Importance of Taking a Shaykh
Allah said in the Holy Qur’an, “Fear God and accompany Trustworthy people” [9:119]. Allah’s Word is for all time, for every era and for every century. It is an ongoing order, from which we understand the importance of keeping company with the Trustworthy. Allah orders all human beings to accompany them, because by keeping their company one will see how they live their lives, how they deal with people, how they address their companions, how they eat, how they sleep, how they worship. By accompanying them, one will learn all their good manners, and their ways of life.
Another way too understand this verse, is that one should accompany a trustworthy person, because to be trustworthy is very rare and not many people achieve it. Everyone, however, can find a trustworthy person and accompany him, in order to be guided. Following a Trustworthy One is essential to our spiritual path. Such a one is needed to lead us and guide us and to be a beacon for us on that way. In the Naqshbandi Order, the living presence of a connected shaikh is essential. Through his physical and spiritual linkage to the Prophet he establishes the murid’s connection. The murid’s obligation is to maintain his connection to his shaikh, to hold tightly to the hand of the one within his reach. The shaikh maintains the further connection to the previous shaikhs and to the Prophet .
From what has been said above, and in the biographies of the Masters, the importance of accompanying a True Master has been clearly demonstrated. It provides the seeker with the opportunity to learn the essentials of ethics and good conduct, to discover the hidden defects of his heart, and to be lifted to the states of perfection. There are two requisites for entering upon such an endeavor: when the seeker feels the need to seek in this way he must purify his intention and ask his Lord to connect him to a Truthful One; and he must look in his own country for someone who will point him in the direction of the Perfect Master.
The Need for a Living Guide
If one is separated from his shaikh by death or other circumstances, it becomes necessary to find a living guide, who can complete the work of the first master. The path itself is not the Goal, but the means to reach the Goal. Holding onto the attachment to a master who is no longer present, usually represents an unrealistic expectation and a false hope. It may also be a manifestation of pride. Although they had already pledged themselves to the Prophet , the Companions had to take initiation with Sayyidina Abu Bakr (r) after the passing of the Prophet , and as they renewed their pledge to the successive khalifs, Sayyidina ‘Umar, Sayyidina ‘Uthman and Sayyidina ‘Ali, so too does a sincere seeker need to put his hand into the hand of a living shaikh, and renew his initiation, in order to complete his journey to the Divine Presence.