Seeking the Path

Question: Some see it as an obligation to follow a certain “murshid” (spiritual master) and assert that it is not possible to be saved without pledging allegiance to such a master. Could you state your opinions on this?

Answer: There are two meanings for the word murshid, the first being a general term and the second being associated with a Sufi context. In its general sense, murshid denotes a guide who averts people from straying to ominous trails and shows them the righteous path, who awakens hearts to the Divine, who opens minds, feelings, eyes, and ears to certain truths, and thus who guides them to the horizons of the heart and spirit. In this respect, it is possible to see a person giving a sermon in a mosque or giving a religious talk in a circle as a murshid. In the same way, a shopkeeper who pours the inspirations of his heart into another’s by talking with a visitor to his shop about the truths of the faith can, in a way, be seen as a murshid, or spiritual guide, as well.

As for the more specific meaning of “murshid” in a Sufi context, it refers to a person who had initially become the disciple of another murshid, who went through rounds of forty-day retreats (khalwa), who ate and drank little, who slept little, and who passed different levels at spiritual journeying. That is, a murshid is a person who experienced mushahada (direct witnessing) and annihilated his carnal soul in God (fana), who attained a certain spiritual rank on the path to find Him, and who, in the end, was entitled as a new spiritual guide by his own to guide others to the Truth.

Shaykh Ismaeel Chartier
Spiritual Director