Question: The following outrageous claim is made among Sufi circles: The Ahlullāh make an impression on the hearts of their murīds through focus and affectionate gaze. The blessings of this focus results in the rectification of the hearts of the murīds. In fact, there are times when this focus of the shaykh results in outsiders getting the inspiration for guidance and īmān. If this is correct in the Sharī‛at, why could the Chief of all past and future generations Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‛alayhi wa sallam not instil guidance in the heart of his beloved uncle, Abū Tālib? Allāh forbid, was he deprived of such focus from Allāh ta‛ālā? We seek refuge in saying such a thing and from showing disrespect.
Answer: Focus is a type of influence which is not within man’s choice. Let alone piety, focus does not even require īmān. The focus of non-Muslims can also be effective for certain periods of time. Nevertheless, focus is proven from the Qur’ān, Hadīth and countless incidents of the righteous. Observe the following:
The Origin of Focus
Hadrat Shāh ‛Abd al-‛Azīz Muhaddith Dehlawī rahimahullāh writes in Tafsīr ‛Azīzī:
The first sign and effect of divine revelation coming to Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‛alayhi wa sallam was in the form of true dreams. Whatever he saw in his dreams would be experienced by him exactly like that while in a state of wakefulness. He was then made to become attracted to solitude. Subsequently, he would go alone to the cave of Hirā’ and engage in Allāh’s remembrance. He used to take as much as one week’s food and provisions for himself. When the food and drink were finished, he would return home, get more food and drink, and go back to the cave. In most cases, his stay used to be for less than a month. Occasionally he even stayed over for a full month.
One day he was standing out of the cave to wash his mouth when Jibra’īl ‛alayhis salām suddenly called out: “O Muhammad!” He looked up but did not see anything. He heard this voice a second and third time, and began looking around in confusion. Suddenly a face which was glittering like the sun, in the form of a human, decorated with a crown of light on his head and wearing green clothes appeared before Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‛alayhi wa sallam and began saying: “Read!” Some narrations state that he had a green silken cloth in his hand. Something was written on it. He presented it to Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‛alayhi wa sallam and said: “Read.” Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‛alayhi wa sallam said: “I cannot read.” The person said: “Read!” He embraced Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‛alayhi wa sallam and squeezed him so tightly that he felt constricted and began perspiring. This happened three times. On the fourth occasion he said:
Read in the name of your Sustainer who is the creator of all. He created man from a clot of blood. Read, and your Sustainer is the most bountiful. Who taught by the pen. He taught man what he did not know. [Sūrah al-‛Alaq, 96: 1-5]
These five verses settled in Rasūlullāh’s mind and were memorised by him. He writes further on:
The circumstances surrounding this initial revelation to Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‛alayhi wa sallam contains a few points which must be borne in mind.
Shāh Sāhib rahimahullāh then writes four points. He writes under the third point:
Jibra’īl ‛alayhis salām was ordered to squeeze Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‛alayhi wa sallam so that the effect of Jibra’īl may become firmly embedded – to the point of perfection – in the blessed soul of Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‛alayhi wa sallam. The effect of the perfect servants of Allāh ta‛ālā, which the people of the Tarīqat refer to as tawajjuh (focus) is divided into four categories.
Types of tawajjuh
1. Ta’thīr In‛ikāsī: The example of this is of a person who applies a lot of perfume and comes into an assembly. The fragrance of his perfume perfumes the mind of every person sitting in that assembly. This is the weakest type of tawajjuh because its effect only remains for as long as the person is in the company of a Walī. Once he leaves, the effect does not remain with him.
2. Ta’thīr Ilqā’ī: The example of this is of a person who pours oil into a container and places a wick into it. He then comes to a person who has a fire. He touches the wick to the fire, it takes light and becomes a lamp. This effect and focus is stronger than the first type because its effect continues even after the assembly. However, if any calamity or impediment comes upon it, it will leave. In this case, although the lamp was lit, a sudden gush of wind or rain came upon it and extinguished it. This effect cannot culture and rectify the self and the senses.
3. Ta’thīr Islāhī: Through his spiritual power, the mentor rectifies the inner self of the murīd and the senses are put into motion. The example of this is of a person who brings water from a river or well and stores it in one place. He makes canals which connect this water to a pond which has a fountain. He clears the canals of all dirt and grime, and releases the water with full pressure so that the water now gushes forth from the fountain.
This type of effect is stronger than the first two. The self is rectified and the senses are cultured. However, its effect is dependent on the amount of water which is stored, and the extent and cleanliness of the canals. It is not according to the capability of the river or well. However, despite this, if any calamity or weakness befalls the treasure [of water], there will be a drop in the effect.
4. Ta’thīr Ittihādī: Through his spiritual power, the Sufi master takes the murīd under his wing and joins his soul to his murīd’s soul in such a way that the excellences of his soul are transferred into the soul of the murīd. This is the strongest type of effect.
Once this is realized, there is no need for going repeatedly to the shaykh to derive benefit from him. [Tafsīr ‛Azīzī, pp. 559-563, Kutub Khānah Fayd-e-Abrār]
Hadrat Thānwī rahimahullāh writes the following points after relating the incident at the cave of Hirā’:
The angel who came to Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‛alayhi wa sallam was Jibra’īl ‛alayhis salām. When he asked Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‛alayhi wa sallam to read, it was not required of him to read something which he had learnt before. Rather, it was similar to a teacher displaying the letters a, b, c to a child and asking him to read. In other words, you must read what I show you. Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‛alayhi wa sallam replied: “I cannot read.” This could be in the sense that his blessed mind did not go to the meaning of Iqra’. Alternatively, he assumed from the circumstances that Jibra’īl ‛alayhis salām will make him read something which – in order for him to grasp and understand it – required him to be able to read and write from before hand. No matter what, in order to receive and accept what he has been ordered to read, there was a need to strengthen and perfect his capability. It was for this reason that the angel squeezed him several times. In this way, the strength which he receives will enable his heart to focus and gain courage. The action of tawajjuh is proven from this Hadīth.
The reality of tasarruf
Imdād al-Fatāwā volume five contains a booklet of Hadrat Thānwī rahimahullāh titled at-Ta‛arruf fī Tahqīq at-Tasarruf. It has been translated by Hadrat Muftī Muhammad Shafī‛ Sāhib rahimahullāh. A few quotations from it are presented here.
The reality of tasarruf: The reality of it is for special praiseworthy feelings to be conferred on another person. This results in special effects on him. Due to the various objectives and purposes of these effects, they take on different categories and colours. In the terminology of the Sufis, it is known as tasarruf (influence), tawajjuh (focus), himmat (courage) and jam‛e khawātir (gathering of thoughts).
Further on, he writes under the heading Tanbīhāt (cautions):
First caution: Is this tasarruf which the Sufis resort to a Sunnat of Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‛alayhi wa sallam? Whatever I have been able to gather in this regard has been explained in part two of my booklet, at-Tarā’if wa az-Zarā’if. I feel it will suffice to quote it verbatim here. It is: It is narrated from authentic Ahādīth that Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‛alayhi wa sallam struck his hand on the chests of certain people resulting in their whisperings leaving them. He placed his blessed hand on certain sick people and their illness left them. Some people may assume that he resorted to tasarruf here. It is also not farfetched for a person to furnish these narrations as proof that resorting to tasarruf is Sunnat. However, if we ponder over this, we can conclude that this proof is incomplete. The reason for this is that in order for his action to be a tasarruf, it will have to be proven through an authentic narration that Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‛alayhi wa sallam accumulated his spiritual powers in order to produce these results [e.g. removing whisperings, getting rid of an illness]. And this is not proven. In fact, it is possible that he resorted to these actions because he was informed via divine revelation that they will be beneficial to them without having to resort to gathering of his thoughts (concentration) and applying his tasarruf. Based on this possibility, these actions are most certainly not included in the tasarruf as defined by the Sufis. This is why all the ‛ulamā’ of the ummat list these incidents among Rasūlullāh’s miracles which are totally different from tasarruf. The most clear indication that Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‛alayhi wa sallam never resorted to tasarruf is that he did not resort to it on the heart of Abū Tālib despite his extreme desire and wish for him to embrace Islam. Instead, he sufficed on making du‛ā’ for his īmān and inviting him to Islam. Even if the performance of tasarruf is at any time accepted with regard to him, it will not prove that it is Sunnat in the definition of the Sharī‛at. The reason for this is that for an act to be Sunnat in the definition of the Sharī‛at, it has to be practised. This is why wrestling is not referred to as Sunnat. This, notwithstanding the fact that Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‛alayhi wa sallam wrestled against Rukānah radiyallāhu ‛anhu on one occasion. In fact, even if it is proven to be his habit, it will not be termed a Sunnat-e-Maqsūdah because it is not necessary for a habitual Sunnat to be an act of worship.
Second caution: Is tasarruf a sign of wilāyat, piety and acceptance in the sight of Allāh ta‛ālā? The answer to this is that it is definitely not. Just as other bodily powers, hands, feet, etc. are used, so is the case with tasarruf. This was explained previously. [Imdād al-Fatāwā, vol. 5, pp. 231-233]
Hadrat Thānwī’s book, Sharī‛at Aur Tarīqat contains the following:
A lengthy Hadīth of Hadrat Ubayy ibn Ka‛b radiyallāhu ‛anhu contains the following:
When Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‛alayhi wa sallam saw me in the condition which had overcome me, he struck my chest causing me to break out into a sweat. It was as though I was looking at Allāh ta‛ālā out of fear.
The striking of the hand which resulted in this condition is known as tasarruf. Some people are naturally qualified for tasarruf even though they may not enjoy affinity with Allāh ta‛ālā. All it requires is expending one’s courage and will. If others also have a strong courage, they can stop it. The different ways of tasarruf are dependent solely on practice.
Diyā’ al-Qulūb states:
Strange and unique forms of tasarruf are not acquired without first acquiring the bond of self-obliteration and continuity. At the same time, practice or one’s innate power is also a prerequisite for it to be beneficial in Dīn. This is because the fundamental goal of a seeker is benefit in Dīn. The strange and unique forms of tasarruf referred to are those which are connected to sulūk.
Two levels of tawajjuh and tasarruf
There are two types of tasarruf and having an effect. One is to have an effect on a murīd’s inner self through which he develops a pull towards Allāh ta‛ālā. The other is to have an effect on other things of this world, either through courage or supplication.
There are two levels of tasarruf. One is involuntary in the sense that the heart desires for enthusiasm, love for Allāh ta‛ālā, fear of Him and so on to be developed in a certain person. He must make du‛ā’ for the person. There is no harm in it. The second level is the well-known one in the terminology of the Sufis. It entails the shaykh emptying his heart of all dangers and focuses on something specific. He works his imagination with the intention of having an effect or influence. Although this is permissible it is temperamentally disliked. The doer in such a situation is the force of lightening which is placed within man. This force is also found to a large extent in the ground. The falling of a person’s gaze one someone has an effect on the person. The source of mesmerism and tawajjuh which is known to us is the same. The only difference between the two is that one is utilized for a bad purpose and the other for a good one. It is dependent on practice. This is why they practise instilling affinity into others. Some mashā’ikh resort to this practice a lot. However, its benefit does not remain. The one who seeks spiritual feeling, considers it to be beneficial and therefore feels it is enough. This is why he gives up doing good.
There are a few doubts about it: (1) It is not related in the Sunnat. (2) Most people become lazy in carrying out good works. While there is no harm in having an effect on others, the person who practises tawajjuh has no tawajjuh whatsoever towards Allāh ta‛ālā at the time when he is practising it. If someone objects and says that there is no tawajjuh towards Allāh ta‛ālā even in normal ordinary conversations, the answer to him is that this is more serious because the heart has been wilfully emptied [in order to focus on the person]. It seems shameful to have one’s tawajjuh shifted away from Allāh ta‛ālā. This is what normally happens in the circles of tawajjuh.
The prescribed method of rectification is lecturing, advising and du‛ā’. Total tawajjuh is the right of Allāh ta‛ālā. However, it has certain etiquette. (1) One is that the objective and method must be permissible. (2) There must be no external or internal ostentation. A good way of ensuring this is to accompany it with du‛ā’, as we are taught du‛ā’ in the Hadīth. (3) One must not practise it too much for it could be a tribulation for the doer and the one on whom it is practised. This is why we do not find excessive mention of it with regard to Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‛alayhi wa sallam. Some people have committed excesses in this regard and the resulting tribulations bear testimony to it. The worst tribulation in this regard is that it is generally considered to be a feat of perfection, whereas this practice is solely out of necessity.
A necessity is calculated according to the level of necessity and suffice with what is necessary.
Some elders clearly stated that when dhikr does not have any effect on a murīd, the shaykh could resort to tawajjuh. The reason is the same:
Suffice with what is necessary.
Some ignorant people incorrectly assume that the conveying of blessings and benefit is in the control of the shaykh. Muslim Sharīf contains a Hadīth of Hadrat Abū Hurayrah radiyallāhu ‛anhu with reference to the verse:
You cannot guide whom you will. Rather, it is Allāh who guides whomever He wills. [Sūrah al-Qasas, 28: 56]
He says: This verse was revealed with reference to Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‛alayhi wa sallam. He was encouraging his uncle, Abū Tālib, towards Islam (and he was not paying heed).
This Hadīth rectifies this wrong assumption completely, viz. when Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‛alayhi wa sallam does not have such a power, how can it ever be possible for others!?
Bearing in mind that Dīnī benefit – which is the fundamental task of a shaykh – is totally out of his control, conveying worldly benefit will be even more out of his control. Many ignorant people are caught up in this misunderstanding. We seek refuge in Allāh ta‛ālā. They believe that the Ahlullāh have all divine powers. This belief has also been rectified by the above text of the Qur’ān. [Sharī‛at Aur Tarīqat, pp. 361-364]
Tawajjuh has a temporary effect
Another point which has to be understood is that the effect which results from tawajjuh is temporary. It is not lasting.
The following is contained in the Malfūzāt of Hadrat Thānwī rahimahullāh:
If someone thinks that notorious evil people were automatically rectified by the tawajjuh of certain Sufis, it should be understood that this is a type of tasarruf which is neither within one’s choice nor is it essential for piety. Many Sufis have no power of tasarruf whatsoever. Furthermore, tasarruf has no permanency. It is similar to a person sitting near an oven. As long as he remains there, his entire body will experience warmth. The moment he moves away from it, his body will turn cold. On the other hand, the effect which results from determination and good deeds is long lasting. It is similar to a person who consumes Kushta-e-Tilā in order to create heat within his body. Even if he were to go to the Shimlah mountain, the heat within himself will remain as it was. [Anfās-e-‛Īsā, vol. 1, pp. 14-15]
We learn from the above statement that it is not within a person’s control to bring a person onto the straight path through tawajjuh, just as it is not in the control of any person to guide someone. Tawajjuh is beneficial and effective only if Allāh ta‛ālā wills.
You cannot guide whom you will. Rather, it is Allāh who guides whomever He wills. He knows best those who are guided. [Sūrah al-Qasas, 28: 56]
Therefore, your objection that “if the tawajjuh of a shaykh is a means for rectitude and guidance, how is it that Rasūlullāh’s tawajjuh in respect of his beloved uncle, Abū Tālib, could not result in his guidance?” is baseless. If, according to you, every tawajjuh of Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‛alayhi wa sallam is accepted as beneficial for guidance, it would mean that on whoever he applied his tawajjuh, that person most definitely ought to become a Muslim. After all, Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‛alayhi wa sallam was commissioned for the guidance of all humanity. It was Rasūlullāh’s earnest desire for every person to be endowed with the wealth of īmān. So much so that Allāh ta‛ālā had to tell him not to be too saddened by the unbelievers’ abstention from īmān:
Would you, perhaps, destroy yourself with grief over them if they do not believe in this message? [Sūrah al-Kahf, 18: 6]
Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‛alayhi wa sallam had taken the names of certain unbelievers (like Abū Jahal) and made du‛ā’ for their guidance. Despite this, they were not blessed with guidance. It is obvious that to take the name of a person and make du‛ā’ for him entails focussing totally on that person (tawajjuh).
Refusal – one of the reasons for the ineffectiveness of tawajjuh
Sometimes the shaykh who is practising tawajjuh is an expert, but the murīd has no determination and confidence in the shaykh. In fact, he is refusing him. In such a case, the tawajjuh of even an expert shaykh is ineffective. Hadrat Maulānā Shāh Wasīyyullāh Sāhib Allāhābādī rahimahullāh has written two articles on this subject, ‛Āqibah al-Inkār and I‛tiqād Wa Inkār. These are contained in Ta’līfāt Muslihul Ummat. We present a quotation from it:
Bahjah an-Nufūs, a commentary of Bukhārī Sharīf relates the following incident from an erudite scholar:
A person came to an erudite shaykh with the intention of sulūk. The shaykh instructed him to remain in solitude and left him there for a few days. The shaykh then went to him and asked: “What do you make of my appearance?” The person replied: “You look like a pig.” The shaykh said: “You are right.” The shaykh left him in his solitude for a few days and went back to him and asked him the same question. The person said: “You look like a dog.” The shaykh left him and this continued until one day the person said: “You look like the full moon.” The shaykh said: “Your condition has been set right now.” He then asked him to come out of seclusion.
Look! We learn from this incident that a murīd sees his own self in the shaykh’s mirror. The shaykh was already a full moon from the first day; it is the murīd who went through changes but was attributing them to the shaykh. As his rectification was progressing, he began getting closer to the reality.
Nowadays, in addition to the mashā’ikh, there are many senior ‛ulamā’, scholars, jurists and Hadīth experts. Does every person who remains in their company come out as an expert? It is observed that the majority of those who qualify under them not only possess very little capabilities, they are in fact defective in their capabilities. In fact, they possess no capabilities. We can go to the point of saying that the ignoramuses have taken the place of the ‛ulamā’. Just one or two are worthy of doing some work. If this situation is witnessed in the external sciences, can it be said that it is actually the experts and the Hadīth specialists who are defective? Or can it be said that although their knowledge is accepted in its place, the defect and shortcomings are in the students in the sense that although they studied under such experts, they learnt nothing. When this is the case here, and everyone accepts that it is certainly not the fault of the ‛ulamā’, why is it that when it comes to the spiritual side, only the mashā’ikh are blamed? Why is it not assumed that the fault could be with the murīds, due to which they are not benefiting, and that the shaykh is an expert in his place!!
From among the prerequisites for a shaykh to be an expert, is it also a prerequisite for every murīd of his to be an expert? This is totally against the reality because it could be that the shaykh is an expert but those who frequent him are deprived of his teachings because of their own shortcomings and wrongs. Look at the most perfect of all humans – Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‛alayhi wa sallam and his blessed era. Despite living in his era and being in his company, people like Abū Jahal and Abū Lahab remained deprived. Similar was the case with the hypocrites. We learn from this that there are certain prerequisites in order to derive benefit from a person. Prerequisites have to be fulfilled by both – the mentor and the mentee. As for the internal self, it is much more intricate. Thus, its prerequisites are also more intricate. In order to derive internal benefit, it is essential for a person to first fulfil those prerequisites and to remove whatever obstacles he has in its path. If the shaykh alone is an expert, what can he achieve? The seeker too has to be genuine and devoted. Now if a person did not learn under these personalities according to the prerequisites laid down, how can it be the fault of the personalities? [Ta’līfāt Muslihul Ummat, vol. 1, pp. 39-41]
The Maktūbāt of Khwājah Muhammad Ma‛sūm rahimahullāh contains the following:
The tawajjuh of a shaykh-e-kāmil is such that even if mountains of darkness and filth appear from all sides, he can repulse them from a genuine murīd and purify his internal self. This tawajjuh of a shaykh is also beneficial to a seeker when he is in a state of retraction. The shaykh can create expansion very quickly in him and open the path of progress for him.
In short, the basis for success is that companionship and tawajjuh which is accompanied by faith [in the shaykh] and complete submission. In other words, there must be love and handing over one’s self completely from the seeker, and tawajjuh from the shaykh. Love alone – without the tawajjuh of a shaykh – can be a guide. In other words, it can be beneficial and can provide progress. However, tawajjuh of the shaykh alone and no love at all from the seeker cannot be of much benefit. [Ta’līfāt Muslihul Ummat, vol. 4, pp. 153-154]
The Maktūbāt of Khwājah Muhammad Ma‛sūm states:
I received your letter. It arrived at a most opportune time. You requested tawajjuh for yourself and your murīds. We occasionally practice tawajjuh. Allāh willing, we will practise it more. However, it is essential for you to know that the basis for success is “spiritual bond”. It can also be expressed by the words love, conviction and submission. The stronger this bond with one’s mentor, the more the seeker will derive from the blessings of the shaykh’s internal self. The presence of pure love and spiritual bond is sufficient to draw blessings from an expert shaykh, even if there is no tawajjuh from him. Tawajjuh alone, without any love and spiritual bond, is not effective at all. For tawajjuh to be effective, there has to be a suitable recipient for it. Obviously, when tawajjuh is combined with the abovementioned spiritual bond, it will become most splendorous. In short, the basis is a strong spiritual bond and following the Sunnat of Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‛alayhi wa sallam. If a person is firmly embedded in these two things, he has nothing to worry about. He will eventually succeed and he will not be deprived of the excellent qualities of the elders. But if there is a defect in either of these two, there is nothing but danger no matter how much the person may exert himself. [Maktūbāt Khwājah Ma‛sūm, p. 102]
From the above text we learn that the reason why Rasūlullāh’s perfect tawajjuh on his beloved uncle, Abū Tālib was not effective was the latter’s refusal. His refusal was not only from the heart but from the tongue as well. The Musnad Ahmad, Bukhārī, Muslim and Nasa’ī state: When Abū Tālib was on his death bed, Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‛alayhi wa sallam came to him. Abū Jahal and ‛Abdullāh ibn Umayyah were also present. Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‛alayhi wa sallam said: “O uncle! Say Lā Ilāha Illallāh just once so that I will have one proof with which I could intercede on your behalf in front of Allāh ta‛ālā.” Abū Jahal and ‛Abdullāh ibn Umayyah said: “O Abū Tālib! Are you going to leave the religion of ‛Abd al-Muttalib?” Abū Tālib refused to say the kalimah. The last words which emanated from his tongue were: “On the religion of ‛Abd al-Muttalib.” [Sīratul Mustafā, vol. 1, pp. 280-281]
Why tawajjuh is not effective on a rejecter
The reason for tawajjuh not being effective on a rejecter is that he does not demonstrate any need. His condition reflects his claim to perfection. Hadrat Thānwī rahimahullāh writes:
The effect of tawajjuh falls on a person who considers himself in need of it and does not make any claims to his own perfection. Tawajjuh is effective on the masses but not on the elite because the latter display no need and desire for it. They claim that others are in need of them. [Anfās-e-‛Īsā, vol. 1, p. 49]