Understanding What is Bay’t

Bay’t is a mutual pledge relating to the striving, arranging, executing and adhering to the laws of A’male Zahiri and A’male Batini. This pledge is called Bay’t-e-Tareeqat which has been in vogue by authoritative transmission from generation to generation from the earliest time of Islam.

Rasulullah (saws) had enacted bay’t of the Sahaabah not only on Jihad, but on Islam and the adherence of the Ahkam (Laws in general) as well on practical deeds (A’mal). This is established by numerous Ahadith. The following hadith is one such Hadith:

“Auf Ibn Maalik Ash-ja-ee (radhiyallahu anhu) said: We were with Nabi (saws), seven, eight or nine (of us), when he said:

‘Will you not make bay’t (pledge) to the Rasul of Allah ?’

We stretched our hands and enquired: On what shall we make bay’t to you, O Rasul of Allah? He said:

‘That you make the Ibaadat of Allah; that you associate nothing with Him; that you perform the five Salaat; that you hear and obey.” (Muslim, Abu Dawood, Nisai)

On this occasion the bay’t which Rasulullah (saws) took from the Sahaabah was neither Bay’t Imaani (Pledge of Imaan) nor Bay’t Jihaadi (Pledge to wage Jihad). This Hadith is categoric proof for the validity of the system of bay’t in vogue by the Masha-ikh of Tasawwuf. Like there are four Math-habs (Schools of Thought) in Fiqh, viz. Hanafi, Shafi, Maaliki and Hambali, so too are there four schools of thought in Tasawwuf, viz., Chishtiyya, Qaderiyyah, Naqshabandiyyah and Suharwardiyyah. Like the Hanafi Way is dominant in this area (India and Pakistan), the Chistiyyah Way too is dominant here. Our akabir (authorities in Tasawwuf) enter into (bay’t) in all the four Schools of Thought (Silsilah) so that respect for the four Silsilah is maintained although Chishtiyyat is dominant .

The founder of the Chishtiyyah Silsilah is Hadhrat Khwajah Mueenuddin Chishti Ajmeri (rahmatullah alayh); founder of the Qaderiyyah Order is Hadhrat Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani (rahmatullah alayh); founder of the Naqshabandiyyah Order is Hadhrat Shaikh Bahauddin Naqshabuddin (rahmatullah alayh); and the founder of the Suharwardiyyah Silsilah is Hadhrat Shaikh Shahabuddin Suharwardiyyah (rahmatullah alayh).

The bay’t is enacted by the Shaikh taking into his right hand the right hand of the mureed (disciple). If the group contracting the bay’t is large, the Shaikh uses a length of cloth onto which each member of the group holds with his right hand. Ladies who contract the bay’t do so from behind a screen. A mahram of the lady should also be present at the bay’t ceremony. Hadhrat Aishah (radhiyallahu anha) said:

“Rasulullah (saws) never touched the palm of a woman, but he would make the (pledge-bay’t) upon her. Upon having made the bay’t he would say. ‘Go! Verify, I have already made bay’t with you.’ ” (Bukhari, Muslim, Abu-Dawood)

It is for this reason that in entering ladies into the bay’t, the Masha-ikh do so verbally or by means of a cloth which is spread from the Shaikh to the lady behind the screen. This is the method of bay’t when in the presence of the Shaikh. Those who are not able to present themselves personally to the Shaikh could contract the bay’t by means of a letter or through the agency of a responsible and trustworthy person. This form of bay’t is called bay’t-e-Uthmani. Rasulullah (saws) on the occasion of bay’t-e-Ridhwan made the bay’t of Hadhrat Uthmaan in his (Uthmaan’s) absence. On this occasion, Rasulullah (saws) placed his right hand on his left hand and announced that he has made bay’t of Uthmaan. (The bay’t in absence of the mureed is therefore termed bay’t-e-Uthmaani,)

Certain instructions are given to the mureed at the time of bay’t.

1. Firstly, is the qadha (fulfilment) of Salaat and Fasts which were omitted. The qadha should be executed by performing along with each daily Salaat a Qadha Salaat of the same time, e.g. along with the Ada Maghrib Salaat, a Qadha Maghrib Salaat should be made. During Isha, the Witr omitted should also be made. In making the qadha only the Fardh and Witr are made. It is however preferable to perform a number of qadha Salaat collectively at one time or in a single day, e.g. the Qadha Salaat of several times or of several days. In this way quicker discharge of the obligation takes place.

2. Discharging any monetary obligations of others if one is liable for such obligations. Such discharge is either by making the due payment or by obtaining the pardon of the one whose right is involved.

3. Fully guarding the eyes, ears and the tongue; total abstention from haraam and mushtabah (doubtful) wealth; appearance, dress to be in conformity with the Sunnat; total abstention from innovation and un-Islamic customs and practices on occasions of happiness and sorrow; to refrain from unlawful methods in all affairs; to constantly bear in mind not to harm anyone by means of one’s hand or tongue; not to hurt anyone; refraining from association; meeting according to need; and abstaining from unnecessary conversation.

4. Constantly maintaining the thikr of Kalimah Tayyibah, i.e. while walking, sitting, reclining and laying down. The way to do this is to continuously engage in reciting:

لآ اِلَهَ اِلاَّ ا لله

After reciting it a few times,

مُحَمَّدٌ رَّسُوْلُ ا للهِ صَلَّى ا للهُ تَعَا لى عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمْ

should be added.

5. After every Salaat recite Ayatul Kursi followed by Tasbeeh Fatimi. i.e. 33 times سُبْحَانَ الله ; 33 times اَلْحَمْدُ الله ; and thirty four times اَلله اَكْبَرُ. If time affords then recite after Zuhr, Maghrib and Isha one Tasbeeh (100 times) the third Kalimah.

6. After Isha Salaat, at the time of going to bed engage in muhasabah (self-reckoning) and muraqabah-e-maut (contemplating death).

Muhasabah means to take stock or reckoning. Here it means to take stock of one’s own deeds and activities. One should reflect over the entire day’s acts and deeds. Upon recalling a noble act or an act of Ibaadat, express one’s gratefulness (shukr) unto Allah Ta’ala and request for greater taufeeq (ability and inclination) to enhance virtue. Upon recalling one’s evil or wrong doing, become regretful. This is the daily muhasabah incumbent upon the mureed.

This means to contemplate…to think about the oncoming event of maut (death). Reflect about the pangs of death, the questioning in the grave, the Plain of Resurrection, the Reckoning in Qiyamat; the presence in the Court of Allah; crossing the Sirat, etc. All this has to be contemplated and a pledge is to be made that one will in future not venture near to sin. One tasbeeh (100 times) Istighfaar is then to be recited. The Istighfaar is:

سُبْحَانَ اللهِ وَبِحَمْدِهِ سُبْحِانَ اللهِ الْعَظِيْمِ | اَسْتَغْفِرُ اللهَ الْعَظِيْمَ لآاِلَهَ اِلاَّ هُوَ الْحَىُّ الْقَيُّوْمُ وَاَتُوْبُ اِلَيْهِ

7. Consider yourself to be the most inferior, so much so, that if you observe with your own eyes another indulging in the worst of vices then too you shall not despise him/her, nor shall you consider yourself nobler than him/her. On the contrary one should fear and bear in mind that it is very possible that the perpetrator of the vice may resort to sincere taubah and become a person of high piety while the one who had despised the sinner become ensnared (Allah forbid!) in the meshes of the nafs and shaitaan and be diverted from Ibaadat and obedience. One has no certainty regarding one’s end. One, therefore, has no basis for regarding another with contempt.

N.B. This instruction, No. 7, is the first step in Suluk. Without taking this step, the Path of Tasawwuf remains closed.

The meaning of bay’t ( بيع : to sell) is inherent in bay’t (بيعت). Bay’t thus implies that the mureed “sells” himself to the Shaikh. In other words he has sold himself to the Shaikh in preparation of ahkam-e-zahirah and ahkam-e-batinah (i.e. to learn to give practical expression to the Law of Allah Ta’ala). The nature of this “sale” envisages that the searcher after the truth (talib) should repose implicit trust and faith in his Shaikh. He should understand and accept that the advices and prescriptions, admonitions and prohibitions of the Shaikh are all designed and motivated for his (the mureed’s) spiritual well-being. The talib shall not interfere with or impede the diagnosis and prescriptions of the Shaikh. He should have implicit faith to such an extent that he should believe that in all the world there is none in his knowledge who can benefit him more than his Shaikh. In the terminology of Tasawwuf this conception of implicit faith in the Shaikh is known as wahdat-e-matlab (unity of purpose). Minus this conception, the ceremony of bay’t is meaningless and of no benefit because congeniality (munasabat) with the Shaikh is an essential condition for islaah (reformation) of the nafs.

The sign of the existence of congeniality (munasabat) between the Mureed and his Shaikh is that the heart of the mureed does not object to the respect, statements and acts of the Shaikh. Should any objection arise in the heart regarding the Shaikh, the mureed should grieve and feel depressed.

The external form of bay’t is beneficial to the general public since it induces reverence and respect in them for the Shaikh. As a result, they readily accept the Shaikh’s statements and are constrained to act accordingly. However, for the elite (khawas), i.e. the Ulama, bay’t proves beneficial after a period has been spent in association with the Shaikh. By virtue of bay’t a bond of sincerity (khulus) is generated between the mureed and the Shaikh. The Shaikh considers the mureed to belong to him and the mureed considers the Shaikh to belong to him. There does not remain any suspense between them.

It has always been in the Divine Scheme of things that perfection cannot be attained without an ustad (expert instructor). Thus when one is endowed with the guidance to enter into the Road of Tareeqat, one should search for an Ustad of Tareeqat so that one may reach the true goal through the medium of his graceful instruction and auspicious companionship.

“O my heart! if you desire to undertake this sojourn hold on to the garment of the guide. Whoever trod the Path of Love without Companion his life passed by without attaining love.”

Hadhrat Hakimul Ummat Rahmatullah therefore says:

“What! Has anyone attained perfection by only books? it is simple to understand that one cannot become a carpenter without sitting in the company of a carpenter; one cannot become a tailor without the companionship of a tailor; one cannot become a calligraphist without the company of a calligrapher. In short, one cannot attain perfection or become an expert without the companionship of an expert.”

The companionship of a pious man will induce piety in you. Similarly, the companionship of an evil man will induce evil in you. He who searches for association with Allah Ta’ala, has to acquire the association of the Auliya-e-Kiram. A short while spent in the companionship of Auliyaa is nobler and superior to a century of unostentatious obedience. Companionship with the pious for even a moment is superior to a century of zuhd (abstention) and ta’at (obedience).

The following letter and reply given by Hadhrat Hakimul Ummat (rahmatullah alayh) demonstrates the need for a Shaikh.

The letter:
“I am presently in Daurah-e-Hadith (the final year in the Alim Fadhil course). For quite a while I had intended to write, but a certain aspect prevented me from doing so. I am a voracious reader and lover of your writings and have been engaged in reading your books since my childhood days. By the grace of Allah I have benefited much.

I have learnt one particular thing from your writings, viz. the commands of the Shariat are all voluntary (ikhtiyariyyah). Since the commands are ikhtiyariyyah (volitional) it follows that the commands to abstain are likewise volitional. Thus the remedy for ail spiritual ailments is to refrain (volitionally). I have always adopted this method for myself. The question now is this: Now that this principle has been learnt from the Masha-ikh of Tareeqat does the need still remain to refer to the Masha-ikh and obtain remedies from them? I do not understand this.

I have ruminated for quite a while regarding this matter. I trust that you will advise me so that I may practice accordingly. After realizing this general principle, what is the need for obtaining the diagnosis and prescription of a Shaikh? I hope that if I have erred, I will be informed.”

The reply:
“The commands and the prohibitions are all volitional. However, errors do happen in this regard. At times what has already been acquired (hasil) is considered as not having been attained yet (ghair-hasil), and sometimes vice versa. For example, a person intend to attain khushu’ (concentration based on humility) in Salaat, and in reality he then attains khushu’. But, while having attained khushu’ he is simultaneously afflicted by an abundance of stray thoughts (wasawis). This person then regards the accident of such wasawis as contradictory and negatory of khushu’. He thus considers that he has not attained khushu’. In the initial stages of Ibadat, wasawis are non-volitional (ghair-ikhtiyari) – coming of their own accord – however, later the musallee is diverted towards volitional (ikhtiyari) wasawis and he is deceived into believing that such wasawis are yet of the non volitional kind of the initial stages. He thus considers himself to have khushu’ while in actual fact khushu has been eliminated .

At times he considers what is not firm (ghair rasikh) to be firm (rasikh). For example, in a few light mishaps he considers himself to have attained the state of radha bil qadha (satisfied with what has been divinely decreed). His contentment in the face of some slight misfortunes leads him to believe that he has attained advanced capability in firmness and steadfastness. But, if some great calamity overtakes him and he fails to be contented then too he labours under the deception that he has attained the desired degree and goal of rusukh (firmness).

The consequence of regarding the attained (hasil) as unattained (ghair hasil) is frustration and depression which in turn induce one to become careless and neglectful. Thus, the attained becomes truly eliminated. The harm of the opposite condition (i.e. considering the unattained as attained – ghair-hasil as hasil) is deprivation. Since one labours under the false notion that one has already achieved the goal, one does not make any effort in this direction.

The same danger lurks in considering ghair-rasikh (infirmity) as rasikh (firm), viz., one remains careless, not making any effort or arrangement to attain the desired goal of firmness and steadfastness. Sometimes one commits the error of believing that the state of rusukh has not been attained despite it having been attained. For example, one combated unlawful lust during a time when the effect of ones thikr was dominant. As a result, the condition of unlawful lust remained suppressed so much so that one’s attention was totally diverted from it. Later when the effect of the thikr decreases and the natural propensities assert themselves even if in slight degree one is misled to believe that one’s mujahadah (striving against the nafs) ha; gone wasted, hence the return of the evil propensities. The consequence of this feeling is that one loses hope and is overtaken by stagnation and retrogression.

The above are merely some examples of errors and the resultant harm. A qualified Shaikh (of Tareeqat) by virtue of his insight and experience discerns the reality and if one is connected to such a Shaikh, he informs one of the errors and pitfalls. The mureed is thus saved from these dangers. Assuming that the Saalik (one who trods the Path of Tasawwuf) because of intelligence and correct understanding discerns the pitfalls, then too, he will not attain tranquillity and peace of mind because of inexperience. He will remain perplexed. And, perplexity impedes the attainment of the goal.

This is the duty of the Shaikh’s office. More than this is not his responsibility. Nevertheless, in kindness he performs another function as well. In realizing the goal or the initial stage of the goal or in eliminating an evil attribute, the searcher of the truth undergoes great stress and difficulty although repeated subjection to such difficulty finally becomes transformed into ease. But, the Shaikh sometimes as a favour devises such a scheme that the difficulty disappears from the very inception.

This is a brief exposition for understanding. The need for a Shaikh is felt and understood once one commences in the Path and systematically informs the Shaikh of one’s particular conditions and at the same time following his advice and instructions. Furthermore, such total obedience is possible only if one has full trust and confidence in the Shaikh, fully submitting to him. At that time one will actually feel and realize that it is not possible to attain the goal normally without a Shaikh.”