Heretical claims and threats-Interview with Zayd Mia on leaving an abusive tariqa

Heretical claims and threats-Interview with Zayd Mia on leaving an abusive tariqa

Murids leaving an abusive tariqa face all sorts of backlash. Please read this interview with Zayd Mia on his experiences in an abusive tariqa and subsequent backlash.


Danish: What initially drew you to the Shaykh and tariqa?

Zayd: I was drawn to the Shaykh mainly due to a family connection. I had a handful of family members connected to the group. I also used to attend gatherings during my early childhood. After a personal loss, I looked for guidance and answers and I eventually reached out to the Shaykh and began following his teachings. I later met him in person.


When did you first notice something was wrong? When did you begin to feel uncomfortable with the Shaykh?

Zayd: The red flags began appearing when I moved to Shaykh’s city, leaving my immediate family behind. When I observed the Shaykh and entered his ‘inner circle,’ spending most of my free time at the zawiya and in his company I was able to see how he is outside of what is broadcasted or just shown to guests. I was also very avid in performing khidma of the Shaykh and his zawiya. This is when the red flags started popping up. There were also teachings that were not spoken about publicly that the Shaykh intimated in private settings.


Can you elaborate on some of these red flags in the actions of the Shaykh?

Zayd: I went on a trip with the shaykh and was with him for the entire day and did not see him stop to pray once. I heard a similar story from one of the murids who told me that he was sitting with the Shaykh and when the time for Dhuhr entered, when questioned whether he wanted to pray, the Shaykh said that he had already prayed. The murid relating this story said this was impossible, as he had been sitting with him the whole time, and he took a strange moral from this story. He believed the Shaykh was teaching him not to display his actions.

There was this culture of taking strange dispensations from the Shaykh in religious matters, this made me uncomfortable. For example:

The Shaykh would act as a de facto Mufti, without any shari’i training at all, declaring things halal without evidence (for instance certain financial practices such as conventional interest, eating non-Zabiha meat, praying in cars and while sitting down without an excuse, and praying before the time enters).

I even saw a murid prostrate before an alleged photo of the Prophet ﷺ, after the Shaykh whispered something. The Shaykh did not stop him. I saw murids prostrate before the Shaykh during dhikr while he, admittedly, could not see them. I saw them neglect the prayer while making ‘khidmah’ of him. And of course, the photo itself is a huge issue and a falsehood


What were some of those teachings related to belief that struck you as unacceptable?

Zayd: There are several teachings that were propagated that went against the clear shari’a and what is acceptable to be said. Some of them, I would say, constitute lies against Allah and his Messenger ﷺ. Some of the more outrageous ones were spoken about off-camera, while others are filmed. One of the strangest things, that I have not heard anywhere else, was in December 2016. The Shaykh explained that Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ is the father of Sayyidina ‘Isa (عليه السلام) and that Sayyidina Jibril (عليه السلام) brought his ‘seed’ down from heaven to the pure Sayyidah Maryam  (عليها السلام). He then went on to say that the ‘Father’ referred to in the Bible and the Lord’s Prayer is actually the Prophet ﷺ.

The denying of Allah’s attributes (ta’til) is very prevalent in the group. Many times the Shaykh has said that Allah’s attributes do not refer to Him. That Allah is not Al-Hayy (The Living), and that He is neither living nor dead. This is in clear contradiction to the Aqidah of Ahlus Sunnah. The Shaykh would deny Āyāt of the Qur’an clearly describing Allah (such as Ayat al-Kursi) as referring to Him, saying instead that they are a description of the Prophet ﷺ. He would also say that creation comes into existence due to “the meeting of the oceans of La Ilaha IllAllah and Muhammadun Rasul Allah” and would make strange inferences from this idea. This all did not sit well with me.


What were some instances of private conversations that made you uncomfortable?

Zayd: There were many times when those murids who had been authorized by the Shaykh, who I would term as his ‘ muqaddams‘ to employ Sufi terminology, would say strange things in regard to the Shaykh. They would contribute greatly to the culture of absolute reverence and obedience to him, and would often make distressing comments. Once, I heard one of them, the right-hand man of the Shaykh speaking to myself and another brother say that everyone can be replaced, and if you make a mistake the Shaykh can take you out and put someone who can do your job better, as there is no one whose job can’t be done by someone else. This kind of constant devaluing and keeping people in check was part and parcel of things. There was a huge emphasis on presentation and keeping a watch on everything. We were constantly told about appearance and how important it was to keep the dress code the Shaykh laid out, and those who don’t are just showing their ego. Anything and everything that the Shaykh and others did was explained away as a test. The tariqa operated in an almost mafia type manner, with the flow of information being highly regulated.

With all this in mind, I was told privately not to act in a cultish manner during certain times, especially when family was visiting. This was evidently said in order to quell any suspicions.


What was the spiritual and emotional abuse you faced while in the group? What did you see others go through?

Zayd: The Shaykh would often bully others, framing it as tarbiya. This is not the case since genuine tarbiya is done with basira and is done with the intention of making the student grow. If a genuine teacher sees that he made a mistake in administering a harsher form of tarbiya that elicits a negative response instead of positive they will rectify the situation and prescribe the student another way to reach the same goal. This was not the case here. There was almost constant bullying, and even worse if one made a mistake in completing a task of the Shaykh. Then, the Shaykh would act as if nothing had ever happened, or sometimes he would love-bomb the student just enough to reel them back in. I also saw how the Shaykh would call others out publicly, once harshly reprimanding someone whose phone rang during the prayer. He told the entire congregation that one needs to break their prayer if their phone rings and that if they don’t, “The sin of the whole Jama’ah is upon you”. These are not isolated incidents, but happened time and time again.


Was there financial abuse also present?

Zayd: As I was not earning at the time, I was not expected to make large financial contributions, although all were encouraged to give regular gifts to the Shaykh, especially if one felt they made a mistake in their interaction with him.

There were many who would give a large chunk of their monthly salary to the center, and there would not be a night of Dhikr except that the Shaykh would  ask for donations. The Shaykh said in one of his talks that it is legislated for the Shaykh to literally take from people’s wealth, as they will not give it willingly, (using Quran 9:103 out of context). He also gave a private talk saying that 2.5% Zakat is for the common Muslims, and that one in the tariqa has to give at least an amount that makes them shake in their bed at night. Money and giving donations was definitely central to the teachings of the Shaykh.


What did this money go to? Was there clear financial transparency? 

Zayd: There wasn’t financial transparency. The Shaykh would constantly have fundraisers on his Facebook page and ask for donations, and murids would readily give gifts of money on top of their set monthly contribution. They were also encouraged to increase their contribution gradually. The Shaykh claimed that all his financial support came from his father, however this struck me as very strange and not befitting the status of a murshid and shaykh of tarbiya, who encourages his murids to earn money to contribute to the zawiya. He also said that if these awliya’ (making an oblique reference to himself) were to make a du’a, the mountain of Uhud would turn into gold and that Allah provides for them. He also would mention that such people go to bed with an empty bank account and wake up with it filled. All this didn’t add up, seeing as the Shaykh lives in a mansion, owns two mansions, drives a BMW and has many cars as personal property. One raises an eyebrow when thinking about where funds are really going. If these are baseless suspicions, I ask that the Shaykh show where all this money has been going.


Usually spiritual abuse is coupled with manipulation tactics and threats, can you expand on how this played into it?

Zayd: Yes, there was very clear manipulation. The murids are completely robbed of any self-agency and their logical faculties are told to be completely shut off. The Shaykh himself said, “Everything I say here is to confuse you”, and indeed that is what he did. Murids were heavily discouraged from reading books not authored by the Shaykh. There was a very insular culture in the zawiya and amongst the murids. As mentioned, the Shaykh would bully and love-bomb students into submission. An emotional dependence was created on the Shaykh. Criticism of the Shaykh was treated as an unspeakable crime. The Shaykh even said that to look at something haram is less sinful than to doubt your Shaykh. This is clear control and manipulation. The Shaykh would often deflect any criticism by saying that he is from the Ahlul Bayt (family of the Prophetﷺ ) and that the Prophet ﷺ will get upset if anyone complains about him, and to endure any abuse that comes from such shuyukh in order to gain a reward from the Prophet ﷺ. This was a quick card he would play when any criticism came his way- just saying that criticizing Ahlul Bayt is Haram. True descendants do not use their lineage as a get out jail for free card. Intimidation is also used, claiming that if one leaves the tariqa, they are leaving the Prophet ﷺ , getting a text or call from the Shaykh is like getting one from the Prophet ﷺ , and that whoever leaves the Shaykh will be given a life of misfortune, even using an example of someone who left the Shaykh and supposedly as a result, were given a disabled child as a punishment. These are clearly manipulative tactics. The manipulation continues to the point where the students do not trust themselves at all, their mental faculty having been completely stripped from them, their entire worldview being through the lens of the Shaykh and living vicariously through him. Murids are trained in using mental gymnastics to the point where they can explain anything away. The control of the Shaykh was so tight that fellow murids could not even meet at each other’s homes without asking permission of the Shaykh. They could not discuss any of the teachings of the Shaykh with each other, and were discouraged from speaking about the religion in general except for a couple of ‘authorized’ people. This kept a tight seal on any and all information.


What was the point when you left the group? What made you decide to finally leave?

Zayd: It was during a period of time when I was away on a trip. During that time, I had some time to breath and process things. I began to realize how many things piled on top of each other, and how many problems there were with the group. Problems that I couldn’t explain away no matter how hard I tried. I decided to continuously make the Prophetic du’a that Allah show me truth as truth and enable me to follow it, and show me falsehood as falsehood and enable me to stay away from it. That was coupled with great amounts of salawat upon the Prophet ﷺ until I clearly saw the only course of action was to leave the group. I have since heard a couple of other stories of people being mistreated by the group, including a confirmed sayyid (descendent of the Prophet ﷺ), who stayed at the Shaykh’s house and was given very little respect, despite giving them priceless gifts. This also devalued the claim that one mustn’t criticize the Shaykh by merit of him being Ahlul Bayt.


Continuing on that, what events happened after you left?

Zayd: After I left, I honestly breathed a sigh of relief. I was able to learn the fundamental basics of the religion which was something the Shaykh never taught, nor did he emphasize the seeking of what is agreed upon and known as personally obligatory knowledge (fard ‘ayn). In fact this was completely de-emphasized, as was learning about the seerah of the Prophet ﷺ. I was able to regain a relatively normative life.

I did experience attacks after I left, publicly from the Shaykh in two of his live broadcasts. He did not refer to me by name, but it was obvious given the context. He also mentioned memorizing the Qur’an twice, which I am currently doing, and I am the only one previously or currently affiliated with that group who has undertaken this. He spoke about, “rats spreading their filth”, “spreading Satanic comments”, “Devils coming out after quarantine”. These talks may also have been directed to others involved in exposing false shuyukh. He reiterated his defense about speaking against Ahlul Bayt. He mentioned much about the “bad character” of certain people, in reference to this and reiterated the comments about rats spreading their excrement twice, then going on to mention the importance of good character and good manners and being loving even to the hand that crushes you. Clear hypocrisy. What kind of good character is it to call a fellow Muslim an excrement spreading rat and a devil?


What is the purpose of you coming out in public with this story? What advice do you have to others in similar situations?

Zayd: The purpose of my coming public with this is not for personal gain or benefit, or mere character assassination. In fact, I’d much rather not have come out with this and simply leave quietly and live my life in peace. It takes a lot more effort to come out in public, and it’s not something that is enjoyable in the least. I have no personal vendetta in this, all I wish is for the Shaykh to be held accountable and for his followers to understand the truth. I’m not here to take anyone away from the tariqa or a shaykh. If they hear the facts and still wish to support him, that is entirely their choice.

The only reason I came public at all about my story is to give information. To call those unsuspecting Muslims to safeguard their most precious treasure, their iman, foremost and then their mental health, and personal property. I do not want others to be misled and put their trust in charlatans. If charlatans are not called out, people may lose trust in the entire foundation of traditional scholarship and the science of tasawwuf (purification of the heart), and perhaps even the religion as a whole. It is important that organizations and seekers on the path are made aware of these problems in order to safeguard themselves from false guides who sell counterfeit merchandise.

My advice to those in similar situations is to look at things with a sound, clear mind. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Don’t ignore the obvious red flags and don’t fall into manipulation. If someone violates the shari’a and rules of Allah – run! That is not a guide, no matter what kind of ijaza they have or what fancy attire they may appear in, or what flowery words they might speak. There is no tariqa without shari’a. May Allah guide us all to what pleases him and what is the best and better.

Having read some articles on In Shaykh’s Clothing helped open my eyes to the reality of such situations, and the indicators of a false teacher and spiritual abuse. After having reached out and spoken to Danish, he clarified many things for me and was very helpful throughout the whole process and helped to put my case into perspective. I would definitely encourage others in similar situations to reach out to In Shaykh’s Clothing and to benefit from the resources and services on the site, that will prove to be both eye-opening, informative, and inshallah very helpful.


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