Revelation of Mystery (Kashf al Mahjub)

The Rules of the Companionship of the Sheikh

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Chapter XXIII (c)

The Rules of the Companionship of the Sheikh

Since it is clear that the most important thing for the novice is companionship, therefore, the fulfillment of its obligations is necessarily incumbent on him. Solitude is fatal to the novice, for the Prophet (peace be upon him) said,

الشيطان مع الواحد

“Satan is with the solitary.”

Allah hath said,

مَا يَكُونُ مِن نَّجْوَى ثَلَاثَةٍ إِلَّا هُوَ رَابِعُهُمْ

“There is not a secret consultation between three, but He makes the fourth among them,” (Q 58:7).

A disciple of Junaid thought that he had attained to the degree of perfection and desired solitude. So, he abandoned his companionship and sat in seclusion. At nightfall a camel used to be brought to him and he was told to move to Paradise. He would mount on the camel and would reach to a pleasant place where he would find beautiful inhabitants, delicious viands and flowing streams. He used to be kept there until he was asleep and on waking found himself in his cell. Slowly and steadily he was overwhelmed by human conceit and when pride of youth also penetrated he started boasting about his state. When Junaid heard the story he went to his cell and having heard him full account of his state, he said to him that next night when he come to that place remember to say thrice,

لاحول ولا قوة الا بالله العلي العظيم

“there is no power or obstruction but in Allah, the Most High, the Most Great.”

The same night he was carried as usual, and though in his heart he did not believe Junaid, by way of trial he repeated those words thrice. The people around him shrieked and vanished, and he found himself seated on a dunghill in the midst of rotten bones. He acknowledged his fault and repented and returned to companionship.

The condition of companionship in Sufism is that one should treat everyone according to his degree. Thus he should treat elders with respect, those of their own sort with pleasant familiarity, and younger with affection. For him elders should be like his parents, should consider brothers of his own age group and should treat the younger like his sons. Should renounce hate, envy, and malice, and must not withhold sincere admonition. It is not permissible to speak evil on somebody’s back and or to behave dishonestly with companions. Similarly it is also not appreciated to deny one another on account of any word or deed, because a companionship which begins for Allah‘s sake should not be cut short by human words or acts.

I when asked Sheikh Abu al-Qasim Gurgani that what obligations were involved in companionship, he said:

“One should not seek his own share, for all the evils of companionship arise from it as everyone starts demanding his share and solitude is better for such a man. He who neglects his own interest and looks after the interests of his companion is truly qualified for companionship.”

Some dervish set out from Kufa to visit Mecca. On the way he met Ibrahim Khawwas and begged for his company. Khawwas said, “In companionship there is necessarily be a commander and the other follower. What do you choose?” The dervish preferred the latter and accepted Khawwas as his commander. Khawwas bade him not to fail to comply with his orders. When they arrived at the halting place, Khawwas bade him sit down, and he drew water from the well. Since the weather was cold, he gathered sticks and kindled a fire, and whenever the dervish attempted to do anything he told him to sit down. At nightfall it began to rain heavily. Khawwas took off his patched frock and held it over dervish all night. The dervish really felt ashamed and embarrassed but could not say a word on account of the condition imposed on him. Next morning the dervish said to Khawwas that it was his turn to be commander, and Khawwas without hesitancy agreed. As soon as they reached the halting place, Khawwas began to perform the same menial works as before. The dervish tried to check him on that account but Khawwas said that it would be an act of disobedience to let one's self be served by one's commander. He continued to behave in that way until they reached Mecca.  By that time dervish felt so ashamed that he fled from him. Khawwas got hold of him at Mina and said, “O son, when you associate with dervishes see that you treat them in the same fashion as I treated you.”

Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) said that he served the Prophet (peace be upon him) for ten years and during that period he never pointed a finger even once on his service.

Dervishes are of two kinds, residents and travelers.  According to the custom of the Sheikhs, the traveling dervishes should regard the resident ones as superior to themselves, because they go to and fro in their own interest, while the resident dervishes have settled down in the service of Allah which in the former case is the sign of search, and in the latter is the token of attainment. Hence those who have found and settled down are superior to those who are still seeking. Similarly, the resident dervishes ought to regard the traveling dervishes as superior to themselves, because resident are laden with worldly encumbrances, while the traveling dervishes are unencumbered and detached from the world.

Again, old men should prefer young ones to themselves, for they are newer to the world and whose sins are less numerous; and young men should prefer to themselves the old ones, for they are better than them in devotion and service. If it happens like this, there will be no evil and there will be ease and deliverance for all.


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Zahid Javed Rana, Abid Javed Rana, Lahore, Pakistan

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