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When Hearts Change

[Extracts from Abu'l-'Abbas Ahmad ibn Yusuf ibn Muhammad ibn Yusuf al-Fasi's Commentary on al-Sharishi's Poem Rhyming with R]

Raise no objection to the Shaykh for this
Is likely to cause disconcertedness to the novice in addition to his desertion

Shaykh al-Sharishi means, and Allah knows best: O novice! Do not raise any objection towards your Shaykh regarding any of his words, actions or states, at any time, whether inwardly or outwardly, after submitting to his guidance. This is because your objection is likely to cause you disconcertedness in your religion and worldly affairs, and you will suffer the Shaykh's desertion, banishment and exclusion. Sometimes the Shaykh banishes the novice both inwardly and outwardly, such that he drives him out of his house and shuts his door on him. Sometimes the Shaykh banishes the novice inwardly. This is more harmful to the novice for, in this case, the latter is not aware that he has been banished or that he deserves expulsion. This state of banishment will remain until the novice hearkens to his Shaykh: repentant, remorseful, meek and heartbroken. It is due to this subtlety that Shaykh Abu'l-Qasim al-Qushayri, may Allah be well-pleased with him, said:

If there is an aspirant among the folk of spiritual discipline who has not reached his goal, let him know that his failure is due to a concealed objection in his heart towards his teacher - an objection that he might have had at some point of time.

Al-Qushayri also said, may Allah be well-pleased with him: I heard the Shaykh Abu 'Ali al-Daqqaq, may Allah have mercy on him, say:

The beginning of all discord lies in opposition.

He means that whoever opposes his Shaykh no longer follows the Shaykh's path and his relation with his Shaykh is dissevered, even if they both happen to be physically close to each other. Whoever attaches himself to a Shaykh and then inwardly raises objections towards him has annulled the covenant of his attachment, and ought, therefore, to repent, despite the fact that the Shaykhs of the path have said: 'The disobedience to spiritual teachers cannot be expiated through repentance'. And with regard to the first case, when the banishment of the novice is done both inwardly and outwardly, Shaykh Muhyi al-Din ibn 'Arabi may Allah be well-pleased with him, said:

When the Shaykh knows that his reverence has dropped in the heart of the novice, he should tactfully drive him out of his house, for such a novice is one of the greatest enemies. The Shaykh should endear to the objecting novice a preoccupation with the outward requirements of the Sacred Law as well as with the way of the desired acts of worship in general. But he should close his door on him and prevent his other students from keeping his company, for nothing is more harmful to the novice than keeping the company of someone who is not like-minded.

What the above verse alludes to goes back to 'Awarif al-Ma'arif wherein, after dwelling at length with the saying of Allah, exalted is He, But no, by thy Lord! they will not believe till they make thee the judge regarding the disagreement between them, then they shall find in themselves no impediment touching thy verdict, but shall surrender in full submission [4: 65], the author states:

He has imposed on them submission which amounts to outward compliance and the negation of impediment, i.e. inward compliance. This is how the novice should be with his Shaykh after accepting his 'judgement' upon wearing the patched cloak. The novice should rid his inward of any reproach via-a-vis his Shaykh's behaviour just as he should beware of raising any objection toward him, for that is indeed a deadly poison as far as he is concerned. Seldom does a novice raise an objection toward his Shaykh and then succeed. When the novice is confused about any behaviour of the Shaykh, he should remember the story of Moses with Khadir. Khadir did certain things which Moses disproved of, but when the former explained his reasons for doing them, the latter understood that he was right. This is how the novice should be. He should realise that any behaviour of the Shaykh whose correctness he is confused about, the Shaykh must surely have an explanation and proof for its correctness.

Al-Suhrawardi then says about the same theme:

One of the students of Junayd asked the latter a question, but when Junayd answered, this student objected. Quoting a Qur'anic verse, Junayd said: But if you believe me not, go you apart from me! [44: 23]

A Shaykh said:

He who does not exalt the sanctity of the one from whom he is learning propriety (adab) will indeed be deprived of that propriety.

And it was said:

Whoever says 'no!' to his teacher will never succeed.

Then he said, may Allah be well pleased with him:

Whoever raises objections while not possessing any knowledge
Unknowingly will see fault in the very essence of perfection.

Shaykh al-Sharishi means, and Allah knows best: ... Whoever raises objections will see faults in the very essence of that which is perfect or praiseworthy. This is because knowledge of the reality of the matter towards which he has raised an objection is on one side while he is on the opposite side. Such a person unknowingly sees faults in perfection itself. For when he fails to understand the reality and inner meaning of the matter which he judges solely by appearance, he does not reproach himself for lack of insight, ignorance or short-sightedness. In such cases, he ought to have a good opinion of his role model, and of all his fellow-seekers and of anyone who has some weight in this matter. The novice should trust his Shaykh in everything that ensues from him, believing it to be perfect, or that he must have an excuse or hidden reason for it. He should not object nor suspect him, for not all reasons are apparent nor are the secrets of perfected men obvious to all. The author of 'Awarif al-Ma'arif said:

... The objection of the novice is due to his lack of knowledge of the reality of that which ensues from the Shaykh. The Shaykh has a reason for everything, backed by knowledge and wisdom.

This is the crux of the above verse, and Allah knows best. Shaykh Abu'l-Hasan al-Shushtari, may Allah be well-pleased with him, said:

The Shaykhs should not be opposed in that which they do, for they do not act except through divine leave and insight. The Shaykhs are not included in the species of the first world, I mean the world of veiling; the world of those who have not proceeded to the world of the spirit (malakut) and whose minds are specifically bound by appearances? The Shaykhs are like everyone else in movement, stillness and speech but they are also veiled from the communality of people in a different respect. No-one knows their true state or what they stand for except someone who is one of them.

He then said:

He who does not agree with his Shaykh's judgement,
Will remain as if on live coal because of his opposition.

Al-Sharishi says, and Allah knows best: Since a Shaykh does not sit to direct and guide the servants of God except to that in which there is righteousness for them and which could take them to the presence of their Lord; since he also does not do so until he knows that he is on a clear proof from his Lord - qualified and authorised to guide others to God - it is possible that very unfamiliar matters whose outward semblance is unknown might ensue from him due to his vast knowledge and strength of gnosis. However, his insight is always correct and his judgement invariably sound and right, for his words and actions are entirely pertinent and with clear purports. The novice who is given success is he whose intention and good opinion are vaster than his knowledge, such that he approves of what ensues from his Shaykh of unfamiliar matters through his good opinion and belief that his Shaykh would never do anything without a good known reason. Whoever disproves of his Shaykh's judgement by not giving him the benefit of the doubt will burn, because of his opposition, with the live coals of banishment and objection. This is due to his bad opinion towards his Shaykh, his objection and opposition. If he had believed in the perfection of his Shaykh and that he does not do anything except with clear insight, the novice would not have fallen in that which he had fallen.

Extracts from Imam 'Abd al-Wahhab al-Sha'rani's al-Minan al-Kubra

Imam al-Sha'rani said: And of the things that Allah, glorified and exalted is He, has graced me with is that He protected me from ever falling in anything that might change my Shaykh's heart against me. This is of the greatest blessings that Allah could bestow upon the novice. This is because it prolongs the novice's spiritual ascent. By contrast, whoever shows bad propriety (adab) towards his Shaykh will cause his spiritual ascent to halt. In fact, the novice might revert to a state more deficient than the state in which he was before he kept the company of his Shaykh. This is because propriety with the Shaykh is the staircase of propriety with Allah, glorified and exalted is He. He who does not show propriety towards the means will never get a whiff of propriety towards the goals. It is therefore to be known that the Shaykh's attention towards a person is a sign of Allah's pleasure with this person, just as the pleasure of parents with their child is a sign of Allah's pleasure with this child, for Allah is pleased due to their pleasure and is angered due to their anger. Our statement that bad propriety towards the Shaykh pushes back the novice to a state more deficient than the state in which he was before he kept the company of his Shaykh is evidenced by the saying of Junayd, may Allah have mercy on him:

If a gnostic were to devote himself to God for a hundred years and then turn away from Him for one single instant, that which he misses in that instant is greater than whatever he acquired in those hundred years.

This is because any given instant in which a servant turns towards God, glorified and exalted is He, contains the totality of all the divine gifts which had preceded this instant in addition to the divine gift of the moment (waqt), for God's immense generosity is constantly pouring into the hearts of those who turn towards Him. Know also that one of the Shaykh's least ranks is that he is like the chamberlain of a king. If the chamberlain dislikes a person, it is unlikely that this person will have his needs fulfilled by that king, for he will not get to the king except through the door. Any novice who claims that he can get his needs from God fulfilled without the means of his Shaykh is lying about God. My master 'Ali al-Mursifi, may Allah have mercy on him, used to say:

One of the signs of the novice's wretchedness in this world and in the next is his taking lightly the Shaykh's anger with him and not contemplating the urgency of hastening to make up with him and bringing himself under the banner of his obedience. Some people took lightly their Shaykh's anger with them and they never succeeded after that: neither at the hands of their Shaykh nor at the hands of anyone else.

My master 'Ali al-Khawwas used to say:

The least loss incurred by the novice who opposes his Shaykh is his preoccupation with this lower world and turning away from the life to come. The novice becomes bent on amassing the stuff of this world in whatever way possible to the extent that he declares as an enemy whoever bars him from doing so, even if it is his Shaykh. And also among the reasons of the novice's ruin are his lack of remembrance of God, his lack of reciting the Qur'an, his lack of practising what he knows and his failure to observe his litanies and to stay awake at night as well as his lack of praying the congregational prayer in the mosque. The novice may even leave his Shaykh but persevere in observing the litanies that he had while in his company. However, these litanies are of little benefit. They might appear to the novice like mountains when in reality they are like atoms in the eyes of those for whom the states of the afterlife are unveiled?

So do, O my brother, understand this and you will be guided, and God will see to your guidance and praise be to Allah, the Lord of all Being.

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