When Can One Leave a Spiritual Path (Tariqa)?

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani


What are the reasons behind terminating the allegiance one has with a Shaykh?


I hope you’re doing well, insha’Allah.

The basis is that one only takes a spiritual path (tariqa) because there is clear religious benefit in it; and one only leaves such a path if there is clear harm. This would be a major step that should be done with due consideration, turning to Allah, and careful consultation.

What is the Purpose of a Spiritual Path (tariqa)?
The purpose of a spiritual path is reaching the Closeness and Love of Allah through the realization of one’s slavehood (ubudiyya) to Allah in faith (iman) and mindfulness (taqwa).

A True Spiritual Path: Qualified, Mainstream, Clear Benefit
A true spiritual path would be led by a qualified, authorized scholar; would have clear teachings and religious routines rooted in the Sunna of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him); ways of spiritual training (mujahada); and means of seeking mentorship for one’s challenges on the path of seeking Allah.

What is the Pledge of Allegiance (Bay’a)?
The pledge of allegiance (bay’a) is a commitment to follow a spiritual guide’s teachings. This is conditional on these teachings being Islamically-sound, and not entailing harm for oneself or others.

Breaking a Pledge, and Leaving a Spiritual Path?
If a spiritual guide is not qualified, or their guidance entails harms, one does not follow them. The Messenger of Allah (peace & blessings be upon him), “There is no obedience to creation in disobedience to the Creator.”

In such cases, one turns to Allah through the Prayer of Seeking Guidance (istikhara), and consult scholars or leaders one trusts.

How Does One Perform the Istikhara Prayer?
Read the following on how to perform the Prayer of Seeking Guidance (istikhara):

How is your istikhara answered? The answer to the istikhara is your inclination towards which decision will be best in your keen and dunya, short and long term, directly and indirectly.

Precious Guidance on Considering a Spiritual Path–Or Leaving a Spiritual Path (tariqa)

Shaykh Muhammad al-Hashimi explained in al-Hall al-Sadid:

w9.7 As for when the path is merely ” for the blessing of it” and the sheikh lacks some of the conditions of a true  guide, or when the disciple is seeking several different aims from it at once, or the disciple’s intention is contrary to the spiritual will of the Sheikh, or the time required is unduly prolonged, or he is separated from his sheikh by the latter’s death or the exigencies of the times and has not yet completed his journey to Allah on the path or attained his goal from it-then it is obligatory for him to go and associate with someone who can complete his journey for him and convey him to what he seeks from the path, as it is not permissible for him to remain bound to the first sheikh his whole life if it is only to die in ignorance of his Lord, claiming that this is the purpose of the path. By no means is this the purpose. The purpose of the path is to reach the goal, and a path that does not reach it is a means without an end.

The path was made for travel on it with the intention of reaching one’s goal, not for remaining and residing in even if this leads to dying in ignorance of one’s Lord. The meaning of a true disciple is one who forthrightly submits himself to a living sheikh who is a guide (murshid) during the days of his journey to Allah Most High so that the sheikh may put him through the stages of the journey until he can say to him, ” Here you are, and here is your Lord” (ai-Hall al-sadid Ii ma astashkalahu almurid (y46), 7).

Shaykh Nuh Keller comments on this:
w9.8 (n:) Muhammad Hashimi’s above words about submitting oneself to a living sheikh refer to matters within the range of the permissible or recommended, not what contradicts the Sacred Law or beliefs of Islam (def: vl-v2), for no true sheikh would ever countenance such a contravention (dis: s4.7), let alone have a disciple do so, a fact that furnishes the subject of the remaining articles of this section.

[Keller, Reliance of the Traveller, 865-866]

And Allah is the giver of success and facilitation.

[Shaykh]Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani spent ten years studying with some of the leading scholars of recent times, first in Damascus, and then in Amman, Jordan. His teachers include the foremost theologian of recent times in Damascus, the late Shaykh Adib al-Kallas (may Allah have mercy on him), as well as his student Shaykh Hassan al-Hindi, one of the leading Hanafi fuqaha of the present age. He returned to Canada in 2007, where he founded SeekersGuidance in order to meet the urgent need to spread Islamic knowledge–both online and on the ground–in a reliable, relevant, inspiring, and accessible manner. He is the author of: Absolute Essentials of Islam: Faith, Prayer, and the Path of Salvation According to the Hanafi School (White Thread Press, 2004.) Since 2011, Shaykh Faraz has been named one of the 500 most influential Muslims by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center.