To attribute the mistakes to ones own self and success to Allah the Almighty

It is very important not to mix selfish feelings with the service carried out for the sake of Allah. Men of service should be careful when it comes to recognizing the success brought by Allah the Almighty and not to give themselves full credit, but to thank Allah for His help and divine will. Allah the Almighty states about the victory of the believers at the Battle of Badr:

فَلَمْ تَقْتُلُوهُمْ وَلَـكِنَّ اللّٰهَ قَتَلَهُمْ وَمَا رَمَيْتَ
إِذْ رَمَيْتَ وَلَـكِنَّ اللّٰهَ رَمَى

“So you did not slay them, but it was Allah Who slew them, and you did not smite when you smote (the enemy), but it was Allah Who smote: …”(8; 17)

Another example in this matter is this:

Pharaoh found himself weak when he saw the miracles of Moses (pbuh). In order to save himself from this situation, he gathered the most talented magicians of his time and arranged a competition between the magicians and Moses (pbuh).  However he still was concerned about the result so he asked the magicians:

“Well, are you going to be able to beat Moses?”

The head magician replied:

“We are at the highest level of magic. There is nobody better than we are in magic. Unless some magic breaking power comes down from the sky, we will certainly win this contest. Of course we are more powerful.”

The contest was agreed to be held on a holiday. Everybody gatheredand the public was anxious to see what was going to happen.The magicians threw their ropes and rods to the ground and each one of them transformed his own staff  into a snake. This scene is depicted in the Qur’an as follows:

“He said: Nay! cast down. then lo! their cords and their rods– it was imaged to him on account of their magic as if they were running. So Musa conceived in his mind a fear. We said: Fear not, surely you shall be the uppermost, And cast down what is in your right hand; it shall devour what they have wrought; they have wrought only the plan of a magician, and the magician shall not be successful wheresoever he may come from.”(20; 66-9)

Moses (pbuh) then threw down his staff which immediately transformed into a large snake and swallowed all the tricks of the magicians. This was not a human magic show; it was a Divine miracle from Allah the Almighty. All that the magicians did was trickery.

The head magician told one of his friends, when he saw what Moses did:

“Look at Moses when his staff is doing its job; I wonder what his state will be…”

His friend did what he was told and watched Moses carefully. What he saw was that Moses became pale and the color of his face changed, while his staff was continuing to do its job. He informed the head magician about what he saw:

“When the incident was happening, Moses became pale, however his staff kept doing its job.”

When the head magician heard this, he said:

“This is not a trick of Moses, but it’s a work of Allah the Almighty, because a magician would not be afraid of his own trick, as an artist would never be afraid of his art. Then this is Divine work…” and accepted the faith of Moses (pbuh).

The other magicians followed him and they converted to the new faith, too.

This incident also reveals that if we do not mix our selfish feelings with our service and seek only the pleasure of Allah the Almighty, we  will receive Allah the Almighty’s blessings and have successful results, even if our abilities or capabilities are not strong enough for the service. In fact Moses (pbuh) felt scared because for a moment he thought he did not have the necessary capabilities for the contest, however he took refuge in Allah the Almighty and acted according to Allah’s command and consequently he received a Divine miracle. In other words Divine power came to his help and he baffled the magicians.

Therefore our job in the path of Allah the Almighty is to do our best then leave the rest to Allah the Almighty (tawakkul). And we should believe that the result will become actualized according to His Divine will. How nicely our predecessors put this fact into the maxim of “Success is only from Allah the Almighty…”.

In other words, we are the ones who plant a seed in to the earth, but Allah is the one who decides whether it will transform into a great maple tree or decay and vanish. Again, Moses (pbuh) is the one who threw his staff, but Allah the Almighty transformed it into a large snake, which swallowed the other snakes.

Therefore we should look at the Sender of the blessings not the blessings themselves. Rumi states:

“Though the iron has become red, it is not red (by nature): it (the redness) is a ray borrowed from something that strikes fire.”

“If the window or the house is full of light, do not deem aught luminous except the sun.”[1]

“Then the sun says, “O you who are not right (in your belief), when I set it will become evident (you will see what the truth is).”[2]

Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani gives the following advise about the same issue:

“O Son! When are you going to be freed from the ties of ability-knowledge and reach the station of Divine might? When will your deeds take you to the might of Allah the Almighty?

Do not run away from Allah the Almighty just because of the misfortunes He has inflicted upon you. Allah afflicts you with some misfortunes and here is the reason for this: To see whether you are going to look at the causes and leave His door or stick to His door; whether you are going to lean on to the apparent or the hidden cause; whether you are going to turn to the visible or the Invisible; Whether you are going to regard the knowledge, ability and capabilities from yourself or from the Allah the Almighty…

This means real believers know that all strength belongs to Allah the Almighty and they do not assume any share for themselves in their success. Further, they are even grateful to Allah the Almighty for giving them the opportunity.

Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent’s, who was able to manage to couple the worldly sultanate with the spiritual sultanate; following the attitude towards his successes can be a measurement for all men of service.

Barbarossa Hayreddin Pasha defeated the fleet of Andrea Doria at the Battle of Preveza. Andrea Doria fled and barely saved his life. Barbarossa turned back to Istanbul with thousands of captives. The surface of the sea was full with captured enemy galleys. Sultan Suleiman was watching the glorious scene from his palace. One of the pashas excitedly said:

“O my sultan! I wonder how many times the world has witnessed such a glorious scene? You should be very proud right now.”

Sultan Suleiman responded:

“O Pasha! Should we be proud or grateful to our Lord and praise Him for bestowing us this victory?”

If men of service follow these guidelines, they would free themselves from their self and their modesty and humility would intensify. They would be saved from conceit, which is the most dangerous disease of the self.

It is stated in the following verse that: “…Exult not, for Allah loveth not those who exult” (28; 76). That is why a servant must take refuge in Allah the Almighty from the dangers of diseases of selfishness and pride. Even though the Prophet (pbuh) had such lofty qualities and merits, when he talked about himself, he always said “لا فخر” or “no pride” and maintained his humility. He only wanted to express the blessings conferred upon him by Allah, and to avoid pride or arrogance. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said:

“I am the commander of the messengers, but there is no pride. I am the last one of the prophets, but there is no pride. I am the first one who will intercede and whose intercession will be accepted, but I am in no way telling these out of pride.”

“On the Judgment Day, when the earth is opened will be the first one resurrected, but I am not telling this out of pride. The banner of gratitude will be given to me, but I am not bragging about this. On the Judgment Day, I am the master of mankind, but no pride. On the Judgment Day, I am the first on who enters the Paradise, but I am in no way telling these out of pride.” (Darimi, Muqaddimah, 8)

In fact “egoism” and “obstinacy” are like cancer in the path of service and their treatment is very difficult. You can usually see a calligraphy written “naught” on it in the Sufi convents. This is to inculcate people their nothingness. The main point is to recognize our weakness and realize that we are just servants. When a servant reaches this station, even a small deed would be enough for his salvation. This fact is expressed in the following poetry:

If you realized your weakness, then the smallest deed becomes a mountain

Your deficiencies become complete, all poisons become oil and honey,

Mountains become fruitful gardens; entire universe becomes an orchard for you.[3]

Knowing that they are weak, those who get in to serve creation should ask Divine help. This is expressed in the following verse:

“Ye who believe! Seek help with patient perseverance and prayer: for Allah is with those who patiently persevere.”(2; 153)

Believers should follow this Divine advice and ask Allah the Almighty’s assistance for the success in their service through two rak’ahs of necessity (hajah) prayer especially at dawn.

Men of service should not blame anybody else for the flaws in the path of the service and should turn to themselves to look for the deficiencies. They should be able to direct the tolerance to others and question themselves, because the spiritual state of the men of service affects those who are served. A mistake seen in those who are served is actually a reflection of a problem in the men of service.

Imam Rabbani (may Allah bless his soul) gives the following advice in a letter to one of disciples:

…You wrote that you have complaints about your students and your feelings are hurt. Whereas you were supposed to be hurt and complain from your own actions; because you treat them in such a way that complaints become inevitable; Whereas a teacher is advised to treat his students nicely. Just telling stories and parables to them and becomingfriends with them is not welcomed… (In other words instead of talking he should be an example with his actions.)”(Maktubat, 209th letter)

[1].      Vol. I verse 3261-62.

[2].      Vol. 1 verse 3264

[3].      The quotation is taken from M. Asad Arbili’s tahmis (poem composed by adding three lines rhyming with the first line of each couplet of a gazel) over Niyazi Baba’s gazel.