Ahmed ar-Rifai (1118–1182 CE) was a Sufi who lived in the Basra region of Iraq. From his life and work arose the Rifai Sufi order, well known in Turkey. Ahmed ar-Rifai had a reputation for humility, simplicity, kindness and compassion. His wore humble, patched robes, and he used to visit the sick, including lepers, and wash their clothes, bring them food, and sit and eat with them. He was also known as a healer. He did not write much, but the following is taken from his “Guidance to Mysticism.”
In this age, the one who deserves envy is the one who knows the right time to talk, he who makes an effort to avoid idle talk. The policy followed by an arif [a knower of spiritual truth] against his nafs [egoistic self] is very great. That person who is an arif adjusts the words he is going to say before they come out of his mouth. If they are useful, he will speak them. If not, he will be quiet, because it is said, “Language is a lion. If you contain it, you will be saved. Otherwise, it will destroy you.”
The words of the arif polish your inner heart; his silence averts adversities. The arif always commands his people with righteousness. In the Generous Quran Allah says, “There is no use in most of the words said unless they are about betterment, giving and righteousness.”
In every situation and with every deed you must strive for goodness. Be good with Allah and with people, and even be good with your own nafs. You must use good language, whether in a group or alone, at death, at resurrection or on Judgment Day–in short, at all times.
In your book of deeds everything, big or small, will be written. Know very well that everything hidden in hearts, and things looked at through a stolen glance–all secret things are apparent to Allah.
Adapted from “Grand Masters of Sufism”
Translated by Es-Seyyid Es-Shaykh Taner Ansari