Sidi formed the teacher rank system gradually as our community grew. While he was alive, Sidi himself approved each rank promotion that was given to a student. The teacher ranks were intended to reflect a student’s understanding and ability to apply the teachings while remaining humble and serving Allah by supporting the needs of community. Those who have walked further make time and devote their energy to help those who have walked less.
These ranks do not give any student more power or authority over another. Quite the opposite, the higher the rank the less a teacher should be concerned with such things as power or dominance because the closer we each get to Allah, Most High, the more clear it becomes that none of us have any authority nor power in this world. All might, all glory, all power, all creation resides only in the hands of Allah.
The Best Teachers
The best teachers form the dust beneath the feet of their students. Their only goal is to assist the student to turn, face Allah, surrender completely, and receive His blessings, support and guidance in this world. Any action or speech that does not support this one goal will disqualify them as an acknowledged teacher in that moment.
Why Did Sidi Create a Ranking System?
Sometimes ranks were given to encourage a student to walk and serve more deeply, because Sidi could see that a student had more potential then they were fulfilling at that time. Sometimes a rank was given as a clear acknowledgment of the growth in knowledge a student achieved and the level of service a student gave back to the community.
Once when Sidi was asked about why he gave ranks, which is not done in most Sufi orders he said, “It’s a game, to test a students nafs (ego) and also to encourage students to grow and learn.” This system of ranks did inspire growth in many but also caused hardship for others when one was promoted while another was not. In some communities, beloveds felt oppressed by those who held higher ranks. Our community continues to walk with these issues and seek healing and guidance.
Sidi Is Our Example
On one of Sidi’s visits to the Boston community during a Sufi School event, Sidi entered the room from the back and approached the front of the room. Many beloveds stood up when he entered out of what they felt was respect. Sidi noticed this and what was behind it and said as he approached the front of the room “I am smaller than the ant, I am no different than you.” This humility and recognition that Allah is the Source and Holder of all of the Strength and Power is what all sincere seekers aspire to embody.
Accepting any of the teacher ranks is an honor and a great responsibility. It is also a test. Ranks can create triggers for many. Ranks can be held and served with grace and beautiful humility which brings peace and mercy to those being served. Ranks can also cause harm if not held and administered with complete sincerity and politeness. Be carful with any rank you may be given and remember how our guide acknowledged that he himself was smaller than the ant, before Allah all mighty.
The Teacher Ranks
In order, from highest to lowest, the ranks are listed below:
- murabbi ruhi
- master teacher
- seeker who is new to the path
The Roles and Responsibilities of Each Rank
Recommended. Reading, Writing & Understanding: Music of the Soul, Children of the Truth, Conversations in the Zawiyah, Religion of Unity
Service/Actions: Support master teachers, naqibs, etc., share the teachings, invite to dhikrs or community gatherings, teach what you know
Iman/Adab: Commit to help grow the community, be polite, be the love and the mercy, be a slave for Allah
Recommended Reading, Writing & Understanding: He Who Knows Himself Knows His Lord, Music of Soul, Children Around the Table of Allah, The Sufi Realities
Service/Actions: Supports ranks above and beneath, Teaches practices, Trains/supports teachers, Understands Dhikr, Helps Support People’s Walking
Iman/Adab: Active in growing tariqa, Helping to resolve problems, Foster unity, Deeper understanding of the teaching
Recommended Reading, Writing & Understanding: Path to Allah Most High, Music of the Soul, The Divine Flute, Secret of the Spirit
Practices: Recite all Qualities twice a week, Learn how to take qualities and return to Allah, All practices of teacher and master teacher, khalwa once a month
Service/Actions: Support muqaddams, Teach what inspires you, Train and support master teachers, Share experiences on path
Iman/Adab: Carry compassion, Discerning illusory states from Divine Truth, Holding the love mercy, beauty, All the above for teacher and master teacher
Recommended Reading, Writing & Understanding: The Resolute Prophets, A Righteous Word is Like a Righteous Tree, Music of the Soul, The Guide, How The Arrival is Realized
Practices: Steadfast in pillars, Increase knowledge of shari’a and Qur’an, Skills in conflict resolution, All practices of teacher, master teacher and naqib
Service/Actions: Taking accountability for the health of community, Walking of community and resolving conflicts, Holding container for the community, Have finger on the pulse of the community, not letting things go unaddressed.
Iman/Adab: Be like shepherd/ Able to give promise, Deep caring and compassion, Deep surrender. Working with and supporting murabbis, ruhis and murshids.
Recommended Reading, Writing & Understanding: Reality of Imagination, Reality of Gnosis, Migration of the Truthful Traveler, Traveler’s Journey of Healing Through Divine Love, Knowledge and Truth
Practices: All of the above
Service/Actions: Hold love and truth for the people, Learning to carry and grow the tariqa, Seek to follow Allah’s guidance in all aspects, Hold and guide local community
Iman/Adab: Knowing when to help people/able to give promise, Work together in love, Helping to avoid separation, doubt or suspicion, Able to complete task with ihsan.
Recommended Reading, Writing & Understanding: Wisdom for the Devoted, Secrets of the Heart, Reality of Gnosis, How to Know the Deep Secret Walking to Allah
Practices: Practice reliance, Learning Arabic, Reading Qur’an, Reading hadiths
Service/Actions: Deep wisdom to correct and teach, Give mercy to people, Create opportunities for mercy in action, Able to perform and hold far-reaching projects
Iman/Adab: Give promise/follow teachings, Be earth and loving container for a community, Carry all tasks with excellence, Knowledge of Tafsir books of Sidi
Service/Actions: They help to guide people who are lost so that they find their way back to the safety of Allah. They hold the national community and guide the regional and local community leaders.
Characteristics: The Murshids should be the lighthouse of guidance and caring and have the real gnosis and carry out responsibilities with real mercy and love. They exhibit exemplary giving in real mercy and love.
Responsibilities: They understand the orders. They carry the authority to guide others. They have oversight and authority with the tariqa.