In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate
We pray that Allah guides us through the following response, given by a brother more learned than myself. Sheikh Nuh Ha Mim Keller taught us the pre-requisites of a Sheikh and I believe that this is roughly in line with what I heard from the Sheikh.
Qualities of a Shaykh
(1) Sufism is a branch of Islamic knowledge. There is no Sufism without Islam. The spiritual guide must be Muslim and subscribe to the belief of Ahl al-Sunna wa`l-Jama`ah, whose practical manifestation is adherence to either the Ash`ari or the Maturidi school in tenets of faith.
(2) The masters of the spiritual path unanimously concur that the way to Allah is by following Sacred Law. Another condition, then, for any spiritual guide is that he be knowledgeable in the rulings of Sacred Law, and that he exalt the Sacred Law, putting it above himself and above every human being. Flouting the Sacred Law is a sign that Allah has abandoned one: how can someone in such a state guide others to Allah?
(3) The guide must embody the perfections of faith and purity of heart that his students want to attain, and be able to pass on these traits to his followers. This can sometimes be gauged by looking at his students and seeing what they have gained from their companionship with their teacher.
(4) The spiritual guide must have been trained and authorized to teach by another spiritual guide, who must also have been trained likewise, all the way back to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace).
Am I good enough?
The whole point of taking a shaykh is to refine one`s character and to purify one`s heart. If one is dejected by how bad one is, and one finds someone who can help show one how to cleanse oneself, then one should hurry and take the means before it`s too late and death overtakes one. One does not wait to recover from a physical illness before visiting a medical doctor; if one did, one`s illness may well end up taking one`s life. Likewise, it makes no sense to recover from a spiritual illness before visiting a spiritual doctor; matters could very quickly get worse and out of hand.
And Allah knows best.
Note from Faraz Rabbani: The articles by Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad and Shaykh Nuh Keller on Islamic spirituality (tasawwuf) on Sidi Masud Khan`s excellent site, www.masud.co.uk, are very useful reads.
[Answer provided by: Kutubuddin Akuji]