Considering the shaykh‘s [consequent] status

Since knowledge is attained initially from the books, rather it is necessary to take from a shaykh in order to perfect the keys of knowledge with him (so as to prevent yourself from tripping and slipping) then it is incumbent upon you to take into consideration the shaykh‘s [consequent] status for indeed it is the token of success, acquisition and prosperity. So make your shaykh an object of your reverence, honour, appreciation, and courtesy.

Therefore take from the comprehensive aspects of etiquette when sitting with your shaykh, or speaking to him, or asking [him questions] and listening [attentively] to his answers. Also display good etiquette with any book and when turning its pages in his presence, abstain from arguing with the intent of showing off in front of him, do not precede him in speech or in your steps, or talk excessively in his presence, and do not continually interrupt him while he is speaking or during his lecture. Do not continually pester him for an answer to your question and avoid extensive questioning especially in the presence of an audience, for indeed this attracts self-delusion [on your behalf] and [causes the shaykh] to become bored. Avoid calling him by his first name, or by his surname as one would say: “O, Shaykh so-and-so!” Rather you should say: “Yaa Shaykhee!” (O, my Shaykh!), or: “Yaa Shaykhana!” (O, our Shaykh), and do not call him by name; for that is more elevated in manner.

[Also] avoid addressing him with terms of address (أنتَ) “You”, or calling him from a distance without necessity.

Consider the etiquette that Allah mentioned with the One Who Taught Mankind All Good (subhaanahu wa ta’aala) in His saying:

“Make not the calling of the Messenger [i.e. calling him by his name by saying: "Muhammad" as was the habit of the bedouins] among you as the call of one of you to another…”

[Suraatul Noor (24):63]

Similarly, just as it is not befitting to call your biological father by saying: “O, so and so” or: “O, my father so and so,” (and mention his name), then it is not befitting with your shaykh.

So adhere to preserving the awe of the gathering and displaying rejoice and benefit [derived] from the lessons. If a mistake from the shaykh becomes apparent to you, or a delusion [on his behalf] then let that not degrade the shaykh in your eyes, for such would be the cause of you becoming derived from his knowledge, and who is safe from falling into mistakes?

Be careful not to interact with him in a way that irritates him, and from this is what the muwallidoon (the people who derive modern terminology from the Arabic language) call “the battle of nerves” (Mu’jaam at-Taraakeeb by Ahmad Abu Sa’d, p283); which means to test the capacity of the shaykh‘s knowledge and patience.

If, however, you decide to change to another shaykh then seek his permission (for this is more [befitting] to his consequent status and more likely to the preserve love and compassion in his heart for you, and so on, through the list of the list of etiquette that is known by heart to every blessed and prosperous person) out of fulfilment of the shaykh‘s rights through his ‘religious fatherhood,’ or what is referred to in some laws as ‘cultural suckling,’ and (referring to it as ‘religious fatherhood’ is more befitting and leaving the [other one] is more appropriate).

Know that your success is dependent upon how much you take his status into consideration, and barely considering it is a sign of your failure.

Caution: I ask Allah to grant you refuge from the doings of the a’aajim (non Arabs), and followers of [Sufi] orders, and the present day innovators; from [total] submission (to the mashaa’ikh) that exceeds the boundaries of the Sharee’ah from licking the hands and kissing the shoulders, and grabbing the right hand with [both] right and left hands when giving salaam; [behavior that resembles] adults when they show affection to children; and bowing at the time of greeting, and using slack phrases [that indicate lowliness] such as: “Sayyidee, mowlaa (O master)” and other such statements used by servants and slaves. Refer to what the al-Allaamatus-Salafee ash-Shaykh Muhammad al-Basheer al-Ibraheemee al-Jazaa’iree (died 1380 AH) (rahimahullaah) said in [his book] al-Bussaa’ir; for indeed it is exceeding in its content.

  • Transcribed from: The Etiquette of Seeking Knowledge | Shaykh Bakr Abu Zayd
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