Islam is the Sunnah of Rasulullah ( صلى الله عايه وسالم ) and vice versa. The Wali or Sufi (special friend of Allah or Saint) is an embodiment of the Sunnah. Every facet of the wali’s life is in strict obedience to the Sunnah. The wali follows the Sunnah in the minutest detail. Since he is motivated by divine love, discardance of the most ‘insignificant’ aspect of the Sunnah is intolerable to the wali.
A Wali is not one who necessarily has to demonstrate karaamaat (miracles). While the Auliyaa (Sufiyaa) do perform miracles, it is not a requisite for wilaayat (sainthood). The essential requisite for wilaayat is strict obedience to the Sunnah. A man whose daily life does not conform with every aspect of the Sunnah cannever be a Wali even if he walks on water, flies in the air, transforms base metals into gold, heal the sick or even bring to life the dead.
Sometimes some utterances and acts of the Auliyaa conflict with the Shariah. Ignorant people, men of shallow understanding and men bereft of roohaaniyat misunderstand these utterances. Some derive nafsaani gain from these utterances while others condemn the Auliyaa as heretics. Such seemingly heretical/blasphemous utterances ensued from some Auliyaa while they were in high states of spiritual ecstasy.
The revelation of spiritual realms and their spiritual states of mi’raaj (ascension) constrain the Auliyaa to proclaim mysteries which are incomprehensible to laymen. Since these utterances are made in states in ecstasy, the Auliyaa during these states are considered to be ma’zoor (excused, blameless and exculpated of guilt).
Any utterance, statement or action of any wali which appears to be in conflict with the Shariah shall be set aside. It is not permissible to either follow such statements and actions or to criticize the Auliyaa. A suitable interpretation shall be tendered to exonerate the wali.
Since the wali is an embodiment of the Sunnah, every detail of his life will necessary conform with the Sunnah, even his rigid ibaadat practices and austerity in matters of daily life. Sceptics argue that there is no basis in the Sunnah for the rigid and austere practices of the Sufiyaa. Their claims are the product of ignorance or bias or little learning or defective understanding of the Qur’aan and Hadith.
In the life-style of Rasulullah ( صلى الله عايه وسالم ) is a pattern for both the layman and the wali. The moderation and simplicity in life which the masses have to adopt are the style of Rasulullah ( صلى الله عايه وسالم ). Similarly, rigid forms of ibaadat, abstinence and austerity which the Auliyaa practise are also the style of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). The Hadith is replete with examples of rigidity, austerity and abstinence of Rasulullah ( صلى الله عايه وسالم ) and the Sahaabah.
Just as there is a basis for the moderation which laymen have to adopt, so too is there a basis in the Sunnah for the austerity, abstinence and seclusion of the Auliyaa. But everyone lacks the moral and spiritual stamina to adopt the road of total abstinence, austerity and renunciation. For them the moderate path indicated by the Sunnah suffices.[Note: For a small sample of anecdotes of the Auliyaa, involving supernatural phenomena, narrated by the likes of Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah, Shaykh Ibnul Qayyim, and others, whose books contain innumerable such accounts of similar nature, see: Sufism/Tasawwuf Has Always Been Recognised and Accepted by the Ummah and Hafiz Ibnul Qayyim on Fanaa]