Sunday 2 October 2022 \



"If it becomes good, the whole body becomes good and if it becomes bad, the whole body becomes bad. And indeed it is the heart.”


Ahmad Zaruk said: “Sufism has more than 2000 definitions, but all of them have the same key point that is a selfless, sincere appealing to and serving Allah”. The pillar of Sufism is heart cleansing of worldly passions and its backbone is person’s relations with the God Almighty. A Sufi is someone whose heart is open to Allah and whose deeds are for the Almighty’s sake.

Origin of the word Sufism

There are different suppositions on this point. The first one is that the root of this word is sufat (Arabic - strand of wool), because a Sufi feels himself as an insignificant strand of wool before the Almighty. Another one states that it comes from word sifat (Arabic – quality), because a Sufi embodies in himself the best qualities of a person. The third one says that this term comes from word safa’ (Arabic – purity).

Another word considered a possible source is suffat (a word for Sufi people). Ahlu suffat is the first generation of Sufis. Their sincere worships are the highest ideal. Sufis have always sought for it and Allah called to it: “And keep yourself patient [by being] with those who call upon their Lord” (Surah Al-Kahf, ayah 28).

According to imam Kushayri the term Sufism comes from safv that means front row. Bearing in mind that Sufis are in the front row on the way to the Almighty Allah, they do more of charitable deeds leaving others behind.

And finally the last (sixth) version associates this word with wearing rough woolen clothes, because word suf means wool in Arabic. Former Sufis preferred this kind of clothing because of its simplicity.

Some don’t even accept the term Sufism referring to the fact that it was not used in the times of the Prophet (PBUH) and his companions. To our mind, this has no grounds. There are a lot of Islamic terms people started using after the death of the Prophet (PBUH).

Origin of Sufism science

Doctor Ahmad Alvash says: “Many people wonder why did call to Sufism lack in the dawn of Islam and arose just after the times of Companions and their followers. The fact is that there was no need of Sufism in the times of Muhammad (PBUH). It was century the Prophet’s respectable personality (PBUH) influenced people, a century of god-fearing, pious people who were wholly absorbed in serving Allah.

Prophet’s companions (PBUH) literally competed with each other trying to be more like him. It was no need to teach them something they were already doing all the time. They were like a native Arab who speaks his mother tongue and is able to write poetry without learning grammar rules.

Sahabah and tabi’un were not called Sufis but that is who they actually were. Sufism is living for the Creator, seclusion and obedience to God in any condition. This distinguished the followers of the Prophet (PBUH) in three generations – Sahabah, Tabi’un and Tabi‘al-tabi‘un. These three generations are considered the best of the Muslims’: “Verily the best among you (to follow) is my generation (the Prophet (PBUH) and his companions), then those who follow, and then those who follow them.”

As Islam spread to many nations and countries, religious sciences developed, as well. There originated more and more new areas that systematized the knowledge, for example, Nahv, Fiqh, Tawheed, hadith science. Their origin was a call of the times. The former spiritual life of people was getting less perfect. Some of them forgot the necessity of obedience to Allah both in heart and body. And those who preserved the spiritual perfection developed the science of Sufism, which should have met lacks of Islamic spirituality. Hadith says that ones Jibreel (PBUH) came to the Prophet (PBUH) to teach [people] their religion and the religion consists of al-Iman, al-Islam and al-Ihsan.

Al-Iman is faith, light and conviction.

Al-Islam is obedience, submissiveness and worship.

Al-Ihsan is the Mushahadah level. It is when you “worship Allah as if you see Him, and if you cannot achieve this state of devotion then you must consider that He is looking at you” (Imam Hafiz Muhammad). And then he said: “Truly, hadith says that if anyone misses a stage from among pillars of Islam (Tariqa is meant here), then undoubtedly his religion is defective. Becausehemissessomethingessential. The goal of Tariqa, what it calls to, is Ihsan, i.e. perfection in Iman and Islam”.

Ibn Haldun said in foreword to his proceedings: “Sufism is a Shariah science, that originated after the Prophet (PBUH). Its foundation is a rebirth of the straight and narrow followed by the best people of Muslim Ummah like Sahabah, Tabi’un and their followers. Its pivots are persistence in worshipping, appealing to Allah and isolation from worldly passions like power, wealth and other delights. Herebelongsalsoworshippinginseclusion. All of these were widespread among the companions and Salafi. When people started seeking worldly desires, some isolated themselves for worshipping Allah and they were called Sufis.”

The base of Sufism is the lives of the Prophet (PBUH) and his companions. There is no Sufism except for the Islamic one.

Significance of Sufism

There are two categories of Shariah regulations prescribed to the people – one concerns person’s behaviour, another refers to the soul. Both of them are vital, because the inner world of a person is a foundation for the outer appearance. The Almighty said: “Whoever would hope for the meeting with his Lord - let him do righteous work and not associate in the worship of his Lord anyone.” (Surah Al-Kahf, ayah 110)

The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) urged his companions to pay special attention to chastity. He taught them that good manners were a mirror of a good soul with no faults: “There is in the body a clump of flesh - if it becomes good, the whole body becomes good and if it becomes bad, the whole body becomes bad. Andindeeditistheheart.”

And he explained that Allah attaches importance to the hearts of people: “Verily Allah does not look to your bodies nor to your faces but He looks to your hearts” (Muslim). The heart puts a person in action, that is why its purifying from bad qualities is a duty for everyone. People who have sound hearts will be saved on the Judgment Day: “The Day when there will not benefit [anyone] wealth or children. But only one who comes to Allah with a sound heart.”(SurahAsh-Shu’ara, ayahs88-89).

Imam Jalalutdin Suyuti said: “As for the heart-science, its [heart’s] cognition and purifying it of vices like envy, hatred, window dressing and pride are fard ul-‘ain (i.e. everyone’s duty)". And great Imam al-Ghazali said:“Chastity (purifying the heart) and trying to improve yourself is a duty for everyone according to Qur’an, hadith and unanimous opinion of ulama.”

Ulama rank faults of the soul among the major sins that need to be specially repented. Ibrahim ul-Lakani said in his book Jawharatu tawheed: “Call to the approved deeds and stay away from gossiping and reviling and any wicked deeds like bighead, arrogance, envy and also avoid arguments and doing anything for show.”

According to Hasan al-Basri, “a human is a slave of his feelings and desires. And the one that have learnt to override them will truly become the ruler of his own destiny. If he shows purity of heart (sincerely, for the sake of Allah) in performing everything prescribed by the Almighty, then he will be surrounded with divine care wherever he is. The Almighty will teach him, he will get knowledge from the sources he does not expect”. According to ayah 282 (the Holy Qur’an, Surah Al-Baqarah): “And fear Allah. And Allah teaches you.”

As it is unbecoming to walk aboard in untidy clothes, same way it is inadmissible to forget about your soul and not to try improving yourself:

“You embalm your flesh with precious ointment,

But you leave your immortal soul in the ashes of the Earth.”

Faults of the soul are the reason of a person’s estranging from Allah and His Eternity. The Messenger of Allah said: “None shall enter Paradise with a grain of pride still in his heart.” A person’s wellbeing in the Eternity depends on his chastity; his salvation on the Day of Judgment depends on his efforts to improve himself. Hidden faults let a person consider himself a perfect being, while he is actually not one. Is there any way to uncurtain them? Sufism is the only teaching that helps to unmask and overcome faults of the heart and ennobles the soul. Sufism cultivates in a person penitence, fear of God, firmness, honesty, sincerity, asceticism, piety, good manners, love, remembrance of Allah, a feeling of being watched by Allah. A large amount of theoretical and practical patrimony of the Prophet (PBUH) belongs to Sufis.

They said no to sins and faults,

Purified both bodies and souls.

They grasped their true faith

And went along the Ihsan path.

Imam al-Ghazali, who is also called Hujjat ul-Islam (The Argument of Islam), took the Sufi path. After he got its first fruits he said: “Following Sufism path is fard ul-‘ain (i.e. everyone’s duty), truly no one is sinless except for the prophets.”

Fudhail ibn Iyaz stated: “Follow the true path and do not be afraid of being lonely on it. Beware of the path of evil and do not be deceived by the large numbers of people following it. Any time you feel lonely remember your brothers [in faith] that are gone. Try to reach them and pay no attention to others that can do nothing for you before Allah. If they are trying to mislead you, ignore them. Whenever you appeal to them, they will be trying to seduce you. And you will be deceived.”

AleppoRamadan 24 of 1381 Hijrah (1961)

Abdul Qadir Issa
Islam Magazine


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