New Book: Islamic Sufism in the West

Islamic Sufism in the West

by Dr. Aziz EL Kobaiti Idrissi

This book is a study of the phenomenon of Islamic Sufism in the West, which first began by adopting a universalist philosophical form with the Universalist Order of ‘Inayat Khan. Its goal was to be in keeping with the intellectual and political landscape prevalent in the West in the early twentieth century, which used to see Sufism as disconnected from the Islamic religion. This view quickly came into conflict with the reality of Muslim Sufism which appeared with the foundation of the Western branches of the Darqawiyya Shadhiliya. The Western Shadhiliyya tariqas and their different branches took a leading role in changing the understanding of Sufi thought prevalent in the West and directed it and gradually moved it towards its true Islamic basis. One of the most conspicuous of these is the Western branch of the Habibiyya Darqawiyya order which originated in Morocco and brought to the West, particularly the Anglo-Saxon world, the Moroccan form of Sufism based on three elements: the Maliki school in fiqh – based on the practice of the people of Madina, the Ash‘arite creed in theology – to which the people of the Sunna and Community hold – and the Path of al-Junayd in Sufism.

Professor Aziz EL Kobaiti Idrissi

Professor of Arabic Language and Sufi Literature at the Moroccan Ministry of National Education, he is the author of four books about Islamic Sufism in the West and Sufi Literature. He has participated in many international conferences in Morocco, the United States, Egypt, Spain, South Africa, Germany, and Macedonia. He is also the organizer of many sufi gatherings and conferences inside and outside Morocco.

Published in: on November 11, 2012 at 15:35  Leave a Comment  
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Directions for Seekers

Directions For Seekers

By Shaykh Muhammad Al-Yaqoubi

This poem is a gift from Shaykh Muhammad Al-Yaqoubi to his friends and students on the occasion of Eid. He cast the original Arabic the night before the day of Arafah, during his flight from Johannesburg to Cairo; and finished writing it in English in Damascus, on 24 Dhul Hijja, 1431 H.

O my disciple, upright seeker!

Distract not yourself by others on board,

Never turn to other than Allah The Creator,

He is Your Cherisher and Your Lord.

So journey rapidly to Him with diligence;

The night is dark and unforeseen.

Be steadfast and follow the guide,

So doors will open for you as a reward!

O struggling servant, righteous, repentant!

Leave not of the world in your heart any trace:

Pledge yourself to obey the Compassionate,

Seeking in all your endeavour His Face!

As only the servants who humbly concede

Their feats for Him eventually succeed.

So be enchained by love not fear,

To fly through the way and win this race!

O servant who witnessed The One with none,

While his being was entirely gone:

Confirm to the world His Divine Qualities,

And rid yourself of all your vanities!

God cannot be identified,

Cannot be conceived of nor be defined.

Look for His Signs within yourself,

And in the horizons detect and find.

Do not delve into the quest for His Essence,

And order your mind to halt and shun.

Proofs of the Divine Power are shone,

To mankind every morn at the rise of the sun!

To my pure lover and devout invoker:

Strive and persist with acts of obedience-

The Merciful is to your earnest efforts,

Evermore Thankful in abundance!

Keep up your invocations flowing

Never consider them adequate or enough.

As He created you and your deeds,

So let on Him be your firm reliance!

You who, out of ignorance, is lured

To claim to have reached immortality:

Cry in fear and cling to humility,

Efface yourself and know your reality!

Throw your claim to fame behind

Refine your heart and clear your mind,

If you on the Way ever hope to find

Eternal joy and avoid fatality!

To the traveller, dreaming of high ranks,

Pretending he wants Him yet he lacks

The core of belief and instead

He looks around for a miraculous act!

Fancying he could fly; or even have

The gold of the world brought in sacks,

Looking for Aladdin’s lamp to bring

The king of jinn at once intact:

The marvelous wonder is being upright

Throughout one’s life from birth to death,

Exactly as you’ve been commanded

By Allah, in every breath!

So be ashamed of a wicked wish

And renew your Sufi contract

Unconscious and unmindful of

Being a slave of lustful whim,

Your enemy resides within your skin;

So let your war ‘gainst you be grim.

Be vigilant of the deceit of the self

And what it may embellish or limn.

Free yourself of your free will

And yield to His Will, then safely swim.

Purge your heart of lingering love,

And attachment to other than Him.

Your excuse of leaning towards

Your choice before Him is shamefully slim.

So let Him lead the rein of your life

While in joy you sing His hymn;

Before you’re rejected or even be torn

For your misdeeds limb from limb.

Wishful thinking makes the traveller’s

Road in noonday utterly dim.

I once had the honor of being

In the service of a great Saint (1)

And I beheld miracles following him

With no impure trace or taint-

Rather, they were obvious signs

Of his remarkable self-restraint!

His aspiration in both worlds

Was above everyone’s with no pride.

He was silent with few words

Yet he could make mountains slide.

He was raised to the highest ranks,

Because he never had any complaint!

To the spoiled servant, the insouciant

Demanding from Him immediate entrance,

Affirming that you’re consciously truthful;

Proud of your fake works and vague states:

Do you depend on Allah for deliverance-

Or on your untrue state of heart?

Surely being truthful is a Grace

But to see it emerging from you is a hindrance.

Hence, do not be stopped on your trip

By “I” and “my” lest you be torn apart!

O dear companion! Never head for

The territory of a heedless sinner;

Always stand at the threshold of

The Truthful and the Righteous winner!

Attaining stations of this Way

Is done through the hearts of illustrious Gnostics.

Travelling without a guide makes you

An easy prey for the predator’s dinner!

Your book is the Shaykh; in him everything

You want or need is fully included.

To be quenched, you must accompany him

In full submission, not be eluded

So listen to what the Shaykh dictates,

As he breathes into your heart:

Knowledge, wisdom and light will pour,

To make your heart a piece of art!

The legacy of the Prophet through

A sacred chain in him concluded.

With all the traps of the self and the Satan,

The risk is high if you secluded.

Without the company of the Champions,

Reaching Allah is precluded.

Going astray is a probable result

If you on your own chose to depart!

To the yearning servant! Are you after

The Truth or trying to solve a riddle,

Forecasting the future to have secrets divulged,

Which blocked your advancement in the middle?

You must be courageous to defy these desires

Be first and best; don’t play second fiddle;

Grow up and leave these wishes behind

As jewels are not to be mined by a novice-

You know not the difference in a crevice

Between rocks and gems; you only twiddle!

Persist in the quest for Truth alone

And never lean towards any looming illusion.

Treading in the land of the earthly dominion,

My dear confidant is but an intrusion.

Everything other than Allah the Majestic

Is like a mirage; they’re not even rivals.

You run after them, you get not a thing-

Find Him to find all; this is my conclusion!

O vanishing Servant delighted in ecstasy,

Dwelling in the zone of annihilation

To other than The Master: you have to wake up,

And swiftly feel your own sensation.

Look carefully! You are you, a contingent being;

You could never be He; no union is allowed.

He is He: Allah, The Eternal, The Unique-

By heart is witnessed by reason is found.

Stay back and uphold this essential contrast;

To remove from your mind and your heart this cloud.

The top Sufi masters clearly distinguished

And warned in this field of the slightest deviation.

In the start of the voyage you are a newborn

The end of the trip brings resuscitation.

“Thee” in the Opening chapter (2) removed

From our eyes all veils and curtains.

Reflect on the Divine Command in “Be”(3)

There is in it no doubt a secret concealed.

In the verse “You did not throw when you threw”(4)

The gist of all statements is sealed!

O yearning lover, celebrating his passion

For the beauties of the Eternal Heaven:

You are in love with damsels, fountains

Flowers and the splendid palaces,

Silk and cashmere, pearls and perfume

And all the luxury and grandeur-

To the Friends of Allah, the Garden is but

A moment in His Beatific Presence!

If your goal is closeness to the Near

Prostrate yourself to have His contentment!

Worship Him As though you saw Him

In this world without presentment-

The Reward for your ihsaan(5) is His

To eventually see Him in Paradise;

Gaze then in ecstasy at the Great

And thank Him for the blissful prize!

O servant, seeking only His Face

With no inclination to a single pleasure:

Behold! You are called by His Grace

Invited and ushered to the Divine Treasure!

He favoured you; He admitted you in

Before you repented (6) at your leisure ,

You’re now predestined to receive from Him

Knowledge and wisdom beyond measure!


(1) In this line, I am referring to the Pole of the awliya of his time, the Proof of Islam, the great Gnostic, namely, my father and my Master, Sayyid Shaykh Ibrahim Al-Yaqoubi, may Allah sanctify his soul.

(2) In the first chapter in the Holy Qur’an, “Thee” is in verse 5. “Thee do we worship.”

(3) Referring to the Divine command “Be and it is” e.g. verse 82 chapter 36 “Yasin.”

(4) Verse 17 chapter 8; “Ye did not throw when ye threw; it is Allah indeed who threw.”

(5) Verse 60 chapter 55; “Is there any reward for ihsaan except ihsaan itself!”

(6) Verse 118 chapter 9; “He accepted their repentance so that they repent.”

Published in: on May 11, 2012 at 11:14  Leave a Comment  
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The Fourth Rule from the Treatise: قواعد التّصوف‮ ‬ (The Rules of Tasawwuf [Sufism])

The Fourth Rule  from the Treatise:قواعد التّصوف‮ ‬ (The Rules of Tasawwuf [Sufism])1

by Shaykh Aḥmad bin Muḥammad Zurrūq2

صدق التوجه‮ ‬ (Correct turning [towards Allah]) مشروط (is preconditioned) بكونه من حيث‮ ‬يرضاه‮ ‬(wherein it [the turning] must be pleasing to Him), الحقّ‮ ‬تعالى (Al-Ḥaqq Taʿālaa [The Truthful One Who is Most High]) وبما يرضاه (and [it must be] what pleases Him). ولايصح مشروط (That which has been preconditioned is not ṣaḥīḥ [sound]) بدون شرطه (without its condition [being correctly followed]). ‭‬‮قال تعالى: ‬وَلاَ‮ ‬يَرْضَى لِعِبَادِهِ‮ ‬الْكُفْرَ[Allah the Most High has said]: (“He has not sanctioned disbelief for His slaves3”) فلزم تحقيق الإميان (Therefore, the affirmation of Imān [belief is necessary]),‭‬‮قال تعالى: ‬وَإِنْ‮ ‬تَـشْكُرُوا‮ ‬يَـرْضَـهُ‮ ‬لَـكُمْ‮ ‬ [Allah the Most High has also said] (“If you are grateful, He will sanction a thing for you4”),

فلزم العمل بالإسلام (ʿAmal [Actions, Deeds] are requisite in Islam).  فلا تصوف (There is no tasawwuf5 [raising of one’s self to a high degree of spiritual excellence) ‮ ‬إلاّ‮ ‬بفقه‮  ‬(without fiqh [knowledge of Islamic law]), إذ لا تعرف أحكام الله ( since the clear rulings of Allah are not known)  ‮ ‬إلاّ‮ ‬منه‮ ‬ (except through it [fiqh]); فلا فقه (and there is no fiqh) إلاّ‮ ‬بتصوف (without tasawwuf), إذ لا عمل (since there are no actions) إلاّ‮ ‬بصدق (without sincerity) وتوجه (and turning towards Allah); فلا هما (and neither of them [fiqh nor tasawwuf] exist) إلاّ‮ ‬بالإميان (without imān [uncorrupted belief in Allah]), إذ لايصح منهما (since neither of them [tasawwuf or fiqh]) is not ṣaḥīḥ [sound]) دونه (without it [imān]); فلزم الجميع (therefore the joining of them [tasawwuf and fiqh] is necessary), لتلازمها  (because they are inseparable) في‮ ‬الحكم (in regards to legal  rulings), كتلازم االأرواح للأسجاد (in the same way the souls and the bodies are inseparable). ولا وجود لها (They [the souls] do not exist [in this world]) إلاّ‮ ‬فيها (without being in them [the bodies]), كما لا حياة لها (just as there is no life for them (the bodies) إلا بها (without them ([the souls]). فأفهم (So  be aware [of these matter]).

ومنه (In regards to it [this matter]) قول مالك رحمه الله (is the saying of Imām Mālik [may God have mercy on him]):

من تَصَوَّفَ (“He who devotes himself to tasawwuf) ولم‮ ‬يَتَفَقَّهْ (and doesn’t know or understand fiqh) فقد تَـزَنْـدَقَ (becomes a zindīq6 [one who deviates from the correct path]), ومن تفقه (and he who learns fiqh)ولم‮ ‬يتصوف‮ ‬ (and avoids taasawwuf [trying to seek to raise himself to a high degree of spiritual excellence]) فقد‮ ‬تفسق (becomes fāsiq7 [a corrupt deviator from the commands of Allah]), ومن جمع بينهما (while he who joins both of them [tasawwuf and fiqh] together)‮ ‬فقد تحقق(finds the Truth”).

قلت I [Ahmad Zarrūq] say, that تـزَنْـدَقَ‮ ‬الأول (the first person [mentioned] becomes a zindīq) لأنّّـه قال بالجبر (because he discusses al-jabru [fatalism])8 الـموجد لنفي‮ ‬الحكمة والأحكام (which results in the negation of proper judgement and rules).

تُـفَسِّقَ‮ ‬الثاني (The second person [mentioned] becomes a fāsiq), لخلو عمله من التوجه (because his actions are void of turning towards Allah), الحاجبة منهما (which would be the protection for both of them  [both the zindīq and fāsiq]) عن معصية الله (from disobedience to Allah), ومن الإخلاص (and [because his actions] are void of sincerity), الـمشترط (which is one of the required conditions) في‮ ‬العمل لله (in actions [done] for the sake of Allah.

وتَـحَقّقَ‮ ‬الثالث (The third person [that has been mentioned] finds the Truth) لقيامه (because of his steadfastness) بالـحقيقة (in the very action) في‮ ‬عين التمسك بالحق (of cling to the Truth). فأعرف ذلك (So be conscious of that).


1 Ahmad Zarruq explained the reason why he wrote The Rules of Tasawwuf [Sufism] by saying: فالقصد بهذا المـختصر وفصوله تمهيد قواعد التصوف وأصوله وعلى وجه‮ ‬يجمع بين الشريعة والحقيقة ويصل الأصول والفقه بالطريقة (“The purpose of this short treatise and its sections is to simplify the rules and principles of Sufism in a way that brings ash-Sharīʿah (the Sacred Law) together with al-Ḥaqīqah (the true realization of tawḥīd), and to join al-usuul (the principles of the Dīn) and al-fiqh (Islamic law) with at-Ṭarīqah (the Sufī Path).”

Māliki faqih and sufi who has been described as one of the last of those who united fiqh and Tasawwuf. His full name is Ahmed Zarruq (or Sheikh Shihāb ad-Din Abu al-ʿAbbās Ahmed bin Ahmed bin Muhammad bin ʿIsa al-Barnūsī al-Fasī Zarrūq) (1442–1493) was a Shadhili Sufi Sheikh and founder of the Zarruqiyye branch of the Shadhili Sufi order (Tariqa). He was born on the 7th June 1442 (846 of the Islamic ‘Hijra’ calendar) – according to Sheikh Abd Allah Gannun – in a village in the region of Tiliwan, a mountain area of Morocco.[1] He was a contemporary of Muhammad al-Jazuli. He was a Berber of the tribe of the Barnusi who lived in an area between Fes and Taza.

He took the name ‘Zarrūq’ (meaning ‘blue’) and he studied the traditional Islamic sciences such as jurisprudence, Arabic, traditions of the Prophet and wrote extensively on a number of subjects. His most famous works are first of al his Qawa’id al-Tasawwuf (The Principles of Sufism), his commentaries on Maliki jurisprudence and his commentary upon the Hikam of ibn ‘Ata Allah.

He travelled East to the Hijaz and to Egypt before taking up residence in Misrata, Libya where he died in 899 (1493).

Anecdotes of Zarrūq’s childhood, travels and education appear in an untitled fahrasa and Al-Kunnash fi ilm ash, both still in manuscript. Selected passages appear in translation in: Zarruq the Sufi: a Guide in the Way and a Leader to the Truth by Ali Fahmi Khushaim (Tripoli, Libya:General Company for Publication, 1976) (Taken from Wikipedia)

3 Surah Az-Zumar  Verse 7

4 Surah Az-Zumar  Verse 7

5 TasawwufSufism; a systematized form of spiritual training (tarbiyah) which is used to guide individuals towards a proper Islamic attitudes in life, and to guide them towards intellectual and moral elevation in order to overcome the diseases of the lower self (nafs) that prevent spiritual development; tasawwuf is also know as Iḥsān which is the ability to conquer distraction and absent-mindedness in worship, and to perfect worship and ones behavior, by keeping in mind that one, in reality,  is always in the presence of Allah.

6 Zindīq: one who believes in dualism; one who does not believe in the  hereafter; one who does believe in Tawḥīd; one who conceals his disbelief with an outward show of belief; one who is attached to or associated with any form of زَنْـدَقَـة (act of deviation from correct beliefs about Islam).

7 Fāsiq: a transgressor; person who is corrupt; he acknowledges and observes what  is prescribe by the law and also acknowledges its authority, and thereafter falls short in his own observation of some or all of the law; he practices فِسْق (deviation from Allah’s commands; going outside of the limits of the law and obedience)

8 Al-jabru [fatalism] is a false doctrine and deviant view about Allah’s relation with human beings held by Al Jabariyyah a sect found in early Islam: who believe that a person does not have a choice, and nor does he have a free will. And that the doer of every action is Allah!  And that the humans do not have a will and strength over anything [i.e. they are compelled]. he destroys the legislations of the religion, and its creed : and he frees himself of any accountability in front of Allah ; from any sins which he has commits.  So if he fornicated, or drank alcohol, or murdered, he says : I am excused, I am compelled [majbuur].  The followers of this sect say, “The One who gives us faith and who makes us perform acts of worship is Allah. Every action is done under Allah’s compulsion. Man is doomed to his qadar, so no one is responsible for the sins he commits.” And they cite the following Qur’anic verses to corroborate their views:

Allah guides whom He wills and leaves to stray whom He wills. [Ibrahim 4]

If your Lord had willed, all the people on earth would have believed. Then will you force people to become Believers? No one can believe except by the permission of Allah. [Yunus 99,100]

It is Allah who creates you and what you do. [As-Saffat 96]

Published in: on December 27, 2011 at 02:40  Leave a Comment  
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Zuhd (Abstention From the World) and Ṣabr (Putting Up With Hardships and Overlooking the Ill-Treatment, Harm and Wrongs Which Come From Others)

A Discussion About Zuhd and Sabr from the book ‘The African Caliphate’

Author: Ibrahim Sulaiman


… Zuhd, as explained by the Prophet صلّى اللّه عليه وسلّم, has two elements: abstention from the world and keeping away from the possessions of other people. To abstain from the world means, among other things, that a person should live in it on the understanding that it is only a temporary abode, indeed, that it is in fact a place of trial and a place of preparation for the realm of reward and permanence which is the Next World.

Whatever one takes from the world, whether it be in the form of sustenance, power, knowledge or skill, and whatever other pursuits one undertakes in it, should all be seen as a means by which one is being tested by Allah, who will take the final account on the Day of Judgment. Nothing in this world, therefore, is an end in itself. Everything is given or taken by way of trial. The world itself will at some point cease to exist and give way ultimately to the everlasting life of the Hereafter.

Zuhd also involves, however, exerting the effort necessary to secure your own livelihood so as to be self-reliant and free from having to look towards what belongs to other people. Bello stressed in Jalā’ the need for people to preserve their integrity through self- reliance, saying: “The Prophet  صلّى اللّه عليه وسلّم said, ‘Take to trading, for it secures nine-tenths of wealth’… It is related that [Prophet] Isa عليه السلام met a certain person and asked him, ‘What do you do for a living’? He replied, ‘I engage in worship’. Isa عليه السلام then asked him, ‘In that case, who takes care of your needs?‘My brother,’ he answered. ‘Then,’ said Isa, ‘your brother is more of a worshipper than you are.’

In essence, zuhd means that one should ardently seek the realm of the Hereafter by mobilizing and channeling the materials of this world towards the accomplishment of the higher purposes of life and by living one’s life, as far as possible, in accordance with the injunctions of Allah. Equally, it means exerting the efforts necessary to make one self-reliant and self-sufficient, to obviate any need to sell one’s honor, or even as a last resort one’s religion, in order to live.

In its ideological context, zuhd means the mobilization of a movement’s moral and material resources with the purpose of delivering the people from the grip of this world. Moral resources provide the strength to strive against a degenerate social order, while material resources, secured through the members’ extensive and serious engagement in various professions and trades, are advantageous in the struggle for economic and technical supremacy.


To achieve that moral and economic supremacy another quality is, however, essential: ṣabr. In a narrow sense, ṣabr just means patience, but in a wider sense, it embraces a number of attitudes, including endeavoring to live honestly and honorably in a situation where those qualities are not tolerated by the prevailing system and putting up with the hardships and disadvantages suffered as a result. The purpose of embodying this attitude is that it serves as a shining light in the midst of pervasive darkness. Ṣabr also means overlooking much of the ill-treatment, harm and wrongs which come from others and which are an integral part of human life. Allah has said in this regard that He has made some people a means to test others, in order to see which of them will exercise patience.

The most important form of ṣabr is the endurance of hardships suffered while striving on behalf of one’s religion. In their struggle against a decadent system, some people might lose social or economic privileges, some might lose their freedom, some their means of subsistence and some their very lives. In all these trials the most valuable weapon is ṣabr, because the path of religion is long, the steps hard and the efforts exhausting. Ṣabr means not personalizing any harm or injury suffered in the cause of Allah and not holding personal enmity towards those who inflict such harm, so that hostility will cease as soon as such an adversary opens his heart to the faith. It also entails overlooking temporary inconveniences and viewing such trials as moral training, not as a punishment from Allah.

The fruits of ṣabr are ready forgiveness, the lack of any other than ideological adversaries, the ability to overlook and overcome any obstacles placed in your path, and ultimately the attainment of your goal. Apart from knowledge and piety, there is no greater weapon for an individual striving in the cause of Allah than ṣabr.

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Shaykh Uthmaan Dan Fodio’s Position on Tasawwuf – From the book ‘ The African Caliphate’ by Ibrahim Sulaiman

Tasawwuf 1

Shaykh Uthmaan Dan Fodio’s Position on Tasawwuf

From the book ‘ The African Caliphate’ by Ibrahim Sulaiman

In addition to the general education that the Shehu imparted to his students and companions, there was also a more intensive and systematized spiritual training in taṣawwuf. The Shehu had a group of people – men and women – whom he brought up in the ways of sufism. His main aim, no doubt, was to create a core of saints whose inward temperament was harmonized with their outward disposition in such a way that their utterances, behavior and characteristics mirrored their inner beings. This nucleus of people eventually formed the inner core of the Jama‘a. It was to them that mightier affairs were entrusted.

If the Shehu were asked if taṣawwuf was necessary, he would reply in the affirmative. In his Uṣūl al-Wilāyah he said that in the early days of Islam there was no need for taṣawwuf as such, because the Companions of the Prophet had among them those from whom the rest could draw inspiration and who could serve as models for them. The proper Islamic attitudes to life were preserved and transferred from one generation to another until the time came when the moral tone of society changed and people sank into moral decadence. Then a systematized form of spiritual training (tarbiyah) was needed, to give individuals guidance toward intellectual and moral elevation in order to overcome the diseases of the soul that prevented spiritual development.

This kind of concentrated spiritual cultivation of individuals, the Shehu maintained, is traceable to the Prophet himself صلّى اللّه عَلَيْهِ وسلّم, who trained his Companions  in accordance with the disposition of each. He would say to one, “Avoid anger,” and to another, “Let not your tongue ever rest from mentioning Allah’s names.”

The Shehu elaborated that taṣawwuf entails securing from people a pledge, which has to be continually reaffirmed, that they devote themselves to moral rectitude and the search for knowledge following the example of the Prophet صلّى اللّه عَلَيْهِ وسلّم. In this desire to inculcate in people knowledge (‘ilm) and spiritual experience (ḥaqīqah), the ṣufis have added nothing to the general practice of Islam. They simply reinforce its demand for the performance of obligatory duties and avoidance of prohibited things.

The essence of taṣawwuf, as expounded in Uṣūl al-Wilāyah, is five-fold. It is to seek to attain that superior moral consciousness (taqwā) as a result of which a person behaves as if he is in the presence of Allah, so that, whether alone or with others, obligatory duties are always upheld and forbidden things avoided. The Sunnah should be followed in all its ramifications, manifested by good character and being a source of happiness and comfort to others.

You should not harm people or cause them unnecessary discomfort, while at the same time exercising patience and trust in Allah if they cause you harm. You should cheerfully accept Allah’s overriding will in all matters concerning your life, whether that entails prosperity or poverty. You should perfect the attitude of submission whereby, even in the most trying circumstances, you offer thanks to Allah, appreciate the perfect nature of His will and, in the hope of His mercy and succor, flee from the imperfect state of this world to seek refuge in Him.

Those goals are to be reached by taking the following steps: exercising zeal in seeking the highest of aims of worship; revering the sanctity of Allah by following His injunctions and avoiding His prohibitions; striving to perform your professional work correctly and skillfully in accordance with the Sunnah; carrying out your resolution about religion regardless of opposition; and finally acknowledging Allah’s favors by being thankful to Him so as to be graced with an increase in such favors.

Shehu listed, in this order, number of ultimate qualities that should be inculcated: basic knowledge in the fundamentals of religion, jurisprudence and taṣawwuf; repentance (tawbah) from all sins, both spiritual and social; keeping aloof from people except for spiritual, educational or other positive purposes; waging war against Shaytān; striving against lower desires and restraining the self through taqwā; reliance on Allah in matters of provision and livelihood, that is, self-reliance; committing affairs in their entirety to Allah; cheerful acceptance of Allah’s judgment; patience (ṣabr), especially in times of trial; fear of Allah’s retribution at all times; love of Allah in all conditions and at all times; avoidance of eye contact at work; avoidance of conceit by calling to mind Allah’s unbounded favors; and constant praise and thanks to Allah.

Shehu described the nature of the training as the gradual cultivation of a person’s character through a systematic process supervised by a Shaykh until the whole being is positively changed by the good qualities being totally inculcated into the personality. This process is called riyāḍah. Shehu offered an insight into this method by saying, for instance, that if the student (murīd) were ignorant of the Sharī‘ah, the starting point in his training would in that case be his instruction in law and jurisprudence; if he were preoccupied with unlawful enrichment or was in a sinful political or social position, he should first be made to rectify that situation; even if he were sound in outward appearance, the diseases of the inward would have to be cured; if he were obsessed with personal appearance, he should be assigned such lowly chores as cooking until that obsession had been removed; if he were obsessed with food, he should be introduced to constant fasting until that obsession had been overcome; if he were in a hurry for marriage, in spite of being unable to  shoulder its responsibilities, that desire should be curbed with fasting and other exercises. Thus, the training would be in accordance with the intellectual and moral level of the individual concerned.

What differentiates this system of training from informal, personal education is that it is under the guidance of a realised shaykh. This raises the fundamental question of how one can distinguish a true shaykh from a false one. The Shehu offered the following guidelines in identifying a fraud: if he engages under any pretext in disobedience to Allah; if he is hypocritical and pretentious in exhibiting obedience to Allah; if he is greedy for wealth and worldly status and cultivates rich people; if he sows discord among Muslims and is disrespectful to Muslims in general. All these are signs that he is not genuine. A true shaykh is known by the soundness of his knowledge derived fundamentally from the Qur’an and Sunnah, by the nobility of his character, by his spiritual soundness, by a pleasing and easy disposition, and finally by his display of pure insight through interpreting the issues confronting him clearly.

Finally, there is the question of whether a shaykh is essential for the attainment of spiritual wellbeing. Not necessarily, the Shehu stated in Uṣūl al-Wilāyah. The collective spirit of an Islamic group – Ikhwān, as he called them – could take the place of a shaykh and, in any case, the ultimate purpose of taṣawwuf is that an individual should reach a stage in his “direct experience” of Allah in which he dispenses with the guidance of anyone else. Taṣawwuf is the process of training by which an individual is brought to spiritual maturity and then freed to seek his way to his Lord.

For Shehu Usman, taṣawwuf, as an integral part of Islam, is derived from two verses of the Qur’an: “But as for him who feared the Station of his Lord and forbade the lower self its appetites, the Garden will be his refuge.” (79:39-40)

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