the Shari‘a. That is to say, the ways of the Sufi orders and of reality are like means, servants, and steps for reaching the truths of the Shari‘a, till at the highest level they are transformed into the meaning of reality and essence of the Sufi way, which are at the heart of the Shari‘a. So then they become parts of the Greater Shari‘a. It is not right to think of the Shari‘a as an outer shell and reality as its inner part and result and aim, as some Sufis do. Yes, the Shari‘a unfolds according to the levels of men. It is wrong to suppose that what the mass of people imagine is the external aspect of the Shari‘a is its reality, and to give the names of reality and Sufi path to the degrees of the Shari‘a that are disclosed to the elite. The Shari‘a has degrees which look to all classes.
It is in consequence of this that the further the Sufis and those who seek reality advance, their longing for the truths of the Shari‘a increases, as does their captivation by them and their following them. They consider the most minor aspect of the Prophet’s (UWBP) practices to be their greatest aim, and strive to follow them and imitate them. For however higher divine revelation is than inspiration, the conduct of the Shari‘a, which is the fruit of revelation, is higher to the same degree than the conduct of the Sufi path, the fruit of inspiration. Therefore, following the Prophet’s (UWBP) practices is the basis and principal element of the Sufi path.
S e c o n d P o i n t : The Sufi path and way of reality should not exceed being means. If they are made the ultimate aim, the incontrovertible teachings and actions of the Shari‘a and following the practices of the Prophet (UWBP) become merely a matter of form, while the heart looks beyond them. That is to say, such a person thinks of his circle for the remembrance of God rather than the obligatory prayers; he is drawn more to his recitations and supplications than to his religious obligations; he is more concerned with avoiding offending against his order’s rules of behaviour than with avoiding grievous sins. Whereas the recitations of the Sufi path cannot be the equivalent of the obligatory acts that constitute the incontestible matters of the Shari‘a; they cannot take their place. The etiquette of the Sufi path and its invocations should be a solace and a way of obtaining true pleasure from the obligatory acts; they should not themselves be the source. That is, the tekke should lead a person to perform the five daily prayers assiduously in the mosque. If he performs them there hurriedly as a formality, thinking that he will find true pleasure and perfection in the tekke, he is drawing away from reality.
T h i r d P o i n t : It is sometimes asked: “Can there be any Sufi path outside the practices of the Prophet (UWBP) and matters of the Shari‘a?”
T h e A n s w e r : There are some such paths, and there are