The definition of a ‘Man of Allah’ as given in the ‘Sharh-e 'Aqa'id-e Nasafi’ is as follows: -
“A saint is a man who knows Allah's Person and attributes to his best ability, and is constant in devotions and refrains from sins and does not indulge in sensual pleasures and lusts.”
My chief and master, Shaikh al-Hadith Maulana Muhammad Zakariya (may his shadow never grow less!) states that it is very important to ascertain what kind of people the ‘Men of Allah’ are.
The identity of the ‘Men of Allah’ consists in conformance to the Sunnah, for Allah Most Glorious and Holy, has sent His Most Beloved Prophet as an example for the guidance of the ummah, and has stated in the holy Quran: -
"Say, (O Muhammad, to mankind) if ye love Allah, follow me; Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. Say, Obey Allah and the messenger. But if they turn away, lo! Allah loveth not the disbelievers (in His guidance)." (III: 31-32)
Hence, the man who is a consummate follower of the Holy Prophet is in reality the true man of Allah; and the farther a man is from conformance to the sunnah the farther he is from Allah's proximity. The professional commentators of the Quran (mufassarin) have stated that the man who claims to cherish love for Allah but opposes the Holy Prophet's Sunnah is a liar.
For it is a rule of affection and a law of love that when a man loves someone, he loves the beloved's house and its doors and walls and courtyard and garden also; so much so that even the beloved's dog and donkey are loved. An Arabic poet says: - "When I pass through Layla's city. I kiss this wall and that wall. The love of cities has not infatuated my heart; it's rather the power of the love of those people who inhabit these cities".
Another Arabic poet says: -"You claim love for Allah and yet you disobey Him. Had you been true in your claim, you would never have disobeyed Him, because the lover is always obedient to the beloved".
The Holy Prophet said, “My entire ummah will enter Paradise save those who denied.” The Companions asked: "What's the meaning of ‘those who denied.’ He replied: "The man who obeys me will enter Paradise and he who disobeys me is the denier.”
At another place he says: "None from amongst you can be a Muslim as long as his desire does not become subject to the religion that I have brought".
It is really astonishing that claimants for the welfare of Islam and the Muslims are devoid of obedience to Allah and His Apostle . To say anything before these claimants, that it is contrary to the Sunnah and which is opposed to the Holy Prophet's way is tantamount to striking them with a spear! Shaikh Sa'di says: - "He who chose a way contrary to the Prophet's would never reach the destination".
In short, to ascertain that this man is one of the ‘Men of Allah’, to cultivate friendship with him, to attend upon him frequently and to benefit from his knowledge, is the cause of progress in religion, and the Holy Prophet's order too is the same.
"He who did not weigh his sayings, states and actions in the balance of Allah's Book and the Sunnah, and did not consider his sensual desires bad, do not reckon him to be in the list of men".
"The routes for reaching Allah are countless but all of them are closed for the creature, except for that man who follows the Apostle's footsteps.”
In another statement Hazat Junayd Baghdadi says that, "This, our cult of Tasawwuf, is cordoned with the Book and the Sunnah and principle". He also said: "Our knowledge is bound with the Book and the Sunnah. The man who does not remember the Book and does not transcribe Hadith and does not learn Fiqh shall not be followed".
Moreover he says: "Our Book the Holy Quran is the Chief of all Books and is the most comprehensive Book. And our Shari'ah is clearer and more apt to human nature than all other shari'ahs. And the Sufis', method has been strengthened with the Book and the Sunnah. He who read the Quran but did not commit Hadith to memory and did not understand the meanings and significance of both, is not at all deserved to be followed.”
"If you see a man, that he is sitting cross-legged in the air, even then don't follow him as long as you do not see his behaviour as regards Allah and His prohibitive orders".
He says in Irshad al-Muluk that a spiritual director should be that person who may instil and indurate religion and Shari'ah in the proselytes' hearts, and it is not possible to become a Shaikh without this quality.
He writes further that the qualifications that should necessarily be found in the Shaikh are as follows:- ‘He should be a scholar of the Quran and the Hadith; and not only a scholar but should also possess qualities of perfection and should be averse to the love of the world, position and wealth. He should have acquired the knowledge of the path from such godly Shaikhs whose chain of affiliation may link uninterruptedly to the Holy Prophet .
In his ‘Fatawa Rasheediah’ he writes at one place that the man who is a Sufi but acts contrary to the Shari'ah is not worthy of being paid allegiance (bai`ah); nor is he a man of the path; on the contrary, he is a Satan. Persian couplet: - "He who chose a path contrary to the Prophet's would never reach the destination".
He writes in his Book ‘Itmam al-Na 'am,’ it is not necessary that if, the peculiarity of someone, is proven with thaumaturgic gifts and miracles, that he may also be free from the calamities of the baser self. Sometimes, someone who is not perfectly steady in faith and conformance to the Shari achieves external miracles.
Commenting upon this observation Maulana Abdullah Gangohi says that the common people believe much in miracles and unusual things; whoever performs any new or novel thing, they consider him a saint. Rather the very criterion of sainthood in the sight of the masses is also same, although the real miraculousness is stability in following the Shari' ah and the cleansing of the self from evil habits.
The Shaikh demolishes this error. It is not necessary that a thaumaturgist may also have gained release from the calamities of the self, i.e. the internal diseases and mean habits. Because sometimes thaumaturgic gifts are received by some one who is not fully stable in faith and conformance to the Shari'ah and his baser self is not pure. On the contrary, non-Muslims perform abnormal or preternatural actions also. Hence such abnormal and thaumaturgic acts are not things to be relied upon; the real thing is stability in religion and the cleansing and purification of the baser self.
He says: "It has also been described as a saint's attribute that he may be assiduous in performing the devotions. But this has become the people's criterion today that even if a man is not regular in performing the obligatory and incumbent acts, he can be a saint. According to them, opposition to the shari'ah is not antithetical to sainthood; they suppose a stark naked person also to be a divinely approved person. I ask you: What is it, if it is not flagrant perversity? Shaikh Sa'di says: - "Don't think, O Sa'di, that the path of purity can be trodden save in the footsteps of the Chosen One".
"O son! The thing that will be useful tomorrow, on the Day of Judgement, is conformance to and compliance with the Lawgiver .
Dervish-like conditions, scholarly rapture, sciences and educational acquirements, sufistic mysteries and allusions are undoubtedly very good if they be along with compliance with and conformance to the Holy Prophet . But if these things be without the commitment to the Shariah and the essence of conformance to the Sunnah, then there is no substance in them save degeneration and istadraj (working of abnormal feats the effect of which is ephemeral)".
In another letter he says: "If these states and particulars are achieved along with the opposition to the Shari'ah, even though it be to the extent of a hair's breadth, they will all be counted as istadraj and will at the least defame him.”
"Absolution without following the Beloved Prophet of the Lord of the Worlds is impossible".
He writes in his Fatawa Rahimiyyah as follows: -
"It should also be remembered that generally perceptible miracles alone are considered a perfection, but according to men of perfection the spiritual miraculousness is a perfection. That is, to remain firm on the Chosen Prophet's Shari'ah, in such a way that in every walk of life and on every occasion one may discriminate between Sunnah and non-Sunnah acts. And to conform consummately to the Apostolic Sunnah; and to have the zest for it and attachment to it and heartfelt concentration towards Allah and engrossment with Allah should be to such an extent that not a single breath be passed in forgetfulness.
"A chishti saint came to the presence of Mahboob-e Subhani Mujaddid Alf-e Sani and said": 'I was feeling 'contraction' (qabz) with regard to Allah for a number of years. So I went to your Hazrat Khwaja Baqi Billah and complained to him of contraction. By Khwaja Sahib's spiritual concentration (tawajjuh) and invocation, my state of contraction changed. Could you please also shower your tawajjuh upon me because Hazrat Khwaja Sahib has entrusted all his successors (khulafa) and proselytes to you'. Hazrat Mujaddid Sahib replied: "With me there is nothing except conformance to the sunnah.”
"Hearing this the saint was enraptured and due to the effect of the power of affiliation (nisbat) and the internal power, the land of Sirhind began to shake. "Hazrat Imam Rabbani asked an attendant to bring his miswak from the niche. He threw the miswak on the ground whereby the land became still instantaneously, and that saint's rapturous state also fled.
"After that he told the saint, 'By your miraculous power the land of Sirhind began to shake, and if this faqir invokes, Allah willing, the deceased people of Sirhind will come to life. But I consider the using of miswak (Miswak: Piece of tree branch used as tooth brush) according to the Sunnah practice, during ablution-making, far superior then your miracle (shaking of the land) and mine (revival of the dead of Sirhind through my invocation."
He says: ‘If there is such a man of perfection in your sight who sits cross-legged in the air and levitates on water, don't hold him in esteem unless you test him as to how he is in observing the Islamic commandments and the legal limits (hudud).
Once he (Ba-Yazid Bistami) was told: ‘Such and such a man reaches Mecca in one night.’ ‘Satan,’ he replied, ‘Reaches from east to west in a moment, although he is held in Allah's curse.’ (Basa’ir al-Aha'ir, p.612)
Once he told an attendant: "Come along with me so that we may see such and such a man who has publicised himself with the claim of sainthood". There was in those days a man who was very famous among the people for his asceticism and abstinence. The attendant reports: "We went to him. When he came out, he spat in the direction of the Qiblah, so Hazrat Ba-Yazid Bistami returned and did not even salute him, and said: "When this man is not secure in the Holy Prophet's Sunnahs and manners, how can he be secure in those miracles which he claims.”
And he said: 'If you see that a man has been given miraculous gifts, so much so that he flies in the air, even then don't be deceived by him unless you see how he is in observing the affirmative dictates and in withholding himself from the negative orders and in guarding the divine limits'.
‘O wise seeker of Truth! See that all these great Shaikhs and top-most experts of the Path revere the holy Shari'ah and base their esoteric sciences on Ahmed's () character and the Hanafite millat (Most Muslims from the Indo-Pak subcontinent base there religious belief on religious laws devised by Imam Abu Hanifa, hence the label ‘Hanafi’ or ‘Hanafite’). This, is so that the darkness of the perverts of the world and the outward appearance of the corrupt mischievous, erring and misleading people may not involve you in deception; they are walking crookedly from the right path and they have deviated from the straight road. These so called ‘ulema’ have gone out of the circle of the Shari'ah.
(Hearing Hazrat Ba-Yazid's talk) all the audience said, "May there be total and complete ruin for those people and for those who follow them, and also for those who regard their path to be good. For it is these people who prevent other people from walking on the right path, and they mix up falsehood with truth and knowingly hide the truth"
He states in his Fatawa that a spiritual director should be such a man who possesses minute knowledge of the Shari'ah Tariqah (Path) and the Reality; when he is such, he will not bid for any work contrary to the Shari'ah.
He says: The success of all religious and worldly works depends only on conforming to the Holy Prophet’s Shari'ah, and the man who has deviated from the path of the Shari'ah can neither be a saint nor the Ghaus (high-ranking saint) of the time.
And the man who says: "We are possessors of the hidden knowledge and we don't need external devotions, so, to believe such a man to be a perfect saint and to become his proselyte despite the absence of all the requisite qualifications is not proper.”
He writes in a letter: Believe salvation to consist in conforming to the Sunnah and in refraining from innovation. Do not associate with the innovators and the atheists, for these people are the thieves of religion. Do not let a Faqih (Jurisprudent) who does not maintain the legal style and is not decorated with the prophetic Sunnah come to your majlis.
The sum and substance of this writing is that you fully act upon the following divine statement: -
"And whatever the messenger giveth you, take it. And - whatsoever he forbiddeth, abstain (from it). And keep your duty to Allah." (LIX: 7)
In another letter he writes, ‘Strive in conforming to the Sunnah. Keep away from innovation and the innovators. Be inclined to the company of the ulema, faqirs and the precisians. Wherever you see anything contrary to the Shari'ah, avoid it and be away from that place. Persian couplet: - ‘Associate with the lovers and choose all lovers. Don't ever be near one who is not a lover.’
And a true lover is he who is firm in conforming to the Holy Prophet . The same reality is being expressed from "Say (0 Muhammad, to mankind): If ye love Allah, follow me; Allah will love you"
In another letter he has written, ‘O brother! Abstain from the company of the heterogeneous and the opponent of the path, and run away from the innovator's majlis.
It is a saying of Yahya bin Ma'az Razi (may his secret be sanctified!)
that one should abstain from these three kinds:-
Be warned, that you should stay away from the man who is sitting on the spiritual director's masnad (seat), and his actions are not in accordance with the Holy Prophet's sunnah and nor is he decorated with the ornaments of the Shari'ah, him. Rather (as a precaution), don't even live in the same city where such an impostor lives. Lest after some time your heart should incline towards him and the establishment of spiritualism may be disturbed. Such a man is never worthy of power, for he is in reality a hidden thief. Although you may witness different types of abnormal acts and habits in him and may find him apparently unconnected with the world, (never get inclined towards him and) run away from him as one runs away from a lion.
The leader of the group (Sayyid al-Ta'ifa) Junayd Baghdadi (may his secret be sanctified!) says that all roads of success are closed, save the way of that man who follows in the Holy Prophet's footsteps.
It is also the Sayyid al-Ta'ifa's saying that the path of the proximate, truthful ones is in reality connected with the Book and the Sunnah, and those ulema who are active on the Shari'ah and the Tariqah, they are the ulema who deserve to be called the Prophet's heirs. In their words, appearence and practice, they are the Holy Prophets followers.
I state again that you should never, never consider that man a Gnostic who does not care for the prophetic manners and who renounces the Chosen Prophet's practices. Don't ever be enamoured and infatuated by his (outward) retiring from the world, renunciation, thaumaturgic acts and habits, asceticism and reliance on Allah and (oral) unitary points of wisdom.
The pivot of the affair lies in conformance to the Shari'ah, and the matter of salvation is connected with following in the Holy Prophet's footsteps. The discriminative thing between a verifier of truth and a sophist (or humbug) is conformance to the Holy Prophet . Asceticism and trust in Allah and retiring from the world without conformance to the Apostle are unreliable; remembrances and reflections, curiosities (ashwaq) and longings (azwaq) are useless things without the Holy Prophet's connection.
Thaumaturgic acts and habits depend upon starvation and striving with the unregenerate self. What has it to do with gnosis?
Hazrat Abdullah ibn Mubarak has said that he who showed laziness in the civil mores (adaab), was deprived of the sunnah practices, and he who neglected the Sunnah practices was deprived of the obligatory acts, (Faraiz) and he who despised the obligatory duties, was deprived of gnosis.
People told Shaikh Abul Khayr that such and such a man levitated on water. He retorted, "Yes, a straw also levitates on water" (i.e. it is not something to be proud of). Then it was said: "Such and such a man flies in the air". He retorted, ‘(Well) the fly and the kite also fly in the air.’ Then it was said: ‘Such and such a man goes from one city to another in a moment.’ He said: ‘(What's there in it?) Satan reaches west from the East in a jiffy. There's no value of such things. A man of Allah is in fact he who may associate with the people, may have wife and children and yet may not be forgetful about Allah (may He be more honoured and glorified!) even for a moment!'
Shaikh Ali bin Abi Bakr (may his secret be sanctified!) has said in Ma'arijul-Hedayah that the beauty and perfection of every person, in all matters, apparently, internally, essentially, subordinately, intellectually, practically, habitually and devotionally, lie hidden in consummate conformance to the Apostle.