Everyone must join a Tariqah for their spiritual development. And a tariqah, is a tariqah of Rasulullah (SallAllahu alaihi wa aalih). A tariqah of Book and Sunna first, and you join the tariqah, inshAllah, by saying, 'la ilaha illa Allah, Muhammadun Rasulullah and practicing that la ilaha illa Allah, not just saying it. After you practice 'la ilaha illa Allah, Muhammadun Rasulullah', you acquire knowledge of many things and you follow the tariqah of Rasulullah (sallAllahu alaih wa aalih). Then you may get involved in the schools of Ihsan.
The schools of Ihsan, which means different schools, after you have practiced Islam, practiced Iman, know what is for you, what is against you, you are motivated. You're a highly motivated individual who seeks higher spiritual levels and very high dedications. You can join some of these schools that will train you to be a Muhsin. Schools of Ihsan, if you want to call them tariqah that's fine, but in Bukhari it says Ihsan. And these schools train you to worship Allah as if you were seeing Him, though you won't see Him, but He see you. And the way that you develop yourself spiritually is by number one, acquiring knowledge and practicing it and that's how you develop yourself spiritually. In other words, you develop yourself by practicing the Book of Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala). You walking like you're walking with the ayah of the Quran all the time.
But, the problem been tasawwuf, which is something we call Ihsan. I call tasawwuf, Ihsan, because Ihsan was in Bukhari and like I said, Ihsan is that you worship Allah as if you see Him, though you don't see Him, but He see you. This is the third, after you go through Islam and Iman, you go to Ihsan. This is like the top of the building, the hundredth floor of the building. If you build a building, the hundredth floor would be this one. Now some people wish to go to the hundredth floor before going to the first floor. You can't do that. Therefore, they spend all their lives learning about tasawwuf but they're not learning about tawhid, their not learning about Quran. That doesn't work that way. Therefore, you have to go through all these levels to understand and then you go to tasawwuf or you go to Ihsan really. And then, you worship Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta'ala).
Now you know who Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta'ala) is so you can worship Him. And tasawwuf is about worshipping Allah more than the average person. That's what tasawwuf is really. In other words, being a Sufi is takliif not tashriif. Takliif means more accountability, more responsibilities, not more honors. In other words, not more ranks in front of people, not more medals in front of people. I am here, I belong to this tariqah and I am this and I am that, NO NO! That's not what tasawwuf is all about. Tasawwuf is about doing more things, more dhikr. You're standing up all night long, every 3 days, every 4 days and praying to Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta'ala). Every day you have your duruud of course those of you who got into tasawwuf, inshAllah, May Allah make you all go into the roads of Ihsan, because that is only for those who are fortunate.
Of course once you go there you know that among your work will be juz, up to one juz of the Quran everyday (Allahu tawfiq). Some now say, 'Oh they've given me astaghfirullah, Allahumma salli 'ala Sayyidina Muhammad wa 'ala 'Aali Sayyidina Muhammad, la ilaha illa Allah 100 times.' That's just for that pre-beginner, then you go and you know the mashaykh and the scholars in tasawwuf. They have, some people have one chapter a day, some people have two chapters of the Quran a day, some people have three chapters of the Quran a day. Some people among their work then addition to that a hadith of the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa aalih) everyday, then thousands of times in duruud "Allahumma salli 'ala Sayyidina Muhammad wa 'ala 'Aali Sayyidina Muhammad." All these things. It's not just like a prayer, I belong here, I want to be here. What do you have to offer first? How dedicated are you? Do you really belong to that, to those worshippers who have really left the dunya behind and to whom gold and silver is of equal value? Or is it just being, having another card membership so you can say that I belong to this club? That's not what tasawwuf is about.So once those people, inshAllah, do these things, then they can go into the extra worship. And they can do thousands of istighfar and they can follow of course scholars in any way, in fiqh or in tawhid, or in Ihsan.
In all these things, you must follow in a sense, you must. I mean for guidance, you have to actually follow those who are of knowledge, trustworthy and authorized, so they can lead you to the right way.And Allah Knows Best.
Advise on following a Tariqah by Sayyidi Shaykh Muhammad al-Ninowy (May Allah preserve him)
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Advise On Following A Tariqah
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