Tasawwuf, a Den of Illusions!

Abstract:
Like other religions, Islamic teachings are also hijacked by self-acclaimed and so-called religious gurus, experts, scholars, contractors and preachers who ‘sell’ their own version of religion for their personal greed where their aim is not to spread real teachings but modified and often fake ones to cater their own worldly aims. Tasawwuf is also a similar concept that is defined in a seemingly innocent way but when putting it in practice it reveals a different horizon that clearly contradicts the teachings of Islam and its holy book Quran and denies the first pillar of faith in Islam i.e., Touheed, the oneness of Allah.

Tasawwuf, a Den of Illusions!

Tasawwuf, an often misunderstood but commonly known term, has many facets attached to its illusionary nature. There is a clear divide between those who believe and those who reject tasawwuf for their very own reasons. Tasawwuf, spirituality, occultism, mysticism or Sufism is not bound only to the Muslims or their lands. History explains the existence of similar thoughts and practices in almost all religions of the world. Roots of mysticism, spirituality and modern-day tasawwuf are found in Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and Christianity. The difference among all is the variability of practices and their extent of belief. The first myth spread by the vocal promoters of tasawwuf is associating it with Islam, rather, making it a part of Islam. When it comes to spiritualism, mysticism, occultism or Sufism, it remained eminent in almost all religions that can be traced by digging historical evidence but only this specific term tasawwuf has been purposefully linked to Islam. The first question that comes to the mind of a common believer is, ‘why tasawwuf was needed in the presence of a very comprehensive universal religion for all the times to come?’ If it was needed, why was it not mentioned in Quran and Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) teachings and orders? If the Creator or His Prophet did not order it, what factors created the need to develop a system parallel but conflicting to the Islamic teachings and philosophies. Islam strictly condemns amendments in the rules that the Quran and Prophet (PBUH) have described, and this false philosophy is going a step ahead by creating a new rule that contradicts with the foundations of Islam by linking it to Islam. These questions are intensified when we see contradictory kinds and divisions of tasawwuf.

Who pioneered the philosophy of tasawwuf is another question mark. Different groups have different backgrounds of tasawwuf leading to their own philosophy and origin. Some say it is taken from the teachings of the Prophet, that the Prophet imparted it only to his very trusted companions so these are not known to ordinary Muslims. Some believe the origination is from the caliphs of the Prophet with more emphasis on caliph Ali (RA). There is a variety of tasawwuf believers, some believe in service to humanity as this takes them to the Lord, some believe in a lot of muraqaba or meditation as a ladder to reach the heights of self-recognition, leading to their goal of accessing the source of enlightenment. The loudest sect ‘wahdat-al-wajood’ believes in connecting with God in a different way, i.e., by creating a direct relationship with God. They do not directly state themselves as relatives to the God but escalate their status very near to the Creator stating ‘hama oost’ i.e., “He is the only one everywhere”. Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibne Ali ibne Muhammad ibne Al-Arabi generally knows as ‘Ibn-e Arabi’, Mohyuddin in the Islamic world and as Doctor Maximus in the Western world is stated as the pioneer of the philosophy wahadat-ul-wajood. Mohyuddin Ibn-e Arabi, who was born in Spain in 1165 A.D and died in 1240 A.D in Damascus, was himself a highly controversial sufi of his time. His books, Fasusul-hikma ‘Seals of Wisdom’, and al-Fatuhat al-Makkiyya ‘Meccan Revelations’ are promoted much amongst wajoodi sect to strengthen his philosophy of wahdat-ul-wujood. This philosophy, as directly contradicts the basic teachings of Islamic Shariah through Quran and Hadith, was strongly condemned by the religious circles of his own time. This strong rejection of thought probably led Ibn-e Arabi to another country. In Indian sub-continent, Junaid Baghdadi and his follower sufis promoted this philosophy of wahdat-al-wajood. When it is said that these sufis spread Islam in the sub-continent, in most of the cases they spread tasawwuf in fact. The poetry of many of these sufis depicts the colours of wahdat-al-wajood and such poetry is the part and parcel of their shrines.

Wahdat-ul-wajood is a philosophy made, promoted and believed in by people. It has nothing to do with Islam, as Islam is a complete code of conduct and explains things in an open and elaborated manner without keeping a shields of ambiguity. Whereas tasawwuf misguides believers and presents its self extracted and falsely perceived thoughts on Allah’s oneness. Wahdat-al-wajood dissects the concept of oneness related to Allah among Muslims and expands it as their philosophy as a new paradigm where the Creator exists everywhere and in everything that exists in this universe. In this way, as their belief states that all things are extracted from one source and that source is Creator, hence they deny the relationship between Creator and creation as ‘abd’ and ‘mabood’ i.e., worshiper and Lord. Furthermore, with strange examples to support their faith, they try to prove that all creations are from God and God exists in every creation, but these creations are not God at their place; demonstrating their philosophy with such examples makes this illusion denser. In this way, wahdat-al-wajood declares that everything living and non-living is God; that is the faith of Hinduism as well, that justifies the worshipping of idols and numberless gods. Here, wahdat-al-wajood partly differs from Hinudism in the practice and application of this faith. Unlike Hinduism, wahdat-al-wajood only links its philosophy to human beings when it comes to status escalation or the upgrading from being a creation to a Creator. They also apply the thought in a hierarchy, and only those who are at the top are linked with the philosophy declaring them as murshad, faqeer or sufi in books, and a peer in practice. As a result, wahdat-al-wajood creates a capitalistic hierarchy of authority, where murshad enjoys the status of god and disciples serve as general public to the murshad’s kingdom. Disciples need to blindly follow all that is said by the murshad, or peer, truly and without any doubt. No option of arguing, asking questioning or denying the commands exists here. This way is probably inculcated purposefully as if they are allowed to argue, no one will believe the teachings of wahdat-al-wajood. The leading peer Abdul Qadir Jilani writes about the limits of a mureed in his book Ghunya-tut-Talibeeni. As a rule, disciples or mureeds are never allowed to ask questions when commanded by murshad and they cannot dare to deny any wrong instructions of their murshad, whereas Quran encourages its believers to think and ask questions. In Surah Al-Alfurqan it is clearly mentioned that believers do not follow things blindly, which is direct encouragement for thinking and asking questions; “And those who, when reminded of the verses of their Lord, do not fall upon them deaf and blind.” 25:73

Tasawwuf  in general and wahdat-al-wajood  in specific believes that the mureed or disciple must surrender his will, desires and self in front of his or her murshad or peer; in this way, the mureed becomes a slave to his murshad. This surrender is against the spirit of Islam that gives sense of self-respect to individuals and asks them to worship and follow their Allah only. Surah Al-Zumar describes this rule in this way, “Allah presents an example: a slave owned by quarreling partners and another belonging exclusively to one man – are they equal in comparison? Praise be to Allah! But most of them do not know.” 39:29 The rules for a mureed described by the wajoodi sect are also strange and directly contradicting to the bases of Islam. Ghunya-tut-Talibeen, in chapter ‘Relationship between Peer and Mureed’ instructs mureeds as, “It is obligatory for the mureed not to oppose any obvious acts of his peer openly and not even in his own heart. If mureed opposes his peer in open, the mureed will be disobedient, and if he condemns his peer in his heart, he (the mureed) will be requesting his own destruction”. Quran is very clear on this issue and repeatedly instructs believers to say what is the truth. It has been ordered to stop evil with the hand if one has the power to do so; if it cannot be stopped by hand, one should try to stop it by tongue; and if one is too weak to do either, he should curse the evil in his heart. Surah Al-Asr describes the law of blessings in a simple way for all to understand without any ambiguity, “Indeed, mankind is at loss, Except for those who have believed and done righteous deeds and advised each other to truth and advised each other to patience.” 103:2-3 A few more commandments for a follower (mureed) described in the same chapter of Ghunya-tutquarrelling are, “If a mureed finds any fault in peer he must hide it from others and find a logic for peer’s fault in Shariah. When the mureed goes to the peer next time, he must have a faith in mind that by this time, the peer’s faults have been healed and his spiritual level has been elevated to the next and higher level.” P 566-67.

Wahdat-al-wajood believes that people cannot reach their Creator without the ladder of a trained person. It states, “If one wants to visit a king and he does not know the king, the visitor will ultimately seek the help from the king’s bodyguards, servants or gatekeepers.” This approach associates creation with Creator in the way similar to a king and his kingdom, whereas Islamic concept of God defines clearly that He is not from the creation and has no sons or relatives. Surah Ikhlas clarifies things in a simple manner, “He neither begets nor is born, Nor is there to Him any equivalent.” 112:3-4 It is also assured in Surah Fatiha, “Praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds” (1:2). Hence, Allah is not from the creation but He created mankind and He is directly accessible to all of His creations including human beings, birds, animals and jinns. Wahdat-al-wajood describes the way to God and His blessings via a murshad and further warns that it is not for the ordinary people, and only special people can benefit from this philosophy. Whereas, Allah’s book states in the very beginning, “This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah.” (2:2) and who are the believers and blessed is explained in the very next verse of the same Surah, “Who believe in the unseen, establish prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them.” (2:3) in the presence of these simple announcements in Quran, what is the reason for going astray and getting the advice or help from others to reach Allah the Creator? Tasawwuf ideology claims to bring mankind closer to their Creator, whereas, the Quran warns in a clear manner in Surah Al-Zumar, “Unquestionably, for Allah is the pure religion. And those who take protectors besides Him [say], “We don’t worship them but that they may bring us nearer to Allah in position.” Indeed, Allah will judge between them concerning that over which they differ. Indeed, Allah does not guide him who is a liar and disbeliever.” (39:3) When Quran disregards any support or help to get closer to Allah, who else can be the trader of this journey, tasawwuf, and approach reaching God via murshad, which has no basis after this verse of the Holy Quran.
When this business of tasawwuf turns into a commercial concern, many innovations are introduced to the disciples and they are assured of their nirvana or spiritual success, as murshad will do the hard tasks of maarifat or nirvana, and the sins of the mureed will shed off without any act by mureed on his part. Murshad guides his disciples for solitude and tells the followers to be grateful for what they already have, while the murshad’s own quest of gathering material belongings remains never-ending. Huge shrines, deraas, dargahs, mazaraat, peer khanas, and gaddis (seats) of peers are an open proof of their material development where the only thing that they serve to their followers is average quality food in the name of langar. Where do all the gifts, donations and gifts of multiple kinds go? Of course, for the expansion of the silsila-e-maarifat that they run and to maintain the luxurious lives of Murshads and their families. They pay no taxes, they have no audits, they earn a lot from the poorest of the poor and never owe anything back to them, but the promise of getting them released at the time of judgment. This promise of the unseen but often heard blessing works well for both uneducated and innocent people who believe in mysticism and never learn to understand their own religion by reading the Quran.

Tasawwuf has many inbuilt sects, divisions, groups and levels that negate uniformity of the approach as well as its relationship with the common people. Religions come for the common man; tasawwuf is only for a special genre with the full faith and ability to believe in it. This faith or belief is very common among those who are uneducated, underprivileged and belong to low social casts. Poverty is considered as a curse that can lead to the denial of the Creator i.e., kufr; here we see this happening when, in the name of ‘wahdat-al-wajood’ and tasawwuf, disciples and mureeds literarily worship their peers and murshads. While preaching tasawwuf, they promote service to the humanity, kindness, importance of mankind, virtues of service to others, rights of fellow beings i.e., haqooq-al-ibaad, equality, justice, acceptance of Allah’s instructions and keeping gratitude for the blessings always intact. Contrary to their general preachings to promote and showcase tsawwuf, they have another version of tasawwuf to practice in their capitalistic spiritual empires with their followers. Once the common person becomes a disciple, mureed, rafique or a saalik; all at once he becomes the tiniest creature of all and the peer or murshad stands at a good height from him. Now he can only see him as a source of maarifat and guidance, but cannot consider his peer as an ordinary person who was very kind to him before he took oath or baiyt from him. Shirk is an Arabic word meaning sharing. Shirk with Almighty Allah is the only unforgivable sin defined in Quran and the Hadith at numberless places. Sharing Allah and His virtues with anyone else is shirk and is highly forbidden in Islam. Once they catch a mureed, they ask him to think about murshad as his duty. Furthermore, all of mureed’s needs are diverted to peer for acceptance. Ultimately, the peer becomes the big boss and they skip Allah from their mutual relationship as peer himself is working on this relationship for his mureed. Mureeds are asked to pray to their peer and request their needs from him as the peer has gained a so-called level of spiritual elevation i.e., marifat, where the peer’s willingness becomes powerful enough to fulfil any worldly desires of his followers. The peer will sit at a high platform at a little distance from his followers, creating a unique sense of ‘equality’ that is never seen elsewhere. Islam preaches and practices equality on all occasions, and in general life, offering prayers and performing Hajj are the principle rules defining the religious practices. It is narrated in history and Hadith books that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to sit with his companions at the same level, and new visitors used to ask those sitting there, ‘Who is Muhammad (PBUH) among you’. When we see the practices of tasawwuf people, it again contradicts Islamic values and teachings. Though disciples are called as fellows, friends, brothers, and rafeeqs they are never treated as equal. Peer always enjoys a superior status from place of sitting to food and from lifestyle to social meetings. In tasawwuf generally and in wahdat-al-wajood specifically, mureeds are not allowed to ask questions; these are even more strictly forbidden if the conversation is public or if they feel that their peer is doing something

wrong. It is the part of their oath or baiyt that peer’s every action is legitimate and beyond the reach of any reasoning and questioning.
The skills of peer towards maarifat always remain in his family as a rule of thumb in this capitalistic spirituality stream. After the death of peer, his brother or son will be the next peer. If peer has no brothers or sons, and only daughter(s), then one of his sons-in-law will take this ‘heavy’ responsibility of continuing the business of tasawwuf on his shoulders. This is very much needed to protect the family assets and the socio-economic benefits the family is deriving from their lot of mureeds an ongoing money generating system of tasawwuf. In this race of so-called spiritual development, mureeds always lag behind and it is always the peer and his family that grows to the heights of spiritually and financially.

Many of wahdat-al-wajood practising peers do not encourage their disciples to practice shariah as they have secured the religious wellbeing of mureeds by offering high-intensity prayers on their behalf. Such mureeds feel very privileged by claiming that they do not need to offer prayers as their peer has taken their responsibility upon himself. They are also advised to offer ‘salaat (prayer) of heart’ instead of the prayers ordered by Shariah and offered by the ordinary Muslims. All such things are simply small practices, which are highly condemnable and are strictly out of Islamic teachings. In general, tasawwuf practitioners claim the rule of ‘amr bil maroof & nahee anil-munkar’ i.e., promotion of good and rejection of evil; contrary to their claims, they never come out of their shrines and tombs to protest against political, legal, social or moral corruption in the society. When it comes to the action, they switch back to the notion of ‘sahab-e-haal’ or be happy on what you have and start saying all evils are the will of God; isn’t it strange enough too? In Islam, the pious are those who act upon Allah’s instructions and lead the life according to Shariah, but in tasawwuf, the burden of judgment lies on peer or sheikh who decides the level of ‘maarifat’ of his disciples and promotes mureed further with his unlimited discretions. Though sheikhs of tasawwuf preach others to be happy in present times or be a ‘sahab-e-haal’, they never forget to plan their own and family’s future on highly materialistic grounds. They do not encourage modern education for the disciples and their families, but their own family kids always get the most advanced ‘worldly’ education, so they are able to take charge of their spiritual business in a productive and highly profitable way. All such illusions force the simple mind to think why these people play with innocent masses in the name of tasawwuf, and why they push the followers of a simple religion into a den of illusions.
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i Ghunya-tut-Talibeen – By Abdul Qadir Gilani – Translated by Sayyed Abdu-Daaem Jalali p 566-576

Shafqat Jilani


Author: Shafqat Jilani
Shafqat Jilani is a corporate trainer, management consultant, life coach, motivational speaker, a behavioural psychologist and e-strategist with more than twenty fives years of professional work. He is working in IKTAR as the country director for Pakistan.

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