M. Fethullah Gulen
Despite blurred realities, many fair-minded thinkers still regard our “world” as a center of attraction. Personally, it would not be an exaggeration to say that this “world,” with its four seasons, night and day, climate and habitat, people and rich culture, as well as its material and spiritual atmospheres is worth the entire universe.
No other place is blessed with the same charm of day turning into night, nor does it have a matching mystery. Seasons in other places are not as mild nor is nature as vivid and lenient as it is in this world. However, in the most fabulous corners of the earth there are times when daylight is blocked out, when the stars at night are drowned in darkness, and the days are obscured and monotonous. Yet, for those who can perceive and carry on their lives, following the path of the heart and spirit, nothing in our world loses its pleasure, nor do its attractions diminish. On the contrary, the springs in our world always cheer us with new life, the summers gently descend on the horizons of tenderness, autumn glimmer through the routine, reminding us of extinction followed by resurrection, winters elate our feelings of love and longing and inspire our spirits with new birth; thus, we are able to attain what our nature passionately seeks.
With the eye of the heart one can see that the arrivals and departures, the changes and transformations, the diversification and deformation in this land all have meanings that are different from those in other places. Life here exhibits eternal visions that are as expansive as a waterfall; flowing like a river that is fast and deep, racing along a sinuous course to reach its source. As the river bed narrows, it flows even faster and surmounts many seemingly impossible obstacles. It flows foaming downstream along its own path, as pure as the day it first gushed forth from the source, perhaps even purer. It spreads life along every mile for those who have the capacity, and runs to reunion like a lover separated from the loved one. And with reunion comes eternal serenity. This is the color, texture, and accent of life in our hearts, but it is not possible for those who do not empathize with us to comprehend this; they cannot appreciate the roots that make us who we are, nor can they perceive what we feel or think, or our ideals or objectives.
As a matter of fact, it is a privilege and joy to be born into and raised in this world, to be able to perceive its spirit and meaning which are rooted deep in the past. However, awareness of this privilege and bliss is only possible when our rich heritage, the spirit and meaning of this world, is duly appreciated and admired, as Majnun loved Layla. Love and yearning are commonly interpreted as ember or wood which easily flare up at the sight of good looks, a fine posture, and presence; this interpretation is correct, but not complete. The greatest love always blooms in direct relation to the refinement of the soul, as well as to the sensitivity and profundity of perception. Unrefined and insensitive souls may display some inclinations, but they can never truly love. Those with feelings that have been dulled can never be loyal, even if they incessantly speak of love. Loving something depends on knowing it well. Beauty may stir temporary interest, but if knowledge about the inner aspects is lacking, then there are no means for an everlasting connection. Such interest may generate passing fervor, but it cannot transform into a sparkle of love.
Those who do not know God have never been able to love Him; indeed, they cannot. Those who are not informed of the Prophet cannot show him due respect; indeed, they can not. And those who consider our lands to be mere geographical territory cannot be aware of the love for one’s homeland; this is not possible. Any territory is valuable according to the amount of riches found on the surface and underground. Likewise, a country rises upon its unique essence and values that have been inherited from the past; it is only in relation to these values that a country can be enthroned in the heart of the people. It becomes “my land” for those who love it as such, who shiver with the fever of longing.
Every one, no doubt, can feel a strong sense of belonging to the places they were born, from where they breathed and drank water, places with which they are more familiar, even if it were a desert. Yet, our love and desire for “our world” is not related to its being where we were born per se. We are bound to our homeland with a deeper connection and fascination-when we are home, it becomes as warm as our mothers’ embrace; when we are away, we think of it with a longing for the inner riches, the unique tastes and styles, and the magical expanses. Those with an unfamiliar perspective, who cannot discern its deeper qualities – in other words, those who have not been nourished from the same spring or nursed from the same breast – are unable to grasp the wonder; indeed, they never can.
Regardless of the feelings of others about our "world," this land of wonders offers beauties of all kinds to us; these are unattainable elsewhere, even in the most beautiful corners of the earth. We feel inundated by the affluence we possess, enchanted by the charm of our accent and in this land we witness so many deeper dimensions that go beyond the material veils of our simple daily chores. When surrounded with traces, signs, and symptoms that connote these for us, we then become more connected to the present day; we get a deeper sense of our expectations for the future, of our life philosophy and of our past merits.
Facing an architectural pattern that is designed in the taste and perceptions of the past, or a decoration that reflects our conception of belief and thought, sentiments and esthetics, or when we set sail to the mysterious realm of the places of worship, schools, retreat centers, inns, baths, or caravanserais of this land, each of which is an ineradicable signpost of a noble history, we feel showered with the spirit and meaning of our past as our horizons spread out even farther. Then we are overjoyed beyond our expectations; our spiritual faculties and imagination are set free of time-bound considerations. We reach a point of consciousness in which heavenly words and voices can be heard in a harmonious blend with ordinary sounds. We find ourselves in the middle of a fantastic world which seems to have been constructed from a mixture of yesterday, today, and tomorrow-yet which does not fit into any of these time frames, while carrying traits from each. This is followed by a transformation of every object, every color, pattern, and accent in this world into something new: the sun, which was thought to have set, starts to rise in our skies, the moon and stars roam above our heads as if on a celestial tour, and everywhere glows with a cascade of smiles pouring over us. Then the spell of a darkness that has lasted for decades is broken and the shadows are defeated one after another by the guards of the light. The spring cries out, exhibiting all its beauties. Fountains that were thought to have dried up start running in abundance; clouds bow down to embrace the ground and converse with pastures and trees; rain strokes everywhere that has withered with mercy; the winds embrace us with a sweet breeze, as if celebrating a feast. In the present, but through the projection of the days of light from the past and those that are eagerly awaited in the future, mountains, rocks, singing birds all treat us with the best of sights and sounds, performing a fascinating music without lyric or composition, a tune of the spirit and meaning that does not belong to any one time, but indeed are the essence of all times.
Each time I think of this blessed land with thoughts filled with faith and hope, I say “here is a mystical country without borders, transcendent with a distinctive spiritual essence and an intrinsic beauty.” I consider myself fortunate if I am there; if I am away, I weep with yearning and to comfort myself, I rush to the apertures of my imagination to picture it in my mind. For me, it is always more beautiful than any other place. Its beauties have always remained unique, without any change, even when it was invaded with filth that tarnished the entire globe. It has always been a place that is desired.
Nothing has stained its spiritual potential and no dirt has been able to blur its inner purity. There were times when resentment, hatred, and sectarian fights festered everywhere; democracy was crippled, free thought was slaughtered, belief, Islam, and the Qur’an conceded against the most ferocious onslaughts and the winds of fall destroyed the gardens, the crops, and discolored the flowers and the roses mourned and wept tears of blood. Young saplings broke, giant cypress trees collapsed, and leaves were scattered around. Nevertheless, this “world” has always remained colorful with its inner treasures, spiritual pattern, and power of spiritual dynamics. It has always smiled gently on its own children, comforting their cries with joyful treats, softening the painful and harsh storms of reality with its magical hope-inspiring essence, and even in the most hellish conditions, cooled down the heat of those who took shelter in it with a peaceful “bard al-salam.”1
Hostility, rancor, discord, hatred and other foreign notions that originate from unbelief and which have sought to penetrate this land, have never been able to take up permanent residence, nor have conflicts and discord attained their objectives. Rancor and hatred have been defeated by love and leniency; envy and obsession have devoured and consumed themselves; and the unfortunate ones who have made the existence and continuation of such things dependent on these notions have never attained glory. The filth and the soiled ones have been rebuffed and dispersed, and only true humans and human values have remained in this land.
Yet sometimes perhaps all of us have been troubled by some unexpected events; we wish that they never happened, and bemoan the heartless and senseless acts of the people of this land, a land which is acquiescent to the heart and spirit, despite its rich historical heritage. Thankfully, such thoughts and the situation that lay behind them did not last for long; when the time came, everything reverted to its former shape; the heart was set in motion, the spirit made itself heard, the callous mood was replaced with sensitivity, and everything reclaimed its essential nature. Excluding the temporal fog that darkened the horizons, this land is indeed in possession of the treasures of pleasure, taste, and beauty from all times. We breathe in the spring in the mornings; we enjoy the colorful sceneries of the summer during the day, and at sunset we are filled with the pleasant sorrow of the fall. Days and nights, and the seasons that change reluctantly are so fresh, elegant, and soft that familiar hearts rise every morning as if invited to “resurrection,” waking up to a new day with the call for prayer and glorifications, finding themselves on a highway that leads to the heavens.
As it appears to our senses, everything in this world is seen as if through rose-colored glasses, through a mysterious veil that we cannot always perceive. The spiritual texture of this world which never fades, the pristine hearts of the people, the majority of the people being able to remain firm, with their behavior leaving indelible impressions; its marketplaces that feature noble characteristics inherited from the past; its porticos and fountains that have an impressive stance; the everlasting warmth in the sanctuaries of the places of worship; the glorifying of the Almighty by the believer singing “Hu, Hu” in chorus, accompanied by the bird song that soars up to the domes as well as into our hearts... it is not possible to witness these and many other magical scenes occurring in such a perfect way in other places. Nevertheless, not everyone is blessed with this testimony. Their inability to perceive is perhaps not a divine test or retribution upon them, but there is no doubt that it indicates a deprivation that has fallen to their share. It is most likely that these unfortunate ones were exposed to winds that blew a bit cold, or were hit by the autumn that passed a bit harshly, or were caught in an unseasonable hail, sleet or storm, and this is why they see this paradisiacal place as having the unpleasant face displayed by momentary events.
Nevertheless, such things do not last forever; they might cast our horizon in darkness for a time, but after a while they disappear, handing this world over to the brightest beauties that are inherently found there. Everywhere blossoms with its natural charm, and a peaceful spiritual expansion is felt throughout the land. Then the fog disperses and the sky is filled with the cotton-white clouds of the spring. Even if it does not rain, dew drops wash away the dust on the leaves. The dawn is followed by the sunrise, and the bright days that are celebrated in our hearts glow from a distance as every town and street, village and city assumes a spiritual transformation. This world becomes a corridor to what is beyond. As perceptions intensify, the elegance, mercy, and the poem that this storm of feelings pours into us pass beyond the upper limits of our comprehension. The gaps between our desires–dreams and the realities are filled and life becomes the way we would like to live it. Our horizons of thought are imbued with the colors of the heavenly slopes. Our disheartened feelings, our withered and cracked hearts, and our spirits, which are bent double and look like discolored flowers, pull themselves together as if the Trumpet (Sur) is heard. Then, everything and every one changes position and shouts out cheers of revival.
While some “homeless” ones suffer from a longing, although they are in their homeland, I have always kept myself occupied enjoying the beauties of my country that well up through the windows of my heart; my readings of this land have always been different from theirs. Even in our days in which hope has lost ground against the darkest thoughts, I can still hear a superb internal tune, singing the secrets from the deepest dimensions of my soul and my belief. I strive to keep my soul bound to hope and faith and as I visualize my glorious past with sweet memories, I also keep my eyes fixed on future days of splendor, days which I do not doubt will come. I try to simultaneously feel the charming colors, the glaring lights from both wings of time. Despite the suffocating grip of the present, I feel that I am strolling across a field that is more spacious than anywhere else. I leave all that is unpleasant today to be interpreted in time and submit these to the considerations of illuminated generations, for those for whom we have high hopes. In the meantime, I find myself between the light, shade, and breezes of my belief, hope, and good will. A future time of happiness caresses my sensations, even though the windows opened by my faith in God and certainty in belief do not yet yield a crystal clear view. I now witness a crude notion of darkness, which has tarnished the face of the earth in our recent past; I hear the groaning throes of agony on the deathbed on which our soul was sacrificed to our ruthlessness; I hear the requiems that are sung, for they resonate deep within, like history’s hymns of revival.