Qestion: A hadith mentions two kinds of eyes that will be free from Hellfire; one of them refers to a guard keeping watch near borderlines. What does “wakeful eyes” mean, and what is the message to be drawn from this notion with respect to the present conditions?
Answer: This term is used for valiant soldiers vigilantly keeping watch near borderlines against possible violations. They keep watch until the morning for the sake of their country, faith, children, future and the like. As it is mentioned in the question, the hadith gives glad tidings: “Two kinds of eyes will never be touched by the fire of Hell; an eye which weeps out of fear and awe of God and an eye which spends the night alert, keeping watch for the sake of God.”
The danger within and early recognition
This statement of the noble Prophet gave significant glad tidings for the people on guard duty in those days’ conditions. It served as a great source of motivation for those keeping watch for the sake of their country and faith. However, dangers threatening today’s believers have assumed a different dimension. There are such dangers and threats in Muslim lands that people live together with them. The sinister plots that insinuate through some hypocritical means target our spiritual heritage and cause serious destruction. Suffering with concern for one’s country, ideals, people, and faith, and thus losing sleep over the fear of a new wave of spiritual degeneration, fall within the meaning of “wakeful eyes” mentioned in the hadith. As such eyes are constantly watchful and vigilant, they try to detect dangers as early as possible and take due precautions. They build up not only one protective wall, as in the castles of the past, but many alternative walls against dangers. They build up such walls that when attackers bring one down, the next one stands against them; if they bring that wall down too, they find another insurmountable wall before them.
Blindfolded eyes and manipulated societies
I seek refuge in God from casting aspersions on our predecessors. The Messenger of God advised Muslims to remember deceased people not for their negative sides, but always for their good sides. This is what we try to do today as much as possible. Together with that, I cannot help but express one truth here. It is so sad that Muslims came under domination owing to their dissociation from the world during a certain period. This happened as a consequence of indulging in heedlessness and comfort. There were no projects about opening up to the world; even those who extolled the virtues of their nation did not come up with any serious, permanent, long-term project. It was a period of dissociation, when people lived for quenching their appetites. This state gave way to a paralysis of enthusiasm and lofty feelings as well. If there had been wakeful eyes to detect the dangers at an early period, then it could have been possible to let everything undergo renewal and to take due precautions against the dangers sneaking in. If this could have been done, the consequences may not have been so disastrous. If it had been possible to understand the world better and detect the dangers at an early stage, and most importantly, to build alternative barriers against them, then the situation could be very different today.
Even though some efforts are made for the sake of sharing the values of our spiritual heritage with the world, it is a reality that circles of schemers do not wait passively. Almost the entire world is turbulent. In some countries, people are trying to topple over the tyrants in power. However, it should not be forgotten that if a society underwent certain degenerations and deformations, the means and methods for restoration must be planned very well. It is not possible to turn everybody into upright ones all of a sudden. People have been estranged from religion and are virtually numbed by a secular lifestyle; rehabilitating them to recognize the unique potential granted to humanity takes a certain process and time. In this respect, all of the projects targeting such guidance must be reckoned very well from beginning to end. Particularly on a crucial issue as faith in God, if you cannot deal with the problem of raising individuals with sound morality, Mephisto will play his game one more time, and humanity will lose against him one more time.
Chaos and confusion do not lead to order
Revolts in a society are mostly helter-skelter reactions. There may be lots of people acting with good intentions. However, you never know where such kind of events may lead. For this reason, I always hold doubts about helter-skelter movements.
Returning back to our main subject, everything happened as a result of acting like sleepwalkers, and our inability to grow aware of things going on and evaluating them with closed eyes. So the owners of wakeful eyes within a society are the ones who envisioned oncoming menaces and knew how to take precautions. For example, Sayyid Qutb spent his life in struggle; he was already born into a home where the idea of struggle reigned. His father, mother, and brother all had this idea. When you look at his works as In the Shade of the Qur’an and Social Justice, you see a man ready to die for his ideals. Indeed, before his death, Abdel Nasser’s men told him that he could avoid execution if he apologized to their ruler, but he turned down the offer by saying that a believer will never apologize to an unbeliever. He walked to death with dignity and became a martyr. In spite of spending a life of struggle, in one of his final letters he wrote in jail, he made a self-criticism and expressed his regret for neglecting the issue of faith. He confessed: “The prescription of faith was the real cure for the troubles of society. This is what we failed to see,” and drew attention to a truth: Restoring individuals with their own spirit and building them anew is the issue of top significance to deal with in order to bring a society into a more desirable form. In other words, if a real change is to be realized, the issue must be taken up with all its aspects. All parts of a body need to be healthy so that the body can function properly; in the same way, bringing social life to a desirable form necessitates approaching all of its units. If you leave a gap somewhere, you fall down, just like a paralyzed limb. If you do not make your plans with sound reasoning, judgment, compassion, and insight, then your actions will be lost in chaos. For this reason, we need to ask “what” should be done and “how”? We must ask, “Are the roads safe to travel or are there possible traffic problems along the way?” We need to ponder deeply over these questions.
It is possible to understand “wakeful eyes” in a general sense to cover all of these meanings. Therefore, we can say that as the eyes shedding tears night and day for the sake of God will not see Hellfire, the owners of wakeful eyes who are vigilant against such attacks targeting their faith and spiritual heritage will also be free from Hellfire.
Question: What is the relation between wakeful eyes and suffering?
One may be suffering for personal or familial problems, or suffering for problems related to the neighborhood, town, or the country. Feeling such suffering in one’s conscience is a necessity of being human. However, true suffering is a loftier feeling related to being concerned about the problems of all of humanity, seeking solutions for them, and opening’s one’s arms and heart to the whole of humanity. If you really have this kind of suffering, then it causes you to lose sleep and you will not feel comfortable even while lying in your bed. If you are unable to tackle existing problems and cannot come up with alternative ways for solving them, then you will probably throw aside your quilt and pace around in an almost delirious state. Such suffering will not let you sleep and cause you to become an owner of wakeful eyes. However, I find it necessary to remind that the real source of suffering is sound faith in God. That is, in order for a person to feel such suffering in one’s conscience, he or she needs to know what Paradise or Hell really means, and to know the path of the noble Prophet. One who says “I wish I could embrace the whole of humanity! I wish I could breathe my values into people of all levels! I wish I could pour the inspirations of my soul into their hearts!” and feels due suffering will not be able to sleep, and such a person will keep making new plans and seeking new courses of action. That person—excuse me—will be preoccupied with seeking solutions even while returning from the lavatory. When some good idea comes to his mind, he will note it down or immediately call by phone people related to the issue and share the idea with them. Sometimes, such sudden ideas will even make him stop his ablutions or Prayer halfway; because he acts like a doctor in the face of the different social problems and is continuously seeking ideas about the right cures. A suffering person who sees that the prescriptions he tried do not work and wonders what else he can do will immediately put to practice any useful alternatives he can find. Such suffering does not let one sleep, and makes him walk around deliriously.
 Sunan at-Tirmidhi, Jihad, 7; Abu Ya’la, Al-Musnad, 7/307
 Sunan at-Tirmidhi, Janaiz, 34; Sunan Abu Dawud, Adab, 42