Things destroying sincerity
Out of numerous things which destroy sincerity and drive one to ostentation, I will briefly mention two or three as follows:
The first is that rivalry in material benefits gradually destroys sincerity. It also harms the results of any service done, and causes the loss of the desired material advantage.
Our people have always cherished respect for those who strive for the truth and the Hereafter and have helped them. With the intention of having a share in the service they do sincerely and devotedly, our people have tried to provide for them so that such people would not be preoccupied with earning their livelihood and thus wasting their time. However, help and respect should not be sought or demanded; they should be given willingly. Nor should they be expected or sought by giving the impression of being in need of them. Such support should come without expectations. Otherwise sincerity will be damaged, and one may be a target of the Qur’anic prohibition, Do not sell My Revelations for a trifling price (2: 41), with the result that one’s good deeds may not be acceptable to God.
Thus, the carnal soul, first desiring and expecting material benefit, then not wanting it to go to others, provokes a feeling of rivalry towards a true brother or sister or a companion in the same service. This damages sincerity, and is sacrilegious to the service done; the person becomes unlovable and disagreeable in the sight of the people of truth and discernment. It also causes the loss of the material benefit intended. This matter requires much elaboration. Therefore, I will cut it short here and relate two examples which will reinforce the sincerity of my true brothers and sisters and the unity between them.
The first example is that in order to have great wealth and power, the worldly people, and even some politicians, committees, and certain manipulators of social life, have adopted the principle of participation in or corporate ownership of wealth. Despite all the disadvantages and misuses such a practice can cause, they can also obtain an amazing power and benefit. However, participation in wealth has many disadvantages and does not change the nature of property. Although each participant enjoys theoretical ownership, they cannot benefit from it. But if believers adopt this principle in deeds pertaining to the Hereafter, it will bring much benefit with no loss. For every partner will enjoy the full reward of the whole of those deeds.
For example, supposing four or five people own a single oil lamp. One brings oil, another wick, another mantle, another matches; they light the lamp. Each of them owns the lamp. If each has a mirror on a wall, he will own both a separate, reflected room included in their shared room, and a separate lamp reflected in it.
Similarly, as accepted by the people of truth and required by the comprehensiveness of Divine Mercy and Munificence, the whole of the reward and light that emanates from sincere participation in the wealth to be spent for the afterlife, and brotherly and sisterly solidarity and cooperation, and joint enterprise in full unity will be added to the record of each participant. Therefore, O my brothers and sisters! I hope that God will save you from rivalry in material benefits. However, it is possible that, like some followers of the Sufi paths, you might be deceived in respect of the benefits that pertain to the Hereafter. But you should understand that some personal, minor reward can never be compared with the reward and light to be brought by good deeds done by a group that supports one another, as in the example above.
Second example: In order to attain great results or products from their work, craftsmen join their skills and labor and obtain great wealth. It is narrated that once ten men tried to make needles, each working on their own. As a result of their individual labor, each was able to make three needles a day. Then, adopting the principle of joint enterprise, they came together, one bringing iron, and another lighting the furnace, and another piercing the needles, and another placing them in the furnace, and another sharpening the point, and so on. Each was occupied only with the part of the work assigned to him, wasting no time and also acquiring a specific skill in the art of needle-making. Then they shared among themselves the result of their joint enterprises and division of labor. They saw that instead of three, each had three hundred needles a day as his share. This event was widely circulated among the craftsmen in order to urge them to join their efforts.
So, O my brothers and sisters! If unity and agreement in worldly affairs yield such great results, you can correlate this with how profitable it would be to join efforts in deeds that pertain to the Hereafter, the reward of which is not divided and is given to each participant wholly by Divine Grace. This huge profit should not be lost out of rivalry and insincerity.
The second thing which destroys sincerity is flattering the ego and giving a lofty position to the evil commanding soul by pursuing public attention and acceptance in the name of fame, renown, or status in people’s eyes. This is the most perilous of spiritual diseases, one that leads to ostentation and self-centeredness, which is regarded as a hidden association of partners with God.
O my brothers and sisters! Our way which we try to follow in the service of the wise Qur’an is based on truth and requires true brotherhood. Brotherhood requires self-annihilation among the brothers and sisters and preferring them to oneself.11 Therefore, there should not be rivalry among us that arises from seeking status in people’s eyes. This is totally contrary to our way. Since every individual can enjoy the total honor of all brothers and sisters, I hope that the students of the Risale-i Nur are distanced from sacrificing that great collective honor for personal, selfish, competitive, and minor fame and renown. They should be rational and spiritually mature enough not to stoop to such lowly, harmful things. But everyone has an evil commanding soul, and sometimes selfish impulses and desires can control a person to such extents, despite their heart, mind, and spirit. I never think of accusing your hearts, minds, or spirits. But the carnal soul, impulses, desires, and fancies sometimes deceive. For this reason, you are sometimes warned severely. The severity in the warnings is because of these impulses, desires, and fancies. Therefore, act cautiously.
If our way had been based on submission to a shaykh, there would have been a single position or a limited number of inferior positions. Numerous capacities would have been candidates for these positions, and this would have provoked envy and selfishness. But our way is based on brotherhood. No brother or sister can be another’s parent or assume the position of spiritual guide. Brotherhood entails a broad range of positions, and allows no rivalry or contest. Brothers and sisters are helpers and supporters of one another, each completing another’s service. This demonstrates how harmful it would be to cherish greed for personal reward; competing for personal reward in ways that are based on a fatherly position or that of a spiritual guide, despite whatever personal excellence or spiritual attainments they may possess, causes followers on some Sufi paths to suffer greatly from rivalry and disagreements among themselves. Their vast, sacred power cannot withstand the gales of heresies.
The third obstacle to gaining sincerity is fear and avarice. Referring you to the Six Human and Satanic Intrigues (The Fourth Section of the Twenty-Ninth Letter in The Letters), where this obstacle has been explained together with some others, I make all His All-Beautiful Names our intercessor with Him, and entreat the Most Compassionate of the compassionate that He will enable us to attain perfect sincerity.
O God! For the sake of Surat al-Ikhlas (the Qur’anic Chapter of Sincerity), include us among Your servants sincere and endowed with sincerity. Amen. Amen.
All-Glorified are You. We have no knowledge save what You have taught us. Surely You are the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.
11 Happy is the one who, in order to have a large pool of sweet water flowing from the heavenly spring of the Qur’an, casts their ego, which is like a block of ice, into the pool and melts it.