Pledge of Allegiance

On one occasion Imam Ahmad Raza (may Allah be pleased with him) was asked for a fatwa in answer to a question why a Muslim who had grown up in a Sunni home and had the Holy Quran and Hadis to guide him in his daily affairs, should seek a Pir. This was a serious question, for it raised doubts about the human need for discipleship. Ahmad Raza (may Allah be pleased with him) responded by saying that the Holy Quran and Hadis contain everything, that is, Sharia, Tariqa and Haqiqa (truth), the greatest of these being Sharia. However knowledge of Sharia has been handed down from one generation of scholars (mujtahids, those qualified to interpret the Sharia, and Ďulemaí) to another: had this not been so, the ordinary people would have no way of knowing right from wrong. This being the case with matters related to the Sharia, it was even more vital that there be a similar chain (silsila) for the transmission of Gnostic knowledge (marifa), which cannot be extracted from the Holy Quran and Hadis without a teacher (murshid). To try to do so is to embark on a lonely dark road, and be misled along the way by Satan.

But even if one were not seeking Gnostic knowledge for its own sake, Imam Ahmad Raza (may Allah be pleased with him) continued, one needed a Pir for a different, and more fundamental reason, that is, without a Pir one could not reach Almighty Allah. The Quran commands one to seek a means (wasila) to reach Him, and this means is the beloved Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace). And to the means to reach the beloved Prophet are the Mashaikh (Sufi Saints). It is absurd to imagine that one could access Almighty Allah without an intermediary; as for the beloved Prophet, access to him was difficult (dushwar, though presumably not impossible) without one. Imam Ahmad Raza added that Hadis proved that there was a chain of intercession to Allah beginning with the beloved Prophet interceding with Almighty Allah himself. At the next level the Mashaikh would intercede with the beloved Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) on behalf of their followers in all situations and circumstances, including the grave (qabr). It would be foolish in the extreme, therefore, for one not to bind oneself to a Pir [Guide] and thus ensure help in times of need.

Finally, Imam Ahmad Raza (may Allah be pleased with him) argued that union with the beloved Prophet (though the succession of Pirís to whom one was related by means of oneís own Pir) is a matter of grace (baraka), in itself is no small thing. 

Imam al-Ghazali (may Allah be pleased with him) had laid it down that the disciple [murid] must of necessity have recourse to a director [shaikh, or in Persian Pir] to guide him aright. For the way of the Faith is obscure, but the Devil's ways are many and patent, and he who has no shaikh to guide him will be led by the Devil into his ways. Wherefore the disciple must cling to his shaikh as a blind man on the edge of a river clings to his leader, confiding himself to him entirely, opposing him in no matter whatsoever, and binding himself to follow him absolutely. Let him know that the advantage he gains from the error of his shaikh, if he should err, is greater than the advantage he gains from his own rightness, if he should be right.

In his Malfuzat, Imam Ahmad Raza al-Qadiri (may Allah be pleased with him) illustrated that a personís relationship with his (or her) Pir reaches back to the Pirís own Pir, and so on, with a story about a fakir (poor person) who asked a shopkeeper for alms. When the shopkeeper refused, the fakir began to shout at him, and threatened to turn his shop upside down which caused a crowd to gather around them. In the crowd was a man of vision who pleaded with the shopkeeper to agree to the fakirís demands and told the crowd that he had looked into the fakirís heart to find out whether there was anything there, but found it empty. Then he looked into his Pirís heart, and found that empty as well. 

Then the man of vision looked into his Pirís Pir and found him to be a man of Allah and saw that he was standing by and waiting, wondering when the fakir would finally carry out his threat. What had actually happened was that the fakir was holding on tightly to his Pirís garments (daman). The story conjures up an eloquent picture of a continuous chain of Sufi Pirís watching over the affairs of their disciplesí disciples, many generations removed from them. This clearly indicated that Imam Ahmad Raza (may Allah be pleased with him) did not believe that the relationship of a murid to his Pir ended at the Pirís death.