How Should Believers Invite Others to Faith?

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The aim of sending the Prophets is communicating the divine message, which is the most important and vital obligation incumbent on humanity. That is to say, to enlighten others with knowledge of the true religion and the duties that accompany it. In the light of this our primary duty is to review all existing and past methods and approaches, and to put into practice today those principles which it is possible to apply, and which lead to the best results. Everyone who is considered old enough to be responsible for his actions may and should serve to convey the message of God to everyone, in the recognized ways, with the courtesies proper to the task. Whatever their ages and status are, each and every individual is obliged to tell others what he is supposed to tell, and this constitutes a most vital duty. The purpose of our existence is the same too. For, God says: I created man and jinn for no other purpose than to worship Me only (Dhariyat 51:56). Such worship or servanthood to God is like a race, and every person will take part in it. Some will not cope with the hurdles and be detained, and some will always win and attain the furthest places in this race, even to the presence of God.

To know God and devote oneself to Him is the purpose of one’s nature and the essence of creation. Devotion, servanthood, to God requires not only listening, understanding, accepting, abiding by and applying certain rules in one’s life; it also means seeking the purity in ideas and mind, and striving toward the horizon of thinking of only the Creator, whose effort is a heavy, sublime, and sacred duty.

O you people, worship your Guardian Lord Who created you and those who came before you that you may become righteous, Who has made the earth your couch, and the heavens your canopy; and sent down rain from the heavens; and brought forth therewith fruits for your sustenance; then set not up rivals unto God when you know the truth. (Baqara 2:21)

Worship your God. For He is the Creator. The Creator of you and the people who lived before you. The act of creating and the things created belong to Him alone. It is God Who brought you into existence, and Who created, in one sense, before your birth, the elements and particles which would constitute you, and Who created, in another sense, the people who came before you. It is God Who caused to perish many before you, like Pharaoh, Nimrod, Shaddad, and such. By His laws of creation, He turned the Romans, the Greeks, the Byzantines, the Ottomans and the rest, who strutted and swaggered about the earth, into ruins. So it is God Who created and caused to perish all those. Therefore, beware and worship God alone, the Almighty, the Creator, the Sustainer, and keep always in mind and before your eyes the example, lesson and warning of the past and present, so that you may enter into the circle of piety, consciousness of God.[1]

It is the Sustainer, the Almighty, who made the earth your couch, a resting place.[2] He created and provided for it in such a way that everything of need is placed within the reach of your hand. It is as if the world were a big mansion and the Owner of this mansion, the Sovereign of all the worlds, was entertaining His weak and unable guest with a great show of honor, treating him with marks of respect and distinction. If the slightest failure occurred in this couch, the guest could do nothing and would have nowhere to flee to. So everything is maintained according to the guest’s wants, needs and weaknesses. When this guest lies down on his back and looks at the canopy over his head, he will see it ornamented with stars and systems for his observation. It is God Who made this magnificent canopy over His guest’s couch.

He has made the heavens as a canopy well guarded.[3]There is a continual preordained coordination between the heavens and the earth. The heavens give light and heat, and the earth responds with buds and flowers; the earth returns the evaporation to the heavens, and the heavens turn it back as rainfall; the heavens have the thunders, lightning, and the earth gets its share from their fertile effects; the heavens give rain, and the earth preserves and presents it as drinking water, the living things live their lives and die, and the earth is purified and sterilized by the change of time, seasons, and so on and so forth. So we see that this guest-house is created; not left to run itself but, on the contrary, it is cared for, sustained, and provides for the guests fruits and blessings of all kinds. Therefore, turn to your Sustainer, Cherisher, Lord of all the realms, and worship Him.

We are surrounded by such magnificent order, harmony, splendor, and blessings, operated with great wisdom and power. It is apparent that light for our eyes, taste for our tongues and sound for our ears, that is, our physical and spiritual needs, are all regulated and provided, as sustenance for us. All these come from God. He is never confused while granting all these diverse kind of sustenance; and He neither needs others’ help nor lets them interfere with His work. Therefore, be fair and reasonable; and do not confuse, do not associate, others in your worship of God. Avoid and save yourself from the different kinds of the ugliness of shirk (attributing partners to God) whether open or hidden, big or small.

All causes are accidental, secondary, none has true substance or primary reality. Had God not assigned to us recourse to causes, we would not have felt any need to refer to cause and would have regarded any attempt of that kind as shirk. However, since this world is the abode of wisdom and everything comes into this place entangled in causes, we just consider them as mediating conditions. But the real focus is the Giver, Creator, Who holds all causes under His disposal, therefore we worship Him alone. While attributing some share to causes, whether in the face of misfortunes, calamities and sufferings, or of joy, pleasure or delight, one should always preserve the balance, and avoid words and acts which give any hint of shirk. And the sensitivity to be observed on this matter is directly proportional to one’s closeness to God. When one has tasted the blessing of the immaterial and spiritual pleasures, one should continue to act and worship God in a way worthy of such blessings. One should not let oneself go astray even for an instant by any inclination that might turn one to any other than God. If such an inclination occurs to one, one should come to oneself and affirm the tawhid and proclaim the oneness of God. Such servanthood to God done in this consciousness is the purpose of life, and every understanding of service that leads to such a purpose is an obligation, which is the wisdom in sending the prophets to carry out this obligation. So we, the believers, undertake such a sacred duty, and serving God in this way is a competition in virtue, and the people who take part are the most virtuous people of all.

If all the ways which lead to presidency were opened and the position were offered to someone who attaches importance to serving God as explained above, and if he had to choose between one or the other, the presidency or the service of God, he would certainly prefer the latter. For, he knows that this is the job which belongs to the Prophets and the truthful. In this way, there are Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman, ‘Ali and the rest, who were pure, saintly and enlightened men. On the other side are people of whom a great majority are oppressors and tyrants; their actions belong to those who have not been adequately nourished morally and spiritually, and have to do with dirty politicking, hatred, intrigue and plots.

We live such a life that neither our coming into nor going out of it is in our hands. But, it is possible for us to turn our lives from ones in which we exist and do nothing but wait for the inevitable end, to ones in which we live and make gradual progress to the level that God is pleased with us. This could be done first by digesting all the principles of faith into our souls, making them an integral part of our souls, and filling our consciences with knowledge of God; and next, aspiring to the consciousness of ihsan-worshipping as if we were seeing God-by raising our faith toward the level of perfect sincerity by means of constant worship, and thus making the pillars of Islam a faculty inherent in our particular nature; and finally conveying these merits, virtues and qualities, which we acquired for ourselves in the first instance, to the community, making them prevalent in all walks of life and thus enlightening all people and places.

In reflecting how to perform the duty of guidance and teaching faith, a number of points are worth bearing in mind. To set the matter out somewhat systematically can be useful in terms of giving people ideas about how to do it, but it can be harmful in terms of over-fixing and over-defining what needs to be natural and flexible. Bearing in mind the need for naturalness and flexibility, we can look briefly at a number of points.

– I –

One should seek and find ways to win entry into the heart and soul of the person addressed. There are many humane ways one may resort to, such as giving gifts or easing the person’s difficulties. In fact these are ways of kindness that are an essential part of the religion, part of what we are commanded to practice when approaching people. So, first, the person we address should be in a state willing to accept our friendship, cordiality and intimacy. These are important factors if what we say is to be welcomed by that person. Therefore, every effective way legitimate and permissible in Islam should be used to win the person’s heart.

– II –

We should know very well the level of faith, knowledge and culture of the person being addressed. In this way we may avoid saying or doing something that could so frighten off that person that he may never again come close to us or Islam. For example, if we open and read any Islamic publication or the Qur’an to that person, and if our doing so puts him further off from Islam, then it would be better not to read something, even the Qur’an, to him. Any material we refer to might indeed be full of inspirations which should conquer the hearts and souls of people. However, to offer such material to one who is not yet ready to welcome it, is indirectly (and unintentionally) to betray the cause of Islam.

God provides colostrum, a milk-like liquid secreted for a few days after childbirth that is high in antibody content. Later it turns to whole milk and even the content of it gradually changes as the baby grows up. This law of nature is certainly true of spiritual education and moral nourishment, too. What God manifests to us in His laws of creation should be investigated, minutely, and we should adjust our acts in accordance with them. Sometimes, as this adjustment was lacking, what was said with the intent of guidance caused such a reaction that, even if you happen to find a suitable moment to tell it again, it is ineffectual. So first of all, we should determine the level of perception, knowledge and understanding of the person, so that, as Said Nursi puts it, we do not end up offering grass to the lion and meat to the horse.[4]

– III –

Gaining the trust and respect of the person spoken to is essential. He must trust and become attached to you in such a way that you and his love for you weigh heavier than that of his other friends; because your friendship, relationship and love for that person is different from the others’ and only for the sake of God, it will definitely show its effects on his heart. When he is to make a choice, he should be ready to prefer the strenuous duties the religion lays upon us, to the comfort and pleasures of the other side. Even the hardship, trouble and dangers he might experience in the way you are going should be dearer to him than the pleasures and comfort of his previous life. This can only happen for that person if he knows and trusts and loves you thoroughly.

Here is a striking and a concrete example from the Age of Happiness. Utba ibn Walid was one of the richest and the most inveterate enemies of Islam in Makka. For this reason he was given a nickname meaning, the most wretched evil-doer of his tribe. He was the head of much mischief. However, there was a fortunate person who was brought up in his house and was not like him at all. This was his son, Hudayfa, who attached himself to the Prophet loyally and rejected the most attractive things, in the worldly sense, presented and proposed to him by his father and family. What he was asked by his family was to abandon the Prophet and the cause he propagated. However, due to the lessons he took from his teacher and guide, Hudayfa’s spiritual tension was exact, and his faith and conviction were firm, and he did not give in. What did the Prophet respond to such an offer made by the chieftains in Makka? “If you put the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left on condition that I abandon this course, before He has made it victorious, or I have perished therein, I would not abandon it.”[5] The words the Prophet had said made such an impression in the hearts and consciences of the people that not only Hudayfa but also all the Companions would give the same answer. As a guide and teacher, the Prophet won the hearts of people in such a way that wherever and whenever his name was mentioned the effect and decrees of parents, brothers, other kith and kin, were of no avail, and only he remained as the focus of values.

From past to the present nothing much has changed in respect of the relation between the spiritual guide and the one guided. Only the time and the people change, the rest remains the same. Therefore, would-be guides and teachers should apply the Prophet’s way to win the hearts of people. Otherwise, what is said will remain in the air (be ineffective) and will not meet with a friendly welcome. It is a question of reaching, penetrating and settling in the hearts of people. We must remember that if the Prophet had not made himself so loved by his Companions, they would not have gone to Badr behind him. For this was the first battle-all the conditions were completely against them; moreover, the majority of the enemies were their own sons, brothers, fathers, uncles or other relatives. However, the believers got the signal to go forward from the Prophet and believed that it was better for them to die in his way than to live with the falsehood of their kith and kin.

Sometimes the Prophet inculcated in the believers the consciousness of preferring God and His Messenger. We see in the example of Ka’b ibn Malik who failed to march out with the army to Tabuk. Ka’b himself told the story. The Prophet admonished him: “Didn’t you promise to me in ‘Aqaba that you would go wherever I go?” He replied: “O Messenger of God! If I were dealing with a worldly man, I am sure I would escape his displeasure through seemingly reasonable excuses, for God has endowed me with the gift of the tongue. But in your case I am sure that if I appease you with a false statement, God would be displeased with me. And, on the other hand, I am sure that if I displease you by confessing the simple truth, then God would very soon blow away your displeasure. I therefore make bold to speak the very truth. By God, I had no excuse at all. I had never been so well as I was at that time.” His speaking the truth and perseverance in seeking forgiveness of God brought his salvation.[6]

The guide should enter the heart of the person he is dealing with in such a way that he can persuade him to do what he tells him; but that which he tells the other to do should not, must not, be for his carnal self. According to the Qur’an, Pharaoh, Nimrod and Shaddad represent the state of those who require from others for themselves. By contrast, the Prophets made their demands only on behalf of God or their community. This is a very subtle point and those who communicate the divine message and be a spiritual guide should pay the closest attention to it.

– IV –

We should have a sound grasp of Islam and Islamic tradition. One should not speak out whatever comes into his mind or speculate. The Prophet said that he left to us two resources, which we must adhere to, and which would allow us to differentiate light from darkness, right from wrong, namely the Qur’an and Sunna.[7] Therefore, when something is presented on behalf of the cause of Islam, it should be done within the principles of these two sources, and one should have mastered the issues being addressed. One should be well-versed, skilled and proficient in Islamic matters. One should never indulge in dialectics merely to silence the other by argumentation. What we say should be what we ourselves in the first place have understood and digested fully, so that the person we are dealing with can easily take it in and be (spiritually) nourished thereby. Just as in the analogy Bediüzzaman gave, a spiritual guide should be like a sheep, which takes in, digests and turns food into milk. So we should feed people with the most restorative, wholesome food, but should not be like a bird, which half-eats, then gives its chicks the regurgitated food.[8] If we do it the right way, we can appeal to people’s minds and souls, and, considering the true knowledge and wisdom which would lead to God, and bring about the best, desired effects.

Naturally this can only be done by reading and studying, improving one’s level of knowledge and culture. That is why those who assume the duty of communicating the divine message should allocate a certain period in a day only to study. The person who is unaware of the knowledge and culture of his day has nothing much to say to the people he is dealing with, or in other words, the person whose level of knowledge and culture is shallow cannot long satisfy the minds of the people he is addressing. Therefore, a guide who is likely to meet people at all levels of knowledge and education should at least have sufficient knowledge and the mastery of the issues he is explaining to satisfy the people he is dealing with. It is my belief that anyone who is backward in his cultural epoch can offer but very little to those who are, or think they are, ahead of him.

I insistently and emphatically repeat that those who regard communicating the message as the purpose of their lives should be equipped with learning and knowledge of God. What an empty person will say is also empty, worse still is when such people try to cover their lack by vehemence, belligerence, angry and futile attitudinizing: in reaction to that, those who are listening will be put off and indeed resent what they otherwise would accept as reasonable.

– V –

All work should be done with devotion, from the heart and with sincerity. Seeking the pleasure of God is what should govern the perspective, and everything should be designed and regulated accordingly. The method to be followed and the strategies to be applied should primarily be evaluated and assessed by the pleasure of God. If we have a strong conviction that God will be pleased with them, we will go ahead, otherwise, we should absolutely renounce them, and in this way we may hope never to offer any occasion for people to be misled.

The Prophet defines, limits, struggle in the way of God as that struggle which is undertaken only to exalt the religion of God.[9] That means that if you are striving on the way in order to spread the name of God, then it is for God. But to claim that, while in reality serving one’s carnal self, is doomed to failure: for such a struggle is without sincerity and obtains no reward, and where sincerity is damaged, neither the pleasure of God nor any positive influence on the hearts of others are thinkable.

There lived such people before us that whenever they felt that they had spoken or acted flawlessly, they straightaway went into prostration and asked for forgiveness and sincerity from God. For instance, when ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz saw how well he had written a state letter, and himself liked its eloquence, he feared lest pride and conceit should enter his heart, and immediately tore up the letter and wrote a new one. Islam was presented in such an atmosphere of sincerity and consciousness then. To speak of God and to spread His message in such a style that the carnal self gained no advantage or comfort from it was almost considered a principle. They assumed that since their own carnal self did not like and get a share from such acts, that there was the pleasure of God in them, and later they turned this into a principle. In sum, sincerity and action from the heart must be the whole essence of what is taught or explained; and if we would avoid reproach and having our efforts thrown back in our faces in the Hereafter, we must stick to sincerity firmly.

We see in many hadiths that the Prophet emphasized the significance of sincerity and indicated it as the ultimate objective or horizon.[10]

In narrating about the Prophets, the Qur’an pointed out their sincerity, and presented it as an integral part of prophethood. The Qur’an concisely tells us in the word “mukhlas” (Maryam 19:51) that the Prophet Moses’ acts and work were done only to gain the pleasure of God, and in this way it gives people a lesson in sincerity. The Prophet Abraham, as one whose understanding and consciousness of sincerity was of the highest order, did not fall into doubt and despair even when all events and conditions proved against him, and he even refused the intercession of the angels, taking refuge in only God, Who is All-Aware, All-Knowing, All-Seeing, and said, “God is enough for me.”[11] What was more important for him was the pleasure of God, and he did not put this idea into a secondary place even when threatened with execution. For this reason he was called Khalil (friend) of God[12]; and such a friendship obviously requires the deepest devotion and sincerity.

One day when the Prophet was addressed as “O Friend of God,” he immediately reacted with: “No. That is Abraham.”[13] Also, one day when he was addressed as “Sayyiduna,” (our master) he immediately reacted with: “Sayyiduna is Abraham.”[14] Thus it is that only a jeweler appreciates the true value of a jewel. That is why, sincerity and action from heart, the attributes of the Prophets, should be inseparable and integral parts of those who take on the duty of the Prophets. The Qur’an presents us every Prophet as one who had achieved sincerity or to whom God commanded it.[15] So, I believe that it would be better to study the Qur’an from this aspect too.

– VI –

Whatever the level the guide has attained, his heart should be equipped with religious sciences and his mind with civil and positive sciences. By employing his skills and talents at a level high above worldly trivialities, a level attained as a result of the union of both kinds of knowledge, he should become more profound in inward self-supervision, and then, within the potentialities granted to him, he should improve in understanding of the Names of God. All of which is, of course, related to the point we made above-the acquisition of sincerity and action from the heart in all their dimensions.

Those who take on the duty of guidance should never indulge in the vulgar ways of getting others to accept them, of having the conceit that they influence people, or of boasting of increase in the number of their followers. Instead, they should make a self-criticism of their actions to see if they conform to the pleasure of God. Self-criticism, self-inspection, and self-supervision are essential with regard to spiritual guidance.

What is the reason for what you are doing? That is what needs to be checked and supervised. If there is anything related to our nafs (selfhood, carnal self), we must know to stop there and then. For instance, you are reading and telling something in a gathering, a very good thing in itself, but as you become attentive you realize that what you are captivated by is not the content and meaning of what you are reading but the fact that you are doing so and how well you are doing it. So, there and then, you must stop, or at least pass the book to someone else to carry on. Say, you are preaching from a pulpit, and by the grace of God, you are blessed with such an “expansiveness” that you have only to part your lips and the words flow from your mouth as if of their own accord. There and then you should pay attention to Him Who makes you speak so, and realizing the Giver of such a blessing you should acknowledge your smallness, your servanthood to Him and His Lordship. Otherwise, if your nafs is trying to get some share in His Grace, and you are captivated by that, you must know to stop speaking immediately and get down from the pulpit. For, there is fitna (severe trial) in speaking well, and one should seek refuge in God from such an end. There have been such orators in the world who led great masses of people behind them, but (except the few who were sincere among them) many of their followers are still giving their accounts bitterly, resentfully, to God of how they were persuaded. Say, we are regularly reading and reciting from the Qur’an as our act of secluded worship, and, while reading, we become aware of also trying to melodize and sweeten our voice. Though it is the Qur’an, even such acts of worship are vulnerable to other aims than the pleasure of God, so doubts arise in us and give us pause. Then we should say, “O God, I have begun to read for You, and now I’m stopping, also for You,” and stop reading. Thus, by this inner self-supervision, we learn to regulate ourselves in respect of what is coming up from the depths of our hearts. When it is time, one should know how to deny the carnal self and how to strive against the carnal self. Even in this struggle, one should look for the pleasure of God and act in the ways which will lead to His pleasure.

Such a mood may sometimes manifest in manners that will appear to some people as abnormal, such as, shaking the head, being doubled up in pain, or going into prostration and crying, groaning, there. However, sincerity will, gradually over time, will become natural, and then one can do, act, take or give up everything for God with ease of heart. May God grant us sincerity and purity of heart according to our needs, but not our deserts.

– VII –

If our work causes some adverse reactions in some particular conscience, we should, saying “God’s good pleasure (with us) is above all,” wholeheartedly and cheerfully give way to another to do the work. Some individuals may react to us for some particular personal reasons, and whatever we say may bring about an adverse reaction. If we remained insisting, our efforts would only serve to make the other refuse, rather than accept. Thus, while that other person has suffered a loss in not accepting the truth, we will suffer a greater loss for we prevented its acceptance. The solution is simple. It is someone else, not we, who will speak to that person. It may be that he accepts the truth from another and so, for being a means to it, however indirect, we will earn the reward for it-as much as the one who worked after us. A subtle matter here is to observe that there is a difference between merely willing that another do the work, and accepting cheerfully that it be so, liking it to be so. We should endeavor to be of the latter, for that is sure to displease the carnal self, and that takes courage and is an instance of genuine altruism and generosity in the cause.

The offer of a Companion who expressed his desire for a position of authority was not welcomed by the Prophet.[16] Similarly, a desire to be the person who speaks at a gathering is not welcomed either. The Prophet always gave such duties to those who were competent, qualified, appropriate and deserving. For this reason, people should come together, choose the person, prepare the conditions for him to speak, and should never be troubled by being among the listeners.

– VIII –

When we encounter issues or questions we have no knowledge of, we should readily and comfortably say “I don’t know.” Again, our best example and guide is the Prophet. With malicious intent, some Jews came and asked the Prophet about the essence of the spirit, looking to raise doubts and misgivings about his Prophethood. As the Revelation had not yet come on this matter, the Prophet gave no answer and kept silent; but, later on, the matter was revealed: Say: The spirit is my Lord’s command and you have not been given except a little knowledge (Isra 17:85). The Prophet’s keeping silent in the first place and answering later on, after the verse was revealed, became more influential, and when the Jews got the anticipated answer they were convinced and silenced. So, even the Prophet of God did not say “I know” to every question. What a great lesson to us all!

When the Archangel Gabriel, disguised as a traveler and inquirer, came to the Prophet and asked the time of the Day of Resurrection, the Prophet answered, “the one who is asked does not know more than the one who asks.”[17] There cannot be a better example to teach us that we do not have to answer every question put to us.

On one occasion, when Imam Abu Yusuf was asked one hundred questions, he responded to sixty out of the hundred with “I don’t know.” And the people reacted that they were paying for the position of the Imam, and yet here was the Imam saying “I don’t know.” Imam Abu Yusuf explained: “You are paying me for the things I know, and if you had paid for what I don’t know, the whole world would not have sufficed.” Imam Abu Yusuf at that time held the position of Chief Qadi. On a similar occasion, Imam Malik answered only three questions out of thirty put to him.

These and similar examples show that even the giants of learning held in the highest honor and esteem for their knowledge, did not answer everything they were asked. What is more, they said, “I don’t know.” So, we should easily be able to acknowledge that we do not know; but we need not to leave it at that; we must follow up the matter, and seek learning where we are ignorant. It is also possible that there may be a knowledgeable person whom we know and trust, to whom we can take the questioner or the question. In this way, we learn ourselves and prepare opportunities for others to learn also.

– IX –

The people of guidance should be generous, open-handed and benevolent. They should be ready, willing and decisive to spend everything they have in His cause while going on the path of serving God. To win the hearts of people they should make their generosity a means, a vehicle. Whenever generosity is mentioned, Khadija, the wife of the Prophet, comes to my mind. She was born before him and passed away before the Prophet. When she met the future Prophet, she was a noble and prosperous businesswoman, organizing trade caravans to other countries whereas he did not have anything in terms of worldly wealth. However, this woman of great insight perceived the great potential in the future Prophet and proposed to him. She had a nature suited to becoming the wife of the Prophet. When Prophethood was given to him, she was the first to acknowledge him, without any doubt, and put the whole of her wealth at his disposal, in the way of God. Nothing was left from this wealth during the boycott imposed upon the Muslims by Quraysh in Makka. At times the Prophet could not find anything to eat and was all but fainting with weakness because there had been nothing at home for days. During that time, umm al-mu’minin (mother of believers) Khadija became ill and as there were no means to procure treatment, she passed away. In generosity, the ultimate is to give oneself, to be consumed.

Abu Bakr was one of the richest tradesmen in Makka, but as one of the good examples of generosity, he used and spent all his wealth in the way of God, and nothing was left to him and his family. He used to distract his aged father by putting pebbles into the money bag, while spending the pieces of gold in the way of Islam. For this reason, even when he was elected the Caliph, he was one of the poor and earned his living by milking other people’s sheep.[18]

‘Umar and his family subsisted on a few dates, as did the poorest in Madina. That suggests that he too used up everything he had in the way of God.[19]

The Companions of the Prophet competed with each other in acts of generosity and altruism on behalf of Islam. Their sincere generosity won hearts and minds to Islam, and the number of entrants to the faith grew with the gathering force of an avalanche. In this as in all matters, the Companions took their cue from the Prophet. One day, one of those on the brink of entering the faith who had yet to do so, went to his tribe and said: “O my tribe! Go and surrender to that person, for he is the Prophet of God. If he had not been a Prophet, he would not have been so generous, and feared for his sustenance. This person gives immediately whoever wants whatever.”[20]

Every spiritual teacher young or old, should try to enter and conquer the hearts of people in this way. If one gains the heart of a person by spending all he has, he will be considered to have gained a lot and lost nothing. For the generous will open the gates of Paradise.[21] So, one should open the ways that lead to such gates in this world so that there are many to accompany one to Paradise in the other world. Those whom you treated with generosity in this world will be in a state such that if one day they happen to face a choice between human-improvised way of life and Qur’an-enjoined ways, they will choose the Qur’an and the Prophet and so come to submit, to surrender, themselves, wholly to God.

Those who are first to enter the Paradise will not be scholars or preachers, lecturers or teachers, rather those-whoever they are, whether big businessmen or small, or ordinary workers, disposing large incomes or small-who spent their wealth and lives on the path to spread the Truth; generous, open-handed, benevolent and altruistic Muslims, profoundly attached and devoted to God alone. For it is they who were able to distinguish rightly and accordingly it will be said of them: they gave to their Lord what is transitory and perishable and received what is permanent and everlasting.

– X –

Today we witness and experience an awakening of consciousness in all walks of life such as we have not experienced for almost twenty years. In the past it was really difficult to find so many believers in the field of higher education as there are today. This is a sheer blessing of God. However, now, not individuals but the masses stand as the owners, protectors or patrons of services to Islam. We experience a time when even some of the most obstinate people have come to soften their attitudes to Islamic matters and even begun to consider them as feasible. Therefore, at such a time, it is incumbent upon us to develop, employ and evaluate new methods and approaches, provided that we do not depart from the essence and spirit of the truth. Otherwise, it is likely, indeed certain, that we will, as others have, fail to realize the conditions of the time and so lose relevance and effectiveness. We take refuge in God from falling into such a state. We must, as we need to do, adapt to the new ways and developments that the present age presents to us. It should be remembered that the slower we are to adapt, the slower we shall be in reaching the target.

We may conclude with a point that is general and valid for all, that those who take on spiritual guidance should know and realize the conditions and requirements of their epoch, and base their ways of working on these fundamentals. While others are returning into space and shuttling between far new horizons, it is obvious that we will get nowhere by taking people to unsophisticated ways, dark places or underground, in order to teach them something.

– XI –

Understanding group psychology, using appropriate ways to facilitate the joining and progressing of new people is also important. With some people there are things you speak of but cannot make understood for years. Make such people aware of the development and progress of particular services and institutions, get them to see and meet the others who are working sincerely, whole-heartedly and with great zeal, let them feel the value and atmosphere of cooperation, solidarity and mutual help in collective work. Such direct witnessing may prove more influential than mere telling. However, the Islamic services and institutions should be presented without discrimination and prejudice, without any sense of exclusivity or belonging to a narrow grouping or party. Such visits and demonstrations can influence and reinforce the people’s power of determination in such a way that they may jump the interval of years on one occasion, and be ready to stand on the same line as yourself, shoulder to shoulder. This is true of both individuals and groups.

Thank God that such institutions are now great in numbers, both to hearten the believers and to dishearten the enemies of Islam.

[1] See Baqara 2:22, Naba 78:6.

[2] Taha 20:53; Zukhruf 43:10-14.

[3] Anbiya 21:32.

[4] Nursi, Bediüzzaman Said, The Flashes Collection, 26th Flash, Sözler, Istanbul: 2000.

[5] Ibn Hisham, Sirat al-Nabawiya, 2/285.

[6] Bukhari, Maghazi, 79; Muslim, Tawba, 53.

[7] Imam Malik, Muwatta, Qadar, 3.

[8] Nursi, Bediüzzaman Said, The Letters, Seeds of Truth, 32nd epigram, The Light, Inc., New Jersey: 1998.

[9] Bukhari, ‘Ilm, 45, Jihad, 15; Muslim, Imara, 149-151; Abu Dawud, Jihad, 26.

[10] Hakim, Mustadrak, 4/342; Tabarani, el-Mu’jam al-Kabir, 8/140; Darakutni, Sunan, 1/51.

[11] Bukhari, Tafsir al-Sura, 3; Hakim, Mustadrak, 2/326.

[12] Nisa 4:125.

[13] Bukhari, Anbiya, 19, Manaqib, 13; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 2/96, 331.

[14] Bukhari, Fada’il al-Ashab, 5; Abu Dawud, Adab, 9.

[15] Zumar, 39:2, 11.

[16] Bukhari, Ahkam 5, 6, Ayman, 1; Muslim, Imara, 13, 16, 17; Abu Dawud, Imara, 2; Tirmidhi, Nudhur, 5; Musnad, 5/173.

[17] Bukhari, Iman 37; Muslim, Iman 1, 5, 7; Abu Dawud, Sunan, sunna, 16.

[18] Tabari, Tarikh al-Umam wa’l-Muluk, 4/250-252; Yaqubi, Tarikh, 2/126-127.

[19] Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, 3/306-307; Mas’udi, Muruj al-dhahab, 2/303.

[20] Muslim, Fadail, 59; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 6/465; Ibn Hajar, Isaba, 2/187; Ali al-Muttaqi, Kanz al-‘Ummal, 10/505; Ibn Hisham, Sirat al-Nabawiya, 4/137.

[21] Ibn Abi Shayba, Musannaf, 7/276; Munawi, Fayd al-Qadr, 3/278.