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Attachment to Life

by Fethullah Gülen on . Posted in Towards the Lost Paradise

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Attachment to this life leads to the diminishing of human faculties, to inward decay until man's spirit falls into a most wretched state. The enjoyment of luxurious living paralyses such feelings as exalt man, and is a blow to resolution and will-power. Clinging to luxuries is an evil that corrupts the individual, and is a great obstacle to the maintenance of a harmonious society. Until the individual frees himself from this evil, and the society clears away this obstacle, the whole community will remain morally paralysed and the country will eventually be filled with poorhouses.

Enjoyment of a luxurious life-style means living mainly for pleasure, and has corrupted and led astray every people it has taken hold of, and finally ruined them. Ancient nations and civilizations, whose existence we only know about from the pages of history, all wasted away because of luxury and attachment to easy living. Their destruction has caused those who came after them to feel nothing but regret.

There is Pompeii with its lessons, and ancient Egypt, Rome, al-Andalus (Islamic Spain) and the Ottoman Empire. All of these civilizations were completely ruined by similar calamities caused by a similar destiny. They became infatuated with the fatal charms of pleasure, then were brought to ruin.

If only we had been able to remember and learn the terrible lessons of the past, then we should have been better prepared. Alas! Where are those with the right kind of perception, and the necessary spiritual knowledge? How many people have taken warning from events which have occurred time after time in their past?

Therefore, history repeats itself. Indulgence, extravagance and spiritual decadence continue to cause new calamities, so that once great nations which founded civilizations decayed into silence. Decay was inevitable for them, because they ignored the truth and betrayed their ideals. God opened to them many benefits in this life but, as a result of their sins, they only entered deeper into their sins thereby, until, little by little, they were drowned in perdition. They desired only to live at their ease and sought from life only the utmost pleasure. They could not be allowed to continue living with such indifference and insensitivity, so heaven burst open with rage and emptied itself upon them, and the earth carried to them all its hatred and anger.

How great a warning is the scene of Pompeii, which perished with its disgusting public baths and luxurious palaces, immersed in indeceny and obscenity! If only those who conveyed the new spirit to al-Andalus had known of and understood this warning and taken a lesson from it! What of the later Ottoman rulers who might have discerned their own impending doom from the tragic fate of Egypt, Rome and al-Andalus?

If only they had given up covering the walls and ceilings of their palaces with gold, spending their nights in feather beds, and swaggering about in bright uniforms and satin cloths! If only they had returned to the frontiers at the head of their armies! Alas, that they did not. When the emperor restricts himself to the palace, abandoning the imperial army, the administrative staff of the state begin to intrigue against one another. Ease and comfort, in which the statesmen are thoroughly immersed, finally infect the army and rot it. The army, that training-ground of holy warriors, which had once been all-conquering in the name of God, was now inspired with low desires, and rebelled against its own administration and rulers. Such was the road to decline and fall of a great, magnificent state, which had once dominated three continents.

How tragic a defeat and how hopeless an extinction that was: my mind becomes confused when I recall the country of Salah al-Din Ayyubi and Mehmed the Conqueror.

Is it possible for today's unfortunate generation, who have made efforts to overcome the calamities of the past, to found the world of the future on the basis of the lessons and warnings they have learned from the past? If they do not, the same consequences of decay and destruction are inevitable for them, too. Let us hope the lesson has been learned! What a pity that, whilst in the prime of life, we have become immersed in the same filth in which those who preceded us were drowned. Preoccupied with ease and comfort, we have completely forgotten about the good people of this land. We have set out to live in this world the pleasant life promised for the Hereafter, and have been reduced to being slaves of carnal desires. Deviating from the sacred way, along which we had set out with great zeal, we have abandoned the important undertakings and duties in favour of luxury and worldly adornments. We have abandoned our duties in favour of a cheap, worldly gain.

What a pity we have deceived ourselves. We suppose this worldly life to be eternal, and because of that supposition we completely waste our life. Events in this life are no more than dreams, so quickly do they pass: it is a life without permanent foundation and flows away like a river. If we continue to deceive ourselves by singing for union with the Beloved while lying back at our ease, we shall, like the ruler of Balkh, need a sharp re-awakening: [one night in bed, this ruler, Ibrahim ibn Adham, while thinking of meeting with God, heard a noise coming from the attic. He asked: 'Who is there?' A voice answered that he was searching for his lost camel. Ibrahim ibn Adham retorted: 'A lost camel is not to be looked for in an attic.' The voice replied: 'Meeting with God is not to be looked for in a soft bed.' The effect of this incident upon Ibrahim ibn Adham led him to quit his throne.]

At a time when everyone is rushing about after wages and profits, and everything worthwhile is sacrificed to ease and comfort, we offer these thoughts in the hope of the attention of a generation prepared to forget their material and even spiritual pleasures for the sake of a higher goal. Dec 1981, Vol 3, Issue 35