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How to avoid claiming divine favors upon oneself

by Fethullah Gülen on . Posted in Questions and Answers

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Fethullah Gülen: The test

Question: There are positive developments around the world in the direction of a revival of ethical and spiritual values. How should believers position themselves on a safe ground to avoid claiming divine favors upon themselves?

This matter has two aspects; we are concerned with one aspect, while the other one is beyond our capacity. Regarding the aspect associated with us, service to revive ethical values is done only because it is ordered by God. Unless all these deeds—those that make our nights sleepless, ruin our comfort, restrain us from food and drink, tire our minds and bodies—are performed for the good pleasure of God, it means that we have been acting in vain. Having sincere intentions lies at the soul of all actions. Unless this soul exists, both the deeds we have done and the ones we shall do will bear no positive worth.

O you who believe! Respond to God and to the Messenger when the Messenger calls you (in the Name of God) to that which gives you life. (Al Anfal 8:24)

Yes, this is a matter of life-giving, that is, a revival and helping others revive. And this revival, as clearly stated in the above verse, is considered possible only by faith and by making it the essence of life. Our personal thoughts and desires should in no way interfere in our deeds performed for God’s good pleasure in order to reach “the rank of contentment.” This is important, for there is a fine balance here. For instance, the belief that an unfaithful person shall face perdition may cause some sensitive souls to feel resentment; but this is a judgment in which we have no say of. Likewise, it would also put our balance on the brink of collapse if we were to include our personal feelings and push hard on legitimate bounds, or contrarily conceive unnecessary limits even for some legitimate forms of relationship, say, in an effort to prevent sexual misbehavior. Therefore, it is significant to stay in line with what has been prescribed and be content with it especially at times when we think we could serve God’s good pleasure by other means; this is what we are accountable of.

The other aspect, mentioned previously as being beyond our capacity, imposing upon others our message. This is something really beyond our power and ability, and this is not something we are responsible of. Just as it is God who can make someone accept, it is also Him who can make them not accept. Just as we do not consider this to be within our own authority, we cannot claim the opposite to ourselves either. If our words are welcomed and people respond to our call, we should not associate this with our intelligence, knowledge or ability, as everything is a favor of God. By contrast, if we are not welcomed, we should question ourselves, check our senses, intentions, worship; continually engage in self-inspection, and never fall in despair. Throughout history, numerous great figures of logic and reasoning have come and gone, and they have only been followed by a handful of people. Again, many people of inspiration and blessings have passed away, after whom one or two followers may or may not have gone. Indeed, faith is a light which God turns on in the heart of His servant, and the decision to turn it on is only under His authority.

Bediuzzaman walked on a holy path, by the grace of God, throughout his life, and despite all his achievements he did not associate anything to himself. He always managed to restrain and throw aside his ego by saying, “God Almighty may and is able to glorify His religion even by a sinful slave; yes, you should regard yourself that sinful slave!” In the same way, he lived his life through a continuous self-inspection and self-reckoning, declaring “you can not be a recipient of these blessings, but a mere passage through which others can reach them!”

The following generations after him, however, have found themselves surrounded by pleasurable services already established and have started wondering what else they could do. Just then, one more time, God Almighty poured on them His blessings, and now, everything we can see around the world today is merely the works of His own action, made out of His own material. Thus the end result is an abundance of positive consequences that can even surpass the works of saints.

All becomes easy when God manifests Himself;
Creates He the causes and bestows them in a moment.

It is a clear fact that these good services cannot be run by people who go through ups and downs; some of us are so weak in character that we want to leave half way when faced with difficulty or feel depressed, but after we realize all other routes are no exit, we get back on track. Even though a group of people, a community, may receive great honors and rewards based on their sincerity and hard work, we should admit that God Almighty is the real agent behind all things. So, no one should blur these services by mixing with it some other thoughts, delusions, or future expectations. No one should exploit the results obtained from these services for his or her own benefit so that all these favors can become a means of salvation for them. However, this spring of benevolence that can meet even the spiritual and otherworldly needs of next generations, may possibly become useless if we spoil it by crediting the blessings granted to ourselves.

It is therefore necessary to practice self-introspection, hold ourselves to account for all of our actions, and do our best to maintain self-control. Each of these favors should trigger even more servanthood and prayer with even more deeply observed worship, turning each prostration to a gate of reunion, not willing to lift our heads even for a moment, knowing that each favor will multiply with our gratitude. We have to rethink our condition; if we are brushing aside over our prayers, if we are being dragged away by our lust, and if we are enjoying all the carnal pleasures of this life in its fullest sense, then we have already started spoiling these favors.

This article has first appeared in the 92th issue of Fountain Magazine (March - April 2013). The Fountain can be reached online at http://www.fountainmagazine.com