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The Need for a Shaykh

Adopted from Spiritual Discoruses By Mufti Taqi Usmani


Tasawwuf means to crush vile manners and to develop excellent manners, and that is tazkiyah or purification. This is because [of the saying] "There are Men for every art", which means one has to go to a Master to learn. If for example it is a question of fiqh we have to approach a Mufti, who knows the answers. However it is difficult to study the condition of the inner self and to recognize the malady within anyone. The hidden weaknesses are very imperceptible and fine. Something may be very good and another very bad but it is difficult to distinguish between them.

For example, arrogance is an unlawful trait and it is wajib to shun it because it is the root cause of all maladies but there is another quality, self-respect. It is wajib to develop it, and it is not proper to debase oneself. However the line dividing the frontiers must be determined: that is at which point does self-respect end and arrogance begins? One must ask oneself: Am I doing this out of pride or a measure of self-respect? It is not possible for everyone to determine the dividing line and detect such inner maladies easily.

For instance, egoism is a great ill. A man brags about himself; this is unlawful. On the other side is 'describing blessings on oneself'. This is mentioned in the Quran: "And as for the blessings of your Lord, proclaim it" (93:11). It is not easy for everyone to say confidently whether he behaves egotistly or proclaims the blessing of Allah Ta'ala.

We can cite another example - of the sweetness of a mango and of a lump of sugar. Both are sweet but, how does one define each sweetness? It is not possible for anyone to do that in words and there is only one way to distinguish the nature of each. One must eat the two things and know for himself what the difference is.

In the same way, it is not easy to define the inner excellences of man. For instance, humbleness is difficult to describe. But, if one meets a humble person and observes his conduct and stays in his company for some time then that characterstic will grow in him. Hence, it is necessary to turn to a Shaykh and live in his company to know about tasawwuf and sulook. These things cannot grow in anyone by merely talking about them. It is only by attending the company of and giving one's time to a Shaykh that Allah Ta'ala helps one get these things.

Shariah is the name of rights. Whose rights? The rights of Allah Ta'ala and His slaves. And the Shariah is surrounded by: Sunnah & Tasawwuf. Sunnah is the name of the limits, on how to give the rights of Shariah. Tasawwuf is the protection of those limits (of rights) so that one may neither trespass nor stay behind. When one goes to a one's Shaykh, he learns to protect these limits. Hence, the aim of the relationship between a Shaykh and his disciple is to protect these limits, how much should he do, where should he stop, and how far should he go.

Hence, when one turns to a Shaykh to reform oneself that the real objective of turning to him is achieved: to imbibe excellenct traits, and ward off and crush the unworthy characteristics. This, then, is the true purpose of Tasawwuf. Nevertheless, the Dhikr and supplications are also helpful to the seeker. Only through the guidance of the Shaykh can the regimen of Dhikr, Supplications and other repetitions be prescribed for every individual according to the Shaykh's opinion of his condition. The prescription would suggest time, what to do, and how much to do. Only then can one benefit from reformation. By themselves the Dhikr, Supplications and repetitions are not the objective, for the basic aim is the reformation of one's manners and purification of the soul. One must keep the Shaykh posted of one's condition and seek his guidance, being careful to observe them. One must do that all his life, for the aim of turning to the Shaykh is simply this much.

Source: Taken (with Thanks) from Al-Mahmood.org

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