Holy company is an important discipline for the pupil. It is very effective in conquering nature and habit. Hence is it laid down by the holy Saints as binding upon a disciple. The rationale of it is this. The desire-nature consists of certain ingrained tendencies, and is affected by the ten­dencies of one’s associates. The Prophet says: “Men follow the religion of their friends, so they should always be careful of their company??” …

It is said that a man, while going round Kâbâ, prayed: “Lord, make my brothers virtuous.” Others asked him, “Why dost thou pray for thy brothers at this sacred spot, and not for thyself?” He replied: “I have brothers who, when I return to them, will elevate me by their virtues if they are virtuous, and degrade me by their vices if they are vicious. As my righteousness rests on theirs, I pray for them, that they may help me in reach­ing the Goal.”

Malik (Peace on Him!) says: “Do not asso­ciate with a brother or a friend, unless you would thereby advance the cause of Religion. To asso­ciate with any other object is absolutely forbidden.” Explanation: If you associate with a superior, he will benefit you by his presence; if you associate with an inferior, you should benefit him by teach­ing him religion and morality, and yourself too by learning something useful he may know.

Company is to be sought for the sake of the Lord, not for selfish gratification.

Nothing is more dangerous for a beginner than loneliness. A story runs thus. There was a dis­ciple of Master Junnaid who fancied he had made great progress and could not be harmed by isola­tion. So he took to seclusion. Nightly, a proces­sion appeared before him with a horse for him to ride, and he was requested to ride up to heaven,—a delightful place with sweet dishes, running brooks and fair company—where he enjoyed himself till morn, and slept. On awakening, he would find himself at the door of his hermitage. He turned proud and boastful. On hearing the report, the Master came to him, asked him and was told what had happened, and advised him to repeat three times when he went to the pleasure-haunt: “There is nothing to be relied upon save God, and there is no power except His.” He refused to act up to the advice for a few nights more. At last he wished to test the efficiency of the Master’s lesson and repeated the sentence as advised. The whole procession fell into confusion and scattered, and he found himself in a cemetery with the bones of the dead around him. Then he came to realise his guilt, repented, and returned to the company of his fellow-disciples.

The rule of society is to behave with each according to his position in life. With reference to elders, to serve them; not to speak before them save when necessary, and then only with their per­mission, and after they have finished if they are speaking; not to sit on an elevated seat in their presence. With reference to equals, to live in har­mony, and to share one’s wealth with them (not as a loan, but as a free gift). With reference to the young, to treat them with love and kindness.

General: Elders to be treated as one’s own parents, equals as one’s own brothers, the younger ones as one’s own children. None to be asked for anything, but each to be helped. Life to be ren­dered agreeable to all. Not to oppose others except at the call of religious duty. To associate with those strong in religion, integrity and moderation. Not to mix with those opposed in religion and temperament. To avoid the company of a youth. (The desire in the young for the com­pany of their elders aids the development of their intelligence and knowledge. The desire in elders for the company of youths leads to sin and folly) . . . .

Sûfîs, when conversing with one another, never say, “This is mine,” “That is thine”; “I wish it were so,” “I wish it were not so”. It is the ver­dict of the Masters of Knowledge that God does not approve of the use of words denoting I-ness.

If thou wouldst know the Unknown, taste the nectar of Grace and transcend the seven heavens, then close the five senses, and pass from the perishable to the Imperishable. They asked Master Shiblî, “Who is a Knower, and how is he to be distinguished?” He said, “He is deaf, dumb and blind.” They replied, “These are the marks of an unbeliever.” He rejoined: “The unbeliever is deaf to the voice of truth, dumb for the utterance of truth, and blind to the vision of truth; whereas the Knower is deaf, dumb and blind to all save Truth.” —Letter 70.