The issue, I think, is that Muslims so often assume that enforcing Islamic rules of behavior will automatically result in a beautiful ahlak (morality), yet for many (including myself) it is actually learning about the potential for developing one's ahlak that makes one wish to go to the trouble of observing shar'ia in the first place. If we see the potential of how the shar'ia can help us to develop these qualities we admire, we are drawn in. Yet we are so often presented with more about the appropriate length for a mustache or the correct foot with which to step into a restroom that we forget the central themes of Islam-- the love of Allah and service to humanity. I love this video-- though surely some would object that he can't possibly speak about Islam without a beard. ;) I think, from my experience with music, that in addition to perfect examples, you also need to see something that's attainable. I've learned a lot about the 'ud from Hamza el-Din-- frankly more than I've learned from Munir Nureddin Beken or Farid al-Atrash. They're both technically better players, no doubt about it. But Hamza el-Din demonstrated to me a level of playing that was possible for me to attain, and he did it with a lot of heart. I think that shaykhs are like this too. Baba made it clear to me that what matters is La Illaha Illallah, the rest is just details. Even things most Muslims (including myself) would see as absolutely essential (like salat) could come later. But those things are between you and Allah. When I finally heard Islam presented in this way, my first question was "How do I start?" and it's because in the Qur'an Allah says that "There is no compulsion in religion". It has to be from the heart. I do not doubt that some people need a shaykh who guides them in rigorous shari'a. Others need one who accepts such practice as a given, but seeks to explain it and make it more meaningful. Others go to a Sufi shaykh for additional practices that will add to the basic Islamic requirements. Some seek simply the baraka from a particular lineage. We all have our various needs, and there are many different shaykhs and tariqas (or other approaches) that can help us to fulfill those purposes. It's not only a question of ending up with the right or wrong shaykh-- it's also one of who gets you to the next step of the journey. What do you need right now to-- at the first stage, become a complete human being-- and then later, become a better Muslim. Someone like Baba is not the kind of shaykh everyone needs. Some need a Nuh Ha Mim Keller, who is incredibly scrupulous about fiqh. Mashallah. That's beautiful, too. Just because we might love a more open approach doesn't mean we write Keller off as a Wahhabi. Hell, I don't even write the Wahhabis off as Wahhabis. Anyway, different shaykhs for different flakes. Allahu 'Alim.
Hu, Dost! This is my way of saying thank you for all of the gifts that my teacher, Sherif Baba, has given all of us.
I love the Ahl-ul Beyt, but I am not Shi'a, at least not in the usual sense. I love the Alevi way, but I am a mainstream practicing Muslim (or, at least, trying to be one). I love Mevlana, but I'm not a Mevlevi. I love some teachers who may or may not be very shari'ah adherent, but can open hearts. Several that I love most are practicing Muslims, but not all of their students are. I've even seen one or two Salafis who are dripping with the Nur of Allah. As a Bektashi Baba once said, if we find something useful, we embrace it. I'm a liberal, but practicing Muslim, and I believe that anyone who is showing us Compassion and Mercy is showing us the way of Islam.
May we all become beautiful human beings, insha'Allah! ;)
This is really putting up some things I put together for myself about my shaykh and our path-- a friend suggested that it might be helpful for some other people as well. I thought while I was at it, I might as well add some music links along the way. Because this began for my own personal use, I have no idea where some of these pictures and quotes came from, so I apologize for putting them up without citation. I make no claim that all of this is my own. I'm simply trying to share a beautiful vision of God and humanity that I have learned about from Sherif Baba and also some inspirations from the Alevi/Bektashi tradition of Turkey, with whom Rifa'i Marufi shares many principles. Let me make it clear that I am not myself a Bektashi, though I love their path. My connection is to the Rifa'i. I hope you enjoy this offering and that these things will inspire you as much as they have inspired me.