To reach your Lord, you can never find your way through the desert except with a guide (daleel), because the wind of the ego changes everything, al-hawa, in Arabic – desires, vain passions. The ego has desires, and the wind of the ego is nothing but empty desires and vain passions. When desires overcome your ego, they veil the right path for you; then you are lost, you are going to stop and not know how to continue. That is why you need a guide who is an expert in the ways of the desert. He is an expert in the roads that traverse the ego.
The guide who shows you the way must be trustworthy. You cannot take a superficial or artificial guide and say, “This is my guide.” If you take an imitation guide, he will take you to Satan’s oceans of hallucinations and you will be lost. Many people follow such untrue “guides”. At some point the followers will begin to have hallucinations, and they will think that they are seeing something. In reality they are experiencing hallucinations, and what they are seeing is non-existent. That is why a true guide is essential.
External Characteristic of a True Guide
How do you know a guide? Once, Grandshaykh said, “To know that a guide is a true one, first you must see that he has completed his external outfit. If you see that he is incomplete in bearing the externals, it means that he has a defect in his heart. Do no follow him.”
This is the first step in knowing whether someone is a true guide or a false guide. When you see this from him, then you say he has now passed, not the first test, but the first criterion. So we now consider his inner side.
If you have a watch, and that watch is working internally one hundred percent, but it has no needles, it will not give you the time, so there is not benefit in it. Similarly, if a watch has no needles, but the internal mechanics are not working one hundred percent, it will not show you the correct time. So both the outward and the inward must be completely correct for someone to be a real guide.
Respect, Love & Humbleness – The Inner Characteristics of a True Guide
How do you examine the inner side? First, you see if that person has respect for everyone, without the slightest discrimination towards any human being, without looking at their background. He has to respect them because they are God’s creation, and have that light (the light of God) in them.
Then, after having respect for them, he must have love for them. Then he will want for them what he wants for himself and his children, to be and act also on their behalf, although they are not yet his followers but simply ordinary people.
Thirdly, he must show them humbleness, that is, he must be lower than them. He cannot say that he is higher than they. No one is high except God. If he will see himself than they are, then he is like Satan, who saw himself higher than Adam (peace be upon him).
Ask and you shall find
If you do not find someone like that (bearing those characteristics), then look further. You will find because God is merciful. When you look, God will give. When you do not ask, God will not give. If you really ask from your heart, you are going to find. At that time, he will give you the key to your heart. If you are not really asking from your heart but only with the tongue, perhaps you might see one, perhaps not.
Extracted from “Pearls and Corals, Secrets of the Sufi Way” by Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani