Ruling on following Sufi Shaykhs
A Sudanese person living in Al-Anbar says: In our country we have various sects. Each sect follows a certain shaykh to guide and teach them and believe that he will intercede for them with Allah on the Day of Resurrection. They also believe that whoever does not follow a shaykh will go astray in this life and in the Hereafter. Should we follow those shaykhs or not? Please advise us. May Allah bless you.
All praise be to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger, his family, his Companions, and those who follow his guidance.
What the questioner mentions about having in their country shaykhs whom they follow and the belief that one who does not have a shaykh will be astray in this world and the Hereafter is Munkar (an act which is unacceptable or disapproved of by Islamic law and Muslims of sound intellect). It is not permissible to follow or believe in such things. This relates to the Sufis who believe that their shaykhs are the leaders and that it is obligatory to follow them blindly. However, this is grave error and utter ignorance. There is no one in this life whose footsteps are to be followed and commands taken as an obligation except the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him).
As for scholars, they sometimes err. It is not permissible to adopt an opinion of any person, even great scholars, unless his opinion is in conformity with Allah’s Shar‘ (Law) which Muhammad (peace be upon him) conveyed. The belief of the Sufis with regard to their shaykhs is Batil (null and void) and wrong. They must repent to Allah and follow the guidance with which the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was sent. Allah (Exalted be He) states, “Say (O Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم to mankind): “If you (really) love Allâh then follow me (i.e. accept Islâmic Monotheism, follow the Qur’ân and the Sunnah), Allâh will love you and forgive you your sins.” [Aal Imran: 31]
The meaning is: Say, O Messenger, to those people who claim that they love Allah: if you love Allah, then follow me, He will love you.
Allah (Exalted be He) says, “And whatsoever the Messenger (Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم) gives you, take it; and whatsoever he forbids you, abstain (from it).” [Al-Hashr: 7]
And, “And perform As-Salât (Iqâmat-as-Salât), and give Zakât and obey the Messenger (Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم) that you may receive mercy (from Allâh).” [Al-Nur: 56]
Obeying Allah and His Messenger is obligatory. It is not permissible to follow any person after the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) unless his opinion is in conformity with Shari‘ah (Islamic law). The views of any person might be right or wrong except those of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), who is infallible and protected from error in all the revelations and laws which he conveyed to people. Allah (Exalted be He) states, “By the star when it goes down (or vanishes). Your companion (Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم) has neither gone astray nor has erred. Nor does he speak of (his own) desire. It is only a Revelation revealed.” [Al-Najm: 1-4]
Thus, we are all to follow the Message which the Prophet (peace be upon him) was sent with, hold fast to and protect the Islamic faith, and not be deceived by the views of the others and follow their mistakes. All the opinions of the scholars should be measured against the Qur’an and the Sunnah and only those which are in conformity with them should be accepted; otherwise rejected. Allah (Exalted be He) states, “O you who believe! Obey Allâh and obey the Messenger (Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم), and those of you (Muslims) who are in authority. (And) if you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allâh and His Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم), if you believe in Allâh and in the Last Day. That is better and more suitable for final determination.” [Al-Nisa: 59]
And, “And in whatsoever you differ, the decision thereof is with Allâh (He is the ruling Judge).” [Al-Shura: 10]
And, “And verily, this (i.e. Allâh’s Commandments mentioned in the above two Verses 151 and 152) is My Straight Path, so follow it, and follow not (other) paths, for they will separate you away from His Path. This He has ordained for you that you may become Al-Muttaqûn (the pious - see V.2:2).” [Al-An’am: 153]
According to all scholars, it is not permissible to adopt the views of the shaykhs and imitate them without knowledge and insight; it even constitutes Munkar by the Ijma‘ (consensus) of Ahl-ul-Sunnah wal-Jama‘ah (those adhering to the Sunnah and the Muslim main body). However, only the scholarly views which are in accordance with the truth should be taken because they conform to it and not because it is the opinion of so and so. Any views of scholars or Sufi shaykhs or others that contradict the truth should be refuted and abandoned, because they are contrary to the truth and not because they are the opinions of any particular person.