As you know that about 30 of us were in Lefke (in 2005), and most of us had just arrived back a few days ago. And I think that all of us will say again that we had an unusual, wonderful experience to be with one of the most pious people on earth. Mawlana Shaykh Nazim is considered by other Awliya’ as the Sultanul Awliya’, as perhaps the greatest Wali in the world today. And to be able to sit with him and talk to him and greet him and kiss his hand, and eat with him, was one of the rare privileges we had when we went over there. I don’t want to go into detail with all the things that happened but there were some very good things that occurred. I want to mention some of these things to you. First of all, of course, every night we made dhikr using a massive rosary that was spread around the room, and while we were reciting the tahlil (the words لاَ إِلٰهَ إِلاَّ اللهُ La ilaha illallah: there is no god other than Allah), others were reciting qasidahs. The South Africans made a major hit. Every night they were asked to do Ya Sayyidi and other qasidahs. They just carried the nights, every night for so long, and when they left, the renditions also stopped. They were so good, الحَمْدُ لِلّٰهِ (Alhamdu lillah: all praises be to Allah). A video of the South Africans was also done.
People come from all over the world to be there. At the place where I was staying, for example, there were three people from Moscow, one from Argentina and one from England. They come from all over the world, speaking all kinds of languages. One of the rare experiences that we had there was with regard to two ladies who were pregnant, Nadeem Williams’s wife and Achmat Fakir’s wife. Shaykh took his stick and put it on their “tummies” and made du’a for them, and said: “One boy, one girl”. [He addressed Rafieqah’s baby in the feminine so those of us who understood Arabic knew that she was going to have a girl.] And so it happened. Rafieqah had a girl and Faesa a boy. Then he took two of the murids, husband and wife, and put their heads together and made du’a for them. The moment was so precious.
Of course, one of the things you later learn as you go along on the path of tasawwuf, which I want to speak to you a little bit about tonight, is that our shaykh contributes immensely to our spiritual development in different ways. I’m not going to go into detail with that tonight. Some night, إِتْ شَاءَ اللهُ (insha Allah: if Allah so wills), when we have time, I’m going to speak more about that. Many of us, I think, do not understand that. And we think there is no spiritual relationship between us and our shaykh. There is in fact a major spiritual relationship. On one occasion he said that he has links with the murids wherever they are on earth, East or West, North or South. And he said with regards to one imam: “I will twist his ear for him.” He is in Lefke, and he said he will twist that man’s ear here in Cape Town: “I will twist his ear for him if he continues to behave in this way.” And so these people’s spiritual power is immense. They are the inheritors of the Prophets (a.s.). He is an inheritor of the Prophet of Allah (ﷺ), and has certain very, very special qualities. On one occasion he told me with regard to a certain person: “If that person must show his spirituality, he will not be able to stand people and people will never be able to stand him,” so Allah Almighty has covered him up, so that he can communicate with people and do His work.
One day I was sitting there with others having a meal. Now the ladies, of course, they end up talking to him all the time. I told another khalifah sitting next to me: “I think we are very quiet.” He said: “We have the right adab. With your shaykh, you don’t speak. He will speak to you.” That is a very important rule. And so we’ve come to learn a number of different things with regard to that. One of the things I have come to learn in my experiences with him is that one must speak on authority. I want you to listen very carefully to this. In tariqah, one’s shaykh gives one the authority to deliver talks or to deliver lectures. When I heard this I became very worried, and I approached him on the matter. He then gave me the authority. We should not read a few books and then we want to make speeches on spirituality. Spirituality is the personal experience of a process. I want to repeat that. One can’t learn spirituality from books. Anybody in this field who understands this view will tell one, what one learns in books is only information for one, and one does not worry too much about it. But for one’s own personal growth and development, each individual, walks his own particular path in this field. And he has his own experiences. And when he reaches, إِنْ شَاءَ اللهُ (insha Allah: if Allah so wills), the pinnacle of this path, then Allah Almighty might grant him Friendship. Then he will be able to say, this and this and this are the things that I’ve experienced on this path. It will probably be different from the experiences of other persons. So one must be very careful when one reads a few odd books about spirituality and one now thinks that one is an authority on this subject. The only people who are authorities on the subject of spirituality are the Awliya’. They have travelled the path. Those who had travelled the path and who can speak authoritatively on their own personal experiences are the Awliya’ of Allah.
The Awliya’ of Allah are of the only people who, once they’ve reached that station, are able to control their egos. We are not able to do that. They are able to do that. And as they progress in the station of Friendship with Allah, so, more and more, they are able to control their egos. The control of the ego is directly related to spirituality. How far one develops in spirituality will determine the extent to which one is able to control one’s ego.
If one reads anything on spirituality and one wishes to talk about it, tell people that the information comes from such and such and such in a book. One should not speak as if it is one’s own experience. Now I’m going to repeat that the only people who can speak authoritatively about this path are those who have travelled it. And they can tell one at the end of the path that this is the nature of this path. They are the people into whose hand we must place our hands to take us on this path. We listen to them, we obey them, we do what they say, and then success will be granted to us. This is why any person who has not travelled this path is not able to take one on this path. People who are not Awliya’ of Allah cannot take one on this path. They don’t know what it is about. We must be as humble as we can and be as calm as we can as you travel this path. We should not assume that we know. We must always assume that we don’t know. We should not assume that we are well developed. We should always assume that we are under-developed. We should not assume that we have made great strides. We should assume that we have made few or no strides. In this field we must be humble. That’s why that man said to me: “In front of your shaykh (or his khalifah, his representative), you don’t open your mouth”. Only speak with permission from them.
One day I was in Johannesburg at a big dinner. I was sitting about three or four people away from Shaykh Nazim. One of the other guests started to explain spirituality to Shaykh Nazim. He was telling a Sultanul Awliya’ about tasawwuf. I became very embarrassed. Shaykh Nazim turned to him and said: “Such and such a person doesn’t say anything.” He was telling him to stop talking but the man went on for about another half an hour. I told you once that this road that we are walking is a very, very sensitive road. Be careful of it. We can be successful but we can also fail. I’ll repeat that to you. We can be successful but we can also fail. So many have failed. When we put our hands in the hand of our shaykh, grip, grip, and he will lead us and help us on that path until eventually Allah declares in the Heavens that He has granted that servant of His Friendship. My word! Don’t we want that? Don’t mess around. Don’t we want that? Don’t we want that one day Allah must declare to Jibril (a.s.): “I love this servant of Mine. I grant this servant of My Friendship.” Don’t we want that? We want to fool around. Allah has given us jewels in religion and we scratch around in the sand.
The one thing that’s expected from us is when we are prepared to give our hands to our shaykh is to obey him. One of the worst things in this field is disobedience to your shaykh, not listening to him, not obeying him. Be careful about this and don’t even think that you are an authority on tasawwuf because you have read some books. I’ve read “hundreds” of books on tasawwuf and once I put my hand in the hands of Shaykh Nazim, I realized that I had wasted so much time. He showed me that this is the path I have to walk. We may read the books for information, that’s about all. It’s not like other subjects. It’s not like history or geography. It is a totally different matter.
In our hearts must be a deep strong passion to want to become a pious person. This passion must be almost like a madness in one, wanting to become a pious person. Make du’a for that everyday. Ask Allah every single day, as many times as you can: “O Allah, make me of Thy pious servants,” and “O Allah! Grant to me what Thou hast granted to Thy pious servants.” We must ask every day. Allah Almighty says in the Qur’an: “Ask me.” The reply comes to our shaykh. We ask and the reply comes to our shaykh.
We must not pretend that we know about tasawwuf, rather pretend that we know nothing, until some day when shaykh tells us that he grants us the authority to speak. Until that day, we must keep our mouths. Each one’s time will come. We must be patient. The time will come when shaykh says: “So and so, you may now speak. So and so, you may now speak.” Wait! I am seventy. You are forty. Right, that’s the difference. Shaykh gave that to me, and I’m seventy. We have a long road to go. Be careful about this path. If we want to travel this road, travel it correctly. Otherwise we must do something else with our lives. We are the possessors of Islam on this continent. People in tariqah, in the Sufi Orders, are the possessors of Islam. It is only in the tariqahs that Islam is surviving. The rest is just imagination. I don’t want to go into detail with you about that, perhaps some other time, Al-Fatihah …
And Allah knows best, and I ask forgiveness for any mistakes or distortions in what I have said, Amin.
NB: Two important lessons, amongst others, come from this talk:
- One’s knowledge of tasawwuf grows as one proceeds through its process.
- In the presence of one’s shaykh (or his representative), the murids have to sit quietly. They only speak when addressed, or when asked to make a contribution, or when participating in a general meeting. This is the proper adab.