A person starting on the path of Tasawwuf is like ill person seeking treatment.
His spirit is afflicted with the diseases of blame worthy internal moral states and is deficient of the healthy praise worthy moral traits.
This requires the services of a qualified physician. A physician who can diagnose, treat and follow the course of these spiritual illnesses/deficiencies to prevent relapse and ensure perfect health.
This spiritual physician is the SHEIKH. He can be called a pir, mentor or spiritual advisor.
He is indispensable.
There is agreement between all the various schools of tasawwuf regarding this reality.
P.S. No sick person who takes his illness seriously will ever dare to treat himself, especially by just reading books.
How does one find a Sheikh?
Islam is the religion of Allah swt till the end of time. Means and methods of keeping this religion till that time will always persist.
The changes in our socioeconomic & moral conditions, perception of piety and the influence of the worldly environment may make recognition of a true sheikh difficult. But he is here. You just have to look for him. And most importantly ask Allah swt’s guidance in this feat.
Scholars have described certain characteristics to look for, in facilitating this search. They are:
1. He should possess the necessary knowledge of the religion (fiqh).
2. His believes (aqaid) must be that of Ahle Sunnah & the demeanor of his actions and habits must be reflective of Sunnah.
3. He must be God-fearing (muttaqi), conscientious and pious in following shariah in his every day life. It is essential that he abstains from all major sins (kabair) and does not persist on any minor sin (saghair).
4. He must have traversed the path of tasawwuf under the guidance of a sheikh himself and have received explicit permission (verbal or written) to teach and treat others.
5. He must be attached to an authentic Silsilah (chain of authority). Their lineage tracing back to Holy Prophet sallalaho alehey wa alehey wasalam without gaps and omissions.
6. The contemporary scholars and unprejudiced sheikhs should hold a good opinion about him and encourage people to benefit from him.
7. The effect of his companionship (suhba) must be a decrease in love of the worldly & an increase in the Love of Allah swt. This is evident by performing good deeds, abstaining from sins and preparing for hereafter.
8. He must be more venerated by intellectual religious folks than by common lay public.
9. The majority of his pupils (mureed) must be following Shariah. Their outward condition conforms to the demands of the Shariah and their behavior is reflective of the inward progress of getting rid of blame worthy traits, especially love of the worldly.
10. He must be sincere in training his disciples (mureed). Working for their spiritual improvement & progress. Not leaving them on their own but correcting them in timely fashion, by words and deeds. Reprimanding them when the need arises.
11. He must not consider himself to be perfect and be satisfied with his present state. He must engage in extra-worship, dhikr, fikr and other devotional practices to keep progressing.
12. He must not be boastful of his piety and faultlessness. For making such declaration is a sign of the blame worthy state: Love of fame and authority.
Following qualities are not essential to be present in a Sheikh;
1. Performance of supernatural acts (karamat).
2. Telling in advance about the hidden and upcoming matters.
3. Immediate acceptance of all his prayers (dua).
4. Performing extraordinary actions by his spiritual powers, for example, mind reading, creating an overwhelming emotional condition in mureed, etc.
5. Abandonment of means of earning.
If one keeps looking hard enough, he will, inshaAllah, finds such a Sheikh with Allah swt’s guidance and help.
Until then, he must make it a habit to pray(dua) after each salah:
Next: The Sheikh: Revisited