Answered by Sayyidi Habib Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him).
- What is the status of someone who studies under a shaykh by means of the internet? Is he considered a student of the shaykh?
The issue is that of attachment of the heart. If someone is sincere in his attachment to the shaykh, then he is considered a student of the shaykh. If he receives knowledge from the shaykh via the internet or any other means, then he is regarded as being his student and recipient of this knowledge. The level to which he is regarded as a student of the shaykh is judged according to the extent of the love and attachment he harbours in his heart for the shaykh for the sake of Allah, and the extent of his conviction that what the teacher imparts to him is from the way of Allah. What remains thereafter is for the shaykh and student to meet physically, as the student receives from the shaykh in a unique and subtle way, which may only take place when their bodies and souls are united. However, the one that is physically distant will not be completely deprived of these benefits if his intention is strong.
- Can someone benefit from a shaykh even if they are physically distant?
Benefit is based upon the seeker’s perception, love and following of the Shaykh and not whether they are near or far.