Question: Could you elucidate what you mean by having immense horizons of thought? How is it possible to attain this?
Answer: First of all, it is necessary to point out that we are in serious need of people who have immense horizons of thought; who possess a zeal for research and discovering truths; who are able to analyze and synthesize information; and who can base the issues they deal with on scientific grounds. However, we must accept from the beginning that it is not a very easy task for the Muslims of our time to attain an immensity and depth in this respect. In a period when the West realized its revolution of science, thought, and industry, we were entangled by both relentless attacks from outside and our own inner weaknesses. For this reason, together with the Ottoman Edict of Reformation (Tanzimat) in 1839, we were dumbstruck by the blows we received. The incidents that followed brought along even greater troubles and disasters. An entire nation was confined into a narrow area, isolated from the world, and stopped caring about the troubles of other nations. Moreover, all of these bred chauvinism: we began to regard taking a negative stance against everybody using empty rhetoric and bullying.
The First Step: Shaking off our Inferiority Complex
Feeling overwhelmed, fearful, and having an inferiority complex were instilled into the genes of the generations after the Ottoman edict of reformation. Since we too bear these genes, we still have not been able to be saved from the impact of that shock. Whether we realize it or not, we are almost paralyzed with these feelings and thoughts. We are supposed to rid ourselves from all of these negative thoughts, open ourselves to immense horizons of thought, have our own thoughts, and be oriented to the horizons shown to us by God and His Messenger. By following the guidelines of the Qur’an, we are supposed to become persons of discussion, deliberation, and reflection, constantly make new syntheses and analyses. All of these are not easy tasks for generations handicapped with an inferiority complex. However, it should never be forgotten that these are not impossible to realize either.
First of all we need to shake off this accursed inferiority complex, whose beginning was marked with the edict of reformation and has increased and continued ever since. If this can be done, the first step for opening a door to immense and deep horizons of thought will have been taken.
It Is Not the Title That Matters, but the Qualities
Secondly, it should never be forgotten that God Almighty has a special regard for human qualities. It is for this reason that even if a person is not a believer, as far as he is ahead of you in terms of hard-work, scrutinizing phenomena with a love for truth and exploration, and making syntheses in terms of the Muslim qualities they possess, then God Almighty will reward such a person according to his qualities, because all of these are favorable qualities in the sight of God, Lord of the worlds. Even if they are possessed by unfavorable people, this does not decrease the value of these qualities—just as a piece of diamond that drops into mud does not lose any of its quality.
It is necessary to view qualities from this perspective. If not you but others have the qualities normally found in believers, then those who possess them will prosper and succeed, in the worldly sense. And just like they did in the renaissance, they will bring you under their dominion with the power and means they obtain thanks to science and technology. If you also seek to have a love for truth, cultivate a love for exploration, and scrutinize phenomena with total dedication, then you will also become eligible for Divine attention. Thus you will have both succeeded in terms of this world, and also have taken a path leading to eternal bliss.
Criteria of the Qur’an and Sunnah
Whether it is in terms of our heart and spirituality, in terms of trying to grasp Islam in its own immensity, or in relation to our plans and conceptions about the future, we must gain a comprehensive view of all matters. We must analyze them with a holistic perspective, try to see things from beginning to end (as our horizons allow), generate alternative thoughts for things we cannot see, and constantly test these thoughts with the criteria of the Qur’an and Sunnah. In order to be able to catch the exegetical meanings—in compliance with the criteria of the Qur’an and Sunnah—we must constantly move our shuttle between our essential references and the conditions of our time; time and conjuncture are among the greatest interpreters.
Considering today’s world, for example, we must open our arms to humanity for the sake of a livable future without putting emphasis on differences of race, ethnicity, belief, and creed; we must try to make different nations and communities embrace one another. We must strive for the sake of letting essential human values prevail—not only in the Islamic world, but in the entire world. In an era when destructive weapons are everywhere, such a broad perspective is a matter of utmost urgency. Otherwise, in some part of the world, some groups might take malevolent actions, which will likely be met with similar malevolence. If such events were to happen, the world would turn to ruins.
Thinkers and intellectuals who see the gravity of the situation must voice their righteous concern on this issue. They must call humanity to unity, togetherness, agreement, and concord. They must try to have humanity unite around such thoughts. In order for this to pass, it is necessary to focus on the factors that can make this happen. They must then reckon the possible impediments and form a common idea between different sections. Finally, such thinkers must share the thoughts that occur to them and try to tackle these issues with a collective consciousness. As for some suggestions and projects that cannot be realized for now, they must be entrusted to the initiative of future generations.
Newly Emerging Conditions and Steering Securely
Taking due precautions in order to steer securely on the path you walk requires being perfectly equipped with respect to faith and morality. You must make everybody admire you due to your complete integrity. You must have complete trust in God’s favor, beneficence, and protection.
However, all of these constitute only a small aspect of the issue. Another aspect is being able to take into consideration others’ feelings, thoughts, and actions. Otherwise, while proceeding to deliver this trust to trustworthy hands, you might be accosted by some looking to derail you. While introducing the values you possess to society, if you ignore the power and strength of those who work against you, as well as their considerations about you, they might trample over what you have built in fifty years. Therefore, in order not to experience any traffic problems on the road you walk, you must show the utmost scrupulousness for steering securely along the way; you must take the precautions required by the changing conditions.
Interpreting correctly the world you live in is another dimension of deep thought. Today’s volunteers for serving humanity have reached some hundred and seventy countries of the world. This means that they get together with people with a hundred and seventy different cultural backgrounds. The people in the places you go will accept you to a certain extent; but after some point, there can be conflicts that stem from differences of culture and thought. For example, the people of the lands you visit might be wracked by an apprehension that you somehow intend to assimilate them. It is necessary to correctly evaluate all of these matters beforehand, give correct decisions about the steps to be taken about these issues, and avoid attitudes and behaviors that evoke unsound suspicions in others.
Thought Flourishes in the Bosom of Action
We have certain works to guide us and to revive our spirits. It is very important to read them well, comprehend their messages and their meanings that pertain to this world and the targets they show for the next one, and also to make a good analysis of what kind of a world they picture for us. Bediüzzaman pointed out in his Gleams of Truth that sufficing with what is in hand is a shiftless inclination requiring minimal effort. In this respect, when we are reading these sources, we must read them with the thought, “What other meanings can we derive from these?” Sufficing with weekly gatherings for the usual readings and having tea together is an inadequate approach. What really matters is evaluating these works with a serious contemplative discussion and being able to see the ideals they set for our future.
However, all of these need to be carried out alongside with action. If thoughts can be effectuated into action, then it will be possible to make more rational decisions. As far as they have no relevance to real life, it is no good to sit around and imagine dazzling worlds, as if we were utopian writers. So many bright ideas have already been produced, but they lost their luster before any real steps were taken, as they were not applicable to the real world. By making reference to good deeds after every mention of faith, the Qur’an points to the fact that action and thought must be carried out simultaneously.
Since the ideas and thoughts that come to our mind do not result from revelation, they are always condemned to our own accumulation of knowledge. That is, some wrong pieces of knowledge in our mind might lead us to wrong analyses and syntheses. We may be wrong in our personal reasoning and deductions. Some thoughts we put forth may not be true for all times and persons. In this respect, it is very important to consider that our plans and projects for the future can need corrections. Thus, opening them to consultation is a necessary factor with respect to attaining immensity of thought.
A Free Environment of Thought and Human Capital
In addition to all of these, attracting human capital to our world by coming up with our own scientific experiences is another important issue. Actually, ridding ourselves from begging from others and being able to realize new syntheses and analyses via free thinking can only be possible by young brains’ finding suitable opportunities and grounds to serve their own countries.
All Achievements Are from Him!
In addition, no matter how much progress a person makes in terms of their horizons of thought and the means they have obtained—and even if they grow into great oaks—one must never forget that it is God who actually grants these accomplishments; one must always remain humble as a sapling before Divine bestowals and favors. True highness calls for modesty. The Pride of Humanity, peace and blessings be upon him, who was sent as a mercy to the worlds and was blessed with great honors, was a paragon of modesty and humility. Just as the branches of fruit trees hang lower as their fruits gain weight, people must also increase in modesty and humbleness as they receive more favors from God.
Those who lay personal claims on the Divine bestowals and honors conferred to them will be doomed to a downfall unawares. Even if they save an entire country, if they see Divine manifestations as their own merits and expect to be applauded for them, then they will be reprimanded by God and one day fall headfirst into a deep pit. In addition, as Bediüzzaman puts it, a person who falls down from a pinnacle of friendship does not fall to even the ground; such a person may possibly fall to the bottom of a very deep pit. In other words, those who fall from the peak of Everest will be buried in the depths of the Dead Sea. Most of the time, the highest and the lowest reside side by side. If a person gives the highest its due, he remains there. If not, he tumbles down.
 See: Al-Baqarah 2:25; Al Imran 3:57; an-Nisa 4:57.
 Sahih Muslim, Fadail, 76; Sunan Abu Dawud, Adab, 12; Sunan Ibn Majah, Zuhd, 16.
 Nursi, Bediüzzaman Said, The Gleams, New Jersey: Tughra, 2008, p. 229.
This text is the translation of “Düşüncenin Enginleşmesi.”