25. Dhul Qadah 1438  Jumu'ah
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(A translation of an abridged version of the fatwa of Shaykh 'Abdurahman Balfaqih by Shaykh Ahmad Hendricks , with brief explanatory footnotes, freely translated from Habib Ahmad bin Sumayt's "Tuhfah al-Labib")


The Sayyid, the learned gnostic, Abdurrahman ibn 'Abdullah ibn Ahmad Balfaqih, may Allah, the Most High, be pleased with him, has given a clear and erudite reply about the nature of the 'Alawi Path, when he said: " Know, that the path of the Bani 'Alawi is one of the sufi paths which has as it's basis, strict adherence to the Quran and the Sunnah; the life and essence of this path is genuine spiritual poverty (sidq al-iftiqar) and the continuous vision that everything comes from Allah (ru'yah al-minnah). It is following what is written in a special way 2. It is a path that seeks to develop all the noble and higher qualities, and rejects all the lowly and ugly character traits. It's outer is all the sciences and practises of the Din, and its inner, the realisation of the stations (maqamat) and states (ahwal). To jealously protect the secrets 3 from abuse and from becoming common-place is it's decorum (adab).

The exterior of the 'Alawi Way, is therefore, the knowledge and practises masterfully expounded by Imam Al-Ghazali. And it's interior is the realisation of the truth of things 4 and divested tawhid 5 expounded by the Shadhiliyyah. Their sciences are the sciences of the sufi masters. Their formalities is the efacement of formalities 6. The object is to come nearer to Allah by every acceptable means.

The Sadah Bani 'Alawi endorse:

  • the taking of the oath (al-'ahd)
  • the donning of the khirqah
  • spiritual seclusion (al-khalwah)
  • spiritual exercises (al-riyadah)
  • self-discipline (mujahadah)
  • close companionship with the Shaikh (al-suhbah)

And finally the greater part of their discipline and practise was aimed at purifying the heart, and by strictly following the true path of guidance, expose themselves to the fragrance of nearness to Allah, the Most High.

1. The word tariqah may be used in a general or specific sense. In its general meaning it refers to the general ways and behaviours of a group of people, and its specific sense it describes the sufi path, which commences with tawbah and ends in different degrees of fana. The above fatwah deals with the tariqah of the Bani 'Alawi in the general sense.

2. The Sayyid implies that in addition to the Quran and the Sunnah, all the legal rules derived by the scholars are practised in a special way. "A special way" since the path is built on following the best of what is written and the safest most cautious of derived rules.

3. The spiritual truths which are inspired into the souls of the saints through continuous 'ibadah and contemplation.

4. Inward enlightenment is acquired from the start of ones inner journey through knowledge, remembrance [dhikr], contemplation [fikr], inward exercises, and concentration, after complying with all the obligations and refraining from all the prohibitions. This paves the way to acquiring the station of muraqabah from the beginning, without excessive exercises and hardships.

5. This term refers to spiritual annihilation (fana). In this station the slave is absorbed in Allah to the point that all else fades from his vision except the Divine Essence. This the highest rank the slave can attain through muraqabah.

6. They avoid adopting formalities, symbols and colours well known in the other sufi paths except formalities based on sound guidance. The basis of their path is strict compliance to the sunnah and avoiding fame and popularity.