Shaykh Mufti Ebrahim Desai Saheb on Tasawwuf
1. What is Tasawwuf?
The purpose of Tasawwuf is to reform oneself to the extent of being compliant to Shari’ah in every aspect of life and gaining closeness to Allah. This injunction is replete in the Qur’aan and Ahaadith. If one is able to reform him/herself, then the purpose is achieved. If one is not able to reform him/herself, then it is advisable to seek the assistance from a pious and upright person. It is preferable that such a person be an Aalim as well as it is possible that a non-Aalim may offer advices not consistent with the Shari’ah.
2. What is the purpose of Bayat?
The concept of Bai’at is expressly mentioned in the Quran and Hadith. There are different categories of Bai’at. One is to express submission to the leader of the Muslims, Ameerul Mo’mineen. This category of Bai’at is compulsory. The other category of Bai’at is for Islaah (reformation). This category of Bai’at is not compulsory. If a person is able to reform himself independently without the assistance of a spiritual guide, then he may do so. In such an instance, there is no need for Bai’at. However, generally, a person experiences difficulties in reforming himself and he requires the assistance of an expert to assist him in the reformation process. In order to achieve that, he takes Bai’at as an expression of determination and submission to obey. His spiritual guide then takes it upon himself to guide his Mureed and the Mureed undertakes to obey. Therefore the purpose of Bai’ at is at most an administrative matter to achieve maximum benefit and results. It is not Shirk. However, we advise, you should exercise caution in choosing your Peer. Apart from him excelling in Taqwa, piety and having the expertise to reform, you too must be comfortable with him and his procedure. You must be able to relate to him and be able to benefit. For that we propose you first keep Islaahi relationship and qualify that with Bai’at later only after you are satisfied.
3. Is it necessary to give Bayat (allegiance) to a Shaykh/Murshid in Tasawwuf?
If it is possible for any individual to reform himself, he should do so. However, it is generally noticed that individuals experience difficulties in reforming themselves and seek assistance of a spiritual guide who is pious and adhere to Shari’ah in reforming themselves. The practise of taking allegiance (Bay’at) and following the guidance of one’s spiritual mentor is called Tasawwuf.
4. How does one give Bayat to a person who is far away?
If one wishes to take Bay’at to someone overseas, he may write up to the person and request Bay’at. The person may accept the written request.
5. How many Tariqahs are there in Tasawwuf?
There are four famous schools in Sufism – Chistiyya, Naqshabandi, Saharwardiyya, Qaadriyya. Each school has prescribed its own way of reformation. However, the ultimate purpose is Ma’ rifat (recognition) of Allah Ta’ala and Ittiba-e-Sunnah (following the Sunnah).
6. How did Sufism get a start?
Tasawwuf is based on the Quran and hadith. The essence of Tasawwuf is consciousness of the presence of Allah and accountability in the court of Allah. The title “tasawwuf” only began to gain popularity after the year 200 A.H. Those who excelled in abstinence, Ibadah and Ittiba’ of sunnah named their way ” tasawwwuf” and those who followed this way were called sufi’s. (Al Risalah Al- Qushairiyyah)
7. How does one select a Shaykh/Murshid (spiritual mentor)?
Once you come across a Shaykh who is steadfast on the Sunnah and you have some inclination towards him, you may choose him as your spiritual mentor.
8. How does one obtain a pure heart?
To obtain a pure heart, adhere to the following advise of Hadhrat Umar (Radhiallaahu Anhu): At first to the rememberance of Allah Ta’ala, because it is a cure; and abstain from speaking about people (backbiting, slandering, etc.) because it is a sickness. It has been narrated from Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) that the heart get rusted as iron gets rust. The Sahaaba (Radhiallaahu Anhum) asked, ‘What could cleanse the heart, then?’ Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) replied, ‘Frequent recitation of the Qur’aan and Dhikr (rememberance) of Allah.
9. Is it permissible to recite Dhikr aloud & in congregation?
With regards to saying Dhikr aloud and in congregation, there are many verses of the Qur’aan and Ahaadith to establish its permissibility. Suffice to mention just a few, Allah Ta’ala says, ‘O you who believe! Remember Allah Ta’ala abundantly.’ (Surah Ahzaab). ‘Remember me and I will remember you.’ (Baqarah). ‘Certainly, the rememberance of Allah Ta’ala is the greatest.’ (Ankaboot)
As far as Ahaadith are concerned, Nabi (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) is reported to have said, ‘Allah Ta’ala says, O my servant, you remember alone, I will remember you alone. And if you remember me in a gathering, I remember you in a gathering more better.’ (Tirmidhi).
Another narration mentions that ‘an angel announces after the gathering which was busy in the rememberance of Allah Ta’ala that your sins have been pardoned.’ (Musnad Ahmad).
Ibn Abbaas (Radhiallaahu Anhu) narrates that loud Dhikr after Fardh Salaat was the practice during the time of Nabi (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam). (Reference: Sahih Bukhari, Book of Azaan, Chapter of Dhikr after Salaah).
10. If someone is involved in Tasawwuf, is it ok if he does not do the effort of Dawah & Tabligh?
All these efforts are needed and have to be done simultaneously in order to create a better individual and a more religious society. One who is concentrating on Tasawwuf should not neglect the effort of Da’awah and Tabligh but should try and create a balance in his life. For example, weekly, if a person attends the halaqah of a certain Buzurg on a Thursday, then he should participate in the Ghusht and Jawla programmes on Monday and Wednesday. In other words, we need to make some type of adjustments to our daily lives and routines in order to facilitate all these efforts of Deen which are Haqq. We should refrain from becoming totally one sided, biased and neglecting some of these efforts and dotingly only some.
11. Nowadays people have stopped going to khanqahs and also many don’t have knowledge of Tasawwuf, please prescribe some methods so that this interest can be brought in to the ummah?
The fundamental cause of this decline is that the Ummah has become weakened in their faith and conviction on Allah. We have to again remind ourselves who we are and where we belong to. It is unfair that we who know about Tasawwuf and the other tenets of Deen, sit complacent and just debate or share views on why the Ummah is like this or like that. It is our responsibility to take this blessed Deen to others as well.
12. What are the positive and negative feelings that a Saalik experiences?
In Sulook (walking the path of Sufism), a Saalik (person walking the path of Sufism) experiences two feelings: a) Bast, b) Qabz
Bast is an Arabic word literally meaning ‘expansion’. In the terminology of Sufism, it refers to the positive feeling in the heart to perform abundant Ibaadat, Tilaawaat, Dhikr, etc.
Qabz is also an Arabic word literally meaning ‘contraction’. In the terminology of Sufism, it refers to the negative feeling in the heart to perform any or abundant Ibaadat, Tilaawat, Dhikr, etc.
Bast is desired as it assists in attaining the purpose of Ibaadat. However, it is not purposeful itself as the positive feeling is not the object of worship. Regarding the desired feeling as purposeful can be detrimental especially when one loses or decreases the condition of Bast. Regarding the Bast as only a means of abundant worship, upon the feeling being decreased or even suppressed, one will place the purpose ahead of his/herself and continue with the Ibaadat, Tilaawat, etc. albeit without positive feelings.
Qabz is not desired as one feels negative and empty within the heart. However, it is not Mazmoom (bad) either. Since we do not worship feelings, we should concentrate on accomplishing what is purposeful, Ibaadat, Tilaawaat, etc. According to the Mutasawwifeen (Sufis), since the condition of Qabz requires one to make more sacrifice in accomplishing his/her responsibility, the rewards are greater. Furthermore, in Bast there is a possibility of Iejaab (ostentatiousness) which is condemned. In Qabz, due to the humility and humbleness one attains close proximity to Allah which is the ultimate aim and objective.
The above is a very brief explanation of an extremely extensive subject which can be understood easily by undertaking the journey of Sulook.
13. Are there any ahadith which mention the various classes of saints such Abdaals, Qutub, etc?
There are various Ahaadith with regards to the existence of such saints. However, the number of these differ according to various narrations. Some of these narrations are as follows:
Nabi (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) is reported to have said, ‘Abdaals will be found in Shaam. They will be forty in number. Whenever one of them passes away, he will be replaced by another. It is through them that Allah Ta’ala will cause it to rain and also grant the Muslims victory over their enemy and remove a possible punishment.’ (Musnad Ahmad)
Nabi (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) is reported to have said, ‘The Abdaals of my Ummah shall be forty, of which twenty will be in Shaam and eighteen in Iraq. Every time one passes away, another replaces him. When Qiyaamat, occurs, all will pass away.’ (Ibid)
Other narrations say that they are thirty in number. Some narrations say that there are five hundred such saints of which forty are Abdaals. The Ahaadith only speak about Abdaals. Some Ahaadith make mention of Qutub, some are correct and some are fabricated.
14. Is it permissible to condemn innovations such as dancing which devious people have tried to introduce into Tasawwuf?
It is not permissible to condemn every action and group that goes contrary to the Shari’ah. A great Sufi, Imaam Abu Abdillah ibn al-Toobi al-Saqaly (rah) has said, ‘Sufism is not wearing patched clothing and not by crying when singers sing and not by screaming and not by dancing. In fact, Sufism is that you follow the Haqq and Qur’aan. You must have fear for Allah, full of remorse for you sins at all times.’
(Article taken from Darul Iftaa affiliate website at: http://tasawwuf.daralmahmood.org/mufti-ebrahim-desai-on-tasawwuf)