As I was perusing some blogs, I came across what I found rather shocking and startling. News of Abu Aaliyah's (Surkheel Sharif) conversion to Sufism, under the heading "One More Big Name Salafi who became Soofie Recently". Well, if you knew Abu Aaliyah (we had invited him to Houston once some time ago), you would react with some surprise to this news as well. So, I felt some immediacy in the need to verify the veracity of this information. What I found out was that this news was not only false, it was misleading. You see all Abu Aaliyah has done is to moderate his approach to madahibs, to the 'moderate' sufis, and so on. I think it would serve justice to touch on these subjects.
First to the madhabs, even though some of the "salafis" think that denying madhabs is bread and better of the manhaj, in fact over the centuries there have been only a few scholars who claim adherence to the Quran and Sunnah, who have also declared that there is no following of madahibs (these handful include Sh. Albani, Sh. Shawkani, Sh. Syed Sabiq and a few others). In fact, the vast majority of the ahl-hadith scholars have urged the masses that there is nothing wrong in following the madhabs, rather in most situations they should! For instance, Muhammad Hasan Ad-DaDoo is a Maliki scholar who is upon the Manhaj of the Ahl-Hadith in Mauratinia. For further info., I found this interesting article that reflects the essence of what I am trying to say here. So, what Abu Aaliyah has done in regards to following madahibs is to move to the more moderate, and common opinion amongst the scholars of ahl-hadith, like Bin Baz, IbnUthaymeen, etc. among the contemporaries. In my discussion with Sh. Yasir Q., he has been quite emphatic in not even talking or arguing about fiqhi points or madhabs, when talking to the laymen. And that the main issue is and never has been fiqh. Rather, what counts in the end, is Aqeedah. The linked article also goes into some of this detail.
Moving on to Aqeedah then, it has been confirmed by the trustworthy that Sh. Abu Aaliyah still subscribes to the pure Aqeedah of the salaf us saleh. And to be honest, that is what I really care about as well. It is true that he has Zaytuna, and a few other 'sufi-leaning' links on his website, but if you refer to my comments on the blog entry "TDC vs RIS", I have discussed this a bit. In essence, in the times we are living in, we have to be more concerned about bringing people to the Masjid or to pray 5 times, to just gain some level of religiosity, than to fight each other. I believe that is where Abu Aaliyah is coming from.
Also, I will be remiss if I fail to mention that the people of Sunnah have fallen short in pushing the areas of tazkiyah an-nafs (the purification of soul), at least in the Western lands. And that if you look at the great scholars of ahl-sunnah, they did not leave this area barren either. So, it is not that we need 'tareeqas' for this, but rather we need to urge our shayookh to address these topics as well. Hence, it seems that Abu Aaliyah is trying to bridge that gap... feeding the souls of people, who otherwise may have stepped into complete sufi zones. I do believe that Abu Aaliyah should have clarified this a bit more (perhaps he did in his UK circles), and I am not sure the exact hikmah of some of the links on his website, and why he does not still focus on Aqeedah too, but my own knowledge is so limited that I have to question myself a million times, before I question a person of knowledge.
Abu Aaliyah has his own institute (small, not at the level of AlMaghrib or others), known as the "Jawziyyah Institute". The name itself says a lot about Abu Aaliyah. That should become clear after reading the biography of the great Ibn al-Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah if you do not know this great scholar. Here is the link to the Abu Aaliyah's the Jawziyyah Institute.
Moving on to some recent works of Abu Aaliyah, he has done an interesting translation on a work by Shaykh Ahmad Bin Ibrahim Al-Wasiti, called "Miftah Tariq al-Awliya" (Key to the Saintly Path). I could not find anything inconsistent in this work from the position of the ahl-sunnah/ahl-hadith/salafi (whatever label one wishes to be ascribed with). Some interesting points:
- Ibn Taymiyyah's tribute to Shaykh Ahmad as "our shaykh, the Imam"
- His emphasis on the hadith of the Prophet (not transmission through dreams!)
- Quote, "You must have a litany of invocation that are authentically related from the Prophet". So, the Shaykh not only urges the memorization of supplications, not only those from the Prophet, but rather those authentically narrated from him. This is a classic area of emphasis for the people of Sunnah.
- Quote, "Be conscious that God watches you from above His Throne; from above the seven heavens." Thus, the Shaykh confirms the aqeedah of the ahl-Sunnah, that indeed is Allah is above the Throne, neither "everywhere" nor "no where".
- Emphasis on the prayers (ritualistic salat, not "we pray in our hearts" extreme Sufism).