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A Concise History Of Sufism
ink has been used by modern writers on the “origins” of sufism in
Islam, as to how it is “genuinely” Islamic and how a product, in the
face of Islam, of outside influences. So far as the ideas of trust in and love
of Allah are concerned, their rise to prominence is as a result of the
developments within the intellectual and spiritual life of the community.
the passing away of the Holy Prophet SAW; the community (Ummah) of the faithful,
expressing the moral and spiritual quality of its faith, was firmly established,
with the Shariah as the constitution. During the Ummayed Caliphs, many of whom
behaved in strange contrast to the simple piety of the first four Caliphs, a
full cleavage occurred between religion and state, facilitated by the shift of
the capital of the Islamic empire from Medina to Damascus in 660 A.C.
2. Rise and Development
was during the Abbasid Caliphate that this gulf was eased and the process of the
intellectual awakening of Islam was hastened. It was during this period that
Sufism emerged as an institution. For the first two centuries, Sufism remained a
spontaneous individual phenomena but, with the development of the formal
disciplines of Islamic law and theology, and the gradual emergence, with them,
of the class of Ulema, it rapidly developed into an institution with a
tremendous mass appeal.
teachings exemplify the life of the Holy Prophet SAW and the teachings of the
Holy Qur’an in stressing the purity of the heart and inner life. The Sufi
Saints always strove to uphold this excellence.
earliest beginnings of Sufi organisation are indicated by informal and loose
gatherings for religious discussions and spiritual exercises, called
“circles” (halqa). The repeated recital of a religious formula, called zikr
(remembrance of Allah) could take place anywhere, including mosques, which fact
shows that Sufi practice was never at any stage regarded as rival growth
challenging the formal disciplines of Islam.
3. Orthodox Sufism
the 3rd A.H.\9th A.C. century, efforts began within the Sufis fold to bridge the
gulf between orthodox Islam and Sufism with personalities such as Hazrath al
Husayan al Mansur (al Hallaj) RA and Hazrath Maroof al-Kharki RA The reform
movement aimed at integrating mystic consciousness with the Prophetic Shariah.
The concept of “subsistence” or “survival” (baga) was
introduced to amend and amplify Hazrath Bayazid Bustami’s doctrine of “annihilation”
(fana). Other major sets of category are “intoxication” and “sobriety”,
and “difference”, “absence” and “presence”.
movement culminated in the monumental life-work of Imam al-Gazali RA who proved
to be its genuine corner-stone. This greatest figure in medieval Islam proved
decisive for the future development of Islam, not so much through what he
thought, as through what he taught on the basis of his personal experience.
Endowed with a rare religious insight (developed through a series of spiritual
crises and struggles that affected him even physically) and a keen perceptive
mind, his mystic experiences enabled him to transform the formula of orthodox
theology about the divine willpower and mercy into a living and moving personal
reality that throbbed in his very veins.
influence of Imam al-Ghazali in Islam is incalculable. He not only reconstituted
orthodox Islam, making Sufism an integral part of it, but he was also a great
reformer of Sufism, purifying it of un-Islamic elements and putting it at the
service of orthodox religion. As such he represents a final stop in a long
developing history. Sufism received, through his influence, the approval of Ijma
or consensus of the community. Islam received a new vigour of life and a popular
appeal which won large areas in Central Asia and Africa to the faith. One of the
most remarkable lessons that he taught in the whole history of mysticism is that
it is not a way of finding extra facts about Reality but is a meaningful way of
looking at it, looking at it as a unity.
4. The Sufi Theosophy
exerted an irresistible pull on men’s minds and during the 4th\10th and
5th\11th centuries won an increasing number of the ablest intelligentsia. The
great systems of philosophical mysticism elaborated by the philosophers al-
Farabi RA and Ibn Sina RA gave a fresh impetus to and were exploited by this
theosophic Sufism. Other great philosophers that followed were Ibn al-Arabi RA
(d. 638\1240), Moulana Jalal al-din Rumi RA (d 672\1273) and Moulana Nuraddin
Abdul Rahman Jami RA (d. 898\1492). In the Persian Sufi poetry that blossomed so
brilliantly, amorous images were employed in stark realism of spiritual love,
which became the stock-in-trade of most of Persian, Turkish and Urdu poetry.
5. Sufism and Popular Religion
as the doctrine and practice of Sufism arose out of early pietism and the
activity of the preachers, so the movement of popular religion, which, from the
5th\11th century onward, developed with an astonishing rapidity into Sufi orders
throughout the length and breadth of the Muslim world, is directly associated
with the doctrines of the Sufi schools. The early development and formulation of
the Sufi ideal and its broader techniques had taken place at the hands of the
individual Sufis who were centres of limited and close circles of disciples.
These circles with their differing doctrines may justifiably be called Sufi
schools of which the chief mystic doctrines have been recorded by the 5th\11th
century Sufi al- Hujwiri RA (more popularly known as Hazrath Data Ganj Baksh,
whose tomb in Lahore is an object of public veneration) in his work “Kashf
the middle of the 3rd\9th century Sufism began to be publicly taught in Baghdad
and elsewhere. The overwhelming attraction that it came to exert over the masses
has to be explained by several factors-religious, social and political. First,
Sufism claimed to lead its adapts to a direct communion with Allah, a thesis
which the orthodox Ulama rejected. The religious fascination was so powerful
that Sufism, in course of time, became a religion within a religion with its own
exclusive structure of ideas, practices and organisations.
the directly religious motivation was not the only factor in the spread of the
Sufi movement. Its socio political function, and at times more specifically its
protest function, were even more powerful than the religious one. Sufism offered
a pattern of social life which satisfied the social needs of especially the
uneducated classes. It was through socio- religious cults that Sufism came to be
connected with organised professional groups. This was pre-eminently the case
with medieval Turkey where the Sufi movement was associated intimately with the
professional guilds and military organisation of the “Janisarries”
(yenicheri). All organised professions of craftsmen and artisans were connected
with some saint or the other, thus deriving their spiritual patronage. At the
same time, the Sufi organisations were a kind of bulwark against the state
authority especially since the 5th\11th century when the political unity of the
Islamic world began to crumble, giving place to the ever insecure masses against
autocratic and ever despotic sultans whose authority was also accepted by the
Ulama. Sufism in its organised form, therefore functioned also as a protest
against tyranny. This has been pre-eminently the case both in medieval Turkey
and in modern times in North and West Africa and the Eastern Sudan. In Turkey
the Sufi movement has been associated with the numerous rebellions against the
state from the 7th\13th century (when a certain Shaykh Baba Ilyas rose in
rebellion against the last Seljug Sultan) to the 11th\17th century. In Africa
the Sufi orders of various kinds have constantly put up a fierce military
resistance against the penetration of the European colonial powers. And it is
the same with the Malaysian Archipelago. From its informal and loose beginnings
in the 2nd\3rd century, when they gathered privately to recite the Quraan aloud,
this zikr (remembrance of Allah - certain passages of the Quraan are appealed to
in this connection) developed into an elaborate congregational ritual during the
following centuries. In the Sufi orders OF Africaespecially, the term wird has
normally replaced zikr, both of which came to mean not the recitation of the
Holy Book but of short religious formulas, usually containing the ninety-nine “beautiful
names” of Allah, and repeated on a chain of beads.
absolute authority, both in matters spiritual and material, of the Sufi leader,
called Shaykh (pir or murshid in Persia and India, muqaddam in Negro Africa)
over his disciples called faqir (poor) darwish, murid (disciple) or ikhwan and
khwan (brothers) or ashab (companions), is a cardinal constitutional principle
of organised Sufism.
history of Sufism is rich with personalities of outstanding integrity and
genuine moral greatness. However the doctrine of complete surrender to a fellow
human being could not be reconciled with Islamic orthodoxy which rejected even
when orthodox Ulama cautiously joined the movement and participated in some of
its moderate forms.
Sufism’s “appeal to the heart” at the higher spiritual level, it unfolded
a tendency of compromise with the popular beliefs and practices of the half
converted and even nominally converted masses. It allowed a motley of religious
attitudes inherited by the new converts from their previous backgrounds, from
animism in Africa to pantheism in India. Although this strong tendency to
compromise with local ideas and customs of the converts has assisted
tremendously in the spread of Islam by Sufism, it has also divided Islam into a
variety of religious and social cultures, and militated against the forces of
uniformity represented by the orthodox Ulama. Thus Sufism proved the greatest
channel for the spread of Islam precisely by the virtue of the same compromise.
In India, Central Asia, Turkey and Africa, it brought millions within the fold
of Islam with astonishing rapidity and still a proselytizing force in Africa.
Further, the fact that Sufism came to be linked with Sunni Islam caused a severe
diminution in the ranks of the Shia.
6. The Sufi Orders
the Sufi orders, as we know them, date from the 6th\12th and 7th\13th centuries,
one important feature of this movement goes back much earlier. This feature is
the genealogy of spiritual authority commonly called Silsila. In the 4th\10th
century, Sufi al-Khuldi RA (d. 348\959) traced the genealogy of the mystic
teaching to Hasan al-Basri RA (d. 110\728) and thence to the companion Anas ibn
Malik RA, to the Holy Prophet SAW himself. Later chains started going to Hazrath
Ali RA, in most cases through Hasan al Basri RA The Naqshabandi order traced its
genealogy to the first Caliph, Hazrath Abu Bakr RA, and the Suhrawardis traced
their source of authority to the second Caliph, Hazrath Umar ibn al Khattab RA.
the advent of organised Sufism, there existed tariqas which were merely schools
of Sufi doctrine. The Sufi orders, in their rise, are connected with this early
phase of schools of mysticism; and the term “tariqa” has therefore
retained this original concept being ideally a method or way with doctrinal
overtones through rites and external practices.
pivot of a Sufi fraternity is obviously the Shaykh whose residence or place of
teaching called zawiya (or ribat) in Arabic, khanqah in India and Persia and
tekke in Turkey, serves as the centre of the spiritual activities of his
congregation. The membership is normally of two kinds; besides the proper
initiates or the immediate circle, there is usually a large number of associates
or lay members who pay visits from time to time in order to get fresh
instructions but are otherwise allowed to carry on their normal way of life. To
teach and treat people, according to their capacity and individual needs is a
cardinal principle with Sufi Shaykhs, who often show a remarkable insight into
practical psychology. While an able disciple may succeed in obtaining “the
robe” (khirqa, the insignia of graduation) and the privilege to teach the
master’s methods as his khalifa (successor or deputy), other initiates, during
the first stages of their apprenticeship, may be required to render prolonged
services at the khanqah, such as gathering food or collecting food-grains or
cooking for the congregation, etc.
number of the individual orders throughout the Muslim world is so large that
only a few will be mentioned. Among the non Africa orders, a broad line of
division may be drawn between urban orders, with an educated and cultured
following and the “rustic” orders of the countryside. In North West and
Negro Africa especially, there are variations with regard to political attitude
and whether a particular order is militant or peace-loving. The orders also
interact with one another and especially in the later centuries it has not been
possible to keep a rigid line of division. Among the very few exceptions which
have been able to keep exclusive membership, if not an exclusive character, are
the Tjanya in Africa and Mawlawiya in Turkey (suppressed since 1925). The most
widespread and probably the oldest existing Sufi order is the Qadiriya. It
overarches most of the other orders which have been related to in terms of
influence at one stage or another if they have not directly descended from it.
Indeed, with regard to most of the other orders it has acted as a kind of lever,
because of its looseness and adaptability and its own congregations have spread
from one end of the world to the other.
order is named after Hazrath Abd al Qadir Gilani RA (b. 470\1077) of Baghdad,
whose famous work, entitled sufficiency for the seekers of Truth, contains his
sermons as well as an account of Muslim sects. He possessed striking piety and
philanthropy and manifested a powerful sincerity in his sermons. His writings
are orthodox in character with some mystical interpretations of the Quraanic
chief underlying traits of his teaching are dissuasion from being immersed in
worldliness and an emphasis on charity and humanitarianism. All kinds of
miracles are attributed to him. The central nucleus at Baghdad, which is still
managed by a descendant of Hazrath Abd al-Qadir al-Gilani RA, spread to North
Africa and then into Negro Africa, eastwards as far as Indo-China and northwards
into Turkey. The Qadiriya order is among the most peaceful of the Sufi orders
and is distinguished by piety and humanitarianism, the ethos inculcated by the
Shaykh with whom it is associated. It is on the whole orthodox avoiding the
excesses of more extreme popular orders.
still more refined but far less widespread order, the Suhrawardiya, grew from
the mystic doctrine of Hazrath Umar al-Suhrawardi (d. 632\1236) of Persia. This
order is to be found only in Afghanistan and the Indo-Pakistan continent. The
order did not spread very far, probably because of its rigorous spiritual
discipline. But towards the end of the 8th\14th century it inspired an important
orthodox order, the Khalwatiya, founded in Persia by Hazrath Umar al-Khalwati RA
(d. 800\1398). This order, noted for its strict discipline
(Khalwati-seclusionist), spread into Turkey and during the 12th\18th century was
introduced into Egypt and the Middle East. Towards the end of the same century,
a disciple of the same order founded in North-West Africa the new Tijani order.
The Khalwati order also gave rise to several branches within itself and it
especially attracted the adherence of the orthodox Ulama.
younger contemporary of Hazrath Abd al-Qadir al-Gilani RA, Hazrath al-Rifai (d.
578\1182) founded another important order in the district of Basra in Iraq,
called after him Rifaiya. It spread into Egypt, Turkey and some parts of
South-East Asia. Hazrath Ahmad al-Badawi RA (d. 675\1276), the founder of the
Badawiya or Ahmadiya order, has been venerated as the greatest saint in Egypt
for centuries. The other two popular orders in lower Egypt, the Dusuqiya and the
Buyyamiya, are offshoots of this order.
Sa’ad al-Din RA (d. 700\1300) is the founder of the Sadiya (or Jibawiya)
fraternity in Damascus, whose origins are shrouded in mystery. But the order is
said to have spread to Egypt and Turkey, during the founder’s life time.
In North-West Africa, the diffusion of Islam with political
overtones among the Berbers and in Negro Africa took place in close association
with Sufism. The most important point of radiation for Sufism in North Africa
was Abu Madyan of Tlemeen (6th\12th century). The order of Shadhiliya is
associated with the name of another disciple of Abu Madyan, Hazrath Abul Hasan
al-Shadhiliya RA (d. 656\1258). Although he did not leave any written work, his
disciple, the Alexandrian Ibn Ata Allah RA (d. 709\1309), compiled a collection
of his “wise sayings”. These sayings, which have been commented upon
by Shaykh al Rundi RA (d. 796\1394), constitute the main mystic text book of
this order which has been propagated also in South-East Asia.
the 9th\15th century a reformed Shahdili order called al- Jazuliya came into
existence in Morocco. One of the branches of the latter is the Isawiya, another
is the orthodox Daqawiya of Morocco. The Shahdiliya, although it penetrated into
Eastern Sudan, has had no impact on West African territories.
much more recent order is that of the Tijaniya, founded about 1195\1781, by an
ex-Khalwati disciple Ahmad al-Tijani RA (d. 1230\1815) at Fez. This order
considerably simplified the ritual and laid greater stress directly on good
intention and deeds, a fact which has contributed to its rapid success at
proselytization and has also given it, at times, a more militant outlook. It
makes no separation between the spiritual and the temporal. Whereas in Algeria
it has been on good terms with the French colonial administration, it has
resisted actively the foreign domination in Morocco. From Morocco it spread into
French West Africa and into French Guinea during the 13th\19th century.
history of the origins of the early Sufi fraternities in central Asia, that
eventually spread to Turkey on the one hand and to the East, South and
South-East Asia, on the other, remains obscure. Ahmad Yasawi (d. 562\1167), a
disciple of Yusuf al- Hamadhani (d. 534\1140), who belonged to the
Persio-Central Asian Sufi circle called the “Khawjagan” (the
masters), laid the foundations of the oldest Turkish order called the Yasawiya.
The Bektashi order founded by Baba Bektashi RA during the 6th\12th century was
the most important popular “rustic” order in Turkey, spread into
Anatolia and was fully organised and established towards the end of the 9th\15th
century. Among the established orders, the Bektashiya are the furthest removed
from orthodoxy, caring little for the obligatory laws of Islam. Through their
associations with the military Janissaries they required political power in the
Ottoman Empire and from time to time rose in revolt against the secular
authority. Crushed in 1242\1826 by the government, they revived towards the end
of the century but were disbanded finally in 1343\1925 by the modern Turkish
state along with other orders, and now survive in Albania.
order which spread from Central Asia into Turkey and Eastern Muslim lands but
also has a spiritual connection with the Khawjagan is the Naqshabandiya founded
in the 8th\14th century in Bukhara by Hazrath Baha al-Din Naqshaband RA (d.
791\1389). Although he was an immediate disciple of the Sufi al-Sammasi and of
the latter’s disciple, Amir Khulal, he adopted the method of zikr of an
earlier Sufi, Khaliq al- Ghujdawani RA (d. 575\1179), who was the disciple of
the same Yusuf al-Hamadhani who guided Ahmad Yasawi.
Naqshabandiya, which spread in India, China and the Malayan Archipelago, is an
orthodox order and, in general, appeals to the elite. It was introduced into
India by Hazrath Baqi Billah RA in the 10th\16th century and was started afresh
and reinvigorated by his important and influential pupil Hazrath Ahmad Sirhinidi
main sophisticated or “urban” order among the Turks, however, has
been that of the Mevleviye (Mawlawiya), instituted by the famous mystic poet
Hazrath Jalal al-Din Rumi RA (d. 672\1273). The Mathnawi, his great poetic work
of surpassing beauty and profound thought has achieved immense popularity and
has, indeed, been hailed as the “Quraan of the Sufis”. Since their
suppression by the Kemalist revolutionary regime, the Mevleviye are confined to
the Middle East, chiefly Aleppo. In the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent, besides the
universal orders of the Qadiriya and the Naqshabandiya, the chief Sufi
brotherhood is that of the Chistiya, founded by Hazrath Mu’in al Din Chisti RA
(d. 633\1236) of Ajmer whose tomb (Dargah) is famous for popular pilgrimage
a long line of famous representatives, the order suffered a period of eclipse,
but was revived about a century ago.
these orders, the Indian subcontinent teems with a host of other orders which
are but very loosely organised. These range from lesser off-shoots of regular
orders, through more or less organised “irregular” orders (the chief
of which are the Qalandars) to individual mendicants, called faqirs or malangs.
In Indonesia, Islam reached relatively late and had little time to consolidate
its impact before Western colonialism made its appearance.
heyday of the Sufi movement in Western Asia lasted from the 10th\16th century to
the 12th\18th century, which was roughly also the period covered by the Ottoman
Empire from its
to its zenith.
the 13th and 14th A.H. (19th and 20th A.C.) centuries, forces were set in motion
to take control or weaken the Sufi movement which is the cornerstone of Sunnism
and the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jam’at. These forces took a double form. Firstly,
there are those who have genuinely attempted to reform Sufism from within by
excluding those indigenous beliefs and practices that do not confirm to Islamic
doctrines. Secondly, there are those, especially non-Muslims who have been using
unsuspecting Muslims, under the guise of reform, to bring about an onslaught on
the different Muslim countries and communities where Sufism is closely
associated with popular religion.
(Condensed from: ISLAM: FAZLUR RAHMAN)
Glimpses of Sufism
Sufism is an Islamic
institution which derives its sources and validity from al-kitab wa al Sunna
(i.e. the Quraan and the Hadith) and the Sufi doctrines in no way conflict with
the orthodox Muslim theology or Sharia.
1. Hadith-e-Ihsan and Sufism
In the wider sense Sufism
means the perfection of Imaan (faith) and Islam (submission), which can be
attained by Ihsan (literally goodness, but implies sincerity in one’s
conviction and practice).
The Holy Prophet SAW said “Imaan
is that you believe in Allah, His angels, His books, His messengers, in a life
after death and in Qadr, in the good of it and the evil of it. Islam is that you
bear witness that there is no Allah but Allah and that Muhammad SAW is the
Messenger of Allah, keeping up prayer, fasting in the month of Ramadhan, paying
zakat (poor tax) and the pilgrimage to Makkah. Ihsan is that you worship Allah
as if you see Him; and if you see Him not Surely He sees you”
This hadith, is well-known by
the following names or captions:
(1) Hadith-e-Gabriel, because it was Gabriel who had come to teach people their religion;
(2) Hadith-e-Ihsan, because it is a prominent hadith;
(3) Umm-ul-ahadith, because it is the root and mother of all ahadith:
(4) Ummul-ul-Jawmi, because it is a complete and comprehensive hadith, dealing with the articles of Imaan, pillars of Islam and the importance of Ihsan in Imaan and Islam.
Thus Imaan relates to matters
of faith or conviction - the theoretical side - and Ihsan to the state of
sincerity in one’s conviction and practice - to feel oneself in the Divine
presence. According to the Prophet SAW there are two requisites of Ihsan, which,
the Sufis, call Mushahida (vision of Allah) and Muraqaba (meditation). The
former implies that one should worship Allah as if one sees Him; while the
latter signifies that if one cannot see Him, one should meditate that “surely
He sees you”.
This is in a sense the
epitome of Sufi practice, which can be achieved by zikr (remembrance), fhikr
(meditation) and suhbat (companionship of the righteous persons). It was because
of this realization, that the Sufis described ihsan as Umm-ul- Tasawwuf (the
mother of Sufism) and therefore the basis of Sufism.
2. Quraan, Hadith and Sufism
Tadhkiya Zahir refers to
purification of external self such as Taharat, Wudu, Ghusl, Salaat, Saum, Zakat,
Haj, Lawful Earning, Nikah, Rights of Man and the like. Tadhkia Batin signifies
that one should purify ones inward-self such as Taqwa, Trust in Allah, Sabr,
Fortitude, Gratitude, Sincerity, Modesty, Contentment, Humility, Decent Manners,
and the like. It also implies that one should purify the inward-self by
abandonment of vices such as Falsehood, Backbitting, Envy, Pride, Anger, Malice,
Carnal Passions, and the like.
Sufis lay great emphasis on
Tadhkiya Batin, which they refer to as Tadhkiya Nafs (purity of self), Tadhkiya
Qalb (purity of heart) and Tathir-e-Akhlaaq (purity of character), to which the
Quraan refers in these words:
“He loves those who
purify themselves”. (2:222)
“He indeed is successful
who purifies himself” (87:14)
The traditions of the Prophet
SAW are on the same lines.
“Mujahid (one who
strives in the way of Allah) is he who kills his carnal passions.”
“The most excellent
Jihad (holy war) is that of the conquest of self”.
Thus tasawwuf is founded upon
the Quraan and Hadith and that is not an undesirable innovation (bidat) in
Islam. Although the use of the word “tasawwuf” was not in vogue at
the time of the Prophet SAW or his Companions, it is unwise to question the
general wisdom of an institution which is undoubtedly based on the foundations
of and in tune with the true spirit of Islam.
According to Ibn Khaldun, the
companions and the successors followed this path of tasawwuf of unfailing
perseverance in worship, utter devotion to Allah, turning away from the
adornments of this world, renunciation of what most men seek in the way of
pleasure and dignity, and isolating oneself from all mankind in spiritual
retreat. Later, when worldliness spread and men tended to become more and more
bound up with the ties of this life, those who dedicated themselves to the
worship of Allah were distinguished from the rest by the title As-Sufiyya
(Sufis) and Al-Mutasawwifa (those who aspire to be Sufis).
3. What is Sufism?
Sufism may be defined as
Taaluq-be-Allah (connection with Allah), Ikhlaas-e-Amal (sincerity in deeds),
Tabkhia Nafs (purity of self) Tasfia Qalb (purity of heart), Tartair-e-Akhlaq
(purity of character) and Rida-e-Ilahi (satisfaction) in order that Qurb-e-Ilahi
(nearness to Allah) may be attained.
All the prominent Sufis are
agreed that Sufism is the purification of the heart from associating with
created beings, separation from natural characteristic, suppression of human
qualities, avoiding the temptations of the carnal soul, taking up the qualities
of the spirit, attachment to the sciences of reality, using what is more proper
to the eternal, counselling all the community, being truly faithful to Allah,
and following the Holy Prophet SAW according to the Law. It teaches us how to
purify soul, heart and character, and how to adorn our exterior and interior
life in order that perfect happiness maybe attained.
according to Khaja Nasiruddin RA, an eminent Indian Sufi, three essentials of
Sufism, namely: Tadkhia Nafs (purity of Self), Tasfia Qalb (purity of heart) and
Tajalia Ruh (purity of soul).
Sufism, according to Shaik
Abdul Qadir al-Jilani RA is based on the following characteristics:
(1) the generosity (sakhawat) of the Prophet Ibraheem;
(2) the satisfaction (rida) of the Prophet Ishak;
(3) the patience (sabr) of the Prophet Ayub;
(4) the suppliant (munajat) of the Prophet Zakariya;
(5) the expatriation (ghurbat) of the Prophet Yahya;
(6) the wearing of robe (khirkha) of the Prophet Moosa;
(7) the travel (safr) of the Prophet Isa;
(8) the poverty (faqr) of the Prophet Muhammad.
May the peace and blessings
of Allah be upon them.
4. Derivation of the term “Sufi”
The most probable derivations
of the term “Sufi”, according to which the Sufi received their names, may be
described as under:
(1) because of the purity (safa) of their hearts (qalb) and the cleanliness of their acts (athar).
(2) because they were in the first rank (saffa) of the congregational prayer.
(3) because their qualities resembled those of the people of the Bench (Ashab Suffah), who lived during the time of the Holy Prophet SAW.
(4) because of their habit of wearing wool (suf).
(5) The word “Sufi”, according to Allama Lutfi, resembles the Greek word “Theosophia” meaning hikmat-e-ilahi (the wisdom of Allah). Wherever Tadhkiya and Hikmat are spoken of in the Quraan, the Sufis ascribe them to Tasawwuf.
5. Who is a Sufi?
Various meanings have been
assigned to the word “Sufi” such as a Sufi is he whose conduct towards Allah
is sincere, and towards whom Allah’s blessings descends, who neither possesses
nor is possessed and if he possesses anything spends it. A Sufi is one who is
clean of impurity, and full of meditation, who is cut off from humanity for
Allah’s sake, and in whose eyes gold and mud are equal.
Abu al-Mawahib al-Shadhili
mentions the following characteristics of Sufis:
“The saint is a servant,
worshipping and fulfilling the duties of servantship; he is truthful, faithful
and righteous. The poor man he prefers to the rich, the small quantity to the
large, and the low to the high; he is of genuine feeling in the opinion of men.
The saint is one who smiles if saluted; in conversation he is pleasant; when
asked he shall give; when others divulge secrets, he conceals; of princes he
knows he is not proud, and the poor he does not disdain; the next world he does
not sell for the present. Through Allah he is rich; before Him he is humble;
from Him he takes; to Him he gives; on Him depends; he fears none other than
Allah; his trust is only in Allah”.
6. Object of Sufism:
The ultimate aim and object
of Sufism is rida-e-Ilahi (satisfaction or pleasure of Allah) and qurb-e-Ilahi
(nearness to Allah).
All his actions as a Sufi
must lead to the attainment of ride- e-Ilahi and the Quran says:
“Say, ‘Verily, my
prayer and my sacrifice, my life and my death are all for Allah, Lord of the
Worlds’. ” (6:163)
“This is a day when
their truth will profit the truthful ones. For them are Gardens wherein flow
rivers abiding therein forever. Allah is well-pleased with them and they are
well- pleased with Allah. That is the mighty achievement”.
The Prophet’s traditions,
too, bear testimony to this, as for instance: “Whoever is pleased with
Allah, Allah is pleased with them.”
The mystical verses in the
Sufi life also make interesting and instructive reading. The following verses,
attributed to Dhu ‘l-Nun RA (d, 859), the great Egyptian Sufi, come very close
to expounding the doctrine of rida:
Thee alone my spirit cries;
In Thee my whole ambition lies;
And still Thy Wealth is far above
The poverty of my small love.”
Rida, according to Ali
Hujwiri RA renowned Indian Sufi, also known as Data Ganj Baksh is to two kinds:
(1) Allah is pleased with His servant, and in token of His pleasure, He bestows upon him His blessings;
(2) The servant of Allah is pleased with Allah, and this manifests in his obedience to all the Commands of Allah.
The attainment of
qurb-e-Ilahi (nearness or proximity to Allah), is in a sense the epitome of Sufi
practice. A Sufi believes that Allah is nearer to him than anything else - and
that Allah is always with him. This is in accordance with the Quran:
“Allah is in the East
and the West, so wheresoever you turn, there is the face of Allah.”
“We are nearer to him
than his jugular vein.” (50:16)
“And He is with you
wherever you are.” (57:4)
The Prophet SAW has said that
whosoever remembers Allah, Allah will remember him and whosoever walks towards
Allah, Allah will walk towards him.
The Sufis and the mystical
poets are all unanimous on the basis of the doctrine of Qurb. The following
lines (rubai) composed by the illustrious poet Umar Khayyam sums it all:
“My body’s life and strength proceed from Thee!
My soul within and spirit are of Thee!
My being is of Thee, and Thou art mine,
And I am Thine, since I lost in Thee!”.
(Professor Dr. Syed Ahmad Moinuddin Habibi RA, the writer of this article which is condensed, passed away in 1993 and lies buried in Hyderbad, India)