The path technically refers to the stations that lead to His presence. The first of these stations is the Shariah. The path therefore is to fetter oneself with the chains of Shariah, adopting servitude and resoluteness and to constantly search for the pleasure of Allah.
The beginning of the path is to leave all legal dispensations and adopt all recommended acts of divine law. The end of the path according to Junaid al-Baghdadi is to return to the beginning. This can either mean: arriving at Allah’s presence as He is the source of all things, He says most High, “Unto your lord is the final end of it”, and “to Him you will return” and “to Him all matters return”, or it may mean that the traveller returns to his primordial state as he was when he was in his mother’s womb, in a complete state of dependency upon Allah, divest of all blameworthy attributes and adorned with praiseworthy ones. When the traveller reaches this position he will have arrived at the end of the path. This is where his servitude reaches perfection and he becomes free from the dangers of the ego.
The path has many stations. Every station has a beginning and an end. It is impossible to reach the end without correcting the beginning. Junaid al-Baghdadi states, “None can reach the end of the path without perfecting its preliminaries.” Some Sufi’s state that ma’rifah can be lost if its fundamentals are not looked after.
It follows therefore that one be mindful of the fundamentals of the path so that one can arrive at Divine Presence.
The fundamentals of the path, according to Junaid al-Baghdadi are five: 1] fasting 2] night vigils 3] sincerity 4] vigilance of ones works 5] firm reliance upon Allah at all times. Suhayl Tustari states that the fundamentals of the path are seven. 1] to hold firmly to the book of Allah 2] to follow the Sunnah 3] to eat of the lawful 4] not to harm any creature 5] to abstain from sin 6] to seek repentance 7] to fulfil all rights.
The knowledge of the Sufis is the fruits of the works they do. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the traveller to rectify his works so that he can enjoy the fruits thereof. The ancient Sufis have said, “He who has no wird enjoys no fruit”. To rectify ones works one is in need of knowledge. This is so one can know what is fardh, wájib, sunnah, mustahab, harám and makrúh. [Imdād al-Sulūk]