Many people find the idea of their spiritual journey being fast-tracked by joining a tariqa (Sufi path) appealing. They think that their connection with Allah will be strengthened, and accelerated and that showing obedience to their shaykh, who is already well-advanced on that journey, will be the shortcut to Jannah. The most renowned Sufi shaykh of his time, Ibn ‘Abbad an-Nafzi (d.792 AH) was asked by Imam Abu Ishaq Shatibi, the great classical scholar, whether it is necessary to have a shaykh of tariqa to tread the path to Allah. It was a debate which filled the social media airways of the time.[i] The Sufi shaykh answered that it is not necessary for everyone to follow a Sufi shaykh or join a tariqa, and he elaborated on the two types of shaykh and the two types of student, as follows. Types of shaykh There are two types of shaykh, those who impart knowledge and those, who in addition to imparting knowledge, practice tarbiya. Tarbiya is when someone nurtures and moulds you to improve your character. Shaykh Abd al Fattah Abu Ghudda in his introduction to Imam al Muhasibi’s (d. 243 AH) Risalaat al Mustarshideen summed up what Shaykh ibn ‘Abbad rahimahullah said: Shaykhs to whom you refer in matters of suluk (treading the spiritual path) are of two types: a shaykh who imparts knowledge and also tarbiyah, and a shaykh at-ta’lim who imparts knowledge without imparting tarbiyah. A shaykh of tarbiyah is not necessary for every salik. A person who is mentally foolish and has a refractory soul needs such a shaykh. As for that person who has sufficient intelligence and an obedient soul, it is not necessary for him to have such a shaykh. But it is preferable for him to do so. As for the shaykh who imparts knowledge … Continue reading Should you follow a tariqa?
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