Question: What are the essential principles concerning such issues as: our sensing the connection between world events and our deeds; recognizing the connection between the troubles we face and our faults and sins; and acting in accordance with the criteria of the Qur’an and Sunnah regarding these issues?
Answer: When a believer experiences some fiascos on the path he walks, faces some allegations and slanders that taint his honor and reputation, or experiences some failures in certain activities that seemed likely to succeed, he should view each of these events as a Divine warning and use self-criticism to revise his relationship with God and servanthood to Him.
The Cost of Centuries-Long Negligence
We fail to “read” the meaning of events, as they sometimes are not favorable with what we desire. We fail to discern, and thus cannot establish, the connection between events and our deeds; God actually gives us respite before the punishment for our faults comes. Sometimes, the punishment is not manifested as a certain deed but rather in different forms. In such cases, we miss the connection between the events and our deeds. As beings immersed in a world of causality, we mostly think in accordance with the cause and effect principle and say; “The punishment for that event must have been so and so.” However, things happen in accordance with the mystery of Divine testing. In this regard, if one does not view events with the keen eye of wisdom, one fails to discern their connection with people’s deeds.
Actually, as the Lord of the worlds of a very extensive domain that includes all existence, God Almighty has certain decrees about certain negativities. When we restrict our perspective to our own narrow sphere, we fail to comprehend the decrees related to this extensive domain and their underlying wisdom. What falls to us is to be respectful of God’s decrees and judgments, to see the troubles and misfortunes that befall us as our just desserts, and to accept them with patience and resignation. In fact, we are supposed to view events in this way and question ourselves in the face of every trouble we experience by saying; “I wonder what kind of a fault I have that God has sent me this trouble?” This does not signify a rebellious attitude against Divine destiny to insolently say; “I did not commit any wrongs to deserve all this!” As the former signifies viewing events as Divine warnings and straightening oneself out, the latter signifies an implicit rebellion against the decree of Divine destiny in a mood of weariness in order to escape difficulties and troubles. What really matters for a real believer is being able to think; “Which fault and sin of mine may have given precedent to such trouble?”
Concerning a football match for example; if you are not present in the parts of the field you are supposed to be as much as you should, namely, if you do not have any presence near the goal, nor in the midfield or sides, then you do not have any right to say; “How come they keep scoring goals all the time?” In order to be saved from this situation, firstly you need to see your flaws and determine whether you really deserve this result or not. If you did not assign your players to the right places, if you did not plan what kind of a game to play through them, and did not play your part accordingly, then it means you are receiving your just desserts.
In the same way, as representatives of rectitude and honesty, if you have neglected different areas of life and left them to others’ hands, then you must criticize yourself first in the face of certain troubles that befall you. If you are not present everywhere in terms of rectitude and uprightness, then you cannot put a stop to the spread of corruption. If you are not present anywhere, you will be completely surrounded and obliged to live in subjugation. Even though you think you are living in a free society, you will actually be living in manifold captivity. You can neither act freely as an individual, nor maintain peace in your family within the frame of the values you believe, nor can you raise your children in the way you desire.
If we view the issue worldwide and evaluate the present miserable condition of Muslims today, we see with the same perspective that they cannot play the game as required by the rules and cannot fulfill the duties that fall to them. Both Turkish people and other Muslim peoples in the world are suffering certain deprivations and troubles today as a consequence of the laws of nature, since they did not do in time what they were supposed to do. God willing, by avoiding complaining and by pinpointing the source of the problem correctly, this suffering will be a compensation for the sins of all of us. In this regard, misfortunes have this aspect of being a blessing in disguise. Manifestations of God’s general and particular mercy reveal themselves there as well.
The Spiritual Guides That Interpret the Meaning of Events
Although we say, “believers are responsible for ‘reading’ the meaning of events correctly,” we need to accept as a reality that it is not possible for all believers to have insight into an issue to the same degree and depth, or to fully comprehend them. For this reason, it is very important for there to be spiritual guides who can view and interpret unfolding events with a comprehensive perspective, with relation to the actual causes and effects. They must analyze very well the reasons for the troubles being suffered, approach matters with the consideration of causality, reckon very well what kind of negative consequences could be suffered from the mistakes that have been made, and give people the right guidance on these issues.
I am not of the opinion that Turkish society has become vigilant with such a consciousness. We can understand this better by examining the problems experienced over the last few centuries. Although some intellectuals in Turkey comprehended the issue to a certain degree, none of them ever understood the issue as substantially as Bediüzzaman did, and did not come up with proper solutions for the problems suffered. However, I doubt whether the people whom Bediüzzaman entrusted this responsibility to comprehended this issue in accordance with his horizons.
By looking at the conditions of the time that he lived and his available means, it is seen that he was put under serious pressure and was impeded from taking action. However, despite all of these difficulties, he did what needed to be done and evoked in people a serious concern and excitement for the sake of Islam. It is not possible to take action without such excitement. You cannot realize anything for the sake of your ideals with stagnant people. Nevertheless, it is also necessary to moderate excitement within the proper framework of religious teachings. In other words, on the one hand, it is necessary to evoke excitement in people like roaring floods, but on the other hand, it is also necessary to set boundaries to balance this excitement and turn it into something beneficial; it is necessary to build proper canals and dams.
Other than the tremendous efforts of Bediüzzaman on this issue, what needs to be done in terms of evoking such excitement across the entire society has not been done. None of the religious schools in Turkey have been able to evoke an Islamic excitement in hearts to the desired level. For this reason, we experienced a period of apathy. Maybe some people managed to initiate some minimal effort and action. Some made references to a new revival. However, since they did not have a plan or system, they failed to evoke in society the wide excitement they were supposed to evoke, and failed to make the entire nation rise up. Just as they failed regarding the causes and the consequences they would yield, they also failed to take due precautions. Some used certain fantastic phrases solely for the sake of their own popularity and brought themselves to attention with these. However, actions speak louder than words and provide us with the actual criteria to evaluate people.
The Feeling of Jealousy Which Causes People to Commit Wrongs to Be Expected from Unbelievers
The devoted souls in our time extend to the four corners of the world for the sake of their noble ideals and make efforts for the sake of realizing a new resurrection. However, this time people who act with a feeling of rivalry and envy have begun to obstruct them on the path they walk. Instead of finding a way of their own and walking accordingly, these people who act with a feeling of rivalry cause problems for the devoted souls on the path they walk and give way to traffic problems. Without letting others survive, they greedily want to exist in all fields. Thus, they wish to hamper in such ways a movement that has reached our time with its defects and shortcomings.
By the way, let me point out that it is also very important for believers to present behavior that is becoming to them against the rude and ugly acts of such transgressors. For it may not always be possible to maintain balance in the face of such oppression and violations. You might lose the uprightness of your feelings and thoughts at least. For example, some people become fixed on doing you harm and continually try to dig a pit for you. However, a day comes in the end and, even if you have no part in the issue, others dig a pit for them and cause them to fall down into it. In the face of such a situation, it is not becoming for you to say; “It serves them right! They have received their just desserts.” Also, if you depend on such a consideration, console yourself with it, and neglect the tasks you are supposed to carry out, then it means you are breaching the essential human values of our path and failing to keep up your rectitude of character.
The Qur’anic verse with the following meaning actually points to this fact: “…Do not let those who lack certainty (of this truth) shake your firmness” (Rum 30:60). By expounding on the meaning of this verse, we can say: Some casual behaviors of those who lack certainty in faith as an outward reflection of their character must not cause you to act casually as well; they should not divert you from the way you follow, not cause you to present certain negative attitudes against them in return, and not cause arrhythmia in you. As it happens with the heart, once the rhythm of societal life is upset, it is not possible to correct it without the effect of a shock. Sometimes even shocks do not suffice, but the body cannot tolerate arrhythmia and collapses. For this reason, it is necessary to act cautiously on this issue from the very beginning.
It is necessary to make one’s best effort for the sake of establishing the unity of social spirit and maintaining society-wide concord and unity. Note that the means of receiving Divine support is having concord and unity. In this regard, it is very important for people with different dispositions and affiliations to meet on common ground and give support to one another. At least, they should not turn against one another, should not accost one another with negative things, and should not try to bring one another down. Having done that, they should seek ways of acting together, realizing some projects in cooperation, and defending others as well to a certain degree, just as they support those who share the same opinions as them. Namely, they must find a reasonable and logical way of agreement to enable coming together. This depends on people giving their willpower its due and suppressing some negative feelings that arise within. It should never be forgotten that such an endeavor will gain people blessings as if they observed worship. Even if the other side lacks understanding of this issue, we should do what falls to us, without harming the collective we are included in. In the words of Bediüzzaman, a person’s seeing his own path as a good one and loving it much does not necessitate showing enmity to others.