Our duty is to serve

According to the secret of “The master of a people is the one who serves them.” 1 the condition for being a master is to serve. Although the words ‘duty’ and ‘service’ are used with similar meanings, there are some slight differences. Duty means the responsibility and mission given by an authority; service, on the other hand, means the trouble and hardship someone has while performing the duty. For instance, prophethood is a duty; worship and dawah (conveying) are the service of the duty of prophethood.

For this reason, the importance of a service is related to the value of the duty; and the importance of the duty is related to the greatness of the authority which has assigned it. Therefore, the service of a valuable duty assigned by a great authority would be important; its reward would be big. If somebody who has not been assigned with it were to do that same duty – or even more than that – he would not get that reward.

The most important part of assigning a duty is the talent and capacity of the person who will be assigned with that duty. When an important duty is assigned to an incompetent person, he becomes arrogant. And arrogance disturbs the harmony among people and causes mischief. For this reason, everyone should be assigned a duty and promoted based on their talents.

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Sometimes a soldier with the lowest rank infiltrates an enemy army in order to spy on them. However, a commander cannot do this. Likewise, sometimes a great scholar cannot do something which a young student does. This is because a great person does not always have to do great things in order to be great.  Everybody is great in accordance with their talents and their own work. Regarding this point Imam Nursi says the following: “In the system of government, every officer should be paid according to their talents, degree of duty and quantity of service.” 2

The other important and required quality while assigning a duty is capacity.

Desiring a duty and the position and benefit of that duty, but later avoiding performing the necessary service, is not a good leadership. On the contrary, desiring to serve but wishing no price and reward in return is a great perfection. This shows that someone who does not desire a reward is deserving of a duty. A master or leader is not the one who only gives orders, controls, stands aside and follows the performance of a duty. On the contrary, he is the one who carries a service and then shares this service by finding people to support him in order that he can perform this service properly and expand it further. A service which does not have a master or leader who is on the front line has little chance to continue and develop.

The most important qualities which a person who acquires a duty and performs a service are adherence and obedience. One can only have capacity to the degree of his obedience and adherence. He can obtain ease and grace by making the best of his service. He can bear the troubles and problems he faces by the help of the spiritual power that comes from his adherence to the person who has given him the duty. Imam Bediuzzaman explains the great power that comes from the adherence with the following example:

“With the power and ease arising from commission and adherence the ant demolishes the Pharaoh’s palace on his head and send him headlong [down to Hell]. A fly kills Nimrod and sends him to Hell. A microbe buries the cruelest tyrant in the ground.” 3

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The degree of adherence is related to sincerity and loyalty. The more sincere someone is the more successful he becomes.

Other important things to understand the value of duty and service and to do them properly are the sense of duty and consciousness. This is because any person who has a duty starts to forget the importance of their duty after a while by getting tired with troubles and hardships and by heedlessness. This causes him to not to feel the pleasure that Allah has put in the service. With a negative viewpoint due to busying themselves with lacking and troublesome sides of the service, they start to take a dislike to their duty. For this reason, in order to serve eagerly and keenly, one should always keep in his mind the importance of the duty. One can serve gladly in this way. Imam Bediuzzaman encourages his students regarding this issue as follows:

“My brothers! Be careful; your duty is sacred, your service is lofty. Your every hour may have the value of a one-day-worship. Realize this and do not let them slip through your fingers.” 4

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Our Prophet (pbuh) says, “All of you are shepherds, and each of you is responsible for his flock.”5 We understand from this hadith that the leader’s position is the position of serving the people. Herding the sheep the shepherd moves forward and calls one of them which have the quality of leadership. Thus, the flock mobilize with the action of a leader among them. However, if the shepherd stands behind the flock and tries to mobilize them by force with a stick, it will be very difficult and troublesome to make the flock move and this will not be successful.

For this reason, if a leader desires to serve, first he should take a step forward. Moreover, he should take along an obedient person – who has the quality of leadership if possible – and start his service. Then, other people will join him easily and willingly; they even embrace the service.

This is a general principle. It is valid for the things we always do. For instance, you may want a group of people sitting around to stand up and perform prayer all together. There is little chance that they will do that at once even if you call them ten times to do so. However, if you call them just once and then make one who listens to you stand up and start praying together with him, the other will also follow you. They stand up and come to the prayer as if they have been mobilized by a physical force.

In addition, humans love a serving and hardworking leader by nature. When they love him, they believe his words and follow his lead. Loving and being loved are very important for the leader’s words to be influential and to cause others to spring into action. Our Prophet (pbuh) first won the hearts of people with his good character while he was performing his duty of prophethood. As a result of this, he obtained such great respect and obedience which neither Roman emperor nor Persian ruler has seen.

For this reason, Imam Bediuzzaman says, “Our duty is to serve.” 6 “In this day and age, the service of faith is a sacred duty above everything.” 7 That is, not taking into account the price, position and benefit which come from the duty, one should regard the service as his duty.

By obeying the Divine rules and practices (adatullah) and following the Sunnah, we should perform our duty of worship with sincerity and right direction and invite people to the truth in a kind fashion.

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  1. Kanz al-Ummal, v. 6, Hadith nu: 17517, 17518
  2. Muhakamat, p. 100, Said Nursi
  3. The Letters 1 p. 105, Said Nursi
  4. The Letters 2 p. 41, Said Nursi
  5. Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitabu’l-Ahkam, Bab 1
  6. Kastamonu Appendix, p. 105
  7. Kastamonu Appendix, p. 110

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