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Shaykh al-Alawî - A kind word in response to those who reject sufism - CHAPTER THREE: PROOF OF SUFISM
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Écrit par Ahmad al-Alawî   
Mercredi, 14 Septembre 1921 13:40
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Sufism in the first communities

When you concluded your introduction to commanding good and forbidding evil, you then turned towards that which you believed to be evil, in order to change what the Sufis do in assembling for dhikr, salutations on the Prophet (blessing and peace be upon him) and the recitation of the Qur’ān.


You said,

‘(Chapter) Hasan al-Basri was asked concerning the gathering of a group of people of Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jamā'ah 55 reading the Qur’ān shahādatayn in someone's house, sending praises to the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) and praying for themselves and the Muslims. He prohibited it in the strongest terms because it was not the practice of the pious predecessors nor was it part of religion, for they were indeed more fervent in desire towards good than these people were. Therefore, if there were any good in it, they would have practised it themselves.’


If the activities of the Sufis, of gathering in their houses reading the Qur’ān, praising the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) and praying for themselves and the Muslims, angered you to the extent that you could not find any saying of approval for it and if it appeared to you as a sin and inconsistent with the practice of the predecessors, then I say, 'O Allāh make our sins and the sins of our friends, nay the sins of the generality of Muslims of this kind, if the manner of the gathering is what you had mentioned. However, if it is an error, which has not become clear (to us), then we pray that Allāh protect you and us from errors.


Verily if this transmission is an authentic statement from Hasan (may Allāh be pleased with him) then it still does not indicate to us a general prohibition from gathering in the manner described. Moreover, if Hasan was exercising his independent [legal] opinion, then it is likely that another mujtahid in his era also [exercised his legal opinion]. We might even say [30] from that same group [of scholars] because the era was the time of the Successors 56 (Tābi`ūn).


Secondly, this event is appropriate as a proof in favour of the Sufis, not against them, due to the fact that you have confirmed the gatherings [of dhikr] to have occurred in that manner during the time of the Tābi`ūn, and the obligation upon us then is to follow their guidance. So do you think that this blessed group would have laid their pillars upon a foundation that was not sound?


Do you not know that Hasan al-Basri, the one from whom you transmitted, was the teacher of this group; as is so well known in the [spiritual] chain of the Sufis? He was initiated by Imām `Alī (may Allāh bless his face) and he [Hasan al-Basri] instructed Dāwūd at-Tā'ī, Yusuf al-A`jamī and others besides them until it reached Junayd. Through another chain Imām `Alī, instructed his son Hasan, (may Allāh be pleased with both of them) and he instructed Abū Muh ammad Jābir , and he instructed As-Sayid Sa`īd al-Qazwīnī, until it reached us and all praise is due to Allāh.


Perhaps you are ignorant about the origin of talqīn (initiation and spiritual instruction) in the Divine Law, based on [your] evidence; otherwise you would not have rejected Sufism and its people. It is for this reason that I am compelled to digress in my speech for your sake, either as a need that I fulfil for you or a proof against you.


Imām as-Sha`rānī mentions in his book An-Nafahāt al-Qudsiyyah fī Bayān al-Qawā`id as-Sūfiyyah as follows,

‘The Shaykhs (Sufi Masters) say, the secret about the initiation (talqīn) is to link the hearts of the initiates with their Shaykhs, to the Messenger of Allāh (blessings and peace be upon him) to Gabriel (Jibrīl) (peace be upon him) and to Allāh Most High for love and obedience. And it is for this reason that if a person does not say ‘There is no deity save Allāh ’ in compliance with the saying of the Messenger of Allāh, ‘Say! There is no god save Allāh ’, then he is not considered a Muslim. This is supported by his saying (blessings and peace be upon him) ‘None of you truly believes until his opinion is in compliance with that which I came with’.


Then he [al-Sha`rānī] says,

‘The first thing that happens to the murīd, when he enters the chain of the folk [31] through initiation is that whenever a matter unexpectedly overcomes him, or his heart is confused and troubled, the souls of the saints respond to him from [the soul of] his closest Shaykh right up to the Messenger of Allāh (blessings and peace be upon him) [and] to the Divine presence of Allāh Most Exalted, and then his grief and worry will disappear. And the one who does not enter the path of the people through initiation, then no soul of any of the people of the path will respond to him because he is not tied to them. Its principle is like that of an iron chain. When one link moves, then all the other links respond to it.’

And when you have come to know that, I say all success is by Allāh.


It is reported by al-Tabrānī, Imām Ahmad and al-Bazzār and others beside them through a chain that is sound (Hasan) that one day the Messenger of Allāh (blessings and peace be upon him) was in a gathering of some of the companions and said, ‘Is there any stranger amongst you?’ - meaning those amongst the People of the Book. They answered, ‘No, O Messenger of Allāh,’ whereupon he ordered that the door be locked, and said, ‘Raise your hands and say La Ilāha Ill Allāh 57 ’ . Sh addād Ibn Aws said, ‘And we raised our hands for an hour and we said ‘ La Ilāha Illa Allāh. So the Messenger of Allāh (blessings and peace be upon him) said, ‘O Allāh! Verily You have sent me with this [kalimah] word, and You have commanded me with it, and You have promised me Paradise through it. And verily You do not break Your promises.’ And then he said, ‘Behold! I bring you the glad tidings that Allāh has indeed forgiven you.’ In this Prophetic narration is a proof for the Shaykhs in their practice of initiating and teaching the dhikr to their initiates in a group.


The individual instruction (talqīn) 58 has been reported by al-Bukhārī, Muslim, and al-h āfi ẓ Jalāludīn al-Suyūtī through many sound (h asan ) narrations. `Alī ibn Abī Tālib , (may Allāh be pleased with him and honour his face) said,

‘I asked the Messenger of Allāh, (blessings and peace be upon him), ‘O Messenger of Allāh! Show me the quickest way leading to Allāh , Elevated and Mighty is He, and which is easiest for the slaves and the best in the sight of Allāh.’ The Messenger of Allāh, (blessings and peace be upon him), responded, ‘O `Alī! [Practice and] firmly hold on to the remembrance of Allāh softly and loudly.’ Then he, (may Allāh be pleased with him) said ‘All the people are dhakirūn [32], but I want you to endow me with something special.’ Then the Messenger of Allāh (blessings and peace be upon him) replied, 'Careful! O `Alī, the best that all the Prophets before me and I ever said was Lā Ilā ha Illallāh. If the seven heavens and the seven earths were to be placed on one side of the scale and La Ilāha Ill Allāh on the other side of the scale, then Lā ilā ha illallāh would outweigh it.’ Then he said 'O `Alī! The last hour will not appear while there remains on the earth one who says ALLAH! ALLAH!’ So `Alī said, ‘How do I make the dhikr?’ The Messenger of Allāh (blessings and peace be upon him) said, ‘Close your eyes, listen to me say La Ilāha Ill Allāh three times, then you say it three times while I listen to you.’


This sense is narrated by some [of the chains of transmitters]. Moreover, it is the basis of the Sufis. As mentioned above, the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) ordered that the door be locked before he instructed his companions in a group and asked them, ‘Are there any strangers amongst you?’ This was to indicate that the path of the Sufis is founded on secrecy and [founded on] a suitable occasion when there is no one else, who do not believe in the path, present beside them. Perhaps they might look upon the path with disapproval due to the lack of their understanding.


Yūsuf al-Kawrānī (may Allāh be pleased with him) says that `Alī (may Allāh honour his face) instructed Hasan al-Basrī [with the dhikr] and he instructed Dāwūd al-Tā'ī and from him to Imām Junayd who is the Shaykh of the Sufis, and from him it branched out and thus Sufism spread amongst its people and so forth and it will not cease until the end of religion. (This is an extract from al-Nusrah Nabawiyyah).


In Rūh al-Bayān [commenting] on His saying, ‘Those who plight their fealty to thee do no less than plight their fealty to God:’ [48:10] the author says,

‘It is from this that the Prophetic practice of [pledging] allegiance and giving instruction to the initiates by the Shaykhs is taken. An expression like this needs no explanation for its masters since the one who pauses at such at his verse is not well read!’


So tell me, with Allāh as your witness, do you have a special chain which links you to Lā ilāha illallāh in accordance to what the aforementioned Prophetic narration refers to? I do not think so!


[33] So let us return to the discussion of assembling [for dhikr], if it is in accordance to what has been mentioned above. I ask you, with Allāh as your witness, what harm does it bring to the religion when a small group of Muslims gather in any of the houses of Allāh , or in any of the houses of the believers, for the purpose of reciting the Qur’ān and the like thereof? If your doubt is based only on what you have transmitted about the man who went to Hasan al-Basrī and informed him about a gathering, whereupon he prohibited it severely, then this evidence furnishes no argument, if it is authentic, because it contradicts the authentic traditions and the clear Prophetic narrations. Even if we should say that there is no text for the legitimacy of gathering for the purpose of the invocation of Allāh (dhikrullāh) and whatever is attached to it, it is still not permissible to oppose it. This is especially since it is correct, according to you, that it did occur in the time of the Tābi'ūn and this act was practiced by the religious leaders (Imāms), those whose trustworthiness and rank in religion has been agreed upon by almost all of the Muslim community.


In my opinion, no one besides you amongst the scholars of Islam ever risked to say that there is no good in the dhikrullah in assembly, even if there was not the least evidence indicating its permissibility. How can that be when so many traditions [of the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) and the pious predecessors] encourage it and when there is consensus in the community of it being recommended [as Prophetic practice]? By Allāh, how amazing! How is it that that which was related from Hasan Al-Basrī (may Allāh be pleased with him) could reach you concerning the gathering for the purpose of dhikr and his strong rejection of it, yet nothing reached you concerning what the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him), related? As narrated by Muslim and Al-Hākim, Abū Hurayrah reported Allāh's Messenger (blessings and peace be upon him) said,


‘Allāh has [groups of] angels roaming [through the earth] who are free from work, seeking the circles of dhikr on the earth. So when they find [such an] assembly [in which there is dhikr, they sit in it and] some of them surround these gatherings with their wings till the space between them and the sky of the world is fully covered. [And when they disperse they go upward to the heaven and] Allāh, the Exalted and Glorious asks them, although He is best informed about them, ‘Where have you come from?’ They say, ‘We come from Your slaves [upon the earth] who are glorifying You (reciting Subh ān Allāh ) [34] exalting You (saying Allāh Akbar), praising You (saying al-h amd lillāh ) and affirming Your Oneness (saying La Ilāha Illa Allāh), begging you and seeking your protection.’ Then He says, ‘What do they beg of Me?’ although He is best informed about them. They say, ‘They beg You for paradise.’ He (Allāh) says, ‘Have they seen it?’ They say, ‘No, O Lord.’ He says [what would it be then] if they were to see it (i.e. paradise)?’ He then asks, ‘And what do they seek my protection from?’ while he knows better their state. They (the angels) say, ‘From the Hellfire.’ He (Allāh) asks, ‘Have they seen it (the fire)?’ They say, ‘No.’ He says, ‘Then how would it be if they saw it’. [They say, ‘They beg for Your forgiveness.’] Thereafter He says, ‘Be witness that I grant pardon to them, and confer upon them what they ask for and grant them protection against which they seek protection.’ They (the angels) say, ‘Our Lord, one amongst them is a slave with many sins [who happened to pass by] and sat with them. He (Allāh) says, ‘I forgive him too, for he [sat with] a people, whoever sits with them is never unfortunate.’ 59


May Allāh bless you! Observe this group about whom the angels have reported to Allāh, Lord of the worlds. Is this group not similar to the group about whom Hasan al-Basrī was informed, or if not, we could almost say the group itself, and you said that his negation was most vehement. What about the generosity of Allāh (Most Glorious and Elevated is He) towards the dhākirūn, promising them that which no eye has ever seen, no ear ever heard and what the heart of a human being has ever desired. However, you requited them with resentment, whereas Allāh requited them with mercy.


Why have you abandoned that which Allāh has legalised regarding the people of the assemblies of dhikr, on the tongue of His Messenger (blessings and peace be upon him) but [instead] needed to go beyond that, so you took to comparing the matter with its opposite? Is this not corruption on your part of the Divine Law of Allāh? Far be it that you succeeded in fulfilling your intentions of what you had attempted. The authentic Prophetic narrations have come forth in praise of the assemblies of dhikr in groups, and the ocean of Prophetic tradition has burst forth, with wave upon wave.


We will present to you a fragment of it, which might if God so wills become a cure for your illness. Did it not come to your ears that he (blessings and peace be upon him) used to desire to sit in the assembly of dhikr and [desired it to such an extent that he would] exchange it [35] for the world and whatever it contained?


Al-Bayhaqī narrates from Anas that the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) said, ‘To invoke Allāh Most High with people after the dawn prayer until sunrise is more beloved to me than this world and all it contains. And to invoke Allāh Most High with people after the mid-afternoon prayer until sunset is more beloved to me than this world and all it contains.’


A similar narration is that which Abū Dāwūd related from Anas that the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) said,

‘That I should sit with a people invoking Allāh from the morning-prayer until sunrise, is more beloved to me than the freeing of four slaves from the progeny of Ismā'īl. And that I should sit with a people invoking Allāh after the mid-afternoon prayer until sunset, is more beloved to me than the setting free of four slaves from the progeny of Isma'il.’


He (blessings and peace be upon him) also said,

‘Allāh has angels who travel about in the roads searching for the people of dhikr. When they find a group invoking Allāh they announce [to the angels], ‘Come forward toward [the fulfilment of] your needs!’ Then they surround them with their wings till the space between them and the sky of the world is fully covered. Whereupon Al-Haq , The Glorious, Most High says, ‘I call you as witnesses that I have most certainly forgiven them.’ One of the angels says, ‘O Lord! amongst them is such and such a person who has many sins. He happened to pass by [that assembly] and sat there along with them.’ He (blessings and peace be upon him) then said that Allāh the Glorious and Exalted then replies, ’They are a people; those who sit with them are not unfortunate.’ 60 . 61


Mu'āwiyah (may Allāh be pleased with him), said that the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him), once came upon a gathering of his companions and said,

‘What has brought you to this gathering?’ They answered, ‘We have gathered for the purpose of invocation (dhikrullāh) and praising Him for having guided us towards Islam, and having favoured us with it.’ The Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) asked, ‘Is it only for Allāh that you have gathered and nothing else?’ They replied, 'It is only for Allāh that we have gathered and nothing else!' He said, ‘I most certainly did not ask you to swear [an oath] because of any suspicion I had about you. However, Gabriel came to inform me that Allāh Most High boasts about you to the Angels.’


He (blessings and peace be upon him) also said,

‘Allāh Most Exalted [36] will say on the day of resurrection, ‘The people of the gathering (resurrection) will know who the people of honour, are.’ and it was asked, ‘Who are the people of honour O Messenger of Allāh?’ He (blessing and peace be upon him) answered, ‘The people of the assemblies of dhikr.’


And he (blessings and peace be upon him) also said,

‘There is not any group of people who come together for remembering Allāh, desiring through it nothing but His Face, except that a caller will announce unto them from Heaven saying, ‘You may depart with His forgiveness. Your sins have been changed into good deeds.’


He (blessings and peace be upon him) also said,

‘Verily Allāh, the Blessed and Elevated, have angels travelling in search of the circles of dhikr. Therefore, when they find them, they (angels) surround them.’


And he (blessings and peace be upon him) also said,

‘The booty of the assemblies of dhikr is Paradise.’


And he (blessings and peace be upon him) said,

‘Allāh has mobile squads of angels who descend and attend the assemblies of dhikr on earth, so graze in the gardens of Paradise!’ And they asked, ‘Where are the gardens of paradise?’ He (blessings and peace be upon him) answered, ‘The assemblies of dhikr. Therefore go, and relax in the remembrance (dhikr) of Allāh, and remind yourselves about him.’


And he (blessings and peace be upon him) also said,

‘There is not a people who remember Allāh (dhikr), except that they are surrounded by angels, covered with divine mercy and the divine eminence descends upon them and Allāh making mention of them to those in His divine company.’


Al-Asfahānī mentions in at-Targhīb that it is reported from Abū Razīn that the Messenger of Allāh (blessings and peace be upon him) said to him,

‘Should I not show you the foundation upon which every matter rests that which will give you the best of this world and the life to come (hereafter)?’ He answered, ‘Yes.’ and the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) said, ‘You must partake in the assemblies of dhikr, and when you are alone then occupy your tongue with the remembrance dhikr of Allāh, Most High.’


He (blessings and peace be upon him) is also reported to have said,

‘Any people who depart from an assembly without having remembered Allāh, would be like departing from the corpse of a donkey and on the day of resurrection there will be grief upon them.’


He (blessings and peace be upon him) also said,

‘Tranquillity descends upon those who are in the assemblies of dhikr and the angels surround them and the Divine Mercy enfolds them and Allāh remembers them.’


Perhaps you were unaware of all this, so Allāh says to you, ‘… now We removed thy veil, and sharp is thy sight this Day’ [50:22]. So consider carefully [37] what has come to you from the Messenger of Allāh (blessings and peace be upon him) if you claim to be of his community. One Prophetic narration should suffice you to act upon it, with regard to the establishment of the legality of the assemblies of dhikr. What should increase you in certainty is that the assemblies of dhikr occurred in the time of the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him).


Imām Ahmad narrates in (al-Zuhd)' from Thābit who said that Salmān was in a group who were making dhikr of Allāh, the Elevated, when the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him), passed by them, so they stopped. The Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) said, ‘Verily, I have seen the [Divine] mercy descending upon you and I wanted to share in it with you.’ Then he said, ‘All Praise be to Allāh, the One who has provided me from amongst my ummah, those with whom I have been commanded to content myself (nafs) with.’


Similar to this is the aforementioned narration of Mu'āwiyah (may Allāh be pleased with him) when the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) came upon a circle of his companions and asked, ‘What has brought you to this gathering?’ They answered, ‘We have gathered to remember Allāh and to praise Him for having guided us towards Islam and having favoured us with it.’ The Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) asked, ‘Is it only for Allāh that you have gathered and nothing else?’ They replied, ‘It is only for Allāh that we have gathered and nothing else!’ He (blessings and peace be upon him) said, ‘ I did not ask you to swear [an oath] because of any suspicion I had about you, except that the [angel] Gabriel has come to inform me that Allāh Most High boasts about you to the angels.’


So is this not sufficient for you with regard to the legality of the assembly of dhikr, during the time of the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him)?


Similar to this is the Prophetic narration transmitted by 'UmarbinKhattab (may Allāh be pleased with him) that he (blessings and peace be upon him) used to gather the companions for dhikr until they became tired then he (blessings and peace be upon him) would instruct them to do something else. This is transmitted in (Al-Nusrah al-Nabawiyah).


I do not know what it is that has caused you pain in the matter of Sufism. Is it only the gatherings, or is it only the dhikr or is it both? Perhaps it is the raising of their voices in dhikr? For this reason it is supposed that, that which has been narrated by al-Bukhāri from Ibn `Abbās (may Allāh be pleased with them both), has never reached you. He said that the raising of the voice in dhikr at the time when people would leave the fard (compulsory) prayer used to happen in the time of the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him). Thus do I say that it also existed in the time of the Rightly Guided [Khalīfs].


It is reported that some people were [38] making dhikr of Allāh towards sunset with raised voices and whenever their voices would lower, 'Umar Ibn Al-Khattab sent someone with the order that they emphasise the dhikr, meaning, ‘Raise your voices!’ It is further narrated on the authority of Jābir ibn `Abdilāh al-Ansārī (may Allāh be pleased with him), that a man once raised his voice in dhikr and someone else said, ‘If only this person could lower his voice!’ Whereupon the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) replied, ‘Leave him, because he is lamenting in earnest supplication.’ 62


Similarly al-Bayhaqī narrates on the authority of Zayd Ibn Aslam that Ibn al-Awr said,

‘I went out with the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) one night and we passed by a man who had raised his voice in dhikr, so I said, ‘O Messenger of Allāh perhaps this person is making a show.’ The Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) replied, ‘No, he is lamenting in earnest supplication!’


What is more forthright in its clarity, while all are authentic, is what Abū Shujā` Ad-Daylamī has narrated in (Musnad al-Firdaws) on the authority of Ibn 'Umar who said that the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) said,

‘Whoever says La Ilāha Illā Allāh and does it with slow measured tones, Allāh will lodge him in the abode of eminence and endow him with the vision of His face.’


Does this not offer the most profound proof with regard to the legitimacy of [making] dhikr aloud? Even if we should say that you have found no text for making dhikr together in one voice, then it would still be incumbent on you to say what the fuqahā (experts of Islamic law) say about the mu’adhdhinūn (callers to prayer) when they make the call together in one voice. They (fuqahā) say, ‘It certainly travels more rapid through the body of air and its effect is stronger on the hearts of those who hear it.’

In general, even if there were not the least evidence to support the assemblies of dhikr and the raising of the voices in it, it would still not be correct to reject it, because the great mujtahidūn have sanctioned it. Also, the ijtihād (independent judgement in a legal or theological matter) of every mujtahid is acknowledged [and accepted]. Therefore, what still in the case when the Prophetic traditions are filled with [evidence], explicitly, and by allusion, in clear and sometimes symbolic expression as mentioned earlier?


Fuqahā (jurists) on the Sufis and their practices

[39] In summary, that which Sufis practice of dhikr in assembly, affection and love and other requisites of the path became widely known to such extent that there is almost complete consensus of the nation of its authenticity. If your desire is to obtain information about this and to follow the formal legal opinions of the skilled fuqahā and practicing scholars, then look at the commentary of Rā’iyah ash-sharīshī. He has combined all the fatāwā (formal legal opinions) of the classic and contemporary fuqahā, which is not easy to accumulate. Also, do not suppose that the ones referred to are marginalised fuqahā or those who are well-known Sufis, so that you view them with suspicion, because their doctrine is suspect to you. Indeed, they are the experts of Imām Mālik'sMadhhab like al-Shabrakhītī 63 and those like him, and amongst the experts of Imām Shāfi'i's Madhhab like Jalāludīn As-Suyūti 64 and his companions and amongst the experts of Imām Abū Hanīfah'sMadhhab like Fayrūz Abādī 65 author of ('al-Qāmus') and his like. In this category there are many more scholars but I would presume that some [of their] quotes would suffice you.


The author of al-Futūhāt wal-Adhwāq 66 has transmitted from Shaykh`Abdul Ghanī An-Nāblusī al-Hanafī , who was asked about the Sufi practices of dhikr circles and making it aloud in the mosques and other places. Before he answered he criticized those opposing the dhākirūn and he said,


‘I will quote to you what the `Ulamā have recorded in their books which are reliable, acceptable and well known amongst Muslims. I convey to you the legal opinions from the four Madhāhib. And Allāh is the Guardian of success and favours. As for the raising of the voice (in dhikr), the great muh addith (transmitter of Prophetic traditions) al-Hāfi ẓ Jalāludīn as-Suyūtī , one of the distinguished Shafi'i Imāms (may Allāh be pleased with them) has written a thesis on it called 'Natījah al-Fikr fi 'l-Jahri Bidhikr'. It is the answer to a question [40] posed to him of whether the practices of some Sufis who perform dhikr in circles, aloud in the mosques and raising their voices when reciting the Tahlīl ( La Ilāha Ill Allāh) is disliked or not? He answered (may Allāh be pleased with him), that it is not offensive in any way whatsoever, and that there are Prophetic sayings, which strongly recommend dhikr aloud, and Prophetic sayings, which strongly recommend dhikr softly, or a combination the two, which varies in relation to the differing circumstances of people.’


Thereafter he proceeded to cite the opinions of the scholars of the rest of the Madhāhib.

In my mind I have no doubt that you acknowledge al-Suyūtī’s knowledge of the fundamentals and subordinate aspects [of religion] as being much greater than yours, in as much as you also acknowledge al-Shabrakhītī, one of the Maliki masters. I now transmit to you his text and his fatwā (formal legal opinion),


‘After praising Allāh and pronouncing blessing and peace upon the Messenger of Allāh, he stated that verily these gentlemen; their [assemblies of] dhikr is attended and well known. The scholars and Fuqahā have attended it, century after century from times of old until now. Therefore, they are in a praiseworthy state and their path of goodness is well known. So whoever harms them will be deserving of punishment as mentioned in the Holy tradition ‘Whoever harms a friend of Mine, I declare war on him.’ And whoever amongst them is not a saint is still considered to be in the protection of the saints, due to his love for them and his following their path’. These are some of quotes that the author of ('Al-Nusrah al-Nabwiyyah') transmitted from him (al-Shabrakhiti)-.’


As for that which he has been transmitted from Fayrūzabādī, the aforementioned, he said,

‘It is not permissible for anyone to criticize the people [of Sufism] as being of lowly intellect, because they have a high degree of understanding and inner vision. And it has never reached us that anyone of them ever commanded something that would destroy the religion and neither did they forbid anyone from taking ablution or performing the prayers or from anything else amongst the obligations of Islam and its recommended acts. They only speak words that are beyond the intellect’. He (Fayrūzabādī ) used to say, The Sufis have reached the stations and degrees of knowledge, and sometimes to [41] the realms of unknown stations and degrees of science which have not been explained by the Book nor the Sunnah.’


However, the senior eminent scholars have traced that back to the Book and the Sunnah in a meticulous way because of their excellent interpretations and their good opinion of the righteous. But it is not everyone who exercises restraint when he hears a speech that he does not understand. Nay, most rush forth without delay to spurn its author, ‘Man is a creature of haste’ [21:37]. Take the knowledgeable and brilliant Abū al-Abbas ibn Shurayj who once denied Sufism and then attended the assembly of Abū 'l-Qasim al-Junayd to hear what is generally attributed to the Sufis. After he departed he was asked what he had found. He answered, that he did not understand what he had said, but found his speech has a powerful effect upon the heart that was very evident. This pointed to sincerity on the inside and indicated sincerity on the heart and that his speech was not futile.’ (al-Nusrah al-Nabawiyyah).


Now then, my dear brother, this is not what we have encountered from your predecessors in Tunis? Their point of view, which they are renowned for, is their respect for Sufism. In the time of Shaykh al-Islām Muh ammad Buyrum a request for a legal opinion reached them concerning the Sufis and their practices.


He responded with a lengthy answer, some of what was said,

‘Verily, this path most certainly has a chain, which ties up with the bringer of Law, (blessings and peace be upon him) undoubtedly it (chain) is of the basis and principles of our strong religion. The scholars have specified in the books of the science of Hadīth , and the principles of Islamic Jurisprudence, that the chain of narrators is one of the special characteristics of this noble and blessed community. The basis of this is what we have presented; to the point where he said, ‘Verily in this path they raise their voices when making dhikr and this is generally acceptable.’


It has been quoted in 'al-Durr al-Mukhtar' as a quote from al-Fatwa l-Khayriyyah, in the [following] text, which comes forth in a Prophetic narration, that demands making dhikr aloud like, ‘And if he remembers Me in a company, I will remember him in a company more excellent than his’ narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim'.


Then he said that al-Hamawi quoted from [42] Imām Sha`rani the [following] text,

‘The scholars amongst the former and latter generations have agreed unanimously upon group (congregational) dhikr in the mosques and other places, except if their doing it aloud disturbs one sleeping, praying or reciting (the Qur’ān ).’


The author of (al-Nusrah) has mentioned this in depth.

This and the like thereof is widespread amongst the `scholars of Tunis in their respect for the Sufis, except what had happened between the judge Ibn ul-Barra and Imām al-Shadhili (may Allāh be pleased with him), and their story is well known. However, Ibn ul-Barra never opposed the doctrine in principle; he only opposed a specific individual. Due to this, much hatred had befallen him to which history bears testimony. May Allāh protect us and all the Muslims from any fault-finding towards Islam and the Muslims.


You then mentioned what Imām Malik said concerning the following verse in Qur’ān , ‘This day I have perfected your religion’ [5:4] ‘Whatever was not considered religion at that time cannot be considered as religion today. Allāh is only to be worshipped by those laws which He prescribed (Law).’ You then added your speech (to Malik's statement) saying, ‘This type of assembly [of dhikr] was never ever legalised and it is therefore incorrect to worship Allāh with it.’ It appears that if a person like yourself is unable to differentiate between a quote and his own speech, that such a person's knowledge cannot be trusted.


Imām Ahmad , may Allāh be pleased with him, was once asked about Ibn Ishaq, if he narrates without corroborating the narration, do you accept it? He answered, ‘By Allāh ! I do not accept it, for verily I have seen him narrating from a group, not distinguishing the narration of this one from another.’ It appears to me that you want the reader to believe that the entire speech is Malik's and that which the Sufis follow in their doctrine is part of a new religion. This is the most extreme slander coming from you. Through your accusation of the Sufis you desecrate all the other schools of thought because you consider Ijtihād as an additional religion. And Allāh forbid! That the community of Muhammad (blessings and peace be upon him) should come together to substitute the religion of Islam for something else.


If you had at least paid attention to one of your proofs, his saying, (blessings and peace be upon him), ‘Follow my way (Sunnah) and the way (Sunnah) [43] of the rightly guided successors after me’, then you would have known that the ijtihad of the Mujtahidun is of the Sunnah, because they are the vicegerents on earth. Indeed there is Ijma` (general consensus) amongst the scholars about their honesty and faithfulness and the least you ought to have done was to consider the founder of the doctrine of Sufism to be one of the Mujtahidin of religion, for his Ijtihad is bringing out the station of al-lh san .


He is like al-Ash'ari in relation to the station of Imān (Faith), and like Imām Malik and those who resemble him in bringing out the station of Islam. The totality of religion is made up of three levels (Islam-lmān-lhsān) as related in the most famous Prophetic narration 67 . By this it should become clear to you that the Sufis and their assemblies of dhikr, are taken purely from the Law. This is in accordance to the Prophetic narrations, which encourages desire for the assemblies of dhikr.


Sufism and innovation (bid`ah)

If we were to say that which the Sufis are following is an innovation, then it is eligible to be called a good innovation. This is also called a Sunnah taken from the saying of the Prophet (blessings and peace upon him), ‘Whoever institutes a good practice will receive its reward and the reward of the one who practices it till the day of Judgement’. So consider carefully how an innovation is called a Sunnah.


Has it not come to you that assembling for the Ramadan night prayers in the mosques had been innovated by 'Umar, which became an observed Sunnah. 'Umar's remark about it was, ‘What a good innovation’. Such an example does not need any explanation, not withstanding that it falls under `Ibadah (worship).


However, Sufism, falls under `Ibadah from the perspective of being an integral aspect not from the perspective of being additional or not additional, since most of it relates to the purification of the inner, the improvement of morals, the occupation with dhikr, closeness with the One remembered, and the rest that is stipulated. . So do you see in that anything contradictory to the religion, or is it [instead] a main pillar of the religion?


Then you began to vilify innovation. My opinion is that you do not distinguish between a recommended innovation which is known in the Sunnah as aforementioned in his narration, 'whoever instituted a good practice...’ [44] and that which is contrary to it. For this reason is it feared that you would inadvertently vilify your activities [of teaching] by which you serve your Lord.


The Principles of innovation (bid`ah)

Do you not know that innovation (bid`ah) falls under the five principles of al-wujūb (obligatory), and al-nadab (desired), al-lbaha (permissible), al-karaha (offensive), and al-haram (unlawful)? Izzudin bin Abd Salaam has gone to great length to confirm this when he gave an example of an obligatory innovation as that with which one is able to fulfill the obligatory, like the science of Arabic grammar. Did you not know that this is an innovation? Similar to this are the sciences, which you have with you, like rhetoric, logic, prosody, the science of the criticism of the reliability and non-reliability of the narrators of Prophetic reports, and Hadīth methodology. I would almost include lecture and lecturing. Nay, the documentation of knowledge itself is an innovation. So if that is the case, then what do you say about these innovations? Are these amongst the misguiding innovations leading towards the Hell? Or are they amongst the recommended innovations for which there are rewarded? If you say that they are amongst the latter then why can you not consider the assemblies of dhikr to be of a similar nature? This is apart from what the evidence and clear texts refer to, all which requires no interpretation. However, if fairness silences the tongue of acknowledgment then lack of knowledge in someone prevents him from understanding. The scholars (may Allāh be pleased with them) most certainly understood the meaning of innovation that should be avoided.


Imām Shafi'i said, ‘Innovation is that which contradicts Qur'an, Sunnah or Ijma (consensus) or any narration and whatever does not contradict that is praiseworthy'. The contradiction either explicitly or by implication, results in that which necessitates prohibition and sometimes karahah (offensiveness). This .what Ibn Hajar al-Haythami has narrated.


Applying Ijtihad (legal reasoning) to Sufism

I am certain that you accept ijtihad to be one of the characteristics of this community, and you do know that the principles of religion are three; Islam, Imān and Ihsan. So why is it that you accept the Ijtihad of the four Imāms and their like in the case of Islam, and you accept the Ijtihad of Ash'ari and Maturidi [45] in belief (I`tiqad) which is the station of Imān, but you do not accept the Ijtihad of Junayd and his group with regard to the station of Ihsan. Do you not consider Ihsan to be a principle? No, by Allāh! This is not my opinion about you, that you should be unmindful of that which is most important. Our discussion about the meaning of innovation is required when there is no text until one is able to look into it to see whether it is amongst the misguiding innovations or amongst the recommended innovations.


As for that which the Sufis practice of assembly, it is very clearly part of the Law, except to those who did not follow the [Prophetic] narrations; or are blinded by fanaticism. His eyes should fall on that which is in the Qur’ān and Sunnah that will lead him to that. Some of the Prophetic narrations have already been mentioned which encourages the circles and assemblies of dhikr. I am most certain that you are fully acquainted with all this, but I have only mentioned it in accordance with what eloquent men practice, when they occasionally address the one who knows as someone who does not know, like the saying of al-Akhdari,

'Like our saying to the scholar who is unmindful: dhikr is the key to the door of the Presence'.


If that which proceeded concerning the encouragement of the assemblies of dhikr has convinced you, then tell me, by Allāh, where are these desirable assemblies found? Is it in a place other than the earth or [people] other than the community of Muhammad (blessings and peace be upon him) or perhaps heard and not seen?


Status of the Dhākirun

In my opinion you despise the Sufis and their assemblies of dhikr, or else you would have been envious of what they do. Are you not aware the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) has described them for you as being a mix of different tribes that came together for the purpose of dhikr of Allāh and nothing else.


The Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) said,

‘On the right hand side of the Most Gracious and both His hands are right, there are men who are neither Prophets nor martyrs, the whiteness of their faces overwhelms the sight of those who look at them. The Prophets and the martyrs envy them for their seats and nearness to Allāh [46] Most High. It was asked, O Messenger of Allāh, who are they’' He answered; they are a combination of tribes with different inclinations who assemble for the purpose of dhikr of Allāh. They utter the best of words just like an eater of dates would select the best of it.’


Is this not, may Allāh have mercy upon you, one of the most distinct description of the Sufis? Do you not know that they are from different tribes assembling not because of any kinship that joins them, nor because of any wealth that wish to acquire. Are they not the lovers about whom Allāh will say on the day of Resurrection, calling out to them 'Where are those who loved each other for Me'? So what is this calamity, which has befallen you, which lead you to sever the link, which Allāh has commanded you to join and respect? Do you not know that the love of Allāh is an expression of love for dhikr and the dhākirūn ? Do you not know that Allāh jealously guards the people who are attached to Him, even if they are liars?' I implore you, by Allāh and by the holiness of His Messenger (blessings and peace be upon him) if you do not refrain from [harming] some of the people of La Ilāha Illā Allāh, leaving them and their affairs so that Allāh judge them on the day of resurrection, I certainly fear for you that La Ilāha Illā Allāh will become your adversary on the day of resurrection. ‘God cautions you (to remember) Himself;’ [3:28]. Ibn Arabi Al-Hatimi (may Allāh be pleased with him) says in his admonition,

‘Beware, beware of any hostility towards the people of La Ilāha Illā Allāh because [these people] have a great sovereignty from Allāh. They are the friends of Allāh. If they should err and come with sins as much as the earth and they do not ascribe any partners to Allāh. He will requite them with the like of it in forgiveness.’


What bears testimony to this is that Hudhayfah narrated that the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) said,

‘There will come a time upon the people, when they will not know the prayer (Salah) nor fasting, nor Hajj (pilgrimage), nor Zakah (alms) except that they will say: we have noticed our forefathers saying La Ilāha Illā Allāh.Hudhayfah was asked, ‘Of what use will La Ilāha Illā Allāh be to them? He (blessings and peace be upon him) answered, It will save them from the Fire, it will save them from the Fire, it will save them from the fire.’


If such is the case, then what will be the status of the one who prays, [47] fasts, performs Hajj and gives Zakah? Is it permissible to show hostility to such a person? It is their right over you, that you should refrain from your hatred for the people of Allāh and instead show your love towards them. Submitting with all your heart and tongue saying, may Allāh pardon the past.


Sufis are not misguided

Which sin could be more [abominable] than applying what has been narrated about the misguided people to the Sufis? That did not suffice you until you went further to consider them to be among the people of the Hellfire, using the Prophet's (blessings and peace be upon him) saying as an evidence: ‘My community will be divided into seventy and odd groups, all of them are condemned to the Hellfire, except for one group, and it is the one upon which I and my companions are.’ It is obvious that you regard the party of the Sufis to be one of these groups. However, I make Allāh, His Prophet and the pious believers to judge between you and the Sufis. If you had made the Sufis one of those groups, it would be difficult for you to find the entire seventy odd groups, except if you have completed it by including yourself and those of your kind, because you have restricted the groups to the Ahl al-Sunnah wa l-jama'a. Why did you not relate the Prophetic narration, which Ghazali relates in his book known as (Faizal At-Tafriqa) in which the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) said, ‘My community will be divided into seventy odd groups, all of which of them will be in paradise, except for the heretics.’


However, your eye did not fall upon that; it only fell upon that which helps you in your judgement against the rest of the Muslims with the Fire, until paradise will be vacant just for you and those of your kind and no one else. ‘Say: ‘If the last Home, with God, be for you specially, and not for anyone else, then seek ye for death, if ye are sincere.’ But they will never seek for death, on account of the [sins], which their hands have sent on before them. And God is well-acquainted with the wrong-doers.’ [2:94-95].


In general one seeks to reconcile two seemingly [contradictory] [48] Prophetic narrations. In these matters you will not find anyone who will relieve you from this difficulty except a Sufi. It is inconceivable that you would submit yourself to him, because envy prevents fairness and acknowledgment. In any case, we will still mention what Allāh has endowed [us] with, even if you have no need for it. For every saying that is rejected by one, will be accepted by another.


To reconcile the two Prophetic narrations is easy when you understand the word ‘community’ in the first Prophetic narration as referring to all people while in the second Prophetic narration the reference is to Muslims. The meaning will become apparent when using and quoting the Prophetic narration in full. He (blessings and peace be upon him) said in a well-known narration, ‘The Jews were split up into seventy one sects and the Christians were split up into seventy two sects, and my community will be split up into seventy three sects, all of them will be condemned to the Hellfire, except for the one group which I and my companions follow.’


It is clear from the intent of the sequence that there were seventy creeds. The creed with which Prophet Mūsā (on him be peace) came with was the seventy first sect. All of them were condemned to the Fire, except for that which Mūsa and his companions followed. All these sects are referred to as his community because he was the Messenger of his time. When `Isa (on him be peace) was sent with a creed it was the seventy second. All of them were condemned to the Fire except for that which Īsā and his followers practiced. When Ahmad (blessings and peace be upon him) was sent with his pristine creed, it then became the seventy third sect. All of them are condemned to the Fire except for that which he (blessings and peace be upon him) and his companions practiced .The word 'community' in the above narration, refers to all people because the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) used to say, ‘I am the Messenger of those whom I met in my lifetime and of those who will be born after me’.


According to the second Prophetic narration, the creed of Muhammad (blessings and peace be upon him) has split into seventy odd [49] sects. This is attributed to the many schools of thought and the different movements. All of them will be in Paradise except for the heretics. This conforms to the compassion of Muhammad (blessings and peace be upon him) and the Divine Mercy, or else the entire community would be destroyed. If the saved [sect] is one of the seventy odd parts, then every sect will believe that they will be saved, since the saved sect is unspecified. I assert that Allāh Most High is in accordance to the opinion 68 of every believer in Allāh and His Messenger (blessings and peace be upon him) and the Last Day.


However, much he strived for himself toward that which brings him closer to Allāh, if he is correct he will be rewarded twice, but if he has erred [in his ijtihad] he will be rewarded once. So in both cases he is still rewarded whether you like it or not, because the creation is not tasked with obtaining the correct answer but they are tasked with what they perceive to be correct. All this is what the tolerance of Muhammad's (blessings and peace be upon him) Law expects, which is referred to in His, the Almighty's saying, ‘He has chosen you, and has imposed no difficulties on you in religion;’ [22: 78]. What bears testimony to that which was mentioned is what al-Tabrani narrated from the Messenger of Allāh (blessings and peace be upon him) who said, ‘Verily my Law has come in three hundred ways, whoever but follows one of the ways will succeed.’


What is more profound in confirmation and this is the absolute truth, God willing, is what Suyuti mentioned in his book (al-Jami As-Saghir) concerning the Messenger of Allāh (blessings and peace be upon him) who said,

‘There is not a community except that some will enter the fire, and some will enter Paradise, except for my community who will all enter Paradise.’


Why did you not come across these Prophetic narrations, which are more inclusive, decreeing success upon the community of Muhammad (blessings and peace be upon him)? Instead you looked with the eye of fault and provided textual evidence which is to decree the dhākirūn with destruction. You have not found any evidence that speaks of destruction, except that you linked it to the dhākirūn placing them outside the abundant Mercy of Allāh, which encompasses everything. Do you not see that after you proved them to be innovators, you said that the Messenger of Allāh (blessings and peace be upon him) said,

‘Allāh refuses to accept the deed of the follower of innovation until he renounces his innovation.’


Your intention with this is that none of [50] the dhākirūn 's deeds will be accepted until they renounce that which they practice of dhikr and gatherings, because according to your claim it is an innovation. Would I knew (what would happen), when the groups of dhākirūn amongst the majority of Muslims leave that which they had practiced. Where will they go to, and which assembly have you chosen for them? Will they disperse into the streets or will they aspire towards amusement? Are you not aware that people are naturally fond of assemblies? If so and this is necessary, then what is it that you choose for the Muslims in general, if they cannot come together for Allāh [in dhikr] and raise their voices in dhikr? 'then in what exposition will they believe after [rejecting] God and His Signs?' [45:6] After all this you besieged them with two Prophetic narrations saying that Abū Na`aym narrated,

‘The people of innovation are the worst of creation,’

And narrated by others (scholars),

‘The perpetrators of innovation are the dogs of the Hellfire’


When you feared that the reader might not understand who the people of innovation were since people differ in their understanding, you made it clear by quoting al-Ustadh Abū Bakr al-Tartushi who said, ‘Sufism is idleness, ignorance and misguidance. Islam is only the Book of Allāh and the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allāh (blessings and peace be upon him).’ How daring you are towards the people of Allāh and how sharp is your tongue in eating the flesh of the Sufis. By Allāh, it is more preferable that you should destroy the Ka'bah instead of crying out this statement. You have defined Sufism as being idleness, ignorance and misguidance. By Allāh the scholars of religion and the sages have a definition of Sufism opposite to yours.


They say that Sufism is an expression of educating the 'self' in slavehood (ubudiyyah) and submitting it to the commands of the Lordship (Rububiyyah). Sufism is to free oneself from all base qualities and the acquisition of all sublime qualities. Abū al-Qasim al-Junayd (may Allāh be pleased with him) said, 'Sufism is that the Truth (al-Haqq) should cause you to die within yourself and resurrect you in Him'. These are some of the definitions, which they have given of Sufism [51].


As for your saying that 'Sufism is idleness' this is refuted because they (the Sufis) have stipulated that the Sufi takes account of himself [with every breath] applying his saying (blessings and peace be upon him).

‘Take account of yourselves before you will be taken account of’.

So do you see this as idleness?


As for your saying ' Sufism is ignorance' is also refuted because of the sciences, which they (the Sufis) have brought forth, which the great masters amongst men are unable to do. What still about those who are of your kind! The writings of the Sufis are the most fair evidence.


Are you not aware that Sufism has been mentioned by some of the great masters in Islamic law like Imām al-Ghazali and Shaykh al-Sanusi, the writer of al-Aqa'id (beliefs) who said, ‘it is compulsory (necessary) to strive towards (finding) someone who is well known by it (Sufism) even if it is without the acceptance of the parents’. Junayd (may Allāh be pleased with him) said, ‘If there should be a science beneath the surface of the earth more noble than that which we speak of with our friends then we would most certainly have striven towards it.’ Shaykh al-Saqli says in his book (Nur al-Qulub),

'Every person who attests to this science is considered amongst the elect. The one who understands it is considered amongst the elect of the elect. Whoever speaks about it, and discusses it, is an unreachable star and an unavoidable ocean.’


By Allāh as your witness! Do you understand anything about their hidden and well-kept knowledge, and their secret pearls? Indeed not! You are merely like someone who is behind a veil of iron. It is because of this [veil] that you have become ignorant. As for your saying that Sufism is misguidance, ‘Verily thy Lord knoweth best those who stray from His Path, and He knoweth best those who receive guidance'. [53:30]. I do not deny the existence of critics amongst the Ahl al-Sunnah in every age who criticize some individual Sufis because of shortcomings in the critic or the one who is being criticized. However, as for rejecting Sufism in its entirety, the Ahl al-Sunnah has never displayed such an attitude. Those who expressed this view were only some group who had no [52] importance with regard to the majority, and it was for this reason that their views never spread. So what is it that you have chosen from those forgotten doctrines, to have come to the point of aiding their doctrines and trying to revive their gone and forgotten beliefs? For you have instilled in the hearts of the sons of the land a bad opinion about dhikr and the dhākirūn. In my opinion, your assemblies are not devoid of what you have written about Sufism. If such is the case, we pray that Allāh protect those who are present in your assemblies, so that they do not share with you except that which brings benefit to them and that they leave off everything else.


With regard to your statement, 'Islam is only the Book of Allāh and the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allāh (blessings and peace be upon him)', who has informed you that the Sufis claim that Islam is other than these two sources? Yes, they do say that in the Book of Allāh there are sciences, which the masses are unable to access. The Sultan of the lovers 69 said,

‘Beyond the written word of there is knowledge too subtle for the most advanced intellects to perceive.’


Perhaps the one who is striving to understand the outer and literal meanings of things, will not find it in the book of Allāh, except what he perceives through his limited knowledge and abilities. Hence he denies that which is beyond that. He is unaware that his understanding about the literal meaning of the Book is like someone who is only acquainted with the shell of a nut. Whatever lies beyond that, is what the eye has never seen, the ear has never heard nor has it ever occurred to the mind of a human being.


Does he think that the understanding, which he has arrived at, is equivalent to the inner perceptions, which the companions of the Messenger of Allāh (blessings and peace be upon him) had of the Book? Nay! Let him thoroughly examine himself. Then, if what is hidden in his heart is greater than what he articulates, then he is on a clear proof from his Lord! If not, then what he does not have is much more than what he has acquired. He (blessings and peace be upon him) is reported to have said, ‘There is most certainly a kind of knowledge that appears to be in a hidden form. None has knowledge thereof except for the Knowers of Allāh (Gnostics) and when they reveal this knowledge the people who are mistaken about Allāh, reject it.’

And he also said, [53]

"The hidden (spiritual) knowledge is one the secrets of Allāh and of His wisdom. He places it in the hearts of whomever He willeth amongst His servants’.


He also said ‘Knowledge is of two kinds, knowledge in the heart and this knowledge is beneficial and a knowledge which is on the tongue, and this knowledge is Allāh's proof against the children of Adam.’ This certainly proves that the hidden knowledge is not the same as the acquired knowledge.


Of the well-known sayings of Abū Hurayrah (may Allāh be pleased with him) is that he said,

‘I have preserved two vessels of knowledge from the Messenger of Allāh (blessings and peace be upon him), the one I have disclosed, as for the other if I were to disclose it, you would slit my throat’.


Transmitted from Abū 'Umar ibn `Abd al-Barr. It is narrated that Ibn `Abbas said,

‘If I should tell you what I know about the commentary of His, the Almighty's saying 'Through the midst of them (all) descends His Command' [65:12] you would either stone me or accuse me of disbelief. (Sha`rānī mentions this in his book ' Al-Yawakīt Wa l-Jawāhir').


The following is attributed to Zayn ul-`Ābidīn (may Allāh be pleased with him) who relates,

‘O my Lord there is a jewel of a knowledge,

Should I disclose it, they would accuse me of idolatry

And the Muslims would regard the shedding of my blood as permissible.

And they see the worst of their deeds as good.’


Salmān al-Farisi (may Allāh be pleased with him) said, ‘If I should inform you of everything that I know you would say, may Allāh have mercy on the killer of Salmān’. Imām `Ali (may Allāh honour his face) said, ‘I have a knowledge, should I mention it you would remove this from this (pointing towards his head and body).’ All this is a proof that in the hearts are hidden sciences.


As for your saying,

‘Islam is nothing but the Book of Allāh and the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allāh (blessings and peace be upon him)’.


It is as if you are alluding that this is what you understand of the Book of Allāh. Are you not aware that the Qur'an has an outer meaning, inner meaning, [a meaning to] the restricted boundaries (h add ) and [a meaning to] the opening to the boundless horizons (mat la` )' as transmitted in the famous Prophetic narration of the Messenger of Allāh (blessings and peace be upon him) as transmitted in 'Tāj al-Tafāsīr' (The Crown of Exegesis). Even if we should say that you have knowledge of its outer meanings, do you know anything about its inner meanings? Moreover where are you with regard to [54] its restricted meanings (h add ) and its boundless horizons (mat la` ) meanings? That is the share of the Knowers of Allāh and the knowers of the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allāh (blessings and peace be upon him). It is related that Abū Darda (may Allāh be pleased with him) said, 'You will never comprehend all its meanings until you see that the Qur’ān has many different meanings.' It is said that this is a narration of Sh addād bin Aws transmitted by Ibn `Abdul Barr. However, you see Islam only in the light of what you and those like you follow. If such is the case, then you have equated your secrets to those of the companions of Allāh's Messenger (blessings and peace be upon him). Nay! To the secrets of the Prophets (peace be upon them). This is the highest form of ignorance.


Do you not know that the Messenger of Allāh (blessings and peace be upon him) said?

‘The earth will never be devoid of forty men (whose hearts) in accordance with the heart of the intimate friend of the Most Gracious 70 .’


Do you belong to this group mentioned in this narration? If you do belong, then it is likely that you will have a most ample share of knowledge of the secrets of the religion. If you do not belong, then surrender the knowledge to its masters, because the signs are clear to those who pursue it, since there are an elect amongst the community to whom Allāh has revealed the Secrets of the Book and the Sunnah. In as much as this is true, would the group referred to, be found amongst any other than the dhākirūn with the distinguishing trait of complete devotion to Allāh Most High? ‘… men whom neither traffic nor merchandise can divert from the Remembrance of God,’ [24:37].


Dhun-Nūn al-Misri (may Allāh be pleased with him)gives an example of such people when he said ‘I met a woman in one of the travels and asked her, 'Where do you come from?', she answered 'From a people who ‘forsake their beds of sleep’ [32:16].’ Then I asked her 'where do you intend to go to?' and she answered 'to men whom neither traffic nor merchandise can divert from the remembrance of Allāh'. But, you thought that Sufism referred to a group of people who gathered for the purpose of dancing and singing poetry and nothing else. Your example is like the person who went to the shepherd at night requesting him to donate a sheep. The shepherd granted him permission [55], whereupon he went to fetch the sheep. Then in the dark his hand fell upon the watchdog who is usually among the sheep. In the morning he discovered a dog in his hand. He then accused the shepherd of the sheep, of being the shepherd of the dogs.


This is the implication of what you have said since you have confined Sufism to dancing and the like thereof. Therefore you said, ‘Among the despicable and prohibited innovations is to dance with dhikr.’ Thereafter you quoted of al-Tartūshi who judged the elect of the community of Muhammad (blessings and peace be upon him), as being idle, ignorant and misguided. However, this did not suffice you until you coined an eloquent similitude removing them from the fold of Islam and being Muslims. This statement you transmitted from one like yourself who either does not fear Allāh, or intended a specific group (in his statement). ‘As for dancing and ecstasy, the first ones to innovate this practice were the people of Sāmiri. They worshipped the calf and danced around it in ecstasy. Thirst is the religion of the unbelievers and the calf worshippers’.


In my opinion you have transgressed the bounds in that which you have done, for there is not a path leading to [defaming] the honour of Allāh's people except that you have traversed it. If this is your comparison between the fuqara and the calf worshippers, then there is a similarity to the form that exists between the two groups in which you have discovered. But have you discovered the point of similarity between the ecstasies for two objects of worship? Or in other words have you found the point of similarity between the calf of the Israelites and the Lord of the dhākirūn? High and Exalted is Allāh from that which the wrongdoers say! In truth we should not occupy ourselves speaking about such trivial expressions, because it has been declared false and refuted from many angles. Others have discussed this in great length. They mentioned that this has been falsely attributed to Abū Hanīfah . Far be it that he would say something like that! [56].


I shall speak to you about the ecstasy, which you mentioned as unlawful (haram), (1) even though that is not really the aim of the path of the Sufis. The ecstasy is as a result of fear (wajl 71 ), which you are lacking. Allāh says, ‘ For, Believers are those who, when God is mentioned, feel a tremor in their hearts, and when they hear His Signs rehearsed, find their faith strengthened,' [8:2]. So behold! Allāh Himself informs you of the fear and tremor that overcomes the dhakir. He has made it one of the most distinguishing characteristics of the believers. Have you not seen how Allāh praised the people of the Book (Ahl al-Kitab) for their states of ecstasy? He mentioned one of the aspects associated with it as praiseworthy when He said: ‘And when they listen to the revelation received by the apostle, thou wilt see their eyes overflowing with tears, for they recognise the truth:’ [5:86]. Is there not in all this proof of a stirring that takes place on the inside of the believer because of the remembrance of Allāh and listening to His words? Does Allāh not say, ‘Had We sent down this Qur'an on a mountain, verily thou wouldst have seen it humble itself and cleave asunder for fear of God.’ [59:21]. He explained the meaning of the Qur'an for which the mountains would shake and break asunder and said, ‘God is He, than Whom there is no other god;-’ [59:22] to the end of the Most Beautiful Names which He has mentioned.


Why would you not excuse the hearts when they shake and the bodies when they sway, from something for which the mountains would break asunder? Your situation is such because you have never found inside of you what [57] others have found, because Allāh reminds us that there are hearts which are like rocks or even harder. Alternately it might be that you have invoked the Divine Names of Allāh and read the Book of Allāh literally, Are you not aware that Sayyidina 'Umar once passed by a man who recited the verse ‘Verily, the doom of your Lord will indeed come to pass’ [52:7]. He ['Umar] uttered a loud cry that was heard in the outskirts of Madīnah, and then he fainted. He was carried home and remained speechless for two days. Imām Shāfi'i once heard someone reciting the verse ‘That will be a day when they shall not be able to speak, nor will it be open to them to put forth pleas’ [77:35-36]. Then he fainted and was carried to his home.


This does not require much explanation, for fear and the state of ecstasy has resulted in the 'death' 72 of many of the pious predecessors. Are you not aware of what came to us via the Sunnah with regard to the assembly of Sayyidina Dawūd (upon him be peace) when he would start reciting the Zabūr (the Psalms). Or do you think that the children of Israel were gentler in heart than the community of Muhammad (blessings and peace be upon him)? However, I am sure that you do not deny the occurrence of fear (wajl), which causes the effects of passion and ecstasy. Nay! You approve this state for some undistinguished individuals, which is an approval of knowledge but not of taste (dhawq 73 ). For if such was the case whilst knowing that it is one of the most essential requirements of feeling and emotions, you would not have assigned it to the religion of the unbelievers, whom Allāh has described in the ‘They are only like cattle;-’ [25:44]. You have indeed made them more gentle in heart than the believers who place their trust in their Lord. Have you made the love of the Israelites for the calf, stronger than the love of Allāh's people for Allāh? Allāh says ‘But those of faith are overflowing in their love for God.’ [2:165].


‘A people whose hearts are filled with pride for their masters

And the slaves boast of the master according to his status.’


The Israelites were moved by the love that filled their hearts for the calf, whereas the Sufis are moved by the love of Allāh that fill their hearts and it is this that led to their states of ecstasy which you [58] criticized.


The one who is ignorant of something opposes it. Did the words of the Most High not reach you, ‘For, Believers are those who, when God is mentioned, feel a tremor in their hearts’ [8:2]. Are you not aware that the Messenger of Allāh (blessings and peace be upon him) mentioned, ‘amongst his community there are people who will enter Paradise. Their hearts are like those of birds’. This was transmitted in ('Jāmi al-Saghīr). So in the light of this where are those referred to in [the narration] to be found, if not amongst the dhākirūn? And in most cases it appears as if you consider yourself to be one of them.


But by Allāh, I ask you to inform me, are you of those who remember Allāh with much remembrance? Or of those ‘whom neither traffic nor merchandise can divert them from the Remembrance of God? [24:37] ‘Or of those who remember Allāh standing, sitting, and lying on their sides? Or those who ‘when Allāh is mentioned their hearts tremble with fear?’ Or of those who, ‘when they listen to the revelation received by the Messenger (blessings and peace be upon him), you will see their eyes overflowing with tears, because they recognise the truth’? Or of those about whom the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) says, ‘The deeply devoted and those completely immersed in d the remembrance of Allāh have superseded’? Or are you of those who are called mad because they follow the saying of the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) ‘Remember Allāh with much remembrance until they will say you are crazy’? Or are you considered to be of those who want to be seen by men following the saying of the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) ‘Intensify the remembrance of Allāh until the hypocrites will say, ‘You only want to be seen by men’? By Allāh, tell me to which group do you belong? Are you amongst those who only speak about the above or are you amongst those who are being spoken of?


But in general the occurrence of ecstasy cannot be set aside, save in the case of someone with a harsh nature and rude manners, just as it would be farfetched for the impotent to experience the pleasure of copulation. If you did not receive this favour, then do not deny it in others.


Shaykh Shu'ayb Abū Madyan (may Allāh be pleased with him) said, [59] Say to the one who prevents the people of ecstasy from experiencing ecstasy. If you have never tasted the drink of love in its essence, then leave us. When we are happy and our souls are joyful and the wine of love consumes us then you would want to dishonour us.... to the end of what he relates of ecstasy.


By this I am not saying that swaying and ecstasy are of the necessities of Sufism. They are but outward signs, which arise from an absorption in dhikr. So let him who has doubt test it himself, for information is not the same as direct observation. This is what relates to ecstasy in dhikr and the discussion on swaying will still follow.


Thereafter I observed that after you had judged the great majority of the community of Muhammad (blessings and peace be upon him) as being misguided you began to incite the [Muslim] rulers to carry out, in your opinion the good deeds. However, your desire was that they share with you your calamity, when you said, ‘It is necessary for the ruler or his deputy to prevent them from attending the mosques and other public places.’


You and those who follow your advice do not benefit from it, except that you fall under His saying, ‘And who is more unjust than he who forbids that in places for the worship of Allāh, His name should be celebrated? - whose zeal is (in fact) to ruin them?’ [2:114] .So you are striving to ruin the houses of Allāh. You have thus exposed the Muslim leaders to the wrath of Allāh, which is His retribution of those who do such deeds. However, the people of government have a broader perception than you, and a stronger love for dhikr and the dhākirūn than you have.


The rulers in all the Muslim countries, of former times and the present, continue to honour the people of dhikr and give high regard to their nobility in all their different ranks. This is so for no other reason save that the scholars of religion were persistently in their company. May Allāh reward both parties with good. As for those other irresponsible scholars who oppose them, they are insignificant and their [normal legal opinions] are not considered, because they know that what emanates from their breasts is the result of a narrow perspective. Alternately because of their lack of knowledge.


You do not [60] even know that those whom you have ordered to be removed from their mosques are the same people referred to in the narration of the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) when he was asked as to who are those about whom it will be said on the day of resurrection ‘The people of gathering (on Resurrection day) shall know who the people of honour are.’ And he said, ‘They are the people of dhikr in the mosques’ (narrated by Imām Ahmad).


I ask, if you have instructed the rulers to prevent them from the mosques why did you not restrict yourself to that point. Instead you instructed them to prevent the people of dhikr from also assembling in their homes, whereas the case is that they do not prevent the people of the Book (Ahl al-Kitab) from assembling in their churches. This conforms to the stipulation of the Law to respect the Ahl al-Kitab (people of the Book) (who are free non-Muslim subjects living in a Muslim country enjoying their protection and safety). In the least you should have considered the people who assemble for dhikr like them. However you see the assembling (of people) for the purpose of dhikr of Allāh, or recitation of the Qur'an, of the worst abominations, which you have confirmed in more than one instance. It is for this reason that you wanted to instruct the government to change this 'disgraceful abomination', until no one should return to the assembly of dhikr of Allāh , recitation of the Qur'an and the sending of blessings to the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him), or what is of this kind. ‘But God will complete (the Revelation of) His Light even though the Unbelievers detest (it).’ [61:8].


After having judged the assemblies of dhikr and the like as misguided, you then said,

'It is not permissible for anyone believing in Allāh and the last day to participate with them, and neither should they support them in their falsehood.'


My God, how amazing! When did this religion come with a revelation which forbids the participation with the dhākirūnand merely when in their presence it becomes forbidden. Yet, as for the case of the one who moves his lips with the dhākirūn , when saying,La ilaha ill Allāh (There is no God but Allāh ), we do not know (what you consider) Allāh’s judgement on this. You probably consider him to be a heretic or the like. By Allāh, you know that I absolve myself, Islam and Muslims from such beliefs and the like; from your false accusations and your [61] lying when you said,

'This is also the view held by Mālik, Shāfi'i, Abū Hanifah and Ahmad and others besides them'


You have associated the leaders in religion with what you have perpetrated. You claimed that the Imāms concurred with your opinion. God forbid! However, in addition to some of the legal verdicts of the scholars of the four juristic schools that I have mentioned, let me cite where these important matters are found. For us to relate everything unto you is impossible because they are numerous. However, we will mention to you some of it, taken from those whose rank in religion you are very much aware of like,Jalāl al-Dinal-Suyuti, Shabragheti and Fairuz Abādi.


The four imams on Sufism

I shall indeed mention to you now what has been related from the scholars of the four juristic schools with regard to their respect for the Sufis. This is in addition to what we have already stipulated and absolving the Imāms from what you have ascribed to them, that they reject Sufism. What is well known of the life of ImāmShafi'i is that he used to frequent, accompany, and respect the Sufis. When he was asked about this, he answered.


'I have learned from the Sufi Shaykhs what I have never heard from anyone else. They said, 'Time is like a sword, if you do not cut with it, it will cut you' 74 . In another saying, 'Occupy yourself with good, for if you do not you will be occupied with the opposite'.


He used to accompany Shayban Ar-Ra'i a distinguished Sufi. One day Imām Ahmad was with Imām Shafi'i, when Imām Ahmad asked Shayban Ar-Ra'i (may Allāh be pleased with them) about a man who has forgotten one of the five daily prayers and did not exactly know which one it was. Shayban answered, ‘This man has been unmindful of Allāh ; he deserves to be disciplined’. Then he asked him about Zakah, so he answered him with a very detailed answer. From that time onward (Imām) Ahmad greatly respected the Sufis. Whenever a sensitive and delicate issue occurred he would send for Abū Hamza al- Baghdadi –As Sufi and ask, ‘what do you say about this O Sufi?’ [62] Abū Hamza would answer with his spiritual intuition. Shaykh Qutbu Dīn bin Ayman also mentioned that Imām Ahmad used to encourage his son to participate in Sufi assemblies. He would say they have reached degrees in sincerity, which we have not reached (quoted by the author of al-Nusrah).


As for the well-known saying of (Imām) Malik, ‘Whoever practices Sufism without Islamic Jurisprudence is a heretic and whoever practices Islamic Jurisprudence without Sufism has deviated, but he who has combined the two has attained to the Reality 75 (truth).’ 76


It is related that Abū Hanifa Nu'man (may Allāh be pleased with him) was asked about what the Sufis do during their 'Hadrah' 77 , and what they practices therein and whether they are truthful or whether they are liars? He answered, ‘Verily Allāh has men who will enter Paradise with their tambourines and their pipes.’ Then the transmitter said, ‘There was a certain group in our town who used to sway during dhikr until they would fall to the ground. The Imām never disapproved of it and used to visit them and respected them. They would ask him (questions) and he would answer them. Among the questions the Shaykh (of the Sufis) asked the Imām, ‘What do you say, O Sidi (may Allāh be pleased with you), about the matter where some people of the community of Muhammad (some Muslims) entered a church and gathered in a circle, alternating between themselves the remembrance of the devil from the morning to the evening. Give us the legal opinion about them, are they considered to be unbelievers or not?’ And he (may Allāh be pleased with him) answered, ‘No one among the people of Allāh is considered a disbeliever through a sin and this is not a sin.’ This has been transmitted in 'Tuhfat Ahl l-Futuhat Wa l-Athwaq'. In this answer the Imām guards against speaking about the [63] religion of Allāh by his opinion or that he should accuse the people of the Qiblah with unbelief (kufr) and the like. May Allāh grant them the best reward; what a vast knowledge and great understanding they had!


If such is the case, how could this absurd statement be attributed to the Imām that they claim he said, ‘It is necessary that the place where they have gathered for their peculiar dhikr should have the soil dug up and filled with stones.’ This is quoted while it is known that the Messenger of Allāh (blessings and peace be upon him) said, about this, ‘Whenever people gather in an assembly for the purpose of remembering Allāh, they are surrounded by angels, encompassed by the Divine Mercy and tranquility descends up on them. And Allāh remembers them among those present in His company.’ Such a statement should not emanate from an unmindful person let alone that it should be attributed to any of the great Imāms.These (Imāms) do not hold the view that a church should be dug up when it is converted to a mosque in Islam. They also regard the sweat of a living being, its saliva and mucus to be clean, even in the case of a pig. Has it not come to the mind of these ignorant people that when the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) wanted to build his mosque there were graves of the idolaters at the site of the mosque and only the bones were removed. Then the Prophet built his mosque on the blessed site.


Do you see the Prophet having ordered that the ground be dug up and its soil removed? Absolutely not! The like of such information has never reached us and neither have we heard of it and if such is the case how could the Imām possibly have said that which has been attributed to him in spite of his understanding and inspection. Far be it that such a statement should have emanated from him and the writer of 'Tuhfatul Fatawa' has specified that such a disgusting statement has been schemed upon ImāmAbū Hanifa and then he added, ‘How could he have said that, when an aspirant of Sufism came to him during his time and asked him concerning a group of Jews who stayed with their wives and children in a masjid for three days, should it be washed or destroyed or what is the situation? So the Imām replied, ‘If there has been no specific impurity (Najasah) established beyond doubt then it is clean.’ Isn't there in this the proof in what has been falsely attributed to him that he says the ground upon which the Fuqara make dhikr should be dug up? And Shaykh Abdul Hasan Ibn Mansur al-Junayd al -Hanafi said, ‘This disgusting statement is not from us, nor from the Imām of our branch. It has only emanated from the renegades (Rafidites) because they have rejected the existence of the pious.’


In the same way has Shaykh Abdul Hakim opposed it repulsively when he said ‘Whoever passes judgement with it is among the people of segregation (Itizaal)’ and he added, ‘The one who forged it on the Imām is Ibn Shirhan al-Farazi may Allāh bring him to ruin (destroy him).’ The Imām is far from all this because he used to love dhikr, the people of dhikr and he loved music, melodies and litanies with beautiful sounds. This is some of what was transmitted from 'An-Nusra'. The astonishment is not about the one who attributes this statement to the Imām, instead the astonishment is about the one who portrays it in his mind and established it as a proof for him. ‘Truly it is not their eyes that are blind, but the hearts in their breasts.’ [22:46]. And he, (may Allāh’s blessings & peace be upon him) said, ‘How many a carrier of Fiqh is not Faqih.’ This is the conclusion of the discussion with regard to the Imāms on the issue of the dhākirūn .


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