Translated by Ismaeel Nakhuda
(Translator’s foreword: Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah’s erudition in Sufism is as clear as the sun. While an expert in many types of Islamic knowledge, his solid understanding of Tasawwuf is often overlooked, as a result of which his personality is projected as dry and solely concerned with the transmitted sciences. However, a close reading of his writings show an individual who was literally on spiritual fire, engulfed in the love of Allah and fully aware of the intricacies of suluk.
Below is the second part of the sixth chapter of Shaykh ‘Abd al-Hafiz’s Mawqif A’immat al-Harakat al-Salafiyyah min al-Tasawwuf wa al-Sufiyyah. In the first part of this chapter, texts were produced detailing Shakh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah’s position in relation to Tasawwuf according to both his contemporaries and researchers from the present era. This second part contains a series of excerpts from the writings of Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah that not only demonstrate the positive manner by which the shaykh regarded Sufism and the Sufis but that he was an expert in this important field. Shaykh ‘Abd al-Hafiz writes:)
We shall now begin, with the accordance of Allah Most High, to mention various excerpts from the writings of Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah himself, and that is from his various books in relation to Tasawwuf within which the Sufi leaders and their conditions are mentioned. We shall first begin with his detailed and wide ranging book.
1] Majmu‘ Fatawa Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah (compiled and codified by ‘Abdur-Rahman ibn Muhammad ibn Qasim al-‘Asimi al-Najdi al-Hanbali with the help of his son, Muhammad). First edition: 1381 AH, Matba‘ah al-Riyadh. Vol. 11, p. 5:
The Shaykh al-Islam (may Allah sanctify his soul) was asked regarding the Sufis and whether they are a group and whether the fuqara are also a group. What is the characteristic of each type? What is necessary on him and preferred for him to tread?
He responded: All praise is for Allah. As to the word Sufism, this word did not become popular during the [first] three generations, its mention only become popular after that. Speech regarding it has been conveyed from more than one of the imams and shaykhs such as Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal, Abu Sulayman al-Darani and others. It has been narrated from Sufyan al-Thawri that he has spoken regarding this. Some of them mention this from Hasan al-Basri. They have differed in the meaning to which the [the word] Sufi is attributed, for it is one of the descriptive nouns of affinity (asma al-nasab) such as al-Qurashi, al-Madani and their like.
It has been said that it is attributed to the Ahl al-Suffah (People of the Platform) and this is incorrect because if it were the case then they would be called suf-fi. It is also said that it is attributed to al-saff al-muqaddam (the foremost rank) in front of Allah and this is also incorrect because if it were the case then they would be called saf-fi. It is also said that it is attributed to al-safwah min khalqillah (the choicest of individuals from the creation Allah) and this is also incorrect because if it were then they would be called safawi. It is also said that it is attributed to Sufah bin Bishr bin Addi bin Tabikha, an Arabian tribe that used to inhabit Makkah in the ancient times towards whom the ascetic attributed themselves. This, even if it is in agreement to the attribution in terms of the word, is also weak because these people are not famous and are unknown to the majority of the ascetics; this is because if the ascetics are attributed to these people then this lineage would have been superior in the era of the Companions, the Followers and the Followers of the Followers, and also because the majority of those who speak regarding the word Sufi do not know this tribe and are not content with being attributed to a tribe from the Era of Ignorance (Jahiliyyah) which has no existence within Islam.
It is said, and this is popular, that it is attributed to the wearing of suf (wool); for indeed the Sufis first appeared in Basra and the first to build a small house for the Sufis were some of the companions of ‘Abdul Wahid bin Zayd, ((‘Abdul Wahid bin Zayd (d. 793) was a successor of Hasan al-Basri and shaykh of Fudhayl bin ‘Ayadh. He prominently features in several Sufi silsilahs, including that of the Chishti Tariqah (translator).)) and ‘Abdul Wahid was among the companions of Hasan [al-Basri]. In Basra, there was a great deal of asceticism (zuhd), worship, fear [of Allah] and their like which were not present in the people of the other lands. It is because of this it was said: Fiqh is from Kufa and worship is from Basra.
Abu al-Shaykh al-Asbahani has narrated from his chain from Muhammad bin Sirin that news reached him about a group of people who preferred woollen clothes. He said, “Surely, the community that prefers wool says that they resemble Masih ibn Maryam whereas the guidance of our Prophet is dearer to us. The Prophet ﷺ used to wear cotton etc”. He said some words to this effect.
It is because of this that the majority of extreme narrations relating to this subject that have been narrated are only from the worshippers from among the people of Basra, such as the story of those who died or became unconscious when hearing the Quran etc namely the story of Zurarah bin Awfa, the qadi of Basra, who recited in the Fajr prayer “And when the trumpet shall be blown (Al-Muddaththir: 8) and then fell dead. Then there is the story of Abu Juhayr al-A‘ma who died when Salih al-Murri recited to him. Likewise, there are others regarding who it is narrated that they died by listening to his recitation. Among them was a group who would fall unconscious when hearing the Qur’an and there were none among the Companions whose condition was like this. So, when this appeared a group of the Companions and Followers disapproved it such as Asma bint Abu Bakr, ‘Abdullah bin al-Zubayr, Muhammad bin Sirin and others.
Those who disapprove have two contentions. Among them are those who feel that this behaviour is affectation and pretentious. It is mentioned regarding Muhammad bin Sirin that he said, “There is nothing between us and those who fall unconscious on hearing the Qur’an except that it is recited on one of them while he is on a wall. If he were to fall, then he is truthful”.
Among them are those who condemned this as they saw it as an innovation contrary to what is recognised from the guidance of the Companions, as has been conveyed from Asma [bint Abu Bakr] and her son, ‘Abdullah [bin Zubayr].
That on which the majority of the scholars is that when one of them is overcome then he should not be rebuked, while the condition of remaining in composure is superior to that. It is because of this that when Imam Ahmad was asked regarding this, he said, “The Qur’an was recited on Yahya bin Sa‘id al-Qattan who fell unconscious and if anyone was able to repel this from himself then Yahya bin Sa‘id would have done so. I did not see anyone wiser than he”. And he mentioned things like this. It has been narrated from al-Shafi‘i that he said this was correct. The story of ‘Ali bin ‘Ayyad is famous. In sum, he is from the multitude of those in whose truthfulness there is no doubt.
However, the condition in which the Companions were is mentioned in the Qur’an and that is that their hearts become fearful, eyes shed tears and bodies shivered…
Those who have hard hearts on which there is rust and aversion for religion, which is reprehensible, criticise the situation of these people and they surely have. There are among them those who think that their condition is the most perfect, complete and lofty. Both extremes in these matters are reprehensible.
Rather, there are three levels. The first is the situation of he who is oppressing his self (zalim li-nafsihi); he is hard hearted and does not soften to hearing [the Quran] and dhikr…
The second is the situation of the Allah-fearing believer in who there is weakness in tolerating that which comes on his heart. He is the one who is afflicted by death or unconsciousness for that is only according to the strength of the feeling that comes and the weakness of the heart to bear it. The likes of this is at times found in he who is happy, or fearful, or sorrowful, or loves worldly matters. It kills him, or makes him sick, or causes him to lose his mind. From among the worshippers of images there are those who fall ill because of love, or die, or become insane; the situation is similar in others. This only happens to that person on whose soul a feeling appears and his soul is weak to repel it; this is similar to those causes that make a person ill or cause him to die. Or it may be that one of them overcomes them…
These conditions which are associated with unconsciousness, death, insanity, a feeling of intoxication (sukr) or annihilation (fana) until he does not feel himself etc—when their causes are sanctioned in Shari‘ah and the person involved is sincere and unable to repel them, then he is praiseworthy for the righteousness he has done and the iman he has attained, and excused in that matter in which he is powerless and which afflicted him without choice. Such individuals are more perfect than those who have not reached their status due to imperfection in their iman, hard heartedness and other causes which consist of abandoning that which Allah loves and doing that which Allah dislikes.
However, he whose mind remains stable while he has attained that iman that they have attained or its like or more, then he is superior to them. This was the condition of the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) and the condition of our Prophet ﷺ, for indeed he was taken to the heavens and Allah showed him what he showed him and in the morning he was like the one who slept at night, his condition had not changed him. Hence, his condition was superior to the condition of Musa (peace be upon him) who fell unconscious when his Lord appeared to the mountain, and the condition of Musa was excellent, lofty and great. However, the condition of Muhammad ﷺ was greater in perfection, loftier and superior.
The purpose [of the above text] is that these matters in which there was increased worship and spiritual states (hal) came from Basra and that was because of the intense fear. Indeed, that which they mention from the fear of ‘Utbah al-Ghulam and ‘Ata al-Sulaymi and their like is a great matter. There is no doubt that their condition was more perfect and superior than he who has no fear of Allah to compare with or supersede them. He who fears Allah in a moderate manner, they call him to do that which Allah loves and leave that which Allah dislikes without this increase, then his spiritual condition is more perfect and superior than these others. This was the condition of the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them). It has been narrated that ‘Ata al-Sulaymi (may Allah be pleased with him) was seen after his death. He was asked, “What did Allah do with you?” He responded, “I was told, O ‘Ata, were you ashamed of me that you feared me to such an extent? Did you not know that I am the Most Forgiving and the Most Merciful?’”
Likewise, in relation to that which is mentioned from the likes of these people in terms of [their] spiritual conditions of asceticism, fear of Allah, worship etc, at times there is mentioned some increase over the condition of the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) and the way shown by the Prophet ﷺ; these are matters in which people can be categorised into two: There is a community that derides them and finds fault in them, at times they exceed the limit in this; and there is a community which exceeds the limit within them and they consider this path the most perfect and lofty.
The truth is that they are in these forms of worship and spiritual conditions mujtahids (one who exercises independent reasoning [ijtihad]) just like their neighbours from the people of Kufa are mujtahids in issues relating to the judiciary, state etc. It was among them that rai (independent opinion) emerged which was contrary to the Sunnah and which the majority of the people disapproved. The elite from the people of fiqh and rai (Ahl al-Fiqh wa al-Rai) from the people of Kufa are dealt with in two ways: there is a community that derides them and exceeds the limit in relation to them, and another community that exceeds the limit in praising them and considers them more knowledgeable in fiqh than those besides them. At times, they raise them over the Companions, just as the extremists from those worshippers at times raise them over the Companions. And this is an issue in which people are disunited.
What is correct for the Muslim is that the best word is the word of Allah, the best way is the way of Muhammad ﷺ, the best of eras is that in which he was sent, and the best of ways and paths to Allah is that on which he and his Companions were. It can be understood from this that it is necessary on the believers that they fear Allah according to their effort and capacity as He Most High has said: “Fear Allah as much as you can”. (64:16) The Prophet ﷺ said, “When I order you something, complete it as much as you can”. He Most High said: “Allah does not burden a soul save according to its capacity”. (2:286) Indeed, many of the believers—the Allah-fearing walis of Allah—at times acquire that perfect knowledge and faith (iman) that was gained by the Companions, hence they fear Allah as much as they can and obey according to their efforts. It is inevitable that he carries out a mistake, either in his knowledge and sayings, or in his actions and conditions. They are rewarded for their obedience and pardoned for their mistakes for indeed Allah Most High has said, “The Prophet has brought faith on that which his Lord has sent to him and also the believers; all of them have brought faith on Allah, His messengers, His books and His prophets; [they say] we do not differentiate between any of His prophets and they say, ‘We have heard and are obedient, forgive us our Lord and to you is the coming.’ Allah does not obligate anyone beyond his capacity. For him is what he has earned, and on him what he has incurred. ‘Our Lord, do not hold us accountable, if we forget or make a mistake.’” (2:185-286) Allah Most High says, I have done.
Hence, he who makes the way of one of the scholars and jurists, or the way of one of the worshippers or ascetics more superior than the way of the Companions, then he is mistaken, in error and an innovator. Also, he who regards as derided, at fault and detested every mujtahid in matters of obedience who has made a mistake in some matters, then he is in error and an innovator… ((Take note of this text and compare it with what is said by some of them in relation to some of the Sufi shaykhs, and when you ask them what the Sufis’ sin was, they will mention that their being Sufis is their biggest sin (Shaykh ‘Abd al-Hafiz).))
Now, it is known that Basra was the source of Tasawwuf and there were there those who treaded the path of worship and asceticism in matters in which there is ijtihad just like in Kufa there were those who tread the path of fiqh and knowledge in matters in which there is ijtihad. They are attributed to an external manner of dress which is the wearing of wool (suf). Hence, it is said regarding any one of them Sufi. Their way is not confined to the wearing of wool nor did they make that compulsory or command that. Rather, they have been attributed to that because of its being the external appearance.
Then, Tasawwuf according to them has some realities and spiritual states (hal) that are well known; they have spoken regarding its limits, path and manners such as the saying of some of them that the Sufi is he who has been cleansed from impurity and filled with thought [of Allah], for him gold and stone are equal. Tasawwuf is the concealing of the good qualities of a person, and abandoning pretensions and their like. With the word Sufi they head to the meaning of siddiq. The most superior of individuals after the prophets are the siddiqs. It is as Allah Most High mentions: “They are with those on who Allah has favoured from the prophets, the siddiqs, the martyrs and the pious. And excellent are they as companions”. (4:69) It is because of this that there are, according to them, none after the prophets who were superior than the Sufi. However, he is in reality a type of the siddiqs. They are siddiqs who have specialised in asceticism and worship according to the way in which they have carried out ijtihad. Hence, the siddiq is from the people of this path. It is as it is said: siddiq al-‘ulama (siddiq of the ‘ulama) and siddiq al-umara (siddiq from among the leaders). He is more special than the general siddiq and less than the siddiq who is perfect in his siddiqiyyah, namely the Companions, the Followers and the Followers of the Followers.
So, when it is said regarding these ascetics and worshippers from the people of Basra that they are siddiqs, then this is as it is said regarding the imams of the jurists from the people of Kufa that they are also siddiqs. Each of them is such according to the way that he has treaded in terms of obedience to Allah and His Prophet according to his ijtihad. At times they may be from the greatest siddiqs in their era and so they will be the most perfect siddiqs of their age. The siddiq of the First Era is more perfect than them and the siddiqs are of different levels and types. It is because of this that each of them has a category of spiritual state and worship that he has realized and perfected and mastered even though there is someone else in a different category that is more perfect and superior than him.
Because of the ijtihad and debates that occurred among many of them, the people have differed with each other in relation to their path. There is a group that has derided the Sufis and Tasawwuf and said that they are innovators and outside of the Sunnah. Speech in relation to this has been narrated from the imams of this group which is well known, and a group of the people of fiqh and kalam (creed) have followed them in this. There is a group that has exceeded the limits in relation to them and claimed that they are the most superior of the creation and the most perfect after the prophets. Both sides in these issues are blameworthy. ((Those who affiliate themselves to the Salaf, especially Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah, should take note of this text (Shaykh ‘Abd al-Hafiz).))
What is correct is that they are mujtahids in the obedience of Allah in the way that others aside from them from the people who are obedient to Allah have done ijtihad. Among them is he who has gone ahead and drawn close according to his ijtihad, and among them is he who is moderate and is from the people of the right (ahl al-yamin). In each of these two groups, there is he who at times performs ijtihad and then errs. Among them is he who commits a sin and then repents or does not. Among those who attribute themselves to them is he who oppresses his self and disobeys his Lord.
A group from the people of innovation and heresy has also attributed themselves to them. However, according to the authentic people of Tasawwuf, they are not from them, like al-Hallaj ((For an alternative view, Shaykh al-Hadith Mawlana Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhalwi has touched on Shaykh Mansur al-Hallaj citing Hakim al-Ummah Mawlana Ashraf ‘Ali Thanawi which can be viewed here. Mawlana Zafar Ahmad ‘Uthmani also has a detailed book on Shaykh Mansur al-Hallaj that provides a different view regarding him and which can be accessed here (translator).)) for example. Indeed the majority of the shaykhs of Tasawwuf have rejected him and cast him out of the path, such as Junayd bin Muhammad, the sayyid al-ta’ifah, as Shaykh Abu ‘Abdurrahman al-Sulami has mentioned in Tabaqat al-Sufiyyah and Hafiz Abu Bakr al-Khatim in Tarikh Baghdad. This is the original Tasawwuf.
Then, after that it went into groups and types and the Sufis became three: Sufiyyah al-Haqa’iq (Sufi of the Knowledge of Allah), Sufiyyah al-Arzaq (Sufi in Search of Material Gain) and Sufiyyah al-Rasm (The Ceremonial Sufi). As to the Sufiyyah al-Haqa’iq, they are the ones we have described. As to the Sufiyyah al-Arzaq, they are the ones who have endowments (waqf) entrusted to them such as the khanqahs. It is not a condition among them that they are people of the Knowledge of Allah (haqa’iq) as that is a great matter. The majority of the people of haqa’iq are not characterised as having khanqahs. However, it is a precondition that there are three conditions in them:
The first is Shari‘ah integrity in that they fulfil the obligatory acts (fard) and abstain from the forbidden (haram); the second is learning the etiquettes (adab) of the people of the path, and that is the etiquettes of Shari‘ah at all times. As to the created and innovated rituals, then they do not turn to them; and the third is that none of them clings to excessive worldly material. As to he who hoards wealth or does not have praiseworthy etiquettes and has not learned Shari’ah manners or is a fasiq, then he is not deserving of that.
As to the Sufiiyyah al-Rasm, they are restricted according to their understanding to attire and created rituals etc. They are, among the Sufis, on the level of he who restricts to wearing the attire of the people of knowledge and the people of Jihad. They modify their speech and actions in a way that the ignorant assumes the reality of his condition is that he is from them when he is not…
He then discusses at length the word faqir until he mentions:
… However, when asceticism (zuhd) became prominent among the faqirs, [the word] faqr, in the nomenclature of many of the people, came to define the path of zuhd which is a form of Tasawwuf.
Hence, when it is said, “In him there is faqr or there is no faqr in him”, the meaning is not that he does not have wealth. What is, however, meant by that is what is meant by the word Sufi—namely knowledge of Allah (ma‘rifah), spiritual states (hal), manners (akhlaq) and etiquettes (adab) etc.
According to this terminology, they have differed regarding which is superior: the faqir or the Sufi? A group has gone towards preferring the Sufi such as Abu Ja‘far al-Suhrawardi and his like. A group has gone towards preferring the faqir such as other groups. At times, these are specially characterised by zawiyahs and those with khanqahs etc. And the majority of people prefer the faqir.
Precisely speaking, the superior of the two is he who is more Allah fearing. Hence, if the Sufi is more fearing of Allah then he shall be superior than the other. That is by him being greater in abundantly doing those actions which Allah loves and abandoning what he dislikes. He is greater than the faqir. If the faqir abundantly performs those actions which Allah loves and abandons those that He dislikes, then he shall be superior than the other. And if they are equal in performing beloved actions and leaving unloved actions, then they shall be equal in status.
The walis of Allah are the Allah-fearing believers, regardless if one of them is named faqir, Sufi, jurist (faqih), ‘alim, businessman, soldier, craftsman, prince, ruler or anything else. Allah Most High mentions, “Be attentive, the friends of Allah shall have no fear, nor shall they grieve—those who believe and are Allah fearing”. (10:62/63)
2] Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah mentions in Majmu‘a al-Fatawa Vol. 11, p. 25:
He was asked: What do the jurists—may Allah be pleased with them—say regarding a man who says, “Certainly, we are not devoted to faqr, ((The word faqr here is being used to denote Tasawwuf (translator).)) we have not been ordered to follow it. It has no body or any meaning. It is not a path that connects to the pleasure of Allah Most High and the pleasure of His prophet. We are only focused on following the command of Allah and abstaining from what He has forbidden, namely [following] the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His prophet ﷺ. Certainly, the base of everything is knowledge, focusing on it and acting on it, fear of Allah (taqwa) and abstaining from what is haram. The faqr on the tongues of the group and the seniors is asceticism (zuhd) in the world and Shari‘ah knowledge benefits asceticism in the world. Hence, asceticism in the world and acting on knowledge is faqr. Therefore, faqr is a branch from the branches of knowledge and the matter is like this. There is no path that connects more [to Allah] than knowledge and acting on knowledge according to that which is correct and established from the Prophet ﷺ”.
He also says, “Indeed, the faqr named and known by the majority of the People of Garb (Ahl al-Zayy) that has become prevalent in our era in terms of habitual dress, words and nomenclature are not pleasing to Allah or to His Prophet”. Is the matter like he says or different? Answer us, you shall be rewarded.
Shaykh Taqi al-Din Ibn Taymiyyah, may Allah be pleased with him, answered: All praise is for Allah. The base of this issue is that words that have been mentioned in the Book and the Sunnah, it is our duty that we follow that which they denote. For example, the words faith, piety, fear of Allah (taqwa), truth, justice, goodness, patience, thankfulness, reliance (tawakkul), fear and hope (khawf wa raja), love for Allah, obedience to Allah and the Prophet, kindness to parents and fulfilling promises etc are from those matters which imply the mention of that which Allah and His Prophet love from the heart and the body. Hence, these matters which Allah and His Prophet love are the way to reach Allah while abandoning that which Allah and His Prophet have forbidden, namely disbelief, hypocrisy, lying, sins, enmity, oppression, being impatient, polytheism, stinginess, cowardice, hard-heartedness, treachery, breaking ties with relatives etc. It is the duty of every Muslim to look at what Allah and His Prophet have commanded and to fulfil that and also look at that which Allah and His Prophet have forbidden and to abandon that. This is the path of Allah, His way and His religion, the Straight Path, the path of those on who Allah has favoured from the prophets, the siddiqs, the martyrs and the pious.
This is the Straight Path (al-Sirat al-Mustaqim) which comprises knowledge and actions: Shari‘ah knowledge and Shari‘ah actions. Hence, he who knows and does not act on his knowledge, he is a sinner (fajir) and he who acts without knowledge is astray. Allah Most High has ordered that we say: “Take us on the straight path. The path of those on whom You have bestowed Your grace, not of those who have incurred Your wrath, nor of those who have gone astray”. (1:6-7) The Prophet ﷺ said, “The Jews are those who have incurred the wrath on them, and the Christians are those who have gone astray”. That is because the Jews recognised the truth and did not act on it and the Christians worshipped Allah without knowledge.
It is because of this that the Salaf used to say, “Fear the tribulation (fitnah) of a sinful (fajir) scholar and an ignorant worshipper for indeed their fitnah is a fitnah for every person who has been afflicted”. They also used to say, “He who has become corrupt from among the scholars has a similarity with the Jews and he who has become corrupt from the worshippers has a similarity with the Christians”. Hence, he who calls to knowledge without action (‘amal) which has been commanded is astray and he who calls to action (‘amal) without knowledge is astray. More astray than them both is he who treads in knowledge the path of the people of innovation and follows matters which are contrary to the Book and the Sunnah which he assumes is knowledge when it is ignorance. Similar is he who treads in [matters of] worship the path of the people of innovation. He carries out actions which are contrary to the actions that have been legislated in Shari‘ah which he assumes are acts of worship when they are acts of deviance. Both of these are many among those who are astray and attribute themselves to fiqh and faqr. They come together in that they call to knowledge without action and action without knowledge. That which they call towards has innovation (bid‘ah) which is contrary to the Shari‘ah. The path of Allah is not complete save with knowledge and action, both of which should be in agreement with the Shari‘ah.
Therefore, the one treading the path of faqr, Tasawwuf, zuhd and worship, if he does not tread with knowledge that is in agreement with the Shari‘ah he is astray from the path and that which he ruins is greater than that which he corrects. The one treading fiqh, knowledge, speculative reasoning (nazr) and dogma (kalam), if he does not follow the Shari‘ah and act on its knowledge he shall be a sinner and astray from the path. This is the basis on which it is necessary every Muslim relies.
As to bigotry (ta‘assub) in relation to a matter from the matters for which there is no guidance from Allah, then this is an act of ignorance: “And who is more astray than he who followed his desire without any guidance from Allah”. (28:5)
There is no doubt that the word faqr in the Book and the Sunnah and the words of the Companions, Followers and the Followers of the Followers is not used to intend the Path of Allah (tariq), doing that which He ordained, the abandoning of that which he forbade, praiseworthy manners etc., rather, faqr according to them was the antonym of rich (ghina). The fuqara are those who Allah has mentioned when he said, “The sadaqah (prescribed charity) is only to be given to the poor (fuqara) and the destitute…” (Al-Tawbah:60) And in His saying, “(Your charities should be preferably meant) for the needy (fuqara) who are confined in the way of Allah…” (Al-Baqarah:273) And His saying, “For the poor (fuqara) emigrants who were expelled from their homes and properties…” (Al-Hashr:8) The rich (ghani) is he for whom taking of Zakah is not permissible or he on who Zakah is incumbent or that which is similar to that. However, when faqr was inferred as being asceticism (zuhd), willingly or unwillingly, because it is from [divine] protection that you are incapable, many of those of the later times began to associate faqr with the meaning of asceticism (zuhd); asceticism at times can be with wealth and at times with poverty. Hence, among the prophets and the first to accept Islam there were those who were ascetic in spite of their abundant wealth.
Zuhd that is prescribed is the abandoning of that which does not benefit in the hereafter. As to everything that the slave takes support from in the obedience of Allah, then abandoning it is not from the prescribed asceticism; rather, what is prescribed is abandoning the surplus that preoccupies from the obedience of Allah and His Prophet. Likewise, during the second century, they began to describe that with the word Sufi because the wearing of wool (suf) is predominant among the ascetics…
3] Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah mentions in Majmu‘a al-Fatawa Vol. 11, p. 70:
As to those who came later, the [word] faqir in their nomenclature is the name for the wayfarer (salik) heading towards Allah Most High, as is also the Sufi in their terminology. Then, among them is he who gives preference to the word Sufi over the word faqir because the Sufi has corrected the esoteric and the exoteric; and among them is he who prefers the word faqir since, according to him, the faqir has broken all connections and is not, exoterically, preoccupied with issues that are not necessary. This debate is to do with semantics and terminology.
The truth is that the praiseworthy meaning of both these names (faqir and Sufi) are included within the words siddiq, wali, salih and other similar words that appear in the Book and the Sunnah, and when it (the praiseworthy meaning) enters the Prophetic names then the ruling mentioned within the Prophet’s teachings (risalah) shall firmly apply. As to those matters by which these words are given distinction, namely the said person is considered superior when it is not a cause of superiority, or those issues on account of which one considers the said the person to be a wali and other similar matters which cause an increased rank in faith and the world, then these matters are void in Shari‘ah except when they are from among those issues that are permissible such as handicrafts. There is no problem in this on the condition that one does not believe that these permissible matters are recommended. As to that which has been adjoined to that, namely that which is disliked in the religion of Allah in terms of various types of innovations and sinfulness, it is necessary to forbid them as has been mentioned in the Shari‘ah.
4] Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah mentions in Majmu‘a al-Fatawa Vol. 11, p. 194:
There is nothing by which the walis of Allah are, exoterically, set apart from people from those matters that are permissible; hence, they are not set apart on account of one garment or another when both are permissible, nor with shaving the head or shortening or platting it when it is permissible. It is as it is said, “So many siddiqs are dressed in qaba and so many heretics are dressed in the abba”. ((The qaba is a tight fitting overcoat that is short with narrow sleeves and which used to be generally worn by ordinary people where as the abba is a wide and long rectangular cloak with large black or brown stripes that used to be worn by people of religious rank (translator).)) Rather, the walis are found in all of the groups within the Ummah of Muhammad ﷺ as long as they are not from the people of apparent innovation and sin. They are found among the people of the Qur’an and the people of knowledge, and among the people of Jihad and sword, and among traders, craftsmen and husbandmen. Allah has mentioned the qualities of the Ummah of Muhammad ﷺ in His saying, “Your Lord knows that you stand (in prayer) for nearly two thirds of the night, and (at times) for half of it, and (at times) for one third of it, and (so do) a group of those who are with you. And Allah measures the night and the day. He knows that you (O Muslims,) cannot do it in a regular way; therefore He turned to you in mercy. Now, recite as much of the Qur’an as is easy (for you). He knows that some of you may be sick, and others travelling in the land, seeking the grace of Allah, and yet others fighting in Allah’s way. Therefore, recite as much of it as is easy”. (Al-Muzammil: 20)
The Salaf used to call the people of religion and knowledge al-Qurra, and the scholars and ascetics were included among them. The name Sufi and fuqara (s. faqir) was created thereafter. The name Sufi is attributed to the wearing of wool (suf), this is correct. It is said that it is attributed to safwah al-fuqaha (the choicest from the jurists), and it is said to Sufah bin Addi bin Tabikhah, an Arabian tribe that used to be known for asceticism. It is said that it is attributed to the Ahl al-Suffah (People of the Platform), Mount Safa, the word al-safwah (the selected ones) and it is said to al-saff al-muqaddam (the foremost rank) in front of Allah Most High. These opinions are weak for if it were like this then it would be said saf-fi, safa’i, safawi or suffi and not Sufi.
The name fuqara has also begun to mean the people of Suluk and this is a recent usage. People are in dispute as to which is superior: the word Sufi or the word faqir. They are also in dispute which is superior: the wealthy person who is thankful or the poor person who is patient…
5] Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah mentions in Majmu‘a al-Fatawa Vol. 11, p. 320, after a delicate discussion regarding khariq:
Hence, in summary that which ruptures the natural order of things (khariq) (( Khariq al-‘adah is an Arabic term that literally means “breaking the natural order of things” and is used to technically describe the miraculous or supernatural (translator).)) is of three types: praiseworthy in religion, blameworthy in religion, and permissible—not praiseworthy or blameworthy—in the religion. If the permissible has a benefit then it is a blessing and if it does not have a benefit then it is like the other permissible actions in which there is no benefit such as playing and futile pursuits.
Abu ‘Ali al-Juzjani ((One of the major shaykhs of the Sufis and their imams (may Allah have mercy on them) (Shaykh ‘Abd al-Hafiz).)) said: “Be a seeker of steadfastness, not a seeker of miracles for indeed your carnal self (nafs) is predisposed to seek miracles and your Lord seeks steadfastness from you”. Shaykh Suhrawardi has mentioned in his ‘Awarif [al-Ma‘arif]: “And that which he has mentioned is a major principle in this matter and a secret that many of the people of Suluk and seekers are unaware of”. That is because those who toil and worship have heard of the early pious predecessors and the miracles and khariq that they were bestowed with; as a result, their souls continuously seek some of that and they desire to receive some of that. Perhaps one of them remains heartbroken and accuses his self in regards to the correctness of his action when nothing from that appears to him. If they were to know the secret of that, then they would attach no importance to it and they would know that Allah opens a door from that on some of those who sincerely strive. Its wisdom is that he increases in erudition on account of the khariq al-‘adah that he sees and the effects of the power. Hence, his resolve for asceticism in the world and remaining away from the beckoning of desires becomes strong.
At times, firm conviction (sidq al-yaqin) appears to some of his slaves and the veils are removed from their hearts. He who experiences sidq al-yaqin has no need to see something that is khariq al-‘adah because the purpose of that (the latter) is to acquire firm conviction and that has been gained. If the person who has been bestowed with firm conviction were to experience any of that (khariq) then [his] conviction would increase. The wisdom of revealing the ability to perform a khariq al-‘adah at this juncture does not mean that he (the one from who it originates) is in need of it, rather the wisdom behind it is to reveal it for another person at a place of his need. This second person will be more able and worthy than the first. Hence, the way of the sincere person is to seek steadfastness from the soul and that is in its entirety a miracle. Then, if a khariq [al-‘adah] were to occur in his journey then it will be as if it did not happen. He will not care and will not become deficient because of that. He only becomes deficient by neglecting the necessary right of steadfastness. Know this for indeed it is a great principle for the seekers, ascetic scholars and Sufi shaykhs.
6] Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah mentions in Majmu‘a al-Fatawa Vol. 11, p. 338, after a delicate discussion regarding khariq:
As to the way [of acquiring knowledge] through means that are rational (‘aqli), transmitted (naqli), revealed (kashfi), information (khabari) and speculative (nazri), the way of the People of Hadith (ahl al-hadith), the People of Kalam (theology) and the People of Tasawwuf has been that people have contended with each other in this in support and against. Among the people are those who have objected from it that which they did not recognise, and among them were those who exceeded the limit in that which they recognised and so they raised it above its worth and negated everything else. The people of Kalam and philosophers exalt the rational paths, much of which is corrupt and contradictory. Out of the creation of Allah they are the most in contradiction and dispute, each group refutes the other in that which they claim as being definite.
A group which claims [to follow] the Sunnah and hadith derive proof in that from fabricated hadiths and stories that they know are lies. At times, they take proof from something that is weak (da‘if) in opposition of something that is strong. Many of the Sufis and faqirs are reared on dreams, spiritual taste (dhawq) and thoughts which they believe are kashf when they are actually thoughts that are not correct and ideas that are untrue. “They only follow conjecture, and conjecture is of no avail in (the matter of) truth”. (Al-Najm: 28)
We say: As to the ways of [of acquiring knowledge] of the rulings of Shari‘ah, regarding which we speak of in the principles of fiqh, then—by consensus of the Muslims—they include the Book [of Allah]. None of the imams have disputed this as some of the deviants have in deriving proof in some issues relating to creed.
The second is the Sunnah (hadiths) that is mutawatir (( Mutawatir (or “successive”) is a hadith that is conveyed by numerous narrators in a way that it cannot be conceived that they have agreed on an untruth. Such hadiths can be mutawatir in text or in meaning (translator).)) and which does not oppose the apparent meaning of the Qur’an but explains it, such as the number of prayers (Salah) and the units of prayer (rak‘ah), the required amount (nisab) for Zakah [to be compulsory] and its being compulsory, the descriptions of the Hajj and the ‘Umrah, and other rulings that cannot be known without the explanation of the Sunnah…
The third way is the [acts of] Sunnah narrated mutawatir from the Messenger of Allah ﷺ that have been accepted by the people of knowledge or through reliable transmitters. This, also, is from among that the following of which the people of knowledge from the people of fiqh, hadith, Tasawwuf and the majority of people of knowledge are agreed. Some of the people of Kalam have rejected that and many of them have rejected that knowledge is acquired from any of them. They have only made knowledge compulsory and have not differentiated between what is received with acceptance and what is not…
The fourth way is Consensus (ijma‘) and that is, in sum, agreed on by the majority of Muslims from the jurists, the Sufis, the people of hadith and Kalam, and others. Some of the people of innovation from the Mutazilites and the Shiites have rejected it. However, what is known regarding it is that this is that on which the Companions were. As to that which came after then acquiring knowledge from that is not, in the main, possible…
The fifth way is analogy (qiyas) on a text (nass) and the Consensus, and this is a [source of] proof according to the majority of the jurists. However, many of the people of rai (independent opinion) exceeded the limits in this so much that they used it before discussing the text, refuted text using it and used it for wrong. From among the people of Kalam, the people of hadith and the people of analogy there are those who reject it totally and this is a major issue; the truth in relation to it lies in moderation between exceeding the limit and being lax.
The sixth way is Presumption of Continuity (istishab) (( Istishab is a principle of fiqh and presumes that a situation known to exist in the past continues to exist until there is evidence to the contrary. This can be used in the absence of other evidences. There are several maxims based on this, for example the innocence of an accused is presumed until guilt is proved, certainty cannot be disproved by doubt and permissibility is the original state of things (translator).)) which is that the matter remains as it is as long as its establishment or negation in Shari‘ah is not known. It is, by consensus, a proof (hujjah) when the matter is unknown. However, is it [a source of] proof when it is known there is nothing? In this there is a difference of view…
The seventh way is Masalih Mursalah (( Masalih Mursalah can be loosely translated as “public welfare set loose from the texts” in that discretion may be applied in judgments to overrule strict analogy in cases where the public interest would thereby be benefitted as long as the Shari‘ah is not contradicted (translator).)) which is that the mujtahid considers that an action will attract an overriding benefit (jalb al-manfa‘ah) and within the Shari‘ah there is nothing to negate it. In this way, there is a famous difference of opinion and so the jurists call it Masalih Mursalah; and among them are those who called it rai and some of them consider Istihsan to be close to it. The spiritual taste (dhawq) of the Sufis, their spiritual ecstasy (wajd) and their inspirations (ilham) are close to this. Its summary is that they discover in the speech and action a common good (maslahah) in their hearts and matters of religion, and experience the taste of its benefit—this is maslahah. However, some of the people specifically assign Masalih Mursalah to protecting lives, wealth, honour, intellect and religion. It is not like this. Rather, Masalih Mursalah is attracting a benefit and repelling harm (daf‘ al-madar), and that which they have mentioned in repelling harm in these five issues, then that is one of two types.
Attracting benefit can be in worldly and religious matters. In worldly matters this would be in social dealings and actions in which it can be said there is a common good (maslahah) for the creation without there being a Shar‘iah prohibition. In matters of religion, this would be in much of the spiritual knowledge (ma‘arif), spiritual states (hal), acts of worship and asceticism regarding which it is said there is a common good (maslahah) for man without there being a Shar‘iah prohibition. Hence, he who has restricted the maslaha to punishments (‘uqubat) in which there is repelling of harm in those situations to only protect the body, then the person has restricted [the matter].
This is a great chapter, focusing on it is necessary as great disorder has occurred within the religion on account of it and many of the rulers, scholars and worshippers have observed maslahah which they used on the basis of this principle. At times, there is within its usage that which is prohibited in Shari‘ah and which they did not know and at times words that are contrary to the texts have been given preference over the masalih mursalah. Many of them have been careless in maslahah, the consideration of which according to Shari ‘ah is compulsory on the basis that the Shari ‘ah has not related that and, as a result, the obligatory and preferred actions have been lost or the person slips into that which is prohibited and disliked. At times, the Shari ‘ah has mentioned that and the person did not know.
7] Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah mentions in Majmu‘a al-Fatawa Vol. 11, p. 381:
He was asked: Which is preferred—remedying that which Allah dislikes from your heart, for example jealousy, malice, spite, pride, ostentation, desire for good reputation, showing off actions, hardness of heart and other actions that are specifically concerned with the heart in terms of its dirtiness and wickedness, or being preoccupied with the exoteric actions such as prayer (salah), fasting, and the various acts of drawing close such as the supererogatory prayers (nafl) and those actions that have been pledged while those [evil] matters exist in his heart? Answer us, may you be rewarded.
He responded—may Allah have mercy on him: All praise is for Allah. What is necessary on him from those matters? Surely, what is most necessary is exceeding and increasing. It is as Allah Most High has said as narrated by His Prophet ﷺ: “My slave does not draw near to me by means of those actions that I have made compulsory on him”. He said: “My slave keeps drawing near to me by means of supererogatory acts of worship (nafl) until I love him”. The exoteric actions are not correct and accepted except by means of the action of the heart, for the heart is the king and the limbs are its army. So, if the king were to be foul then his army would become foul and it is because of this that the Prophet ﷺ said: “Be attentive, surely in the body is a piece of flesh, if it is correct then the body in its entirety will be correct and if it is corrupt then the body in its entirety would be corrupt”. Likewise, the actions of the heart will definitely affect the actions of the body. When what is a priority is more compulsory, regardless of whether it is known as the esoteric (batin) or exoteric (zahir), then at times what is known as the esoteric is more compulsory such as abandoning jealousy and pride as that is more compulsory for him than supererogatory fasts. At times that which is known as the exoteric is more superior such as the prayer of the night, for indeed it is more superior than just abandoning some of the thoughts (khatir) that pass on the heart, namely from the genre of envy and its like. Each of the esoteric and exoteric actions supports the other and prayer (salah) prevents sins and wrong and creates serenity and other great effects. It is the greatest of actions along with giving charity. And Allah is the most knowledgeable.
8] Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah mentions in Majmu‘a al-Fatawa Vol. 11, p. 395:
He was asked: What is the wisdom in that those preoccupied with dhikr, meditation (fikr), spiritual exercises (riyadah), struggling with the carnal self (mujahadah al-nafs) and similar things—in spite of their less knowledge and the ignorance of some of them—experience kashf and miracles (karamah) and other things such as spiritual states (hal) that are not experienced by those who are preoccupied with knowledge and its teaching? What is the discussion regarding this? This is such that if a person was to spend the night focused and preoccupied in dhikr and the presence [of Allah], he would definitely see an incident or something would open up to him, and if he were to spend the night repeating a chapter from the chapters of fiqh then he would not find that. The situation is such that many of the worshippers find a sweetness and bliss in dhikr that they do not find in the recitation of the Qur’an even though the Sunnah has narrated the superiority of the scholar over the worshipper; this is especially the case when the worshipper is in need of knowledge to an extent that the scholar is distracted from worship in the preoccupation of knowledge.
It is mentioned in the hadith, “Indeed, the angels place their wings for the seeker of knowledge in happiness of what the seeker does, indeed the scholars are the inheritors of the prophets, indeed the superiority of the scholar over the worshipper is like the superiority of the moon over all stars”. It is in a hadith narrated from the Prophet ﷺthat he said: “On the Day of Judgment, Allah Most High will say to the worshippers and the mujahids, ‘Enter Paradise’. So the scholars will say that it was through the excellence of our knowledge that they worshipped and did Jihad. So Allah Most High will say to them, ‘You are for Me like my angles, intercede’. They shall then intercede and enter Paradise”. There are other hadiths and narrations [like this].
Then, many of the worshippers prefer worship over seeking knowledge in spite of their ignorance of that which invalidates much of their worship such as those things that nullify ablution or prayer and fasts. At times, some of them narrate stories pertaining to this: Such as Rabi‘ah al-‘Adawiyyah—may Allah have mercy on her—came one night to al-Quds and performed prayer until the morning and on one side was a house in which there was a jurist who was repeating a chapter on the fiqh of menstruation until the morning. In the morning, Rabi‘ah said to him: “What is this. Many have reached their Lord and you are preoccupied with the menstruation of women”. Or she said something like this. So, what is it that prevents those preoccupied with knowledge from gaining that which those preoccupied with worship acquire in spite of their superiority over them?
He replied: All praise is for Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. There is no doubt that he who is granted knowledge and faith is greater in rank than those who have only been bestowed faith, as the Book and the Sunnah indicate that. Praiseworthy knowledge towards which the Book and the Sunnah indicate is that knowledge which is the inheritance of the prophets, as the Prophet ﷺ said: “Indeed, the scholars are the heirs of the prophets. Indeed the prophets do not leave inheritance in the form of dirhams or dinars, they only leave in inheritance knowledge and so he who takes that has taken a great portion”.
This knowledge is of three types: The knowledge of Allah, His names and His attributes, and that what is concerned with that. In example of this, Allah revealed Surah al-Ikhlas, Ayat al-Kursi etc. The second is knowledge in which Allah has informed of those issues that have passed, those matters that will come and what is happening in the present. By way of example of this, Allah has revealed the verses containing stories, pledges, warnings, the descriptions of paradise and hell etc. The third is that knowledge pertaining to what Allah has commanded from those matters related to the hearts and the limbs, namely bringing faith on Allah, the knowledge of the hearts and their spiritual conditions (hal), the utterances of the limbs and their actions. In it is knowledge of the core matters of faith and the principles of Islam, and also knowledge relating to exoteric speech and actions; this knowledge includes in it what is found in the books of the jurists namely the knowledge of the rulings of external actions, for indeed that is a minute part of the knowledge of faith in the way that the revelations (kashf) that happen to the people of purity is a minute part of the knowledge pertaining to matters of existence.
The people are only erring in these issues because they understand the denotations of the nomenclature that appear in the Book and the Sunnah, yet do not understand the realities of the issues at hand. Many a person memorises the various forms of knowledge, the greatest of which is memorising the Qur’an, even though he may not understand it and not even have faith, by which he may be distinguished over he who has been given the Qur’an and not memorised various forms of knowledge as the Prophet ﷺ said in a hadith that all have agreed on (muttafaq ‘alayh): “The like of a believer who reads the Qur’an is like the citron, its taste is pleasant and its smell is pleasant. The example of a believer who does not recite the Qur’an is like that of a date, it has no smell, though its taste is sweet. The example of a hypocrite who recites the Qur’an is that of a sweet smelling flower, it has fragrance but has a bitter taste. The example of a hypocrite who does not read the Qur’an is like a wild gourd. It has a bitter taste and no smell”.
So, at times a man may have memorised the letters of the Qur’an and its Surahs and he may not be a believer but a hypocrite; so the believer who has not memorised its letters and Surahs is better than him even though others benefit from that hypocrite in the way benefit is drawn from the sweet smelling flower. As to he who has been granted knowledge and faith, he is a knowledgeable believer; he is superior to the believer who is not equal to him in knowledge in the way they are equal in faith. This is a principle the knowing of which is imperative.
Here is another principle: Not every action which results in kashf or supernatural control over things (tasarruf) in the world is superior than the action that does not result in kashf and tasarruf. Indeed, if the kashf and tasarruf are not helpful to the religion of Allah, then they are means of enjoying the worldly life. At times, they are acquired by the disbelievers from among the polytheists and the People of the Book, and not acquired by the people of faith who are the people of Paradise, while those are the people of fire.
The excellence of actions and their higher levels are not gained through the likes of this and are only gained through the guidance of the Book and the Sunnah. It is because of this that many actions allow for the performer to gain in the world a high ranking and wealth. The most noble of the creation according to Allah are the most Allah fearing. He who worships Allah without knowledge has done more harm than good even though he has acquired kashf and tasarruf and even though a large number of the masses follow him. We have discussed this in detail at its place, and this is the second principle.
The third principle is that the superiority of one action over another at times will be absolute, such as the superiority of the fundamental act (asl) of religion over it’s a subsidiary act (far‘), and at times [this superiority is] conditional. Hence, in respect to Zayd, one of two actions may be superior to the other, and the other may be superior in respect to ‘Amr. At times they may both be equal in respect to one man and at times that which is inferior may at times be superior than that which is [normally] superior; at times for the person who is capable of it and would be able to benefit from it that which is inferior will be greater than that which is superior for the person who is not of that condition.
Its example is that the recitation of the Qur’an is superior than just mentioning the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ and the Consensus of the Ummah—and there is no consideration for those ignorant slaves who oppose that. Then, reciting the Qur’an is not allowed in bowing and prostration, in those postures it is dhikr that is commanded. Likewise, dhikr and supplication in the Tawaf and ‘Arafah etc are superior to reading the Qur’an. Likewise, the religiously ordained dhikr—such as what is said when the Call to Prayer is heard, at the time of entering and leaving the mosque and the home, when a rooster or a donkey are heard etc—are superior than reciting the Qur’an at those times. The majority of the wayfarers (saliks) when they recite the Qur’an do not understand it. They have not tasted the sweetness of faith (iman) with which the Qur’an may increase them in faith. So, when they turn to dhikr, the dhikr gives them the sweetness and taste of faith and so the dhikr is more beneficial for them at that moment than reciting what they do not understand. Nor do they have in faith that which increases with the recitation of the Qur’an. When the man is given faith the Qur’an increases him in this, something which cannot be gained just by dhikr. This is the third principle.
The fourth principle is that the man at times carries out a superior action without fulfilling its condition and there is no sincerity in it. So, on account of its conditions being loss he is less than he who properly carries out an action that is less superior. These principles and their like clarify the answer of this questioner even though paper is not enough for the details of that. And Allah is the most knowledgeable.
9] Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah mentions in Majmu‘a al-Fatawa Vol. 11, p. 433, mentions after a delicate discussion regarding khariq:
Shaykh al-Islam was asked regarding the hadith narrated about the abdal—is it sahih (( Sahih could be defined as that hadith which is narrated by a trustworthy and competent individual with a connected chain of narration and without a serious flaw (translator).)) or maqtu‘?I (( Maqtu‘ could be loosely defined as that hadith attributed to a Follower (translator).)) And are the abdal particularly in the Levant (al-Sham)? Or is it the case that wherever the distinct features of Islam are established with the Book and the Sunnah, the abdal will be there, in the Levant and other lands? Is it correct that the wali may be sat in a group and his body is absent?
What do the respected scholars say regarding these names which are used to describe a group from those attributed to the faith and erudition, they say this is a ghawth al-aghwath, this is a qutub al-aqtab, this is the qutub al-‘alam, this is al-qutub al-kabir, and this is khatim al-awliya (the seal of the walis)?
He responded: As to the names that are prevalent on the tongues of many of the ascetics and the lay masses such as the ghawth (helper) who is in Makkah, the forty awtad (pegs), the seven qutub (pivots), the forty abdal (substitutes), the three hundred najibs (deputies), these names are not present in the Book of Allah Most High and nor are they also narrated from the Prophet ﷺ with a sahih chain of narration, nor does the weak hadith (da‘if) bear the word abdal.
They have been narrated in the Hadith of the Levant (hadith Shami) which is munqati‘i (( Munqati‘ is that hadith whose chain is broken (translator).)) in its chain of narration from ‘Ali bin Abu Talib (may Allah be pleased with him) who attributes (marfu‘) it to the Prophet ﷺ that he said: “Indeed, among them—meaning the people of the Levant—there are abdal, forty men. Whenever a man dies Allah Most High will replace him with another man in his place”. These names are not found in the speech of the predecessors as they are in this order, nor are they narrated according to this order and meanings from the shaykhs who are accepted widely by the Ummah. These descriptions are only found from some of those followers of the shaykhs, and they only said this to give them preference over others or as a reminder.
This and knowledge similar to it has become, for many of those of the latter times, obscure with what is wrong. Hence, in it there is truth which has to be accepted and falsehood that needs to be rejected. Many of the people are in opposition on both sides. There is a group that has falsified everything in it because they found some falsehood in it. There is a group that has verified as the truth everything in it because they found some truth in it. The correct is only to verify what is the truth and falsify the falsehood…
As to the word al-ghawth and al-ghiyath, only Allah is in need of it for He is the Aider of all who seek His help (ghiyath al-mustaghithin) and it is impermissible for anyone to seek aid from anyone aside from Him, not even a close angle and or a sent prophet…
As to the awtad, it is at times found in the speech of some that they say: Such a person is from the awtad. Meaning that Allah Most High has, by him, established faith and the religion in the hearts of those who Allah guided by him in the way He establishes the earth with its awtad (mountains). This meaning is established for everyone who has this quality from the scholars; therefore, each person on account of who knowledge and faith has been established in the majority of people is on the standing of a great peg and a large mountain—he who is of a less ranking view him as such. That is not confined to four, or less or more, rather they have considered them four by comparing with the opinion of astrologers regarding the earth’s pegs.
As to the qutub, it is also found in their speech that such a person is from among the aqtab (plural of qutub) or that such a person is a qutub. Hence, each person around who revolves an issue pertaining to religion or the world, exoterically or esoterically, is a qutub of that matter and its pivot. This is regardless of whether that which revolves around him is the affair of his home, his street, his village or his city, or relates to the matter of his religion and worldly life, esoterically or exoterically. There is no specifying of this meaning into seven, or any less or more. However, what is praised in relation to this is the person who is the pivot for the improvement of both worldly and religious matters, not just the improvement of religious matters—he is a qutb in their terminology. Hence, in some eras there is agreement that a man is the most superior of the people of his era. At times, there is agreement in another era that two or three are equal in excellence according to Allah. It is not necessary that there is in an era one individual who is unconditionally the most superior of the creation according to Allah…
Those who have spoken regarding the name badl (pl. abdal) explain it through several meanings. Among them is that they are the replacement (badl) of the prophets, and among those meanings is that each time a man from among them dies, Allah Most High replaces in his place with another man. Among those meanings is that they have replaced the bad qualities of their manners and actions and beliefs with good qualities. These ascriptions, all of them, are not specific to forty, nor to less or more. Nor are they confined to the people of one land on earth. And by this the meaning of the word nujaba also becomes apparent…
And, among the Allah fearing walis of Allah, the sincere and pious slaves of Allah, and His Prophets that have been sent, there is no one who is constantly absent in body from the sight of people, rather this is from the category of the speech of those who say that indeed ‘Ali is in the clouds, Muhammad bin al-Hanafiyyah is in Mount Radwa [near Yanbu], that Muhammad bin al-Hasan is in a cellar (sardab) in [the city of] Samarra, al-Hakim is in the mountains of Egypt and that the forty abdal are unseen men in the mountains of Lebanon. All of this and its like are from the speech of the people of falsehood and lies. Yes, it is the case that something contrary to the habit takes place relating to an individual who may at times disappear from the people’s sight either to repel an enemy from himself or for another reason. As for him to remain like this his entire life, then this is falsehood. Yes, the radiance of his heart, the guidance of his mind and what is in there, namely the secrets of Allah Most High, His trust, light and knowledge (ma‘rifah) is hidden from the eyes of people. His piety and nearness to Allah (wilayah) is hidden from most people and this is actually the case. The secrets of Allah are between Him and His walis, the majority of people do not know.
To be continued…
Sufism and the Imams of the Salafi Movement: Introduction
Shaykh Muhammad bin ‘Abd al-Wahhab and Sufism
Hafiz Ibn al-Qayyim and Sufism – Part One
Hafiz Ibn al-Qayyim and Sufism – Part Two
Imam al-Dhahabi and Sufism
Hafiz Ibn Kathir and Sufism
Hafiz Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali and Sufism (Part One)
Hafis Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali and Sufism (Part Two)
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah and Sufism (Part One)