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Sufism and Islam


Sufism and Islam

With more and more interest being shown in Sufism by Muslims and non Muslims alike, we investigate whether or not Sufism is part and parcel of Islam or a Myth introduced by outsiders into Islam to corrupt Islamic beliefs. One thing is for certain that the term 'Sufism' did not exist in the time of the Prophet (S.A.W) or during the time of the First Caliphs but it was used during the period of the four great Imams of Madhabs. Therefore, we shall examine what the four Imams had to say about the Sufi people and their spiritual knowledge or Islamic Mysticism.

Imam Abu Hanifa (R.A) said "If it were not for two years, I would have perished. For two years I accompanied Hazrat Jafer as-Sadiq (R.A) and I acquired the spiritual knowledge that made me a knower in the Way (i.e. Sufism)." [Ad-Durr Al-Mukhthar, Vol. 1, P43]

It is also mentioned in the book Ad-Durr Al-Mukhtar that Hazrat Ibn Abidin (R.A) said, "Hazrat Abu Ali Dakkak (R.A), one of the Sufi saints, received his path from Hazrat Abul Qasim an-Nasarabadi (R.A), who received it from Hazrat Shibli (R.A), who received it from Hazrat Sari as-Saqati (R.A), who received it from Hazrat Maruf al-Kharqi (R.A), who received it from Hazrat Dawud at-Tai (R.A), who received the knowledge, both the external and internal, from Imam Abu Hanifa (R.A), who supported the Sufi spiritual path."

Imam Malik (R.A) said, "Whoever studies jurisprudence and does not study Sufism will be corrupted. Whoever studies Sufism and does not study Jurisprudence will become a heretic. Whoever combines both will reach the truth." [Kashf Al-Khafa Wa Muzid Al-Abas, Vol. 1, P341]

Imam Shafi (R.A) said, " I accompanied the Sufi people and I received from them three kinds of knowledge:

1. They taught me how to speak
2. They taught me how to treat people with leniency and a soft heart.
3. They guided me in the ways of Sufism." [Tanwir Al-Qulub, p405]

Imam Ahmed (R.A) advising his son said, " O my son you have to sit with the Sufis, because they are like a fountain of knowledge. They recite the remembrance of Allah (S.W.T) in their hearts. They are ascetics and they have the most spiritual power." [Ghiza Al-Albab, Vol 1, P120]

He (R.A) also said about the Sufis, "I do not know any people better than them." [Ibid]

This, then, is the opinion of the four great Imams of Madhab about the Sufis and indeed they themselves were Sufis in their own rights.

But what about the generations after the four Imams, did they accept Sufism or did they discover something objectionable about Sufism.

Imam Ghazali (R.A), the Proof of Islam, said, "I knew it to be true that the Sufis are the seekers in Allah's Way. Their conduct is the best of conduct. Their way is the best of ways. Their manners are the most sanctified. They have purified their hearts from other than Allah and they have made them as pathways for rivers to run receiving knowledge of the Divine Presence." [Al-Munqidh Min Ad-Dalal, P131]

Imam Nawawi (R.A) said, "The specification of the Ways of the Sufis are five:

1. To keep the Presence of Allah (S.W.T) in your heart in public and in private.
2. To follow the Sunnah of the Prophet (S.A.W) by action and speech.
3. To keep away from dependence on people.
4. To be happy with what Allah (S.W.T) gives you, even if it is little.
5. To always refer your matters to Allah (S.W.T) Almighty and Exalted." [Al-Maqasid At-Tawhid, P20]

So far, all the above mentioned are Imams that the Sunni Muslims (i.e. Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat) accept, what about the opinions of the Imams of the Salafi ,Wahhabi and other non Sunni movements. What do they have to say about Sufis?

Ibn Taymiyah, who deviated from the Ahle Sunnat Jamaat and whom the Salafis and Wahhabis take as their Imam, has said, "Sufism is the science of realities and states of experience. A Sufi is that person who purifies himself from everything which distracts him from the remembrance of Allah (S.W.T). The Sufi is so filled with knowledge of the heart and knowledge of the mind, that the value of gold and stones will be equal to him. Sufism safeguards the precious meaning and leaves behind the call of fame and vanity to reach the state of truthfulness. The best of humans after the Prophets are the truthful ones, as Allah (S.W.T) mentioned them in the Holy Quran, 'All who obey Allah and the Messenger are in the company of those on whom is grace of Allah: the Prophets, the sincere lovers of truth (Siddiqin), the Martyrs and the righteous. Ah! what a beautiful fellowship' [4:69]...[Sufis] strive to be obedient to Allah. Among them you will find the foremost in nearness by virtue of their striving and some of them are among the People of the Right Hand.'." [Majmu Afatawa Ibn Taymiyya, Vol 10, P497]

Ibn Taymiyya has praised Sufis and Sufi practices in many of his books. He himself claims to be a Sufi Shaykh of the Qadiri Sufi Order. He says, "I wore the blessed Sufi cloak of Shaykh Abdul Qadir Gilani, there being between him and me two Sufi Shaykhs." [Al Mas'ala At Tabriziyya]. Ibn Taymiyya's Sufi lineage is given as follows: Shaykh Abdul Qadir Gilani (R.A), Abu Umar Ibn Qudama, Muwaffaq Ad-Din Ibn Qudama, Ibn Ali Ibn Qudama and Ibn Taymiyya. [Majmu Afatawa Ibn Taymiyya, Vol 10, P516]

After Ibn Taymiyya his great student Ibn Qayyim had this to say about Sufis. He says, "We can witness the greatness of the people of Sufism in the eyes of the earliest generations of Muslims by what has been mentioned by Sufyan ath-Thawri, one of the greatest Imams in the 2nd century and one of the foremost legal scholars. He said, 'If it had not been for Abu Hisham as-Sufi, I would never have perceived the action of the subtle forms of hypocrisy in the self.' [Manzil As-Sa'irin]

Moving on to the Wahhabi leader Ibn Abdul Wahhab, whose followers we generally know as Wahhabis, and his views on Sufis. His son Abd Allah says, "My father and I do not deny or criticise the science of Sufism, but on the contrary we support it because it purifies the external and the internal of the hidden sins which are related to the heart and the outward form. Even though the individual might externally be on the right way, internally he might be on the wrong way. Sufism is necessary to correct it." [Ad Dia'at Al Mukhththafa Didd Ash Shaykh Ibn Abdul Wahab, P85]

Coming on now to the religious "reformers" of this century, we see that they all praised and agreed with Sufism, however, the followers of these reformers are under the dilution that their leaders denounced Sufism as being out of Islam.

Muhammad Abduh said, "Sufism appeared in the 1st century of Islam and it received tremendous honour. It purified the self, straightened the conduct and gave knowledge to people from the wisdom and secrets of the Divine Presence." [Majallat Al Muslim, P24]

Rashid Rida said, "Sufism, was a unique pillar from the pillars of the religion. Its purpose was to purify the self and to take account of one's daily behaviour and to raise the people to a high station of spirituality." [Ibid, P726]

Abul Hasan Ali An-Nadwi said, "The Sufis initiate people in Oneness and sincerity in following the Sunnah of the Prophet (S.A.W), in repentance from their sins and in avoidance of every disobedience to Allah, Almighty and Exalted. Their guides encourage them to move in the way of perfect Love of Allah." [Muslims in India, PP140-146]

Abul Ala Mawdudi says, "Sufism is a reality whose signs are the love of Allah and the love of the Prophet (S.A.W), where one absents oneself for their sake and one is annihilated from anything other than them. It instructs us how to follow in the footsteps of the Prophet (S.A.W)." [Mabadi Al Islam, P17]

Further he says, "The Shariah and Sufism; what is the similitude of the two? They are like the body and the soul. The body is the external knowledge, the Shariah, and the spirit is the internal knowledge." [Ibid]

All references presented in this article have been reproduced from the book ' The Naqshbandi Sufi Way ' written by Sheikh Hisham Al-Kabbani of the Naqshbandi Sufi Order.

In conclusion it can be established from the above information that Sufism is Islam. If anyone chooses to deny Sufism, then they must reflect on their own arrogance akin to the arrogance of shaitan. Let them not accuse Sufism on the basis of coming across false people who claim to be Sufis. Let them think by studying the lives and practices of real Sufis, who practise Shariah to the letter and guide people to the truth. It is a historical fact that the Sufis are responsible for spreading Islam throughout the world. It is the Sufis that have converted the majority of non Muslims to Islam.