[By Shaykh Ashraf Ali Thanwi]
“Be with those who are perfect in Deen.” (Surah Taubah, 119)
The way to achieve perfection in Deen is mentioned here. Keep the company of those who are perfect and accomplished in the Deen.
For men, it is easy to adopt this directive. Worthy of consideration is: How can this be achieved by women? This question is indeed important. The answer to this is that there are two ways. One is that women should benefit from those men from whom men benefit. However, this has its drawbacks. Firstly, men and women cannot associate. Secondly, due to pardah (hijaab rules) the Shaikh cannot have full congeniality with them. And without this congeniality, benefit is limited. And it is not permissible for them to come in front of the Buzrugs and abandon their pardah.
Yes, those women whose fathers or husbands are accomplished, they can gain spiritual direction from their respective fathers or husbands. However, not everyone’s father or husband is perfect in Deen. Thus this method also has its limitations.
The other way is for men to gain benefit from accomplished men and for women to gain benefit from accomplished women. It is regrettable, however, that there is a dearth of women who are accomplished in the Deen.
This leaves us with only two alternatives. One is for those women who have buzrug males among their mahaarim. They should derive their Deeni perfection from them. A woman whose husband is a Buzrug should acquire perfection from her husband. The problem here however is that either the husband is the slave of the wife, otherwise he definitely is an equal partner. Women do not respect and show honour to their husbands as required for a Murabbi (spiritual mentor). And without this protocol benefit is not possible.
Secondly, the wife does not hold the husband in such light as she holds another pious person, no matter how great the husband may be. Our Hazrat Haji Saheb’s (Quddisa sirruhu) first wife, despite being very obedient to him, insisted on getting bai’t to Hazrat Moulana Gangohi (Rahmatullahi alaih). Hazrat Moulana Gangohi asked: “Why don’t you become bai’t to Hazrat Haji Saheb? How can it be appropriate to become bai’t with me when Hazrat Haji Saheb is in our midst?” She replied: “There is no doubt in Haji Saheb being a Buzrug. But I do not want to be bai’t to him. I wish to be bai’t with you.”
I don’t know whether Hazrat Moulana Gangohi accepted her into bai’t or not. Nevertheless, just consider this. She didn’t want to take bai’t from Hazrat Haji Saheb, rather from his Khulafa.
The second wife of Hazrat Haji Saheb, we have heard, was exceptionally pious. Those women who saw her say that the only difference between Hazrat Haji Saheb and her was that Haji Saheb was a male whilst she was a female, that’s all. It is said that she understood the Mathnawi of Moulana Roomi really well. She was engaged to Hazrat Haji Saheb first. For some reason Hazrat broke the engagement. The marriage was called off. She married elsewhere. After her husband’s death Hazrat then married her.
So, if a woman cannot benefit from her husband and there is no one perfect in Deen among her mahaarim then this leaves us with another method. She should study the kitaabs, malfoozaat and mawaa’iz (books, sayings and bayaans) of the Buzrugs. The writings and sayings of the Buzrugs have the same effect which is found in their suhbat (company). Moulana Roomi (Rahmatullahi alaih) says: “When the season of the flowers ends then get their fragrance from their essence. When the sun sets, then light up your home with lamps.”
It is observed that Noor cascades from the speech of the Ahlullah, whilst darkness drapes the speech of the deviates. The words of the Buzrugs are straightforward. They do not use flowery language, but studying their works produces Noor in the heart. On the other hand, those who are not observant of the Shariah, no matter how polished their words may be, these leave darkness in their wake, regardless of what they say being related to Deen. Since the words are theirs, therefore, darkness is a corollary of their words. Whoever has the slightest spiritual perception can sense this difference without doubt.
In the speech of the Ahlullah again there is Noor which cannot be found in non-Ahlullah. One Buzrug’s son went to study away from home. He qualified in his studies and returned home as an Aalim. He came to his father. The father told him to give the bayaan. The son gave the bayaan and spoke on high academic issues but there was no effect on anyone. After his bayaan the Buzrug father went on the mimbar and related an incident that happened at night. “I had intention of fasting today,” he said. “I left some milk for Sehri. A stray cat came and drank up the milk.” Just this much made the audience emotional.
The father explained to his son: “Son! The effect of one’s heart falls on the audience, not the effect of words. You have acquired knowledge of words. Now let those words permeate your heart.”
It is not necessary that tears roll from the eyes as a result of the Ahlullah’s speech. Yes, tears roll from the hearts of the listeners from the words of the Ahlullah – those who have purified their hearts and saturated it with love for Allah.
In summary, experience and observation confirm that approximately the same benefit is gained from the writings of the Buzrugs as gained from staying with them. The benefit may not be exactly the same, but certainly close. Thus, if women cannot benefit from the company of Buzrugs, the sayings and life episodes of the Buzrugs are available. They should read these. Insha-Allah perfection will be achieved.
Even men should regularly study the sayings and episodes of the Buzrugs because not everyone has the time available to go and stay with the Buzrugs. Aarif-e-Shiraazi proffers the following advice for these times: “In these times he who does not have a friend (a spiritual guide) should take for company the sayings of those who were madly in love with Allah.”
This also evinces that the benefit of a Friend in this Path can be gained in the way mentioned (by careful study of the sayings and directives of the Awliya). Thus, a person who does not have a Shaikh, he/she should make the kutub of the Mashaaikh their Shaikh.
Alhamdulillah, the question of how women can keep the company of those who are perfect in Deen has been answered from all angles. The answer in summary is that those who have a mahram who is accomplished in Deen should associate with him. Those who do not have such a mahram should search for a woman who has exemplary piety, knowledge and practice of the Deen. They should gain benefit with such a Waliyyah’s company. And for those who cannot find any of the above two, they should faithfully study the bayaans, sayings, stories and writings of the Buzrugs.
The bayaan focussing on women in the context of the Aayat mentioned at the beginning is complete. I have shown them an absolutely simple way how to achieve perfection in Deen. Now it rests with them whether they practise or not.
(Al-Kamaal Fid Deen Lin Nisaa)