Association (Sohbet) with the Master
A Murshid, a Grandshaykh, who teaches and educates people, is like a professor of surgery who gives lessons by operating on a corpse, thus showing his students what they need to learn. Every Grandshaykh having that rank may speak in front of any gathering of people, and his speech will be heard by all Saints, living or in the life of the grave (Barzakh); this is a miracle given to them. Quickly they may be heard, like nowadays when a president addresses an assembly, every president and every government will quickly hear or read that speech — if Sultan Al-Awliya speaks, it must be heard all over.
Association with the Sheikh is one of the most important pillars of the most distinguished Naqshibandi Order; it must be. It is like petrol for the car, and man, or believers; they are in need to move towards Allah, towards the Heavens. Association is giving to people new refreshment and power to continue with their Lord’s divine service. Cars never run without petrol, and believers can’t move without association with the Sheikh. Association, or an associated person, means someone joining with another person to be carried by his power from the earth to the heavens. This is one meaning of association: that you may join the caravan of Prophets and Saints moving towards their Lord’s divine service, towards the Divine Presence. Association is like a hook carrying people from the lowest to the highest life. It is a very important pillar of the most distinguished Naqshibandi Order.
Our Grandshaykh says that among the biggest favours from Allah is that when two brothers (ikhwan), friends, are sitting together, in association for the sake of Allah. All the worship they could make individually for two thousand years would not equal the reward that Allah Almighty gives for that association! Because, through that association Divine Care will come. Also, one of the greatest favours from Allah Almighty to His servants is for them to be witnesses to His Unity.
Every association gives that power secretly through your soul. Whether you know it or not, feel it or not, doesn’t matter. But this power must be given through every association. It is not important, what we say, or what we hear. What are we saying here? Even if I am reading a newspaper, it doesn’t matter. You are in the operation-room, and you are covered. What is important is to attend the association of the Sheikh, and his spiritual power will go through everyone. When you are sitting here, blessings are coming from Heavens, coming from Allah Almighty, and those blessings make you powerful. We may say anything through our associations, and it doesn’t matter. Even if you hear it or not, or you make yourself keep those orders or not. To be here, to attend the association of the Naqshabandi Order, gives you that spiritual power, which makes your soul to be stronger than your ego. Your spiritual power is increasing, so that you can use your will-power against your ego. You may even say: “I can never remember what sheikh says.” Sheikh’s address is not to your minds. Ulema and scholars address your mind; Awliya, Saints address your souls. Therefore, anytime when you are faced with something, what your soul has already caught and kept reaches you at that time and gives you that power.
Once our Grandsheikh addressed me, saying; ”Oh Nazim Effendi, I want to speak to you on a very serious point for which you and all seekers must take the greatest care. Don’t worship your ego as a god beside Allah Almighty. You must be most careful, as this kind of polytheism is the kind you may be engaging in without even knowing it. Ego-worship is the most dangerous deviation from pure faith: hidden idolatry.”
All Prophets have spoken out strongly against such foolish notions in religions, against any kind of polytheism. But there is a kind of polytheism that is secret, not so easily detectable. And in reality, so many men are worshipping a god other than God Almighty without even knowing it. Even those who claim to worship only Him Alone usually persist in the worship of this secret idol in themselves And who or what is claiming to be a partner to Allah Almighty? - none other, of course, than our ego. Your ego approaches you and says; “I am the Partner. Whether you like it or not I am the idol you worship, beside Allah. If you insist on worshipping Allah and claim that He is your Lord, and I cannot dissuade you from that folly, then at least you must recognise me as your second Lord and you will endeavour to please me too If you strive to be an obedient servant of you r Lord, you must also strive to be my servant; if you are obeying your Lord you must sometimes also obey me….
Grandsheikh warned us also that this ego–god is never really going to be satisfied with being number two. “No” it says, “I am first, second and third.. Worship none but me.” But when it perceives resistance it make a sly calculation and says; “Alright, He is first, I am second,“ knowing that this is his chance to place himself in a position to sabotage our faith and eventually stage its coup. Therefore our task is to dethrone the partner; and all of the prophets were sent to mankind in order to teach them how to go about that task. We are in need of training at the hand of someone who can be firm in the face of his ego’s demands, who, beyond that, has tamed his ego so that it never demands undue attention or pampering. Until you have reached that point you must be aware that you are a secret idolater, and so, your heart will be locked up and cut off from the blessings of Divine Knowledge. By being in the company of a man who has, firstly, realised what a deadly game the ego plays, and secondly, rid himself of its domination, the seeker of truth may arrive at his goal. Therefore, the Seal of Prophets, Muhammad, peace be upon him, taught his companions, above all else, by taking them as his companions, by entering them into association with him. Accordingly, the inheritors of the Prophet, the Naqshbandi Masters, stress the importance of “Sohbet,” association, with the sheikh, as the essential pillar in the training of seekers. Shah Naqshband, the illustrious imam of the line of masters we follow, the imam after whom the path is named and without whom there would be no Naqshbandiyya, always used to repeat in his assemblies; “Our Way is sohbet, association, and all good things result from congregation.” He furthermore stated that if anyone attended an assembly of this Way even for five or ten minutes, he would derive such immense spiritual benefit from that brief encounter as to outweigh the benefits that would be gained by seven years of supererogatory worship. That is the power of the assembly of the inheritors of the Prophet, and augmenting that power is the unanimity of the participants in that meeting, the joining of hearts in sincerity with the heart of the sheikh. In such a meeting such a power descends on the hearts of the participants that even the deep roots of hidden idolatry, of ego-worship, can be pulled out. You may observe that with every association the ego’s power is further undermined. Our Grandsheikh explained that without association it is very difficult to catch the ego out in its game, to identify its tricks and escape from its clutches. We are in need of a guide to show us which paths lead over cliffs, as it is particularly those paths that our ego likes to point to, putting up very authoritative looking signs saying “Thru – way,” or “Short cut “ …. But when you are associating with the Sheikh, the ego and its doings are quickly identified and become manifest. The ego’s disguise is snatched off of it so that there, in front of you its stands, naked and exposed. Then you are surprised and exclaim “That is non other than my ego! ……. “ In this manner association with the sheikh may help you to perceive your faults, and then, if you can take up the thread and work on those bad characteristics, improving yourself through applied effort, then you will undergo rapid improvement.