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Futuwa – Perfection of Character

Manners and self-conduct hold great significance in Islam. RasoolAllah SallallahuAlayhi Wasallam says, as recorded in the collection of Imam Nawwawi Rahimahullah,

“Righteousness is found in good character.”

Character here refers to how one portrays themselves as a person, the manners and etiquette with which they go about their day, and how sincere they are in what they do. In Tareeqah this will typically revolve around perfecting character through imitation of RasoolAllah SallallahuAlayhi Wasallam.

Qadi `Iyaad Rahimahullah states in his Al-Shifa, that the first demonstration of true love for the Messenger of Allah ﷻ is to imitate him.

This imitation of him, however, is not limited to the physical aspects of the Sunnah. To focus solely on this is a disservice to what imitating the Sunnah is. To follow the Sunnah is to follow every aspect of RasoolAllah’s SallallahuAlayhi Wasallam life. This will range from how he was with his family, to how he approached business, to how he treated people regardless of who they were.

Following the ways of RasoolAllah SallallahuAlayhi Wasallam is key, and is the only way to attain true character. We know this is the best way as Allah ﷻ Himself states in the Qur’an to follow RasoolAllah SallallahuAlayhi Wasallam

“Say to them, if you love Allah then follow me. Allah will forgive you your sins, indeed He is Oft Forgiving, Most Merciful.”

We learn from this Ayah alone the benefits and mercy found in following RasoolAllah SallallahuAlayhi Wasallam: The love of Allah ﷻ, and the forgiveness of our sins.

But the question arises: how do we imitate the Sunnah in the best of manners? For us, the answer is to follow the Shaykh. A true Shaykh will demonstrate the Sunnah by example, and we see this within Tareeqah. In our Tareeqah, to give an example, we always make an effort to serve others first when it comes to eating. Making sure we serve those that are older than us, and to the right of us.

We make a habit of wearing white clothes, of wearing brown shoes, of covering the head, of wearing the Imama for Salah, of wearing a shawl upon the shoulders, keeping the beard, remaining in wudhu, amongst many other actions. These are only small examples from an ocean of them.

To spend 2 months to establish one sunnah with vigilance and steadfastness is better than performing 10 sunnahs in 2 weeks to never practice them again. Typically, it is easier to begin the journey of perfecting character with physical imitation of RasoolAllah SallallahuAlayhi Wasallam; growing the beard, remaining in wudhu, wearing modest clothes etc. Are key steps to ensuring that the path of perfection is under its way.

Make a habit of reading the Seerah (biography of the Prophet SallallahuAlayhi Wasallam), and implementing what you read into your life. Aim to be the same inwardly and outwardly, because this demonstrates true character. The great Imam Ja`far Sadiq Rahimahullah states, and truthfully so,

“True character and faith is to empty the contents of your heart onto a tray, and to walk the streets of the bazaar with it for all to see.”

This can only be done if one has a sincere heart free of evil, which is only achieved through perfection of character and acting upon good deeds.

Advice for the Seeker

The following list provides an idea of how a Mureed should behave and act.

  • If one’s fellow seeking brothers or sisters take better benefit from their daily recitations, practice, and knowledge of the Shaykh’s ways then one must not envy them.
  • The seeker must strive to fulfil the promises he made at the time of pledging allegiance to his Shaykh. He must safeguard himself from all wrong actions and sins, and if he does commit them, then he must make Tawbah (repent) immediately.
  • One must not look for others’ faults, or think bad of them. One must reflect upon their own state, and strive to rectify any shortcomings.
  • If one has the ability, not to miss any local and national gatherings.
  • To remain humble and to always hold others in high esteem.
  • To keep the company of pious individuals if one cannot sit in the presence of the Shaykh.
  • To always remain in the state of wudhu.
  • Whilst walking around, to read ‘Allah’ upon one’s right step and ‘Hu’ upon one’s left step. Likewise before sleeping to perform the Dhikr by inhaling ‘Allah’ and exhaling ‘Hu’.

Subayhi Rahimahullah said: ‘The way of life when it comes to the Awliya consists of three things; being scrupulous, Adab, and sincerity in one’s devotion to Allah.’
To explain the above, scrupulousness (wara`) is to keep oneself away from committing anything that would result in negative consequences. This, generally, means to avoid anything forbidden or doubtful.

We see this in the famous Hadith where RasoolAllah SallallahuAlayhi Wasallam said,

“Leave what causes you doubt for that which does not.”

Adab, as mentioned by Dhul Nun Misri Rahimahullah, is that thing which Allah, the Most High, had used to elevate Islam. Abu Ja`far Rahimahullah said

“Adab is good behaviour with Allah , the Most Merciful, by being sincere to him.” 

Sincerity (Ikhlaas) is the purity of intention and to focus our devotion solely towards Allah ﷻ, the Most Truthful, without concerning how we are viewed or regarded by society.  It is to empty the heart of everything but Allah ﷻ.

Our Shaykh, Khwaaja Sufi Arshad (Hafidhahullah), emphasises steadfastness (Istiqaamah), and commands us to make it a key component in our life.

Ahmad ibn `Ajiba Rahimahullah in his Haqaa’iq al Tasawwuf mentions that Istiqaamah is to practice what we know of the sayings, the deeds, the states, and the beautiful characteristics of the Messenger SallallahuAlayhi Wasallam. One should do this within their limits by not taking on more than one can handle, nor by falling short. It is to keep ourselves close to Allah ﷻ, the Most High, with true sincerity in all situations. Istiqaamah in speech is not to backbite and in actions it is not to innovate. In our general state, it is to remain upon the Shari`ah.

This page will be updated soon with more advice and counsel for the seeker in relation to Tasawwuf, and other Sufi principles Bi IdhnIllah.