M. Fethullah Gulen
For centuries we have enjoyed commitment to a belief in eternity, and the atmosphere we inhaled every moment was filled with eternal considerations. Each of our pursuits triggered in us feelings from beyond time; our dreams were set in motion on a tour from a crystal-clear past through a joyful future; our souls were made to sense the beauties of the years and centuries that have gone by and the years and centuries yet to come, transforming our vision into a vast, contemplative pleasure. Each happy moment and what it reminded us of covered our horizon with its enchanting rose-like scent, stroked our heads with a silken touch, made us almost forget our transience, dropping a ray of eternity on the eyes of our heart and making our spirit taste the joy of the life beyond. This state was to such an extent that for us this world was like the head of a waterfall and the life to come was like its bank; we were never distracted by any thoughts of an imminent end or termination.
Based on a sensible interpretation of the cosmos and events, we considered the arrival and departure of each existence in this world very normal, a process taking place in a gentle manner; this mysterious journey instilled in us profound spiritual expansion, for it was a means of reunion, each action and replacement was like being discharged of duty and freedom from the burdens of service at the end of which await the realms of divine favors and rewards.
There may be such people even today, but those days in the past were unique, just like the people therein who were deep in the heart. They were unique in the way they deliberated on this world and the hereafter, on matters like departing for the Almighty, bidding farewell to this life, and greeting the afterlife. As they reached puberty and started developing self-awareness, a test anxiety would fill their spirits, then they would spend their days in self-accounting. Their feelings and thoughts were occupied with fear and awe, their hearts beating with love and enthusiasm, eyes seeking the divine mercy, hearts satiated with imploring, and with such feelings they would walk beyond this universe as if they were stepping into their wedding night. They were often in a state of fear governed by constant hope and alertness, for they knew this life was but temporary and short, and that all our experiences and delights are destined for termination, and the time for our appointed hour of departure is unknown to us. They were hopeful, for the road to follow is evident, the target is over there and the destination is known. Their paths were bathed in the light of inspiration by their faith and spiritual well-being, and by their vast conscience over a domain that was way beyond their physical capacity.
Unlike those unfortunate ones who cry in the pangs of having incarcerated themselves in their limited level of perception, and who observe the entire creation and all divine signs from such a narrow perspective and waste their lifetimes in the dark aisles of corporeality, believers set forth for a new dimension of life every morning and every night; they are receptive to what may descend from the beyond and they welcome any surprise in submission. Believers restore and purify any hardship or misfortune that has struck through the filters of patience, and for them such hardships are nothing less than bathing to wash off the dirt. They see the beautiful as nothing less than beauty and they deepen their perception with praise. Those things that appear ugly believers beautify with the rays of beauty from their conscience, and they pursue a colorful life.
Indeed, once upon a time, humankind experienced such a life filled with joyous enthusiasm, as if we were strolling on the vibrant slopes of the life beyond. We were informed of the beginning and the end of our life, its meaning, and what it offers for tomorrow. We knew where the thoroughfare we were on was going to reach as well as we knew the directions to our home. At times, we were afflicted by anxiety regarding our path and concerns about what would become of us; but, at the same time, with firm belief that everything was linked with His vast mercy, we fixed our eyes on the furthest limits and our inner vision on the horizon and beyond, and sent our thoughts in the direction of our inner disposition seeking His pleasure. We were not much concerned with anything other than these; we did not occupy ourselves with how events unfolded; our rhythm of action was not affected by thousands of concentric calculations in a complete correlative unity nor by developments apparently occurring in an unfavorable direction. We believed as long as we could employ our willpower up to its potential all problems could be overcome as a result of divine help. We always managed to discover contentment in our soul and proceeded on our course.
We had a powerful voice then; we had a word to utter for everyone, and our presence conveyed a deliberate message for all humanity. We regarded one another with compassion and mercy, and embraced everything and everyone with love. Satanic sparks that seldom turned up were weathered in the atmosphere of our conscience, softened, and then transformed into some sort of light and returned thus to their source. By and large, we were all at peace and breathed serenity.
Our joy and pleasures were forever, sorrow and grief temporary. If we moaned once, we woauld cheer ten times; in return for one ruin we would delight in countless joys. Like a baby peacefully sleeping in a cradle and nursed in comfort with lullabies, we were in a trouble-free environment with pure wishes and crystal-clear dreams. Concerns and anxieties were like clouds moving above us dropping temporary shade; their passing was momentary, and it was lit up all around. The days were so, and so were we . . .
Then, some kind of moth infested the spirit of our community-the beginning of this accursed period dates back a few centuries. It nibbled at the roots of the spirit and meaning that made us what we were. Heavily wounded and rotten in many aspects, it seemed almost impossible for this entity to stand by itself. Winds of opposition were shaking and eroding it while breaking its branches and causing cracks here and there, heaping heavy blows so as to kill it off. At a time when the world really needed a just, balanced, and truthful power, it was disqualified from its capacity to show direction to nations and to determine world events; its wonderful administration and influence completely faded. It was a long retreat; its voice was not heard, nor was it listened to. It kept losing rank and it was far from preventing this dragging down. It drifted toward an unknown end as it was transforming into something else while at the same time nations and communities that were once either brothers in faith or citizens under the same rule were now turned into enemies of one another.
Traditions and customs were being knocked down one by one across a wide region. Religious and national attitudes that complemented one another, an exemplary social order that had lasted for centuries, cultures that voiced the collective worldview of millions of people, the arts and the human spirit, the sense of history, all were being stripped off their soul, turning them into lifeless corpses. It was such a plague of metamorphosis under various names and titles that cast away what was local, replacing it with the junk of others. There were so many people, especially from the elite, who transformed during this rather rapid change, so that in the face of all that was happening, the masses twisted their original makeup, jumped from one fantasy onto another, and moved away from their own selves.
All these events were nothing but the death throes of a glorious civilization, humanity denying its own nature, as if peeling off its own skin, and trading its soul for some rambling notions devoid of spirit. High human virtues and ideals were being sacrificed for blind imitation.
Today, our eyes observe the strength and vigor of the human spirit, our hopes are fixed on the door of the All-Merciful that we believe is not completely closed to us, our hearts are expecting additional divine blessings, and we are fully convinced that we will revive, even though we appear like a corpse rotten for hundreds of years. If waiting is a condition, then we are ready to wait for another three or even four hundred years with this hope and faith. May our Lord, the All-Merciful Who is aware of our expectations, not make us suffer from other misfortunes.