Reciting The 99
Under A Guide
by Sh. G. F. Haddad
As-Salamu `alaykum wa-rahmatullah:
I'm a bit confused about something. I usually read certain Names of Allah on the Tasbih for a set number and so does my mum, because I have a book. Now I found out that I'm not allowed to do that. Apparantely someone said in a talk once that the Names are so Powerful that we have to take b'aya from a shaykh or have ijaza to read them. I wasn't in the talk so I don't know what he exactly said but that's what I was told. I asked the people who told me that do I have to physically be present when it is passed down from a shaykh or can I have someone else do it for me. and they said yes that's what he said. My mum was saying she'll never have access to scholars and myself included. So what are we supposed to do. and the Names are read without ijaza and b'aya widely because people have access to Wazaif ets so what do we say to this people? Are they committing a wrong? and why are these books being sold if the reading the Names require ijaza? I'm really confused Wassalam
The Divine Names can and should be known and recited by every Muslim. Every time one reads Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim, the Fatiha, Ayat al-kursi, Surat al-Ikhlas, and the rest of the Holy Qur'an, one recites the 99 Names of Allah Most High. Furthermore, Allah Most High ordered us to call upon Him by His Names, and the Holy Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, encouraged us to know the Divine Names and use them, saying: "Whoever gathers them enters Paradise" as narrated in the Sunan. It is unthinkable to forbid reciting them, as it would be unthinkable to forbid reciting the Qur'an or obeying Allah and His Prophet. However, what is not recommended, is to focus on one or more specific Names exclusively of others, for example to repeat one Name 1,000 times daily. Such can lead to harm unless it is done under the guidance of a trustworthy and knowledgeable Shaykh.
On a separate issue, it is not right for a Muslim to believe that they will "never have access to a scholar." If a Muslim sane of mind needs to ask a question about a vital part of the religion, unless they are being physically prevented, there will be no excuse for not contacting a dependable knowledgeable person who will provide an answer one way or another. Allah Most High hears and sees, He does not task us with impossible duties, rather, He guides us and provides for us, and He is most Forgiving.
Can you please clarify on this part of the answer "However, what is not recommended, is to focus on one or more specific Names exclusively of others, for example to repeat one Name 1,000 times daily. Such can lead to harm unless it is done under the guidance of a trustworthy and knowledgeable Shaykh". I know it is obviously better if one is able to memorise all 99 names, however why is it not recommended to repeat one or more names a set number of times daily? What do u mean by harm and why is the guidance of a Shaykh required in this matter (How does the guidance of a Shaykh work in this matter)?
Tariqa (the path of self-purification known as sufism) has preconditions and pillars. Its main precondition is the dependence on a perfected guide (murshid kamil) and its main pillar is remembrance of Allah Most High (dhikr). The benefit of dhikr in Tariqa is that its nature and modality (including quantity) hinges on its bein given by dictation (talqin) of the murshid to his student (murid) because the latter, in such a case, becomes connected to one of the living wellsprings Allah Most High has appointed for His servants on this earth for the welfare of their souls.
If the murid has no such framework, for example following a pseudo-guide, he will receive a dhikr devoid of light. Also, if picking and choosing dhikr by himself, his dhikr will have no light and either he will fall into pride or his actual guide is shaytan. In any case one will remain untreated of the ego's hydra-headed ills and will be led to disaster, from which we seek refuge in Allah Most High, and we seek refuge in Him from every harm here and hereafter, known to us and unknown!
Regarding the exalted Divine Names, the Ghawth, Sayyidi `Abd al-`Aziz al-Dabbagh said as related from him by his student the learned Shaykh `Ali ibn al-Mubarak in al-Ibriz:
"If they took them (those Names) from a shaykh who is a knower (`arif), it will not harm them; but if they took them from a shaykh who is not a knower, it will harm them."
"I [`Ali ibn al-Mubarak] said: 'What is the reason?' He replied, Allah be well-pleased with him: 'The Most Beautiful Names have lights from the Real (al-Haqq), may He be exalted and glorified! Whenever you want to mention the Name, if, with the Name, there is Its light accompanying It while you mention It, then such [dhikr] will not harm you; but if there is not, with the Name, Its light accompanying it, which is meant to protect the servant from the devil, it [i.e. the dhikr of the Name] will be a cause for the harm of the servant.
"'When the shaykh is an actual knower of Allah Most High, meaning someone who is always in the Divine presence, and he wants to give his murid one of the Beautiful Names of Allah, he gives him [with it] that light which protects him, after which the murid mentions It and it will not harm him.... otherwise the murid will be destroyed. We ask Allah Most High for safety!'
"I said: 'What about the Mighty Qur'an? It contains the Beautiful Names and its memorizers are reciting it and reciting the Beautiful Names in it continuously and this does not harm them. Why is this the case, although they are not taking those Names from a shaykh who is a knower?'
"He replied, Allah be well-pleased with him: 'Allah Most High sent our liegelord, Prophet, and patron Muhammad, upon him and his Family and Companions blessings and peace, with the Qur'an for all those whom the Qur'an reached from his time to the Day of Resurrection. Therefore, whoever recites the Qur'an, his shaykh in this is the Prophet, upon him bleassings and peace. This is the reason why the memorizers of Qur'an are protected, may Allah Most high benefit it through them, Amin!
"'Moreover, the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, did not give the Qur'an to his noble Umma except to the extent they can bear and know by the outward criteria which they understand. He did not give them the Qur'an with all its secrets and the lights of the Names which are in it. If he had given them the Qur'an with its lights, no one in his noble Umma would disobey Allah Most High. They would all be qutbs (major Friends of Allah Most High), and no one would ever be harmed by the Names.'"
The latter paragraph is confirmed by the reply of our liegelord `Ali, may Allah be well-pleased with him, in Sahih al-Bukhari, when he was asked: "Did you, the Prophet's Household, receive any book other than the Qur'an?" He replied: "No, except for the understanding of the Qur'an which a Muslim may have been granted (at the exclusion of someone else)."