How should we, especially those of us who are young, interact with the world?
Today’s social environment is overrun with temptation and desire. Although it is hard to imitate the Prophet’s sublime qualities and character, living now does have its advantages, for “the reward is proportionate to the hardship endured.”
Today is a time of disaster and destruction. Our social institutions are “bad, spoiled, or ruined,” and sin is omnipresent and aggressive. We are tempted constantly by sensuality, carnality, and corporeality hidden in the self, all of which modern society encourages. Knowing that “the reward is proportionate to the hardship endured” strengthens and encourages us to resist. Depending upon the Divine Mercy in full recognition of our mistakes and sins is the only way of success.
I will answer your question in eight points, as follows:
First: When facing danger, we walk carefully and in full awareness of our surroundings and turn our glance from what is forbidden. Doing so [and thus not desiring] causes us no material or spiritual loss and does not hurt anyone. Hospitals, courts, prisons, and newspaper accounts are full of people who ignore such advice and thereby court danger. However, do not forget that believers can never be passive when confronted with of evil and vice.
Prophet Muhammad once told ‘Ali: “The first glance is in your favor, but the second is against you.” You cannot control your first glance, because it is unintentional and accidental, and so are forgiven. But if you keep on looking, your self and will are in it, and you will be questioned and punished for it.1
Second: Do not go out simply because you are bored, for this is a weakness and a mistake. Boredom arises because of your heart dissatisfied, distance from God, inability to perform your religious duties and prayers properly, insufficient reading and contemplation, having few good friends, and not serving God as you should. Satan easily enters such people.
Also, God sometimes tests you with spiritual desolation to see your determination and loyalty. Prayers, supplications, duties, and services done at such a time are far more rewarding than those done when one is happy or life is easy. After the test, God rewards people based on the hardship they endured. So go out for a purpose, avoid all places of sin, and do what you can to serve God.
Third: Try your best to surround yourself with whatever supports and encourage of spiritual knowledge, awe, and reverence; purify your senses and feelings; direct your attention to life’s higher purposes; and keep your thoughts and feelings under that purpose’s influence. Know why you are going out, look at your “balance sheet,” interrogate yourself, and equip yourself with some spiritual tension so that God may protect you from evil.
Fourth: Go out with good friends who do not let you stray.2 It is easy to fall into temptation even just a little when you are alone. Being with good friends prevents this, for they always draw you back to the straight way.
And, by the way, closing your eyes to the forbidden earns you the reward of a necessary act.
Fifth: When going outside, try to carry works and materials related to our world of faith and religion. These will protect you like guardian angels, and lead you toward inward contemplation and self-supervision. In such a case, it is hard to sin.
Sixth: Repent immediately, for each sin leads to a new one, opens you up to Satan, and causes Divine security and protection to decrease. Sin finds it hard to dwell in a sincere believer’s heart. Sins that are not repented of immediately block His manifestations, Mercy, and Grace, and leave you wide open to Satan. Sincere prayer distances us from evil, and causes God to forgive your sins and replace them with good.
Another danger is being so ashamed of your sin that you try to hide it even from God. Over time, this attitude can lead to unbelief by causing you to deny God’s existence. This is also true if you justify your continued indulgence on its supposed triviality. Sin is sin, regardless of how you perceive it, and can only be forgiven through sincere repentance and God’s Mercy.
Seventh: Being idle encourages Satan to tempt you with forbidden desires.3 Block Satan by undertaking some duty, responsibility, or service for God to acquire some intellectual or spiritual enlightenment. If you work in His way, you will feel energy, vitality, and joy in both body and soul. Such people will attract God’s favor, while those who ignore such things will not.
Eighth: God helps and protects those who; dedicate themselves to Him and to spreading the teachings of His Prophets and Messengers: O You who believe, if you help [the cause of] God, He will help you and plant your feet firmly (47:7). Those who practice Islam sincerely and work for God will be rewarded manifold and protected, will have their sins replaced by good and righteous deeds, and will be recompensed with rewards and eternal bliss.
So, even though we are surrounded by sin, living in such an environment does have its benefits. Try to model your behavior according to what God by reading the Revelation and studying the lives of His pious and sincere servants who came before you.
M. Fethullah Gulen
1 This same attitude is seen, metaphorically, in the Bible: But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:28) and: If your eye offends you, pluck it out, for it is better for you to enter into the Kingdom of God with one eye than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire (Mark 9:47). (Ed.)
2 Similar to such American proverbs as: “Tell me who you associate with, and I will tell you who you are,” and “You are known by the friends you keep.”(Ed.)
3 Similar to such American proverbs as: “Idle ness is the beginning of all sin,” “The devil makes work for idle hands,” “Idleness breeds vice,” and “Idleness is the Devil’s workshop.” In fact, the early religious communities in America considered idle ness a sin. (Ed.)