Unfortunately we live in an era where the distinction between real and fake is sometimes very difficult to make. Even in religious issues. Marketing tactics, boastful false claims, slick presentation skills and mass propaganda can be misleading.
We often fall prey to these schemes. This is mainly because we are not aware of the gold standard to assess these issues. Making the correct decision is almost impossible.
Similar is the case in selecting a Shaikh for spiritual improvement.
Hakim al Umma Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanawi (Allah have mercy on him) said,
‘I can not claim any perfections for myself.
All praise is to Allah. I have seen the real perfect men (the pious predecessors Shuyukh and scholars). No imposter can fool me by claiming to be human whereas in reality he is a buffalo.’
Malfuzat e Ashrafiya
The gold standard to make this distinction is the meticulous following of Sunna. This following should be comprehensive and perpetual in outward appearance, morals, behavior and dealings.