Q: The duas of the wali's are powerful. I have also read stories how some Sheikh's used to cast their tawajjuh (spiritual attention) on a person and how that person made a very quick change in their life. Why doesn't my Sheikh simply make dua or cast his tawajjuh on me?
A: Without doubt the duas of the walis are powerful and some have cast their tawajjuh on people. However, it should be noted that this is not a general method employed by the masha'ikh. Even if employed, the effect of the tawajjuh is usually short lived unless the person himself makes an effort.
Now, listen to this question posed to Ml Ashraf Ali Thanwi (Rahmatullah Alayhi): (extracted from As-Salsabeel Li Aaabiris Sabeel)
Someone said: “The duaa and barkat of the Shaikh also play a prominent role in Islaah (moral reformation).” Hadhrat Thanvi (rahmatullah alayh) said:
Barkat is not denied. However, its capacity should be understood. It serves as an aid. It is not the actual remedy. Nothing will be achieved (in the matter of Islaah) with only duaa and barkat as long as one does not employ one's own freewill. No one is superior than Rasulullah (Sallalahu Alayhi Wasalam) with regard to barkat and acceptability of duaa. The devotion and sacrifice of his uncle Abu Talib were profound. Rasulullah (Sallalahu Alayhi Wasalam) further supplicated fervently and wholeheatedly for him to enter the fold of Islam, and in his endeavour he persisted. But, since Abu Talib himself had not desired Imaan, he was not blessed with this wealth.
This matter is comparable to a physician and a patient. If the patient refuses to submit to the treatment, will the physician's affection and attention suffice for curing? Health will be gained from his prescription. Similarly, if the pupil refuses to learn his lesson, how will he know it. The lesson cannot be remembered by only the teacher's affection and attention. Effort is essential. While barkat is an aid, it is not sufficient. But employment of ikhtiyaar (one's own free will and effort) can be sufficient even without the duaa of the Shaikh.
I publicly announce these things. I do not wish to unnecessarily fetter my associates to me. The Shaikh simply guides the mureed along the road. He does not drag the mureed along the road. The person with sight indicates the path to the blind. He does not carry the blind on his lap. The blind will have to do the walking themselves. Undoubtedly, it is the function of the Shaikh to show the path. But, it is the responsibility of the mureedeen to strive along the path.