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What Pre-eminent Scholars of Islam Said About Tasawwuf

Ramadan Series 2014, Vol 12

Mawlana Shaykh Hisham Kabbani

10 July 2014 Fenton Zawiya, Michigan

Nawaytu 'l-arba`een, nawaytu 'l-`itikaaf, nawaytu 'l-khalwah, nawaytu 'l-`uzlah,

nawaytu 'r-riyaadah, nawaytu 's-sulook, lillahi ta`alaa fee haadha 'l-masjid.

A`oodhu billahi min ash-Shaytaani 'r-rajeem. Bismillahi 'r-Rahmaani 'r-Raheem.

Salaamu `alaykum wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh. May Allah (swt) bless you with blessings of Ramadan. We mentioned in the last session about Sayyidina Musa (a) and Sayyidina Khidr (a), how they were learning from each other: Sayyidina Musa (a) was asking questions and Sayyidina Khidr (a) was showing results. And now we come to what some scholars, and we cannot go through all of them, but as much as we can discuss, because after that we will go to al-ba`th `ani ’l-waarith al-Muhammadi, the search for the inheritors of Sayyidina Muhammad (s), and there is so much to explain on that, then on to fruit of Tasawwuf, then on Hubb al-Ilaahi, the Divine’s Love, then al-Kashf, how to reach Divine Vision, then al-Ilhaam, how to reach the level of inspirations, then karamaat al-awliya, miracles of awliyaullah, and then how to ask for forgiveness, then the importance of dhikrullah. So there are so many issues and things and we hope we will be able to summarize as much as possible.

Today, before we mention the Four Imams, we will mention some sayings about the People of Haqaa’iq, Realities.

Shaykh Abdul-Wahhaab ash-Sha`rani

Shaykh Abdul-Wahhaab ash-Sha`rani, when asked to describe the People of Baatin, the Esoteric, and the People of al-Zhaahir, the Exoteric, he said, “What do you mean, I don't understand?”

They asked again, “Tell us about External Knowledge and Internal Knowledge?”

He said, “External and internal, how much you need to learn.”

Those scholars of Egypt were asking Imam Abdul-Wahhaab ash-Sha`rani and he said, “Unfortunately those who did not taste the Knowledge of Tasawwuf cannot know these as they do not know anything from it. For us, there is no zhaahir and no baatin, everything for us is exoteric. For us the hidden became real and we see them openly as we see the external knowledge, and that internal knowledge Allah gives us is according to the level of the scholar or wali, and so that issue which is hidden from you becomes apparent for us. So for us there is no esoteric, but for you it is still hidden as you didn't reach the other side of the ocean, you only see the horizon. For us we see the Reality.”

So Tasawwuf takes you to Maqaam al-Ihsaan, that is it, there is nothing more on Tasawwuf. They use this term as a different science in Islam, like `Ilm an-Nahuw, the Science of Grammar, `Ilm al-Balaagha, Knowledge of Explanation, or adab, poetry, all of that was structured under different names, and similarly, Tasawwuf was structured under `Ilm at-Tasawwuf instead of Tazkiyyat an-Nafs and instead of knowledge of Maqaam al-Ihsaan.

Ibn `Ataillah as-Sakandari

And one very famous Egyptian scholar, Ibn `Ataillah as-Sakandari, whose maqaam is visited by thousands, says in his book al-Hikam, The Wisdoms:

“Anyone who wants to follow the way of Gnosticism must find a shaykh,” and we have been saying this since we began this series. And he says, “It is not that you have to find a shaykh, your shaykh if you find him is not only to hear from him, laysa ash-shaykhu man tasma`u minhu...

Just as now you are hearing what I am saying, and it is coming from quotations of some awliyaullah and from our shaykh, it is not from what you heard from me or what you heard from Mawlana Shaykh Muhammad Nazim Adil, may Allah bless his soul; it is not from me, that was only an example, but it is not what you heard from him that is important, it is what you have taken from him. At least in a session with the shaykh you take something home with you.

When you come to someone who sells sweets, halwaani, you don't go out of the shop even if you don't buy, still they give you a taste of something. Like if you go to an ice cream shop, you get some samples and taste all of them for free. It is not only the taste, but it is what you take from the pastry shop. So it is not as much important what you hear from the shaykh, but that you take from him: wa innama shaykhuka alladhee rafa`a baynahu wa baynaka al-hijaab.

Ibn `Ataillah as-Sakandari said: Wa innamaa shaykuka man aakhadhta minhu, wa laysa shaykhuka man d`aka ila al-baab, “The Shaykh is the one you take from, your shaykh is not the one who calls you to the door.”

What is the benefit if you stand and stand? There is no benefit, but the shaykh is the one who raises you to see what cannot be seen and to reach that is high level, so at least to come to his door and you feel something, that there is a presence there, the light of knowledge is there, you feel something there, that he will take all veils between you and him and so your heart will be connected with his heart. This is the meaning of Rabitah, to connect your heart to the heart of the shaykh and from shaykh to the Prophet (s) through a chain of awliyaullah to reach Prophet (s).

“The real shaykh is the one who takes away veils between you and him. You can hear him when he sends you a message.”

Too many mureeds get inspirations; this is a real shaykh who is able to make his mureeds get these inspirations.

Wa laysa shaykhu...kaman qaalahu inama shaykhuka nahad bika haaluka , “He is not your shaykh whom you face his speech and listen to him, but your shaykh is the one from whom you felt energy after you sit with him. He builds you up and you feel strong.”

In a session of five or ten minutes you will be built up, you will be attracted like he is a spotlight and you cannot leave him. It is said also:

Shaykhuk alladhee akhrajak min sijni al-hawaa “Your shaykh that you must follow is the one who takes you out of the prison of bad desires, the desires of this dunya,” wa dhakhal bika `alaa ‘l-mawlaa “and he will take you by your hand to the Divine Presence to connect your heart with awliyaullah, one after one. Don't follow and don't listen and don't accompany someone you feel is not raising you, because wherever his state is, you don't feel you have been raised there.”

Grandshaykh `AbdAllah’s Condition to Raise His Mureeds to His Level

And that is why Grandshaykh `AbdAllah, may Allah bless his soul, when he was ordered by his teacher, when Grandshaykh Sharafuddin was about to leave dunya in three days and he wrote his will and called Grandshaykh, he said, “My son, I am leaving dunya and here is my will. I am leaving it to you, and I am ready to pass to you all the secrets in this tariqah. Whatever I received from my shaykh from his shaykh up to Sayyidina Abu Bakr as-Siddiq and to Prophet (s), whatever they inherited I am going to pass to you.”

Grandshaykh said, “O my shaykh! I accept, but what is benefit of it if I don't get what I want?”

His shaykh said, “What do you want?”

He said, “I want one thing: that I don’t depend on the mureed’s deeds for him to be raised.”

Like in the time of `Ataillah as-Sakandari, they said the mureed cannot receive by listening to the shaykh, and a shaykh is not considered to be a shaykh from whom you only hear his message, your shaykh is not the one you hear from, but the one who fills your heart. So Grandshaykh asked, “I want anyone who comes and sits with me to be with me in my level. If Allah gave me anything higher than that mureed, I want for that mureed to share it with me, or else what is the benefit of my association, giving lectures?”

الدين نصيحة

Religion is advice.

“Ad-deenu naseeha, religion is advice, but if they don’t do what I am saying, because my words are like laser beams, so if it doesn’t affect them what is the benefit of my sitting and spending time? No, I will keep my dhikr continuous and don’t want anyone to bother me, not who comes goes away the same.” Okay you get rewards, but the aim of awliyaullah is to raise you up to their level in order that you can see what cannot be seen, to hear what cannot be heard. So if you are not in that state, you have to know that we are still in need to work hard. We are not in that state, so we need to work hard. So that’s why awliyaullah want to find a way.

So those shaykhs who came before had their technique and those today have their technique. Now, in this time, so much mercy is coming on Earth because of so much difficulty and killing taking place, so awliyaullah take it that mercy from the Prophet (s) and dress it on their followers, which is from the ayah:

وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا رَحْمَةً لِّلْعَالَمِينَ

(O Muhammad!) We have sent you not except as a Mercy for all the Worlds. (Surat al-Anbiyaa, 21:107)

Hearing is not as Strong as Seeing, Witnessing

So awliyaullah inherit from that and give it to their followers, but they want more, they want their followers to reach Maqaam al-Kashf, the State of Vision, Seeing. When you “see” it is different from when you “hear”, when you hear is less powerful than when you see; when you see means you confirm. That is why they call you a witness and when you only hear something is not witnessing. Someone giving testimony might say, “I heard it, but I heard it through the wall,” and they don’t accept what you said, but when you see is different, you are a witness. So they want you to witness what people cannot witness, so when you say ash-hadu laa ilaaha illa-'Llah wa ash-hadu anna Muhammadan Rasoolullah” it is not Tawheed if you didn’t witness with open eyes, it is an obligation, but you didn't reach the level of real Tawheed.

The only real, perfect, with no doubt muwahhid is the Prophet (s), because he reached Qaaba Qawsayni Aw `Adnaa. Allah wanted him to see the real Tawheed. What did he see? We don't know. It is described in a hadith of what the Prophet (s) saw in Mi`raaj of Paradise and Hellfire.

Vision is important, like if you have a TV and you hear only sound, voices, sometimes the lamp is burnt out; you turn it on but there is nothing. They say you have to change the tube.

“Okay, I changed it, but now I am only hearing voices.”

“Okay, you have to change that, too.”

That is why there is `Ilm al-Yaqeen, Knowledge of Truth; `Ayn al-Yaqeen, the Vision of Realities; then Haqq al-Yaqeen, the Reality of Realities, the Certainty of Realities, then the picture is complete in front of you, it is not HD, High Definition, but rather HHD, High High Definition, no mistakes. We hope we reach that!

Shaykh `Abdul-Wahhaab ash-Sha`ranee made Salaat al-Wudu a Condition of Baya`

Shaykh `Abdul-Wahhaab ash-Sha`ranee said:

“They took our baya`” (and that is why I said that there are many different kinds of baya`) ukhidha `alayna al-`ahad al-`aam min rasoolillah an noowaazhib `alaa rakatayn ba`da kulli wudu, “When we came to our shaykh to take baya`, he said, ‘I give you baya` by order of the Prophet (s) on one condition: that anytime you need wudu you make wudu and pray two raka`ats. That is my condition of baya`, to give you `ahad, baya` on this issue.’”

And there are many other issues. That’s why he said:

(ُأخِذَ علينا العهد العام من رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم أن نواظب على الركعتين بعد كل وضوء، بشرط ألاَّ نحدث فيهما أنفسنا بشيء من ُأمور الدنيا، أو بشيء لم يشرع لنا في الصلاة

ukhidh `alaynaa ’l-`ahad al-aa`m min rasoolillah sall-Allahu `alayhi wa sallama an noowaazhib `alaa ’r-raka`tayni b`ad kulli wudoo bi-shartin allaa nuhaddithu feehimaa anfusinaa bi-shayin min umoor ad-dunya aw bi-shayin lam yashra`a lanaa fi ’s-salaat,

“We took the general covenant from Allah’s Messenger on the condition of making wudu and praying two raka`ats, and that we avoid anything that is not allowed in Shari`ah or to speak with our self about dunya during our prayers.”

It means we have to avoid completely the dunya. And everyone is in need to work hard to keep his baya`, in order by this way he will stop the bad inspirations and gossips that come to him when he enters the prayer. Until then your baya` is not considered. You need to take it on these conditions and try hard to stop these bad gossips from coming to the mind. It will stop by you making wudu and praying two rak`ats of wudu, with that the gossips will become less and less and disappear. That is the key to the disappearance of gossip in your mind, they will go away.

“Follow, O my brother on the hand, to give baya` to someone who is a shaykh on the meaning of a shaykh, who advises you and always reminds you of Allah (swt), until you are able to cut all the gossips that come to your mind when entering the prayer.”

Especially when you are entering, as soon as you say, “Allahu Akbar!” they come. If you are sitting like that, no problem, no gossips come, but as soon as you enter the prayer, laa hawla wa laa quwatta illa billahi ’l-`aliyyi ‘l-`azheem, all kinds of gossips come. Don't say in your prayer, “I am going to do this today or not do this today.” All kinds of thoughts come to you, “How I pay bills, what loan to get, what kind of work I am doing, what I am studying, what I will do in future?” Everything comes in the prayers! To stop that you have to give your hand to a perfect shaykh on the condition that you pray two raka`ts of Salaat al-Wudu when you make new wudu. Many people don't do that. We have to struggle to do that.

And this is very important. Shaykh Abdul-Wahhaab ash-Sha`ranee said:

“I used to study by myself and never thought I need to get a shaykh. I used to read al-Risalah of Qushayri and I read Qoot al-Quloob of Abu Talib al-Makki and I read Imam Ghazali, and many, many other books, and I found that each book says something different and one contradicts the other and I didn't know what to do. I entered from one book to another book, until I met my teacher, until I found a shaykh that took my hand and showed me the Reality and then I understood that you need a shaykh to take you to Mecca.”

You don't need a shaykh to take you to Jordan, someone that doesn’t know the way and takes you to another country; you want to go to Mecca and he takes you to Riyaad.

Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal (died 150 AH)

Qaala Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal, one of the Four Imams, said:

I really understood tariqat because I accompanied some of these shuyookh.

Who are best scholars that people follow today? Ahl as-Sunnah wa 'l-Jama`ah follow the Four Schools of Thought and they are considered the marj`a, the Hanafi Madhhab, Maliki, Shafi`ee, and Hanbali. Imam Abu Hanifa was born in the first century Hijri and he died in the middle of the second century. Abu Hanifa is one of the imams of the Four Schools of Thought and also he has a way in Tasawwuf, following a Sufi Order, as mentioned in the book Ad-Durr al-Mukhtar, vol 1. p. 43, that Ibn `Abidin said:

Abi `Ali ad-Dakkaak, one of the Sufi saints, received this path from Abul-Qaassim an-Nasarabaadi, who received it from ash-Shibli, who received it from Sariyy as-Saqati who received it from Ma`roof al-Karkhi, who received it from Dawud at-Ta'i, who received the knowledge, both the external and the internal, from the Imam Abu Hanifa (r), who was supporting the Sufi Spiritual Path, and each one affirmed and praised him and agreed on his virtue.[1]

So from six generations of shuyookh up to Abu Hanifa, who took the `Ilm azh-Zhaahir and the `Ilm al-Baatin, the External (Apparent) Knowledge and Internal (Hidden) Knowledge. But as we explained, for some awliya there is one `ilm, because for them everything hidden is known to them. Imam Abu Hanifa said:

Law la sanataan la halaka nu`maan, If not for two years [spent with Imam Ja`far as-Saadiq], I would have lost my way, my madhhab.

Imam Abu Hanifa is reported to have said before he died:

Law la as-sanataan la-halaka Nu`maan, "Were it not for a certain two years, Nu`man [i.e. myself] would have perished."

“If not for two years, I would have lost my way, my madhhab.” Those were the last two years of his life, when he accompanied Ja`far as-Saadiq.[2] In those two years he learned more than he could ever imagine and that is why it is said that Imam Abu Hanifa was a big Sufi, because Abu Hisham as-Sufi came before Abu Hanifa and Tasawwuf was called after his name at that time.

Imam Malik Explicitly Enjoined Tasawwuf as a Duty of Scholars

Imam Malik died in 179 H. Look how far, since the time of Prophet (s), and `Ilm at-Tasawwuf was between the hands of the Four Madhaahib. A hundred years after the Prophet (s), Imam Malik said:

Man tasawwafa wa lam yatafaqqah faqad tazandaqa wa man tafaqqaha wa lam yatasawwaf faqad tafassaqa wa man jama`a baynahuma faqad tahaqqaqa. He who practices Tasawwuf without learning Sacred Law corrupts his faith, while he who learns Sacred Law without practicing Tasawwuf corrupts himself. Only he who combines the two proves true.[3]

“He who learns Shari`ah without Tasawwuf,” without Maqaam al-Ihsaan, and the knowledge of Tasawwuf is Maqaam ul-Ihsaan, for those who are just looking now for the first time at this series, and we have explained the importance of Tasawwuf and the reality, from where it came. “The one who studies only Fiqh but doesn’t study Tasawwuf or follow a perfect shaykh, that person will be corrupted.”

Because he doesn’t know how to synchronize, like in a car the two sides of the gearbox must be synchronized in order for the tires to work. You have synchronize Fiqh and Maqaamu ’l-Ihsaan/Tasawwuf, and if you don’t then you will be corrupted.

Wa man tafassaq and who only studies Tasawwuf (there are too many today who only study Tasawwuf, they don’t pray even, that is wrong, Ahl as-Sunnah wa 'l-Jama`ah they pray and follow the guidance of a real shaykh), “Who studies Sufism or takes the hand of a shaykh without studying Shari`ah, that person is a heretic. This means that you don’t realize between Maqaam ul-Ihsaan and Fiqh/Shari`ah, so you have to balance between the two and learn the meaning of what Prophet (s) said:

‏انما بعثت لاتمم مكارم الاخلاق

I have been sent to perfect the best of conduct (your behavior and character). (Bazzaar)

If not, you will be a heretic if you only study Tasawwuf, and who synchronized both of them, that person will reach Realities.

This is Imam Malik speaking, it’s not our quotation. And we will continue more on what these scholars are saying tomorrow, because it is very important for us, Ahl as-Sunnah wa 'l-Jama`ah, to know what our scholars have said about Tasawwuf. We explained what is Tasawwuf, but we did not yet explain the fruit of Tasawwuf and we did not explain how to find the true shaykh, who has the different kinds of principles in his appearance physically, externally and internally. We did not reach that yet. But we reached what `ulama and the Four Imams said about Tasawwuf, and first we explained that the scholars of Ahl as-Sunnah wa 'l-Jama`ah were deeply immersed in the ocean of Maqaam al-Ihsaan, which is Tasawwuf; to bring these jewels out, and we want to say what these scholars of Ahl as-Sunnah wa 'l-Jama`ah said about Tasawwuf.

They were Sufi people and you want to call them Maqaam al-Ihsaan, Tasawwuf or Tazkiyyat an-Nafs it is okay, it’s up to you, but that knowledge is there and if we don’t learn it we will be losing out. That is important as it sheds light on the reality of Tasawwuf between scholars of Ahl as-Sunnah wa 'l-Jama`ah and we have to know this and they have put a lot of books on this subject.

May Allah forgive us our shortcomings and our sins, especially in this month of Ramadan.

Wa min Allahi 't-tawfeeq, bi hurmati 'l-habeeb, bi hurmati 'l-Fatihah.


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[1] Hashiyyat ibn Abidin `ala Ad-Durr al-Mukhtar, vol 1. p. 43.

[2] One of the Twelve Imams and a grandson of Prophet (s), who received `Ilm az-Zaahir, `Ilm ul-Haqaa`iq.

[3] Hashiyyat ibn Abidin `ala Ad-Durr al-Mukhtar, vol 1. p. 43.