Needless to say that Awliya Allah are the true 'Sawad al-Azam' ( سواد الاعظم ), about whom the Quran commands us as follows.
It is in Quran - اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ - صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا الضَّالِّينَ [ (O'our Lord) Lead us to the straight path. The path of those on whom you have awarded your bestowal; and not the path of those who have been subjected to Your Wrath and the path of those who have gone astray.] ("Fatiha - 6-7)
The above Quranic verses confirm that only the path of Sawad al-Azam (the path Sahabah and Awliya Allah) is the right path of Islam. All the other paths are deviated and the people who are following those paths have gone astray who will be subjected to Allah's wrath in this world and in Hereafter.It is in Quran - أَلَا إِنَّ أَوْلِيَاءَ اللَّهِ لَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ - الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَكَانُوا يَتَّقُونَ - لَهُمُ الْبُشْرَىٰ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَفِي الْآخِرَةِ ۚ لَا تَبْدِيلَ لِكَلِمَاتِ اللَّهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ هُوَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ [ Meaning - Behold the friends of Allah - سبحانہ و تعا لی ! On them shall come no fear, nor shall they grieve. These are they, who have believed in Allah - سبحانہ و تعا لی and are mindful of (close to) Him and (have consequently abstained from everything evil). To them tidings come ( from Allah - سبحانہ و تعا لی ) of a happy life both in this world and in Hereafter. The word of Allah - سبحانہ و تعا لی is never revoked. This in itself is a great felicity" (Younus - 62-64).
It is in Hadith - "Prophet Mohammad (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم) said - Allah (سبحانہ و تعا لی) will never let my Ummah agree upon misguidance and the hand of Allah (سبحانہ و تعا لی) is over the group (Awliya Allah), so follow Sawad al-Azam' ( سواد الاعظم ) (the Pious or Great Group of Believers - Awliya Allah/Sufi Shaikhs) and whoever dissents from them departs to hell". (Tirmidhi 4/2167; Hakim 1/116 - Dhahabi agreed with him)
SAWAD AL-AZAM ( سواد الاعظم )
Some people translate Arabic term 'Sawad al-Azam' ( سواد الاعظم ) as 'large Group, or the group of large number of Muslims. This translation has contributed a lot of confusion in Muslim ranks.
Every Muslim sect claims that they are 'Ahle Sunnah wal Jama'a'. Even the hard core Salafis, who are well known worshipers of huge Sky Idol God, also claim that they are Muslims and Ahle Hadith (Astaghfirullah), therefore, are the largest group and are on the right path of Islam. This misleading claim has put millions of people on the way that leads them to only one place - the Eternal Hell Fire.
The Arabic word 'Azam' ( اعظم ) is generally used to describe 'the greatness / importance of a person or group', rather than 'the large number of people in a Group. Like we say Imam al-Azam ( امام الاعظم ) or Ghawth al-Azam ( غوث الاعظم ), or Wazir al-Azam ( وزىر الاعظم ). In this context, when we look at the wordings of the Hadith, it says 'Sawad al-Azam' ( سواد الاعظم ); meaning the most important or prominent group, which need not be the largest group.
As all individuals of the largest group may not necessary be pious believers, then how can we follow a group which is a mix of (i) Absolute wrongdoers (fasiqeen), (ii) Average wrongdoers and (iii) good believers?
For following a Group, all members of the group should be pious. Like it is in Hadith, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم) said all his Sahaba are pious. Therefore, by following any one of them, we are sure to be on the straight path of Islam. The above Hadith says "whoever dissents from this Group, departs to Hell".
Therefore, in 'Sawad al-Azam' category only the group of Sufi Shaikhs and Awliya Allah qualify to be followed by all Muslims because all of them are pious.
We are not talking here about 'fake Sufi babas' and 'illiterate peers' who hunt needy people and run their 'spiritual shops' to make a fast buck.
Some people may argue that some very famous Scholars of Islam have translated the Arabic term 'Sawad al-Azam' ( سواد الاعظم ) as Ahle Sunnah Wal Jama’a.
Indeed, the scholars and Imams were right in translating the term that way because the real Ahle Sunnah Wal Jama’a are only the Awliya Allah. By following their foot steps others can also try to become true Ahle Sunnah.
Anyone can claim he/she is from Ahle Sunnah, but his/her claim should also be accepted and endorsed by Allah ( سبحانہ و تعا لی ) and His Prophet (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم). Only then, he/she will qualify for salvation in Hereafter.
Thus ‘Sawad al-Azam’ are only Awliya Allah / Sufi Shaikhs and those who follow their foot steps sincerely.Sufis walk on the path of Ihsan. Allah ( سبحانہ و تعا لی ) provides them vision and understanding with which they can see the facts of things. They are pious and knowledgeable. They help in purification of minds of the people (tazkia nafs), correct people’s notions, educate them about the inner values and significance of Islam and draw people’s attention towards Divine signs and secrets in the cosmos. They follow Prophet Mohammad’s (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم) foot steps in propagation of Islamic teachings.
It is in Hadith - Prophet Mohammad (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم) said: He who deviates from 'Sawad al-Azam' ( سواد الاعظم ), even as much as a hand span, has himself cut off his connection with Islam”. (Abu Dawood)
It is in Hadith - Abdullah ibn Masood (رضئ الله تعالی عنه) reported that once Allah's Apostle (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم) drew a line in the dust with his hand and said, "This is the straight path of Allah." Then he drew a series of lines to the right of it and to the left and said, "Each of these paths has a devil at its head inviting people to it." He then recited وَأَنَّ هَـٰذَا صِرَاطِي مُسْتَقِيمًا فَاتَّبِعُوهُ ۖ وَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا السُّبُلَ فَتَفَرَّقَ بِكُمْ عَن سَبِيلِهِ ۚ (An-Aam - 153), "Verily this is my straight path so follow it and do not follow the (twisted) paths, for you will be separated from His (Allah's) way." (Ahmad, Nasai, Darimi; Mishkat ul-Masabih, 1/166)
Ibn Taymiyyah accepts Hazrat Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani (رضئ اللھ تعالی عنہ ) as al-Ghawth al-A'zam. Al-Dhahabi accepts him as Imam, the greatest among Awliya Allah / Sufi Shaikhs.
The founders of Deobandi and Tabhlighee Jama'at and all their famous scholars (ulema-e-Akaabir) also accept Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani (رضئ اللھ تعالی عنہ ) as al-Ghawth al-A'zam.
Salafis, Deobandis, Tabhlighees and their like minded Groups claim that there are no Sufi Shaikhs of Ihsan in the World today. They say that Sufis existed only in earlier times, about 1000 years ago. By claiming so, they deny the following Ahadith and Quranic verses.
Look at the following Ahadith that confirm the existence of Sufi Shaikhs in the World all the time, till Qiyamah.
(i) It is in Hadith - Tabarani wrote in his Mu'jam al-Awsat - that Anas (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) said that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم) said: "The earth will never lack forty men similar to the Friend of the Merciful (Prophet Ibrahim - علیھ السلا م) and through them people receive rain and are given help. None of them dies except Allah ( سبحانہ و تعا لی ) substitutes (Abdaal) another in his place."
The above Hadith confirms the existence of Abdaal (and of course other categories of Sufi Shaikhs) all the time in the world, till Qiyamah.
Commenting on the above Hadith, Qatada said: "We do not doubt that Al-Hasan al-Basri is one of them (abdaal)."
Ibn Hibban also narrated this Hadith in al-Tarikh through Abu Hurayra (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) as: "The earth will never lack forty men similar to Ibrahim (علیھ السلا م) the Friend of the Merciful ( ابراهيم خليل الله ), and through whom you are helped, receive your sustenance, and receive rain."
(ii) It is in Hadith - It is reported that Prophet Mohammad (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم) once said after the Salah: 'O' people! Listen to this, understand it and know it. Allah (سبحانہ و تعا لی ) has servants who are neither prophets nor martyrs and whom they prophets and martyrs yearn to be like, due to their seat and proximity in relation to Allah (سبحانہ و تعا لی ). One of the Bedouin Arabs who came from among the most isolated of people twisted his hand towards the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم) and said: O'Apostle of Allah (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم)! People from humankind who are neither prophets nor martyrs and yet the prophets and martyrs yearn to be like them due to their seat and proximity in relation to Allah (سبحانہ و تعا لی )! Describe them for us!"
'The Prophet's (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم) face showed delight at the Bedouin's question and he said:'. "They are of the strangers from this and that place. They frequent this or that tribe without belonging to them. They do not have family connections among themselves. They love one another for Allah's (سبحانہ و تعا لی ) sake. They are of pure intent towards one another. On the Day of Resurrection Allah (سبحانہ و تعا لی) will place for them pedestals of light upon which He will make them sit and He will turn their faces and clothes into light. On the Day of Resurrection, the people will be terrified but not those. They are Allah's (سبحانہ و تعا لی) Friends (Awliya), upon whom fear comes not, nor do they grieve".References - The above Hadith is related through several chains by (a) Abu Dawood, (b) Ahmad, (c) Baghawi in Sharh al-Sunna, (d) Hakim in the Mustadrak, (e) Ibn 'Asakir, (f) Ibn Abi al-Dunya in Kitab al-Ikhwan, (g) Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, (h) Ibn Abi Hatim, (i) Ibn Mardawayh, and others. (j) Haythami in Majma'al-Zawa'id says: 'Ahmad relates it, and (k) Tabrani relates something similar, and the men in its chain of transmission have been declared trustworthy".(iii) It is in Hadith - Imam Ahmad narrated a Hadith in his Musnad (5:322) through Ibn Ata ( رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ ): The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم) said: "The Substitutes (Abdaal) in this Community are thirty like Ibrahim (علیھ السلا م) the Friend of the Merciful ( ابراهيم خليل الله ). Every time one of them dies, Allah (سبحانہ و تعا لی) substitutes another one in his place."
References - Tirmidhi cites the above Hadith in Nawadir al-Usul and Imam Ahmad's student, Al-Khallal has mentioned this Hadith in his book Karamat al-Awliya'.
(iv) It is in Hadith - narrated by Anas (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ). The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم) said: "The similitude of my Community (Ummah) is as the rain: it is not known whether its greater good lies in its beginning or in its ending".
References - The above Hadith is in Sunan (book of Amthal), Ibn Hibban in his Sahih from `Ammar ibn Yasir (#2307), Ahmad in his Musnad in several places (cf. 3:143, 4:319), Baghawi in Sharh al-Sunna (1:405), Tabarani in his Kabir, Ibn Kathir in his Tafsir (7:493), al-Khatib in Tarikh Baghdad (11:114), Abu Ya`la, al-Daraqutni, al-Bazzar, and Ibn `Abd al-Barr".
(v) It is in Hadith - Narrated by Abu Hurayra (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) "The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم) came to the graveyard and said: "Peace be upon you, O' abode of a people of believers! We shall certainly join you, if Allah (سبحانہ و تعا لی) wills. How I long to see my brothers! "They said: "O' Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم), are we not your brothers?" He replied: "You are my Companions! As for my brothers, they are those who have not yet appeared." They said: "How will you recognize those of your Community who had not yet appeared (in your time) O'Apostle of Allah (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم)?" He replied: "Suppose a man had horses with shiny white marks on their foreheads and legs: would he not recognize them among other horses which are all black?" They said: "Yes O' Apostle of Allah (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم)!" He continued: "Verily, they (my brothers) shall be coming with shiny bright foreheads and limbs in view of their ablutions, and I shall precede them to my Pond." (Muslim, Nasa'i, Malik, and Ahmad).(vi) It is in Hadith - Narrated Abu Hurayra (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) : The Prophet ( صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم) said - ان الله يبعث لهذه الامة على رأس كلّ مائة سنة من يجدد لها دينها (Surely, Allah will send for this Ummah at the advent of every one hundred years a person who will revive its religion.” (Abu Dawood, Vol 4, Hadith # 4291)The above Hadith is also mentioned by Hakim in his Mustadrak; Bayhaqi in Al-Ma'rifah and Al-Mudkhal; Suyuti in al-Jame' al-Sagheer; Hasan bin Sufyan and Bazar both in their Musnads, Tabarani in al-Mu'jam al-Awsat, Ibn 'Adee in his Kamil and Abu-Nu'aym in his al-Hil'ya.)Above Ahadith and Quranic verse confirm the following facts.(a) Sufi Shaikhs / Awliya Allah will be there in the world all the time till Qiyamah. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم) also indicated that some of the latter day Sufis may achieve higher ranks as compared to their predecessors. These Ahadith nail the lies of Salafis and their like minded groups who claim that there is no real Sufi available in the world.(b) The Ahadith emphasize that Awliya Allah are 'Living" after their death. Prophet's (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم) has described 'Salaam' on them and his love and affection for them as he calls them 'his brothers', testifies their "Living status after their death." Read more..(c) When there is no Wali Allah/Sufi Shaikh in the world, Allah (سبحانہ و تعا لی ) may call it a day and Youmul Qiyama (the end of this world) will happen. Because it is in Hadith (mentioned above) that people of the world are getting sustenance because of Sufi Shaikhs of Ihsan's presence in the world.Biographies of some Awliya Allah are provided in this section for the benefit of our readers.