Shah Waliullah: Training the Traveller of the Spiritual Path


The training of travellers has successive stages. Firstly, he must correct his beliefs. Thus when an individual is desirous of the divine path, first command him to correct his beliefs, according to the creed of the pious forebears.

Namely, attesting one Necessarily Existent [God], there is no deity except Him. He is attributed with all perfect attributes; Life, Knowledge, Omnipotence, Will, etc as Allah has described Himself, and what is established by the reports from the Truthful Messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace, the Companions and Followers. He is transcendently above all signs of limitation and declination like having a body, contained by space, being an accident, encompassed by direction or having a colour or form.

As for what has been transmitted about His ascension on the Throne, His laughter and the existence of two hands. We believe in them in an unspecific manner and submit their meaning to Allah Most High. We know with certitude that He is not ascribed with what we [mortals] are ascribed, like being encompassed by space etc. Rather, there is none like unto Him; He is the Hearing, the Knowing [42:11]. We state that these things are established for Allah Most High in the manner He has declared in His clear Book.

Then he should attest to the prophethood of the prophets; all prophets generally and Prophet Muhammad specifically, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon all of them. He should attest the obligation of following him in all that he has commanded and forbidden. He must believe everything he has stated concerning Allah’s attributes, the Hereafter, Heaven, Hell, resurrection, accountability, observing the divine countenance, the Last Day and punishment of the grave etc; which are established through reliable chains of transmission.

Thereafter, he should concern himself with abstaining from enormities and being remorseful about minor sins.

The truth is that an enormity is either:

1] A sin which has been threatened with Hellfire or severe punishment in the Quran or the rigorously authenticated hadiths which are well known to its experts;

2] Or its perpetrator is called an unbeliever like the hadith: “He who forgoes salah intentionally has disbelieved”, “the difference between us and the polytheists is salah. He who forgoes it has disbelieved”;

3] Or a legal punishment is prescribed for its perpetrator like fornication, theft, highway menacing and drinking wine;

4] Or sound intellect regards the sin similar or worse than the above mentioned crimes.

From among the enormities are:

1)   To ascribe a partner with Allah Most High in worship, seeking help in sustenance and cure etc. This has been indicated in the verse “you alone we worship and from you alone we seek succour” [1:4];

2)   Believing in fortune-tellers;

3)   Reviling, mocking and refuting the Prophet, Quran, angels and what is necessarily known to be of the religion;

4)   Forgoing the prescribed prayer, zakat, fasting and Hajj;

5)   Killing a human being without just cause, killing offspring and suicide;

6)   Fornication;

7)   Sodomy and lesbianism;

8)   Drinking intoxicants;

9)   Theft;

10) Highway menacing;

11) Unjustly taking another’s property;

12) Misappropriating spoils of war;

13) Giving false testimony;

14) Taking a false oath;

15) Charging a chaste woman with adultery;

16) Wrongfully consuming an orphans property;

17) Being disrespectful to parents;

18) Breaking ties with relations;

19) Selling short-measure and short-weight;

20) Consuming usurious gain;

21) Fleeing from the battlefield;

22) Lying about the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace;

23) Taking bribery;

24) Marrying unmarriageable kin;

25) Pimping between men and women;

26) Tale-bearing to the Sultan so that he kills someone or usurps his property;

27) Not migrating from ‘lands of unbelief’;

28) Befriending the unbelievers;

29) Sorcery;

All the above are enormities.

A minor sin is:

1)   What sacred law has forbidden;

2)   Or contradicts the lawful;

3)   Or eliminates a commanded act in the religion.

Thereafter he should concern himself with the Pillars of Islam; purification, ritual prayer, fasting, zakat and Hajj. He should perform them as the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, has commanded paying special attention to the confirmed sunnahs, the praiseworthy actions, the manner in which they should be performed and the invocations that are recited in them.

Thereafter he should concern himself with his livelihood like his eating, drinking, clothing, speech and companionship etc; his domestic affairs like his marriage, his servants and his offspring; his transactional dealings like buying, gifting, leasing etc. He should correct all these matters according to the Sunnah without compromising his principles and without waywardness.

Thereafter he should concern himself with the litanies which are invoked at different times like the morning, evening and retiring; with ridding oneself of traits like ostentation, rancour, jealousy, malice; constant recital of the Quran, remembrance of the hereafter and frequenting gatherings of knowledge and Mosques.

When he has adopted the above etiquettes, it is now well-nigh possible for him to adopt the esoteric occupations and strive to keep his heart perpetually attached with Allah, Mighty and Majestic, and vigilantly observe Him with the eye of the heart.

We have not exposited the above matters in detail because they are numerous. We have firm reliance on the sincere student who seeks clarification from the Book of Allah, the Sunnah, Fiqh, intermediate books of Sufism like Riyadh al-Salihin and compendiums in aqidah like Aqaid al-Adudiyyah.

He who cannot do this should seek them from a scholar. Allah knows best.

Source: Waliullah, S. (n/d). al-Qawl al-Jamil. Lahore: Islami Academy.

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  1. JazakAllahkhayr for the excerpt of the words of Shah Walliullah (rahimahullah).

    Just was wondering about the following particular: “Not migrating from ‘lands of unbelief’;”

    Is the situation different for us now? Or is it the case we need to bite our teeth and accept it?


    1. This is not an absolute injunction. Rather it has to be contextualised. I personally believe that our situation here in the UK is far better than many muslim countries.

      Shazad Khan


  2. Would it be possible to elaborate on what ‘befriending unbelievers’ means because it would imply that it is a major sin to have an unbelieving friend.


    1. Assalamu ‘Alaykum

      There is clear a distinction between a person’s action and his/her actual self. We may dislike the action, because Sacred Law regards it as reprehensible, but not the actual individual. Only God knows what the final outcome of the person will be.

      Shazad Khan


  3. Assalamu ‘alaykum Mawlana,

    Thank you for this. Sometimes we need to slow down and consider our priorities. Actually the order seems very logical once stated but it takes some mastery to be able to state it.

    Am I correct in saying that this order is for perfection and not for action itself? I.e. one should continue with litanies and self-rectification which is of the last stage, even though one has not perfected an earlier stage, while ensuring the earliest stage must be the priority?

    Mushfiqur Rahman


    1. Assalamu ‘Alaykum,

      Yes you’re right, one should continue in such a way but this varies from shaykh to shaykh and from spiritual order to spiritual order. Each individual wayfarer has his/her own temperament and it is the shaykh’s job to guide and prescribe accordingly.

      Shazad Khan


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