What was the advice of His Eminence, Grand Ayatullah Sayyid Ali al-Sistani, to a group…
In the Name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful
Irfaan (Gnosis) and Youth
His Eminence, the Supreme Religious Authority, Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali al-Sistani (may God protect him) –
May the peace and blessings of God be upon you. Every now and then, certain individuals emerge in the midst of the youth – whether in the Islamic Seminaries or elsewhere – and they claim to have spiritual awareness of God (irfaan), as well as clarity of the inner self. These individuals also claim that they have distinct spiritual stations in nearness to God Almighty. They say that their message is to direct society toward God through praises of remembrance (athkar), litanies, and special gatherings. It has been noticed that some of the youth might answer the call of these individuals – out of belief in their claims – while others look upon these actions and activities with an eye of doubt and suspicion. Is it religiously permissible to depend on the individuals making these claims – to trust them, act based on their advice, and answer their call? Or is it a religious obligation to be wary of them and stay away from them? We ask for your religious ruling, may God reward you. May God prolong your life, a source of glory and a beacon of light.
A group of students from the Islamic Seminaries
In His Name, the Most High:
There is no doubt that every believer should take care in refining and disciplining one’s self, doing away with vices and vile traits; as well as in attaining virtues and noble qualities – all in preparation for obedience to God Almighty and with caution as not to defy Him. However, the way to do so is that which was passed on in the Glorified Book and the Noble Prophetic Tradition: to remind oneself of death and the transient nature of the world; the obstacles of the Hereafter, including the Purgatory (Barzakh), the Resurrection, the Gathering (of those resurrected), the Accounting (of deeds), and being brought before God Almighty; to remember the descriptions of Heaven and its bliss, the horrors of Hellfire and its torment, and the effects of one’s deeds and their consequences. For indeed, that is something which assists a person in God-consciousness (taqwa), in obedience to God, and in preventing one from falling into sin and God’s displeasure. As such did the Prophets and Guardians – peace be upon them – advise. And according to such, the saintly scholars did act, generation after generation. This is a clear path, without ambiguity. There is no excuse for one who falls short of it. Rather, a person’s standing is known solely through the extent to which his/her conduct matches up with or does not match up with this path. Indeed, men become known by (the standard of) truth (haqq), and whoever (does the opposite and) comes to know the truth by the (claims and actions of) men has fallen into mayhem (fitna) and strayed from the right way.
The Commander of the Faithful (peace be upon him) had warned against certain people of ignorance who would innovate things according to their own desires and claim to be scholars, thus gathering unto themselves a group of ignorant ones. He said, “Indeed, the beginning of falling into mayhem (fitan) is by (none other than) desires which are followed, and rulings which are innovated. Through these, the Book of God is violated and certain men pledge loyalty to other men on the basis of something which is not the religion of God. For if only falsehood were clear of being mixed with the truth, it would not be hidden from those seeking the truth. And if only the truth were to be clear of falsehood’s deception, the tongues of the stubborn (rejecters of truth) would cease to speak out against the truth. What is done, however, is that a handful is taken from this (pile of truth) and a handful from this (pile of falsehood), such that they are mixed. At that point, Satan takes control of his allies, and the ones who survive are those for whom assistance has been determined by God, beforehand.”
Among the signs (revealing) of people with false claims are: exaggerating about refining themselves – contrary to what God Almighty has prescribed; directing others to praise them fanatically; feeling no need to follow the well-known methods employed by the jurists in deriving religious rulings and claiming to have come to know these laws and the decisive factors (milakat) behind (legislating) them through inner means; issuing religious rulings without being qualified to do so; taking advantage of beginners in teaching and learning; having a special attachment to those who accept them (as true) and an enmity with those who do not follow their way; slandering those who detach from them after having believed in them; adopting unconventional ways to distinguish themselves from other people of knowledge and the general public; going to extremes in depending on dreams and what they claim to perceive in (certain) spiritual states; distinguishing themselves in their dress, attire, and appearance as compared to others and justifying this, in some cases, by saying that they are acts mentioned in the traditions, without taking into consideration the secondary dimensions which the jurists consider in such matters.
Among these signs, as well, are: introducing innovation into the religion; advising (others to perform spiritual) exercises which have not been known to be the practice of any of the Prophets or Guardians (peace be upon them), and relying on the law of “lenience in the evidences for recommended acts (at-tasamuh fee adillat as-sunan)” in defending the claims of recommended acts which have been conveyed in unreliable sources; also, being influenced by people of different faiths and religious traditions; (dealing) with what are deemed as forbidden types of music and song melodies, without due consideration; (partaking in) various appearances of intermingling between (non-mahram) men and women; relying on unknown sources of funding and obscure, suspicious affiliations; and other things which are not hidden from a discerning believer.
Indeed, we advise all of the faithful – may God Almighty help them succeed in arriving at His favor – to verify (the claims of those who make claims) and not go too far in dwelling on such claims. For indeed, this matter is a devotion through which devotion to God Almighty is achieved, such that whoever follows a leader of (true) guidance will be resurrected behind that leader and that person’s course will be to Heaven. And whoever follows a leader of misguidance will be resurrected with that leader on the Day of Judgment, and that leader will lead the person into Hellfire. Let everyone contemplate, in this regard, the condition of those who came before them and how so many of them fell into misguidance by following the likes of those who have been mentioned here. We ask God Almighty to keep everyone away from (misguiding) innovations and desires, and to help us succeed in acting according to His sacred code of law, following the example of the saintly scholars. Indeed, He is the Guardian of Success.
May the Peace be upon you, and upon all of our faithful brethren, as well as the Mercy and Blessings of God.
28 Rabi al-Awwal 1432 AH
Signed: Ali al-Hussaini al-Sistani