Tawajjuh towards a Shaykh

Answered by Dr. Gibril F Haddad

Q: Is the concept of tawajjuh a common and accepted practice in Sufi Tariqahs? By Tawajjuh 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.

A: Wa `alaykum as-Salam wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh:

This is a rather technical question best answered by the Naqshbandis, may Allah Most High bless them and benefit us with their lights. Tawajjuh literally means orientation and refers to the turning of one’s heart to Allah Most High. In the Naqshbandi Tariqa it can refer either to the murid’s turning to Allah Most High, similar to vigilance (muraqaba) and mentioned alongside it; or it refers to the accomplished guide’s (al-murshid al-kamil) intent du`a for individual murids.

An example of the latter can be gleaned from the purified Sunna. A hadith states that the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, would make the supplication “O Allah! Strengthen Islam with the dearest of the two to you: `Umar ibn al-Khattab or Abu Jahl [`Amr ibn Hisham].”1

Another hadith states that he would say, upon him blessings and peace: “O Allah! Strengthen Islam with `Umar ibn al-Khattab.”2

Imam al-Suyuti in al-Durar al-Munathira reported from Ibn `Asakir 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 Abu Jahl’s conversion was precluded and *he concentrated his tawajjuh or spiritual concentration on `Umar, Allah 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-kamil) who is both spiritually connected and able to connect others; the opposite wall stands for the murid who connects himself to that guide through companionship (suhba) and spiritual linkage (rabita).

Suhba is clear enough. As for rabita, 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 (murabit) murid. In accordance with the hadith “Man is with whomever he loves,” the murid actualizes in himself the murshid’s features and states. Hence, al-Khani said in al-Bahjat al-Saniyya, self-extinction (fana‘) in the shaykh is the prelude to self-extinction in Allah Most High. Imam Ahmad al-Sirhindi said: “It must be known that wayfaring in the Most Distinguished Way [=Naqshbandiyya] is through the rabita 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 Naqshbandi Masters, Allah 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 rabita. This is what Shaykh Muhammad ibn Sulayman al-Baghdadi said in al-Hadiqat al-Nadiyya and, after him, Shaykh Muhammad ibn `Abd Allah al-Khani in al-Bahjat al-Saniyya. The latter cited a passage of Imam al-Nabulusi’s commentary on Ibn al-Farid’s Khamriyya which brings together the benefits of suhba, tawajjuh, rabita, and tasawwur:

Page 1 of 2 | Next page