M. Fethullah Gulen
For ordinary people, resignation means not objecting to what God has willed for them. For those with a deeper spiritual knowledge of God, resignation means welcoming their individual destinies. For those who live a life of profound spirituality, resignation means that, without paying attention to their own considerations, they are always attentive to what He wants them to do and how He wants them to be. The verses: O soul at rest, return to your Lord, well pleasing and pleased. Enter among My servants, and enter My Paradise (89:27-30) encompass all degrees of resignation, and contain responses to the desires of those resigned to the Divine Will and Destiny.
As seen in these same verses, attaining the station of resignation and pleasing God and being pleased with Him depend upon one's turning to God Almighty. This means complete devotion to, reliance upon, and surrender to Him and committing all affairs to Him. One who has attained this station longs for reunion with God, dies with a heart at rest, and is included among the righteous in Paradise.
From another perspective, ordinary people show their resignation by ordering their lives according to God's commandments in willing submission to His Lordship and administrative authority. This is expressed in the verses: Say: Shall I seek another than God for Lord, when He is Lord of all things? (6:165), and: Say: Shall I choose for a protecting friend other than God, the Originator of the heavens and the earth, Who feeds and Himself is not fed? (6:14). Such a degree of resignation is essential to whoever aspires to true belief in God's Unity and true love of God. Every believer must consciously submit himself or herself to God's guidance; associate no partners with Him in belief and in ordering one's life; love Him alone as the Lord, Deity, and Ruler of humanity and the universe; and love others who are worthy to be loved only in His name and in accordance with the limits He has established.
The second degree of resignation that of those with a certain degree of knowledge of God is manifested in their welcoming God's decrees and ordinances without objection. It is also seen in the control they have acquired over their hearts, a control so strong that their hearts do not swerve even for one moment. Such resignation is regarded as the relation between God and those hearts furnished with knowledge of Him.
The third degree of resignation is attained by those purified, saintly scholars who are pleased with what pleases God. One who has been rewarded with such resignation feels no personal anger, joy, or grief. Such a person, no longer feeling, thinking, or desiring for himself or herself, experiences the pleasure of annihilation in the Lord, for only His Will and choices remain.
The first degree of resignation, obligatory upon every believer, is the beginning of the way leading to nearness to God, for it is related to free will and a requirement of belief in His Unity. The second degree must be acquired, both because it is the continuation of the first and the basis of the third degree, and because it leads one to consider nearness to God.
The third degree, a Divine gift rather than a station attainable by free will and individual effort, is neither obligatory nor necessary. However, it is commendable to desire it whole-heartedly. This degree encompasses the first two, for aspiring after (full) resignation and living so as to attain it is an essential principle of a believer's life. However, its full attainment is a gift bestowed in return for this aspiration. In other words, the first two degrees relate to God's Names and Attributes, which can be attained by journeying in their shadow or their guidance, while the third is connected with the reward, enlightenment, or radiance given in return for them.
The verse: Their reward is with their Lord; Gardens of Eden, beneath which rivers flow; where they will dwell forever. God is well pleased with them and they are well pleased with Him. That is for him who fears his Lord reverently (98:8) points to all of these degrees. This same truth was expressed by our master, upon him be peace and blessings, who said: "One who is well pleased with God as Lord, with Islam as religion, and with Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, as Messenger has tasted the pleasure of faith."
I hope that the following considerations will direct the feelings and thoughts of those who desire to attain resignation, help them to overcome the difficulties encountered on this path, and to control and resist their worldly and carnal impulses.
Human beings are only role players in the Divine drama played out on the stage of this world. Therefore, they have no right or authority to interfere with the quality or form of their assigned part. Whatever happens to an individual has been predetermined by God, Who considered his or her free will, actions, and thoughts in this world. Only God can change this.
If one really loves God, whatever comes from Him must be welcomed. It is very difficult to perceive the wisdom and good or God's purpose in some events. Sometimes what is good for us is hidden in bad happenings: It may be that you dislike a thing although it is good for you, and love a thing although it is bad for you. God knows, but you know not (2:216).
A believer is one who has fully submitted to God. Thus, such an individual cannot be displeased with God's actions and operations. A believer has a good opinion of everybody else, so how can he or she be suspicious of God? The Qur'an forbids us to suspect other people (48:12); how much worse it would be if we suspected God and His acts! Since all things and events were preordained and created by God, and since whatever He creates is either good in itself or on account of its result, a believer should keep his or her heart at rest and always be optimistic.
If our obligations or responsibilities, as well as the misfortunes and difficulties we endure or seek to overcome, have an essential place in our training and education to prepare us for the eternal life of happiness in the Hereafter, then we should fulfill them or endure them willingly. An individual's resignation to or being pleased with whatever comes from Him means that He is also pleased with that particular individual. Being displeased with the acts and manifestations of Divine Lordship causes distress, grief, and restlessness, while living as resigned to God's decrees gives relief and exhilaration, even though one has to suffer great difficulties. In short, the continuous pursuit of resignation is an invitation to Divine succor.
Resignation to Destiny and the manifestations of God, the Truth, is a very important means of obtaining happiness. Prophet Muhammad, the truthful and confirmed one, upon him be peace and blessings, illuminates this: "It is fortunate for man to show resignation to what God decrees, while it is unfortunate for him to feel indignation against what God decrees." Being resigned to God's decrees and operations fills one's heart with breezes from the Divine Realm, while displeasure with them fills it with whims and suspicions coming from Satan. Those who resign themselves to His decrees make their lives into an "embroidery" of golden threads of thankfulness, while those who are displeased with them grind even their most positive works into nothing between the millstones of ingratitude. Showing such displeasure, an all-too-common attitude on the part of many, is one of Satan's most effective ways of invading one's soul.
A believer may join the inhabitants of the heavens by welcoming God's treatment, which is an honor bestowed by God. One who is pleased with God is following the right guidance, while one who is not pleased follows nothing more than personal fancies. Resignation to God's judgments or decrees means preferring His wishes to our own. It hardly needs saying what the opposite attitude implies.
Resignation is like an orchard whose trees yield the fruits of worship and devotion; sins and offenses are the results of being deprived of it. Resignation prevents personal conflicts with God in the believer's inner world, and means respecting the principle expressed in the supplication of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings: "It is pure justice in whatever way You judge about me." The first sin was committed when Satan did not resign himself to what God had decreed for him.
One can have no greater reward or higher rank than God's being pleased with him or her, which is only attainable by personal resignation to what He has decreed. This is also the greatest reward that one can receive in Paradise: God has promised the believers, men and women, Gardens beneath which rivers flow, to dwell therein forever, and beautiful mansions in Gardens of Eden. But God's good pleasure [His being pleased with them] is greater still. That is the supreme triumph (9:72).
Resignation is based on the most important essential of religion: reliance upon God. Its essential quality can be perceived by means of certainty about God's existence and Unity. It is embedded in love of God, and causes one to gain eternal happiness. It is rooted in loyalty to God and truthfulness, and denotes actual thankfulness. Resignation is such a magical lift that those who obtain it will reach their destination quickly. Love and sincerity, as well as penitence and contrition, are flowers growing in the climate of resignation. It is useless to search for such virtues or qualities in hearts that are not set on resignation and obtaining God's pleasure.
However numerous those rewards given in return for acting and speaking to attain God's pleasure may be, they can be counted and are therefore limited. The rewards given for such actions as resignation, which is done with the heart, are proportional to the heart's depth and so cannot be estimated.
As the greatest rank in God's sight, resignation or God's pleasure is a final target that has been sought by the greatest members of humanity, from the glory of creation, upon him be peace and blessings, to all other Prophets, saints, and purified scholars who have passed the final test through sincerity, certainty, reliance, surrender, and confidence. They have surmounted many difficulties and obstacles, and bore many unendurable sufferings and pains. The following verses seek to describe the sighs of such people:
The suffering You cause is more pleasing than having fortune, And Your vengeance is lovelier to me than my own soul. I am in love with both His torment and His favor; How strange it is that I am in love with things opposite to each other. By God, if I go from this thorn of affliction to the garden of delight, I will be one who, like a nightingale, always groans or sighs. How strange it is that when a nightingale starts to sing, It sings melodies of both the thorn and the rose. (from Mathnawi)
The following verses of Nasimi are also beautiful:
I am a suffering lover, O dear One, I will not abandon You; Even if You cut through my chest with a dagger, I will not abandon You. Even if they cut me into two from head to foot like Zachariah, Put your saw on my head, O Carpenter, I will not abandon You. Even if they burn me into ashes and blow away my ashes, They will hear my ashes sigh: O Veiler (of sins), I will not abandon You.
The rank or station of resignation, of being pleased with God and obtaining His pleasure includes all other ranks. The melodies sung in it are: Whatever You do to me or however You treat me, it is good.
O God! Guide us to what You will love and be pleased with, and bestow peace and blessings upon our Master and the Master of the Messengers.
- Editor's note: God's "predetermination," which we call Destiny, is almost identical with His Knowledge. As God is not confined by time, He can see one's past, present, and future at the same time. He therefore "knows" what one will do "before" he or she does it. God's knowing beforehand how someone will act does not compel the person to act that way; rather, it shows that one's free will is included in what God has "predetermined" for him or her.
- Al-Tirmidhi, "Qadar," 15; Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 1:168. 3- Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 1:391, 452.