Sufism

Basic beliefs

The exact form of the basic beliefs depends on the Sufi School or current in question. While there are significant variations in approach among them, the underlying concepts remain similar.
Sufis believe that love is a projection of the essence of God to the universe.

The central doctrine of Sufism,  sometimes called Wahdat or Unity, is the understanding of Tawhid: all phenomena are manifestations of a single reality, or Wujud (being), or al-Haq (Truth, God). The essence of being/Truth/God is devoid of every form and quality, and hence unmanifested, yet it is inseparable from every form and phenomenon either material or spiritual. It is often understood to imply that every phenomenon is an aspect of Truth and at the same time attribution of existence to it is false. The chief aim of all Sufis then is to let go of all notions of duality, therefore the individual self also, and realize the divine unity.

Sufis teach in personal groups, as the interaction of the master is considered necessary for the growth of the pupil. They make extensive use of parable, allegory, and metaphor, and it is held by Sufis that meaning can only be reached through a process of seeking the truth, and knowledge of oneself. Although philosophies vary between different Sufi orders.

The following metaphor, credited to an unknown Sufi scholar, helps describe this line of thought.

"There are three ways of knowing a thing. Take for instance a flame. One can be told of the flame, one can see the flame with his own eyes, and finally one can reach out and be burned by it. In this way, we Sufis seek to be burned by God."


Etymology

The conventional view is that the word originates from Suf (صوف), the Arabic word for wool, referring to the simple cloaks the early Muslim ascetics wore. However, not all sufis wear cloaks or clothes of wool. Another etymological theory states that the root word of Sufi is the Arabic word safa (صفا), meaning purity. This places the emphasis of Sufism on purity of heart and soul.

Others suggest the origin is from "Ashab al-Suffa" ("Companions of the Veranda") or "Ahl al-Suffa" ("People of the Veranda"), who were a group of Muslims during the time of the Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم) who spent much of their time on the veranda of the Prophet's Masjid devoted to prayer.

Yet another etymology, advanced by the 10th century author Al-Biruni is that the word, as 'Sufiya', is linked with the Greek term for 'Wisdom' - 'Sophia', although for various reasons this derivation is not accepted by many at the present.



Sufi practices


Meditation

Tamarkoz or Muraqaba is the word used by many Sufis when referring to the practice of meditation. The Arabic word literally means to observe, guard or control one's thoughts and desires. In some Sufi orders, muraqaba may involve concentrating one's mind on the names of God, on a verse of the Qur'an, or on certain Arabic letters that have special significance. Muraqaba in other orders may involve the Sufi aspirant focusing on his or her murshid, while others (such as the Azeemia order) imagine certain colors to achieve different spiritual states.

Dhikr

Dhikr (Zekr) is the remembrance of God commanded in the Qur'an for all Muslims. To engage in dhikr is to have awareness of God according to Islam. Dhikr as a devotional act includes the repetition of divine names, supplications and aphorisms from hadith literature, and sections of the Qur'an. More generally, any activity in which the Muslim maintains awareness of God is considered dhikr.

Hadhra

Hadhra is a dance associated with dhikr practiced primarily in the Arab world. The word Hadhra means Presence in Arabic. Sometimes the sufi songs, or dances are performed as an appeal for the Presence of God, his prophets, and angels.


Sama

Sama or Sema' (Arabic "listening") refers to Sufi worship practices involving music and dance (see Sufi whirling). In Uyghur culture, this includes a dance form also originally associated with Sufi ritual.

Khalwa

Khalwa refers to a form of retreat, once widespread but now less common. A khalwa may be prescribed by the shaykh (spiritual advisor) of the murid or talib (student). Muslims believe that most of the prophets, and also Maryam (Mary) the mother of Issa (Jesus), lived in some form of seclusion at some point in their life. Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم), for example, used to retreat to the cave where he received his first inspiration - but had been going there for many years prior to his meeting with the angel Gabriel. Similar examples include Moses' going into seclusion for 40 days in a cave in Mt. Sinai.


Here are the views of some famous scholars about Sufism:


Imam Abu Hanifa (85 H. - 150 H): "If it were not for two years, I would have perished." He said, "for two years I accompanied Sayyidina Ja'far as-Sadiq and I acquired the spiritual knowledge that made me a gnostic in the Way." [Ad-Durr al-Mukhtar, vol 1. p. 43]

Imam Malik (95 H. - 179 H.): "Whoever studies Jurisprudence (tafaqaha) and didn't study Sufism [tasawwafa] will be corrupted; and whoever studied Sufism and didn't study Jurisprudence will become a heretic; and whoever combined both will be reach the Truth." [the scholar'Ali al-Adawi , vol. 2, p 195.)

Imam Shafi'i (150 - 205 AH.): "I accompanied the Sufi people and I received from them three knowledges: ... how to speak; .. how to treat people with leniency and a soft heart... and they... guided me in the ways of Sufism." [Kashf al-Khafa, 'Ajluni, vol. 1, p 341.]

Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal (164 - 241 AH.): "O my son, you have to sit with the People of Sufism, because they are like a fountain of knowledge and they keep the Remembrance of Allah in their hearts. They are the ascetics and they have the most spiritual power." [Tanwir al-Qulub p. 405]

Abu Zakaria Mohiuddin Yahya Ibn Sharaf al-Nawawi (620 - 676 AH.): "The specifications of the Way of the Sufis are ... to keep the Presence of Allah in your heart in public and in private; to follow the Sunnah of the Prophet (s) ... to be happy with what Allah gave you..."[in his Letters, (Maqasid at-tawhid), p. 201]

Tajuddin as-Subki (727 - 771 AH.): "May Allah praise them [the Sufis] and greet them and may Allah cause us to be with them in Paradise. Too many things have been said about them and too many ignorant people have said things which are not related to them. And the truth is that those people left the world and were busy with worship.They are the People of Allah, whose supplications and player Allah accepts and by means of whom Allah supports human beings" [Mu'eed an-Na'am p. 190, the chapter entitled Tasawwuf]

Jalaluddin as-Suyuti (849 - 911 AH.): "Tasawwuf in itself is the best and most honorable knowledge. It explains how to follow the Sunnah of the Prophet (s) and to put aside innovation." [Ta'yid al-Haqiqat al-'Aiiyya,p 57]

lbn Qayyim (691 - 751 AH.): "We can witness the greatness of the People of Sufism, in the eyes of the earliest generations of Muslims by what has been mentioned by Sufyan ath-Thawri (d. 161 AH), one of the greatest imams of the second century and one of the foremost legal scholars. He said, "If it had not been for Abu Hisham as-Sufi, I would never have perceived the action of the subtlest forms of hypocrisy in the self... Among the best of people is the Sufi learned in jurisprudence." [Manazil as-Sa'ireen.]