Lost & Found





Bismillahi rahmani r-rahim
(In the Name of Allah, Most Beneficent, Most Munificent)

La hawla wa la quwatta illa billah il aliyy il adhim
(There is no strength and no power save that of Allah, Most High, and Majestic)

Rabbi yassir, wa la ta’ssir.  Rabbi tamim bi-l khayr.
(O Lord, make it easy, and do not make it difficult.  O Lord, make it end well.)

This is the third part on the adab, or good manners, of the disciple with his sheikh.   Good manners must be learned and so one must accept to be taught.  But, strangely enough, to be able to learn one must already have good manners.
Good manners are not artificial.  They are the essence of a human being.  But if one doesn’t do anything to keep them, they get easily lost.  Look around.  Look at the communities we live in.  It is easy to see that there is a general loss of good manners.  Even the schools where one should learn good manners have become places of bad manners.  It is clear, therefore, that we cannot expect good manners from people.  At the same time we must understand how important they are. Without good manners you may be successful in the jungle but in terms of our spiritual nature we cannot do without them.   All of sufism is good manners.  It is not just prayers, fasting and so on.  It is adab, adab with your Lord, with the Prophet, with the saints, the sheikhs of the tariqa, your present sheikh and with all creatures.  That is the core.  We should understand, practice it and keep it.
We have mentioned some of the advice given to disciples by Sidi Muhyidin Ibn Arabi, one of the greatest saints and scholars.  Now we intend to complete it.  Try to understand its meaning and apply it  not only to your dealings with your sheikh but with everyone.
    Stay always at a distance from your Sheikh so you do not impose yourself, and stay always close enough so you can hear him when he calls you.
These words describe the particular distance a disciple should keep with his sheikh.  You have to find the correct distance for yourself.  That is important.  No one will define it for you.  You are a human being and therefore you will not be pushed or forced.  The dignity of human beings consists in their capability to learn on their own, through their own initiative.  It is up to you.  If you love us and our ways, you will like to do as we do.  As with small children, when they love someone,  they imitate.  They have no problem with imitation.  They are not like us adults who are too proud.
So, from and for the love of your spiritual guide, find the appropriate distance and keep it.   Don’t try to attract his attention.  Don’t go forward and impose yourself.  But then don’t go so far away that you cannot hear his call.  Keep within this middle range.  Keep that precise distance.
    Don’t try to make him interested in something you are doing because in this way you are going against a main principle, the principle that establishes you as a murid: namely, that you should only want what your Sheikh wants.
Don’t call attention to yourself. You are called murid which means “to will what he wills, to want what he wants for you.”
    If your Sheikh tells you to do something reject any idea from your mind which opposes this order.   Hold always fast to what you are told.  There are amongst the masters some who, when you consult them about something, answer: “Do it!”, although they do not agree.  Their answers replies to the state.
Don’t ask for the “why’s” and “how’s” of his answer.  You may have your ideas about what is best for you, but the Sheikh does not answer to what you think is best for you. He answers to what is good for him regarding you.  So, you must be very careful.
    If such a Sheikh told you: “Don’t do it!”, that might look as if it was to your advantage but his priority is given of course to what benefits your soul.
  When the sheikh answers from his state then you must know that it is ultimately of benefit to you. If the outcome is, in your terms, negative or positive, it does not matter.  Our actual benefit or goodness lies in his goodness, not in our own.
    You can avoid such a situation if you stop calling his attention to anything and everything that passes through your mind.  You don’t have any time for such things because your time should already be filled with trying to obey the Sheikh’s orders.
Don’t persist in asking him about what you should do, or do in addition to what he told you to do.  Had you kept silent in front him and let his will override yours he would have given you all answers in one moment, and you would know immediately.
    Be careful of the ruses of the masters  Sometimes they put a trap for the disiciple.  Watch your breaths when you are with your Sheikh.
Whatever the Sheikh does or says, you should always keep your balance and the right position.  Watch your breaths, that will help you to stay measured.
    Should it happen that you misbehave towards your Sheikh and you know that he is aware of it but tolerates you without punishing you, then know that this is a ruse.  He knows that you wouldn’t do anything from yourself so he doesn’t say anything.  If he punishes you immediately , however, understand that he welcomes and accepts you.  Let his friendliness not reassure you too much.  Rather when you find him well-disposed towards you, then in your heart should increase fear and concern, as well as devotion and respect.
  Stay in your limits and
    stay with the words as they were said, and do what he asks you to do when he asks you.
Don’t allow any gaps, any hollow spaces to creep in, for that will throw you back into yourself.  And then you do not obey.
    Even if you think there is something wrong , you have to do as he says without interpreting.  For, even when you interpret an order and happen to hit the mark, it is nevertheless wrong.  If you did not interpret and simply obeyed his command, even when you thought there was something wrong about it, then you would have hit the mark.
The main point is obedience.  If you interpret you lose your balance.  You step forward and, thereby, cancel the relationship between master and disciple, and finally between Allah and his servant.
    The right direction on this path is: the murid is with the Sheikh ,and the Sheikh is with Allah.
The Sheikh does not have to fulfill our wishes or be understood by us.  His adab is with Allah and ours is with our Sheikh.
    Success on this path does not consist in interpreting an order of the Sheikh correctly, but in conforming to the received order exactly and without any speculation.  The secret reason for this rule appears clearly on the Divine level.
The world of Divinity is the world of the Command, al amr.   Allah does not speak so that His sayings can be interpreted, considered, and weighed.  The Divine level is the level of kun fa yakun: He says to a thing “Be!” and it is.  That level is mirrored in the relationship between a Sheikh and his murid.  It is the level of command.  If the Sheikh says “kun,” the murid should “yakun.”
A spiritual path contains different levels.  We speak, for instance, of mubtadi (beginner), musta’id (one who is prepared), and murid (disciple).  The difference between each level is a difference in closeness to the Sheikh.  Coming closer is measured by improving on the level of command.  Whoever improves there can pass on until they are finally and really close to him.  Without perfect adab that is not possible.
    When you say to your Sheikh, “I thought you wanted me to do this,” then you are on the wrong direction because you base yourself on your individual soul.  The misfortunes that befall most of the murids are only due to their love for interpretation.
This love is so deeply ingrained in us.  But you must use your willpower to hold back with it.
    Speculation is here based mostly on wishful thinking and reason is anyhow able to recognize only the outside and can therefore not reach certainty.  So do not speculate about an order of your Sheikh.   For an order is obliging.  One responds to what one is asked when one is asked.  As long as the disciple does not follow these rules, he or she will not prosper.
Whoever has difficulties in accepting what we just said has difficulties in knowing his soul.  Whoever asks to know his soul, should behave towards his spiritual guide as we have said.
Wa min Allah at-tawfiq
(And from Allah comes success)
Bi hurmati l-Habibi, bi hurmatil Fatiha.