Lead Article

  • Issue 75 / May - June 2010



    Chaos and the Mystical World of Faith

    M. Fethullah Gulen

    Today, everyone breathes resentment, swallows hatred, curses all that is deemed to be an enemy with a fixed and determined passion, as if programmed for fury. The ink that flows on the pages of newspapers, the pictures that are broadcasted over the television, the electromagnetic waves that resonate on the radio scratch our ears like ill-omened screams emitting from a variety of places-in the mountains or on the water, in the valleys or up in the hills; they strike our eyes like photographs that make us shudder and they open wounds in our hearts. These startling epics of hate that we hear about day and night, all these ill-omened screams, make us sick at heart, and yet the people who seek a cure for these ills are few indeed. Their thoughts go in different directions, but they always seem to arrive at the same point: money, financial prosperity, and success.

    . . . emotions base, desire consuming
    The meaning that flows over from the gaze is full of contempt for the subject of God.
    Akif


    Very few are exempt from such a turbulent point of view; no difference remains between what is collective and what is not, between capitalism, communism and liberalism. The distance in nature-between those who attach their lives to the considerations of eating and drinking, resting, and earning money, having a good time in general, and other beings who are bound to spend their lives in a similar way due to the unchanging character of their nature-becomes smaller day by day. The basic differences between the two sides vanish into thin air one by one, and humanity seeks new directions, despite its own nature.

    Religion, piety, morality, free thought, our own perceptions of art are rarely given consideration; power has become so ulcerated as to be unrecognizable, fantasy has taken on the image of lofty ideals and these disagreeable ideas are being forced upon others. Indeed, I have to say that I have a hard time understanding the inner drama of such a terrible fanaticism. Nowadays, when enlightenment has become widespread, when intellectualism is at its apex, the fact that science and ignorance seems to meet at the same spot, contrary to the distance that one would expect to exist between them, suggests a dark complicity and makes the existence of a serious problem obvious. Such a contradiction gives us the impression that the emotional will of some people is miles ahead of their intellectual and logical will.

    I believe that in such a dark period, when opposites have become intertwined, when in different sections of society chaos is heaped upon chaos, when shadowy acts of different origins have darkened the face of the Earth, when what is underground reigns over what is above, when polemics and dialectics have become so popular with so many, when hearsay, especially through the use of media, is welcomed as acceptable merchandise, when we have begun to feed upon the lives of others, when the soul of unity has been shaken and different groups are scattered everywhere, when hopes are shattered and wills are paralyzed, when souls give up the fight against desire, there is a burning need to turn toward our own spiritual sphere and listen to our own inner world, to tear ourselves from the dark atmosphere of the bodily realm and sail into the magical atmosphere of a hearty and spiritual life. Those who do not fall into lethargy and return to their usual state as soon as possible will feel the magic and charm of their own inner world; the unfortunate who fail to return and remain in between, or who remain on the other side, continue to resent, hate, slander, lie, and feel contempt, they continue in the dissolution and obstinate disagreement which they have practiced until this day, and even in climates where the sun continues to shine they will dream of dark things, they will mutter dark thoughts, always seeking dark places in which to hide and dark corners in which to live.

    One hopes that they would be able to feel the joy of the blessed days and nights that we experience, when showers of light reach everywhere. One hopes they too would abandon the heresy, unbelief, dissension, and sedition in their hearts and that they would be able to respect the chosen understanding and stance of every single soul! Maybe one day these wishes will be fulfilled, but the self-proclaimed enemies of God, the prophets, religion, and piety-once having breathed nothing but materialism, having gone into a frenzy denying divinity, and having plunged into the quicksand of anarchy and nihilism-will never be able to breathe this reviving air. Oh dear Lord, had you only made yourself known to them and released the chains from their hearts!

    In every community and society there are people who are inclined to abandon their faith and there have been many times when such people have spun out of control; other communities and societies do not have such powerful places to seek refuge when faced by these abysses and weaknesses as we have. Indeed, they have thoughts which soothe, beliefs which reconcile, days and nights which tremble with joy, festivals and carnivals; but, these days, these nights, these festivals, these carnivals are devoid of any holiness. They are like fireworks, shining for a moment and then are gone, giving only instantaneous pleasure; they are ephemeral and physical, not promising anything in the way of spiritual joy. Indeed, in their worlds you cannot feel the greatness of faith to God, nor can you feel that souls are free from the boundaries of time and space; everything starts with a false and transitory happiness, and takes place in a delirium of flesh. All is then transformed into painful memories, regrettable dreams, and disappointed hopes, and finally everything simply disappears.

    In this spiritual atmosphere where we are closely bound to God, every sound, every word, every action is felt like a nursery rhyme and listened to like a melody. These shower down upon us like the rain; we soak up the bounties of these showers. The moon changes its form every night, as if signaling particular times and happy hours, the sun moves to a new spot on the horizon at every dawn, awakening our feelings and thoughts in a new period of time, causing our dreams to follow it, presenting memories to us that resemble the river Kawthar, promised to us in Heaven. The past becomes like a veil of many colors draped before our eyes, the happy future is the apex of our dreams, waiting for us with open arms and we, who have been freed from the narrow confines of time, live the multiplicity of yesterday-today-tomorrow simultaneously and, like the angels, feel all the joys of surpassing time. It is impossible for those who are not fed from the same source, those who do not share the same feelings and thoughts, to feel and understand the holy depths or the happiness and joy like the rivers of Paradise to the same extent.

    Our faith, our horizons of thought, and our manner-characteristics of the fortunate, but at the same time belonging to a little-wronged nation of the world-have become, through being formed and re-formed in the mold of the collective personality, greatly refined and adorned with universal values. The truth is that in these characteristics the holy sadness of our hearts and the enthusiasm of our souls, like water running between the rocks, are felt and heard. Indeed, those who listen to what we have to say always hear the melodies of the pain of separation voiced along with hope; they hear the notes of reunion, of the sweet and eternal search for home in our intonation and manner. Indeed, while on the one hand we murmur “Oh, cup bearer, I have burnt in the flames of love, give me a cup of water,” on the other we say “I have dipped my finger in and tasted the honey of love, give me a cup of water,” and thus we are able to turn our grief into smiles. Our tongues speak sometimes of love and sometimes of weariness; though love and weariness cause pain to others, in them we always hear, like Rumi, the poem of longing for the realm that we have left to come here. Love and weariness to us are like a plea from the tongue of the soul, stemming from a sorrowful desire for eternity. Since our beliefs and feelings take us to the magical worlds of beyond, we almost always feel sadness and joy intertwined; we hear the sounds of crying and laughing as different notes of the same melody. We respond to the troubled heaving of our breasts with smiles on our faces, as our eyes overflow with tears, our conscience takes upon a red hue with the roses of the Iram gardens.

    Even though it may not be easy for every individual, our connection to God is the most natural attitude that we can adopt; our relation with Him is like a spell that transforms all the moments of our life into enthusiasm and joy. Our hearts that beat with feelings toward Him fill and re-fill with the dream of this gaze; we are able to live through the bitterest autumns in our hearts because we have the joy of spring. Our souls adopt the most enviable attitudes with instincts of particular feelings and joy that are the result of our connection with the All-Glorious One; thus transformed, they make us feel a refreshed enthusiasm, a new opening and revelation, even at moments when we are filled with sadness and grief. Pleasure or sadness, revelation or sorrow, all these emotions undergo metamorphoses in our hearts, as they beat with faith and speak to us of the most natural pleasures and the most realistic expectations. It is a fact that we, too, experience interconnected moments of ease and hardship, sweet weeks and bitter days, light and darkness which come and pass, like day and night. However, we sip the unsurpassable benevolence and joys from the hands of all these tribulations, because we have our beliefs, our connection to the Just One and our hopes! Those who do not recognize the trials and pleasures to be the product of the same will writhe in never-ending agony, while in our own atmosphere we see clearly that everything will be transformed into deep compassion. We taste a whole life, with its bitter and sweet facets like Kawthar, the blessed water of Paradise, in everything that we eat and drink, at every place that we inhabit, with all the beautifully divine discoveries of our own inner world. With all of their different wavelengths, we feel our sorrows shrink in the face of happiness, feel our pain melt away in pleasure and feel how our lives flow into glazed cisterns in a spectrum of colors. Our mortality is transformed into eternity; we exude smiles even when we cry.

    In our world, the beliefs and the expectations that emerge from the heart of those beliefs are so intertwined with our lives that each chapter of our lives lends us the wings of the station of prayer and takes us to the gate of the Hereafter. It takes us there and lets our hearts drink of the beauties of heaven. In this way, we feel as if we are inhaling the scents of heaven. Even if we should let ourselves be swept along by our daily lives, the calls for prayer, songs that exalt God, the various sounds of prayer, the recitation of the names of God, those who give Him thanks, calling out His Uniqueness, letting this spill from the windows of the mosques, all draw us to their climate; they paint our souls with their hues, they give a tambour-like voice to our hearts, they make them sigh like a flute and excite them with the happiness of music. These sounds excite our souls and we are charmed by the mysteries pertaining to God, the charm of these mysteries which comes galloping from the depths of our inner world and which spreads to all our senses, this charm which tints the gardens of heaven in our thoughts and which flows past our lips like cascades of inspiration. Thus charmed, we stand awe-struck.

    This charm, this recognition of the mysteries pertaining to God, reaches a higher level on the blessed days and nights when limitless abundance and bounty are showered upon us. This is true to such an extent that everything around us ascends in a state of joy, every corner takes on a spiritual hue and the excitement of our souls, aiming at metaphysical destinations, reaches its apex, or in Sufi terms, our souls reach the highest heaven of maturity. To the degree that we can hear and listen to what is all around us, we too rejoice like children who feel as if they are in the fair grounds of joy; thus we experience the happiness and joy of a feast day.

    In such a world, the dawn flows into our houses from the doors and windows like an awaited guest; the evening comes into our private chambers like a lover; the night clings to us with its associations of reunion with the Confidant; and in every valley hands are raised up toward Him in prayer, ready to receive the gifts that will come from Him, assuming a state of metaphysical tension with the power of the soul, sighing, saying “Hold my hand dear Confidant, hold it, for I cannot do without You.”

    In such a world, prayers roar like the booming voices of Gulbang hymns and echo like the voice and breath of the divine depths; the warm solitude of the night envelopes our souls like silk; our pulses beat with the excitement of one who has received good tidings. Perhaps some of us keep singing His praises, come rain or shine, like the nightingale that breaks its heart in an effort to express the ideal rhythm for its emotions with the most touching of sounds. In a word, everyone is humming a melody with never-ending agony and joy, never-fading love and excitement, listening to the shivering of their souls and letting others hear it, too. Everyone sighs with the fever of love and makes other people feel it. Yes, as they reflect on the excitement in their souls and the inspiration of their hearts, expressing themselves one last time, they become the mouthpiece for the feelings shared by all and they are able to speak of the hidden meanings that they want to speak of but fail to verbalize.

    The horizon of living yesterday-today-tomorrow at the same time with such a degree of faith and hope, of love and recognition of the mysteries that pertain to God, gives such a depth to life that each heart in the orbit of the hereafter finds itself wrapped up in the melodious harmony of emotions and ideas and is freed from the limiting, stifling effects of matter. I believe that the strongest basis of all human relations, the purest source of all pleasures, and the fountain of all love, longing, attraction, and gravity is this faith and hope. Every disciple of the heart who attains this faith and hope can experience and feel the state of being outside of time, with the ability to sense all of its depths.

    Indeed, to the extent that one can attain this view, one can feel existence in a different manner, evaluate things in a different way and melt in on oneself with the color, taste, aroma and accent of manifestations from the Eternal; these attributes pervade everything, and people can reach a second existence with a new “birth after death.” During such joyful hours, when the internal gaze is focused on that which is behind the visual scene of existence, one feels all the joys of being. One feels as if one has taken a shower in wisdom, as if one is freed from the weight of all things that are alien to one. The distant heavens shower blessings down upon these hearts, hearts thirsty for love and galloping with longing and affection; all hearts that live in fear of drying up are quenched. Celestial flowers flourish in these showers adorned with dreams!

    Some of us may not be able to comprehend this state-a state which becomes a succession of struggle (to overcome the darkness with its all connotation) and dawn-of these people of faith and horizon; but all these are phenomena of the heart, soul and emotions. Living through the countless revelations of life, no one but the active heroes of the dawn and of the great strife can understand this love, enthusiasm, poetry, and music poured into our souls by the Eternal One. Those who do not understand this will not be able to understand these heroes, either. Those who remain distant to this fine and delicate life live in the darkness, while the comprehension of those who have found a position from where they can view the truth in such a way that it appears as obvious as it really is always feel this gift in all its wavelengths, sip it like the rivers of Paradise and live their earthly lives as if in Heaven.

    Who knows how many more times we will speak of this never-ending pleasure and joy, in the delight of a festival, of a feast day! How ever many more times we may speak of it-the faults of the speaker’s mode of expression aside-we will still listen with pleasure and try to share it with others.

    Notes
    1. a place mentioned in the Qur’an (al Fajr 89:7-8), “. . . the city of ýram, with
    lofty pillars; the like of which were not produced in all the land.”
    2. Hymns sung in the mosque in unison by the congregation .
    3. the change communicated along these lines is not to be related to re-
    incarnational notions.

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