The Bay`ah: A Pledge of Love and Loyalty

Extracted from the Malfoozat of Hakim-ul-Ummah Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanwi, by

Hazrat Maulana Masihullah Khan in Shariat and Tasawwuf

Bay’ah is a mutual pledge relating to the striving, arranging, executing and adhering to the laws of A’maal Zahiri and A’maal Batini (external and internal deeds). This pledge is called the Bay’ah of Tareeqat which has been in prevalent by authoritative transmission from generation to generation from the earliest time of Islam.

Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) had enacted Bay’ah of the Sahaabah not only on Jihad, but on Islam and the adherence of the Ahkam (Laws in general) as well on practical deeds (A’maal). This is established by numerous Ahaadith. The following hadeeth is one such Hadeeth:

“Auf Bin Malik Ashja`i (Radhiyallahu ‘anhu) said: We were with Nabi (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam), seven, eight or nine (of us), when he said: ‘Will you not make Bay’ah (pledge) to the Messenger of Allah?’

We stretched our hands and enquired: On what shall we make Bay’ah to you, O Rasul of Allah? He said:

‘That you make the ‘Ibaadah of Allah; that you associate nothing with Him; that you perform the five Salah; that you hear and obey.” (Narrated by Muslim, Abu Dawud, Nisa`i)

On this occasion the bay’at which Rasulullah (saws) took from the Sahaabah was neither Bay’ah of Islam nor Bay’ah of Jihad (Pledge to wage Jihad). This Hadeeth is categorical proof for the validity of the system of Bay’ah in which has been prevalent amongst the Masha`ikh of Tasawwuf.

Like there are four Mathabs (Schools of Thought) in Fiqh, viz. Hanafi, Shafi, Maliki and Hanbali, so too are there four schools of thought in Tasawwuf, viz., Chishtiyya, Qadiriyyah, Naqshbandiyyah and Suharwardiyyah. The Akaabir (pious predecessors) of the subcontinent (authorities in Tasawwuf) enter into Bay’ah in all the four Schools of Thought (Silsilahs) so that respect for the four Silsilahs is maintained, although Chishtiyyat is dominant.

The founder of the Chishtiyya Silsilah is Hadhrat Khwajah Mu’eenuddin Chishti Ajmeri (rahmatullah alayh); founder of the Qadiriyyah Order is Hadhrat Shaykh Abdul Qadir Jilani (rahmatullah alayh); founder of the Naqshbandiyyah Order is Hadhrat Shaykh Bahauddin Naqshbandi (rahmatullah alayh); and the founder of the Suharwardiyyah Silsilah is Hadhrat Shaykh Shihabuddin Suharwardi (rahmatullah alayh).

THE MODE OF BAY`AH

The Bay’ah is enacted by the Shaikh taking into his right hand the right hand of the mureed (disciple). If the group contracting the Bay’ah is large, the Shaikh uses a length of cloth onto which each member of the group holds with his right hand. Ladies who contract the Bay’ah do so from behind a screen. A mahram of the lady should also be present at the Bay’ah ceremony. Hadhrat Aishah (Radhiyallahu anha) said:

“The hand of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) never touched the hand of a strange woman, but he would make the (pledge- Bay’ah) upon her. Upon having made the Bay’ah he would say. ‘Go! Indeed, I have already made Bay’ah with you.’ ” (Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud)

It is for this reason that in entering ladies into the Bay’ah, the Masha`ikh do so verbally or by means of a cloth which is spread from the Shaikh to the lady. This is the method of Bay’ah when in the presence of the Shaikh. Those who are not able to present themselves personally to the Shaikh could contract the Bay’ah by means of a letter or through the agency of a responsible and trustworthy person. This form of Bay’ah is called Bay’ah-Uthmani. Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) on the occasion of Bay’aturRidhwan made the Bay’ah of Hadhrat Uthmaan in his (Uthmaan’s) absence. On this occasion, Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) placed his right hand on his left hand and announced that he has made Bay’ah of Uthmaan. (The Bay’ah in absence of the mureed is therefore termed Bay’ah-Uthmaani,)

TA’LEEM (INSTRUCTION) AT THE TIME OF BAY`AH

Certain instructions are given to the mureed at the time of Bay’ah.

1. Firstly, is the qadha (fulfillment) of Salah and Fasts which were omitted. The qadha should be executed by performing along with each daily Salah a Qadha Salah of the same time, e.g. along with the Adaa Maghrib Salah, a Qadha Maghrib Salah should be made. During Isha, the Witr omitted should also be made. In making the qadha only the Fardh and Witr are made. It is however preferable to perform a number of qadha Salah collectively at one time or in a single day, e.g. the Qadha Salah of several times or of several days. In this way quicker discharge of the obligation takes place.

2. Discharging any monetary obligations of others if one is liable for such obligations. Such discharge is either by making the due payment or by obtaining the pardon of the one whose right is involved.

3. Fully guarding the eyes, ears and the tongue; total abstention from haraam and mushtabah (doubtful) wealth; appearance, dress to be in conformity with the Sunnat; total abstention from innovation and un-Islamic customs and practices on occasions of happiness and sorrow; to refrain from unlawful methods in all affairs; to constantly bear in mind not to harm anyone by means of one’s hand or tongue; not to hurt anyone; refraining from association; meeting according to need; and abstaining from unnecessary conversation.

4. Constantly maintaining the thikr of Kalimah Tayyibah, i.e. while walking, sitting, reclining and laying down. Including all the other wazeefas, auraad, and advices given by the Shaikh.

THE NATURE OF BAY`AH

The meaning of Bay’ (بيع : to make a transaction) is inherent in Bay’ah (بيعة). Bay’ah thus implies that the mureed “sells” himself to the Shaikh. In other words he has made a transaction with the Shaikh in preparation of Ahkam-e-zahirah and Ahkam-e-batinah (i.e. to learn to give practical expression to the Law of Allah Ta’ala). The nature of this “transaction” envisages that the searcher after the truth (talib) should repose implicit trust and faith in his Shaikh. He should understand and accept that the advices and prescriptions, admonitions and prohibitions of the Shaikh are all designed and motivated for his (the mureed’s) spiritual well-being. The talib shall not interfere with or impede the diagnosis and prescriptions of the Shaikh. He should have implicit faith to such an extent that he should believe that in all the world there is none in his knowledge who can benefit him more than his Shaikh. In the terminology of Tasawwuf this conception of implicit faith in the Shaikh is known as wahdat-e-matlab (unity of purpose). Minus this conception, the act of Bay’ah is meaningless and of no benefit because congeniality/compatibility (munaasabat) with the Shaikh is an essential condition for islaah (reformation) of the nafs.

The sign of the existence of compatibility (munaasabat) between the Mureed and his Shaikh is that the heart of the mureed does not object to the respect, statements and acts of the Shaikh. Should any objection arise in the heart regarding the Shaikh, the mureed should grieve and feel remorse.

The external form of Bay’ah is beneficial to the general public since it induces reverence and respect in them for the Shaikh. As a result, they readily accept the Shaikh’s statements and are constrained to act accordingly. However, for the elite (khawaas), i.e. the Ulama, Bay’ah proves beneficial after a period has been spent in association with the Shaikh. By virtue of Bay’ah a bond of sincerity (khulus) is generated between the mureed and the Shaikh. The Shaikh considers the mureed to belong to him and the mureed considers the Shaikh to belong to him. There does not remain any suspense between them.

THE NEED FOR A SHAIKH

It has always been in the Divine Scheme of things that perfection cannot be attained without an expert instructor. Thus when one is endowed with the guidance to enter into the Road of Tareeqat, one should search for an Instructor of Tareeqat so that one may reach the true goal through the medium of his graceful instruction and auspicious companionship.

“O my heart! If you desire to undertake this journey, hold on to the garment of the Guide,

Whoever treads the Path of Love without a Companion, his life passed by without attaining love.”

Hadhrat Hakim-ul Ummah (Rahimahullah) therefore says:

“What! Has anyone attained perfection by only books? 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 the companionship of a tailor; one cannot become a calligraphist without the company of a calligrapher. In short, one cannot attain perfection or become an expert without the companionship of an expert.”

The companionship of a pious person will induce piety in you. Similarly, the companionship of an evil person will induce evil in you. He, who searches for association with Allah Ta’ala, has to acquire the association of the Awliyaa-e-Kiram. A short while spent in the companionship of Awliyaa is nobler and superior to a century of unostentatious obedience. Companionship with the pious for even a moment is superior to a century of zuhd (abstention) and ta’at (obedience) of a hundred years.

BENEFITS OF BECOMING BAY`AH

A qualified Shaikh (of Tareeqat) by virtue of his insight and experience discerns the reality and if one is connected to such a Shaikh, he informs one of the errors and pitfalls.

The mureed is thus saved from these dangers. Assuming that the Saalik (one who treads the Path of Tasawwuf) because of intelligence and correct understanding discerns the pitfalls, then too, he will not attain tranquility and peace of mind because of inexperience. He will remain perplexed. And, perplexity impedes the attainment of the goal.

This is the responsibility of the Shaikh. More than this is not his responsibility. Nevertheless, in kindness he performs another function as well. In realizing the goal or the initial stage of the goal or in eliminating an evil attribute, the searcher of the truth undergoes great stress and difficulty although repeated subjection to such difficulty finally becomes transformed into ease.

But, the Shaikh sometimes as a favor devises such a scheme that the difficulty disappears from the very inception.

This is a brief exposition for understanding. The need for a Shaikh is felt and understood once one commences in the Path and systematically informs the Shaikh of one’s particular conditions and at the same time following his advice and instructions. Furthermore, such total obedience is possible only if one has full trust and confidence in the Shaikh, fully submitting to him. At that time one will actually feel and realize that it is not possible to attain the goal normally without a Shaikh.”

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One Comment on “The Bay`ah: A Pledge of Love and Loyalty”

  1. Waqas Ali Tunio Says:

    Assalamu Alaikum,

    Much awaited post. Mashallah. May Allah (swt) bless all of us his friendship and the company of HW and one’s own Shaikh.
    Please also post, in detail, intro to Islah, Tazkia, Suhbat,Khanqah so on.


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