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Reflection, Deep Thought and Prayer

WhirlpoolTafaqqur, meaning deep thinking and systematic reflection on a subject, has an important place in Islam. This disciplined method of thinking requires pondering on a subject with an aim. As the Islamic sources tell us it was highly practiced by Prophets, their disciples, sufis and the learned ones.  It has a significant place in Prophet Muhammad’s life and sayings as well. In a hadith on tafaqqur he says:

“There is no better worshipping act than tafaqqur.  Thus, reflect upon Allah’s bounties and works of His power.”[1]

As indicated in this saying, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) always encouraged reflecting on any issue and asked his followers to leave no subject unexamined in the universe. In deed a thorough study of his life reveals that its axis was based on reflection. For example, when he wakes up one night with tears in his eyes he recites the following verses from the Quran:

Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day are signs for those of understanding. 

Who remember Allah while standing or sitting or [lying] on their sides and give thought to the creation of the heavens and the earth, [saying], “Our Lord, You did not create this aimlessly; exalted are You [above such a thing]; then protect us from the punishment of the Fire.[2]

Breaking into tears he dives in to a sea of deep thinking. Upon seeing him in this situation, his companion Bilal, who is about to recite the call to prayer for the pre-dawn, asks him “O Allah’s messenger! Why are you putting yourself through such difficulty? Allah closed all the doors of sins for you.” He replies

“Should not I be an grateful servant to my Lord, who provided me with all the blessings?”

In another saying attributed to him, he said that a believer’s words are wisdom and his silence is deep reflection, life. The lessons we should take from this are twofold. When we speak there must be for good and for a reason guided with wisdom. If there is no such reason it is better not to talk. Nevertheless not speaking does not mean sitting idle. Instead our silence must be for deep thinking and reflection.  It is not false to claim that a life based on deep contemplation is a life worth living.

Unfortunately reflection and pondering is something that contemporary Muslims lack. We are way behind in this issue. Today Muslims are going through more troubles than ever in their history. However, there is no significant effort to mull over these problems and generate solutions. Tafaqqur is the only way out of the troubles of this world. Praying as well as thinking about the solutions for our problems passionately will result in getting out of the traps of ignorance, poverty and conflict. Fethullah Gulen asks his audience to get up in the night and wonder in the halls like crazy contemplating solutions for the world’s problems. How to save our kids from ignorance? How to give our youth a better world to live in? How to ease the difficulties of the poor? How to make good use of our money and time? He asks for sleepless nights showered with tears to answer these questions.[3] His sincerity in searching answers resulted in mobilizing people around the Gulen/Hizmet movement to start schools, dialogue centers and relief organizations. This is also the answer from the Muslim world to combat extremism. If terrorists can use faith to mobilize people voluntarily, the response to that is a movement that mobilizes for doing good.


[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/imam-abdullah-antepli/thinking-is-an-act-of-worship_b_3069904.html

[2] 3:190. Translation Sahih International.

[3] The Gülen Hizmet Movement: Circumspect Activism in Faith-Based Reform, Page 45