When one is deeply concerned with one’s religious growth and achievements, one should be very careful about the impact that certain people have on one’s religious behaviour; especially people who are not in Tariqah or who are in Tariqah but with other agendas. Sometimes we decide to act in certain ways according to what we are told by others when the rule is: “listen to your shaykh or his representative”. In Tasawwuf, the shaykh plays a central role in the direction we go in working towards our goals, and all other aspects of our religious behaviour. In a certain sense, the only person whose advice we take with regard to all the things that we must do as Muslims, and as Muslims in Tariqah; if one can make this kind of differentiation, is our shaykh. I must repeat this statement because of its importance. What we do in our structures, how we do them, how we change our functions within the structures and our relationships with others as we function, are all determined by our shaykh. Sometimes, without thinking very hard, we allow fellow murids or others to make us change our religious behaviour or our functions within the structures. Sometimes also, people suggest to me that I should introduce certain things in our structures, for example, muraqabah. My reply is always: “I only do what Mawlana Shaykh Nazim instructs me to do.” So, in exactly the same way as I do only what Mawlana instructs me to do, the murids in South Africa have to do what I instruct them to do, and what I instruct is always what Mawlana asks for. Getting this right, that is, the lines of instruction, is extremely important for our spiritual stability and direction. People will make you do things to destroy your spirituality and you will be totally unaware of this.
I have quoted very often the story of Nabi Isa (a.s.) in which Shaytan instructed him to recite the Tahlil. Now surely the Tahlil is very important to recite, yet Nabi Isa (a.s.) chased him away with the words: “I do not take instructions from you”. Can you see, even though the reciting of the Tahlil is extremely important, Nabi Isa (a.s.) was not prepared to take an instruction on the matter from Shaytan. In a very similar way, if anybody else tells you to recite certain things, to perform certain prayers or to change your functions within our structures, even if such a person is a very good person, your duty is only to take instructions from your shaykh. If the person is not a very good Muslim it is a thousand times worse, because that person is deliberately trying to destroy whatever spirituality you have attained. So many times murids come to me with things they have read in books or things which people tell them to do. My answer is always: “Do what your shaykh tells you to do”.
Mawlana has been authorized to lead us to our goals on the basis of certain spiritual programmes which include adhkar, certain prayers and a variety of different forms of ibadat. He uses these authorized forms of ibadat to train us to reach certain darajat. And so, on the basis of this training, he directs our hearts in a certain direction. In a sense, he is solely in charge of these spiritual activities to enable us to reach our goals. We, as murids, should just take what he tells us to do and leave alone matters suggested to us by other shaykhs or whatever the case might be. One of the cardinal principles of Tasawwuf is to listen and obey one’s shaykh.
I cannot always understand. We pledge on the hand of our shaykh and then we think that there are other short cuts to our goals. There are none and it is even worse if we allow what we call lay-people to influence our religious behaviour. What our shaykh tells us to do is generally, but not always, what has come down through a stream of authorized shaykhs. In other words, some of these matters may go right back to Sayyiduna Abu Bakr (r.a.). What more do we want? With regard to the functions we perform, this is part of our work in the Cause of Allah (ﷻ). And so, those matters which our shaykh asks us to do, the different functions we perform and the studies we do, all combine to make us take important steps on the path we are on. When we say that our shaykh clasps our hand, what do we mean? We mean by this that whatever he tells us to do, we listen and obey. This is part of our pledge. Although the pledge is to Allah Almighty, it is done on the hand of the shaykh and through his guidance, he leads us step by step to one of the stations that Allah Almighty had prepared for us. Each one of us must be extremely careful as to our responses to what others say or suggest. We ask Allah Almighty to grant us the ability to listen and to obey, amin.
[Letters to Seekers on the Spiritual Path Vol 2 – Unpublished 2012]