As for those who say, “Our Lord is God,” and... (Fussilat 41:30)

by Fethullah Gülen on . Posted in Sūrah Fussilat (Distincly Spelled Out)

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إِنَّ الَّذِينَ قَالُوا رَبُّنَا اللَّهُ ثُمَّ اسْتَقَامُوا تَتَنَزَّلُ عَلَيْهِمُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ أَلَّا تَخَافُوا وَلَا تَحْزَنُوا وَأَبْشِرُوا بِالْجَنَّةِ الَّتِي كُنتُمْ تُوعَدُونَ
As for those who say, “Our Lord is God,” and then follow the Straight Path (in their belief, thought, and actions) without deviation, the angels descend upon them from time to time (in the world as protecting comrades and in the Hereafter, with the message): “Do not fear or grieve, but rejoice in the glad tidings of Paradise which you have been promised.” (Fussilat 41:30)

“Following the Straight Path” means to maintain a straight life, and to always pursue the truth in one’s life. When the Qur’ān says, “fāstaqīmū” (be straightforward, follow the Straight Path),[1] it commands us to keep a straight path during our lives. The verse under discussion gives glad tidings to these straight people. As a matter of fact, Prophet Muhammad, who is the straightest of creation, was commanded to keep the straight path, in the following verse, “Pursue, then, what is exactly right (in every matter of the Religion) as you are commanded (by God).”[2] God commands him to practice the straightness which he has in his primordial nature.

In fact, it is quite difficult for us to comprehend and pursue the straight path in the way it is in God’s sight. This is why the command of God was revealed without specifying what following the Straight Path or standing straight and steadfast means. Therefore, we are warned as follows: “Be as steadfast and upright as you can in obeying the commands and prohibitions of God.” This is what God wants us to do. Actually, God’s Messenger clarifies this in his hadīth: “Avoid God’s prohibitions and fulfill God’s commands as much as you can.”[3] The hadīth does not say avoid God’s prohibitions such as adultery, theft, drinking alcohol, and so on, as much as possible. Since we are not allowed to commit these sins to certain degrees, they are categorically forbidden. But we are ordered to fulfill the Divine commands as much as possible.

Following the Straight Path or standing straight and steadfast yields good results about which God gives glad tidings to the believers in the Qur’ān. Referring the reader to another book for these results,[4] we mention only a few points below:

1. Standing straight and steadfast is an important “food” for a person in his or her travelling toward God, or for a community or a state along their journey of life. Those who set off without the “food” of straight living and steadfastness get hung up in their ways and never achieve their aim. However, what is essential for a believer is to be able to attain to the goal that God has shown us. It does not matter if this goal is concerned with our personal or family or social life.

Indeed, following the Straight Path is an indispensable pillar in both our personal and national life. There may always be some who achieve some kind of success with lies and falsehoods, but such successes can never be lasting, and when the truth reveals itself, they lose them one after the other. They will also lose their credit in the name of restoring what they have lost. Being steadfast on the Straight Path is such a credit that when you lose it, those who contribute to your success will take back their contributions, leaving you with nothing. It is this immense significance of continuing in the right way (which causes gain while the opposite brings loss) that prompted Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, to say: “Sūrah Hūd has made me old.”[5] This sūrah contains the order, “Pursue what is exactly right as you are commanded” (Hūd 11:112). This means that even Prophets were not free from worry about standing straight and steadfast; even a Prophet worries if he is as steadfast as he is required and expected to be. When one of his Companions asked him for advice, that hero of steadfastness said to him: “Believe in God, and then be steadfast.”[6]

If we remain steadfast on the Straight Path as much as possible, even if our enemies or envious friends slander us, the day will come when Divine Destiny will declare our innocence, and we will take back all that we have lost, one thing after the other. Therefore, we should never abandon keeping the right way in every matter and at all times.

2. If a person does not act with steadfastness along the Straight Path, he or she will never be free from worries. Such people are always afraid of their dishonest acts and misdeeds being revealed. If they have committed these misdeeds or dishonesties with some others, their fear increases. They suffer incessant worries about when they will be stabbed in the back. As the famous proverb says, “When thieves fight, the stolen thing emerges.” They always live in fear and anxiety and try to please everybody through sycophancy and flattering.

3. Let us continue with a consideration of Bediüzzaman Said Nursi, who said in explaining the reasons why we, Muslims, have fallen behind the West: “One who follows an unlawful (or wrong) way for a lawful (or rightful) objective generally attains the opposite result of what they intended.” That is, a rightful result cannot be obtained through wrong methods. The means to a rightful result must also be right.

For instance, neither the approval or good pleasure of God nor any useful result can be attained through (political) tricks and dishonesty. It is also wrong to try to attain a goal by taking advantage of mass psychology; in the end, we only deceive ourselves. It is also wrong to try to obtain a good result through artificial attempts of recovery. We do not witness any of these methods or attempts either in the life of Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, or during the ages when Islam was obeyed and followed strictly. Therefore, any method or way to be followed must be right and straight. Otherwise, all wrong or false efforts will go in vain and wrong ways or methods lead to failure. One day God will call us to account for these efforts, methods, and the resulting failures. Even if our intentions are sincere and sound, people have been led to wrong ways, the image of Islam has been damaged, and the enemies of the Religion have been given excuses to disparage Islam and Muslims.

Indeed, the issues that concern the whole community need consultation and exchange of views in broad platforms. If you do not consult or exchange views with anybody, then you have dragged people into certain adventures based on your own desires, and God will definitely call you to account for this. Unfortunately, these kinds of faults are happening in every corner of the Muslim world today. While innumerable people die in chaos and turmoil, many others are left needy of even a slice of bread and a tablet of medicine. What are left behind are destroyed houses, widows, orphans, and a distraught and confused community. Is it possible that God does not hold those who cause this kind of devastation responsible?

In short, steadfastness on the Straight Path and honesty in thought, belief, feelings, and action are part of the practice of faith in the daily life. The earliest generations of Islam viewed it from this perspective. They interpreted the expression, “then they follow the Straight Path,” in the following ways: 1) they are steadfast in believing in God’s Unity and acting accordingly without committing sins; 2) they act honestly in obedience to God without any deviance and trickery; 3) they act sincerely in servitude to God; and 4) they perform the religious obligations perfectly and preserve integrity without their inner world and actions contradicting each other.

Angels always visit those who are steadfast on the Straight Path with the breezes of tranquility, assurance, and contentment. Just as devils and evil spirits visit those who act with satanic or devilish thoughts and feelings, pure spirits and angels make glad those who believe and remain steadfast by visiting them and giving them glad tidings concerning their future: “Do not fear or grieve, but rejoice in the glad tidings of Paradise which you have been promised” (Fussilat 41:30).

According to some, this visit occurs and these good tidings come at their death; according to others, during their resurrection; and according to still others, during both their death and resurrection. Who knows? Perhaps this visit occurs all the time and these good tidings come during their whole lives, and assurance, peace, tranquility, and contentment flow ever into their hearts! Even though they experience this state in the form of thought and feeling during their lives owing to the seed of faith in their hearts, it will develop and become clearer during their death. It will develop and expand more in the Place of Resurrection, and it will expand to its ultimate dimensions through Divine mercy and power when they step in Paradise.

God knows the best, and to Him is the return and homecoming.

[1] See sūrahs at-Tawbah 9:7; Fussilat 41:6.
[2] See sūrahs Hud 11:112; ash-Shūrā 42:15.
[3] Bukhārī, I’tisam, 2; Muslim, Hajj, 412; Fadā’il, 130; Nasāī, Hajj, 1.
[4] See Gülen, Emerald Hills of the Heart: Key Concepts in the Practice of Sufism, 2011, Vol. I, pp. 65–68.
[5] Tirmidhī, Tafsīru Sūrah 56:6.
[6] Muslim, Īmān, 62; Musnad Ahmad, 3/413; 4/385.