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BAYAH & THE IMPORTANCE OF A SPIRITUAL GUIDE/MURSHID

By Muhammad Irfan Kas

Pledging allegiance, also known as taking bayah, is a


tradition from the times of Beloved Messenger of Allah
(peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
Once such example of this is when the Noble Companions
“Whoever dies and did not take an pledged oath to him under the tree. In this incident, each
oath of allegiance (to a Muslim Companion placed their hand in the hand of the Beloved
leader) has died a death of
jahiliyah (ignorance).” Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), and
affirmed their faith in the oneness of Allah (tawheed).
This incident is reported in the Holy Qur’an, which states, “Certainly Allah was pleased
with the believers when they pledged allegiance to you, [O Muhammad], under the tree, and
He knew what was in their hearts, so He sent down tranquillity upon them and rewarded
them with an imminent conquest.” [Qur’an 48:18]

Importance of Bayah to a Shaykh

The Beloved Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Whoever
dies and did not take an oath of allegiance (to a Muslim leader) has died a death of jahiliyah
(ignorance).” [Bukhari, Muslim]
The meaning of taking bayah is to pledge spiritual allegiance & surrender yourself to the
supervision of a Murshid/Pir/Shaykh, or spiritual teacher/leader. He leads you to Allah by
guiding you through the path of Shar’iah and the teachings of our Beloved Prophet (peace
and blessings of Allah be upon him). The Murshid is he who takes others under his
guardianship so that he may help them with their deen, often strengthening their hearts
with zikr and good counsel.

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Taking bayah also acts as a powerful guard against arrogance and pride, as a mureed (a
spiritual disciple, follower, a seeker who follows the Murshid as his guide on the path of
Tasawwuf) must hold complete adab (respect) and humility where his Murshid is concerned.
This orders the nafs towards discipline; it is made to recognise its own worth, reflecting
upon the pure state of those close to Allah, realising that true honour is in piety only, and
understanding that it has no right to be proud. The nafs also learns to obtain knowledge
and guidance from one who is greater in faith, causing it to humble itself. This is the way of
the Salaf, who would sit at the feet of their Murshid to correct their own characters
(akhlaaq) and achieve purity.
• Sayyidina Shaykh Abdul Qadir al-Jilani, the Leader of the Saints, explains, “Arrogance,
hypocrisy, egoism, are all arrows of Shaytan aimed at your hearts. One should formulate a
strategy to defend oneself from this attack.
The correct strategies are explained and demonstrated by the Mashaa`ikh (Teachers). You
should heed to their commands and act on them. They will guide you on the path of Allah
since they have already travelled on this path. Ask their advice on matters relating to the
nafs (lower self), cravings and other weaknesses, because they have also suffered their
consequences and are well aware of the dangers and harms of evil desires. They have
battled these over a long period of time and can confront, control and defeat them.”[Al-Fath-
ur-Rabbani, pg. 150]
Additionally, spending time in the presence of the righteous will cause one to benefit greatly
in character and mannerisms. This influence has a powerfully positive effect on a person’s
heart and mind, causing them to adopt traits pleasing to Allah.
• Imam Ghazali states in his Ihya Uluum al-Din, “Keep company with those who have firm
faith, hear from them the learning of sure faith, follow them always, so that your faith may
become firm as their faith became firm.”
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, as an analogy for
good/bad company, “The likeness of a righteous friend and an evil friend, is the likeness of a
(musk) perfume seller and a blacksmith. As for the perfume seller, he may either bestow
something on you, or you may purchase something from him, or you may benefit from his
sweet smell…” [Bukhari, Muslim]
The above narration clarifies the importance of righteous company, which can benefit a
person in more ways than one – there are numerous other Ahadith about the merits of
being with the righteous. Also, the Holy Qur’an states:
“And keep yourself patient [by being] with those who call upon their Lord in the morning
and the evening, seeking His countenance.”[Qur’an 18:28]
Regarding the presence, then, of a Murshid, one who is a scholar of religion and devout in
his duties towards Almighty Allah, one should bear in mind the following Hadith of the
Noble Messenger, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him:
“The best of you are those who, when they are seen, God is remembered.”[Ibn Majah]

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This highlights the necessity of being in the company of one’s Murshid who, if he is a true
teacher, will have this effect on those who meet him.
• Imam Muhyuddin ibn Arabi states in his book, Kitab Kunh ma la Budda minhu lil-Murid
or What the Seeker Needs, “Look for a perfect teacher who will lead you on the Straight
Path.”
• Imam al-Shafi said, “I accompanied the Sufiya (plural of Sufi) and I received from them
three kinds of knowledge, 1. They taught me how to speak, 2. They taught me how to treat
people with leniency and a soft heart, 3. They guided me in the ways of Tasawwuf.” [Tanwir
Al-Qulub, page 405]
• Imam Ahmad advising his son said, “O my son, you must sit with the Sufiya, because they
are like a fountain of knowledge. They recite the remembrance of Allah in their hearts.
They are ascetics and they have the most spiritual power.” [Ghiza Al-Albab, Vol 1, page 120]
• Imam Abu Hanifa said, emphasizing the importance of sitting at the feet of a spiritual
guide and teacher, “If it were not for two years, I would have perished. For two years, I
accompanied Imam Jafar al-Sadiq and I acquired the spiritual knowledge that made me a
knower in the Way (i.e. Tasawwuf).” [Ad-Durr Al-Mukhthar, Vol. 1, page 43]
It has been agreed upon for centuries that one cannot travel the path of Tasawwuf, or the
essential spiritual branch of Islamic belief, without guidance from a spiritual teacher. This
knowledge cannot be taught in books, it must be acquired through the guidance of a teacher
or Murshid.
• Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi states in his Masnavi, “Butter cannot be acquired without
milk, as recognition of Allah (ilm-e-baatin) cannot be obtained without a spiritual guide or
Murshid.”And he further states, “Whoever travels without a guide needs two hundred years
for a two day journey.”
About him, there is a story regarding the importance of a Murshid.
He, Mawlana Rumi, was not only a poet but also a great jurist, theologian and scholar of the
highest accord. One day, as he taught his students in the open courtyard of the Masjid, a
poorly dressed dervish stood by and watched. He observed how the Mawlana referred to
many handwritten books and texts as he taught, so he enquired as to what they contained.
Mawlana Rumi replied, “O Sufi! This contains knowledge which is beyond your
understanding, so you continue to read your tasbeeh (rosary).” The dervish was in fact the
great Shamsuddin Tabrez, who would soon be his spiritual guide and teacher.
When Mawlana Rumi's attention had gone back to teaching, Khwaja Shamsuddin Tabrez
threw all the Mawlana’s books into the nearby pond. The students who noticed this rushed
to him and began to beat him. A distraught Mawlana Rumi complained of how his valuable
knowledge had all been lost.
"Tell your pupils to leave me alone and I will give back your books," replied Khwaja
Shamsuddin. Mawlana Rumi, thinking that this would be impossible, asked his students to
leave the dervish alone. Then he watched in amazement as Khwaja Shamsuddin recited
‘Bismillah,’ retrieved the books out of the water and returned them to him intact. He asked

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him as to how he had done this, to which Khwaja Shamsuddin replied, “This knowledge is
beyond your understanding so you continue to teach your pupils.”
The Mawlana then realised his mistake, asked for forgiveness and submitted himself to the
presence of this great Sufi dervish. Eventually, time spent at the feet of Khwaja
Shamsuddin transformed him from a scholar of religious texts, into a truly devout lover of
God.
In Mawlana Rumi’s own words:
“Sad kitaboh, sad waraq, dar nar kun
Aur jaan-o-dil rah, janibeh, dil daar kun.”
Meaning: “Throw all your books into the fire,
And turn with heart & soul towards the pure-hearted (the Awliya).”
Hafiz al-Shirazi affirms this advice saying, “Do not take a step on the path of Love without
a guide. I have tried it one hundred times and failed.”
• If one is lucky enough to reach the presence of a Wali or Friend of Allah (read article
about Wilayah), bear in mind the words of Khwaja Shah Baha’uddin Naqshband who
said, “There is no friend of Allah on this earth who is not under the special Gaze of Allah.
When you sit in the company of the friend of Allah, the fayz (spiritual blessing) that you
receive is in fact a reflection of that special gaze.”
The power of this fayz has been known to truly transform personalities, causing even the
harshest of criminals and sinners to turn whole-heartedly to Allah in repentance and
devotion.
• Sayyidina Shaykh Abdul Qadir Jilani said, “The heart is the plantation for the Aakhira
(hereafter). Sow the seeds of Imaan in your heart. Irrigate, fertilise and mature it with
regular good deeds. If there is kindness and energy in the heart, it will be fertile and an
abundant harvest will result. Should the heart be harsh and contemptuous, the soul
becomes infertile, barren and no crop will be able to grow.
Learn this art of farming by its farmers/experts, the Awliya Allah. Do not think your
opinion to be sufficient. Our Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) says, ‘Seek
help in every field from an expert in that field.’” [Al-Fathur Rabbani, pg. 202]
Criteria of a True Murshid
A true Murshid is one whose own faith is sound enough for him to guide others to the Path.
His status as a Murshid must be initiated by orders from his own spiritual guide, who may
receive these instructions from preceding saints with the permission of the Beloved
Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
This spiritual chain is known as a Tareeqa.
Firstly, true Murshid must be a Sunni Muslim who strictly follows the beliefs and creed of
the Ahle Sunnah wal Jamaah, the only true path of Islam. He adheres to the ways of the
Beloved Messenger, and is guided by the Noble Companions and the Salaf who follow after
them. This is absolutely crucial, and without this, he is a danger to the Imaan of those who
follow him and a cause for serious corruption in faith.

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• Imam Malik said, “Whoever studies jurisprudence (fiqh) and does not study Tasawwuf
will be corrupted. Whoever studies Tasawwuf and does not study jurisprudence will become
a heretic. Whoever combines both will reach the truth.” [Kashf Al-Khafa Wa Muzid Al-Abas,
Vol. 1, page 341]
Secondly, he must be a knowledgeable scholar or Aalim, with a broad understanding in
matters of Deen so that he is able to differentiate between forbidden (haram), acceptable
(halal) and everything in between. He will be able to give sound judgements and guide the
actions of his followers according to the Qur’an and Sunnah.
Thirdly, he must display the noble characteristics and etiquettes taught by the Beloved
Messenger, and this indicates the purity of his heart. A great Murshid is one who teaches by
practical example as well as through his words and advice. He is respected by all due to his
character and he instills love for the Sunnah within the hearts of those who follow him.
Fourthly, his spiritual lineage (Shejra) must be that of a true Tareeqa, or spiritual chain; it
must be connected, starting from our Master the Beloved Messenger of Allah, to Noble
Companions, to Salaf and Awliya after them. Spiritual wisdom, teachings and guidance are
passed down from the top in this manner, so one cannot gain any fayz or virtue without
these connections.
Additionally, Imam Muhyuddin ibn Arabi teaches that one should not expect a Murshid to
perform miracles. This is not a requirement of a spiritual guide or even of a Wali. This is
something which many are blessed with by Allah, but is an aspect they wish to conceal due
to their humility and noble state.
• Imam ibn Arabi states, “People think that a Shaykh should show miracles and manifest
illumination. The requirement of a teacher however, is only that he should possess all that
the disciple needs.”
• Regarding this, Mawlana Rumi narrates the following story in his Masnavi:
Seeing a man who was tilling the earth, a fool who was unable to control himself cried
out, “Why are you ruining this soil?”
“Fool,” said the man, “leave me alone. Try to recognize the difference between tending the
soil and wasting it. How will this soil become a rose garden until it is disturbed and
overturned?”
This indicates the importance of the Shaykh who acts as the tiller, testing the mureed by
overturning their heart and nourishing their inner soil. This is done to benefit the mureed
so that their full inner potential is realized and as a result, they are elevated in spiritual
rank and station.

Tareeqa – Spiritual Chain

The word tareeqa literally means ‘way’ or ‘path’. It terms of Tasawwuf, it refers to the path
of spiritual guidance and blessing issued down from the Beloved Messenger, passed along
from one righteous personality to another. Silsila is another term used for tareeqa.

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As madhabs are the paths for adhering to the Shar’iah, sotareeqas are the paths for
adhering to Tasawwuf. They are all correct, as they all lead back to the ultimate source of
guidance, our Beloved Prophet, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him. The saints in
every tareeqa are connected to his eminent presence and blessings.
• Imam Ahmad Raza Khan says, “By just having a link with a spiritual order (Silsila) is
itself a great fortune and blessing.”
Each tareeqa has branches; like a tree, where the roots are one but the branches are many.
This is due to how each tareeqa is connected and taught through different saints and their
Darbars (sanctuaries, or centres).
The Naqshbandi tareeqa is distinguished in that it is the only one which connects from the
Beloved Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to Sayyidina Abu
Bakr Siddique (may Allah be pleased with him) onwards, whereas all the others connect
from the Beloved Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to
Sayyidina Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) onwards.
• Mawlana Jami is reported to have said, “The Naqshbandiya lead an extraordinary
caravan, for they take their students to the Haram (sanctuary) via a secret, hidden route.”
The Shejra is a chart which shows clearly how the tareeqa has progressed; which
Companions and saints it has been passed down from. It clarifies the spiritual connection
and authenticity of the guidance a mureed is blessed with through their tareeqa.
There are many virtues associated with reciting one’s Shejra. It encourages the
remembrance of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), and the
Saaliheen (the righteous). This is a method which strengthens hearts and rejuvenates one’s
faith.
It also acts as a form of Isaal-e-Sawaab, or virtue for the deceased, which is a means to
receive their guidance and fayz. It also brings a mureed closer to the Awliya, so that they
are able to receive the blessings and assistance of these saints in times of hardship, as well
as during moments of ease.

Duties and Respect towards One’s Murshid

First and foremost, it is crucial for the mureed to have utmost love, respect and trust
towards his Murshid. A seeker cannot gain even a grain of wisdom or blessing unless he has
complete adab (respect) for his spiritual guide.
Notice the respect and honour the Noble Companions had for the Beloved Messenger of
Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). They had such deep love and respect for
him that they would honour everything associated with him – his belongings, his
mannerisms, places he visited etc. They would never raise their voice above his, they would
never turn their backs towards him or even look at his blessed face except by glancing, due
to their respect for him.

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A mureed’s respect for his/her Murshid should be in accordance to the Companion’s level of
reverence for the Beloved Messenger - he was their guide to Allah, as one’s Murshid is a
guide to the Beloved Messenger.
• Khwaja Shah Baha’uddin Naqshband said, “Good conduct with the Shaykhs is a
requirement for every seeker. The Shaykhs are the causes and the means for following in
the footsteps of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).”
It is also extremely important that the mureed adheres to the advice and instructions of the
Murshid, without fail or hesitation. Of course, any advice given which is blatantly and
without even a shadow of a doubt, in contradiction of the Shari’ah, must be opposed – but a
true Murshid will never advise in such a manner.
In the case of a true Murshid, a mureed must understand that even when the advice of their
Murshid appears suspicious, these doubts should not be entertained. Often, it is due to the
lack of the mureed’s understanding and faith that they are unable to comprehend the
wisdom behind the Murshid’s words. Therefore, they should endure with patience knowing
that eventually, their doubts will be removed and the truth will be brought to light. The
true Murshid has answers which a seeker can only obtain through complete trust.
• Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti said, “Whoever has attained anything achieved it through
service (khidmat). It is compulsory upon the mureed not to go against the commands of the
Murshid even to the size of an atom.”
There is an incident reported about Imam Junayd al-Baghdadi, who came to the River
Tigris and saying “Ya Allah”, began to walk across it as if it was solid ground. One of his
followers witnessed this, so the Imam advised him to say “Ya Junayd” and he too would be
able to cross. The follower did so, and repeating “Ya Junayd”, he walked across the water –
until Shaytan entered his mind. He thought, “The Imam himself is repeating the Name of
Allah, whilst he tells me to repeat ‘Ya Junayd’. Surely, this is shirk! Will I not repeat the
Name of Allah too?”
So he disregarded the words of his Murshid Imam Junayd, and began to say “Ya
Allah”.Immediately, he plunged into the depths of the water beneath him and began to
drown. Imam Junayd rescued him and he told him what had happened. The Imam
replied, “You have not yet understood or attained the status of Junayd and yet you tried to
comprehend the Reality of Allah!”
• Sayyidina Shaykh Abdul Qadir al-Jilani, “You should heed to the commands of the
Shaykhs and act on them. They will guide you on the path of Allah since they have already
travelled on this path.”[Al-Fathur Rabbani, pg. 150]
Therefore, the mureed must ensure that they are consistent in reciting the awrad (or wird,
wazaa’if, or daily zikr) prescribed to them by their spiritual guide. This is of utmost
importance; the Murshid is a healer or physician who recommends the appropriate antidote
necessary for the seeker. He knows the seeker’s state better than the seeker themselves, so
trust in his knowledge and remember that he receives guidance from the saints and the
Beloved Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).

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• Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti said, “Whatever zikr the Murshid has instructed should be
read accordingly so that the mureed may attain some spiritual perfection; what the Murshid
commands is for the benefit of the mureeds.”
A seeker should also show complete loyalty and allegiance towards their Murshid. They
should honour the belief that their Murshid is the best guide for them, the most beneficial
for them, and that none else can surpass this rank. This loyalty is a part of the respect
shown towards one’s Murshid, as it proves the level of trust and belief a seeker has, not just
in the Murshid, but also the tareeqa they follow.
Those who are looking for a Murshid to guide them should remember that if a seeker is
truly sincere, Allah will guide them to a true Murshid who will elevate and strengthen their
spiritual state. InshaAllah, they will be successful if they act upon the words of the
Qur’an, “And seek help through patience and prayer...” [Qur’an 2:45]

The Status of Fana fi-Shaykh

The status of fana fi-Shaykh (annihilation in one’s Shaykh or Murshid) is a truly dignified
one, and is the first stage of spiritual elevation. It indicates the mureed’s pure nature and
firm faith, and shows that they are ready for further enlightenment from Allah and the
Beloved Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
The second stage of spiritual elevation is Fana fi-Rasul, and the third & final stage is Fana-
fillah which is the utmost level of spirituality.
Attaining the status of fana fi-Shaykh requires the seeker to become one with the will of
their Murshid – to the extent that they no longer harbour desires of their own, as all their
feelings are harmonized with that of their spiritual guide. It is a truly honourable status
where the love for the Murshid becomes so intense that his pleasure is the seeker’s own
pleasure, and his displeasure is also the seeker’s displeasure. In this manner, the seeker
receives and reflects the fayz of their Murshid in a much more powerful form.
Khwaja Sirri as-Saqti said about the love and devotion between Murshid and mureed, that
it cannot be authentic unless one says to the other, “I am you, and you are I.” This indicates
the complete absorption of a mureed’s heart, which submits itself completely to the one it
loves i.e. the Murshid, who is its master, the one who nurtures it and guides it to Allah and
the Beloved Messenger.
• About fana fi-Shaykh, Imam Ahmad Raza Khansays, “One must feel that his Shaykh is
present with him at all times, and his heart is under the heart of his Shaykh. While in this
state, the spiritual beams of the Beloved Messenger of Allah are beaming onto the heart of
his Shaykh which is then reflecting onto the Mureed. If this concentration is correctly
perfected and maintained for a period of time, the Mureed will clearly visualize the image of
his Shaykh upon whatever object he looks at. This condition intensifies so much that the
image of the Shaykh will not part from him even whilst in Salah. The Mureed will find this
image wherever he goes.”[al-Malfuz al-Sharif]

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This state is perfected when the mureed becomes so absorbed in the tasawwur (observation)
of their Murshid that his every move impacts their own actions. Eventually, the Murshid
also controls the movements of the mureed and at this stage, the mureed becomes
completely annihilated (fana), merging into existence of their spiritual guide. This is a
divine reality.
Tasawwur-e-Shaykh, or visualizing one’s Shaykh is an important part of being a mureed. It
is also a form of muraqaba prescribed through many tareeqas due to the benefits it has
upon the heart of a seeker.
May Allah’s eternal peace and blessings of the highest degree be upon our Master
Muhammad, upon his Family and his Companions.