How important is it to have a Sheikh (peer) and how should you go about finding one?
Allah, In the Name of the Most Affectionate The Most Merciful
Blessings and Salutations upon our Master Sayyidunah Muhammad Sallallahu ‘alaihi wa alihi wa ashabihi wa baraka wa sallam
Swearing the oath of allegiance (bay’ah) upon the hands of a Pir (Spiritual Master) who is complete in all aspects of Shari’ah and Tariqah and devout in all aspects of his life is one of the actions that have been passed down from the salaf to the khalaf (from the time of the Beloved Prophet sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam till today).
To perform bay’ah is to place one`s hands upon the hands (only for men) of a Spiritual Master and to make a pledge to the Pir for abiding by all the rules of Shari’ah (praying 5 times daily, keeping the obligatory fasts, paying Zakat of the wealth and so on). Before the spiritual master takes the oath from the mureed he (the pir) should emphasise and instruct that the mureed repents from all types of sin, major or minor (if the sin was committed openly, then the repentance be made openly, if in secret then in secret as stated in a Hadith). The Pir then takes the pledge from the mureed to:
Hold firm to whatever the Holy Prophet Sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam gives you and abstain from whatever he sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam refrains you from.
The originality of this “bay’ah” goes all the way to the Holy Prophet sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam when he took the oath from his companions under the tree (Bay’at al-Ridwan), thus, Allah Ta’ala became pleased with them and He stated:
Translation: surely ALLAH (‘azz wa Jall) was well-pleased with the Believers when they were swearing allegiance to you under the Tree..[Surah 48: al-Fath, Verse:18]
He Subhanahu wa Ta’ala further states:
Translation: surely those who swear allegiance to you, in fact swear allegiance to ALLAH (‘Azz wa Jall). The Hand of ALLAH is over their hands. [Surah 48: al-Fath, Verse: 10]
It has been narrated that Sayyidunah ‘Uthman, the Third Caliph was not present at the time of this bay’ah, so the Messenger of Allah placed his own hand on his other hand and stated: “This is Allah’s Hand of Power and this is the hand of ‘Uthman”. Thus, the Prophet sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam placed one hand on top of the other and took the bay’ah (from ‘Uthman).
When the Holy Prophet Sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam finished taking the bay’ah from the companions, he went in his house and the women companions were present ready to take the bay’ah. The Holy Prophet Sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam paused for a while (thinking of whether he should take the bay’ah from them or not) so the verse was revealed:
Translation: “O worthy Prophet! When Muslim women come to you for taking oath of allegiance at your hands that they will not associate anything with ALLAH, nor will they steal, nor will they commit adultery, nor will they kill their children, nor will they bring a calumny which they have fabricated between their hands and feet (regarding birth), and will not disobey you in anything good, then (O My Apostle!) accept their pledge and seek ALLAH’s forgiveness for them. Surely ALLAH is the Most Forgiving, the Ever Merciful.”
[Surah 60 – al-Mumtahinah – Verse: 12]
The Holy Prophet sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam also took bay’ah from the women. HOWEVER, THE PROPHET’S HAND NEVER TOUCHED THAT OF A WOMEN’S, THIS IS WHY SAYYIDATUNA ‘AISHA AL-SIDDIQA Radiallahu ‘anha stated:
“The Prophet took the bay’ah from the women verbally, his blessed hand never touched a woman’s hand”
Sayyidah ‘Aisha has stated that the “Holy Prophet’s sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam hand never touched the hand of a woman”, whether this lady was young or old.
Imam Dawud Ta’i, one of the great students of Imam al-A’zam Abu Hanifa, when he swore the oath of allegiance to his sheikh (Hadrat Habib ‘Ajmi radiallahu ‘anhum) Imam al-A’zam Abu Hanifa gave his own share of money to him.
Being a mureed (follower) of a Shaykh of a Silsila whose links are bonded from the Shaykh all the way to the Messenger of Allah sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam means repenting from one’s sins. This is because without repentance one is at loss both in this world and the hereafter.
There were 4 companions who initially swore the oath of allegiance upon the blessed hands of the Beloved Prophet Sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, then the remaining companions swore this oath as well.
The women companions also swore the bay’ah in their hearts, this is why the verse was revealed:
[Surah 60 – al-Mumtahinah – Verse: 12]
[Sab’-e-Sanabal Sharif – Hadrat Mir Sayyid ‘Abd al-Wahid Balgarami Rehmatullahi ‘alayh Pgs. 104 onwards]
As we stated earlier, being a mureed means repenting from one’s sins (though one has to do that every time, the spiritual master becomes the ‘means’ or the ‘waseela’ for one’s repentance being accepted).
The Holy Prophet sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam who was created free and pure from any sin, however big or small, used to repent regularly seventy times, he sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam used to be awake in the night worshipping Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala until his sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam blessed feet became swollen. The companions said to the Holy Prophet sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam: Hasn’t Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala forgiven the sins of those who were before and those who shall come after through your means. [Indeed] The Prophet Sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam replied: afala akunu ‘abdan shakura Shall I not be a thankful servant (to Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala)?!
The mureed should be like what Imam Ahmed Raza Khan Radiallahu ‘anho has stated:
A mureed of Hadrat Yahya Manyari (whose funeral prayer was lead by Sayyid Makhdum Ashraf Jahangir Samnani Radiallahu ‘anhum) was drowning in a lake. So, Hadrat Khidar ‘alaihis salaam (a Prophet) appeared and stated “give me your hand” (so that I may rescue you). The mureed stated: this hand has already been given in the hands of Hadrat Yahya Manyari, now I shall not give it to anyone else. Thus, because of the sincerity of this mureed, Hadrat Yahya Manyari appeared and rescued him. [al-Malfuz – Chapter 2 – Pg. 177/178]
Another incident of a sincere murid of Sayyidunah Gauth al-A’zam Radiallahu ‘anhu wa naf’anALLAHu bi Barakatihi….
Once, the mureed of Hudur Gauth al-‘Azam Sheikh Sayyiduna ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani radiAllahu ‘anho saw in a dream that Imam al-Tai’fa Sayyiduna al-Sheikh Junaid al-Baghdadi RadiAllahu ‘Anhu was on the peak of a mountain sat on a chair made of emeralds. Sayyiduna Junaid was asking the people to give him their requests (on a sheet of paper) so that he may present it in the Blessed Court of The Almighty Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala. Everyone did so, except this mureed who stood there silent, so Sayyiduna Junaid asked him to give him his request. This sincere mureed replied: Has Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala took the duty off my sheikh (‘Abdul Qadir al-Jilani) to be the ‘waseela’ for the acceptance of people’s desires?
Sayyiduna Junaid al-Baghdadi replied: By ALLAH! He has never been expelled from his duty and nor shall he ever be.
Then the mureed said: thus, my shaykh is enough for me.
The mureed woke up the next morning to tell about this dream to his Shaykh (‘Sayyiduna Gauth al-A’zam) but before telling him, the Shaykh told him: hati qissatak give me your story (request) [as stated by Sayyiduna Junaid to his people] and thus the mureed was given great honour from his shaykh due to his sincerity.
[al-Malfuz – A’lahadrat Imam Ahmed Raza Khan Mufassir-o-Muhaddith-e-Bareilly]
However, one needs to find a Pir (Spiritual Master) who fulfils the following conditions:
1. he has to be Sahih-ul-Maslak –
2. he has to be fulfilling all the rights of Shari’ah (establishing the 5 daily prayers with the Jama’ah as well as praying the sunnats and the optional prayers as a person who treads the path of Tareeqah has a much more greater responsibility of worship and abstaining from even the mutashabahat the doubtful things, keeping fasts, and so on – Sab’-e-Sanabal Shareef – Hudur Sayyidi Mir ‘Abd al-Wahid Balgarami Pg. 114-115)
3. he has to have beliefs according to the Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah, as the Holy Prophet sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam stated that my Ummah shall be divided into 73 sects, all are misguided except for 1, and that is the group that shall follow the commandments of Allah and His Beloved Messenger sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam and shall follow the ways of the companions of the Messenger of Allah sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam.
[“Sab’-e-Sanabal Shareef” – Hudur Sayyidi Mir ‘Abd al-Wahid Balgarami radiallahu ‘anho]
4. His Silsila should be linked in a chain which reaches our Master Sayyidunah Muhammad al-Mustafa al-Mujtaba sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam.
A faqeer was stood in front of a shop asking “give me a rupee” but the owner refused. The faqeer said, “Give me a rupee or else I shall overturn the shop on you”. In a very short time, a lot of people congregated around the shop, and coincidently, a saint walked past them. The saint said to the owner, “give him a rupee hastily or else the shop shall overturn on you”. People said, “O Saint! How can this ignorant beggar do anything to the shop?!” the saint said, “I looked at the inward state of this faqeer and found him empty (of any spiritual power), then I looked at his Shaykh and also found him empty, then looked at the Shaykh of his shaykh and found that he is one of the friends of Allah ‘Azz wa Jall, and saw that he is stood awaiting the utterance of the words from the faqeer’s mouth to overturn the shop, and thus, he shall be able to do so.” [al-Malfuz – Sayyidi Imam Ahmed Raza Khan radiallahu ‘anhu]
Hence, this chain that was strongly linked from one shaykh to the other.
5. Has to have enough knowledge so that he can extract Islamic rulings himself from authentic sources. He should also have the knowledge of things that are forbidden, as it has been stated a person who does not know what is wrong shall soon fall in its trap. [“Bashir al-Qari” – Pg. 62]
6. The main condition for the mureed to gain blessings from his Spiritual Master is to have sincerity, obedience, respect.
The benefits of being a murid are:
1. He shall imitate the shuyukh that come in the silsila (chain) of his spiritual master and as the Holy Prophet Sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam: man tashabbaha bi qawmin fahuwa minhum – whoever imitates another shall be from them. So, Insha’Allah the mureed shall be resurrected in the group of those who have been given great blessings from Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala and His Messenger sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam.
Hudur Sayyiduna Gauth al-A’zam Radiallahu ‘anho states that whoever connects with me and adds his name to the Book of my mureeds, then Allah ‘azz wa Jall shall surely accept him and if he treads a wrong path, he shall be given guidance from Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala to repent, and he is in the group of my mureeds and undoubtedly, Allah has promised me that He shall enter into Paradise those who are my mureeds, and those who follow my way and those who love me.
[Bahjat al-Asrar – Imam al-Shatnufi Rehmatullahi ‘alayh as stated in “Imam Ahmed Raza aur Ilm-e-Tasawwuf” – ‘Allama Muhammad Ahmad Misbahi, Pg 112, and also by Sadr al-‘Ulema, Hadrat Shaykh Sayyid Ghulam Jilani Merthi rehmatullahi ‘alayh in his “Bashir al-Qari sharh Sahih al-Bukhari” Pgs. 61-62]
Sayyiduna Shaykh Khwaja Muinud Din Chishti Radiallahu ‘anho stated that ” I was once engaged in worship in the Haram of Makkah al-Mukarramah and suddenly I heard a voice from the unseen saying: “O Muin-ud-Deen! We are pleased with you, thus we have forgiven you and those who are in your family” Khawaja radiallahu ‘anho requested: “O Allah ‘azz wa Jall! I desire more” a voice was heard: “Ask and you shall be given” he stated: “O Allah ‘azz wa Jall! Forgive the mureeds of Mu’in-ud-Din and the mureeds of his mureeds” a voice was heard from the unseen: “O Muin-ud-Din! We have forgiven all your mureeds and all those who shall be in your silsilah until the Day of Resurrection”
[“Bashir al-Qari” – Sadr al-‘Ulema, Sayyid Ghulam Jilani al-Merthi rehmatullahi ‘alayh – Pg. 62]
2. The shaykh shall Insha’Allah help the mureed in times of difficulty.
When it was the time for the agonies of death for the great scholar of Islam, Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (writer of the famous Tafsir of the Holy Qur’an Mafatih al-Ghaib – “The Keys to the Unseen”), the Satan came, aiming to misguide him in the latter stages of his life and asked this great Imam: “you have spent your whole lifetime in discussions and debates, have you ever recognised God?” he said, “Yes, indeed Allah is One” Satan asked: “What evidence do you have as regards this belief” The Imam presented one evidence, but the Satan, once the teacher of the angels rebutted this evidence. The Imam presented further evidences, but the cursed Satan continued his rebuttals until the Imam had presented 360 evidences to prove that Allah is One. Imam Razi became perplexed and agitated, but because he was a mureed of the great pious saint of Allah Sayyidunah Najm al-Din al-Kubra radiallahu ‘anho the sheikh helped him by saying, [whilst he was performing ablution in a far distant place,] was advised to “say that I have believed Allah as One without any proof or evidence”. Thus, Imam al-Razi said so and the satan la’natullahi ‘alayh immediately vanished.
[al-Malfuz – Chapter 4 – Pg. 365]
Imam Ahmed Raza Khan RadiALLAHU ‘anhu has stated in Fatawa-e-Afriqiyyah that a mureed who has performed the bay’ah on the hands of a Pir (who has fulfilled the conditions) shall gain many benefits and shall be lead to success both in this world and the Hereafter…….”the apparent success” [Falah-e-Zahir], “the inward success” [Falah-e-Batini], “the success in being pious” [Falah-e-Taqwa], “the success in ihsan” [Falah-e-Ihsan].
One of the great ways to attain blessings from the Shaykh is to recite the Shajrah [the names of all the shuyukh in the silsilah in which one has done bay’ah] continuously and picturing the Sheikh in one’s mind as though he is sat in front of the blessed Ruadah (Shrine) of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu Ta’la ‘alaihi wa Sallam, and an luminous light is being transmitted from the Raudha-e-Paak to the heart of the Pir (spiritual guide) and from his heart it is being transmitted into yours, Insha’Allah one shall find peace, tranquillity and more importantly, the blessings of the shaykh shall be transmitted to the mureed. [this is called Tasawwur-e-Shaykh and should be done in isolation facing towards al-Madinah al-Munawwarah, preferably in darkness]
And Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala Knows best.
[Answer provided by: Mowlana Muhammed Kalim Azhari]