The similarities between my shaykh and ibn taymiyyah
In the pages of human history, it does not take long to see that a man does not become great, because of who he is or what he likes. But, it is because of what he believes in, the principles he holds and teaches others. In every culture and tradition, from the Chinese to the Indians. From the Arabs to the Americans, legendary and often celebrated figures of these nations are held in high esteem. Because of how they managed to change a nation’s set of values and principle for the better. Bringing a set of rules which in their own ways, helped evolve the nation into a group of advance people. Freeing them from the bowls of savagery.
This is why we find prophets of different nations are honored people. For they managed to lift a people from the base, bestial nature of man and into the heavenly attire of morality, ethics and responsibility. Enabling humans to see the light of day.
Similarly, throughout the centuries of Islam. There have been people in this ummah, sent by god. Who have re-a tuned people’s direction of focus. Re-established the moral & social principles set by the great people of the past. Bringing people’s preconceived ideas and practices inline with the established practices of Quran and sunnah.
I have walked the earth and seen many shuyukhs in my time. But, none can be leveled on the same playing field as my shaykh. This post is not to undermine the other shuyukhs, nor is it an exaltation of my shaykh’s status. All it is, is the reasons why I see my shaykh as being a unique personality in our time and age. What sets him apart from the rest, so to speak. Many may simply see this post as an attempt at public relation. Trying to make my shaykh more popular among the non-mureedin populace. My simple reason(s) are mentioned below. What people there after wish to believe is their choice.
Throughout the years, having had the blessed opportunity to be at the company of my shaykh, and some times go with him on trips. I have seen a strong resemblance between him and ibn taymiyyah. Why I make a comparison to ibn taymiyyah is for two reasons:
1) Setting aside the mistakes he (ibn taymiyyah) made on certain Aqeedah issues, he was a man strong in following the established sources of Islam. A man who was firm in rooting out individualism, an idea which celebrates the personal achievement, at the cost of others. A man who was well-known for rooting out people’s own cooked up ideas of religiosity, piety, spiritualism and religious practices. In doing so bringing it in line with the rightful, and established definitions of religiosity, piety, spiritualism and religious practices, of our pious predecessors .
2) Secondly, In many areas of Islāmic thought, ibn taymiyyah has gained notoriety because of his supposed opposition to tassawuff. This untrue rumour attached to him, has enabled those from the fringes of the muslim ummah, the fundamentalists. To see him as their hero, a person who is an example of their cause. He was not opposed to tasswuff but to the pre-defined ideas of tassawuff which people brought into the science. Ibn taymiyyah was a person like a mountain when it came to tawhid. A man who was crystal clear in keeping the creation apart from the creator.
In short order, i find my shaykh having the resemblance to this man of high principles and authentic spirituality. When i started my journey into spirituality, more commonly known as tassawuff. I had come in with many pre-conceived and pre-defined ideas of my own. My image of tassawuff, or the people who practiced such a science, like many others, was one of somber and sadness. A group of people, who hardly smiled, let alone enjoyed a joke. A set of people who were far further afield and apart from enjoying any of the earthly pleasures. Living simple, quiet lives, in their simple homes. To be honest, many of these “idyllic” images were coined in me, from watching clips of the Buddhists monks on TV and else were. The images i had in my mind of the “Sufi” were like monks and hermits, living in their own world far from others. Secondly, in my pre-tassawuff days, i had also heard of the vast wealth of Sufi jargon often used by Sufis themselves. For example; juhud, fana, baqa, mujahadah, murakabah, dkikr. Not knowing what they fully meant, or having the right people to explain these terminologies, i had come up with my understanding and definitions of what they meant. Like most novices, spiritual seekers tend to do these days by picking up books on Sufism and spirituality. i have only now, over the years learnt the many pre-defined notions of tassawuff i had coined myself, is completely bogus! For instance, every novice in spirituality defines his own understanding of what he thinks is piety and righteousness. When he hears words like, juhd (zuhd) he thinks, it is to completely leave the world, free oneself from ALL love and only love Allah. Only then can a person truly have the essence of zuhd in him. Now, this personal definition of juhd is completely wrong! Only by sitting in the company of the true people of God can you understand what it means. Juhd is to leave anything that cuts your relationship with God. Which means, a person can be doing business, enjoying a game of football, yet if his connection with God is not lost. He can carry on enjoying his sport. A “sufi” does not have not leave the world, go live in a cave and forsake everything!
Other widely held misconceptions of people are, when they hear stories of awliyah of the past; their night worship, their fasts, charity, and their stations of piety. People come to their own conclusions on how they too, can become like these illustrious people. Some believe, going without sleep alight will get them this. Others believe, keeping unbroken fasts every day will achieve this. Whilst others believe dressing in the particular dress code, the uniform of the group, will catapult them into piety. Whereas most believe giving bayah without the need to do any work, will enable them to experience spirituality. All these pre-defined ideas of people are incorrect. Only by being in the company of my shaykh did i manage to break down these pre-conceived ideas. i learnt that the body has rights, your family has rights. That, a person who wants to travel on a path does not need to give bayah, dress in a particular way. Or, follow a tribal group.- All who look like a mirror reflection of the group’s leader, and not looking like the companions and the prophet (saw), by following their sunnah.
Many times in circles of Sufism, the only things which are discussed in these gatherings are the miracles performed by a certain saint. How he managed to “woo” people with his spiritual toys, his spiritual powers. This leaves the impression on a layman who attends these “sufi” gatherings, with an image of an almost divine impersonation. (astagirullah). – Like many Christians have of Jesus (as). A average person, who can barely read and write, leaves these gatherings, thinking that the “saint” in question must be something divine. He begins to think, may be the “saint” is some part of God or something divine. With constant reference being made to a “saints” miracles, it leaves a average person with no choice but to think this. Blurring the line between the creator and the created, leaving the layman confused about what the articles of aqeedah are.
In conclusion, there is a long list of what sets my shaykh apart from the rest, but the following are the main reasons (in my opinion):
1) He is clear in establishing what the true ahulsunnah aqeedah is. Where the line is drawn between the creation and the creator. Setting a clear boundary of the limits of creation. So when stories of saints, prophets and the pious are related people are crystal clear of what stands where.
2) He is not xenophobic, nor does he give the impression to his audience. My shaykh says, any group which is working to elevate the sunnah and shariyah is to be held in high regard.
3) My shaykh has enabled many like me, to leave behind our own definitions of righteousness, spiritualism and embrace the authentic definitions of spirituality, established in our islamic sources.
4) He lays more importance on a saint’s teachings than on his personal abilities to do miracles and supernatural feats of wonder.
5) The sign of a kamil shaykh is to be able to tow people inline with what the companions practiced and preached. This is what he does, nor does his say follow me or join a group.
6) The emphasis is given on sunnah and not personality fan base. Many Sufi circles are clouded in this myth. People follow the shaykh than the sunnah and shariyah. When a mureed wishes to do something different to the norm. Or, wear something different he is seen as a rebel. Many wear the uniform of the group rather than the sunnah. So, if a shaykh only wears a hat all his life, the murdeein will do so as well. Nor do the shaykhs break this personality cult or allow others to break it. They thrive off this, any mureed who wishes to wear a turban, the shaykh gives off an aura to the student, ‘how dare you wear the turban when i do not! do you think you are better than me? This subdues the student back to his “place” in the group.
7) He is able to break down people pre-conceived ideas of tassawuff, if and were needed. Many people think ‘my pir or shaykh will help me go to into heaven. I don’t have to do anything’. Others think, a life of spirituality is subject to the group’s discretion. If the group says something must be followed at all times. This is incorrect. If a person is not doing anything contrary to shariyah and sunnah in his life. He can live how he pleases.
8) He teaches people to know the true from the false shuyukhs. The shuyukhs of dunya, the pseudo-Sufis.
9) He is able to teach complex issues in simple words so that the average person can understand in his level and the intellectual in his level. Knowledge is not how many big words you can use to speak, but it is to teach and explain complex issues in simple terms. Talking on the level of people.
In extension to this, all the awliyah of the past like Syyiduna Abdul Qadir jilani, Syiiduna Abdul Azeez Dabbagh, were like this. From among the companions, Syyiduna Umar was firm in this. – Breaking down people’s pre-concieved ideas of piety and teaching the authentic ways. A man once was walking in front of him with a bent back, in sorrow and with visable signs of weakness. Syyiduna Umar (r) went up to him and rebuked him harshly. ‘O Man, do you think, this is zuhd? To walk the streets with bent backs, to be weak and feeble?. No stand straight and go forth the streets in strength and honour!’.