Lead Article

  • Issue 109 / January -February 2016



    A Self-Interrogation

    M. Fethullah Gulen

    O ego! Escape the feeling of autumn and transform into a green meadow with birds flying around above you; be a spring so all those with burning souls come running to you; spread light like candles so those in darkness can see and make their way to you. Embrace others with affection and sincerity like a mother embraces her child, so even those afraid of your anger will throw themselves into your arms with no hesitation. Distribute whatever God has granted you to others; altruism is the most effective, most mysterious formula which brings people close to others, close to Paradise, and close to God. If you are successful in ascribing this formula to your own soul, one day even the most abrupt souls, whose beliefs are based on revenge, resentment, and hostility, are sure to form queues and wait in anticipation of entering your environment.

    Every moment, you should be like the clouds, and obstruct the burning heat of the sun; ignoring the various seasons, you should extinguish the thirst of everyone and everything, just like a heavy downpour of rain and caress their arid hearts and souls. Be a spring available to everyone who is thirsty; may your water be sweet and delightful. When you speak and echo the inspirations of your soul, allow your ink to become the spiritual psalms that revive the pages of books. When the harmful daggers of your fury, anger, resentment, and hostility are tempted, you must be a protector. You must be a friend of the deprived and homeless; a friend of even the most rampaging souls who seek refuge in you. Do not disappoint those who run to the security of your guardianship.

    As in the case of the present, even when certain individuals destroy the paths and bridges which bring us together as a nation, thus making it impossible for us to progress, it is our duty to establish and promote new paths and bridges of spirituality. We must strive to progress and reach every point we can reach, and we must never be deceived by a desire for retaliation. Even if you face death, be sure to fulfill the duties required of a believer: transform any stones cast at you into light, like the meteors which melt in the atmosphere, and relish the display of radiance spreading like fireworks in the heavens. It is your duty to modulate the sounds of anger and violence, and transform these into anthologies of love; and while doing so, do not speak about bridges being destroyed, and do not give in to resentment and hostility.

    This path is the path of the Prophets and the most secure bridge towards becoming a person of perfection. None who choose this path have ever experienced disappointment; and in addition to never experiencing disappointment, they never change their stance when confronted with disrespect or abuse. If a person is conscious of humanism, resentment, hostility, disrespect, or any other kind of crudeness, it will never affect their thoughts or behavior; and this is how it should be. There may be some who do change direction and ideas when they are confronted with certain difficulties – however, these are the immature souls who, in terms of emotions and thought, are still unsettled. When confronted with difficulty, these undeveloped souls respond with rashness. This is one of the main reasons for the frequent disputes between different cultures.

    Modesty, submission, and tolerance are the invariable aspects of those who have reached spiritual maturity and stability. Whatever the conditions, such individuals are as extensive as the skies, as vast as the oceans, as glorious and sturdy as the mountains, and as humble as the earth. They are never influenced by things which occur in their environment, never corrupted by their social relationships with others, and never submit to the compelling challenges they face; on the contrary, they display humbleness, and protect everyone, and everything, around them. They are like gold which is melted down to its original purity, and even if they were placed in ovens capable of melting granite, their unblemished characters would never change. They suffered so much pain that no longer does the blaze of affliction effect them; they will never succumb to any flames of anguish. O ego! You must sense and experience the grievances of others so deep in your conscience that nobody ever has to anticipate your support. You must sense their pain so deep in your soul that you shed tears. Through your sorrow, the tears of all those around you dry and fade away. You share their affliction and misery so their souls find relief in your presence.

    When a fortunate person is successful in arranging their life accordingly, it is virtually as if they have experienced the best of all pleasures. The person is commemorated on the earth and in the heavens as one granted the honor of being a vicegerent of God. The human nature is intertwined with both delight and sorrow; the perfect person is, on the one hand, a dungeon keeper who can imprison his sorrow behind the bars of his willpower; on the other hand, at the time of delight he is a bird keeper who sets free his messenger pigeons, sending them to the farthest distances to spread the good news. The perfect person knows what to tie up and what to let loose. Indeed, controlling our whims and desires through willpower is an achievement, but expanding our hearts to the extent that we are capable of welcoming everyone is an act of outstanding bravery.

    O ego! Always be brave and support bravery! Use your conscience as a touchstone while criticizing yourself; and constantly smile at others conveying the beauty of your heart that is as pure as gold! And when you smile at others, always remember to be cautious and discern well who is who! By nature, you are exposed to all kinds of manners, and the clearest evidence of this was your first adventure in the heavens. While the angels rocked your cradle and sang lullabies of admiration, devils were conducting ceremonies of jealousy. Even on that very first day you had to confront extreme envy, as well as dumbfounding looks of admiration. We do not know for sure whether you were touched by the evil eye or not; there is no doubt that you stumbled at first even if eventually you have soared up high. When you miscalculated time and stretched your hand to the forbidden fruit before it was due – which is quite a normal act for ordinary people, but a falter in the league of noble souls – it resulted in your incarceration in this dungeon of the world. No, no! Not in the dungeon, but in the heart of this earth, which serves as the birthplace of the beloved ones. The true wisdom of the tree of life came with the beloved, the first fruit of your seemingly unpleasant fate, the fruit that was sweeter than any other. Indeed, if you remained in Paradise you would have continued to exist as a fruitless tree, unable to develop, and would have never attained awareness of the potential abundance. Whereas when you set your pavilion in this world, this land of dust and soil was transformed into a garden of roses…and this worn-out realm to which you were expelled became the garden of the exiled Prophets and saints. Eventually, the angels have excelled in their admiration, and the jealousy of the devils revolved and penetrated their own hearts like a spear.

    Therefore, guard your own values! Strive to benefit from this exile, for it is considered as the path to reaching the pleasure of God. Do not miss this opportunity to come close to the Divine and do not distance yourself from Him. Abstain from pleasing Satan by falling into the traps of resentment, hostility, anger, ambition, and jealousy! If one day you stumble and deviate beyond your own boundaries, behave as the Prophet Adam did: rise, compose yourself, and confess to your crime. Turn towards God’s door, which is constantly open to everyone, and do not give your sins and errors the chance to exist, not even for a moment! Revive the nature of humanity, which was corrupted by sin and altered, with the elixir of repentance, and guide humanity towards the pleasure of God! And while doing so, remember that humans, by nature, are the same, so forgive others because just as you sinned, there is always the possibility that they too can make mistakes. In fact, when these individuals succumb to their desires, have compassion for them whenever possible, embrace them and assist them in any way you can. Never assume that you have the right to question the sins of others. If occupying yourself with sins and mistakes amuses you, then use this hobby to rectify your own mistakes so the tiny blemishes of others will not make you forget your own greasy black spots.

    Call upon everyone like the breeze carrying the scent of roses. Burn like a candle and enlighten others, but never attribute this great sacrifice to your own interests. Turn like a wheel and groan, and extinguish the flames of all the suffering souls, but never consider your own suffering. Burn away inside, but spread a pleasant scent into your environment, and never complain. Always be humble, and never boast about the favors granted to you by God; on the contrary, consider this as an advance granted to the needy, and feel the embarrassment of obtaining your reward in advance. If you consider your services and efforts to be a favor to others, then you will eventually begin to expect compliments. The cure for this disease is very difficult. It is a disease that will scare everyone away from you, and if you persist, then every day, to the contrary of your expectations, you will experience blows and drive people away… But if you aspire to peace, you will find it in abstinence, humbleness, self-deprecation, and contentment. Even if they are on the path of bliss, those who consider themselves superior to others, those who claim to have extraordinary abilities, those who expect compliments from everyone, those who act with rage and anger, will eventually face misery.

    O ego! Spit in the face of your inner malice if you have the courage! Eliminate disloyalty from your life. Overthrow oppression, and destroy shamelessness - remember that God is present everywhere; contain the emotions of evil with faith in divine retribution; strive to remain on the path of God’s pleasure, and not on the path of whims and desires. Never forget that God sees you at all times. Tremble like the leaves on a tree and cast away your sins, the shortcomings and evil acts that corrupt your nature and are unfamiliar to your soul and a great burden on your heart. Every effort you make to escape such sin is classified as a form of jihad and will bring you closer to God. On the contrary, if you distance yourself from God, you will undergo the most painful of separations, and will suffocate amidst loneliness. There will be no rewards in your record of good deeds; you will be in a state of spiritual darkness and gloom. Therefore, awaken and recover from this darkness. Guard your human values, and do not sacrifice the Paradise you once lost due to impatience.

    Every attempt to regain what was lost is like planting new seeds to be sown in the earth: when the time comes, the fruits of this crop are sure to multiply. Therefore do not hesitate; spread kindness, favor, and excellence to the whole world. Purify your emotions focused on evil, and live your life based upon the eternal happiness of others! But while doing so, free yourself from the confinement of your personal accounts and interests that destroy the soul. Take all the burden on yourself and spread ease to those around you. Listen to others and groan with their grief, but always strive to be a source of strength and relief to others. Open your heart to others with love, so that anger and hostility perish, and the victims of their own ego run to your embrace.

    Cascade like a river of prosperity into the souls of others. Embrace everything and everyone with your radiance day after night like the sun and the moon. Whenever a person turns to you with some kind of expectation, never contradict the good opinion they have of you. Always lead while serving others and displaying kindness, and strive to be last when rewards come; avoid depending on worldly benefits for acts performed for God as you would avoid a poisonous snake. Even if you find your feelings unintentionally inclining for rewards, view this deviation as the worst kind of impurity, and immediately purify yourself.

    Live with kindness and convey grace to others. The feet which tread on the path of goodness and grace are superior to the head, and the hearts which beat with generosity and kindness are as sacred as the Ka‘ba. Basically, your nature is an abode of divinity, your goal is God’s pleasure, and your path in life is a circumambulation of sacredness upon which you constantly travel on the course to God. For as long as you guard this path, your glory will be praised beyond the heavens, and your name will be aligned with lofty spirits. Therefore, increase your steadfastness on this path; increase it because we need this diligence just as we need water and bread, in a world in which human values are degraded. Think well, speak well, and constantly pursue acts of goodness.

    Flags always appear to be more gracious draped from the shoulders of those in motion. Bees are classified as beneficent for as long as they produce honey. The march is more imposing than standing still. So rise and carry the flag, fill your hive of spirituality with honey, and never lose your charm and kindness. Always be willing to serve others and be prepared for the journey to the world beyond! Although it is not certain when the command of death will come, this is a decree which is both indisputable and inevitable. Therefore, always be alert, purify yourselves from sin; open the door to the undetermined call and wait.

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