Student and Teacher

The relationship between Shaykh and Dervish in Sufism is unlike the usual one of teacher and student. From the beginning, the Dervish is expected to credit the Shaykh and praise him for the benefits received on the Path. First this is understood as the person of the Shaykh; later it becomes apparent that the appreciation really goes to the line of Shaykhs that extend back in time to the Prophet of Islam, sallahu alahi wa salaam. The grace that comes down this line is called Baraka, and is the Divine sine qua non of the Path.

But, unlike temporal relationships, the Shaykh needs a qualified Dervish to fulfill his own function as a conduit. That is, if his Dervishes are unprepared, no Baraka can flow. That is one reason Sufis do not seek out new members; the members must come to them with some amount of perception of what they really need.

This was explained to me when I was initiated. My Shaykh came to the US from Cyprus and initiated five Americans during a public event. We were just five people who showed up to see him, and we were not even formally Muslims (we had not recited the Shahada, the attestation of faith, before other Muslims, which I have done since). I asked one of the people in the Shaykh’s retinue why it was so easy for us to be initiated, when I knew that in Muslim countries it took years to become prepared and accepted. He told me that because we grew up in such a hostile (from the Sufi point of view) environment here, that anybody who “made it” to sit at the Shaykh’s feet was considered to have been divinely guided to him, and worthy of acceptance on the spot. So I did, and so I was, and so in the hands of my Shaykh, and the Naqshbandi masters, I did eventually Attain. May Allah send them all blessings and rewards.

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