Requisites for Sulook – By Imam Ghazaali رحمه الله

I will explain to you what is waajib (compulsory) on the Saalik who follows the Path of Haqq.

1. A Qualified Shaikh of Tarbiyat

Understand that the Saalik should have a Shaikh who is a spiritual guide and trainer so that he (the Saalik) removes evil character from himself with the spiritual training (Tarbiyat) of the Shaikh and in place of evil character he inculcates good character.

The gist of Tarbiyat resembles the work of the farmer who removes thorns and weeds from in between the crops in order that his crop grows well and he gains a thorough yield.

It is imperative for the Saalik to have a Shaikh who disciplines him and guides him to the Path of Allah. Verily Allah Ta’ala sent for the benefit of creation a Rasool to guide them to the Path of Allah. When the Rasool (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) passed away he left his Khulafa in his place to guide to the Path of Allah Ta’ala.

The condition for the Shaikh to be qualified as a Naaib (deputy) of Rasulullah (Salawaatullahi wa salaamuhu alaih) is that he should be an Aalim. However, not just any Aalim is qualified for Khilaafat (the Office of Spiritual Mentorship). I will explain to you some signs of such a Shaikh, briefly, so that not just any person lays claim to being a spiritual guide (Murshid).

The Shaikh who is a qualified Murshid and Murabbi is he who is averse to love for this world and love for fame. He is one who followed a person of Deeni-insight and this chain of following should be continuous right to Sayyidul Mursaleen (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam). He adopts exemplary self-discipline through eating, speaking and sleeping less and offering additional Salaat, Saum and Sadaqah.

By virtue of his obedience to that discerning Shaikh he (the Saalik) has made the following virtuous attributes his way of life: perseverance, Salaat, gratefulness, trust, conviction, contentment, peace of mind, forbearance, humility, knowledge, honesty, modesty, faithfulness, dignity, tranquillity, deliberateness, etc.

Since he (the Shaikh) is illuminated with the spiritual effulgence of Nabi (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) he is qualified to be followed. However, the existence of someone like this is rarer than red sulphur.

One who has been aided with the good fortune of finding a Shaikh

as described and the Shaikh has accepted him in his circle then it devolves upon him (the Mureed/Saalik) to honour the Shaikh outwardly and inwardly. Outward Honour is to refrain from arguing with him and proving one’s point in every mas-alah even though one is aware that the Shaikh is in error. Do not engage in excessive Nawaafil in his presence. Carry out the A’maal which the Shaikh commands according to your capacity and strength.

Inward Honour is that when hearing something from the Shaikh and accepting it outwardly, one does not reject it in the heart and in his absence act or say something to the contrary. Otherwise, one will be guilty of nifaaq (hypocrisy). If one is unable to do this then refrain from the company of that Shaikh until such a time that one’s inner condition conforms to one’s outward action.

2. Abstention from Evil Company

Abstain from the company of an evil person so that the influence of devils in jinn and human form on one’s heart is reduced and the heart is purified from the contamination of Satanism.

3. Two Features of Tasawwuf

Then take note that there are two features of Tasawwuf:

  • to be constant with Allah Ta’ala
  • to be calm with creation

Thus, a person who is steadfast with Allah Azza Wajall, who adopts beautiful character with people and deals with them with tolerance is a Sufi.

Steadfastness is to relinquish the pleasure of the nafs at the altar of the Command of Allah Ta’ala.

Good Character with mankind is that one does not impose upon others one’s self-desire but; rather, one imposes upon oneself the desire of others as long as these do not defy the Shariah.

4. Uboodiyyat

You asked me about Uboodiyyat. It is ternary consisting of:

  1. Guarding the Commandments of the Shariah
  2. Contentment over Fate, Predestination and the Distribution of Allah Ta’ala
  3. Forsaking the pleasure of the nafs in search of the Pleasure of Allah Ta’ala

5. Tawakkul

You asked me about Tawakkul (Trust in Allah). Tawakkul is to reinforce your belief in the Promise of Allah Ta’ala. In other words, for you to believe that whatever has been foreordained for you will surely reach you regardless of everyone in this world striving to deflect it from you, and, whatever has not been written for you will never reach you even though the entire world assists you.

6. Ikhlaas

You asked me about Ikhlaas (sincerity). Ikhlaas is for all your actions to be for the sake of Allah Ta’ala, your heart not becoming elated at the praises of people and nor do you care of their criticism.

Know that riya (ostentation) is generated from honourable treatment by creation. The remedy for it is to consider them to be under the control of Divine Power and to think of them to be like lifeless objects that do not have the power to give comfort or cause difficulty. In this way you will extricate yourself from showing off to them. As long as you think of them to have power and determination, riya (ostentation) will shadow you.