As long as I have had the honor of knowing this noble man – before he received his Shadhili-Darqawi idhn from Shaykh Fattah in 1998 (he also received idhn in the Rufa’iyyah and Chistiyyah tara’iq) – he has had the gift of weeding through details, the extraneous, the distractions and fluff; and extracting the essentials.
His words are few but finely-honed like a sword which leaves no rough edges in its wake though its blow is mighty. To study under him no time is wasted on the unimportant.
Very fortunate to study Arabic with Shaikh Husain when I first became Muslim, I found (even) myself grasping and understanding to a degree the beautifully complex Arabic language: its grammar and morphology, its tri-literal root system and so on. His methods are concise, consistent and logical. His approach is deceptively simple: even a beginner is able to benefit from his deep knowledge.
A glimpse at a discussion about the definition of Sufism and the real seeker:
Me: If I may ask, how would you define Sufism, Shaykh?
Shaykh: Being Real.
Me: Perhaps there are people out there being real but because of their lack of knowledge or misguidance they are acting outside the Islamic shari’ah (divine law). What about those people?
Shaykh: That’s a start. The person being real always looks for the Truth or what’s right and he will always find it because Truth is what is agreeable with his fitrah (man’s pure nature).
But being real is just the beginning.
Shaykh Fadhlalla once said: “The real seeker already has a foundation: longing, will, impetus, struggle…”
That’s the difficult part for people: most murids don’t even have a foundation.
A person can think he is a seeker, he can claim to be a Sufi. Without the substance, a claim is just a claim. That’s why you need a teacher. You need a teacher to guide you from claim to substance.
You can compare that situation to trying to teach someone how to prepare a fine meal yet they are willing to eat anything. No preparation. No cooking. Just eating.
A real seeker must prepare himself; he must simmer for a while, become “tasty”. What’s raw needs to mellow.
A murid by definition is “the one who wants.” And that is one of the shaykh’s jobs: to make a person realize his need for a foundation so that he wants it and is willing to struggle for it. Then only will the shaykh be able to assist him in acquiring it.
Once there is a foundation, the real seeker still needs someone to point him in the right direction – like with a map. That map –precisely laid out with great detail (it even has symbols, a key, explanations and descriptions) – is there, in your hands and you study it carefully but somehow the way to your destination still eludes you. Sometimes it’s simple: “Go this way. Go that way.”
And that is one of the shaykh’s jobs: to make a person realize his need for a foundation so that he wants it and is willing to struggle for it. Then only will the shaykh be able to assist him in acquiring it.
As a student advances, his need for guidance becomes even greater: the road gets more complicated.
It’s like Math. First you must have your foundation, your basic Math skills. Later, when it comes to Calculus – how would that even be possible without a working knowledge of, say, Algebra, for example? It wouldn’t be!
Then once a student reaches the Calculus level, he will come to rely on his teacher’s guidance even more.
If you claim you are a Sufi, you have to have a foundation, first. Or, as Shaykh Fattah has been known to put it: “Where’s the stuff?”
In the end, the real seeker – the one whose claims or ideas about himself are backed by his substance – once he has the stuff, he will arrive at the Truth.
If he has not yet arrived, then he is OTW.
~Shaikh Husain Ash-Shadhili