M. Fethullah Gulen
God promises the final inheritance of the earth to His righteous servants. So, in order to have a right to this promised inheritance, there must be a group of righteous people. What are the criteria of righteousness, or what qualities should the heir, to whom the final dominion was promised by God, possess?
The first and foremost quality of the heir is perfect faith. The Qur’an determines the purpose of man’s creation to be belief in God, which is woven from the threads of the knowledge of God, love, enthusiasm and spiritual fulfilment.
Indeed, it is only in the light of faith that man, by realizing his essential nature with all its dimensions and the existential aims of creation, can penetrate the inner reality. Contrary to this, lack of belief is a suffocating dungeon. In the view of an unbeliever, existence began with chaos, developed in the frightening uncertainties of coincidences, and is speeding towards a terrible end. In this uncertain movement of existence there is neither a breath of compassion to relieve us, nor a place of security to embrace us in our human desires nor even a piece of ground to step on.
A believer, who knows from where he came and the destination of his life, together with his responsibilities, sees everything as clearly as ‘daylight’ and, because of this, he travels to his destination in utmost security.
During his sojourn, he carefully studies existence and what lies behind existence. He examines things and events over and over again and tries to establish a connection with everything around him. He never refrains from making use of the studies of others and, where he lacks in sufficient knowledge and experience, he goes on with his researches, without tiring and losing hope.
There is an inexhaustible source of power on which a believer relies during his travel - the realization that there is no strength and power save with God. This off-repeated phrase is a source of power which a person who has obtained it, feels no need for another. A believer who has equipped himself with this source of power aims for none but God. He leads his life to secure His approval. He has an abiding optimism with which to overcome every obstacle and challenge all kinds of worldly opposition.
The second quality of the heir is to become overflowing with love. A person with a heart content with belief in and knowledge of God feels, in proportion to the degree of his belief and knowledge, a deep love for all human beings and even the whole creation. It is this person who spends his whole life-span in the colourful fluctuations of universal ecstasies, raptures and spiritual pleasure.
Today, as in every era, there is need for hearts to be enraptured with love and overflow with zeal so that a new revival could be realized. Without love, it is impossible to accomplish any permanent movement, especially if the movement is related to the Hereafter. The Divine love which we feel in order to gain God’s approval is a boundless and mysterious source of power. The ‘heirs to the earth’ should never be heedless of this source and should make as much use of it as possible.
We need to look into the origin of existence from the perspective of the Qur’an and the Example, Sunna, of the noble Prophet. The origin of man, his place in the universe, the Divine purpose for his creation, and the way he should conduct in his life as well as his final destination are in such a harmony in these two sources - the Book and the Sunna - with human thoughts and feelings and aspirations that we cannot help but be filled with wonder and admiration. These two pure sources are, for men of understanding, a spring of love and enthusiasm, and a means to ecstasy. Those who have recourse to them with pure intention and with petitions of needs are not refused, and those who take refuge in them gain immortality. They need to do so, however, with the sincerity of people like Imam Ghazali, Imam Rabbani, Shah Waliullah and Bediuzzaman. They need to approach these sources with the excitement of Ghalib and Mehmed Akif, and turn to them with the conviction and activity of Khalid, Salah al-din, Mehmed the Conqueror, and Yavuz Saleem. Indeed, by combining the love and enthusiasm of those personages with modern methods and styles, we will penetrate into the ever-fresh essence of the Qur’an and arrive at a universal metaphysics.
To turn to sciences with a sensible synthesis of intellect, logic and consciousness is the third quality of the generation who are promised the final inheritance of the earth. This turning, which will also provide a direction for the general inclination of humanity which is lost among some obscure hypotheses, will be a significant step in the liberation of mankind.
As pointed out by Bediuzzaman, mankind is increasingly concentrating on sciences and technology, deriving all their strength from sciences. He also pointed out that in order to present to the masses the product of scientific knowledge, eloquence and rhetoric will gain momentum and ascendancy. In fact, we no longer have any other way to escape from the cloudy atmosphere of illusions enveloping us. We no longer have any other way to reach truths and, most importantly, the most manifest Truth.
In order to compensate for the last few centuries, it is necessary to rise to the highest level of scientific knowledge and, by removing the inferiority complex from our subconsciousness, to realize self-assertion. To achieve this, we must re-evaluate sciences in the light of the prism of the Islamic thought and become unique representatives of scientific knowledge.
Since we have not been able so far to assign a true direction for sciences and, consequently, confused revealed knowledge with scientific theories, and sometimes scientific knowledge with philosophy, serious confusions have appeared in scientific thought and scientists have lost considerable esteem. In Turkey, this void has been exploited by foreigners very well and many foreign schools have sprouted up. The younger generations, as a result, have been alienated from their society. After a while, these inexperienced generations lost all their religious and moral values, with the result that as a whole nation we were all degraded in thought, ideals, art and life. In these schools to which we entrusted our children without any worries, Western culture and values were given priority ever science and scientific thought. It is for this reason that our young generations, although they had to cope with the age in science and technology, split into different parties like Marxism, Durkheimism, Leninism, and Maoism. Some consoled themselves with the dreams of a communist system and the dictatorship of the proletariat. Some were drained in the complexes of Freud. Some were carried away by the existentialism of Sartre, Marcus, Camus, and the like. Indeed, we witnessed in this land all such deviations, all of which were unfortunately nursed and promoted in supposed centres of science and knowledge. Meanwhile, religion and religious people were unceasingly attacked by destructive representatives of unenlightenment and evil aspects of Western civilization were propagated. It is impossible for us to forget that dark period of our history and those who were responsible for it will always be remembered as the national and historical criminals in the conscience of people.
What remains now is to build a happy, bright future. This requires us to realize a revival through scientific thought which we have to inculcate in the minds of the young generation. The suffering of the people on account of what befell them in the past, the exasperation produced in their hearts by servility to foreign powers, and the national reaction to centuries of exploitation cause us to sigh and lament in equal proportion to the regret of Adam, the weeping of Yunus (Jonah) and the pains of Ayyub (Job). Such thoughts and feelings together with historical experiences stimulate and guide us to further exertions towards our destination.
The fourth characteristic of the generation to whom the final inheritance of the earth belongs is to review and re-evaluate the established views of man, life and the universe. The following points should be considered in this respect:
Firstly, the universe is a book written by God for us to study over and over again. Man is a transparent index of all the worlds, a being able to discover the depths of existence. As for life, it is the manifestation of the meanings filtered from that index and book, and reflected by Divine Expression throughout the universe. If man, life and the universe are three aspects of a single reality with each having a genuine colour of its own, then a partial approach to them will be a disrespect to both man, in particular, and the whole creation, in general, as it will demolish the harmonious composition of reality.
As it is indeed incumbent upon man to study, understand and obey the Divine revelation derived from God’s Attribute of Speech, so too is it necessary for him to perceive all things and events to which God gives existence through His Knowledge, Will and Power. Being the manifestation of the Divine Attribute of Speech, the Glorious Qur’an is the spirit of existence and the sole means of happiness in this world and the Hereafter. The ‘Book’ of the universe is the embodiment of this spirit and is an account of the branches of science originating in it. It is therefore a very important dynamic of both worlds, direct in relation to this life, indirect with respect to the other. For this reason, there will be reward for understanding both of these books and applying their principles in practical life. Those who neglect or ignore them will meet the consequences of their neglect.
Secondly, a man’s humanity lies in his feelings, thoughts and character, which are also the standards in determining his esteem in the sight of both the Creator and the created. Sublime human attributes, depth in thought and feelings, and a sound character are valued by everybody. The one who adulterates his faith and conviction with irreligious thoughts and causes distrust in his character will neither be able to receive God’s support and help nor preserve his esteem and dignity in the sight of people. It should never be forgotten that God, as well as people, evaluates a man according to his human character and qualities. For this reason, those with a weak character and who lack real human values are not able to perform great feats even if they appear to be good believers. On the other hand, it is impossible for those who are distinguished with laudable virtues and a sound character to be always subject to utter failure despite their apparent weakness in living in conformity with Islamic principles.
Thirdly, an Islamic goal can be achieved through Islamic means and methods only. It is absolutely incumbent on a Muslim to pursue Islamic goals and adopt Islamic methods in attaining his goals. As it is impossible to secure God’s approval without sincerity and purity of intention, so, too, neither can Islam be served nor Muslims directed toward their real targets through diabolic means and methods.
The generation who will take on the responsibility of bringing justice and happiness to the world should be able to think freely and respect freedom of thought. Freedom is a significant dimension of man’s free will and a key to the mysteries of human identity.
The Muslim world has been under pressure for centuries both from within and outside. Under such conditions where restrictions have been put on our feelings, thoughts, culture and education, it is almost impossible for a person to remain with human faculties, let alone realize a renewal and development. In a climate where it is difficult to remain even as a common man with human values, it must be quite impossible to bring up a person of true greatness. Only people with weak character, inactive disposition, palsied brains and paralyzed feelings grow in such climates. Distorted thoughts and wrong criteria produced and propagated in both families and surroundings and in educational institutions and art circles in the later phase of our history have upset everything unique to us -our view of matter and spirit and our physical and spiritual worlds. In this critical period, the leading elite presented their prejudices as free thought, lived an egocentric life, showed no respect for other beliefs and opinions, and went so far in maintaining different assertions or convictions that they did not refrain from resorting to force whenever they deemed it necessary to crush the free will and free thinking of the people. We are not sure whether that period has ended, though it remains necessary for us to review, on the one hand, our centuries-old historical dynamics and to question, on the other, the changes and transformations’ to which we have given impetus for the last one and a half centuries. We are still, in our decisions, under some ideological taboos, in which case it is impossible for us to re-shape our world according to the requirements of a bright future. Such conditions as these give rise to nothing but political disputes, internal struggles and international conflicts. That is why there is a continuous internal discord in our community, in particular, and unceasing savagery worldwide, in general. Were it not for the egoism, greed and ruthlessness of mankind, the world would most probably be more different than it is today.
If this is so, we should realize the need to be more tolerant and more altruistic when we move forward toward a better future. We need today more than anything else magnanimous hearts and open, profound minds which are respectful of free thinking and open to the sciences and scientific research and which are able to perceive the harmony between the Qur’an and the Divine laws of the universe and life. This requires the existence of a community in which genius can flourish. In the past a single person of genius could succeed in leading a nation toward high objectives but today when everything has taken on an incredibly elaborate form, and specialization has gained prominence, counsel and collective consciousness have replaced geniuses. This is the sixth point which should be given due consideration by the generation who aim to give a better shape to the world.
We have not been able, in the latest phase of our history, to establish a desirable coordination between the vital institutions of the society. At a time when modern schools concentrated on ideological dogmas; institutions of religious education (madrasas) broke with life; institutions of spiritual training (takyas) were immersed in sheer metaphysics, and the army restricted itself to sheer force, this coordination was essentially not possible.
It is, indeed, a fact that modern schools could not save themselves from the influence of modern ‘scholasticism’ and ideological dogmas; institutions of religious education were closed to sciences and scientific thought, devoid of the spirit and the power to bring about new formations. The representatives of spiritual training lost their love and enthusiasm, consoling themselves with virtues and wonders of the saints who had lived in previous centuries. As for the army, which had once been the representative of the religious energy and activity and the symbol of national subsistence, it has developed the complex of self-assertion in the internal arena. Consequently, everything was upset, and the tree of the nation’ was convulsed so violently that it nearly toppled. Sadly it seems that, until the fortunate representatives of the bright future re-form those vital institutions in a way that they can perform their real functions, and bring forward the wedding of mind and heart so as to make the ground propitious for the bringing-up of the perfect man of thought, action and inspiration, such convulsions of different degrees will not cease.
Finally, the generation who aim to give a better shape to the world should be equipped with mathematical thought. Mathematical thought implies a comprehension of the enigmatic connection between creation and the ‘laws’ of mathematics, and a discovery of the mysterious world of numbers. Without mathematics, it is not possible to perceive the mutual relations between man and things; it is mathematics which illuminates, like a source of light, our way along the line from the universe to life and shows us the depths of the world of possibilities beyond human imagination, thus enabling us to attain our ideals.
In order to obtain a full perception of existence, we should follow the laws of mathematics in all fields from physics to metaphysics, from matter to energy, from body to soul, and from law to spiritual training (tasawwuf). This implies the need to adopt both spiritual training and scientific research. The West, in order to compensate for a real or true system of spiritual training, has had to have recourse to so- called mystical movements. But Muslims have no need to search for a foreign system to quench their thirst for spiritual satisfaction. Everything a person may need to design his life on sound foundations, scientific, spiritual, rational, sociological, economic, politic and so on, can be found in Islam, provided that he is able to understand Islam in its pristine purity and original comprehensiveness.