Tasawwuf and the Shari‘ah: Conflict or Concord

The only thing required of a true sufi is worship, perpetual dhikr of Allah, adherence to the sunnah of the Blessed Prophet, and following the Shari‘ah
Tasawwuf and the Shari‘ah: Conflict or Concord

The argument that tasawwuf is essentially parallel to theShari'ah is actually a false belief some people vehemently promote to demonisetasawwuf for their radical and/or vested interests. It is always very dangerousnot to differentiate between the genuine tasawwuf which is nothing but the truespirit of the Shari'ah and the pseudo tasawwuf which has always been adopted bythe vested interest in the name of spirituality.

Some people blame tasawwuf for so many un-Islamic practicesand innovations. But a serious and sincere approach to tasawwuf, which is notpossible without proper initiation and bay'ah on the hand of a shaykh (Bay'ahis not essential to tasawwuf. It is only to signify the importance upon whichthe bay'ah is made, which is abidance by the Shari'ah. Abidance by the Shari'ahmeans to abstain from all sins, major and minor, and to fulfill all therequirements of the law of the Shari'ah. Through the bay'ah the shaykh vows toguide the seeker in reaching the aforementioned objectives while the seekertakes the responsibility of adherence and submissiveness to the shaykh.), butstill even a superficial study, can help a student to reach to a softconclusion about tasawwuf. In fact none of the people who say that tasawwuf isa bitter fruit has ever tried to taste it.

The false belief that following the Shari'ah is notimportant in tasawwuf has been strongly refuted by none other than the mostmisunderstood and misrepresented sufi, Shaykh Akbar Ibn 'Arabi himself. Hadthere really been any conflict between the Shari'ah and tasawwuf, then Ibn'Arabi should have been the first to advocate that for he is being dubbed bymany as being antagonistic towards the Shari'ah. But the fact is that heexonerates both himself and tasawwuf from this false allegation in one breathby saying, in his Futuhat Makkiyyah, that 'anything that opposes the reality ofthe Shari'ah is falsehood. Doesn't it demonstrate  that neither tasawwuf nor the true Sufis,especially Ibn 'Arabi, are against the hari'ah? At another place the Shaykhasserts:

"Whosoever says there is another path to Allah besides theShari'ah is a lier. Therefore, such a person should not be chosen to be one'sspiritual mentor (sahykh) who does not have propriety."Yet again the Shaykhemphasizes:

"There is no way for us except the Shari'ah and that whichHe (Allah) has taught us in the Shari'ah" At another place in the same Futuhat,Shaykh Akbar says:

"He has no worth in the eyes of Allah who does not know His(Allah's) rule (the Shari'ah) because Allah has never made any ignorant persona friend."

One more prominent sufi, Bayazid Bustami, whom some peoplereprimand due to his allegoric mystical utterances, but interestingly has beenpraised by Ibn Taymiyyah, the formidable enemy of the false Sufis, says:

"Do not be fooled if you observe a person bestowed withsupernatural wonders even if he flies in the sky, unless you see him strictupon the laws of the Shari'ah, upon avoiding the forbidden acts, and vigilantabout staying within the boundaries of the Shari'ah."

Junaid Baghdadi, chief of the Sufis of his time, says:

"All the different avenues are closed to the world exceptthe one which follows the blessed Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam)."

Shaykh Husayn Ahad Madani, a famous muhaddith (traditionist)of Deoband and a sufi as well, stressed in his letters that the fundamentalobjective of tasawwuf is to strictly follow the Shari'ah. In one of his lettersto a disciple he wrote:

"My respected brother! The real objective of Suluk is theattainment of Ihsan. And that is that the (spiritual) trait of perpetualconsciousness of Allah is born from Suluk. As for as the ultimate goal, itshould be to attain the pleasure of Allah." It is obvious that the pleasure ofAllah can be achieved only by following what Allah has prescribed in theShari'ah. That is to say that a true sufi should always be constant in adheringto the Shari'ah and the Sunnah of the Blessed Prophet.

In another letter Shaykh Madani writes:

"Hold to the Sunnah of the Blessed Prophet in your heart andin your sight as best as you can. Never be ignorant towards dhikr (remembrance)of Allah. Always be repentant to Allah for your ignorance and sins. Do notwaste this precious time."

In one more letter the shaykh in clear terms writes to oneof his disciples that tasawwuf has no basis without the Shari'ah and one whodoes not follow the Shari'ah strictly is by no means a true sufi:

"Is it not true that you have left the prescribeddevotions?… Is it not true that you are not punctual in the congregationalsalat? Is it not true that you miss Fajr in the morning and sleep untilsunrise?… Anyhow, it is important that you rectify yourself. Strive to adhereto the sunna of the Blessed Prophet and revival of the Shari'ah…. Make thedhikr of Allah your habit as much as you can."

Imam Qusayri says:

"Shari'ah is servitude to Allah whereas haqiqah (tasawwuf)is the observation of the lordship of Allah. Shari'ah is to worship Him whilehaqiqah is to see him." So how can you dissociate one from the other?

The only thing required of a true sufi is therefore,worship, perpetual dhikr of Allah, adherence to the sunnah of the BlessedProphet, and following the Shari'ah. The completion of faith is based onsteadfastness upon these requirements and attaining the level of Ihsan.

The realization of the oneness of the Shari'ah and tasawwufis the beginning and the end in the spiritual way of suluk. As already saidthat the essence of tasawwuf and suluk (or give any name to this sacredscience) is nothing other than ihsan, a fact which should be sufficient toconvince a sincere seeker that tasawwuf is inseparable from the Shari'ah.

Hence, it is quite justifiable to say that the salaf wereall genuine Sufis in the true sense of the word. To claim that the muhaddithun(traditionists), the mufassirun (exegetes), the fuqaha (jurists) and otherswere against tasawwuf points to the assertion that they were only confined tothe letter of the Din and not interested in its spirit, which is by defaultwrong.

Therefore, both the ill-wishers of tasawwuf, the opponentswho say that tasawwuf is against the Shari'ah, and the proponents who claimthat the Sufis are not subservient to the Shari'ah, are utterly wrong.

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