Fethullah Gülen and Forgiveness |
By Rawaa Mahmoud Hussain
Forgiveness is a surprisingly complex elusive notion. It is not simply a matter of finding a therapeutic way to “deal with” pain, injury, or anger-even though it does somehow involve overcoming the anger one feels in response to injury (Charles Griswold, Forgiveness: A Philosophical Exploration (2007): Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, p. xiv). Fethullah Gülen indicates that humans are creatures with both exceptional qualities and faults. Until the first human appeared, no living creature carried such opposites within its nature. At the same time as humans beat their wings in the firmaments of heaven, they can, with sudden deviation, become monsters that descend to the pits of hell. It is futile to look for any relationship between these frightening ascents and descents; these are extremes because their cause and effect take place on very different situations. At times humans are like a field of wheat bending in the wind; at other times, although they appear as dignified as a plane tree, they can topple over, not to rise again (M. Fethullah Gülen, Toward A Global Civilization of Love and Tolerance (2004): New Jersey, The Light, p. 27). The virtues of sincerity and humility, on the part of the person forgiven, are presupposed. Therefore, forgiveness presents a truly exalted virtue because of the foundational virtues it presupposes in both the forgiver and the one forgiven (Donald DeMarko, The Many Faces of Virtue (2000): Ohio, Emmaus Road, p. 206). For humans, Gülen points out that, whose natures contain so many highs and lows, even if committing evil is not essential to their nature, it is inevitable. Even if becoming sullied is accidental, it is likely. For a creature which is going to spoil his good name, forgiveness is paramount. However valuable it is to ask for and expect forgiveness and to bemoan the things that have escaped us, forgiving is that much greater a virtue, attribute and ethics. It is wrong to think of virtue as being separate from forgiveness or of forgiveness as being separate from virtue. As the well-known adage says, “To err is human, to forgive divine,” and how well this has been said! Being forgiven means being repaired; it consists of a return to our essence and finding ourselves again. For this reason, the most pleasing action in the eyes of Infinite Mercy is any activity pursued amidst the palpitations of this return and search (Gülen: Op. cit., p. 27). Human error is evaluated by assessing the frequency of each type of human error, the severity of consequences, and the degree of risk results. This is only a first step in preventing human error or controlling its adverse effects (George A. Peters, Barbara J. Peters, Human Error: Causes and Control (2006) Florida, Taylor & Francis Group, p. 23). Gülen adds that humans have preserved gifts, such as consolation and hope, which they have obtained from their ancestors over the centuries. Whenever people err, by boarding the magical transport of seeking forgiveness and by surmounting the shame caused by their sins and the despair caused by their actions, they are able to attain infinite mercy and are shown the generosity that is involved in veiling their eyes to the sins of others. Thanks to their hope for forgiveness, humans can rise above the dark clouds that threaten their horizon and seize the opportunity to see light in their world. Those fortunate ones who are aware of the uplifting wings of forgiveness live their lives amidst melodies that please their spirits. It is impossible for people who have given their heart to seeking forgiveness not to think of forgiving others. Just as they desire to be forgiven, they also desire to forgive. Is it possible for someone not to forgive if they know that salvation from the fires of suffering caused by his/her mistakes in the inner world is possible by drinking deeply from the river of forgiveness? Is it possible for people not to forgive if they know that the road to being forgiven passes through the act of forgiving? Those who forgive are honored with forgiveness. One who does not know how to pardon cannot hope to be pardoned. Those who close the road to tolerance for humanity are monsters that have lost their humanity. These brutes that have never once been inclined to take themselves to task for their sins will never experience the high solace of forgiveness (Gülen: Op. cit., p. 28). Forgiveness, Gülen confirms that, emerged with and reached perfection through humanity. We can witness the most impeccable tolerance and the greatest forgiveness in the greatest exemplars of humanity. Malice and hatred are the seeds of Hell that have been scattered among humans by evil spirits. Unlike those who encourage malice and hatred and turn the earth into a pit of hell, we should take this forgiveness, and run to the rescue of our people who are confronted by countless troubles and who are being continually pushed toward the abyss. The past few centuries have been turned into the most unpleasant and foul years by the excesses of those who do not know forgiveness or recognize tolerance. It is impossible not to be chilled by the thought that these unfortunate ones could rule the future (Gülen: Op. cit., p. 29). Gülen affirms that the greatest gift that the generation of today can give their children and grandchildren is to teach them how to forgive—to forgive even when confronted by the most disturbing events and the worst behavior. However, thinking of forgiving monstrous, evil people who enjoy making others suffer would be disrespectful to the idea of forgiveness. We have no right to forgive them; forgiving them would be disrespectful to humanity (Gülen: Op. cit., p. 29).
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