Shaykh Ibn Abbad ar-Rundi (ra) was a scholar and the Imam of the Qarrawiyyin University in Fez in the 14th century CE. He was a sufi affiliated to the Shadhili order and is famous for his Letters on the Sufi Path as well as his commentary on the celebrated Hikam of Sidi Ibn Ata’illah (ra). Below is an extract from his letter to the famous Maliki jurist Abu Ishaq as-Shatibi who was seeking advice about the need for a spiritual master for someone aspiring to the Path.
” The spiritual guide who educates is hard to find these days and “more precious than red sulphur.” So also is the instructing spiritual guide, for many who are associated with this Path and who are both recommended and trusted do not in fact render an accurate account of the meaning of Sufism, nor do they acquaint people with the Mystic Truth, let alone with what is beyond that. I do not know, which of the two calamities is the greater: the disappearance of the spiritual guide with profound understanding, or the lack of sincere disciples. But we belong to God and to Him we return.
Now the question arises: How does a person who wishes to pursue the Sufi Path make do under these circumstances? Does he occupy himself with the quest of the spiritual guide? Or does he abandon the search and simply wait? And in either case, does he engage in the activities of the wayfarers, or not, in the meantime?
I say there is no point in searching for the spiritual guide, whether or not one is actively practicing Sufism. The spiritual guide is a gift from God Most High. It is His way of directing the aspiring servant who has turned his attention entirely to following the way and is sparing no effort and using all of his capabilities, however humble or grand. It is in this context that God Most High leads the individual to a more excellent state, safe from innovation and error, in which the seeker is secure from the pitfalls that await everyone who relies on the spiritual guide’s solicitude and supervision as a buffer against past and future tribulations.
It is equally pointless merely to wait for the spiritual guide while postponing the active practice of Sufism. That is a fruitless waste and an inappropriate mode of behavior. Only the fourth option remains: involvement in spiritual activity while one waits for the spiritual guide. The seeker can attain that goal by purifying his intention through vigilance over the sincerity of his relationship with God Most High. Anyone who desires the presence of God needs complete truthfulness, for God is present to those who are veracious. Sincerity[i] consists in making demands of the lower self and disciplining it for the state of piety required in Sufism. That includes personal prayer, a heart intent on the door of the Master, a positive frame of mind, genuine hope, and an entering into the presence of God Most High with awe, reverence, and humility. As one disciplines himself and brings his lower self into line in these matters, he should ask God Most High to fulfill His promises, and he will arrive at his desired goal.