Bismillahi l-Rahmani l-Rahim
In the name of God, the Most Compassionate One, the Most Merciful:
Our teacher, Shaykh Nazim, passed away in May – oh Almighty God, mercy him, be pleased with him, and bless his sacred heart!
It has been very hard. I believe that he lives on: through his awesome spirit, awake, alive, and active; through those that he trained, perfecting their manners; and through his large body of published work, largely in the form of recordings and transcriptions of his near-daily extempore lectures (suhbaat) regarding the path to self-knowledge and to knowing and pleasing Almighty God (tariqah). This is the path of the prophet Muhammad and, indeed, of all God’s messengers – may He shower them and all their families with abundant peace and blessings forever!
Tonight we read to the children from a talk he gave in his beloved Damascus in the spring of 1980 to some of his students, many of whom were Westerners. He spoke about the heavy trial of media – of television and magazines – as it was 34 years ago. I share his words here for us to reflect about our devices and what they earn us: will those earnings stand in our favour or be arrayed against us at our end?
Once somebody came to our Grandshaykh [Abdullah al-Fa’iz al-Daghistani] and asked him about television. What place, if any, should this new instrument that the twentieth century has created have in our lives?
What do all people want? They want to keep their brains busy so that they don’t have to use them for thinking. In the Holy Qur’an this is referred to as, “All talk that diverts your mind from Allah Almighty.” The greatest affliction of our time is brought about through television. Television is used to show young people sick behaviour and to occupy them in distraction.
My Grandshaykh answered the man, “You may watch that which you may learn from.” To look at a sex film is no doubt prohibited, as is everything which results in immorality.
No one – especially not young people – keeps to this rule of only watching what is useful and what does not provoke immorality. This is the answer of true religion: if it makes a harmful impression on your character, it is forbidden to watch; otherwise, one may watch in order to derive a hidden wisdom or to learn from it.
I have heard that in the West there are some channels that show only documentary films and other educational programs; however, virtually no one watches these channels – perhaps one person in a thousand. From this, it can be easily determined for which reasons people watch television. There exist magazines in which documentary articles are found, but people skip these pages and look for the pictures of women. In such a case, television and other media destroy good character among people and the relation between friends and in the family.
In Islam, we judge each matter according to its usefulness. If someone can find something good an useful in a given thing, that thing is permitted – otherwise not. You must use this criterion for everything: watch whether your ego finds pleasure in it; if so, then leave it. That which your ego does not like, you must keep it. Maybe you like to watch television when it shows such vulgar films and your ego is so happy with it; your soul, however, is very sorrowful. Therefore, after every enjoyment of your ego follows complete sorrow in your heart. Surely, most of you have experienced this. For instance, as someone is leaving the theatre, movie or opera house, a black cloud befalls his or her heart. Everyone knows that the enjoyment coming from outside is only temporary, and that the true place of joy is our soul. When our soul is really satisfied, it remains so forever.
Nowadays, people demand pleasure from without; however, they are wrong in this. Therefore, the whole world is full of outward pleasures, but no one is really satisfied. Perhaps a man is sitting in prison – but if his heart is free, he is happy and content. Another may be sitting on a throne, surrounded by all the pleasures in the world – but his heart is in prison, so he cannot find real happiness.
Someone asking for pleasure from without is like a thirsty person who drinks salt-water: he will never be satisfied. A cup of fresh-water will quench your thirst. but whole oceans of salt-water will never satisfy. Now, oh Western people, now that you have reached the peak of your enjoyments, if you do not give your souls from the pure spring water, you will never quench your thirst. Therefore, stop and pause to reflect one minute upon this point. Come to the true source and quench your thirst; otherwise, you will die without satisfaction or joy and without peace in your hearts.
Reflect, for these are huge cannonballs being fired upon the bastions of the devils.
– from Mercy Oceans’ Hidden Treasures, 2nd ed. 1988. Sebat: Konya, Turkey.
Indeed. Let’s recite a prayer – for the souls of the prophets, their families, their successors, our pious teachers, for our families and friends, and for all people of good intention – that Almighty God aid them, guide them on the straight path to peace and satisfaction, and keep them from the path of anger and misguidance. I’ll recite the prayer with which Almighty God begins His Glorious Recitation, the noble surat al-Fātihah.