The spiritual leader guides and course corrects society, which is very important for its welfare. Regarding this the Holy Prophet said:
من مات ولم یعرف امام زمانہ مات میتۃ جاہلی:
Meaning: One who dies in a state that he did not recognize the spiritual leader of the era (with the sincerity of his inward) died as an ignorant.
Ibn Umar narrates the above-mentioned tradition in the following words:
One who dies without having an imam will die the death of an ignorant. (Musnad Ahmad 12144)
من مات ولیس فی عنقہ بیتۃ مات میتۃ ما بعلیۃ
Meaning: One who withdraws his band from obedience (to the spiritual leader) will find no argument (in his defense) when he stands before Allah on the day of Judgment. One who dies without having bound himself by an oath of allegiance (to the perfect spiritual leader) will die the death of an infidel and ignorant. (Muslim- 4793)
Thus, one must find and recognize the spiritual leader and then take an oath of allegiance on his hands.
Who is the Spiritual Leader of the Era?
In Mansab e Imamat, Shah Ismail writes:
و اقرب الیٰ اللہ باعتبار منزلت اوّل رسولؐاست بعد ازاں امام کہ نائب اوست۔
Meaning: And in terms of ranks in front of Allah, the Holy Prophet pbuh holds the highest rank. Then are the spiritual leaders who are his vicegerent.
This quote verifies two things, firstly, the Holy Prophet pbuh is the first spiritual leader. Secondly, the spiritual leader of the era is in fact the vicegerent of Prophet Mohammad pbuh.
Who is vicegerent of the Prophet?
The Sufis in the terminology of Sufism refer the perfect spiritual leader as the vicegerent of the Holy Prophet pbuh.
Syed Abdul Kareem bin Ibrahim Al-Jaili writes in his literary work of “Insan-e-Kamil”:
Insan-e-Kamil (the Universal Divine Man) is the celestial pole around whom the whole existing universe revolves from pre-existence till eternity. Ever since existence started till eternity, he is unique entity. Then, there are different physical dresses for this entity in different ages. In other words, this entity appears in a different physical appearance in each era. Allah Almighty in accordance with that particular physical dress then gives him a unique name that does not go for another of his dress. His actual name is Mohammad, his patronym is Abu al Qasim, his epithet is Abdullah and his title is Shamsuddin. In every era he has a new name which suits the physical dress in which he appears in that age. (Page-388)
Allama Ibn-e-Arabi explained the above-mentioned reality in his book Fusus al-Hikam in the following words:
“From pre-existence till eternity the Holy Prophet pbuh keeps changing his physical dress in every era. Only in the beings of “perfect individuals” does he manifest himself.” (Exegesis Fusus al-Hikam)
The an-Nur of Prophet Mohammad is Eternal
The Universal Divine Man is a unique entity since pre-existence till eternity. Also, Prophet Mohammad pbuh has been appearing in the beings of Prophets, Messengers and khalifahs from Prophet Adam till Prophet Christ. Then after the end of Prophethood in the beings of Ghaus, Qutbs, Abdals and Saints according to their spiritual levels and ranks. (Exegesis Fusus al-Hikam- pg 165)
The Holy Prophet pbuh said:
“ I was Prophet even when Adam was between mud and water.”
In other words the physical self of Adam did not even exist when Allah created the an-Nur of Prophet from His an-Nur (Divine light) and covered in it in the veil of ‘M’ of Ahmad and manifested Himself as Ahmad. This is why before physical arrival in this world, Prophet Mohammad pbuh was the apostle of Allah. The light of celestial self of Holy Prophet pbuh appeared and transferred to every prophet. To elaborate, he kept on coming into this world in the physical being of other prophets. In his physical life, the Prophet was physically and spiritually present in this universe and after his death his spiritual essence still exists in this universe.
The Mohammadan Reality
To understand his being as a prophet we must ponder over the words of first creed of Islam, Kalimah Tayyiba.
لَآ اِلٰہَ اِلاَّ للّٰہُ
مُحَمَّدٌ رَّسُوْلُ اللّٰہ
Meaning: There is none worthy of worship but Allah and Mohammad pbuh is the messenger of Allah.
The use of present indefinite tense in the creed shows that his apostleship is not bound to any particular era. Whatever the era is passing on, he is the Messenger of it. He is the Rasool (Messenger of Allah) of the time which has elapsed, which is going on and which is yet to come. Messenger is the one who is present. It can be concluded with the saying of Holy Prophet pbuh that:
“I am from the an-Nur of Allah and the entire creation is from my an-Nur.”
This an-Nur of Mohammad pbuh is in fact the Mohammadan Reality. It appears in humans perfectly and completely more than any other creature. The person who reaches the level of Oneness or the Mohammadan Reality by covering all the inward levels gets accomplished. Then he becomes the manifestation of Mohammadan Reality. He is the Abdullah (slave of Allah), and Allah makes him the Universal Divine Man (the spiritual leader). (The Mohammadan Reality)
All the quotes mentioned above verify that the Universal Divine Man or the perfect spiritual leader is in fact the vicegerent of the Holy Prophet pbuh. Also, this vicegerent is present in every era. However, the problem is how to recognize this vicegerent or the perfect spiritual leader?
What is a Spiritual Leader?
In every era, there is a man who bears the Divine Trust. He is in fact the heir to the treasure of Faqr. The Holy Prophet pbuh is the owner of the treasure of Faqr and has complete authority over it. He is the one who transfers this Trust and treasure. Without his permission, the Trust of Allah cannot be entrusted to anyone. He transferred the treasure of Faqr to his daughter Fatimah tuz Zahra. She holds the highest and supreme level of being the first Sultan-ul-Faqr among the Mohammadan nation. He also transferred it to Ali ibn Abi Talib from whom he transferred it to the nation. Therefore, Allah granted Ali the title of Bab-e-Faqr i.e. “the gate of Faqr”. Then the chain continued, and the treasure reached the supreme holder of Faqr, Ghawth al-Azam Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani and then to Sultan Bahoo. (The Perfect Spiritual Guide)
Spiritual Leaders of the Previous Eras
Sultan-ul-Ashiqeen has written a book named, Sufism-The Soul of Islam, which is the encyclopedia of Faqr and Sufism. He writes in his book that Sultan Bahoo is the 25th perfect spiritual leader. The spiritual order after him in sequence is as follows:
26. Sultan-ul-Tarikeen Sultan Sayyid Mohammad Abdullah Shah Madni Jilani
27. Sultan-ul-Sabireen Sultan Mohammad Abdul Ghafoor Shah Hashmi Qureshi
28. Shahbaz-e-Arifaan Sultan Pir Sayyid Mohammad Bahadur Ali Shah Kazmi al-Mashhadi
29. Sultan-ul-Auliya Sultan Mohammad Abdul Aziz
30. Sultan-ul-Faqr VI Sultan Mohammad Asghar Ali
The present Imam of the Sarwari Qadri order is Sultan-ul-Ashiqeen Sultan Mohammad Najib-ur-Rehman.
How to Recognize the Spiritual Leader of the Era?
My beloved spiritual guide, Sultan-ul-Ashiqeen Sultan Mohammad Najib-ur-Rehman writes the following in his book, ‘The Perfect Spiritual Guide’:
A seeker or devotee should keep in view the following matters while deciding on a spiritual guide:
Observe the Spiritual Leader
Present oneself in the assembly of a Saint and observe. Whether during that duration there ensued or not, minimum occurrences of Satanic apprehensions and evil suggestions in heart. Also in his company did he experience love and fervour of Allah and Prophet Mohammad pbuh? It does not matter if on leaving the assembly of the Saint, his state returned to the condition as it was before meeting the Saint. Important is to know whether he experienced even a minor change in him or not during his stay in the company of a Saint.
2- Observe the changes in his disciples
Observe whether Saint’s devotees or some of the devotees have positively improved or not. Before they became disciples what were they like and afterwards what kinds of changes transpired in them.
3- Does Spiritual Leader understand the inner state of Seeker?
While the seeker sat in the Saint’s company did the Saint speak any words related to his state or not. Did he receive guidance and felt spiritual assistance for solving any of his confusion or tenacious problems?
4- Does Spiritual Leader Grant Ism-e-Allah Zaat?
According to the teachings of Sultan Bahoo a spiritual leader should not only himself be accomplished in the contemplation of Ism-e-Allah Zaat but should also instantly after oath of allegiance from a disciple grant him invocation of Hoo and contemplation of Ism-e-Allah Zaat. If there ensues no spiritual development from the invocation and contemplation of Ism-e-Allah Zaat then he is not the perfect spiritual leader. He is the perfect spiritual guide if a disciple feels spiritually benefitted. His views and ideas start to alter, and he inwardly renounces the world and becomes absorbed in Allah.
If from the above-mentioned matters, a person develops a positive view, then he should take oath of allegiance. He should then fully trust that Saint. Because as far as his spiritual development is concerned, he cannot find anyone better than him.
Why Take Oath of Allegiance on the Hands of the Spiritual Leader of the Era?
The perfect and sacred men of Allah whose saintly lineage reaches the Holy Prophet pbuh through continuous chain of oath of allegiance are called ‘Shaikh-e-Itesal’. This word literally means linked spiritual guides. Their spiritual lineage reaches Prophet Mohammad through continuous steps of oath of allegiance. The link between them is never broken at any point. If a Muslim is fortunate enough to take oath of allegiance to such perfect Saint, then he is spiritually linked with the Holy Prophet pbuh through his spiritual leader. In mysticism it is considered that he has, in fact taken oath of allegiance at the sacred hand of the Holy Prophet pbuh. He then through his mediation reaches Allah.
The spiritual beneficence of the perfect spiritual guide saves the seeker from the deceptions of Satan and innerself. Then he in turns takes the seeker towards piety and the gnosis of Allah. Allah says in Quran:
Meaning: O believers! Fear Allah persistently, and remain in the (company) of siddiqeen (i.e. those who uphold the truth). (Surah al-Tawba-119)
The siddiqeen are at the highest level of piety. Allah further says in Quran:
“And those who obey Allah and His Messenger are the people who will be in the company of those (spiritual dignitaries on the Last Day) whom Allah has blessed with His (special) favour i.e. the Prophets, the siddiqeen (truthfuls), the martyrs and the most pious.” (Surah al-Nisa-69)
Spiritual Leader in the Light of Sultan Bahoo’s Quotes
Sultan Bahoo said in Ain-ul-Faqr:
The perfect spiritual guide knows every path and way stations of the esoteric self. He is solver of all its difficulties and is the name of the Divine favour. Nothing is achieved unless Divine favour is granted. Without the perfect spiritual guide none of the struggle of the seeker is fruitful. Even if he spends his whole life on hard mystic practices. As without a spiritual guide no one has ever reached Allah. A spiritual guide is like a vigilant and skilled captain of the ship who is aware of all the hazards of the way. He also knows all the methods to overcome them. Without the captain, the ship would surely sink. For a seeker, the perfect spiritual guide himself is the ship as well as the captain. One who understands, will understand. (Ain-ul-Faqr)
Get to know and understand it that verily Allah is in the heart of the possessor of Divine secrets (i.e. the perfect spiritual leader). Oneness of Allah is present in the heart of Momin. Whosoever wants to gain the truth and have union with Allah, must first find the perfect spiritual guide. Who is actually the possessor of all the treasures of the heart. The person who becomes the spiritual confidant does not remain deprived of the vision of Allah. (Ain-ul-Faqr)
How does the spiritual Leader grant gnosis of Allah?
In the next few paragraphs, we have discussed this in the light of quotes from the famous Sufis of Islam.
Shaykh Abdul Qadir Jilani said in al-Fateh Rabbani:
If you are (spiritually) blind, find the one (the perfect spiritual guide) who holds your hand. You are ignorant, find a man of intellect (the perfect spiritual guide). When you find the one, then stay in his company, follow his words and accept his opinions. Also ask him the rightful path (that leads to Allah). When under his guidance you reach the rightful path then remain there and achieve Allah’s Marifa (gnosis). (Al-Fateh Rabbani, Section-4)
Shaikh Ahmad Zarruq
It is better to acquire knowledge and learn pious deeds from the great Shaikhs rather than from others. As Allah Almighty says about them, “But these are the clear verses (of the Quran) that are (preserved) in the hearts of those who have been given (true) knowledge” (Surah Al-Ankabut).
He exhorts that one must not walk on the unknown path without a guide, or one will fail to unfold its intricacies. As only the guide (the perfect spiritual guide) can take across the sea to success.
Ganj Bakhsh Ali ibn Usmaan Al-Hajveri
Without opting for the company of the perfect spiritual guide or without coming in his servitude, no one can become a Sufi and Arif Billah (Mystic immortal with Allah).
SHAIKH AHMAD SIRHINDI (MUJADDID ALIF SANI)
The way of respected Saints is the same as that of the sacred Companions. No matter how much pious a man gets he is not exempted from benefitting from the association of Saints. Imam Abu Hanifa benefitted from the association of Bahlool for two years. He used to say that if those two years were not part of his life he would have been spiritually lost.
SHAIKH ABDUL AZIZ AL-DABBAGH
The perfect spiritual guide can make any man unite with Allah in a moment.
SHAIKH MOHAMMAD SHAMSUDDIN SIALVI
It is not possible to succeed in spirituality without a perfect spiritual leader or a guide. He said, “The obedience of Allah and His Prophet is bestowed by loving (and following) the spiritual leader. Disciple should absorb himself in the spiritual leader so that he could witness Allah and His Prophet’s manifestation.”
The Holy Prophet is the owner of Faqr and has complete authority over it. It is his sacred assembly from where all the decisions relating to Faqr are issued. The Holy Prophet orders transference of the Divine Trust from the spiritual leader of an era to his best disciple. This disciple must be the perfect and true seeker of Allah so he can guide the next era. (Sultan-ul-Ashiqeen)
Indeed, only such a spiritual leader deserves the Divine trust. Regarding this, Allah says in Quran:
“We presented Our trust before the skies, earth and mountains. Everyone refused to bear it, but man (al-Insan al-Kamil) picked it up. No doubt, he is cruel (towards his innerself) and ignorant (of his highest rank near Allah).”(Al-Ahzab-72)
Who is the Present Spiritual Leader of the Era?
The true seekers of Allah have recognized Sultan-ul-Ashiqeen as the perfect spiritual guide and the spiritual leader of the era. He belongs to the order of al-Ghawth al-Azam. Sultan Bahoo renamed this order as the Sarwari Qadri order and took it to its peak. Sultan-ul-Ashiqeen gained the trust and treasure of Faqr from his beloved Murshid Sultan-ul-Faqr VI Sultan Mohammad Asghar Ali.
Testimony of a Disciple
Sultan-ul-Ashiqeen is the spiritual leader and the perfect spiritual guide of the era. Here as a testimony, we would like to share an observation of one of his disciples, Noreen Abdul Ghafoor. She says that after she took oath of allegiance at the hands of Sultan-ul-Ashiqeen, she noticed numerous changes in her. Before taking oath, she did not know what is gnosis of Allah and how can one have presence in the Mohammadan assembly?
She attests that the spiritual beneficence of Sultan-ul-Ashiqeen granted her the presence of the Mohammadan assembly. When with the permission of Sultan-ul-Ashiqeen she started reading Risala Roohi Sharif, the following day the Holy Prophet blessed her with his vision. When she saw him smiling, she couldn’t help but say, O Holy Prophet! Is this you? He replied, O dear! For your satisfaction I can say that whoever has vision of me, certainly saw me since Satan cannot adopt my face. (Passage from Sultan-ul-Ashiqeen Book)
How does the company of Spiritual Leader Benefit us on the Day of Judgment?
It is must on every Muslim to take oath of allegiance and gain gnosis of the perfect spiritual leader who is also called the spiritual leader of the era. There following Hadiths in Bukhari and Muslim verifies this statement:
The Companions asked, O Prophet! There are many people whose deeds are not like ours. Meaning, they are the beloved and honoured people who perform such elevated deeds that we cannot match them. We are not pious like them, we cannot offer prayers like them, we do not have morals and truthfulness like them. We have flaws and shortcomings while their ranks and morals are elevated. So is it possible that we can be with them even when our deeds do not match theirs. In turn the Holy Prophet replied: “On the day of Judgement, every individual will be with the one whom he loved.” In other words, if someone’s deeds are not good enough but loves someone who is very pious, then he will be in his company and tied to him. This is the promise of Allah.
In short, because of the attachment to the pious ones, Allah will send us to Paradise. This is why once a seeker takes oath of allegiance to the perfect spiritual guide, he must follow him wholeheartedly with love and sincerity.
I would like to conclude my article with a prayer that may Allah grant us love and sincerity for the perfect spiritual guide till our last breath and keep us in his company on the day of Judgement. (Ameen)