Thursday, 14 June 2007

The Need For A Spiritual Mentor

(Adapted from Spiritual Discourses by Mufti Taqi Usmani DB)

Tasawwuf means to crush vile manners and to develop excellent manners, and that is tazkiyah or purification. This is because of the saying - "There are Men for every art", which means one has to go to a Master to learn. If for example it is a question of Fiqh we have to approach a Mufti, who knows the answers. However it is difficult to study the condition of the inner self and to recognise the malady within the inner self. The hidden weaknesses are very imperceptible and fine. Something may be very good and another very bad but it is difficult to distinguish between them.

For example, arrogance is an unlawful trait and it is wajib to shun it because it is the root cause of all maladies; but there is another quality - self-respect i.e. dignity. It is wajib to develop it, and it is not proper to debase oneself. However the line dividing the frontiers must be determined: that is at which point does self-respect end and arrogance begins? One must ask oneself: Am I doing this out of pride or a measure of self-respect? It is not possible for everyone to determine the dividing line and detect such inner maladies easily.

For instance, egoism is a great ill. A man brags about himself; this is Unlawful. On the other side is "describing blessings on oneself". This is mentioned in the Quran: "And as for the blessings of your Lord, proclaim it" (Surah 93: Ayat11). It is not easy for everyone to say confidently whether he behaves out of ego and pride or proclaims the blessing of Allah Ta'ala.

We can cite another example - of the sweetness of a mango and of a lump of sugar. Both are sweet but, how does one define each sweetness? It is not possible for anyone to do that in words and there is only one way to distinguish the nature of each. One must eat the two things and know for himself what the difference is.

In the same way, it is not easy to define the inner excellences of man. For instance, humbleness is difficult to describe. But, if one meets a humble person and observes his conduct and stays in his company for some time then that characterstic will grow in him. Hence, it is necessary to turn to a Sheikh or a Spiritual mentor, and live in his company to know about Tasawwuf and Suluk. These things cannot grow in anyone by merely talking about them. It is only by attending the company of and giving one's time to a Sheikh that Allah Ta'ala helps one get these things.

Shari'ah is the name of rights. Whose rights? The rights of Allah Ta'ala and His slaves. And the Shari'ah is surrounded by: Sunnah & Tasawwuf. Sunnah is the name of the limits, on how to give the rights of Shari'ah. Tasawwuf is the protection of those limits (of rights) so that one may neither trespass nor stay behind. When one goes to a one's Spiritual Mentor, he learns to protect these limits. Hence, the aim of the relationship between a Spiritual Mentor and his disciple is to protect these limits, how much should he do, where should he stop, and how far should he go.

Hence, when one turns to a Spiritual Mentor, it is to reform oneself, and that is the real objective of turning to him is achieved: to imbibe excellent traits, and ward off and crush the unworthy characteristics. This, then, is the true purpose of Tasawwuf. Nevertheless, the Zikr and supplications are also helpful to the seeker. Only through the guidance of the Spiritual Mentor can the regimen of Zikr, Supplications and other repetitions be prescribed for every individual according to the Sheikh's opinion of his condition. The prescription would suggest time, what to do, and how much to do. Only then can one benefit from reformation. By themselves the Zikr, Supplications and repetitions are not the objective, for the basic aim is the reformation of one's manners and purification of the soul. One must keep the Spiritual Mentor posted / informed of one's condition and seek his guidance, being careful to observe them. One must do that all his life, for the aim of turning to the Spiritual Mentor is simply this much.

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