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THE NINE CLARIFICATIONS ABOUT MUSLIM SUFISM AND FOLLOWING A SPIRITUAL ORDER

In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate
Surely God’s friends–no fear shall be on them, neither shall they grieve. (10:62) 

Sufism is light-giving, spiritual truth

There is a lovely, light-giving and spiritual truth variously called Sufism, tariqa (spiritual order or way), sainthood or being God’s friend, initiation, following a spiritual order or way. The truth-seeking scholars among the people of spiritual pleasure and discovery have so far written thousands of volumes to describe and explain this sacred truth and taught it to the Muslim community. May God reward them with much good! All that I will attempt to do here, therefore, is to show, in accordance with the present context, a few drops out of that ocean of information.

Question 

What is tariqa?

Answer 

Tariqa is the name of the spiritual way by which a man initiated into it seeks to acquire knowledge of God and attain full perception of the truths of belief, and by which he is elevated, at the end of his spiritual journeying, under the auspices of the Prophet’s Ascension, to the rank of the perfect man.

Since man is an all-comprehensive index of the whole universe, his heart is like an immaterial map of thousands of worlds. As the mind of man is, as shown by sciences, like a center of telecommunications, a sort of immaterial center of the universe, so his heart is, as explained in many enlightening books written by countless men of sainthood, the receiver of in-numerable universal truths, as well as being their source or seed.

Since, then, the mind and heart of man are of such a nature – a seed in which are encapsulated the members of a huge tree and the wheels and other parts of an eternal and splendid machine – the Creator of this heart, Who made it so, willed that it should operate and flourish by putting its potentials into practice. Since He willed it to be so, the heart will, like the intellect, work, and the most practical and important means to make it work is repeating different Names of God in the gradations toward sainthood and seeking to attain the truths of belief along with the spiritual journeying.

Reciting God’s Names and reflection as the two keys to spiritual journeying

The two keys to, or means of, this spiritual journeying or movement, are repeating God’s Names and meditation or reflection. The benefits of this repetition and meditation are too many to count. Apart from the benefits for one’s afterlife and for the attainment of human perfections, just one of their benefits concerning this tumultuous worldly life is as follows:

Every person seeks some consolation or pleasure for relief amidst the turbulence and burdensome responsibilities of life; seeks some intimacy to relieve the solitude and gloom around him. Modern social gatherings can give to one or two out of ten persons the means of relief and satisfy the need for a friendly atmosphere, but only in a heedless and intoxicating way. 

Eighty per cent of people lack true consolation and relief; they are also devoid of the relief possible through the sort of social gatherings mentioned, either because of modern attitudes and life-style or because of the struggle to make a living or because of other factors such as illness, afflictions and old age which lead them to turn their thoughts more to the other world than to this one.

Those people can find a true consolation and contentment, and a faithful friendship, by making their hearts work through meditation and remembrance of God, by repeating His Names and, turning to their inner selves for intimacy, by coming to understand that everywhere is full of God’s creatures, visible or invisible, so that they are not alone wherever they may be. Belief in, and remembrance of, God lead them to make friends with every creature and to live a pleasant, contented life. Besides, the feeling that they are always in the company of God, their Creator and Provider, gives them the greatest of pleasures and removes all the gloom and solitude, leading them to be thankful to God.

Sainthood is a proof for Messengership

Sainthood is a proof for Messengership and the way or spiritual order (tariqa) is evidence for the Shari‘a. For a saint experiences with certainty of seeing the truths of belief communicated by the Messenger and confirms them through the witnessing of his heart and the spiritual pleasure he derives. Such confirmation is a decisive proof for the truth of Divine Messengership.

A member of a spiritual order is convinced through the pleasure and enlightenment he gets and the ability of spiritual discovery he acquires, that the commandments and principles of the Shari‘a which he is instructed in and follows in his daily life are of wholly Divine origin and undeniably true. As sainthood and tariqa are thus proofs for the truth of Messengership and the Shari‘a, they are also an expression of the perfection of Islam and a source of its light, and a means for mankind to make progress and a source to get enlightenment by virtue of attachment to Islam.

Despite the considerable significance of this great truth, some deviant sects have gone so far as to deny it. Being themselves deprived of the lights of tariqa, they have also led some others to be deprived of them also. It is most unfortunate that certain scholars of superficial knowledge among the Ahl al-Sunna wa’l-Jama‘a, and some heedless of politicians, using as an excuse some abuses and mistakes witnessed in the conduct of some members of tariqas, are trying to close down or even destroy this great treasury, to dry up this pure source of the water of life. It is, however, a fact that there can hardly be found in the world any way, order or system without faults, so that if incompetent and unqualified people are admitted into a job or an order, they will certainly be the cause of some abuses. But God Almighty will show in the Hereafter the justice of His Lordship in calling people to account for their deeds by weighing the good and evil deeds against each other. That is, if one’s good deeds weigh more, God Almighty will reward him; if otherwise, He will punish him. Further, the balancing of the good and evil deeds will be not according to their number but according to their quality. It may happen that a single good deed will outweigh a thousand evil ones and cause them to be forgiven. Since Divine Justice decides this way and truth judges so, then a tariqa should not be condemned because of some abuses by some few of its members. For the good of tariqa or following a spiritual way according to the Sunna of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, is always greater than its evils. A most decisive proof of this is that the people of tariqa preserve their faith at the most critical times when the people of misguidance attack all the religious values. A sincere ordinary member of tariqa preserves, through the spiritual pleasure he gets in tariqa and his love for saints, his faith more than a man of superficial scientific knowledge. He may be a transgressor on account of committing some major sins, yet he never deviates to unbelief, nor does he join the heretics. No power in the world can cause him to refute a chain of spiritual guides whom he accepts with a strong love and firm conviction as the spiritual poles of the world. Since he cannot made to refute them, he does not lose his trust in them; and since he does not lose his trust in them, he does not join the party of heresy. It is, however, difficult for a man, however great a truth-seeking scholar he may be, to save himself against the intrigues of the modern people of heresy, if he has no connection with tariqa and his heart is inoperative.

There is another point to mention, namely that the tariqa is not to be condemned because of the evils of some orders which wrongly call themselves a tariqa, or of some schools which have broken with the circle of piety and even of Islam. Apart from its very significant fruits, religious and spiritual and pertaining to the Hereafter, tariqa has always exerted a foremost influence for the development and flourishing of brotherhood, the sacred bond in the Muslim world, as well as being one of the three most important and firm strongholds of Islam against the formidable attacks of the world of unbelief and Christian politics aimed to extinguish its light. The power which protected Istanbul, the center of Caliphate, for five hundred years against a large world of Christianity, lies in the lights of monotheism which diffused from five hundred places in Istanbul and, as a point of support for believers in that center of Islam, in the strength of belief of those invoking ‘God, God!’, in the dervish lodges behind mosques, and their going into raptures with the spiritual pleasure coming from knowledge of God.

The way of sainthood is both very easy and, paradoxically, very difficult 

The way of sainthood is both very easy and, paradoxically, very difficult; is very short and, at the same time, very long; very precious and desirable, yet quite risky; it is a broad way, but also, sometimes, very narrow.

It is on account of such paradoxical aspects of it that those who follow this road sometimes drown and are sometimes lost. Times even come when some turn back and cause others to deviate.
To summarize, there are two ways of traveling in tariqa, one is traveling in the inner world, the other, traveling in the outer world. 

The traveler in the inner world begins from the carnal self and, without ever stretching towards the outer world, heads straight for the heart. He penetrates through egotism and self-conceit and, by making a way through the heart, reaches the truth. After the completion of his travel in the inner world, he sets off in the outer world, where he finishes his travel in a short period. He witnesses also in this world the truth he has seen in the inner.

Most of the spiritual orders that have adopted loud invocation of God’s Names follow this way of spiritual travel. What is demanded of travelers in this way is breaking egotism and self-conceit, abandoning whims and fancies, and destroying the carnal self.

The traveler in the other way starts from the outer world and, after having observed the reflections of God’s Names and Attributes in all the objects of this vast world, enters the inner world. In his heart, he witnesses to some extent the same lights that he has observed in the outer world and makes his quickest way into the heart. When he finally perceives that the heart is the mirror of God, the Eternally-Besought-of-All, he has attained his goal.

Thus, if those who go in the first way do not succeed in destroying their carnal selves, in abandoning whims and fancies and breaking egotism and self-conceit, they fall from the rank of thanksgiving to the point of self-pride, and therefrom to vanity. If, besides, they are in ecstasy because of Divine love, and in a spiritually intoxicated state because of feeling attracted by God, they make very excessive, exaggerated claims called shathiya, like disregarding God’s threats and chastisement or belittling Paradise, or seeing their own rank as above everybody else’s, thus bringing harm both to themselves and others.

For example, a lieutenant who is boastful of his rank of command, and enraptured with the pleasure it gives, may see himself as if a marshal. He confuses his small sphere of command with the larger one of the marshal. Likewise, the reflection of the sun in a little mirror may, on account of its being a reflection of the sun, sometimes be regarded as the same as the magnificent reflection of the sun on the surface of a sea. So, there are many people of sainthood who, though like a fly in comparison with a peacock, regard and even see themselves as superior to those much greater than themselves. I once even witnessed that an initiate who was awakened to some truths and felt the mystery of sainthood obtained by himself to a slight degree, considered himself as, and assumed the attitude of, the greatest spiritual pole of the world. I said to him: 

Brother! As a king has, through laws and on account of rulership, relations with, and authority over, all the members of the state from the prime minister down to a strict governor, because of which every officer feels connected to him, so the rank of a spiritual pole has different manifestations or reflections in countless ranks of sainthood. Each rank has also many forms of manifestations. You see the greatest rank of a spiritual pole, which may be likened to that of a prime minister in a state, reflected in your rank, like that of a strict governor, and are thereby deceived. What you see may be true, but your judgment is wrong. For a fly, a bowl of water is like a small sea.

That person came, by God’s Will, to his senses and escaped a great danger.

I have also encountered several persons who know themselves as of the kind of the Mahdi, and claim that they will be the greatest Mahdi promised for the period near the end of time. They are not liars, nor deceivers, but are deluded in so far as they regard their vision as the ultimate truth. As there are as many degrees of the manifestation of the Divine Names as the number of the objects in the universe, material or immaterial, from the Greatest Throne of God down to a minute particle on earth, and the objects receiving this manifestation are in as different degrees as their number, so the ranks of sainthood are of the same variety. What causes deception or confusion in this matter is this:

Some ranks of sainthood have a particular connection with the function of the Mahdi and are somehow related to the greatest Spiritual Pole and even to Khadr. Likewise, there are some other ranks related to some famous saints and thereby called, for example, the rank of Khadr, the rank of Uways, and the rank of the Mahdi.

It is for this reason that those who receive a few manifestations of any of those ranks think themselves to be the owner of that rank, regarding themselves as Khadr himself, or the Mahdi or the greatest Spiritual Pole of the time. If those persons have broken their egotism and do not pursue any spiritual position, they are not to be condemned for such assertions, and their excessive claims are to be counted as shathiya. If, by contrast, they seek a spiritual position to satisfy their self-conceit and therefore turn from being thankful to God to self-pride, they will ultimately lapse into vanity and deviate from the truth. For they begin to regard the greater saints as of the same degree and character as themselves and, since a soul, however self-conceited it may be, is aware of its faults, their good opinion of those saints turns into imagining them to be faulty like themselves. They may even go so far that their respect for the Prophets may diminish. 

The relationship between Shari‘a and tariqa: 

Those who are captivated by such state should judge according to the rules of the Shari‘a, and follow the guiding principles laid down by the scholars of religious methodology and the instructions of the saints of meticulous research and truth-seeking such as Imam Ghazali and Imam Rabbani. Also, they should always reproach their carnal selves, ascribing to them nothing but defects, helplessness and poverty. The excessive and exaggerated claims of those in such a state originate from self-love. For love prevents the lover from discerning the defects of the beloved. Therefore, because of self-love, they imagine their carnal souls or selfhood – as valueless and insignificant as glass – to be as precious and brilliant as diamond.

A most grievous mistake likely to be made by those in this state is that they imagine the meanings inspired to them to be ‘words of God’ and therefore call them revealed verses. However, this causes them to belittle the most sacred and exalted rank of Divine Revelation. Indeed, all the inspirations from those of the honey-bee and other animals to those of human beings, including the common and the distinguished among them, are each a word of God. However, the Speech of God comes through seventy thousand veils according to the capacity of each receiver, and therefore has innumerable kinds of manifestation and degrees of reception. Because of this, it is absolutely wrong to call those inspirations ‘revealed verses’, as the revealed verse is the proper name given to each light-diffusing sentence of the Qur’an, which is the most evident and illustrious embodiment, and the proper name of the Divine Word and Revelation. As explained and proved in the Twelfth, Twenty-fifth and Thirty-first Words, what occurs in the hearts of those people are, compared to the sun of the Qur’an, which is the direct Word of God, like the shadowy and obscure reflections of the sun in the colored mirror in your hand, when compared to the sun itself. Although the reflections in each mirror are rightly attributed to the sun and do have some relation with it, the earth will never gravitate to those mirrors nor revolve around them.

  • Even the most important rules of tariqa are included in the Shari‘a, and the ranks attained through tariqa, however high they may be, can never be counted as having been attained outside the Shari‘a.

The Shari‘a, that is, the collection of Divine religious principles, commandments and prohibitions, is the result of the Divine address directly to man through the Prophet, from the point of His absolute Oneness and Lordship. Therefore, even the most important rules of tariqa are included in the Shari‘a, and the ranks attained through tariqa, however high they may be, can never be counted as having been attained outside the Shari‘a. All the types of tariqa being means and steps to reach the truths of the Shari‘a, the results obtained through tariqa are included in the confirmations of the Shari‘a. Unlike the misconceptions of some people of Sufism, the Shari’a is not a mere outer covering, and tariqa the inner part and haqiqa (the truth) the kernel or essence. The Shari‘a flourishes in different degrees according to the different levels of people; that is, for every level there is a corresponding degree of understanding and practicing the Shari‘a. The higher or deeper, the better or more developed a man is in understanding, practicing and tasting the Shari‘a, the better and deeper, the more high-ranking a Muslim he is. For this reason, it is wrong to think of the understanding and practice of the common people as the Shari‘a, and to name the level of the Shari‘a practiced by men of sainthood tariqa and haqiqa. Tariqa is, in essence, the name of a discipline or technique to practice the Shari‘a in a better way, and the Shari’a has numerous different degrees of understanding and practice according to the different levels of people.

It is for this reason that the more advanced in tariqa the Sufis are, the more devoted, attached and obedient to the Shari‘a they are. They regard even a most insignificant commandment of the Prophet as something absolutely to be obeyed, and perform it with utmost care. For the rules of the Shari‘a concerning good manners, which are the fruits of Divine Revelation, are higher in rank and more important than the good manners taught in tariqa, which are the products of inspiration, as Revelation is higher in comparison with inspiration. For this reason, the most important fundamental of tariqa is to follow the exalted Sunna of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings.

  • Tariqa should always be regarded as a means and never be accorded more attention or importance than is accorded to a means.

Tariqa should always be regarded as a means and never be accorded more attention or importance than is accorded to a means. If tariqa is taken as the aim or end in itself, then the commandments of the Shari‘a and principles of the Sunna are reduced to mere ceremonies for outward performance, with the heart turned directly toward tariqa. That is, a man of tariqa attaches more importance to recitation of God’s Names in the circle of dervishes than to performing the daily prescribed prayers; he concentrates more on his daily supererogatory recitations than on his religious obligations, he refrains more from any opposition to the good manners taught by tariqa than he does from the major sins. Whereas the truth is that not even one of the religious obligations, which are among the established commandments of the Shari‘a, can be compensated for by all of the daily supererogatory recitations of tariqa. Therefore, those recitations and the good manners required by tariqa should be taken as a means of consolation for not being able to derive the true pleasure from the religious obligations, not as the real source of that pleasure. In other words, his recitations and his observance of manners in his lodge should be a means for the pleasure and exact performance of his prescribed prayer in mosque. If one who, by contrast, performs the prescribed prayer in mosque in the manner of carrying out a formality in order, thereafter, to run to his lodge as soon as possible to get the true pleasure and attain spiritual perfection, is in a grave loss and deviates from the truth.

Question

Is tariqa possible outside the sphere of the Sunna and the commandments of the Shari‘a?

Answer 

It is both possible and impossible. It is possible, for some perfect saints have been executed with the sword of the Shari‘a. It is impossible, for the truth-seeking scholars of sainthood are all agreed on the principle, as expressed by Sa‘di al-Shir’azi:

Sa‘di, it is inconceivable for one who does not follow the way of Muhammad to find the lights of the truth.

This is true because God’s noble Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, is the Seal of the Prophets and the addressee of God on behalf of all mankind: therefore, mankind cannot follow another path than the broad highway of his and therefore should come under his flag. On the other hand, since people in trance or ecstasy or spiritual absorption are not counted as responsible for any acts of theirs contrary to the Shari‘a, and since a man is not asked to account for his opposition to the religious commandments when he is under the influence of senses or faculties which can neither be controlled by will-power and reason nor be made to take on any responsibility, then when an ecstatic saint is under the influence of such circumstances or such spiritual or mental states, he does not lose sainthood. Of course, such a man should not openly deny, condemn or debase the rules of belief and the truths of the Shari‘a. Even if he does not do the prescribed acts, he should admit their truth. Otherwise, if, overcome by that state of trance, he acts in a way to suggest – God forbid! – any denial or contradiction of the established truths of belief and the Shari‘a, this is a sign of falling off and deviation.

In short:

The people of tariqa outside the sphere of the Shari‘a fall into two categories.

  • The first category consists of those who, overcome, as mentioned before, by trance or ecstasy, or spiritual absorption and intoxication, or under the influence of senses or faculties uncontrollable by reason and will-power, leave the sphere of the Shari‘a. This leaving occurs unintentionally, not because they do not approve the commandments of the Shari‘a. There have been, among that group, men of sainthood, even some significant saints, whom the truth-seeking scholars of sainthood, having been with them temporarily, have judged to be outside the sphere not only of the Shari‘a but also of Islam. The condition for the preservation of their sainthood is that they do not intentionally deny or contradict any of the commandments conveyed by the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, and any neglect of such commandments comes from their ignorance or spiritual intoxication, trance and ecstasy.
  • The second category comprises those who, fascinated by the splendid pleasures of tariqa, esteem the truths of the Shari‘a as tasteless, as mere ceremonies, since they are unable to perceive their taste, and become indifferent to them. They go so far as to think of the Shari‘a as only a superficial covering and are content with what they have found in tariqa considering that as the real object of their efforts, and they act in contradiction to the commandments of the Shari‘a. Those who are ‘sober’ among this group are held responsible for their un-Islamic actions; they are reduced to the lowest rank and even become the object of ridicule by Satan.

Followers of tariqa outside the Sunna of the Prophet 

Some persons among the people, or belonging to the sects, of deviation are approved by the Umma, while some others who are apparently of the same standing are rejected. For example, so radical a Mu’tazilite as Zamakhshari is not judged to be a heretic or unbeliever by the meticulous scholars of the Ahl al-Sunna, while the Mu’tazili leaders such as Abu ‘Ali Jubba’i are rejected and refuted although they are much less severe in their opposition to the Ahl al-Sunna wa’l-Jama‘a. This perplexed me for a long time. Finally, I came to understand, by God’s grace, that the objections of Zamakhshari to Ahl al-Sunna were due to his love of and, devotion to, truth. That is, he sided with the views of the Mu’tazilite School since he, for example, thought that God could be held free from all defects by attributing to animate beings themselves the function of creating or giving external existence to their acts. Because of the importance he attached to, and the efforts he expended to affirm, the exemption of God from every defect, he did not accept the principle of the Ahl al-Sunna concerning the creation of the acts of animate beings. As for the other Mu’tazilite leaders rejected by the Ahl al-Sunna, they opposed the Ahl al-Sunna, not because they sought the truth sincerely, but because they were unable to perceive the exalted principles of the Ahl al-Sunna and were too narrow-minded to understand the comprehensive rules they follow in establishing those principles.

The opposition of some people of tariqa outside the exalted Sunna of the Prophet, to some secondary commandments of the Shari‘a comes, as with that of the Mu’tazilite School to the Ahl al-Sunna in theological matters, from two different groups:

  • The first group become, as with Zamakshari, indifferent to the secondary commandments of the Shari‘a, the taste of which they are unable to perceive, because they are attached to their way with a pure intention and are overcome by the pleasures they derive in following that way.
  • The other group consider those commandments inferior to the principles of tariqa because they are unable to comprehend them or to experience the profound pleasure they give.

Three points to be made concerning the way of sainthood: 

  • The most beautiful, the straightest and brightest of the ways of sainthood is following the Sunna of the Prophet Muhammad

The most beautiful, the straightest and brightest of the ways of sainthood is following the Example – the Sunna– of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, in all one’s deeds and transactions, and obeying the commandments of the Shari‘a.

It is because of this following and obeying that even one’s ordinary deeds and actions and natural movements become a form of worship, and, reminds him of the Sunna and Shari‘a. The remembrance of the Sunna and Shari‘a causes one to think of the Prophet, which calls, in turn, God Almighty to mind. This remembrance gives a kind of peace and contentment. The minutes of life can thus be counted as being spent in continuous worship. Being the broadest highway, this way is the way of the Companions and their righteous followers, who truly represented the succession to the Prophetic mission, which is the greatest sainthood.

  • The most important basis of the ways of sainthood is sincerity or purity of intention

The most important basis of the ways of sainthood and the schools of tariqa is sincerity or purity of intention. For one is saved through sincerity from the implicit forms of associating partners with God. Whoever has not been able to acquire sincerity cannot travel in those ways. And, the most direct means, the most effective and penetrating power in those ways is love. A lover does not try to find faults with his beloved and becomes blind to his or her defects; rather, even the weak indications of his beloved’s perfection are decisive proofs in the sight of the lover. He always sides with his beloved.

That is why those who have directed themselves to knowledge of God through love, do not give ear to objections and doubts. Even if thousands of devils come together, they cannot invalidate in their sight even the least indication to the perfection of their True Beloved (God). But for this love, they would have to strive against the resistance of their carnal selves, against their personal and external devils. In order to save themselves, they must resist heroically, with firmness, strong faith, and careful vision and discernment.

Because of this, love of God originating in knowledge of God is the most important ‘ferment’ in all the steps to sainthood, which changes an initiate and elevates him to higher ranks, and the remedy that cures all spiritual illnesses. There is, however, a risk in the way of love, namely that the lover may turn from complete modesty, from being a supplicant before God, to putting on airs and graces and behaving affectedly to show himself as valued and worthy of God’s love, and he therein transgresses the measure. When he is inclined in love to another being than God, he may love him on his account, that is, for his personal perfections and spiritual grace, not on account of God or his being a mirror of God’s Names. This sort of love becomes, for the lover, a poison not a remedy to cure his spiritual illnesses. The love for other beings than God, however perfect and great they may be, which is not in the name of God and His Prophet, will become a veil before love of God, not a means for it. If, by contrast, that love is cherished on account of, or in the name of, God, then it leads the lover to the love of God, and his love becomes a manifestation of Divine love.

  • This world is the abode of wisdom and service, not the abode of wages and reward

This world is the abode of wisdom and service, not the abode of wages and reward. Everything in this world happens in accordance with God’s Wisdom, and people will be rewarded in the Hereafter in return for the good deeds they do and the services they render in this world. That being so, the fruits of good deeds done for the good pleasure of God should not be sought in this world; if they are given, they should be accepted not with delight, but with sorrow. For it is not reasonable to use up here in this world the fruits which will be replaced in Paradise immediately with new ones each time they are eaten. It is like exchanging a lamp giving permanent light for one which is extinguished in a minute.

It is for this reason that men of sainthood warmly welcome hardships, misfortunes, troubles and services, not complainingly. They always say: ‘Praise be to God in all circumstances and conditions.’ 
If they are endowed with the capacity of spiritual discovery and working wonders, and given spiritual pleasures and lights, they accept them as Divine favors and try to conceal them. Never proud of them, they increase their thanksgiving and worship in return for them. Many saints have even requested God to take those favors back so that their sincerity and purity of intention will not be adulterated. Indeed, a most significant Divine kindness or favor for a man approved by God is that God does not make him feel His favors for him, so that he should not turn from being in the state of supplication and thankfulness to God to self-pride and putting on airs and graces and behaving affectedly.

Because of this, if those who seek sainthood by tariqa pursue spiritual pleasures and the capacity of working wonders, which are among the insignificant fruits of sainthood, and, when given, welcome these with pleasure, it will lead them – besides eating up here in this world the permanent fruits of Paradise – to lose purity of intention and finally sainthood itself.

Risks of following a tariqa: 

Herein are explained eight dangers which an initiate may face in following tariqa. 

  • Some initiates who do not strictly follow the Sunna of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, may court danger by preferring sainthood over Prophethood. It has been proved in the Twenty-fourth and Thirty-first Words how much higher in rank Prophethood is in comparison with sainthood and how dim sainthood is when compared to Prophethood. 
  • They court danger by regarding some saints of excessive views as superior to the Companions of the Prophet and even of the same rank as Prophets. It has been decisively proved in the Twelfth and Twenty-seventh Words, and in the ‘Addendum’ to the Twenty-seventh Word concerning the Companions, that they had a very high rank on account of being the Companions of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings. Also, it is absolutely impossible for a saint, however great, to attain the rank of a Prophet.
  • Some fanatical followers of tariqa prefer the daily recitations and the secondary principles of tariqa to the exalted Sunna of the Prophet and go so far as to abandon the Sunna in favor of the recitations of their tariqa. By becoming, in consequence, indifferent to the supererogatory commandments of the Shari‘a of the secondary degree, they risk danger.

As proved in several Words, and proclaimed by the truth-seeking scholars of sainthood like Imam Ghazali and Imam Rabbani, the reward or degree acquired by carrying out a single religious obligation is more rewarding than a thousand commandments of the Sunna, so also a single principle of the Sunna is preferable to a thousand secondary acts of tariqa.

  • Some followers of tariqa who go to excess risk danger by regarding inspiration as of the same kind as Divine Revelation. It has been decisively proved in some treatises including, primarily, the Twelfth Word and the Twenty-fifth Word, concerning the miraculousness of the Qur’an, that Divine Revelation is incomparably higher in rank and more comprehensive and sacred than inspiration, and that inspiration is very dim and narrow when compared to Divine Revelation.
  • Some who pretend to Sufism but are, in reality, unaware of the truth of tariqa, become engrossed by the spiritual pleasures, enlightenment and wonder-working – granted (without being desired) to some followers of tariqa in order to reinforce the weak-willed, to encourage those lacking in zeal, and to lighten the tedium and troubles coming from service in the way of God – and come to prefer these over acts of worship, daily recitations and services, thus going into danger. However, as stated briefly in the ‘Third Point’ of the ‘Sixth Clarification’ above, and proved in several Words, this world is the realm of rendering service, not the realm of wages. Those who demand their wages here in this world for their religious acts and services will reduce the ever-lasting fruits of Paradise to the dying, transient fruits of this life, and, attracted by a manifestation of the Hereafter in this world in the form of a limited permanence, cannot look forward to the intermediate life or to the Hereafter with desire and longing.
  • Some initiates who are not people of verification and truth run into danger by confusing the real and universal ranks of sainthood with their particular examples and shadows. As proved in the ‘Second Branch’ of the Twenty-fourth Word and in some other Words, the sun is multiplied through its reflections, which, despite having light and heat like the sun itself, are very faint in comparison with their origin. Likewise, the ranks of the Prophets and the greatest saints have some shadows and reflections. When initiates enter those shadows, or receive some of those reflections, they see themselves as greater than the greatest saints and even the Prophets, and thereby fall into danger. 

In order to escape all the dangers mentioned, including this last one, one should always take as guiding principles the essentials of belief and fundamentals of the Shari‘a, and condemn any visions or experiences in opposition to them.

  • Some people of enthusiasm and spiritual pleasures court danger by preferring vanity, airs and graces, exaggerated claims, and gaining the love of people and being a resort for them, to thankfulness and being in a state of entreaty and supplication to God, and indifference to people’s love, attention and wealth. It should, however, be known that he greatest of the spiritual ranks is the servanthood of Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, which is exalted with the title or rank of being the Beloved of God. The foundation of such servanthood is thankfulness, entreaty, supplication, pious reverence, perception of human poverty and helplessness and indifference to people’s belongings, love and attention. Although some great saints have sometimes displayed vanity, and airs and graces, and acted in an affected way before God, but unintentionally and for a temporary period, they are not, however, to be followed intentionally in this matter, for they are not guides in this respect, even though they themselves were guided.
  • Some selfish and impatient initiates desire to ‘eat’ in the world the fruits of sainthood which will be obtained in the Hereafter, and thereby fall into danger. Whereas, as proved in many of the Words and proclaimed in Qur’anic verses such as, The life of this world is but comfort of illusion, (3:185) a single fruit of the Permanent World is preferable to a thousand orchards of this temporary one. So, those blessed fruits should not be eaten up here. If they are granted without our desiring them, we should be thankful to God and regard them not as a reward, but as a Divine grace to encourage us.

Some of numerous fruits and benefits of tariqa:

  • Through straightforward tariqa, one can attain, to the degree of certainty of seeing, full perception of the truths of faith which are the keys to, and means of, obtaining the eternal treasures in the Eternal World of happiness. 
  • By setting, through tariqa, the heart to work, which is the center and spring of the human factory, and thereby directing the other human faculties to their creative functions, one can attain true humanity.
  • By following tariqa, the believer joins a chain or caravan of saints in the journeying to the Intermediate World and the Hereafter, and he makes those saints friends in that way to eternity, thus being relieved of solitude and benefiting from their noble company in both this and the intermediate worlds. He also regards each of his spiritual masters as a support and strong proof against the attacks of doubts and, relying on their concern for him, he saves himself from falling into misguidance.
  • By experiencing the pleasure of knowing God through belief and of love of God coming from the knowledge of Him, he is relieved of utter solitude in the world and loneliness in the universe. As explained in many of the Words, the happiness in both worlds, and the pleasure without sorrow, as well as communion without loneliness, lie in the truth of beliefs and the Islamic way of life. As was stated in the Second Word, faith bears the seed of what is in effect a Tuba tree of Paradise.
  • It is through the training of tariqa that that seed germinates and grows.
  • By inwardly feeling, through tariqa, the truths contained in the religious duties, through spiritual alertness and the remembrance of God, he performs those duties willingly and enthusiastically, not like a slave compelled to a task.
  • He attains the station of reliance on, and absolute submission to, God, and the rank of being approved and loved by Him, which are the means for a true pleasure and consolation without grief, and familiarity and communion without loneliness and separation.
  • He saves himself, by means of sincerity and purity of intention achieved through tariqa, from disguised association of partners with God and degrading attitudes like show and pretence. He is also delivered, by purifying himself through the spiritual operations particular to tariqa, from the dangers caused by egotism and the carnal self.
  • Through turning in heart and mind toward God, and spiritual peace and sound intentions acquired through silent recitation of God’s Names and reflection, in tariqa, he transforms his everyday acts into acts of worship and his ordinary dealings and transactions into deeds related to the Hereafter, thus making good use of the capital of his life-span in a way to make its minutes like innumerable seeds to multiply into seed-pods for his eternal life.
  • Through the journeying by heart and the unceasing struggle against the temptations of Satan and his carnal self, and the spiritual progress attained, he tries to be a perfect man. That is, by becoming a true believer and perfect Muslim, in other words, by attaining the truth or the essence of faith and Islam, and therefore reaching, as a representative of the universe, the rank of being a true servant of God, as well as being His addressee and friend, and a mirror reflecting His Names and Attributes, and by demonstrating his being the best pattern of creation, he proves the superiority of humankind to the angels and, by flying through the highest ranks of humanity with the Islamic wings of belief and practices, he gains, or even experiences, the eternal happiness while in this world.

Glory be to You, we have no knowledge save what You have taught us. Surely You are the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.

O God, bestow blessings and peace on the Greatest Saint of Helping for all ages, and the Mightiest Pole of Sainthood for all times - our master Muhammad, the magnificence of whose sainthood and the degree of whose being beloved by God were manifested in his Ascension, and in the shadow of whose Ascension are all forms and degrees of sainthood contained, and on all of his family and Companions! Amen. And all praise be to God, the Lord of all the Worlds.

 

 

Last Updated on April 6, 2002

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