Faith: A Particular Perspective
The word “faith,” “iman” in Arabic, in the framework of descriptions or from the point of view of science and epistemology, comes from the root “emn ü eman,” which means to be safe from fears, to believe, to promise, to trust, to procure the safety of others. It is a word that has the meaning of being safe and sturdy. Believing in God, attesting to His existence, making a confession in the conscience and making a proclamation from the heart, these are some of the meanings that are conferred upon this word from the point of view of linguistic tradition.
A person who puts faith in God is called a “mumin.” A mumin is the attester and representative par excellence of all the characteristics that we have seen above—here we could also talk about the issue of the relationship of deeds and faith, and whether deeds are included within the description of faith, but for the moment we shall not dwell on these topics. Mumins are indeed heroes of attestation, proclamation and representation with their common sense, their ability to see and perceive, their pure intellect that has been enlightened by revelations, their vast and objective comprehension, their strong and encompassing vision, their fastidiousness and sensitivity in matters of responsibility, their determination and resolution against evil, their pursuit of greatness throughout their entire life and the safeguarding of these high ideals, the ability to keep alive their feelings, awareness and will, their curiosity that leads to the penetration of the essential meaning of things and their deep understanding in interpreting phenomena, their believing and trusting in God and being known among people as people of trust, their attestation to the existence of the Just One and their ability to always stay true to Him, their being known as people who can be trusted with anything and being remembered as people of credibility to whom one can turn at all times, their being remembered thus and being accepted by the all as thus, their being the means for the remembrance of God and also being understood as people who direct those who around them toward Him. They are heroes of attestation, proclamation, and representation, in the true sense of the word.
Even if every believing person is not a hero of faith and Islam to the same degree, it is clear how significant the feeling of belief is for each individual. For a start, this feeling is of the highest value in the nature of humanity, with regards to creation. Even though those who do not believe try to be fulfilled, satisfied, or more precisely, try to find distraction, they feel themselves to be in a vacuum. All time and space is a vacuum for them, today and tomorrow are all the same. Such people feel this vacuum deep down in their soul, they voice the smothering feelings that turn to senseless ravings thus:
All is emptiness; the ground is a void,
the skies are a void, the heart, the conscience is a void;
I want to hold on, but there is nowhere in sight to hang on. (Tevfik Fikret)1
And a believing soul, giving expression to the chilling nature of the denial of truth and any attempt to conceal it, yet at the same time, expressing the peace that faith promises, simply calls out thus:
A rusted heart which has no faith is a burden for the breast. (Akif)
A votary of the heart who is determined to dissolve the corrosion of these rusted hearts, on the other hand, will say: “Genuine pleasure, enjoyment without pain, happiness with no sorrow is possible only within the sphere of faith and its truths,” so “those who want to enjoy the pleasures of life should enliven it with faith, adorn it with the deeds that God has prescribed for humanity and protect it by avoiding deeds that He has told us not to commit,” for “when one manages to direct oneself toward the path of eternal life, however miserable and troublesome one’s life may be, as one considers this world to be the waiting lounge for Heaven, one accepts everything contentedly and gives thanks” (paraphrased from Bediüzzaman). Such people would enlighten our horizons with their healing words and cause our hearts to feel the magic of faith.
With regards to its content and essence, faith is a fruit which has been picked from the realm of life and presented to our souls; it is the heavenly river of Kawthar, from which our hearts have been made to drink, a meaning soaked in by the lips of our hearts, a monument of divine light in our hearts, shaped by the ruler and compass of meaning, feeling, conscience and understanding. Heroes of faith who repair and restore their hearts and feelings with faith and understanding have already discovered the secret of turning their world of the mind into the heavens; they have entered the route of eternal happiness and have been freed from all other quests. Since “there is always the existence of a spiritual heaven in faith, and a spiritual hell in blasphemy and sins . . . then indeed, just as faith carries the spiritual seed of the Tree of Heaven, so too does blasphemy store the spiritual seed of Hell” (paraphrased from Bediüzzaman).
In fact, if a soul has taken wings by means of faith, it will not loiter in any other doorway, nor will it stoop so low as to beg from another; a person with such a soul will not bow their head before anyone else; they will act bravely in the face of everything, to the degree of the strength of their faith. Indeed, “faith is both light and power. Those who attain true faith can challenge the universe and, in proportion to their faith’s strength, be relieved of the pressures of events.”2 This is because “faith leads to testifying to God’s uniqueness, this testimony leads to submission, submission leads to putting oneself in God’s hands, and this last leads to happiness here and in the hereafter.” Such monuments of faith use their hearts like spiral staircases that lead to the realms beyond the heavens and with this, they beat their wings in the direction of the angelic heights where angels and spirits3 meet. At times, the angels and spirits whisper things in the ears of these people, and at times they present the spirits with garlands of comprehension and become people of distinction in that realm. And if such people have been able to deepen their faith with learning and have adorned that learning with spiritual tastes, then, indeed, it is then that they start to fly to horizons that even angels yearn for; they are always on the look out for destinations that Lord would approve of . . . spending their time with those deserving in Heaven and dreaming of the “highest Heaven.” To be of a value great enough to be lifted to the highest Heaven with the light of faith and to attain a value befitting Heaven is the destiny of those who have faith; to stoop down to the level of dark denial and to become one of the people of Hell is the unfortunate end of the blasphemer; the latter is a topic unto itself, but it would take too many pages to make this analysis here.
Those who can see people of faith with their particular depths, remember God through them. Those who feel their breath find life as if they have been visited by Messiah and those who listen to the voices coming from their heart become intoxicated on the wine of the words, as if they have reached the company of the Sultan of Eloquence. Indeed, a soul which has completed its garments with faith and what faith promises is no longer in need of anything else. Through being elevated toward God, such a person is still powerful in weakness with the will of God, rich through His wealth in their poverty, and despite being small, is one of greats. This is due to the fact that such people depend on the eternal will of their Master when their powers of choosing and will are not sufficient. They trust in His will upon matters which surpass their abilities; when shaken in matters of this life, they take refuge in the orchards and gardens of life eternal. When the anxiety of death envelops their horizon, they throw themselves onto the open climate of eternal life. Faced with matters which they cannot resolve with their intellect and understanding, they resort to the glowing climate of the Qur’an, which finalizes the solution. They never experience despair, never feel emptiness; they never come face to face with everlasting darkness. Their experiences and lives are like a song of pleasure and they turn their face toward the Creator with thanks, just like bountiful ears of corn.
Perfect people with faith are not dependant solely on their own consistency or personal states; such people open up to everyone with a prophet-like resolve, embracing everyone and binding their life to the earthly and other-worldly happiness of others to such a degree that they will neglect themselves and live like a friend of the Prophet; scattering light onto their surroundings with the internal light that is like a candle, and maintaining a route which at times may be contrary to personal benefit…indeed, such people always look for places that are dark, like the night. They fight with darkness and oppression, always burning, as they burn, they feel the pain inside, and while their heads may be bowed, neither the continuous glow of their flame, nor the gradual expiration of the flame prevents such people from enlightening others.
Devotees of faith who have managed to raise their flags at the entrance to the way of faith tread the whole world in one bound. They reach the heavens, hold conversations with the stars . . . they are in contact with the sun . . . they befriend the moon . . . and they walk through large stretches of space, toward the “Perfect Companion.” As they walk, their faces are always looking at the ground in humbleness and their breath is that of humility. Indeed, it is as if they have donned feathers taken from the wings of angels, they soar at inconceivable heights; but neither the dizziness of such heights, nor the fact that they are on a par with spiritual ones confuses their thoughts—the purest of the pure. Their heads are always inclined toward their breast, with the feelings of Prophet Adam, with a never-ending sigh and hope on their lips, they are like a red rose of the deepest hue. And they glow with varying colors when they turn toward the Just One, as if they are looking toward the sun; when they feel His majesty; they sweat like dew-laden leaves of the morning. It is as if they have heard the sounding of the Sur,4 the fanfare of the Judgment Day.
Those who watch such people find a window through which to gaze upon All-Clement in all His actions, to turn toward eternity and to transform their worlds into nests of love. They display a variety of lights in the darkest night, in those nights where one awaits the dawn and in gardens swept by autumn. They present bunches of roses and flowers to those around them gathered from the emotions in their breasts.
Such people sometimes shape their feelings with majesty and benevolence, they sometimes cool their scorched breasts with tears; their tears flow as if to make the path more welcoming to their wishes and expectations, and they experience approaching happiness with the hope and faith that these aspirations will soon come true. They are always ready to go beyond distances, in accordance with the vastness of their faith. They keep time with the rhythm of their heart, making wings for their reason with feathers from the wings of their heart; they overcome in one step the seemingly insurmountable obstacles in which reason and earthly comprehension are embroiled, and they reach the apex of the world of meaning.
The adherents of truth are always at peace, even when they are surrounded by motifs of grief and sorrow. They do not suffer long from grief, nor are they familiar with unending sorrow. With their bond to God and their intimacy with Him they are able to break the grip of grief with ease; they smother sorrow in its own sorrowfulness and if they have troubles, they adorn them with “sacred sobriety” and watch the pink hues of the spiritual beauty without distress, binding anguish to pleasure, and pain to the glory that is promised by trouble. They are able to transform the groans of pain to joyful sighs, and even when they are most distressed they are able to recite poems of happiness to those around them with the language of their hearts. When they capture the essence of this way and thus sanctify their first breath, with their second breath they bind their hearts to their minds, making their intellect speak with the tongue of the heart and making their voices heard even on the remotest stars and beyond, thus making all the spiritual ones listen to these calls to prayer, a song not heard before. Even believers can hear and enjoy them; as long as the believers keep their horizons free from the stain of sin.
By M. Fethullah Gulen
- Tevfik Fikret (1867-1915): One of the leading poets of Edebiyat-i Cedide [New Literature] at the turn of the twentieth century.
- Nursi, Bediüzzaman Said, The Words, Twenty-third Word.
- Martyrs and the ones who are believed to live in a different dimension.
- Israfil, one of the Archangels, will sound Sur, the trumpet at the Day of Resurrection.