By Imam Zaid Shakir
Al-Burhan al-Mu'ayyad is a beneficial work of classical Sufism. It is authored by Ahmad ar-Rifa'i, one of the great scholars and spiritual guides of the Ummah. He is described by Imam adh-Dhahabi, in Siyar `Alam an-Nubala', as "...an Imam, an exemplar, a devout, an ascetic, and the leader of the spiritual elect." Imam Ar-Rifa'i was born in 512 H. and passed away in 578 H. Most of his life was spend in Wasit, a small town midway between Basra and Kufa. He is the founder of the Rifa'i order, an order, contrary to popular perception, that has been known for its strict adherence to the Divine Law, and the orthodox creed.
Imam Rifa'i was versed in all of the Islamic sciences, in addition to his rich training in Sufism. Ahmad Rifa'i emphasized humility in his teaching. He saw humility as being one of the great doors leading to Allah. However, he believed most people, owing to their arrogance, ostentatiousness and hubris had neglected that door. He strived assiduously to turn people towards that door, and saw the paucity of those gathered before it as an indication that once attained to, it is the quickest door to pass through.
Imam Rifa'i was deeply committed to the primacy of the Qur'an and Sunnah in the life of the Muslim. This orientation is born out in the pages of al-Burhan. The Burhan itself is a compilation of the Imam's sermons, lessons, and exhortations compiled by his students. In them the Imam expounds on most of the basic concepts and themes associated with the spiritual quest, in a manner that highlights his humility, erudition, and keen insights. It is a work whose message should prove of tremendous benefit to contemporary Muslims.
I had the opportunity to read the text with Sheikh Mustafa at-Turkmani, a scholar and spiritual guide deeply influenced by the writings of Imam ar-Rifa'i. It is my prayer that this translation will be greeted with widespread acceptance by the Muslims, not only as an aid in their efforts at spiritual advancement, but also an aid in the general Islamic call.