Sunni Islam is something that has been clearly defined several times. It is adherence to one of the four schools of jurisprudence: Hanafi, Shafi, Hanbali or Maliki; as well being Maturidi or Ash’ari in doctrine. That’s who Ahl al Sunna wa jammah are and if they are other than this then are not Sunni Islam! It’s not adherence to a scholar born in the last two hundred years! It is about following Islam from the beginning! Following an unbroken chain of teachers back to the Prophet (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him).
Not following one scholar’s opinion!
That is not Ahl al Sunna! When people follow one scholar’s opinion over others then they have left Ahl al Sunna because Ahl al Sunna is the opinion of the consensus of the rightly guided scholars. Not taking one scholars opinion in isolation! What I mean is when people ignore the consensus on an issue and follow one scholar’s opinion, which is against the consensus. When someone takes a singular opinion of one scholar in isolation, they go astray. This happens very often. Especially by uninformed speakers who have no grounding in knowledge. You will be surprised if I actually mention the names of such individuals who are not qualified to speak. So why do they speak? Ignorance recognises ignorance.
When you are following your Sheikhs/Pir’s opinion in spirituality then you have to adhere to it. The above is about aquida and fiqh, when they have their own opinions that go outside their own school. They should adhere to their school and encourage you to follow yours.
A scholar in the sciences of Aquida and fiqh have to follow the majority in their schools. So a Hanafi Imam must adhere to the majority opinion of the Hanafi school and not have an opinion outside his school. In dire need another madhab can be used, according to the Hanafis, other schools are different. In Aquida, a Maturidi should adhere to its school and not propagate his own opinion outside this school. I see this very often now. People do not even need to see the moon to decide when Ramadan begins! Yet claim to follow a madhab?? Following a singular opinion of a scholar, that is their own opinion, causes one to go astray.
Your Pir/Sheikh could be wrong!
Get ready for a shock because your Sheikh could be wrong! Yes, it is true! Murids of particular Sheikh/Pir follow their teachers with that much love that they even follow them when they are wrong. This is not the fault of the Murid from the onset but it is the fault of the Pir/Sheikh. It shows that he has little knowledge of the sacred law. No one is above the sacred law and your Pir cannot override the Quran but how often they do. If they do it frequently then it points a finger that he might not be a Wali. If your Pir does not know the sacred law then he should refer people to someone who do and not answer questions about things he does not know. Unfortunately, there are ‘masters’ who are not qualified but pretend as if they are. There are many pretenders to the ‘throne’ of waliyyah and they have no right. People who are not qualified may die disbelievers because they are propagating a lie about Allah (the Exalted) and His Messenger (may Allah bestow peace and blessings be upon him).
Now your Pir should never leave the dominate position of his fiqh and aquida school rather than fluff it up! Most Pirs make it up as they go along, with whatever they feel like at the time. I am not joking!
If your Sheikh/Pir makes a statement that becomes criticised by other scholars then, if you can, clarify it but otherwise leave it. There are a group of the Ummah who have tongues like daggers ready for anyone who they disagree with. Do not be fanatic about your Sheikh because your Sheikh could be wrong. I have come across many circumstances that a Pir has made a statement and his fanatical followers cannot cope with the fact that their Pir is wrong. It is a fact because he is human and humans make mistakes because even a Wali can be wrong. Let the fools argue and step back and not allow yourself to get involved in such issues. If the opinion is against the sacred law then do not do it. Know that most scholars disagree with each other. If you need clarification on a matter then seek it with someone you trust. Do not go to extremes in these matters because it makes you look childish and no righteous scholar wants their Murids fighting each other.
Sidi Ahmed Zarruq (may Allah show him mercy) said in Kitab Al-Inayah, “Do not listen to he who is like thunder and lighting and not to he who jumps up and sits.”
My sheikh is better than yours
This is also as bad as handbags at fifty paces or should I say tasbihs at fifty paces. Your Pir/sheikh is the best person for you and this is might not be true for others. Your friend might not feel the same way as you do about your Sheikh. That is fine; he might follow a Sheikh of another path, that is no problem. The problem is when the Murids boast about their sheikh and make invalid claims.
I find it very strange that students like a particular sheikh but do not follow their actions. Therefore, it is just for barakah but that has gone when act like you do despite the knowledge you have, there is no point to this!
It is only us
One of the worst things that occurs to new Murids, when they join a spiritual path, they just spend their time with their own Murids. Rather than take from what he needs from those before, he becomes a murid and he even leaves his teachers. There are times when people have to leave teachers but that is rare. Most Murids now exclusively learn from their own ‘teachers’ rather learn from those better qualified. Therefore, people will drive teachers from across one part of the country to the other rather than call someone local who is more qualified. This is the pinnacle of corruption that exists at this time. It is ugly and unwanted. Sheikhy notes is not like that, we support all those who say anything good.
The source of the problems is the Murids
Sidi Ali Al-Jamal (may Allah show him mercy) had twenty-eight Murids and all of them were Awliyah. This to me makes more sense, than having many Murids and most are neglected because they have no access to teaching. Alternatively, cannot reach the Sheikh, cannot understand him and so forth.
Most Murids paint their Sheikh to be who they (the Murid) are. Therefore, whatever the murid is the Sheikh is. However, correct adherence to the spiritual path is when the murid takes on the characteristics of the Sheikh and not when the Sheikh becomes like the murid. This is one of the main problems that we see today. The ignorant murid who does not know who is Sheikh is or what path he follows! Yet he propagates his misunderstanding everywhere. He is heard because he screams louder than everyone else.
Is tasawwaf dead?
I would say it is dead in the Murids and only alive in some of the Awliyah. Most of the Murids, are obsessed with outward dress and appearance to the neglect of their inward wretchedness. One of my teachers said that he saw a dream that he went to the grave of the last Wali. Almost everyday we receive news about awliyah dying and are they being replaced? The sad answer is no and if they are, they are not like their precedessors.
Most people who are on the spiritual path have more sins that those not on the spiritual path. Yet, this should not put you off because those who are not on the spiritual path are in a much worse state. They have not taken the spiritual path and have not taken an oath with Allah (the Exalted).
I do believe that Murids are the worst thing about any path. Yet strangely they can be the best.
Imam Al Arabi Al Darqawi (may Allah show him mercy) said, “Our path is the path of lions yet pigs and monkeys travel upon it.” (Al-Risala Al-Darqawiyyah)
Realise that your Sheikh is a human being and can be wrong, like everyone else in the world. Only Allah (the Exalted) and his Messenger (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) are never wrong. Everyone else do not have such protection. Scholars/Pirs etc can be wrong so it is up to you to find out about what does not seem clearly right. Do not obey your Sheikh if he commands you to do any haram act. A wali has protection/hifz from disbelief but not committing sins or mistakes. Someone asked Junaid Al-Baghdadi (may Allah show him mercy) if a wali can commit illegal fornication, he began to sweat and recited the verse, “The decree is apportioned.” So the Wali can commit sins but will repent straight away.
I am not advocating people leaving their sheikh, do not leave your Sheikh unless he is drinking alcohol in public or something similar. If he is doing this then he is not a Sheikh then a pretender. Just understand that there are strange circumstances that occur and you have to aware of them. Breaking ones bayah/bayat is a serious matter and should not occur in normal circumstances.
The only reason another sheikh can be taken is when their Sheikh dies, is too far to be reached and there is no access to him or when the Sheikh is found out to be someone else. Alternatively, when the Sheikh dies and there is no one to take his place. So then another sheikh can be sought. Otherwise, a murid should never break his bayah.
Be realistic and know that you might never find that perfect murshid/guide and you might not be the perfect murid. So let us continue on the path and struggle.
The spiritual path is all about giving one another the benefit of the doubt, so let us start with each other.