Monday, September 1, 2008

What is a Sufi and What is Sufism?

Sufi: a follower of Sufism

Sufism: a sect that has introduced many innovated practices and beliefs into the religion of Islam while claiming to be mystical

Sufism was not known in the time of the Prophet (may Allah raise his rank and grant him peace) or his Companions, nor was it well known in the first three generations after them. It first appeared in Basrah in Iraq, where some people went to extremes in worship and in avoiding the worldly life, something which is admonished in the Quran:

"The Monasticism which they invented for themselves; We did not prescribe it for them." Qur'an 57:27

Sufis belong to the Illumist school of philosophy which holds that knowledge and awareness is brought about in the soul by spiritual exercises. Orthodox Islam holds that one can achieve true knowledge and awareness through the acts of worship that exist in the Quran and Sunnah.

Sufism is often, willfully or otherwise, referred to by Sufis themselves, or by orientalists, as "Islamic mysticism", in order to give the impression that Islam is either wholly or partly an esoteric religion, with a set of dogmatic rituals to be understood by the elite alone-in this class, the Sufis! Unfortunately, the lack of any sound critical analysis of the subject in the English language allows these orientalists to flood the English and North American book market with literature that stands unchallenged, and dupes naive Muslims into believing that true salvation can only be attained by pursuing a mystical order. Their vain goal strips Islam of its Universality. The Sufis have introduced many innovations into Islam in the name of Tasawwuf and have justified such practises by fabricated statements and unsound arguments

Although many sects have appeared throughout the ages, none have outlasted as long and spread their effects into the homes of so many as Sufism has. The emotional attachment that a countless number of Muslims have towards this sect is so powerful that any analysis should be purely from an objective perspective; Its conclusions however leave no doubt as to the alien nature of Sufi teachings that have infiltrated into the religion that our beloved Prophet (s.a.w.s) left us upon.

True Muslims should be content with the name "Muslims given to them by Almighty Allah as he says: which means,

"He has chosen you (to conform to His religion) and has imposed no difficulty upon you in religion, the religion of your father Ibrahim. He named you 'Muslims' both before (in the preceding Divine Scriptures) and in this Book." (22.78)

Ibn Kathir elaborated on this verse, saying: "Allah has chosen the Muslims, honoured them, and distinguished them exclusively of other nations by the most honourable Messenger and the most perfect religion, and He has not overburdened them with more than they can bear.

Sufis believe that their teachers are also a source for legislation in worship, as they will order them to carry out acts of worship that have no basis in either the Quran or the Sunnah. The extremists from amongst them often claim that Allah dwells within His creation (i.e. in people's hearts, internal organs etc.). Consequently, they ascribe to their Sufi teachers attributes and powers which only belong to Allah, such as the knowledge of the unseen.

They often claim that the texts of the Quran and the Sunnah have an outer, apparent meaning, and as well, an inner, hidden meaning. They hold that the outer, apparent meaning is known to those who practice orthodox Islam, while the inner and hidden meanings of the Quran and Sunnah are known only to their teacher and order. These teachers will often claim that since they have advanced to the inner and hidden meaning of Islam, they no longer need to pray or fast, something that not even the Prophets were excused from.

Like many other Sufi doctrines, pantheism is adopted from man-made religions and philosophies, as confirmed by S. R. Sharda in his book, Sufi Thought

"Sufi literature of the post-Timur period shows a significant change in thought content. It is pantheistic. 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."

If Sufis insist that they are Muslims, then what is the sense of identifying themselves with Sufism rather than with Islam. The word "Sufism" was not familiar to those who lived in the first and the best three generations of as-Salaf as-Salih (the pious predecessors) who were commanded by Allah the Exalted and His Messenger Muhammad (s.a.w.s)

Ibn Taymiyyah makes this clear in his 'Majmu al-Fatawa: 'Some people accept everything of sufism, what is right as well as what is wrong; others reject it totally, both what is wrong and what is right, as some scholars of kalam and fiqh do. The right attitude towards sufism, or any other thing, is to accept what is in agreement with the Quran and the Sunnah, and reject what does not agree'" [Majmu Fatawa Shaykh al-Islam, Vol. 10, p. 82]