If words come out of the heart, they will enter the heart,
but if they come from the tongue they will not pass beyond the ears.
Shaykh Shihab al-Din al-Suhrawardi
(Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu)
Nearness to God
Suhbah - Gathering
Adaab (Some lessons in eating)
The Mureed and Shaykh Relationship
The Book of Radiance
What other scholars have said
Although the teaching of Sufism was passed down from the Beloved Prophet (Peace and Blessings Upon Him and his Family) via the chain of spiritual masters it was during the 12th century that different orders began to form for the purpose of teaching the methods of a particular murshid. These Sufi Orders are not sects of Islam and neither are they sects of Sufism. All of them strictly follow the teachings of the Qur'an al kareem and Hadith. Many people ask if tasawwuf came from Sayyadina Muhammad (Salla Allahu ta'ala 'alayhi wa aalihi wa Sallam), why should there be different branches?
The answer to this is that man has different abilities and temperament of understanding, for example, although there may be a specific remedy for a disease, the medical treatment varies with the patient. Our Most Beloved Prophet (Peace and Blessings Upon Him and his Family) taught the secrets of tasawwuf to his companions in different degrees.
The different orders have different methods and ways in teaching one the path of Sufism but the aim and goal of all the tariqas is the same, example in a country there are hundreds of schools teaching the same subjects but the teachers are different and their teaching methods are different.
It is not a defect for them to have learnt from different tutors with different methods because at the end of the day they have gained the same knowledge of the respective subject. The names of the different silsilas came to exist after the name of the grand masters of that particular order; for example the Qadiriya silsila was named after Ghawth al-A'dham Hadrat Shaykh Abdul Qadir al-Jilani, the Chistiya silsila was named after Hadrat Khawaja Abu Ishaq Chisti and made famous in India by Hadrat Khawaja Muinuddeen Chisti better known as Khawaja Gareeb-e-Nawaaz. The Naqshabandiya silsila was named after Hadrat Bahauddeen Naqshabandi . The Suharwardiya silsila was named after Hadrat Shaykh Umar Suhrawardi (Radi Allahu ta'ala anhum 'ajmain - May Allah Almighty be pleased with them All.).
There are numerous sufi orders but we have just named the main four. The spiritual house is Madinatul Munawarra where the power is generated. The Chisti, Qadiri, Suhrawardi and Naqshabandi etc are all sub stations and spiritual links that convey the spiritual power to the countless muslims. All the salasil-e-tariqat and their murshids who represent them should be respected at all times.
We do not want anyone to get confused with Shihabuddin Yahya al-Suhrawardi (1153/5-1191) who was called "the Master of Oriental Theosophy", and founder of the Ishraqi or "Illumination" School. Yahya al-Suhrawardi was the most controversial of three celebrated mystics who lived at the same time and bore the same place-name - Suhraward, in northwest Iran, near Azerbaijan. His contemporary Hadrat Shaykh Shihab al-Din `Umar b. `Abd Allah al-Suhrawardi (1144-1234) kept his head by being a model of orthodox moderation, and enjoyed the patronage of Caliphs and princes. He was the founder of the great Suhrawardiya Sufi order, which still has many adherents today. Shihab al-Din's teacher was his uncle Abu Najb Suhrawardi (d.1168), rector of the Nizamiya academy and an authority on Hadith.
The Suhrawardi school is characterised by its strong commitment to Sunni orthodoxy. Suhrawardiya has its origins in the teaching of Diya al-din Abu 'n-Najib as-Suhrawardi (1097-1168). After studying Islamic law in Baghdad Abu n-Najib went to live by the river Tigris where he set up a retreat and gathered a group of disciples. The ordered became particularly influential through the work of Abu 'n-Najib's nephew, Shihab ad-din Abu Hafs 'Umar (1145-1234). Shihab ad-din acquired the support of the caliph and attracted sufis from all over the world to hear him teach.
Shaykh Shihab al-Din al-Suhrawardi:
He is the author of the celebrated 'Awarif al-ma'arif, an excellent text of 'irfan and Sufism.
He claimed descent from Sayyadina Abu Bakr (Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu). It is said that he went each year to visit Makkah and al-Madinah. He had met and conversed with Sayyadina Ghawth al-A'dham 'Abd al- Qadir al-Gilani (Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu). Amongst his disciples were the famous poets Shaykh Saidi and Kamal al-Din Isma'il al-'Isfahani (May Allah be pleased with them). Sa'di had this to say about him:
My wise shaykh the murshid, Shihab, gave me two advices:
One, not to be egocentric,
The other, not to regard others with pessimism.
From the Middle East the order spread into the sub-continent into Afghanistan, India, Pakistan where, in spite of splitting into a large number of subgroups, it became active in sub-continent Islamic spiritual life, an influence which extended even as far as the Mughal court.
The order does not have a distinctive symbol system, but today its many followers are spread throughout the west as well as the far east.
This Suhrawardi Shaykh is not the same as the controversial but famous philosopher known as Shaykh al-'Ishraq, who was killed around 581-590/1185-1194 in Aleppo, Syria. Shaykh Shihab al-din Umar Suhrawardi the gnostic died around the year 632/1234.
Shaykh 'Abû Hafs 'Umar al-Suhrawardî (d.1234) and his erudite Sufî treatise 'Awarif al-Ma'ârif.
This Sufî manual became an important book for all sufîs striving to understand and practice the proper Sufî path (tasawwuf) as it was connected to a rich philosophical tradition in Islam called the 'school of illumination.' I demonstrate that al-Suhrawardi's Sufî treatise contains a wide range of sufî theology; from Qur'anic hermeneutics, hadith tafsir, rational arguments on epistemology, different levels of spirituality, proper etiquette, correct methods to subsisting with God, to disparaging criticism of other sufî orders. It is a systematic examination of al-Suhrawardi's sufî exegesis of the Qur'an al-kareem and the different methodologies he applied to his particular sufî theosophy. Essentially, my work centers around the argument that sufî texts function differently from other Islamic texts, which are primarily meant for legal expositions, because they provide daily spiritual exercises designed to contribute to the spiritual and intellectual growth of the Suhrawardiya Sufî members. I hope to continue with the themes of sûfî Qur'ânic hermeneutics and the sûfî remembrance of the Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings be upon him and his family) in another book by focusing on creating an Islamic Liberation Theology for the Muslim modern world.
This books explains Shaykh al-Suhrawardî's sufi theology and its importance to the training of sufi disciples. His careful analysis of mystical ideas of self-annihilation, sufi exercises (dhikr), proper moral conduct (adab), and other areas that stressed the complete obedience to Islamic law and to the customs of the Prophet will reflect a sufi master's intention to ensure his sufi path reflected the truest and purest form of faith.
This translation and commentary of al-Suhrawardî's 'Awârif al-Ma'ârif is an original project mainly because in the Middle East and South Asian sufism the sufi text is still very popular and used. The heart of this study is to illustrate the use of theological reasoning for sufi theosophy and how it is critical in sufi spiritual practices. It aims at opening the door for non-specialists of medieval sufi texts who desire to learn the wisdom of sufi Muslims and their larger contribution to spirituality.
This book argues al-Suhrawardi's emphasis that one needed to be prepared to carry out this extraordinary responsibility by having one's thoughts and actions planned for every moment, at every place. By analyzing his Qur'ânic interpretations and his understanding of the sayings of the Prophet (Salla Allahu ta'ala alayhi wa Sallam) or hadiths within a sufi context forged a particular sufi theosophy that gave this text the power to aid in the daily spiritual exercises of the sufi way (tasawwuf) and in the spiritual and intellectual growth of the Suhrawardiya members.
"Knowledge for God's Encounter" expands upon the continuity and tradition of the Suhrawardîyyâ sufi order by concentrating on the particulars of being a sufi and living the sufi path. The translation and commentary will bring a clearer understanding on why Sufi Muslims have seriously desired to enhance their knowledge of God. Their deep commitment to the tradition allowed them to provide real spiritual and temporal answers to existential problems. Like mystics of other traditions, Shaykh al-Suhrawardi's sufi treatise is aimed at maintaining a spiritual life and also teaching his disciples the various meanings in sufi theology. This translation and commentary will contribute to an understanding of religious beliefs and practices, theology, and philosophy of a sufi order who were and are still one of the most visibly intellectual sufi orders in Islam.
'Awarif al-Ma'arif is a manual for daily study and practice written by the the renowned thirteenth-century Sufi thinker, Shaykh 'Abu Hafs al-Suhrawardi. The treatise recognizes the primary importance of the Qur'an and the Hadith, and functions as a medium of interpretation for the primary texts. The aim of the treatise is to assist the daily spiritual exercises and general intellectual development of the Suhrawardiyya members; it makes use of Quranic hermeneutics, Hadith commentary, rational arguments on epistemology, as well as discussing different levels of spirituality and proper manners. It also includes some severe critique of others orders and their interpretations of tasawwuf. In very many, if not all, of his arguments, Suhrawardi relies for authority upon Hadiths his own intimacy with the Most Beloved Prophet's (Salla Allahu ta'ala alayhi wa Sallam) way of life. The use of Hadiths in legal, philosophical, poetical, and religious contexts has long been known and understood. Their use in a Sufi spiritual manual is orientated toward presenting the way the Prophet (Salla Allahu ta'ala alayhi wa Sallam) as a model for inward and outward actions.
Shaykh Shihab al-Din Suhrawardi's (Radi Allahu anhu) intensive use of the Hadiths is a significant element in the treatise, enabling its readers to remember and re-enact the Noble Prophet's (Salla Allahu ta'ala alayhi wa Sallam) way so that they can move from merely imagining to actually embodying the Prophet's spirituality. In sum, while the student rehearses and memorizes the Qur'an al kareem for the formal prayer rites, Prophetic Hadiths are committed to memory in order to cultivate a closer kinship to the Most Beloved Prophet (Salla Allahu ta'ala alayhi wa Sallam) and maintain his sacred presence at every moment.
Those Nearest to God
When the Islamic faith imparts to us the knowledge that God alone is our deity, [that] He alone we should worship and He alone we should ask for help, the question then necessarily arises in our mind, ‘Where should we seek this God whom we worship and before whom we express our humility and subjection?’ Truly speaking, Sufism gives a reply to the above question in the light of the Qur'an and the Prophet's traditions, and it is also called “the knowledge of the nearness of God.” (Ilm-i-qurb).
Really Sufism is nothing but this knowledge only. The Sufi who is conversant with the 'knowledge of nearness' knows the secret of the relation between Haqq and Khalq, God and the phenomenal things, the secret of nearness and proximity, immanence and transcendence, Firstness and Lastness, Outwardness and Inwardness of God with the phenomenal things. Not only does he know this secret but he feels the immediate Presence of God within his own self. Now he is dead to his self and consequently we can call him the one whom God has drawn near to Him (muqarrab). Note in Sura 56 (waq'ia) in the Qur'an, men are sorted out into three classes:
1. The companions of the Right Hand (Ashab-al-Maimana).
2. The companions of the Left Hand (Ashab-al-Mash'ama).
3. Those nearest to God (Muqarrabun).
The companions of the Right Hand are “Those who believe in the Unseen,” are “steadfast in prayer” and “have assurance of the Hereafter” in their hearts. The companions of the Left Hand are “those who reject faith and go after false gods." The Qur'an describes them as “those who bartered guidance for error” and “have lost their true direction.”
This classification is, thus, according to the knowledge out of which spring their actions, knowledge of the right path and knowledge of the wrong path. But who are the “Muqarrabun?” They are just not the companions of the Right Hand only - otherwise they would have not been placed in the separate category. The Sufis believe that it is just another name for those who are not only on the right path guided by their Lord, but also know the right relation between the “Haqq” and “Khalq” or between the Creator and the created, between God and man.
To be more explicit, those who regard their Creator as their “Ilah” or Deity and worship Him alone and ask for His help alone and believe that there is none other than He [Him Who is] worthy of our devotion and able to help us, are called in Qur'an the Companions of the Right Hand. And those who regard some created beings as their Deities and worship them and seek their aid, thus rejecting the faith which lays down that God alone is our Cherisher and Sustainer, are termed the Companions of the left. The Muqarrabun are those who not only believe their Creator as their only Deity and worship Him alone and seek for His help alone, but also know the true relationship that exists between them and their Creator. They have been promised “Rest and Peace and a Garden of Bliss.”
Thus the great Sufi Shaykh Shahabuddin Suhrawardi (May Allah be pleased with him) in his famous Sufi Compendium ‘Awarif-al-Maarif’ (Chapter I) holds that though the term 'Sufi' is not used in the Noble Qur'an, the word “Muqarrab” connotes the same meaning, which is expressed by the term Sufi.
A little later, once again he makes explicit: “know that by the word Sufis we imply “Muqqarabun” only, those whom God draws nearer to Himself.”
Now you have read a very brief account of the knowledge of those ‘nearest to God’ (Muqarrabun); you will read its details in the third chapter of this book. This knowledge is concerned with the “Secret of the Omnipresence of God.” The Qur'an and the traditions definitely prove that the ‘essences’ of created beings are the ‘other’ of God. The relation between the Creator and the created, is not one of ‘identity but is definitely that of “otherness”, things created are the ‘other’ of their Creator. “Then will ye fear other than God?” “Is there a Creator other than God?” In spite of this ‘otherness’, the omnipresence, proximity, immanence, 'firstness' and 'lastness,' 'outwardness' or 'inwardness' of God, (or in the terminology of Sufis “identity”) too, is indisputably posited by the Qur'an and the Traditions. Apparently this would seem rather contradictory. We will have to consider it in the light of the Qur'an and the Traditions and remove the contradiction. Sufism (The mystical knowledge of the nearness of God or ‘Ilm-iqurb’) removes this contradiction and proves -- proves by the words of God Almighty -- proves by the commentary of His Prophet -- that the essences of phenomenal things before their creation, subsist in the Divine Knowledge, are the objects of God's Knowledge, are the Ideas of God and are definitely the ‘other’ of their Knower, the Creator. For the ‘essences’ of things form, determination, limitation, individualization are necessary. God is free from these limitations or determinations --is not a form. Being or existence does not belong to us. It belongs to God alone. We possess attributes of non-existence, and God Almighty is gifted with the superlative attributes of existence. Having no existence and existential attributes we possess no activity of our own. God alone is active, the only agent or doer.
Suhbah means an Association or Gathering in which those gathered are focussed on one point, one goal.
Some people think that they will not find any evil, or conflict in sacred places like Makkah and that you will not witness such things in front of it [the Ka'aba]. However, anyone who has visited these holy places can easily know that it is not the case at all that nothing of that sort happens there.Such holy places, maybe even more than other places, are bringing out these things that belong to a different world, not to the world of spirits, and angels but to the world of animals.
So when you enter, or are intending to begin to walk on such a path, the Sufi path, it does not matter that difficulties and problems occur. It only matters that for the first time you can know why it occurs and for what purpose. That is the difference. People are usually not suffering from what comes to them but they are suffering mostly from not understanding why it comes and for what purpose.
Therefore, people who are trying to follow a spiritual path should understand. They must know that belonging to such a group does not automatically mean that they are safe from each other, because we know that one of Allah's ways, Glorified and Exalted be He,one of his most famous ways of testing his servants is to test them by putting them against each other. That happens in tariqah as well as outside but maybe in a way within tariqah that is more noticeable because one doesn't expect it. At the same time, one must understand it and learn to deal with it. Again, what happens within tariqah is only an example for what happens everywhere but it is clearer there. Because we should be awake and not asleep when we are following a spiritual path. If we don't want to follow, we may sleep. Then it doesn't matter. But if we are trying to follow such a path, we should not sleep. It is not permitted. If it happens we should quickly try to wake up.
Sometimes, when we are speaking here, we are speaking in general concerning all people, coming from anywhere, going anywhere. Sometimes, there is something important that needs to be said about particular events, particular things, but whatever is said must be useful and helpful. We are not speaking here to impress people with knowledge. The purpose of 'suhbah' or speaking in suhbah lies in two things. One is to say something of benefit for people and that may be helpful for a particular situation for them and may be helpful in general, at the same time. The second purpose of speaking in suhbah is to ask Allah to bring about in those people who are truly listening and are awake and not sleeping, an opening in their heart, such that blessings may come upon them.
Now, we would like to say something about what it means to be in suhbah and what it means to leave it, or to violate the rules of suhbah. This is advice for everyone, in general, and for some people in particular. I am going to mention to you something from a our great grandshaykh Shaykh Umar al-Suhrawardi Awarif al Ma'arif. He is speaking about what it means when someone says: "I am a Sufi."
Many people in our days do not understand this anymore and so many people are judging and criticising and condemning without understanding.So, they may benefit from his words. But his words are just as important for those people who are following or are intending to follow a spiritual path, a Sufi path.
There have been always in the tradition of Sufism, particular places where the Sufis lived. If you go to Konya, in Turkey, and visit the tomb of Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi, may Allah sanctify his blessed secret, you will see that around the tomb there is a big house with many, many rooms. In those rooms his disciples and the disciples of other Shaykhs of the Mevlevi tariqah were living. That existed also in other turuq but not in all. Now, what is said here by Shaykh Umar Suhrawardi's (radi Allahu anhu) is about such people living in such houses. Maybe, you know that there are many meanings of the word tasawwuf or Sufi, and each one has some wisdom. Some say, it comes from suf, wool, or from the Arabic word for purity. Shaykh Umar Suhrawardi is saying here that the name comes from Ahl as-Suffa. When one says so, one must understand what it means: who were the Ahl as-Suffa and what does it mean for someone who is claiming to be a Sufi, and who is living under the name of those people. There is a saying of the Beloved Prophet, Salla Allahu ta'ala alayhi wa Sallam: the souls are like armies gathered together, those who know each other, agree with each other. Those who do not know each other, disagree.
And there is a similar statement by Sayyadina Ali, (may Allah be pleased with him),
Now, Shaykh Suhrawardi says:
The 12th century scholar Abu al-Najib al-Suhrawardi (Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu) wrote a treatise on adaab which included instructions for conduct at meals and with guests, many of which echo those of Data Ali Hujwiri (May Allah be pleased with Him). First in importance was that one should eat in company whenever possible, whether informally with companions, graciously with guests, or generously with the poor, and always with impeccable courtesy. One should eat only when hungry, and stop before becoming full.
Abu al-Najib al-Suhrawardi (Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu) also advised that travelers not carry food on their journeys. To do so constitutes an exercise of the quality of tawakkul — wholehearted faith in Allah as Provider, humility in the face of that fact, and acceptance of what is given — into a context in which one is most vulnerable. Hungry strangers who consciously leave the provisioning to God expose and confront their dependence on Divine grace, generosity and protection. Consequently, the conditions are created for others to serve as vehicles of those qualities.
According to Abu al-Najib al-Suhrawardi (Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu), the Sufi must greet and honour all guests, and share with them whatever pure food or drink is available without fuss or ceremony. The guest, in turn, should sit where placed by the host, and express appreciation.
Each year Shaykh Shahabuddin Suhrawardi would leave Baghdad to perform the hajj. But when he grew old and infirm, food prepared for him on the journey did not please him: he no longer liked to eat cold food. His disciple Shaikh Jalaluddin Tabrizi then devised a way to carry a hearth and a pot on his head, and to keep the hearth lit without burning himself. Whenever the Shaykh wished to eat, his disciple would then serve him hot food!
Many early Sufis were particularly assiduous about the earthly source of their meals.
How The Mureed Should Behave Towards His or Her Shaykh
Know this: It belongs to the most important rules of the mureed, that she or he takes care of behaving properly towards her or his shaykh, because of the fact that the guarding of the ways of behaviour creates love in the heart. It so happens that the beauty of your spirit and the perfection of your intelligence can only be seen in the shape of the beauty of your way of behaviour. If you are always courteous towards your shaykh, then because of the love that is created you'll win a place in the heart of your shaykh and then the eye of the mercy of God will rest on you. God is always looking with the eye of mercy and care on the hearts of His friends. If the mureed finds a fixed place in the heart of her/his shaykh, then the blessings of the always lasting divine mercy will be hers/his. The acceptance by the shaykh will be the sign that he has no objection towards you and is the clear proof of the being accepted by God and His Messenger (Peace and blessings be upon him) and all the shaykhs who are the linking-pins between your shaykh and the Beloved Messenger of God.
Some of the duties towards your shaykh you can only realise by showing good manners. By showing respect towards religious scholars and shaykhs, who are your spiritual fathers, you fulfil an important duty and if you would neglect these things then this is nothing else but negligence and disobedience. In the ahadith it is said: "Who does not honour our great ones and who does not show mercy towards our 'little ones' and who does not acknowledge the right of our scholars, does not belong to us". If you neglect the right of your shaykh, who as a mediator represents by his right the right of God, then you also fail in your duty towards God, because "if you show neglect towards your lowest lord, then you will not reach your highest Lord". The shaykh in the midst of his companions who gives them teachings is like the prophet in the midst of his companions. When the shaykh calls you to the path of the imitation of the messenger of God, then he is the representative of the messenger of God: "The shaykh among his community is like the prophet in his community".
At the moment there are fifteen rules for the mureeds towards their shaykh present in my spirit. These are both universal as well as particular rules.
The first rule expresses the conviction that only your shaykh should take care of your education, guidance, training and teaching. If you should look towards someone else as being comparable to him or even more perfect than him, then your connection with your shaykh, based on love and inclination, is weak and because of that the words and the spiritual states of your shaykh will have little effect on you. The way by means of which words get through to you and give you a connection with the states of your shaykh, is love. If your love is more perfect, then the more your disposition will be open to be educated by your shaykh.
The second rule implies the fixed decision to persevere in the obedience towards your shaykh. You should know that the door of the divine mercy will only open because of your constancy in obedience and service. Either I give my life at his doorstep or I'll reach my goal. A sign hereof is that you do not turn away, when your shaykh says no to you and when he keeps you at a distance, because a shaykh often tests you when he scans your spiritual states.
Abu 'Uthman-e-Hiri [d. 298/910-11; he has been of prime importance in the Sufism of Khorasan] came to Neshapur obeying [his shaykh] Shah-e-Kermani [d. before 300/912-13; he was a mureed of Abu Turab an-Nakhshabi] to visit Abu Hafs-e-Haddad [d. 270/883-4 or earlier; he was a malamatiyya, that is he followed the path of blame]. When he saw the light of his sanctity, his [Abu Hafs] blessed look attracted him in such a way that he [Abu 'Uthman] became a prisoner in his net. When the time to return had come, he then asked Shah-e-Kermani if he could stay [with Abu Hafs]. At that time he was in the midst of his youth. Abu Hafs however chased him away and said: "You are not allowed to sit in my company". He then obeyed this decision and retreated, walking with his back towards the door, until the shaykh could no longer see him. Abu 'Uthman then decided that he would dig a hole near his door and to remain sitting in it and not to come out except if Abu Hafs would accept him and call him. When Abu Hafs saw his honest determination, he called him, made him one of his special companions, married his daughter to him and appointed him as his successor. After the death of this shaykh, he sat for thirty years in his place.
The third rule implies that you submit yourself to the choices of your shaykh. As a mureed you should accept every decision of your shaykh dealing with your person or with your possessions and you should obey every decision being submitted and content. This is the only way that you can win the jewel of his attention and his love. Only by this measuring rod the quality of your sincerity can be determined according to the advice present in the following words [Qur'an 4:65]: "Yet by your Lord, they will never believe until they name you to judge concerning what they are quarrelling over among themselves concerning whatever you have decided, and will accept it wholeheartedly".
Question: How do you know that you can trust your shaykh (or your shaykh to be if you are not yet his mureed)? As you know there are many charlatans around who are only interested in your money or are eager to increase their power over other persons.
The fourth rule stipulates that you should not criticise [your shaykh]. The mureed should never occupy himself/herself, neither inwardly nor outwardly, with criticising the choices and decisions of his/her shaykh. Each time when something is unclear regarding the behaviour of your shaykh then you should think of the story of Moses and Khidr [see Qur'an 18:60-82), wherein Moses in spite of being a Prophet, his great knowledge and his passionate devotion to Khidr, criticised several of the acts of Khidr, but he changed his ideas after hearing an explanation of their inner meanings. If your shaykh does something which you cannot understand, then you should say that it is because of your limited understanding and knowledge and in no way has it to do with a wrong behaviour of your shaykh. Thus you will be free of the possibility that the relationship with your shaykh will suffer and that love may diminish. A mureed of al-Junayd [d. 910 C.E.] asked him a question and then criticised his answer. Al-Junayd then said (Qur'an 44:21): 'When you do not believe me, then keep away from me'
The fifth rule demands that you decline from making your own choices. The mureed is not allowed to undertake anything - neither religious nor worldly, universal or particular - without finding out what the shaykh wants and chooses. You should not eat nor drink, nor dress yourself, nor give presents, nor sleep, nor take, nor give but with the permission of the shaykh. You should not perform any religious practices without the permission and the specification of your shaykh, like for instance fasting or taking food, voluntary devotional practices or limiting yourself to those practices which are obligatory or the remembrance of God, the recitation of the Qur'an and being absorbed in something. It so happened one night that the messenger passed the house of Sayyadina Abu Bakr (radi Allahu ta'ala anhu) and overheard him reciting the Qur'an in his nightly prayers with a low voice. Then he passed the house of 'Umar (radi Allahu ta'ala anhu) and heard him recite the Qur'an in his nightly prayers in a loud voice. When the two of them came to the messenger of God in the morning he asked Abu Bakr (radi Allahu ta'ala anhu) why he recited the Qur'an in his nightly prayers in a low voice. He answered: "I listen to the One with Whom I converse". He asked Sayyadina 'Umar (radi Allahu ta'ala anhu) why he recited in a loud voice. He answered: "I drive away the Satan and I awake the one who is sleeping". Then he ordered them that they should not recite in a too soft voice nor in a voice that is too loud, they should follow a middle course. Then the Quranic verse 17:110 was revealed: "And pray neither with a loud nor with a low voice, but follow a middle course". This is a proof that when you have a spiritual guide you should not follow your own insight. This is also true when this concerns a true insight.
The sixth rule implies the observing of the thoughts of your shaykh. The mureed is not allowed to undertake anything, which rejects the thoughts of one's shaykh. You should not consider them to be of little importance, because you rely on the kindness, the perfect clemency, the friendliness and the forgiveness of your shaykh. What enters the consciousness of shaykhs because of rejection or acceptance has a very strong influence on the person of the disciple.
The seventh rule demands of you that you ask your shaykh to give an explanation of your visions. The mureed should depend on his or her shaykh in regard to the explanation of visions, no matter if they come in your sleep or during your wakefulness. You should not independently decide on your own that there is no harm in them. It is namely possible that such visions come about because of secret desires in your soul, but that you are not able to see them as such and that they are judged to be harmless, which may not be the case. When you however speak about it with your shaykh and your shaykh by his rich knowledge gets really acquainted with it, then you have the opinion of your shaykh to help you to realise it in a practical way when it is harmless. When it may mean an injury, then this has also become clear.
The eighth rule demands that you give an attentive ear to the words of your shaykh. The mureed should wait and be attentive in regard to everything that comes from the lips of his or her shaykh. He or she should see his tongue as a means of expression of the speech of God and be convinced that he (your shaykh) speaks by means of God and that his speech does not stem from his own desire and that he has reached the station of 'He is speaking by me'. You should see his heart as a boisterous sea, filled with all kinds of pearls of knowledge and precious gems of gnosis, a sea which every now and then - because of the blowing of the winds of pre-eternal providence - may cast some of these pearls and precious stones on the shore of the tongue. You should therefore take care and be attentive, so that you are not excluded from anything from the words of your shaykh, which may be useful and beneficial to you.
You should also try to harmonize every word of your shaykh with your own state. You should imagine that you are formulating a request for your well-being at the door of God with a receptive tongue and in the measure of your receptivity a speech coming from the unseen descends to you. When you are talking with your shaykh you should keep away from your own ego, you should be far away from hypocrisy by showing your own knowledge and gnosis and by presenting yourself as beautiful and perfect. Because when you try to speak yourself and when you are waiting for the oppurtunity to talk yourself, then you remove yourself from the position of a mureed and the ear of your heart will become deaf to the words of your shaykh. In their explanations of the reason that the Qur'anic verse 49:1: 'O, believers! Do not press forward before Allah and His Messenger…' has been revealed, some commentators have written: There have been people in the company of the messenger of God who - when someone asked him a question - developed the habit to give their own opinion, this until the Almighty by means of this verse from the Qur'an made it clear that this was wrong and forbidden.
The nineth rule demands that you should lower your voice. When you are together with your shaykh you should not speak with a loud voice, as it is not courteous. It is as if you put down the robe of dignity. In order to teach something the following verse in the Qur'an (49:2) has been revealed: 'O, believers! Do not raise your voices above the prophet's voice!' Thereafter their words were difficult to understand as they were lowering their voices too much. That is why the following verse (49:3) from the Qur'an has been revealed: 'Those who lower their voices in the presence of the messenger of God are those whose hearts God has tested for reverence'.
The tenth rule implies that you do not show negligence in your behaviour. A too free type of behaviour in the contact with your shaykh is not allowed, neither in words nor in deeds, because if you just let it all go then the veil of modesty and the dress of worthy behaviour are taken away and the flow of mercy then gets interrupted. You should use respectful terms when addressing him, so you should say: 'Sir!' or 'O, my Shaykh!'
The companions of the prophet - in the beginning - did not use respectful terms when using his name. They said: 'Mohammad!' and 'Ahmad!' until this was disallowed in the word of God (see Qur'an 49:2) that was sent down:
And do not be loud in speaking to him, as you speak loudly to one another, lest your works come to grieve while you are unaware.
Thereafter they addressed him by using 'Messenger of God!' or 'Prophet of God!'.
Representatives of the Banu Tamim, in order to get him out, shouted out in front of the inner apartments of the Prophet: 'Muhammad! Come out to us!'
Then these elevated words were revealed (Qur'an 49:4-5): Those who shout out to you from without the inner apartments, most of them do not understand. Had they waited for you to come out to meet them, it would have been better for them.
Just as you should not be to free in your speech to your shaykh, you should see it as your duty to honour and respect him in your acts. That is why, when you are in the company of your shaykh, you should roll out your praying-carpet only during the times of the ritual prayers. When listening to Sufi music you should refrain from making movements and you should not call out, and as long as you have the power to control yourself, you should not move when you are in the company of the shaykh. You should also refrain from laughing.
The eleventh rule implies, that you should recognise the right moment to speak. In case the mureed would like to discuss important religious or worldly things, then you should first ascertain whether the shaykh is willing to use his own time in such a way, is willing to listen to you or not. You should not be in a hurry to talk to your shaykh. Start to concentrate on the Almighty and ask Him for His grace and ask for help coming from His divine glory, so that you may not make any mistakes in regard to the proper rules of behaviour.
It is also proper, when coming thus near to God, to give something away in charity. This is just like the companions of the messenger of God - God's blessings and peace be upon him - had to do if they wanted to speak with him, as is said by God in Qur'an 58: 12 thus:
If you have something to discuss privately with the messenger,
Then spend something in charity
Before your private consultation.
Ibn 'Abbaas (radi Allahu ta'ala anhu) ['Abdallah Ibn al-'Abbaas, d. 687-90, was a very important scholar in the first generation of Muslims] has said: 'The actual cause for the revelation of this verse of the Qur'an was that the people in their contact with the messenger of God asked him too many importune questions and thus wearied him. That is why these words have been revealed. Thus it is possible to see who is a friend and who is a hypocrite. It is said that Sayyadina 'Ali (radi Allahu ta'ala anhu) was the only one to practice what was said in this verse. He always gave a dinaar and thereafter he spoke with the messenger. It is said that 'Ali has claimed the following: 'In the book of God there is a verse and no one has acted on it before me and no one will act on it after me'.
The twelfth rule implies that you should guard the boundaries of your own spiritual station. The mureed should, when asking questions to the shaykh, preserve the limits of his or her own station. Only when something is hidden to yourself concerning your own spiritual state, should you ask for an explanation. Do not ask questions about other things, and this is also true regarding things not related to your station nor to your state. So do not speak about these things, as it is not useful to do so and possibly even harmful. Ask about those things, which are necessary because of your spiritual state. The word which knows no beginning, gave - see Qur'an 5:101 - while forbidding superfluous questions, the following advice:
Do not ask questions
About things which if made known to you,
May cause you trouble!
The profitable word is that which you utter to the degree of the understanding of the hearer. The profitable question is that one which corresponds with the station of the hearer (of the response).
The thirteenth rule implies that you keep silent about the secrets of your shaykh. Supernatural powers, visions and other things, concealed by the shaykh, for its divulging you should not ask permission. Because in concealing it, your shaykh has seen a religious or worldly advantage and you are not always able to be aware thereof. In divulging the same damage may be caused.
This rule also implies that the secrets of the mureed, which are known by the shaykh, belong to the secrets of the shaykh. The following lines describe his situation:
There are many sincere and noble people,
Whose secrets I conceal from others,
As I hide them all in myself.
In every heart there is a corner, which is free,
A realm for intimate conversations,
And their revealing is not desirable.
The fourteenth rule implies that you should reveal your own secrets to your shaykh. It is not allowed that the mureed hides his or her secrets for the shaykh. Every gift of grace and each other gift, as has been willed to be yours by God, should be shown in clear language or explanations to the shaykh, so that he can be the judge thereof.
It is like this, that when in your consciousness a personal secrets remains hidden, then in your inner being a knot may form itself, which may make it impossible to receive advice and help from the shaykh. When you present it to your shaykh, then the knot opens up and the impediment is removed. The fifteenth rule implies that what you tell about your shaykh (or when you tell something that comes from your shaykh) it should be compatible with the understanding of the one you tell it to. Do not pass on those things, which are unclear or very subtle, as the one who listens to you cannot understand the same. A speech, from which the listener cannot derive what the one who has been speaking has meant, is useless and can be harmful. The one listening could form a bad opinion about your shaykh.
When the disciple observes all these rules, then the acquisition of the lights of the divine mercy and the descent of God's boundless blessing - towards which you aimed - will be revealed in your outward and inner being, and you will take your place in the inner circle
Please note that the aim of the aforesaid rules is only to realise the proper behaviour in order that teaching and learning can take place. Every Sufi order and every shaykh modifies the above according to the place, the time and the people concerned.
This concludes the translation of the 15 rules from Mahmud-e-Qashani in his 'Lamp of Guidance and the Key to what is Sufficient'.
Mohammed Siraj Elschot, (Krimpen a/d Yssel, Holland,)
(received on October 31st 2000)
Published by The Zahuri Sufi Web Site October 2000
From The Book of Radiance,
by Imam Shihab al-Din Suhrawardi, trans. Hossein Ziai. Mazda Publishers, California: 1998.
On Prophecy, Miracles, Miraculous Powers, Dreams, and Similar Phenomena
 There are several conditions for the prophet [Lawgiver]. He must be appointed apostle by the High Heavens, which is a condition specific to prophets. The rest of the conditions, such as extraordinary acts, foretelling visions, or learning truths without a teacher, may be possessed by other great divinely informed souls. Also, it is possible that some saints and lofty humans be divinely informed. It is not necessary that each and every prophet possess truths of the highest nature [to an extent more than anyone else], because many of the learned people and scholars of their [Muslim] nation--such as Abu Bakr, 'Umar, 'Uthman, 'Ali, Hudhayfa, Hasan al-Basri, Dhu'l-Nun al-Misri, Sahl Tustari, Bayzid, Ibrahim ibn Adham, Junayd, and Shibli (may Allah's paradise be bestowed upon them all) and others--are more learned in the sciences than the Israelite prophets. Moses's need for Khidr (upon whom be peace) is indicative of this situation: perhaps a prophet, as Lawgiver, may be in need of enlightened scholars. Also the story of how David employed Luqman's aid is famous. While what I have said is not clear proof, demonstration does not bar it.
 Dreams [occur] when the animal soul is suppressed away from the outer senses [affecting] the inner ones. And whoever continually meditates upon the heavens and abstains from pleasures, including food--save in amounts that are needed for survival--and prays at night holding vigils and reads much of divine revelation and frees the mind through thinking good thoughts and, at times puts the soul to test and carries inward conversations with God in the High Heavens and praises Him, then "lights" like dazzling flashes of lightning shall be cast upon him. He shall then [experience such things] without interruption so the lights will appear to him even in times other that when meditating. He may also behold pleasant shapes. A tremendous dazzling flash may beckon the soul to the unseen realm. Luminosity more radiant than the light of the sun shall fall upon the sensus communis, thus causing one to experience pleasure. This light becomes internalized by the enlightened sages so that, whenever they will it, they shall see it and thus be guided by it to ascend to the realm of light and so come to reside in pure circumstances. These dazzling lights and thunder are not [the same as] scientific knowledge nor mental images, rather they are rays of divine lights. Incorporeal lights appear from the Heavenly realm. The lights of the Necessary Being and the lights of the Intellects are without limits in their degree of luminosity. The enlightened souls shall behold them in the hereafter even more clearly as what the eye sees, more luminous than any corporeal light. The light of separate entities is not in addition to their quiddities, rather they are themselves abstract, incorporeal lights, just as the luminous sage-philosophers have testified based on their visions.
The thought of the spiritual worlds sheds light on the soul, but the thought of the terrestrial worlds casts darkness thereon". -Hadhrat 'Uthman (May Allah be pleased with him)
Shaykh Ibn al 'Arabi (May Allah be pleased with him) the Great Sufi thinker and philosopher once in Baghdad had a meeting with Shaykh Shihab al-Din ‘Umar al-Suhrawardi, author of the ‘Awarif al-ma’arif.
‘…both of them bowed their heads for an hour without uttering a word to each other and then parted. When Ibn ‘Arabi was asked his opinion of al-Suhrawardi he said, “He is embued from head to foot with the norm of the Prophet”. When asked for his opinion of Ibn ‘Arabi, al-Suhrawardi said, “He is an ocean of divine truths.”
Imam al-Dhahabi - a Suhrawardi and Akbari Sufi:
He said: "Our Shaykh the ascetic Muhaddith Diya' al-Din `Isa ibn Yahya al-Ansari vested me with the Sufi cloak in Cairo saying, 'Shaykh Shihab al-Din al-Suhrawardi vested me with it in Makka from his uncle Abu al-Najib.'" Siyar A`lam al-Nubala' (Fikr ed. 16:300-302 §5655=Risala ed. 22:377).
In his chapter on "the Imam, the Muhaddith, the Examplar, the Shaykh of the Sufis" Abu al-Qasim al-Nasrabadhi, al-Dhahabi established as authentic the chain of transmission of the Sufi cloak from al-Qushayri, from Abu `Ali al-Daqqaq, from al-Nasrabadhi, from Abu Bakr al-Shibli, from al-Junayd, from al-Sari al-Saqati, from Ma`ruf al-Karkhi.
Al-Dhahabi makes countless mentions of his Shaykh Ahmad ibn Ishaq ibn Muhammad al-Misri al-Abarquhi, one of those he says transmitted the Suhrawardi Sufi path cf. Siyar (Fikr ed. 17:118-119 §6084; missing from the Risala edition). Al-Dhahabi venerated him and related from him in Mu`jam al-Shuyukh al- Kabir (1:37) that he said in his last illness while he was in Makka: "I will die in this illness because the Prophet upon him blessings and peace - promised me that I would die in Makka."
Al-Dhahabi also received the Sufi cloak of Shaykh Muhyi al- Din Ibn `Arabi and the transmission of all his works as we mention below, in the section on Ibn Hajar, even if he did not spare him his criticism.
Al-Dhahabi said in al-Muqiza (p. 88-90):
"The critic of a genuine Sufi (muhiqq al-sufiyya) becomes a target of the hadith: 'Whosoever shows enmity to a single one of My Friends, I have declared war on him.' While one that abandons all condemnation for what is clearly wrong in what he hears from some of them, abandons the commanding of good and the forbidding of evil."