Understanding the Bay'a
The bay’a is a sacred covenant with God and His Prophet (God bless him). This bond connects us directly to them through a chain (silsila) of authentic transmitters over the generations. The bay’a gives us a living link to some of the most accomplished people of the past and the greatest spiritual realities and perfections.
Below is a short list of common questions.
Authentic sayings of the Prophet (God bless him) (hadith) emphasize the importance of the bay’a as a fundamental part of the Prophetic Way (sunna). A sound transmission in Muslim speaks of this sacred bond as a critical distinction between the Age of Ignorance (Jahiliyya) and Islam in its final and most perfect form. The Qur’an refers to the bay’a as well. It says, for example, (Surat al-Fath 48:10): “Truly those who give thee the bay’a (O Prophet) are giving it only to God. The Hand of God is above their hands. So whoever breaks [the covenant], breaks it only to his personal detriment, and whoever fulfills the covenant he has made with God, God shall give him a great reward. ”
We try to keep responsibilities to a minimum. Generally, one sets out on the path with the requirement to recite at least once a day special words of devotion (The Wird al Asas—the Foundational Wird of Shaykh Abdul Qadir Jilani). This devotion or any other form of recitation or remembrance (dhikr) is not a substitute for basic Islamic obligations.
Prophetic Law (the Shari’a) sets our priorities of service. Devotion to family comes first, then neighbors, community, our countries, and the world. Your bay’a should never constitute a barrier between you and your responsibilities and obligations as an active and dynamic citizen of the world. Neither should the bay’a and your path ever come between you and people who have not taken a path or who have committed themselves to other paths and teachers. The path of service and love requires that you love them too, serve them all, and pay homage to them as you pay it to others.
We prefer that you keep your bay’a and bond with the shaykh as private as possible. If it is necessary or appropriate to speak of this connection, please refer to it as a student-teacher relationship. Carefully avoid any expressions or behavior that are cultish in nature or make others feel that you regard yourself and your group to be superior.
The authentic shaykh is an heir of the Prophet (God bless him). In our particular path, we seek to act as heirs of the Prophet (God bless him) through the guidance of Shaykh Abdul Qadir Jilani. The shaykh who administers the bay’a is merely acting as Shaykh Abdul Qadir’s deputy. As such, the shaykh is similar to a caravan guide. In taking the sacred covenant, you become like a traveler in the caravan.
The shaykh is here for you. He must love and serve you just as the Prophet (God bless him) loved and served his Companions and was a mercy to the worlds. The shaykh must not demand that you serve him. Instead, your personal commitment to service and love on the path should manifest itself in constant concern for the welfare of others and the world. You, too, in imitation of the Prophet (God bless him) must seek to be a universal mercy.
The shaykh is not meant to be involved in every detail of your day-to-day life. What you do with your career and future is always a matter of your own personal responsibility, conviction, and choice. The shaykh is not meant to do your thinking for you, and he does not remove from your shoulders the moral and ethical responsibilities you bear before God.
The Wird al Asas
Generally, one sets out on the path with the requirement to recite these special words of devotion at least once a day.