Mashaa’ikh are of two categories, that is, Sheikhul Ittisaal and Skeikhul Isaal.
Definition of a Sheikhul Ittisaal:
When a person pledges Bai’ah to him he is able to connect the person to a spiritual order leading to the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam). He is a key link in the chain. A Sheikhul Ittisaal meets the following fourd conditions: –
1. The Sheikh’s spiritual link to the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) is true and real. There should be no discontinuity or termination at any stage in the spiritual chain from his Murshid to Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam). Some people accept a Mureed without actually being authorized and having the capacity to do so. They may themselves have pledged Bai’ah to a Sheikh or be from progeny, but lack the authority and spiritual capacity of taking Mureeds. Such Bai’ah can under no circumstances attain Ittisaal – Linking one spiritually to the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam).
2. The Sheikh has to be a Sunni, holding correct beliefs. To follow a misguided Sheikh will lead one directly to Shaitaan, instead of the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam). Many disbelievers, agnostic and enemies of the Awliya Allah like the Wahabis are openly practising Tariqah and pledging Bai’ah, creating confusion and bringing disrespect to this noble art. Sultaanul Aarifeen, Hazrat Sultan Bahu (radi Allahu anhu) affirms that the way of Ahlus Sunna wal Jama’h is the way of Allah Ta’ala and those not on this path are astray. The Holy Prophet’s (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) path is the Path of Allah and those deviating from it or against it are misguided. (Mihakul Fuqara, pg. 233)
3. The Sheikh must be an Aalim educated in the Shari’ah. He must be well- versed with the beliefs of the Ahlus- Sunnah wal Jama’h and be able to distinguish between the straight path of Islam and misguidedness and Kufr.
Without these qualities there is always the possibility of him faltering. There are several words and deeds, which lead one to Kufr. An ignorant person, when saying such words or doing such deeds, is unaware that he is committing an act of Kufr, hence repentance will not be forthcoming from such a person.
4. The Sheikh must not be an open sinner (Faasiq Mo’lin). While it is compulsory to revere the Murshid it is obligatory to oppose a sinner. It would be impossible to apply two conflicting approaches to one person.
Definition of a Sheikhul Isaal:
Sheikhul Isaal must have the four qualities of the Sheikhul Ittisaal. In addition to these, the Sheikhul Isaal must also be aware of the evils of the Nafs, the many tricks of Shaitaan and the seduction of desires. He should be able to guide his Mureeds with fatherly affection and advising them of their weaknesses and cures to them. The Sheikhul Isaal should solve whatever difficulties the Mureed faces in the path of attaining the realisation of Allah. It is in the hands of such a Murshid that Baitul Iradah is taken. (Fatawa Afriqa by A’la Hazrat, pg. 123)