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Are there Risks in Following a Tariqa?


Herein are explained eight dangers which an initiate may face in following tariqa.

  • Some initiates who do not strictly follow the Sunna of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, may court danger by preferring sainthood over Prophethood. It has been proved in the Twenty-fourth and Thirty-first Words how much higher in rank Prophethood is in comparison with sainthood and how dim sainthood is when compared to Prophethood.
  • They court danger by regarding some saints of excessive views as superior to the Companions of the Prophet and even of the same rank as Prophets. It has been decisively proved in the Twelfth and Twenty-seventh Words, and in the ‘Addendum’ to the Twenty-seventh Word concerning the Companions, that they had a very high rank on account of being the Companions of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings. Also, it is absolutely impossible for a saint, however great, to attain the rank of a Prophet.
  • Some fanatical followers of tariqa prefer the daily recitations and the secondary principles of tariqa to the exalted Sunna of the Prophet and go so far as to abandon the Sunna in favor of the recitations of their tariqa. By becoming, in consequence, indifferent to the supererogatory commandments of the Shari‘a of the secondary degree, they risk danger.

As proved in several Words, and proclaimed by the truth-seeking scholars of sainthood like Imam Ghazali and Imam Rabbani, the reward or degree acquired by carrying out a single religious obligation is more rewarding than a thousand commandments of the Sunna, so also a single principle of the Sunna is preferable to a thousand secondary acts of tariqa.

  • Some followers of tariqa who go to excess risk danger by regarding inspiration as of the same kind as Divine Revelation. It has been decisively proved in some treatises including, primarily, the Twelfth Word and the Twenty-fifth Word, concerning the miraculousness of the Qur’an, that Divine Revelation is incomparably higher in rank and more comprehensive and sacred than inspiration, and that inspiration is very dim and narrow when compared to Divine Revelation.
  • Some who pretend to Sufism but are, in reality, unaware of the truth of tariqa, become engrossed by the spiritual pleasures, enlightenment and wonder-working – granted (without being desired) to some followers of tariqa in order to reinforce the weak-willed, to encourage those lacking in zeal, and to lighten the tedium and troubles coming from service in the way of God – and come to prefer these over acts of worship, daily recitations and services, thus going into danger. However, as stated briefly in the ‘Third Point’ of the ‘Sixth Clarification’ above, and proved in several Words, this world is the realm of rendering service, not the realm of wages. Those who demand their wages here in this world for their religious acts and services will reduce the ever-lasting fruits of Paradise to the dying, transient fruits of this life, and, attracted by a manifestation of the Hereafter in this world in the form of a limited permanence, cannot look forward to the intermediate life or to the Hereafter with desire and longing.
  • Some initiates who are not people of verification and truth run into danger by confusing the real and universal ranks of sainthood with their particular examples and shadows. As proved in the ‘Second Branch’ of the Twenty-fourth Word and in some other Words, the sun is multiplied through its reflections, which, despite having light and heat like the sun itself, are very faint in comparison with their origin. Likewise, the ranks of the Prophets and the greatest saints have some shadows and reflections. When initiates enter those shadows, or receive some of those reflections, they see themselves as greater than the greatest saints and even the Prophets, and thereby fall into danger.

In order to escape all the dangers mentioned, including this last one, one should always take as guiding principles the essentials of belief and fundamentals of the Shari‘a, and condemn any visions or experiences in opposition to them.

  • Some people of enthusiasm and spiritual pleasures court danger by preferring vanity, airs and graces, exaggerated claims, and gaining the love of people and being a resort for them, to thankfulness and being in a state of entreaty and supplication to God, and indifference to people’s love, attention and wealth. It should, however, be known that he greatest of the spiritual ranks is the servanthood of Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, which is exalted with the title or rank of being the Beloved of God. The foundation of such servanthood is thankfulness, entreaty, supplication, pious reverence, perception of human poverty and helplessness and indifference to people’s belongings, love and attention. Although some great saints have sometimes displayed vanity, and airs and graces, and acted in an affected way before God, but unintentionally and for a temporary period, they are not, however, to be followed intentionally in this matter, for they are not guides in this respect, even though they themselves were guided.
  • Some selfish and impatient initiates desire to ‘eat’ in the world the fruits of sainthood which will be obtained in the Hereafter, and thereby fall into danger. Whereas, as proved in many of the Words and proclaimed in Qur’anic verses such as, The life of this world is but comfort of illusion, (3:185) a single fruit of the Permanent World is preferable to a thousand orchards of this temporary one. So, those blessed fruits should not be eaten up here. If they are granted without our desiring them, we should be thankful to God and regard them not as a reward, but as a Divine grace to encourage us.


This article has been adapted from Risale- i Nur Collection.