In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
Verily We sent the Book down to you in truth, so worship God in sincerity, for God’s is sincerely practised religion,(39:2)
and the noble saying of the Prophet (UWBP):
“All men will perish, except the scholars, and all scholars will perish except those who act in accordance with their knowledge, and all of them will perish except the sincere, and even the sincere are in great danger,”1
demonstrate together how important a principle of Islam is sincerity. From among the innumerable points concerning sincerity, we will briefly expound only five.
Note: An auspicious sign of blessed Isparta which causes one to offer thanks is that compared with other places, there is no visible rivalry and dispute between the pious, those who follow the Sufi path, and the religious scholars. Even if the required true love and union is not present, comparatively speaking, there is no harmful rivalry and conflict.
1 See, al-‘Ajluni, Kashf al-Khafa’, ii, 415; al-Ghazali, Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din, iii, 414.
An Important and Awesome Question: Why is it that while the worldly and the neglectful, and even the misguided and hypocrites, co-operate without rivalry, the people of religion, the religious scholars, and those who follow the Sufi path, oppose each other in rivalry, although they are the people of truth and concord? Agreement belongs in reality to the people of concord and dispute to the hypocrites; how is it that these two have changed places?
T h e A n s w e r : We will set forth seven of the extremely numerous causes of this painful, disgraceful and awesome situation, one that causes the zealous to weep.
Just as dispute among the people of the truth does not arise from lack of the truth, so too the agreement prevailing among the people of neglect does not arise from any possession of truth. Rather it is that a specific duty and particular function has been assigned to the classes in society, like ‘the worldly,’2 those engaged in politics, and those who have received a secular education, and thus the functions of the various groups, societies, and communities have been defined and become distinguished from one another. Similarly, the material reward they are to receive for their functions in order to maintain a livelihood, as well as the moral reward that consists in the attention they receive from men for the sake of their ambition and pride – this too is established and specified.3 There is therefore nothing held in common to the degree that it might produce conflict, dissension and rivalry. However evil be the path that they tread, they will be able to preserve unity and agreement.
But as for the people of religion, the scholars, and those who follow the path, the duty of each is concerned with all men; their material reward is not set and specified; and their share in social esteem and acceptance and public attention is not predetermined. Many may be candidates for the same position; many hands may stretch out for each moral and material reward that is offered. Hence it is that conflict and rivalry arise; concord is changed into discord, and agreement into dispute.
2 ‘The worldly’ (ehl-i dünya): those people whose view is restricted to the life of this world and who disregard the hereafter, or those who sell religion for this world. (Tr.)
3 Be aware that the attention of men cannot be demanded, but only given. If it is given, one should not delight in it. If one delights in it, sincerity is lost and hypocrisy takes its place. The attention of
men, if accompanied by the desire for honour and fame, is not a reward and a prize, but a reproach and chastisement for lack of sincerity. Such attention of men, such honour and fame, harm sincerity, the source of vitality for all good deeds, and even though they yield a slight pleasure as far as the gate of the tomb, on the other side of that gate they take on the form of torment. One should not therefore desire the attention of men, but flee and shy away from it. Be warned, all you who worship fame and run after honour and rank!
Now the cure and remedy for this appalling disease is sincerity. Sincerity may be attained by preferring the worship of God to the worship of one’s own soul, by causing God’s pleasure to vanquish the pleasure of the soul and the ego, and thus manifesting the meaning of the verse:
Verily my reward is from God alone;(11:29)
by renouncing the material and moral reward to be had from men4 and thus manifesting the meaning of the verse:
Naught is incumbent on the Messenger but conveying the message;(5:99)
and by knowing that such matters as goodly acceptance, and making a favourable impression, and gaining the attention of men are God’s concern and a favour from Him, and that they play no part in conveying the message, which is one’s own duty, nor are they necessary for it, nor is one charged with gaining them – by knowing this a person will be successful in gaining sincerity, otherwise it will vanish.
The agreement among the poeple of misguidance is on account of their abasement, and the dispute among the people of guidance is on account of their dignity. That is to say that the people of neglect – those misguided ones sunk in worldly concerns – are weak and abased because they do not rely on truth and reality. On account of their abasement, they need to augment their strength, and because of this need they wholeheartedly embrace the aid and co-operation of others.
4 One should also take as one’s guide the quality of preferring others to oneself, the same quality of the Companions that is praised in the Qur’an. For example, when giving a present or performing an act of charity, one should always prefer the recipient to oneself, and without demanding or inwardly desiring any material reward for religious service, know one’s act to be purely God’s grace and not impose a sense of obligation on men. Nothing worldly should be sought in return for religious service, for otherwise sincerity will be lost. Men have many rights and claims, and may even deserve zakat. But it cannot be demanded. When one receives something, it cannot be said: “This is the reward for my service.” Rather in perfect contentment one should always prefer to oneself others who are more deserving. Thus manifesting the meaning of “They prefer others to themselves, though poverty be their lot” (Qur’an, 59:9), one may be saved from this terrible danger and gain sincerity.
Even though the path they follow is misguidance, they preserve their agreement. It is as if they were making their godlessness into a form of worship of the truth, their misguidance into a form of sincerity, their irreligion into a form of solidarity, and their hypocrisy into concord, and thus attaining success. For genuine sincerity, even for the sake of evil, cannot fail to yield results, and whatever man seeks with sincerity, God will grant him it.5
But as for the people of guidance and religion, the religious scholars and those who follow the Sufi path, since they rely upon truth and reality, and each of them on the road of truth thinks only of his Sustainer and trusts in His succour, they derive dignity from their belief. When they feel weakness, they turn not toward men, but toward God and seek help from Him. On account of difference in outlook, they feel no real need for the aid of the one whose outlook apparently opposes their own, and see no need for agreement and unity. Indeed, if obstinacy and egoism are present, one will imagine himself to be right and the other to be wrong; discord and rivalry take the place of concord and love. Thus sincerity is chased away and its function disrupted.
Now the only remedy for the critical consequences of this awesome state consists of nine commands:
1. To act positively, that is, out of love for one’s own outlook, avoiding enmity
for other outlooks, not criticizing them, interfering in their beliefs and sciences, or in any way concerning oneself with them.
2. To unite within the fold of Islam, irrespective of particular outlook, remembering those numerous ties of unity that evoke love, brotherhood and concord.
3. To adopt the just rule of conduct that the follower of any right outlook has the right to say, “My outlook is true, or the best,” but not that “My outlook alone is true,” or that “My outlook alone is good,” thus implying the falsity or repugnance of all other outlooks.
4. To consider that union with the people of truth is a cause of divine succour and the high dignity of religion.
5. To realize that the individual resistance of the most powerful person against the attacks through its genius of the mighty collective force of the people of misguidance and falsehood, which arises from their solidarity, will inevitably be defeated, and through the union of the people of truth, to create a joint and collective force also, in order to preserve justice and right in the face of that fearsome collective force of misguidance.
5 Yes, “Whoever seeks earnestly shall find” is a rule of truth. Its scope is comprehensive and includes the matter under discussion.
6. In order to preserve truth from the assaults of falsehood,
7. To abandon the self and its egoism,
8. And give up the mistaken concept of self-pride,
9. And cease from all insignificant feelings aroused by rivalry.
If this ninefold rule is adhered to, sincerity will be preserved and its function perfectly performed.6
Disagreement among the people of truth does not arise from lack of zeal and aspiration, nor does union among the people of misguidance arise from loftiness of aspiration. That which impels the people of guidance to the misuse of their high aspiration and hence to disagreement and rivalry is the desire for heavenly reward that is counted as a praiseworthy quality in respect of the hereafter, and extreme eagerness with respect to duties pertaining to the hereafter. Thinking to oneself, “Let me gain this reward, let me guide these people, let them listen to me,” he takes up a position of rivalry towards the true brother who faces him and who stands in real need of his love, assistance, brotherhood and aid. Saying to oneself, “Why are my pupils going to him? Why don’t I have as many pupils as him?” he falls prey to egoism, inclines to the chronic disease of ambition, loses all sincerity, and opens the door to hypocrisy.
The cure for this error, this wound, this awesome sickness of the spirit, is the principle that “God’s pleasure is won by sincerity alone,” and not by a large following or great success. For these latter are a function of God’s will; they cannot be demanded, although they are sometimes given. Sometimes a single word will result in someone’s salvation and hence the pleasure of God. Quantity should not receive too much attention, for sometimes to guide one man to the truth may be as pleasing to God as guiding a thousand. Moreover sincerity and adherence to the truth require that one should desire the Muslims to benefit from anyone and at any place they can. To think “Let them take lessons from me so that I gain the reward” is a trick of the soul and the ego.
6 It is even recorded in authentic traditions of the Prophet that at the end of time the truly pious among the Christians will unite with the People of the Qur’an and fight their common enemy, irreligion. And at this time, too, the people of religion and truth need to unite sincerely not only with their own brothers and fellow believers, but also with the truly pious and spiritual ones among the Christians, temporarily refraining from the discussion and debate of points of difference in order to combat their joint enemy – aggressive atheism.
O man greedy for reward in the hereafter and the performance of deeds entitling you to that reward! There have been certain prophets who had only a limited following but received the infinite reward of the sacred duty of prophethood. The true achievement lies, then, not in gaining a vast following, but in gaining God’s pleasure. What do you imagine yourself to be, that saying, “Let everyone listen to me,” you forget your function, and interfere in what is strictly God’s concern? To gain acceptance for you and to have people gather round you is God’s concern. So look to your own duty and concern, and do not meddle with God’s concerns.
Moreover, it is not only men who earn reward for those who hear and speak the
truth. The sentient and spiritual beings of God and His angels have filled the universe and adorned its every part. If you want plentiful reward, take sincerity as your foundation and think only of God’s pleasure. Then every syllable of the blessed words that issue forth from your mouth will be brought to life by your sincerity and truthful intention, and going to the ears of innumerable sentient beings, they will illumine them and earn you reward. For when, for example, you say, “Praise and thanks be to God,” millions of these words, great and small, are written on the page of the air by God’s leave. Since the All-Wise Inscriber did nothing prodigally or in vain, He created innumerable ears, as many as were needed to hear those multiple blessed words. If those words are brought to life in the air by sincerity and truthful intent, they will enter the ears of the spirit beings like some tasty fruit in the mouth. But if God’s pleasure and sincerity do not bring those words to life, they will not be heard, and reward will be had only for the single utterance made by the mouth. Pay good attention to this, you Qur’an reciters who are sad that your voices are not more beautiful and that more people do not listen to you!
In just the same way that rivalry and disagreement among the people of guidance do not arise from failure to foresee consequences or from shortsightedness, so too wholehearted agreement among the people of misguidance does not result from farsightedness or loftiness of vision. Rather the people of guidance, through the influence of truth and reality, do not succumb to the blind emotions of the soul, and follow instead the farsighted inclinations of the heart and the intellect. Since, however, they fail to preserve their sense of direction and their sincerity, they are unable to maintain their high station and fall into dispute.
As for the people of misguidance, under the influence of the soul and caprice, and the dominance of sense-perception, which is blind to all consequences and always prefers an ounce of immediate pleasure to a ton of future pleasure, they come together in eager concord for the sake of instant benefit and immediate pleasure. Indeed, lowly and heartless worshippers of the ego are bound to congregate around worldly and immediate pleasures and benefits. It is true that the people of guidance have set their faces to the rewards of the hereafter and its perfections, in accordance with the lofty instructions of the heart and the intellect, but even though a proper sense of direction, a complete sincerity and self-sacrificing union and concord are possible, because they have failed to rid themselves of egoism, and on account of deficiency and excess, they lose their union, that lofty source of power, and permit their sincerity to be shattered. Their duty in regard to the hereafter is also harmed. God’s pleasure is not had easily.
The cure and remedy for this serious disease is to be proud of the company of all those travelling the path of truth, in accordance with the principle of love for God’s sake; to follow them and defer leadership to them; and to consider whoever is walking on God’s path to be probably better than oneself, thereby breaking the ego and regaining sincerity. Salvation is also to be had from that disease by knowing that an ounce of deeds performed in sincerity is preferable to a ton performed without sincerity, and by preferring the status of a follower to that of a leader, with all the danger and responsibility that it involves. Thus sincerity is to be had, and one’s duties of preparation for the hereafter may be correctly performed.
Dispute and disagreement among the people of guidance are not the result of weakness, and the powerful union of the people of misguidance is not the result of strength. Rather the lack of union of the people of guidance comes from the power that results from the support provided by perfect belief, and the union of the people of neglect and misguidance comes from the weakness and impotence they experience as a result of their lack of any inward support. The weak form powerful unions precisely because of their need for union.7 Since the strong do not feel a similar need, their unions are weak. Lions do not need union like foxes and therefore live as individuals, whereas wild goats form a herd to protect themselves against wolves. The communit y and collective personality of the weak is strong, and the community and collective personality of the strong is weak.
7 Among the most powerful and effective organizations in the West is the American Organization for Women’s Rights and Liberty, even though women are called the fair sex, and are weak and
delicate. Similarly, the organization of the Armenians, despite their weakness and small numbers when compared to other peoples, with its strong, self-sacrificing behaviour, provides another proof of our
There is a subtle allusion to this in the Qur’an in the words, “And women in the city said,”(12:30) the verb “said” being in the masculine form, although it should be feminine for two reasons [women is a feminine noun, and also a plural – so-called “broken” plurals in Arabic are always regarded as feminine]. But by contrast see the words, “the desert Arabs said,”(49:14) the verb said in this case being in the feminine, even though its subject designates a community of men. Herein lies an indication, that an association of weak, meek and soft women gains strength, toughness and force, and even acquires a certain kind of virility. The use of the masculine form of the verb is therefore most appropriate. Strong men, by contrast, and in particular Beduin Arabs, trust in their own strength; therefore their associations are weak, for they assume a stance of softness and caution and take on a kind of femininity, for which the use of the feminine form of the verb is most suitable. Similarly the people of truth submit to and place their reliance in the firm source of support that is belief in God; hence they do not present their needs to others or request aid and assistance from them. If they do sometimes make the request, they will not adhere to the persons concerned at all cost. But the worldly ignore in their worldly affairs the true source of support; they fall into weakness and impotence, and experiencing an acute need of assistance, come together sacrificing themselves wholeheartedly.
The people of truth do not recognize and seek the true strength that is to be found in union; hence they fall into dispute, as an evil and harmful consequence of this failure. By contrast, the people of misguidance and falsehood perceive the strength to be found in union, by virtue of their very weakness, and thus acquire union, that most important means for the attainment of all goals.
The cure and remedy for this disease of discord among the people of truth is to
make one’s rule of conduct the divine prohibition contained in this verse:
Do not fall into dispute, lest you lose heart and your power depart,(8:46)
and the wise divine command for social life contained in this verse:
Work together for the sake of virtue and piety.(5:3)
One must further realize how harmful to Islam dispute is, and how it helps the people of misguidance to triumph over the people of truth, and then, wholeheartedly and self- sacrificingly, join the caravan of the people of truth, with a sense of his own utter weakness and impotence.
Finally, one must forget his own person, abandon hypocrisy and pretension, and lay hold of sincerity.
Discord among the people of truth does not arise from lack of manliness, aspiration and zeal; similarly, the wholehearted union among the misguided, neglectful and worldly with respect to their worldly affairs does not result from manliness, aspiration and zeal. It is rather that the people of truth are generally concerned with benefits to be had in the hereafter and hence direct their zeal, aspiration and manliness to those important and numerous matters. Since they do not devote time – the true capital of man – to a single concern, their union with their fellows can never become firm. Their concerns are numerous and of a wide scope. As for the neglectful and worldly, they think only of the life of this world, and they firmly embrace the concerns of the life of this world with all their senses, their spirit and heart, and cling firmly to whoever aids them in those concerns. Like a mad diamond merchant who gives an exorbitant price for a piece of glass worth virtually nothing, they devote time, which is of the highest value, to matters which in reality and in the view of the people of truth are worth nothing. Paying such a high price and offering oneself with the devotion of all the senses will naturally result in a wholehearted sincerity that yields success in the matter at hand, so that the people of truth are defeated. As a result of this defeat, the people of truth decline into a state of abasement, humiliation, hypocrisy and ostentation, and sincerity is lost. Thus the people of truth are obliged to flatter and cringe before a handful of vile and lowly men of the world.
O people of truth! O people of the law, people of reality and people of the path,
all worshipping God! Confronted by this awesome disease of discord, overlook each other’s faults, close your eyes to each other’s shortcomings! Behave according to the rule of courtesy established by the criterion that is the Qur’an in the verse:
When they pass by error, they pass by it with honourable avoidance.(25:72) Regard it as your primary duty – one on which your state in the hereafter depends – to abandon internal dissension when attacked by an enemy from the outside, and thereby to deliver the people of truth from their abasement and humiliation! Practise the brotherhood, love and co-operation insistently enjoined by hundreds of Qur’anic verses and traditions of the Prophet (UWBP)!
Establish with all of your powers a union with your fellows and brothers in religion that is stronger than the union of the worldly! Do not fall into dispute! Do not say to yourself, “Instead of spending my valuable time on such petty matters, let me spend it on more valuable things such as the invocation of God and meditation;” then withdrawing and weakening unity. For precisely what you imagine to be a matter of slight importance in this moral jihad may in fact be very great. In just the same way that under certain special and unusual conditions the watch kept for one hour by a soldier may be equal to a whole year’s worship, in this age when the people of truth have been defeated, the precious day that you spend on some apparently minor matter concerning the moral struggle may be worth a thousand days, just like the hour of that soldier. Whatever is undertaken for the sake of God cannot be divided into small and great, valuable and valueless. An atom expended in sincerity and for the sake of God’s pleasure becomes like a star. What is important is not the nature of the means employed, but the result that it yields. As long as the result is God’s pleasure and the substance employed is sincerity, any means to which recourse is had will be great, not small.
Dispute and rivalry among the people of truth do not arise from jealousy and greed for the world, and conversely union among the worldly and neglectful does not arise from generosity and magnanimity. It is rather that the people of truth are unable to preserve fully the magnanimity and high aspiration that proceed from the truth, or the laudable form of competition that exists on God’s path. Infiltrated by the unworthy, they partially misuse that laudable form of competition and fall into rivalry and dispute, causing grave harm both to themselves and to the Islamic community. As for the people of neglect and misguidance, in order not to lose the benefits with which they are infatuated and not to offend the leaders and companions they worship for the sake of benefit, in their utter humiliation, abasement and lack of manliness, they practise union at all costs with their companions, however abominable, treacherous and harmful they be, and wholeheartedly agree with their partners in whatever form may be dictated by their common interest. As a result of this wholeheartedness, they indeed attain the benefits desired.
So O people of truth given to dispute and afflicted with disaster! It is through your loss of sincerity and your failure to make God’s pleasure your sole aim in this age of disaster that you have caused the people of truth to undergo this humiliation and defeat. In matters relating to religion and the hereafter there should be no rivalry, envy or jealousy; indeed there can be none of these in truth.
The reason for envy and jealousy is that when several hands reach out after a single object, when several eyes are fixed on a single position, when several stomachs hunger for a single loaf of bread, first envy arises as a result of conflict, dispute and rivalry, and then jealousy. Since many people desire the same thing in the world, and because the world, narrow and transitory as it is, cannot satisfy the limitless desires of man, people become rivals of each other. However, in the hereafter a five-hundred-year paradise will be given to a single individual; seventy thousand palaces and houris will be granted to him; and every one of the people of
Paradise will be perfectly satisfied with his share.8 It is thus clear that there is no cause for rivalry in the hereafter, nor can there be rivalry. In that case, neither should
there be any rivalry with respect to those good deeds that entail reward in the hereafter; there is no room for jealousy here. The one jealous here is either a hypocrite, seeking worldly result through the performance of good deeds, or a sincere but ignorant devotee, not knowing the true purpose of good deeds and not comprehending that sincerity is the spirit and foundation of all good deeds. By cultivating a kind of rivalry and hostility toward God’s saints, he is in fact placing in doubt the breadth of God’s compassion.
An instance supporting this truth: One of my former companions nurtured hostility to someone. His enemy’s good deeds and sanctity were once favourably described in his presence. He was not jealous or upset. Then someone said, “That enemy of yours is courageous and strong.” We saw a strong vein of jealousy and rivalry suddenly appearing in that man. We said to him:
8 An important question raised by a significant person: According to tradition a five-hundred-year paradise will be given to everyone in Paradise. How can worldly intelligence comprehend this truth?
The Answer: In this world everyone has his private and temporally limited world as broad as the world, the pillar of which is his life. He makes use of his world through his inner and outer senses. He says to himself, “The sun is my lamp, the stars are my candles.” The existence of other creatures and animate beings in no way negates his ownership of these; on the contrary, they brighten and illumine
his world. In the same way, although on an infinitely higher plane, in addition to the garden of each believer that contains thousands of palaces and houris, there is a private five-hundred-year paradise for everyone, apart from the general Paradise. He will benefit from this paradise and eternity through his senses and feelings, according to the degree of development they have reached. The fact that others share in the general Paradise in no way harms his ownership or benefit, but on the contrary strengthens these, and adorns that vast Paradise. Man in this world benefits from a garden lasting an hour, a spectacle lasting a day, a country lasting a month and a journey lasting a year, with his mouth, his ear, his eye, his taste and all his other senses. So too, in that realm of eternity, his sense of smell and touch, which in this transient world barely profit from a garden lasting an hour, will benefit as if from a
garden lasting a year. The sense of sight and hearing which here barely profit from an excursion lasting a year, will there be able to benefit from a five-hundred-year excursion in a manner fitting that realm, adorned from end to end. Every believer will benefit there according to his spiritual rank, and gain delight and pleasure through his senses that will expand and develop in relation to the reward he has earned in this world and the good deeds he has performed.
“Sanctity and righteousness bestow a strength and exaltation like a jewel of eternal life, yet you were not jealous of them. Now worldly strength is to be found in oxen, and courage in wild beasts; in comparison with sanctity and righteousness they are like a piece of glass compared to a diamond.”
The man replied:
“We have both fixed our eyes in this world on a single object. The steps that lead to it are provided by things such as courage and strength. It is for this reason that I was jealous of him. The objects and stations of the hereafter are without number. Although he is my enemy here, there he can be my beloved and intimate brother.”
O people of the truth and the path! The service of the truth is like carrying and preserving a great and weighty treasure. Those who carry that trust on their shoulders will be happy and grateful whenever powerful hands rush to their aid. Far from being jealous, one should proudly applaud the superior strength, effectiveness and capacity of those who in upright love come forward to offer their help. Why then look on true brothers and self-sacrificing helpers in a spirit of rivalry, thus losing sincerity? You will be exposed to fearsome accusations in the eyes of the people of misguidance, such as pursuing worldly interest through religion, even though it is something a hundred times lower than you and your belief, earning your livelihood through the knowledge of truth and rivalling others in greed and acquisitiveness.
The sole remedy for this disease is to accuse your own soul before others raise these charges, and always to take the side of your fellow, not your own soul. The rule of truth and equity established by the scholars of the art of debate is this: “Whoever desires, in debate on any subject, that his own word should turn out to be true, whoever is happy that he turns out to be right and his enemy to be wrong and mistaken – such a person has acted unjustly.” Not only that, such a person loses, for when he emerges the victor in such a debate, he has not learned anything previously unknown to him, and his probable pride will cause him loss. But if his adversary turns out to be right, he will have learned something previously unknown to him and thereby gained something without any loss, as well as being saved from pride. In other words, one fair in his dealings and enamoured of the truth will subject the desire of his own soul to the demands of the truth.
If he sees his adversary to be right, he will accept it willingly and support it happily.
If then the people of religion, the people of truth, the people of the path, and the people of learning take this principle as their guide, they will attain sincerity, and be successful in those duties that prepare them for the hereafter. Through God’s mercy, they will be delivered from this appalling wretchedness and misfortune from which they presently suffer.
Glory be unto You! We have no knowledge save that which You have taught us; indeed You are All-Knowing, All Wise.(2:32)