The Culture of the Heart

You frequently refer to "ma'rifa" (knowledge of God) as "heart culture."

Knowledge of God does not consist of abstract knowledge; in its true form, it is transformed into love. We cannot remain indifferent to someone in whom we believed and then grew to know well. After belief and knowledge comes love. Love is the crown of belief in God and knowledge of Him. Love is open to everyone according to his or her level. Love, which seeks to deepen itself, always travels on the horizon of "increase," asking: "Isn't there more?" On the one hand, sacred knowledge increases, giving rise to increasing in love, which causes knowledge to increase still further. Thus a virtuous circle is formed. Love increases not only in the name of knowledge, but also in the name of love. Gedai said: "The more I put my finger in the honey of love, the more I burn; give me some water." Universal light appears in the hearts of those who drink this water, and the way to eternal life becomes illuminated thereby.

Your book "Kabin Zumrut Tepeleri,"(translated as "Key Concepts in the Practice of Sufism") in addition to being heavily Sufic with respect to its style, is based on contemplation and ecstasy...

I tried to bring the matter to that point. Islam's spiritual life should be considered from the approach of the Prophet's Companions. Imam Rabbani says: "We are reviving the Companion's path." However, reviving the Companion's path was accomplished fully by Bediuzzaman. Now it's unthinkable that such an action of renewal could be far from Islam's spiritual life. Like monks at night, the Companions lived a life in love with worship. Is it possible to remain blind to their inner lives?

Some people claim that the Risale-i Nur is far removed from Sufism. Is this true?

No. If the Risale-i Nur were to be squeezed, you'd see Islam's spiritual life and the Sufic truth dripping from it. I think the mistake here is due to mixing Sufism with dervish orders (tariqa). Sufism is Islam's inner life; dervish orders are institutions established in later centuries to represent and live this life. The orders can be criticized. In fact, the Kadiris say: "Audible or loud recitation is better than the Naqshis' silent recitation." The Naqshis, who prefer silent recitation, say: "Since in the Sufi way everything is basically related to heart, it's not necessary to publicize it by loud recitation." But no one gets upset about these differences. Bediuzzaman pointed this out in the Risale-i Nur.

Can you give some examples?

For example, in his Mathnawi al-Nuriya, he says: "Transcend your animal life, get free from corporeality, and attain the degree of the life of the heart and spirit." Symbolically he pointed to the life of the heart and spirit. At the same time, in the Talwihat he elaborately explains the uses and risks of following a dervish order. Every institution may have some defects. Such warnings don't mean that he opposed them. Various orders try to represent our Prophet's example in their lives and inner worlds. It is natural that different understandings and interpretations have appeared.

Kalbin Zumrut Tepeleri expresses an inadequate person's feelings and thoughts in a weak style. Actually, as a theme, these matters can always be written in the light of the Risale-i Nur. In later periods of his mission, for example, in Lahikalar (the books of communications between Bediuzzaman and his students and the students themselves) he emphasized the importance of attaining the highest degree of asceticism, piety, and sincerity.

Sufism is the way of being God's "friend." In the general sense, everyone is God's friend. Those who perform their prescribed religious duties and refrain from major sins are God's friends. But when we say "friend" in a particular way, it takes on its own definition. To become candidates for that definition, our heart must be enlivened and our spirit polished. Just as we use our feet for travelling, we also must use our heart and spirit. This is possible by traveling on the "emerald hills of the heart" guided by innermost, more refined faculties. Making this journey may be considered as a requirement of being respectful of the divine truths manifested in the universe. [Eyup Can, Zaman daily, August, 1995]

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