The Sharīʿa & Ṭarīqa

In his preface to the fifth book of the Mathnawī Rūmī summarizes
the relationship between the exoteric law (the Sharīʿa), the spiritual
wayfaring which the Sufis undergo (the Ṭarīqa), and the Truth which
is Sufism’s goal (the Ḥaqīqa). He says that the Mathnawī is:

. . . setting forth that the Religious Law is like a candle showing the
way. Unless you gain possession of the candle, there is no wayfaring
[i.e., unless you follow the Sharīʿa, you cannot enter the Ṭarīqa]; and
when you have come on to the way, your wayfaring is the Path; and
when you have reached the journey’s end, that is the Truth. Hence
it has been said, “If the truths (realities) were manifest, the religious
laws would be naught.” As (for example), when copper becomes
gold or was gold originally, it does not need the alchemy which is
the Law, nor need it rub itself upon the philosopher’s stone, which
(operation) is the Path; (for), as has been said, it is unseemly to
demand a guide after arrival at the goal, and blameworthy to discard
the guide before arrival at the goal. In short, the Law is like learning
the theory of alchemy from a teacher or book, and the Path is (like)
making use of chemicals and rubbing the copper upon the philosopher’s
stone, and the Truth is (like) the transmutation of the copper
into gold. Those who know alchemy rejoice in their knowledge of
it, saying, “We know the theory of this (science)”; and those who
practice it rejoice in their practice of it, saying, “We perform such
works”; and those who have experienced the reality rejoice in the
reality, saying, “We have become gold and are delivered from the
theory and practice of alchemy: we are God’s freedmen”. . . .21
The law is [theoretical22] knowledge, the Path action, the Truth
attainment unto God.

Foot Notes:
21 On the spiritual significance of alchemy see Burckhardt, Alchemy: Science
of the Cosmos, Science of the Soul (London, 1967).
22 It should be remembered that the original meaning of the Greek word
theôria is “viewing” or “contemplation”; doctrine is therefore “a view of the
mountain to be climbed.”


The Initiatic Chain (Silsila)

“Whoever has no master (shaykh) has Satan as his master” say the
Sufis, thereby dooming to failure those who dare undertake by their
own means the travel to God. The conditions surrounding the selection
and the reciprocal acceptance of a master and his disciple—the
latter committing himself to his master “like the cadaver in the hands
of the washer-of-the-dead”—and the brotherly and caring feelings
expected to reign between the members of the Sufi orders have been
amply described in the handbooks of Sufism. It will suffice here to
mention the fact that all relevant practices of the Sufis tend to perpetuate
the initiatic pact which was sealed at Hudaybiya when, on their
way back from the “lesser holy war” against the Meccan unbelievers,
Muhammad’s (s.a.w.s) closest Companions took a solemn oath with him to
wage a “greater holy war” against their own inner enemies. Since that
momentous event, a continuous chain of masters and disciples has
carried to the core of the Islamic Community, in all regions and at all
times, the esoteric teachings contained in the Quranic Revelation and
the influence of blessedness (baraka) inherited from Muhammad (s.a.w.s)

~Jean-Louis Michon – October 2005, Ramadan 1426
Sufism: Love & Wisdom – Edited by Jean-Louis Michon & Roger Gaetani

Robert Frager, Heart, Self & Soul

We have all had the experience of failing time after time in changing old habits. Then suddenly these old habits lose their hold on us. What was so attractive suddenly becomes unattractive. This is a sign that God has accepted our repentance. At this point, my sheikh used to say that we are no longer responsible for those old sins. We have truly changed and we are now someone who is not even tempted to commit them.

Robert Frager, Heart, Self & Soul, The Sufi Psychology of Growth, Balance and Harmony  p. 71