Rumi Forum's blog on Hizmet, Fethullah Gulen, peacebuilding, education and interfaith efforts.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

VIDEOS: The Hizmet Movement and Peacebuilding: Global Cases

More than 20 countries represented by scholars - watch the videos of Symposium on:
Hizmet Movement and Peacebuilding : Global Cases
held at the National Press Club in Washington DC on October 24-26 2013.

GULEN: The Necessity of Reflection and Self-Criticism

Our first and foremost duty is to discover ourselves and then turn toward God through the illuminated prism of our nature. People who remain unaware of their true nature, and who therefore cannot establish any contact with their Creator, spend their lives like coolies who are ignorant of the treasure they are carrying on their backs. 
Those who want to reform the world must first reform themselves. If they want to lead others to a better world, they must purify their inner worlds of hatred, rancor, and jealousy, and adorn their outer worlds with virtue [through reflection and self-criticism, among other practices]. 

The Role of Reflection

Reflection literally means to think on a subject deeply, systematically, and in great detail. In a spiritual context, it signifies reflection, which is the heart’s lamp, the spirit’s food, and the spirit of knowledge. Reflection allows believers to discern what is good and evil, beneficial and harmful, beautiful and ugly, and makes the universe a book to study and reveals the Qur’an’s deeper meanings more clearly. 

Reflection is a vital step in becoming aware of what is going on around us and of drawing conclusions from it. It opens the door of experience, nourishes the truth, and opens the pupil of the heart’s eye. As Prophet Muhammad stated: “No act of worship is as meritorious as reflection. So reflect on God’s bounties and the works of His Power, but do not try to reflect on His Essence, for you will never be able to do that.” 

The verse: They reflect on the creation of the heavens and Earth (3:190) presents the Book of the Universe (creation itself) with its way of creation, the peculiarities of its letters and words, the harmony and coherence of its sentences, and its firmness as a whole. By calling us to reflect upon the universe, the Qur’an shows us one of the most beneficial methods of reflection: to reflect on and study the Qur’an, and to follow it in all our thoughts and actions; to discover the Divine mysteries in the Book of the Universe and, through every new discovery that deepens and unfolds the true believer, to live a life full of spiritual pleasure along a way of light extending from belief to knowledge of God and therefrom to love of God; and then to progress to the Hereafter and God’s pleasure and approval-this is the way to become a perfect, universal human being. 

Reflect upon every scientific field, but remember that the rational and experimental sciences are only a first step or a means to reach reflection’s final target: knowledge of God. Studying existence as if it were a book to be reflected upon can engender the desired results and provide ceaseless information and inspiration, but only if one admits that God creates all things and their attributes. 

Reflection must be based on and start with belief in God as the Originator of creation. Doing so will enable one to progress uninterruptedly and without end. Encouraging people to engage in reflection focused upon a determined aim entails urging them to learn and use the methods of sciences that study how existence is manifested. Since everything belongs to God, studying every incident, item, and quality also means studying how the Creator deals with existence. Those who study and accurately comprehend this book of existence, and then live according to it, will follow the way of guidance and righteousness all the way to the final station of Paradise. 

The Role of Self-Criticism 

Self-criticism literally means reckoning, settling accounts, and self-interrogation. In a spiritual context, however, it describes believers who constantly analyze their deeds and thoughts in the hope that correcting them will result in increased closeness to God. They thank God for what they have done, and seek His forgiveness through repentance and remorse. Self-criticism is the very important and serious attempt of asserting personal loyalty to God. 

It also may be described as seeking and discovering their inner and spiritual depth, and exerting the necessary spiritual and intellectual effort to acquire true human values and to develop the sentiments that encourage and nourish them. This is how they distinguish between what is good and bad, as well as what is beneficial and harmful, and maintain upright hearts. Furthermore, it enables believers to evaluate the present and prepare for the future. Engaging in self-criticism also enables believers to achieve a steady relationship with God, for this relationship depends on their ability to live a spiritual life and remain aware of what takes place in their inner world. Success preserves their celestial nature as true human beings and continually regenerates their inner senses and feelings. 

Believers cannot be indifferent to self-criticism. On the one hand, they try to revive their ruined pasts with the breezes of hope and mercy blown by such Divine calls as: Repent to God (24:31) and: Turn to Your Lord repentant (39:54) that echo in their consciences. On the other hand, warnings as frightening as thunderbolts and as exhilarating as mercy are contained in such verses as: O you who believe! Be conscious of God and observe your duty to Him. And let every soul consider what it has prepared for the morrow (59:18) bring believers to their senses and make them once again strive to avoid sin. 

Taking each moment of life to be a time of germination, they seek ever-greater depth in their spirits and hearts with insight and consciousness arising from belief. Even if sometimes pulled down by their carnal dimension, they remain alert: Those who fear God and observe His commandments, when a passing stroke from Satan troubles them, they immediately remember (God), and lo! they are all aware (7:201). 

Self-criticism attracts Divine Mercy and Favor, which enables believers to deepen their belief and servanthood, to practice Islam successfully, and to attain nearness to God and eternal happiness. It also prevents despair, which ultimately leads to reliance on personal acts of worship to be saved from Divine punishment in the Hereafter.1 

As self-criticism opens the door to spiritual peace and tranquillity, it also causes a greater consciousness of God and His punishment. Those who criticize themselves always hear the echo of the Prophetic warning: “If you knew what I know, you would laugh little but weep a lot.” Self-criticism continuously inspires anxiety in the hearts of those who are fully aware of the heavy responsibility they feel-the anxiety voiced as in: “If only I had been a tree cut into pieces.” While such a degree of self-criticism is hard to attain, it is also difficult for those who do not do so [to be sure that they will be able] to live today better than yesterday, and tomorrow better than today. 

Constant self-criticism and self-reprimand show the perfection of a believer’s belief. Those who strive to reach human perfection are conscious of this life and spend every moment of it struggling with their carnal natures. They do not allow everything that occurs to their hearts and minds to enter, for they understand the necessity of self-control. Self-criticism and evening reviews of the day’s activities are constant, even for those acts that seem most sensible and acceptable, and new resolutions are made. Believers knits the “lace of his or her life” with the “threads” of self-criticism and self-accusation. 

So long as believers show such loyalty and faithfulness to the Lord and live in such humility, the doors of heaven will be thrown open and an invitation will be extended: “Come, O faithful one. You have intimacy with Us. This is the station of intimacy. We have found you a faithful one.” Every day they are honored with a new, heavenly journey in the spirit. It is God Himself Who swears by such a purified soul in: Nay, I swear by the self-accusing soul! (75:2). 

These new people will conquer their selves, thoughts, and hearts, and those of others, and will discover the unknown. They will regard any time spent not taking a new step into the depths of the self and the universe as wasted. As they remove, through faith and knowledge, the veils covering the face of reality, they will become even more eager to advance further. With the messages of answers received from the heavens, Earth, and the seas, they will continue to journey until they return to their Creator 


1 If believers despair (of Divine mercy) concerning their eternal life because of their sins, relief from Divine punishment is sought. They then remember and so rely on past good deeds. However, this way is utterly inadequate, for only through Divine mercy can one be saved from God’s punishment and enter Paradise.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

FETHULLAH GULEN The nature of the self (ego/nafs)

QUESTION: What is the exact nature of the self (ego/nafs) ? 
The ego[1] is basically what we call the essence of human nature with qualities that are prone for goodness and evil. God Almighty has placed both good and evil feelings and emotions in our nature. In this respect, we can be both angelic and devilish. Just as we can gain a spirituality that can surpass the level of angels, we can also fall to such pits that even the devil seeks pity on us.[2]
Yes, although created in the best stature, human beings also have a part of them open to negative feelings that can drag them down, feelings placed in their nature for a specific purpose and wisdom. Under the influence of these feelings, a person can at any time fall to the lowest of the low.
Our salvation from becoming the lowest of the low is through having faith and making good works.[3] It is by means of faith and good works that while on one hand we can develop our angelic feelings and abilities on the other hand we can suppress and eradicate satanic drives.
There is a center point in our nature, like a seed, that is the seedbed for good and bad feelings. It is no doubt important to be born into a good family and be raised in the presence of good teachers; however, it essentially falls on our part to later channel our will to the angelic path, in Rumi’s words, in order to develop our nature in the direction of our purpose of creation, and this will become second nature to us. Yes, the human is like a piece of paper with a text invisibly written in its nature. A second nature is possible by applying on this paper a mix of good intention, freewill, good works, sincerity, determination, courage, and effort to reveal this hidden writing leading humans to become the celestial being they are destined to be.
A person appearing with such a true nature will at the same time have suppressed all his evil feelings. Probably in time what will remain of the carnal self and the devil will be a mere influence of the “nervous” system so it can do its duty until the end of a person’s life. A person coming to such a point will have no hesitations or doubts on issues regarding the pillars of belief and worship. Even if fifty thousand devils were to confront him, with God’s permission, they would not be able to shake that very profound and enlightened truth in his or her conscience. Given that struggle is by definition a natural part of our lives (considering this world is an abode of testing), the carnal soul or the nervous system might produce flames of irritability, sensitivity, violence, rage, and anger in their soul. For this is the human nature which encompasses multiple factors like ego, spirit, intelligence, tendency towards good and evil, and the human existence with its material-spiritual dimensions.
The human self is of the nature of a mirror reflecting the mystery of the Divine. Yes, if the human nature is both dark and light, how is it possible for a person to fully know God, to hold a light to the world of His names and attributes and to attain a level of perfect knowledge about the Almighty God?
People conceptualize a framework of existence for themselves by saying things like, “me,” “my will,” “my strength,” “my power,” and “my life.” In one respect, there is benefit in this conceptualization because the self, with one of its sides being in the dark, is in a position to be a mirror to God’s existence, a mirror in which the human becomes a witness. In Sufi terms, this is referred to as asrar-i khudi, the secrets of the self and how to attain them with which we determine for ourselves a domain of authority, a jurisdiction. This further requires a thorough review of our nature.
By way of such a review, the human can observe in the mirror of his or her own capacities of knowing, seeing, hearing, and wishing within his or her partial willpower, the reflections of the Divine attributes Seeing, Hearing, Great Willpower, Speech, and Creation – for all of these attributes exist in the human even if they are no more tangible than respective shades. Claiming and protecting these, we draw limitations of our conceptions. Then we realize that what we call “life” belongs entirely to another and that all the things that we thought belonged to us have been temporarily entrusted upon us.
With such a nature, the self is a prism reflecting the attributes of God. For the Exalted One is comprehended through His attributes. We describe Him as the One “known through His names and comprehended with His attributes, though His essence is unknown.” If He is described in this manner, then it is necessary for us to evaluate everything within this framework. René Descartes connects the finite to the infinite in the following words:
Although I do not comprehend the infinite, and although there may be in God an infinity of things that I cannot comprehend, nor perhaps even compass by thought in any way; for it is of the nature of the infinite that it should not be comprehended by the finite; and it is enough that I rightly understand this, and judge that all which I clearly perceive, and in which I know there is some perfection, and perhaps also an infinity of properties of which I am ignorant, are formally or eminently in God, in order that the idea I have of him may become the most true, clear, and distinct of all the ideas in my mind…
Said Nursi evaluates the matter in a similar way and says that with the existence of visible and invisible things, God’s existence is proven; with their becoming lost, His permanence is proven - just as the transient bubbles of water on a stream show the existence of an eternal sun by each being a mirror to its light.
All the creation is alive only with His power of Creation. It remains alive only with His Self-Existence, and when He destroys it, it perishes away.
Yes, with His putting an end to it, everything and everyone meets their end, for He is the only one who is eternal. The verse, “All that is on earth is perishable. But there remains forever the “Face” of your Lord, the One of Majesty and Munificence” (Ar-Rahman, 95: 26−27) expresses this truth.
Yes, with the annihilation and disappearance of these attributes in us, we can connect with the perfect attributes belonging to God. Our own attributes being flawed and deficient shows us that the attributes of the real Owner are perfect and complete.
Our human existence, to say the least, is dependent on necessities, like food, air, etc. However, we are not in control of even one percent of the entire process of, for instance, eating – from the growth of the wheat in the soil to its dependence on the sun light and heat, to all the digestive steps in our body. God Almighty is the One who makes the saliva glands work. God Almighty is the One who sends the food to our stomach, and it is He who sets and adjusts the mechanism. When occasionally something gets into our windpipe, we all know well how complicated the matter becomes.
Consequently, if a person could think of all these things, instead of saying “I ate,” he would know it is more appropriate to say “I was fed.” A believer who says, “I ate,” actually is saying this figuratively and means to say, “I was fed.”
As can be seen, when just one of a person’s voluntary acts is taken up, it becomes evident that he possesses a number of faults and deficiencies. This is the human nature and we exist within this framework. This being the case, the nature of man shows that there is the Most Exalted One who is perfect, without fault and free of weakness, who makes these things in man with wisdom. In this way, by means of every deficiency, a person will get to know the One without deficiency. Consequently, the nature of man is in the form of a mirror that reflects upon him the radiance of the Exalted One’s attributes. Man can always see the radiant attributes of God by looking at this mirror. The reality is that being able to see the attribute of God Almighty is the station of wonder; I do not know if it is destined for everyone, but this is the road to know the Exalted One.
We can increase our knowledge of our Lord by thinking of our helplessness in every action and behavior by contemplating on the aspects that belong to God; by becoming aware of our impotence and understanding that we are nourished by the blessings of our Lord; and by deepening our knowledge of Him more and in the guidance of four principles, i.e., awareness of our helplessness and impotence, offering our thanks and contemplation. Essentially, rising to such an exalted level (the highest of the high), and attaining the station of the “perfected man” should be every person’s goal. Following the path of the Prophets, and in a sense representing this reality, is the best direction a person can take.
To conclude, on one branch of the self are the Prophets and their loyal followers. They did what they did for the sake and pleasure of their Lord only. In another branch of the self are Nimrods and Pharaohs who boasted of their wealth, promoted themselves, and did things for their own interest.[4]
When it comes to speaking of God Almighty, we voice the Divine Oneness in the words of Erzurumlu Ibrahim Hakki:
He does not eat or drink; not bound with time, God is free from all of them,
Free from alteration, deterioration, colors, or forms,
He is all transcendent, these are His negative attributes.
[1] “ana” in Arabic.
[2] “Surely We have created human of best stature as the perfect pattern of creation” (Tin, 95:4).
[3] For further reference, see the chapters Tin and Asr in the Qur’an.
[4] In a third branch, even among those who believe in God, there are some who act upon a false philosophy of self-deification by aspiring to be like Him, or playing God, in other words. And some of these people even stretch to an extreme, saying, “The ultimate purpose of the human is to be exactly like the Creator,” and they cloud up people’s pure thoughts with their own delirium.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Fethullah Gulen's statement on the passing of Nelson Mandela

We pay tribute to the honorable life and legacy of Nelson Mandela, who devoted himself to the principles of peace, democracy, social justice and equality. Faced with extraordinary challenges and adversity, he chose reconciliation over retaliation and, in doing so, set an example of living a more noble life. As we remember the lessons and wisdom of Mandela, we must reaffirm our commitment to the dignity of all humans, and to our shared values of peace, mutual understanding and respect through open dialogue.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Statement on the passing of Nelson Mandela

Our hearts and our prayers are with the Mandela family and the people of South Africa on the passing of their beloved Madiba. We at the Rumi Forum, and the world, will remember Nelson Mandela as one of history's most luminous beacons of hope and amazing courage, as one who struggled for peace and justice for all human beings.

Monday, December 2, 2013

OP-ED "Too Good to Be True" by Rumi Forum's Emre Celik

Too Good to Be True
by Emre Celik

When was the last time you heard that?
I've heard it a few times -- here's the story.
I am now in my fifth year in Washington, D.C., having immigrated from Australia. Here I have had the pleasure and responsibility of presiding over the Rumi Forum, an organization dedicated to interfaith and intercultural understanding. As part of my position I have the good fortune to travel and talk about issues relating to pluralism, social cohesion, and peaceful coexistence....

READ FULL ARTICLE @ Huffington Post: