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Khulla (Sincere Friendship)

by Fethullah Gülen on . Posted in Key Concepts in the Practice of Sufism-3

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Sincere FriendshipKhulla means sincere friendship. It can also denote brother/sisterhood, or loyal friendship. Some have interpreted khulla as penetrating into the depth of something to change its nature, or enveloping it from all sides so that it gains a second nature. The Prophet Abraham, upon him be peace, who always lived in the horizon of contentment, realized his spiritual essence or reached the rank of sincere or intimate friendship with God by means of the extraordinary radiances from God Almighty, and by experiencing continuous inner revolutions; it was thus that he reached his horizon of perfection in feeling, thought, endeavor, and preaching. Finally, he became the voice of a different nature, proclaiming God, the Ultimate Truth, by whatever he did and wherever he was. In return, God chose him as His intimate friend and called him "My intimate friend."

Compared with sincere or intimate friendship's influence on and penetrability into the heart, love invades the "pupil of the heart," or the "seed of the heart," which is regarded as the core of the spiritual intellect, and gives it its own color, and makes it speak in its own language. In a heart which moves and groans with love of God, nothing remains of anything other than God, and all other interests than that felt in God vanish one after the other, with the result that it is only He Who is felt, thought of, and talked about.

Sincere friendship (with God) was entrusted to the Prophet Abraham's nature as a seed. It was an initial donation bestowed on Him in acknowledgement of his relationship with God Almighty and a gift given to him by the All-Merciful for his ingrained loyalty to Him. This initial gift or donation also symbolized that he would become an imam (leader) for those who would follow him. However, ignoring the gifts and favors particular to it, this intimate friendship with God manifested itself in the Lover and Beloved of God, upon him be peace and blessings, in the form of love as a special Divine regard or consideration for his transcending knowledge of God and intimacy with Him.

Sincere friendship is pure loyalty. As for love, it is passion, yearning, and consumption or burning. For this reason, sincere friendship is primarily marked by enthusiasm and thankfulness and then with sadness or sorrow. In other words, while it is enthusiasm and thankfulness that prevails most in people of sincere friendship, the people of love are known with remembrance, reflection, and continuous sorrow. How interesting it is that the Master of creation, upon him be peace and blessings, lived in continuous sorrow marked with hope, prayer, and entreaty.

God's Messenger was a loving and loved one whose sincere friendship was transformed into love and zeal or enthusiasm, and he was aware of being honored with such a favor. He knew that the Almighty loved him beyond all modalities of quality and quantity, and constantly breathed love beyond measure. He demanded no station, no rank, no rewards. He had perfect knowledge of the One Whom he worshipped and so he worshipped Him, deepened his faith with knowledge of Him, and ran in the tracks of more and more knowledge. As his knowledge increased, he loved Him more, from the bottom of his heart, without expecting any return and without taking reunion with Him into consideration, and with the most serious self-possession of worship and servanthood. It was God Almighty's extraordinary consideration for that Owner of the most powerful will among creation and a favor of His above all favors that the Prophet Muhammad was able to love and yearn for Him in a way befitting His Grandeur. He was the peerless hero of this highest rank. It was also he, upon him be blessings and peace to the fullness of the heavens and the earth, who gave sincere friendship the color of his sincerity and crowned that deep loyalty in human essence with love, yearning, and enthusiasm.

It is unquestionable that sincere friendship is a great rank and gift. All instances or breezes of familiarity, intimacy, inner peace and reassurance, and contentment that blow into the hearts of the faithful servants of God, the Ultimate Truth, are each an embroidery in the fabric of sincere friendship, or a spark from the love of or yearning for God. Moreover, the spiritual pleasures generated by this friendship, love, and yearning are a particular or universal manifestation of Divine consideration for turning toward that station, and breezes that blow on the slopes of the heart. As for love, it is the basic weft of that fabric, and it is the flame which produces that spark of sincere friendship. It is a fact that Divine acts are free from pursuing any ulterior motives, but we can say that the brightest wisdom in the creation of the universe is love. The series of creation appeared because of the Creator's sacred love for His Art and His will to see it, and He has given the one who loves and is loved by Him most its most important, greatest result.

Sincere or intimate friendship is a means of spiritual reconciliation, agreement, and harmony between creatures on account of its essential elements of mutual familiarity and accord. For this reason, the Prophet Abraham, the sincere Friend of the All-Merciful, upon him be peace, who is regarded as the hero of sincere friendship, was a comprehensive example and leader for those who were to come later; he was one who was able to concentrate all hearts upon a certain common point. The Qur'an describes this quality of the Prophet Abraham with the following expression of appreciation: "Indeed I will make you an imam (leader) for all people" (2: 124). Indeed, he is a leader for all who will succeed him in respect of the essence or spirit of the Religion. This spirit or essence is fully developed to its final borders by means of the noblest Leader or Guide of all, who is God's beloved and the greatest of the universal men, upon him be peace and blessings.

As clearly demonstrated by his blessed life, the noble Prophet Abraham, the sincere Friend of the All-Merciful, upon him be peace, was a pursuer of deeper and deeper contentment. As for the blessed, noblest Lover and Beloved of God, as stated in verse, "In the assembly of honor, composed of the loyal and truthful, in the Presence of the One, All-Omnipotent, Sovereign" (54: 55), he is the king seated on the throne of the greatest loyalty and truthfulness. He—the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings—was such a light-diffusing observed of Divine truths, setting his feet at the farthest point that his eyes reached, that he was not only at the unattainable peaks through his exceptional conceptions and observations, but also he is the most advanced of all, who "saw that which no other eyes have ever seen or will ever see, heard that which no other ears have ever heard or will ever hear, and witnessed that which no one else has ever conceived of or will ever conceive of."

Pursuing the utmost friendship and loyalty was God's special favor on God's blessed Friend, the Prophet Abraham, upon him be peace, while having an established position of friendship, loyalty, and love in God's Presence is the rank of the Master of creation, the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. However, as stated in "Follow, then, their guidance!" (6: 90), the one who has an established position was ordered to follow, and indeed did follow, in one respect the one who was in constant pursuit of and realized God's special friendship. This was like a king following the principle, "The host's leadership in the Prayer is preferable," while visiting one of his subjects, and suggesting that the host should lead the Prayer.

In another sense, a sincere friend is one who is such a faithful companion that he shares the secret atmosphere of his friend and feels his love in the depths of his heart. It is an indubitable fact that few persons have ever been able to realize such a degree of loyalty and devotion. The Prophet Abraham, upon him be peace, is certainly the greatest hero of this realization, as he was particularly chosen for this special merit and had the mission of representing it in the best way. That sincere Friend of the All-Merciful is the brightest example of sincere friendship because he was perfectly loyal to his Friend, as stated in "Abraham, who discharged his due, fulfilling all his duties to perfection" (53: 37); and he was extremely sensitive in grasping the subtlety in obedience to God's every order. Also, having assigned all his faculties, including his heart, intellect, logic, and reasoning to the fulfillment of his duty, he called to the truth and proclaimed the Divine Oneness out loud wherever and in whatever circumstances he was, addressing all the outer and inner senses and faculties of his most stubborn audience, and endured all the hardships and evils he encountered with the utmost submission to and reliance on God. In addition, he entered the fire of Nimrod with a smile on his lips, and he spent his life migrating from one place to another for God's sake, leaving behind his beloved wife and little, beloved son in a completely desolate valley on God's order. Furthermore, as clearly stated in the verse, "Then when both had submitted to God's will, and Abraham had laid him down on the side of his forehead.…" (37:103), he showed no hesitation in obeying God's order to sacrifice his son Ishmael, the fruit of his heart, the one who was a monument of forbearing and mildness and whom God had willed to be the start of a bright future.[1] He spent all his wealth in God's cause and the needy. In short, the Prophet Abraham, upon him be peace, was a perfect example in the human realm to represent the way of God. Having reached the horizon where he could be the pride of all other Prophets except the last and greatest one, he became the one whose prayer, "And grant me a most true and virtuous renown among posterity" (26: 84), was accepted. Accordingly, all the followers of the Divine Religion to come after him would remember and mention him with prayers and as an excellent memory. Being one of the most distinguished, Abraham was a brilliant fruit of the Prophets who had preceded him and the luminous seed for his successors, including particularly the greatest of them, upon him be peace and blessings. When his Lord told him, "Submit yourself wholly (to your Lord)," he responded, "I have submitted myself wholly to the Lord of the worlds" (2:131). Such Prophetic submission was a spirit or seed in Abraham, upon him be peace, and it has become a blessed tree in the Pride of Humankind, upon him be peace and blessings, and a table in the Community of Muhammad as the fruit of adherence to him. The Qur'an indicates this fact as follows: If they still remonstrate with you, say (to them, O Messenger): "I have submitted my whole being to God, and so have those who follow me" (3:20).

When the basic elements of sincere friendship penetrate the outer and inner senses and faculties of heroes of nearness to God, they save such people from partial thoughts about things and events, causing them to reach the horizon of unity in all their sensations, impressions, perceptions, considerations, logical or rational comments, and evaluations. These heroes are raised, each according to their own capacity, to a comprehensive observation of things with their reason, mind, senses, consciousness, hearts, and secrets, and this causes them to observe through the telescope of their outer and inner senses indescribable scenes, multifarious but one within the other, and bearing the stamp of the same One Maker.

Every traveler who advances along the way of sincere friendship views existence from the horizon of the Prophet Abraham, upon him be peace, and travels around the axis of his sainthood, which is embedded in Abraham's Prophethood. In proportion to their ability to develop the spirit of sincere friendship, they are aware of existence as a whole, which they perceived as fragmentary or compartmentalized before. They are able to observe the drops as an ocean in one piece, and as if looking on everything from a point above, they feel that all things are interconnected with one another, all voice the same meaning, point to the same truth, and say, "God is the One, Unique," in the language of order, good composition, and harmony, and all are enraptured with the universal testimony.

The view and perception of such travelers display manifestations of Divine Attributes of Glory, and they see all existence with the view of the All-Merciful. They are sincerely compatible with the whole of creation. They know every thing to be a part of themselves, they embrace all affectionately, sensing all things as a sibling, and referring the intentions, thoughts, convictions, and comments of others to the judgment of the All-Knowing of all the unseen. They call everyone to their embrace and to the truth, like Mawlana Jalalu'd-Din ar-Rumi, and they tolerate every improper behavior toward themselves. For they are God's faithful vicegerents traveling in the horizon of sincere friendship vast in proportion to the comprehensiveness of mercy, and they are mirrors of God's Attributes of Glory held up against all existence. They reflect the Divine Names in their acts and manners, and they observe all things through the different windows of their faculties. Like two eyes seeing the same thing, such travelers see all things as if a single entity but with different depths.

Sainthood marked with sincere friendship of God is the best of sainthood. It is true that there is no limit to nearness to God because of His being infinite, but every individual human being has a limit of perfectibility according to his or her capacity, which marks the boundary of every traveler who is endowed with knowledge of God. For this reason, even when a traveler reaches the seventh heaven through the sainthood of God's sincere friendship, this forms a limit for them. If there is a single exception to this, it is the position of the one, namely the Prophet Muhammad, who is distinguished by having all human virtues to the highest degree and al-Maqam al-Mahmud.[2] The All-Bounteous Lord of the worlds honored the Prophet Muhammad with extra favors, and he reached a point where space ends in infinity, the body is identical with the soul, and all secrets are manifest. It is a point that is impossible for even the angels or other spirits ever to reach.

God Almighty distinguished each Prophet with a particular virtue in which he excelled above the others. For example, the Prophet Adam, upon him be peace, was distinguished with the utmost purity and called the Pure One; the Prophet Noah, upon him be peace, was God's Confidant; the Prophet Abraham, upon him be peace, excelled others in sincere friendship; the Prophet Moses, upon him be peace, was one to whom God spoke in a particular way from behind a veil, and called the Addressee of God; and the Prophet Jesus, upon him be peace, was a Spirit breathed by God. The most distinguishing mark or virtue particular to our Master, the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, is love—and the title, the Beloved of God, is particular to him.

During his Ascension, God's last and greatest Messenger, the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, found each Prophet in relationship with God Almighty at the level of the heaven which symbolized his particular position among the Prophets. For example, he visited the Prophet Moses, upon him be peace, at the sixth level of heaven, and the Prophet Abraham, upon him be peace, at the seventh. He advanced further and further until he reached the highest tower of the pure spirit beings amidst the welcoming voices of angels. He arrived at the point described as, "two bow-length's nearness, or even nearer," and he was honored with a special Revelation revealed with no words or speech. Through the lenses of his fully developed faculties, he observed all that is invisible, heard all that is inaudible, and knew all that is unknowable, to others. Going beyond the Garden or Paradise of Refuge and Dwelling, he reached the Sidrat al-Muntaha,[3] marking the highest point of rise for a created being.

Our Master, upon him be peace and blessings, left the way he followed open to those who would succeed him and follow that way in the shade of his sainthood. He was perfectly generous so that anyone who would follow him could benefit from the favors to come from God along his way.

It is by virtue of the Prophet Muhammad's mission that all saints can feel sincere friendship with God according to the capacity and rank of each; believers feel brother/sisterhood and loyal friendship with each other; and thanks be to God, those serving the Qur'an follow the way and style of the Prophet Abraham, which was developed by our master, upon him be peace and blessings. Bediüzzaman deems such brother/sisterhood that arises from sincere friendship to be indispensable to the service of the Qur'an and to being a good Muslim, and he regards it as a character of belonging to the Milla (way and nation) of Abraham, which is characterized by purity of intention and absolute devotion to God's Oneness. He says:

Our way is the closest friendship. Friendship requires being the closest, most self-sacrificing friend, the most appreciative companion, and the most magnanimous brother or sister. The very basis of this form of friendship is heartfelt sincerity. One who destroys this sincerity falls from the pinnacle of friendship. They may possibly fall to the bottom of a very deep pit. They cannot find anything in between to cling on to.[4]

According to Bediüzzaman Said Nursi, this fall is destructive deviation and means straying from the right path.

O my God! Equip my soul with righteousness and piety and purify it. You are the Best in purifying it, and You are its Guardian and Master.

And bestow the best of blessings and the most perfect of salutations and the most excellent peace upon the Start of the Prophethood and its Seal, and on his Family and Companions, all valuable and faithful.

[1] Here, the writer refers to the Prophet Abraham's attempt to sacrifice his elder son Ishmael on God's order. This was a great trial for both Abraham and Ishmael, upon them be peace, involving many instances of wisdom. By unhesitatingly obeying God's order, both Abraham and Ishmael, upon them both be peace, were greatly rewarded. God appointed Ishmael as a Prophet and made him the origin of a holy line which finally gave birth to the greatest of creation, the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. (Tr.)

[2] Having al-Maqam al-Mahmud, which belongs to the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, and literally means the position or station of being praised, is being one specially praised by God and the whole body of the believers, by virtue of which he will be honored with permission to intercede on behalf of all the people on the Place of Supreme Gathering. Humankind, who will have been gathered on the Place of Supreme Gathering after the Resurrection, will be allowed to advance toward the other realms of the Hereafter through his intercession. (Tr.)

[3]Sidrat al-Muntaha signifies the boundary between the realms of Divinity and creation, which marks the highest point of any created being's rise and nearness to God. (Tr.)

[4] Bediüzzaman Said Nursi, Lemalar ("The Gleams"), The Twenty-First Gleam, The Fourth Principle. (Tr.)