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A blessed region’s years of alienation

by Fethullah Gülen on . Posted in Speech and Power of Expression

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We are going through a strange period; light and darkness are intermingled, day and night move abreast; those drifting to death en masse are on one side, and those reviving on another as if woken by the Trumpet of Archangel Israfil. Breezes of spring are wafting on one side, storms of total destruction rage on the other… We see great thorns among roses and flowers and hear the crowing of ravens over the melody of nightingales; or we see only roses blooming and nightingales singing on them. Ravings of unbelief accompany breaths of faith, howls of denial are intermingled with proclamations of faith. Sometimes we are disturbed by grunting in the form of words, and sometimes we are relaxed by golden sounds reaching into our hearts like lullabies. Those who scatter the seeds of thorn bushes all around are countless; yet, those who feast others on the fruits of Paradise are no fewer. I think so many opposites have never been so close to one another before.

For years we have reached the morning and evening like the survivors of Atlantis, with the longing for that lost land and with our eyes on the inauspicious sunsets on our horizons. Sometimes we felt shaken, and sometimes we were enlivened with the hope that the values we had lost would simply return home. Now as well, sometimes dawning beauties whisper some things into our hopes, and this is followed by a windstorm like a cold spell in mid-March. Sometimes what has been done is destroyed; and the things which are not destroyed are shaken successively. In this continual pattern, those who run courageously replace the ones who unfortunately topple.

We sometimes feel joy by ascribing the fortunate happenings to the extra blessings and special bounties of God Almighty, and sometimes we feel bitter in the face of various troubles and writhe in disappointment, as we see the crude behavior of people whom we thought to be more mature than that, as we think about the coarseness and bigotry of the souls fixated on denial and unbelief, the faithlessness of friends, the peculiar attitudes of those who stand close but seem distant, and the continual inconsistency of those who waver. How could a people whose past is so sound and whose spiritual roots are so splendid become such a society of contradictions with these warped thoughts and in this condition! How could we have failed to understand and sold our soul to Mephistopheles, and sacrificed our heart for what is merely carnal! How we have let our physicality run wild by bridling our spirit! How we have disobeyed God and gained the stamp of rebellion on our foreheads!

Unfortunately we were in a daze that was incompatible with our character and were unable to see what was happening. Every single day we were bending and debasing ourselves more and more and going through successive disappointments which affected the hue and pattern of our collective spirit. Then our horizons narrowed, our faces darkened, our thoughts became warped, and our words turned to ravings; however, we remained unaware of this striking change.

There came a time when all of these misfortunes totally upset our stance. Fissures began to appear in the spirit of togetherness and unity. Individuals in society were scattered like the beads of a broken string. The people were manipulated until society was polarized. Grudge and hatred were fanned between different groups, and everyone began to hound each other. In time, society became completely ugly, and dark faces replaced shining ones. Dark voices began to rise everywhere. And then groups of people began to prey on one another, and the system set about crushing and grinding all of them. All that could be heard were the grunts of the oppressors or the laments of the oppressed. All this happened, is still happening, and seems likely to go on happening in future. It is certainly a very bitter and saddening picture. However, what made it worse was the fact that the great self-sacrificing figures with bleeding hearts through whom we hoped for a solution were muzzled.

We have no right to complain about the present picture for sure. On the other hand, it is unthinkable for believers who care about their society to overlook what is happening. Unfortunately, with a distorted understanding which has its roots in the very distant past, we corrupted religious life just as we corrupted ourselves. And we sacrificed the spirit of unity to our whims. Instead of leaving matters of logic to our reason, and then turning reason in the pull of our heart and spirit towards sublime notions, thereby adorning our hearts with knowledge of God, we just turned our backs on our faculties such as insight (basira), will (irada), consciousness, feeling, cognition, and spiritual intellect (latifa al-Rabbaniya[1]) and thus darkened both the corporeal and spiritual worlds. Now we turn in a different direction every day in yet another confusion, every day we become entangled in different fantasies and run from one alter to another. We constantly make mistakes when we try to explain something or when we bite our tongues and keep silent, thereby constantly causing new problems; and we do this again and again. We just cannot manage to organize ourselves, focus on a single objective, and in doing so turn to God wholeheartedly.

We are not truly aware that we have fallen, and we have never been so. Our determination to stand up is short-lived. Our thoughts are warped, and our will is cracking, our decisions are inconsistent, and we cannot shake off the alienation killing our souls. Sometimes we walk on paths that contradict our belief and ideals, sometimes we are overwhelmed by currents flowing against our own direction of thought and drift into unknowns, and sometimes we are stabbed in the back by those whom we were following.

For years, such strange escapades have been our fate; we have been running in dry valleys in search of water. We have been letting our buckets down into dry wells. We sometimes sought sugar in wild cane, and sometimes wasted our lives by cultivating thorns. In spite of our rich cultural heritage which could satisfy entire worlds, we did not manage to free ourselves from bowing and scraping before others. Instead of strolling on the hillsides of our history, which have always resembled rose gardens, we kept being entangled in and scratched by others’ thorns. In spite of the singing of nightingales in our gardens, we have been listening to the wearying cawing of crows.

Our collective nature and character seem to have become so deformed in recent years that now we are embarrassed to be ourselves; we turn our backs on the values we have held for several thousand years, and we deny—though not all of us—our own spiritual roots and historical dynamics. Instead of proclaiming our unfading magnificent historical heritage everywhere and letting everybody see its depths, we just listen to the disturbing growls of certain powers, and suffer from a certain inner sickness.

Since the day we lost our magnificent position in the international balance of states, the world has been run by unruly ones; the fate of humanity has been entrusted to the unscrupulous. Everywhere, looters have been looking out for new targets to ransack. The blessings of the earth are in the hands of the ungrateful. The idea of right and considerations of fairness and justice are reduced to cries for help occasionally uttered by the wronged. The feeling of mercy or compassion has simply disappeared from hearts. Feelings of faith, loyalty, and trust have become blunted; and it seems that honor, dignity and self-respect are forgotten.

For centuries we have been oblivious to our most vital values and have turned our faces completely away from the centuries-long cultural heritage. Furthermore we have corrupted the minds of the young with foreign perspectives which do not suit us at all, but which we gathered from different corners of the world and attempted to use to replace our cultural and religious values. Now these young people, most of whom have become aimless, are condemning their own values, insulting the national spirit and thought, trying to destroy every part of their ancient inheritance and heading toward “nothings” in different lanes divided into so many factions. In spite of all this, the number of those who correctly see and interpret what is going on is not small. However, most of these just keep biting their tongues as if they were muzzled and they remain in silent contemplation. Even though they sometimes speak up and take a few steps, they then draw even further back from where they previously stood in the face of a little pressure or a petty threat, and they just hang around waiting for surprise blessings to come. By behaving in this way, they either confuse reliance on God with passively expecting Him to make everything happen, or they become entangled in self-contradictions, or they contaminate their relations with God by failing to take a stance as they should, or failing to fulfill their obligations. Thus, they encourage the enemies of our people too. Instead of fulfilling the purpose for which they were given free will and becoming themselves, they become victims of their weaknesses and make themselves vulnerable to others’ establishing their control over them.

For years, no matter how sound its past was, society has been left squirming with its heart and mind detached from each other; it can neither come up with a reasonable interpretation of the universe and what takes place in it, nor make a sound evaluation of social developments. It just gapes around and is carried here and there on different winds. To tell the truth, this lack of direction seems likely to continue until the moment we come to ourselves and once again interpret the whole of existence, events, and ourselves correctly, and once more express ourselves through a new analysis and synthesis. I wish we had been able to change this inverted course of fate! How I wish we could have taken a firm stance as becomes our position granted by Providence and fulfilled the due of what we were blessed with. It is so sad that we failed to do so. I even dare say that we are just occasionally squirming in our helpless inability to do anything in the face of events. We sometimes bury our suffering and sorrow in our bosoms and swallow it, and sometimes we burst into tears. But we always suffer heart-rending grief. In a situation like this, it is not possible for us to say that we have fulfilled our responsibility towards God Almighty or towards our people either.

I wish we could have kept our loyalty just this much. I wish we could have at least opened up to God and cried. We failed to do that and to preserve the thoughts that belong to us. We failed to turn to God with our whole being and open our hearts to Him. For years, we led an unfeeling life. But considering the position of our people, we should have had some stories from the heart to tell the entire world. In the world of the future, there should have been some colors from our looms of thought as well. We ought not to have submitted ourselves to a downcast mood of loneliness and inadequacy in this world. We should have found some others to share our sorrow and suffering, and walked hand in hand with them towards being ourselves.

It is still not too late; we have a world of opportunities before us. The number of those devoted to God is not so small. I think all that is left to do is to seize the reins in a firm grasp and set off with love and zeal, rely on God, knock on His door, open up in tears and say, “We have come.” So now, to compensate in part for our having spent so much time laughing in a miserable condition, let us try to express ourselves with the feelings of our heart and our tears.

[1] These Sufi concepts are explained in detail in the author’s Key Concepts in the Practice of Sufism series.