Personality cults and sufism

Points from a conversation with a fellow student concerned about some trends we watching develop:

  1. The community should be guided by muftis, not Sufis: because fiqh is meant to be general for the community, while tasawuf is meant to be specific to the murid. Mix them up, and you have problems for everyone. 
  2. Infallible is ‘ma‘sum’, which means one is guarded against sin and error in everything that one does or says for anyone and anything. This is applicable to the Prophets, upon all of them be peace, and no-one else. The shyukh of tarbiyyah, however, are ‘mahfudh’ (impeccable), which means they are guarded against sin and error in their irshad (i.e., in their training of the murid) and their hal (their spiritual state).
  3. Not everything the shaykh says or does is his irshad or hal. The murid should know this. (Example: the shaykh follows a particular madhhab. Does that mean the murids must follow the same madhhab? No, not unless the shaykh says so, and yes, he might do so, and for a very good reason.) This is the difference between the cult of personality and Sufism.
  4. His irshad and hal are guarded for those who choose to take such a relationship with him. Otherwise, it does not apply. (So, no silliness about my shaykh better than your shaykh; my shaykh is better than your shaykh for me, and your shaykh is better than my shaykh for you.)
  5. If a murid does not believe that the shaykh’s irshad is impeccable for that particular murid, then progress does not take place. He can choose to leave, and that’s ok too. But the baya’ is a contract, and either you hold up the contract and you get the goods, or you don’t hold up the contract and you don’t. What’s the contract? He takes you on, and puts up with you, in guiding you to Allah. You take him, you put up with the program, and you get to Allah.

This is where the point of ‘the shaykh is the qutb of the murid‘ fits in with ‘no shaykh is ma‘sum‘.

Sufism is rare these days. True Sufi shyukh are even rarer. And true murids are rarer still.

The shaykh-murid relationship if done incorrectly is incredibly unhealthy. If done correctly, it is a wasila (means) to Allah. Get it right or get it wrong at your own expense.

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