Tasawwuf-The Importance of a Sheikh

 Tasawwuf is another term for ‘Ihsaan'. For the people who say there is no origin of Tasawwuf, Hadith Jibraeel can be presented as a proof. In this Hadith, Jibraeel asked, “What is Ihsaan?” The Prophet (peace & blessings be upon him) replied, “Ihsaan means that you worship Allah devotedly as if you are seeing him, and if you cannot do that, then know that he is seeing you.”

This is the ideology of Tasawwuf in a nutshell. Tasawwuf helps a person attain this quality of Ihsaan inside a Muslim.

During the time of the Prophet (peace & blessings be upon him), the believers achieved the quality of Ihsaan by attending the company of Rasullullah (peace & blessings be upon him). The spiritual strength was such that by saying ‘Laa illaha illallah', the staunchest non-believer would attain the rank of Ihsaan. After the demise of the Prophet (peace & blessings be upon him), the quality of Ihsaan slowly decreased. For this reason, the elders who were the Imams and Mashaaik (experts) of Tasawwuf such as Sheikh Gulam Habib Nakshbandi, Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani and others, deduced spiritual exercises from their experiences to achieve the state of Ihsaan. Amongst the spiritual exercises, the Sheikhs have prescribed the Dhikr of Allah as a remedy for the ailments of the heart.

It is related in a Hadith that:

“There is a purifier fro everything, the polisher of the heart is the Dhikr (remembrance) of Allah.”

In the Quran, it states:

“For verily the contentment of the heart lies in the remembrance of Allah (Dhikr).”

In another Hadith, it is related:

“The example of a person who does Dhikr and who doesn't is like a person who is alive and one who is dead.”

The person who does Dhikr is like a person who is alive and the person who does not do Dhikr is like the dead person. The effect of Dhikr in achieving love for Allah and reformation of the heart is explained by means of the following example: Suppose a person is in love with someone and the beloved is sitting next to the lover. However, the lover is not aware of the presence of the beloved due to being (A) Unable to see because of disease of the eye (B) Unable to hear because of disease of the ear or the ears being filled with dirt (C) Unable to smell due to a blocked nose (D) Being intoxicated and sleepy.

Under these circumstances, the lover will not feel the presence of the beloved and experience no attraction or affection. But if someone prescribes a remedy and medicine to bring the lover out of the state of neglectful sleep and then unplugs the nose and the ears and treats the eyes so that they regain sight, the lover will begin to hear the voice, smell the fragrance and be able to get a glimpse of the beloved. Once the presence of the beloved is felt, the lover would desire the beloved. Thus, only by cleansing the heart and soul, is a person now fit to become aware and come in presence of his creator, Allah.

Hazrat Sheikh Mohammed Zakariya (blessings be upon him) was questioned. The question asked was, “What is this thing called Tasawwuf? What is its reality?”

He replied, “All it is, is to correct ones intention, nothing else. Its beginning is, “Verily all actions are judged by the intention.”, and its end is, “You may worship Allah as though you see him.”

There are many different exercises merely to attain this state of Ihsaan: All the striving and meditation is to gain Ihsaan. Different Sheikhs have different methods. The movement of the head in Dhikr is not something which is proven through Hadith or Quran, but is only a method experienced by elders and Sheikhs. The Zaakireen (people who do Dhikr) do not say this method is Sunnah, so none can criticize or object to this act.

The need of a Sheikh

It has always been the divine scheme of things that perfection cannot be attained without a teacher or an expert instructor. In the same way, a person needs guidance in the beginning of a driving course so to a person needs guidance in Tasawwuf.

The companionship of a pious person will include piety in you. Similarly, the companionship of a evil person will induce evil in you. To gain the nearest rank to Allah, one has to have a guider i.e. Sheikh who has reached that level as well. A short while spent in the companionship of the pious is more superior to a century of ordinary obedience. Companionship with the pious for even a moment can be superior to a century of abstention and worship. The best of creations, the Messenger (peace & blessings be upon him) also had a teacher, his teacher was the Angel Jibraeel. If the leader of mankind, Muhammed (peace & blessings be upon him) was in need of a guider then we are more in need of a guider and a Sheikh.

The Prophet (peace & blessings be upon him) then became the teacher of the companions and the Sheikhs of the nations of their time. He diagnosed the spiritual diseases of the companions and created the quality of Ihsaan in their lives. They reached the highest level in all aspects of their lives. There is, therefore, always need for a man to have another person as his guide and instructor, who can practically demonstrate to him whatever knowledge he wishes to learn or whatever aim he desires to achieve. This is the very same reason that Allah sent Messengers and Prophets(peace & blessings be upon him) who were made to instruct and practically demonstrate to all of Mankind.


The meaning if Bay'at comes from the word Bay' which means to sell. In this case a person sells himself to the Sheikh. The concept of Bay'at is proven through Hadith and Quran as well. Allah Taa'la states in the Quran:

“(O Muhammed) Verily those who take bay'at with you are (in actual fact) taking bay'at with Allah. The hand of Allah is above their hands. So whosoever breaks (the condition of the pledge), surely they break it to their own detriment: And whosoever fulfils the oath that may have taken with Allah, they will be granted great reward.”

This ayat shows that there is an origin for bay'at. Here Allah has taken bay'at by the means of the Prophet Muhammed (peace & blessings be upon him). After the demise of the Prophet, this pledge of oath was taken on the hands of the successors of the Prophet in religious instruction and teaching.

In a Hadith, Auf bin Malik Ashja'ee Radhiallaho May Allah be pleased with him anho says, “We were with the Prophet (peace & blessings be upon him). There were seven, eight or nine (of us), when he said, “Will you not make bay'at to the Prophet of Allah?” He then said, “That you make the ibaadat of Allah, and that you associate no partners to him: that you perform the five Salaat and that you hear and obey.” (Muslim, Abu Dawood, Nasai)

This Hadith is clear proof for the validity of the system of bay'at in vogue by the Mashaaik of Tasawwuf, like there are four schools of thought in Fiqh, Hanafi, Shafi'ee, Maliki and Hanbali. So too are there four schools of thought (silsilas) in Tasawwuf i.e. Chistiyyah, Qadriyyah, Naqshbandiyyah and Suharwardiyyah.

(1)The founder of the Chistiyyah silsila is Hazrat Khwaja Mueenudeen chisti Ajmeri. (2) The founder of the Qadriyyah order is Hazrat Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani. (3) The founder of the Naqshbandiyyah orders is Hazrat Sheikh Bahauddin Nakshbandi, and the (4) founder of the Suharwardiyyah order is Hazrat Shaikh Sahahabuddin Suharwardiyyah. (Rahmatullahi Alayhim).

The benefits of a Sheikh

(1) The noble and lofty qualities of the Sheikhs slowly devolve into the mureed.

(2) The mureed follows the Sheikh in character and habit.

(3) Attainment of joy and pleasure in the remembrance of Allah and worship.

(4) Increase in the desire to practise good deeds.

(5) The mureed's ability becomes manifest to him.

(6) Love for Allah increases.

These were few points showing the importance of Tasawwuf and the importance of a Sheikh. May Allah Taa'la give us the ability to reach the highest level of Ihsaan and have the correct intention to all actions we do.

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