Question: You mention that it is necessary to speak about the services we Hizmet participants carry out in a reasonable and objective manner that is free of emotionalism. Would you elucidate on this issue?
Fethullah Gulen: It firstly needs to be pointed out that an individual must be open to criticisms and avoid being assertive while telling about the services being carried out, for human nature is prone to faults. There can be certain wrongs even at the works they think to be most correct. For example, one must never be oblivious to the fact that there can be a lot of faults even at a prayer offered in compliance with the judgments and conditions explained in reference books. In the same way, fasting, alms of zakah, and Hajj have so many specific essentials that it is very difficult for a believer to thoroughly observe them in entirety. Particularly, if inward aspects of the matter such as internalizing the deeds carried out, observing them with sincerity, and purifying them from feelings of showing off to others are taken into consideration, the difficulty of the matter is better understood.
Human Nature Is Prone to Faults and Mistakes
Given that there are so many faults within the range of possibility, even with respect to acts of worship that you have been carrying out all along, it is inevitable that certain mistakes will be made on the path of serving humanity, which has very different dimensions and depths. In fact, we have the time-transcendent disciplines taught by the Qur’an and authenticated Tradition of the Prophet in hand, which also apply to the services to be carried out for the sake of pleasing God. Besides their unchanging principles, these disciplines have different aspects concerning different times and places. Also, the initiatives should be faithful to the essential principles, as well as transferred to real life in conformity with the time, place, and conjuncture. As there is always a possibility of making mistakes at such a difficult and complicated task, acknowledging this from the very beginning is a matter of righteousness.
The other possibility is a person sees all of his deeds as correct, becomes disturbed by criticism, lives with expectations of constant appreciation, and begins to even like being praised for things that he did not even do. These are among the general traits of hypocrites. For example, God Almighty makes the following statement in chapter Al Imran concerning the Hypocrites: “…and who love to be (famed and) praised for what they have not achieved” (Al Imran 3:188).
In this respect, one must never forget that human nature is prone to faults and mistakes, realize one’s shortcomings from the very beginning, and not be disturbed when these are voiced. Indeed, a person should be happy when his shortcomings are revealed to him and ways to be saved from them are shown.
Having pointed out the necessity of being open to criticism and not being disturbed by criticism, we can list the following criteria in terms of adopting a reasonable and objective manner of speaking about the services carried out.
Endeavor to Act in Compliance with the Essential Disciplines
The public should be informed that there is an endeavor for keeping the services carried out in compliance with the disciplines taught by religion and universal human values, because matters that do not reconcile with the essentials of the Qur’an and Sunnah become dependent on free-floating thoughts and cannot be lasting. People who do not act upon substantial rules are doomed to zigzag all the time. As their present behaviors are different than the past, it is inevitable for their future behaviors to contradict with the present ones. Thus, it is necessary for a person’s thoughts, emotions, and even all brain neurons to be in compliance with the essential teachings of religion and universal values so that the person will be consistent in attitude and behaviors.
As followers of a universal religion, the essential teachings we follow are open to embrace everyone. What really matters is to represent our teachings truthfully. After this is achieved, we should then indicate that we are open to questioning and criticism by very comfortably saying, “As we regard giving an advice a duty, we also see receiving what you will give as very important in terms of completion. If you see any shortcoming or mistakes in us, please let us know so that we can consider it.”
If you are realizing your initiatives in compliance with the essential teachings, you will never lose contact with the core by God’s grace, even if times, places, and persons change. As the great master Rumi said, even if one of your feet is among seventy-two people, if your other foot is in the center and if you are testing all of your initiatives according to the foot fixed in the center, you will keep up your line.
No Individual or Group Can Lay Personal Claim to the Services Carried Out
The second point of consideration is not to forget that others also put their efforts into the services that they perform, so do not consider this as a matter belonging to a certain group exclusively. From the past to present, there have been different groups and movements that performed services in different societies, and they made very important efforts to shed light on your way, to hearten you, and to prepare suitable grounds for you to work comfortably. They brought the services until a certain point and then basically told you, “It is now for you to continue this duty a bit.” It is also possible to look at it in this manner: when you began to function with your own means, these efforts had already become ready to yield good results. Accordingly, some had cultivated the ground, some had sown the seeds, some carried out all the services to let it flourish into a tree, and then by the help of Divine Providence, you found an opportunity to serve in the season when flowers blossom and fruits ripen. Seeing only the part that corresponds to your own efforts while disregarding others’ contribution is obvious ingratitude.
As the people of Anatolia have feelings of self-sacrifice and altruism in their spirit and essence, many people made use of this essence. But there came such a period that all layers of the society raised people to express themselves and open themselves to the four corners of the world. When the businessmen, guides, and teachers who believed the services to be beneficial settled somewhere, they invited others to do the same, and thus the services multiplied. And this was realized completely by the help and graces of God Almighty. When you try to attribute them to causes other than God and consider this accordingly, the chance of realization of the services carried out is not even one in a million.
Just as it is not correct to ascribe the initiatives made with the name of the Hizmet movement solely to the effort of one group of people, it is equally not correct to attribute it to individual persons in a group either. Those whose contribution is most visible is nothing but a work of Divine destiny. Thus, names of individuals should never be brought to the fore when evaluating the efforts. Rather, it is necessary to ascribe the services carried out to the movement itself, to the righteous enthusiasm of the group, to its inexhaustible resolution, sound will, and philanthropic love and to explain that these are the works of many. As a result of this endeavor of these people, God Almighty granted them the opportunity to present and introduce their beautiful cultural values to the entire world. Naturally, while we shared these beauties with others in different parts of the world, we also took some beauties from them, adding more to the richness of our own culture.
We believe that the works we carry out are nothing but an endeavor for responding thankfully to the showers of blessings God sends upon us. If we communicate these efforts correctly, we will avoid the wrongdoing of attributing the accomplishment made as a result of an entire group’s endeavor to a few individuals that are seen on the fore, like those heedless of gratitude do. Even at war, the reward is distributed equally among all individuals who contributed. Doing otherwise will idolize certain individuals, which is very dangerous for them as well. They might begin to lay personal claim on those services, begin to expect applause and appreciation, and thus consume their otherworldly rewards in this lowly one.
Avoid Provoking Envy at All Times
There is another aspect of this issue which is even more dangerous. Bringing certain individuals to the fore will provoke the feeling of envy in others. Everybody has an inborn potential for jealousy and envy. Particularly, if you bring certain individuals to the fore in the presence of academics, theologians, and scholars, you will have awakened this feeling in them unawares. You will turn your friends into foes. Even certain faithful ones who did not achieve to make this much of success can be pervaded by feeling on envy. Though indirectly, you will have paved the way for sin. In addition, it will be very difficult for you to explain later anything to people fixed on jealousy and envy. It is therefore necessary to try to prevent such negative feelings—at least partially—by drawing attention to the movement itself rather than certain individuals. While calming down the emotions of the people before us by speaking about the movement and its background, the manner of expression must be finely adjusted, so that nobody’s feelings of envy is provoked and new rivals and enviers are not generated.
The Services Carried Out and a Consciousness of Responsibility
Some might imagine that worldly people formed this movement as an organization to realize different goals. They might even misapprehend that the movement pursues certain political goals. However, all of the services performed stem from the essential teachings of our cultural heritage and a Divinely assigned duty is observed by that. In other words, this is an endeavor to fulfill our responsibilities toward humanity. When the issue is viewed more profoundly, it will be understood that these are not extra deeds to make people gain further value but, on the contrary, an essential duty of servanthood and a tribute of gratitude and praise for the blessings previously granted. So as people view these services to be within the frame of their religious responsibilities and since a method that combines logic and reasonability is followed, the services continue to multiply.
It is also possible to account for Hizmet with a consideration of competing for goodness at sharing truths with others. Because the good work being done is nothing but competing at acts of goodness, in accordance with the Divine command: “…So strive together as if in a race, (O community of believers,) towards all that is good” (al-Baqarah 2:148). Devoted ones who see those who run before them at serving humanity are trying to carry out the services that fall to them with the thought of not staying behind.
Innocence in Intention and Reasonability in Activities
In spite of everything, some might be disturbed by the services performed, and they might feel anxious. The duty that falls to us in that situation is to explain one by one the points that cause doubts, namely, indicate the innocence of our intention and reasonability of the activities realized. We know that the services performed are a result of God Almighty’s graces for the efforts our people make. As the volunteers make certain sacrifices with the intention to serve humanity, God Almighty showers them with His blessings. Otherwise, this much activity could not be carried out by people, most of whom are unaware of what the rest are doing.
Some people who fail to understand how these services are performed might even go further to hold apprehensions about a “secret agenda.” If so, the following point needs to be explained to them: we regard it as sinful to act to hold any other consideration other than the good pleasure of God, and we prefer embracing entire humanity with universal human values over all the temptations of the world. We take seriously that God Almighty will say to us in the next world, “You held a certain person’s hand and served as a means to make him meet the truth. So I am rewarding you…” This is worth all the worlds for us. As for paying importance to considerations other than this, we see it like a gold trader’s disregarding gold and asking for copper instead, something much lower in worth.
To conclude, we need to be filled with these feelings, unaffected by offensive words and attitudes, and at the same time try to eliminate apprehensions and groundless fears with patience and peace.
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