Hazrat Mohammed Siraj Elschot writes:-
Al-Qashani is the author of the Persian handbook of the Sufis the Misbaah al-hidaaya wa
Miftaah al-Kifaaya - 'The Lamp of Right Guidance and the Key to What is Sufficient'. This
book has been partially translated into English by Wilbeforce Clark, while the impression is
given that it is the Arabic book of as-Suhrawardi, the 'Awaarif al-Ma-aarif. I have translated
the chapter HOW THE MUREED SHOULD BEHAVE TOWARDS HIS OR HER SHAYKH as
given in the book of al-Qashani and perhaps later on I'll see if as-Suhrawardi mentions
more. Links to associated books in Sharib Library have been added.
How The Mureed Should Behave Towards His or Her Shaykh
Know this: It belongs to the most important rules of the mureed, that she or he takes care of behaving
properly towards her or his shaykh, because of the fact that the guarding of the ways of behaviour creates
love in the heart. It so happens that the beauty of your spirit and the perfection of your intelligence can
only be seen in the shape of the beauty of your way of behaviour. If you are always courteous towards
your shaykh, then because of the love that is created you'll win a place in the heart of your shaykh and
then the eye of the mercy of God will rest on you. God is always looking with the eye of mercy and care on
the hearts of His friends. If the mureed finds a fixed place in the heart of her/his shaykh, then the blessings
of the always lasting divine mercy will be hers/his. The acceptance by the shaykh will be the sign that he
has no objection towards you and is the clear proof of the being accepted by God and His messenger and
all the shaykhs who are the linking-pins between your shaykh and the messenger of God.
Some of the duties towards your shaykh you can only realise by showing good manners. By showing
respect towards religious scholars and shaykhs, who are your spiritual fathers, you fulfil an important duty
and if you would neglect these things then this is nothing else but negligence and disobedience. In the
ahadith it is said: "Who does not honour our great ones and who does not show mercy towards our 'little
ones' and who does not acknowledge the right of our scholars, does not belong to us". If you neglect the
right of your shaykh, who as a mediator represents by his right the right of God, then you also fail in your
duty towards God, because "if you show neglect towards your lowest lord, then you will not reach your
highest Lord". The shaykh in the midst of his companions who gives them teachings is like the prophet in
the midst of his companions. When the shaykh calls you to the path of the imitation of the messenger of
God, then he is the representative of the messenger of God: "The shaykh among his community is like the
prophet in his community".
At the moment there are fifteen rules for the mureeds towards their shaykh present in my spirit. These are
both universal as well as particular rules.
The first rule expresses the conviction that only your shaykh should take care of your education,
guidance, training and teaching. If you should look towards someone else as being comparable to him or
even more perfect than him, then your connection with your shaykh, based on love and inclination, is weak
and because of that the words and the spiritual states of your shaykh will have little effect on you. The way
by means of which words get through to you and give you a connection with the states of your shaykh, is
love. If your love is more perfect, then the more your disposition will be open to be educated by your
The second rule implies the fixed decision to persevere in the obedience towards your shaykh. You should
know that the door of the divine mercy will only open because of your constancy in obedience and service.
Either I give my life at his doorstep or I'll reach my goal. A sign hereof is that you do not turn away, when
your shaykh says no to you and when he keeps you at a distance, because a shaykh often tests you when
he scans your spiritual states.
Abu 'Uthman-e-Hiri [d. 298/910-11; he has been of prime importance in the Sufism of Khorasan] came to
Neshapur obeying [his shaykh] Shah-e-Kermani [d. before 300/912-13; he was a mureed of Abu Turab an-
Nakhshabi] to visit Abu Hafs-e-Haddad [d. 270/883-4 or earlier; he was a malamatiyya, that is he followed
the path of blame]. When he saw the light of his sanctity, his [Abu Hafs] blessed look attracted him in such
a way that he [Abu 'Uthman] became a prisoner in his net. When the time to return had come, he then
asked Shah-e-Kermani if he could stay [with Abu Hafs]. At that time he was in the midst of his youth. Abu
Hafs however chased him away and said: "You are not allowed to sit in my company". He then obeyed this
decision and retreated, walking with his back towards the door, until the shaykh could no longer see him.
Abu 'Uthman then decided that he would dig a hole near his door and to remain sitting in it and not to
come out except if Abu Hafs would accept him and call him. When Abu Hafs saw his honest determination,
he called him, made him one of his special companions, married his daughter to him and appointed him as
his successor. After the death of this shaykh, he sat for thirty years in his place.
The third rule implies that you submit yourself to the choices of your shaykh. As a mureed you should
accept every decision of your shaykh dealing with your person or with your possessions and you should
obey every decision being submitted and content. This is the only way that you can win the jewel of his
attention and his love. Only by this measuring rod the quality of your sincerity can be determined
according to the advice present in the following words [Qur'an 4:65]: "Yet by your Lord, they will never
believe until they name you to judge concerning what they are quarrelling over among themselves
concerning whatever you have decided, and will accept it wholeheartedly".
Question: How do you know that you can trust your shaykh (or your shaykh to be if you are not yet his
mureed)? As you know there are many charlatans around who are only interested in your money or are
eager to increase their power over other persons.
The fourth rule stipulates that you should not criticise [your shaykh]. The mureed should never occupy
himself/herself, neither inwardly nor outwardly, with criticising the choices and decisions of his/her shaykh.
Each time when something is unclear regarding the behaviour of your shaykh then you should think of the
story of Moses and Khidr [see Qur'an 18:60-82), wherein Moses in spite of being a prophet, his great
knowledge and his passionate devotion to Khidr, criticised several of the acts of Khidr, but he changed his
ideas after hearing an explanation of their inner meanings. If your shaykh does something which you
cannot understand, then you should say that it is because of your limited understanding and knowledge
and in no way has it to do with a wrong behaviour of your shaykh. Thus you will be free of the possibility
that the relationship with your shaykh will suffer and that love may diminish. A mureed of al-Junayd [d. 910
C.E.] asked him a question and then criticised his answer. Al-Junayd then said (Qur'an 44:21): 'When you
do not believe me, then keep away from me'
The fifth rule demands that you decline from making your own choices. The mureed is not allowed to
undertake anything - neither religious nor worldly, universal or particular - without finding out what the
shaykh wants and chooses. You should not eat nor drink, nor dress yourself, nor give presents, nor sleep,
nor take, nor give but with the permission of the shaykh. You should not perform any religious practices
without the permission and the specification of your shaykh, like for instance fasting or taking food,
voluntary devotional practices or limiting yourself to those practices which are obligatory or the
remembrance of God, the recitation of the Qur'an and being absorbed in something. It so happened one
night that the messenger passed the house of Abu Bakr and overheard him reciting the Qur'an in his
nightly prayers with a low voice. Then he passed the house of 'Umar and heard him recite the Qur'an in his
nightly prayers in a loud voice. When the two of them came to the messenger of God in the morning he
asked Abu Bakr why he recited the Qur'an in his nightly prayers in a low voice. He answered: "I listen to
the One with Whom I converse". He asked 'Umar why he recited in a loud voice. He answered: "I drive
away the Satan and I awake the one who is sleeping". Then he ordered them that they should not recite in
a too soft voice nor in a voice that is too loud, they should follow a middle course. Then the Quranic verse
17:110 was revealed: "And pray neither with a loud nor with a low voice, but follow a middle course". This
is a proof that when you have a spiritual guide you should not follow your own insight. This is also true
when this concerns a true insight.
The sixth rule implies the observing of the thoughts of your shaykh. The mureed is not allowed to
undertake anything, which rejects the thoughts of one's shaykh. You should not consider them to be of
little importance, because you rely on the kindness, the perfect clemency, the friendliness and the
forgiveness of your shaykh. What enters the consciousness of shaykhs because of rejection or
acceptance has a very strong influence on the person of the disciple.
The seventh rule demands of you that you ask your shaykh to give an explanation of your visions. The
mureed should depend on his or her shaykh in regard to the explanation of visions, no matter if they come
in your sleep or during your wakefulness. You should not independently decide on your own that there is
no harm in them. It is namely possible that such visions come about because of secret desires in your
soul, but that you are not able to see them as such and that they are judged to be harmless, which may
not be the case. When you however speak about it with your shaykh and your shaykh by his rich
knowledge gets really acquainted with it, then you have the opinion of your shaykh to help you to realise it
in a practical way when it is harmless. When it may mean an injury, then this has also become clear.
The eighth rule demands that you give an attentive ear to the words of your shaykh. The mureed should
wait and be attentive in regard to everything that comes from the lips of his or her shaykh. He or she
should see his tongue as a means of expression of the speech of God and be convinced that he (your
shaykh) speaks by means of God and that his speech does not stem from his own desire and that he has
reached the station of 'He is speaking by me'. You should see his heart as a boisterous sea, filled with all
kinds of pearls of knowledge and precious gems of gnosis, a sea which every now and then - because of
the blowing of the winds of pre-eternal providence - may cast some of these pearls and precious stones
on the shore of the tongue. You should therefore take care and be attentive, so that you are not excluded
from anything from the words of your shaykh, which may be useful and beneficial to you.
You should also try to harmonize every word of your shaykh with your own state. You should imagine that
you are formulating a request for your well-being at the door of God with a receptive tongue and in the
measure of your receptivity a speech coming from the unseen descends to you. When you are talking with
your shaykh you should keep away from your own ego, you should be far away from hypocrisy by showing
your own knowledge and gnosis and by presenting yourself as beautiful and perfect. Because when you
try to speak yourself and when you are waiting for the oppurtunity to talk yourself, then you remove
yourself from the position of a mureed and the ear of your heart will become deaf to the words of your
shaykh. In their explanations of the reason that the Qur'anic verse 49:1: 'O, believers! Do not press
forward before Allah and His Messenger…' has been revealed, some commentators have written: There
have been people in the company of the messenger of God who - when someone asked him a question -
developed the habit to give their own opinion, this until the Almighty by means of this verse from the
Qur'an made it clear that this was wrong and forbidden.
The nineth rule demands that you should lower your voice. When you are together with your shaykh you
should not speak with a loud voice, as it is not courteous. It is as if you put down the robe of dignity. In
order to teach something the following verse in the Qur'an (49:2) has been revealed: 'O, believers! Do not
raise your voices above the prophet's voice!' Thereafter their words were difficult to understand as they
were lowering their voices too much. That is why the following verse (49:3) from the Qur'an has been
revealed: 'Those who lower their voices in the presence of the messenger of God are those whose hearts
God has tested for reverence'.
The tenth rule implies that you do not show negligence in your behaviour. A too free type of behaviour in
the contact with your shaykh is not allowed, neither in words nor in deeds, because if you just let it all go
then the veil of modesty and the dress of worthy behaviour are taken away and the flow of mercy then gets
interrupted. You should use respectful terms when addressing him, so you should say: 'Sir!' or 'O, my
The companions of the prophet - in the beginning - did not use respectful terms when using his name.
They said: 'Mohammad!' and 'Ahmad!' until this was disallowed in the word of God (see Qur'an 49:2) that
was sent down:
And do not be loud in speaking to him, as you speak loudly to one another, lest your works come to grieve
while you are unaware.
Thereafter they addressed him by using 'Messenger of God!' or 'Prophet of God!'.
Representatives of the Banu Tamim, in order to get him out, shouted out in front of the inner apartments
of the prophet: 'Mohammad! Come out to us!'
Then these elevated words were revealed (Qur'an 49:4-5): Those who shout out to you from without the
inner apartments, most of them do not understand. Had they waited for you to come out to meet them, it
would have been better for them.
Just as you should not be to free in your speech to your shaykh, you should see it as your duty to honour
and respect him in your acts. That is why, when you are in the company of your shaykh, you should roll
out your praying-carpet only during the times of the ritual prayers. When listening to Sufi music you should
refrain from making movements and you should not call out, and as long as you have the power to control
yourself, you should not move when you are in the company of the shaykh. You should also refrain from
The eleventh rule implies, that you should recognise the right moment to speak. In case the mureed would
like to discuss important religious or worldly things, then you should first ascertain whether the shaykh is
willing to use his own time in such a way, is willing to listen to you or not. You should not be in a hurry to
talk to your shaykh. Start to concentrate on the Almighty and ask Him for His grace and ask for help
coming from His divine glory, so that you may not make any mistakes in regard to the proper rules of
It is also proper, when coming thus near to God, to give something away in charity. This is just like the
companions of the messenger of God - God's blessings and peace be upon him - had to do if they wanted
to speak with him, as is said by God in Qur'an 58: 12 thus:
If you have something to discuss privately with the messenger,
Then spend something in charity
Before your private consultation.
Ibn 'Abbaas ['Abdallah Ibn al-'Abbaas, d. 687-90, was a very important scholar in the first generation of
Muslims] has said: 'The actual cause for the revelation of this verse of the Qur'an was that the people in
their contact with the messenger of God asked him too many importune questions and thus wearied him.
That is why these words have been revealed. Thus it is possible to see who is a friend and who is a
hypocrite. It is said that 'Ali was the only one to practice what was said in this verse. He always gave a
dinaar and thereafter he spoke with the messenger. It is said that 'Ali has claimed the following: 'In the
book of God there is a verse and no one has acted on it before me and no one will act on it after me'.
The twelfth rule implies that you should guard the boundaries of your own spiritual station. The mureed
should, when asking questions to the shaykh, preserve the limits of his or her own station. Only when
something is hidden to yourself concerning your own spiritual state, should you ask for an explanation. Do
not ask questions about other things, and this is also true regarding things not related to your station nor
to your state. So do not speak about these things, as it is not useful to do so and possibly even harmful.
Ask about those things, which are necessary because of your spiritual state. The word which knows no
beginning, gave - see Qur'an 5:101 - while forbidding superfluous questions, the following advice:
Do not ask questions
About things which if made known to you,
May cause you trouble!
The profitable word is that which you utter to the degree of the understanding of the hearer. The profitable
question is that one which corresponds with the station of the hearer (of the response).
The thirteenth rule implies that you keep silent about the secrets of your shaykh. Supernatural powers,
visions and other things, concealed by the shaykh, for its divulging you should not ask permission.
Because in concealing it, your shaykh has seen a religious or worldly advantage and you are not always
able to be aware thereof. In divulging the same damage may be caused.
This rule also implies that the secrets of the mureed, which are known by the shaykh, belong to the
secrets of the shaykh. The following lines describe his situation:
There are many sincere and noble people,
Whose secrets I conceal from others,
As I hide them all in myself.
In every heart there is a corner, which is free,
A realm for intimate conversations,
And their revealing is not desirable.
The fourteenth rule implies that you should reveal your own secrets to your shaykh. It is not allowed that
the mureed hides his or her secrets for the shaykh. Every gift of grace and each other gift, as has been
willed to be yours by God, should be shown in clear language or explanations to the shaykh, so that he
can be the judge thereof.
It is like this, that when in your consciousness a personal secrets remains hidden, then in your inner being
a knot may form itself, which may make it impossible to receive advice and help from the shaykh. When
you present it to your shaykh, then the knot opens up and the impediment is removed.
The fifteenth rule implies that what you tell about your shaykh (or when you tell something that comes from
your shaykh) it should be compatible with the understanding of the one you tell it to. Do not pass on those
things, which are unclear or very subtle, as the one who listens to you cannot understand the same. A
speech, from which the listener cannot derive what the one who has been speaking has meant, is useless
and can be harmful. The one listening could form a bad opinion about your shaykh.
When the disciple observes all these rules, then the acquisition of the lights of the divine mercy and the
descent of God's boundless blessing - towards which you aimed - will be revealed in your outward and
inner being, and you will take your place in the inner circle
Please note that the aim of the aforesaid rules is only to realise the proper behaviour in order that
teaching and learning can take place. Every Sufi order and every shaykh modifies the above according to
the place, the time and the people concerned.
This concludes the translation of the 15 rules from Mahmud-e-Qashani in his 'Lamp of Guidance and the
Key to what is Sufficient'.
Mohammed Siraj Elschot, (Krimpen a/d Yssel, Holland,)
(received on October 31st 2000)
Published by The Zahuri Sufi Web Site October 2000
Dr Sharib with disciples:
Mohammed Siraj, Faiz Ferguson,
and Jamiluddin Morris Zahuri.