Having a clear perspective of Tasawwuf’s reality is essential from the very start of the spiritual journey.
That is, what is the goal and means to reach it?
Hakim al-Umma Mawlana Ashraf ‘Ali Thanawi (Allah have mercy on him) made this vividly clear upfront to every seeker who approached him for spiritual reformation (islah).
People with their creative imagination, knowledge of partially correct or interpreted information and especially readers of Sufi hagiographies and difficult classic texts make assumptions and set unrealistic goals.
To dispel these sorts of myths Hakim al-Umma wrote exegesis of some of the Sufi texts that are commonly misinterpreted. They include explanation of Mathnawi of Mawlana Rumi (in 24 volumes), poetry of Hafiz Shirazi and Fusoos of Ibn Arabi (may Allah have mercy on them).
A very beneficial point he makes in the introduction to one of the text is as follows,
“From the teachings of Tasawwuf, I always had intellectual interest in the instructive section (uloom e ma’amla) because this deals with the commands and prohibitions and acting on them leads to the proximity of Allah, Most High.
In comparison, the section of unveiling (uloom e makashafa) was instinctively attractive but not appealing intellectually. This is because they play no role in gaining Allah’s nearness and have a great inherent danger that some mistakes in them (interpretation and application) may lead to loss of faith (eman) itself.
(May Allah save us all from this calamity.)”
Al-tanbih al-tarabi fi tanzih ibn al-Arabi ra, page 6