Written correspondence between the murid and Shaykh is an essential principle of Ashrafiya tareeq.
Commonly known as islahi makatabet, it’s efficacy and importance has been extremely underestimated and neglected by us at practical level. This is specially true for the younger generation for whom writing letters is unknown.
Disregarding this effective mode of benefiting from the Shaykh has led to what we are observing these days. That is, effective islah does not take place even after years of baya and attending majalisof Shaykh for those who do not engage in islahi makatabet.
In this regards a sincere brother asked the following,
“Consider a case where a person living in the other extreme corner of the world, having never met his ‘Shaykh to be’ (his first ever shaykh of tareeq). However, he has been reading his books, articles, blogs etc. Can he still start and maintain a very effective ‘relation for islah‘ using ordinary postal mail ? (which takes 7 days to reach, then takes time to be answered due to busy schedule on the Shaykh’s part, and is then sent back, so 7 more days).
In case this person feels that the desires of the nafs still rule a lot of his daily routine and there is nobody around him to physically or verbally instruct him, would an islahi letter (which takes a long round time) be as thoroughly instructive to cater for this amateur’s Islahi need?
The following response was sent,
Your question is excellent and reflective of true desire (talab).
The ideal thing in tasawwuf for islah is blessed company (suhba)of the Shaykh. This is not only limited to attending the darsor visiting him occasionally. It should be staying at length close to him. This is to observe and learn from his behavior in different situations and allow the Shaykh to observe and make islahof your behavior in regular every day settings. For this previous day Shuyukh had live-in khanqahs. This is still very much desired and encouraged. However, during these days of busy life and many economical, educational or family commitments it is very difficult to squeeze out time for this. It for this reason a substitute by writing letters has been arranged. However, this can take any form of communication like e-mail, postal mail or contact via fax, etc.
A very essential point to remember in this substituted form of islahi ta’luq, is that one has to be very candid, explicit and truthful in telling his condition to the Shaykh. This islahi relationship is absolutely for gaining Allah’s pleasure. Shaykh is like a doctor if a patient hides important information, for example not being compliant in taking the medicine, or indulging in prohibited eating or physical activities or not following other recommendation, etc. from him it will lead to deterioration of the illness and cure will never be achieved. This is a very common pitfall we all encounter.
The scenario you describe is a common everyday reality for those involved in their islah. Even living in Karachi it may take up to 14 – 21 days for the letter’s reply. InshaAllah, email will soon facilitate this also.
It should be very clear upfront that Shaykh is going to give you advice and instructions to do what is the best for your settings. He will also prescribe some award and make dua for its facilitation. But it is YOU who has to take the bold step of crushing the desires of nafs and DO what is instructed. If you do not or can not or fail for some reason to do it, inform this to the Shaykh OPENLY. Do not be shy. Shyness here is HARAM. Shaykh may use some other method for your islah.
I hope I made my point clear.
Be aware that our nafs and shaytan are very knowledgeable and expert in misguiding us via genuine, logical and seemingly sound religious argumentation. You need an equally learned expert to counter their attack. He is the Shaykh.
Islahi makatabet is very effective, easy and practical means of benefiting from the Shaykh where ever you might be. Millions have and are profiting from it.
Try it on a trial basis!