Sufism: The Purpose Of Taking A Sheikh And A Path

This is another article in the chapter Sufism from the classical manual on Sharia called Reliance of the Traveller. The articles are posted one by one in the order they are given in the book.

THE PURPOSE OF TAKING A SHEIKH AND A PATH

w9.7 (Muhammad Hashimi:) As for when the path is merely “for the blessing of it” and the sheikh lacks some of the conditions of a true guide, or when the disciple is seeking several different aims from it at once, or the disciple’s intention is contrary to the spiritual will of the sheikh, or the time required is unduly prolonged, or he is separated from his sheikh by the latter’s death or the exigencies of the times and has not yet completed his journey to Allah on the path or attained his goal from it-then it is obligatory for him to go and associate with someone who can complete his journey for him and convey him to what he seeks from the path, as it is not permissible for him to remain bound to the first sheikh his whole life if it is only to die in ignorance of his Lord, claiming that this is the purpose of the path. By no means is this the purpose. The purpose of the path is to reach the goal, and a path that does not reach it is a means without an end. The path was made for travel on it with the intention of reaching one’s goal, not for remaining and residing in even if this leads to dying in ignorance of one’s Lord. The meaning of a true disciple is one who forthrightly submits himself to a living sheikh who is a guide (murshid) during the days of his journey to Allah Most High so that the sheikh may put him through the stages of the journey until he can say to him, “Here you are, and here is your Lord” (ai-Hall al-sadid Ii ma astashkalahu almurid (y46), 7).

w9.8 (n:) Muhammad Hashimi’s above words about submitting oneself to a living sheikh refer to matters within the range of the permissible or recommended, not what contradicts the Sacred Law or beliefs of Islam (def: vl-v2), for no true sheikh would ever countenance such a contravention (dis: s4.7), let alone have a disciple do so, a fact that furnishes the subject of the remaining articles of this section.

w9.9 (‘Izz ibn ‘Abd ai-Salam:) The Sacred Law is the scale upon which men are weighed and profit is distinguished from loss. He who weighs heavi1y on the scales of the Sacred Law is of the friends (awliya’) of Allah, among whom there is disparity of degree. And he who comes up short in the scales of the Sacred Law is of the people of ruin, among whom there is also disparity of degree. If one sees someone who can fly through the air, walk on water, or inform one of the unseen, but who contravenes the Sacred Law by committing an unlawful act without an extenuating circumstance that legally excuses it, or who neglects an obligatory act without lawful reason, one may know that such a person is a devil Allah has placed there as a temptation to the ignorant. Nor is it farfetched that such a person should be one of the means by which Allah chooses to lead men astray, for the Antichrist will bring the dead to life and make the living die, all as a temptation and affliction to those who would be misled (ai-Imam al’ Izz ibn ‘Abd ai-Salam wa atharuhu fi al-fiqh alIslami (y38) , 1.137).

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