Ibn al-Banna layed down the conclusive word and test of this in al-Mabahith al-Asliyah. How do you tell a true tariqa from a false tariqa?
412 O you who seeks to follow the Path of the early rightly-guided scholars, | do not follow all these groups of Sufis today.
413 There is not one among them that understands the true objective | of the Path. Nor do they truly understand how to
travel it and receive the particular sent spiritual states and stations.
414 They have not uncovered the reality of the Path. | So, the Sufis today are ignoramuses in reality.
415 So beware of them as much as you can fearing that they may tempt you (with their fancy words and feigned states into
believing that they are actually on to something). | Leave their path as it ought to be abandoned.
416 Now if this affair as become garbled and confused for you | and you wish to know the signs in detail.
417 I will give you the word of an expert | that will help you distinguish between the Sufis who are false in their claims and
the rare few honest people who are on the correct Path.
418 If a disciple brags about the fact that he is a disciple of a Shaykh, | know that this points to the fact that he wants to
419 If a disciple is extremely happy while still not a knower of Allah, | then know that he is an imbecile and is not headed
for any true divine knowledge.
420 If a disciple displays sadness but is not actively trying to gain the vision of Allah, | then know that he is not on the
Path of the spiritual leaders.
421 If a disciple or teacher takes money or wealth from people (as a donation for his personal benefit) | without being in
extreme need, then know that he is spiritually bankrupt.
422 If a disciple or a teacher wears clothes that make him popular (and held in esteem), | then know that his inner secret is
stripped and devoid of all secrets.
423 If a disciple does not refrain from eating all types of food | without some limits and rules, then know that he is not
travelling the Path which will make him reach Allah.
424 If a disciple has become addicted to the unison chanting gatherings | and is constantly engaging in them, then know
that he is but a captive of the desires of his self which has still not died.
425 And his loving the unison chanting gatherings is a sure sign | that idleness still remains within him.
426 And his dancing in the chanting gatherings without being overcome by a state | is a sign that he is not a true traveller
on the Path.
427 If a disciple takes back his outer garment after throwing it off in a chanting gathering, | then this is sign that he is far
from the reality of unifying Allah.
428 If a disciple hangs his head down without a crime | when with his fellow disciples (or practices other formalities not
legislated in the din), then know he does not practice the manners of the people of the Path.
429 We have already mentioned the ruling for asking for forgiveness. | I mean standing in front of everybody and doing so
and am not referring to the common meaning (of asking forgiveness in private, which is desired).
430 And his leaning towards and freely mixing with the Arabic and the non-Arabic people | is from a sickness in his self
and he is doing wrong with such.
431 If his travel is not towards Allah | gaining strength from Allah, then he has no experience of higher reality.
432 If a disciple alludes to unified ontology | while being ignorant of disparate ontology, then swerve away from him.
433 Or if a disciple or teacher talks about physical unification with Allah, Allah indwelling in physical or metaphysical
objects or beings, or Allah becoming apparent to the common senses in this world, | then know he is engaged in an
unlawful innovation which strikes at the very base tenets of our din.
434 If a disciple says, "I am whom I love." | before becoming free of his ego and self, then know that he is very far (from
the correct way).
435 If a disciple or teacher claims to have received knowledge directly from Allah | without practicing outward and
inward obedience to Allah, then know that he is not of a splendid state.
436 If a disciple's or teacher's words are more lofty and higher than his spiritual state, | then know that he is cut off from
the way of the advanced spirituals.
437 If the disciple says, "I am a Shaykh. So, follow me." | without knowledge, then know that he is crazy.
438 If he says that I am a Sufi while he does not | know the limits of the levels of the soul, then know that he is blind.
439 If he merely loves the people of the Path without following them, | then know that he has no benefit in this and cannot
(It is not a bad act to love the people of the Path even if one does not follow them as on the Day of Resurrection, one will
be with those he loved, but the author is pointing out here that in order to travel one must follow the dictates of the Path
and cannot just rely on one's trust or love of one's teacher or fellow disciples.)
440 And if the disciple or teacher openly acts in contradiction to | a prohibition stated in clear words in the Qur'an or
authentic multiple-chain hadith (and no disagreement from the early scholars of Islam is found to permit it), then know
that he is involved in misguidance and invented matters.
441 And if he advances to the level of being a Shaykh without permission | from his teacher, know that he has only stolen
his chair and position.
442 These and other similar attributes are what prevent one (from obtaining full knowledge of Allah). | And they are
placed on the Path like barriers.
443 Are they not simply faults in one's feeling of extreme need and poverty towards Allah? | The brave and robust man
fights these off acting like a falcon or a hawk -
444 Until when he is able to wrestle down and deal a fatal blow to his lower self (which is what causes him to engage in
the faults mentioned above), | then he no longer fears such unfortunate faults and events.
445 O my companion, do not let this time confuse you and tempt you | for here is the explanation of the Path and its
446 Truth is not recognized by the men who are preaching it (rather, it is independent from these men and these men are
recognized and judged according to the truth). | And bearing eyewitness of the truth frees one from doubting that it exists
(or doubting that it is possible).
447 And the truth in all affairs is more proper to be sought after. | If falsehood saw it, it would vanish and melt away.
448 And now that you know the ways of the people of the Path. | Then here is a bow and some arrows (for you to shoot at
449 This is the Path; so, follow most of what we mentioned. |