Sufism: Its Origins
The word Sufism was not known at the time of the Messenger or the Sahaabah or the Taabi’een. It arose at the time when a group of ascetics who wore wool (soof) emerged, and this namewas given to them. It was also said that the name was taken from the word soofiya (sophia) which means wisdom in Greek. The word is not derived from al-safa’ (purity) as some of them claim, because the adjective derived from safa’ is safaa’i, not soofi (sufi). The emergence of this new name and the group to whom it is applied exacerbated the divisions among Muslims.
The early Sufis differed from the later Sufis who spread bid’ah (innovation) to a greater extent and made shirk in both minor and major forms commonplace among the people. Sufism is known as “Islamic Mysticism,” in which Muslims seek to find divine love and knowledge through direct personal experience of God.
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.
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.
With the demise of the Companions and their successors, the door became open for the distortion of Islamic Principles. During this period, Sufism developed its Shi’a flavour, indeed the roots of contemporary Sufism have been traced back to Shi’a origins.
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).
The Sufi doctrine of all religions being acceptable before Allah is derived from the Mystical beliefs of other religions, and not Islam. 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.
A comparison between the beliefs and rituals of Sufism and Islam.
- Sufism has numerous branches or tareeqahs, such as the Teejaniyyah, Qaadiriyyah, Naqshbandiyyah, Shaadhiliyyah, Rifaa’iyyah, etc.
- The Sufis worship others than Allaah, such as Prophets and awliya’ [saints], living or dead. They say, Yaa Jeelaani, Yaa Rifaa’i [calling on their awliya’], or O Messenger of Allaah, help and save or O Messenger of Allaah, our dependence is on you, etc.
- The Sufis believe that there are abdaal, aqtaab and awliya’ (kinds of saints) to whom Allaah has given the power to run the affairs of the universe.
- The Sufis turn to other than Allaah when calamity strikes.
- Some Sufis believe in wahdat al-wujood (unity of existence). They do not have the idea of a Creator and His creation, instead they say that everything is creation and everything is god.
- The Sufis advocate extreme asceticism in this life and do not believe in taking the necessary means or in jihaad.
- The Sufis refer the idea of ihsaan to their shaykhs and tell their followers to have a picture of their shaykh in mind when they remember Allaah and even when they are praying.
- The Sufis allow dancing, drums and musical instruments, and raising the voice when making dhikr.
- The Sufis recite love poems mentioning the names of women and boys in their dhikr gatherings, and they repeat words such as love, passion, desire and so on, as if they are in a gathering where people dance and drink wine and clap and shout.
- The Sufis claim to have gnosis and knowledge of the unseen.
- The Sufis claim that Allaah created the world for the sake of Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).
- The Sufis claim that they can see Allaah in this life.
- The Sufis claim that they take knowledge directly from Allaah, without the mediation of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).
- The Sufis celebrate Mawlid.
- The Sufis travel to visit graves and seek blessings from their occupants or to make tawaaf (ritual circumambulation) around them or to make sacrifices at these sites.
- The Sufis are blindly loyal to their shaykhs, even when what they go against the words of Allaah and His Messenger.
Why they still survive?
- Emotional attachment. The Sufi’s have become such an integral part of the lives of so many Muslims that Muslims are finding it difficult to accept that the Sufi path is wrong, and accuse anyone who pinpoints the errors of Sufism as an extremist or a follower of some ‘deviant’ sect.
- Similarity with pagan beliefs. Sufism is so similar to other religions, and as we noted earlier very tolerant of them, that a change to Sufism does not involve a complete change of life, as Islam requires.
- Simplicity. Sufism offers its followers a life carefree from fighting (Jihad), politics, the initiative to seek knowledge and teach it, the work of Da’wah, and allows a person to indulge in worldly activities such as music, magic, and other prohibited acts. The leader of the Naqshibandi Tareeqa in America, was quoted in the media as saying the following: “You have to be both material and spiritual. Sufis can give people joy in their spiritual life. Well, Madonna is giving people a kind of joy in their material life… You cannot say she is wrong. Sufis don’t object and criticise – they are accepting everything. That’s why, when my children are looking at Madonna on MTV, I say, ‘Let me come and look also!'”
- Support from the governments. Any group which manages to gain the support of an anti-Islamic Government must be suspicious. During the reign of the tyrant Mustafa Kemal, under whose leadership thousands of scholars were executed and Islamic practices banned, special permission was granted by the Turkish government in 1954 allowing the Mawlawi dervishes of Konya to perform their ritual dances. The Sheikh of the Naqshibandi’s of America has greeted and received praises from the President of America Bill Clinton himself. And why shouldn’t he, since the ‘Islam’ he portrays is one of pacifism and unity with the Kuffar.
- Twisting of evidence. Since the Qur’an and Hadith are readily available, and cannot be changed, the Sufis have resorted to another trick used by other Mystics: Ta’weel, or changing the apparent meaning of a verse or hadith to a secret inner one which only a certified Sheikh could explain!
The Damage to the Ummah
- Sufis distracted the Muslims from the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah towards the servitude of the Sheikh.
- The Sufi’s have left a lasting impression on the image of Islam, portraying it as one of peace and apolitical, and anyone who contravenes this is an impostor and considered an extremist. By relying on forged hadith such as the ‘bigger Jihad is Jihad’ul Nafs (i.e. struggle against the self)’ and its like. Muslims have been made to believe that work and family is the greatest Jihad, rather than establishing Allah’s religion on Earth though the use of the sword.
- The Sufi influence undoubtedly contributed greatly to the decline of the Ottoman Empire.