M. Fethullah Gulen
This world is a wonderful vessel for humankind, floating in this vast universe, the place that we exist and feel our existence. It is also a warm dwelling, surrounded by magnificent animate and inanimate ornaments, a library that contains millions and billions of books written in many different languages, in which we know our Creator. This home is warmer than the rooms filled with the warmth of the passion of our mothers, safer and softer than the cradles that they rock with lullabies. With its gardens that are projections of Paradise, and its ornaments that make it possible to observe the unseen for those who are capable, this world is a mobile observatory.
This world is a unique place that exhibits the essence, meaning and material of the cosmos; a rich page that contains various examples of creatures and events; a pleasant habitat for human beings and Jinn (a species of invisible beings mentioned in the Qur’an with a free will like human beings), and also a rehearsal ground for the Hereafter. Both good and bad deeds grow in its bosom, and their fruits are sent to the Hereafter.
In this respect, this world is a dwelling and a factory, as well as being a market open to the Hereafter. Seeds are both grown and harvested here in this world; the necessary food for the long journey to the Hereafter is prepared here; the shining ornaments of Paradise and the goods that are to be exhibited at the markets of the Hereafter are manufactured here in this very world. They are to be displayed to all that is created and later to be offered to the believers in their eternal dwellings. This world is like a rainforest watered with the rains of Mercy and touched by the breezes of Compassion; it is a screen where the magnificence and the glory of the Hereafter are projected. We observe the light of the Hereafter that diffuses through this screen, in the winter-spring cycle we remember death. Every night as an individual, every winter as a group we die, and every morning and spring, we come alive. This cycle continues non-stop and reminds us of eternal life.
In this world sometimes evil resides next to beauty, bad deeds among good ones, and darkness behind light and so on. However, for those who always see the good and think of the good, the positive aspects are always stronger, longer lasting, more desirable, and more attractive. On the other hand, the unattractive aspects that displease us are beneficial in their results and other more subtle aspects. In fact these types of things and events are the sources of good deeds through inspiring our feelings in unusual ways, sharpening our intentions and ambitions, and promising surprises to our free will. This can be illustrated through the elements that are destructive or combustive by themselves, but which in different combinations are sources of life. Hence, through patience, submission and obedience negatives can be turned into positives.
Compared to the heavenly bodies and the universe, and for our limitless ambitions, the world that we live on is small; however, it is the heart of everything. It is just a dot compared to the universe but it is more valuable than the galaxies. It is like a droplet compared to everything that exists and drifts in ether, but such a droplet that it is more valuable than everything combined in this universe. The world is the unique host of the human being who has been created as a complete and transparent mirror of the Divine Names and Attributes, and in addition to being a host, it acts like a ramp that enables the human being leap toward the Hereafter.
Those believing souls who are capable of considering the location and the position of the world with its place and importance before God can acquire oceans as wide as the universe from this droplet; possess the stars and the sun through this miniature universe; transform the limited time spent on it into an eternal life time. All of these are possible, if all the abilities entrusted to or hidden in the essence of the human being are used rightly without being squandered.
This is a mortal world, a temporary resting place which the guests leave when their appointed times are come. Entering after those who leave are the newcomers. Like a hotel, it is in a constant cycle of departing and arriving guests. The newcomers come to this world as if joining the army to do obligatory service, and those departing return their homeland with a license for their eternal dwellings. Since the beginning of humanity both arrivals and departures have continued. Nobody can stop any of them. Thus, for those unfortunates who do not know the purpose of their arrival in this world, tragic moments follow the joyful seconds of laughter; for a glimpse of hope they are surrounded by despair.
On the other hand, there exists a totally different perspective for those who are believers. They know Who has sent them, and they try to stay close to Him, and since they know their destination they are constantly pursuing ways to make their destination pleasant. This comforting perspective of relating every event and everything to Him transforms everything that is contained in the universe, changing its shape, color and meaning; it becomes sweet, attractive, and bright; it becomes light and diffuses into the heart. From this point of view, the world is a ship, a plane whose destination is eternity and eternal happiness for its passengers; a rich library with millions and billions of books; an exhibition which thrills everybody who looks at it. It transforms into a clear language that calls to Him.
In reality, for those who can see with the light of faith, all these beauties folded into one another are only clear signs of His Divine Being, and the human being is an interpreter who can read and understand those signs. The matter shows the path to the secrets beyond the seen to those believers who can filter events through intellect, consciousness, and feelings within a balance. Through time divine secrets diffuse into their souls, and their hearts become observatories of the Divine Attributes. In this way, the torments originating from not knowing the Creator are torn away and they disappear; light covers all.
Whenever we look at existence from this global perspective, we start to feel that the secrets of the beyond fill our souls, and turn our attentions toward the Unseen. At this moment we transform into a dervish filled with awe and admiration; in such harmony with both the world and the Hereafter, matter and spirit, reality and dream that in all of these we hear the poetry of the adventures of nature and humanity. We hear them and fall into a state of wonder.
There is such harmony and order in everything that we cannot help but ask the question, “Is it possible for this order and harmony to be attributed to the spirit in all of these things, if there is such a spirit?” whenever we look at them with an observing eye. Whether everything has a spirit, or a guardian angel or not, we cannot deny their close relationships among themselves and to us, and we feel as if they are trying to say something to us. We start to listen to their silent songs, more eloquent than the most exquisite symphonies; we hold our breaths before their mute, deep conversations with their subtleties; we let our feelings and thoughts into this limitless field. Then everything becomes a messenger that reminds us of something, and it becomes our task to interpret and understand these messages and act accordingly.
Clearly, through the perspective of faith, the whole of creation and all events seem so familiar that we think of them as a friend, a comrade, and we look at them with compassion, and on their face we see that everybody is treated with compassion and we thank the Creator with all our hearts.
At first sight some things may seem rude, cruel, and hidden to us but when we fix our sight with faith, they immediately transform and soften, become gentle and clear and very close friends.
Some are always smiling, like people with pleasant faces and warm manners and they welcome everybody. It is enough just to look at them and they open their hearts to you instantly.
Like smiling children that play joyfully, some of them move with happiness, they spread happiness in their surroundings and they generate an atmosphere of fun around them.
Some, with all their extraordinary ornaments and decorations, make you live unforgettable moments and say to you: “Come again!” And some of them are so generous, beyond imagination, in the dishes they offer to you that they never want you to leave their tables.
Some may not always be warm and sweet. However, if they hurt your hand with a thorn, they never forget to offer a rose to compensate.
Indeed everything that we see and know stands before us with respect, as the angels did before Adam, peace be upon him, and indicate that they are at our disposal with all of their uses and purposes, and open up the secrets they bear. They are always in a state of showing, pointing out, and indicating Him, such that one feels as if one is in the corridors of Paradise. Whenever we observe them with some insight and knowledge, our feelings blend with nature, we see everything as if painted with the colors of His Beautiful Names and Attributes, we feel as if everything is turning into sweet poetry, and we fall into ecstasy.
In such admiration we feel the whole of existence with a loving heart, and we walk on this path of life toward a destination of eternal happiness and joy, one droplet of whose happiness is greater than all of the joys of this world combined, but not to a material or worldly destination. We feel those same feelings in our hearts that the saints have felt and as the people in Paradise will say, we also utter, “All thanks are to God Who removes all the grief and anxiety from us. Thanks to God Who has given us the best dwelling. For us there is no more grief and sorrow.”
Besides all of these beautiful, Paradise-like aspects of this world, there are sides that appeal to our carnal selves and are ugly and unpleasant. We have neither mentioned any of these aspects of the world, nor wished to, since we stated at the very beginning that this is from a believer’s point of view.
Editor's note:The lead article in July-September 2004 issue “Jalaladdin al-Rumi” was originally written as the foreword for Fundamentals of Rumi’s Thought: A Mevlevi Sufi Perspective by Sefik Can, (published August 04). We are thankful to Sefik Can and Gulen for giving us permission to publish it in The Fountain.