The Need for a Shaykh
It has always been in the divine scheme of things that perfection cannot be attained without an experienced instructor (ustadh). Thus, when one is endowed with the guidance to enter into the path, one should search for an instructor of the path, so that one may reach the true goal through the medium of this instructor’s graceful guidance and excellent companionship (suhba).
O my heart! If you desire to undertake this journey,
Then hold on to the garment of the guide.
Whoever trod the path of love without a companion
Passed his life without attaining love.
Hakim al-Umma (may Allah have mercy on him) therefore said, “What! Has anyone attained perfection through books alone? It is simple to understand that one cannot become a carpenter without sitting in the company of a carpenter, one cannot become a tailor without being in the company of a tailor, and one cannot become a calligrapher without being in the company of a calligrapher. In short, one cannot atain perfection or become an expert in something without the comapnionship of an expert [in that thing]. The companionship of a pious man will induce piety in you. Simliarly, the companionship of an evil man will induce evil in you. He who searches for association with Allah Most High, has to acquire the association of the noble Friends of Allah (awliya’ kiram). A short while spent in the companionship of the Friends of Allah is more noble and superior to a century of unostentatious obedience. Companionship with the pious for even a moment is superior to a century of ascetism (zuhd) and obedience (ta’a).”
– The Path to Perfection; pgs. 26-27