From the Introduction—page xxxiii
in Irshad: Wisdom of a Sufi Master, by Sheikh Muzaffer Ozak Al-Jerrahi, trans. Muhtar Holland. An Ashki Book of Amity House, Warwick: 1988.




                The Arabic word irshād is a verbal noun derived from the tri-consonantal root R-Sh-D.  The corresponding active participle is murshid.  (From the root S-L-M, the same patterns give rise to Islām/Muslim.)

                Words based on R-Sh-D convey various aspects of the central concept “being on the right track.”  Internally, the idea extends toward “maturity; the intellectual, moral and spiritual development equipping an individual to live a truly human life.”

                The following terms may serve to illustrate the ramification of the root concept:

                RASHĀD: pursuing a straight course; correct belief and practice in accordance with the teachings of Islam.

                RUSHD: maturity; coming of age, attaining the age of discretion.

                RASHĪD: of correct conduct based on sound judgment; righteous; adult.  ar-Rashīd is one of the Divine Names, interpreted as meaning: “The One who moves all things in accordance with His eternal plan, bringing them unerringly and with order and wisdom to their ultimate destiny.”

                RĀSHID: well-directed; rightly guided.

                Applied in the plural form (Rāshidūn/-īn) to the Caliphs considered “Rightly Guided” in their conduct as leaders of the Muslim community (especially the first four Caliphs: the venerable Abū Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman, ‘Uthmān and ‘Alī).


                The qualities and qualifications of the Murshid, and the importance of his role, are discussed at great length in the literature of Sufism, where the emphasis is sometimes ‘practical’ (relating to the practices favored by a particular Order) and sometimes more ‘mystical’ (relating to spiritual hierarchies, for instance).

                Sheikh Muzaffer writes in The Garden of the Dervishes:


Certain individuals have as their spiritual guide (murshid) the Divine Truth in Person.  A member of this special group is termed “Uwaysī”.  Another special class consists of those honored beings who are endowed with spiritual grace under the auspices of departed Saints.  Such people have no more formal learning than a new-born baby.  Without taking lessons from anyone, they receive divine guidance directly and through the spiritual influence of the Saints, the intimate friends of the Truth.

For ordinary folk, however, there is no substitute for a murshid to show the true path.  It behooves us to submit our imperfect selves to the treatment prescribed by this guide, to cleanse our passionate nature, to purify the heart, to love Allah, and to work for admission to His presence by following in the radiant footsteps of His Messenger.


                IRSHĀD: giving direction, showing the right way to proceed; moral, religious, spiritual guidance; enlightenment, development of mature humanity.

                In Sufi contexts, the term is sometimes used in specific ‘technical’ senses, including: 1) initiation into membership of a particular Order; 2) authorization to initiate and supervise the progress of Sufi aspirants; to become a murshid in one’s own right.


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                                We can achieve nothing without the help and guidance

                                                                                of Allah, Glorious and Exalted is He.

                                May we ever enjoy His blessing and protection, Amen.


Muhtar Holland, al-Hajj