What It Takes to Be a Believer
Today, above all else, we are in need of a generation that is conscientious in fulfilling their duty toward God and we need ideal people who can guide society; we are in need of ideal guides who will save humanity from the accursed abysses of atheism, ignorance, error, and anarchy and who will lead them to faith, insight, the correct destination, and peace.
In each and every era of depression, there have been minds that have enlightened the masses suffering from religious, intellectual, social, financial, and moral depression; these minds have reinterpreted human beings, the universe and existence in its entirety, and they have even reinterpreted the background to existence, removing obstacles in our thought processes. Many times have people made a new shirt from their death shroud; they have reinterpreted things and phenomena many times. They have recited the book of existence—a book which in the perceptions of shallow minds had lost its color and luster and taken on a dim hue— as if it were music, feeling it to its very depths; they have observed it like an exhibition. They have unraveled the truths hidden in the heart of the universe by analyzing things season by season, paragraph by paragraph.
The most important characteristics of such auspicious people are their faith and the efforts they make to cause others to experience that faith. With this faith and these efforts they believe that they will be able to surmount everything and reach God, and they believe that they can attain true peace, be able to turn the world into a paradise and raise their standard in Eden. The joy of their destination makes them perceive life and the service of good deeds as a journey along the valleys of heaven.
In truth, whatever its peculiarities or complexities, no other system, doctrine, or philosophy has had such a positive influence on the faith of humanity. When faith enters the hearts of people within its own frame, the thoughts of these people concerning the universe, objects, and God all suddenly change, deepening and reaching a vastness which allows them to evaluate all existence as if it were the pages of an open book. All that such people have seen around them, things which to that date have aroused no interest in them, everything that has been lifeless and meaningless until that day, suddenly become vitalized and now appear as friends, companions and these things embrace them. In this heart-warming atmosphere, people feel themselves to be a degree of their own value; they understand that they are a conscious and unique part of existence; they attain the mysteries of the long, winding paths between the pages and lines of the universe; they feel that they are close to grasping the secret that lies behind the veil of all things; and then they are set free from the narrow prison of this three dimensional world, finding themselves in the stretches of eternity.
Indeed, all believers, through the thoughts which flow in the depths of their identity and in accordance with the degree of their faith, become boundless within their bounds; even though they are bound by space and time, they become paragons of unrestricted beings, reaching the ranks of beings that are above and beyond the concerns of space, listening to the angels’ melodies. These beings, created from water, from what appears to be a shapeless pulp—what seems to be an insignificant creature, but what is in reality truly great—gains such importance that the Earth becomes the stage for the discovery of the divine breath contained in his or her soul. And, they become such creatures that they no longer fit between the skies and the Earth, becoming transcendent being reaching between the two poles.
They walk amongst us; sit with us; their feet step where our feet step and they place their head when praying on the same spot that we do, but they manage to unite their feet and their head, thus becoming a sphere; they prostrate themselves before God, putting themselves in front of Him like a ramp on the way to being close to Him and attain the horizon of becoming one of the closest to God in one step. They beat their wings in the same skies as the spirits and live like celestial beings in a human state. Such hearts always surpass individuality with the development and expansion of humane feelings; they become, in a way, a collective personality and embrace all believers; they lend a hand to everyone and salute creation in its entirety with the sincerest of feelings. They see colors, watch shapes, and are aware of the sounds of holy visions in everything and everyone that they encounter; they listen to the sounds of heaven on every possible frequency and feel as if they can hear the beating of angels’ wings. They see, feel, and listen to such a vast ceremony of beauties: from terrifying bolts of thunder to the revelatory songs of the birds, from the crashing waves of the seas to the gentle sound of the rivers which inspire feelings of eternity, from the magical reverberation of the solitary woods to the accents of the awe-inspiring summits that seem to be reaching to the heavens, from the magical breezes that seem to caress the green hills to the enrapturing scents that pour out of gardens and spread everywhere; they say “this must be life.” They try to give their breath its due value with prayers and by verbalizing and contemplating the Beautiful Names of God.
They open and close their eyes, their foreheads are always touching the floor, anticipating a familiar look from the threshold of a door which they hope will open; and they observe the other side of the door with longing, waiting for that happy hour when loss and longing will withdraw and peace and closeness will envelope their soul like a holy talisman. They try to find satisfaction for the desire of reunion in their soul. They keep running toward Him, sometimes flying, sometimes limping on the ground, unified with everyone and everything. They experience the joy of a “wedding night”1 in the shadow of reunion at every station, extinguishing another one of the many fires of longing at every turn and at that very moment they are alight with a new flame, and start to burn. Who knows how many times they will find themselves surrounded with the breath of “divine intimacy” and how many times their hearts will be wounded by the aspect of the loneliness and tragedy of those who cannot feel this inspiration.
Indeed, souls that have such broadened horizons feel themselves to be always on the ramp toward new realms, always tensed with a resolution and determination to transcend human norms. They think of what further abilities they will be able to attain and what successes they will achieve with faith and the power behind that faith. They keep running without feeling exhausted, with their horizon and prospect always open, and their hearts at peace. At every station their relationship with their environment grows and deepens. They may or may not be aware of it, but when they listen to their souls, they see themselves on a never-ending mountain side of peace; despite the numerous motifs of longing and loneliness that they witness in other people, they never feel the agony of the road or homesickness because they know where they have come from, and why and where they are headed, and they are aware of all the harvesting and dispersion in the world, and they are aware that they are running on a particular track with a fixed purpose and aim. They feel neither the weariness of the road, nor experience the fears, worries, or agonies that other people do. They trust in God, striding with hope and tasting the joy of reaching the summit that holds the sky-blue dreams of tomorrow.
Indeed, on the roads along which the world strides, these chivalrous heroes of faith make their way to the degree of their faith as if they were strolling along the valleys of Heaven, breathing nothing but peace; on the other hand, through their affiliation with God, they can challenge the whole universe, they can surmount any difficulty, and they do not fall into despair even if they witness destruction everywhere. They do not recoil in terror even when hells appear before them. They always hold their head high and never bow except before God. They concede nothing to anyone, they expect nothing from anyone, nor do they make themselves indebted to anyone. When they are victorious and attain one success after another, they shake with fear at the comprehension that this is in fact a test of their loyalty and submission to God, while at the same time they are humbled with gratitude and shed tears of joy. They know how to be patient when they lose and are tensed with determination. They start their journey anew with a sharpened will. They do not become arrogant or ungrateful in the face of bounty nor do they fall into despair when they suffer deprivation.
They carry a prophet-like heart in their exchanges with people. They love and embrace everyone; they turn a blind eye to the faults of others, while at the same time they are able to question the smallest faults of their own. They forgive the faults of those around them, not only under normal conditions, but also at times when they feel angered; they know how to live peacefully with even the most irritable of souls. In fact, Islam advises its followers to forgive as much as possible, and not to fall prey to feelings of rancor, hatred, or revenge; in any case, it is inconceivable that those who are conscious of being on the path toward God should or could be any other way. To behave in any other way or to think in any other way is out of the question; on the contrary, in all their acts they seek the means by which they can benefit others, they wish for the good of others, and they try to keep alive the love in their hearts, waging a never-ending battle against rancor and hate. They feel the heat of their own faults and sins, burning with penitence, and they grasp the evil thoughts inside themselves by the throat a few times each day. They start their work willingly and prepare the ground for the seedlings of good and beauty everywhere. In the footsteps of Rabi‘a al-‘Adawiya they accept everyone and everything as a sweet syrup, even though it may be poison; even when they are approached with hatred, they welcome with smiles, and they repel the greatest armies with the indefatigable weapon of love.
God loves these people, and they love God. They are always stirred by the excitement of love and experience the dazzling delights of the feeling of being loved. Their wings of humility always rest on the ground and they need to become the soil in order to attain the joy of giving birth to roses. As much as they are respectful to others, they also value their honor; they never allow their indulgence, affection, gentleness, and refinement to be interpreted as a weakness. They never heed the censure or appraisal of other people, as they live according to their faith; they take care only not to let their own thought-atlas lose its luster, for they have resolved to be good believers.
By M. Fethullah Gulen
- The term Rumi uses for death.