Tasawwuf and the Sacred Sunnat
Bismillahi wa salatu wa salamu ala Rasulillah wa ‘ala jami’il ambiyai wal-mursalin wa ‘ala ahlihi wa sahabihi ajmain, amin.
All the three (3) basic sciences (branches) or components of Islam have suffered greatly in the hands and minds of modern Muslims who, due to their ignorance of the depth, the eminence, sublimity and sacredness of these sciences and the great sages who suffered to put them in place, are consulting mind and man’s limited intelligence to make a change in these sciences.
The first of these sciences, Kalam, the science discussing the details of traditional (Sunni) beliefs has witnessed various attacks by men trying to give Allah I the attributes of men and/or other creation. Men have started to perceive a Lord and Creator that can be approached with the question of how, when, where and why. This is a dangerous shift from the pure, pristine, perfect and perfecting Tawhid brought by the noblest of servants and of Prophets, the rahma on the entire creation, Rasulu-Karim Muhammad Mustafa (alaihi wa ahlihi wa sahabihi salawatu wa taslimat). Indeed, the most exalted Prophet r mentioned in his noble words that the deviants will continue in this wayward and eccentric digression of theirs until they would ask: ‘Who created Allah I?’ Subhanallah! The Prophet of mercy, Hadrat Muhammad Mustafa r finally warned:
There will be towards the end of time a people (among my Ummah) who will say to you what you nor your fore-fathers (spiritual ancestors) have never heard before. Beware of them lest they misguide you and bring you to confusion.
The second science is the science of the law, the Islamic fiqh, which is a science of depth even from the root where its name was brought. In the course of our history Islam have produced so many Muhadiths (scholars of Hadith) but much less Fuqaha (scholars of law) because fiqh is one special field that demands all your efforts, all your being, the most advance intelligence and the most polished mind. Indeed the Fuqaha among the Sahaba y were few and other companions y felt no discomfort consulting them despite their personal understanding of the majestic Qur’an and being witness to the Ahadith. This specialization even took a more advanced and technical dimension when Rasulullah r would advise the companions as to whom to consult on some special matters of Salat, Zakat, inheritance or the Qur’an. Today consultation and following the fiqh Imams are seen as backwardness and even shrik (kufr). Modern minds want everybody to turn Islamic science of fiqh and its sources to a play thing whereby any Tom, Dick and Harry would have a say. It is an indubitable fact of history that millions of true Islamic men of knowledge and Ikhlas (sincerity) and the most exalted of our Awliya (saints) follow the fiqh Iman as a rule of the Deen with an undeniable Ijma and proudly put the name of their school after their most blessed names. That glorious era of humility and deep Islamic sensibility has given way to fir’awnic arrogant assumption of piety and understanding. The era of following is gone everyone is today a Faqih and Mufti unto himself. This is pure deviation and corruption in the religion. This is nothing but absolute spiritual disaster. Our beloved Imam Baihaqi t a great Faqih and Muhadith among the Tabiun (second century elders) once advised.
When Muslims go astray, you must (steadfastly) follow the path of those who came before. You must not leave this path even if you are left alone on their path.
The most adulterated of all Islamic three major sciences and the most misrepresented is the science of Ihsan or Tazkiya and variously called the science of Ikhlas (sincerity), Tasawwuf (spirituality), Islah (rectification), Tariqa or Sufism. This science, to the first generation of Muslims y and as learnt from the exalted Prophet r is a science that makes Iman settles in the heart and the ‘amal, the ibadats (worships) done with ease and extreme love and the harams avoided without duress (force) on one soul. The Hadith says:
Ihsan is to worship Allah I as if you see Him. Although you do not see Him, He sees you.
This great science which is foundational to our success in this and the next world has been reduced to mere running around with rosary, seeing dreams, predicting the future, working miracles and some empty attachment to our great spiritual luminaries without reflecting in the least their most sincere ardour for worship, abstinence from haram and even excessive mubah (permitted) things, their extreme passion to obey the most menial Sunnah and their readiness to sacrifice all they have for the peaceful living and advancement of the Ummah, the humanity and indeed the entire creation.
The exalted ‘alim and ‘arif Hadrat Sayyed AbdulHakim Arwasi t simply described Ihsan as the effort to purify oneself of animalistic attributes and desires replacing them with angelic attributes.’ In short it is the attempt of a zealous believer to removes all his evil traits to become like Allah’s I most perfect servant Rasulu-Karim Muhammad Mustafa r. This is why obedience to the Sunnah is central to one’s success on the path of Islah or Ihsan. Our noble elders y would evaluate their students using the Sunnah as the basic parameter. He who surpasses you in the Sunnah and ethics (adab) of Rasulullah surpasses you in Ihsan, in Tariqa. This is the reality.
It was related of the great Shaykh of Ihsan, Imam Junayd Baghdadi t that a man lived with him for many years learning and observing his conducts so noble and exemplary. One day, this student of his decided to part way with him. The Imam, astonished, asked the reason for such sudden and unceremonial parting. The student simply responded that he has been with his famous Shaykh for twenty years without seeing any miracle (karama) on him. Imam Junayd t asked if for the past twenty years the student has seen him negating the Sunnah in all his important and menial steps. The student confirmed that certainly the Shaykh is always on the Sunnah. Imam Junayd responded saying:
Hamd (thanks) be to Allah I who has honoured us with spending twenty years without going out of the Sunnah of His most beloved Prophet r. This is the greatest miracle and what miracle is there but this.
One of the great Imams of Tasawwuf was going out of the Masjid with his students following him in great numbers. As soon as the exalted Shaykh stepped out of the Masjid left leg first in line with the Sunnah he turned to his students saying:
Any day you see me stepping out of Masjid right leg first – contrary to the Sunnah – then you give up your loyalty to me.
A great Shaykh of Ihsan (Tasawwuf) was told that someone is so exalted that he flies in the air. The Shaykh said he is equal to a crow, a bird. They said the person walks effortlessly on water and the Shaykh said a duck or goose also walks on water. They said the man also appears in a place and he is seen a thousand miles a way within minutes, to which the Shaykh says he is like Shaytan who is even faster than that. True miracle is to be on the Sunnah and outside this is pure deception, balderdash.
The Mujaddid al-ifthani al-Imam ar-Rabbani Ahmad ibn AbdulAhad ash–Shirindi is one of the greatest pillars of Islam and of Ihsan. He attained perfection in the four foundation Turuq (plural of Tariqa, path) of Naqshbandi, Qadriyya, Chistiyya and Shurawardiyyah. All the pious ones after him love him and acknowledge his ‘ilm (knowledge), Taqwa (piety) and Ikhlas (sincerity). This great ‘alim wrote in his invaluable masterpiece titled Maktubat:
A person’s happiness depends on his adapting himself to the chief of all religious and worldly leaders in all his habit and worships and, in short, whatsoever he may be doing … All the perfections and high ranks to be attained physically and spiritually are dependent upon loving the Messenger of Allah r. This is the only criterion to access the degree of a person’s maturity.
If you love Allah I adapt yourselves to me. Allah I loves those who follow me.
The saintly ‘alim, Shaykh Abdur-Rashid Gangohi t also mentioned this great fact in one of his invaluable letters:
There is no way of attaining success in this world and in the Hereafter except through following the Sunnah … It is for this reason that we have ba’yat (pledge to a true guide who is perfectly on the Sunnah), and this is reason we acquire ‘ilm (knowledge). When the Sunnat is not in our lives, everything else is of no value and useless. There is no need to write anything further.
So it is clearly seen that the luminaries who personified the purifying path of Ihsan aims at nothing but ease and comfort in obedience to the Sunnat in the most important and most menial aspect of life.
Our beloved al-Imam ar-Rabbani t once sat on a prayer rug in his Masjid in devotion while a student of his exalted person came into the Masjid to recite the Holy Qur’an. The student sat on the mat and commenced recitation. Seeing this, the noble al-Imam ar-Rabbani t slowly and silently removed the prayer rug from under himself and continued his devotion sitting on ordinary mat. ‘It would be against adab’, commented the Imam, that a reciter of the Holy Qur’an will sit on ordinary mat while we sit on a rug over the mat, Subhanallah!
al-Imam Rabbani t once sent one of his noble students to bring some items, the student brought two pieces to which the great Imam exclaimed:
‘Which type of sufi is this. Do you not hear that Allah I is witr (odd) and He like odd numbers. You should make it three, five etc. This is the Sunnat.’
Hadrat Abu Yazid al-Bistami t was a rock of Iman, sincerity and sagacity. He t was once present in a gathering of the learned. Melon was generously served and men were ready to eat. This great Imam challenged everyone present to please explain the Sunnat of eating melon. Yes, our beloved Prophet r liked to partake in melon but we must also learn the Sunnat of eating it. No one could demonstrate this Sunnat and so the great Imam abstained. It is permissible to eat melon in various ways but for the elders of Ihsan there is no other way outside the Sunnat.
When the threats of colonialism shook the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent, scholars of eminence were killed mercilessly except those who won the protection of Allah I. In the heat of this barbarious killing and destruction, the students and lovers of the exalted sufi saint, Shaykh Qasim Nanotwi t moved their beloved mentor and Shaykh to a hide-out for safety. After three days, the exalted Imam Nanotwi t decided to move out of the hide-out despite the threats to his life. ‘If I remain here more than three days’, the Shaykh explained, ‘I would have gone against the Sunnah since our Prophet and perfect model stayed away from the Quraysh in the cave for only three days’. There is much to learn from the most exemplary lives of our great elders in the Deen y.
A sufi that stays away from the Sunnah
Is a mere stain on the science of Ihsan
In this world he’ll leave without honours
And in the next he will surely be disgraced
Tell the sufi to drown in the Sunnah
This is the way of lovers of Mustafa
What criterion is there to rate believers
Outside the Sunnah of Rasulullah r
- Coming soon: The Seven Basic Qualities Of Men Of Ihsan taken from seven Prophets (alaihimu ‘s-salam).