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Baseless negative opinions and envy

by Fethullah Gülen on . Posted in Endeavor for Renewal

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Baseless negative opinions and envy

Question: Baseless negative opinions and envy are referred to as spiritual diseases. What are the causes of such problems? How can they be treated?

Answer: Holding baseless negative opinions about others and envying them are both grave sins. One gives way to another. Someone who views another person through a lens of negative opinion begins to develop hostile feelings toward that person unawares, as a consequence of attaching a bad meaning to everything he or she does. Similarly, somebody can have negative impressions stemming from even the most innocent attitudes and behaviors of a person whom they envy and feel hostility toward. For example, the person they envy can be a man who strives to serve in the path of God; but the envier sees that man as one who tries to show off by proving himself, and thus always attaches a negative meaning to all of his acts. In short, these two sins form a vicious cycle that feed one another. However, believers should seek not a vicious but a righteous cycle. That is, they should always seek righteous conduct so that everything they do paves the way for other good acts. Thus they will be seeking to do another good act as soon as they finish one.

Sparkle and fire

Actually, baseless negative opinions and envy emerge as little deviations at the beginning. However, if one does not give the willpower its proper due and take necessary precautions, those inclinations transform into spiritual diseases over time. In other words, a crack at the center becomes a huge chasm on the periphery. For example, an envious person becomes unable to tolerate even otherworldly acts—like Prayers and pilgrimage—of the person they envy. This envy becomes so grave that this diseased mood transforms into intolerance to the degree of unbelief; this causes them to make wishes hardly compatible with faith such as “I wish he breaks his arm or has a plane crash and thus will not be able to go to pilgrimage.” For this reason, it is essential to take action from the very beginning against such feelings that appear as small seeds in the heart. One cannot let them grow into invitations for much greater sins. It is easier to deal with them at earlier phases. If those symptoms are not removed with repentance and asking forgiveness (tawbah and istighfar) as soon as they make their first appearance, but are allowed to grow, they might darken the entire heart and cause it to be sealed up, as a sign of having lost its ability to believe. Bediüzzaman refers to this fact in “The Second Gleam”: “Sin penetrates to the heart, darkens and hardens it until it extinguishes the light of belief. Each sin has a path that leads to unbelief. Unless that sin is swiftly obliterated by seeking God’s forgiveness, it grows from a worm into a snake that gnaws at the heart.”[1] The Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, also referred to this truth. Accordingly, when one commits a sin, a dark dot is placed on his heart. When he gives up, asks forgiveness, and repents, his heart regains its luster. But if he persists at sinning, then the dark dot grows and covers the heart. This is the rust God mentions as “…what they themselves have earned has rusted upon their hearts (and prevents them from perceiving the truth)” (al-Mutaffifin 83:14).[2]

It is understood from the explanation of the noble Prophet that sins do not leave a stain on the physical heart but our spiritual life. Every such stain is an invitation to another. As a germ that settles on your tooth calls other germs for damaging the tooth and gums, the stain on the heart does not like to remain alone. As stains follow one another, they become a manifestation of the truth stated in the Qur’an: “What they themselves have earned has rusted upon their hearts.” After such darkening, it is not possible for a person to see clearly what is right and wrong. For this reason, that person walks on the wrong path by mistaking it as the righteous one.

Attending the circles of contemplative dialogue on the beloved

The most important and efficient way of ridding oneself from this danger is to renew faith, every day, by forming the circles of talks on the Beloved—even if only with a few people. Diseases of this kind can only be treated with the truths of faith people freshly feel in their consciences all the time. For this reason one should be able to view faith from a different perspective every day, and be able to say, “My God, I did not know you this way, I now see that there was so much that went undiscovered. But now, I feel you with a much different profundity in my conscience,” and thus they awaken to a fresh horizon of faith and knowledge of God.

The belief in resurrection must be approached the same way; the awareness of being called to account on the Day of Judgment must play a determining role on our actions. Attaining eternal bliss in Paradise depends on passing successfully through the grave and the following process of reckoning. If we cannot—may God forbid—then the end will be terribly grim. For this reason, we need to know matters of faith like we know the alphabet and try to feel it anew in our consciences every day with a new hue, pattern, and articulation.

In addition to belief in the Afterlife, belief in the message of the blessed Prophet must also be handled with the same degree of importance, and it should be presented in such a way that people should not be able to help but sigh deeply[3] at the very thought of God’s Messenger. We must believe in the Divine decree and destiny in such a way that even in the face of great misfortunes, we are able to say “Goodness is in what God decrees”[4] or “All praise and thanks are for God for every state, save unbelief and misguidance.”[5] We should be able to say, “There must be some goodness, underlying wisdom in it. So it seems that God is warning us.” As it is very important to concentrate on truths of faith, it is also very important to observe Islamic essentials impeccably, with a sound consciousness of obedience to Divine orders. Grasping the essence of how to obey the orders is more important than the personal judgment of a thousand intellects. Satan used his magnificent intellect and went astray. As for Prophet Adam, peace be upon him, after a temporary lapse, he grasped the essence of obeying the orders, rose back again, and even excelled angels with his incredible progress. In the name of making all of these real, those who have a bit of useful knowledge and are able to talk must become mobilized for such lessons. Everybody must run from one session to another, and orient matters to the Eternally-Sought Beloved. Just as medical precautions are taken against seasonal infections in fall, precautions against spiritual diseases, which are much graver than physical ones, must be taken by developing due plans and projects. Physical diseases might cost a temporary life, at the most. But spiritual ones not only kill the heart in this world but they also ruin an eternal afterlife. In this respect, early intervention is crucial.

On the other hand, I doubt whether those in a position to provide spiritual guidance to others can treat such problems as jealousy and the inability to stand others’ merits successfully; it is God who decides whether to remove any rust or seal on individuals’ hearts. Anyway, what befalls on us is to do our best, in compliance with the Divine decree: “And that human has only that for which he labors, and his labor will be brought forth to be seen” (an-Najm 53:39–40). A true believer should strive to make up for the cracks and fissures that appear in individual and societal life, to cure those who suffer from disease, to lend a hand to those shaken or stumbling, and to remove negative considerations that pollute people’s minds. This is the faithfulness a believer owes to humanity; its opposite will be a grim indication of unfaithfulness, and a loss of one’s humane sensitivity.

[1] Nursi, The Gleams, p. 12
[2] Sunan at-Tirmidhi, Tafsir as-Surah (83), 1; Sunan ibn Majah, Zuhd, 29
[3] The original phrase is literally translated as “yearning to the degree of feeling a spasm in the nose bones.”
[4] Aliyyu’l-Qari, Al-Asraru’l-Marfua, 196; Al-Ajluni, Kashfu’l-Khafa, 1/478
[5] Nursi, The Gleams, p. 15