Question: What is the essential duty of those who seek to ensure that humanity and faith can be properly represented once again?
Many current problems Muslims are facing can be related to their own approach to faith, which does not go beyond practicing ostensibly, which fails to internalize it properly, and lacks purity of intention (ikhlas) and God-consciousness (ihsan). Their acts and behaviors that go against the criteria prescribed by Islam as well as their failure to observe the bounds of lawful and unlawful undermines the clean name of Islam and Muslims. The primary duty that must be fulfilled by devoted souls – the cavalry of revival – is to revive the values of the life of the spirit and heart, and ensure that these values become part of our very nature with their full vivacity. Saving humanity from formalist and superficial practice of Islam depends on this. Purity of intention is one of the most important of these values.
By analogy, if the content of Islam is a poem, purity of intention is its rhyme. Purity of intention is to perform with a profound consciousness of servitude to God; it is to do all we do in a way that they are eventually connected to Him. As is known, purity of intention is when we do things simply because they are commanded by God, and only in order to attain His pleasure. As noted by Bediüzzaman Said Nursi at the beginning of his First Word, purity of intention means that a person should do anything for the sake of God, begin anything for the sake of God, meet anyone for the sake of God, and act within the framework of seeking God's pleasure. It is to do all our deeds and errands in order to attain His pleasure. We should ask for His good pleasure and purity of intention every time we raise our hands in supplication. This is such an important point that it would not be too much if we said incessantly, "O My Lord, I am asking for purity of intention and Your good pleasure," repeating it all through the day. Indeed, it is the highest goal, centered upon the very reason of creation, for a believer to spurn all worldly considerations in order to attain a pure and clear consciousness of servitude to God. In this regard, our quest for peaking in servitude to God should not be made contingent upon even otherworldly expectations, let alone worldly ones, but should be carried out only to earn God's contentment.
Yet, we should remember that it is not easy to reach that horizon. There are so many things that attack, eat into and gnaw on one's purity of intention. Human desires, search for ease and comfort, wish for fame, unworthy and tawdry feelings, worldly interests, etc., drive us away from purity of intention and sincerity, preventing us from sailing out to otherworldly and metaphysical domains, and having us deprived of the greatest attainments. Even those people who are walking on the straight path may suffer from breakdowns in purity of intention over time due to lowly feelings and insignificant expediencies if they fail to be cautious in the way they live; and they may be subject to falls even if they assume to be walking in God's cause, and they may lose while they seem to be winning.
It is not a virtue to fulfill many tasks, undertake great works, and devise grand schemes. The true merit is to be able to make everything done coupled with His good pleasure. Indeed, there is no loftier errand than to seek adherence to deeds that would be pleasing to God. If you fail to attain purity of intention in your deeds and services, you will lose yourself even though you change the color of the world. Even if you seem to be winning, you will end up in the category of unfortunate losers in the eyes of God. The things you think you have achieved will not be long-lived. They will soon fade away. So in everything you do, you should try to attain purity of intention and unremittingly maintain your inner struggle to this end.
The more profound one's knowledge of God, the more that person will succeed in attaining purity of intention. It is essential that knowledge of God govern the entire self-identity of a person so that s/he can attain true purity of intention. Such people will not forget, not even for a moment, that they are in the presence of God as they open up their mouths, speak, blink, or move their hands or feet. Their looks have inner depth, their attitudes sobriety, their stances dignity, and their words mannerliness... All their acts and attitudes are guided with faith in, knowledge of, and awe of God. They never engage in any unseemly act or attitude. If human identity is embraced and governed with knowledge of God at such a level, that person can attain the profundity in his/her faith and purity of intention in his/her deeds.
The essential duty that must be undertaken by those who seek to ensure that humanity and Islam can be properly represented once again through a novel revival movement is to revive this consciousness of servitude to God. Thus, it is not about encouraging people to fulfill the duty of daily prayers, but it is about making them, as it were, "crazy for prayers." The task is to make them so obsessed with daily prayers that they would leave their hearts at the mosque after performing one prayer and start to wait for the next prayer impatiently, as described in a noble saying of the Prophet. They should be so concentrated on worship that, immediately after they fulfill the noon prayer, they would complain about the muezzin's not making the call for the afternoon prayer right away so that they could stand at once at the court of God in respect and admiration, ready for worship, and acknowledge His greatness vis-à-vis their inferiority while in prostration. They should be like that not only for daily prayers, but also for other worships, including fasting and spending in charity or good causes. They should be steadfast in performing all worships with purity of intention and consciousness.
The opposite of such a sincerity-filled awareness of being God's servants is to perform religious rituals in a casual manner with a consideration to get rid of them quickly. It is the form of indolently performed worshiping where heedless people fail to make their hearts quiver, feel in the neurons of their brains their prayers, and realize the identity of the One before whom they stand. People should at least nurture the intention and endeavor for performing their religious rituals with a conscious manner. Initially, it may not be possible to feel everything with due profundity as this calls for serious and continuous endeavors and efforts. Junayd al-Baghdadi expressed that he attained the horizon of worship and knowledge of God he had desired to achieve only after the age of sixty. Bediüzzaman noted that only towards the end of his life did he start to glorify God in the same manner the favorite great figures would do and hear as if the entire creation said, "Glory be to God," in his company. Therefore, what matters is that we should have the will to attain such a horizon and work to achieve it at all times.
If you are a candidate for setting sail to vastness and depth in your worships and attain the horizon of purity of intention and God-consciousness of restraint, you will attain your goal sooner or later. Then, you should move on to help others feel the things you have felt. This is the responsibility of those who aspire to take part in this revival. As noted earlier, this is the responsibility for saving people from being Muslims in form, helping them become Muslims in essence, and guiding them to the life of the spirit and heart. As a matter of fact, many people in our time need to strengthen their relationship to God with the help of this spiritual movement so that they can ward off pressures of daily politics.
Human beings are by nature prone to errors; everyone can make mistakes. Still, those people who have attained such maturity will be subject to fewer lapses. And whenever they find themselves in aberration, they will quickly turn to God, pour out their hearts, and ask forgiveness for their errors and sins, getting rid of their stains and purifying themselves. If the people who have attained this level of maturity in any place can come together, they can serve as a core example for other people who will adopt their acts and attitudes.
In our time, such a revival is desperately needed. People who will feel and practice the religion in the same way with Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali (may God be pleased with them) are needed. And we should focus on these lofty ideals, try to attain them and repeatedly pray for God's help in this quest. All other things are nonessential matters for us.