Question:What are the points of consideration for the people of the contemporary age striving to remove the barriers between people and God and thus let their hearts meet the Truth, particularly in terms of a spirit of unity and togetherness?
Answer: Until our time, different ways, methods, and means have been tried in the name of reflecting the very spirit and essence of the perspicuous religion of Islam through various paths and practices. For example, the path followed by the Naqshbandi order is formulated as follows:
“On the path of Naqshbandi, there are four things to turn your back on:
the world, the Hereafter, your existence, and the idea of renunciation.”
This means that four things must be renounced to take the Naqshbandi path. The first two are renouncing this world and the next. That is, initiates of this path must first push aside the temptations of this world; second, they should never attach their worship to a consideration such as, “Let me observe worship, so that I can go to Paradise.” This is because the real reason for worship is the Divine commandment and its outcome is the good pleasure of God. In this respect, believers must move their shuttle between the commandment and good pleasure of God and weave their lives accordingly; they must work such a beautiful pattern that even the angels would admire it.
Third, a traveler on this path must also renounce himself, or more precisely, his carnal soul, taking a stance against its never-ending demands and fancies, in addition to adopting an absolute attitude of dignified contentment (ghina) towards everyone but God. Finally, the journeyer must renounce even the very idea of having renounced all of these, in order to avoid feelings of pride and self-appreciation. When a thought such as, “I am a hero of such and such renunciation” passes their mind or even imagination, they must seek purification by asking forgiveness from God.
The Characteristics of an Era of Arrogance
In our time, however, arrogance has become widespread and people act upon egotistic motives. Therefore, it might be difficult to maintain such an advanced degree of renunciation; it is probably with this concern that Bediüzzaman presented an alternative approach in “The Fourth Letter” in his Letters where he says:
“The path of helplessness takes consciousness of four things:
poverty, helplessness, thankfulness, and enthusiasm in the absolute sense.”
On this way or path, therefore, depending on one’s perception of his or her nothingness, the following four things are necessary: perception and admission of one’s absolute poverty (faqr) vis-à-vis the Divine Riches, of absolute helplessness (ajz) vis-à-vis the Divine Power, of absolute gratitude or thankfulness to God (shukr), and of absolute enthusiasm (shawq) in His cause:
Thus, Bediüzzaman stresses the importance of adhering to these four essentials in our time. That is, one must first perceive and admit their helplessness and adopt the understanding: “I cannot do anything unless God wills.” In the same way, believers on this path must see themselves essentially so poor that they become aware that whatever they possess is granted by God Almighty. In spite of their helplessness and poverty, they must be filled with gratitude before the Divine blessings and favors so generously granted, and they must strive to let everyone’s hearts feel God Almighty with never-ending ardor, energy, and enthusiasm. In the “Addendum of the Twenty-sixth Word” in his Words, Bediüzzaman lists the essentials of his path (by switching the last two) as “helplessness, poverty, compassion, and reflection (tafakkur),” which indicates that the system he put forth has six different depths. In my opinion, these considerations of that great master, which convince the reason and satisfy the hearts of contemporary people, are very important points that need to be pondered. Nevertheless, so many people who benefited from his works feel obliged to him for having let their hearts feel the truth of Divinity, setting a throne for the Prophet in them, and for having presented the truth of resurrection and afterlife to cognitions nearly with the certainty of eye witnessing, by God’s permission and grace. Actually, expressing this indebtedness to such people is a duty. It is stated by the Messenger of God that one who does not thank people, does not thank God either.1 Then one must possess a character of offering thanks and a feeling of gratitude. Therefore, people who attained the blessing of knowing God, the Prophet, and life after death through the works of that person will naturally have deeper respect for him. However, this respect should not give way to taking pride in being affiliated with a certain religious group and growing arrogant; it should not lead to excessive approaches about him. There are so many people walking on other lanes of the great highway of Islam who attain true faith, salvation, and good pleasure of God by means of the lane on which they proceed. For this reason, expressing gratitude should not be turned into an advertisement and show of the achievements of a certain group; narrow mindedness, which stems from self-admiration, should be avoided. Means and ends (or goals) should not be confused, and it should not be forgotten that, no matter on which lane one travels, the ultimate goal is to gain the good pleasure of God.
The Souls that Found Reunion through Migration
Those who move to different lands for the sake of helping people know God and sharing their values with them are also on a separate line to attain the good pleasure of God. As a spiritual confirmation of being on a righteous path, let me relate that in hundreds, maybe thousands of instances, people saw the Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, in their dreams, or sometimes in wakeful state, and received glad tidings from him. For example, one man related that they kept vigil on a blessed night and invoked blessings on the Prophet for a few thousand times. And then a vision of the noble Prophet appeared and said that he stood behind their services on the way of God. And another one saw that cobras were attacking his friends, who could not protect themselves from them. Suddenly, the door opened and people with radiant faces came in; the Prophet was leading them with his blessed staff in his hand. After dealing a blow on the cobras with his staff, he said to them, “Do not fear, we are behind you.” Actually, I feel embarrassed to relate subjective things of this kind. But since the issue has nothing to do with me, I see benefit in relating such visions from time to time. To tell the truth, with respect to the circle of serving faith in which we are included, thanks to Divine guidance and Providence, I have always held the following thought: “If I could give the due of my position and make good use of the favors and opportunities granted by God Almighty, the services would run faster reaching more people all over the world. More important achievements could have been made had it been for more sincere people instead of me.” In addition, one should compare the glad tidings given in these visions to candies given to children in order to spur them on and keep up their hope. Otherwise, a true seeker of Truth must not expect any of these. As the one with the most faults in this movement, even I say in my prayers: “My God! Do not let us consume the blessings You will grant in the Hereafter by giving us some good things in this world! Do not let us be among the ones to be reprimanded on the Day of Judgment as described in the verse (translated as): “…you consumed in your worldly life your (share of) pure, wholesome things, and enjoyed them fully (without considering the due of the Hereafter, and so have taken in the world the reward of all your good deeds)” (al-Ahqaf 46:20).” But in spite of everything, if some people see such visions as important for boosting morale in times of trouble and take them as a reference from the Prophet, there should not be anything wrong in telling them.
On the other hand, in spite of so many antagonistic circles trying to prevent people from benefitting from the perspicuous Religion, the volunteers who migrate for lofty ideals are welcomed everywhere they go; this is obvious support by Divine Providence. In the same way, although these people did not have enough opportunity to receive professional seminars on peaceful coexistence with others from different cultures in a globalizing world, they did not experience failures in the very different regions but rather gained acceptance there. This can be considered a different indication of their gaining acceptance from God and His Messenger and that they act in compliance with the Divine Will, as it is difficult to talk about an opening of this scale, after the time of the Companions.
The volunteers inspired by the essential principles of helplessness, poverty, thankfulness, enthusiasm, reflection, and compassion set out on the road in modesty, humility, and self-effacement. These people join hands and serve as a port of guidance for journeyers destined for the Truth. In short, for all believing hearts, God is the ultimate goal (to be sought), human beings are the travelers on the way to Him, and the ways leading to Him are as many as the breaths of all creatures. In this respect, what befalls on us is to applaud those trying to serve by seeking the good pleasure of God and implore to Him for their success.