Shariah and Tariqah (Revealed law and Observance) are not two different or opposite things. Without obeying the Shari’ah (Revealed Law) one cannot approach Allah. Revealed Law is the collection of all the commands concerning body and soul, the spirit and heart, all the divine science and the infinite knowledge. A part of Shari’ah (Revealed law) is called Tariqah. It possesses cognizance so unanimously that it is conclusive and final. So all the actions and performances of the Saints have to be judged in accordance with the Divine Shari’ah (Revealed law). If they are perfectly in accordance with the said law then they are true and acceptable, otherwise they are condemnable and unacceptable.
STRICT FOLLOWING OF THE QURAN AND SUNNAH
The practice of the great Sufis has always been their strict following of the Quran and Sunnah. They considered any deviation from this as an act of disbelief and heresy.
Imaam She’ranni (radi Allahu anhu) quotes Sayyiduna Junaid Baghdadi (radi Allahu anhu) who states that: “Our revealed book, the Holy Quran, is the most comprehensive and the most supreme of all laws and the most lofty. The path of the Sufis has become mighty with the Quran and Sunnah. That person who does not read the Quran and does not practice upon the Sunnah, then his leadership is not proper, (In other words, he should not be made a leader).”
This great Saint also used to advice his followers: “If you see a person travelling on the air, do not follow him until you inspect his deeds and prohibitions. If he practices upon the advices of the Quran and Sunnah and refrains from its prohibitions, then follow him, if not, remain aloof from him”.
Imam She’ranni (radi Allahu anhu) states that a person once visited him with many of his followers (Mureeds). This person did not possess any knowledge on Fana and Baqa. One day the Imam asked him whether he knew the pre-conditions of Salaah. He replied that he had not attained knowledge. Surprised, the Imaam told him, “Dear Brother, it is compulsory for a person to perform his apparent worship (which can be seen) correctly. That person who cannot distinguish between what is Harram, Mustahhab and Waajib is a Jaahil (ignorant person), and to follow a Jaahil is totally incorrect, whether it be in the context of interior as well as exterior Ibaadat”. That person did not reply and immediately departed. The Saint then said, “Truly Allah did protect me from that Jaahil”.
From this narration it becomes clear that those who consider Tassawaf to be a path separate from the Quran and the Sunnah are misled. On the contrary, for Tassawaf to be Tassawaf in the true sense, it has to be in accordance with the Quran and the Sunnah. In the language of the Sufis, “the true Sufi is he who is a Scholar and practices upon what he has learnt”. The Sufis, of course, do advise their Disciples (Mureeds) on the strict following of Mystical exercises and Spiritual training. These actions are all within the precepts of the Shari’ah.
It is mentioned that some Sufis were so strict in following the Quran and Sunnah, that if they did not have proof for an action within Shari’ah, they used to spiritually communicate with the Holy Prophet (Sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) to find proof. Thereafter, their actions were moulded according to his divine teachings and advice.
Imam She’ranni (radi Allahu anhu) states that this action is unique to those great Sufis who hold a supreme position among the ranks of the Awliya.
The great Sufi, Sayyiduna Fuzail ibn Ayyaz (radi Allahu anhu) states that: “Choose the path of Guidance, even if the travellers on this path are little, it does naught to the path. Save yourself from the path of misguidance. Even if the travellers on this path are many, it is of no gain”.
Sayyiduna Bayazid Bustami (radi Allahu anhu) states that: “If you see a person travelling on air with legs folded and displaying many miracles, do not follow him till you see how well he safeguards the commands and prohibitions of Shari’ah”.
Sayyiduna Junaid Baghdadi (radi Allahu anhu), explaining this path states: “All paths are indeed closed, except for him who follows the Holy Prophet (Sallal laahu alaihi wasallam). Therefore, he who does not recite the Holy Quran, neither does he study the Ahadith, his leadership will not be accepted. Simply because, the knowledge of the Sufis is confined within the Quran and Sunnah”.
Sayyiduna Abu Saeed Khurraaz (radi Allahu anhu) states: “He whose interior state is contrary to his exterior state in the following of the Shari’ah, is indeed false”.
Explaining the real essence of Tassawaf, Sayyiduna Sirri Saqti (radi Allahu anhu) states: “The Sufi is that person, whose light of knowledge does not cloud his light of piousness. He practices upon the commands of the Shari’ah and refrains from its prohibitions. The miracles shown by him, does not blind him in following the Shari’ah”.
It is recorded that once Sayyiduna Bayazid Bustami (radi Allahu anhu), accompanied his Mureeds to visit a certain “Mystic” about whom they had heard many tales. When they arrived they noticed that the famous “Mystic” was entering the Mosque. However, they also noticed him spitting in the direction of the Qibla. When Sayyiduna Bayazid Bustami (radi Allahu anhu) noticed this, he immediately returned without even meeting this “Mystic”. Then addressing his Mureeds, he stated, “This person cannot even protect one etiquette of the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam), how can he even hope to protect a great trust like Wilaayat (Sainthood)”. From this incident, we clearly come to see how dearly the great Sufis protected the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam).
In the Mishkaat Shareef an incident is mentioned wherein a person was prohibited from becoming a Imam (Leader of the congregation), for he had just spat in the direction of Qibla. When he insisted upon the reason for his prohibition, the Holy Prophet (Sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) replied, “You have indeed insulted Allah and His Prophet by spitting in the direction of Qibla”.
We now realise the lofty position of etiquette within the framework of Islam. This person was stopped merely because he had performed an action contrary to Islamic etiquette. What would the position of those who daily transgress countless Islamic laws? This should be a warning to those also who belittle the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) and the great Saints.
Sayyiduna Zul Nun Misri (radi Allahu anhu) states, “Among the signs in the reverence of Allah, is that we should follow the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) in all his actions of humility, commandments and prohibitions”.
Sayyiduna Basher Haafi (radi Allahu anhu) narrates that he saw the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) in a dream. The Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) asked him, “O Basher! Do you know why Allah has made you supreme among your contemporaries?” I replied that I did not know. The Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) replied, “It is because of your strict following of my Sunnah and because you love and respect my family and companions. It is because this that Allah has included you among those that are pious”.
We clearly see that all these great Sufis and Scholars portrayed absolute respect for the Shari’ah. They considered it compulsory to mould their external as well as internal behaviour according to the ways and manners of the Holy Prophet (Sallal laahu alaihi wasallam). Where are those ignorant fools who do not even consider Shari’ah incumbent upon themselves? They mock at Salaah and Fasting and consider keeping the beard a huge joke. Day and night they deliberately contradict the Shari’ah in their actions and behaviour. Some of them even consider themselves as “great Faqeers” and “Dervishes”, claiming without proof that the path of Shari’ah is different from the path of Tassawaf. This is all done in their ignorant wisdom.
Thus so far it has become apparent to us that the Sufis tried their utmost in fulfilling the conjunctions of the Quran and Sunnah. We should stay away from those who try to use the lives of the great Sufis merely to substantiate their evil ways.
We know that the path to Allah is the path of Shari’ah and those individuals who hope to attain the status of an eminent Sufi must follow this path strictly. We must also remember that all these Sufis were strict conformists (Muqallids). None of them ever disrespected or contradicted their Imam as some modern day “non-conformists”. Consequently, in the famous book of Islamic Jurisprudence, “Durre Mukhtaar”, it is stated that eminent Sufis such as, Sayyiduna Ibrahim Adham (radi Allahu anhu), Sayyiduna Shafiq Balkhi (radi Allahu anhu), Sayyiduna Maroof Kharkhi (radi Allahu anhu), Sayyiduna Bayazid Bustami (radi Allahu anhu), Sayyiduna Fudail ibn Ayyaaz (radi Allahu anhu), Sayyiduna Daud Ta’I (radi Allahu anhu), Sayyiduna Abdullah ibn Mubaarak (radi Allahu anhu), Sayyiduna Abu Bakr Warraaq (radi Allahu anhu), were all Muqallida (followers) of Sayyiduna Imam Azam, Imam Abu Hanifa (radi Allahu anhu).