What is a Tariqa?

The word tarīqa (طريقة) originally meant method. You have Shari’a and haqīqah, the law and the ultimate reality of things. The method to get from Shari’a to haqīqah and from haqīqah to Shari’a, is the tarīqa. The paths are as many as the breaths of human beings, as the shuyukh used to say. They are innumerable.

Through the tarīqa of sheikh Abdul Qadir al-Jilani, it took on a new meaning. He was given the authority by the prophet ﷺ to give bay’ah, and that right is only granted through transmission. Some paths give bay’ah though they don’t have the right to do so, and there are other valid paths that don’t give the bay’ah. The Ba’alawis generally don’t give bay’ah, for example, and they are a valid path.

Sheikh Abdul Qadr al-Jilani would give the bay’ah and create an order with a particular prescription. The guides of each generation would be guided to give different things for different times and places. For example, sheikh Abdelkader al-Jazairi (رحمه الله) was given the haḍra (حضرة‎) for jihad against the French. This jihad was especially for people who may not be very well educated or strong believers. And they needed to be sort of majdhub, in a deep spiritual state to go into the jihad and to be victorious, and if they are martyred to be sincere martyrs. That’s where the haḍra came from. Many don’t do it today because it’s not needed, though we don’t criticize those who do. And it may not be relevant today, as it may lead people into psychological states which are harmful.

The paths change over time. But it’s important for each individual to receive guidance which is for them in their particular time and place. There are particular types of awrād which are very beautiful and beneficial, but they were for people in a different world than our time. If you go to different places you may find the same tarīqa doing different things. We don’t criticize those paths as long as those paths are authentic.

والله أعلم

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