One of the problems faced by many people especially those who do a little bit of thinking, is: What is the correct interpretation of Islam? Or, to put it another way: From what interpretation of Islam can one draw the maximum benefit for one’s passage to the Hereafter? This is very important because if one chooses the wrong path or interpretation then one might find oneself in a very disadvantageous position in the Hereafter.
Many of us have struggled with this because there are so many different groups, paths or interpretations. In many cases, one follows the path of the family in which you grew up or the mosque one attends or the religious teacher at whose feet one sits. As individuals, we must be sure that the path we have chosen is a correct one by Allah (ﷻ) and His Messenger (ﷺ). On this there cannot be any difference of opinion. The correct path is the one that Allah (ﷻ) and His Messenger (ﷺ) consider to be correct. But how do we know?
We have come across people who are strong Wahabis, because the religious leader at the mosque which they attend is a Wahabi. We have also come across others who are deeply attached to Tasawwuf, because that understanding of Islam is accepted by their families. Others view Islam as an academic subject, because they have done academic courses in Islam. Of course, the problem is how does one know whether one’s understanding of Islam is the understanding that will take one to Paradise? Many of us battle with this, especially because of the large variety of interpretations of Islam that one gets in the world today. On a very personal level, I have also wrestled with this. There are certain verses of the Qur’an and statements by Nabi Muhammad (ﷺ) that provide the parameters within which it would be safe to act. In a sense it is difficult to take a personal decision because personal decisions require an intense knowledge of Islam. It is also very difficult to take the views of certain religious scholars, because many of them are products of educational institutions that favour certain views in Islam. So what do we do? We must be sure that what we do is correct. Religion is not a game. If our choices are wrong, we might find ourselves in a very difficult position in the Hereafter.
Let me continue on a personal level. I have had the good fortune to have associated with a large number of religious leaders from different schools of thought and different understandings of Islam. In some cases, some of them have stayed in my home. What did I find? I have found these religious leaders who have adopted the Tasawwuf interpretation of Islam to be the most careful in their religious decision-making, to be the most careful in their adhering to the Qur’an and the Prophetic Practice and to be “afraid”. I have found them afraid to be disobedient to their Lord and His Messenger (ﷺ) and I have found them afraid to provide guidance in matters they know little of. I have also found their behaviour impeccable. There is no doubt by me that individuals such as Sayyid Muhammad Alawi Maliki of Mecca, Mawlana Abdul Alim Siddiq and Mawlana Fadlur Rahman Al-Ansari of Karachi, Shaykh Muhammad Jaffar of Karachi, Mawlana Shaykh Muhammad Nazim Al-Haqqani of Cyprus, etc., stand out for me as individuals of impeccable human behaviour and whose conversations have to do with their Lord. I have compared many other religious leaders I know with the individuals that I have mentioned and it is sad to say that there is no comparison. Those who follow the path of Tasawwuf exhibit no arrogance, are deeply concerned with the spiritual development of themselves and others, and have spent most of their lives for Allah (ﷻ) in His Cause. In a certain sense, I have found those people whose names I have mentioned as being men of Allah (ﷻ) and not men of the world. I have listened to them and I have listened to others. I have read about them and I have read about others. I have read their works and I have read the works of others; and those people whose names I have mentioned and other similar ones, stand head and shoulders above other religious leaders mainly through the intensity of their faith and their commitments to Islam. It is difficult to say this, but if one just considers how these people spend their lives, what they do and what they teach, one cannot but come to the conclusion that there’s something very special about them. In my association with some of them, and in a study of their behaviour patterns, I could only come to one conclusion, and that is that these men are men of God; demonstrating so much religious dignity and so much humility in their affairs. I have found the opposite with those who are not of them. I have followed their example, because in my assessment of them, I find that they have turned to their Lord. I follow their example primarily because of this. This is my one argument for accepting the understanding of the Tasawwuf perspective of Islam. I look at those whom Allah (ﷻ) has placed in the forefront of this perspective in human affairs and I have had no choice but to walk in their footsteps. These people are intensely men of God. They are intense worshippers of God; they are intense workers in His Cause; they live only for Allah (ﷻ) and for His Cause. We have had no choice but to follow them. On a personal level this is one of the reasons why I am in Tariqah. Of course there are many charlatans in this field as in all other fields of human endeavour. But these charlatans are not of them.
Perhaps one of the most remarkable things about those people that I have mentioned is the extent to which they are prepared to sacrifice their time in the Cause of Islam. An examination of our history in South Africa and the history of the Muslims generally throughout the world will show to us the extent that these people played in establishing or reviving Islam. In our own history, of course, we had people such as Tuangs Abdurahman and Mahmud, Shaykh Yusuf of Faure, Tuang Guru and so many others; all in Tariqah and all of them played a major role in the establishment and spreading of Islam in this country. Studies of the histories of Islam in different parts of Africa and Asia, reveal a similar pattern; those in Tariqah spending their time and energy in planting the flag of Islam. An examination of the same histories will show how the critics of these people spend most of their time with members of the ruling classes and doing very little or nothing for the poor people. Who is it, for example, who are working amongst the poor here in the Cape Peninsula? It is the Naqshbandi Tariqah, not the critics. If for no other reason, we prefer to walk with the poor and accompany them in their work. This is another reason we have chosen the path of Tariqah for ourselves.
On many occasions I read what the critics write. On so many occasions I find that they spread myths (such as that we worship graves), provide quotations and information that have no authentic sources, and do very little about their own spiritual development and the spiritual development of others.
What is it that we do so wrong? When we go into the poorest areas and spread the celebration of the praises of Allah (ﷻ), provide people with places to pray, and provide them with food and ablution facilities, is this so wrong? While people from the Tariqahs and, of course not all of them, are busy in shacks, in small damp rooms, in houses made of tin and in the open air, speaking about Islam, spreading the celebration of the praises of Allah (ﷻ) and calling people to his religion; what are the critics doing?
I am convinced that the only true path in Islam is the path of Tariqah that is based firmly on the Shariah. We do not need arguments for or against this. We are walking in the footsteps of some of the greatest spiritual luminaries of all time. We walk with men and women of Allah’s (ﷻ). To us this is the best path and we ask our Lord to strengthen us in this, amin.
NB: Those of you who have fallen for the Wahabi way of thinking should examine its initial history; all written in the blood of Muslims of the Ahlus Sunni Wal Jama’ah. The Wahabis were able to flourish because of the oil wealth, spreading their discourse by the sword and the suppression of civil liberties. We should not attach ourselves to this kind of Islam.