Tassawuf and Sulook is a topic that is as important as it is unique. It concerns itself with the feelings of Iman and Yaqeen and the spiritual states of the human heart. Many saints have written about it, that Sufis wore the garbs of wool (soof) and thereby are called Sufis but this does not seem to be true. Quran Kareem’s word Tazkiya was translated into Persian as Tassawwuf. The first language that Quran Kareem was ever translated into was Persian. The truth seems to be the essence of the word and the discipline of Tassawwuf.
State of the world or the lack of it is sad if nothing else. Different cultures have different ways to define it and make their peace with it. Germans call it Zeitgeist. Some deify it and some become perennial. Others choose to make peace with it or simply cut a larger piece of it. None of us can deny the fact that there is something subtle about human beings.
They are given the wisdom to reign over other species. Only they can continuously evolve and learn. Goats never think about creating a salad out of their vegetarian food. Cats don’t seem to care if milk is 3% fat or 1.5%. Lions can’t care less about beef steaks and chicken nuggets.
This gift comes with its own test. The ability to learn comes with a responsibility to use it wisely. And what can be the pinnacle of knowledge but to figure out this world and its purpose? Is it an undertaking larger than human being’s meager intellect? Is it only fair to be judged on things that one has no capacity to find a conclusion for? Then again, Human beings with all their sagacity were the only beings fit for the ultimate job. The Maarifa of the creator. Surprisingly Quran calls it his ignorance.
إنا عرضنا الأمانة على السماوات والأرض والجبال فأبين أن يحملنها وأشفقن منها وحملها الإنسان إنه كان ظلوماً جهولاً
It’s the man himself who agreed to bear the burden that heavens and the earth denied. Allah does not ask of people, things that they have no potential to fulfill. When Allah created human beings, Angels argued against it and Allah responded, “ Surely I know what you do not know”.
Allah then sent his messengers to guide his creation. The only creation that could question his existence. The creation that was given free will and the choice. None of Allah’s creation can change its course. Everything falls into a system without ever changing. Sun and the Moon chase each other without delays. Vegetation grows and dies, animals live off each other, winds circulate in loops, water cycle keeps repeating itself.
It’s only human intervention that changes this. It’s only human who use these gifts to its fullest potential and they are made for the humans. However, will this unprecedented reign make him grateful or oblivious of the original creator?
The vicegerent is only as powerful as the Master. Gratitude and loyalty are what employers seek from their subordinates. Human beings are being asked nothing else but this with the exception that they don’t contribute anything to the heavens. They only take from the Lord. The asking is just the gratitude. The remembrance, the quest to his Lord and sincerity.
Islamic Tassawwuf is nothing but this remembrance of the Creator. The emptying of heart from everything but Allah. Counter-intuitively some have assumed that being impoverished, ascetic and recluse gets one started on this path. Nothing can be further from the truth if you read the lives of great Sufi Masters.
From Imam Al-Ghazali RA to Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jillani RA and from Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi RA to Shah Wali Ullah Dehlvi RA, these people single-handedly changed the course of history. They were great iconoclasts who not only shattered the idols of material powers and empires, they purged the hearts of its spiritual diseases, Jealously, Envy, Rancor, and Hate.
Like four Madhab, served Islamic faith in gathering and synthesizing the principles of practices, four chains of Sufi traditions have taken the burden of purifying the hearts of people from the worldly malice. Naqshbandi, Qadri, Chishti and Suharwardi being the names of these orders. From Morocco to Indonesia, Zawaya and Khanqas are busy forming practical and thoughtful souls. In the quagmire of insincerity, opportunism and deception both worldly and religious, pure Islam can only be found with people who keep themselves busy in purifying their hearts. Prophet SA said,
هم القوم لایشقی جلیسهم
These are the people, the one who sits with them will not remain unfulfilled, even if he doesn’t do what they do. The ones whose tear keep flowing from open eyes, while people sleep. The ones who are found prostrating in front of their Lord begging for mercy for the non-believers around them. Whose selflessness keep the selfish afloat.
It is these who keep the wrath of Allah from the corrupt vicegerents who were meant to be the wayfarers on the path of uprightness. Prophet SA said
لَا تَقُومُ السَّاعَۃُ حَتَّی لَا یُقَالَ فِی الْأَرْضِ اللَّہُ اللَّہُ
Qiyamah will not happen until Zikr of Allah is being done on earth. The heart of darkness is lit by these candles. No matter who you believe in, who your sheikh is and what you creed is, get hold of these people because if there is hope for this world, it is them.