What does sayr-u suluk (journeying and initiation) mean?
Sayr-u suluk means the special training of a religious precept in tasawwuf. A person cannot be a scholar without education, and one cannot be an itinerant without traveling from place to place. Likewise, one cannot advance in tasawwuf without struggle and meditation (Eraydın, Tasawwuf and Tariqa, p. 30). Being a student is a kind of sayr-u suluk in science. A student becomes specialized in a field after 8 years of primary school, 3 or 4 years in high and 4 years of university education. After some 15 or 16 years of education, this person cultivates a good career. Similarly, a murid becomes a murshid after executing a sayr-u suluk of science, intellect and riyaz(heaven). This sayr-u suluk changes from person to person. While some find out the absolute truths after some 40 days, some find them out after some 40 years.
If a person who wants to mould a piece of iron tries to cast it at a low heat, he will probably have to wait for years. However, if he tries to cast it in a furnace of 6000°C heat, he will be able to mould it readily.
The sayr-u suluk of hearth and mind are important. If they help each other, they can very quickly attain the absolute truths. Yet, if a person advances merely in one of them, he will not be able to attain the absolute truths very easily.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) attained the highest level of sayr-u suluk. The reality of His Miraj (The Night Journey of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, may God bless him and grant him peace, from Mecca to Jerusalem and then through the realms of the seven Heavens, beyond the limit of forms, the Sidrat al-Muntah, to within a bow-spans length or nearer to the Presence of God. See Holy Quran, Al-Isara 17:1. See Bukhari, Hadith 345, Vol. 1, Vol. 1, 227, Vol. 5.) is a kind of sayr-u suluk at the level of kamalat (perfection, maturity) [Nursi, Words, p. 528). The aim of the sary-u suluk of all the Avliyas (Muslim saints; friends of God) is to advance in the path of the Miraj of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and try to reach the level which Prophet Muhammad(pbuh) attained, to some extent.
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