M. Fethullah Gulen
Never despair, keep your willpower alive
If you can, be a source of hope for all
Our society is currently being challenged by a spiral of problems – problems of a rare kind. We are troubled by countless incitements. We are faced with depravation, contempt for values, decadence that leads to desultoriness, addiction to pomp and vanity, avarice and indulgence in pleasures, worldly ambitions and wishfullness for eternal life in this world, and – to be able to attain these ambitions – Machiavellianism that unscrupulously legitimizes all sorts of means.
While our hearts and souls are paralyzed by these devastating afflictions, there are also many other cases of baseness. They come in the form of outrageous indifference, embarrassing heedlessness, being silent like “a mute devil” in the face of sheer injustice, and closing our ears to the uproars of despots and oppressors and to the cries of innocents and victims. This level of wickedness has been rarely witnessed in history.
Notwithstanding all these concentric deviations, there have been a few dozen devotees of love who have always taken on all the risks and moved forward on their path of resurrection, even at the expense of their own lives and regardless of the bumpy road ahead. These devotees have tied their lives to the wellbeing of others and have always breathed with this lofty ideal. They say as Fuzuli said,
I can only be thankful, if the Beloved asked for my life,
What is its worth anyway, that I wouldn’t forsake it for my Beloved.
They have lived these sentiments joyfully; they rose with hope and moved with disregard for worldly ambitions. As they took refuge in the All-Patient One, they never slowed down while marching on the path of the Prophets, despite all the complicated and insecure directions, unyielding hurdles, and merciless deviations. Never deterred by these challenges, they preserved the purity of the sacred in their hearts and the glory of their ideals. Never satiated with the distances they covered, they asked for more and traveled to the four corners of the world to voice and exemplify the truth and love of the Divine.
When they first set out, they already knew compliance with the heavenly orders and checks would not be easy. They knew there would be pitfalls ahead. They knew it was not a smooth highway they had chosen, but they were reassured that with the elixir of patience their heavy burden would become light enough to carry. As painful and indigestible as patience was in the beginning, its results have been sweet as sherbet.
Patience is the elixir helping these devotees survive the vortexes of sins and carnality. With patience, they can remedy the malice of their persecutors and render ineffective the conspiracies of tricksters. Through the goggles of patience, they see everything has a due time. They have patiently accepted the fact that this is a long walk and the road will not come to an end soon. Patience has taught them to seek refuge in the infinite power of the Almighty. With patience, they have steered clear of the maddening bigotry of some fanatics who have fixated themselves on revenge, grudge, obstinacy, and envy. With patience, they have moved forward, calling others to brighten their minds with the “sunlight of knowledge” and to nourish their hearts with the “moonlight of faith.”
When faced with a pressing situation, they have hung on by always turning to, “O you who believe (believers who are people of security and trust)! Seek help (against all kinds of hardships and tribulations) through persevering patience and the Prayer; surely God is with the persevering and patient” (Qur’an 2:153). This verse has served as a fresh water spring and healed their spirit from all kinds of afflictions. What a heavenly source of life this spring has been! A new Divine favor has been born in their hearts with each sip, gracing them with eternal life. Each drop has become an ocean.
They have been fully aware that their lives are transient and their strength limited. They have disassociated themselves from their individual powers – to the extent of their good judgment – and sought refuge under the unlimited strength of the Almighty and His Willpower, by way of which their drops turn to oceans and their atoms to suns. Indeed, what doesn’t exist comes into existence, and what has no value becomes priceless, in this way. The Almighty’s favors are also dependent on the self-relinquishing ones who have turned to Him. How wonderfully the following lines by a pious one express this fact:
You do not reveal Yourself when my presence veils
My nonexistence is the condition that You reveal Your presence
These devotees of love have strived hard even during the direst of times: when time – time that has been detached from the One – has been disloyal and feelings have turned to delirium; when brute force has run amuck and pursuing a life of prophetic virtue has become extremely difficult. Through it all, they’ve continued on the path even when the future has become obscured.
They have worked to generate humble resources, and built their own fountains. They did their utmost to inspire our hopes as they expanded wide as an ocean and then evaporated to precipitate as drops of mercy. The driest deserts and thorn fields have become gardens of roses. When there was no beam of light across the horizon, and roads were concealed without signposts, they illuminated the path of those left in the dark. They have been praised everywhere as the cavaliers of light. But their efforts have never been for praise; what they have received is the expression of love and gratitude.
Ultimately, it has been Divine favor upon them. They have come to be recognized for what great conquerors were unable to achieve. But in compliance with the principle of logic, “negating a negation is an affirmation,” they have humbly renounced themselves in awareness of their impotence and poverty in relation to the Divine Majesty. The Almighty is the One who gives, and they are the honorable ones to receive.
This is how they have formulated the matter, and they have done their utmost not to assume any false pride, arrogance, extreme self-reliance, or self-praise. They have tried not to fall as low as to be disrespectful to the Most Honorable One. They have maintained their faithfulness and sincerity in being His servants by seeing His help, support, and protection behind all the grace; despite misfortunes and obstacles they have never fallen into despair, they have never been disappointed. They’ve galloped wherever the sun rises and sets, seeking to realize their ideals and to deserve the merits of being “the perfect pattern of creation” (Qur’an 95:4). Realizing their goals has been no different than racing great distances under the scorching desert sun. But their ideals have been like the cooling shade of a spring rain. These ideals have been their provisions on this hard trip, keeping them alive and motivated, and enabling them to soar to their destination. God would never leave these sincere travelers of truth abandoned on their way.
As was the case for all their predecessors, their path has been obstructed by some intolerant bigots, who have been miserably impaired by billowing feelings of envy. They have launched organized defamation campaigns and attempted to destroy whatever God enabled the cavaliers of light to achieve. This extreme malice would not even be perpetrated by the most outrageous deniers of truth. Devils have rejoiced, for this level of persecution is unacceptable in all circumstances. But it is endorsed when inflicted on these devotees.
Yet, the desire of these devotees for the Divine pleasure has made such destructive efforts ineffective; those marching on His path have devised alternative gateways to His contentment and have marched on without losing speed.
Time shrinks as they march, and the Earth, humbled under their feet, breathes life. Each spring turns into a waterfall, hopes grow firmer, and drizzles become downpours. Many surprise triumphs happen when failure seems unavoidable; murmurs of life are heard in the spiral of darkness; and many unexpected rays of light beam off celebrations in broken hearts.
“God is with the truthful,” whispers their common sense, in a quiet search for wisdom, as the following lines flow from within:
If still determined, no more despair
You overcame what was impassable before
And became a source of hope for all
Now, it’s your turn to speak, I say no more…
- Ibn Qayyim, Jawziya, Jawab al-Kafi, p. 69, 113; Nawawi, Sharh al-Sahih al-Muslim, 2/20. It is reported that the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said, “That who sees injustice and remains silent is a mute devil” (i.e. a silent partner in that injustice).