Issue 91 / January - February 2013
M. Fethullah Gulen
The heart is humanityâ€™s most essential feature and its greatest treasure. It is the expression of our spiritual existence, the source of our feelings and beliefs, and the pathway to our soulâ€™s ultimate depths. Those who walk on the path of the heart will not experience any darkness, and those who soar on the wings of their hearts will surmount any obstacle. Human virtues are cultivated on the hillsides of the heart; faith, love, and spiritual pleasures are the fruits of its garden.
If your heart is like a desert, your thoughts and feelings will inevitably wither and fade. In our history, human reason enjoyed its golden age when it submitted to the rule of the heart. Under the heartâ€™s guardianship, reason left behind countless immortal works. In those times, matter was melted and re-forged in the furnace of our spiritual essence. Then our experience became a fairground of the hereafter, this world intermingled with the next, and the treasures of the transcendent realms were on offer here. It is according to the measures of the other world that the objects of this one become priceless. In those times, the sugar was separated from the cane, the bud was pregnant with a flower, and the soil was imbued with the lights of the other world. Things of this world found fulfillment and were perfected. The tulips and lilies of the earth began to dance in the presence of the heart, and the charms of the next world were felt in every corner.
But we gave our minds to idle gossip and our reason gave way to deceit. And as the tongue of conscience and the melodies of the heart fell silent, the earth became like a graveyard, and our homes like coffins. Life became a drudgery, and our spirits were stifled by the smog of our misplaced longing. In such malaise, carnal feelings and corporeal thoughts ambush our souls like bandits. They present us with various poisons, and we become a deluded crowd: a mob that cannot hear the voice of conscience and is closed to reason, that contemplates and understands nothing.
Today, we yearn for the stories of the heart, for in them we feel the reviving breaths of Jesus.2 Since the beginning of the world, the people of the heart have always been the fortunate ones, traveling in the realms beyond the heavens with wings like angels. These heroes transcend the limits of the bodies to hold the reins of both worlds. While others beg from door to door, they live among the blessings of Paradise with contentment. The dust and the grime of this world do not blacken their horizon, nor does the colorful attraction of the hereafter distract them from their purpose. In every deed, they enjoy the friendship of God; thus their devotion is the most profitable trade.3 In this way, they faithfully realize their heartâ€™s purpose in a way that befits humanity. These fortunate ones sing of their love in the eternal melodies, raising their voices to the furthest galaxies.
The heart is the intersection of Godâ€™s grace with humanityâ€™s essence. Therefore, with the seal of the Sovereign on it, the heart unifies the spiritual and material worlds. Our inner and outer beauties are in fact different dimensions of the life of our heart, and the radiance of our appearance is intimately tied to our inner life. When a word is spoken from the heart, the mind is ignited and our consciousness glows like the corona of the sun. At this moment, when the spirit turns its face to the secret voice of the heart, our feelings begin to resonate as if they had been plucked by a mysterious plectrum, and our conscience begins to whirl like a dervish in joy and respect. We feel the fire of love on all sides, and tears of joy quench the suffering of our longing.
When we lose our self and our will in ecstasy, we may temporarily lose our balance, but the heart always remains humble in the presence of God. When we travel in the realm of the heart, we are neither perplexed nor inhibited. If the hero of the heart halts with fright or struggles in his way with difficulty, love succors him like Khidr, holding the reins of his horse and carrying him swiftly over the pits of hesitation.4 Our senses, inner and outer, are soldiers at the heartâ€™s command; they are moths fluttering around its brilliant light. The heart speaks with the highest authority, and all our senses submit to its rule. Like the pole star, it orbits only itself, chanting the name of God, while all other senses turn around it, prostrate.
All of us are guests in the house of the heart. Let us sacrifice our hearts to the One whose sovereignty is felt in this house. We are determined to offer our souls to the Sovereign, and we await His judgment. Since the day He breathed life into our hearts, our longing for reunion has bound us to Him, and we have diligently tended to our love as to a great weaving. Our soul trembles with excitement when we feel the nearness of the Friend, but we wait patiently for Him to open the door, with our heads bowed in respect.
As we walk on this way, singing the ballads of longing and love, the heart is our gracious guide. Until our last breath, we promise to follow this blessed guide.
1 Muhammed LĂĽtfi (d. 1956), Turkish Sufi poet.
2 According to the Qurâ€™an, Jesus revived the dead with his word or breath. (See Qurâ€™an, 3:49)
3 A reference to the Qurâ€™anic concept of the spiritual â€śtradeâ€ť mentioned in the verse: â€śThose who recite Godâ€™s scripture, keep up the prayer, give secretly and openly from what We have provided for them, may hope for a trade that will never decline.â€ť (35:29)
4 Khidr is a spiritual personality and a man of wisdom in Islamic tradition, who lives in an angelic way, serving God to execute divine commands and succoring people in hard conditions.