Lead Article by Fethullah Gulen: Chaos, Trial and Hope

Today events are being evaluated only in respect to their appearances; there is constant fear, worry, anxiety, and a chilling uncertainty about everything that happens. Intentions are extremely dark, words and behaviors are deceiving, deeds are guided by ambitions, and our globe’s extremely sensitive balance is entrusted to a few adventurers with makeshift attitudes. It is uncertain to discern who is busy with what or what they will do. Desires are one thing, words and promises another. People compete in deception.  Excuses are made for killing and destroying, even if no one believes them; the oppressed and the victims have no idea what is going on. The dead are called martyrs, the survivors veterans. Actually, there is no need for faith to be consoled by these. Those without such support are comforted with awards and medals.

Hearts from all sides are scratched as if with reed pens, writing embarrassing notes on one of history’s dirtiest pages, the ink blood red. There is dust and smoke everywhere, and blood, pus, and tears in every district. Bodies are shields to souls; souls are trembling with the excitement of life and the anxiety of death. Those destroyed are on the hunt like sharks that have gotten the smell of blood; they attack everything they see and show their teeth to everyone. The oppressed victims are in a constant state of confusion and are tired from vain efforts. Everywhere there is the howling of wolves and the sounds of hyenas; in response to these sounds there are whimpers of helplessness from vulnerable bosoms. Forget about enjoying the world to its fullest; the masses are constantly on edge with the painful news that comes and strikes spirits from all sides. The general atmosphere is pitch-black, like the faces of today’s people; events are always foggy and smoky, just like their thoughts. Neither can they make the best of life nor can they sense it fully. There is a constant ebb and flow between aspirations and longings, and people die and are reborn every moment through pain and suffering.

From time to time they complain about their situations, but it does not accomplish anything except doubling misfortune. Their perspective is deviant, thoughts are in constant shift, and they live in such deep heedlessness that they will not wake up, even with the sound of the Trumpet that will make the dead rise.

In contrast, there is no small number of those whose eyes are open to metaphysical realms, whose thoughts are in front of them like candles, and who petition God with cries from their hearts. These people—whose faith is sound, whose hopes are solid, who are accountable for their deeds, and whose accounts are full—read existence not just by looking at the superficial appearance of events and trying to squeeze everything into it, but also by seeing themselves correctly in existence and interpreting themselves correctly with all material-spiritual depth and by making universal observations. They sense beautiful things behind things that appear to be ugly; they feel otherworldly pleasures that make pain incumbent and constantly sip heavenly water from bowls of disaster.

Actually, there are some beautiful hidden aspects of every divine creation that appear unpleasant on the surface. Yes, sometimes there are divine works and activities whose beauties are hidden to our eyes, but their inner facets are so exquisite that those who can see and sense this beauty do not complain, but show their amazement by saying, “It could not have been better.”

Yes, winter nurtures spring in its bosom. The wind blows over wide terrains to fulfill its duty to fertilize crops. Brand new spectacular scenery forms with different changes, and the events that appear savage to many are so beautiful from the perspective of the ecosystem that it is impossible for those who feel and sense them not to be amazed by them. Almost all of these things are perfect, appropriate, and extremely beautiful, but it is difficult to explain them to those who want everything to occur according to their own wishes and desires.

Those who sense and understand that everything in the heavens and on earth occurs according to a knowledge-based program tied to the divine will of the Creator see and evaluate all things differently. On their horizon, sceneries have hues of rising, disasters have the color of happiness, pain contains a sense of success, and unavoidable oppression and suffering are vehicles for future happiness. They look more at the smiling faces of events than at their sour faces; they do not only deal with the painful side of things, but also try to see their sweet sides.

Consequently, in their illuminated minds, the dust turns into gold; poison becomes sugar and sherbet; storms and hurricanes become enveloped in the color of mercy; pain transforms into the paths of deeds; and each suffering turns into a birth pang. In fact, general deaths and widespread catastrophes are like messages of spring in their eyes. They look at these as a process of pruning dry branches from trees and opening the way for fresh shoots, and they respectfully welcome destiny’s way of pruning. Moreover, they consider things that happen as correction for their wrongdoings. They accept fate and see it as redemption for their sins, and consider it as a season for calling for new favors from God and as a vehicle for His attention. They are always humble before God, but they always know how to stand tall when they are confronted with difficulties and disasters. At any rate, they have the awareness that they were not dragged here by just any wind. They do everything their positions require them to do, and they stand fast enough not to be blown about by the most violent storms. They have such a stance that, with God’s protection, events tantamount to wars or even as alarming as the doomsday cannot budge them from their places.

Evil takes on the colors of good in the atmosphere of such people. For them, pain and suffering are purifying tools to attain their true nature. When the weather grows dark and the environment becomes unlivable, their tension increases and makes them more alert. The oppression of tyrants, the constant impositions of despots, facing one conspiracy after another with no solutions within the domain of causality, only lead them to turn more sincerely to the One Who is the helper of the helpless. They say to themselves: “When you are helpless/ the veil suddenly opens/ solving all problems” (I. Hakki). They read everything better, evaluate it better, and win many victories even during a streak of apparent losses.

For years we always tried to remain true to this understanding. Opposing dissent and disorder became our motto. For the sake of the society’s well-being, we strove to get rid of evil with goodness without saying anything about attacks and assaults. We did not utter a word in response to those who oppressed us and set up unimaginable conspiracies. We did not wish the destruction of those fixated on slander and lying.

We did not reconcile running after the world’s pleasures with sincerely being on God’s path, and instead exalting the truth tied to His approval became our mandate. We have always given priority to others; living for others has always come first before our own aspirations. Other than befriending believing hearts beating with love, we never felt or tasted worldly pleasures or delights. Just as we had no large or small worldly demands, we were extremely careful to keep a distance from everything worldly, including politics, because of their worldly aspects. With the consideration that pleasure blurs God’s pleasure and would harm our servanthood to our Lord, we counted position and fame as defiling to our spiritual life and always kept our distance from these kinds of desires and expectations.

Yes, we behaved like this from the beginning. Yet, some circles who have abused their authority to make people feel indebted to them, and wanted to use this indebtedness as a bargaining chip. In addition, they put a claim on every beautiful thing, and although they made no positive service, these sick usurpers wanted to appear at the head of every positive work. Actually, even if the conscience of the people said “yes,” they opposed some meritorious activities and they did not hesitate to resort to slander, malicious imputation, and falsehood. Maybe the number of those behaving like this was small, but the circumstances of what was done and its extent was quite chilling and extremely injurious to people who lived with honor. However, for a believer who dedicated himself to the people, these were things that absolutely had to be endured. In this respect, in my opinion, heroes of the heart should laugh at this kind of inconsideration—as they did in the past and probably will in the future. They should stand tall and say,

Things coming from You are pleasing
Either a robe of honor or a shroud
Either a fresh rose or thorn
Both Your blessing and Your anger are pleasing. (I. Hakki)

Our society and the human dignity are what matters to us. If the people are in a desperate situation and the masses are moaning from poverty, if the society is defeated by dissension and corruption is applauded, then what falls as our share is to helplessly sit down and burst into tears. Yes, a sincere soul who has dedicated himself or herself to the people is truly troubled not when he or she is personally persecuted or harassed, but when his or her faith, faithful affairs, and other values that they hold sacred are harmed. With the manner of a fireman, they will seek solutions in all directions, like lover who do not see anything else, they will give up on all their personal aspirations, but they absolutely will not allow the values they hold sacred to be harmed.

The path they trod is the path of the oppressed and injured. They have faced trials all their lives and do not enjoy anything in the name of worldly pleasure. They have been exiled, abandoned to rot in prison, and constantly squeezed by different pressures. They have been treated like a bandit, an outlaw. For all that, they do not bother at all. Not only do they not bother themselves, but they consider even sparing some thought for these is a wasteful thinking, which should have been used instead to find solutions to the problems of people.

They suffer from oppression and injustice, but they are not concerned at all with the oppressor nor do they dwell on those perpetrating injustice. They refer everything to the All-Knowing and move on, seeking only God’s approval. One calamity follows another, and disasters pour down on their heads. However, they attribute all of these to their faults and deficiencies in their relationship with God. They think that these trials they are subjected to are penitence for their sins. With the hope that they will be cleansed at least partially from their mistakes, they are pleased even while suffering pain. Moreover, with the thought that some of the things that are happening can have surprise endings, they perceive all the frames of suffering they are in and the trouble and chain of unforeseen dangers resulting from all of these as if they were the steep paths on the road to heaven. Even in horrible situations when others sigh and moan, their voices constantly resound with gratitude and they question themselves:

O helpless one, give up wailing and trust God,
for this wailing is an error that causes trouble after trouble;
If you have found the One Who tests you with suffering,
this suffering changes into a gift bringing peace and happiness.

When you have so great a responsibility
(as to be able to be an approved servant of God and gain eternal life),
why are you wailing over an insignificant misfortune?
Come, put your trust in God and smile at the face of misfortune
so that it may also smile, for as it smiles, it lessens and changes.
(from the Sixth Letter, by Bediuzzaman)

Whereas oppressors who darken their lives with feelings of enmity, hatred, hostility, and revenge, continue to do so, sincere souls act like themselves; they try to ward off rancor with mildness. They make even the most merciless attacks ineffective with their smiles. They always display humane attitudes without becoming daunted or weary. Should they come face to face with misfortunes despite their efforts to avoid, they accept them as their share of the destiny’s justice as much as allowed by Divine mercy. They immediately gather themselves together, try to see their mistakes, and, make plans for an orderly life to attain a positive result and the pleasure of God.

Coming to those who have not discovered the real reasons for the things that happened, they sporadically look for the guilty in their surroundings, and from time to time they throw rocks at fate. They harm their relationship with God, as if they have at all, and constantly make mistakes. Thus they send invitations to different kinds of oppression with each new mistake.

Just as all these matters are true for individuals, they are in the same way true for all societies. Today, oppression follows oppression; the strong trample on the weak; those with power in their hands mercilessly attack those who do not. During this kind of assault, many innocent people are victimized. Many people die or become captives, and all these events take place in a way that makes hearts bleed in regard to their outer appearance. However, the matter is not like this at all when looked at from the perspective of fate. Yes, we do feel hurt at times, but justice manifests itself destiny unfolds over time. Yesterday’s oppressors are being punished today, and the oppressed and their loved ones are cooled and consoled by their belief in eternal happiness.

Yes, to date those oppressors have smashed everyone that came in their path and acted ruthlessly towards the innocent who disagree with them. They do not think that one day what they have done will no more be tolerated by God. Those who have been trod upon and put down by others were trying to soothe the pounding of their hearts because they could not do anything about the situation, only by referring it to God.

Years have passed like this as in the month of Muharram. Tears have flowed like the Ravan River, and eventually they rose to a point where God does not give any more respite for the oppressors nor for those who applauded them and took delight in what they did, and those who remained silent before injustice. “Those who flourish with oppression will end up in misery,” and history is full of hundreds of examples of this. Moreover, there is a day when everything, from needles to thread, will have to be accounted for. Alas for the oppressors on that day!

Now let us once again move on by referring everything to its Owner:

“If a tyrant has his tyranny, the victim has his God on his side,
It is easy to tyrannize people today; but tomorrow there will be God’s Council.”

Since its beginning, this world has been half in light and half in darkness. Those living in darkness today will walk in light in the near future, if they use well the dynamics entrusted to their wills. Those who sinfully polluted their time in the world will fall into darkness. Just as God punishes yesterday’s oppressors today, today’s tyrants will certainly get their just desserts soon.

Now what befalls us is to plead at night like birds at dawn and to push open the doors of heaven with sighs and groans. Who knows? Maybe problems that cannot be solved with arms one day will unexpectedly be resolved with tears and pleading to God. Otherwise, if we do not immediately turn to ourselves and activate our own values and dynamics, it is inevitable that we will continue for a long time to writhe in our deprivation. Yes, the lethargic ones and those giving themselves to comfort today are condemned to be the contemptible ones of tomorrow. Those who pass their lives without feelings and action will be helpless and confused when the trumpets of death begin to blow around them. They will be helpless, but what good will it do for those who lose opportunities in spring and summer to sigh and moan and feel remorse in winter? People should evaluate today so as not to say “if only” in the future, and they should try not to darken their tomorrows.

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