All guidance and knowledge comes from this amazing Being that gifted us this beautiful way of life. However, many times we need people who teach and show us how to do things.
So, from where and especially from whom should we take our knowledge and guidance?
Whom should we entrust the secrets of our delicate souls?
Who can help us to cleanse and purify our soul so that it becomes more pleasing and beloved to Allah?
And who can assist us in treading the winding path of this worldly life?
Alhamdulillah, Allah, in His infinite mercy, has bestowed this nation with genuine scholars and teachers who spend their whole life in caring for the believers, in guiding the seekers and teaching those who want to be taught.
Taking a Teacher
We look for guidance and teaching in everything we do. We learned reading and writing with a teacher. And we even learned walking with a teacher, our mom or dad. We learned sports with a trainer, went to college or university and were taught by lecturers and Professors, we have supervisors in our workplace…
If we want to learn something new, we usually turn towards a person that has knowledge in this field. This should be the same in our religion. Allah has granted us guidance. He showed us the right way. Alhamdulillah. He took us from the darkness into the light (Quran 2: 257). And He opened our hearts to His beautiful way of life.
Taking a spiritual teacher that guides us how to purify our soul and make it shining and sparkling is not obligatory, but it is a wonderful option to become closer to Allah and learn more about this amazing way of life.
Our scholars of Islamic spirituality compared the spiritual teacher with a gardener who takes care of a beautiful flower. Every member of this Muslim community is like a flower. Its seed has been planted in the earth and sun and rain make it grow.
However, sometimes there is not enough rain. Sometimes there is too much rain. Other times there are tiny little animals that try to eat the leaves of the flower or a chicken comes and eats it all. Some flowers grow crooked, others never develop blossoms…
However, if there is a gardener who takes care of the flower, the flower can grow into the straight, pretty, lovely plant that it is supposed to be.
What is the gardener doing with the flower? He watches over it, and he keeps an eye on it. When there is not enough rain, he waters the flower. He keeps away insects that may harm the flower. He might build a fence around the flower…
The gardener might tie the flower to a stick, so it can grow straight up. And if there is anything harmful, like a hailstorm, he might even take the flower inside so that it does not become destroyed.
The Genuine Spiritual Teacher
We are this flower! Our soul is this gentle flower. We have to protect it and take good care of it.
If we take a gardener for our soul, a genuine spiritual teacher, we have a guide that assists us in this endeavor. He will help us to keep away the destructive influences of this world. And he will guide us to become closer to Allah. He will assist us in protecting and carrying out our five daily prayers. And he will pour the rain of knowledge and guidance on us through his lectures and counsel.
He will explain to us Allah’s wonderful book and the teachings of His last and final messenger. He will guide us how to love Allah more and how to become more beloved to Allah.
If we take a genuine spiritual teacher, we connect ourselves with the pious, with those who are true (Quran 9: 119) and we ask the people of remembrance (those who remember Allah a lot) if we do not know (Quran 16: 43).
In addition, when we take a spiritual teacher we make a pledge not return to our old, sinful life. We make this pledge to Allah with the assistance of our spiritual teacher because we assume that he is stronger and firmer than us in obeying Allah and following His rules.
The pious companions made such a pledge to our beloved Prophet Muhammad (may Allah shower peace and blessings on him). Since the genuine Islamic scholars are the inheritors of the Prophets, they also inherited the role to guide people how to purify their souls and how to become more pleasing to our Creator.
Prayer is a Gift
Our spiritual teachers teach us things that we might not have come to know otherwise. For example, we know that we have to pray five times a day because this is one of the five pillars of Islam. But did we know that the ritual prayer was actually a gift from Allah to the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah send peace and blessings on him) and to us?
Yes, a gift! Prayer is a gift to us!
This is an amazing lesson I got from my spiritual teacher, Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed. After he explained that in one of his lectures, I viewed my daily prayer totally different. The way he said it, the words he used, the sound of his voice… All of that entered right into my heart and changed my prayer.
This is the blessing of a teacher who is connected to our beloved Prophet (may Allah bestow peace and blessings on him) through a long chain of spiritual teachers.
Allah has gifted this nation with many genuine teachers of Islamic spirituality. Even today, we can still find several of them. We should look for them. We should try and make an effort to connect to one of these spiritual teachers so that we can grow into a beautiful flower. The flower Allah wants us to be.