Devotion I – SECTION ONE
Devotion is about being conscious of what you own. Something dedicated to God is not lost. Instead, its value is compounded, and the one who dedicated it receives its benefi ts multiplied many times over.What does it mean to own something? Do we have things we don’t pay att ention to? And do we really own the things we think we own? Does everything belong to someone? Who do we belong to? Are there things we think we own – but we are actually enslaved to them instead?
These questions are not mere literary exercises. They are rather vital quests. A person who takes life seriously has to look for the answers to these questions just as seriously. There are people who own things, or have responsibility over people, but are not conscious of this position, or do not take it seriously. That is why they do not take care of their possessions or their charges. Even though the right of disposition is given to them, they would not protect or look after what is theirs to look after.
Reminders are given to these people in terms of taking responsibility for what is bestowed upon them. “O you who have att ained to faith! Ward off from yourselves and those who are close to you that fi re [of the here after] whose fuel is human beings and stones.” (Chapter 66, verse 6) It is surely the proof of maturity for a person to take responsibility for things that are entrusted to him or her. Maturity is not a factor of age but responsibility and capability.
Among people, some are under the guardianship of others in one way or another. A person’s family is dependent on the head of the family; employees are dependent on their employer; citizens are dependent on government leaders. Meanwhile, some people are “owned” by inanimate objects and abstract concepts, such as career, property, and riches – each of which has a lower value than the person’s own being. The strange thing about this is that the person thinks he owns those things, while in reality, they own him. Consider it: Isn’t the master of a person the one to whom he submits?
Many people live their lives in pursuit of possessions. If we do that, our possessions become our master. What would happen if a person becomes conscious of ownership?
At this point, devotion comes into play – we can correctly dedicate our lives in order not to waste them in fruitless pursuit of things that ultimately cannot benefi t us. The most valuable of our “possessions,” undoubtedly, are our own souls and the people we have guardianship over. These have never been as carelessly treated or as wasted as in our current time.
One of the most shocking examples of how people – the most noble of all creation – degrade themselves is how they devote their souls to objects of equal or lower value. Devotion is almost a destiny. If we have something we want to win over and we dedicate all our feelings, thoughts, and actions toward this item, then we become devoted to it – in eff ect, owned by it. There is no human who escapes being devoted to something.
In this contemporary world, all values are inverted – the disgraceful is elevated while the honorable is seen as worthless, objects become more valued than people, long-lasting and lofty values are replaced with temporary and fake values …
People devote themselves to temporary pleasures …
to their stomach …
to their careers …
to their feelings and desires …
The descendants of Adam have proven their talent in inventing idols to which to devote their souls, all throughout history. Behind this inclination lies something in human nature that has a need for submission. Just as soon as a person loses sight of the real God, he immediately begins to fi nd a fake god to worship.
At times in history, the ruling powers in society – whether in political or traditional religious circles – have helped foster this inclination. These leaders put distractions in front of people so they would not slow down the dissemination of imperialism. Meanwhile, ruling economic powers race with each other to off er their products, like the toys of grown-up children, to fi ll demands – and then to create more demands.
They create their own kind of tyranny in their eff orts to sell more and more objects for their own benefit. And at times, these powers have joined in unholy alliances, with religious powers working with government and economic powers all in an eff ort to line their own pockets, without regard for the people they are supposed to be taking care of.
When their worldly profi ts – or their economic, religious, or political positions – are endangered, they work to link their own positions with broader patriotism to suppress disagreement. In fact, it is nothing but an institution of injustice. These well-honed methods, however, do work. They combine with man’s inherent need to worship to lead people, and these miserable folks begin devoting their lives to these distractions; for example, constantly “needing” the latest bigger, bett er, or more technologically advanced gadgets. This eff ectively places these objects in the role of an object of worship.
This type of devotion indeed is not true devotion but waste – waste of a person’s life, family, belongings and own being, in summary, everything. This kind of spending is directed to consume, not to produce. This person has gambled with his most valuable capital, his life, and is cheated out of it. He has entered the deepest type of bankruptcy.
His life is wasted. If a man should choose an object of his devotion or allegiance, it should be on higher in value than his own self, so that his value would not be degraded by his own hands. Well in this case, what should he look for?
Among creation, is there anything to which a person can devote himself and not be consumed? No; no again, by logic, by reason, by common sense, by scriptures. Among created beings, there is none above mankind to which man can submit. Given that mankind is the most noble of creation, any search for submission among created beings is vain. What is left, then, for this quest is only one thing: that is the creator.
We will call submitt ing oneself or one’s own child to the service of God “devotion.” Undoubtedly, the highest of all the gates to devotion to enter is the gate that opens to the creator. The highest devotee is the one devoted to Him, and the most mindful and profi table one is the one devoted in His sake.
Becoming a devotee to God is a position of worthiness, a position that must be earned. And in His pure sake only the pure may off er a consecration, and only the pure may be consecrated. In history and today, God has sent to nations messengers to show them the straight path on which to live and die honorably, while saving them from drowning in impurity when they get stuck in ignorance and immorality, losing their genuine values, degenerating by their own hands.
Messengers, trustworthy ones, martyrs, scholars, good humans! These are the couriers of purity, chosen by God, the Creator, to enlighten the darkening nights of these nations. The tradition of divine revolution ended with the last prophet; however, the heritage of everlasting message does continue to be carried on the shoulders of all the believers as a duty and responsibility as long as man exists. As in the past, whatever methods the nations found happiness with, they will also fi nd it with the same methods in the future.
The first requirement for this is a healthy staff that can function like a seed, an origin, a kindling – no matt er how small in number – they are going to ferment the nation’s transformation. “And that there might grow out of you a community (of people) who invite unto all that is good, and enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid the doing of what is wrong: and it is they, they who shall att ain to a happy state.” (Chapter 3, verse 104)
There is no doubt that the rise of this devoted group of people depends upon self-sacrifi ce by very sincere believers. Thus, devotion to God plays a role in God’s selection process for choosing the group that can take the lead among societies. It all starts with the devotional process. The fact that there are few people worthy of this important duty, especially in this age, shows that people are in need of leadership for the nation of believers.
To some degree, the reason for such a shortage is the lack of people with the necessary competence. That means the raw material is missing. Many people would agree with the opinion that, among the biggest problems of the Islamic movement, the fi rst is the leadership problem. The masses depend on the solution to this leadership matt er, waiting as if their hands were tied. Almost none of these people who complain about this matt er, however, put much eff ort into fi nding a solution, or they don’t know their duty and act upon it.
They seem to have left the solution totally up to God. In fact, our Lord has off ered prescriptions in His Quran for the solution to the problem. In this case, there is no need for a new prescription; the need is to comprehend and be familiar with the already existing prescriptions and put them in operation.
Through this, the people who complain about their situation would be tested in their sincerity. Think of those like Mary, who was being devoted to sake of God and then, when she herself became a parent, devoted her own precious child to God’s sake.
Think of those like Zachariah, like John, who assisted the devotees. People like these do not complain about a lack of leadership – they simply do their own part, and by doing such, help solve the problem. On the other hand, think of a person who had neither dedicated parents like Mary, nor a circle of supporters like Zachariah and John, nor he supported others. When these people complain about the leadership problem, they will not be taken very seriously.