Perfect Spiritual Guide (Murshid)
Role, Stature and Spiritual Rank
Allah has created man in the best constitution (equipoise in the finest proportion). This greatest masterpiece of painting holds the status of vicegerency of creator of this universe. The noblest of all the creatures, the adored by the angels and the vicegerent of Allah Almighty received all these greatness and privileges only because of knowledge, otherwise angels were perfect in worship and obedience.
Allah praised them in the Holy Quran in following words:
عَلَیۡہَا مَلٰٓئِکَۃٌ غِلَاظٌ شِدَادٌ لَّا یَعۡصُوۡنَ اللّٰہَ مَاۤ اَمَرَہُمۡ وَ یَفۡعَلُوۡنَ مَا یُؤۡمَرُوۡنَ ﴿۶﴾
Meaning: Appointed over it are strong and stern angels who do not disobey Allah in what He commands them. And they accomplish what they are ordered. (At-Taḥrim: 6)
Knowledge is the basis of Man’s superiority
Knowledge, intellect, wisdom, understanding, sagacity, discretion, Marifa and curiosity are those basic traits on the basis of which man is declared superior to other creatures.
It is a universal fact that acquisition of knowledge is possible through many external sources, including learning and observation, in which the central position is that of teacher and instructor.
Dream of a sound society is impossible without a teacher
It is impossible to create a sound society without a teacher. Teacher is the only person who is axis, origin and center of education and learning.
In developed nations and civilized societies, the teacher attains a special position and prominence because the establishment of a civilized, sound, peaceful and sagacious society is possible only because of teacher.
Islam has declared teacher, a spiritual father. Hence, gave him the status of a dignified figure, an honourable and respectable personality and a mentor.
Allah is the first teacher ever
One can easily judge the importance and greatness of the role of a teacher by the fact that Allah Almighty called Himself a teacher. As He says in the Holy Quran:
وَ عَلَّمَ اٰدَمَ الۡاَسۡمَآءَ ﴿۳۱﴾
Meaning: And Allah taught Adam the names of all (things). (Al-Baqarah: 31)
Along with the creation of man, Allah also taught him. He says:
اَلرَّحۡمٰنُ ۙ﴿۱﴾ عَلَّمَ الۡقُرۡاٰنَ ؕ﴿۲﴾ خَلَقَ الۡاِنۡسَانَ ۙ﴿۳﴾ عَلَّمَہُ الۡبَیَانَ ﴿۴﴾
Meaning: The Most Compassionate (He is). Who (Himself) taught the Qur’an to (the Arab Messenger pbuh). He is the One Who created (this Absolutely Perfect) man. He alone taught him the art of expression and communication. (Al-Rahman: 1-4)
Pen is the source for transfer of knowledge
Allah uses the pen for transfer of knowledge. He says in sura Al-Alaq:
اِقۡرَاۡ بِاسۡمِ رَبِّکَ الَّذِیۡ خَلَقَ ۚ﴿۱﴾ خَلَقَ الۡاِنۡسَانَ مِنۡ عَلَقٍ ۚ﴿۲﴾ اِقۡرَاۡ وَ رَبُّکَ الۡاَکۡرَمُ ۙ﴿۳﴾ الَّذِیۡ عَلَّمَ بِالۡقَلَمِ ۙ﴿۴﴾ عَلَّمَ الۡاِنۡسَانَ مَا لَمۡ یَعۡلَمۡ ؕ﴿۵﴾
Meaning: (O Beloved!) Read (commencing) with the Name of Allah, Who has created (everything). He created man from a hanging mass (clinging) like a leech (to the mother’s womb). Read, and your Lord is Most Generous. Who taught man (reading and writing) by the pen. Who (besides that) taught man (all that) which he did not know. (Al-Alaq: 1-5)
All the sacred Prophets were also teachers
Allah Almighty, the teacher of the universe, sent at least one hundred and twenty-four thousand prophets to educate and guide humanity. Each prophet was a teacher of Sharia as well as an expert and educator of some art. For example, Prophet Adam was the first to teach agriculture and industry to the world. Prophet Idris invented the knowledge of composing. Similarly, Prophet Noah introduced the art of making things from wood. Prophet Abraham laid the foundation of polemics and Prophet Joseph passed on the art of oneiromancy (the art of interpretation of dreams).
Status of a teacher and student in Islam
Islam has enlightened the world with the light of knowledge. Moreover, it has dignified a teacher and gave superiority to the student as well. We can easily estimate its importance by the words of Allah’s beloved Prophet, Prophet Mohammad. He says:
- Verily I have been sent as a teacher. (Ibn e Maja 229)
The Holy Prophet described the teacher as the best person among men:
- Narrated Uthman: The Holy Prophet says that the best among you (Muslims) are those who learn the Qur’an and teach it. (Sahih Bukhari- 5027)
Abu Hurairah narrated that the Messenger of Allah said:
- Lo! Indeed the world is cursed. What is in it is cursed, except for remembrance of Allah, what is conducive to that, the knowledgeable person and the learning person.
Need and importance of a spiritual guide (Murshid)
The great person who specialises in worldly sciences and arts and transmits it to the next generation is called a teacher. Likewise, the exalted personality who teaches Marifa, the true spirit of Islam, is generally known as spiritual guide. We have countless books that tell us about the glory, status and respect of teachers who excelled in worldly sciences. Sadly, we hardly found any text or literature that tells our young generation about the respect, spiritual status and importance of spiritual guide, the real teacher. The spiritual guide (murshid) is the one who teaches us the knowledge of Allah Almighty, the greatest Entity who is a source of all physical and inward knowledge, and who is aware of the secrets hidden in the hearts.
Status of Spiritual Guide (murshid) is higher than worldly teacher
Islam has given such an exalted status to the expert of material knowledge, it is obvious, the status of a spiritual guide, who teaches marifa will be much higher than worldly teacher.
‘Ar-Rafiq’ (companion) is another name of Spiritual guide
In fact who is called a spiritual guide? Which characteristics he must possess and how does he sanctify the souls of his disciples? What a disciple can gain from a spiritual guide? And what spiritual rank does he hold?
‘Ar-Rafiq’ (companion) is another name of a spiritual guide.
Prophet Mohammad has also ordered to search for a spiritual guide (murshid) in the following Hadiths:
اَلرَّفِیْقُ ثُمَّ الطَّرِیْقُ
Meaning: First find a companion (the perfect spiritual guide) and then set on (the spiritual) journey.
In another Hadith the Holy Prophet says:
اَلشَّیْخُ فِیْ قَوْمِہٖ کَنَبِیٍّ فِیْ اُمَّتِہٖ
Meaning: A spiritual guide is among his disciples just like a Prophet is among his nation.
Golden words of Sultan Bahoo
Sultan-ul-Arifeen Sultan Bahoo says:
- Spiritual guide possesses Divine powers as he is the Fakir who annihilates and becomes immortal with Allah. Spiritual guide is the giver of life (to the soul) and death (to the inciting innerself) and is indifferent to all the needs. He is like the philosopher stone and also a touchstone. His glance is beneficent like the sun which changes all the bad qualities of the seeker into good ones. (Ain-ul-Faqr)
Spiritual guide (murshid) is on the footsteps of the Holy Prophet
The most distinguished characteristic of a spiritual guide (murshid) is that he is on the footsteps of Prophet Mohammad. Sultan Bahoo says:
- The spiritual guide is virtuous like Prophet Mohammad and is more kind than one’s parents. He is the great leader and guide on the way to Allah, bestowal of jewels just like a mine of diamonds and gems, a wave of munificence like an ocean filled with pearls, patron for every destination like a key for every lock, indifferent to worldly wealth and free of any kind of greed. He loves the seekers of Allah more than his own life. (Ain-ul-Faqr)
Level of beneficence is always according to inner desire
It is important to mention here that, every student does not get same knowledge from a teacher, but he receives according to his own desire and effort. Likewise, on the path of Faqr and Sufism the beneficence of a spiritual guide (murshid) is always according to the efforts and desires of a disciple. The more a Divine seeker will be sincere in his quest to find Allah the more the spiritual guide reveals Divine secrets upon him.
The perfect spiritual guide’s method of spiritually elevating a devotee
Allah says in Holy Quran:
وَّ اتَّبِعۡ سَبِیۡلَ مَنۡ اَنَابَ اِلَیَّ ۚ ﴿۱۵﴾
Meaning: But (in the matter of faith and the Last Hour and the related affairs) follow someone who adopts the path of turning to Me in repentance and submitting to My injunctions. (Luqman: 15)
Spiritual guide follows the pattern of Prophet Mohammad
Verily, we can only call that person a perfect spiritual guide who spiritually educates and makes seekers of Allah cross several mystic destinations following the same pattern as was that of Prophet Mohammad for his sacred Companions. Quran describes this pattern as;
يَتۡلُوۡا عَلَيۡهِمۡ اٰيٰتِهٖ وَيُزَكِّيۡهِمۡ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ الۡكِتٰبَ وَالۡحِكۡمَةَ
Meaning: Who (My beloved) recites to them His revelations and cleanses and purifies them (outwardly and inwardly) and teaches them the Book and wisdom. (Al-Jumu’ah 2)
In the aforementioned verse three things are discussed:
- Recite verses unto them, that is, invite them towards Islam and convey commands of Allah;
- Purification of innerself and
- Bestow wisdom through inspired knowledge.
“The Prophetic way of Purgation of the Innerself”
To understand these three points, one must consult book “The Prophetic way of Purgation of the Innerself”. Sultan-ul-Ashiqeen Sultan Mohammad Najib-ur-Rehman, the present spiritual guide (murshid) of Sarwari Qadri order wrote this book. In this book Sultan-ul-Ashiqeen discussed in detail that Prophet Mohammad trained his companions on the basis of aforementioned three points.
Reading verses in the first point refers to the recitation of the verses of the Quran, explaining the reason for their revelation and invite them towards Islam and convey commands of Allah. The second point is relating to the purgation of innerself. It means that spiritually elevating inner baser self to innerself at peace by the efficacy of his spiritual sight and sacred presence. The third point is to teach them the real meaning of the verses of Holy Quran as well as wisdom.
What is the justification for mentioning the teaching of the book again?
The point to be considered here is, why there was a need of teaching the book when Allah says in beginning that the Holy Prophet recite unto them its verses. What is the justification for mentioning the teaching of the book again?
In fact, it refers to esoteric knowledge and wisdom that Allah bestowed upon his beloved Prophet. The esoteric knowledge means knowledge of recognition of Allah and His marifa, which Holy Prophet used to transfer to the hearts of his companions.
Teacher vs spiritual guide
From the teacher of exoteric knowledge we can learn syntax and morphology. Moreover, we can also benefit from the sweet and bitter experiments of his life and can collect pearls of wisdom. But what we cannot get from exoteric teacher is “Purgation of Innerself”.
What is Purgation of Innerself?
Purgation of innerself is the spiritual education following the same pattern as was that of Prophet Mohammad for his sacred companions i.e. through the efficacy of spiritual sight and presence in the holy company. It is due to that spiritual training, the sacred companions broke idols of love for material world and evils of inner baser self. This method of spiritual training is still prevailing.
In every era, all the spiritual guides train their disciples following the footsteps of Prophet Mohammad. He makes seekers of Allah cross several mystic destinations to remove the love of the world, the desires of inner baser self, and obsession. Only the true seeker of Allah passes through these mystic endeavors successfully and elevates to most exalted spiritual stations of gnosis of Allah and presence of Mohammadan assembly. On the contrary, seeker of this carrion world regresses and falls from his position. Resultantly, he becomes cursed.
Golden words of Sultan Bahoo
Sultan-ul-Arifeen Sultan Bahu has beautifully described the method of spiritual training of perfect spiritual guide (murshid) and the characteristics of Divine seeker:
گل راچہ مجال است کہ گوید بکلال
از بہر چہ سازی و چرا می شکنی
Explanation: How can the earth dare to ask the potter what he is doing with it and what he is making out of it?
Commendable quality of a Spiritual Guide and Disciple
Sultan Bahoo assimilate Divine seeker with the earth. It means that a disciple must adopt highest degree of humility. Moreover, he called the spiritual guide a potter that shows that a spiritual guide (murshid) removes all the evils of innerself, egoism, pride, satanic whispers and other bad habits and makes him a new human. Thus, he becomes a Mystic annihilated in Allah, beloved of Allah and the Holy Prophet. Then why should we not respect a teacher who by the efficacy of his spiritual sight, purifies a seeker of world, wicked and callous person and makes him acceptable in Divine court.
Decorum of a Spiritual Guide
It is important to discuss the best disciples whenever we talk about the best teacher of the world i.e. the Holy Prophet.
What is the decorum of a spiritual guide? We can find the best answer to this question in the lives of the sacred companions of the Holy Prophet. Rightly guided caliphs, Abdullah ibn Umar, Abdullah ibn Masud, Abu Hurairah, Ubayy ibn Ka’ab, Mus’ab ibn Umair and hundreds of other companions used to sit in his company with great love and devotion. When the Holy Prophet used to deliver a speech or talked to them, they listened to it with great attention and concentration. They used to sit so quite in his holy court that sometimes birds used to sit on their heads. They always kept their voices lower than the voice of the Holy Prophet.
Great Disciples of a Great Murshid
It was the spiritual training of the Holy Prophet that his disciples ran horses on the water, wrote letters to the river, spoke to the animals of the forest, established justice on the earth of Allah and hoisted the flag of Islam in almost every part of the world. In spite of such glory and magnificence, these Divine seekers were filled with humbleness and submissiveness.
Ali ibn Abi Talib says:
“Whoever taught me a letter, I am his slave, whether he frees or sells me.”
Cordial Respect of a Teacher
The excellent example of the companions of the Holy Prophet proves that knowledge undoubtedly favours humility and humbleness. Its place can never be a heart that is arrogant and proud. Therefore, it is obligatory for a student to recognise the value of knowledge and to show humility in front of his teacher. Do not treat his teacher with arrogance and pride but respect. Even if a question is to be asked or required a discussion, he should not show disrespect otherwise he will lose the blessing of knowledge.
The famous saying is:
باادب بانصیب، بے ادب بے نصیب
Meaning: A mannerly man is fortunate while a manner less is unfortunate.
زندگی ہو مری پروانے کی صورت یا ربّ
علم کی شمع سے ہو مجھ کو محبت یا ربّ
Meaning: O Allah! Make my life like a moth that flies around a candle and give me love for the light of knowledge.
The doom of disobedient Student
Those who do not respect their teacher cannot succeed at any point in life. The Holy Prophet said that the teacher is your spiritual father. If you respect him, you will succeed in life. Prophet Mohammad said that whoever pleases his teacher, he pleases Allah, and Allah is angry with the unfortunate one with whom his teacher is angry.
When a teacher of exoteric knowledge has such a status, then what will be the status of perfect spiritual guide (murshid) who bestows Divine union as well as Divine vision besides esoteric knowledge and marifa. Hence, improves his worldly life as well as the life hereafter. Moreover, he makes him successful in the Divine court by spiritually elevating his inward.
This world is an examination hall and success in this exam is not possible only through exoteric knowledge but through esoteric knowledge whose teacher is perfect spiritual guide. The knowledge of Divine vision and marifa have superiority over esoteric knowledge. Therefore, the status of a spiritual guide is much more than the teacher of esoteric knowledge.
Golden words of Sultan Bahoo
Sultan Bahoo says:
One should be aware that there are five rights upon the seeker of Allah; right of his parents, right of his teachers, right of his mentor, right of his spiritual guide (murshid) and the right of his wife. Among these, the right of his spiritual guide is the supreme because the spiritual guide grants him the gnosis of Allah and focuses his attention upon the Truth. When attention of the seeker is focused upon the Truth, he becomes enlightened and effective scholar of every knowledge as well as ruler upon both the worlds. Then, he can fulfill rights of all other with money. Those having right upon him become pleased with him and pray for him. (Kaleed-ul-Tauheed Kalan)
This article was published in Mahnama Sultan-ul-Faqr Lahore (monthly Urdu magazine of Tehreek Dawat-e-Faqr) titled as
معلم حقیقی کا کردار اور اسکا مقام و مرتبہ
Moalim e Haqeeqi ka Qirdar aur us ka Maqam o Martaba in the issue of February 2020. It was originally written by Noreen Abdul Ghafoor Sarwari Qadri and translated in English by Faiza Gulzar Sarwari Qadri. If you wish to read it in Urdu then please visit the link: