What are the Greatest Dangers and Pitfalls That a Believer Faces, and
What Precautions Can Be Taken?
Humanity is being tested in this world. Life itself, from the beginning until the end, is full of tests that are different in shape and level of difficulty. Said Nursi has mentioned the most dangerous six categories of these pitfalls in the 29th Letter and showed the safe paths that “brings to naught the six intrigues of human and satanic devils and blocks up their routes of assaults.”
Let us take a look at these six pitfalls:
1- Desire for Rank and Position; Ambition for fame and acclaim and self-advertisement
Nursi summarizes this feeling that is present in human beings in the following way:
“Present in most people is the hypocritical desire to be seen by people and hold a position in the public view; this is the ambition for fame and acclaim and self-advertisement; this desire for rank and position is present to a lesser or greater extent in all those who seek this world. To accomplish this ambition, the desire for fame will drive a person to sacrifice even their life.”
If this desire is not satisfied through legitimate ways, it is almost certain that it will cause harm to those who have been captured by it and to the society they live in. Unfortunately, such harm, once it exists, cannot easily be removed.
2- A Sense of Fear
A person can tie down and enslave their freewill through the sense of fear. In today’s world, those people who mislead us scheme to oppress people through this sense of fear. Nursi has defined this pitfall, in particular for the servants of truth, as:
“One of the most important and fundamental emotions in human beings is the sense of fear. Scheming oppressors profit greatly from the vein of fear. They restrain those who are weak or undecided through fear. The agents of the worldly and those who spread the propaganda of misguidance take advantage of this vein in the common people and of religious scholars in particular. They frighten them and excite their groundless fears.”A person who believes in God and the Truth can avoid this pitfall only by increasing awareness and faith and by thinking. If I have great honor, dignity, and pride, let them be sacrificed for my cause. Death is only in the hands of God.” The way to fear nothing is to fear only that being that is worthy of fear, God Himself.
Greed means: “an excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves.” Prophet Muhammad has depicted how a greedy person is, saying: “If the son of Adam had two valleys full of gold, he would ask for the third. Only dirt will satisfy the greedy eyes. God will accept the repentance of those who are sincerely penitent.” To avoid this pitfall is only possible if one is guided by the following verse:
O children of Adam! Whenever you rise to perform the Prayer, (be not naked, or wearing your night or working clothes; instead,) dress clean and beautifully; and, (without making unlawful the things God has made lawful to you,) eat and drink, but do not waste (by over-eating or consuming in unnecessary ways); assuredly, He does not love the wasteful,” (7/31)
It is always possible that some ill-intentioned people may try to use believers for their evil purposes by luring them into the pitfall of greed. Nursi points out this danger:
“Yes, ‘the worldly,’ in particular, the people of misguidance do not give away their money easily; they sell it at a high price. Sometimes something that may help a little towards a year of this worldly life can be the means of destroying infinite eternal life. And through that vile greed, a person draws Divine wrath on themselves and tries to attract the pleasure of those who mislead”
Nationalism started with Durkheim in Europe and has spread throughout the world from there. Faith opposes any nationalistic view that puts the nationality above humanity, that is, a view that makes the nationality of a person more important than their faith. In Islam, it is the unity around faith that abolishes the clan and nationality-oriented concepts. The only means of superiority is defined in the verse:
O humankind! Surely We have created you from a single (pair of) male and female, and made you into tribes and families so that you may know one another (with the character and abilities of each to be able to build social relationships among you and help one another, not so that you may feel pride in your color and race and harbor enmity against one another). Surely the noblest and most honorable of you in God’s sight is the one who is the most advanced of you in piety, righteousness, and reverence for God. Surely God is All-Knowing, All-Aware. (49/13)
Faith only supports the positive aspect of nationalism; lineage, clan, nationality are real phenomena and should be recognized. As stated in the above verse, people are put into nations and tribes so that they may become acquainted with one another.
This is the weakest side of one’s self and must be removed from the character at once; it is not possible for those unfortunate ones who are caught up in the egotistical tornado to see the truth and to head toward the target without falling off the path in if they have been blindfolded by the ego. Nursi has warned us about this danger in the 29th Letter:
“My brothers! Beware, do not let them strike you with egotism; do not let them hunt you with it! You should know that this century the people of misguidance have mounted the ego and are galloping through the valleys of misguidance. The people of truth have to give up the ego if they are to serve the truth. Even if a person is justified in making use of the ego, since they will resemble the others and they too will suppose that they are self-seeking, it is an injustice to the service of the truth.”
6- Laziness and the desire for physical comfort
The sincere, dedicated people who call others to truth and raise them to the true level of humanity, should never be entrapped by laziness, and should be ready to sacrifice their physical and spiritual comfort for divine purposes. The prophet Abraham had many flocks of sheep and he was one of the richest people of his time. Under the guidance of Gabriel, the angels disguised themselves as men and praised God with elegantly chosen words at a volume that Abraham could hear. Abraham was mesmerized by their beautiful praises. He did not hesitate to sacrifice his wealth, to make them repeat those lovely words. Gabriel then introduced himself to Abraham and noted that he did not need any of the wealth that Abraham had offered, and added that the Lord had wanted to show his loyalty to the angels and thus had sent them to test him. The voyagers of this pure path, without perishing in this pitfall, should walk only with the aim in their hearts that is “to please God.”
In summary, in response to the infinite Mercy of God, one should never cease to hope and respect God, and our sight should always be turned toward Him; one should move on with the utmost care and respect. In this way, the spirit of action can be preserved; one will be able to avoid the six pitfalls, making it possible to be protected from the shame and discouraging effects of sins and to drink from the waters of the rivers of forgiveness, thus enabling one to reach the soothing and inspiring bounties of eternity.
By M. Fethullah Gulen