The Means of Uncovering the Faults of the Lower Self
Even if he sees the faults of his lower self, he cannot deliver himself from them since he feels compassion for himself. He needs someone to make efforts with it and treat it of its faults. That is only the Shaykh. He is like the doctor who sees these faults and knows how to treat them.
If he does not have a shaykh to counsel him, then he needs a righteous brother to watch over his states and actions.
If he cannot find someone like that, then he needs to recognise the faults of his lower self from his enemies. Ibn Hayyan said:
My enemies give me a boon
and a favour.
May the All-Merciful not put the enemies far from me.
They seek out my error and
so I avoid it.
They struggle against me, and so I obtain noble things.
Or he learns his faults by mixing with people from since by that he becomes aware of their evil qualities and in turn frees himself from them. The believer is the mirror of the believer.
Or he learns by reading the books of the People [the Sufis] like the books of al-Muhasibi, al-Ghazali and ash-Sha'rani. Ibn Zakariyya said in the commentary on the Hikam, "This method today is more beneficial and effective because today selves do not follow good advisers nor accept their advice.Part of that is attending gatherings of knowledge which deal with tafsir, hadith and tasawwuf. There is great benefit in that.
So these are five methods. There remains the sixth method which is for the person who does not find a shaykh to instruct and teach him. He must do the prayer on the Prophet. It will teach him, elevate him, discipline him and make him reach his goal. Shaykh Zarruq mentioned that from his shaykh, Abu'l-'Abbas al-Hadrami, as did Shaykh as-Sanusi from some of the Imams of tasawwuf.
The murid with high aspirations who is successful is the one whom Allah has made successful in making use of all these six methods. So when he is with his shaykh, his habit is submission, listening and following. When he is apart from the shaykh, he keeps the company of a righteous brother as we said. When he is not with a righteous brother, he recognises his own faults from his enemies so that he can avoid them and repent of them. When he is far from his enemies, he recognises his faults from mixing with people and becoming aware of their faults. He should also often read the books of the perfect gnostics of Allah and should attend gatherings of knowledge of tafsir, hadith and tasawwuf with those possessing sound belief which is free of deviation. He should do a lot of prayer on our master Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, at all times.
As for the one who is fully connected to a shaykh, but does not cling to him like a shadow, provided he has a sound intention, sincere love, good opinion, noble character, and stops at his commands and prohibitions without change or alteration, or like a baby clings to its mother or a invalid to his doctor, and sees everything as difficult and hard, especially in this time, and that connection spares him having a righteous brother, and does not care what his enemies say, even if it is true, and does not recognise his own faults by mixing with people, and because of his mere connection foregoes reading the books of the complete Sufis or the books of the masters of states among the People, thinking that it is the end of perfection and that what they have is the Goal of Path, and because of his mere connection he also forgoes attending the gatherings of the science of tafsir, hadith and tasawwuf, or attends those gatherings with those whose dogma is deviation or who deny the science of tasawwuf and its people, and has no portion of the prayer on Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace: such a person is deluded.
If it is asked, "Why did he only mention the gatherings of tafsir, hadith and tasawwuf, and not those of tawhid and fiqh which should be mentioned more than others?" the reply is that this is addressed to the murid who already knows what is obligatory for him in his deen and wants to travel the Path of the People and to rise through the stations of Ihsan after recognising what is obliged of him in his deen because knowledge of outward tawhid and the rulings of the Shari'a connected to outward acts of worship is an individual obligation for every responsible person. There is no difference between any responsible individual. The same applies to the science of the transactions mentioned in the books of fiqh. Anyone who is ignorant of any of that must have gaps in his faith or his Islam and how then can he enter the station of tasawwuf which designated the journey through the stations of Ihsan which is one of the three pillars of the deen clearly stated in the hadith of Jibril which 'Umar ibn al-Khattab reported and Muslim has in his Sahih.
It is reported that Malik said, "Anyone who learns tasawwuf and does not learn fiqh becomes a heretic, and whoever learns fiqh and does not learn tasawwuf deviates. Whoever combines them both has achieved realisation."
One of the People of Sufism said, "Tasawwuf is preservation of the laws of the deen, surrendering one's will to the Lords of the Lords, and good behaviour with all creatures."
The People also say, "The Sufi is a faqih who acts by his knowledge by which Allah has bequeathed to him a knowledge which he did not know since the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said 'If anyone acts by what he knows, Allah will bequeathe to him a knowledge which he did not know.' Allah says, 'Fear Allah and Allah will teach you.' (2:282) It is well-known that taqwa is avoidance and obedience outwardly and inwardly, and that is only possible after grasping the knowledge which is obligatory for individual responsible people so that he knows what will give him fearful awareness of Allah in dogma, action, and non-action. Part of that is that Allah will teach the godfearing because of his taqwa, and that knowledge is the fruit of his taqwa and its result. It is the ascent through the Stations of Ihsan which is commanded by his seeking that from Allah: 'Say Lord, increase me in knowledge.' (20:114)"