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The            Qualifications

of a Spiritual Teacher


From a Sufi standpoint, the way to reach Self-Realization (waliyat) is by finding a true spiritual teacher who can guide you on your journey, falling in love with that teacher, and following that teacher until you reach your Goal. 


Below is a list that has been passed down the Qadriya Sufi lineage to help genuine seekers like you find a teacher. Take this checklist and test an individual if they meet these criteria before you devote yourself to their teachings. 

Printable Checklist

Watch the Video


An Authentic Lineage

A true teacher does not become a teacher out of the blue. Your guide must be able to point to her or his spiritual heritage of master-disciple, master-disciple, master-disciple for generations. Your teacher's own teacher must give explicit permission, with witnesses, to begin taking her or his own students. 



A true teacher will never take something from you. This means he or she will never charge money to attend a lecture or seminar. The Divine Messengers through the ages never charged money for their teachings, so, too, your spiritual guide must never charge you money. A true teacher spreads light and knowledge regardless of your race, age, gender, or pocket book.


Operates Within a Circle of Purity

Does your spiritual teacher hold herself or himself to a firm and clear ethical code? We call this operating within a circle of purity. You must be able to see without doubt that your teacher will never step out of this firm boundary of right and wrong for anything or anyone. You must never, ever have to make excuses for the behavior of your teacher! 


Lives the First Two Commandments

The first two commandments given by the Christ (pbuh) encompass the essence of all spiritual paths. As a rule of thumb you should be able to see [1] your teacher genuinely overwhelmed by love for the Beloved, [2] and love all sentient beings unconditionally and constantly try to be compassionate to all creatures. You must be able to see your teacher live by these loves! Only one who is inundated with love for the Divine can teach you how to be inundated with love for the Divine.


Touch Your Heart

This is crucial. When your teacher speaks, her or his words must move your heart. You should feel inspired to change. You should feel a connection with your guide, a softness in your heart, and a desire to be a better person. If your teacher does not touch your heart, even if all the other qualifications are present, you must find a teacher you can love, follow, and feel inspired by.


No Difference Between Gold and Mud

This is not symbolic, metaphoric, or hypothetical. Does the teacher demonstrate financial concerns, try to make a profit, or fear bankruptcy? Does the teacher give special attention to students with high social status? Wealth? A true teacher literally does not differentiate between gold and dirt. He or she does not make decisions based on financial factors. He does not withhold or limit his generosity. You MUST see detachment from the allure of this world in your teacher.


Challenges and Tests the Students

Attaining Self-Realization requires changes in lifestyle, perspective, and character, and at times making the necessary changes in order to grow is difficult. A true teacher cannot, and will not, allow a student to lounge in his or her current condition if it is detrimental to their journey. No matter how difficult it is for both the student or the teacher, he or she will not fail to challenge the student.


Loves His/Her Own Master

True teachers' hearts are dominated by love for their masters. They will never speak ill or disrespect their teacher because they hold them in the highest esteem.


All Success is Attributed to their Master

True teachers love their master so much that any good that occurs through them they attribute to their master. You will hear phrases like, "it is because of the blessings of my master," and, "thanks to the prayers of my teacher."


Lives Between the Message and the Messenger

No matter what path your teacher is on, he or she must follow two guideposts: the message and teachings brought by the Divine Messenger; and the life of the Divine Messenger. For example, does your teacher genuinely follow the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, Bible, or Qur'an? In day-to-day life, does your teacher strive to live like the Buddha, Moses, Sri Krishna, or Muhammad (peace and blessings upon all of them)? Our great Sufi Master, Shaykh Abdul Qadir Jilani (raa) said in essence: "if a person flies through the air, yet he does not follow the Message and the Messenger, he is false!"


Must Continue to Grow

Don't think that once a teacher has reached a certain level of evolution he or she is done learning! A true teacher will continue to grow, learn, and develop until death. He or she must be extremely humble in order to constantly learn, for pride constricts the heart and prevents learning. A student should be able to witness over time the teacher growing and gaining more and more proximity to the Beloved.


The Teacher Practices what he/she Preaches

A teacher must continue to practice spirituality, for if the Divine Messengers still practiced (e.g., meditation, compassion, mantra, generosity) how can a teacher be exempt from practicing? A teacher must not tell a student to do anything which he is not doing himself.


No Malamat

Malamat is a word which describes when a person purposely does something obscene to attract bad publicity or opinion. In the past, true teachers would perform malamat to test students' resolve and trust, but in this day and age there are too many false teachers for a true teacher to act like a false teacher. So, from a sufi standpoint, avoid malamati teachers.



Faqiri -Asceticism-

Faqiri is the manifestation of complete attachment to The Beloved and detachment from the world. Externally, signs of asceticism should be present in the teacher such as intensity of spiritual practice and not seeking the comforts offered from this world.


Sadhagi - Radical Simplicity-

Radical simplicity refers to only maintaining the bare essentials for living, as per the example of how the Divine Messengers and Saints have lived in the past. True contentment lies in the Universe, not material comforts.


Dayanatdari -Integrity-

No matter what the circumstance, the teacher must hold true to the principles of The Divine, not bending to any cultural or situational pressures.


Qurbani -Self-Sacrifice-

A spiritual teacher should be willing to put everything on the line for their students (e.g. life, money, time, family, job, etc.). Truly, nothing is more important for a teacher than the development of their students because it is their duty assigned to them from their spiritual lineage.

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