Take to forgiveness and enjoin good and turn aside from the ignorant. (al-Araf, 199)
1. THE MANNER OF GUIDANCE AND MERCY
Murshids, well aware that the style of guiding is just as important as its content, have followed a prophetic path in this respect, too, mediating the guidance of many. By approaching, as a code, disciples with compassion and mercy to help them in their spiritual progress, they have acquired beneficial results. The lives of the righteous abound in many such examples. The below experience of the Sufi great Ibrahim Hakkı Erzurumi is noteworthy:
Ibrahim Hakkı had been invited to a nearby village in Erzurum to give sermons during the month of Ramadan. The villagers sent a young man, a non-Muslim, with a horse, to pick Ibrahim Hakkı up from his hometown and bring him to their village. As there was only one mount, Ibrahim Hakkı -may Allah sanctify his secret- took turns with the young man to ride the horse, as Omar -Allah be well-pleased with him- had once done with his slave on the way to Jerusalem, despite the continuous protests of the young man.
“If the villagers hear about this”, he kept on saying, “not only will they scold me, they will also withhold my pay!”
“None of us know, son, the condition we are to be in during our last breath. You are afraid of the villagers’ reaction; yet I am afraid of the account I am to give in the presence of Allah!” replied Ibrahim Hakkı. So they continued taking turns nonetheless.
As wisdom would have it and as had been the case in the journey of Omar -Allah be well-pleased with him- and his slave, it was the young man’s turn to ride the mount, just as they were entering the village. Afraid of the villagers, the young man began pleading Ibrahim Hakkı, telling him that he had forfeited his turn.
“It’s your turn”, replied Ibrahim Hakkı, as they entered the village, with the young man on horseback and Ibrahim Hakkı walking in front of him.
Upon seeing the situation, the villagers abruptly encircled the young servant and scolded him.
“You rude, inconsiderate wretch!” they shouted. “You are just too comfortable riding the horse to give your spot up to this great man of respect, aren’t you? Is this how you do your job? Was this what we paid you to do?”
But Ibrahim Hakkı -may Allah sanctify his secret- calmed them down by explaining the situation. Thereupon, a villager called out to the young man, saying:
“Seeing this sort of virtue, the least you could do is become Muslim!”
After brief silence, the young man said:
“If you are calling me to your religion, never…But if you are calling me to the religion of this great man, I have already embraced that religion on the way here!”
The above approach of Ibrahim Hakkı -may Allah sanctify his secret- sets a standard for the desired style of guidance through compassion. It is to treat another for the sake of his essence, in a sense, to look upon creation with the gaze of the Creator. Pious hearts are therefore conscious of being entrusted on Earth as the caliphs of Allah, glory unto Him, and having been, in the words of the ayah, “breathed with the Spirit of Allah”. So no matter how polluted by sin a person may be, seeing the inner perfection of his essence, they are never ones to turn a cold shoulder on him. Rarely do they lose hope in a person; they moreover help him hold onto hope until the very end. Hope, for them, is an indisputable incentive, both intellectual and emotional. We find, even in the Quran, the Almighty teaches us ar-Rahman and ar-Rahim more emphatically than all His other Names, to the point of even revealing a surah by the name of ar-Rahman that begins with the very same name, meaning ‘He whose mercy encompasses entire creation.’
Being over and above a style most harmonious with Divine Pleasure, looking upon human beings from the window of the heart and offering guidance through compassion also helps revive beauties concealed within the heart of the other, providing the most blissful results. This style imparts onto both the applier and the recipient that is to both sides of the scale, an exceptional elegance, maturity, love and hunger for the Real. It is the very elixir that has transformed many a Yunus and Rumi, a potion of life for many a heart in the throes of death.
Both the content of tasawwuf and the use of the Sufi style in calling to Islam have thus always proved to be of great significance. It is a historical fact that emerging at a time when the social order of Anatolia came under the disrupting grip of Mongolian hordes, great Sufis like Mawlana Rumi and Yunus Emre provided virtual springs of peace and tranquility for the disturbed masses, handing out comfort and cure bleeding wounds and weary hearts. Treating many an ignorant as a patient waiting for a cure, they lead lives utterly remote from malice and hatred. Yunus says it beautifully:
I did come to lay claim,
Love is all that I aim,
Hearts are where the Friend dwells,
To mend hearts is why I came
Because they strived to mend hearts, these great figures have always gazed at others from the window of the heart and emitting love and compassion all around, they were able to lead to the guidance of many. Were they to act in opposition to this wonderful and prudent conduct, they would have completely severed what was left of the already thinned ties with the public, throwing out all their chances of guidance in the process. And this would have been in defiance of Divine Will, which desires for people to be saved from the swamps they have tripped into. The Almighty has sent tens of thousands of prophets throughout history, commanding them to purify hearts in the best possible style. The righteous (ahlullah), entrusted with maintaining the same duty, have continued to uphold this prophetic style in spiritual training.
Allah, glory unto Him, the sole source of mercy and compassion, reveals the most affective style for his servants to adopt in calling to the truth:
“Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and have disputations with them in the best manner…” (an-Nahl, 125)
“And who speaks better than he who calls to Allah while he himself does good, and says: I am surely of those who submit? And not alike are the good and the evil. Repel (evil) with what is best, when lo! he between whom and you was enmity would be as if he were a warm friend.” (Fussilat, 33-34)
The application of this style has turned many a thorny soul into a rose, many a pitch dark dungeon like heart into a sunlit garden.
Embarking from this principle, Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- underlines the importance of setting sinful human beings right on the path of truth and no less the style of conduct in doing so:
“Even if he be like iron, black and rusted, his rust will be cleansed once rubbed and polished. Polish a mirror and it will begin to shine beautifully, even if it be of iron; reflecting wonderful shapes and patterns.
Do not muddy the waters of the lake of the heart, if you wish to see the moon and the stars float above it! Humans are like a river; once the water is muddied, you will not be able to see any reflection!”
As Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- says, human spirit is like clear water; if muddied by sin, it becomes murky, reflecting nothing of goodness. It then becomes necessary to refine the water to expose the spiritual gems and the light of truth in its waterbed. The aim of tasawwuf is therefore to rein in egotistic and selfish feelings and deliver the individual and in due course entire society to peace and harmony. The Lord has indeed adorned man with elegance and a sublime depth. Man’s true worth is to the degree he flourishes these traits implanted in his heart-world. Hearts pervaded by spirituality are gifted with good morals, righteous deeds and spiritual manifestations. Only in this way can man meet the terms of having been created in ahsan-i taqwim, in the best fashion thinkable.
Hence, no matter how far a person may have gone in disbelief and sin, he may not be deprived of his right of invitation to the truth. One of many such examples in the life of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- is recounted in the following:
The Noble Messenger -upon him blessings and peace- had sent a Companion to call Wahshi to Islam; the same man who had sent the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- into enormous grief by martyring his beloved uncle Hamza -Allah be well-pleased with him-. Somewhat astounded, Wahshi responded:
“How can you call someone like me to Islam when Allah says, ‘And they who do not call upon another god with Allah and do not slay the soul, which Allah has forbidden except in the requirements of justice, and (who) do not commit fornication and he who does this shall find a requital of sin. The punishment shall be doubled to him on the day of resurrection, and he shall abide therein in abasement’ (al-Furqan, 68-69). I am a man who has committed all these ugly deeds. How can there be a way out for me?’
Revealed thereupon was the following ayah:
اِنَّ اللّٰهَ يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا اِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ
“Say: O my servants who have acted extravagantly against their own souls…! Do not despair of the mercy of Allah; surely Allah forgives the faults altogether; surely He is the Forgiving the Merciful.” (az-Zumar, 53)
Relieved by the message of the ayah, Wahshi emotionally exclaimed:
“How great is your mercy, o Lord!” After a sincere repentance, he then embraced Islam with his friends.
Wahshi, who had martyred Hamza -Allah be well-pleased with him- at Uhud, had now become a Companion. Engrossed in the spiritual pleasure of receiving guidance and with the hope of making amends for his martyring of Hamza -Allah be well-pleased with him-, Wahshi -Allah be well-pleased with him- risked all dangers and killed Musaylamatu’l-Kadhdhab, the false prophet, and ended a tumultuous unrest.
“Is this compassionate pardon valid only for Wahshi, Messenger of Allah?” inquired the Companions.
“It is for all Muslims”, he answered.
As seen in the above narration, hearts that turned to a sincere repentance at the time heard the most affective testimonies of true compassion and love from the lips of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- himself. From those lips have entire humankind likewise heard refreshing words of cure and consolation. It is again from the grace of the Light of Being -upon him blessings and peace- that mankind is able to see the infinite ocean of mercy and generosity and the shore of hope. That they are addressed in the most compassionate manner by the Almighty –‘O My servants!’- is again only for the sake of that Noble Being -upon him blessings and peace-.
So in this day and age, giving priority to the mercy and compassion of the Lord and spreading hope is of crucial importance in dispersing the widespread spiritual crisis brought about by the materialistic influences of the West. It is much more realistic to win people over emotionally than to steer them into rational debates. Today, many are rationally conditioned for the worse, which makes it almost impossible to persuade them through argumentation. When a person is rationally conditioned to respond to something in a pre-established way, it prevents him from accepting rational proofs. In warming hearts to the truth, it would therefore be more affective to first approach people leniently and then help them flourish their inner spiritual tendencies.
One must give priority to winning the heart of a person swamped in error, rebellion and sin before criticizing, censuring or even asking him to fulfill religious commands. For this, one must try to establish a bond of love with the person, the ground of personal closeness. Once the person’s heart begins to acquire a certain blend, one may then begin to gradually correct his mistakes. One must not underestimate the spiritual blessings compliments and treats, both spiritual and physical, bring. In this regard, one must grasp the subtlety of the following words of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, a virtual window of hope opened to hearts stifled under the smoke of sin, offering them a fresh breath of life:
“My intercession is especially for those among my ummah who have committed great sins.” (Abu Dawud, Sunnah, 20)
Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- wonderfully elaborates the Prophet’s -upon him blessings and peace- merciful attitude towards sinners: “Medicine looks for the ill and wounded, to heal them. To sickness is where the cure goes. To a ditch is where the water flows. If it is the water of mercy and compassion you need, then be like that, too!”
But for the medicine to be effective, the wound must first be cleaned from all bacteria. Cleaning ill hearts from the bacteria of sin is for them to be washed with the water of repentance. The medicine, that is the Prophet’s -upon him blessings and peace- intercession, takes place only afterwards.
In another hadith, it is said: “A repenter from sin is like he never sinned.” (Ibn Majah, Zuhd, 30) This is an expression that brings glad tidings on the one hand, while indicating the depth of Divine compassion on the other.
The delicate measure of guiding through compassion implemented by all prophets has also been diligently followed by the righteous. Accordingly, the first fruit of faith has come to be considered as compassion and servanthood has concisely been defined within the two standards below:
Ta’zim li-amrillah; or to observe the commands of Allah, glory unto Him, delicately and full of respect.
Shafqat li-khalqillah; or to show mercy and compassion to the created for the sake of the Creator.
Fudayl ibn Iyad -may Allah sanctify his secret- offers a splendid example of a Muslim who leads a life within this measure:
Seeing him crying one day, they asked him the reason.
“I am crying because I am upset on behalf of another Muslim who has done me wrong”, he replied. “I fear he will suffer in the Hereafter.”
Shedding light onto what it exactly is that sends mature Muslims of such ilk to feel such mercy and compassion, Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- says: “Once the seas of mercy surge, even stones drink the water of life. Corpses dead for a hundred years rise from their graves and faces, dark and devilish, assume an angelic beauty envied by even the houris of Paradise.”
It is reported that Ibrahim Adham -may Allah sanctify his secret- once washed the grimy mouth of a drunken man, responding to those who could not understand why he did so, by saying:
“It would be disrespectful for me to leave a mouth and tongue, created to mention the name of Allah, grimy!”
When the man regained consciousness, they told him that “Ibrahim Adham of Khorasan just washed your mouth!”
Feeling embarrassed, the man was suddenly awoken spiritually, as he murmured, “In that case, I hereby repent for good!”
Ibrahim Adham -may Allah sanctify his secret-, who mediated the guidance of the man, that night heard a voice in his dream:
“You washed his mouth for us; so We washed his heart for you!”
In the Quran, Allah, glory unto Him, advises the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- and in his person the entire Muslims with the following: “Take to forgiveness and enjoin good and turn aside from the ignorant.” (al-Araf, 199)
In putting this command to practice, the most perfect example is without a doubt provided by the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-. The morals, compassion and forgiveness he displayed were of a kind that would make even angels envious, so to speak. Here is just one among many:
On the day of the liberation of Mecca, the Noble Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- had declared a general amnesty. Mecca, having witnessed nothing but oppression, mockery and enmity for years on end, was now making the most of the sweet breeze of compassion and mercy, ensured by the great forgiveness gusting throughout. But a Meccan by the name of Fadala, with the intention of casting a grim shadow over this pleasant day, approached the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- with the intention of killing him. Yet, possessing insight to his malicious intention all along, without showing any sign of panic or anger, the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- spread his wings of mercy for Fadala and, placing his graceful hands on Fadala’s chest, said:
“Repent, Fadala, from the plot you have contrived in your mind!” The malicious intention disappeared from Fadala’s mind there and then. His heart melted and was thereby filled with the light of iman. In his sight, the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- suddenly became the most beloved of all beings.
This is, without a doubt, exceptional maturity of conduct that puts into action the principle ‘Let he who has come to kill you, be revived through you’; and the history of Islam abounds in such examples. Many, including Omar -Allah be well-pleased with him-, are fruitful results of this wonderful style of approach. Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- says:
“From the perfection of the mercy of Allah and the billowing waves of the ocean of benevolence, each arid land receives rain and each arid soil is united with water.”
“You who calls to guidance…! Know that the medicine for an evil eye is a good eye! A good eye and a beautiful gaze stomp on the evil eye and destroy it. A good eye and a clean gaze owe their being to the fact that the mercy of Allah is superior to His wrath. It is from mercy. An evil eye is from wrath, curse. As a beautiful gaze is from Divine mercy, it reigns supreme over the evil eye. This is but a manifestation of what is expressed in the hadith al-qudsi as ‘My mercy has overtaken My wrath’ (Bukhari, Tawhid, 55). Know that under all circumstances, the mercy of Allah is superior to His wrath. It is because of this that every prophet has reigned supreme over his enemies.
So ridding troubles is not through complaining or oppressing. Its cure is to show benevolence and forgive. Let the warning of the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- ‘Charities rid one of troubles’ wake you up. Realize the way to treat illnesses and troubles!
But do not forget that forgiving the oppressor is to oppress the exploited! To feel sorry for the thief and the wretch is to beat the weak and deprive them of mercy!”
One must therefore establish a delicate balance. True, the Almighty is Ghafuru’r-Rahim, the Forgiver and the Merciful; yet He is also Azizun Dhu’ntiqam, The Dignified Avenger of the rights of the exploited from the oppressors.
The Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- has hence said:
“On seeing two of your brothers fighting, run to the aid of both the oppressor and the oppressed.”
“We see how we are meant to aid the oppressed, Messenger of Allah; yet how can we help the oppressor?” asked the Companions, on which the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- said:
“By preventing him from oppressing…” (Bukhari, Ikrah, 7; Muslim, Birr, 62)
What we wish to say, in short, is that both faith wise and islamically, humanity today, including Muslims, is like a wounded bird. It is therefore necessary to approach them with care and sensitivity and dress their wounds. And this can only be done observing the content and style we have tried to convey above.
Tolerance for the sinner should not be carried over to the sin; and hostility to the sin should not be reflected onto the sinner. A Muslim of this mind should direct criticism to himself and tolerance to another, as an adopted manner of calling to the truth.
2. THE MANNER OF GENTLENESS AND AFFECTION
Looking at human beings with the Sufi eye, calls for showing attention to their essence, not their sinful existence. This is one of the deep underlying wisdoms as to how the style of tasawwuf compassionately embraces the sinner, though not the sin. A true Sufi perceives a sinner like a bird with a broken wing, in desperate need of compassionate care. He feels deep inside the concern to give the sinner back his health, attend to his troublesome spirit and let him fly once again. Leniency and compassion for the created for the sake of the Creator is, after all, the most influential means for a Muslim to attain to virtue and maturity.
It is reported that during his time as judge in Damascus, Abu’d-Darda -Allah be well-pleased with him- heard a group publically condemning another man, supposedly a sinner.
“If you were to see a man fallen in a pit”, he asked them, “what would you do?”
“We would hang down a rope and try to drag him out”, they replied.
“In that case, do not speak ill of him. Instead, thank Allah for your wellbeing and try to save your brother who has fallen into the pit of sin.”
“Wouldn’t you be hostile towards this sinner?” they asked, astounded.
A Companion reared by the unique training of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, Abu’d-Darda -Allah be well-pleased with him- gave them the magnificent response below:
“I am an enemy of his sin, not his person. He is again my brother of religion, the moment he abandons his sin.”
These are profound qualities Abu’d-Darda -Allah be well-pleased with him- wishes to convey. Such qualities are glimmers from the Prophet’s -upon him blessings and peace- exceptional moral conduct, in harmony with the command and pleasure of the Lord. Falling on the fertile soil of righteousness, these qualities have been perceived throughout the history of Islam as measures of spiritual maturity and means for providing the light and joy of guidance.
This style is an attempt to purify the sinner in the waters of tolerance, forgiveness, compassion and love, without drowning him in his sin. The Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- approached even the most ingrained idolaters like Abu Jahl with this sensitivity, never meddling with their debauchery or dragging their sins into light, only inviting them to swim to utter purification in the cleansing waters of iman, the sea of salvation and happiness. Awaiting us is indeed great lesson in the fact that Allah, glory unto Him, completely erases the past sins of those who sincerely repent, as if they were never committed in the first place, even turning past misdeeds into rewards, depending on the level of sincerity shown by the repenter. The ayah states:
“Except him who repents and believes and does a good deed; so these are they of whom Allah changes the evil deeds to good ones; and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful” (al-Furqan, 70)
Those who do not have an inkling of this grand compassion are enemies to both themselves and humankind. Ruthless persons of the kind, without the least mercy and compassion, are to be pitied for blocking the avenue for their eternal happiness with their very own hands. In contrast, people like Yunus and Mawlana, triumphant in tapping to the source of mercy, are like the sweet roses of Paradise, adored not only by human beings, but also by animals, from the savage wolf to the gentle wren. Even with their thorns, they emit beauty to their surroundings, treating wounded souls. Embodying the nature of a rose, that is the key. Not to be a thorn from top to bottom due a feeling of dejection from seeing to many thorns in the garden that is the world, but to embrace them all and bud as a rose, even in spite of the freezing winter that disrupts the coming of spring. Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- says it wonderfully:
“It was because it did not fear the night and flee the dark that moon became lit and began to spread light. And the rose acquired that wonderful scent for getting on well with the thorns.
Listen to this truth from the rose; look, it says, ‘Why should I feel down and lose myself in grief for being with the thorn? I acquired this smile for nothing other than putting with the thorn’s company. It is through him that I am able to give out beautiful scents to the world…”
Eşrefoğlu Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- gives poetic voice to the approach needed to acquire this mindset:
For that Friend, one ought
To swallow poison like sweet
Fed up from punishing a man, time and again, for drinking, a Companion had cursed him. On hearing this, the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- said: “Do not curse him. I promise in the name of Allah that if there is one thing I know about him, it is that he loves Allah and His Messenger.” (Bukhari, Hudud, 5)
A student of the late Mahmud Sami Ramazanoğlu -may Allah sanctify his secret-, suffering from depression, had a lapse in judgment and arrived at the door of his master, drunk. The person who happened to open the door reproached him.
“Look at you!” he said. “Do you know to whose door you have just come?”
“Yes, I do” the helpless and forlorn student then replied. “But is there any other door that can give a warm hug?”
Sami Effendi -may Allah sanctify his secret-, hearing the entire conversation, quickly came to the door and took his emotionally hurt student inside, ushering him to the palace of his heart. He revived his desolate heart with love, mercy and compassion. Privileged to receive such sensitive treatment, the student, in no time, abandoned his bad ways and joined the ranks of the righteous.
The gist of ‘looking at the created through the sight of the Creator’, an exceptional approach exemplified in the lives of the righteous, is beautifully expressed in the following hadith:
“By Allah in whose Hand of Might my life resides, you cannot enter Paradise unless you are compassionate towards one another.”
“We are all compassionate, Messenger of Allah” said the Companions.
“What I mean by compassion”, explained the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- “is not just compassion towards one another in the sense you understand. Much rather, it is a compassion that encompasses entire creation…a compassion that encompasses entire creation.” (Hakim, Mustadrak, IV, 185)
No matter how remote a human being may be from his essential purpose, he is still honorable, since he is a ‘human being’. That he is bogged down in the swamp of sin, unaware of the highness embedded in his essence, is perhaps comparable to the Black Stone, hanging on the wall of Kaaba, falling down and becoming dirty. Should such a thing occur, it would be inconceivable for any Muslim conscience to remain indifferent and carry on as if nothing has happened. Even when in dirt, Muslims still would not remain back from treating the Stone with respect. They would pick it up from the ground along with its dirt, clean it up with tears in their eyes and vie with each other to replace it to the high spot where it belongs. Remembering that it originated from Paradise, they would overlook its outward dirt and regard its essential worth. Yet, just like the Black Stone, a human being, too, is from Paradise. Regardless of how fallen he becomes through sin, his essential worth remains intact.
No competent doctor would become angry with a patient for having caught an illness. Even if the illness may have been caused by the patient’s recklessness, he would ascribe the cause to the patient’s vulnerability, be it physical or mental. So instead of becoming angry with a patient for any role he may have played in becoming infected, the doctor sympathizes with his pain and gets his treatment under way, kindly and compassionately, without wasting any time. He feels responsible for the patient’s recovery. A Sufi, too, lives in society in the mindset of a doctor walking inside a hospital ward, a mindset that acts like a lifejacket for those strayed offshore.
Extending a lifejacket of the kind and pulling one out of the billowing waves of sin, provides an enormous means of eternal happiness. The advice the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- gave Ali -Allah be well-pleased with him- on the battlefield of Khaybar is of immense importance: “Ali…For a person to be guided through you is better than you owning a valley of red camels.” (Bukhari, Jihad, 143)
This truth is further reverberated in an ayah:
وَ مَنْ اَحْيَاهَا فَكَاَنَّمَا اَحْيَا النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا
“…and whoso saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind.” (al-Maidah, 32)
This is an issue of faith. Disbelief is doubtless the heaviest crime thought and emotions can commit. Since a kinder, more lenient approach offers a greater chance of rescue from disbelief, when the Almighty sent Musa (a.s) to the Pharaoh to advise him with belief, He commanded the Prophet speak with a lenient tone (qawl-i layyin). The Almighty was certainly not unaware of the intensity of the Pharaoh’s unbelief. So even if the person be as stubborn and ingrained as the Pharaoh, we must not let our emotions get the better of us and use a threatening, intimidating tone. Instead, we must let ourselves be guided by the Divine teaching that strongly encourages us to adopt a soft tone of speech. Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- underlines this beautifully:
“Fully comprehend the Lord’s words to Musa, ‘speak softly with the Pharaoh, show him leniency’.
By pouring water onto boiling oil, you will wreck both the stove and the pot.”
The following ayah where the Almighty addresses His Messenger -upon him blessings and peace- and the entire ummah in his person, gives voice to this very fact:
فَبِمَا رَحْمَةٍ مِنَ اللّٰهِ لِنْتَ لَهُمْ وَلَوْ كُنْتَ فَظًّا غَل۪يظَ الْقَلْبِ لَانْفَضُّوا مِنْ حَوْلِكَ فَاعْفُ عَنْهُمْ وَاسْتَغْفِرْ لَهُمْ
“It was by the mercy of Allah that you were lenient with them (O Muhammad), for if you had been stern and fierce of heart, they would have dispersed from round about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them…” (Al- Imran, 159)
Adopting this approach is necessary not only towards nonbelievers and sinners, but also towards Muslims carrying certain weaknesses and faults of human nature, who otherwise lead exemplary Islamic lives. An approach that puts down a person and hurts him emotionally, when it was supposed to simply correct him in the first place, may even have the opposite effect and contrary to the original intention, push the person further down the path of sin. Persons, who are told off in this manner, can become restless even towards their own parents; and it is indeed more difficult from them to put up with this approach when it comes from the way of another. Even truths said in a stern manner act like knives shredding through the skin, losing all their benefit and appeal. Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- says:
“Even your father appears like a monster, savage and ruthless, when he cautions you over a fault. This is the effect of the grief emitted by his harsh reprimand. Even though a father’s reprimand is for your benefit, the harshness of his reprimand makes the compassion and pity in his heart, appear to you like a monster.”
This psychological nature of man must always be borne in mind and no matter how deeply bogged in sin a person may be, his essential worth must never be forgotten. It is for this reason that the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- says:
“Belittling a Muslim brother suffices for one as sin.” (Muslim, Birr, 32)
Inspired by the above hadith, Bezmialem Valide Sultan founded a trust in Damascus, to compensate for the things her servants may break, lest they felt humiliated over they accidentally caused. And this is an exemplary mindset that speaks for itself.
A Muslim of such consciousness ought to direct criticism to himself and tolerance to another; for the Almighty declares: “And spy not, neither backbite one another. Would one of you love to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You abhor that (so abhor the other)!” (al-Hujurat, 12)
Ideal human beings, who have been able to conduct themselves within these Divine guidelines, have been able to become heroes of virtue and morality, never detaching a consideration of the world from the Hereafter. One such example is Sheikh Edebali, a sultan of spirituality and the spiritual guide of Osman Gazi, one of the most prominent commanders to have given shape to history. The Sheikh’s profoundly meaningful advices to Osman Gazi are of immense value to all administrators, from the highest to the lowest rank, and above all, to family members in their conduct towards one another:
“Son…You are a chieftain! From now on, anger is onto us, meekness onto you. Resentment is onto us, restoring relations onto you. Accusing is onto us, forbearance onto you. Helplessness and error are onto us, tolerance onto you. Discord, clashing and disagreement are onto us, justice onto you. Malicious looks and words and unjust remarks are onto us, forgiveness onto you.
From here on, son, dividing is onto us, uniting onto you. Laziness is onto us, cautioning, encouraging and shaping onto you…”
These unique advices are nothing but an exceptional manifestation of a richness of heart and the highness of virtue that can easily forgive personal mistreatment for the sake of Allah, glory unto Him, and regardless of the given circumstances, perceive the servants of the Lord compassionately, with love and affection.
Even when there was a case where it was obvious a certain person was guilty of a misdeed, in order not to humiliate him, the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- never used to point the finger at him publicly, instead making him virtually anonymous by cautioning the entire group over the fault. At times, to suggest he was far from impressed over a given misdeed, he would even go as far as ascribing to himself an error vision, and say:
“What is it with me that I see you like this?” (Bukhari, Manaqib, 25; Muslim, Salat, 119)
This is the delicate manner of protecting the guilty person from embarrassment and humiliation, a common quality of all who understand and live a Sufi life in the truest sense. The road to the Lord runs not through wrecking hearts but mending them, as elaborately said by Yunus Emre:
The heart is God’s throne,
On the heart God shone,
In both words will bemoan,
He who wrecks a heart…
To be sure, many an outcast, condemned and alienated over his faults, has been won back over to the land of mercy, solely through the blessings of this delicate method.
It is reported that once a student of Junayd Baghdadi -may Allah sanctify his secret- had been caught red handed in a compromising situation. Embarrassed, the student then left the lodge, never to return. Some time later, while passing through the local bazaar with his other disciples Junayd Baghdadi -may Allah sanctify his secret- caught sight of the dejected student. On becoming aware of his master’s presence in the bazaar, the student quickly walked away, too embarrassed to face up to him. This did not escape Junayd’s -may Allah sanctify his secret- notice, as he turned to his disciples and said:
‘You go; a bird has fled from the cage of my heart!’ He then began pursuing the student. Looking behind his back after a while, the student realized he was being pursued by his master. He got all the more anxious and picked up his pace. Too anxious to take notice of where he was headed, he ended up in a deadened road and bumped his head on the wall, at the end of the road, falling to the ground. When he looked up, he saw his master standing. Feeling humiliated, he lowered his gaze.
“Where are you headed, my dear…who are you running from?” asked Junayd -may Allah sanctify his secret- with the softest of tones. “It is times of trouble this that a teacher proves his worth in lending a helping hand to his student.” Compassionately, Junayd -may Allah sanctify his secret- then helped his student get back up on his feet and took him back to the lodge. The remorseful student then repented and assumed his righteous ways of old.
This is an indication of the fruitful results that come with the maturity of approaching another, regardless of the gravity of his sins, as a father would approach his son.
A step even beyond forgiving others’ faults is to respond to evil with good, even praying for the spiritual rehabilitation of whom he has been afflicted with harm; and this should be a defining characteristic of a mature Muslim. Sufficient as example for this is the manner in which the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- prayed for the guidance of the very people he was stoned by at Taif. Again, his request for the people of Mecca to be spared from perishing by Divine wrath and be given, instead, guidance through Islam, was the sole cause behind the salvation of many a transgressor.
A hadith states: “It is no virtue for you to respond to good with good, to evil with evil. Virtue is to respond to evil, not with evil, but with good.” (Tirmidhi, Birr, 63)
Should the person responded to with goodness be a foe, he will become a friend. Be he in the middle, he will draw ever closer; and be he already close, he will grow deeper in love. This is the main reason as to why people today, who are caught in the uncompromising grip of materialism, seek to calm their spirits by appealing to the mystical way of viewing the world. There thus beckons great benefit in using the style of tasawwuf in introducing and conveying Islam. The majority of people in the West who have entered the fold of Islam resort to the works of great Sufis like Ibn Arabi and Mawlana Rumi to fill the emptiness in their spirits. Heading the list of books on Islam that are currently in demand in the Western hemisphere are books on tasawwuf. Our times therefore stand in desperate need to a depth of heart that, in the words of Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- below, can embrace humankind entire:
Come! Come! And still come, whatever you may be…
A fire worshipper, an idolater or if it is nothing you believe,
Our lodge is not that of despair, so come, even if
You repented a hundred times only to renege…
Rumi’s -may Allah sanctify his secret- kind invitation above is inspired with the aim of introducing man to his essential substance and, on the inspirational ground of affection and tolerance, saving him from his errors and ushering him through to embracing the honor that is Islam. Otherwise, it is not a purposeless declaration of accepting anyone on the condition they remain in their flawed ways of old. The purpose is to rehabilitate their inner worlds. After all, only if a device has broken down does one take it to a repairer. The heart-worlds of figures like Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- are like repair shops. Since, the work there is aimed at repairing what has broken down; it is only natural that the invitation above be extended to people spiritually flawed.
At a time when religious life has become skin and bones and when people carry numerous flaws when judged at the backdrop of religious criteria, it becomes essential to approach another with a Sufi-styled selflessness, compassion and leniency. Such an approach is the most fruitful means in increasing the potential of rehabilitation of those engulfed in sin and rebellion.
But it must be expressed that tolerating the sinner should strictly be on personal terms. Otherwise, condoning sinners and sins that involve violating the rights of others and wreak havoc on society and social harmony is unthinkable. Moreover, it is undoubtedly not wrong for a person who leads a life within the apparent bounds of Islam, to look upon the sinner with feelings of ‘anger’. This is in fact necessary for him to stay away from the sinner lest his heart be exposed to the dangers that come with befriending him. For people, who lead lives in a manner unaware, sins are as enchanting as a sweet tune and many a person in this state readily commits a sin without feeling its crumbling weight in the least. Tolerating the sin of a sinner is therefore dangerous for most, as it might lead to them taking Divine measures lightly and even to their hearts leaning towards the sin. So tolerance for the sinner should not be carried over to the sin; and hostility to the sin should not be reflected onto the sinner.
Our final words on this subject will be to quote the hadith:
“Make ease, do not make difficult. Relieve do not cause disgust.” (Bukhari. Ilm, 11)
This is, of course, on the condition of not harming the core of Islam and diverting from the path of truth…
O Lord! Render us among the true people of love whose hearts are filled with wisdom and make us acquainted with the mysteries of both worlds! Make our hearts sources of compassion, mercy and charity towards the created for the sake of the Creator!
O Lord! Compliant with the mystery ‘My Mercy has surpassed My Wrath’, direct us onto the path of forgiveness and include us among the flanks of the righteous, the guides of truth!
 See, al-Hijr, 29.
 Davi in the original Turkish.
 See, Haythami, Majmau’z-Zawaid, X, 214-215.
 Ibn Hisham, IV, 37; Ibn Kathir, as-Sirah, III, 583
 See, Tirmidhi, Zakat, 28; Suyuti, al-Jamiu’s-Saghir, I, 108.
 See, Abdurrazzaq, Musannaf, XI, 180; Abu Nuaym, Hilyah, 1/225.