The elixir to eliminate heedlessness: Remembrance

by Fethullah Gülen on . Posted in Endeavor for Renewal

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The elixir to eliminate heedlessness: Remembrance

Question: What is heedlessness? Can we talk about different types of remembrance (dhikr) which can be recited to disperse the heedlessness that enshrouds us?

Answer: The word “ghaflah” (heedlessness) conveys meanings like being absent-minded, careless, failing to see what goes around, not knowing the true nature of phenomena, and failing to see and feel as one should. To put it differently, as a religious term, heedlessness means failing to thoroughly discern what one is supposed to do in the journey of this life, and living oblivious of, and unconcerned about, one’s end. It is possible to talk about many important elixirs to eliminate heedlessness. For example, deliberation, discussion, and reflection on matters of faith can alleviate heedlessness. If you refer to the works of Bediüzzaman, youfind them full of such advice to eliminate heedlessness. Whichever of his works you refer to, they take you to different valleys of reflection. What you read opens new horizons before you, and you begin to see and judge correctly. Your feelings and senses extend to the depths of your heart; latent potentials virtually resurrect, and your conscious faculties become activated.

Sincerely offered acts of worship are among the important means of eliminating heedlessness. For example, a call to Prayer made with the voice of one’s heart eliminates heedlessness, turns your gaze to the sky, and prepares you for the Prayer. Thus, you walk there with enthusiasm. Sometimes the ablutions you make in the garden of a mosque, or a heartfelt iqamah announcing the beginning of Prayer, or sometimes a sincere takbir, and sometimes an imam leading the Prayer with a voice coming from his heart, can make you feel moved and draw you into a different world. You will feel as if you stepped into a different dimension of the world you live in. Therefore, all of these disperse the clouds of heedlessness before individuals’ eyes and make them meet their own essence.

Latent feelings and sharing enthusiasm

In addition to all of these, one of the most important means of eliminating heedlessness is remembrance of God. In Sufi tradition, people gathered in circles for remembrance and recited God’s different Names and Attributes. Every order has their special ways and formats. It can be said that these different ways and formats have their influence on people of different characters. For example, some hold hands and sit so close in a circle that their knees touch one another. The leader of the circle joins them and they start the remembrance. Some others also form such circles but they rather prefer saying the words of remembrance covertly. As people say “La ilaha illa’llah; Subhan Allah; Alhamdulillah” their locked hands become a means of sharing their enthusiasm.

Let me point out that the same situation holds true for the Daily Prayers offered in congregation: if an imam can put his heart to the recitation of the Qur’an during Prayer and become oblivious to anything but God, and give himself to a flood of ecstatic feelings, then this state of his will pass to the people behind him, to a certain extent. In the same way, one sob by a worshipper in the ranks, whose heart has established a connection with God, may pull at everyone’s heartstrings. The crying of such an excited soul resembles, in a way, a warning to them. It says, “Wake up! Make up your mind and rid yourselves of this heedlessness!” Therefore, what really matters is the quality and depth of the act of remembrance. When remembrance of God is made sincerely, it affects other individuals as well; it takes those people from the three-dimensional realm we live in to a different one. They virtually feel they are walking on the streets of Paradise, wandering on the skirts of Firdaws, and beholding God on the hills of Friday, and they almost hear the most honorable Divine address: “I am well pleased with you!”[1] All of these shatter the layers of heedlessness and let people see and hear what they should, and open the door to a person’s knowing oneself and realizing the truth of human essence. Surely, remembrance does not solely mean habitually repeating certain things with the tongue; it is also an act of reflection by bringing certain things to mind. In this respect, remembering the heroic Companions such as Mus’ab ibn Umayr and Sa’d ibn Muadh is also an act of remembrance in the religious sense. Such remembrance will eliminate heedlessness and help the believer come around and discover oneself, discern and interpret oneself correctly with respect to his position, and thus soar toward knowledge of God; everything oriented to deepening in reflection and wisdom can be considered among acts of remembrance.

Remembrance by reading circles

The Messenger of God gave the following advice to believers via the person of Abu Hurayra: “Control and renew your ship once more, for the sea is truly deep. Take your provisions perfectly, for the journey is truly long. Keep your load light, for the slope before you is truly steep. Be sincere in your deeds, for God, who scrutinizes everything, is aware of what you do.”[2] Given that God Almighty is omnipresent and sees us all the time, a wise person should do everything for the sake of God. It is very important for man, whose every act God sees and will treat accordingly, to be saved from heedlessness on such a vital issue. One should never forget that death is destined for everyone. It is not possible to keep anybody in this world for good. The journey of this world is a long one where a person passes at different stages from childhood to old age, and from there to the grave, to the intermediary realm of barzakh, Resurrection, the Bridge, and then to Paradise or—God forbid—to Hell.[3] While such a hard journey awaits them, it is surprising how people can give in to heedlessness. Concerning this issue, the Qur’an commands the noble Prophet: “But remind and warn, for reminding and warning are of benefit to the believers” (adh-Dhariyat 51:55). This verse also commands “dhikr” to the noble Prophet, but it does not refer to repeating words of glorification on one’s own. Rather, it refers to reminding this truth to believers in different styles and methods. Then it is stated that this reminding will be of benefit to believers. Believers always need such reminding. You can take up the issue within the context of groups of religious talk and say that we always have a responsibility to remind each other of certain truths, and that it is possible to attain very important results by fulfilling this responsibility. Such reminding, which will serve as encouragement to not waste time on amusements and actualities, is of great benefit and importance. Actualities and useless issues pleasing to the carnal souls are like whirlpools. If you let yourself into them, they take you away from yourself. When this happens, you face the threat of the Divine command “And do not be like those who are oblivious of God and so God has made them oblivious of their own selves” (al-Hashr 59:19). In a way, the verse tells us that our own selves are a means of viewing our own essence. By using it like a telescope, we are supposed to behold the splendid works of God Almighty, mirrors of the Divine Names, and the spectacles of their manifestations. However, some give in to heedlessness and become oblivious of God, and He makes these people forget about their own selves and condemned them to their own narrowness of thought, reasoning, physicality, and body. For this reason, believers should take reminding as a duty, and help one another with continuous warnings. If we consider that, after the command to remind and warn believers, God Almighty states: “I have not created the jinn and mankind but to (know and) worship Me (exclusively)” (adh-Dhariyat 51:56), then the actual point that needs to be reminded becomes clear. That is, attention must always be turned to servitude and knowledge of God. It is necessary to pave the way for every individual to deepen their knowledge of God by personal experience in accordance with their ability and potentials, and to let everybody differently view and consider phenomena according to personal level. To put it straightly, it is necessary to let every single person put aside their own narrowness and recognize the horizons of being conscious of seeing, hearing, holding, and feeling through God’s being the true agent.

[1] Sahih al-Bukhari, Riqaq, 51; Tawhid, 38; Sahih Muslim, Iman, 302; Jannah, 9
[2] Ad-Daylami, Al-Musnad, 5/339
[3] Nursi, The Words, p. 342