Issue 121 / January - February 2018
To Remain Fresh and Strive for Renewal
M. Fethullah Gulen
Relying upon the air, sun, water, and soil, a seed sprouts and eventually becomes a bud. Soon, this bud has become a full plant with grain-bearing ears. And when the appointed time is up, they bend to one side and return to the soil in whose cradle they were born.
Societies and individuals are like seeds. This is especially true of individuals who represent certain systems, thoughts, and philosophies. They feel, reason, strive, and are filled with enthusiasm to exist. They are affluent in their prime, but fade and droop during their own fall. By using their own inner dynamism, some have a long life and some short, but all walk toward their inevitable end.
When the day comes and regression takes the place of prosperity, all vital activity stops. Colors fade like leaves struck by fall, emotions and enthusiasm subside, and the world moans with the melody of death. We often ascribe such a disintegration to the weakness of centrifugal force, and other times to the lack of ideals. Sometimes we blame it on an inability to stay focused on the target, and sometimes to the failure to maintain sincerity. The real cause may be one of these, maybe all of them, maybe even the will of the overwhelming Power of God which is free of all causes. Regardless of the cause, if a person is not focused, serious, and hardworking wholeheartedly; if they do not or cannot pursue progress with ever-broadening considerations; and more importantly if they are not determined to sail toward new depths, then they will wither, and even decay or decompose.
Indeed, one’s eyes must perpetually be on the summit and one’s wings must always be ready to soar higher. Goals must follow a trajectory as elevated as “the masters of determination” if one is to reach higher peaks and maintain his or her elevation. Otherwise, stagnation and disintegration are inevitable.
“Has not the time yet come for those who believe that their hearts should soften with humility and submit in the face of God’s Remembrance and what has come down of the truth?” (57:16). The Qur’an calls humanity to a new resurrection, the framework of which is delineated in this verse. By complying with this call, the believer must have the fervor and excitement of always advancing. Thus, they will maintain their dynamism, constantly pursue new heights, and seek wholeness so that they can receive protection, and remain perpetually firm and fresh as long as they live.
The determination for revival in the face of the lethality of time never subsides in those who are forever fresh. And in whichever era such a person lives, they sense faith with the freshness of the day it was first revealed from the heavens. Their eyes are constantly on the watch, full of considerations of the consciousness of the Divine presence. They see no peak as the final destination. Moreover, even if one day they attain the dazzling transcendence before God and the angels, they are forever humble; their gaze is fixed beyond the horizon, their wings are taut, and they are resolved to fly higher. Thus, they present to the earth’s inhabitants the multifarious lessons of the celestial customs.
Those who are defeated by their nature and carnality grow old and wither, despite their extreme passion for a life of pleasure. In contrast, the people of willpower and resolve are able to remain robust and fresh for a lifetime and perform actions that would otherwise be considered as diverse manifestations of immortality. They read and construe things and events in the way in which God’s messengers saw and interpreted them. They ascend to higher altitudes, overcoming the world’s gravity and the friction. They walk toward God like their forerunners, unconditionally and without expectation. They always ask for more of the joy of belief, the pleasure of divine knowledge, and the delight of setting their hearts on God. Seeing and hearing of those reaching God encourages them even more, while witnessing those who have been left behind causes them to turn to God with even more devotion. They turn to Him in the face of those bereft of any feeling and excitement, those deaf to the principles of religion, as well as the hapless souls unable to read the laws of creation they encounter along the way. Their present day is gleaming, their lot luminous, and their end is always crystal clear.
It is inevitable that those who fail to see each day as a period of revival, who are unable to read and interpret creation beneath the magnifying glass of time, and who do not and cannot undertake a deep self-examination as if discovering a new world, will lose their vivacity and become stale. If they fail to explore every slice of time with ever-expanding considerations about the human, the universe and God, they will experience a stagnation of their love and zeal and a decline in their spiritual state. Even if such people see themselves as fresh and full of life, they are in fact confined in a vicious cycle of fatigue. Whether they realize it or not, they are face to face with the end, necessitated by the absence of determination within their hearts. What is more, they do not even realize that they have lost altitude, have begun their descent, and thatâ€”God forbid!â€”they will eventually fall flat on the ground.
Such a devastating situation is a possibility for societies, as much as it is for individuals. Indeed, like individuals, societies are born, develop, and mature; they sometimes give the impression as if they are going to last forever and become entities of distinction. If the vital dynamics cannot be maintained exactly as they were at the beginning and if these societies do not remain true to their essences while still pursuing renewal, everything can come crashing down. Nothing will remain of color, nor design; feeling and fervor will wane, autumn will begin to fall, and everything will crumble to pieces when hit by an unfavorable wind.
On the contrary, if such a society is aware of its standing, holds firm, preserves its connection with its own life-sustaining dynamics, is able to renew itself constantly, and repair its cracks before it is too late, then it can quell the seemingly inescapable disintegration and providentially extend its life, living perpetually with the joyousness of youth.
Faith bestows upon its followers an exceedingly fresh and exceptionally profound zest for life; their spirit and jubilation cannot easily be destroyed. For a believer, belief is a Divine source of strength, above and beyond all forces. Full submission to the Divine is the final stop of human transcendence, and God’s approval and good pleasure are the priceless bestowal of this inextinguishable exuberance and unfading liveliness. With God's help and grace, believers may, with such endowments and supports, defeat autumn.
In the past, there have been exemplary times, where people were vigorous and joyful and always in pursuit of perfection. They were steadfast and did not fantasize to become other than who they are. They experienced constant revivals in their heart and spirit. With a new sensation each day, a new perception, a new discovery pertaining to the outer and inner worlds, they felt their faith once more, with all their heart and soul. With Divine assistance, they constructed their faith anew and struggled commensurate with their spiritual knowledge. They always remembered God with awe; deepened their knowledge of the laws of nature and commandments that came with revelation in their true meaning, substance, and essence, and always soared to new heights.
This is how they were â€“ and how we could be. If our wakening is not predestined before the sound of the doomsday trumpet, then perhaps revival is possible for us, too.
In Islamic tradition, “masters of determination” (ulu’l azm) refers to the five most prominent Prophets: Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, peace be upon them.