Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanawi (ra) is one of those scholars that either inspires great devotion or great aversion in people familiar with the sectarian disputes of twentieth century scholars in the Indo-Pakistani subcontinent. Despite his fame as an ultra-conservative scholar he was also a practicing sufi belonging to the Chishti tariqa. His works on sufism in Urdu are some of the clearest that I have come across, often displaying amazing insight in the diagnosis and treatment of spiritual ailments. Recently I came across some interesting quotes from his malfuzat which I thought it would be useful to share in view of his reputation for being rather “dry”( khushak mizaj).

On Sama’

” …once I ( Mawlana sahib) was writing a commentary on the Masnavi Sharif (of Mawlana Rumi) in the upper floor of my house and I herd the sound of rice being ground in a neighbouring house. This sound moved me to such a state that I felt like crying out, however, I controlled myself till the state subsided. Hz Mawlana Muhammad Yaqub had experienced something similar….these are the people for whom Sama’ is permitted but they still refrain from it out of concern for the common people (who may exceed limits). ”

“…another time the shaykh was resting and I (a mureed) was massaging his feet. We heard a boy humming some verses in a far off cell of the khaniqah. The shaykh asked for him to be stopped and then explained: despite our cautiousness our Chishtiyyat still manages to burst forth. Upon hearing the verses my heart was stirred after all a Chishti cannot fail to be attracted by sama’.”

“… another time he said: I am certain that if I permitted myself to listen to qawwali I would pass away (die) during it.”

On the Chishti Silsila

” he said: In the Chishtiyya the “nisbat“(relationship) of extreme Love dominates over pure conformity whereas in the Naqshbandiyya conformity (with Shariah/Sunnah) dominates over love. Thus it is as if in the latter there is only one watchman over one, whereas in the Chishtiyya there is constant burning, dying and being reduced to dust.”

“he said: the Chishtis only want to become dust (khaak) and heart-torn (sina chaak) whereas some silsilas wish to be pure (paak).”

Extracted and translated from Hakim ul Ummat Ke Hayrat Angaiz Waqeaat by Muhammad Ishaq Multani.