What is ‘Tassawuf’?

Shaykh Muhammad Zakariyya رحمة الله عليه mentions in the book Aap Beti that He was once asked, “What is tasawuf?” The questioner may have expected a lengthy answer. After all Allah gave Shaikhul-Hadeeth such depth in knowledge that once, his reply to a letter became a whole kitaab in of itself! That kitaab is called Itidaal. But instead of a lengthy response, Shaikh simply replied, “All it is, is to correct ones niyyah. Nothing else. It’s beginning is ‘Innamal a’maalu bin biyyah (Verily, all actions are judged by intentions) and the end is ‘An ta’budallaha ka-annaka ta-rahu’ (That you worship Allah as if you are seeing Him).”

Meaning, the path of tassawuf begins with sincerity. The journey is to develop it. The end goal is to have such a high level of taqwa and yaqeen that in every facet of life, we are mindful of Allah’s watchful gaze upon us.

As always, the Sahaaba رضي الله عنهم epitomised this high level of ikhlaas, yaqeen and taqwa. Once in a battle, Hazrat Ali رضي الله عنه had overpowered an enemy and was ready to strike the last blow. But just then, the enemy spat back. Now even though He became displeased Hazrat Ali رضي الله عنه immediately moved away, placing His sword back into its sheath. He had the upper hand, He could have killed the enemy but now sparing his soul meant Hazrat Ali رضي الله عنه was in greater danger.

Even the enemy was so taken aback by such strange behaviour, so he enquired that why did you let me go? Ali رضي الله عنه replied that all this time I had fought for pleasure of Allah. When you spat at me my nafs was provoked. The resulting anger was not for the pleasure of Allah. Thus if I killed you based on my anger it would have been a result of my nafs. Then I would have been questioned on the day of judgement, that did I kill you for the sake of Allah or for myself?

Similarly, we too need to question and correct our intentions on a regular basis. When we speak before an audience we must ask ourselves – am I delivering this bayan due to a deep hearted yearning to please Allah? Or is it to grip the audience, to impress them? When we pray we must think – am I reciting in a beautiful tune for Allah, or is my mind drifting towards the Musallis, hoping they are impressed and enjoying my tune? An Imam, Khateeb or speaker can face these challenges.

The intentions of a businessman are challenged in a different way. When his representative walks in, is he now going to talk and act differently in order to impress the representative? Or will his speech and actions be governed by his desire to fulfil the fardh duty of earning a living? Years ago, someone informed me that he is now in financial problems. A few days later, he pulled up with a nice car. He hired it from the garage to take to a business meeting, in the hope that they will assume he is established and offer him the job. So are we trying to impress others with an unrealistic image that will be difficult to maintain, or are we here to impress Allah?

May Allah grant us the tawfiq to be sincere, aameen.

— Hazrat Ml. Dawood Seedat حفظه الله

The above is an extract from a Hazrat’s talk on 21/3/2016. To listen to the full audio, please click here.

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