The Sharing Group Discussion: Are Sufi Groups "Off Planet"?

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Sister San Yee posted this on The Sharing Group, on the 20th March, 2015: “Why do many Sufi groups seemed a bit off the planet?  I know this is a generalised statement but one common concern many non-Sufis have is that Sufis ‘worship’ their shuyukh.  What attracts me to Sufism is the focus on your relationship with God but what really turns me away from Sufism is the ‘worship’ like attitude of many Sufis for their shuyukh and their lineages.  I apologise in advance if this is offensive but it is a sincere question.”

Brother Kyle: Perception is stronger than reality.

Sister Vivi YZ: In my observation, hero worship of asatidzah and religious preachers is common; nothing to do with Sufism.

Sister San Yee: But I feel, Sister Vivi YZ, it is quite different with many Sufis.  A non-Sufi would not kiss the feet of their shuyukh or rely on their shuyukh when trying to make a decision.  Again, it is generalising.

Brother Kyle: Well, Sufis do believe that when a shaykh becomes a wali, God Grants them special knowledge.

Sister Vivi YZ: Okay, Sister San Yee.  Maybe it depends on the person.  Maybe it is only certain groups of Sufis.  The obsession of other non-Sufis with their teachers is manifested in other negative ways, from what I have seen.

Sister San Yee: Thanks, Sister Vivi YZ, I do acknowledge that it is only certain Sufi groups.  But why do Muslims even follow them?

Brother Colin Turner: The time for shaykh-centred Sufism is over.  Wa Allahu ‘alam.

Sister San Yee: Can you please elaborate, Brother Colin?

Brother Colin Turner: Belief is necessary, Islam is necessary; this is not the age of Sufism.  Today, truth and falsehood are mixed, and since it is the age of the ego, it is even more difficult to find a ‘shaykh’ who is above self-aggrandisement through the collection of disciples.  Nor is it the time for punishing spiritual exercises; the world is punishing enough, without long fasts and vigils.  And there are easier ways to God than through the sevenfold or tenfold ‘path’ of the Sufi adepts.  Wa Allahu ‘Alam.

Brother David W Roesler: In many mystical faiths the initiates of the faith are humble and grateful for the instruction given them by their teachers.  It is a part of the learning to be humble and submissive to God as well.  The mystical branches do not demand just blind obedience to dogma as the mundane faiths do.  They also require the initiates to be intellectuals able to grasp abstract concepts that are challenging.  The instructor does not just instruct he leads his pupil to discover the concepts on his own through astute questions and indirect guidance.  These skills are not easily obtained and mastered and once they are the teacher deserves the respect of his students.

Brother Colin Turner: That may have been true in the case of Sufism seven or eight centuries ago, but it is certainly not the case today.

Sister Vivi YZ: Sister San Yee, I am not the best person to answer your question.  The only things I can say are my family are Sufis and that I had a dream in which the shaykh said he would guide me.  On reflection, what I was reciting before that dream was similar to what the Sufis were reciting, which I did not know.  I also realised Sufism was similar to what I was practising on my own.

Brother Khalid Yaqub: Mysticism is love-based; it is not just a teaching of the mind.  As such, one should love the shaykh, who is presumably freer of ego and therefore a closer manifestation of the Divine.  This provides a tangible love-object for the aspirant to grow towards, and a protection from some of the delusions of one’s own ego.  Of course, for many, especially at the start, such relationships seem to be more of a fanboyish, ego-gratifying relationship.  It might be hard to find a worthy shaykh who can help keep one’s ego in check, but it is even harder to find a platypus who can help one do so.

Brother Ahmed Ansari Mohd Yusope: If there are two people you know, the first being pious by reputation but still humble while the second being a self-declared pious person with pride, which would you rather be close to?  An obvious choice would be the first.  As humans, you would want to be that person.  You want to know, learn and practice so that we can understand that person was able to reach that spiritual status even though you know you will not get to his level.  At least you know you are on the right track.  ‘Worship’ is just love towards that person.

Brother Adam Kishanov: Who is to say who reaches a spiritual status and who does not?  These are the kind of things that drove me away from Sufism.  I have witnessed the worship-like attitude towards these shuyukh and it is not Islamic.

Brother Khalid Yaqub: Brother Adam, by the same token, how did people recognise the prophets?

Sister Vivi YZ: I have seen worship-like attitude towards both teachers and shuyukh.  Whether that's right or wrong, that is between them and Allah (s.w.t.).  It is not an indication of piety.  But seeing that kind of behaviour should not be an excuse for us not to seek a guide.  Just pray to Allah (s.w.t.) for a good guide and the ability to discern such a guide.  If anyone has difficulty deciding on the teacher, whether Sufi or not, just do the istikharah prayers.  When you, in all sincerity, ask Allah (s.w.t.) for Guidance, you will not be disappointed, insha’Allah.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Sufism is not for everybody.  Some believe that the murid chooses the shaykh.  And others that the shaykh chooses the murid.  In reality, it is Allah (s.w.t.) Who has Chosen.  This is known as the Path of taste and service, dzawq wa al-khidmah.  It is a difficult path since the nafs, by its nature, will not bow to anyone or anything.  As long as there is a self that believes it is something, there is no Path.

Brother Zain Aly Trook: Everything is by Allah’s (s.w.t.) will.  Nabi Muhammad (s.a.w.) said that the ways to Allah (s.w.t.) are as numerous as the breaths of men.

Brother David W Roesler: I am sure there are some Sufi teachers who misuse their influence on their students or profess theological concepts that are wrongheaded.  However, to criticise all Sufi teachers as bad or charlatans is insulting.  While I may disagree with my Sunni son in law on his theology, I deeply respect his piety, charity and intense faith.  For those who ridicule Sufism, all people of faith live in glass houses.  There are enough atheists out there to ridicule believers; we do not need to join in with them.

Brother Mingda Sun: Real, guided, pure Sufism has always given the average person on the street guidelines on how to distinguish the charlatans who are akin to cult leaders from the real deal.  But most of us are not diligent enough to do the research, so we come across deviants and think they represent Sufism when they are nothing more than devils, fortune tellers, magicians, fakes, people who take advantage of naiveté and trust.  The Salaf wrote extensively about fake Sufis, people who show off how poor and austere they are.  Today, the term ‘Sufism’ has been butchered by various groups.  You have non-religious people in the West trying to turn it into something trendy and New Age; they completely ignore Qur’an, prophethood, sunnah, anything to do with God beyond a pitifully vague notion of the Divine.  You have ‘Sufis’ all over Africa and Asia who make money selling charms and spells and whatever.  It is shameful, the irrational, superstitious, syncretistic crap masking as Sufism.  People are going to ‘Sufi’ mystics for magical remedies, astaghfirullah!

Brother Adam Kishanov: Brother Khalid Yaqub are you comparing Sufi shuyukh to prophets?

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: Slavery was never explicitly forbidden.  If it was haram or shirk for a slave to slave for his master, then it would have been Forbidden.  A dog is a muslim but really treats his or her master in such a dutiful way.  We cannot say the slave or the dog worships their master.

Brother David W Roesler: People who are not initiated may not understand or misconstrue practices that may have profound meaning to the Sufi follower.  For example, if any of you are fans of old time Kung Fu movies, you will be familiar with scenes where the avid student of some master is critical of the master assigning them some mundane task such as wringing out clothes or carrying heavy buckets of water.  The student eventually complains asking the master when he will start teaching him.  The master asks him to perform a martial art and miraculously, the student has great strength and skill.  It seems the master through mundane tasks had been teaching him all along.  The point being until you experience the initiatory training you will not be able to judge its effectiveness.

Brother Mingda Sun: Most of us are too headstrong and ego-driven, especially if we hail from an individualistic, Westernised society, to understand how another human being could ever be so respected, or deserve such respect, as a true shaykh of Islam deserves.  I am American, raised up to have high self-esteem, to be somewhat narcissistic.  I was raised to feel like no one is better than I am.  But coming into Islam, and reconnecting with my Eastern roots, and finding a trustworthy shaykh; it has changed all that.  There are people in this world worthy of following, and serving, and dying for.  This is not worship; this is a manifestation of love.  Someone who truly possesses good manners and knowledge passed down from the Prophet (s.a.w.) has my love; he is an inheritor.

Sister San Yee: Thank you, Brother Abdulkareem C Stone and Brother David W Roesler in your use of analogy to help explain a Sufi’s relationship with his sheikh.  It has helped a little, but as Brother David said, I may never fully understand unless I immerse myself whole-heartedly into Sufism.  That, I fear, I may never be able to do so because of my lack of trust in mankind.

Brother Mingda Sun: You trusted someone to teach you how to read and write, how to drive, how to speak, did you not?  We depend on others to show us things we never knew or imagined.  The endgame is not to find a shaykh; the endgame is to lose oneself in Allah (s.w.t.).  Not trusting in people should never deter anyone from Sufism.  If you trust Allah (s.w.t.), you know He has Chosen people to be His friends here on Earth.  We are all strangers in this dunya; who is truly trustworthy?  Those Chosen ones of God.  As we grow in discernment, insha’Allah, it will be easier to see who displays the characteristics of a true lover of God.  I will be honest.  I did not trust my shaykh at first.  And I kept looking for mistakes, proof that he was not special.  It took time but I saw how he acted.  Masha’Allah, what a truly special human being; someone I wanted to be like.

Sister Vivi YZ: I have to agree with what Brother David and Brother Mingda have said.  There are things I did not understand at first.  There were also things that happened I could not logically explain.  I would not fret about it, Sister San Yee.  Allah (s.w.t.) will Choose your guide for you, Sufi or no, if you ask Him for one.  I wanted guidance but I did not specifically ask for a Sufi shaykh.  My sisters and mother are Sufi.  My dad goes along to Sufi sessions but he is more comfortable with his non-Sufi teacher.  All of us are different but we have one objective.  What is most important is that your guide brings you closer to Allah (s.w.t.).

Brother Abu Bakar Ramli Abu: In the time of Rasulullah (s.a.w.), the companions became the best of followers.  Their respect of him is being described as better than any people treat their king.  But this king does not wear worldly garments.  In these times, we do not have Rasulullah (s.a.w.), but we have our shuyukh that link to him.  We kisses our shuyukh’s hands because he shakes his hands with Rasulullah (s.a.w.) and they can connect us to Rasulullah (s.a.w.).  Our shuyukh mould this soil, our body, into Masjid al-Haram.

Brother Dan Oo: I agree I have met some who definitely have some messed up ideas but you have to know that the shuyukh allow those people there as a trial for the others.

Sister Vivi YZ:  The Qur’an States:

… We have Made some of you as a trial for others: will ye have patience?  For Allah is One Who sees (all things). (Surah al-Furqan:20)

Nothing happens without Allah’s (s.w.t.) Permission.

Brother Dan Oo: I am incapable of being a Sufi.  It is actually much more demanding than regular ‘ibadah.  It exposes you to the ugliness within your self and the reality of it is that you will become disgusted with what you find.

Sister Nounou Moumina: I am just a Muslim.  I follow the Qur’an, then ahadits, then unanimous consensus, then if I have a more specific questions, I ask my local imam.  There is only one Islam so when they try to deviate from that they go into kufr and bid’ah.  I mentioned in another post I posted 2 days ago that sects are haram and a friend of mine provided a verse from the Qur’an that talks about sects.  Please follow only one Islam; it is simple and beautiful.

Brother Dan Oo: Sister Nounou, do you know the hadits of Jibril (a.s.)?

Sister Nounou Moumina: What does this hadits of Jibril (a.s.) say, Brother Dan Oo?

Brother Dan Oo: I do not want to type out the whole hadits but it is where Jibril (a.s.) came to the Prophet (s.a.w.) and asked him about islam, iman and ihsan.  Are you familiar with it?

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Sufism is not a sect.  Please refrain from such sectarian thinking, Sister Nounou Moumina.

Brother Dan Oo: The reason why I bring it up is that taswawwuf is related to this.  In fact, taswawwuf is an actual branch of knowledge similar to uswul al-fiqh or ‘ulum al-ahadits.  It has to be taught by a teacher, and those teachers recognise each other.  Many of the lay people run into problems and divide themselves in their love of their shuyukh into what you are calling sects but, in fact, they are not.  They are paths and those paths are not for everyone because many are extremely steep; they lead to ihsan, which is the highest level of faith, a person who makes everything around them beautiful through their perfect conduct.  To achieve such a conduct is to carefully examine the belt of hypocrisy around your own self, to examine yourself in a way that most people cannot stand.  And it is done with the help of a shaykh.  I also do not like the way I see some people acting when it comes to only being around other Muslims in a certain group but I recognise that the leadership is still bringing them to mainstream.  And if they are not, then knowledge will keep me away from them.  Unfortunately, not all people share my thoughts and they do divide themselves.

Brother David W Roesler: While I cannot speak for Sufism, my own mystical theology is founded on inner reconciliation with your darker or lower self.  When you can forgive and even love your flaws and sinful nature, you are on the path to control and redeem yourself.  Pride, ego, is the barrier to accessing the higher self.  Once you are aware of your own frailties, humility can be achieved.  We are, in a sense, God’s dog.  We respond to stimuli as a dog does to a mailman approaching his territory.  We bark before we think.  We disturb our master with our undisciplined howling.  Until we are aware of our nature there is no way to correct it or control it.

Sister Nounou Moumina: Brother Terence, I am not the one who has a sectarian thinking; my comments and posts are intended to prevent people from having such thinking.  Many people do not know that sects are haram, and some converts are new to Islam so when they find all these different sects, they choose one that suits their life style thinking it is okay to do so.  Our mission as Muslims is to clarify and help people understand the truth and differentiate it from lies and bid’ah.  May Allah (s.w.t.) Guide us all.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Sister Nounou Moumina, if you do not know what Sufism is, and think it is a sect, you are certainly not qualified to warn anybody about anything.

Sister Nounou Moumina: Brother, I know what Sufism is.  But look what the post says.  The person who posted it is confused, and has many questions about ‘Sufism’.  I prefer to call it a deeper level of imanIman has levels, which also means levels in Jannah, insha’Allah.  Labelling in Islam is something that automatically causes confusion and division.  And then there are those who take things too far which causes the real issue.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Sister Nounou Moumina, labelling something only causes confusion if a person extremely stupid.  That is like saying if I tell someone that a carrot is a vegetable, and a cauliflower is a vegetable, that person is confused because how can both be vegetables?  I believe the average Muslim is smarter than that.

Sister San Yee: Sister Nounou Moumina, I am not confused.  I have been a Muslim for a very long time, long enough to see what is truth and what is falsehood.  Questioning is part of a learning process for all Muslims, converts or not.  It is a spiritual growth.

Sister Nounou Moumina: You might not be confused sister, and sorry if I assumed so, but there are people who are.  I have met so many, either in person or online.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: This is not one of those groups of ‘confused’ Muslims.

Sister San Yee: Then, Sister Nounou, it is a spiritual journey that person needs to take.  Discuss an idea but do not force your ideas on them.  One thing I find many well-meaning Muslims do is assume a convert is a child and therefore needs protecting.  God has Given us a mind to think so give us a chance to use it.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: The following is extracted from the teachings of Shaykh Muhammad Nazhim Adil al-Haqqani (q.s.) from Liberating the Soul, A Muslim Convert Once More: The Difference between Respect & Worship.  Worshipping Allah (s.w.t.) is one thing and respecting people is something else.  But in our time, many ignorant people never make a distinction between worship and respect.  When those people see someone respecting another, they say, “You are worshipping him.”

How is it that they do not understand the difference what is respect and what is worship?  Even regarding kissing hands of a shaykh, they say, “Shirk!” but they are the ones who are mushrikin, polytheists.  Whoever accuses a mu’min, a believer, of shirk, polytheism, he is a mushrik.  So many Shaythani people, and they claim that they are Muslims, are trying to destroy everything that Islam brings of respect to people.  They want us to be like communists, with no respect among themselves.  Islam just brought respect and honour to people from Allah (s.w.t.):

O mankind!  We Created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and Made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most Honoured of you in the Sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has Full Knowledge and is Well Acquainted (with all things). (Surah al-Hujraat:13)

We must respect the one who fears Allah (s.w.t.).

The following is Shaykh ‘Ali Juma’ah’s answer to the question of A Muslim Convert Once More: Kissing the Hands of Scholars.  A lot of students and adepts kiss the hands of their teachers and guides.  Is this permissible?  The ways that people honour those that have rights over them differ with the different cultural norms of a given people.  We see, for example, that in the Arabian Peninsula they kiss their fathers on the nose as a way of honouring them, and they kiss the heads of their scholars.  The original ruling of all of these things is that they are permissible so long as particular forms that Muslims may engage in have not been prohibited.

As for the question of kissing the hands of scholars, it is permissible to do so with a scrupulous scholar, a just ruler, one’s parents, one’s teacher, and anyone who is worthy of being honoured and respected.  According to ibn ‘Umar (r.a.), he was in one of the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) raiding parties and in his narration he mentioned a story and said, “So we came to the Prophet (s.a.w.) and kissed his hand.”  The schools of jurisprudence have come to a consensus that kissing the hand of a scholar who is righteous towards his religion is not prohibited saying that it is permitted and well-liked.

Brother Adam Kishanov: Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis, I do not think jumping on Sister Nounou Moumina’s comment like that is very helpful.  If we are all so educated here then I am sure everyone understands what she meant.  This group, in my opinion, loves to attack other Muslim brothers’ and sisters’ beliefs yet cannot take any criticism of Sufism.  If we are trying to become scholars let us first work on ourselves, our patience and our understanding.  If we are just trying to be better Muslims then we should also work on the same.  May Allah (s.w.t.) open our hearts to deep understanding and respect.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Brother Adam Kishanov, I am very particular about people setting themselves up as authorities and yet not knowing even the basics.  That is the surest means of leading people astray.  Any person who claims Sufism is a sect has no business warning about sects.  It is like claiming fiqh is a sect, or tafsir is a sect.

Secondly, just because we are converts, it does not mean we are lost, and we need some born-Muslim to ‘guide’ us.  Being born into the religion does not make one an authority on it.  And I will nip any such condescension in the bud.

Brother Adam Kishanov: Where in her comment did she claim all of the things you just mentioned brother?  I don't think anyone is acting like an authority or claiming to be, however, dear brother, your comment was as such.  That is all I am saying.  If we are so quick to correct someone we must be just as quick to accept the same brother.  I ask that you reread the comments brother and see if you see what I am saying.

Brother Moied Ahmed: As I am someone who is suffering from post-Wahhabi burnout.  I have to say that Wahhabism is extremely deleterious and recalcitrant towards every aspect of the human make-up except the part which seeks false gratification through self-delusion and condescendment.  Everything is shirk and kufr except believing in an anthropomorphic deity that moves around in the sky somewhere ‘up there’ in the clouds or something.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Having a different belief does not make person a Wahhabi, and there are many threads on this group where there are different ideas on many things.  However, if a person says that Sufism is a separate sect, or that it is bid’ah or shirk, then that is a clear Wahhabi belief, and I will call anyone out on that.  People have to be made aware that these ideas are kufr and not part of Islam.  It is not difficult to know this sect; we are quite familiar with their ‘aqidah, their methodology and their tactics, and they have to be rooted out without hesitation.

Brother David W Roesler: I have read and heard that many practices and knowledge of Sufism precede Islam; that its ideas have been handed down from Abraham (a.s.), or even Adam (a.s.).  Kabbalists also claim their knowledge flows from very ancient times.  Christian mystical concepts and practices I have personally researched precede Jesus (a.s.) and extend back to the earliest civilisations.  God Existed before Islam, Christianity and Judaism.  God was Active among mankind before any of the Abrahamic based faiths.  It is just that the messages He left were corrupted over time by man.

I get the impression from some on this thread that if an idea does not come exclusively from Islamic sources it is somehow false or haram.  God cannot be contained in just one book or even all the ahadits.  Whenever we try to contain God in a box He bursts free.  Just because knowledge is found in another faith does not necessarily make it false.  We are not horses that need blinders over our eyes to keep us on a path we are men who need our eyes unobstructed so we can find our way through a dark forest and locate the path.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: If people are serious about this, Sufism is generally accepted to be the mystical dimension of Islam.  Imam al-Hujwiri (q.s.), in the eleventh century, presented several views of the origin of the term, ‘Sufi.’  Some scholars say Sufism is derived from the term ‘Ahl asw-Swuffah’, or the People of the Bench, which refers to the platform on which the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) and the believers used to sit while worshipping Allah (s.w.t.).  The comprehensive definition may be found here: A Muslim Convert Once More: Origin of the Term ‘Sufism’.

And from this, A Muslim Convert Once More: What is Sufism?, Sufism is a path of spiritual advancement.  By a process of purification, Sufi practices allow light to enter our hearts and our faculties of perception.  This may lead to the development of our innate spiritual and intuitive abilities, in the same way that when you open a window to a dark room light floods in and you can suddenly see more.

Thus the practice of Sufism leads to an expansion of consciousness - an increase in our self-awareness and our awareness of the universe we live in.  We become less prone to acting and thinking in conditioned ways.  This, in turn, leads to a self-transformation - a transformation in the way we conduct ourselves and interact with the world.  We find peace and contentment and a growing awareness of a Higher Plan.  Ultimately, the Sufi path brings us closer to the Supreme Reality, which is Allah (s.w.t.).

Also, we have this: A Muslim Convert Once More: What is a Sufi?  So who better to describe the Sufis than the Arch-Intercessor himself, the one whose feet are on the necks of all the saints?  He is al-Ghawts al-A‘azham wa al-Quthb al-A’azham Muhyi ad-Din Shaykh Abu Muhammad ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (q.s.).  He was the founder of the Qadriyyah and its related Traditions.  According to Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (q.s.), the Sufis have four interpretations for their names.  These names are given on account of what they represented to those who knew of them and their ways.

When some had looked at the exterior and seen the woollen garb of which they became famous for wearing, they were called thus after the Arabic word for wool which is ‘swuf’.  The garb is to symbolise humility by leaving that which is ostentatious.  But even that garb may be a veil for those who have humbled themselves may become proud that they are humble.

When others looked at their way of life, free from the anxieties of the world, at their submission, at their peace of mind; they called them Sufi after that state which in Arabic is ‘swafa’’.  For surely Allah (s.w.t.) is the Best of Planners.  And those who remember the Planner cannot be in a state of continual distress.

Who have believed and whose hearts have rest in the remembrance of Allah.  Verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest! (Surah ar-Ra’ad:28)

Another group noticed the purity of their hearts and the sincerity of their ‘ibadah.  And they were the ‘Pure Ones’ and thus named Sufi from ‘swafi’ which means ‘pure’ in Arabic.  They have been purified of the Self.  For when the Self is absent, the Divine is Present.  The Divine is Inherent.

Still others took note that they were the people of the first row or ‘swaff’, the ‘ahl asw-swaff’.  There is a deeper meaning to this term but that is for the Knowers.  And that is why it is best to be in the first swaff at every swalah.  There is where the barakah is greatest.  That is where the winds of Jannah blow.  And that would be our place on the Day of Standing, insha’Allah.

The earliest written use of the term ’Sufi’ is in reference to a student of Imam Ja’far asw-Swadiq (q.s.), Shaykh Jabir ibn Hayan (r.a.) in the 2nd Century after Hijrah.  This is not new term.  Neither are the practices of the Sufis anything new since they are all from Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.).  These are not the people of shara’.  They are the people of wara’.  They have moved beyond the Path of the Law to the Path of Caution.  The doctrine of taswawwuf and Islam as espoused by Quthb al-‘Arifin, Shaykh Tayfur Bayazid al-Bistami (q.s.) is to follow the Qur’an and the sunnah; always speak the truth; free the heart from hatred; avoid forbidden food; and shun innovation.

If people want to go into the doctrines, I have 764 articles on my blog explaining the various aspects of it.

Brother David W Roesler: I have read that the name Sufi derived from the rough garments they wore in remembrance of Jesus (a.s.) who they revered more than other Muslims.  I am an admirer of the Sufi martyr, al- Hallaj, who was ordered dismembered by the Ottoman Emperor for heresy.  It is said he forgave his executioners as they murdered him.  Too me, al- Hallaj is the embodiment of a Muslim Jesus without of course the figurative symbolism of the resurrection.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Imam al-Mughits Husayn ibn Manswur al-Hallaj (q.s.) was not killed by any Ottoman Emperor.  He lived long before the Ottoman times.  He was crucified upside down.  The qadhi was also his shaykh, Imam Junayd al-Baghdadi (q.s.).

Brother David W Roesler: Sorry for my error, Brother Terence.  It has been a while since I read about him.  I refreshed my memory by looking him up on Google, and renewed my admiration and respect for him.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: No issues, brother.

Sister San Yee: Going back to the original post, why do Sufi have such a deep love for their shuyukh that they would literally kiss the ground he walks on?

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: There is no worship of any shuyukh.  That is either a misunderstanding or a fitnah.  There is something called rabithah and that is not a concept for beginners: A Muslim Convert Once More: The Two Types of Rabithah.  According to Shaykh Muhammad Nazhim Adil al-Haqqani (q.s.), rabithah is the connection the murid has with the murshid.  It Says in the Qur’an:

O ye who believe! Persevere in patience and constancy: vie in such perseverance; strengthen each other; and fear Allah; that ye may prosper. (Surah Ali ‘Imran:200)

By definition, rabithah is when the murid looks, by means of the inner eye of the heart with unqualified love and longing, to the spiritual presence of his shaykh.

We are to love all Muslims, especially the pious.  By keeping a good connection to a pious person we make ourselves better.  We are Commanded to love Rasulullah (s.a.w.) and if we love him, we will be raised with the ones we love on the Day of Judgement.  Loving Rasulullah (s.a.w.) is a means to following his sunnah becoming good people, and ultimately loving Allah (s.w.t.).  Loving the shaykh is a means of acquiring good habits and purifying oneself, as well as loving Rasulullah (s.a.w.) and ultimately, Allah (s.w.t.).

The swahabah were in love with Rasulullah (s.a.w.) as well as with the pious such as Abu Bakr asw-Swiddiq (r.a.) and ‘Ali ibn Abi Thalib (k.w.).  Loving someone makes us follow their way and is an effective means for bettering oneself.  Our Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “A man is in the religion of his friend,” therefore to be friends and love pious people especially the shuyukh.  This will ultimately cause you to be helped in religion, insha’Allah.

On fana’ with the shaykh, A Muslim Convert Once More: Introduction to the Types of Fana’, there are three types of fana’.  Each person’s experience differs from another.  A salik may achieve nothing from the world of baqa’ if he does not successfully complete all three stages of fana’.  The subject of fana’ and baqa’ are very intense and intricate and it will not be possible to fully explain it.

Fana’ is necessary for spiritual progress since it is only when the Self is absent, that the Divine is Present.  It is important because one cannot achieve spiritual tranquillity without it.  It is necessary for the accomplishment of the stations of suluk.  The first step to this is rabithah.  The shaykh of my shaykh said that one has not found the Path until he has experienced the first fana’.

Please note that the language is loose since we are speaking of states and stations that cannot be easily described.  Fana’ is not achieved.  It is not something that is worked for.  It simply is as a result of Divine Openings, as the nafs is subdued and the ruh is purified.  It is a waypoint to the Divine Presence.

And the following is from this: A Muslim Convert Once More: An Introduction to Rabithah ash-Sharif & Muraqabah.  This principle is from the Qur’an.  We know that through the rabithah ash-sharif and muraqabah, one is separated from the dark characters of the nafs and its bad manners, and is taken into the state of Real Existence.

And (with passion) did she desire him, and he would have desired her, but that he saw the evidence of his Lord: thus (did We Order) that We might Turn Away from him (all) evil and shameful deeds: for he was one of Our servants, sincere and purified. (Surah Yusuf:24)

The evidence, burhan, of his Lord mentioned here is the vision of Ya’qub (a.s.) who was in Jordan by Yusuf (a.s.) who was in Egypt.  Muraqabah is the first step in grasping the reality of swalah, prayers, which are an ascension for the believers.  There are three stages to this muraqabah, and this muraqabah is made on three levels.  The first level is to make muraqabah with ones shaykh, the second level is with the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) and the final level being making muraqabah to Allah (s.w.t.).  The first three stages within these levels are love, presence and extinction.

Sister Latiefah Da Costa: Perhaps I can put it simpler.  The spiritual knowledge of the shaykh is passed through the heart from one shaykh to another starting from our Prophet (s.a.w.).  Our shaykh is the one who teaches us the way and means to attain that spiritual connection, from him to the Prophet (s.a.w.) and our ultimate goal, Allah ‘Azza wa Jal.  Would you not have the greatest love for this person who is teaching you how to reach Allah (s.w.t.)?

Sister San Yee: Brother Terence, you said, “There is no worship of any shuyukh.  That is either a misunderstanding or fitnah.”  Brother Terence, I think to a certain degree it is not a misunderstanding or a fitnah.  There are Sufis who do treat their shuyukh like Gods because they believe he is a wali.  I am trying to understand why Sufis need to do that to have that devotion to God Alone.

Brother Nabeel Sadiq: It is always misunderstood.  The idea that I kiss the hand that kissed the hand that kissed the hand that kissed the hand of the Prophet (s.a.w.); this is not worship.  It is wanting part of the chain that leads to the Beloved (s.a.w.).

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Sister San Yee, perhaps you have a particular incident in mind.  If you could elaborate, it would help us.  I can only speak in general, based on doctrine.  I do not understand, though, what you mean by treating them like gods.  These are not Sufis, since a Sufi is someone who has already arrived spiritually.  I have defined what a Sufi already is above and there are few who would qualify as such in the world.  It is husn azh-zhan for most muridun and muhibbin, the students and the followers, to believe the best of their teacher, including that he is a shaykh.  However, like everything in Islam, there are qualifiers.

Brother Irshad Alam: This explains the shari’i reasons for taswawwuf: The Path: Learning Sufism is Obligatory.  This monograph explains why a Muslim should learn Sufism or taswawwuf.

Brother Jak Kilby: Absolutely.  The ‘off the planet’ bit being an understatement.  When I first was coming to Islam, and although I had been ‘seeking’, not for Islam as such, but for ‘truth’, reason for being, direction, answers; I came in confrontational terms being faced with Islam as the answer via something like being pulled through thorn bushes backwards and slowly.  It led me to years of investigation, into both Islam, other religions, history, politics, current affairs, all from a differing perspective from before.  I decided Islam was ‘it’.  But how to ‘become’ Muslim?  And how to overcome believing that it was impossible for me to do what I must, and not do what I must not.

During that time I met an acquaintance who had become Muslim since I had seen him last.  He was a member of a thariqa’ and followed its shaykh.  He told me their shaykh was in town and I could meet him.  He said his shaykh would ‘make me a Muslim and arranged a day we would go together.  The time came and we went.  There were lots of prayers – he neglected to tell me it was Ramadhan and this was tarawih, as well as ‘isha’.  So I thought it was the ‘normal’ of what Muslims did each day.  And there was dzikr which I found interesting.  But then came the end of the evening and going to greet the shaykh.  The followers were falling on the floor and kissing his feet.  I was shocked!  I asked about this and said I believed it was wrong.  I was told this reaction was my ego.  But I had come to understand worshiping Allah (s.w.t.).  Again, I was told it was my ego.

So that was it for some time. I found my way eventually by other routes.  Funnily enough, these routes also led to the same shaykh.  We talked, and he laughed about these things.  So for myself, if it was all about my ego, I have no care about this.  There were things I learnt from that shaykh and from many others.  I consider these, and many more as teachers.  That is it for me.  But I am very wary of ‘claims’ and excesses.

I have to say, I have no problem with the kissing of hands, which is a mark of respect of elders and teachers in Arab and many other cultures.  I did love it, however, when I found that in the Afghan zawiyah in Jerusalem they, both the shaykh and the followers would clasp each other’s hands and kiss simultaneously, so you kissed the hand of the one kissing your hand.

Sister San Yee: Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences, Brother Jak.  It is much appreciated.  The intense love a Sufi has for their shaykh is often brought up by Wahhabi groups to discredit the thuruq.  To be honest, I do not disagree with them completely.  There are plenty of YouTube videos that demonstrate this, some as minor as the showing of respect to some very bizarre acts like the apparent act of eating the faecal matters of their sheikh.  To me, it may be worth exploring the ideas Brother Colin put forward that the time for shaykh-centred Sufism is over.  Sufism has a lot to offer especially in today’s climate but it also needs to adapt to cater for a changing world.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: In the previous comments, I have defined what a Sufi is, what a thariqa’ is and their place in Islam.  I do not think it is fair of you, Sister San Yee, to give these extreme examples and claim they are Sufi.  To me, that is the same as people claiming the all Muslims are like ISIS.  They may claim to be such.  The ignorant may think they are such.  But that does not make it their reality.

Sister San Yee: I agree with you, Brother Terence, and I have not dismissed what you have said.

Brother Zain Aly Trook: As a Sufi initiate, I can tell you that worshipping of a shaykh is uncalled for.  No true shaykh would allow respect to progress into worship so these cases you mention must be few in relation to the overall Sufi practitioners.  If any shaykh allows that, then he is answerable to Allah (s.w.t.).


  1. Why do Sufi have such a deep love for their shuyukh that they would literally kiss the ground he walks on?

    The Shaykh to the mureed represents his/her link and means to attaining intimacy with the Lord. As medical student one learns a skill not from books but from seasoned practitioners of said skill.
    As a baby, one is helplessly and utterly reliant on a parent to teach it basic tasks and knowledge. And after God and his prophets, no greater respect is given than to the parents.
    Using this analogy, the seeker of the Almighty learns the practical adab (mannerism and behaviour) of seeking divine intimacy from one who already possesses it. As a child grows to love its parent beyond all rational reason, so does the follower become enamored with his/her teacher who is a means to approach the divine presence. At this point you can notice the similarities of the Sahaba and the Prophet (SAW)'s relationship.

    Is this worship of the shaykh?
    Worship is an internal process. The man in the street may be busy with his trade while his heart is concerned with the Zikr of the Allah. While the man in the mosque may be apparently in a state of dutiful worship while his heart is concerned with the remembrance of his business. Who is truly in a state of worship? Rather the judgement of the apparent actions are more a reflection of the one judging than the one judged.

    No Sufi worships any other than the Almighty for this is beyond the boundaries of Islam and hence can never achieve the desired goal of union with the Lord.


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