INTERVIEW WITH OSMAN NURİ TOPBAS ON SUFISM – I

AltinolukIn your book, “From Faith (Iman) to Internalization of Faith (Ihsan),” you state that the Sufi path is very important in the life of a Muslim. What are the benefits of the Sufi path for the Islam, as well as in perfecting and guiding the human soul to the truth? What are the secrets of its success?

Sufism (tasawwuf) has a particular method of training people in their practice of Islam. It is the internal aspect of Islam and employs love and mercy as its primary methods, in addition to the rewards of Paradise and the punishment of Hell. Today people are suffering from their sins and straying outside the protective shield of religion. This is a result of their enslavement to their nafs (the lower or carnal self). Salvation can be offered to wrongdoers through mercy and love. Hence, the methods of tasawwuf have gained extra significance since wrongdoers need the tender hand of the Sufi way. It has been observed not only in our country but also in the Western world that the Sufi methods have turned many people to Islam. They offer Islam as a life‑giving breath to those who have been drowning at the hands of their nafs and theories based on logic alone. We should approach wrongdoers not with hatred and revenge, but with hope and through mercy and compassion. The wrongdoer is like someone who is drowning in the sea, and it is our duty to extend our hands to that person. Cursing and scolding them is an inadequate method of saving them from their terrible predicament.

Human beings, even if they wander far from their real purpose in life, possess great value and honour due to their innate value as human beings. The similitude of a wrongdoer is like the sacred Black Stone if it fell to the ground. No believer can remain indifferent to the sad situation of this precious stone. They would rush to clean it and place it in its proper place, as it has come from Paradise and has great value in their eyes. Similarly, we cannot remain indifferent to any other human being. We should rush to their aid, whether in material or spiritual terms.

Allah Almighty informs us that He instilled a spirit from His own presence into human beings when He created them. Therefore, each human being possesses Divine secrets. No matter how many sins they commit, they have an innate value that cannot be destroyed by anything.

As Rumi states, the human being is similar to pure, clean water through which one can see clearly. However, if this clean water is muddied and mixed with dirt, it does not allow us to see through it. Similarly, in order to see the Divine light one needs to purify this water of dirt and impurity. Tasawwuf is a way of purifying a person’s soul from the desires of the flesh. Sufis do not exclude anyone from this process of purification, even if that person is immersed in sin. Sufis always offer a chance to anyone who is ready to accept it. There are many examples in the life of the Prophet, upon him be blessings and peace, with regard to his mercy for all sorts of wrongdoers.

As an example, the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, did not exclude Wahshi from his mercy even though he had killed his most beloved uncle, Hamza, may Allah be well pleased with him. The Prophet was aggrieved and distressed when his uncle was killed by Wahshi at the battle of Uhud. When the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, sent him a message to accept Islam and to gain eternal salvation, Wahshi in return sent the following message: “O Muhammad, how can you offer me salvation when Allah states in the Qur’an: ‘Those who invoke not, with Allah, any other god, nor slay such life as Allah has made sacred, except for just cause, nor commit fornication; and any that does this (not only) meets punishment (but) the penalty on the Day of Judgement will be doubled to him, and he will dwell therein in ignominy.’ (Furqan, 25:68-69.) I have committed all the sins mentioned in this verse, is there any possibility for my salvation?”

To address the misgivings of the repentant, Allah Almighty revealed the verse: “Say: ‘O My servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the mercy of Allah: for Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Zumar, 39:53.) When Wahshi heard this verse he was elated and said, “O my Lord! How great is Your mercy!” He repented for all his sins with the purpose of never repeating them again, and he accepted Islam along with his friends.

Tasawwuf received its light from such examples from the life of the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, the recipient of the perfect manifestation of the Divine attributes and the one who was favoured as the receiver of the Divine revelation. According to the Sufis, humankind possesses a high position on the scale of creation, since they have been created with the potential of becoming the vicegerent of Allah on earth. They are like the pupil of the eye in contrast with the rest of the creation. No sin can eradicate this innate value. Tasawwuf  views this in a very balanced way. The wrongdoer is tolerated, but this tolerance never extends to the sin itself. We should hate the sin but show mercy to the sinner in order to save them from the pit into which they have fallen. In so doing, tasawwuf  provides humanity with the most fruitful method of inviting humankind to Islam. It is in the nature of the human being to always yearn for those who extend their arms to them with love and mercy, such as ‘Abd al-Qadir Jilani, Yunus Emre, Jalal al-Din al-Rumi and such other friends of Allah.