Recent events have reminded me of an essay I wrote about five years ago.
I penned this shortly after having a run-in with a member of "The Pointy Turban Club(tm)", my name for the kind of people who try to promote themselves, their teacher and their "fan club" over all others by trying to tear down whatever isn't them.
I find my thoughts about this subject to be equally applicable to martial arts and a host of other areas of human endeavor as well.
This unfortunate behavior is one of the things that is killing us, we really should find a way to fix it.
One day a seeker came to Haji Bektash Wali and asked; "Why do the Tariqas differ so much?" Haji Bektash replied " To shoot an arrow into a target you must have several things, an arrow, a bow, a bow string and thumb ring, and a man to pull the bow and aim the arrow. These are the elements that make up the act of shooting. They are called a path (tariqa)."
"But if the aim is to hit one object with another, then there are ten thousand way of doing so. Only the superficial would think that shooting an arrow is the only way of hitting one thing with another. This is called The inner Path (Mar'ifa)."
"All you have to do to find your answer is to realize this"
"But" The seeker persisted, "How are we to tell which is the correct way for us?"
Haji Bektash replied, "The people who pretend that you will be able to know the most suitable path for yourself are the same ones who pretend that what you like is what you need. Undeveloped man does not have the capacity to find the way for himself. He needs someone to arrange the circumstances, such as aligning two things in such a way that they collide, as in the analogy of the arrow and the target."
My Shaykh has said over and over "we may only accept those who belong to us". This is why when someone comes to our meetings and asks for initiation he may be refused, though he is often allowed to stay with us if he wishes, until he finds his place.
There has been an unfortunate tendency in the spirituality of the West to forget this simple truth; that different people will need different circumstances in order to grow toward Allah.
It sometimes seems that there is some kind of contest going on. How many murids can we get? How much money can we get? How many books can we get our names on? How much like a Sufi can we look, without ever wondering about how much like a Sufi we can act?
In times past it was said "Sufism is Adab" (good manners). While lip service is still paid to this idea, one wonders if anyone can describe the actions of Adab anymore. Make no mistake about
this, Adab is action. It does one no good at all to know all the "rules" if one does not implement them. The clothes of a Darvish will not help if one has the manners of a donkey. To think about good conduct, to dream about it, to judge it in others is meaningless if one does not act on what they think they know.
In today's milieu of events and seminars we often see the murids of one Shaykh whispering slander about another Shaykh. We see murids putting forth their teacher as the only real possessor of knowledge available with the intimation that all others are frauds.
What is even sadder is that we see one Shaykh snubbing another in public, or speaking ill of another to their students. We the students learn by following the example of our teacher.
Perhaps it is time that we look to the teachings of Futawwah (spiritual chivalry).
The Prophet (SAW) said:
From Sahih al Boukhari Volume 4, Book 56, Number 759
Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Amr:
The Prophet never used bad language neither a "Fahish nor a Mutafahish. He used to say "The best amongst you are those who have the best manners and character."
Spiritual chivalry is the path of good behavior and good character. It has always been part of the Sufi way in that Ali ibn abu Talib was the first among the Chivalrous and passed futawwah to us
as part of Tariqa.
It is possible that the path of spiritual chivalry found within the Tariqas is the cure for the disease of wanting to be seen as the "highest" or "only" or "best". It could be the antidote for wanting more money than Allah thinks you need, or feeling that the only way that the worth of a Shaykh can be seen is to belittle all others.
Does any Tariqa really need to compete for followers? Is there any shortage of souls longing for Allah? It seems to me that the need to be seen as the "best" or "highest" misses the point. Is not Allah the Best and Highest? Should we not be focusing on Him rather than jockeying for some illusory position in some meaningless hierarchy? What will we say when we stand before Allah and he says "This person, who I wanted for one of My lovers was turned away from Me when he heard you backbiting one of my Khalifas?"
Personally, this is a conversation I would not want to have.
What is it really saying about us when we find ourselves comparing our silsila to that of another Tariqa and finding theirs lacking?
These are questions that are perhaps important to answer if we are going to keep Tasawwuf on the straight path here in the west.