M. Fethullah Gulen
Life is a chain of tests, ensuing one after another. It is a human condition we experience from childhood until the moment we breathe our last. For the discerning souls, each of these minor tests is an elimination to determine the souls that make it to the finals; a matter to be determined within the human conscience and in the eyes of heavenly spirits.
We sit for tests of all sorts throughout our lives, tests in varying scopes and levels of difficulty. Tests to enroll a school, to pass a class, to graduate, the test a son happens to endure with his father or the other way around, and many more tests. An exceptionally difficult and humiliating test is being disqualified, pushed aside, and stripped of civil rights due to one’s humanistic thoughts and lofty ideals.
The most unbearable test, however, is the one that comes with the hands of disloyal friends, particularly when one is already suffering from the words and actions of relentless and merciless foes. Although, regardless of however inhumane and short of dignity a foe may be, his or her enmity can still be reconciled by an antagonistic logic. One may rationalize—using the same logic—that the more differences in thought, worldview, and values increase, so does enmity. Nevertheless, it is unreasonable and irrational when those striving on the same line of fate, those who cherish the same feelings and ideas, betray one another because of jealousy and competition. This is no way reconcilable with human dignity.
Indeed, it hurts—as much as it is worrying—when one ends up with betrayal and pain while expecting faithfulness. What else one can do other than enduring it, as tests of this nature are rampant in a world in which deceit is considered equal to being smart, obsession is equal to to loyalty, and bigotry means conservatism. Yes, as individuals, families, and community as a whole, we have no other option than to endure and say:
A reprimand from Your Majesty
or a favor from Your Grace;
Both are a pleasure for my soul;
How pleasant is Your grace
How pleasant is Your wrath
A community or a nation may have suffered from the greatest and most painful of all tribulations and betrayals from foes, some of who were in the disguise of friends. The entire world might have advanced upon them and brought them under siege from all corners, leading some to a vain belief of their complete annihilation. Yet, they were able to survive all these tests of life-or-death, nullifying all the destructive plans. It is highly probable for similar tests to come up along the way through hills of flames and oceans of blood, all of which will in fact help them with renewal and with metaphysical regeneration. Each of these tests will be a means of awareness for them to identify who is who, for self-empowerment through learning how to recollect and get back on their feet after being knocked down by them. A human being is purified through tests and gets hold of his or her inner essence, thus their life is saved from stagnancy and becomes colorful. Our spirit matures in the face of tests and becomes prepared for bigger challenges, as the bigger the tests and harder the questions are, the more entitled the human is to pass the class and to rise higher in the school of human values and perfection.
Refinement of the individual and empowerment of the society cannot take place without tests. Only souls who have been burdened and pressured by tests can coil like a spring, thrust like an arrow, and reach their target with the blink of an eye. Worries that haunt them all day, hunger and thirst, harm and damage, troubles of all kinds that befell their properties or lives, and being trodden under the metal tracks of unexpected events will all make them as strong as steel and prepare them for the future.
Deadened hearts and raw spirits that have not been tested whatsoever cannot rise to their human potential, nor are they of any use to the community. Distinguishing the diamond-like souls from coal-like ones is only possible by way of testing, at the lack of which gold cannot be distinguished from soil, or diamond from coal. If it was not for testing, the most inauspicious ones would be confused with the highest soaring souls, for it is through testing that angel-like ones can be told apart from the evil souls and ascend to their predestined zeniths.
For those who are appreciative of this truth, each test is one added feather to a wing that will enable him or her to take off to the realms beyond the heavens, and each difficulty faced during a test is an elixir of strength and vigor. For these lofty spirits, being cast into fire is the greatest leap into a friendship with the Creator, and being nailed on the cross is an exalted means of ascension to Him.
For a heart directed towards the highest of ideals, a test is a whip lashed on his or her perseverance, a spell that makes their willpower rear up, and a ray of light that shines on the dial of heart. After each test they crystallize even more, tighten like a bow, and soar high up to the Gardens they already built in their hearts.
Let not the muffled hearts with no refinement to welcome both His reprimand and favor fathom even a grain of this phenomenon; the idealist souls that have devoted themselves to this truth will never recognize anything more pleasant than the pains suffered in this cause. They will never lament and complain to others, even though they burn like a furnace inside. Unfaithfulness of friends and ruthlessness of foes will never take them aback from serving people and their country, for they have given oath as in the words of the poet:
Let the world come at me with all possible reasons for trouble
I am a traitor if I give up any conviction in the service of my nation. (Namık Kemal)