M. Fethullah Gulen
There are many concealed paths connecting all of our hearts. As every individual continues on their life journey, they will experience solidarity with other groups or people at surprising times, either intentionally or unintentionally. As humans seek the ultimate truth, there are many various steps, bridges, and detours that must be navigated in order to advance and reach the ultimate goal. People of good character, and souls which are devoted to universal values, advance towards the firmament of their own specific truths without conflict. They rarely experience any obstacles on their journeys. In their world, different skin colors, different shapes and sizes, different cultures, different ideas, and different opinions are merely superficial. In the depths of their souls there is always a silent camaraderie, a balanced dynamism, a poetical motion, and these devoted souls display an enviable example of repose and tranquility.
We have tried to achieve this vastness in our souls for years. We have always wanted to recognize and accept people – not for the ill-temperedness they display due to certain exterior reasons, but for the spiritual immensity of their inner worlds, their silent spiritedness, their energetic harmony, and their continual openness to self-reform. And it was impossible for us to think otherwise. Such acceptance is required by the superior commands of faith, a testament to its universality. Indeed, while we have always tried to embrace our own faith completely, we have also regarded other religious thoughts and philosophical ideas as a natural part of our life. We have always sought coexistence. Our slogan has always been “accept everyone for who they are, and show respect.” And we have always tried to be faithful to this principle and have never condemned or abused anyone due to differences in religion, faith, sect, or opinion.
Though we have suffered various kinds of abuse, and were subjected to insults and degradation, we never responded. We never responded despite the fact that we had many legitimate reasons to do so. We endured various forms of abuse and humiliation, but we considered retaliation in kind as a cruel principle. We always believed the eternally inherent honor and privileges of being human should not be forsaken for temporary attributes like grudge, hostility, anger, and barbarity. Hoping to express these emotions without causing doubt or confusion, we even humbly bowed our heads and placed them on the ground, hoping to serve as steppingstones on the paths of those who we thought possessed good intentions. Such behavior for the sake of tolerance is a form of humbleness and submission; and while behaving in this manner, if we have unconsciously insulted our faith in any way and sinned, may God forgive us! We have continuously exclaimed, “Respect for all humanity.” We tried to live like shadows, to prevent being obstacles. We never anticipated anything from those whom we embraced with understanding, whose ideas we welcomed with respect. All we asked was mutual respect; this much we would expect simply out of our humble appreciation of their being human.
Indeed, we have never singled out anyone. As our hearts beat with love for the whole of humanity, we never demanded anything in return for our compassionate care. If we had made such demands, continuing our broad and sincere relations with all the nations of the world would have been impossible; ties based on expectations can never survive. But we want our relationships with others to last forever, and for that matter we chose to establish these relations on the belief that every human being is an example of God’s art.
We lived our lives accordingly, offering our love and respect to everyone (perhaps we have gone too far in showing our love, and some people mistook our kindness for hostile intentions). We showed kindness and displayed our humanity at every opportunity. We did not discriminate against anyone based on “worth”; we tried to live beyond such measures. We waited for the propitious moment when the eye of reason would convene and integrate with sound judgment. I believe that, as humans, we have a right to this basic expectation. Lesser expectations would be disrespectful to the honorable human being, whose potential exceeds that of the angels.
Indeed, for many years, while opening our fountains of deepest love, we’ve often been overwhelmed by the hope that our seeds of affection would germinate in lands of hatred, hostility, anger, and conspiracy. And many of those in our society that share this dream responded positively from their hearts:
Make a sound, my brave one, or don't you hear me?
For years I have stood with you in my imagination.
I live with the hope that you will rise up and come…
My heart, shining with hope, awaits you.
At times it flies in the skies; at others it crawls on the ground…
Everywhere is in ruins, a festival for owls.
Bridges have fallen one by one and the roads are without travelers.
No one stops by anymore, the fountains have run dry...
Arise and come just like in the dreams!
Early one morning on your white horse,
While watching you in my spirit with my closed eyes.
Arise and come just like in the dreams!
Overcome by the magic of this splendid ideal, millions began to utter words of love. Though at first this love was only a trickle, in time it has transformed into a cascade. Now it is a symbol of revival for everyone.
This is another dimension of God manifesting His greatness. Sometimes, by allowing the weakest ones to fulfill great achievements, God shows that intermediary causes have no real significant value and reminds us of His sublimity in many different ways. What we have lived through was of a similar nature. It was as if the One of Eternal Power opened the gates to the hearts of others for ordinary, simple individuals like us, virtually bestowing upon us to become Solomon with his vast kingdom of love; and even if it was only temporary, the evil spirits of grudge, hostility, and conflict were so shocked that they became delirious with their evil desires.
Then, it was the time for the heroes of tolerance to speak. The Earth turned into pure gold in their hands; coal transformed into diamonds, and poison turned into sherbet. While they were satisfied with the willingness of society to reclaim its true nature, society also rejoiced at discovering its own spiritual depth and essence. Indeed, kindness converged with graciousness, and the souls, weary from years of bloodshed, tears, and the festering of evil, rejoiced at their good fortune. At last, everyone sat beneath open skies singing songs of love. Everywhere, light overwhelmed darkness, and the roars of hostility and animosity were replaced by the comforting ballads of love and brotherhood. Revenge and grudge idly awaited their fate, and hostility and resentment slowly shrank and faded away.
We were delighted and anticipated that those who were conscious of their humanity would adorn their souls with feathers from Gabriel’s wings, reach the heavens frequented by the angels, and raise a new voice composed of the divine. A new voice that would not allow the groaning of conflict, lies, slander, and defamation.
Disappointingly, however, a marginal but adamant group, driven by hostility, aggression, anarchism, and slander, a group whose strength and extraordinary efficiency lie in its destructiveness and its bellicosity, has obstructed this awakening like fiends. They have attempted to block this progress by swaying some people who were confused and undecided. They have attacked religious thought and defamed religious people. They have labeled everyone with an ideology; for them, some people were “religionists” – whatever that means – while others were members of a cult, thus sowing fears for fundamentalism, they ignited flames of discord.
Tyrants have oppression on their side,
but the innocent have God on theirs.
Persecuting people may be easy today,
but tomorrow they will certainly go before God.
We have remained silent; silence is the way we respond. Retaliation in kind is a tyrannous principle in our book. We do not fight back physically, nor do we reply to their curses. Acting without force against those who use force, and remaining silent before those who utter abuse: these are requirements of the covenant between us and our consciences. God never created us with teeth to bite, nor did He create us with claws to savage others. Each individual acts upon their character, and we consider acting violently as disrespectful to ourselves. Thus, we have swallowed our words when we could have spoken out loud.
While others have revealed the darkness in their souls, we are presented with the opportunity to praise God’s favors upon us. We will not overshadow our time in this transient world by harming others, speaking evil words, or hurting others’ feelings; in the spirit of Yunus the poet, we will appeal to everyone to love one another.
While doing so, we will remain loyal to these words, as written by Bediuzzaman: “I am forgiving all the troubles, tortures, and calamities I had to suffer for so many years. During my whole lifetime (of over eighty years), I have tasted nothing of the worldly pleasures. My life has passed on battlefields or in prisons or other places of suffering. I was placed on disciplinary segregation for months. They have treated me, at war tribunals, as if I were a savage. As for those who persecuted me, who banished me from one town to another, who tried to imprison me with many charges, and those who reserve a place for me in the dungeons: I forgive all of them.”
Indeed, I vow that as a believer I will share these emotions. I vow that I will not be upset with anyone or break away from them. I vow that I will welcome death with pleasure. I vow that I will accept the suffering from His Majesty as one with the loyalty that comes from His Beauty. And finally, I have no authority to speak on behalf of God’s rights, but with the regards to my violated personal rights, I vow that I will not demand them from anyone on the Day of Judgment.