Essays in Series

5 Sundays

On the Elements of Tasawwuf

The Prophet ﷺ said, “Religion is sincerity.” We asked: “To whom, O Messenger of Allāh?” He said: “To Allāh, His Book, His Messenger, and the leaders of the Muslims and to the common Muslim.” Sincerity has been defined as ‘showing yourself as you really are,’ and ‘being inwardly what you show yourself to be’. This topic is developed through the example of the Prophet ﷺ himself and the righteous Companions and followers, and then through the symptoms of insincerity and sincerity by the signs of a sick heart and its cures, and the signs of a healthy heart and its manifestation.

Taṣawwuf is keeping company, then taṣawwuf is listening, then taṣawwuf is acting upon what you hear. There is only one enemy and that is your self. The unpurified nafs have very little good in them. The worst of all things to the Sufis is the recognition of their own good qualities over and against that of other people; it is what sets them back and smashes them on the rocks of destiny. This essay, stemming from the supreme example of the quality of the Prophet ﷺ with his companions and the effect they had on one another, urges the seeker to remember that the company of the Sḫaykḫ and that of the fuqara is the highest company, and to seek it above everything. “Seek the people of knowledge, seek the people of love of Allāh and the people of love of Rasūl ﷺ. To take the ʾadab of the great ones you have to sit with them, you have to sit with the people of knowledge. It is by their company that you are purified.”

The word tarbiyya is derived from the root TaRaBa, which means to foster, nourish and care for. A person who does this is called al-murabbi in Arabic. The first and greatest murrabi is the Prophet ﷺ, but after him the true Sḫuyukḫ are the educators, trainers, fosterers – the murabbi of their muridūn. Were this not so they could not have connected their students to the knowledge of Allāh and the Way of ʾIslām. As such, tarbiyyah is not a process of learning “about” ʾIslām but it is the process of learning to “be” a Muslim. Following the practice of the Prophet ﷺ, the Sḫaykḫ seeks to bring his muridūn to the point where they abandon their self-indulgence and illusions. In this essay the Sḫaykḫ specifically recounts, through story and example, the surprising practices of some of the Sḫādḫdḫulī Sḫuyukḫ in the perfecting of their students.

We must come to understand with certainty that behind the external and outer dimension of all events there is a hidden wisdom in an inner dimension, and understand the wisdom that exists behind and within inner events since, in time, they show up in the future as events in the outer dimension. The example of this is that Muḥammad ﷺ exists before ʾĀdam a is between clay and water, and yet Muḥammad ﷺ at the same time is born on a Monday in Rabīʿ-l-Awwal in the Year of the Elephant in Makkah. This can only be understood by seeing how the inner is in the outer and outer in the inner and knowing the first and the last are folded in time. Just so, pain and suffering exist with bliss and tranquility separated only by a wall in which is a gate which opens in both directions, to which Allāh has thoughtfully provided us with a key – the Key of Dḫikr.

The poet said, “In the domain of Love, do not take even a step without a Guide, for on this road, he who has no Guide will lose the way for sure.” This essay covers such topics as finding a Sḫaykḫ, the benefits of becoming a murīd, the qualities of a true Sḫaykḫ, and a very useful list of 40 points, guidelines on how a murīd, indeed all Muslims, ‘should spend their nights and their days.’ It concludes with a recounting by Sḫaykḫ Nooruddeen of some of his personal experiences along his path to meeting his Sḫaykḫ.