Question: What things should those on the path of serving faith be vigilant against, and what kind of an attitude of vigilance must be adopted?
Answer: The word tayaqquz (vigilance) is derived from the word yaqaza, which has meanings such as waking up, keeping vigil, and becoming fully alert. Tayaqquz is inflected in the tafa’ul verb form, which denotes a forced degree of the stated act. Therefore, tayaqquz means becoming alert with further caution, profundity, and further scrupulousness. In this respect, we can also describe tayaqquz as: “Keeping all of our abilities of sensing and thinking alert; revising and checking out our decisions and opinions time and again by not sufficing with the evaluations inspired by a single view or sense.” Accordingly, a vigilant person sees himself like a pilot aware of the fact that even a very little mistake or failure can cause him and many others to topple over. Thus, in order not to come crashing down headfirst, he constantly keeps vigil.
Vigilance in the Era of Hypocrisy
As we are living in an era of hypocrisy, vigilance bears further importance for the volunteers devoted to the path of serving faith. In this respect, they first need to understand the time that they are living in and analyze the conjuncture very well. At the same time, they should recognize well the circles of those fixed on animosity, who sometimes seem to be on their side with their mask of hypocrisy. Even if the devoted souls do their best in order not to be opponents of anyone, those who are crazed with jealousy and envy might lay siege on them by forming oppositions, from the closest circle to the remotest—to such a degree that these people captured by their grudge and hatred are virtually ready to strangle them on the slightest pretext. In addition to having unshakable belief, courage, and being on the righteous path, they must absolutely reckon the damage the opposite side will cause with grudge and hatred, as if they are trying to protect a basket of eggs they are bearing. Otherwise, they might cause a failure and fiasco with respect to the movement they are affiliated with, so you can take acting with ultimate scrupulousness at this issue as a depth and dimension of vigilance. Anyway, a conscious believer always takes into consideration the future together with the present and does not, indeed must not, ever act on short-term reasoning. As it has not been possible to solve any problems with day-to-day thoughts so far, it will not ever be so in the future. Nevertheless, for the last few centuries there has been an inability to see the problems of the Islamic world with their roots, and efforts have been made to tackle gigantic problems with day-to-day policies. The people who thought that it possible to solve the problems of Turkey and other Muslim countries with such policies aiming to save the day deceived themselves and the people as well. When Muslims make a self-evaluation with an objective look as a society, it is understood that the causes of our century-long illnesses have not been diagnosed properly and correctly, and therefore the methods of treatment are not effective and thus there is no cure. The devoted souls of our time therefore must not walk on their path like sleepwalkers but rather as wakeful and vigilant ones. They must have a comprehensive perspective of happenings, check out every step they take once more, revise everything they do, and approach matters as individuals whose faculties of feelings and thoughts are fully awake. Moreover, like a sentry keeping guard at the border, they must immediately become alert before the slightest unusual noise and possibility of danger. They must always be prepared to struggle against negativities with alternative ways of solution in their hands.
Vigilance in the Face of Successes
God Almighty has bestowed an opportunity to those who strive on the path of serving humanity for His sake to express the truth and what is right in the four corners of the world. Without due vigilance at such an issue, may God protect us, we might fall into the mistake of ascribing the achievements to ourselves, instead of God Almighty Himself. What we are actually doing is only trying to give our willpower its due within the sphere of apparent causes. He is the one who makes things happen, who creates springs in winter, and who guides us to all of these beautiful works. In this respect, considerations such as “we did it, we achieved it…” should not even pass our imagination. We must acknowledge every good thing we see as a bestowal of God and ascribe them to their true owner with a consideration of acknowledgement of blessings. In fact, such a cautious approach is a very important means for the coming of new blessings. God Almighty decrees in the Qur’an, “If you are thankful (for My favors), I will most certainly give you more…” (Ibrahim 14: 7). In addition, we must refrain as much as possible from making exaggerated remarks about fellow volunteers with whom we walk. As Bediüzzaman teaches, people can fall for the saintly titles others imagined for them as a consequence of others’ thinking too positively of them. Thus, we will have broken the necks of our own friends unintentionally.1 Also, the words of praise you use about the people about whom you think positively may trigger feelings of rivalry in people who share the same road with you in neighboring lanes, pushing them to jealousy. They may be pushed to such a degree that the more you utter words of praise about the person you love, it further provokes adverse feelings in them. This actually means doing harm to that person you love. In this respect, instead of inflating like a balloon the people we love by singing their praises, we should try to be very faithful and true to one another. Instead of making remarks of declaring this or that people a saint, we should pray, “O God! Do not let us fail to be true to these fellow brothers and sisters!” If you profoundly love a certain person to the degree of feeling the bones of your nose shiver with that feeling, then you should indicate it by working toward the ideal of serving humanity that he showed you within the frame of the Qur’an and Sunnah. As for telling about that person to others with words of praise, it will mean provoking others’ grudge and hatred toward him further and therefore doing him evil. So our being scrupulous with the expressions we use about personages we love and respect is another depth of the vigilance required on the path to serving the truth.
Question: Could you elucidate vigilance with respect to its meaning for those who wish to journey on the horizons of the heart and spirit?
Answer: Sometimes a journeyer to the truth might get too hopeful before some inspirational blessings that come flowing into the journeyer’s heart at certain spiritual stations or before showers of tajalli (self-disclosure) in a general sense, and thus give up self-possession and display levity. At such states, which actually serve as a trial for the journeyer, there is a very serious need for self-possession and vigilance. In some situations, God Almighty grants some extra blessings to you; He throws certain valuable things before you. If you behave like a child, feel joyful, and start playing with those bestowals but forget about the Bestower, then you fail the trial. Therefore, at such situations where He sends showers of blessings down upon you, it is necessary to see the Giver of blessings, and hearts must only overflow with a consideration of acknowledging those blessings. As Bediüzzaman states, a person must not be heedless of the real Giver while thanking the servant who offers us the gift on a tray.2 A person resolved to travel through the horizons of the heart and spirit always needs a serious understanding of self-possession and vigilance in order to maintain the balance before some inspirational blessings to be bestowed along the way.
I Demand Nothing but Your Good Pleasure!
The aspect of this issue that relates to the devoted souls in our time is a bit different because they are already not in demand of such spiritual stations in accordance with the essentials of their path. As a matter of fact, after stating faith in God, knowledge of God, and love of God, Bediüzzaman adds spiritual pleasures as a target to be attained through spiritual journeying.3 However, there is a fine point that should not be missed here: the first three of the stated facts are related to the human willpower. That is, the apparent cause for faith in God, knowledge of God, and love of God require willful effort at the beginning. In other words, you will give your willpower its due at the issue of faith in God, knowledge of God, and love of God, and then you will want, read, explore, go through the world of creation, abide by the teachings of religion, make remembrance of God and reflect on His works, and have your heart absorbed in this issue. As for the issue of spiritual pleasures, it is not willfully asked for, but God Almighty may make such a bestowal on journeyers on the path of knowledge and love of God. However, if you make such a demand from the beginning, and make knowledge and love of God conditional to it, it means that you are seeking to reach a very minor aim. However, attaching your servanthood solely to His good pleasure and approval corresponds to such a worth that there are no scales in this world to weigh it. Compared to it, spiritual pleasures weigh so little. In this respect, the willful and non-willful forms must not be confused with one another. We must always run after what needs to be willfully sought and give our willpower its due in this respect. And when a bestowal is granted to us without our demand, we must meet it with thanksgiving and praise, express our feelings of gratitude and thanks by acknowledging the blessings. The spiritual states and stations felt and sensed by Sufis as inspirations, unveilings, recognizing what passes from people’s hearts, presentiments, passing to different realms via dreams, etc. are not essential in our path because this path is that of the Companions. They did not care about such extraordinary happenings, which harbor the risk of taking personal pride. Some wonders as presentiments and being inspired with the truth did happen to some of the Companions. However, they never demanded such wonders to happen. They had one purpose only: attaining God’s good pleasure. Therefore, we also need to act in the same way. If we also receive such Divine bestowals without having asked for them, then we should meet them with the consideration: “These are not deserved by a humble slave like me. What could be the reason for bestowing all these blessings so benevolently?” One should be concerned whether they can be Divine stratagems and shake with fear. Maybe we should also add the following: “O Lord, I wish that I would only love you crazily… that I would long for reunion with You crazily. If You gave this to spur my enthusiasm, thousands of praise be to You. However, I am not demanding anything but Your good pleasure.”
1. Nursi, Said, Emirdağ Lahikası (Supplements of Emirdağ), vol. 1, İstanbul: Şahdamar, 2010, pp. 56, 67.
2. Nursi, Said, The Words, “The First Word,” New Jersey: The Light, 2010.
3. Nursi, Said, The Letters, “Twenty-Second Letter,” New Jersey: The Light, 2007.
This text is the translation of “Teyakkuz.”