What is the ideal attitude expected from a believer before divine favors?
A believer takes all the divine blessings he or she is honored with as an expression of God’s infinite Mercy. Our merits, gifts, and the favors granted to us are all roses from His divine garden. When we ponder upon them, we begin to grasp that we derive not from ourselves, but from His divine presence. He is the real actor behind all that we do. Ignoring this fact should be viewed as daring to claim partnership with Him. Consider the verses, “It is God who has created you and all that you do”;1 and “You cannot will unless God wills.”2 Consider the verses next to the hadith “Whatever God wishes, happens, and whatever God wishes not to happen, does not.”3 People shaped by these criteria do not consider many blessings granted by God to be products of their own achievements; they do not take personal pride in those things they have done.
Favors from God are not supposed to lead us to pride, boasting, or arrogance, but rather, to thanksgiving, praise, and reliance in God. One can feel in his or her conscience that serving in the way of God is a divine favor not only for those who serve, but also for those whom the divine message is conveyed.
At this point, I would like to relate one of my memories. Once I happened to visit Australia and I saw that some of our people who shared the same thoughts and feelings had planned to open up a dormitory and invited some statesmen to the opening. They requested me to make a speech. Although uncomfortable, I had to make a short speech at the podium. After I finished, they introduced me to these statesmen. At that moment, I felt a bit dizzy, and then I felt sorry for them. I spoke to myself, “O Lord, I wish people showed interest in them, not in me, so that I did not see them feel alienated like that. I wish they did not feel that this dorm did not belong to them. I wish I was in their shoes, and that they were in mine.” I bent twofold with the feeling. Although we have some ambitions as a natural outcome of human nature, I wish all believers had such thoughts and feelings. So, stop feeling contempt for others, believers should see others as better and more virtuous than themselves.
In addition, apparent success at serving in the way of God is not the only indication of being virtuous in God’s sight. Sometimes, being a means to guide a single person to truth can be as good as guiding thousands, or as charitable as establishing thousands of institutions. In the words of Said Nursi “A few good deeds done for the sincere sake of God is preferable to numerous insincere deeds.”4 In this respect, others may seem to have failed in outward appearance, but in terms of the inner dimension, it is possible that their position could be far better. In this respect, we must definitely see others as better than ourselves, know them as better, and applaud everybody’s deeds for the sake of God.
On the other hand, a believer’s understanding to serve in the way of God does not let him take pride in himself. The great scholar Nursi never claimed that his genius was a product of personal insight: “Do not say: ‘I am an object of Divine manifestations. One who receives and reflects Divine beauty becomes beautiful.’ That beauty has not assumed a perpetual form in you, and so you may reflect it for only a short time…”5 So all the beauties manifested in us completely belong to the Creator, the source of all beauties. Again, he presents a different perspective on the matter by saying: “O my arrogant carnal soul. Do not be proud of your services to God’s religion. As stated in a Prophetic Tradition, God may strengthen this religion by means of a dissolute person. You are not pure, so regard yourself as that dissolute person.”6 If great figures such as Said Nursi, people whom God enabled to be of great service, see themselves as humble in their endeavors, then how can we illustrate pride in ours? I leave it to your considerations. We had better say:
This is not what becomes to a slave like me,
Why have I been granted so generously?
(M. Lutfi Effendi of Alvar)
For people of discernment, talking about “us” is the least degree of associating partners with God; and saying “He” expresses refraining from it. When we go to bed, get up, sit down, think, open or close our eyes…in other words, in every moment of our life we should keep saying “He,” and at every instant we should keep up the awareness that everything and everyone comes from Him.
- Saffat 37:96
- Insan 76:30
- Abu Dawud, Adab, 100.
- Nursi, Said. The Flashes Collection, 17th Flash, 13th note of the 3rd matter.
- Nursi, Said. The Words, 18th Word, First point.
- ibid, 26th Word, the fourth topic’s conclusion.