The absolute following of the Shaykh


The issue of complete and unquestionable following of the Shaykh is usually described in such a dreadful manner that makes most of the listeners wary of Tasawwuf in general. This is very detrimental especially in this era of religious ignorance and arrogance. Below is an extract explaining the reality of this following.

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

“This following is neither in beliefs (aqaid) nor in unveiling (kashafiyat), other collective issues (masail) and economic matters. It is only in methods of approach, diagnosis, instructions and treatment of spiritual diseases and issues related to spiritual reformation. Moreover,this following is further restricted to the mutual agreement of murid and the Shaykh on the permissibility of the issue. If there is a difference of opinion then it is against the way of people of the path (tareeq) to indulge in a debate with the Shaykh, when following his advice will be against the Shariah ruling. In this situation the best etiquette (adab) between the two proprieties (adab of Shariah and Shaykh) is to consult the scholars or do research of his own (if he is capable of it) and establish a ruling. He should then inform the Shaykh that I do not consider this particular action to be permissible and it is from the teaching of our path (silsila), what should I do? If the Shaykh still instructs him to do the same then it is best to abandon this Shaykh. However, if he gives the permission to forgo this action then this is also following his instruction in proxy.

This is the meaning of absolute following (itiba’ e kamil).

That is, complete following (of the Shaykh) must be done in whatever diseases of the lower self (nafs) he has diagnosed, the prescription he has provided and the permissible actions he has instructed to carry out, the permissibility of which Shaykh and murid agree mutually upon. Murid should not interfere in these issues at all with his opinions. It does not entail following in matters beside these issues.

Mawlana Abdul Majid Dayabadi ra’s book, Hakim al-Umma ra, page 304, quote taken from Al-‘Itedal fi matba’t ar-Rijal