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The Conduct of the Murid with His Shaykh

There are two categories of conduct of the murid with his shaikh: internal conduct and external conduct.

Internal Conduct of the Murid

  1. The seeker must submit to the will of the shaikh and to obey him in all his orders and advice, because the shaikh has more experience and more knowledge in haqiqat, in tariqat and in Shari`ah. As the sick person gives himself to his doctor to be cured, so too does the murid, sick in his conduct and behavior, submit to the shaikh’s experience in order to be healed.
  2. The seeker must not object to the way the shaikh instructs and controls the murids. Each shaikh has his own way, which he has been permitted by his own shaikh to use. Imam Ibn Hajar al-Haythami said, “Whoever opens the door of criticism against shaikhs and their behavior with their murids and their actions will be punished and will be isolated from receiving spiritual knowledge. Whoever says to his shaikh, ‘Why?’ will never succeed.” [al-Fatawa al-Hadithiyya, p. 55]
  3. The seeker must know that the shaikh might make some mistakes, but that these will not prevent him from lifting the murid up to the Divine Presence. So the murid must excuse the shaikh, as the shaikh is not the Prophet salla. Only the Prophet salla was free of error. Although it is rare, just as the doctor might make a mistake in treating a patient, so too might the shaikh make a mistake in treating his murid’s spiritual illness, and that must be excused.
  4. The seeker must respect and honor the shaikh in his presence and his absence, if only because the shaikh can see with the eye of the heart. It is said that whoever is not happy with the orders of the shaikh, and does not keep good conduct and adab with him, will never keep good conduct with the Qur’an and with the Sunnah of the Prophet salla. Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani said, “Whoever criticised a saint, Allah will cause his heart to wither.”
  5. The murid must be sincere and loyal to the company of his shaikh.
  6. He must love his shaikh with an extraordinary love. He must know that his shaikh is going to take him to the Presence of Allah, Almighty and Exalted, and to the Presence of the Prophet salla.
  7. He must not look to any other than his shaikh, though he must keep respect for all other shaikhs.

External Conduct of the Murid

  1. He must agree with the opinion of his shaikh completely, as the patient agrees with the physician.
  2. He must behave well in the association of the shaikh, by avoiding yawning, laughing, raising the voice, talking without authorization, extending the feet, and always sitting in a respectful manner.
  3. He must serve his shaikh and make himself as useful as possible.
  4. He must not mention from the speeches of his shaikh what listeners cannot understand. This might harm the shaikh in a way that the murid is unaware of. Sayyidina `Ali said, in a hadith narrated in Bukhari, “Speak to people at a level they can understand, because you don’t want them to deny Allah and His Prophet salla.”
  5. He must attend the association of the shaikh. Even if living far away, he must make an effort to come as often as possible.

Ibn  Hajar al-Haythami said, “Many people, when they see their guide is firm on the matter of obligations and the Sunnah of the Prophet salla, accuse him of being strict. They say that he is praying too much or keeping the Sunnah too firmly. These people don’t realize that they are falling to their own destruction. Beware of believing your ego’s complaints about the firmness of the shaikh’s adherence to the Shari`ah.” [al-Fatawa al-Hadithiyya, p. 55.]

Abu  Hafsa  an-Nisaburi is quoted in Shaikh as-Sulami’s book  Tabaqat as-sufiyya, p. 119, as saying: “Sufism is composed of adab [good conduct]. For every state and station there is an appropriate adab. For every time there is a proper conduct. Whoever keeps the adab will reach the Station of Manhood, and whoever discards adab is very far from acceptance into Allah’s Divine Presence.”

The Conduct of the Murid with his Brothers

  1. He must keep respect for them in their presence and in their absence, not backbiting anyone.
  2. He should advise them when they need it with the intention of strengthening them. His advice to them must be in private and it must be with leniency and free of arrogance. The one advised must accept the advice, must be thankful, and must practice the advice.
  3. He must think only good about his brothers and not search out their bad manners.
  4. He must accept their apology if they apologize.
  5. He must make peace between them.
  6. He must support them when they are attacked.
  7. He must not ask to lead them, but to be brothers with them.
  8. He must show humbleness with them as much as possible. The Prophet salla said, “The master of a people is the one who serves them.”

The good conduct of the murids really has no end. He must always be striving and making progress with his shaikh, with his brothers, with his community, and with his Nation, because Allah is seeing him, the Prophet salla is seeing him, the shaikh is seeing him, and the Masters who went before are seeing him. With constant improvement, day by day, he will reach with the shaikh’s guidance and support, the State of Perfection.