Category Archives: N. Advice

Need for a Shaikh


A seeker wrote,
“I am presently (a student) in Dawrah-e-Hadith (the final year in the Alim Fadhil course). For quite a while I had intended to write, but a certain aspect prevented me from doing so. I am a voracious reader and lover of your writings and have been engaged in reading your books since my childhood days. By the grace of Allah I have benefited much.

I have learnt one particular thing from your writings, that is, the commands of the Shariat are all done deliberately (ikhtiyariyyah). Since the commands are ikhtiyariyyah it follows that the commands to abstain are likewise deliberate. Thus the remedy for all spiritual ailments is to refrain (intentionally). I have always adopted this method for myself. The question that troubles me is this: Now that this principle has been learnt from the Masters of the Path does the need still remain to refer to the Shaikh and obtain remedies from him? I do not understand this.

I have ruminated for quite a while regarding this matter. I trust that you will advise me so that I may practice accordingly. After realizing this general principle, what is the need for obtaining the diagnosis and prescription from a Shaikh? I hope that if I have erred, I will be informed.”

Hakim al Umma Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi (Allah have mercy on him) replied,

“The commands and the prohibitions are all deliberate.

However, errors do happen in this regard. At times what has already been acquired is considered as not having been attained yet and sometimes vice versa.

For example, a person intend to attain khushu’ (concentration based on humility) in Salah and in reality he then attains khushu’. But, while having attained khushu’ he is simultaneously afflicted by an abundance of stray thoughts (wasawis). This person then regards the presence of such wasawis as contradictory and negatory of khushu’. He thus considers that he has not attained khushu’. In the initial stages of worship, random thoughts (wasawis) are unintentional (ghair-ikhtiyari) – coming of their own accord – however, later the worshiper is diverted towards intentional (ikhtiyari) thoughts wasawis and he is deceived into believing that such wasawis are yet of the unintentional kind of the initial stages. He thus considers himself to have khushu’ while in actual fact khushu has been eliminated .

At times he considers what is not firmly established (ghair rasikh) to be firmly established (rasikh). For example, in a few minor mishaps he considers himself to have attained the state of radha bil qadha (satisfied with what has been divinely decreed). His contentment in the face of some minor misfortunes leads him to believe that he has attained advanced capability in firmness and steadfastness. But, if some major calamity overtakes him and he fails to be content then too he labours under the deception that he has attained the desired degree and goal of rusukh (firmness).

The consequence of regarding the attained as unattained is frustration and depression. This in turn causes one to become careless and neglectful. Thus, the attained becomes truly eliminated. The harm of the opposite condition (i.e. considering the unattained as attained is a (great) loss (to). Since one labours under the false notion that one has already achieved the goal, one does not make any effort in this direction.

The same danger lurks in considering un established (ghair-rasikh) as established rasikh), viz., one remains careless, not making any effort or arrangement to attain the desired goal of firmness and steadfastness. Sometimes one commits the error of believing that the state of rusukh has not been attained despite it having been attained. For example, one combated unlawful lust during a time when the effect of remembrance of Allah (dhikr) was overwhelming. As a result, the desire of unlawful lust was suppressed to the extent that one’s attention was totally diverted from it. Later when the effect of the thikr decreases and the natural propensities assert themselves even if in slight degree one is misled to believe that one’s mujahadah (striving against the nafs) has gone wasted, and the the evil propensities have returned. The consequence of this feeling is that one loses hope and is overtaken by stagnation and retrogression.

The above are merely some examples of errors and the resultant harm. A qualified Shaikh (of Tareeqat) by virtue of his insight and experience discerns the reality. And the one who is connected to such a Shaikh, he informs him of the errors and pitfalls. The disciple is thus saved from these dangers.

Even if it assumed that an intelligent and knowledgeable seeker discerns the pitfalls, then too, he will not attain tranquillity and peace of mind because of his inexperience. He will remain perplexed. And, perplexity impedes the attainment of the goal.

This is the duty of the Shaikh. More than this is not his responsibility.

However, in kindness he performs another function as well.
In his struggle to recognize and attain an objective or to eliminate a blameworthy attribute, the seeker of the truth undergoes great stress and difficulty. Although repeated subjection to such difficulty is eventually transformed into ease. The Shaikh sometimes as a favour devises such a scheme that the difficulty disappears from the very inception.

This is a brief exposition for understanding. The need for a Shaikh is felt and understood once one commences in the Path and systematically informs the Shaikh of one’s particular conditions and at the same time following his advice and instructions. Furthermore, such total obedience is possible only if one has full trust and confidence in the Shaikh, fully submitting to him. At that time one will actually feel and realize that it is not possible to attain the goal normally without a Shaikh.’

Shariat wa Tasawwuf

Treatment for back biting


A seeker wrote, ‘I have the (spiritual) illness of doing and listening back biting. Please, prescribe a treatment.’

Hakim al Umma Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi (Allah have mercy on him) replied,

‘1. Reflect on the consequences of back biting (especially in Here-after) at that moment.

2. Pause and contemplate prior to talking

3. Ask forgiveness (from the individual) if back biting happens

4. Fix a penalty on yourself, either cash donation or offering optional salah (nafil) (in case if you slip).

Tarbiyet us Salik, volume 3, page 124

Acceptance of supplication


Musleh al Ummat Maulana Wasiullah Allahabadi (Allah have mercy on him) said,

‘When an individual makes supplications (dua) his relationship with and proximity to Allah increases.
The higher optimism (raja) he has while making supplication the greater the acceptance rate.’

Ma’arif Musleh al Ummat ra, volume 1, page 107

Criteria for pious company


Imam Ghazali (Allah have mercy on him) wrote in his book Ihya al Uloom ad Deen,

‘To benefit from the company of an individual it is essential that he has the following five characteristics,
1. Being Intelligent
2. Having exemplary morals (husnekhuluq)
3. Does not openly violates the Islamic laws (fasiq)
4. Is not an innovator (bida’ti)
5. Is not greedy of the the worldly (possessions).’

Ma’arif Muslih al Ummat ra, volume 1, page 131-2

Treatment for useless speech


A seeker wrote, ‘I have an ailment of useless talking. According to my deficient understanding the reason for this is happiness. That is, whenever I am happy and there are no worries a sort of overwhelming euphoric emotional state develops. In it I speak a lot. Doing so gives me peace. Remaining quite is not possible for me. If I force myself to keep quite I get agitated soon. It is only with talking that agitation is removed, otherwise it stays.

This (useless) talking extends to the mentioning of obscene and back-biting. Until I do this my euphoric state does not normalize.’

Hakim al Umma Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi (Allah have mercy on him) replied,
‘The principle of treatment is to remove the cause of illness.

For this ailment the cause is euphoric emotional state. The removal of this is the treatment. This euphoria has to be subdued by its opposite. That is, contemplation and melancholy.

The thing that leads to the strongest level of contemplation and melancholy is death and what happens after it, like events in Barzakh, Day of Judgement, The Bridge (sirat) and the punishments for sinful activities.

Therefore, at the time of emotional frenzy contemplate about these events. If (you find) this contemplation is weak then read from a book on this subject. It is preferable that (in that state) you immediately withdraw yourself into solitude and reflect (muraqaba) or read (muta’la). This will treat the condition promptly.

If due to (general) emotional weakness reflecting or reading become painful secondary to overwhelming dread then reflect on the Prophetic sayings regarding mercy and optimism. This will maintain the balance. The real happiness, which is required as per (قل بفضل الله و برحمة فبذلك فليفرحوا ) will stay and the excessive euphoria, which has to be shunned (لا تفرح ان الله لا يحب الفرحين( will be eliminated.’

Tarbiyet us Salik, volume 3, page 100-1

Treatment for complaining


A seeker wrote,
Respected Sir, In addition to other spiritual diseases I have is this ailment that I can not endure anything against my desires. Whenever this happens I complain verbally. I try delegating the affairs to Allah (tafweez), however, not having the the determination to control and endure I complain about the perpetrator.

I have firm belief (yaqeen) that whatever happens is from Allah. Moreover, I have conviction that it is futile to be sad and complain about things that are beyond one’s control. However, due to lack of determination I can not resist.

In principle, I am patient and thankful in heart on the decree of Allah. Although there is a tiny bit of feeling that what harm would have occurred if this happened the other way (i.e. according to my desires). All praise is to Allah, criticism never develops in my heart on the matters decreed (muqadderat).

I try not to complain verbally but am unable to achieve this. Sir, please recommend treatment for this.

Hakim al Umma Maualan Ashraf Ali Thanwi (Allah have mercy on him) replied,
‘Whenever you complain verbally about someone then you must mention his/her praiseworthy attributes in public. Eventually there will be some thing to praise (in every individual).’

Tarbiyet us Salik, volume 3, page 100

Dealing with Show off


A knowledgeable seeker wrote,
‘Showing off (riya) is a deliberate (ikhteyari) action. Therefore, it’s treatment will also be a conscious effort. For example, if in an action there is intention to show off, I will (deliberately) change my intention and make it for pleasing Allah.

If this is enough for getting rid of show off and acquiring sincerity (ikhlas) then there is no need of any further treatment.

Please, let me know if this approach is correct or not.’

Hakim al Umma Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi (Allah have mercy on him) replied,
‘This approach is correct and sufficient.
However, it is not enough to merely know this and be able to implement it. Most of the people of this path (sulook) are deceived in this regards.

In fact, it is essential to be consciously aware (of suspicion of show off) and be able to practice this approach for a prolonged duration until it is ingrained (in one’s morals) and a stable state (tamkeen) is achieved. And (in this state the notion of) showing off (riya) does not exist even at the level of the whispering of the lower self (Hadith-e-nafs).

This (understanding) is derived from the saying of Allah in regards to spending (in His way),”The example of those who spend their wealth to seek the pleasure of Allah and to make firm (their faith) from (the depths of) their souls is……..[2:265].” Know that the desired التثبيت is with genuine sincerity of intention.’

Tarbiyet us Salik, volume 3, page 99-100

Treatment of arrogance in belief & practice.


A seeker wrote, ‘In addition to other blameworthy moral traits I have this one also, that is, I consider, individuals who are either secularly educated, or are scholars (ulema) that are not into (Sufi ways of) remembrance (dhikr o shugal), or are associated with innovator (bidati) Shaikh, or are associated with a Sunna following Shaikh who does not know the ways of treating (spiritual diseases) and does not instruct his disciple like you, to be deficient.
I do not have any reverence for them in my heart.
This conveys in a sense an idea of my superiority and perfection and their inferiority.

However, on reflection I find this thought without any proof in my heart that what do we know about the status of anyone’s proximity to Allah? I keep in sight my own deficiencies and contemplate about the virtuous actions they perform. Moreover, (I contemplate that) they might have qualities that I am unaware and Allah is pleased with them. And I have deficiencies that I may be questioned about.

After these reflections it can not be ascertained (about myself) that I am superior or accepted (by Allah). However, even then their reverence does not develop in my heart.

Similarly, regarding tutorials and discourses, I like my own. Those delivered by others, especially of few individuals, I find them extremely deficient.

In summary, is this arrogance (kibr)?

Please, help me in getting rid of it.’

Hakim al Umma Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi (Allah have mercy on him) replied,
‘This is not arrogance (kibr).

The reflection of all the possibilities (as mentioned) is enough in getting rid of arrogance. However, this is the treatment of belief (‘etiqad) of arrogance. There remains a need of treatment of practice of arrogance in addition.

The practice of arrogance is to deal with them in a derogatory manner.
It’s treatment is that, from these individuals
(1) for the people of truth (ahl-e-haqq) praise them verbally and deal with them with respect.
(2) for the people of fallacy (ahl-e-batil) do not backbite them etc. (or sabotage their other rights as fellow human being) at all, as a pastime , (or) without a genuine reason.’

Tarbiyet us Salik, volume 3, page 98



Hakim al Umma Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanawi (Allah have mercy on him) said: If a person (who can afford better) wears cheap and low quality clothing, he … will become preoccupied with his clothes by either (continuously) thinking how low and humble he is or by thinking that his nafs (lower self) is so annihilated, he doesn’t care about dignity and honor. This is also preoccupation in thoughts (which should be avoided).

Maulana Hamood Aleem sahib db

A check list for selecting a Shaikh


Shaikh Shah Kamal ur Rehman Qasimi (Allah preserve him) said,

My father (Shah Sufi Ghulam Mohammad Hyderabadi, Allah have mercy on him) use to say that there seems to be a connection in the worldly matter of marriage and the religious issue of baiyah. They share the important issue of selection (of the right individual).

In worldly matters the criteria for selection (of a groom or bride) include piety, financial status, (physical) beauty and perfection (of manners & behavior).

Similarly, in religion the ideal criteria for selecting (a Shaikh for baiyah) must include,
1. His state (halaat)
2. His time management (awqat)
3. The blessings (barkat) (of being associated with him)

1. His state (details include)
A. What are his instructions?
B. How close are they to the teachings of Quran and Hadith?
C. What is the state of adherence to the teaching of Quran and Hadith in principle (usooli) and peripheral issues (farui)?
D. How close is he in following the morals and practices of Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace)?
E. From what silsilah did he receive the authorization?
F. What is the state of the freshly authorized individuals of this silsilah?
G. What was the state of the recent predecessors of this silsilah?
H. Was the authorization given after formal completion of receiving instruction and training or was it inherited in family tradition?

2. Time management
A. How does he spend his day and night?
B. Has he mastered time management?
C. Is he ibnul-waqt or abul-waqt? That is, if there is time he does remembrance and reflection (zikr o fikr) or when he wants to do zikr o fikr he can find time to do so.
D. How conscientious is he of offering the faraidh on time?
E. Does he have a practical schedule for propagating the truth (in his circle of influence)?
F. What is his state in regards to (tahajjud and other) involvement at the end of night timings?

The blessings (barkaat)
This criteria is being mentioned thirdly, however, a seeker must give priority to it.
A. What are the general blessings of his silsilah?
B. What is the state of individuals attached to him?
C. What are the blessings of Shaikh in particular?
D. Is he genuinely authorized? 

E. Is the training in this silsilah quick or slow?
F. What are the particular manifestation of (Divinely) love (in those attached to this Shaikh)?

These clear criteria are presented to make the selection (correctly).

A important reminder is that the real thing that facilitates receiving spiritual benefit from Shaikh is our congeniality (munasbet) with him.

If there are two flowers with similar color and fragrance pick the one closest to you.

Moreover, never forget that main thing is to receive instruction and be trained.

To recieve this instruction and training baiyah is not an essential enrollment criteria.’

Baiyat, page 30-1

Treatment of anger and boredom




 A seeker wrote, ‘There have been two new developments in my behavior. The first is that I get angry quickly. This leads to humiliating consequences. The other is that I feel a sort of bored (all the time) without any sustainable serenity in my demeanor. Please, make dua for me, that Allah removes these traits from me.’

Hakim al Umma Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi (Allah have mercy on him) replied,

The treatment for anger is to reflect on the wrath of Allah and your sinful activities (at the time of anger).

The remedy for boredom is mindful excessive remembrance of Allah (dhikr).

With these (measures your) anxiety will subside. I also make dua (as requested).

Tarbiyet us Salik, volume 1, page 545 

How much dhikr?


A seeker wrote,’ I have not fixed the number of times I make remembrance (dhikr) (of Allah). When I get disinterested I stop. Counting puts a pressure on my mind to complete what is remaining.’

Hakim al Umma Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi (Allah have mercy on him) replied,
‘This is a grave mistake.
Either fix a count or time period.
Leaving it on your own interest is opening the way for procrastination.’

Tarbiyet us Salik, volume 2, page 896

How to deal with worries?




A seeker wrote, ‘I am very worried these days. In spite that I do not want to discuss worldly issues with you, I mention this because it is being felt that this worrying is affecting my religious activities. Neither the daily recitations (wird) are done regularly nor I am being able to get up for tahajjud on time. Often I wake up late. These are adding to my worries.’

Hakim al-Umma Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanawi (Allah have mercy on him) replied,

‘Paying attention to the worrisome state leads to increased apprehension.

When worried instead of paying attention to it, one should become attentive of Allah. This must be with the thinking that Allah is sufficient for me in these conditions and strengthening relationship with Him is the solution to all the troubles. 

By using this strategy the effect of the worries will diminish and eventually vanish completely.

Try it and be at peace.’

Tarbiyat us Salik, volume 1, page 544



4. My legacy (wasiyyat) for myself, family members, and close associates is that every moment of one’s life should be sacrificed in pleasing Allah. One should not displease Allah for a single moment by indulging in any form of impermissible (haram) activity. If a mistake is committed, then one should please Allah by repenting, seeking forgiveness and crying in front of Allah.

5. Always remain in the company of the pious, and keep yourself under the guidance of a Sheikh with whom you have congeniality (munasbet).

6. Adopt extreme piety in financial matters. Always refer to the scholars (Muftis) in issues pertaining to the (questionable) rulings of Shariah.

Wasiyyat of Hazrat rehmatullah aleh