Can your shaykh be a veil too? Of course he can. It is not only “bad” things that are veils, “good” things can be veils too. In fact the masters of this path have stressed that “good” things are often greater veils. Amongst the latter is “my shaykh is better than all others” or “…..THE shaykh of the time” or ” the Qutb of the age” etc etc. This is a sign of the nafs appropriating for itself the esteem and rank of the masters of this path. It is different from sincerely believing that your shaykh is indeed THE shaykh as far as you are concerned.

The immediate cause of these reflections is a discussion over on Deenport about the claim by followers of a contemporary shaykh that their shaykh is indeed Shaykh ul-Islam of our times. The proof of this claim is that certain other scholars have called that shaykh by the title in question, or that such and such a shaykh has taken ijaza from the shaykh. These people don’t realise that such niceties are quite common amongst the scholars. If such things were taken seriously there would be far too many Ghazalis, Razis, Suyutis of our time ( for this is how one hears scholars being praised) for us to even keep count and we would not be experiencing the “famine of men” (qaht ar-rijal) that is in fact a characteristic of out age.

The other problematic aspect of such discussions is that people start judging other shaykhs by the words of those that they hold in high regard. Sometimes this can be a good indicator but it does not authorize any student/disciple to become judge and jury himself. I have often seen people condemning scholars quite harshly (often for not fitting into their preferred box), only later to withdraw because they have found that their favorite shaykh has also taken an ijaza from the shaykh they were attacking.

So we should beware of falling in to this trap and remind ourselves that only Allah (swt) knows the true ranks of His servants and also recognizing that is not the ijaza or the title that makes the man but rather the man that lends meaning to the ijazaat and titles.