Sufi novices experience various challenges in their process of being servants. As such, they must follow what their masters tell them and must keenly read and understand the law to ensure that they complete the Sufi process. To ensure that they complete the process well, Al-Qureshi identifies a number of rules that they should follow. The master gives aspirants advice on the right attitude to approach the law so that they can enjoy their learning process. The first advice given is that the aspirants should be sincere. This is intended to enable them build a sound foundation concerning the law. That means that the aspirant should approach the law with sincerity. The author notes that the aspirant should know that the beginning of the Sufi path requires a sound belief that binds the servant and the Most High God (Qushayri, 2007). As such, the aspirant should not have any doubts or be swayed by unwarranted arguments. The aspirant should not be swayed by the arguments of those who deviate from the Sufi path (Qushayri, 2007). As such, if the aspirant is swayed, it would be due to their ignorance. Generally, an aspirant should approach the law with a firm stand, strong ability to resist being swayed, and a sincere goal to enable achievement of the desired goals.
Masters play an essential role in the Islam community. Qushayri asserts this in his book as he states “there has never been an age in the history of Islam without a master of this community who was proficient in the science of oneness of God” (Qushayri, 2007). The statement implies that masters help aspirants to understand the science of oneness of God in their quest to completing the Sufi path. The master serves as a guide for the aspirant by offering guidelines, rules, and regulations. The aspirant is free to ask questions and/or seek clarification on matters that require insight from experienced persons. The aspirant must have faith in their masters, travel along their path and aspire toward their goals to enable them to share in their unveilings of what they witness (Qushayri, 2007). The masters tend to educate them in the most effective way since they are experienced. The author notes that an aspirant with no master is bound to fail. This is exemplified through master Abu Ali al-Daqqaq’s words “just like a tree that grows alone without a master grows foliage but brings forth no fruit, so does an aspirant who does not have a master to take his teachings from fails to bear the required fruits”. Such a person can be said to be worshiping nobody but his personal whims and will never achieve what he aspires to achieve (Qushayri, 2007).
An aspirant should display appropriate code of conduct in the presence of the master. The aspirant should be respectful to the Sufi masters and always render services to those in their entourage (Qushayri, 2007). Aspirants are forbidden from clashing with their masters irrespective of the circumstances. They should always consider themselves indebted to the masters but should not regard any master indebted to them. If the Sufi is right and the master is wrong, he/she must not argue with the master, but would rather maintain silence. Consequently, the aspirant must not reveal any of the master’s secrets to anyone. The attitude of the aspirant towards the master should be submissive and humble. Should the aspirant visit the master, he must show respect and address him with utmost humility. Should the master choose him for any service, he should consider that as a great favor (Qushayri, 2007).
The law has prescribed a particular way in which the master should behave towards the aspirant. The master must not disclose any secrets to the aspirant. Further, the master should not overlook the failings of his novices, as it would be forfeiture of the rights due to God Most High (Qushayri, 2007). It is worth noting that the master cannot instill the proper remembrance of God in the novice as long as the novice retains any of his mundane attachments. That means that the master must first test the novice to know his real intentions, after which he stipulates to the novice on the Sufi path. The Sufi path requires the novice to accept all the verdicts of God’s decree in his regard (Qushayri, 2007). Consequently, the master is expected to establish an agreement with the aspirant demanding that he should not forfeit the path no matter the harm, humiliation, poverty or any form of suffering that may affect him (Qushayri, 2007). In the pact, the master is expected to let the aspirant know that his heart should not be diverted to easy ways during the attacks of needs and wants. The master is also expected to inform the aspirant of how bad it is considered for an aspirant to come to a halt; hence the aspirant should ensure that he does not let rest or laziness overcome him. Once the master is done testing the aspirant, he should use a method he sees fit to instruct the aspirant to mention a certain name of God with his own tongue (Qushayri, 2007). The aspirant also orders the aspirant to always maintain ritual purity and avoid sleep unless when overwhelmed (Qushayri, 2007).
When an aspirant experiences doubt, he/she should not tolerate such doubtful thoughts. Instead, he should regularly turn to God and pray for protection against such negative experiences (Qushayri, 2007). This is believed to help repress such doubting thoughts since prayer is considered the greatest weapon. Aspirants are advised to ignore such thoughts on grounds that they would eventually end. At some point, the aspirant might experience miracles in the form of speeches and contemplate images that contradict the customary order of things (Qushayri, 2007). When this happens, aspirants are advised not to preoccupy themselves with such phenomena because that would distract them from God. However, they must share all these experiences with their masters as a way of relieving the burden from the hearts (Qushayri, 2007).
One of the sins of great concern to aspirants pertains to a secretive form of envy of his brothers that may penetrate his heart. On the Sufi path, an aspirant might encounter peers who have been more blessed and could be envious of their success. The aspirant should purify himself from this envy by finding satisfaction in the existence of God (Qushayri, 2007). Another sin prevalent of the aspirants is prioritizing oneself over others. An aspirant should always put himself as the last priority, and put interest of others first. Consequently, the aspirant should not take back anything that he had given out. Another significant sin or danger in the path of Sufi is seeking the company of the youth. As such, an aspirant should avoid being in the company of youth neither should mingle with them because such interactions with the youth increases chances of abandonment and/or rejection by God (Qushayri, 2007).
Qushayri, A. L. Q. A. (2007). Epistle on Sufism. Translated by Alexander Knysh. London: Garnet.