M. Fethullah Gulen
Resignation means showing no rancor or rebellion against misfortune, and accepting all manifestations of destiny without complaint and even better peacefully. In other words, one should welcome all things and events, even those normally associated with distress and terror. Another beautiful definition of resignation is having or showing pleased acceptance of God’s treatment whether it seems agreeable or disagreeable to us.
Even though believers must adopt resignation of their free will at the beginning of the spiritual journey, in reality it is a direct gift of God to those whom He loves. For this reason, unlike patience, neither God Almighty nor the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, commanded it; they only recommended it. Although there is a narration attributed to the Prophet—Let him who does not endure misfortunes and show resignation to Divine decrees find another Lord for himself—the scholars of Traditions did not accept it as an authentic Prophetic Tradition.
Some saints have considered resignation a higher station than reliance and surrender, while others have regarded it, like other states, as a divine gift or radiance that sometimes appears and then disappears. Still others, like Imam Qushayri, have seen it as connected with or dependent upon the servant’s free will in the beginning, and as a state or condition of the heart in the end.
Resignation is a divine gift that can be acquired only by an individual’s conscious decision to exercise free will at the beginning of the journey. One can attain the rank of resignation through depth of belief, solemnity in religious actions, and profound consciousness of worshipping God as if seeing Him. To be favored with the rank of resignation, one also must transcend the ranks of reliance, surrender, and commitment. Since it is extremely difficult to attain the rank of resignation by free will, God Almighty did not order it; He only advised it and highly praised those who attained it.
If one sets out on the journey to attain the rank of resignation at the end, he or she must be solemn in his or her relations with the Lord; gratefully accept all bestowed (and unsought) Divine gifts as His blessings; remain silent about any deprivation; fulfill all religious obligations even in times of distress, loneliness, and hardship; and pray in the presence of God Almighty as if entering a bridal chamber. The most essential foundation of resignation is a continuous feeling of His company in one’s consciousness and experience, discovering Him afresh at every moment in one’s heart.
Fear and hope relate to one’s worldly life, for they render impossible all feelings of despair and security against God’s punishment while in this world. They have no relevance to the Hereafter, except for the reward they cause to be bestowed in the Hereafter. By contrast, being pleased with God and loving Him continue eternally, and resignation to His judgment and being pleased with Him is a source of spiritual peace and happiness in both worlds.
This does not mean that those who have obtained resignation and God’s pleasure or approval are free of anxiety, hardship, and suffering, for there remain many annoying and displeasing things along their way. However, champions of resignation regard them as pure mercies, for resignation or God’s pleasure changes the “poison” they drink into “elixir,” and the troubles they encounter cause them to fall even deeper in love with the Beloved.
The way of resignation, although difficult to follow, is safe and direct. It sometimes leads the wayfarer to the summit of human perfection after a single attempt. Just as a believer can reach that summit by strenuous effort in the way of God or by studying the universe (as if it were a book) in order to feel and find God everywhere (although He is contained in neither time nor place), the summit can also be reached through one’s inner suffering and sorrow arising from personal shortcomings and helplessness upon encountering difficulties while searching for a way to progress on the path.
Resignation results in a thrilling joy or a heavenly breeze from God’s being pleased with the believer that is proportional to the depth of one’s fear and hope. It does not come from feeling God’s nearness, worship and devotion, the struggle against sin and the temptations of one’s carnal self and Satan. Rather, it is a spiritual delight merged with hope and expectation, regulated by self-possession, a direct gift from Him, and a breath of mercy associated only with this station of being pleased with God. This station requires the self-regulation of one’s thoughts, considerations, plans, hopes, expectations, feelings, and actions according to God’s Will. Thus, seeing it as a way to experience pleasure and delight in the expectation of acquiring that pleasure and delight shows one’s disrespect of this station, which is based on the purity of one’s intention and sincerity. In reality, this applies to all other states and stations attained through actions of the heart, or which are themselves actions of the heart. One must love and pursue His approval or pleasure for His sake only.
Heroes of the spiritual life have expressed their views about resignation and being pleased with God since the early days of Sufism. According to Dhu al-Nun al-Misri, resignation means preferring God’s wishes over one’s own in advance, accepting His decree without complaint based on the realization that whatever God wills and does is good, and overflowing with love of Him even while in the grip of misfortune. ‘Ali Zayn al-’Abidin describes resignation as an initiate’s determination not to pursue anything opposed to God’s Will and pleasure. According to Abu ‘Uthman, resignation denotes welcoming with the same mood all divine decrees and disposals, regardless of whether they issue from His Grace or His Majesty or Wrath, and having no conscious preference for one or the other. God’s Messenger referred to this when he said: I ask You for resignation after You have decreed something. Being pleased in advance with God’s decree means being determined to show resignation, while resignation signifies enduring calamity when it occurs.
In short, resignation means that an initiate feels no resentment against or displeasure with whatever issues from God’s Divinity or Lordship. Rather, the initiate welcomes it gladly and is ready to accept or endure his or her fate without complaint. The initiate does not upset the balance of his or her heart. Rather, he or she preserves personal integrity and straightforwardness even when confronted with the most distressing and shocking events, considers God’s predestination recorded in the Supreme Preserved Tablet, and thus feels no regret or sorrow for what happens.