The Persian Sufi Hujwīrī (fifth/ eleventh century) explained that in order to know if one possesses a true mystical predisposition it is necessary that one feel ready to do three things: (1) to serve people, that is, to know how to place oneself at the rank of a servant and to consider each person a master; (2) to serve God, that is, to cut one's ties with everything that concerns one's present life and even one's future life, because whoever hopes to gain something by serving God is, in reality, serving his own ego; and (3) to know how to guard his own heart, to maintain it in a state of fervent concentration, in a communion through which the servant proves his desire to devote himself exclusively to the Lord. 7

When these conditions are realized, the aspirant to the mystical path, the talib, can ask to be admitted into a Sufi order by performing an act of obedience to a spiritual master, the shaykh (literally "the old one"), Murshid (guide) or Pir (Persian equivalent of shaykh). That which the master confers is, first, the initiatic link, the affiliation with the lineage of masters who have succeeded uninterruptedly since the Prophet Muhammad, transmitting both the influence of blessings (barakah, sakīnah) necessary for the "greater battle" (al-jihād al-akbar) against the inner enemies and the spiritual means appropriate for this battle.

The ritual of affiliation can vary according to initiatic lineage. Most often, it reenacts the handshakes (mutāfahah) given by the Prophet to the companions when they sealed the covenant of Hudaybiyyah with him under the tree, promising to remain faithful to their commitment to serve God and His Prophet under all circumstances. While renewing this solemn promise (`ahd, bay`ah), the shaykh, holding in his hand the hand of the neophyte, recites the tenth verse of the sura of victory: "Those who swear fealty to thee swear fealty in truth to God; God's hand is over their hands. Then whosoever breaks his oath breaks it but to his own hurt; and whoso fulfils his covenant made with God, God will give him a mighty wage" (XLVIII, 10). Frequently at this moment the disciple receives a name that is added to the name that he already bears, and this becomes the symbol of his second birth into the world of the Spirit.

In certain turuq, the initiatic charge is transmitted by means of a cloak (khirqah) with which the shaykh covers the shoulders of the disciple. 8 This cloak might be a patched tunic (muraqqa`ah), as among the Darqāwā of Morocco, who thus display their disdain of exterior riches. Other ritual objects, such as prayer beads or pages on which litanies (awrād) particular to the tarīqah have been transcribed, are often given to the new faqīr at the time of his initiation.

Upon completing the rite of aggregation, which generally takes place during a collective prayer gathering, the fuqarā' greet their new fellow disciple one by one and recite in unison the Fātihah, the sura that opens the Quran, so as to commend him for divine solicitude. Sometimes the gathering closes with a communal meal, which seals the entry of the new member into the family in which the shaykh is the father and all the fuqarā' are brothers, ikhwān (sg. akh).