A zawiya is a door to Allah, a means through which by the grace of the Divine one may win free of the self, world, Devil, and stubborn folly to know one’s Maker. The point of a zawiya is tarbiya, the educative process of taking people as they are and raising them by successive degrees to the desired perfection. Sheikh Ahmad al-’Alawi, the great Algerian renewer of the Shadhili tariqa or way of Sufism in the last century, used the purificatory bath (ghusl) before the Friday prayer as a metaphor for this training when he wrote:
Raise no objection to the Shaykh for this
Is likely to cause disconcertedness to the novice in addition to his desertion
Shaykh al-Sharishi means, and Allah knows best: O novice! Do not raise any objection towards your Shaykh regarding any of his words, actions or states, at any time, whether inwardly or outwardly, after submitting to his guidance. This is because your objection is likely to cause you disconcertedness in your religion and worldly affairs, and you will suffer the Shaykh’s desertion, banishment and exclusion. Sometimes the Shaykh banishes the novice both inwardly and outwardly, such that he drives him out of his house and shuts his door on him. Sometimes the Shaykh banishes the novice inwardly. This is more harmful to the novice for, in this case, the latter is not aware that he has been banished or that he deserves expulsion. This state of banishment will remain until the novice hearkens to his Shaykh: repentant, remorseful, meek and heartbroken. It is due to this subtlety that Shaykh Abu’l-Qasim al-Qushayri, may Allah be well-pleased with him, said:
Ramadan takes place in any season in any land. Muslims living in Birmingham, England, and Oslo, Norway, asked me this year for a fiqh solution as to what time to begin fasting Ramadan each day when it occurs in the summertime, and there is no true dawn because of the persistence of twilight all night at their latitudes.
Nuh Keller was born in 1954 and raised as a Roman Catholic in rural Washington State. He is a third-generation American of German ancestry on his father’s side, and German, Scottish, and Irish on his mother’s. During the 1970’s and 1980’s between his academic studies and work as a commercial fisherman in the North Pacific, he underwent a journey of reflection that culminated in his becoming Muslim. Nearly three decades later, he has become one of the most authoritative voices of traditional, moderate Islam in the English-speaking world.