Substitute for the Suhbat
A person once wrote to Hazrat Thanwi (RA) informing Hazrat Thanwi (RA) about how he finds it difficult to be in the company of the Ahlullah due to financial strains and other factors. This person wrote about how we wants to constantly be conscious of Allah and have control over his nafs. He also mentioned that he realizes that this is difficult to achieve without being in the suhbat of a Shaikh (in his case, Hazrat Thanwi ).
Hazrat Thanwi (RA) replied, “In this situation, study the biographies and works of the Pious. In the absence of the Shaikh, this can serve as a beneficial and sufficient substitute.” Hazrat Thanwi (RA) also advised him to regularly go over the Hazrat Thanwi’s published lectures.
Taken from Tarbiyat-us-Saalik, Vol. 1 page 46
From the above mentioned advice, we can see that reading is a good substitute, but at the end of the day, it is only a substitute which can never truly take the place of the original, in this case, actual suhbat. Unfortunately, we are so caught up in other things that we neglect the study of the lives of the pious. If nothing else, at least the mercy of Allah will descend upon us. Sufyan Bin ‘Uyainah said, “Indeed the mercy of Allah descends upon the mention the pious.” What more can we ask for! If a person is more fortunate and is able to practice what he reads, then Noorun ‘alaa Noor!