Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam
Is it possible to do a ‘wird’ without having access to a living true shaykh?
I have heard that engaging in a long dhikr can be harmful if I am not connected to a living shaykh to supervise me. How can one of Allah’s names harm me?
I pray that you are in the best of health and faith, insha’Allah.
It is possible to have general spiritual routines without a teacher’s specific instruction.
However, it is best to consult a scholar, unless the particular supplication or litany is widely known to be for general reading, or more generally from the sunna of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace).
Sheikh Nuh Keller writes in his Sea without Shore, “Particular divine names such as Ya Hayy (“O Ever-living”) Ya Jabbar (“O Overmastering”) and so forth, like the Supreme Name, require permission to recite, except in limited numbers of short duration. This is because each divine name carries a particular power, and the heart and mind of the disciple may not be prepared to handle an overload of this power, just as an electrical appliance is designed to handle only a certain type of current.” [Keller, Sea Without Shore, 171]
Shaykh Gibril Haddad mentions regarding the exalted Divine Names, “the Ghawth, Sayyidi ‘Abd al-‘Aziz al-Dabbagh said as related from him by his student the learned Shaykh ‘Ali ibn al-Mubarak in al-Ibriz:
“If they took them (those Names) from a shaykh who is a knower (‘arif), it will not harm them; but if they took them from a shaykh who is not a knower, it will harm them.”
“I [‘Ali ibn al-Mubarak] said: ‘What is the reason?’ He replied, Allah be well-pleased with him: ‘The Most Beautiful Names have lights from the Real (al-Haqq), may He be exalted and glorified! Whenever you want to mention the Name, if, with the Name, there is Its light accompanying It while you mention It, then such [dhikr] will not harm you; but if there is not, with the Name, Its light accompanying it, which is meant to protect the servant from the devil, it [i.e. the dhikr of the Name] will be a cause for the harm of the servant.
“‘When the shaykh is an actual knower of Allah Most High, meaning someone who is always in the Divine presence, and he wants to give his murid one of the Beautiful Names of Allah, he gives him [with it] that light which protects him, after which the murid mentions It and it will not harm him…. otherwise the murid will be destroyed. We ask Allah Most High for safety!’””
In the meantime, you should learn what is obligatory for you to know and subsequently work on applying it in your life. Making a lot of remembrances whilst committing much of the unlawful (haram) is not going to have the effect it has the potential for. Ask Allah for sincerity, success, and right guidance.
And Allah alone gives success.
[Ustadha] Tabraze Azam
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani