Concerning obedience to a Shaykh in worldly and spiritual matters

Mawlana Khalil Johnson

A Shaykh is a spiritual guide; someone who gives advice pertaining to how one  can improve his connection with Allāh ﷻ. It is up to the Murīd (The treader of the path of piety under the guidance of a Shaykh)to have the discipline of implementing that advice accordingly. Their advices do not constitute a binding, religious decree in itself.

It is for this reason that the Qurān rebukes Ahl-e-Kitāb (The people of the book, Jews and Christians) for having taken their Rabbis and Priests as Gods besides Allāh ﷻ. They would regard their obedience to be necessary in the absolute sense of the word. Whatever they said, would become law, even turning Halāl (Permissible) into Harām (Impermissible) and vice versa.[i]

The advices of a Shaykh can be broadly classified into two categories. One pertaining to worldly matters and one pertaining to spiritual matters. For both of these categories, we can find clear narrations from which one can deduce that it is not a religious requirement in itself to implement those advices.

In a narration on the authority of Imām Muslim, Hadhrat Talha, Radiallahu ‘Anhu stated that he and Nabī Karīm were passing by a group of people who were tending to the tops of date palms (fecundating them). Nabī Karīm enquired from those around him as to what they are doing. The companions replied that they were busy with cross polinating the date palms, the male with the female date palms. Nabī Karīm then expressed his personal opinion that he doesn’t see any benefit in that. The fecundators came to know of the remark and subsequently they stopped cross polinating the other date palms. Consequently, the produce from the next year was poor. The fecundators complained about this to which Nabī Karīm ﷺ remarked: “If this practice was of benefit to them, then let them do accordingly. I only expressed an opinion, therefore don’t take me to account for my personal opinions. However, if I mention something to you explicitly about Allāh ﷻ, then hold fast on to it, for verily it is impossible for me to utter anything but truth related to Allāh.[ii]

Another example is a narration on the authority of Imām Bukhārī. It pertains to the mariage of Hadhrat Barīrah to Hadhrat Muġhīŧh, Radiallahu ‘Anhum. He begged her to retain the marriage which she refused. Nabī Karīm ﷺ felt pity for him and told  her to go back to him. She asked if that was a command or a request. When Nabī Karīm replied it is merely a request, she refused.[iii]

Both these narrations show clearly that when it comes to worldly affairs, the Sahābah Radiallahu ‘Anhum were not required to obey Nabī Karīm ﷺ. In like fashion, if a Shaykh were to advise someone pertaining to a worldly matter, the Murīd will not be obliged to execute that advice. As a matter of fact, when it comes to worldly issues, one is required to always think very carefully as nobody can understand your personal wordly situation as well as yourself.

Pertaining to religious matters, in a narration on the authority of Imām Bukhārī, Hadhrat ‘Abdullāh bin ‘Amr stated that Nabī Karīm came to know about his excessive fasting. Nabī Karīm came to visit him and told him: “Are three days of fasting on a monthly basis not enough for you?Hadhrat ‘Abdullāh complained: “Oh Rasūlullāh! (I can do more)Nabī Karīm offered 5 days a month to which he replied in the same manner. Then he proposed 7 days a month, to which he complained. In this manner, Nabī Karīm kept on suggesting until 11 days a month. When Hadhrat ‘Abdullāh was still adament on doing more, Nabī Karīm then replied: “There is no fasting over and above the practice of Hadhrat Dāwūd ‘Alayhis-Salām. He would fast every alternate day.[iv]

All of these narrations show that in both worldly and religious matters, one is not bound to restrict himself to the advices given by one’s Shaykh.

However, we must also realize that going contrary to their advices is a sign that one is not serious about one’s spiritual reformation. Also, A Shaykh is spending his personal time and comfort in providing his Murīd with various instructions. If these advices are not heeded to, then this may result in the Shaykh becoming disinclined to further advice the Murīd. A Shaykh has precious pearls to share, but will not spread them in the hands of those people who are unable to handle them. Also, a Shaykh has a lot more knowledge about the Shariah and a lot more life experience than the Murīd. It is possible that the Shaykh may give advice that is not always the most optimal advice, but complete obedience is a road to complete tranquility.

The so called ‘transactional costs’ involved of personally scrutinizing every advice given are not feasible in the long run. In this day and age, people are extremely self opinionated. The objective of Tasawwuf is to eliminate pride. To be questioning every advice given and to act on one’s personal opinions on a constant basis contradicts this main objective.

And Allah Ta’āla Knows Best

Khalil Johnson

Student Darul Iftaa
Canada 

Checked and Approved by,
Mufti Ebrahim Desai


[i] سنن الترمذي, محمد بن عيسى بن سَوْرة بن موسى بن الضحاك، الترمذي، أبو عيسى, 279هـ, , شركة مكتبة ومطبعة مصطفى البابي الحلبي – مصر, الثانية، 1395 هـ – 1975 م, بيروت, 1406 هـ, 5 أجزاء

  • [3095 5] 3095 – حدثنا الحسين بن يزيد الكوفي قال: حدثنا عبد السلام بن حرب، عن غطيف بن أعين، عن مصعب بن سعد، عن عدي بن حاتم، قال: أتيت النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم وفي عنقي صليب من ذهب. فقال: «يا عدي اطرح عنك هذا الوثن»، وسمعته يقرأ في سورة براءة: {اتخذوا أحبارهم ورهبانهم أربابا من دون الله} [التوبة: 31]، قال: «أما إنهم لم يكونوا يعبدونهم، ولكنهم كانوا إذا أحلوا لهم شيئا استحلوه، وإذا حرموا عليهم شيئا حرموه»: «هذا حديث غريب، لا نعرفه إلا من حديث عبد السلام بن حرب، وغطيف بن أعين ليس بمعروف في الحديث»

 

[ii] المسند الصحيح المختصر بنقل العدل عن العدل إلى رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم, مسلم بن الحجاج أبو الحسن القشيري النيسابوري, 261هـ, محمد فؤاد عبد الباقي, دار إحياء التراث العربي – بيروت, الأولى، 1424 هـ – 2004 م, بيروت, 1406 هـ, 5

  • [4 1835] 38 – باب وجوب امتثال ما قاله شرعا، دون ما ذكره صلى الله عليه وسلم من معايش الدنيا، على سبيل الرأي
  • [4 1835] 139 – (2361) حدثنا قتيبة بن سعيد الثقفي، وأبو كامل الجحدري، وتقاربا في اللفظ. وهذا حديث قتيبة، قالا: حدثنا أبو عوانة، عن سماك، عن موسى بن طلحة، عن أبيه، قال: مررت مع رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم بقوم على رءوس النخل، فقال: «ما يصنع هؤلاء؟» فقالوا: يلقحونه، يجعلون الذكر في الأنثى فيلقح، فقال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: «ما أظن يغني ذلك شيئا» قال فأخبروا بذلك فتركوه، فأخبر رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم بذلك فقال: «إن كان ينفعهم ذلك فليصنعوه، فإني إنما ظننت ظنا، فلا تؤاخذوني بالظن، ولكن إذا حدثتكم عن الله شيئا، فخذوا به، فإني لن أكذب على الله عز وجل»

 

[iii] الجامع المسند الصحيح المختصر من أمور رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم وسننه وأيامه = صحيح البخاري, محمد بن إسماعيل أبو عبدالله البخاري الجعفي, محمد بن إسماعيل أبو عبدالله البخاري الجعف, محمد زهير بن ناصر الناصر, دار طوق النجاة  مصورة عن السلطانية بإضافة ترقيم ترقيم محمد فؤاد عبد الباقي, الأولى، 1422هـ, بيروت, 1406 هـ, 9

  • [5283 7] 5283 – حدثنا محمد، أخبرنا عبد الوهاب، حدثنا خالد، عن عكرمة، عن ابن عباس، أن زوج بريرة كان عبدا يقال له مغيث، كأني أنظر إليه يطوف خلفها يبكي ودموعه تسيل على لحيته، فقال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم لعباس: «يا عباس، ألا تعجب من حب مغيث بريرة، ومن بغض بريرة مغيثا» فقال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم: «لو راجعته» قالت: يا رسول الله تأمرني؟ قال: «إنما أنا أشفع» قالت: لا حاجة لي فيه

 

[iv] الجامع المسند الصحيح المختصر من أمور رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم وسننه وأيامه = صحيح البخاري, محمد بن إسماعيل أبو عبدالله البخاري الجعفي, محمد بن إسماعيل أبو عبدالله البخاري الجعف, محمد زهير بن ناصر الناصر, دار طوق النجاة  مصورة عن السلطانية بإضافة ترقيم ترقيم محمد فؤاد عبد الباقي, الأولى، 1422هـ, بيروت, 1406 هـ, 9

  • [3 41] 1980 – حدثنا إسحاق بن شاهين الواسطي، حدثنا خالد بن عبد الله، عن خالد الحذاء، عن أبي قلابة، قال: أخبرني أبو المليح، قال: دخلت مع أبيك على عبد الله بن عمرو، فحدثنا: أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ذكر له صومي، فدخل علي، فألقيت له وسادة من أدم حشوها ليف، فجلس على الأرض، وصارت الوسادة بيني وبينه، فقال: «أما يكفيك من كل شهر ثلاثة أيام؟»، قال: قلت: يا رسول الله، قال: «خمسا»، قلت: يا رسول الله، قال: «سبعا»، قلت: يا رسول الله، قال: «تسعا»، قلت: يا رسول الله، قال: «إحدى عشرة»، ثم قال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم: «لا صوم فوق صوم داود عليه السلام شطر الدهر، صم يوما، وأفطر يوما»
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