Hamility in Turkish Culture

Written by TR Dergisi

In whose presence do you feel humbled? Because when humility is in question, logic dictates that there is another party.

In whose presence do you feel humbled? Because when humility is in question, logic dictates that there is another party.

Humility lexically means “modesty”. It is defined as “an individual feeling modest, avoiding acting superior or boasting”. This is what is briefly defined in every dictionary. I thought about it a little. If humility means an individual feeling modest, the first question that comes to mind is this: In whose presence do you feel humble? Because when humility is in question, logic dictates that there is another party. This other must be someone else related to your humility. It cannot be nature or animals because they cannot recognize modesty. This means that the only entity that can recognize modesty, is man. When humility is in question, a person needs the other. Which means that the modesty is shaped over the other. The term “other” is significant in this age. Especially in this last period Turkey has gone through. I and the other, I and we, we and others. As you all know, modernity is based on the concept of “the other”.

I have had a somehow significant life in my own way. I questioned my identity. For me, it was a long and arduous journey. I view myself and the community I belong to, that is Turkey, as follows: An Ottoman interpretation of Islam civilization. This is the conclusion I have drawn. This encompasses the geography and history, both modern and postmodern times. We still continue to lead a life based on an Ottoman interpretation of Islam civilization. The waves, shapes on the sea are not of importance. What we wear, what we take off, what we do not cover; none matters. In the groundswell, at that large beach at the bottom, we still live in the Ottoman interpretation of Islam civilization. I can outline what took place but I do not know the details. Because the literature is utterly limited; however this is an issue of identity. I take the side streets when I speak… What I refer to is not an outcome of the experiences of a segment who live in Turkey and define themselves as Muslims. I have had friends from various walks of life. At universities, particularly the secular, Marxists, Western etc. If you scratch the surface of the groundswell, that is when people have a normal human conversation instead of an ideological one, this instantly reveals itself. There is not much difference, only the colours, waves, drifts on the sea are different. The sea bottom is the same… And this is how we continue to live a common life anyway.

Humility also has this quality: what we call the other, is not required to notice your humility. This is a primary characteristic of humility. You may make a move to display modesty however the other party is not required to notice. Your modest behaviour spiritually satisfies you. This is what I could determine. Sometimes the person who acts modestly wants it to be known. But this is not preferred for most of the time. There is a saying as you all know: “Do a good deed, throw it in the sea; if the fish does not notice, the creator will.” This is also interesting… Modesty is too heavy for the ego, a primary component of our being. The ego wants to exist forever. We can also translate the ego as “self”. Ego continuously aspires to make its presence felt, to assert itself. If you want to make your presence felt, you can achieve that with the tone of your voice, a gesture of opening or closing the door, or with your arrogant glances. After all, if a person cannot make another person accept their presence, the ego will remain unsatisfied. Here, modesty does not seek acceptance; but the ego opposes modesty because it is heavy, both aspires to exist and seeks acceptance from the other party. This is such a quality. In order to understand the concept of modesty better, it is necessary to consider the opposite view as well. The motivation that lies behind feeling superior and asserting one’s self, is arrogance. If there is modesty in one of the scales, there is arrogance in the other. Arrogance requires its opposite so this emotion can be expressed. And that is not non-living nature, animals or plants; it is human… This means humility and arrogance together play an important role in a relation between two people. This determines the colour of a relationship. The type of the relationship is of no importance. One can be modest or arrogant in any kind of relationship. This is the style, colour of the relationship. The quality of the relationship concerns you. You can be either arrogant or modest when you say “good morning” or “bonjour” in the morning to your family and friends. This can also take place when you offer something. We will shortly see the consequences but let me tell you this: both humility and arrogance requires an other. Because arrogance is a product of ego, it seeks and needs acceptance from the other party.  In other words, if the other party does not accept your superiority based on your ego, your self will not feel satisfied. Let me add a footnote about Islam civilization here. Islam civilization describes the other as follows: “Halifetullah”. That means “we created man as the noblest of all living creatures and as Allah’s caliphate on earth.” Therefore when you behave modestly and lower your wings of arrogance, you are also humbled and act in modesty in God’s presence. On the other hand or on the contrary, you are arrogant and boastful to God’s caliphate on earth and in one sense, towards God. I stress in every lecture that I learned these as knowledge. This means what I explain is not related to faith. Today the general trend in Turkey and the world is this: people confuse faith with knowledge. If someone gets curious about the position of human being in Islam civilization, they will find and read sources to learn about it like knowledge of physics and chemistry. One does not have to believe in knowledge. However that is the case in Islam. This must be assessed individually. This is very clear, refined and objective knowledge. Therefore the humility or arrogance displayed to an envoy, a caliphate is perceived as humility or arrogance to the higher being according to Islam. In modernity, God does not interfere with human life. As you know there are various understandings of God; there are those who claim God does not exist or deists etc. But with humanism, God does not interfere with human life. God created men, said “Men will shape its own destiny” and left them on earth. So there is no divine dimension of the arrogance or modesty shown to a human. But there is such a dimension in Islam. We must establish this distinction.  Modesty weakens, wipes, softens ego. A man’s ego has corners. And as a result, when two egos collide in bilateral relations, a spark comes out, but this does not happen when soft egos touch. It stretches a little, separates and softens. Hence, hard relations disappear. Society is made up of people. A person does not meet a single person in their daily life. Consider this bilateral relationship in the society when multiple relations are in question. All relations are  softened, warmer and better when people are modest. Society does not lose energy. There are two dimensions to the entity called human. One of these is the ego, the self, and the other one is the heart. As the ego fades away and softens, the heart begins to gain strength. The work of heart is exclusively love and compassion. Ego must exist, live, own, and manifest itself. All human beings have egos. Man absolutely needs ego. The task of the heart is love and compassion. So when the ego is drawn to the background, the heart begins to grow stronger. The product of humility emerges as love and compassion.

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TR Dergisi

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