Sainthood is a proof for Messengership and the way or spiritual order (tariqa) is evidence for the Shari‘a. For a saint experiences with certainty of seeing the truths of belief communicated by the Messenger and confirms them through the witnessing of his heart and the spiritual pleasure he derives. Such confirmation is a decisive proof for the truth of Divine Messengership.
A member of a spiritual order is convinced through the pleasure and enlightenment he gets and the ability of spiritual discovery he acquires, that the commandments and principles of the Shari‘a which he is instructed in and follows in his daily life are of wholly Divine origin and undeniably true. As sainthood and tariqa are thus proofs for the truth of Messengership and the Shari‘a, they are also an expression of the perfection of Islam and a source of its light, and a means for mankind to make progress and a source to get enlightenment by virtue of attachment to Islam.
Despite the considerable significance of this great truth, some deviant sects have gone so far as to deny it. Being themselves deprived of the lights of tariqa, they have also led some others to be deprived of them also. It is most unfortunate that certain scholars of superficial knowledge among the Ahl al-Sunna wa’l-Jama‘a, and some heedless of politicians, using as an excuse some abuses and mistakes witnessed in the conduct of some members of tariqas, are trying to close down or even destroy this great treasury, to dry up this pure source of the water of life. It is, however, a fact that there can hardly be found in the world any way, order or system without faults, so that if incompetent and unqualified people are admitted into a job or an order, they will certainly be the cause of some abuses. But God Almighty will show in the Hereafter the justice of His Lordship in calling people to account for their deeds by weighing the good and evil deeds against each other. That is, if one’s good deeds weigh more, God Almighty will reward him; if otherwise, He will punish him. Further, the balancing of the good and evil deeds will be not according to their number but according to their quality. It may happen that a single good deed will outweigh a thousand evil ones and cause them to be forgiven. Since Divine Justice decides this way and truth judges so, then a tariqa should not be condemned because of some abuses by some few of its members. For the good of tariqa or following a spiritual way according to the Sunna of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, is always greater than its evils. A most decisive proof of this is that the people of tariqa preserve their faith at the most critical times when the people of misguidance attack all the religious values. A sincere ordinary member of tariqa preserves, through the spiritual pleasure he gets in tariqa and his love for saints, his faith more than a man of superficial scientific knowledge. He may be a transgressor on account of committing some major sins, yet he never deviates to unbelief, nor does he join the heretics. No power in the world can cause him to refute a chain of spiritual guides whom he accepts with a strong love and firm conviction as the spiritual poles of the world. Since he cannot made to refute them, he does not lose his trust in them; and since he does not lose his trust in them, he does not join the party of heresy. It is, however, difficult for a man, however great a truth-seeking scholar he may be, to save himself against the intrigues of the modern people of heresy, if he has no connection with tariqa and his heart is inoperative.
There is another point to mention, namely that the tariqa is not to be condemned because of the evils of some orders which wrongly call themselves a tariqa, or of some schools which have broken with the circle of piety and even of Islam. Apart from its very significant fruits, religious and spiritual and pertaining to the Hereafter, tariqa has always exerted a foremost influence for the development and flourishing of brotherhood, the sacred bond in the Muslim world, as well as being one of the three most important and firm strongholds of Islam against the formidable attacks of the world of unbelief and Christian politics aimed to extinguish its light. The power which protected Istanbul, the center of Caliphate, for five hundred years against a large world of Christianity, lies in the lights of monotheism which diffused from five hundred places in Istanbul and, as a point of support for believers in that center of Islam, in the strength of belief of those invoking ‘God, God!’, in the dervish lodges behind mosques, and their going into raptures with the spiritual pleasure coming from knowledge of God.
Three points concerning sainthood and its relation with Messengership:
- The most beautiful, the straightest and brightest of the ways of sainthood is following the Sunna of the Prophet Muhammad
The most beautiful, the straightest and brightest of the ways of sainthood is following the Example – the Sunna– of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, in all one’s deeds and transactions, and obeying the commandments of the Shari‘a.
It is because of this following and obeying that even one’s ordinary deeds and actions and natural movements become a form of worship, and, reminds him of the Sunna and Shari‘a. The remembrance of the Sunna and Shari‘a causes one to think of the Prophet, which calls, in turn, God Almighty to mind. This remembrance gives a kind of peace and contentment. The minutes of life can thus be counted as being spent in continuous worship. Being the broadest highway, this way is the way of the Companions and their righteous followers, who truly represented the succession to the Prophetic mission, which is the greatest sainthood.
- The most important basis of the ways of sainthood is sincerity or purity of intention
The most important basis of the ways of sainthood and the schools of tariqa is sincerity or purity of intention. For one is saved through sincerity from the implicit forms of associating partners with God. Whoever has not been able to acquire sincerity cannot travel in those ways. And, the most direct means, the most effective and penetrating power in those ways is love. A lover does not try to find faults with his beloved and becomes blind to his or her defects; rather, even the weak indications of his beloved’s perfection are decisive proofs in the sight of the lover. He always sides with his beloved.
That is why those who have directed themselves to knowledge of God through love, do not give ear to objections and doubts. Even if thousands of devils come together, they cannot invalidate in their sight even the least indication to the perfection of their True Beloved (God). But for this love, they would have to strive against the resistance of their carnal selves, against their personal and external devils. In order to save themselves, they must resist heroically, with firmness, strong faith, and careful vision and discernment.
Because of this, love of God originating in knowledge of God is the most important ‘ferment’ in all the steps to sainthood, which changes an initiate and elevates him to higher ranks, and the remedy that cures all spiritual illnesses. There is, however, a risk in the way of love, namely that the lover may turn from complete modesty, from being a supplicant before God, to putting on airs and graces and behaving affectedly to show himself as valued and worthy of God’s love, and he therein transgresses the measure. When he is inclined in love to another being than God, he may love him on his account, that is, for his personal perfections and spiritual grace, not on account of God or his being a mirror of God’s Names. This sort of love becomes, for the lover, a poison not a remedy to cure his spiritual illnesses. The love for other beings than God, however perfect and great they may be, which is not in the name of God and His Prophet, will become a veil before love of God, not a means for it. If, by contrast, that love is cherished on account of, or in the name of, God, then it leads the lover to the love of God, and his love becomes a manifestation of Divine love.
- This world is the abode of wisdom and service, not the abode of wages and reward
This world is the abode of wisdom and service, not the abode of wages and reward. Everything in this world happens in accordance with God’s Wisdom, and people will be rewarded in the Hereafter in return for the good deeds they do and the services they render in this world. That being so, the fruits of good deeds done for the good pleasure of God should not be sought in this world; if they are given, they should be accepted not with delight, but with sorrow. For it is not reasonable to use up here in this world the fruits which will be replaced in Paradise immediately with new ones each time they are eaten. It is like exchanging a lamp giving permanent light for one which is extinguished in a minute.
It is for this reason that men of sainthood warmly welcome hardships, misfortunes, troubles and services, not complainingly. They always say: ‘Praise be to God in all circumstances and conditions.’
If they are endowed with the capacity of spiritual discovery and working wonders, and given spiritual pleasures and lights, they accept them as Divine favors and try to conceal them. Never proud of them, they increase their thanksgiving and worship in return for them. Many saints have even requested God to take those favors back so that their sincerity and purity of intention will not be adulterated. Indeed, a most significant Divine kindness or favor for a man approved by God is that God does not make him feel His favors for him, so that he should not turn from being in the state of supplication and thankfulness to God to self-pride and putting on airs and graces and behaving affectedly.
Because of this, if those who seek sainthood by tariqa pursue spiritual pleasures and the capacity of working wonders, which are among the insignificant fruits of sainthood, and, when given, welcome these with pleasure, it will lead them – besides eating up here in this world the permanent fruits of Paradise – to lose purity of intention and finally sainthood itself.
This article has been adapted from Risale- i Nur Collection.