The Essence of the Sufi Way By Shaykh Muhammad al-Hafiz al-Misri
The Prophet said: “The men of learning are heirs of the Prophets, and the Prophets did not leave behind an inheritance of Dinars or Dirhams, they left only knowledge. So whoever acquires knowledge, he acquires an abundant share.”There is no doubt that part of the knowledge that the Prophets passed on as inheritance is the knowledge of ridding the soul or inner self of the layers of darkness, purifying it from the turbidity of matter and guiding it to the spiritual world, to the abstractness of the higher kingdom of God. The soul will then become pure so that no matter can have an effect on it. Rather, its purity will refine the thick-skinned ones; its flowing secret will revive the lifeless. It is the Lord himself Who aids such a soul with His divine light; illuminating its vision and powers so that it sees, hears, settles, moves, knows, takes and gives under the divine guardianship of Allah the Exalted. In this place of proximity, God chooses the soul, purifies it, loves it and draws it ever closer to Him. And this is the station of special love and sublime proximity!
Those who have inherited such knowledge are the doctors and healers of souls or inner selves; God has taught them their diseases and the remedies.
And it is one of the many graces of God to this Muhammadan community that no time is deprived of them until the hereafter. The Prophet has said, “Some of my followers will remain victorious (on the right path) until God’s order (Last Day) comes to pass”.
All of us are commanded to purify, tame, and refine ourselves. God, the Exalted said, “By the soul, and by what shaped it in a proportionate way! He has inspired to it (the knowledge of) its wrong and its right. Truly he succeeds who purifies it; and he fails who corrupts it” (Qur’an, 91: 6-10).
The Prophet has also drawn our attention to the benefits of good companionship and its favorable effect on self-purification. He told us the story of the man who repented after killing a hundred persons and consulted a man of learning who advised him to go to such and such land, where there are people who worship God. This sage asked the criminal to join them in the worship of God, and never return to his homeland because it was an evil land. He started off his journey; and died halfway to his destination. A dispute arose between the angels of mercy and the angels of torment: the angels of mercy said that he had come in repentence turning his heart towards God; the angels of torment said that he had never done a good deed. So the distance was measured, and God made it so that he was found closer to the land of worshippers so that the angels of mercy took him.
The Prophet also told us, “The case of a good companion and that of a bad companion is like that of one who has musk and of one who blows a furnace (an ironsmith). The owner of musk might give you some as a gift, or you might buy some from him, or at least you might smell its fragrance. In regards to the other, he might set your clothes afire, or at best you catch a bad smell from him”.
There are various degrees of companionship; the highest of which is the companionship of soul to soul. As they blend in the worlds of purity and holiness, souls meet in their way to God, love each other for the sake of God, by the spirit of God, and in the cause of God and His obedience.
This is the spirit and essence of the Prophet’s Sunnah, this is the pathway to God the Exalted, which all the rightly guided people of God have walked along. It is the way that all the sages have embraced, without exception, regardless of the differences in their pace: some of them are fast, and others are slow; some are overwhelmed by the Beauty, others by the Majesty, yet others by both. These are different states that originate from the same source and drive: the journey to God and fleeing to Him from everything else; the endeavor towards perfecting servitude to His Majesty, and towards fulfillment of the divine rights of His Lordship.
This is a summary of the essence of every Sufi order (tariqa) in the path to God the Exalted, including the Tariqa Tijaniyya. And he who does not adopt this approach with that objective in mind, his affiliation to the Tariqa is invalid and in vain.
No one should deceive himself by allowing himself to indulge in the darkness of disobedience, away from God and the righteous ones. He should cure himself by accompanying the truthful and rightly guided men. Among those, undoubtedly the most deserving of being followed are the healers of souls, the chosen ones whom God, as a favor to humankind, has qualified and bestowed with this kind of knowledge.
Those who do not believe in the saints of God (awliya’ Allah) and in the special endowments and miracles that God has honored them with, in both knowledge and deed, in life and death, should consult the Qur’an, the books of authentic Hadith, and the various commentaries of the scholars. There are numerous Hadith traditions and literature confirming these things.
However, the words here are for the one whose heart God has opened to know the truth, whom God has intended to emancipate from the prison of matter by polishing the mirror of his heart and opening the closed eyes of his soul. Such a person needs only to be truthful in following any of those doctors that he may choose, as all the tariqas of the people of God are guiding to His Majesty. A metaphor of this is that whoever enters through one of the many doors of the holy mosque in Makkah, he enters into the ‘Presence’ of His Majesty, God the Exalted.
The benefits of companionship with these doctors have been proven time and time again. Many dissolute and self-indulgent individuals have become calm and righteous, and many stray souls were brought back to the light of righteousness. Both friends and foes have conceded to these results.
The highly venerable masters in this Tariqa have stated that the Tijani path has the highest standing amongst all, and every Sufi way of spiritual training (tarbiya) is synthesized in it. It is well-known to those who know the ways of the people of God that some of them train by seclusion (khalwa), while others train without; some train through performance of litanies (dhikr) in secret, while others train through loud performance, and some people attain through recitation of prayers upon the Prophet. Likewise, spiritual advancement can come through a glance, or zeal, or a Name, or ecstatic attraction, and so forth.
Every dhikr or special technique that is known in other Sufi paths has been perfected in this Tariqa. In it are gathered all the good traits of other tariqas; and the Tijaniyya is unique in what it contains of special endowments for its adherents. God has said, “That is the bounty of God; which He gives unto whom He will. And God is the possessor of infinite bounty” (Qur’an, 62:4).