It is a hallmark of Ashrafiya teachings to keep the things at their appropriate level in the hierarchy of Shariah rulings. An overemphasis on an issue can make it bida’ (innovation). Whereas, an underestimation can lead to loss of significant benefit.
There seems to be this kind of controversy regarding certain specific methods of remembrance and concentration techniques in Tasawwuf.
Understanding by means of example may make the issue a bit clearer.
Following extract is taken from an athletic training website,
‘Most of us enjoy watching professional athletes, at the peak of their performance, participate in their sports. Practicing a sport effectively demands a high degree of skill and requires the ultimate in physical fitness. This can only come about with regular training.
A professional athlete will need to plan a daily workout schedule so that they peak at their top performance on the day of the competition. This requires a carefully thought-out regime of cardio workouts, strength training, and stretches; along with strategic rest periods interspersed so that the athlete arrives at the day of the event perfectly trained but not over trained or under trained.
Exercise logs are how they keep track of all the details of their workouts each day. They include information such as the type of workout, the duration and the intensity. This not only keeps them on track to meeting their overreaching goals, but it also helps to motivate them because they can see in writing every day that they are making progress, which is encouraging.’
Months and years of such dedicated effort is needed to achieve the goal.
A spiritual seeker’s goal is to attain the absolute pleasure of Allah.
This can only be achieved by doing what is required and abandoning what is restricted by Shariah. This is his competitive event. It happens multiple times during the day each day of his life. This sounds simple. However, due to lack of knowledge, proper upbringing and regular guidance, corrupt social and financial influences and complicated life styles a overwhelming heedlessness has developed in us that makes this task practically very difficult. Especial effort and extensive reprogramming of mind is required.
To face these challenge the pious Sufi masters developed spiritual workouts. These are the Sufi forms of remembrance (dhikr), concentration techniques (muraqaba and ashgals) and repetition of various prayers, litanies or actions in certain specific ways. They are not the goal or objective in themselves. They are a means to create the determination, motivation and strength to implement Shariah rules at each and every moment of one’s life. It is futile for this reason to search for an explicit source from Quran and Hadith literature to approve of them. They are neither considered to be more rewarding nor superior to the acts mentioned in Quran and Sunna.
Moreover, it is unnecessary to discuss these issues in public. All of the spectators are focused on the performance of the athlete in the arena. None cares what type, how much or how extensive his routine workout was during his training? The serious athlete need to follow their coach’s recommendations. Sporadic following of such workouts by enthusiastic individuals is futile to bring about the desired results.
Meticulous following of Sunna and abstaining from all that is sinful (actions and thoughts) are the gold standard to measure an individual’s success in attaining the pleasure of Allah.
Million times repetition of the Supreme Name (Allah) with jahr o zarb or habs e dam, vigilant pas anfas, hours of muraqaba or months of khalwah, recitation of litanies, singing qasaid, etc are of no benefit in reality if the above mentioned gold standard is not achieved.
Wa ma taufiqi illa billah!