by Murshid F. A. Ali ElSenossi

Bismillahi Rahman ir Raheem

Qul ya ahuha ladheena aamanou, kunu ma' as sadiqeen. (Oh, you who believe, be with the truthful ones).

Adab is right behaviour or courtesy; the spiritual courtesy of the Way. Each moment, each situation, has its particular adab: right courtesy with one's own self, right courtesy with the creation, and right courtesy with Allah and His Messenger. The one who knows Allah ('arif) sees things as they are in their reality. He has discernment and therefore is able to observe the right behaviour that each moment demands. It has been said by the Lovers of Allah of the Sufi Path that "all Tasawwuf is courtesy." The one with adab is he who has constant and perfect awareness of Allah. His heart is always connected to his Lord, at all times and in all situations. That is Perfect adab. The Holy Prophet Muhammad - May the Blessings of Allah be upon him and Peace - said: "I was sent to complete the noble (beautiful) character traits of humanity"; and Allah says in the Holy Qur'an, regarding the Holy Prophet Muhammad: "And thou (standest) on an exalted standard of character." (68:4).

The Sufis follow in the footsteps of the Holy Prophet MuhammadSalutations on The Prophet and so Tasawwuf is all courtesy and adab; which extends from right behaviour with regard to the Sacred Law (Shari'a) and reaches to unceasing spiritual courtesy to Allah Himself. The murid's adab towards the Murshid becomes more refined as he travels the Path. With the opening of his inner-eye he is able to see the reality of his Murshid and such a "seeing" necessarily brings with it a beautiful adab.

It has always been difficult and slightly complicated to put the matter of courtesy and spiritual manners for the travelers on the Path of Allah, or more precisely, on the Path of Tassawwuf down on paper. The spiritual way of the teaching of the Holy Prophet MuhammadSalutations on The Prophet is deeply founded on good ethics and high manners. If we look to the revelation of the Holy Qur'an, Allah has said with regards to the Holy ProphetSalutations on The Prophet, "We have not sent thee except as a mercy to all creations". And the Holy ProphetSalutations on The Prophet himself said "I have been sent to complete the higher, beautiful manners"

The first word of the Revelation was "Read". This is a clear sign to us that our success lies in reading of the Holy Qur'an and the teaching of the Holy ProphetSalutations on The Prophet; so that we can learn to implement them upon ourselves. In addition, we should also read books to do with the teaching that have been recommended to us either generally or specifically.

When we speak of spiritual respect and courtesy towards the Murshid (Spiritual Guide) or the teacher that we follow, it means that we respect the teachings of Allah and the way of the Holy ProphetSalutations on The Prophet; that is the Sunnah.

The teaching of Tasawwuf is nothing but the methodology of the Holy ProphetSalutations on The Prophet, or, as it is also known, 'Ilm an Nabuwwa, the Knowledge of Prophethood.

If you are a Muslim, you will know what is right and what is wrong and how to discipline yourself by reading and practicing what you learn. And, if you are humble, of course, you may ask others who are more knowledgeable than you. As Allah has said, 'the best among you is the one who is more conscious of Me' (Inna akramakoum 'inda Lahi atkaa'koum).

The Holy ProphetSalutations on The Prophet has said 'the one who does not have mercy on our youngsters or respect for our elders is not one of us'. Islam and in particular, the heart teaching, which is the spiritual psychological teaching of Islam (Tasawwuf), deals with the highest and most beautiful conduct that could be found on this earth.

For those who have embarked upon their spiritual journey of realisation in the Western world, the subject of Adab or spiritual courtesy is perhaps a little bit confusing - because of the conditioning of the Western mind and the way that people are raised in the West. This is also applicable to a certain extent to those who have been born Muslim and then seek the Path of Tasawwuf.

Firstly, what does it mean to have a Murshid to guide you along the Path? Islam is based upon three fundamental foundations as the Holy ProphetSalutations on The Prophet has called them:

1. What I say is Sharia'h (the law) and the good manners of behaviour.
2. What I do is Tariqa (the Way).
3. My inner state is Haqiqah (total realizations).

When you look for a Murshid, you are looking for Tariqa, a way to return to your primordial self and this is not an easy task. Many people have lost themselves on the way because of lack of respect and courtesy, and most importantly, love. You cannot learn from your teacher if you do not love him (there must be a connection between your heart and his).

You start with respect, honour and good conduct in his presence. Like any other teaching, if you want to learn, you must pay attention. This is not kindergarten, it is a school of spiritual travel of the most powerful teaching in the Universe. Your behaviour and conduct towards your spiritual guide will indicate very clearly how sincere you are, how devoted to your aim you are and how hard you are trying to master your himma (spiritual resolve).

In our time, the 21st Century, means of instant communications come to us like unwanted nightmares - people with mobile phones, laptops, FAX machines, satellite photos of your Murshid's house on Google Earth, just to name a few. Under these conditions, maintaining one's privacy has become very difficult for the Murshid and for the murid (pupil) as well as for humanity in general. If you have the good fortune to live in close proximity to your spiritual teacher, you should regard yourself as very lucky. However, with this kind of luck comes responsibility. If these responsibilities are not understood and taken seriously, you may enter the arena of 'familiarity breeds contempt' and you will lose one of the most pleasant spiritual blessings (baraka) of the suhba (companionship). This is one of the most essential keys to understanding the teaching of luminations.

Let us now give some advice that the seeker should take to heart:

The Murshid is a human being. He has a family, may have a business to run or a full time job to attend to in order to earn his living. If the number of murids increases so that the Murshid is required on a full-time basis, then it is their responsibility to make sure that he is not in need or bothered or worried about financial matters, so that he may devote his complete attention to the teaching and the needs of the seekers.

Sayyidina Abu Bakr as Siddiq, when he was appointed as the first successor after the Holy ProphetSalutations on The Prophet, went the very next day to the market to do business to earn his living. He was told 'you cannot do business when you have to take care of the community'. He reluctantly agreed to receive a certain amount from the community treasury (Bayt al Maal) to keep his family and himself.

If you are taking your teaching in Tasawwuf seriously, you must understand that there are two types of learning on this Path - discipline and knowledge. Part of discipline is the purification of the self and removal of negative qualities. This differs from one individual to another. One seeker may come; ready for knowledge, his character and his manners and conduct already of excellent quality. He should focus seriously on attaining knowledge and practice his Awrad (Spiritual work which is assigned to him by his Murshid) with great diligence and sincerity, having no doubt whatsoever that through these practices, with the Grace of Allah, the blessing of the Holy ProphetSalutations on The Prophet, and the guidance of his Murshid, that he will attain to felicity.

If you are in need of discipline, which every human being is, then pay close attention (the only ones who do not need discipline are those who are chosen from pre-eternity as Prophets and Messengers of Allah). BUT, if you think you are a Prophet or a Messenger of God, then you don't need a Murshid, you need a shrink, because you are in a state of total disillusionment, so don't waste our time. We have seen many people who read one or two books on Tasawwuf, have a dream or two, and suddenly they think they are the Qutb of the universe. They think lumination comes in 'instant', like the coffee they drink. We are in the age of the 'quickening'. People do not have patience or respect for teaching or any understanding of the authentic traditions of Tasawwuf.

Conditioning and the idea of individuality in the age of blind materialism are attempts to destroy any decency or coherence of the human to learn proper manners and conduct based on Divine teaching - to become a real human being.

Now, back to the subject of the Murshid and the murid:

The murid should respect his Murshid. You should always try to be conscious in the presence of your Murshid.

You should not sit when he is standing.

Do not fall asleep in his presence, except in a situation where sleep is required, then you may ask permission to be excused.

You should not talk too much in his presence or allow your voice to rise above his.

Do not sit in his place or use his Qur'an, Tasbih or prayer mat, or read any of his private books.

Do not sit in a chair that has been designated for him.

You should not be stubborn in insisting on an answer pertaining to a certain matter. The Murshid will respond when and if it is necessary.

For courtesy, respect, and honour, you should not travel anywhere, get married, or start a business without consulting with him first. (Not after you have already made your plans).

You should never go to his home or bring anyone else nearby without being invited.

You should never call him at home without a pre-arranged appointment.

Do not go after the Murshid when he rises to leave. When the Murshid has given his salams, this is an indication that he is leaving the centre and may have other matters to attend to. Do not attempt to speak with him or follow him to the door.

If it is necessary that you speak with him, please make an appointment through the Centre.

You should not walk in front of him, except at night, if you feel that you need to protect him from harm.

You should not speak very highly of the Murshid in front of his enemy because they may become hostile and vulgar towards him.

One key factor is that the murid should keep his Murshid in visualization when he is absent from him as if he were in front of you. Lock your heart to his in all conduct, business, travel and all other affairs. Always maintain a close spiritual link of heart to heart.

The murid should not keep the company of those whom the Murshid does not like or those who have been removed from his presence. In a nutshell, you should love what your Murshid loves and should dislike of people what your Murshid dislikes. This is a 'rule of thumb' in the spiritual teaching of Tasawwuf.

One should see that all blessing that comes to one's life, in the material and the spiritual states of being, comes from the baraka of the Tariqa and the Murshid.

Implementation of the Awrad that has been set by the Murshid is of the highest order. This includes the practices that have been implemented for the last 1400 years - the five daily prayers, remembrance of Allah, contemplation, meditation, visualization of and rabtat al Murshid (fixing one's heart to the heart of the Murshid). It is a good idea to have a special notebook to write thoughts and questions in to contemplate on and, if need be, to ask your Murshid.

Anyone who abandons the practices will be deprived of spiritual help and may also show that he is not fit for the Path of Allah. We should note here that there is no easier method for returning back to the source of life and knowledge than the teaching of the Holy ProphetSalutations on The Prophet. Any of the practices that are assigned to the murid come directly from the teaching of the Holy ProphetSalutations on The Prophet and the Holy Qur'an, with no innovations. We have always said that the Holy Qur'an, in the form of Revelation has been completed, but its unfolding will never end, for it is with the Mother of the Book

Among the rules are that he should not spy on the conditions of the Shaykh, his spiritual practices, and his behaviour and conduct. This could bring disaster for a murid.

One should never enter the Murshid's place of seclusion without his permission, should not open a door or remove a curtain where the Shaykh is sitting without clear permission being given.

It will be a wonderful and good habit, that when you sit with your spiritual teacher, you are always in a state of ritual purification. The presence of the Murshid also represents the Presence of Allah. One should maintain good thoughts in all conditions.

When one comes to the Sufi Study Centre, you should not just 'drop in' because there is nothing else to do, but always should make a clear intention to visit.

It is the responsibility of all murids to keep the Centre clean and fresh smelling. It should be a competition between murids to obtain the baraka of cleaning the Centre, not run away from it with the speed of Hailey's Comet, only to return 75 years later - -for it is a great honour in the Divine Presence.

One should put love of his Murshid above everybody and everything else except Allah Most High and our Beloved Holy ProphetSalutations on The Prophet. These guidelines are in regard to conduct with the Murshid, however there are also other aspects of adab for the murid to put into practice.

With his brothers and sisters, he should show love to both the old and the young.

Food should be brought into the Centre for the benefit of all those who are there, not just for the individual who brought it.

He should love for his brothers and sisters what he loves for himself. As the Holy ProphetSalutations on The Prophet said 'No one becomes a believer until he loves for others what he loves for himself'.

He should visit them if they are sick.

He should enquire about them if they are absent and should greet them first with salutations, a smiling face and should always think that they are better than he.

He should always attempt to please them and should not race and compete with his brothers with regards to material things, but should help them as much as possible.

One should forgive the mistakes and shortcomings of the brothers and sisters. The capital of his spiritual business is to forgive his brothers and sisters, inward and outward.

He should not complain about them.

He should love their friends and dislike their enemy.

The older should guide the younger. The young should learn from the elder.

He should serve them, even by the smallest token of bringing their shoes to them.

He should be peaceful and kind in his conduct towards them.

With regards to the adab of the murid upon his own self:

He should busy himself with Allah and focus on the love of Allah. He should love what Allah loves and should abandon anything that Allah dislikes.

He should be generous, kind and well balanced with regards to his material life.

Be conscious that we only have this life to transform our selves and experience real knowledge, love and luminations. If we practice all of what has been written in this small article, I promise you, my dear brothers and sisters on the Path of Allah, with the Grace and the Love of the Compassionate and Merciful Allah that you will experience and live in a higher spiritual state. Even the Angels will envy you for it.

Tasawwuf is a wonderful teaching, very well structured and the method is so wonderful and full of excitement and luminations. One can never get enough of this beautiful teaching. There is a starting point, but the end is endless and this is what makes this great teaching the most powerful in the world. It is the only teaching available that can save humanity
from itself and return us to the source of peace, knowledge and harmony.

There is so much more that we could say on the subject, but we are speaking to adults, whom we hope will understand by isharah (indications). As for those who have no courtesy, no respect for and no understanding of this wonderful, luminous teaching of our Beloved Prophet, Muhammad al MustaphaSalutations on The Prophet, we have no quarrel with them. We say to them, good luck. Whatever direction you take you will meet the Face of Allah. Perhaps not the face that you expect or hope for, but the meeting will take place, sooner or later.

And Allah speaks the truth and He guides to the straight path.

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