Question: It is stated that sometimes God grants mercy to an entire world upon the crying of one sad heart. Today, it seems that we do not feel deeply troubled and sympathize enough for humanity’s suffering, so as to weigh heavily on our consciences and prey on our minds. What can be the possible reasons?

Answer: The human factor lies at the basis of all individual, familial, and social problems, which people have faced ever since the time of the Prophet Adam, peace be upon him. The same is true for the basis of all the cases of anarchy, oppression, strife, and crises. Given that all problems can be traced back to the human factor, the solution of these problems is possible through approaching it anew, with a system of moral training oriented to Divine truths and appealing to the conscience. Otherwise, people cannot be saved from misguidance, misery, debauchery, and poverty.

Realizing one’s being at the bottom of the well The greatest problem of humanity today is the neglect of the human factor. But how many of us feel deeply troubled by this grave problem and feel due suffering within? Unfortunately, since most of us live within the same sort of environment, the vast majority of people are unable to grasp even the scale and size of the debauchery and poverty, the deviation and fall. Let me clarify my point with an example: after having stayed in the city for a while, I visited my uncle who lived in the village. The moment I poked my head in through the door, I said how bad the smell was. On hearing this, my uncle’s grandchildren started laughing at me, because I had stayed in the same house for about a month in my childhood and did not feel disturbed at all. Rumi tells the story of a man who gets accustomed to the stench of a leather tannery workshop. When that man passes near perfumery shops and smells the beautiful fragrances, he cannot tolerate them and faints. This story depicts to us the situation of corrupted human nature. As people of the contemporary age, we take for granted everything to such a degree that we feel no shame or suffering, even before the most shameful sights. We see nearly all wrongs as normal. As a poet stated, “Somebody who is full thinks everybody in the world is full; a hungry one thinks there is no bread in the world.” Similarly, since we do not feel suffering and have not come to grips with reality, we do not feel a need to say, “Enough!” as a spontaneous reaction of our conscience and then try to fix it. The reason is that we are inevitably influenced by the atmosphere and conditions in which we live. It diffuses into all of our senses and, in a way, influences the cortex. Thus, individuals perceive and evaluate their surroundings accordingly and cannot overcome this framework.

People fail to realize that there is a very distinguished position that they are supposed to take vis-à-vis their Creator and that they stand far below this position in reality. They think themselves to be in an enjoyable clime in spite of staying at the bottom of a well. For this reason, they make no effort to climb out of the well. Human beings possess the gift of adapting to the conditions in which they live. For example, the ears of a person in a noisy environment adapt themselves to the noise, and they become senseless to sounds of a certain frequency that they normally would hear. Similarly, we have always seen people who are content to lead a world-oriented life, seeking only to have good time. And, therefore, we fail to realize our own heart-rending spiritual wretchedness.

However, suffering is a very important invitation for Divine inspirations. It whispers to people very different ways first to realize and then be saved from the troubled state that they are really in. For instance, if a man at the bottom of a well or dungeon is aware of his situation and feels due suffering, he will try to get out in many different ways and will achieve his goal in the end by God’s grace. Even if he does not possess any tools, he will try to climb out by using his hands like claws. He strives on and makes two small holes where he can insert his feet. After managing to stand on them, he does the same above the first ones. Continuing like this, he makes his way out of the well after a certain period of time. But a man living contently down there, even unaware of his situation, will never make such an effort.

The state of misery that invokes divine compassion
If people suffer deeply over the fall and deviation that they have undergone and turn to God wholeheartedly, as Bediüzzaman puts it in The Gleams, at such a moment when all the apparent causes show no sign of hope, one can witness the secret of Ahadiyya being manifest through the light of Divine Oneness and Unity.[1] As it is well-known, when Prophet Jonah, peace be upon him, was swallowed by a whale, the animal’s body, waves of the sea, and the dark night enveloped him with no sign of hope. But that great Prophet prayed in that manifold darkness saying, “There is no deity but You, All-Glorified are You (in that You are absolutely above having any defect). Surely I have been one of the wrongdoers (who have wronged themselves)” (al-Anbiya 21:87). By praying thus, he appealed to Divine Mercy and Compassion and was delivered in a miraculous fashion. At this point, the words of Ibrahim Haqqi are also meaningful:

When you are in dire need,
Divine Providence opens a door;
For every trouble, He sends a cure.
Whatever the Almighty will do
He will do the best for you.

Now, consider our spiritual life: aren’t we in a worse condition than Prophet Jonah in the belly of the whale? Bediüzzaman states in The Gleams that our carnal soul is like such a whale to us. That is, we are in a way swallowed by our (evil-commanding) carnal souls. We have been taken by worldly considerations and fancies of the carnal soul. But the worst is that we are not even aware of our wretched condition. We act as if we are heartless creatures in the face of severe oppression, misery, and subjection in different lands. Therefore, we first must ask ourselves, “Who were we and who are we now?” The next thing to do is to establish a connection between the age we are currently living in and the Age of Bliss (i.e., the Age of the Prophet), and then make a sound comparison. We should even include the following decades when Islamic civilization flourished and try to find out how competent statesmen dealt with the troubles of their time and how they exerted themselves to find solutions for the problems that confronted them. By comparing those lustrous days with ours, we should try to understand how disastrous our condition is. I think such racking of our brains will lead us to knocking on the door of the Merciful God, and He will show us alternative ways out. To the extent we see our state as normal, we will neither find alternative ways, nor discover new methods in the name of deliverance.

The seeds of suffering sown into hearts
Consciousness of the (Age of Bliss and the following) golden ages where true Islamic spirituality was practiced and realizing our present miserable state is the key to feeling the suffering that we are supposed to feel. Bediüzzaman voiced his suffering about the grim picture before him by saying, “I even have no time to think about the troubles I am subjected to. I gladly welcome going through a thousand fold greater difficulties if only I saw the faith of people in safety.” Similarly, he stated that he would even gladly welcome burning in Hell, given that the faith of his people is secured. These sublime thoughts are an expression of having attained the level of true humanity. Given that humanity is heedlessly heading for Hell before our eyes, and that we consider ourselves as conscientious believers, we cannot help but to be appalled by this picture.

It is a reality that not everybody can sense and feel matters with such magnanimity in their consciences.

In addition, it may not be proper for everybody to know about every trouble and problem, since some people cannot resist even the pettiest viruses. However, when those with strong immune systems face a virus attack, this does not cause them anything more than a temporary stagger. In the same way, even the persons who try to serve for the sake of faith may not have the same strength of immunity. For this reason, telling them all of the grim realities might push them to hopelessness.

I would like to express how I feel: if my parents and grandparents were alive today, and if all of them passed away in one moment, I swear by God that this grief would not equal the suffering I go through for the fate of Islam in half a day. Sometimes, I leave my room in the middle of the night bent in two with this suffering and wander in the corridor as if I were crazy. In spite of this, I am trying not to tell everybody about the monstrous souls lying in wait at every corner, each one of them running after a different conspiracy and plot. This can make some people lose courage and give in to hopelessness. Therefore, I prefer not to reveal my concerns about it. But if I knew that they could bear the truth, I would wish to sow the seeds of suffering and pour embers into people’s hearts, so that they too would become concerned for humanity’s troubles, so that they too would lose sleep and walk around restlessly as if they were insane, exerting themselves to find solutions.

Nevertheless, if one is not called insane for suffering for his religion, it is difficult to say that he has attained perfect faith. That is, others will look at such a person and say, “Instead of enjoying this world with its natural beauties and resorts, why does he busy himself with such concerns?” This is an indication of being seen as insane, as the great Sufi Yunus Emre stated, not caring about losing what you possess after having found the ultimately absolute value. What about those who do not feel so? Are they destined to be losers? Never, I cannot dare say that. Since the Pride of Humanity related that a person who passes away with the smallest amount of faith will, finally, enter Paradise. We cannot blame anyone on this issue, nor try to block anybody’s way to Paradise. This is a different issue. However, feeling agonized over humanity’s suffering and it preying on your mind, and embracing all of humanity with an attitude that befits the Prophets, is a completely different issue.

[1] Ahadiyya expresses God Almighty’s being one, single, and unique. He also has manifestations or blessings (of Ahadiyya) particular to each thing and being. When one realizes his absolute helplessness, he or she can unfold this secret of Ahadiyya manifestly through the light of his conviction of the Oneness of God, Who has absolute control over everything. This is because apparent means and causes have no part of their own in the creation of results. Since Prophet Jonah saw with the eye of certainty that there was no refuge other than the Causer of Causes, and as he, through his utmost conviction of God’s absolute Oneness and His dominion over the universe, fully perceived that in addition to His overall manifestations that reign supreme over all of creation, God also has manifestations particular to each thing and being as the All-Compassionate.

This article has originally been published in Turkish on 21/01/2013.


Gulen, M. Fethullah. The Broken Jug.  23 January 2013


The attitude of believers is determined according to the degree of their faith. I believe that if the message is put across properly, then an environment condu-cive to dialogue will be able to emerge in our country and throughout the world. Thus, as in every subject, we should approach this issue as indicated in the Qur’an and by the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. God says in the Qur’an:

This is the Book; in it is sure guidance, without doubt, to those who are God-conscious, pious. (Al-Baqara 2:2)

Later on, these pious ones are identified as follows:

Who believe in the Unseen, are steadfast in prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them; and who believe in the Revelation sent to you and sent before your time, and (in their hearts) have the reassurance of the Hereafter. (Al-Baqara 2:3-4)

Using a very gentle and slightly oblique style, the Qur’an calls people to accept the former Prophets and their books. The fact that such a condition has been placed at the very beginning of the Qur’an seems to be very significant to me when it comes to talking about the establishment of a dialogue with Jews and Christians. In another verse God commands:

And argue not with the People of the Book unless it be in (a way) that is better. (Al-Ankabut 29:46)

In this verse, the Qur’an describes the method and approach we should use and the behavior we should display. Bediüzzaman said some extremely significant words in order to clarify this: “Those who are happy about their opponent’s defeat in debate have no mercy.” He explains the reason for this: “You gain nothing by defeating someone. If you are defeated and the other person is victorious, then you would have corrected one of your mistakes.”

Debate should not be for the sake of ego, but rather to enable the truth to appear. When we look at political debates in which the only thought is to vanquish the other person, there can be no positive result. For the truth to emerge in a debate of ideas, such principles as mutual understanding, respect, and dedication to justice cannot be ignored. As a Qur’anic rule, debate can only take place in an environment that is conducive to dialogue.

Reading the above verse (29:64) further, we notice that the condition “unless it be with those who disbelieve and inflict wrong (and injury)” is placed. Wrong is also mentioned in another verse:

It is those who believe and confuse not their beliefs with wrong—that are (truly) in security, for they are on (right) guidance. (Al-Anam 6:82)

According to the interpretation of this above verse by the Prophet, asso-ciating partners with God is equal to unbelief in the sense that one has con-tempt for the universe. The greatest tyranny is to silence all the voices in one’s conscience that express God. Tyranny also means committing an injus-tice against others, oppressing them, and imposing one’s ideas onto others. In that respect, as tyranny includes both polytheism and unbelief, it is the greater sin. Every polytheist or unbeliever may not be a wrongdoer in the sense out-lined above. However, those who oppress others, who arm themselves in the name of committing evil, and who violate the rights of other people and the justice of God must be confronted within the framework of the law.

When dealing with People of the Book who are not oppressors, we have no right to behave violently against them or to think about how to destroy them. Such behavior is non-Islamic, contrary to Islamic rules and principles, and it can even be said that it is anti-Islamic. Elsewhere in the Qur’an it is stated:

God does not forbid you, regarding those who did not fight you on account of religion and did not drive you out of your homes, to show kindness and deal with them justly. (Al-Mumtahana 60:8)

This verse was revealed when an emigrant lady called Asma asked the Prophet if she should meet with her polytheistic mother, who wanted to come from Makka to Madina to see her daughter. The verse suggests that such a meeting was perfectly acceptable, and that Asma could also be kind to her mother. I leave it to your discretion as to what approach should be used to-ward those who believe in God, the Judgment Day, and the prophets.

Hundreds of Qur’anic verses deal with social dialogue and tolerance. But care must be taken to establish balance in one’s tolerance. Being merciful to a cobra means being unjust to the people the cobra has bitten. Claiming that “humanism” is more merciful than Divine Mercy is disrespectful to mercy and violates the rights of others. In truth, except in certain special cases, the Qur’an and the Sunna always advocate tolerance. The shielding canopy of this tolerance extends not only to the People of the Book, but, in a sense, to all people.

Gulen, M. Fethullah. Toward A Global Civilization of Love and Tolerance. Tughra Books Press, Inc. 2012.


We are born into an established world, but we enter a relationship with our natural environment with an awareness produced by social life. We approach our natural environment with a style of behavior and thought that we got from our family and close social circle since our childhood. Consequently, we do not see many things not seen or avoided by our social circle. In spite of there being many things in our environment that we need to pay attention to and protect, usually we do not even notice them.

For either we did not set them up or, seeing them every day, we have become accustomed to them. Only when they no longer exist or become unusable do we notice the air that we breathe every moment; the sun whose light and heat we are dependent upon; greenery that produces oxygen for the air and gives us psychological pleasure; the clear, blue sky that gives us inner expansion; and the sea that attracts people with its emerald green color. We notice them and comprehend at that moment what great value they have for humanity.

This natural order was created by Allah and bestowed upon us. (See Quran 14/32; 16/12, 14; 22/65; 29/61; 31/20; 35/13; 39/5; 45/13.) This is a clear sign of the value Allah gives to man. While the Quran declares that all animate and inanimate creatures on the earth and in the heavens have been created with a certain measure and balance (Al-Hijr 15/16-20; Al-Qamar 54/49), it also points out that man should not destroy this measure and balance while utilizing nature (Al-Rahman 55/7-12). Entering a relationship with nature in a measured and balanced way will result in man’s being able to benefit from nature for the longest period of time.

Industrial pollution is causing the desertification of land, drying up our rivers and lakes, and pollution in the seas has killed fish living there; all while forests are destroyed for the sake of urbanization and products are created in the name of civilization, which harm the air. If precautions are not taken against these, the scene confronting us will be terrifying. As an Native American leader once said, we did not inherit this world from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children. Just as we have made the world into a harmful place for ourselves with our irresponsible approach, we are about to leave an uninhabitable world to our children.

It should not be thought that Islam only gives us a number of responsibilities on religious subjects like belief and worship and then leaves other areas of life untouched. Islam gives commands, recommendations and warnings in relation to every aspect of human life. Consequently, there are a number of commands, recommendations and warnings regarding our topic, too. We can list them as follows:

Islam teaches Muslims to respect all creatures and to not disturb their lives. Every Muslim believes: “The seven heavens and the earth, and all beings therein, declare his glory: there is not a thing but celebrates his praise” (Bani Israil 17/44). In view of this, we can say that Muslims will not/cannot irresponsibly destroy the environment and unconsciously use nature. This matter is an important point in regard to the development of environmental awareness. The relationship with the environment of a person who has this awareness will be measured accordingly. At least he will see the creatures in his environment as his friends and helpers. While benefiting from them, he will be careful not to destroy balance. The statement in the Quran thatwaste is sinful and spendthrifts are brothers of Satan (Al-Araf 7/31; Bani Israil 17/26-27, 29-30; Taha 20/81), and the warning of the Prophet that even running water should not be wasted while taking ablution (Ibn Mace, Ikame, 193) are important bases for the development of environmental awareness among Muslims.
A Muslim believes that Allah’s names are present within himself and that he manifests them. One of God’s names is Quddus. Quddus means holy, clean and pure. As a manifestation of this name, Allah constantly cleans natural pollution that appears on earth by means of the ecological system He set up. Thousands of animals that die and plants that dry up every season are chemically changed and cleaned up. In addition, the earth is swept by means of the winds and washed by the rains. At this point a Muslim, as a reflection of the name Quddus, acts with the belief that he, himself, and his environment must be kept clean and does what is necessary. If thought of in relation to this subject, possessing environmental awareness and preventing environmental pollution can be evaluated as taking on the virtues of Allah.
The Holy Quran declares that Allah has given the duty of re-constructing the world to man. It is said in one verse, “Allah created you in the earth and wants you to build it up” (Al-Hud 11/61). The word “isti’mar” that passes in this verse has been given two meanings by commentators. One of them is: “Allah made you re-constructers of the earth” (Ibn Kesir, Tefsir. 2/450). The second is: “Allah wanted you to re-construct the earth” (Ibd’l-Jevzi, Zadu’l-Masir, Beirut 1984, 4/133). While the first commentary expresses that Allah created man in a form to re-construct the world, the second expresses that He wanted man to re-construct the world. Based on the above verse, Islamic scholars said that it is mandatory for society to do constructive work such as making housing, opening water canals and planting trees (Abu Hayyan, al-Bahru’l-Muhit, Beirut 1992, 6/175). Of course, humans will re-construct the world as a natural or religious duty. But this should be done without damaging nature. Muslim morality demands this.
Muhammad (pbuh) was an example to Muslims on this subject. Knowing this command well, the Prophet participated in construction activities and tried to make the city where he lived into a developed state. In addition, he declared the Medina and Taif regions as haram in addition to Mecca and prohibited cutting down trees and hunting there. Adiy b. Zaid (ra) related that the Prophet declared a 30 km. area on every side of Medina (approximately 1000 square meters) as a protected grove and prohibited the cutting down of trees and the breaking off of branches (Abu Davud, Menasik, 96). In addition, when the Prophet stopped at Zuraybu’t-tawil, a pasture of the Bani Haris tribe near Medina, on his return from the Zu-Qard expedition, they described it as a place where their animals grazed and their women walked around. Our Prophet said, “Whoever cuts down a tree here should definitely plant another in its place” (Belazuri, Futuhu’l-Buldan, Beirut 1987, 17; Ibrahim Canan, Islam ve Çevre Sağlığı, Istanbul 1987, pp. 59-60). When the Taif people were about to become Muslim and sent a delegation to Medina, an article was put in the text of the agreement that the Prophet had prepared to the effect that the Taif region valleys were under protection, that it was prohibited to damage the ground cover there or hunt animals, and that those who did not conform to this law would be punished (Muhammad Hamidullah, Islam Peygamberi, Istanbul 2003, 1/500; Muhammad Hamidullah, al-Vasaiq, Beirut 1969, pp. 236-38, 240; Ali Riza Temel, “Islam’a Gore Insan Cevre Iliskisi,” Insan ve Cevre, p. 77). During the caliphate of Omar, Sa’d b. Abi Vakkas (ra) punished someone who did not conform to this law based on this decree (Abu Davud, Menasik, 96). Again, the Prophet forbade the cutting down of the cedar tree in the desert where travelers and animals found shade and he cursed those who cut it (Abu Davud, Adab, 159).
In addition, Muhammad gave orders and recommendations to keep the city where they lived clean, and he was careful about the protection of plants and animals. At this point, commands by the Prophet to clean the masjid and make it smell good with perfume (Tirmizi, Jum’a, 64), to keep the courtyards clean (Tirmizi, Adab, 41), not to make urine in still waters (Buhari, Wudu, 68; Muslim,Taharet, 94-96; Abu Davud, Taharet, 36), and not to dump garbage near drinking water (Servet Armagan, “Islam Cevre Hukukunun Genel Esaslari,” Islam ve Cevre, p. 250) should be remembered. Also to be recalled is the news that the man would go to heaven who took water from a well in his shoe and gave it to a dog whose mouth was dried and whose tongue was hanging out from thirst (Buhari, Bed’u’l-halk, 17, Adab, 27) and the news that the woman would go to hell who shut her cat in the house and allowed it to die from hunger (Buhari, Azhan, 90).

These examples show that our exalted Prophet was an example to his followers on the subject of protecting the environment and keeping it clean, as he was on every subject. In addition, these hadiths encouraging the planting of trees are perfect signs of his encouraging sensitivity towards and awareness of the environment: “If you have a sapling and time to plant it close to Doomsday, plant it” (Buhari, Edebu’l-müfred, Cairo 1379, p. 168); “Whoever plants a tree, Allah will write as much merit for him as the produce from the tree” (Ahmed b. Hanbel, Musned, 5/415); “Whoever revives an empty, arid, infertile piece of land will be rewarded for it by Allah. As living creatures benefit from it, charity will be written for the one who revived it” (Munavi, Feyzu’l-kadir, 6/39); “If a Muslim plants a tree, the fruit of that tree that is eaten is definitely charity for that person. Fruit stolen from that tree is again charity for him. Fruit eaten by wild animals is also charity. What birds eat is also charity. Whatever fruit is eaten is charity for the one who planted the tree” (Muslim, Musakat, 7-10, 12; Buhari, Adab, 27; Hars, 1).

For the entire text, please see Dr.Muhsin Toprak, İslam´ın Çevre Bilincine Katkısı (Islam´s Contribution to Environmental Awareness), Yeni Ümit Dini İlimler ve Kültür Dergisi (New Hope Religious Sciences and Culture Magazine)


Toprak, Muhsin. This article was published originally in Yeni Umit Magazine.

Women’s Rights?

Women’s RightsThis is a very comprehensive subject. From one perspective it is open to debate. It’s very difficult to summarize my thoughts on this kind of platform. In one sense we don’t separate men and women. In another sense there are physical and psychological differences. Women and men should be the two sides of truth, like the two faces of a coin. Man without woman, or woman without man, cannot exist; they were created together. Adam suffered in Heaven because he had no mate, and then Heaven became a real Heaven when he found Eve. Man and woman complement each other.

Q: If we approach the matter from an Islamic perspective ?

A: Our Prophet, the Qur’aan, and Qur’aanic teachings don’t take men and women as separate creatures. I think the problem here is that people approach it from extremes and disturb the balance. There are differences on specific points. For example, men usually are physically stronger and apt to bear hardship, while women have deeper emotions; they are more compassionate, more delicate, more self-sacrificing. While looking for a place for each gender in society, we should consider these and other innate differences. God created everything, from sub-atomic particles to human beings, in pairs to form a unity.

Q: Are there examples for the female role?

A: In the social atmospheres of Muslim societies where Islam is not “contaminated” with customs or un-Islamic traditions, Muslim women are full participants in daily life. For example, during the Prophet’s time and in later centuries when the West gave women no place in society, when the West was debating whether or not women had spirits or were devils or human beings, ‘A’isha (one of the Prophet’s wives) led an army. She also was a religious scholar whose views everyone respected. Women prayed in mosques together with men. An old woman could oppose the caliph in the mosque in a judicial matter.

Even in the Ottoman period during the eighteenth century, the wife of an English ambassador highly praised the women and mentioned their roles in Muslim families and society with admiration.

Q: Can women be administrators?

A: There’s no reason why a woman can’t be an administrator. In fact, Hanafi jurisprudence says that a woman can be a judge. Maybe some women could explain certain matters more comfortably to a judge of their own gender.

Q: How did the Prophet view children?

A: He treated his children and grandchildren with great compassion, and never neglected to direct them to the Hereafter and good deeds. He smiled at them, caressed and loved them, but did not allow them to neglect matters related to the afterlife. His ultimate goal was to prepare them for the Hereafter.

All of the Prophet’s sons had died. Ibrahim, his last son born to his Coptic wife Mary, also died in infancy. The Messenger often visited his son before the latter’s death, although he was very busy. Ibrahim was looked after by a nurse. The Prophet would embrace, kiss, and caress him before returning home. When Ibrahim died, the Prophet took him on his lap again, embraced him, and described his sorrow while on the brink of tears. Some were surprised. He gave them this answer: “Eyes may water and hearts may be broken, but we do not say anything except what God will be pleased with.” He pointed to his tongue and said: “God will ask us about this.” [1]

Whenever he returned to Madina, he would carry children on his mount. On such occasions, the Messenger embraced not only his grandchildren but also those in his house and those nearby. He conquered their hearts through his compassion. He loved all children.

Q: How should parents treat their children?

A: These who bring children into this world are responsible for raising them to realms beyond the heavens. Just as you take care of their bodily health, so take care of their spiritual life. For God’s sake, have pity and save the helpless innocents. Do not let their lives go to waste.

The future of every individual is closely related to the impressions and influences experienced during childhood and youth. If children and young people are brought up in a climate where their enthusiasm is stimulated with higher feelings, they will have vigorous minds and display good morals and virtues.

The first school for children, whose souls are as bright as mirrors and as quick to record as cameras, are their homes. Their first educators are their mothers. Thus it is fundamental for a nation’s existence and stability that mothers be brought up and educated to be good educators for their children.

If parents encourage their children to develop their abilities and be useful to themselves and the community, they give the nation a strong new pillar. If, on the contrary, they do not cultivate their children’as human feelings, they release scorpions into the community.

Improving a community is possible only by elevating the young generations to the rank of humanity, not by obliterating the bad ones. Unless a seed composed of religion, tradition, and historical consciousness is germinated throughout the country, new evil elements will appear and grow in the place of each eradicated bad one.

Children should respect and obey their parents as much as possible. Parents should give as much importance to their children’as moral and spiritual education as they do to their physical growth and health, and should entrust them to the care of the most honorable teachers and guides. How ignorant and careless are those parents who neglect their children’s moral and spiritual training, and how unfortunate are the children who experience such neglect and are so victimized.

Children who are inconsiderate of their parents a rights and disobey them are “monsters derived from a deteriorated human being.” Parents who do not secure their children’s moral and spiritual welfare also are merciless and cruel. Most brutish and pitiless of all are parents who paralyze their children’s moral and spiritual development after their children have found their way to human perfection.

Q: What about young people?

A: Those who wish to predict a nation’s future can do so accurately by analyzing the education and upbringing its young people receive.

Desires resemble sweets, and virtues resemble food that is a little salty or sour. When young people are free to choose, what are they likely to prefer? Regardless of this, however, we must bring them up to be friends of virtue and enemies of indecency and immorality.

Until we help our young people through education, they are captives of their environment. They wander about aimlessly, moved by intense passions and far away from knowledge and reason. They can become truly valiant young representatives of the national thought and feeling only if their education integrates them with their past and prepares them intelligently for their future.

Think of society as a crystal vessel, and of its young people as the liquid poured into it. Notice that the liquid assumes the vessel’as shape and color. Evil-minded champions of regimentation tell young people to obey them instead of the truth. Do such people never question themselves? Should they not also obey the truth?

A nation’s progress or decline depends on the spirit and consciousness, the upbringing and education, given to its young people. Nations that have raised their young people correctly are always ready for progress, while those who have not done so find it impossible to take even a single step forward.

A young person is a sapling of power, strength, and intelligence. If trained and educated properly, he or she can become a “hero” who overcomes obstacles and acquires a mind that promises enlightenment to hearts and order to the world.

This article has been published separately in The Fountain’s April-June 2002 volume and thus is not contained in the book.

[1] Bukhari, “Jana’aiz,’a 44; Muslim, “Fada’ail,” 62; Ibn Maja, “Jana’aiz,” 53.

Rights of Neighbors

Question: Rights of neighbors are commonly ignored in our time, just like some other rights. What is the importance of observing neighbors’ rights in Islam? What are the benefits of such observance at the formation of a healthy society?

Answer: Observing neighbors’ rights is an issue that the Qur’an emphasizes, along with treating one’s parents kindly, being faithful to relatives, and caring for orphans. It is commanded in Surah an-Nisa (Women) (as interpreted): “…worship God and do not associate anything as a partner with Him; do good to your parents in the best way possible, and to the relatives, orphans, the destitute, the neighbor who is near (in kinship, location, faith), the neighbor who is distant (in kinship and faith), the companion by your side (on the way, in the family, in the workplace, etc.), the wayfarer, and those who are in your service. (Treat them well and bring yourself up to this end, for) God does not love those who are conceited and boastful.” (an-Nisa 4:36)

Here, directly following the command to worship God and not to associate any partners with him, doing good to parents is commanded. Actually, when love, respect, and yearning to meet someone are concerned, what comes after God’s right is His Messenger’s: we recognize our Lord thanks to him; we learn the way to perceive and interpret creation correctly thanks to him; and we understand that we are created and meant for eternity thanks to the messages he brought. In these respects, we are greatly indebted to him. However, as the verse mentioned above addresses this issue, not in terms of theory but practical deeds, parents’ rights, not the Prophet’s, are mentioned second. The fact that the beginning of the divine command is not related to faith in God but to worship Him also indicates this.

After mentioning parents, the verse commands doing good to relatives, orphans, and the destitute, respectively. Then, the verse draws attention to the rights due to neighbors by commanding the doing of good to both near and distant neighbors. Accordingly, all people living around us are included in this meaning, and they deserve to be treated well.

A Way To Attain Perfect Faith

An authenticated saying of the Prophet, confirmed by great scholars including Bukhari and Muslim,[1] stresses the importance of neighborliness. Indeed, Gabriel gave such insistent advice to the Prophet about neighbors that he thought Gabriel would nearly declare neighbors as inheritors to one another.

Given that a person’s inheritors are their closest relatives, we can imagine how important neighbors’ rights are in the sight of God. Actually, we do not know all of the advice concerning neighbors’ rights that Gabriel gave to the Prophet as the Messenger of God did not relate the details of the case. However, the fact that the Prophet nearly thought neighbors would become inheritors to one another indicates how much emphasis Gabriel placed on this issue.

Another saying of the Prophet relates this issue to faith: “Whoever believes in God and the Day of Judgment let him be good to his neighbor. Whoever believes in God and the Judgment Day, let him treat his guest. Whoever believes in God and the Judgment Day, let him speak goodness or be silent.”[2]

As it is seen, being good to neighbors is mentioned as a requirement of having belief in the true sense. There is another point to note here: Faith in God naturally requires belief in other essentials of faith, including belief in the Judgment Day. It is additionally mentioned in this context, since goodness done here for the sake of God will be rewarded generously when the Judgment Day comes.

Good Neighbors Who Offer The Key To Eternal Bliss

The Messenger of God also gave warnings that a person who comfortably sleeps with a full stomach while his neighbor is hungry cannot be a believer in the true sense, and that a person whose neighbors are not safe from his harm cannot enter Paradise. If the rights of neighbors are stressed so much in the Qur’an and the Tradition of the Prophet, it is an issue of great importance. In this respect, a Muslim should embrace—near or distant—all of their neighbors magnanimously. People with sound faith should know how to share all of the beauties they possess with their neighbors; it is a requirement of Muslim ethics. When rights of neighbors are mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is the material kind of aid, such as offering them food, clothes, and the like. As it is known, zakah—the prescribed alms—is given to Muslims only; however, other kinds of alms can be given to non-Muslims. For example, one can provide financial aid to near or distant neighbors whether they are Muslims or not, because these are basic human needs. Particularly in circumstances of poverty, Muslims should never let their neighbors starve, no matter who they are, and should absolutely provide them with support. Helping a neighbor find a job is also a very important means of doing good. But it is not a correct approach to reduce neighbors’ rights to material aid alone. Greeting neighbors and asking about their well-being, getting acquainted better through mutual visits, paving the way to friendly relations between people, and making efforts to eliminate negative feelings—if there are any—are also very important points. It is essential to establish a relationship with one’s neighbors, particularly for Muslims living in a foreign country. For example, they can take the opportunity on special days to make their neighbors happy with presents and visits. In this way, they can find chances to warm hearts, eliminate biased opinions about Muslims, and introduce their values to others. When the issue is seen from this perspective it is more easily understood that rights of neighbors should not be reduced to a notion of material aid.

Grounds Of Sin That Grow Into A Disaster

There is another matter worthy of attention concerning neighbors that the Prophet mentioned. Adultery is many times over a graver sin if it is committed with a neighbor. As it is well known, forbidden and disliked acts have a certain ranking. For example, attributing certain things to God Almighty is such a grave sin that, as related in the Qur’an (Maryam 19:90) (as translated), it would nearly bring a great destruction: “The heavens are all but almost rent, and the earth split asunder, and the mountains fall down in ruins…” Similarly, there are certain kinds of sins that nearly shatter the heavens and earth asunder. As fornication between relatives fall into this category, such a sin between neighbors is evaluated by the Prophet in the same way—as an evil made worse many times over because the predominant feelings between relatives and neighbors must be trust and safety. Therefore, an evil committed by the people whom you trust will not be an ordinary evil; rather it will grow into an evil of manifold ramifications.

Bridges Of Friendship Build Through A Bowl Of Pudding

Unfortunately, it is a bitter reality that there exists a serious void in terms of neighborly relations, as a result of neglecting our own values. To such a degree that even in Muslim countries, an entire society lives in their own worlds, retreated in their apartments. Neighbors knock on one another’s door only when there is disturbing noise, in order to warn the latter. Therefore, we need to do our best to make use of every possible means in order to eliminate this chronic problem. But it should not be forgotten that changing the established notions and understandings in people’s minds is not something easily done like taking off a suit. This issue requires persistence and resolved efforts. Sometimes, you take this chance through the tradition of cooking Noah’s pudding and offering your neighbor upstairs a bowl of pudding. Sometimes, you contact them while celebrating the birth of the Messenger of God, or sometimes, you show your good intentions on some other day that is important to your neighbor. Let us not forget, benevolence is a part of human nature and we do appreciate kindness. Therefore, acts of kindness will definitely make their effect one day, sooner or later. Maybe your neighbors will try you for a long time but once they see that you seek no personal benefit, they should gradually open their doors and mutual visits will begin. The Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, compared the situation of believers with respect to one another to a good building whose bricks are soundly integrated.[3]Naturally, all the factors—observing parents’ rights, strengthening bonds of kinship, caring for the needy, and observing neighbors’ rights—mentioned in the initially quoted verse play an important role at building such a society. Since neighborly relations undergo serious destruction in modern life, the first attempts to enhance relations may not be welcomed at the beginning. However, acts of kindness—even an individual gesture of goodwill—continued in a resolved and steady way will melt the icebergs between people. After a while, they will stimulate good feelings in hearts and, over time, turn into such a strong connection that they will become solid bonds between individuals. Thereafter, individuals will support one another without any expectations in return. When one falls, the other will lend a hand, and they will set about a race of goodness toward one another. An ideal society, without clash and conflict, can only be built from individuals such as these.

Finally, in the words of Bediüzzaman, a society whose elements and building blocks are made up of sins cannot be a healthy one. Thus, in order to become a healthy society, it is an important duty for individuals to support one another at protecting against sins and getting rid of vices. God Almighty reminds believers of their responsibilities toward one another with the command (as translated): “…help one another in virtue and goodness, and righteousness and piety, and do not help one another in sinful, iniquitous acts and hostility” (al-Ma’idah 5:2). In the name of maintaining such a feeling of help and solidarity, relationships between neighbors provide a very significant ground and opportunity, in my opinion, and is a responsibility that should not be ignored.

[1] Sahih al-Bukhari, Adab, 28; Sahih Muslim, Birr, 141
[2] Sahih Muslim, Iman, 74; Sahih al-Bukhari, Adab, 31
[3] Sahih al-Bukhari, Salat, 88



The main duty and purpose of human life is to seek understanding. The effort of doing so, known as education, is a perfecting process though which we earn, in the spiritual, intellectual, and physical dimensions of their beings, the rank appointed for us as the perfect pattern of creation. At birth, the outset of the earthly phase of our journey from the world of spirits to eternity, we are wholly impotent and needy. By contrast, most animals come into the world as if matured or perfected beforehand. Within a few hours or days or months, they learn everything necessary for their survival, as well as how to relate to their environment and with other creatures. For example, sparrows or bees acquire maturity and all the physical and social skills they need within about twenty days; we need twenty years or more to acquire a comparable level of maturity.

We are born helpless as well as ignorant of the laws of life and must cry out to get the help we need. After a year or so, we can stand on our feet and walk a little. When we are about fifteen, we are expected to have understood the difference between good and evil, the beneficial and the harmful. However, it will take us our whole lives to acquire intellectual and spiritual perfection. Our principal duty in life is to acquire perfection and purity in our thinking, conceptions, and belief. By fulfilling our duty of servanthood to the Creator, Nourisher, and Protector, and by penetrating the mystery of creation through our potentials and faculties, we seek to attain to the rank of true humanity and become worthy of a blissful, eternal life in another, exalted world.
Our humanity is directly proportional to our emotions’ purity. Although those who are full of bad feelings and whose souls are influenced by egoism look like human beings, whether they really are human is doubtful. Almost everyone can train their bodies, but few can educate their minds and feelings. The former training produces strong bodies, while the latter produces spiritual people.

Our Innate Faculties and Education
Since the time of Ibn Miskawayh, human faculties or “drives” have been dealt with in three categories: reason, anger, and lust. Reason encompasses all of our powers of conception, imagination, calculation, memory, learning, and so on. Anger covers our power of self-defense, which Islamic jurisprudence defines as that needed to defend our faith and religion, sanity, possessions, life and family, and other sacred values. Lust is the name for the driving force of our animal appetites: Decked out for humanity is the passionate love of desires for the opposite sex and offspring; for hoarded treasures of gold and silver; for branded horses, cattle, and plantations; and for all kinds of worldly things (3:14).

These drives are found in other creatures. However, whether in their desires, intelligence, or determination to defend life and territory, these drives are limited in all creatures but humanity. Each of us is uniquely endowed with free will and the consequent obligation to discipline our powers. This struggle for discipline determines our humanity. In combination with each other and with circumstances, our faculties often are expressed through jealousy, hatred, enmity, hypocrisy, and show. They also need to be disciplined.
We are not only composed of body and mind. Each of us has a spirit that needs satisfaction. Without this, we cannot find true happiness and perfection. Spiritual satisfaction is possible only through knowledge of God and belief in Him. Confined within the physical world, our own particular carnal self, time, and place can be experienced as a dungeon. We can escape it through belief and regular worship, and by refraining from extremes while using our faculties or powers. We must not seek to annul our drives, but to use our free will to contain and purify them, to channel and direct them toward virtue. For example, we are not expected to eliminate lust, but to satisfy it lawfully through reproduction. Happiness lies in confining our lust to the lawful bounds of decency and chastity, not in engaging in debauchery and dissipation.
Similarly, jealousy can be channeled into emulation free of rancor, which inspires us to emulate those who excel in goodness and good deeds. Applying the proper discipline to our reason results in the acquisition of knowledge, and ultimately of understanding or wisdom. Purifying and training anger leads to courage and forbearance. Disciplining our passion and desire develops our chastity.

If every virtue is thought of as the center of a circle, and any movement away from the center as a vice, the vice becomes greater as we move further away from the center. Every virtue therefore has innumerable vices, since there is only one center in a circle but an infinite number of points around it. It is irrelevant in which direction the deviation occurs, for deviation from the center, in whatever direction, is a vice.
There are two extremes related to each moral virtue: deficiency or excess. The two extremes connected with wisdom are stupidity and cunning. For courage they are cowardice and rashness, and for chastity they are lethargy and uncontrolled lust. So a person’s perfection, the ultimate purpose of our existence, lies in maintaining a condition of balance and moderation between the two extremes relating to every virtue. ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib is reported to have said:

“God has characterized angels by intellect without sexual desire, passion, and anger, and animals with anger and desire without intellect. He exalted humanity by bestowing upon them all of these qualities. Accordingly, if a person’s intellect dominates his or her desire and ferocity, he or she rises to a station above that of angels, because this station is attained by a human being in spite of the existence of obstacles that do not vex angels.

“Improving a community is possible only by elevating the young generations to the rank of humanity, not by obliterating the bad ones. Unless a seed composed of religion, tradition, and historical consciousness is germinated throughout the country, new evil elements will appear and grow in the place of each eradicated bad one.”

The Real Meaning and Value of Education
Education through learning and a commendable way of life is a sublime duty that manifests the Divine Name Rabb (Upbringer and Sustainer). By fulfilling it, we attain the rank of true humanity and become a beneficial element of society.

Education is vital for both societies and individuals. First, our humanity is directly proportional to our emotions’ purity. Although those who are full of bad feelings and whose souls are influenced by egoism look like human beings, whether they really are so is questionable. Almost anyone can be successful in physical training, but few can educate their minds and feelings. Second, improving a community is possible by elevating the coming generations to the rank of humanity, not by obliterating the bad ones. Unless the seeds of religion, traditional values, and historical consciousness germinate throughout the country, new bad elements will inevitably grow up in the place of every bad element that has been eradicated.
A nation’s future depends on its youth. Any people who want to secure their future should apply as much energy to raising their children as they devote to other issues. A nation that fails its youth, that abandons them to foreign cultural influences, jeopardizes their identity and is subject to cultural and political weakness.

The reasons for the vices observed in today’s generation, as well as the incompetence of some administrators and other nation-wide troubles, lie in the prevailing conditions and ruling elite of 25 years ago. Likewise, those who are charged with educating today’s young people will be responsible for the vices and virtues that will appear in another 25 years. Those who wish to predict a nation’s future can do so correctly by taking a full account of the education and upbringing given to its young people. “Real” life is possible only through knowledge. Thus, those who neglect learning and teaching should be counted as “dead” even though they are living, for we were created to learn and communicate to others what we have learned.

Right decisions depend on having a sound mind and being capable of sound thought. Science and knowledge illuminate and develop the mind. For this reason, a mind deprived of science and knowledge cannot reach right decisions, is always exposed to deception, and is subject to being misled.
We are only truly human if we learn, teach, and inspire others. It is difficult to regard those who are ignorant and without desire to learn as truly human. It is also questionable whether learned people who do not renew and reform themselves in order to set an example for others are truly human. Status and merit acquired through knowledge and science are higher and more lasting than those obtained through other means.

Given the great importance of learning and teaching, we must determine what is to be learned and taught, and when and how to do so. Although knowledge is a value in itself, the purpose of learning is to make knowledge a guide in life and illuminate the road to human betterment. Thus, any knowledge not appropriated for the self is a burden to the learner, and a science that does not direct one toward sublime goals is a deception.
But knowledge acquired for a right purpose is an inexhaustible source of blessings for the learner. Those who possess such a source are always sought by people, like a source of fresh water, and lead people to the good. Knowledge limited to empty theories and unabsorbed pieces of learning, which arouses suspicions in minds and darkens hearts, is a “heap of garbage” around which desperate and confused souls flounder. Therefore, science and knowledge should seek to uncover humanity’s nature and creation’s mysteries. Any knowledge, even “scientific,” is true only if it sheds light on the mysteries of human nature and the dark areas of existence.

Family, School, and Environment 
People who want to guarantee their future cannot be indifferent how their children are being educated. The family, school, environment, and mass media should cooperate to ensure the desired result. Opposing tendencies among these vital institutions will subject young people to contradictory influences that will distract them and dissipate their energy. In particular, the mass media should contribute to young people’s education by following the education policy approved by the community. The school must be as perfect as possible with respect to curriculum, its teachers’ scientific and moral standards of teachers, and its physical conditions. A family must provide the necessary warmth and quality of atmosphere in which the children are raised.
In the early centuries of Islam, minds, hearts, and souls strove to understand that which the Lord of the heavens and the Earth approves. Each conversation, discussion, correspondence, and event was directed to that end. As a result, whoever could do so imbibed the right values and spirit from the surrounding environment. It was as if everything was a teacher to prepare the individual’s mind and soul and develop his or her capacity to attain a high level in Islamic sciences. The first school in which we receive the necessary education to be perfected is the home.

The home is vital to raising of a healthy generation and ensuring a healthy social system or structure. This responsibility continues throughout life. The impressions we receive from our family cannot be deleted later in life. Furthermore, the family’s control over the child at home, with respect to other siblings and toys, continues at school, with respect to the child’s friends, books, and places visited. Parents must feed their children’s minds with knowledge and science before their minds become engaged in useless things, for souls without truth and knowledge are fields in which evil thoughts are cultivated and grown.

Children can receive a good education at home only if there is a healthy family life. Thus marriage should be undertaken to form a healthy family life and so contribute to the permanence of one’s nation in particular, and of the human population in general. Peace, happiness, and security at home is the mutual accord between the spouses in thought, morals, and belief. Couples who decide to marry should know each other very well and consider purity of feelings, chastity, morality, and virtue rather than wealth and physical charm. Children’s mischief and impudence reflect the atmosphere in which they are being raised. A dysfunctional family life increasingly reflects upon the child’s spirit, and therefore upon society.
In the family, elders should treat those younger than them with compassion, and the young should show respect for their elders. Parents should love and respect each other, and treat their children with compassion and due consideration of their feelings. They must treat each child justly and not discriminate among them. If parents encourage their children to develop their abilities and be useful to themselves and the community, they have given the nation a strong new pillar. If they do not cultivate the proper feelings in their children, they release scorpions into the community.

The School and the Teacher
A school may be considered a laboratory that offers an elixir that can prevent or heal the ills of life. Those who have the knowledge and wisdom to prepare and administer it are the teachers.

A school is a place of learning about everything related to this life and the next. It can shed light on vital ideas and events, and enable its students to understand their natural and human environment. It also can quickly open the way to unveiling the meaning of things and events, thereby leading a student to wholeness of thought and contemplation. In essence, a school is a kind of place of worship whose “holy people” are teachers.
Real teachers sow the pure seed and preserve it. They occupy themselves with what is good and wholesome, and lead and guide the children in life and whatever events they encounter. For a school to be a true institution of education, students first should be equipped with an ideal, a love of their language and how to use it most effectively, good morals, and perennial human values. Their social identity must be built on these foundations.
Education is different from teaching. Most people can teach, but only a very few can educate. Communities composed of individuals devoid of a sublime ideal, good manners, and human values are like rude individuals who have no loyalty in friendship or consistency in enmity. Those who trust such people are always disappointed, and those who depend upon them are sooner or later left without support. The best way of equipping one with such values is a sound religious education.

A community’s survival depends on idealism and good morals, as well as on reaching the necessary level in scientific and technological progress. For this reason, trades and crafts should be taught beginning at least in the elementary level. A good school is not a building where only theoretical information is given, but an institution or a laboratory where students are prepared for life.

Patience is of great importance in education. Educating people is the most sacred, but also the most difficult, task in life. In addition to setting a good personal example, teachers should be patient enough to obtain the desired result. They should know their students very well, and address their intellects and their hearts, spirits, and feelings. The best way to educate people is to show a special concern for every individual, not forgetting that each individual is a different “world.”

School provides its pupils with the possibilities of continuous reading, and speaks even when it is silent. Because of this, although it seems to occupy only one phase of life, school actually dominates all times and events. For the rest of their lives, pupils re-enact what they learned at school and derive continuous influence therefrom. Teachers should know how to find a way to the student’s heart and leave indelible imprints upon his or her mind. They should test the information to be passed on to students by refining their own minds and the prisms of their hearts. A good lesson is one that does more than provide pupils with useful information or skills; it should elevate them into the presence of the unknown. This enables the students to acquire a penetrating vision into the reality of things, and to see each event as a sign of the unseen world.


Gulen, M. Fethullah.  Education from Cradle to Grave. Fountain Magazine. Issue 20 / October – December 1997

Quran Recitation

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Importance of Prayer

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Marriage and Islam

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