As Salaamu Alaikum,
I ask this question because there are so many brothers who call themselves Shaykh, but they lack the correct character. What are the specific criteria of an authentic Shaykh.
wa `alaykum salam,
Shaykh Hisham has repeatedly – on more than numerous occasions – said that no one is the true Shaykh in our Tariqah except Mawlana Shaykh Muhammad Nazim al-Haqqani (may Allah grant him long life in peace and happiness and raise him higher) and his beloved Khalifahs or Representatives – Shaykh Hisham, Shaykh Adnan and Shaykh Mehmet, may Allah grant them long life and raise them.
All others who are referred to as “Shaykh” are either due as a mark of respect between brothers, or because they were appointed as local representatives. Some of these representatives are real and sincere ones who make a difference and bring benefit to the lives of those in their communities through Islam and the Sufi way. However, not everyone addressed like that is necessarily indicative of having the real status of being one. The situation is that people start to call everyone Shaykh, so even the person who was only recently appointed to lead dhikr in some place somewhere, suddenly becomes known as “Shaykh”, or “becomes” one as time passes. This causes a problem as people’s perception becomes clouded from the real Shaykh (Nazim al-Haqqani) because of lesser ones becoming more prominent and assertive in their local communities.
Remember that Grandshaykh Abdullah ad-Daghistani (may Allah raise him higher) never addressed Mawlana Shaykh Nazim as “Shaykh”, but as Nazim “Effendi” – which is a respectable title in itself – but nowadays Mawlana Shaykh Nazim is showing leniency, so he calls everyone “Shaykh”. Know that when someone is called Shaykh, he becomes happy as people will recognize him as one. In time, pride creeps in, he then becomes more prominent. Later on that leads to arrogance, and soon makes him more assertive. The worse situation is if they overstep their limits and pretend to be more than what they are – as that leads to rebellion (of various types, and we have seen many of them before). Most people referred to with this title do not even deserve it due to their lack of either knowledge or refined character – which is your concern. Hence, it is best that we treat each brother and sister in Tariqah as equals, loving each other and helping each other in Islam, Iman and Ihsan – especially those appointed ones – and this is the teaching of Mawlana Shaykh Nazim.
If you want to read about what makes a Shaykh or a Master in the Way, refer to this article: Qualifications of a Master.
May Allah makes us all true in our intentions and deeds for Him alone, Amin!