Bayt / Oath
Those who swear allegiance to you (O dear Prophet Muhammad - peace and blessings be upon him), do indeed in fact swear allegiance to Allah; Allah’s Hand* of Power is above their hands; so whoever breaches his oath, has breached his own greater promise; and whoever fulfils the covenant he has with Allah - so very soon Allah will bestow upon him a great reward. (Used as a metaphor to mean Allah’s power). (Fath 48:10)
Bay’at is a mutual pledge relating to the striving, arranging, executing and adhering to the laws of A’maal-e Zaahiri and A’maal-e Baatini. This pledge is called Bay’at-e-Tareeqat which has been in vogue by authoritative transmission from generation to generation from the earliest time of Islam.Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Sall Allahu Alayhi Wasallam) had enacted Bay’at of the Sahaabah not only on Jihad, but on Islam and the adherence of the Ahkaam (Laws in general) as well on practical deeds (A’maal). This is established by numerous Ahaadith. The following Hadith is one such Hadith:
“Auf Ibne Maalik Ash-ja-ee (Radhiy Allahu Anhu) said: We were with Nabi Muhammad (Sall Allahu Alayhi Wasallam), seven, eight or -nine (of us), when the Prophet (Sall Allahu Alayhi Wasallam) said: ‘Will you not make Bay’at (pledge) to the Rasool of Allah?’
We stretched our hands and enquired: On what shall we make Bay’at to you, O Rasool of Allah? The Prophet said. ‘That you make the Ibaadat of Allah,- that you associate nothing with Him,- that you perform the five Salaat; that you hear and obey.” (Muslim, Abu Daawood, Nisaai)
On this occasion the Bay’at which Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Sall Allahu Alayhi Wasallam) took from the Sahaabah was neither Bay’at -e- Imaani (Pledge of Imaan) nor Bay’at -e- Jihaadi (Pledge to wage Jihad). This Hadith is categorical proof for the validity of the system of Bay’at in vogue by the Mashaa’ikh of Tasawwuf.
Like there are four Maz’habs (Schools of Thought) in Fiqh, viz. Hanafi, Shaafi’ee, Maaliki and Hambali, so too are there four schools of thought in Tasawwuf, viz., Chishtiyya, Qaaderiyyah, Naqshbandiyyah and Suharwardiyyah. Like the Hanafi Way is dominant in this area (India and Pakistan), the Chistiyyah Way too is dominant here. Our Akaabir (authorities in Tasawwuf) enter into (Bay’at) in all the four Schools of Thought (Silsilah) so that respect for the four Silsilah is maintained.
The Bay’at is enacted by the Shaikh taking into his right hand the right hand of the Mureed (disciple). If the group contracting the Bay’at is large, the Shaikh used a length of cloth onto which each member of the group holds with his right hand. Ladies who contract the Bay’at do so from behind a screen. A Mahram of the lady should also be present at the Bay’at ceremony. Hadhrat Aayesha (Radhiy Allahu Anha) said: ”Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Sall Allahu Alayhi Wasallam) never touched the palm of a woman, but he would make the (pledge-Bay’at) upon her. Upon having made the Bay’at he would say: Go.’ Verily, I have already made Bay’at with you.” (Bukhaari, Muslim)
It is for this reason that in entering ladies into the Bay’at, the Mashaa’ikh do so verbally or by means of a cloth which is spread from the Shaikh to the lady.
This is the method of Bay’at when in the presence of the Shaikh. Those who are not able to present themselves personally to the Shaikh could contract the Bay’at by means of a letter or through the agency of a responsible and trustworthy person. This form of Bay’at is called Bay’at-e-Uthmani. Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Sall Allahu Alayhi Wasallam) on the occasion of Bay’at-e-Ridhwaan made the Bay’at of Hadhrat Uthman in his (Uthman’s) absence. On this occasion, Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Sall Allahu Alayhi Wasallam) placed his right hand on his left hand and announced that he has made Bay’at of Uthman. (The Bay’at in absence of the Mureed is therefore termed Bay’at-e-Uthmani.)
The meaning of Bay’at ( to sell) is inherent in Bay’at . Bay’at thus implies that the Mureed “sells” himself to the Shaikh. In other words he has sold himself to the Shaikh in preparation of Ahkaam-e- Zaahirah and Ahkaam-e-Baatinah (i.e. to learn to give practical expression to the Law of Allah Ta’ala). The nature of this “sale” envisages that the searcher after the truth (Taalib) should repose implicit trust and faith in his Shaikh. He should understand and accept that the advices and prescriptions, admonitions and prohibitions of the Shaikh are all designed and motivated for his (the Mureed’s) spiritual well-being. The Taalib shall not interfere with or impede the diagnosis and prescriptions of the Shaikh. He should have implicit faith to such an extent that he should believe that in all the world there is none in his knowledge who can benefit him more than his Shaikh. In the terminology of Tasawwuf this conception of implicit faith in the Shaikh is known as Wahdat-e-Matlab (unity of purpose). Minus this conception, the ceremony of Bay’at is meaningless and of no benefit because congeniality (Munaasabat) with the Shaikh is an essential condition for Islaah (reformation) of the Nafs.
The sign of the existence of congeniality (Munaasabat) between the Mureed and his Shaikh is that the heart of the Mureed does not object to the respect, statements and acts of the Shaikh. Should any objection arise in the heart regarding the Shaikh, the Mureed should grieve and feel depressed.
The external form of Bay’at is beneficial to the general public since it induces reverence and respect in them for the Shaikh. As a result, they readily accept the Shaikh’s statements and are constrained to act accordingly. However, for the elite i.e. the Ulamaa, Bay’at proves beneficial after a period has been spent in association with the Shaikh.
By virtue of Bay’at a bond of sincerity (Khuloos) is generated between the Mureed and the Shaikh. The Shaikh considers the Mureed to belong to him and the Mureed considers the Shaikh to belong to him. There does not remain any suspense between them.