How is Spiritual
draws unto Himself everyone who is willing, and guides to
Himself everyone who turns to Him.” (Qur’an, 42, 13)
One of the conditions required for calling men to God with
clarity, is to sow in them the seed of spiritual life, and to be
authorized by a living spiritual guide to teach the rules of
Sufism and to transmit initiation. 
accordance with the rules of the Muhammadan way, the true
educator of souls (murrabi) is a master authorized (mu’dhun) to
lead and orientate all those who commit themselves to this way,
which is purification from the faults of the soul, embellishment
of noble qualities and arrival at the station of excellence (maqam
This authorization (idhn) is indispensable for transmitting
spiritual education (tarbiyya), just as it was imperative in the
past for those who taught religious sciences to have received
the permission (ijaza) from the scientists with whom they had
studied exoteric sciences.
According to Sufi masters, spiritual authority not only bears
witness to the aptitude for guidance, (irshad), and the
qualities (akhlaq) on which the capacity to guide is based, but
above all, it is thanks to the virtue of this authorization that
spiritual influx (baraka) and spiritual practices bear their
fruits and awaken the hearts of those who aspire. Also, all
those who receive the authorization to preach to men remembrance
of God (dhikr) and are the revivers of this religion “receive
clear signs from their Lord….” (Qur’an, 6, 57).
Continuation of the Way of Initiation
essential point must be made clear. One must not think,
according to an opinion current in our time, that there can be
no more qualified and authorized spiritual guides. Indeed,
whatever the state of spiritual degeneracy of the world today,
the deviations or the deceptions that one notices, or the
particular conditions of life in our time, the search of all
those whose hearts are brought to life by an ardent desire for
knowledge cannot remain unanswered.
other words, at no point in the history of humanity can
spiritual guidance, which manifests itself through the meeting
with a fulfilled and authorized master, be lacking. Otherwise,
it is an affirmation not only that the possibility of the way
of initiation does not exist, but more seriously still, that
guidance (hidaya) and divine mercy have abandoned humanity,
which is quite simply absurd. Imam Qushayri said that as “long
as Islam lasts there is no time in history when there would be
no masters.” 
Similarly a famous hagiographic work  quotes the different
versions of a prophetic hadith which clearly indicates the
permanence of the presence of men of God in our world.
one of these versions reported by Muslim, according to the
companion Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqas, the Messenger of God said: “The
people of the Maghreb will not cease to know the truth until the
According to Sa’ad ibn al-Malik, the Messenger said: “The people
of the West (gharb) will not cease to know the truth until the
day of Resurrection.”
Finally, according to another tradition from the same companion:
“A group of my community will not cease to be in the truth in
the Maghreb until the Hour comes.”
the way cannot fail to manifest itself to those who have a real
inner quest, we should point out another prejudice according to
which everyone with eminent spiritual qualifications, or having
a high degree of spiritual realization, has the ability to
reality, as we said above, only someone who has received
spiritual authority from a living master can guide men. And it
is actually by virtue of this that it becomes possible for him
to educate souls and to purify hearts, that is, to transmit this
science of spiritual education which is, according to the Sufi
masters, a science of the spirit, a science of inspiration which
is a thing neither written nor learnt. It is also on this
authority that the regularity of the chain of initiation (silsila)
rests a chain that goes back to the Messenger of God through an
uninterrupted line of masters. Whoever has not received this
authorization from his master, himself authorized, cannot be
mentioned in a chain of initiation, for he has no right to the
title of shaykh and everything that he transmits remains sterile
like “seed sown on stone”.
This is why the function of spiritual guide “depends essentially
on divine election, on a divine order (amr ilahi) that Sufis
also refer to by the term divine authorization (idhn rabbani)”.
Free will and divine freedom
Abu Abbas al-Mursi said: “No master manifests himself to his
disciples if he has not been determined by his inspirations (waridat)
and if he has not received an authorization from God and His
Messenger. It is by the blessing (Baraka) of this authorization
and the secret power that it implies, that our cause is
sustained and that the state of his disciples is protected.” 
is therefore by the mercy of this authorization that the master
receives the trust of the divine secret (sirr) and it is by its
power that he acquires the capacity to leave spiritual
descendants. The efficiency of the richness of the divine
secret only transforms people by the virtue of this
authorization which invigorates faith and constantly renews the
propagation of the Muhammadan light in the hearts of those who
aspire. What the disciple receives when he commits himself
through the initiatory pact, which marks his entry into the way,
is comparable to a seed sown which may grow thanks to the
spiritual direction of the authorized master.
Moreover, in a way this authorization has an effect on the
disciple who, when he obeys his master and follows his
indications, submits himself at the same time to the Lord. In
fact, the disciple who trusts in his guide participates in the
authorization of the latter by virtue of the fact that he
himself is authorized to apply himself to divine invocation
(dhikr) as well as to other spiritual practices. He benefits in
this way from the presence and the blessing influence of his
This is why the disciple who asks the advice and permission of
his master for all the decisions and the resolutions that he is
led to make in his life, will see all his states, all his
movements and his acts become an invocation, that is to say, a
way of worshipping the Lord. He will thus become one of those
who is “faithful to the pact” and he will be amongst the
spiritual beings nourished by divine light, whom no veil
separates from what is hidden in the invisible world; and by the
spiritual power of his invocation, he will be saved from the
negligence and the futilities of this world.
Let us take the specific example of individual will which is,
according to Ibn Ajiba, one of the veils and one of the shadows
that the Lord has placed over the heart of the servant; for it
is the will which is at the root of the desire to assert oneself
and of the thirst for control inherent in the human soul and
that each of us personally feels.
Only turning to a teaching master allows the disciple to
distance himself and gradually break away from his individual
willpower and his free will (ikhtiyar).
For that is a matter of a veil which creates the illusion, so
that man imagines that he is totally free to act and choose as
he pleases. Whereas the one, who submits to his guide and turns
to him in everything and in all circumstances, will then see
this veil gradually lift until he receives the mercy of the
understanding of the heart which leads him to realize that only
God is the real agent of everything.
But that does not in the least come from a theoretical
knowledge, but rather from inner experience and inner tasting (dhawq).
This is why the disciple must think that everything in his
master that may appear to him to be individual willpower and
free will, is however a manifestation which comes from God and
leads to God, and this is a condition of benefiting from this
divine authorization and the real means for whoever wants to
follow the path of servitude, one of the aspects of which is
none other than giving up one’s own willpower.
is therefore an immense
to meet one of the saints of God and to receive from him the
authorization to follow this noble way. It is what Ibn Ata Llah
taught in one of his wisdoms: “Exalted be He who does not
manifest His saints but to manifest Himself, and Who only leads
to them those that He wants to lead to Him.”
is given by a living master to one or several of his disciples:
the person who receives the
from his master should then have inner confirmation of it.
There are several kinds of
Universal or partial: the master is authorized to guide
all those who ask him for it (universal), or a limited number
of people meeting certain conditions (partial).
Absolute or conditional: the master can lead to the end
of the path (absolute), or can simply lead his disciples to a
certain spiritual degree (conditional).
Total or limited: the master can hold the spiritual
secret of all the divine Names, which he can transmit (total
idhn), or of a limited number.
all cases, the individual willpower of the shaykh does not play
any part at all: he receives this idhn and communicates it to
the disciples concerned.
Every authentic Sufi way must, in this way from idhn to idhn, go
back to the Prophet Muhammad, through a chain of initiation: the
 Abd alQadir Isa mentions in his work haqa’iq ‘an al-tasawwuf
“the truth about Sufism”, 5th edition, Allepo, 1993,
p.78; four conditions for guiding men to God:
> being aware of the arena of obligations (fara’id)
> being a knower by Allah
> knowing the methods of purification of souls and of spiritual
> being authorized by his spiritual guide (shaykh)
 Quoted by Chodkiewicz in “The Spiritual Masters in Islam,
Knowledge of the Religions, No 53-54, 1998.
 Ibn Ziyyat, Tashawwuf ila rijal tasawwuf. A look at the
time of Sufis, life of the Muslim saints of southern Morocco of
the 5th, 6th, and 7th centuries
of the hijra; Arabic text arranged, annotated and presented by
Ahmed Toufiq: translated from the Arabic by Maurice de Feynol.
Ed. EDDIF & UNESCO, 1995.
La Voie Soufie, Faouzi Skali, Albin Michel, 1985, page 160.
 See about this saint « Wisdom of the Sufi Masters » by Ibn
Ata Allah, translation and annotations by Eric Geoffrey, Grasset.
 Two treatises on the unity of existence, Ibn Ajiba, Arabic
text arranged, translated and presented by Jean-Louis Michon, al
quobra zarqua, Casablanca, 1998.
2003 - 2005.
Nothing on any of
the pages of this website may be taken and or reproduced in any
fashion except by written permission from www.sufiway.net