CONSCIOUSNESS OF TRUSTEESHIP

The term al-mu’min, which is the general term used to indicate anyone who believes in Allah, is also one of the beautiful divine names. When it is used for Allah, it indicates that Allah is the source of security. He provides confidence to the faithful and He makes them safe. It is also Allah who assigns to His messengers the attribute of faithfulness: He is the one who makes them trustworthy. Considered in this way, a “person of faith” is a person who keeps faith, a reliable person who inspires a sense of security in others.

A sense of respect toward that which is entrusted to them helps keep alive the bonds of faith among believers. A strong Prophetic warning states this truth:

When Allah the Mighty and Majestic wishes to ruin a servant, He removes modesty from him. Having lost modesty, that servant falls under divine wrath. Having fallen under divine wrath, he loses trustworthiness. Without trustworthiness, he can only be a betrayer. Having become a betrayer, he loses mercy. When mercy is lost, he is blameworthy and damned. When he is blameworthy and damned, his ties to Islam are cut off! (Ibn Mâja, Fitan, 27).

As the Prophetic tradition explains, trustworthiness is one of the conditions insuring soundness of faith. This is why Allah warned us on many occasions to carefully protect it. Here are some examples from the Qur’an.

And if one of you entrusts (anything) to another, let him who is trusted deliver up that which is entrusted to him (according to the pact between them) and let him observe his duty to Allah his Lord… (Baqarah, 2/283)

…Whoso embezzled will bring what he embezzled with him on the Day of Resurrection.(Âl Imrân, 3/161)

O you who believe! Betray not Allah and His messenger, nor knowingly betray your trusts. (al-Anfâl, 8/ 27)

Lo! Allah commanded you that you restore deposits to their owners, and, if you judge among people, that you judge justly…(Nisa’, 4/ 58)

Trustworthiness is one of the five distinctive properties of prophets. Even before Islam, our Prophet (pbuh) was known as an extremely trustworthy person among the Arabs, who gave him the names “the Faithful” (al-amin) and “the Reliable” (as-sadiq) Even Abu Jahl, who was the archenemy of the Messenger of Allah, said to him, “O Muhammad! I’m not saying that you’re a liar. But I don’t accept the message you brought…” By uttering such a statement, he was confessing that he accepted the truthfulness of our Prophet (pbuh), but was defeated by his selfish desires. Indeed, this situation is stated in the following verse of the holy Qur’an:

“…though in truth they deny not you (Muhammad); the evildoers flout the revelations of Allah.”(An`âm, 6/33)

For respecting trusts and keeping promises, no one came close to the Prophet (pbuh). Abdullah ibn Abil-Hamsa (r.a) related a good example.

Before he was sent as a prophet, I had a business transaction with the Messenger of Allah, and I became indebted to him. I told him that I would make payment immediately if he waited for me, and I departed from that place. But I forgot my promise. After three days, I remembered it. When I went back to the place where we had talked, I found that he was still there. Yet the Messenger of Allah did not get angry because of what I had done. He only said, “Young man, you have inconvenienced me! I have been waiting for you for three days.” (Abû Dâwûd, Adab, 82/4996).

Our Prophet (pbuh) was known among his people for integrity, justice, and dependability. Indeed our mother Khadîja, who was a noble and respected woman of Mecca, admired his great personality to such an extent that she proposed marriage to him.

Even those Jews of Medina who were opposed to the spread of Islam used to consult him when they got into disagreements among themselves, because they were sure of his justice and integrity. And the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) would resolve their disputes.

When the letter in which the Prophet (pbuh) invited the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius to Islam reached the emperor at Damascus, Abû Sufyân was also visiting that city. Heraclius asked Abû Sufyân many questions about our Prophet (pbuh). The emperor wondered whether the Prophet (pbuh) was ever accused of being a liar, whether he used to keep his promises. Even though he was at that time an enemy of Islam, Abû Sufyan felt compelled to say that the Prophet (pbuh) never lied and never broke his promises.

Thus we see that even those who did not believe in the prophethood of our Prophet (pbuh) acknowledged his integrity and truthfulness. Indeed, when he emigrated from Mecca, he was holding some items entrusted to him by local polytheists. Our Prophet (pbuh) appointed Ali to return those items to their owners.

In short, Muslims as well as non-Muslims trusted him.

His sense of truthfulness was extremely strong. Once a woman called her baby, saying. “Come! See what I’ll give you!” The Prophet (pbuh) asked her what she meant to give the baby. She told him she would give the child some dates. The Prophet (pbuh) remarked, “If you were to give him nothing, you would be committing the sin of lying.” (Abû Dâwûd, Adab 80 / 4991; Ahmad, III ,447) His sensitivity applied not only to people but also to animals. When he saw that one of his Companions called his horse by giving the false impression that he held something the horse could eat, he was so disturbed that he called the man and warned him  not to deceive it. (See Bukhârî, Imân, 24)

Since our Prophet (pbuh) looked at Creation with a mercy bestowed upon him by the Creator, he was careful toward all creatures. Once, while the Muslims were returning from a military expedition, a few Companions scooped some baby birds out of a nest and petted them. Then the mother bird returned. She could not find her nestlings and started fluttering her wings in pain. When the Messenger of Allah learned of this, he ordered the Companions to put the baby birds back immediately and not to harm the mother. (See, Abû Dâwûd, Jihâd, 112)

Ibn Abbâs  related that a man was sharpening his slaughtering-knife while the sheep he was going to butcher was lying before him. Allah’s Messenger said, “How many times do you want to kill it? You should have sharpened your knife before having it lain before you.” (Hâkim, IV, 257)

He prohibited people from breaking a green branch. He reported that a certain woman who performed religious prayers but left her cat hungry, would go to Hell for the sake of the cat, while a sinful woman who provided water for a dog about to die of thirst would receive the divine mercy. He considered all creation as entrusted to humanity by Allah, and wanted the faithful to be the representatives of security and peace on earth.

Every Muslim must be aware of the fact that he or she belongs to the community of a prophet who assumed the attributes of the Faithful (al-Amîn) and the Reliable (as-Sâdiq). Accordingly, a believer must be faithful in word and in deed. All other people, even all other creatures, must be safe from a believer’s hands and tongue. A believer is meant to demonstrate strong Islamic character, because people admire exemplary persons with strong character and dignity, and so they follow them. Our Prophet (pbuh) wanted his community to make trustworthiness part of its identity.

The Messenger of Allah urged believers, “Return the item that is entrusted to you (on time). Don’t betray (even) those who betray you!” (Abû Dâwûd, Buyû‘, 79/3534) He considered losing entrusted items to be a cause of grave corruption. One day while he was conversing with his Companions, a man asked the Prophet (pbuh), “When will the Day of Judgment come?”

He replied, “Wait for the day of judgment when people spoil things that are entrusted to them.”

The man persisted, “When will people spoil things that are entrusted to them?”

And the Prophet (pbuh) replied, “Wait for the day of judgment when people entrust affairs to unqualified persons!” (Bukhârî, Ilm, 2)

All the divine gifts bestowed upon humanity are items held in trust. In his Farewell Sermon the Prophet (pbuh) said, “…I am entrusting you with two important things. As long as you hold fast to them, you won’t go astray. They are the Book of Allah and the practice of his Prophet…” Thus the Holy Qur’an and the Noble Prophetic Tradition are the most sacred things entrusted to us by Allah and His messenger.

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) also declared that believers have important responsibilities toward each other. He told us that the faithful should be bound together like the bricks of a wall and that all of us should feel the grief experienced by any of us. He further warned us that to sleep with a full stomach while one’s neighbor is hungry is not compatible with Islamic ethics. In short, believers are entrusted to each other.

Adopting the principle that one must show mercy to all creatures for the sake of their Creator, our Ottoman ancestors established more than 26,000 charitable foundations. They tried to serve humanity, animals, and even plants. That was the result of their viewing creation as a trust. In the absence of such a vision, what would have led our noble forefathers to assist the believers living in Aceh (now Indonesia), which is located at the other end of the world, with all available means? They helped those distant Muslims materially, as well as offering them military support against the colonial powers. Their sense of responsibility extended not only to their own country but also beyond.

The precious homeland in which we are brought up is also a sacred trust. Observance of religious duties, and protection of life, honor, and property, are possible only through protection of our homeland. The emigration of our Prophet (pbuh) to Medina conveys much wisdom in this regard, for it indicates the importance of having a secure homeland in order to live according to one’s religion.

Looking at our history, we see that the land we live in became a homeland for us through the blood of martyrs, who died for the honor of bearing the trust of Islam to the rest of the world. Conscious of protecting this trust, Alparslan wrapped himself in a white garment – that is, his shroud – and told his soldiers, “Today, we are all the same!” He inspired his soldiers by intending martyrdom himself. When Suleiman the Magnificent looked out over his victorious navy, which had turned the Mediterranean Sea into an Ottoman lake, he remarked, “Now it is not a time for boasting and pride. It is a time for thanking Allah, who has granted us this victory!” When Ottoman military units on the march foraged the countryside for provisions, they used to leave payment for the produce they took hanging on the branches of trees. This is a remarkable illustration of how the trusteeship of the homeland was understood in those days. And when Osman Pasha, the veteran of Pleven, believed he could no longer protect his non-Muslim citizens, he repaid them the tax he had collected from them. This is another striking manifestation of the consciousness of trusteeship and justice.

Allah the Almighty helps believers when they defend their country and religion. The following event is remarkable: it shows the mental state and degree of faith of our recent ancestors, and took place during the Çanakkale War (the Dardanelles campaign of World War I).

It was just one day before the festival celebrating the end of Ramadan. Vehip Pasha, the commander of the front, unenthusiastically summoned the young imam of the 9th Division. “O Imam!” he said. “Tomorrow is the Ramadan Festival. Soldiers want to do festival (eid) prayer together. Despite my best efforts, I could not change their minds. However, the situation is quite dangerous. The moment may turn out to be an opportunity for the enemy to attack and destroy us altogether. I need you to explain it to the soldiers in a manner they can understand!”

Immediately after the Imam left the Pasha’s presence, a man with a shining face appeared to him.

“O my son!” the mysterious man said to the Imam. “Beware! Don’t say anything to the soldiers! Let’s wait and see. Things happen only according to the divine decree.”

The Imam decided to listen to the old man and say nothing. Next morning, when the soldiers gathered in community for the great festival prayer, their hearts filled with divine love, a miracle occurred. Clouds descended and covered the gathering. The enemy forces who were watching them through binoculars could make out nothing but the clouds. That morning the soldiers performed the festival prayer with a new spiritual joy. Their strong voices declaring the greatness of Allah rang to the heavens. While the bright-faced old man recited some verses from the Qur’anic chapter Fath (Victory), soldiers shouted the Affirmation of Unity, the profession of faith of Islam. The sound was heard even in the enemy headquarters. Great disorder broke out among the English forces. Some Muslim soldiers from the British colonies, overhearing the praise of Allah, became aware for the first time that they were fighting against Muslims like themselves. They rebelled against their commanders. The English commanders executed some of them by shooting, and were obliged to send the rest away from the front.

This is how the trusteeship of the homeland came down to us: upon the shoulders of people whose hearts were filled with faith, who provided fit occasions for examples of divine aid. Those Ottoman soldiers who were called Mehmetciks (humble imitators of Muhammad (pbuh)) were distinguished by their love of Allah and His Messenger, and dedicated themselves to be sacrificed for Truth. They did not leave aside recitation of the Qur’an, observance of formal prayer, or chanting the Beautiful Names of Allah even during the turmoil of battle. They ran from one front to another, hoping that a moment of martyrdom would be their time for meeting their Lord. They were firmly convinced that nations who hold fast to religion, who keep going in the direction indicated by the Qur’an, and who make faith in the unity of Allah their hallmark shall live perpetually, while nations who leave the Qur’an and fall into the darkness of ignorance shall reach a terrible end. For a prophetic tradition says, “Certainly, Allah the Almighty elevates some nations because of this Book (the noble Qur’an – i.e., because of their compliance with the divine commands in it), and He abases others because of (their being away from the direction indicated by) it.” (Muslim, Musâfirîn, 269)

One should look for divine self-disclosure in the fact that the Ottomans grew into a world power out of a tribe of four hundred tents through a remarkable respect for the Holy Qur’an and the institution of a military so reverent toward religion that it “erected minarets wherever it went.”

One should also remember, as an example of this remarkable respect, that sacred relics of the Prophet (pbuh) were brought to Istanbul during the reign of Sultan Selim; that they were preserved in a special place in Topkapi Palace allocated to them; that the Ottomans established a tradition of reciting the Qur’an at that spot that has continued for centuries; and that the one who recited the Qur’an there first was Sultan Selim himself.

We must not forget that the secret lying beneath the glory of nations in the external and internal realms is their observance of the wisdom of the spiritual realm. All the magnificence in the history of the Ottoman state, which lasted for more than six hundred years, was the result of the Ottoman emphasis on spirituality.

Thus, as Muslims, our duty to our history is to educate generations of youth who have faith, who are committed to their spiritual values, and who love their homeland. This is because the protection of faith, honor, family, life, and property is possible only through the protection of the homeland.

Just as our forefathers, passed it on to us at the cost of their lives and possessions, so we too must pass on to future generations our Muslim lands, where the Qur’an is openly recited and prayer is freely called, in better condition than we found it. In fact, Allah warns,

Then, on that day, you will be asked concerning the profit (you enjoyed in the world). (Takâthur 102/8).

The most enjoyable of divine gifts is to be free to carry out one’s religious duties in one’s country. One should give heed to the suffering of the Palestinians, and to the painful state of the Aqsâ Mosque, as a sad indication of what may happen when people lose their consciousness of trusteeship. The poet Mehmet Âkif told this truth to the ages:

A country without a defender is doomed to be destroyed,
If you defend it, this homeland shall not be destroyed!

Even so, nations can remain alive only through cultural values that are specific to their own characters and shaped by Islam. Our sensitivity toward religion and toward history are both important trusts.

Religion is purpose in creation. It manifests as a compilation of divine laws capable of organizing the lives of individuals from cradle to grave, and preparing them for happiness in the Hereafter. Language is the means for communicating the truths established by religion. History is the torch that illuminates the future of nations through an analysis of the causes and results of events formed through language and religion. That is why culture and faith are inseparable.

We must learn our Islamic history properly, and teach it properly. It is not possible to adequately explain a universal civilization through the writings of pseudo-nationalist historians laboring under the influence of Western scholars who are enemies of Islam. Islamic history, and particularly the Age of Felicity, offers solutions to all kinds of problems. If we are well-acquainted with the life of the Prophet (pbuh), we will be always find answers for new situations.

Here is how the Prophet (pbuh) treated his enemies when they were in need, and how he treated the captives of war.

In the eighth year of the Hijrah, the Meccans were suffering from a severe drought. The Prophet (pbuh) sent wheat, food, dates and gold to help them, despite the fact that they had been tormenting him and his community for more than twenty years. Abu Sufyan received this generous aid and distributed it to the poverty-stricken people of the Quraysh tribe. Such aid may soften the hearts of even fierce enemies. When the gift arrived, Abu Sufyan said, “May Allah reward the son of my brother with good: he has kept his duty toward his relatives!” In this way the Prophet (pbuh) softened the hearts of the Meccans toward Islam. Some of them became Muslim on that occasion, while others accepted Islam later. (Ya’qûbî, Târîkh, II, 56)

Another example from the life of the Prophet (pbuh) relates to the battle of Badr. The Prophet (pbuh) discussed with his Companions the future of the captives taken on that occasion. The decision was that wealthy captives could ransom themselves with property, while poor captives could ransom themselves by teaching reading and writing to the children of Madinah. Each poor captive was settled in a family and assigned to teach ten children; the Prophet (pbuh) instructed these families to treat their lodgers very well. The brother of Mus`ab ibn `Umayr Abû `Azîz related his experience as such a captive:

I was a captive of war at the battle of Badr and was yielded to a family of Ansar (Madinian Muslims). The Messenger of Allah had told them to treat us very well. At that time, bread was very scarce. In order to fulfill the Prophet’s instruction, this family gave their small amount of bread to me, leaving themselves with only dates to eat. I was ashamed to eat their bread while they had nothing to eat themselves. I wanted to give it back, but they insisted that I take it. (Haythamî, VI, 86; İbn Hishâm, II, 288)

If we wish to revive our glorious civilization, then we should carefully study these examples, and countless others from the history of Islam. History bears witness that nations and individuals organize their lives according to their past experience. History is the memory of nations. Nations will always need the warning and guidance of historical events. As long as a nation recognizes and pays due respect to its true history and material and spiritual leaders, it is an advanced nation and a great one. If upcoming generations come to know their own history better than foreigners do and take heed of the experience of the past, there is no ground for worry about the future! As for those who do not rely on the past, their future is never secure. Roots must go deep into yesterday if branches are to reach tomorrow.

It would be a grave mistake to take the science of history as simply an enumeration of past happenings. The true science of history is full of wisdom. It establishes the ground that separates truth from falsehood in the stories of nations, which are full of various events. In order to properly organize the future of nations, this ground must be properly known and its lessons must be carefully considered. The poet Akif said:

They define history as repeating itself.

If people took heed of it, it would repeat itself!

We need to know the history of Prophetic times. We need to know the weaknesses and strengths of other Muslim nations and states. And we need to know our own history. Our Muslim forefathers, the Ottomans, established a society based on faith. They protected their dignity at the cost of their lives, and they were never enslaved. Our past shows us that a lion cannot be kept in a cage. As long as our nation preserves its noble characteristics, it cannot be bound into slavery.

As for us today, if we are integrated into the national and spiritual values of our forefathers, we will be able carry with honor the trust that they left to us. If we watch silently while our national and spiritual values are destroyed, it means we are ignorant of the trust, and may lose it. We should make serious efforts to protect the trusts bestowed upon us at the cost of so many lives. If we do, we will not need to pay a higher price to regain those trusts tomorrow. History attests that unprotected trusts are lost, and only the deserving may get them back.

May our Lord make us and future generations successful in protecting our sacred trusts! May He protect us from falling into the swamp of ignorance through neglect of our inheritance. May He grant us the gift of reaching His presence with hearts consoled by our fulfillment of trusteeship.

Amin