13 September 2011

Sufism and Islam

  Man was created with the aim of worshipping the creator, Allah by submitting everything to him alone. "Praise your lord, the great. He is the one who created and arranged everything in order. (H.Q. 87:2). Qur'an in the chapter 51: 56 says the ultimate aim of the creation of man, is to worship Allah knowing him. Allah gave him infinite blessings in the field of men's creation, growth, development, elevation, achievement etc., To thank one who blessed is one of the responsibility of man. In that respect it will not be enough how much one thanks Allah for his blessings. Worships are intimations of that gratitude. This gratitude will not be enough through how much it is expressed. Still his presence should be made sure by worshipping him as if he is seen. This can be achieved only through the purification of the soul.  
All qualities like good character, polite, respect, devotion etc, depend upon the soul. Body is only its carrier. When the soul is purified then the body turns good. When one stays away from the desires and wishes of the soul and saves the soul from the evils then its goodness is expressed through the organs like ears, eyes, hands, legs etc. Hence in holy Qur'an the need for the purification of the soul is stressed in many places. Allah clearly shows the soul the good way and the bad. And he intimates that those who have achieved 'thazkiyath' (Purification of heart) by accepting the right path and giving up the bad have succeeded. 'Truth is one who has created men's souls and arranged it in order. He makes the soul feel the bad instincts and the piety. It is definite that he who purified his soul has succeeded and the one who is immersed in evil ways has failed. (Qur'an 91:9)

Allah entrusted Prophets to remove people from all evil ways and to do purification. Allah describing the aim of prophet's entrustment says in holy Qur'an (3: 164). "Allah has certainly blessed the faithful people when he appointed a Messenger from among themselves." The Prophet recites His illustrations to the people and purifies them and teaches them the book and the philosophy. 'Truly, they were in obvious darkness. When the heart is purified then that refinement is fruitful. Men reaches the steps of elevation and purification through self refinement in different parts of holy Qur'an there is description about the attributes of heart like fear, piety, regret, hope, desire, love, humbleness, gentleness etc. Man becomes good only when he makes his heart good by inculcating those teachings. It is that mission that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) performed. If we examine any of the advices of the Prophet (PBH) we can see only those who could raise the humanity to the pinnacle of spiritual progress.

As an example let us see this:
In the books of traditions there is the incident of the angel Gabriel's arrival in the form of man to teach religious matters to the Prophet (PBH), while he sits with his Companions. That incident is described by Bukhari and Muslim. Gabriel who sat beside the Prophet enquired about matters like 'Iman and Islam'. The Prophet (PBH) taught him all that. Then his next question was on 'Ihsan'. 'Ihsan' or sincerity is a necessary quality that a person who prepares to do the duties of Islamic religion and believe in the six things should have.
Prophet's reply to the question regarding it was like this.
"You should pray to Allah as if you see him. If you don't see him then you should assume that he sees you." The reverent Prophet teaches two things. One: Worship should be by seeing the lord in front. If a master is attending then there will be sincerity in the work of a servant. In the same way, if we salute Allah by seeing him in front it will be innocent. Ordinary people are in capable of this finite expression. The second is for those who cannot get the elevated position or to worship in the assumption that the owner, Allah is looking and attending. The heart shines with devotion if one has this assumption.

'There is a piece of meat in the body. If it is becomes good then the whole body turns good. If it is polluted then the whole body will be ruined. Know, it is the heart' (Bukhari). Certainly, God will not look into your body or form. In turn he looks into your heart. (Muslim) In short, how you shrink to get into the midst of people wearing dirty cloths in the same way you should feel ashamed to approach Allah with a polluted heart. The Prophet refined his Companions - his disciples- by taking hold of their hearts. There is no need to give special inspiration for worldly things and to prepare dishes of life. For man is naturally prepared for that. But inspiration and advice has to be given continuously for spiritual enrichment. It is those concepts that we see in the advices and writings of reverent Prophet (PBH) In that respect Prophet has given many advices to get spiritual enlightenment through purification of the heart.

One becomes a complete Muslim if only he gives up what ever is not needed for him. Move towards that is not doubtful as being good or bad. Love, hatred etc only for Allah… like this, prophet has stated many suggestions for purification of the heart. The heart gets eternal peace if only the success in the other world is made sure. And that too cannot be made sure till we cross the bridge 'sirathu' that is constructed over the hell. Hence Mu'ad bin Jabal (May Allah Mercy upon him) says that the heart of a true believer would be filled with fear of Allah. Great souls like the Companions of our beloved Messenger of Allah, the followers of his Companions etc, were devotees who had imbibed these excellent quality. Aboobaker (R) looking at the bird flying in the sky, said: "If I were like this bird, if I were not created as a human being then I would not have to face the trial in the other world. (Ihya 4: 160) Once, Umar (May Allah Mercy upon him) holding a grass from the land said: "If I were this grass, if mother had not delivered me.. i might be free from the fear the trail. These two lines were clearly visible on the cheeks of khalifa Umar who wept thinking of hell (Ihya 4: 161).

Believers with purified hearts were astonished to hear the warnings regarding the punishments in the other world. It engendered fear and restlessness. One night khalifa Umar (May Allah Mercy upon him) was walking. In a house on the way a man was praying loudly by reciting the holy Qur'an. 'Definitely the punishment from your lord will come. There is nothing to obstruct it' hearing this godly saying umar was frightened and he got down from his vehicle and rested for a while. He returned with a morose heart. And he become bedridden for a month (Ihya 4: 160).


There is an assumption that Thasawwuf and Sufism are outside of Islam. Actually, it is sheer ignorance. Sufism is not alien to Islam. Its base was laid down from the revered lord's school. It is evident from the keen study that it is there in holy Qur'an and Sunnah. For, there are many sayings in the holy Qur'an which aims at self refinement, purification of the heart and disinterestedness in worldly affairs. It is the same idea of Purification that Prophet meant by the term 'Islam'. We achieve from 'Thasawwuf' the same that we achieve from 'Thazkiyath' and 'Ihsan'. Really, Sufi ways are of Prophet. But, when sufis failed to attain perfect initiation, they select shortcut. they cannot but it. Because, Prophet is supernatural peerless personality. so, he could.

The famous sufi Abunaser siraj (hijri 378) has explained in his book 'Lumma' that Sufies have accepted Qur'an and underwent to sacrifices to follow the routines of Prophet and they are the successors of the companions and the Thabi'es. He has remarked: The most important peculiarity of Sufies is that they give up unworthy things. They abandon everything that obstructs in attaining the contentment of Allah which is the ultimate aim. Let us see how he says about the fundamental rocks of tolerance that is necessary to nourish this sacrifices: Be enough with the little worldly comfort, consume food in small quantity that is needed to sustain life. Be satisfied in poverty and hate richness, never wish for elevation and position, show unequalled humbleness, Endure sufferings with sacrificing mind. Never yield to the desires of the body and do hard work in worship etc, are the face marks of Sufies (Lumma: 11).

Sufism was born in the Prophet's imaginations. There is nothing in it that is not tested and made sure in the worship of shariath. See what the eminent sufi Imam Quraishi says: "The sum total of Thasawwuf is to live by safe guarding religious rules, and never extend one's hands towards anything that is doubted to be the most evil. Not only that, one should turn one's senses away from the evil things and try even to breath in the way that satisfies Allah" (Risalathul Qushairi 185). Shaikh Jilani (May Allah Mercy upon him) pointing at the essence of sufi teachings said like this: Follow the path of truth. Do not make Bidath. Be in the way, but never get separated. Grasp Thauhid, never do shirk. Accept the truth, never doubt it. Pardon, but never be perplexed. Unite through offerings, never get fragmented! (Futhuhul Ghoib 10). Look at the words of Imam Shadulee too: "Train the body to slavery and bring it to the rule of the lord". In the words of Imam Gazzali (May Allah Mercy upon him) acquiring Thasawwuf, is compulsory for every Muslim. For, except Prophet there is none who is not devoid of frailties and short comings. (Sharh- Al- Hikam, Ibnu Ajiba 1: 7) Let us also see how Imam Gazzali (May Allah Mercy upon him) describe from his experience the spiritual enlightenment that occurred after his contact with the Sufies: "I, in the early years of my life denied the qualities of pious persons and the position of Arifs. Then I met my spiritual teacher Yusufunnasaj. He by great efforts cleared my mind. Many fortunes began to grant my mind. Once I saw Allah in my dream. He commanded me: "Abu hamid, you give up your job. I have assigned in the earth some servants who are under my reign. They have sold this world for my pleasure. Get acquainted with them. I said: Allah, lend me noble thoughts about them. It is the worldly love that keeps you away from them. Return willingly from this world before you have to go from here humiliated. I woke from the dream. I approached the sheikh happily; explained all the incidents. He smiled and said: It has only begun. If our acquaintance gets stronger then your eyes could be sheared with Allah's strength" (Sheikh Siyathu sufia, Abdul Bakhi srurur 154). In short, thasavuf is nothing but suggestions and visions of t he Prophet (P.b.h); the embodiment of eternal love and the furnace of experiment. The slogan is 'heaven and the gratification of the creature'. The aim is the destruction of enemies and throws the devil to the sacrificial fire. There is no place for evils and false customs. Sufies are none but the disciples in the heritage of the Prophet. They do nothing against Islam.


If Sufis are the offspring of spiritual vision of the reverent Prophet (PBH) then why did not the Companions accept the name of sufi. The qualities of sufi were most combined in the Companions. Still they were known by the name the Companions. Imam Quraishi's reply for this doubts is this: "The Companions were known by that name as they were the people who were blessed to live with Prophet(PBH) and hence no name could better qualify then than the Companion. Later those who acquainted and lived with the Companions were called the 'Followers' (Thabies) and those who followed them were called the 'Followers of the Followers'(Thabi'a al thabi'a).
Later when such positions could not be given then those who observed the religious matters in more strict ways began to be called 'Zahids' and 'Abids'. In the later period there grew wrath and separatism in the religious field. Each group began to demand claims in the name of 'Zahid'. It is then the great people in the Ahlussunna who were refined at hearts, who even breath for the pleasure of Allah began to be called by the name 'Sufi'. This name got famous even before Hijra 200, for those great souls who had reached the peaks of self refinement (Risalathul qushairi page 7).

Listen to what is said in the 'Muqaddhima' by the famous historian Ibnu Khaldoon. Thasawwuf was later created in the religious knowledge of the society. Sufi style and Thareeqath were prevalent in the life of the eminent forefathers, the Companions, The Followers and religious Imams. It's basis is to undergo sacrifices, to reserve life for Allah and worship. To live disinterested by forsaking worldly pleasures completely and live away from worldly desires, The same was there in the sujabath and salafies. Later when people distanced from this line in the second century and later, those who lived with worship alone began to be called Sufis.

Principles of Sufism

Principles of Sufism is based on two significant and original foundations. These are self struggle (Mujahadah) and eternal love for Allah. Man will become good when he attains purification of the heart. 'Mujahadah' is the sacrifice and struggle to attain that. Masters are those who advice it. The way to self purification is to under internalize the teachings of the Prophet(PBH) through spiritual masters who are known by different names like valiyyers, zahids, Sufies and sheikhs. This fact can be understood by an example: The darkness of dusk is removed with dawn. We see nothing in the night for want of light. Fear of darkness alone remains. In the sunlight we see everything. Still there are many things that escape our naked sight. Things like germs, pest, the little insects etc cannot be seen even in sunlight. But if the sun light is made to fall on a mirror which reflects it such germs could be found out. Similarly the message of the Prophet who is the sun in the family of Prophet recedes the darkness and brightens the mind of Muslim with religious light. Still there are many bacteria and germs that get cumulated in that mind. They are false pride, jealousy, worldly reputation, hatred, anger, revenge etc. They cannot be detected easily. Companions and Thabies by their most fortunate living with the Prophet(PBH) were able to attains it. The easiest way for the followers to detect it and get it cured is to reflect the Prophet's message through the mirror namely spiritual masters. Self refinement could be attained through that philosophy. Let us see a Hadith that inspires the spiritual masters. Anas (May Allah Mercy upon him says: "Prophet(BBH) called me and counseled. If you can live without hating anyone from down to dusk then do it. That is my routine. One who enlivens my routine will reach heaven (Thurmudi).

The Sufi world was able to enliven this sunnah by attaining complete disinterestedness in this world. This routine will not enter into a mind where exists Peoples influence, love for power and worldly love (Awariful Maarif 33). The Picture of Mujahadah who works hard to attain self purity is like this: There are four things which alienate man from Allah. Mind, world, devil and creatures. These four in different ways create obstruction in the path of man's progress. The first stage in the self struggle is to realize that the mind is the first accused one among them in attaining the urge to detect and correct one's own weaknesses. If one successfully face this stage then the devil continuously tries to ruin and exploit him in the successive progress. It is in that situation that one should have the backing of Sheikh. We can see what the famous Sufi thinker Ibnu Ajiba (May Allah Mercy upon him Says: "Those who strive for the right path can shine only through Mujahadah. If the beginning is good then the end also will be good. Only those who abandon laziness and faults and do hard work can hope for success (Ieqadul Himam 2: 370).

The second in the principles of Sufism is the eternal love for Allah. The spiritual teachers 'Murshids' do infinite sacrifices to attain this. They face many trails. Finiteness is one of the important duties of that life. Anyone who studies the life of Sufis and Auliyas is convinced of the fact that they observe minutely the sunnah they have inculcated from the school of Prophet. Some instances: Shibli Nu'amani (May Allah Mercy upon him) (death Hijra 334) was a great Zahid who learnt Sufi philosophy even from Mumbars. When asked his servants about the situation at the time of the death of their teacher 'Shibli' this was the reply: His voice stilled. When the organs became inactive, then he informed in gestures that I should do him ablution. I did him ablution. But I forgot to comb his thick and luxurious beard. Suddenly he grabbed my hands and moved it to his beard. I performed that sunnah for my master (Awarif 317).

Sheikh Jilani (R) bathed forty times in one night. It is an instance of preserving the sunnath. When a great impurity occurs in the night it is not compulsory to take bath. But it is a desirable to do so. It is only compulsory to take bath before Subah prayer. Yet sheikh Jilani (R) bathed soon after he was polluted by semen discharge. Again pollution, again bath. This trial continued forty times. Sheikh won. Sunnahs were observed. Nafisathul Misriyah (R) (Death Hijra 208) was one of the noble person who inculcated spirituality by controlling the body. The life of this noble woman, who was born in holy Makkah, brought up in Madina shareef and migrataed to Egypt, spreads the light of Islam in the people. This noble woman who spent her life in prayers, fast and recitation of Qura'n dug her own grave, sat there and recited the whole Qur'an 190 times. She was fasting when she lay in death bed. When the doctors suggested to break the fast, she responded in this way: "I was praying for the last thirty years to make me die in fasting. Now I have got the opportunity. Then should I break the fast now? Never" (Nurul Abswar).

In brief, Auliyas, Sheikhs and Sufis were not away from the spiritual conception of the Prophet's (PBH); they are more near to him. They were not people who immersed their face in worldly pleasure by including in cheating and stealing. But were people who did self sacrifice. They are not lazy wanders who live away forsaking Voluntary doings and compulsory doings; But suffered hunger and sacrificed sleep for worship.























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