Lead Article

  • Issue 100 / July - August 2014



    The Sacred Suffering

    M. Fethullah Gulen

    The human is a lone traveler in this world; we are obliged to travel for the sake of finding ourselves and to attain our essence on a long path with deep rivers and steep mountains blocking the way. It is a path with lots of perils and no gateways. On this long and unknown path, we have to reach our intended target by striving against the difficulties we face, standing up to troubles, and overcoming obstacles. A journey like this is travelled only once, and every individual only has this single chance to attain eternity.

    In fact, such a journey is not specific to humanity: all creatures come into being in order to go through a difficult journey according to their level. And then they keep flowing into different molds and undergoing constant transformations until they reach their own identity; sometimes, they even transform into a second existence. They do this through pain, suffering, death, and resurrection, a few times in every moment.

    Water cannot vaporize and attain purity without the challenge of the heat; a seed cannot sprout and rise to a higher life form without cracking and decomposing. Rivers cascade down and hit rocks to become as pure as the raindrops of a cloud. Spring does not come without winter. Even if it did, it would not be appreciated. Gold owes its value and brightness, and steel owes its hardness and durability, to the melting pots they were formed in. A bone dry land revives and serves as a bed for thousands of flowers in proportion to the amount of lightning flashing over it. Darkness cocoons light in its bosom, to its own disadvantage. Winter always weaves its canvas for the benefit of spring. Hence, a spring follows every winter, and a day follows every night. Deaths are for resurrection, and sufferings are for attaining a more beautiful life. By dying and resurrecting thousands of times throughout their lives, individuals are freed from the dark and deceiving pressures of the "ego" and reach eternity in their soul. A community ripens, matures, and attains immortality through the sufferings it undergoes and by clawing its way against the troubles it faces.

    What a pleasure it is to die and resurrect time and again in order to attain eternal existence! How enjoyable it is to consider every blow a warning, telling us to come to our senses! What a great heroism it is to maintain hope and embrace the future in the face of so many misfortunes! Those who live their lives with faith and consciousness fly away through this journey of tribulations with wings of hope, under the bright light of their thoughts, through this land of trials and its seas of pus and blood. They are aware that they have come here to be distilled and purified. And they know that they can be skinned like the great Sufi Nesimi (d. 1417) or executed like Mansur (d. 922). Since they welcome both divine wrath and grace, and since they see the cure within the affliction, they watch what befalls them with pleasure and admiration, and they never panic. Every new misfortune becomes a plectrum, sounding out different tunes in their hearts and invigorating them with fresh excitements. For them, sufferings are no different than snowstorms on high mountaintops. They are nothing unusual. We can even say that living without suffering at all becomes an irresistible torment for them; it would mean their death. This is particularly true if their people are suffering and their values are being destroyed!

    The most glorious servants of God did not spend a moment without suffering with such concerns. The same can be said for those who guided their nations to light: Imam Abu Hanifa (d. 767), one of the immortal guides of humanity with his fresh ideas and well-placed comments, was subjected to a raw deal and thrown into prison; he endured a life of suffering. Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d. 855) was mistreated like a worthless person and underwent the meanest tortures ÔÇô and this lasted for years! Sarahsi (d. 1096) wrote his masterpiece Al-Mabsut in the bottom of the well in which he was imprisoned. And there were many more who suffered ...

    As those mature souls were subjected to tortures, as if they were being squeezed in presses, their blessed heads reached the realms beyond the heavens, and they became infinite sources of light with their enlightened hearts on the path to the revival of their people. People like Campanella (d. 1639), Cervantes (d. 1616), and Dostoyevsky (d. 1881) discovered themselves in captivity and reached immortality in the hearts of their people.

    Everybody who bears the thought of serving humanity must know that the duty is sacred; the journey is long; the roads are steep; and different evils await them on this road. At every corner they will face death. They will be insulted, as if they were contemptible criminals, and most of the time they will be deprived of their right to live like human beings. They should be dedicated to this blessed cause with such awareness. Otherwise, some immature and heedless souls might change their course and direction due to petty hardships and deprivations.

    O, you lazy soul! You expect it to rain without any thunder; you expect greenery without any seeds being cracked and no grains being sacrificed! You expect mothers to deliver babies, but without any labor pains! Namely, you expect the general course of divine destiny and order, in spite of its splendid wisdom, to be shaped according to your personal considerations. No! You have not come to this world for fun, for living according to your fancies and fantasies. You have come for the sake of realizing your inherent human potentials and cultivating the exalted qualities in your essence, for the sake of your inner enlightenment. So that you may become a mirror to reflect the divine, you will be put into melting pots many times over and burned in fire; you will be pushed through barrels of needles and undergo many trials!

    These are the rules of the way, and the rest is futile and deceptive!

    "Do not, then, be faint of heart, nor grieve,

    For you are always the superior side if you are (true) believers."

    Here is the reviving breath to cure hearts!

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