Certain matters have to be repeated; sometimes, because people have forgotten what I wrote many months ago or they might not have received those letters and so it becomes necessary for me to repeat certain matters so that all of us are always “up to date” with regard to our attitudes and our overall religious behaviour. One matter, which cannot be over-stressed is the importance of obeying the Shari’ah. When we talk of the Divine Law we are referring to all the rules and regulations which Allah Almighty sent down to us, either as Qur’an or as the Practice of Nabi Muhammad (ﷺ) (this is referred to as the Sunnah). Some scholars are of the opinion that the term Shari’ah refers to all our activities with regard to ibadat and our relationships with others, which include matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance and other such matters. This is the one definition. The definition I like is the one that says that the Shari’ah is everything which Allah Almighty sent down to us. This is the sum of His revelation that has come to us through the Qur’an and the Prophetic Practice. In this definition every single matter that Allah Almighty raises in the Qur’an or through the Prophetic Practice is considered Shari’ah. In this case, of course, the word is all-encompassing with regard to what has been revealed.
I have said so many times that we are in Tariqah. It is not that we do not know this, but it is just my way of reminding all of us of the special pledge that we have made to Allah Almighty with regard to our religious lives. The pledge, although made to our Lord, is also an address to ourselves. This is so important to understand, because you see, the pledge in a sense are two sides of the same coin. Then one side is a desperate call to our Lord asking for religious re-orientation. The other side expresses our dissatisfaction for the path we were walking and, of course, the activities on that path. It is that we want to enrich ourselves through our different forms of worship to prepare for our entrance into the Hereafter.
In one sense, the call to our Lord is a pledge but in another sense it is a supplication. The major form of address of a servant to his Lord is in the form of supplication. But like in many other cases, the supplication is accompanied by spiritual desperation. It appeared to me almost as if our souls were unhappy, not only with our religious activities but also with our station by Allah Almighty. It appeared that we were going nowhere with our religion. We had no goals, we had no path, or perhaps the semblance of a path, and very important, we had no authorized guide to help us. Although it might be incorrect to say but is appears as if we were not bathing in the light of Islam. There was something wrong. And through the pledge we are hoping to correct it. Through the pledge there has been a renewal or one might even say a rejuvenation of our religion.
In the first paragraph of this letter I dealt with the importance of the Divine Law in our religious practice, and which is in fact, or it is supposed to be, the foundation of our pledge. This pledge has a double meaning. In one sense, the pledge has its origins in the Divine Law and the Prophetic Practice and so it is part of that Law. In another sense all the religious behaviour associated with that pledge has to be in terms of the Divine Law. We must understand this. Not only is the pledge of the Divine Law but we have to make absolutely sure that as we carry out the religious responsibilities associated with that pledge, that we are standing firmly on the bedrock of the Shari’ah.
Generally, the fear of not acting in terms of “what God wants” becomes extremely real in one’s new approach to Him, and by “new approach” I mean the path that He has in fact placed us on, through the pledge that He has made us commit in order to become of His people. It is for this reason, I am sure, that He places in one’s heart the fear of digressing in any way from what He wants. And so through all of these; the new path, the goals, the fears, and the desires, we come to understand the importance of the firmness of our feet on what I call the bedrock of the Shari’ah. We have to be careful because on this new road, Shaytan is an active agent to cause us to stumble. It is all these factors that I have just mentioned that make the path of Tariqah so intensely difficult for the serious seekers; those whom Allah Almighty has made to dedicate their lives to Him.
You see, on this new road, and as we walk firmly on the foundations of the Divine Law, we are in fact busy with dedicating our lives to Islam. There is no other explanation for this. And it is this that becomes perhaps a major stumbling block for spiritual success. Is it possible to want to reach commendable spiritual stations without major sacrifice of one’s life for that attainment? And as one progresses along this path, so the choice of what to do with one’s life becomes increasingly more difficult. We cannot be for God and at the same time be for the many activities that we engage in on a daily basis. Either our hearts are for Him and empty of everything else or our hearts are empty of Him and filled with all our other activities. We cannot make Allah Almighty share the space in our hearts with others or other things, and it is the path of Tariqah that teaches us this.
So far we see that there is a very dynamic relationship between Tariqah, in terms of which we’ve pledged, and the Shari’ah. It is this relationship, if not carried our properly, that causes major problems in our religious lives. It is an illusion to think that one can attain spiritually through Tariqah activities without the proper application of the Shari’ah in our lives. When I say that the bedrock of Tariqah is the Divine Law or the Shari’ah, what I am in fact saying is that spiritual achievement through Tariqah activities can only be attained if those activities are firmly entrenched in the Shari’ah. It is the Shari’ah that provides the boundaries and the guiding lights, or whatever you want to call them, of the Tariqah. People who believe that they can be involved in Tariqah activities and ignore the Shari’ah are under a major illusion. Let me put it in another way. Allah Almighty had sent a whole body of knowledge of Islamic practice and faith to us through the Qur’an and the Prophetic Practice. We draw very heavily from this knowledge for all those activities that have to do with the sciences of the Hereafter. In a certain sense, these sciences are not only based on the bedrock of the Shari’ah but it also draws from the Shari’ah its major contents. We must be so careful of this. We can even put this in another way; when we are busy with the activities of Tariqah, we are in fact busy with the Shari’ah. It is for this reason that all authorized shaykhs in the different Sufi Orders advise murids to study the Shari’ah. This is not only to acquaint them with what Allah (ﷻ) had revealed, but also to provide them with the religious protection for what they do as human beings.
In a certain sense one cannot separate Tariqah from Shari’ah, but only in a certain sense. In fact, if we examine the lives of the intensely pious, we will see that although they might have been busy with particular activities in Tariqah, they were great people of the Shari’ah. This appears all so complicated. But it is not. When we obey Allah Almighty and His Messenger (ﷺ) and carry out what we have been instructed to do and we use an authorized shaykh to help us, then although we say why we are in a Tariqah, we are in fact obeying the Shari’ah. I hope I have given meat to my understanding of these processes. In the final analysis we can say the Tariqah is the strict obedience of the Shari’ah under the guidance of an authorized shaykh in order to obtain special darajat from Allah Almighty. We ask our Lord to grant us the proper understanding of all of this, amin.
[Letters to Seekers on the Spiritual Path Vol 2 – Unpublished 2012