Know your station in Tariqa
Audhu billahi min ash-shaitan ir-rajeem Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Raheem
Allah is saying in the Holy Qu’ran. “Bismillah ir Rahman ir-Raheem. Obey Allah (swt), obey the Prophet Sayyidina Muhammad (s), and obey your leaders,” This means your shaykhs. And Prophet Sayyidina Muhammed (s) said in a sahih hadith, “ad-deenu naseeha” – “Religion is advice.” Religion is not a lecture for a scholar to give and go. It is advice, and advice doesn’t come except through experience. Advice cannot be theoretical. The person giving the advice must have experienced the matter he is advising on.
Sayyidina Shah Naqshaband said, “tariqatuna as-suhbah wal-khayru fil-jam`iyya” – “Our tariqat is association, it is keeping company, suhbah, association, and the best of the gathering is in coming together.” Or it can be said, “Our way is guidance, and the best is in association.” Without association, without advice, there is no way to benefit.
Now, everytime Maulana Shaykh asks me to say something, I feel shy. Because all of you, masha-Allah, are senior murids. And all of you have extensive experience, and you have stars here on your shoulders, like our brother Shaykh Ali here–you are all officers. It is impossible for a soldier to give advice to an officer. So as much as Mawlana says, “Say something,” I feel, myself, that I know nothing. And this is a test me for me also, that I have been put in such a corner. Because I feel that whatever I may say, some people accept, and some people do not accept. I don’t want to say that it useless, because as long as one person is benefitting, I will speak. But, at the same time I feel shy from those who are not happy with what I am saying. And they might feel that they are being forced to listen.
I was very young when I came to Maulana Shaykh. It is not necessary to say what I saw from Mawlana, but don’t expect that the ego is going to surrender easily. Ego never surrenders. Even if one of us says we love Mawalana Shaykh Nazim, our ego is not surrendering. We are traveling from very far distances and coming over here [England] to sit with Mawlana Shaykh for ten days or one week, some people come for three days–travelling a long distance, staying for three days and then going. Even those ones, with all this enthusiasm and energy, their ego is not surrendering.
And how do you know that the ego is not surrendering? It is easy. When the shaykh sends you a test. Shaykhs usually send tests, not for them to know where you have reached, or if you failed, or didn’t fail–Because they know already. They do not need to know by means of a test, because they are the ones that are behind you–but they want YOU to know where you are standing by yourself.
If a child–a baby–doesn’t fall down, he never learns how to walk. We have to fall down, and they let us fall down, in order that we can stand one day. And we can come to them. The baby’s mother tries to put him at a distance, one or two meters away from her, and she calls him so that he walks a little towards her and then falls–then she catches him. Through this way she trains him how to come to her next time, walking.
These tests are being put in front of us so that we never lose hope, we must always keep in our minds that one day we are going to surrender. The Prophet (s) is the Perfect Man, Sayyidina Muhammad (s), he is the Perfect Human Being, he is the Perfect Soul, that Allah created, he is the Perfect One and the first one to be in the Divine Presence, he is the Mirror and the Door for all creation. With all that, nevertheless his life was full of difficulty and struggle (s).
The Quraish came to him and said, “Ya Muhammed (s)! If you want wealth, we will give it to you. If you want the Kabaa, we will give it to you. If you want fame, we will give it to you. If you want position, we’ll put you as the leader.” And he (s) said to them, his famous answer, “If they put the sun in my right hand, and the moon in my left hand, I will never leave this message behind.” So whatever is going to happen, we must struggle for the best. We must keep our beliefs, that our shaykh is coming, showing us, and opening for us this way, the right way.
First we must reach out to our Shaykh’s heart. From him to the Prophet (s). From him (s), to the Divine Presence. As Allah said in the Holy Qur’an, “When human beings become oppressors to themselves, they come to you, O Muhammed (s).” This is the Holy Qur’an. The meaning of intercession, “They come to you Ya Muhammed (s), and they repent to Allah (swt),” and it is not enough. Allah said it! If it were enough to repent to Allah then a person could stop there, but it doesn’t stop there. When they turn to Muhammad (s) and he asks forgiveness on their behalf, at THAT time they will find Allah forgiving.
Allah said it! If it were enough to repent to Allah then a person could stop at that, but the verse of Quran did not stop there. The whole verse is: “and when they had wronged themselves, if they had come to you and asked Allah’s forgiveness and asked the Prophet (s) had asked forgiveness for them, then they would find Allah Forgiving, Merciful.” “At that time they will find Allah forgiving” means that it is a condition that the the Prophet (s) make repentance on our behalf. And those are the leaders referred to by Allah the holy Quran when He said, “obey Allah, obey the Prophet (s) and obey your leaders”. It means when we repent, we really have to repent in their presence to Allah (swt) and they are with their good prayer (salih du`a), supplications because they are pious people to convey that repentance to Allah. As Allah said, “oh belivers, fear Allah and be with trustworthy people”. These are trustworthy people. When they are raising up their hands asking “Ya Allah, forgive so-and-so!”, Allah will forgive you.
We are all babies and we are falling, up and down. One day up one day down, one day down and one day up. Even though, when the baby falls down the baby doesn’t know what he is doing, his mother is happy with him, his family is happy, his parents are happy. They clean him, they bathe him, they put powder on him, and they don’t ever get fed up with raising their children. All of us, we are in the eyes of our Shaykh’s as children and that is why he bathes us, he cleans us, he powders us to smell nice although in reality we are smelling dirty. But he powders us with some kind of fragrance–expensive ones.
Rich people, they don’t like to buy cheap perfume, fakes, mixed with alcohol–they buy the old precious ones with the trademark names, the brand names. They say “fifty pounds, that is good.” They say “two pounds, that is no good.” Shaykh is powdering us with such kind od expensive fragrances, don’t let it be lost or wasted through continuing bad manners and bad character.
All of us are still babies, but some of us are still being carried around: infants. Some are crawling on four, like some other kind of creation which I don’t want to name, because then they will say “Shaykh Hisham called us animals.” This is because I am under severe supervision, they look at every word I say, so they leave the good the 99% what was said in the lecture, and they criticize. I am happy with this criticiscm as then I correct myself so that next time, I will be more accurate. So we have to be very balanced, considering everyone’s heart.
To continue, others can walk and crawl on four, or they can walk on two. Others, can walk and fall, while others can walk firmly. Though they can walk, still their mothers are holding their hands. They cannot leave that toddler by himself because if she leaves him by himself, he will take everything on tables and destroy them and wreck the house. Because when he starts walking, he becomes trouble; he becomes very noisy. His mother and father have to run all day from one room to another room to catch him, because if a door is open he might go out and be hit by a car and die. He will ruin himself, that is the most dangerous state. When he becomes a bit more mature they leave to do their work, they are now trusting him in his actions. Though he might still make mistakes but these can be overlooked, now these are minor mistakes. Until he becomes responsible and shari`ah gave responsibility of the obligations for every child when he becomes 15 years of age and reaches maturity.
But in tariqat even if you reach the age of 70 years, you are still considered a child with no true “responsibility”. Don’t say “I have been with the shaykh for 70 years but I didn’t reach anywhere!” Look what could have happened. You might have destroyed yourself and those who are around you.
[commentary: Shaykh Hisham means here: the shaykhs do not hand us our spiritual trusts (amanaat), as we are incapable of employing them properly–rather we might cause great harm rather than any good. Thus one never sees miraculous powers or karamat appear from the murids of Shaykh Nazim, and often we feel like we have accomplished little in terms of spiritual progress. This is in contrast to other tariqats, where often kashf, and some miraculous powers are granted to murids even in early stages of the path. Wallahu `aalim – and Allah knows best.]
You must reach a state at which they allow you to make your way by yourself. Still whenever you fall down they pull you up. You are going to fall down, it is impossible to say “no, I will not make mistakes. I am a big shaykh now. No way, I am a deputy. I am a senior murid. I am a representative, I make dhikr, Shaykh gave me permission to make dhikr. O I am a big balloon now.” (Laughter) Full of air inside. Pssh! [makes motion like letting air out of balloon] You are finished. You must be like a rocket, determined, then nothing will affect you, as you raise and carry those who are with you to the presence of the Shaykh.
“Deputy” is a big title; “Representative” (of the shaykh) is a big title. It means the shaykh depends on that person in his presence and in his absence to give advice, to healing by Allah’s permission, to do recitations, to express the meanings of dreams, to guide murids, to conduct dhikr, to give permissions for others to conduct dhikr, and to raise up murids to stations where they can can walk. To raise infants until they can walk, or reach an age where they can walk. Then he will take them and present them to the Shaykh.
Sayyidina Khalid Al-Baghdadi (q) had 300 deputies, 300 khalifas. We say “khalifa” in Arabic, but Arabs know “khalifa” does not mean “successor”, it means “deputy”. He had 300 deputies and he was spreading them East and West, and all of them were calling murids to the presence of the Shaykh; all of them were leading to the Shaykh. However, this resulted in the formation of three- hundred branches of the Naqshbandi Taraqat after Sayyidina Khalid passed away. Yes? Don’t forget. This resulted in 300 different branches because everyone was so connected to the khalifa they were associating with, the one that Sayyidina Khalid had sent them.
Each one was so affiliated to his local khalifa, saying ” O, that one is mine! That is my guide, after the Shaykh that one is my guide, I cannot accept the others.” It might be that others are higher, but because he has no contact with them, he knows nothing about them. He was connected to the one he was following, and that one he was following was taking him to the presence of Sayiddina Khalid. Nonetheless, some of them were taking their followers on donkeys, as if riding donkeys; some as by camel, some as walking, some as if by car, some as if by planes, some as if by train, some as if by rockets, depending on the capability of the deputy or the khalifa.
But in this is goodness also, and a purpose, as when Sayiddina Khalid passed away there were 300 branches. But the secret of the Golden Chain went to one branch: it didn’t go to the other 299. So what happened with the 299? Do we say that they are disconnected? No. They are not, and that’s why in Sufism, there are two kinds of shaykh: Shaykh ul-wilaya and Shaykh at-tabarruk. The Shaykh ul-wilayat is the shaykh with saintly power, and the power to raise his murids to sainthood, the shaykh that is carrying the main secret. The others are the shaykhs that carry the tajalli, the baraka, the blessing of the tariqat. This is so the baraka spreads far and wide, because there is hikmah-wisdom behind everything. One is carrying the power and secret of sainthood, he is the one to whom the main branch has been given. The main secret, the main electric current. You see, this electricity is coming to the building from the outside, but it lights the whole building. Each lamp represents a branch, but the whole power is coming from the outside. Understood?
These branches they can only give light like two or three lamps. If you put more on them the glass bursts. That was the situation of the 300 representatives of Sayiddina Khalid Baghdadi. One of them is the mainstream, but the rest are small ones, shining only in that area surroundings their local people. It is the Shaykh ul-Wilaya, the Shaykh of sainthood, who will be the one carring the whole responsibility of a shaykh, the others are shaykhs whose job is to spread the tariqat throughout East and West. Through them, the 299–because that one cannot be everywhere–but these 299, they made 299 branches, each one in a different place so the word of mouth was going forth everywhere and more people were coming into the Way. Although the main secret is not reaching their heart, yet at least they are connected to this Way. That is because anyone who says “I am a Naqshbandi” must have been in the presence of the Prophet (saws) and in the presence of Sayiddina Abu Bakr (r) when he was present in the cave of Thawr, when the Prophet (s) migrated from Mecca to Madinah. That is when they received for the first time the Naqshbandi Order through Sayiddina Abu Bakr (r) and for the first time the Khatim Shareef was done in that cave. Everyone who says “I am a Naqshbandi” even though he is connected through one of the branches, through the Shaykh al-baraka, yet through the word of mouth he was present there. Nonetheless, the main secret is going to be with one.
So, some of the 299 of Sayiddina Khalid Al-Baghdadi accepted the primary one to carry the main secret, but many others did not. Some were transferring their followers to that one: Shaykh Ismail, but the others did not. So, also these type of branches happened the same way during Grandshaykh’s time. I was present, I was sitting there, I was in Syria. Many Syrian murids of Grandshaykh at that time accepted Mawlana Shaykh and some others they did not. That is ego, egoism. How they are going to accept? They were big Shaykhs, big turbans, bigger than Mawlana Shaykh Nazim’s turban. Some of them had forty yards on their heads, yes! (Laughter) They were present when Mawlana Grandshaykh was making his will, for that week while he was passing away, they were present sitting there and they were pushing and looking at Mawlana Grandshaikh, “where is our name in the will?” and their names were not mentioned. They were there, sitting there and when Mawlana went, after he wrote the will they made one copy, and they were adding in their names. I cannot say their names. That is always the case, so we must be open in our hearts.
As Shaykh Jamaluddin said, “the ego doesn’t allow you to accept the facts and the truth.” He is going around by order of Mawlana Shaikh Nazim from one place to another in Europe. That is why he is experiencing that, and that is what tariqat is: tariqat is experience. You cannot sit at home and say “I am doing my business work; my job in the university; I am teaching; I am doing my business through my office and I am in tariqat; I make dhikr and come at night and makedhikr and I know everything!” No! That is not experience, experience means rubbing with the people, to come and address people and to see how they think, how they feel under their difficulties, through tests, through different ways of testing, and that way you build up your experience.
That is why Mawlana Shaikh wants you to travel–in order to pick up more and more and learn from this culture and from that culture. He wants us to be aware of everything [in that culture before speaking]. However, that doesn’t mean you have no permission to speak with those people if you don’t know their culture. No. Speak with whomever you like. But keep in mind you must be careful about things in the people’s culture you are unaware of.
I was in America and one time a man was coming to me complaining, saying “Shaikh, I want to empty my heart to you.” This is what he said: “I don’t like to accept the way you are treating us!” He’s a good person, and he likes me, but that’s not to say what he did was right. I will only say one thing, it shows you how much the ego is bad. It is impossible, it is incredible! He is American, and that is their way–to express everything, not to keep anything inside. They must express what they feel or they feel like they will explode.
He said, “This is a free country, and we are not Nazis here. Here there is no struggle, you cannot force people.” I said, ” I never forced anyone in America, anyone.” He said, “No, no, no, you are forcing everyone.” I said, “In what?” He said, “People, when they come to see you, at Zuhr time, or `Asr time, or at Maghrib time–it is a very big complaint, it is considered a very big complaint for everyone, Americans, that they feel shy to pray. He said “you are interfering in our private matters”. I was thinking “Judgement Day is coming to me I am in a big problem.” (laughter) He said “when we come to visit you , sometime we come at Zuhr time, or `Asr time and you are eating, and you put food in front of us to eat and we say ‘no.’ Then you force us to eat, saying “you sat, now you have to eat!” You cannot say to us `eat!’ by force. We are Americans, we are in a free country, you cannot force us! This is oppression; this is tyranny; we don’t want to eat”.
In our country if you don’t insist, the guest always feels shy to say “yes” when asked to eat. If you don’t insist on him eating we feel that we have insulted the guest. In American culture, it is completely the opposite. If you insist on him, “eat!”, it means you are interfering; When he says “no.” it means he doesn’t want to eat, so why are you forcing him to eat? He is coming to tell me that these are the things that Americans complain about me. So it is for that they complain.
So it is a big issue for Americans which for us is generosity. So Mawlana Shaikh sends his murids or his senior murids or his deputies to go around, to know different countries. Because all cultures must disslove in this tariqah. We can not say we are americans; We are French; we are Arab; we are German; we are Turkish; we are English; we are Scottish; we are Irish; we are Malaysian; we are Pakistani. There must be one symbol. That is the love of our Shaikh–we are all together from him. That is the greates aim and that is why Mawlana sends everyone to learn, to get experience.
The most important hadith Shaikh was Imam Bukhari. Imam Bukhari never wrote hadith before he would make a shower, pray two rakats and sleep. Then he would see the Prophet (s) in a dream, telling him “put that hadith first; put that hadith second; put that hadith third; put the name of that chapter as ‘Chapter of Ablution (wudhu), Chapter of zakat, Chapter of Prayer (salat),’ and accordingly every chapter. He never recited a hadith although it is allowed, unless he took a shower, prayed two rakats, slept and then sees the Prophet (s) by dream coming to him and saying to him `put that there`. The first hadith he put in his book was, “One’s deeds are according to one’s intention, if his intention is for Allah and His Prophet (s), the he will be given according to his intention.” Even if he may be wrong [in what he is doing] but his intention is good [he will be rewarded accordingly]. “And whose intention is for dunya, for the pleasure of this world that person will find that also.”
So these intentions are very important matters that we must look at. It might be that person, is not lucky, but he is trying to do all his best. But because he is not lucky, they put him down. Then he will become tired.
And that is what Prophet (s) said, “beware the patience of the patient one, it may be he would explode.” When that happens he moves like a train, taking and destroying everyone in front of him. So, the intentions, we have to make them, and that is why the Prophet (s) said, “Always you have to view every good deed, everything taken in a good interpretation.” Don’t take matters with a wrong interpretation because you can not see the hearts, you cannot understand what is in the hearts. If you take a wrong interpretation, a dark understanding of that person’s intentions you are making a mistake. If you are taking everything with a good interpretation, EVERYTHING, he said, EVERYTHING, in a good interpretation you might be correct. That’s why we have to be, in relation to Mawlana Shaykh, one hand. Not babies, still falling down, falling down, falling down, falling down.
Don’t ever say you are humble. If you say you are humble when you are addressing people and say “No I don’t know anything, YOU inspired me.” They look at you as if you are garbage (laughter). You should say ” I`m the biggest in knowledge here”. No! No! No! Dont say it in America! Don’t be foolish like me (lots of laughter). If you go to the United States and you say that, you are finished. You cannot say “I am humble”, you cannot say “oh! Forgive me! I am a weak person sitting here in your presence”. When you come insha Allah to America, if your invited to a university or anywhere, never say “I am the weakest” trying to be humble. Say I am President (laughter).” This is how they think.
Don’t think Mawlana Shaikh cannot hear you. If he directs the power that Allah granted of unveiling, kashf, he can hear you talking. How you hear thunder, is how That is a grant given to him and to many awliya by Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala. t is not hard for Allah: did he not grant Sayiddina `Isa the ability to see into the homes of people and tell them what they were eating? Did he not grant to Sayiddina `Umar (r) the ability to see what was happening to one of his generals 2000 kilometers away, and then to speak to him from that distance, saying “ya Sariya, al-jabal” – “O Sariya, the mountain!”, warning him of an impending attack from behind the mountain. And Sariya heard him! No one can deny this–it is from the required beliefs of Muslims. [Ed. Even the strictest scholar Ibn Taymiyya, said belief in the kashf and karamat (miraculous powers) of awliya is a requirement of faith in his `Aqidat al-wasitiyya.]
This is granted and still they are but servants. They don’t think of themselves more than servants, they are “abd”; they are servents of Allah. And Allah is the Creator, not like these crazy Wahabis, when you say “a saint has this power”, they will say “you say he is like Allah”. The are dreaming that Allah is like human being! Allah is Akbar ! Takbir! Takbir! Allah is greater. Allah gives to human beings, to saints, raghman `an anfihim.