(Written by Shaykh Gibril Fuad Haddad, reproduced with permission)
Wa ʻalaykum as-Salām wa rahmatullāh wa barakātuh:
Is the concept of tawajjuh a common and accepted practice in Sūfī Tarīqahs? By Tawajuuh I don’t mean during the prayer towards the qibla. Rather, it was explained to me that a mureed must imagine he is facing his Shaykh when doing dhikr. I have heard it described that it is like trying to see the sun by facing a mirror. Similarly if you want to connect to God, you must orient yourself towards your Shaykh.
This is a rather technical question best answered by the Naqshbandīs, may Allāh Most High bless them and benefit us with their lights.
Tawajjuh literally means orientation and refers to the turning of one’s heart to Allāh Most High. In the Naqshbandī Tarīqa it can refer either to the murīd’s turning to Allāh Most High, similar to vigilance (murāqaba) and mentioned alongside it; or it refers to the accomplished guide’s (al-murshid al-kāmil) intent duʻa for individual murīds.An example of the latter can be gleaned from the purified Sunna. A hadīth states that the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, would make the supplication “O Allāh! Strengthen Islam with the dearest of the two to you: ʻUmar ibn al-Khattāb or Abū Jahl [ʻAmr ibn Hishām].” (Narrated from Ibn ʻUmar by Imāms Ahmad and al-Tirmidhī who said it is hasan sahīh gharīb.) Another hadīth states that he would say, upon him blessings and peace: “O Allāh! Strengthen Islam with ʻUmar ibn al-Khattāb.” (Narrated from Ibn ʻUmar, Thawbān, Ibn ʻAbbās, ʻAʼisha, ʻAlī, and al-Zubayr ibn al-ʻAwwām by Ibn Mājah, al-Hakīm (3:83), al-Bayhaqī in his Sunan (6:370), and others. Al-Dhahabī in the Siyar (Fikr ed. 1/2:510) said its chains are good, and al-Haythamī (§14404-14406, 2180) indicated likewise.) Imām al-Suyūtī in al-Durar al-Muntathira reported from Ibn ʻAsākir that the discrepancy is explained by the fact that the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, first called for either of the two, then it was made clear to him that Abū Jahl’s conversion was precluded and *he concentrated his tawajjuh or spiritual concentration on ʻUmar, Allāh be well-pleased with him*.
However, what the question described as having been explained “that a mureed must imagine he is facing his Shaykh when doing dhikr” is not called tawajjuh but tasawwur, although they are inter-related. Also, what the question described “as having been compared that it is like trying to see the sun by facing a mirror” is better expressed as being like the sunlight directly hitting a wall, so that the opposite wall facing that wall becomes enlightened by it. The first wall stands for the accomplished guide (al-murshid al-kāmil) who is both spiritually connected and able to connect others; the opposite wall stands for the murīd who connects himself to that guide through companionship (suhba) and spiritual linkage (rābita).
Suhba is clear enough. As for rābita, it is defined as tying one’s heart to the accomplished murshid and, in the process, keeping his image in one’s imagination, even in his absence, which is called tasawwur.
They said that the murshid is like a roof-duct: spiritual outpouring descends from his heart to that of the connecting (murābit) murīd. In accordance with the hadīth “Man is with whomever he loves,” the murīd actualizes in himself the murshid’s features and states. Hence, al-Khānī said in al-Bahjat al-Saniyya, self-extinction (fanāʼ) in the shaykh is the prelude to self-extinction in Allāh Most High. Imām Ahmad al-Sirhindī said: “It must be known that wayfaring in the Most Distinguished Way [=Naqshbandiyya] is through the rābita and love for the shaykh being followed… his look is a cure for the diseases of the heart, and his tawajjuh lifts away spiritual ills.”
The Naqshbandī Masters, Allāh be well-pleased with them, said that suhba or companionship is the foremost and strongest independent way of all to reach the Divine presence, followed in strength by rābita. This is what Shaykh Muhammad ibn Sulaymān al-Baghdādī said in al-Hadīqat al-Nadiyya and, after him, Shaykh Muhammad ibn ʻAbd Allāh al-Khānī in al-Bahjat al-Saniyya.
The latter cited a passage of Imām al-Nābulusī’s commentary on Ibn al-Farīd’s Khamriyya which brings together the benefits of suhba, tawajjuh, rābita, and tasawwur:
“Whatever meanings the wayfarer imagines of the manifestations of the Divine Presence during his presence with It, by the power of this divine Presence and not by himself, are but from the murshid through the latter’s tawajjuh (turning to Allāh with the heart) and through supply from the Most Merciful (imdād rahmānī). Sometimes this happens by the heart-to-heart’s inspirational address, with a truthful state. Sometimes it happens through explicit discourse or allusions. Sometimes it happens by giving the well-known cloak of the Sufis to wear. The pre-condition of all this is perfect truthfulness from both sides. Thus, the murshid’s truthful state, by the leave of Allāh Most High, permeates the truthful mureed. Sometimes the truthful shaykh gazes out of the hadīth qudsī ‘I become his eyesight by which he sees.’ Sometimes the murid looks to the shaykh out of the hadīth ‘When they are seen, Allāh is remembered.’ All this matter varies, speedwise, according to preparedness, sincerity in serving the shaykh, and manners with the shaykhs as well as safeguarding their honor both in their absence and in their presence.”
Among the vivid illustrations of the benefit of connection with an accomplished murshid is the following passage from Shaykh Hasan Hilmī al-Quhhī al-Dāghistānī’s Tanbīh al-Sālikīn (p. 268):
“Whoever enters Tarīqa and strives in worship becomes an enemy of shaytāns and therefore needs a guard guarding him from them continuously. This is why the shaykh orders him to do rābita with an accomplished shaykh. If the shaytāns were to approach the latter, they would almost be burnt by his light. The meaning of this protection is that it is a customary cause, just like medication or a weapon, and the effecter is Allāh Most High. *He* is the all-encompassing Guardian and Watcher.”
May Allāh Most High protect and grant you and us the acts and states He loves and may He bless and greet the arch-leader of Messengers and Prophets, his Family, and all his Companions.