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The way to change transient opportunities into eternal beauty

by Fethullah Gülen on . Posted in The Broken Jug

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Fethullah Gülen: The way to change transient opportunities into eternal beauty

Question: What should a believer’s perspective of the world be, so that it will be possible to transform the means of this mortal world into infinite beauties of the eternal life?

Answer: Humankind is created for eternity, meant for eternity, and cherishes dreams of eternal bliss. People are supposed to value the world in accordance with its transience, and the Hereafter in accordance with its infinity. If human needs had allowed, and religious commandments had approved of it, we would say to ourselves considering the infinity of the next world: “Let us cut off all of our bonds with this world and turn our faces solely to the Hereafter.” However, as human primordial nature, carnal desires, weaknesses, and flaws do not allow saying such a thing, the Qur’an and Sunnah, which establish their principles by taking into consideration human nature, do not approve of such a lifestyle. In this respect, individuals should not disregard the laws rendered inherent in human nature by the Creator of laws and should be aware of what they are meant for, as well as what kind of wonders await them in the next world. That is, they should pursue the Afterlife in the direction which the Qur’an points to and with everything God has given them. They should follow it closely but not completely forget their share of the world. In other words, people should be able to see their worldly wishes and desires—excuse me for my improper words—as a bone or piece of bread thrown before their carnal soul and know how to proceed without being entangled by the temptations of the world. However, thoroughly sensing and feeling this world and the Hereafter with their peculiar patterns and colors depend upon a very serious sense of knowledge of God. A man who does not adorn his faith with knowledge of God, even if he is a Muslim, cannot feel the splendors on the path that will let him attain eternal bliss, and thus cannot be saved from weariness of journeying on the path he walks. Knowledge of God kindles loves in its own bosom, like colliding waves of immense seas. As for love, it turns a person’s gaze toward the Truly Loved One, which enables humans to be freed from the troublesome world of physicality, throws a bone in response to the demands and insistences of the carnal soul, and keeps going. He does not become attached to the world no matter how attractive it seems. According to such a person, the only thing to be valued in the world is letting the Prophet’s message resound in the four corners of the world, and letting the dignity of Islam wave like flags at high posts.

Only after having a lofty ideal like that does staying in the world bear some value. As far as a person walks in the direction of glorifying the name of God, making the noble Prophet become a spirit for humanity, and letting all hearts receive his message, it is worth living for some 950 years like Prophet Noah, because in that case the worldly life will have been used very efficiently. As for a life spent without finding such an ideal, it is nothing but an example of deception, a life led abreast with bankruptcy.

We have been deceived! We fell for pomp and applause!

Unfortunately, it is a reality that so many people are deceived in this world. Essentially, it is not possible to make good decisions if priority of importance is not determined. Therefore, it may not be possible to find what one hoped for when coming to end of the road. The person will then say, like the Sufi poet Sheikh Galib, “We arrived to that land of happiness, entered Paradise, but alas, we did not see the Beloved One!” That is to say, a person who fails to strike the balance between this world and the next sometimes strives for a lifetime here, thinking that he is doing something very important. When he passes to the next world, however, he will not be able to find God; he will not be able to see and reunite with the Beloved One hearts yearn for.

And sometimes people are deceived with carrying out good works with sanctimonious affectation to let others see, hear, appreciate, applause, and taking due pride. And thus, the person renders negative the good works he did through a lifetime. The noble Prophet once stated, “There are many people who fast but they have no share of the fast except for hunger, and there are many people who get up for the Prayer, but they have no share of the Prayer except for drowsiness.”[1] You can add to these examples. For example, you can say: There are so many people who strive on the path of God but they will not see Him, the Beloved, since they pollute the tasks they need to carry out on the path. They do not observe the manners of walking on the path, cannot find the right direction, and always walk unsteadily and fall. Those who walk that way, namely who do not lead a straightforward life in this world—may God protect us from that—will completely fall in the next world. God Almighty conveys to us His glorified decree in the Qur’an, “The disbelieving criminals will be in utter loss away (from Paradise) and burning in the Blazes. On that day, they will be dragged in the Fire on their faces. ‘Taste the touch of Hell!’ they will be told” (al-Qamar 54:47–48). Thus, those who abase themselves in this life by allowing their carnal desires to drag them along will enter Hell in the next one, being dragged on their faces. Those who become complete slaves to the carnal soul here and lead their lives accordingly will fall in such a way in the next world that no intercession will save them. Divine decrees such as “And so, of no benefit to them will be the intercession of any who are entitled to intercede (even if they are allowed to intercede)” (al-Muddasir 74:48) describe the situation of these people. In order not to end up like that, it is necessary to lead a God-oriented life. There must be something that goes from a person to God, so that something from Him will come to that person. If one leads a life here full of feelings of respect and reverence for God and extolls Him, then at a moment of utmost need, a helping hand from Him will extend and save the person from being dragged into Hell. In this respect, it is necessary to make good use of this life as much as one can, and fill the remaining gaps with the immensity and purity of intention. For intention has such a mysterious depth at filling gaps that a drop of it can fill up seas. For this reason, a person must make broad and immense intentions. For example, a man should say, “My God, grant me such opportunity and means that I will be able to change the orbit of this world, so that the message of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, will resound everywhere.” A drop of intention in this respect can gain a person otherworldly rewards like huge seas. That is, a person should exert himself for doing what he needs to do, but when he comes to a point beyond his power he should say, “My God, I was resolved to carry out this task, but this is how much I can. I am not able to do more,” and make his intention for an intercessor. Then the Owner of Infinite Will and Power will say, “My Servant, I will carry out what you cannot carry out.”

Those who love the world cannot find the hereafter

We can summarize the issue in the words of Muhammed Lütfi Efendi:

If You truly love the Lord,
Do you think He will not love you?
If you seek His good pleasure,
Will He not let you attain?

If you go near His door
Ready to offer all you have,
And serve Him as He ordered,
Will He not then reward you?

If your tears turn to a stream
If you cry like Ayyub did
If your heart truly grieves,
Will He not show any sympathy?

This trouble is a cure to troubles,
The Sustainer loves His sufferers.
The Unique One is the cure of troubles.
Won’t He reward you generously?”

Togetherness with God in spirit, feelings, and mind here will result in real togetherness there. Those who live together with Him here will be together with Him there. For this reason, it is necessary to eagerly seek togetherness all the time. In your prayers and implorations to Him you should always say, “My God, togetherness with You! My God, togetherness with Your beloved Prophet!” Always live with Him, always spell His Name, and always speak of Him… so that this togetherness will appear before you when you go there. If you maintain togetherness with Him here, you will forget about this transient and deceiving world you left behind in the face of the surprises that appear before you there. But it is so sad that minds have been corrupted in our day, and feelings and thoughts have been disoriented. People think more of this world rather than the everlasting life and the Eternal One.

When you study the words of great figures, you see that even they complain about the pull of this world. For example, the great Sufi poet Yunus Emre wrote:

Before the cruel self, I remained helpless.
Delights of this world, it can’t get enough.
The wool of heedlessness drawn over its eyes,
Fails to recognize, it is wasting this life.

O Lord can one put on the wool of heedlessness,
Can he be called Muslim, a follower of desires?
He earns more and more, but spends in vain.
For the sake of God, he can’t spend a coin.

My God, wake me up from the sleep of heedlessness,
Do not make me disgraced at Your door, please!
Dervish Yunus says, ‘Come listen to my counsels:
The One who loves the world can’t find the Hereafter.’

It is necessary to become ready for seeing the Beloved, for reuniting with the Eternally Besought One. If you have always been writing love letters to Him here, none of them will be wasted there. When you go there, they say, “This letter had come from you…” Next to the compliments one will receive there such as, “I heard a call from God, the Truth: ‘Come O lover; you are special. This chamber is for the special. I saw that you are truly faithful.’” How can worldly compliments ever have any value next to such as these! Even becoming a glorious sultan cannot have any value next to the sultanate God grants. They are not even be atoms next to the sun.

To conclude, those who trade for this world with the capital in their hands will have no capital to trade for in the next one, going there empty handed. But those who utilize the means in their hands in order to trade for the Hereafter will meet unknown surprises when they go there. After God Almighty refers to human nature in chapter Qiyamah (apocalypse), He reveals how the two groups of people will fare: “Yes indeed! (We are able to make complete his very fingerprints to resurrect him,) but you (people) love and prefer what is before you (the present, worldly life), and abandon that which is to come later (the Hereafter). Some faces on that Day will be radiant (with contentment), looking up toward their Lord. And some faces on that Day will be despondent, knowing that a crushing calamity is about to be inflicted on them…” (al-Qiyamah 75:20–25).

May God make us all among those whose faces are radiant and pure on that terrifying day!

[1] Sunan Ibn Majah, Siyam, 21; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Al-Musnad, 2/373.

This article has originally been published in Turkish on 27/10/2014.