strong character, yearning will soon be over, those bent double for centuries will straighten up and cry out their presence, defeated souls will revive to cast away the darkness, and will reach the summit of their destiny with the utmost effort and highest performance, reuniting with their essence and overcoming all obstacles to the guidance of their true spiritual roots and value.
1. Shimr is the murderer of Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet. In 680, the army of Yazid, the Umayyad Caliph, sent an army to Karbala to convince Husayn to accept Yazid as the ruler of the state. Husayn, his family, and his small company were ruthlessly massacred, a tragedy after which the names of Yazid and Shimr have become infamous with evil, murder, and tyranny throughout the Islamic world.
2. "Revan" refers to the "ab-ý revan" (river) in a poem by Muhammed Lutfi (d. 1956), also known as Alvarlý Efe Hazretleri, famous scholar and poet from Erzurum, a sad poem commemorating the Karbala. “Revan” in this article alludes to this poetic reference to the river which Husayn and his family were not allowed access to, as narrated in the literature developed in dedication to this tragedy.
3. The names and places in this sentence are from the tragic events of Karbala mentioned in note 1.
Believers Do Not Fall... No Matter How Shaken They May Be
- By M. Fethullah Gulen
- Category: Issue 70 (July - August 2009)
- © Blue Dome Press. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.