The relation between the sheikh and his disciple is established through a strange link (rabýta). In the Nakshibandiyah, this link between the disciple and the sheikh is established as follows: the disciple, canonically cleansed, sits facing the direction of Mecca. Focusing in his imagination on the point between the two eyebrows of his sheikh, he begins to repeat the name of God. This process establishes a link between the sheikh and his disciple. There are modern Nakshibandiyah members who perform this ritual by merely looking at a photograph of their sheikh! Another awkward application is as follows: “Repeating God’s name disregarding the link (rabýta) is preferred to the link without having to repeat God’s name. If either the repeating of God’s name or the link has to be foregone, repetition of God’s name may be abandoned. For a link without the repeating of God’s name will enable the disciple to attain heavenly bliss, but repetition of God’s name would fall short of this.” All of this has, of course, nothing to do with the teaching of the Quran.
It is interesting to note the different concepts in the Quran of certain basic words. Namely, the word sheikh is used in the sense of old man (see 11 Hud 72; 12 Joseph 78; 28 The History 23; 40 The Believer 67); again the word wali is used in the Quran in the sense of friend and somebody close to him. Every believer is the wali of God, and God is the wali of those who believe (2 The Cow 257; 3 The Family of Imran 68; 5 The Feast 55; 7 The Purgatory 196; 9 Repentance 71). Disbelievers are the walis of Satan, and disbelievers are the walis of each other (see 4 The Women 76; 4 The Women 119; 7 The Purgatorty 27; 16 The Honey Bees 16). Don’t you know that to God belong the dominions of the heavens and the earth? And besides Him you have neither Lord nor wal (see 2 The Cow 107; 9 Repentance 116; 25 The Distinguisher 18; 39 The Throngs 3; 42 Consultation 9). The word wali and its plural awliya mentioned in the Quran more than 80 times are never used in the sense of superman as presented to the public. Nor do we come across anywhere in the Quran the word karamat (power of sanctity by which a superman works miracles). There are many verbs which have the same root (krm) that means God’s generosity, the abundance of sustenance provided by God, but has not the connotation mentioned above (see 27 The Ant 40; 8 The Spoils of War 4; 17 The Children of Israel 70; 36 Yasin 11).
We have nothing against the whirling of dervishes and the so-
called devotional music so long as they are not claimed to be a religious ritual since they are neither ordained nor prohibited by the Quran. Yet, in many, such performances are interpreted as a religious ritual. Otherwise, Muslims may certainly institute foundations, associations and establish a hierarchy in them. Recitation of poems, recitals, ritualistic dances, artistic activities, meetings and demonstrations may be held. What is unacceptable however, is the apotheosis of men and the ascribing to orders a religious character, as this is not contained in the Quran.
Another harm done to Islam by these orders has been their giving it an ascetic appearance. Orders claiming they trained their disciples through rituals and performances reminiscent of Indian religious practices – leaving them starving, inflicting torture on them in dark rooms and making them insane. The delusions and hallucinations reported to have been perceived by these people came to be considered signs of sanctity. There is nothing in the Quran suggesting asceticism. According to the Quran, God may, if He so chooses, create difficulties for His servants to test them and to which true believers submit. However asceticism is not proposed in the Quran.