Monday, September 1, 2008

Sufism: Its Origin Part 1

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The word Sufi is most likely to be derived from the Arabic word "soof", meaning wool. This is because of the Sufi habit of wearing woolen coats, a designation of their initiation into the Sufi order. The early Sufi orders considered the wearing of this coat as an imitation of Isa bin Maryam (Jesus). In reply to this, Ibn Taymiyyah said: "There are a people who have chosen and preferred the wearing of woolen clothes, claiming that they want to resemble al-Maseeh ibn Maryam. But the way of our Prophet is more beloved to us, and the Prophet (s.a.w.s) used to wear cotton and other garments."1

Sufism is known as "Islamic Mysticism," in which Muslims seek to find divine love and knowledge through direct personal experience of God2. Mysticism is defined as the experience of mystical union or direct communion with ultimate reality, and the belief that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience (as intuition or insight)3

Both the terms Sufi and Sufism and Sufi beliefs have no basis from the traditional Islamic sources of the Qur'an and Sunnah, a fact even admitted by themselves. Rather, Sufism is in essence a conglomerate consisting of extracts from a multitude of other religions with which Sufi's interacted.

During the primary stages of Sufism, Sufis were characterised by their particular attachment to zikr (remembrance of Allah) and asceticism (seclusion), as well as the beginning of innovated practices to 'aid' in the religious practices. Yet even at the early stage of Sufism, before their involvement in innovated rituals and structured orders, the scholars warned the masses of the extremity of Sufi practices. Imam Al-Shafi' had the opinion that "If a person exercised Sufism (Tasawafa) at the beginning of the day, he doesn't come at Zuhur except an idiot". Imam Malik and Ahmad bin Hanbal also shared similar ideas on this new movement which emanated from Basrah, Iraq.

Although it began as a move towards excessive Ibaadah, such practices were doomed to lead to corruption, since their basis did not come from authentic religious doctrines, but rather from exaggerated human emotions.

Sufism as an organised movement arose among pious Muslims as a reaction against the worldliness of the early Umayyad period (AD 661-750)4. The Sufis exploited the chaotic state of affairs that existed during the fifth and sixth centuries A.H. and invited people to follow their way, alleging that the remedy to this chaos was conformity to the guidance of their order's Sheikhs. Dar al-Majnoon was established during the reign of Khalifah Ma'moon, where he invited the scholars of the Romans and Greeks to meet with the Muslims and 'discuss' their respective positions. This provided the perfect breeding ground for the synthesis between Islam and Pagan theology, to produce the Sufism of the like of Ibn Arabi.

The Mixing Pot

With the demise of the Companions and their successors, the door became open for the distortion of Islamic Principles. The enemies of Islam had already burrowed deep into the ranks of Muslims and rapidly caused Fitnah through their spreading of forged hadith and subsequently created new sects such as the Khawaarij and Mu'tazilah.

Sufism gained its breeding ground during this period, whereby it gained its support from the Dynastic Rulers, who had deviated from Islam to the extent whereby magic was used as entertainment in their courts, even though magic is considered as Kufr in Islam.5 During this period, Sufism developed its Shi'a flavour, indeed the roots of contemporary Sufism have been traced back to Shi'a origins (see later).

Sufi ideology and thinking flourished during the times of the likes of Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi, Jalal Ad Din Rumi, and Imam Ghazali. Their translation of Greek philosophical works into Arabic during the third Islamic century left an indelible mark on many aspects of Sufism, resulting in Greek pantheism becoming an integral part of Sufi doctrine. Pagan practices such as Saint worshipping, the use of magic and holding venerance towards their Sheikh overtook the Orthodox practices of Islam and had little resemblance to the Islam left by our Prophet (s.a.w).

By examining the mystic doctrines of Christianity, Hinduism, Taoism and other religions, it becomes clear how closer Sufism is to these religions than to Islam. In fact, Sufism is never characterised under "Islam" in any system of catalogue, but rather under 'Mysticism'.

Sharda highlights these unsurprising similarities by stating that: "After the fall of Muslim orthodoxy from power at the centre of India for about a century, due to the invasion of Timur, the Sufi became free from the control of the Muslim orthodoxy and consorted with Hindu saints, who influenced them to an amazing extent. The Sufi adopted Monism and wifely devotion from the Vaishnava Vedantic school and Bhakti and Yogic practices from the Vaishnava Vedantic school. By that time, the popularity of the Vedantic pantheism among the Sufis had reached its zenith."6

The following comparison demonstrates the non-coincidental similarity that Sufism shares with other religions:

Concept of validity of all religions

The Sufi doctrine of all religions being acceptable before Allah is derived from the Mystical beliefs of other religions, and not Islam, for Allah says: "Truly, the religion in the Sight of Allah is Islam..." [2: 19].

Take for example the Buddhists:

"No Buddhist who understands the Buddha's teaching thinks that other religions are wrong... All religions acknowledge that man's present state is unsatisfactory. All teach an ethics that includes love, kindness, patience, generosity and social responsibility and all accept the existence of some form of Absolute."

The Sufis also believe the same: "Allah does not distinguish between the non-believer and the Faasiq (wrong doer) or between a believer and a Muslim. In fact they are all equal to Him... Allah does not distinguish between a Kaffir or a hypocrite or between a saint and a Prophet."7

In al-Fusoos, Ibn Arabi leaves no doubt as to his conviction in the unity of all religions: "Beware of restricting yourself to one particular religion and disbelieving in everything else, so that great good would be missed by you, indeed you would miss attainment of knowledge of the affair in the form he is following. Rather be ready to accept all forms of belief. This is because Allah is higher and greater than to be comprehended by one belief to the exclusion of others. Rather all are correct, and everyone who is correct receives award, and everyone who is rewarded is fortunate, and everyone who is fortunate is one with Whom He is pleased."8

Union with the Creator

Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'aala is completely distinct from His Creation. He neither resembles His Creation, nor is He enclosed by it. Sufis however, with their deviant doctrine of Wahdat ul Wujood, believe contrary to this. Ibn Arabi, the Sufi scholar with whom which the concept of Wahdat ul Wujood is rightly attributed, asserted that since Allah's Attributes were manifested in His creation, to worship His creation is similar to worshipping Him: "So the person with complete understanding is he who sees every object of worship to be a manifestation of the truth contained therein, for which it is worshipped. Therefore they call it a god, along with its particular name, whether it is a rock, or a tree, or an animal, or a person, or a star, or an angel."9

This is how far the Sufis deviated because of their reliance on Greek and Eastern philosophy, rather than the Qur'an and Sunnah. To them God is not Allah Alone with whom no one else shares in His Dominion, but rather everything we see around us, and ultimately our own selves! Glory to Allah, who Stated "There is nothing like unto Him, and He is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer" [42: 11]. Looking at where Sufism derived its understanding from, we find the same ingrained beliefs:

"When you live in the wisdom home, you'll no longer find a barrier between "I" and "you," "this" and "that," "inside" and "outside;" you'll have come, finally, to your true home, the state of non-duality."10

"Finally, the experience of realisation matures sufficiently that the [spiritual aspirant] may rightly utter the startling assertion, 'I am Shiva' (a Hindu deity)".11

"When I am in that darkness I do not remember anything about anything human, or the God-man.. I see all and I see nothing. As what I have spoken of withdraws and stays with me, I see the God-man.. and he sometimes says to me: 'You are I and I am you'".12

Corruption of Tawheed in Allaah's Attributes

Sufis totally deny all of Allah's Attributes, such as His Face, His Hands, His Istawaa etc, using metaphorical meanings to explain His Attributes. Although the Companions and Tabi'een believed in them without any resemblance to His creation, the Sufi's deem His Attributes to be a part of His creation.

Ibn Arabi went as far as to say that he saw Allah during one of his ecstatic trances, in the shape of a young blond boy sitting on a Throne! (see Bezels of Wisdom, London 1980). Other Sufi Gnostics followed suit in Ibn Arabi's trail: "In the writings of Ibn al-Arabi and Ibn al-Farid, eternal beauty is symbolised through female beauty; in Indo-Muslim popular mystical songs the soul is the loving wife, God the longed-for husband." 13