We live in peculiar times. Moral degradation, deception and selfishness are rampant. None of the facets of human life are spared. Neither the religion of Islam nor its sublime application in form of Tasawwuf are an exception.
For Tasawwuf in very few cases this is in active form (i.e active deception and fraud), sometimes it is due to ignorance and most of the time it is because of a delusional state resulting from lay public admiration and following.
Hence it is essential to be on high alert when approaching Tasawwuf and spiritual masters. A minor lapse can end up in a major disaster, especially in here-after.
No silsilaof Tasawwuf is spared. For this reason relying only on a ijazah certification is grossly inappropriate. A thorough evaluation is recommended before committing to a Shaykh.
Senior Shuyukh continue to evaluate their khulafa on a regular basis and revoke the permission ( ijaza) granted to them if necessary. Any suspicious activity by any of the khulafa needs to be reported to his Shaykh.
For a seeker following are some of the points that should raise red flags and alert him/her to be more cautious in this context. They are from the teachings of Hakim al-Umma Shaykh Ashraf ‘Ali Thanawi (Allah have mercy on him).
1. The preaching and propagation are for a specific Shaykh and Tariqa. All others Islamic groups and activities are looked down upon.
2. There are boastful claims (kashaf o karamat, dreams) and self-eulogies by the Shaykh himself or those close to him.
3. The rituals and customs are given preference over Sunna and piety in everyday life. The hierarchy of fiqh is ignored. The reward-able (mustaheb) actions are done as though they are essential (wajib).
4. There is micromanagement of murid‘s affair. That is, vital financial, social interaction and marital issue decisions are made by Shaykh.
5. There are financial schemes for donations or investments by Shaykh or his representatives.
6. The tariqa teachings are imposed on the seeker to the extent beyond their current yearning and capabilities. The instructions given to and restrictions set are unrealistic for their current spiritual state.
7. The inappropriate actions of senior or close murids are ignored.
8. People are actively recruited by senior and close murids to make baiyah without having a clear understanding of the commitment.
9. All those who approach for baiyah are accepted immediately.
10. None or limited individualized guidance and follow up is possible from the Shaykh.
11. The established text and teachings of the previous spiritual masters of the tariqa are ignored. In our case they are the books & teachings of Hakim al-Umma in particular.
12. Emphasis is on a physical structure of khanqah or zawiya than on the spiritual tarbiyat.
13. Specific type or color headgear and particular style of attire becomes the hallmark of the silsila.
14. The majority of the followers are lay people and their spiritual condition has not changed in spite of being with the silsila for considerable amount of time.
15. The non-scholar sufi masters do not refer fiqhi questions to the scholars. Moreover they actively create mistrust of scholars in general.
16. The issues discussed in spiritual talks are beyond the comprehension and practical benefit of an ordinary seeker.
17. All genuine criticism is taken negatively. The reply is reflective of poor adab and blameworthy morals. It does not lead to introspection and improvement.
In summary, it is essential to be very careful before committing our most precious thing: faith (eman). A thorough investigation is essential.
And remember it is never to late to do so.
May Allah save us all. Amin!