Sufism is a mystic tradition within Islam that encompasses a diverse range of beliefs and practices dedicated to Divine love and the cultivation of the elements of the Divine within the individual human being. Practitioners of this tradition are known as "Sufis" generally, though some senior members of the tradition reserve this term for those who have attained the goals of the tradition.
Although some people refer to this tradition as Sufism, others refer to it as the Sufi Way. They draw this distinction because they feel that the term "Sufism" refers to a philosophy or a school of thought like capitalism or socialism, and they feel that the Sufi Way describes a practical path to follow.
Sufism has been defined as a type of knowledge by the great Sufi masters. Shaykh Ahmad Zarruq, a 15th century Sufi who wrote The Principles of Sufism, defined Sufism as "a science whose objective is the reparation of the heart and turning it away from all else but God." Ibn 'Ajiba, one of the best known Sufi masters, defined Sufism as "a science through which one can know how to travel into the presence of the Divine, purify one’s inward from filth, and beautify it with a variety of praiseworthy traits."
The Tariqas, or Sufi orders, may be associated with Sunni Islam or Shia Islam. It has been suggested that Sufi thought emerged from the Middle East in the eighth century, but adherents are now found around the world.
A number of Sufism adherents, mostly in the West, believe or assert that Sufism is a projection of "the perennial philosophy" of man's true nature to the Divine and as such forms a subterranean current in many religions and mystical traditions and practices. This viewpoint is denied, often with great energy, by a substantial number of other Sufis.
Sofi is a term used to name the followers of tasawwuf (particularly by those speaking Persian and Turkish). According to some, it is Sufi. I think the difference arises from the different views of the origin of the word. Those who are of the opinion that it derives from ‘sof’ (wool) or ‘safa’ (spiritual delight, exhiliration) or ‘safwat’ (purity) or sophos, a Greek word meaning wisdom, or that it implies devotion, prefer the word Sufi. Others who hold that it derives from ‘suffa’ (chamber) and stress that it should not be confused with ‘sofu’ (religious zealot), use the word Sufi. The term sofi has been defined in different ways, some of which are as follows: A sofi is a traveler to God who has been able to purify his self and acquired inner light or spiritual enlightenment. A sofi is a humble soldier of God whom the Almighty has chosen for Himself and freed from the influence of his carnal, evil-commanding self. A sofi is a traveler to the Muhammadan Truth who wears a coarse, woolen cloak not for show but as a sign of humility and nothingness and renounces the world as the source of vices and animal desires.
Sofis wear a coarse cloak made of wool and therefore are called ‘Mutasawwif’ in order to emphasize their states and their belief, conduct and life-styles. For it has been the characteristic of the Prophets and their followers and men of sincere devotion to wear a coarse, woolen cloak. A sofi is a traveler to the peak of true humanity who has been freed from carnal turbidity and all kinds of human dirt to realize his essential, heavenly nature and identity. A sofi is a man of spirit who deserves to be called a sofi because he tries to resemble the people of the Suffa-the poor, scholarly Companions of the Prophet who lived in the chamber adjacent to the Mosque of the Prophet-by dedicating his life to deserving that name. Some are of the opinion that the word sofi is derived from ‘saf’ (pure). However, although their praiseworthy efforts to please God and continuous services of God with their hearts set on Him are enough for them to be called pure ones, it is grammatically wrong that sofi is derived from saf. Some have argued that sofi is derived from sophia or sophos, a Greek word meaning wisdom. I think this is a fabrication of foreign researchers who seek to find a foreign origin for tasawwuf. The first to be called a sofi in Islamic history is Abu Hashim al-Kufi, a great ascetic of his time. Abu Hashim died in 150 after hijra, which means that the word sofi was in use in the second century of hijra after the generation of the Companions and their blessed successors.
Sufism which we encountered for the first time in Islamic history with Abu Hashim al-Kufi appeared as a way of the people of spirituality following the footsteps of our Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, and his Companions in their life-styles. This is why sufism has always been known and remembered as the spiritual dimension of the Islamic way of life. With respect to its original purpose, sufism has sought to educate people to set their hearts on God and burn with love of Him. It has concentrated on good morals and mannerliness in conduct in the footsteps of the Prophets. It may well be claimed that some slight deviations have appeared in it over time, but these deviations should not be exploited as an excuse to condemn that way of spiritual purity. While describing the sufis who lead a purely spiritual life, Imam Qushayri writes: The greatest title in Islam is Companionship of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings. This honor or blessing is so great that it cannot be acquired by any one other than the Companions. The second rank in greatness belongs to Tabi‘un, the title of the fortunate ones who came after the Companions and saw them. This is followed by Taba-i Tabi‘in, those came after the Tabi‘un and saw them. Just after the closing years of this third generation, and coinciding with the outbreak of some internal conflicts and deviations in belief, together with the Traditionists, jurisprudents and theologians who rendered great services to Islam each in their own field, the sufis realized significant accomplishments in reviving the spiritual aspect of Islam. Especially the early sufis were distinguished, saintly persons. They led an upright, honest, austere and simple life, free from all kinds of blemish, far from seeking bodily happiness and gratification of carnal desires, and followed the example of the Prophet, our Master, upon him be peace and blessings.
They were so balanced in their belief and thinking that it is not possible to regard them as followers of either ancient philosophers or Christian mystics or Hindu fakirs. For, first of all, tasawwuf was considered by its early followers and representatives as the science of the inner world of man, the reality of things and the mysteries of existence. A sofi was a student of this science, determined to reach the final rank of universal or perfect man. Tasawwuf is a long journey leading to the Infinite One and demands unending efforts. It is a marathon to be run without stopping with an unyielding resolution and without anticipating anything worldly. It has nothing to do with Western or Eastern types of mysticism or yogism or philosophies. And a sofi, who is the hero determined to run this marathon and reach the Infinite One, is neither a mystic nor a yogi nor a philosopher. It is, however, a fact that prior to Islam some Hindu and Greek philosophers followed a way leading to self-purification and struggled against their carnal desires and the attractions of the world. But the way they followed and tasawwuf are essentially different from each other. For, first of all, while the sofis seek to purify their selves through invocation, regular worship, utmost obedience to God, self-control, and humility, and continue to follow their way until death, the ancient philosophers did not observe any of these rules or acts. Their self-purification-if it really deserves to be considered as such-usually caused conceit and arrogance in many of them rather than humility and self-criticism. The sofis can be divided into two categories with respect to the path they follow: The first category comprises those who give priority to knowledge and seek to reach their destination through knowledge of God (ma’rifa). The second category consists of those following the path of yearning, spiritual ecstasies and spiritual discoveries. The former spend their lives by continuously travelling toward God, progressing ‘in’ God and progressing from God on the wings of knowledge and knowledge of God, and try to realize the meaning of There is no power and strength save with God. Every change, alteration, transformation and formation they observe in existence and every event they witness or themselves experience, is like a comprehensible message from the Holy Power and Will experienced in different tongues. As for the second category, although they are serious in their journeying and asceticism, they may sometimes, since they are in pursuit of discovering hidden realities or truths, miracle-working, spiritual pleasure and ecstasies, suffer deviations from the main destination and fail to reach God Almighty.
Although it is grounded on the Qur’an and Sunna, this second path may yet lead some initiates to cherish certain desires and expectations such as having a spiritual rank, being able to work miracles, being known as a saint, etc. That is why the former path, which is the path leading to the greatest sainthood under the guidance of the Qur’an, is safer. The sofis divide people into three groups. The first group comprises those they call the perfect ones who have reached the destination. This group is divided into two sub-groups, namely the Prophets and the perfected ones who have reached the Truth by strictly following them. It is possible that some among those perfected ones are not guides; rather than guiding people to the Truth, they remain annihilated or drowned in the waves of the ‘ocean of union and bewilderment.’ Their relations with the visible, material world are completely severed and therefore they live unable to guide others. Those belonging to the second group are called initiates. They are also divided into two sub-groups. The first sub-group are those who completely renounce the world and, without considering the Hereafter, seek only God Almighty. The second group consists of the initiates who aim to enter Paradise and do not completely give up tasting some lawful pleasures of the world. They are called by different titles such as ascetics, worshipping ones, the poor or the helpless. As for the third group, since their aim is only to live an easy, comfortable life in the world, the sofis call them the settling or clinging ones - those who cling heavily to the earth. They are evil, unfortunate ones belonging, according to what the Qur’an calls them, to ‘the group on the left’, who are ‘blind’ and ‘deaf’ and do not understand. Some have also referred to the three groups mentioned as the Foremost or those brought near to God, the people on the right, and the people on the left
Sufi dervishes were a special class of Muslim ascetics or mystic who , by virtue of their amazing spiritual power and overwhelming piety and devotion , were directly selected by GOD to guide mankind on the right path of truth and righteousness . they have rendered invaluable services not only in building up but also in polishing and preserving the moral , spritual , social , cultural , and even political behaviour and character of the people , fighting courageously the eternal battles of religion against uncontrolled and unbalanced "Materialism" . In this noble struggle , it must be noted , the Sufis have never lost even a single battle but have always come out triumphantly over "evil" like all other great religious founder and spiritual master of the world . Their contribution, therefore, to our present civilization, which is the precious legacy of mans agelong experiments and hard earned experiences, is inestimable, and their noble lesson cannot, and should not be ignored by the present generation specially when the moral and religious values are deteriorating under the violent impact of scientific materialism and its new social ideologies and political theories
Sufism has been explained and is explained by many people in different ways. Sufism is in fact the purification of our Nafs, Heart, and Souls prescribed in the HOLY QURAN by the ALLAH
To this simple man Sufism is love towards ALLAH, the love that could not be explained but only experienced. The love for ALLAH as prescribed by the AWLIYAS and WallieS of ALLAH, it should burn in our heart, and it should burn our one self, it should burn our Nafs, Heart, and Soul and all those things that are not liked by ALLAH, so much so that we may forget ourselves.
HAZRAT KHWAJA GHARIB NAWAZ (R.A) was a great Sufi saint of "CHISTIYA ORDER" and was the first person to introduce and spread ISLAM in India through Sufism. This great Wallie of ALLAH attained very hard practice involving strict adherence to the principle of self mortification, renunciation, patience, and detachment from all worldly temptation in order to make him fit for the highest spiritual attainment. It was only because of this that HAZRAT KHWAJA GHARIB NAWAZ (R.A) was able to show the people of INDIA way leading to ALLAH and love for ALLAH
The life of a Sufi is the "life of a sprit" regulated strictly in accordance with Islamic theology and traditions. to attain this his first lesson is his unshakable belief in the existence of GOD and unconditional surrender to his will. This entails a strenuous life attended by rigid austerity and self-denial. He has to undergo courses of training in prayers and meditation to attain the divine knowledge and realization of truth. This particular knowledge is passed on ‘in secret’ by one Sufi to another having the requisite qualification i.e. one who does not think evil does not see evil and does not speak evil. Without this divine knowledge one, cannot fathom the hidden mysteries of the nature and those of soul. To sum up the whole object of Sufism is t attain the highest spiritual perfection.
A Sufi will be distinguished from other on account of his detachment from his Parents. Children, Wealth, Power, Position, and Comforts. His ignorance vanishes in the influence of the ‘DIVINE LIGHT’ of the most high, the lord of entire universe. In such an ecstatically devotion there is neither pain nor sorrow for him as he is overwhelmingly to the almighty GOD. Thus a Sufi saint is a spiritual king, far above all temporal kings, disguised in the patched robes of a humble dervish.
HAZRAT KHWAJA GHARIB NAEAZ (R.A) was one of the greatest Sufi saint the world ever knows. His spiritual influence and benedictions have been, and are still a perpetually source of inspiration courage and guidance to the afflicted humanity, irrespective of caste, creed, or religion.
One of the indispensable condition of sufism is ‘ILM’ or knowledge . In the light of HOLY QURAN and HADITH, that "a dervish can reach the pinnacle of his spiritual glory only by acquiring, first of all, the necessary ‘ILM’ and then acting upon its dictates rigidly" it lays down two kinds of ‘ILM’ viz.
The divine knowledge or the vast reservoir of knowledge
The ultimate knowledge that is given to man which is a mere ‘DROP’ from the vast ocean of the all- knowing divine knowledge. in the other words , "the divine knowledge is the vast and unlimited ocean of that "secret knowledge" which is owned by GOD alone, while the ‘limited’ knowledge is only a tiny particle of it which is bestowed upon man to conduct his worldly life"
Kinds of ‘ILM’
The knowledge of realizing and recognizing that there is an Omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient GOD, who is, and shall ever, be.
The knowledge of recognizing the fact that GOD knows sees and everything of his universe.
The knowledge of appreciating GOD’S unlimited powers as the "ALL POWERFUL MAKER" of the universe.
Again, "there are three branches of ‘ILM’ so far as Islamic Shariat (LAW) is concerned, viz.
The traditions of the of the HOLY PROPHET
The unity of the ‘Millat’ or community
These branches cover every phase of man’s life from cradle to grave
Discussing the characteristics of TASAWWUF and Sufis there are eight qualities of a Sufi
The courage and magnanimity of PROPHET IBRAHIM
The obedience of PROPHET ISMAIL
The patience and forbearance of PROPHET AYUB
The signs of PROPHET ZAKARIA
The poverty of PROPHET YAHYA
The simplicity of dress of PROPHET MUSA (MOSES)
The traveling nature of PROPHET ISA , CHRIST
The "FUQR" (contentment and renunciation) of PROPHET MOHAMMED
These great Sufi saints ‘divided’ deep into the "divine mysteries" of the spiritual world, and although their teachings and lessons were strictly based upon the tenets of Islam but, in essence, they invariably coincide with the fundamental principles and the noble teachings of other great religion of the world. Their motto of life was "LOVE TOWARDS ALL MALICE TOWARDS NONE" a very scared pledge aiming at the destruction of ill will and sin among mankind. In short their preaching is based directly on the divine law and commandments showing the right path of happiness and salvation to mankind without any discrimination of caste or creed it is therefore, unquestionably a very noble and grand contribution to the progressive civilization of the world, the real value of which can hardly be imagined or valued by the present generation at this distance date when mankind had entered a new phase of material life and is speedily rifting towards spiritual bankruptcy and mammon worship.
CONTRIBUTION OF SUFIES IN INDIA
Sufism came in INDIA with Sufi dervish from Middle East countries during 11th and 12th centuries A.D. It was by overpowering spell and charm of their magnetic personality, spiritual power and exemplary conduct that they won the hearts of million of people in HINDUSTAN and thus laid the foundation of ISLAM and UNITY ANF DIVERSITY in country. They preached love among all classes of people with the ultimate aim of rising a one- nation edifice in this country. The lives of these ‘humble’ and ‘peaceful’ dervish, who brought nothing with them except the ‘name of god’and resolution of preaching "universal love and brotherhood" were exclusively dedicated to the cause of religious enlightenment of the suffering mankind whom they rescued from many age long tyrannies. As such, they were naturally loved and respected by all classes and ranks of people from a peasant to a prince. They made INDIA their home, lived here and gloriously passed away in the service of mankind
Tasawwuf or sufism (the translation usually preferred in the West) is the name of the ways sufis follow to reach God, the Truth. While the term tasawwuf usually expresses the theoretical or philosophical aspect of the search for truth, its practical aspect is usually referred to as ‘being a dervish.’ Tasawwuf has been defined in many ways. According to some, tasawwuf is Almighty God’s annihilating man with respect to his ego and self-centredness and then reviving him spiritually with the lights of His Essence; in other words, God’s annihilating man with respect to his own will and then directing him by His Own Will.
Another approach to tasawwuf sees it as the continuous striving to be rid of all kinds of bad maxims and evil conduct and acquiring virtues. Junayd al-Baghdadi, a famous Sufi master, defines tasawwuf as a way by which to recollect ‘self-annihilation in God’ and ‘permanence or subsistence with God.’ Shibli’s definition is summarized as being always together with God or in His ever-presence while aiming at nothing worldly or even other-worldly.
Abu Muhammad Jarir describes it as resisting the temptations of the carnal self and bad moral qualities and acquiring laudable moral qualities. There are some who describe tasawwuf as seeing behind the [outward] reality of things and events and interpreting whatever happens [in the world] in relation with God Almighty. Then, by regarding every act of the Almighty as a window to ‘see’ Him, living one’s life in continuous effort to view or ‘see’ Him with a profound, spiritual ‘seeing’ indescribable in physical terms, and living in profound awareness of being continually overseen by Him.
All the accounts just given can be summed up as follows: Tasawwuf means that by being freed from the vices and weaknesses particular to human nature and acquiring angelic qualities and conduct pleasing to God, one lives one’s life in accordance with the requirements of knowledge and love of God and in the spiritual delight that comes thereby.
Tasawwuf is based on observing the rules of Shari‘a down to good manners and penetrating their (inward) meaning. An initiate or traveler upon the path (salik) who can succeed in this never separates the outward observance of Shari‘a from its inward dimension and carries out all the requirements of both the outward and inward dimensions of religion. Through such observance, he travels toward the goal in utmost humility and submission.
Tasawwuf is a path leading to knowledge of God and is a way demanding solemnity [of bearing and purpose]. There is no room in it for negligent or frivolous manners. It requires that the initiate should, like a honeybee flying from the hive to flowers and from flowers to the hive, continuously strive in pursuit of knowledge of God. He should purify his heart from all attachments other than seeking God, and resist all inclinations and desires and appetites of his carnal self. He should also lead his life at a spiritual level with a readiness to receive Divine blessings and inspirations and in strict observance of the Prophetic example. Sincerely admitting attachment and adherence to God as the greatest merit and honour, he should renounce his own desires for the sake of the demands of God, the Truth.
After these [preliminary] definitions, we should discuss the aim, benefits and principles of tasawwuf: Tasawwuf requires strict observance of the religious obligations and austerity in life-style, the renunciation of animal appetites. Tasawwuf aims, by purifying man’s heart and employing his senses and faculties in the way of God, to live a life at the spiritual level. Tasawwuf also enables man, through constant performance of the acts of worshipping God, to deepen his consciousness of being a servant of God. It enables him to renounce the world with respect to its transient dimension and the face of it that is turned to human desires and fancies, and awakens him to the other world and to the face of this world that is turned toward the Divine Beautiful Names.
The benefit of Tasawwuf is that man develops the angelic dimension of his existence and acquires a strong, heart-felt and experienced conviction of the truths and articles of faith that at first he had accepted only superficially. The principles of tasawwuf may be listed as follows: Reaching substantial, true belief in Divine Oneness and living in accordance with its demands. In addition to heeding the Divine Speech (the Qur’an), discerning the commands of the Divine Power and Will on the face of the universe (the laws of creation and life which are the subject matter of the sciences) and obeying them. Overflowing with Divine love and getting on well with all other beings in the consciousness (originating from Divine love) that the universe is a cradle of brotherhood.
Acting with a spirit of altruism and therefore giving preference or precedence to the well- being and happiness of others. Acting in accordance with the demands of the Divine Will-not with the demands of our own will-and trying to lead our lives at the ‘peaks’ of self-annihilation in God and subsistence with Him. Being open to love, spiritual yearning, delight and ecstasy. Acquiring the ability to discern or unveil what is in hearts or minds through the expressions of the face and the Divine mysteries and meanings on the face of events. Visiting such places and seeking the company of such people as will encourage avoidance of sin and striving in the way of God. Being content with lawful or licit pleasures, and being determined not to take even a single step toward the sphere of the unlawful. Continuously struggling against worldly ambitions and the illusions that lead us to suppose this world to be eternal. Never forgetting that even in the way of serving religion and striving for the guidance of people to the way of the Truth, salvation is only possible through certainty or conviction (of the truth of religious principles of belief and conduct), sincerity or purity of intention and aiming only to please God. Acquiring knowledge and understanding of the religious and gnostic sciences, and following the guidance of a perfected, spiritual master may be added to these principles, which are of considerable significance in the way of the Naqshbandiya. It may be useful to discuss tasawwuf in the light of the following basic concepts which are the subject-matter of the books written on good morals and manners and asceticism, and regarded as the points where one finds the ‘Muhammadan Truth’ in one’s heart. They can also be considered as the lights by which to know and follow the spiritual path leading to God.
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