Humanity and Its Responsibilities
If humanity is the vicegerent of God on Earth, the favorite of all His creation, the essence and substance of existence in its entirety and the brightest mirror of the Creator—and there is no doubt that this is so—then the Divine Being that has sent humanity to this realm will have given us the right, permission and ability to discover the mysteries imbedded in the soul of the universe, to uncover the hidden power, might and potential, to use everything to its purpose, and to be the representatives of characteristics that belong to Him, such as knowledge, will, and might.While people are involved in existence and fulfill their title of vicegerent, they will not run into any obstacles that they cannot surmount, they will not experience contradictions in their relationships with things; they should roam freely in the corridors of events, not experiencing stress when they discover the abilities that are stored within their nature, not being held back by unexpected hindrances when realizing their hopes.
It is clear that with the success and accomplishments that have been achieved up until today that people have been sent to the world with specific instruments and opportunities. Indeed, despite all the problems caused by human weakness, if we consider the point that we, as humans, have reached and the successes we have achieved so far, it is obvious that nothing hinders us. Even if we make mistakes in some acts, we have produced many successes; we have been given will power and have tried to transform existence, We have changed the world by developing it, and wittingly or not, we are the mirror that reflects the new cadre described when the Great and Just One stated:
I will create a vicegerent on Earth (Al-Baqara 2:30).
It is true that people have at times justified the fear of the angels who at the time of human creation predicted the bloodshed; but alongside this partial evil, the good deeds with broad, lasting, and heavenly results achieved by humanity are not insignificant, either. Indeed, countering the comparative evil, there have always been relative good deeds in the actions of humanity. The righteous subjects of God are the moons and suns of humanity; in order to counter evil and injury, the pious and those close to Him, the sincere ones and the prophets, have spread good deeds around them; these deeds have been experienced in every place. The right to bear the title of vicegerent—given into the safe-keeping of humanity— has been given its due and more, especially by those who are conscious of what the aim of creation is. Believers who have grasped the spirit of creation understand that they have been sent to this world endowed with a different way of thinking and believing and with different responsibilities; thus they must accord their behavior and attune their attitude with this way. That believers have to behave like this is understood through their apparent and hidden abilities and also through the Qur’an, which frequently stresses the relationship between due value and the attitudes and behavior of the believer. In the Qur’an, Almighty God emphasizes the most important goal of being created in the human form, of deserving the status of vicegerent and of being given these abilities by saying:
I have created jinn and humans for no other reason than to act as my subjects (through knowing Me) (Adh-Dhariyat 51:56).
That is, such a primary, clear statement is both a call for communal responsibility and a call for giving thanks for the things that have been bestowed on humanity, as well as being an important caution that focuses our attention on the basic duty of being a vicegerent on Earth.
Submission, the state of being a subject of God in its broadest sense, is the celestial title of being in harmony with existence and things, of being well-adjusted to the world and all that is in it, of making one’s way through the mysterious hallways of the universe without getting lost, in short, of protecting the balance of one’s inner harmony with existence. The righteous person should put up his standard at the point where the fundamental principles of existence and the orders for rules of conduct meet; without providing such a balance it would be impossible to continue on the way, respecting and protecting human values.
The success of humankind in protecting their relationship with existence and the physical world can be determined by the degree to which they act in accordance with the purpose of all of creation. In contrast, those who do not act according to this purpose, and those who may partially neglect their duties, always clash with the gyrating spheres and grinding wheels of the universe, in addition to suffering from their own purposelessness and lack of supervision. In this way, they are able to turn this world, which is their home, and which could be like a palace, into a hell. Even today, some tremble in fear of the near future, as they are aware that it is possible to turn the world into such a hell.
It is an indisputable fact that God alone, who has prepared the universe as if it were a series of galleries, like a book, and Who then put it at the convenience of humanity, can know the nature of the compatibility between mathematical laws—the laws under which existence operates— and the general, deliberate behavior of humanity. Within the framework of these messages that emanate from this source of knowledge, obeying orders that are concerned with the rules of conduct is a unique way to comprehend the secrets of the principle of existence; it is also a way to ensure complete harmony with these principles. Indeed, it is only in this way that humanity can escape coming into conflict with laws that apply to all existence without experiencing feelings of loss, and feel the peace of being at home, being in a palace. On the other side of the coin, the separation of people from their Creator, their alienation from Him will only lead them into a vicious circle of separation and alienation where they will be in conflict with existence and phenomena. It is not possible for such a person to recover.
Humanity’s vicegerency for the Creator takes place in an unusually broad sphere that encompasses acts ranging from believing in Him and worshiping Him to understanding the mysteries within things and the cause of natural phenomena, and therefore being able to interfere in nature. Throughout their lives, genuine human beings first arrange their feelings and thoughts, regulating their individual and social life through various forms of worship, balancing familial and social relationships by their actions and by carrying the standard of their species from the depths of the Earth to the expanse of the Heavens, doing what is necessary to be a genuine successor. At the same time, these genuine human beings try to exercise their freewill in a constructive manner, working with and developing the world, protecting the harmony between existence and humanity, reaping the bounties of the Earth and the Heavens for the benefit of humanity, trying to raise the hue, form and flavor of life to a more humane level within the framework of the Creator’s orders and rules.
This is the true nature of a vicegerent and at the same time this is where the meaning of what it is to be a servant and lover of God can be found. Again, at one and the same time, we can find here the point of convergence between the slightest effort and the most generous gift. The action that will lead people to this point in one step is worship. Worship is not simply the performance of a set of particular movements, as some believe; it is what we call complete submission and the acceptance of a broad responsibility . . . and along with the title of vicegerent it is the clearest expression of the relationship amongst humans, the universe, and God. If worship is the placing of a consciousness of being bound to God into one’s heart, if it is the liberation of one’s self from all types of slavery, if it is the title of seeing, hearing and feeling the beauty, order and harmony that belong to Him in every molecule of existence—and there is no doubt that it is this and nothing else—then worship is the most immediate way to turn our face to God, with everyone and everything, the soundest and most immediate way of associating everything with Him; it is also a way in which we can renew these apparent and genuine bonds at every minute of the day. No one who consciously walks upon such a road will doubt for a moment that they are a servant, and that their sole duty is to give the bestowed honor of vicegerency its due value. Such people will try to live and let the fleeting life of this world be lived to the full; they will try to inscribe their names in the ink of effort and sincerity wherever they go. They will try to inspire similar feelings in all the places where their hands and their name reach. They will try to reach such a depth that it will fill all the worlds, while inscribing their thoughts on every bit of time and space—thoughts that are bound to Him. They will try to live with a greatness of intention that will be great enough to enable them to appreciate eternity and thus imbue them with an inner peace that comes from being connected to eternity. They will walk in the greatest spiritual ecstasy, overstepping the boundaries of existence and reaching Eden.
And if such people can reflect this duty of service and responsibility in the work and service that they carry out, if they are able to pursue the essence of the fundamental principles of existence and obey the orders concerning rules of conduct, rather than binding themselves to the consequences of their actions, then any unexpected outcome will not cause them to feel defeated, nor will their enthusiasm wane. Instead, they will carry out all deeds of service with a joy of worship and be aware of the gratitude of having reached the apex of true believers, an apex which is considered to be the highest level of existence. Such people will never fall into despair, never panic and never feel exhausted due to troubles encountered on the road. Such people are far removed from despair, panic, or exhaustion; they rush forward, feeling the intense flavor hidden in the essence of the deed, saying in echo of Rumi:
I have become a slave, I have become a slave,
I have become a slave;
Slaves are happy when they are set free,
But I am honored and happy to become a slave.
These people measure and evaluate the work and the deed not through the result attained, but rather directly by how the duty was performed, whether it has been performed with a pure heart and whether it corresponds to the approval of God. In this manner, they do not limit the vastness of their subjection by connecting it to any price or reward, they do not adulterate divine and holy deeds with deeds that are bound to the Earth; and these people assess their deeds as being naught before the infinite power of the All-Mighty, and lead their lives in this expansive dimension that they feel in their hearts.
People who feel this breadth and depth with all of their emotions and thoughts, and who feel it in the deepest depths of their heart reach the contentment of being a subject of the All-Mighty, and are freed from various pressures. Not only are they freed, but they have saved their humanity by being aware in their conscience that they are a servant at a gate that will not crush or block out the light; that is, this is where a person attains real freedom. While one’s behavior on route to the appreciation of the blessings from God, blessings that come even if one rejects them, is a duty, the fact that God continues to send these gifts through other various wavelengths is a second blessing.
If human beings are the vicegerent of God on Earth—they are unique in the fact that they have the potential to be the candidate—then they will work for God, start everything with the mention of God, be offended for God, love for God, and intervene in existence only within the framework of what has been granted by Him, performing every duty with the aspiration of being His deputy. Thus, people will not take personal pride in their success, they will not fall into despair in defeat. They will not boast of their abilities, nor will they deny the benevolence of the All-Gracious; they will know that everything comes from Him and will consider all deeds done as their duty. Their confidence will be renewed with every success and they will turn toward their Lord, call out their trust and loyalty in God and will, in the words of Akif, repeat to themselves a few times each day:
Trust in God, hold tight to effort, and unify with the Celestial Will,
If there is a path, this is it; I know of no other that leads there.
This will be their hymn. They will always be tensed, always determined, always enthusiastic and comprehending of their duty, because they tie their behavior and actions to the purpose of being a subject of God; they will not become arrogant with their victories and successes, nor will they feel the desperation of defeat. They will be of the same determination and resolve whether they walk along a straight path or down an incline or climb the steepest slopes.
Indeed, while such people are able to put on a performance that inspires all their mental, spiritual, and emotional abilities to take action, action which surpasses the imagination, in order to fulfill the duty of deputy, they are also pensively expectant, immersed in submission, full of hopes for alternatives and always in expectation of connecting themselves with God.
Here is the genuine believer and the best model of the votary of truth! So many who have made this connection have come and gone, and they have transformed the paths on which they have crossed the hallways of heaven . . . and still many walk on these paths toward the days promised by All-Merciful. Those who have come and gone and those who follow in their footsteps have all lived and are living as heroes of these characteristics that are peculiar only to themselves.
By M. Fethullah Gulen