Uttering a despicable slander against the Sufiya, the anti-Tasawwuf author [al-Madkhalee] of the baseless article, states:
“This is the most dangerous aspect of Sufism since Sufi thinking has become combined with veneration of the pious people and shaykhs and exaggeration in veneration of the dead, just as it has become combined with the saying that everything in existence is in reality Allaah (wahdatul wujood), not to mention the other aspects of Islam which Sufism has corrupted, in that its followers are charecterised by dependence upon others whilst falsely claiming to depend upon Allaah…”
“The most dangerous aspect” is his reference to the fabrication that the Sufiya have diverted Muslims from the true course of Islam. The aforegoing discussion in which the true nature and reality of Tasawwuf have been explained, has debunked this baseless averment.
As for his contention of ‘veneration of the pious’, it should be noted that he has categorized ‘veneration’ into two types: (1) Veneration of the pious, and (2) Exaggeration in veneration of the dead.
VENERATION OF THE PIOUS
Veneration of the Pious is among the maqaasid (objectives) of the Deen. The Qur’aan and Sunnah emphasize such veneration. Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) commanded the Sahaabah: “Stand (in respect) for your sayyid (chief/leader).” He also said: “He who shows no mercy to the our little ones, and no veneration for our seniors, is not among us.” Commanding the fixation of the eyes and one’s focus on the Mashaaikh, the Qur’aan Majeed says: “Maintain your nafs resolutely with those who call (make thikr) on their Rabb morning and evening, and do not divert your focus from them…”
Veneration of seniors is an integral constituent of Islamic Akhlaaq (Moral Character). Veneration of those whom Rasulullah (sdallallahu alayhi wasallam) described as the Warathatul Ambiya (The Heirs of the Ambiya) has greater emphasis in the Deen. What type of Salafi culture is it that decries veneration for seniors, especially seniors of the Deen? This statement of the author testifies to the spiritual and moral aridity of Salafis. They lack in the Qur’aanic and Sunnah attributes of moral excellence, hence to justify their vulgarity they label veneration of seniors as shirk.
We learn from the Ahaadith that if a child casts a glance of affection and respect at the face of his parents, he/she gains the thawaab of a Hajj. A Sahaabi enquired: “What if one looks numerous times?” Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) responded that he/she will receive the thawaab of a number of Hajj which equals the number of glances cast at the parents. Is this not veneration of seniors? The illustrious Sufi, Hadhrat Fareeduddeen Attaar (rahmatullah alayh), addressing the Sufis, said: “O Durwaish! It comes in the Hadith Shareef that an Aalim Faqeeh is superior to a thousand such Aabideen (pious worshippers) who spend the nights in ibaadat and fast by day. A day’s ibaadat of an Aalim is equal to 40 days of ibaadat of an non-Aalim Aabid.” The lofty degree of veneration for the Aalim should be quite apparent from this Hadith and statements of the Sufis.
Veneration of seniors is a self-evident moral requirement of Islamic moral character. We fail to understand the mentality which despises veneration of the Mashaa-ikh.
The second kind of veneration in which the limits of the Shariah are transgressed, is termed ghulu’. Shirk is the consequence of ghulu’ which is committed by jaahil and miscreant ‘sufis’. But their ghulu’ may not be ascribed to the genuine Sufiya who all followed the Shariah meticulously. Instead of condemning Tasawwuf, an intelligent person will rather explain what is Sufi’ism and what is not. He will not attribute the crimes of Muslim criminals to Islam. If someone proffers baatil in the name of Islam, the former will be condemned and refuted, not Islam. The author would have acquitted himself intelligently if he had explained the bid’ah and shirk which the juhala had and still do portray as Sufi’ism.
That there exists bid’ah and shirk in the cults of the ghaali ‘sufis’, as well as in the present-day western attired, beardless baboons in Syria, Turkey, U.S.A., etc., who are fraudulently hoisting their immoral cults in the name of ‘sufi’ism’, is conceded and unequivocally condemned. But the existence of these evils perpetrated in the name of sufi’ism is not a valid cause and reason for condemning Islam itself, for when Suf’ism is condemned and denounced, one half of the Deen is targeted for extermination by the errant and misguided Salafis of our time, one of them being the character, al-Madkhali, who has baselessly directed his criticism at the Sufiya and Tasawwuf.
There are many bid’aat which have become attached to many valid and compulsory Fiqhi teachings of Islam. For instance, Janaazah Salaat and Dafan (burial) are accompanied by a host of bid’aat. Intelligence does not dictate banning Janaazah Salaat nor Dafan. The man of Aql will target the practices of bid’ah and endeavour to weed them out so that the Zaahiri Ibaadat is restored to its state of pristine purity. In exactly the same way will an Aaqil conduct himself with regard to the A’maal-e-Baatin. He will not condemn and ban the ways and methods of securing Tazkiya-e-Nafs (moral purification). Rather, he will focus on the errors, acts of bid’ah, shirk and baatil which have attached themselves to Tasawwuf with the march of time and the increase of jahaalat and shaitaaniyat.
All the genuine Sufiya, without exception, have vehemently condemned the acts of bid’ah and shirk practised by the jaahil ‘sufis’. They have warned against cultivation of suhbat (companionship) with bid’ati and jaahil ‘sufis’, and they emphasize the Wujoob of severing ties with such a ‘shaikh’ if one had by error established a link with him. Hadhrat Qiwaamuddeen (rahmatullah alayh) said:
“O Durwaish! The basis of this effort (Tasawwuf) is the criterion of Kitaabullah, the Sunnah of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and the history of the Salaf who were the leaders of the Deen.. ….If anything of the Shaikh is in conflict with the Criterion (of the Shariah), then it is faasid (corrupt). If any statement or action of the Shaikh is in conflict with Kitaabullah, the Sunnah and Ijma’, it will be mardood (rejected). Such a Shaikh is unfit to be a leader. Whoever follows such a shaikh will not attain the goal.”
The aforegoing explanation clarifies that whilst excessive veneration (ghulu’) accorded to saints and to the dead is haraam and condemned, valid veneration is a command of the Shariah, and an act of high merit. In fact it is the Sunnah of the Sahaabah who would rush to scoop in their hands the water which would roll off from the blessed limbs of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and rub it on their faces. Is this not veneration? Is it excessive veneration? And, the Sahaabah would use the blessed perspiration of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) as atar (perfume). Is this not veneration, and is it excessive veneration? In fact, there are acts of greater veneration displayed by the Sahaabah for Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). But the Salafis, including the author, suffers from the malady of spiritual barrenness. They are bereft of roohaaniyat, hence devoid of Akhlaaq-e-Hameedah. To them Tazkiyah-e-Nafs is to execute the A’maal-e-Zaahiri in any slipshod manner. Just observe them performing Salaat, and you will wonder at even their Ulama being in entirety bereft of khushu’ and khudhu’ when discharging their acts of ibaadat.
Veneration for the Shaikh has prescribed limits. These limits do not permit the mureed to follow an act of transgression which may ensue from the Shaikh. The Shaikh is not sinless, just as the Sahaabah were not sinless. Besides the Ambiyaa who were Ma’soom, no other human being is sinless. Commenting on this fact and the limits of veneration, Hadhrat Maulana Maseehullah Khaan (rahmatullah alayh), said:
“The mureed should not entertain the idea that the Shaikh is ma’soom. However, he should hold the Shaikh in high esteem. If occasionally the mureed observes any transgression by the Shaikh, he (the mureed) should not sever his relationship with the Shaikh. But, if the Shaikh commits transgression in abundance, the mureed should politely terminate his relationship with the Shaikh. Also, the Shaikh should not instruct the mureed to practise such acts which are transgression in terms of the Shariah.”
If one’s father commits transgression and sin, and also instructs his son to perpetrate sin, the latter is under Shar’i obligation to politely and with respect and grief in his heart refuse obedience. But the father’s sins do not justify the son’s abstention from veneration. At all times, the son is required to honour, love and venerate his father. The same standard applies with regard to the Mashaaikh and the Ulama who are the Warathah of the Ambiya, and from whom we acquire the Deen, both the Zaahiri and Baatini dimensions on which our everlasting Najaat in the Aakhirah pivots. Now what is the name of that cult which advocates coarseness of attitude, disrespect for seniors and displays aversion for Akhlaaq-e-Hameedah in general? Salafi’ism! Whilst modern-day Salafi’ism is the one extreme, we find at the opposite extreme baatil sufi’ism which in reality is Satanism.
Stupidly arguing against valid, lawful and Waajib veneration of seniors, al-Madkhali says in his article:
“Then it is a fact that all sects of the Sufis have gone beyond bounds in veneration of their shaykhs and in complete submission of the follower (mureed) to his teacher (shaykh); to the point that the follower gives full and unrestricted obedience to his shaykh, not showing the slightest resistance, so that he becomes like a dead body beneath the hand of a person washing it.”
Allah Ta’ala states in the Qur’aan Majeed: “Verily, By your Rabb! (O Muhammad!) They will not have Imaan until they appoint you to be the judge in their mutual disputes, then they find no dissatisfaction in their hearts regarding your decision, and they fully submit (to your decision).” (An-Nisaa’, aayat 65)
This command of complete submission to Shar’i authority extends to even the Warathatul Ambiya in all matters of the Deen. The bond which the mureed has with his Shaikh is of Deeni import. As long as the Shaikh instructs his mureed to obey the Shariat, he (the mureed) may not waver in his obedience to the Shaikh. The relationship struck up with the Shaikh is not for sin. It is for gaining moral purification and to cultivate all the attributes of moral excellence commanded by the Qur’aan and Sunnah. The Shaikh being an expert in this field has to be obeyed. Before offering allegiance to a Shaikh, the prospective mureed is under obligation to examine him (the Shaikh) in order to ascertain if the Shaikh is a meticulous follower of the Sunnah, and whether he is a man of Taqwa. If he establishes these credentials of the Shaikh, then it will be tantamount to rebellion and nafsaaniyat inspired by shaitaan to disobey the Shaikh. One who has doubts in the ability of the Shaikh should not adopt him for his guide, and if after having entered into the circle of the Shaikh he discovers a lack of compatibility, or their develops doubts in him regarding the ability or credentials of the shaikh, he is free to politely terminate his association.
One takes hold of a spiritual guide fully understanding and believing that he is a qualified expert in the field and will lead one via the Shariah unto Allah Ta’ala. This is the purpose for joining the suhbat of the Shaikh. It is a suhbat commanded by Allah Ta’ala: “Be with the Saadiqeen (the Auliya).” – Qur’aan. Obedience to the Shaikh does not demand disobedience to the Shariah. The ta’leem of all the genuine Sufiya is what Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said: “There is no obedience for the makhlooq in (any obedience which involves) sinning against Allah.” The emphasis on obedience is obedience to the Shaikh in his valid and lawful instructions. In fact, all the instructions of the Shaikh are valid and lawful, that is, if he is a true Shaikh of Tasawwuf. How is it possible for one who meticulously follows every aspect of the Sunnah to instruct mureeds in haraam, kufr and shirk? Our Mashaaikh of Tasawwuf have made it abundantly clear that where the mureed observes the Shaikh persisting in sin, then even if he does not order the mureed to sin, he (the mureed) should sever his relationship with such a Shaikh.
As for the mureed becoming like a ‘dead body’ in the hands of the one who gives ghusl to the mayyit, al-Madkhali’s brains are too shallow for comprehending this simple issue. It is a metaphoric expression for total obedience to the valid ta’leem of the Shaikh. And, this is the command of the Shariah. Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) instructed: “Die before you die.” The mureed becomes ‘dead’ in the hands of his shaikh in exactly the same way as a patient suffering from a physical disease becomes ‘dead’ in the hands of the doctor who will diagnose and prescribe as he deems appropriate. Furthermore, the physician in the mundane realm will commit the ostensibly ‘haraam’ act of severing/amputating limbs and organs from the body of his patient when he deems this necessary. But, then no one, including these spiritually arid, hard-hearted Salafis, will adversely comment when the doctor commits the haraam deed of cutting off a limb.
Since there is a need to amputate the limb to prevent the disease spreading, and since this benefit is apparent to the physical eyes, everyone gladly submits and accepts the commission of this haraam. If there is no halaal remedy available, everyone gladly accepts and submits to the intake of haraam medicine. There are no adverse comments from the Madkhali type Salafis on this score. But, when the Roohaani physician (the Shaikh) deems it imperative to apply a spiritual remedy which in the opinion of morons and men devoid of roohaaniyat is in conflict with the Shariah, a hue and cry is raised, yet the health and preservation of the spiritual body (the Rooh) have priority over the health of the physical body. The health of the Rooh is imperative for the everlasting salvation and success in the Aakhirah.
Besides this fact, cases of seemingly unlawful spiritual remedies prescribed by a Shaikh are extremely rare. Furthermore, if the mureed is convinced that the Shaikh errs in his prescription, he is at liberty to revoke his allegiance and terminate his relationship with the Shaikh.
Everyone happily practices the prescription of being a ‘dead body’ in the hands of the physical doctor, but there is aversion for acting the same role under the guidance and affectionate care of the spiritual guide, and this is the consequence of disdain for the Deen, and defective understanding of the Maqsood of life on earth. Since the Deen has become a hobby to most people, they are averse to act in conflict with their nafsaani desires. In the mudane field they tolerate a host of conflicts with the Shariah, but in the spiritual dimension if anything which superficially appears to be a conflict whilst in reality not being in conflict with the Shariah, or if the spiritual remedy demands the treatment, it is rebelliously rejected. Madkhali should divert some of his energies to castigate medical practioners for all the haraam and najaasat they indulge in.
Being like a ‘dead’ body in the hands of the Shaikh signifies nothing other than being like a ‘dead’ body in the hands of the medical doctor who diagnoses, prescribes and amputates limbs. Just as the doctor is not allowed to amputate a healthy limb for no valid medical reason, so too, the Shaikh will not prescribe anything when there is no imperative Shar’i need for it.
This explanation adequately answers the charges which Madkhalee brings against the Sufiya’s demand for obedience. Minus obedience, the mureed will not benefit in the same way as the patient will not benefit if he finds fault with the diagnosis and prescription of the doctor.