On many occasions I have explained to you that perhaps the most difficult thing on this path is to be able to obey. In fact, I think that the extent of one’s obedience is to a large degree related to the extent of one’s spiritual development. The more the soul is purified, the less the garbage in the heart, and the more the obedience.
There are many variables that impact on our incapability to obey. It might be one’s personal status, one’s relation to one’s shaykh, the size of one’s cheque book and, amongst other things, the titles we have or the positions we hold. There are so many other variables that come into play when one is faced with a decision to obey something, which under normal circumstances we would not obey. In many cases, the above variables have strong links with one’s ego. The presence of the ego strengthens the variable and causes one to act opposite to what the Tariqah expects.
One can therefore understand why one of the characteristics of the Prophets (a.s.) was the ability to listen to the message, to obey it and to act upon it. The fact that Allah (ﷻ) mentions this characteristic of theirs in the Qur’an is an indication of its importance on spirituality. That is why we are sometimes told we must be like a dry leaf in the wind. We go wherever the wind blows us. We have no control over our movements and our decisions. We act according to the demands of our shaykhs because their demands have heavenly origins. Others describe the role of murid as being like that of a corpse in the hands of the one that washes it. The washer determines everything. The corpse can determine nothing.
When one is able to obey, whatever the nature of that instruction, then it means that one accepts full guidance from one’s shaykh and that one will carry out an instruction, because that instruction has a religious basis in the Qur’an, in the words:
أَطِيْعُوا اللهَ وَ أَطِيْعُوا الرَّسُوْلَ وَ أُؤلِى الأَمْرِ مِنْكُمْ
Obey Allah and obey the Messenger, and those in authority among you (iv: 59).
The murid in obedience to the one in authority over him/her, is obeying Allah (ﷻ) and His Messenger (ﷺ). We must not play around with this. It is too serious a matter in, and too essential for, one’s religious quest.
It is difficult for people to understand that it is not for them to question and it is not for them to make a decision with regard to an instruction. Tariqah is too serious a path to allow all of us to be minor decision-makers in our own personal progress. For us, there is nothing to decide with regard to this progress. Everything to do with it is in the hands of the one whose hand we are clasping. We do not question. We do not ask why. We do not say no. We only obey.
The shaykh’s decision on one might even appear harsh. I remember when I met Mawlana Shaykh Nazim for the first time in Lefke, he pulled away his hand whenever I wanted to kiss it. I was his Southern African khalifah at the time, and still am. It did not matter who was with him, or who was with me. He would pull away his hand when I lowered my hand to kiss it. Can you imagine my embarrassment and my pain? I was later informed that he did that in order to break the arrogance that was still in me. I had to accept despite the pain. In this acceptance there was obedience to what he had decided. When I came to realize his reason for doing this, I expressed my gratitude to my Lord. How many times also did he not scold me in front of others and in anger because of what appeared to be disobedience from my side. Today I am in deep gratitude for all his scoldings and whenever he scolds, I have to say Alhamdu lillah. All his scoldings and whatever else have made a major contribution to so many things that I have to do.
We all have to learn that decision-making with regard to our personal activities is not in our hands, so we must please learn this, even if it is difficult. If the answer to any possible personal activity from our side is “yes”, then accept it. If the answer is “no”, then accept it. On a personal level, I have become very strict on myself with regard to this matter. I am just so afraid for myself especially with regard to my spiritual development to dare disobey him. We must all learn to be like this; afraid to disobey because of the negative impact it might have on our spiritual development.
I have said on many occasions that Allah (ﷻ) is Most Generous, and so He grants and also that Allah (ﷻ) is Most Powerful and so He takes away. This should frighten one, should it not? Do you think that after years of steady spiritual growth, you commit a sin with regard to a strange woman; that your spirituality will not collapse? Do you think that when you deliberately disobey your shaykh that what you had gained spiritually from obedience will not be taken away because of disobedience? Tariqah is not a game. I have come to learn this on so many occasions. Just as generosity operates within the bounds of Tariqah, so certain stringent rules also operate. We must always learn. I must learn and each one of you must learn. Don’t do things or say things which will damage what you have spent so many hours to achieve. It is not worth it. In fact, it is never worth it. Perhaps the scoldings have made me what I am today. Perhaps I should scold more. But I have not been placed in charge of this Tariqah in Southern Africa to scold. I have been placed in charge of this Tariqah to help and so this letter is a form of help, not a scolding, to those who are still not obeying completely. But their moment of obedience will come, as it has come to others. They will also reach a point in their lives when they will decide to always obey whatever the instruction comes their way. We ask our Lord to bring those moments nearer for all of us, amin.