The Perfect Man

Man was created by Allah in the best way (ahsani taqwīm) and as such Man is the essence of all being. He is the only creation who has taken over attributes of Allah and, like Him, gathered opposites in himself. Hence he is designated as the most honorable in all creation.

Human being are equipped not only with positive inner potential to improve their moral standing, but also negative desires which may cause them to fall to the lowest depths of immorality. In this context, throughout their lives human beings witness a vehement conflict between these two poles. This micro-level conflict is actually a reflection of the micro-cosmos of the human being, and of the ongoing conflict in the universe. Real courage, which makes a person a decent human being, lies in the ability to obtain a positive result from inner conflict and preserve one’s original, inborn was created by Allah in the best way (ahsani taqwīm) and as such Man is the essence of all being. He is the only creation who has taken over attributes of Allah and, like Him, gathered opposites in himself. Hence he is designated as the most honorable in all creation.

Hence the name “perfect man” (insān kāmil) is commonly given to those who have achieved protection of the divine aspects in their nature. Such people are figures of extraordinary kindness and sincerity. They are the foreword and summary of the book of the universe, the stage upon which the essence of creation is shown.

Even the body of the perfect man reflects the purity of his heart due to his exceptional command over his organs. His heart has become the home of divine love and the magnificent palace of knowledge of Allah (ma‘rifat Allāh). Hence the heart of the perfect man, in a sense, becomes the proper home of Allah Almighty (bayt Allāh).

It is extremely difficult to fully analyse and explain the perfect man. Shaykh Sa‘dī says, “The heart is the locus of Allah’s revelation of Himself.”

The words of the perfect man hide hidden spiritual meanings and his actions reflect perfection because he has benefited from the spiritual climate of the noble Prophet (upon him blessings and peace). His heart has become a locus of beauty, because reaching the Truth (Haqq) and becoming the vicegerent of Allah Almighty (khalīfat Allāh) is possible only through possessing a spiritually sound heart.

The perfect man embraces the true essence of the formula, “Sharī‘ah (religious law) is my words, tarīqah (path) is my actions, and haqīqah (reality) is my states.” One of the Prophets related that Allah said, “Neither the heavens nor the earth can contain Me but the heart of My pious servant can contain Me.”[1]

The perfect man is the person who has lost his own will due to his love for Allah, like the moth which goes around the fire. Allah becomes his sight and hearing. Whatever was predestined for him becomes the most beautiful possibility for the perfect man. As he is looking at the divine view all the time, his love for this world is eliminated. All temporary gains have lost their significance.

The perfect man is in the state of watching and appreciating the divine beauty, the perfect order of the universe. The universe and the events that take place in it teach him countless lessons. He is in the state of the true consciousness of a humble believer who feels his insignificance and weakness in relation to the enduring divine revelation. This is why, most of the time, Allah Almighty accepts the prayers and requests of the perfect man, and does not reject them. His modesty and sincerity mean that he avoids desiring anything for his own personal benefit in his prayers; the seed of mercy molds his character and his heart cares for all creatures. He is completely aware of the fact that the universe is functioning in a perfect manner and surrounded by divine wisdom (hikmah). The divine rule in the universe is the best for us.

One day Sunbul Sinan Efendi asked his disciples, “If you were entitled to administrate the universe, what would you do?” On being asked such an unusual question his disciples were hesitant to answer. One said, “I would not leave a single unbeliever on earth!” Another said, “I would eliminate all evil from the earth.” Some suggested punishing all drunken people. One of the disciples was waiting in silence, which attracted the attention of the shaikh. “O my son, what would you do?” he asked him.

He humbly replied, “O my Shaikh! This question implies that – may Allah forgive me – there is deficiency or imperfection in the administration of creation. How dare I, with my limited intellect, suggest any option other than the one already in place?”

Having heard this wise and perceptive answer, the Shaikh said, “The issue is now settled, we found the core of the issue.”

After that event this disciple came to be known as Merkez Efendi. Eventually his real name, Musa Muslihiddin, was forgotten, and he is known today by the name Merkez (“Core”).

Since the perfect man is completely aware of Allah’s love, there is no chance for temptation to reside in his heart. Due to his being the center of spiritual attraction, people naturally find themselves in love and respect for him. This, however, does not make the perfect man arrogant or proud of himself.

He is constantly aware of Allah Almighty, even while he is among people, and obeys Allah’s commands. He places great importance upon the commandments of Allah (ta‘zīm liamr Allāh)’ and shows compassion and affection toward the creatures of Allah (shafaqah likhalq Allāh)’. He loves all creatures but does not feel any sympathy towards wrongdoers and oppressors. However, out of his sense of mercy he also feels sorry for them. The only worldly possessions he requires are those needed to serve the needy and the poor.

The perfect man devotes himself to gaining knowledge of Allah and reaching Him, in accordance with the postulate “the human being is the secret of Me and I am the secret of the human being.” The perfect man is now a servant who does not care about the grief and troubles of this world.

In a story it is said that Jesus (upon him blessings and peace) met a person whose body was covered in spots and he was perspiring constantly. Despite these troubles, the person would say:

“O my Lord! Infinite thanks and praise are due to You for Your saving me from the agonies You inflicted upon most of mankind.”

In order to test his maturity and awareness, Jesus (upon him blessings and peace) asked him: “O man! What agony did Allah take away from you?”

The man replied: “O spirit of Allah! The most agonising illness and trouble is deprivation and ignorance of the Truth. All praise is due to Allah for protecting me from this. For I am in a state of joy and happiness due to the pardon He has bestowed upon me. No other worldly benefit is comparable to this.”

The perfect man considers this world in light of the reality that everything will perish. He will be together with his Lord in the station of wonderment.

The sole aim and purpose of the perfect man is to achieve the satisfaction of Allah. On this path, sweet or bitter food are the same to him. Likewise, there is no difference in his view between much and little, warm and cold, or wealth and poverty; all are relative to him.

The perfect man appears to be a stranger to this world. In fact, the entire world means nothing to him but a game played in a sandbox. Hence, there is no demand that comes from fellow human beings or the world, to which his nafs will turn. He is modest in all of his affairs. He follows the best path in his worship.

A human being owes certain rights to his Lord, such as worship and thanksgiving. He owes his family and himself certain other rights. The perfect man maintains a balance between these obligations.

The perfect man is a gentle soul. He always keeps his promises and never breaks his word. He will not hurt another person in order to gain some personal interest. He is just in his conduct towards both his fellow human beings and Allah Almighty.

Even actions which are against his own interest will not distress him. If the offender is a person whom he used to help, the perfect man will continue acting benevolently to this person. Since a perfect man emulates the conduct of Allah and seeks only His satisfaction, his acts and behavior will naturally be compliant with the Qur’an and Sunnah. For Allah continues to sustain all creatures, even those ignorant ones who disobey Him.

The first of the Righteous Caliphs, Abū Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him), used to give charity to a certain man named Mistah bin Uthāthah, but he later found out that that man was involved in the case of slander (ifk) against his daughter ‘Ā’isha, the wife of the Prophet (upon him blessings and peace). So Abū Bakr swore not to give Mistah anything anymore. Mistah’s family became helpless and desperate. However, Allah Almighty, out of His benevolence even towards those who oppose Him, revealed the following verses:

وَلا يَأْتَلِ أُوْلُوا الْفَضْلِ مِنكُمْ وَالسَّعَةِ أَن يُؤْتُوا أُوْلِي الْقُرْبَى وَالْمَسَاكِينَ وَالْمُهَاجِرِينَ فِي
سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَلْيَعْفُوا وَلْيَصْفَحُوا أَلَا تُحِبُّونَ أَن يَغْفِرَ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ وَاللَّهُ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

Let not those among you who are endued with grace and amplitude of means resolve by oath against helping their kinsmen, those in want, and those who have left their homes in Allah’s cause. Let them forgive and forbear. Do you not love that Allah should forgive you? For Allah is oft-forgiving, most merciful. (Nûr, 24:22)

وَلاَ تَجْعَلُواْ اللّهَ عُرْضَةً لِّأَيْمَانِكُمْ أَن تَبَرُّواْ وَتَتَّقُواْ وَتُصْلِحُواْ بَيْنَ النَّاسِ وَاللّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ

And make not Allah’s (name) an excuse in your oaths against doing good, or acting rightly, or making peace between persons; for Allah is one who heareth and knoweth all things. (Baqara, 2:224)

After the revelation of this verse, Abū Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “I of course love that Allah should forgive me.” He then paid compensation for breaking oath, and resumed giving charity to the person who had falsely accused the wife of the Prophet and the mother of the believers, ‘Ā’isha (may Allah be pleased with her). This, too, is the most outstanding example, and Abū Bakr’s merit and perfection are rare indeed.

The perfect man spends so much for the sake of Allah in the right time and place that people may think him extravagant. If it is not the right time and right place, he gives so little that people may imagine that he is a stingy and mean person. However he lives solely for the sake of the truth. In the following verse of the Qur’an, Allah commands:

وَآتِ ذَا الْقُرْبَى حَقَّهُ وَالْمِسْكِينَ وَابْنَ السَّبِيلِ وَلاَ تُبَذِّرْ تَبْذِيرًا
إِنَّ الْمُبَذِّرِينَ كَانُواْ إِخْوَانَ الشَّيَاطِينِ وَكَانَ الشَّيْطَانُ لِرَبِّهِ كَفُورًا

And give his due to the near of kin, as well as to the needy and the wayfarer, but do not squander [your substance] senselessly. Behold, the squanderers are, indeed, of the ilk of the satans – inasmuch as Satan has indeed proved most ungrateful to his Lord. (Isrā’, 17:26-27).

وَلاَ تَجْعَلْ يَدَكَ مَغْلُولَةً إِلَى عُنُقِكَ وَلاَ تَبْسُطْهَا كُلَّ الْبَسْطِ فَتَقْعُدَ مَلُومًا مَّحْسُورًا

Make not your hand tied (like a niggard’s) to your neck, nor stretch it forth to its utmost reach, so that you become blameworthy and destitute. (Isrā’, 17:29)

‘Umar b. ‘Abd al-‘Azīz, who understood the verse very well, distributed to the needy and the orphans from his own possessions and the wealth of his family with their consent. He became a role model for his subjects. Since the rich people in his reign followed him by example, there remained no poor in his time that would qualify for zakâh. He also set a shining precedent against extravagance by living in a tent instead of a palace.

The perfect man always controls his nafs. He has no interest in the shortcomings and deficiencies of other people. He does not pay attention to the secrets of others and does not disclose them. The perfect man emulates Allah’s attribute sattār al-’uyūb (the One who covers mistakes).

Living a content life without any hankering after the temporary pleasures of this world, the perfect man holds a lofty status which everybody envies. Even the world was ordered to obey him. A hadīth states:

Whoever cares mostly about the hereafter, Allah will make him wealthy of heart, give his actions order and strength and the world will come to him in surrender. But whoever cares mostly about this world, Allah will put his poverty in front of his eyes and make him a vagrant. He will only receive what is preordained for him in this world. (Tirmidhi)

The perfect man has obtained such a high rank of character and nature that he does not get angry or upset by anyone except for the sake of Allah. He puts into practice the meaning of the divine expression:

الَّذِينَ يُنفِقُونَ فِي السَّرَّاء وَالضَّرَّاء وَالْكَاظِمِينَ الْغَيْظَ وَالْعَافِينَ عَنِ النَّاسِ وَاللّهُ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ

Those who spend (freely), whether in prosperity or in adversity, who restrain anger, and pardon (all) men; for Allah loves those who do good. (Âl ‘Imrān, 3:134)

Ja’far al-Sādiq, practising the essence of this verse, forgave his servant who had spilled food on his clothes, and treated him well. Al-Hasan al-Basrī used to forgive those who would backbite him, and he would educate them by sending them gifts.

The perfect man is always in the state of kindness and worship. His breaths are in glorification of Allah (tasbīh). His words spread pearls of wisdom. His eyes are a fountain of enlightenment (fayd) and love (mahabba). He makes people remember Allah through his presence. Those who attend his friendly circles live in ecstasy with the enjoyment and delight they have experienced because his conversation is full of joy. He conveys many spiritual bestowals according to the ability of his audience. He is the interpreter of the truth for those who are anxious to receive divine mysteries.

Allah Almighty loves the man who has attained this conduct and brings other people to love him too. In turn, this person will guide the seekers of the path of Allah with grace and sincerity. He will sacrifice himself in order to rescue the people around him from the horrible darkness of ego (nafs)to the light of the Heavens. The Prophet (upon him blessings and peace), who suffered the most severe hardship in this attempt, thus said: “Those who endure the severest trials are the Prophets, then those who resemble them most” (Tirmidhi).

The perfect man is a treasury of divine secrets. Only those who are familiar with the divine secrets will be able to appreciate his perfection, since a perfect man is not outwardly different from other people. However, he is a person whose soul has been perfected by Allah. He represents the secret of ahsani taqwīm (the most excellent pattern). He is a mine of light, a diamond attached to the chains of good people from the Prophet’s time to the present day. The inheritance of Khidr who had access to the divine (ladunnī) knowledge is bestowed upon him.

The soul of the perfect man will not perish when he is buried under the soil; the product of his soul will survive forever. Such nobles as Shāh-i Naqshband, al‑Ghazālī, Mawlānā Rūmī and Adabali continue to this day the services they began in this world. They still live among us and will continue to live after we die.

To attain the meeting with Allah hardly occurs with the help of power or the capital of reputation; rather, it is the result of a spiritual life. That is why Allah Almighty provided the perfect man with the happiness of two worlds by protecting him from fear and sadness here and hereafter. He says:

أَلا إِنَّ أَوْلِيَاء اللّهِ لاَ خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلاَ هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ

Behold! Verily on the friends of Allah there is no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (Yūnus, 10:62)

In the history of the dignity of mankind there always stand perfect people. It was their guidance that led those who would eventually be the world conquerors to hold the power. In this respect, the first three centuries of the Ottoman State is full of perfect men like Shaykh Adabali and others that come from this blessed chain. They filled their environment with guidance and abundant blessings. They directed their community from a spiritual world. One of the best examples of Ottoman Sultans is Sultan Yavuz Selim. Despite being a mighty ruler, he preferred to serve Islam and the friends of Allah to being a king. He mentioned this in a poem:

To be a world conqueror is a meaningless fight,
To be a servant to a walī (a friend of Allah) is above all.

We pray to Allah to give us poor and weak the same zeal of love that He bestowed on Sultan Yavuz. We remember with prayer and ask the mercy of Allah for the perfect man and great walī, Sultān al-‘Ārifīn, Mahmud Sami Ramazanoğlu (may his soul be sanctified), who gave us great benefit through his spiritual benevolence. We also ask for Allah to give healing and many years of guidance for the successor of this great walī, Musa Topbaş Efendi.[2]

[1].     Imam Ahmad narrates in Kitab al-Zuhd (Makkah al-Mukarramah ed. p. 81) from Wahb ibn Munabbih that Allah opened the hea­vens for Hizqil (Ezekiel) until he saw the Throne, whereupon Hizqil said, “How perfect You are! How Mighty You are, Lord!” Allah said, “Truly, the heavens and the earth are too weak to con­tain Me, but the soft, humble heart of my believ­ing servant can contain Me.”

[2].     Ustādh Musa Topbaş Efendi was ill when these pages were written and he passed away in 1999.