Tasawwur al-Shaykh According to Shaykh al-Hadith Mawlana Zakariyya Kandhlawi
“And the Ahl’ul Sunnah consider the Twelve Imams of Ahl’ul Bayt to be their Imams, we believe that they are those that we should follow, and are they are the Qutb-i-Irshad [pivots of knowledge].”-Rashid Ahmad Gangohi, Hidayat al Shi’a, page 35, old edition, Delhi
Excerpted from Tasawwur al-Shaykh
By Shaykh al-Hadith Mawlana Zakariyya Kandhalwi
It is also called the exercise (shughal) of Rabitah, Barzakh and Wasta (see Ta’lim al-Din); to the mashayikh of Tasawwuf it is a very important exercise. The mashayikh have written many benefits of this.
…There is also the hadith of Sayyiduna ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) in Sunan Abu Dawud, in the Chapter Regarding Rings of Iron, that Allah’s Messenger (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said to him: “Say, ‘O Allah, guide me and make me adhere to the straight path,’ and when you mention ‘guide’ (hidayah), keep in mind the right path, and when you mention the straight (path), keep in mind the straightness of the arrow.’”
My master and murshid, Mawlana Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri, writes in the commentary of this in Badhl al-Majhud that: “In other words, when mentioning ‘guide’ keep in your heart the right path. In the same way that a path is tread in its middle and the person walking does not turn right or left, and if he were to turn then he would not reach the goal, then, likewise, when mentioning ‘guide’ keep in mind that reaching the purpose is dependent on remaining firm on the path. Similarly, keep in mind the straightness of an arrow when mentioning ‘adhere to the straight path’, in other words its straightness and firmness in that. So, likewise, may Allah Most High keep me on the correct path and straighten me so there remains no crookedness in the way there is none in the arrow.”
…Hakim al-Ummah Mawlana Ashraf ‘Ali Thanawi writes in Ta’lim al-Din (page 177): “It is mentioned in the books of [this] science that the plentiful envisioning of the image of the shaykh and his perfect traits gives birth to his love and strengthens the spiritual connection (nisbah); it is through a strong nisbah that many types of blessings (barakah) can be gained. Some researchers (muhaqqiqs) say that the only benefit of Tasawwur al-Shaykh is that one thought removes another, something that allows one to focus and removes thoughts (khawatir).
…It is mentioned in Arwah-e-Thalatha under the particulars of Sayyid Ahmad Rai-Barelwi (may Allah enlighten his grave) that when he was in the service of his shaykh, Shah ‘Abd al-’Aziz Dehlawi, he taught him the exercise of Rabitah. Sayyid Ahmad excused himself at which Shah ‘Abd al-’Aziz recited a Persian poem the literal meaning of which is: If the kamil shaykh orders his murid to perform prayer on a mat immersed in wine then he should fulfil his order, for the salik is ignorant of the particularities of the tariq and its secrets that lead to the purpose.
At this, Sayyid Ahmad replied: “Order me to do any disobedience and I shall oblige. This is not an act of disobedience; it is polytheism. It is not agreeable.” When Shah ‘Abd al-’Aziz heard this he embraced him and said: “Well then, we shall take you along the path of nubuwwah. You are not suited to the path of wilayah.”
I have mentioned a story regarding this poem in my autobiography, Aap Biti, which I heard from my elders. The translation of the poem is: Drench the prayer mat in wine when the perfect (kamil) murshid orders such, for indeed the salik is ignorant of the stations of the Path.
The story that I heard is that one of the students of Shah ‘Abd al-’Aziz Dehlawi asked him the meaning of this poem, so the shaykh said: “Remain occupied in studying and imparting knowledge. What concern do you have with such things?” However, when the student insisted, Shah ‘Abd al-’Aziz handed him ten rupees and told him to go to such and such an inn and ask the keeper if there are any women available. The student first of all became absorbed in thought. However, as he had asked himself regarding the poem and insisted on understanding its meaning, he went to the place. On reaching there and asking, the keeper said: “A beautiful girl has just arrived and she is in that room. I will go and speak to her and return to you.” The keeper went and spoke to the woman. He then told the student to return at night. When he arrived there at night, the woman was seated head lowered and crying. The student became extremely surprised and told her that he had not forced her or pressured her. The woman, however, began to sob more and the student was left in a conundrum. After one hour, she said: “I am oppressed and repressed. I have been without food for so many days. I have been wandering for so many days. My husband left me and there is no news of where he is. I have been looking for him for two to three months.” The student then asked the woman her husband’s name and where he is from. When she informed him, it became clear that the lost husband was the student himself. He then asked her to reveal her face and look up. On doing so they both recognised each other — the husband had left home in want of knowledge. He then remained with the woman that night in that place. In the morning he came to the service of Shah ‘Abd al-’Aziz and said that the poem was completely true.
I have heard many of these types of stories from my elders. However, the first condition is that the shaykh is a kamil, one who epitomises (jam’i) both Shari’ah and Tariqah, is knowledgeable of the signs of the divine secrets, and annihilated in the obedience of Allah and His messenger — this is not the situation of all who claim saintliness (buzurgi).
Once, Mawlana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi was in a passionate mood and the issue of Tasawwur al-Shaykh was being discussed. He said: “Shall I say?” In response it was said: “Yes, say.” He said: “Shall I say?” In response it was said: “Yes, say.” He said: “Shall I say?” It was said: “Say.” He said: “For three complete years, the face of Haji Imdad Allah remained in my heart and I did not do anything without asking him.” Then he became more passionate and said: “Shall I say?” In response it was said: “Yes, surely.” He said: “For so many years (the person reporting the story does not remember the exact amount) the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) was in my heart and I did not do anything in that time without asking him (may Allah bless him and grant him peace).” Having said this, he became even more passionate and said: “Shall I say more?” It was replied: “Yes, say.” He, however, remained silent. People insisted, so he said: “Stop, let it be.” The next day, after much pleading, he said: “After that was the status of ihsan.”
Shaykh al-Islam fil Bilad al-Haram Imam Sayyid Muhammad ibn ‘Alawi al-Maliki’s letter to Shaykh al-Hadith Mawlana Zakariyya
In the name of Allah, most Beneficent, most Merciful,
Possessor of Excellence, the learned hadith scholar, remnant of the predecessors and splendour of the successors, the embodiment of blessings, Imam, caller to Allah, my master and my teacher: Shaykh Muhammad Zakariyya, may Allah protect him …
Al-Salam ‘alaykum wa Rahmat Allah
I congratulate you on the arrival of the New Year. May Allah make it one of prosperity, blessings, happiness and favour. Amin.
I thank you for kindly sending to me a copy of the great, renowned and praiseworthy commentary, Badhl al-Majhud, which is crowned with your blessed annotations. May Allah protect, aid and assist you, and may He lengthen your life in His obedience and the excellence of His servitude, and may He enable us to benefit from you. May you always remain [in prosperity].
Your lover and humble servant*,
Muhammad ibn ‘Alawi al-Maliki
Servant of the honourable students at the [Umm al-Qura] University and al-Masjid al-Haram
Image taken from: Fihrist Ta’lifat-e-Shaykh, Volume 1, p. 346 (Saharanpur: Maktabah Yadgar-e-Shaykh, Ramadhan 1417 AH / January 1997 CE ed. ) by Sayyid Muhammad Shahid Saharanpuri.
*Hadrat Shah Wali Allah Muhaddith Dahlawi included the following hadith in his Arbaeen, narrated from the Holy Prophet (sallallahu alaih wa sallam) by Imam ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (alaihi salam) and the Ahlul Bayt, “The master of a people is its servant”