Do not be impressed with the outward image of worship, but rather pay attention to the actual purpose of this worship, for indeed not all those who pray are worshippers, nor are all who fast ascetics, nor all weepers devotees, nor are all who associate themselves to asceticism, pure.
How many were those who ascribed to piety and abstention in the company of Maruf [an ascetic] but their names and figures perished, whereas the name of Maruf, which means known, remains known even after his death.
The people of sincerity [who fulfilled the duties demanded of them from the knowledge they acquired] left and only the bewildered and confused ones remain behind. Indeed, it makes me wonder! The pious have gone by, while those who remain from the people of sunnah are falling behind, in a state of stupor. The land is no more inhabited by the loved ones, and what used to be flourishing with worship, has now declined and collapsed.
In previous times, the Sheikhs were known for their diligence in acts of worship and high degree of piety, while their followers were known for being pain-takers [i.e. willing to endure all hardships to reach their goal to attain the pleasure of Allah]. However, today pain-takers and worshippers are all but non-existent. The follower used to inquire about that which perturbed him, and his Sheikh would immediately recognise the reason behind that which troubled his students and followers, but today, neither these exist, nor those. Before, the ascetic used to mock the devil, but today they are the ones that the devil makes a mockery out of. Asceticism used to exist in the hearts of people, but today it is only a token superficially appearing on people’s attire.
Woe to you, purify your heart and not your outward appearance, you are busy patching up your clothes, while you ought to be rectifying your intention; a person whose lineage can be traced and established to the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, surely does not need to possess two strands of hair [It seems that having two strands (plaits?) of hair at that time used to be from the known characteristics of Ahl al-bayt and Allah knows best]. Why would you buy a bow though you do not have a string? Why do you belch when you are not even full? I wonder at you! How could a woman deliver if she is not even pregnant! If you will not have the persevering hopefulness of Yaqub, peace be upon him, then at least be not desirous as Zalikha. I feel pity for hearts that have been melted by their love for this wordily life, and for minds whose hopes are based on occult fabrications; they are being manipulated in the sea of desires just as how waves play with the one drowning.
Call those who have cut themselves off and moved to the valley of heedlessness! I wonder what sin made them remove themselves from the crowd of the pious!
Where can I find a worshipper who worships his Lord in the manner of al-Sar? Where can I find a person as determined and preserving in worship as al-Junayd was? Where can I find a person who strives and struggles with the intensity of Abu Yazid? Who can withstand the pangs of hunger like Al-Shublit? O you who likes to be compared to Ibn Adham, who do you not have his strong will and determination? Indeed, all tents look the same but the inhabitants are different.
The spindle of Rabiah [famous female ascetic worshipper] is broken and the cotton of al-Hallaj is all what remains today [i.e. none of what they did benefitted them afterward]. None the less, all that has remained with us of the pious of yore, are their tales and accounts.
Seeds of Admonishment and Reform by Imam ibn Jawzi Pages 163-166