Imam an-Nawawi (r.a.) on the Rules of Taswawwuf

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following was extracted from al-Maqasid, Imam an-Nawawi’s (r.a.) Manual of Islam; and Umdat as-Salik wa ‘Uddat an-Nasik, The Reliance of the Traveller by Imam Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Miswri (r.a.).

Imam an-Nawawi (r.a.) defined the rules of taswawwuf in this manner.  He stated that the basic rules of the way of taswawwuf are five.  They are being God-fearing privately and publicly, living according to the sunnah in word and deed, indifferences to the acceptance or rejection of others, satisfaction with Allah (s.w.t.) in scarcity and plenty, and turning to Allah (s.w.t.) in joy or affliction.

He then mentioned the attainment of these basic rules.  God-fearingness is attained by scrupulousness and uprightness.  Following the sunnah is attained through caution and good character.  Indifference to other's acceptance or rejection is attained through patience and trust in Allah (s.w.t.).  Satisfaction with Allah (s.w.t.) is attained through contentment with what one has and submission to the Will of Allah (s.w.t.).  Turning to Allah (s.w.t.) is attained by gratitude to Him in happiness and taking Refuge in Him in affliction.

The foundation of all of this attainment consists of five things: high aspiration, keeping Allah’s (s.w.t.) Reverence, giving the best of service, keeping one’s spiritual resolve, and holding Allah’s (s.w.t.) Blessings in esteem.  Whoever’s aspiration is high, his rank rises.  Whoever reveres Allah (s.w.t.), Allah (s.w.t.) Maintains his respect.  Whoever’s service is goodly is necessarily shown generosity.  Whoever keeps his spiritual resolves continues to have Guidance.  Whoever hold Allah’s (s.w.t.) Blessings in esteem will be grateful for them, and whoever is grateful for them will necessarily see them increased.

A person will show five signs of Sufism: seeking Sacred Knowledge in order to perform Allah’s (s.w.t.) Command, keeping the company of shuyukh and fellow muridun in order to see with insight, forgoing both dispensation from religious obligations and figurative interpretations of scripture for the sake of cautiousness, organising one’s time with spiritual works to maintain presence of heart, and suspecting the self in all matters, in order to free oneself from caprice and be safe from destruction.  However, we must be cautious since seeking Sacred Knowledge is vitiated by keeping the company of juveniles, whether in age, mentality, or religion, who do not refer to guidance from a firm principal or rule.  Keeping the company of shuyukh and muridun is vitiated by self-deception and concern with the unimportant.  Leaving dispensations and figurative interpretations is vitiated by leniency toward the self.  Organising one’s time with spiritual works is vitiated by looking for more and more supererogatory worship.  Suspecting the self is vitiated by satisfaction at its goodliness and uprightness.

The principles for curing ailments of the nafs are five: lightening the stomach by diminishing one’s food and drink, taking Refuge in Allah (s.w.t.) from the unforeseen when it befalls, shunning situations involving what one fears to fall victim to, continually asking Allah’s (s.w.t.) Forgiveness and invoking His Blessings upon the Prophet (s.a.w.) night and day with full presence of mind, and keeping the company of him who guides one to Allah (s.w.t.).

One can reach Allah (s.w.t.) by applying ten principles: Repenting from all things unlawful and offensive; seeking Sacred Knowledge in the amount needed; continually keeping wudhu’; performing the swalah fardhu at their times in jama’ah along with the sunnah an-nawafil; always performing eight raka’at of swalah adh-dhuha, the six raka’at sunnah al-awwabin, sunnah at-tahajjud, and sunnah al-witri as the last prayer before fajr; fasting Mondays and Thursdays, and the white days of the lunar month; reciting the Qur’an with presence and heart on the meanings; constant and abundant istighfar; constant and abundant swalawat upon the Prophet (s.a.w.); and Persevering in the sunnah adzkar of the morning and evening.


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