Finding Islamic Path
This article covers Muslims finding Islamic path back to The Islamic Golden Age.
Since the day we were deprived of the inheritance of the Earth, the Islamic world has been in a heart-breaking plight, trapped between the weaknesses of the Muslims and the ruthless assaults of its enemies. Wrong, injustice, and oppression may be the signs of the aggressors, but the weaknesses of the Muslims are unacceptable. When the Messenger of God said, “O my Lord, I take refuge in you from the intrepidity of the sinners and from the weakness of the God-fearing,” he was most probably referring to this fact.
The fact that Muslim thought and reasoning were shaken and interrupted, that they stagnated and putrefied meant that the Muslims were misdirected, turned away from the straight path which takes its direction from the Qur’an and which orbits around the Prophet. This decay overshadowed the universality of Islam and prevented this universal religion from fulfilling its function. Clearly such deviation, which has become chronic among the Muslims of recent centuries and especially among Muslim leaders, cannot be eradicated by the establishment of a few schools, panels, and conferences. Nor can it even be fully understood in the course of a few ephemeral, fleeting speeches, lectures, and proposals.
To eradicate this long-standing deviation, whose roots go back some several centuries and which is supported by the erroneous use of science and technology today, requires that we rediscover ourselves, find and know who we are, and reacquaint ourselves with Islamic consciousness and styles of thought and reasoning; it requires long-term effort, determined zeal, sufficient time, ceaseless patience, vigorous hope, unshakeable willpower and constant composure. If, however, we cannot find our own style and continue to seek a way out other than the very pit into which we have fallen, we will have both deceived ourselves and disappointed our generations once more.
In view of this, there is an obligation for us to realize a conception which views creation and events from the Islamic perspective and to examine everything with Islamic reasoning. To achieve this, our knowledge about humanity, life, and the universe should first be sound and in accord with the essence and reality of matter, on the same course and orbit as its origin and objectives; all its parts should support one another and collaborate; the whole and the parts should be related or interconnected, like different voices expressing the same theme, like a composition with a single rhythm and meter, like a central embroidered motif encircled by a repeating pattern. Every phenomenon or thing should be perceived and known as being in one way or another essentially and significantly interconnected with every other thing and with its surroundings. Second, since all things, beings, and phenomena in the universe are full of worlds of meaning, content, and wisdom, indeed, series, systems, or compositions of wisdom, like a book which is open to all beings and events, a dazzling, multifaceted masterpiece full of profundities, reflecting and manifesting innumerable Divine works, reason and understanding should be employed to understand all these things and events, to comprehend the relationships between the smaller parts without becoming entangled in trivialities. Instead, by remaining aware of the general and the universal which lie behind and in the singular and particular, while venturing on into the general and universal in order to include the remotest areas of details and particulars we may be able to ensure that some parts of our work and studies, our proofs and confirmations, and differences of periods and times do not contradict, negate, or quash other parts.
This should not be understood to mean that specialization or departmentalization should be ignored. Of course, each of us should specialize in our own field, strive for excellence in that career and achieve the desired objectives in our own area of work. However, while doing this, the meaning, content, status, and in particular, the aim and objectives of the whole should not be neglected. These should be realized in whatever way is appropriate, be it via a collective consciousness or by its proper channeling along with knowledge, or through excellent coordination, or by genius. There is no doubt that we are in need of such a universal (holistic) and comprehensive (inclusive) perspective, as well as a general and objective evaluation.
Today we are in great need, above all else, of an objective mind which can see yesterday and today together, which can take humanity, life, and the universe into its perspective all at the same time, which can draw comparisons, which is receptive to the dimensions of the causes of and reasons for existence, which is cognizant of the scenarios of the rise, continuance, and fall of nations and communities, which can judge the errors, faults, and merits of sociology and psychology, which is alert to the rise, decline, and death in the cycles of civilizations, which has skill, sound conscience, and integrity to distinguish means and ends, which is respectful of the objectives and familiar with the principles and wisdom of the Divine Law and purposes of the Lawgiver (the Prophet), which is knowledgeable about the essentials which are accepted as basis for religious decrees and which is open to the thoughts and inspirations that emanate from God.
While we are clearing and releasing the blocked channels of our thought, and realigning our system of reasoning, which has turned away from the sublime and thus become stale, so that it travels in its proper orbit around the Qur’an, we will not neglect the secrets of humanity, life, and the universe. As well as acting minutely upon the religious commands and making them part of life, an act which is one of the most significant bases of a long and uninterrupted continuance, we must smooth the way as the Messenger of God made it easy, with kindness and gentleness, and with tolerance and forbearance, showing it to be a path of encouragement which invites with glad tidings, rather than one which discourages and repels with disgust and aversion.
We must put the power of knowledge and contemplation at the disposal of Islam and Islamic interpretation and thus bring to an end the barrenness and unproductiveness of recent centuries. We must establish everywhere, in homes and streets, in schools and places of worship, observatories from which the truth behind humanity, life, and the universe can be seen.
We must reopen the routes to eternity which have been blocked for some centuries. We must raise Islam to the first and most important point on the agenda, one that is to be dwelt on in every element of life.
We must become sensitive to the issue of cause and effect and so act rationally and calculatedly, according to the principle of the relation and proportion of causes. Such a quality of understanding, perception, comprehension, and maturity will facilitate our renewal and reformation and provide us with the foundation stones on which to base an eternal life.
Some may think that attaching so much importance to causes is impertinent. To some extent I agree. However, humanity must do what it is obliged to do and must not interfere with what the Divine work requires. A duty is our responsibility, and to have recourse to causes in the fulfillment of that duty is a form of entreaty or petition presented at the door of God’s mercy, equivalent to a prayer made in order to obtain a desired outcome. To accept that this is so is a prerequisite of acknowledging the fact that we are the created and He is the Creator, and of acknowledging His Divine Attributes.
However, there is the other side of the coin. God grants to us free will (whose existence is considered to be nominal) and accepts it as an invitation to His Will and Willpower, and promises to establish the most essential projects upon this will, a plan He has implemented and continues to do so. God created our will as an occasion of merit or sin, and as a basis for recompense and punishment, and accepts it as an agent for ascribing to good and evil.
In the light of the consequences ascribed to it, God ascribes to our will which has no value in itself, a value above all values, such that had He not done so, life would have ceased, human beings would have been reduced to inanimate things, the laying of obligations on God’s servants would have become pointless, and everything would have been reduced to futility, uselessness, and absurdity. This is why God attaches importance to our will and to the desires and wishes of humanity; He accepts it as a condition for the construction and prosperity of both this world and the Hereafter, making it a considerable cause, like a magical switch to a powerful electrical mechanism that can illuminate the worlds. In the same way He can create and give existence to an ocean from a drop, a sun from an atom, and whole worlds from nothingness, and thus manifests one of the mysterious dimensions of His power.
Neither cause nor anything else rules, governs, or exerts influence on God, the All-Mighty Creator. Nothing binds His Divine Will and Power. All is decreed and God is the one and the only, the absolute Ruler. Yet observation of the causes, ascribing effects to them, and evaluating the reasons for effects as the slight and minor parts of agency is God’s command too. Therefore, when people do not observe the principles of the laws of nature created by God, called “Sunnatullah” (the way of God’s doing/the course of God, the way of His treatment), we believe that they will fail to a great extent in this world and to a certain extent in the Hereafter as well.
How meaningful was the approach of Caliph ‘Omar when avoiding a plague-stricken area; he said to those who were unable to reconcile his flight with the idea of resignation to one’s fate and submission to one’s lot, “I am running from God’s Will back to God’s Will again.”
In one’s actions, activities, work, and endeavors, being heedlessly result oriented, making those results the sole object of one’s wishes, and unnecessarily being overburdened is both a kind of suffering and impertinence, as if, may God forbid, one is bargaining with God. On the other hand, disregarding human choice and willpower and expecting the result to come by wonderful, almost miraculous means, in an extraordinary way, directly from God, is a strange fancy, an illusion, and an excuse for wretchedness. The Qur’an says many times in many chapters “as a reward for what they did,” “as a reward for what they earned,” or “as a recompense for what they committed.”
The Qur’an warns people that what they have experienced and what they will enjoy or suffer of good or evil is a result of their own behavior, actions, and deeds. When the Messenger of God, the perfect example of the balance of heart, mind, and conscience, said “On the day of Judgment, without having an opportunity to take a step, man will be questioned on where he passed his lifetime, how he used his knowledge, how he gained his wealth and where he spent it, and where he wore out his body,” he pointed out the strong and mysterious relation between cause and effect, effort and gain.
While Islam, through the Qur’an and Sunnah, regulates a believer’s faith and actions, prayers and morality, and their life in this world and the next, it whispers at the same time, between the lines, into our world of the mind, heart, soul, emotions, conscience, and consciousness from a realm of other dimensions, the worlds of the beyond, such different things that heavenly breezes are produced in the depths of our personality and divine-colored emotions. In this way, at every instant, Islam revives humanity once more in a different dimension.
Thus we find ourselves in the position of vicegerency to God, in a position to intervene in natural phenomena, and in a position to comprehend and examine the mysteries of the laws of nature. Then we are able to perceive the book of the universe, which comes from the Divine Will and Power, and the declarations which flow from His divine attribute of Kalam (Speech) through revelation, as the two sides of one unity and we can regulate our thoughts and conceptions, acts and attitudes, our considerations of this world and the Hereafter according to the balance in the Earth and heavens.
Islam weaves its warp and weft through the mind, body, soul, and conscience of humanity, intertwining the dimensions of this world and the Hereafter into a rich and colorful lacework. Turn by turn the threads of the mind, body, soul, or conscience are laid over and under each other, but none of them by itself is able to reflect and represent Islam, nor can any of them by themselves express Islam in its true sense and completeness.
Islam, the All-Mighty Creator’s greatest and universal gift to all, can be carried to real life by humanity, the spiritual index of all creation, first and foremost by His favor, by that which is made from the intellect, conscience, soul, body, and the inner fine qualities of soul. We will expand on this in the coming sections.
By M. Fethullah Gulen