“Always intend to earn God’s good pleasure when performing your deeds, for God accepts deeds that are done purely for Himself.”
Question: How can we purely seek God’s good pleasure in our deeds and become conscious and attentive about this endeavor?
Answer: Real believers who truly love God, may His glory be exalted, need to seek God’s good pleasure in all of their attitudes and behaviors; they should take no notice of themselves, even for a moment; they should not say “I spoke, I did, I achieved” and they should erase what they achieved even from their memories. If believers are to speak for the sake of expressing the truth, their words must definitely echo the voice of their hearts. When something is achieved in the end, they must not lay the slightest claim to it.
Lifeless words without a visa from the heart
A consciousness as mentioned above is not something that can be attained in just a moment, of course. A person must constantly train to efface oneself to the degree of saying, “I wonder whether I exist or not,” and attain a state of being oblivious of oneself in the long run. Otherwise, the effect of the good deeds realized will be restricted to a very narrow sphere, and will not become fruitful. Even if at first there is some activity, it will be temporary and the services carried out will not likely be lasting.
Today, preachers constantly make speeches in places of worship and on TV shows; they keep preaching on and on. In Muslim countries, call to prayer resonate all over the land. Recitations and supplications in mosques are performed in a way that was never as ceremonial, even in the time of the Prophet. However, these speeches and recitations do not affect the hearts. People are not guided to God as they were during that blessed era of the Prophet, because the words emitting from the mouth do not take a visa from the heart. If a person even merely implies his own greatness, even while saying “God is great,” and tries to put emphasis on his person with certain sounds and tones, and while talking about God and the blessed Prophet if he tries to prove how well he tells about them, then such a person is tacitly lying.
Depth of faith
The situation described above is a very serious risk for people who have attached their hearts to serving faith. One should never take this issue lightly. The first thing that needs to be done is to deal with their inner world and work hard to eepen their faith. When the Companions of the Prophet met one another, they would say, “Come on, let us have faith in God for an hour.” To paraphrase that, “Our faith had meaning so far. But we do not know whether this will mean anything tomorrow. Therefore, let us revise it one more time.” If you look carefully, the Companions did not say, “Let us have faith anew,” but “Let us have faith in God for an hour.” So this means, just like the noble opening to a new voyage every passing day.
Once, the Prophet advised one of his friends, “Maintain and renew your ship once more, for the sea is so deep. Prepare 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 and only care about Him; for God, who scrutinizes everything, is aware of what you do.” 
Bediuzzaman expresses this fact in “The Third Gleam” as follows: “Do whatever you should do for God’s sake, meet with others for God’s sake, and work for God’s sake. Act within the sphere of, ‘for God, for God’s sake, and on account of God.’” God Almighty critically evaluates your behaviors and takes a record of your good and bad deeds; He sees you all the time. None of your behaviors is secret to Him. He is aware of everything you do.
In this regard, while explaining a certain matter, the speaker’s prayer, such as, “May God Almighty make us speak correctly, express ourselves effectively; may He grant influence to our words and make them welcome in hearts,” is just one aspect of the issue. Another aspect is freeing the matter from egotism and fulfilling it with sincerity. One must never neglect praying, “My God, let all of my words be uttered in compliance with Your good pleasure.” In other words, as the Qur’an teaches through the supplication of Prophet Moses, peace be upon him: “My Lord! Expand for me my breast. Make my task easy for me. Loose any knot from my tongue (to make my speech more fluent). So that they may understand my speech clearly” (Ta-Ha 20:25–27), we must adopt this as our habitual prayer. However, we should not neglect also saying, “My Lord, together with your good pleasure.”
A person must always pray, “Deepen my words with Your good pleasure, crown them with Your approval! Make them gain infinite depths with Your favor, attention, and grace! Otherwise, I am a simple mortal, everything will be over when I pass to the realm of Hereafter. If You are not present in what I do and carry out, then it bears no meaning.”
The late Nurettin Topcu would refer to those who try to prove themselves with showy recitations as “throat performers,” for he was so open to sincerity and constantly emphasized its importance.
The underlying reason of true achievements is having a dizzying sincerity of the deepest kind. What humanity needs today is not outward forms, formality, populism, appreciation, applauses or big claims, but the practical representation of true faith and its indication through personal state.
1. Daraqutni, Sunan, 1/51; Bayhaqi, Shuabu’l-Iman, 5/33.
2. Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 3/265; Ibn Hajar, Al-Isaba, 4/83.
3. Daylami, Musnad, 5/339.
4. Nursi, Bediüzzaman Said, The Gleams, New Jersey: Tughra, 2013, p. 27.
Fethullah Gulen's article has been published on Fountain Magazine, #119, September - October 2017