M. Fethullah Gulen
Question: People trying to serve humanity through education, dialogue, and charity are usually facing challenges, antagonism, and defamation from others in different parts of the world; how should these people respond in the face of suck attacks?
Throughout history, people dedicated to service have always faced animosity from those with hatred and envy in their hearts. There have also been many people who, to protect their own interests, attacked the innocent. Such animosity, and even violence, is, unfortunately, a fact of human history. Volunteers on the path of service should not be surprised by it. In spite of all the mistreatment and obstructions they face, these volunteers should keep on their path, moving forward with a pure conscience, ready to embrace all of humankind.
While walking on this path, they may sometimes be betrayed by those from whom they would anticipate fidelity; be deserted by their companions; or even find the most unexpected to be traitors. However, they should not be hindered by such negativities. On the contrary, they should find a new rationale for service, and develop new methods of serving humanity; they should be continually raising the bar with their service.
Some religious sources foretell about the “latter times” to be dominated by all sorts of evil. If we are living in these latter times, then they will be characterized by upheaval and turmoil on a large scale. Human virtues will – and already have – suffered. One such virtue is trustworthiness. In a period in which trust is lost and deception is considered to be a merit, humanity will need, and look for, individuals of flawless dependability. At a time when people are desperate to find companions who do not deceive or misguide, individuals striving for the good of humanity should serve as brilliant representatives of trust and dependability. If their words and actions are monitored for some fifty years, no one should come across even an inkling of deception.
These representatives of dependability might still have difficulty establishing trust in the hearts of all people, since they cannot have total control over how they are perceived by others. In today’s world, many are relentlessly after their material ambitions. These people, projecting their own philosophies of life onto these trustworthy people, might look for hidden agendas in all the good deeds of service. Since they will do anything and everything for a material return, they might think that any effort of service is eventually for a material gain. Therefore, even when the volunteers open schools to provide education or build centers to promote intercultural dialogue, some people will still suspect that these ventures are for some material benefit. Volunteers should not be surprised when people, even those they value and respect, are suspicious. I think the volunteers should simply disregard this suspicion and painstakingly express their good intentions at every opportunity. Needless to say, their actions should consistently and strongly confirm their words.
Decency of intention
Believers who only seek God’s pleasure should not pursue worldly ambitions while trying to establish peace, love, and mutual understanding among human beings. Even if these believers, who have fixed their eyes on God’s pleasure, cannot fully realize their plans of love and peace, they will be treated as the heroes of their intentions and rewarded accordingly by God. As the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, stated: “Deeds go by their intentions and everybody will be given what they intended.” Accordingly, in the hereafter, people will be rewarded only on the basis of the immensity and sincerity of their intentions. For example, a group of people might set forth with the intention of bringing peace to the entire world. They might do everything they can while conditions allow. However, there might come a time when obstacles appear on their path, and they might accomplish only one tenth of what they originally intended. Since their intention was to accomplish ten out of ten, God would reward them accordingly. However, to attain such a beautiful reward, the utmost sincerity is necessary. Even the smallest worldly expectation in return for one’s service might undermine such a reward. The thought, “I wonder if they will give me an administrative position in return for the services I have carried out,” should not ever cross one’s mind.
This does not mean that these people should not accept administrative positions they deserve and are eligible for. However, people who are devoted to service for the peace of humanity should not seek any positions for material gain. They should not hasten to accept even when they are offered a position such as a minister or the prime minister. They should rather first consider whether holding such a position will serve their ideals, and then decide accordingly. Otherwise, they will have contaminated their intentions and damaged the message they could offer, since they would lose credibility and trust in the hearts of people around them. In my opinion, people of service should see even the position of the world’s greatest conqueror as a demotion for themselves. Even such a glory is a drop in the ocean compared to the ideal of helping people rise to the level of true humanity. Therefore, they should strive to design and make the most out of their lives according to these standards.