Sufism or taṣawwuf (Arabic: تصوّف) is defined by its adherents as the inner, mystical dimension of Islam. A practitioner of this tradition is generally known as a ṣūfī (صُوفِيّ). Two origins of the word sufi have been suggested. Commonly, the lexical root of the word is traced to ṣafā (صَفا), which in Arabic means “purity”. Another origin is ṣūf (صُوف), “wool”, referring to the simple cloaks the early Muslim ascetics wore. The two were combined by the Sufi al-Rudhabari who said, “The Sufi is the one who wears wool on top of purity”. The wool cloaks were sometimes a designation of their initiation into the Sufi order. Others have suggested that the word comes from the term ahl aṣ-ṣuffah (“the people of the bench”), who were a group of impoverished companions of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) who held regular gatherings of dhikr. According to the medieval scholar Abū Rayḥān al-Bīrūnī, the word sufi is derived from the Greek word sofia (σοφία), meaning wisdom.
Classical Sufi scholars have defined Sufism as “a science whose objective is the reparation of the heart and turning it away from all else but God”. Alternatively, in the words of the Darqawi Sufi teacher Ahmad ibn Ajiba, “a science through which one can know how to travel into the presence of the Divine, purify one’s inner self from filth, and beautify it with a variety of praiseworthy traits”. The best known form of Islamic mystic spirituality is the Sufi tradition (famous through Rumi and Hafiz) in which a spiritual master or pir transmits spiritual discipline to students.
Sufis believe they are practicing ihsan (perfection of worship) as revealed by Gabriel to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
“Worship and serve Allah as you are seeing Him and while you see Him not yet truly He sees you.”
Sufis consider themselves as the original true proponents of this pure original form of Islam. They are strong adherents to the principal of tolerance, peace and against any form of violence.
While all Muslims believe that they are on the pathway to God and hope to become close to God in Paradise—after death and after the “Final Judgment”—Sufis also believe that it is possible to draw closer to God and to more fully embrace the Divine Presence in this life. The chief aim of all Sufis is to seek the pleasing of God by working to restore within themselves the primordial state of fitra, described in the Qur’an. In this state nothing one does defies God, and all is undertaken with the single motivation of love of God. A secondary consequence of this is that the seeker may be led to abandon all notions of dualism or multiplicity, including a conception of an individual self, and to realize the Divine Unity.
Thus, Sufism may be characterized as the science of the states of the lower self (the ego), and the way of purifying this lower self of its reprehensible traits, while adorning it instead with what is praiseworthy, whether or not this process of cleansing and purifying the heart is in time rewarded by esoteric knowledge of God. This can be conceived in terms of two basic types of law (fiqh), an outer law concerned with actions, and an inner law concerned with the human heart. The outer law consists of rules pertaining to worship, transactions, marriage, judicial rulings, and criminal law—what is often referred to, a bit too broadly, as qanun. The inner law of Sufism consists of rules about repentance from sin, the purging of contemptible qualities and evil traits of character, and adornment with virtues and good character.
Sufism, which is a general term for Muslim mysticism, was originally a response to the increasing worldly power of Islamic leaders as the religion spread during the 8th Century and their corresponding shift in focus towards materialistic and political concerns. The typical early Sufi lived in a cell of a mosque and taught a small band of disciples. The extent to which Sufism was influenced by Buddhist and Hindu mysticism, and by the example of Christian hermits and monks, is disputed, but self-discipline and concentration on God quickly led to the belief that by quelling the self and through loving ardour for God it is possible to maintain a union with the divine [highly opposed and rejected by traditional Islam] in which the human self melts away.
The words, attributed to God, in the the following, a famous Hadith Qudsi:
“My servant draws near to Me through nothing I love more than that which I have made obligatory for him. My servant never ceases drawing near to Me through supererogatory works until I love him. Then, when I love him, I am his hearing through which he hears, his sight through which he sees, his hand through which he grasps, and his foot through which he walks.”
Sufism and Islamic law
Scholars and adherents of Sufism sometimes describe Sufism in terms of a threefold approach to God as explained by a tradition (hadîth) attributed to Propeht Muhammad (pbuh),“The Canon is my word, the order is my deed, and the truth is my interior state”. Sufis believe the sharia (exoteric “canon”), tariqa (esoteric “order”) and haqiqa (“truth”) are mutually interdependent.
The tariqa, the ‘path’ on which the mystics walk, has been defined as[weasel words] ‘the path which comes out of the sharia, for the main road is called branch, the path, tariq.’No mystical experience can be realized if the binding injunctions of the sharia are not followed faithfully first. The tariqa however, is narrower and more difficult to walk.
It leads the adept, called salik or “wayfarer”, in his sulûk or “road” through different stations (maqâmât) until he reaches his goal, the perfect tawhîd [monoteism], the existential confession that God is One. Shaykh al-Akbar Muhiuddeen Ibn Arabi mentions, “When we see someone in this Community who claims to be able to guide others to God, but is remiss in but one rule of the Sacred Law – even if he manifests miracles that stagger the mind – asserting that his shortcoming is a special dispensation for him, we do not even turn to look at him, for such a person is not a sheikh, nor is he speaking the truth, for no one is entrusted with the secrets of God Most High save one in whom the ordinances of the Sacred Law are preserved. (Jami’ karamat al-awliya’)”.
The Amman Message, a detailed statement issued by 200 leading Islamic scholars in 2005 in Amman, and adopted by the Islamic world’s political and temporal leaderships at the Organisation of the Islamic Conference summit at Mecca in December 2005, and by six other international Islamic scholarly assemblies including the International Islamic Fiqh Academy of Jeddah, in July 2006, specifically recognized the validity of Sufism as a part of Islam—however the definition of Sufism can vary drastically between different traditions (what may be intended is simple tazkiah as opposed to the various manifestations of Sufism around the Islamic world).
In its early stages of development Sufism effectively referred to nothing more than the internalization of Islam. According to one perspective, it is directly from the Qur’an, constantly recited, meditated, and experienced, that Sufism proceeded, in its origin and its development. Others have held that Sufism is the strict emulation of the way of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), through which the heart’s connection to the Divine is strengthened. More prosaically, the Muslim Conquests had brought large numbers of Christian monks and hermits, especially in Syria and Egypt, under the rule of Muslims. They retained a vigorous spiritual life for centuries after the conquests, and many of the especially pious Muslims who founded Sufism were influenced by their techniques and methods.
From the traditional Sufi point of view, the esoteric teachings of Sufism were transmitted from Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to those who had the capacity to acquire the direct experience gnosis of God, which was passed on from teacher to student through the centuries. Some of this transmission is summarized in texts, but most is not. Important contributions in writing are attributed to Uwais al-Qarni, Harrm bin Hian, Hasan Basri and Sayid ibn al-Mussib, who are regarded as the first Sufis in the earliest generations of Islam. Ruwaym, from the second generation of Sufis in Baghdad, was also an influential early figure, as was Junayd of Baghdad; a number of early practitioners of Sufism were disciples of one of the two. Harith al-Muhasibi was the first one to write about moral psychology. Rabia Basri was a Sufi known for her love and passion for God, expressed through her poetry. Bayazid Bastami was among the first theorists of Sufism; he concerned himself with fanā and baqā, the state of annihilating the self in the presence of the divine, accompanied by clarity concerning worldly phenomena derived from that perspective.
Sufism had a long history already before the subsequent institutionalization of Sufi teachings into devotional orders (tarîqât) in the early Middle Ages. Almost all extant Sufi orders trace their chains of transmission (silsila) back to Muhammad via his cousin and son-in-law Ali. The Naqshbandi order is a notable exception to this rule, as it traces the origin of its teachings from Muhammad to the first Islamic Caliph, Abu Bakr.
Different devotional styles and traditions developed over time, reflecting the perspectives of different masters and the accumulated cultural wisdom of the orders. Typically all of these concerned themselves with the understanding of subtle knowledge (gnosis), education of the heart to purify it of baser instincts, the love of God, and approaching God through a well-described hierarchy of enduring spiritual stations (maqâmât) and more transient spiritual states (ahwâl).
Evolution of Doctrine:
Towards the end of the first millennium CE, a number of manuals began to be written summarizing the doctrines of Sufism and describing some typical Sufi practices. Two of the most famous of these are now available in English translation: the Kashf al-Mahjûb of Hujwiri, and the Risâla of Qushayri.
Two of Imam Al Ghazali’s greatest treatises, the “Revival of Religious Sciences” and the “Alchemy of Happiness”, argued that Sufism originated from the Qur’an and was thus compatible with mainstream Islamic thought, and did not in any way contradict Islamic Law—being instead necessary to its complete fulfillment. This became the mainstream position among Islamic scholars for centuries, challenged only recently on the basis of selective use of a limited body of texts. Ongoing efforts by both traditionally trained Muslim scholars and Western academics are making Imam Al-Ghazali’s works available in English translation for the first time, allowing English-speaking readers to judge for themselves the compatibility of Islamic Law and Sufi doctrine.
Criticism:Traditional Islamic thought and Sufism
The literature of Sufism emphasizes highly subjective matters that resist outside observation, such as the subtle states of the heart. Often these resist direct reference or description, with the consequence that the authors of various Sufi treatises took recourse to allegorical language. For instance, much Sufi poetry refers to intoxication, which Islam expressly forbids. This usage of indirect language and the existence of interpretations by people who had no training in Islam or Sufism led to doubts being cast over the validity of Sufism as a part of Islam. Also, some groups emerged that considered themselves above the Sharia and discussed Sufism as a method of bypassing the rules of Islam in order to attain salvation directly. This was disapproved of by traditional scholars.
For these and other reasons, the relationship between traditional Islamic scholars and Sufism is complex and a range of scholarly opinion on Sufism in Islam has been the norm. Some scholars, such as Al-Ghazali, helped its propagation while other scholars opposed it. W. Chittick explains the position of Sufism and Sufis this way:
In short, Muslim scholars who focused their energies on understanding the normative guidelines for the body came to be known as jurists, and those who held that the most important task was to train the mind in achieving correct understanding came to be divided into three main schools of thought: Theology, Philosophy, and Sufism. This leaves us with the third domain of human existence, the Spirit. Most Muslims who devoted their major efforts to developing the spiritual dimensions of the human person came to be known as Sufis.
Influence of Sufism on Judaism
Although the monotheism of Sufism (and of Islam altogether) is a close to the Jewish tradition, and the whole concept of shari’ah to the Jewish notion of halacha (which preceded it by 1,000 years), as Islam considers the Biblical prophets and books as of Islam, there is also evidence that the influence moved in the opposite direction as well–that Sufism did also influence the development of some schools of Jewish philosophy and ethics. A great influence was exercised by Sufism upon the ethical writings of Jews in the Middle Ages. In the first writing of this kind, we see “Kitab al-Hidayah ila Fara’iḍ al-Ḳulub”, Duties of the Heart, of Bahya ibn Paquda. This book was translated by Judah ibn Tibbon into Hebrew under the title “Ḥovot ha-Levavot”.
The precepts prescribed by the Torah number 613 only; those dictated by the intellect are innumerable.
This was precisely the argument used by the Sufis against their adversaries, the Ulamas. The arrangement of the book seems to have been inspired by Sufism. Its ten sections correspond to the ten stages through which the Sufi had to pass in order to attain that true and passionate love of God which is the aim and goal of all ethical self-discipline. A considerable amount of Sufi ideas entered the Jewish mainstream through Bahya ibn Paquda’s work, which remains one of the most popular ethical treatises in Judaism.
The Jewish writer Abraham bar Ḥiyya teaches the asceticism of the Sufis. His distinction with regard to the observance of Jewish law by various classes of men is essentially a Sufic theory. According to it there are four principal degrees of human perfection or sanctity; namely:
1. of “Shari’ah”, i.e., of strict obedience to all ritual laws of Islam, such as prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, almsgiving, ablution, etc., which is the lowest degree of worship, and is attainable by all
2. of Ṭariqah, which is accessible only to a higher class of men who, while strictly adhering to the outward or ceremonial injunctions of religion, rise to an inward perception of mental power and virtue necessary for the nearer approach to the Divinity
3. of “Ḥaḳikah”, the degree attained by those who, through continuous contemplation and inward devotion, have risen to the true perception of the nature of the visible and invisible; who, in fact, have recognized the Godhead, and through this knowledge have succeeded in establishing an ecstatic relation to it; and
4. of the “Ma’arifah”, in which state man communicates directly with the Deity.
Abraham ben Moses ben Maimon, the son of the Jewish philosopher Maimonides, believed that Sufi practices and doctrines continue the tradition of the Biblical prophets.
The followers of this path, which they called, interchangeably, Hasidism (not to confuse with the latter Jewish Hasidic movement) or Sufism (Tasawwuf), practiced spiritual retreats, solitude, fasting and sleep deprivation. The Jewish Sufis maintained their own brotherhood, guided by a religious leader—like a Sufi sheikh. Abraham Maimuni’s two sons, Obadyah and David, continued to lead this Jewish-Sufi brotherhood.
The Maimonidean legacy extended right through to the 15th century with the 5th generation of Maimonidean Sufis, David ben Joshua Maimonides, who wrote Al-Murshid ila al-Tafarrud (The Guide to Detachment), which includes numerous extracts of Suhrawardi[disambiguation needed]’s Kalimat at-Tasawwuf.
Traditional and Neo-Sufi groups
The traditional Sufi orders, which are in majority, emphasize the role of Sufism as a spiritual discipline within Islam. Therefore, the Sharia (traditional Islamic law) and the Sunnah are seen as crucial for any Sufi aspirant. One proof traditional orders assert is that almost all the famous Sufi masters of the past Caliphates were experts in Sharia and were renowned as people with great Iman (faith) and excellent practice. Many were also Qadis (Sharia law judges) in courts. They held that Sufism was never distinct from Islam and to fully comprehend and practice Sufism one must be an observant Muslim.
“Neo-Sufism” and “universal Sufism” are terms used to denote forms of Sufism that do not require adherence to Shariah, or a Muslim faith. The terms are not always accepted by those it is applied to. The Universal Sufism movement was founded by Inayat Khan, teaches the essential unity of all faiths, and accepts members of all creeds. Sufism Reoriented is an offshoot of Khan’s Western Sufism influenced by the syncretistic teacher Meher Baba. The Golden Sufi Center exists in England, Switzerland and the United States. It was founded by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee to continue the work of his teacher Irina Tweedie, herself a disciple of the Hindu Naqshbandi Sufi Bhai Sahib. The Afghan-Scottish teacher Idries Shah has been described as a neo-Sufi by the Gurdjieffian James Moore. Other Western Sufi organisations include the Sufi Foundation of America and the International Association of Sufism.
Western Sufi practice may differ from traditional forms, for instance having mixed-gender meetings and less emphasis on the Qur’an.
In the present environment of turmoil. violence, extremism where mental and physical PEACE is shattered, turning towards Spirituality within the bounds of Sharia may help to restore peace.
Further study: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sufism
A MYSTIC EXPERIENCE:
Some years back I happen to go to Kasur to attend an official function along with a friend. After the ceremony the Chief guests left by helicopter. While moving back we went to offer Fateha at the shrine of great Sufi Saint and poet “Bulleh Shah”. On the way I told my friend that the great mystic poetry of Bulleh Shah, if also read with English translation will be more understandable. ….. After offering Fateha we found an a group of civil officials from Aoqaf Deptt Punjab. They wanted to brief us on the renovation project of shrine. I asked why they wanted to brief us, as we just came to offer Fatha. The senior official told that they have been asked to brief the V VIPs visiting the shrine. I asked him that did he hear the helicopter flying across? The V VIPs had gone. Any how they insisted and briefed us. NOW SOME THING AMAZING HAPPENED …. ONE OF THEM CAME FORWARD AND HANDED OVER ME A BOOK … I ASKED: “WHAT IT IS?” HE SAID THIS IS KALAM OF HAZRAT BULLAH SHAH. I IMMEDIATELY ACCEPTED IT …… now the more amazement ….. WHEN I LOOKED AT THE BOOK THE TITLE WAS IN ENGLISH …. inside I found the Punjabi poetry of Bullah Shah with English translation by C.E.Usborne, Dr. Amarjit Singh and S.Rauf Luther … ..