Revelation of Mystery (Kashf al Mahjub)

Sufism (Tasawwuf تصوف)

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Chapter III

Sufism (Tasawwuf تصوف)


Allah Almighty has said:

وَعِبَادُ الرَّحْمَنِ الَّذِينَ يَمْشُونَ عَلَى الْأَرْضِ هَوْنًا وَإِذَا خَاطَبَهُمُ الْجَاهِلُونَ قَالُوا سَلَامًا

“And the servants of (Allah) Most Gracious are those who walk on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say, “peace!” (Q 25:63).

And the Prophet (peace be upon him) has said:

من سمع صوت اهل الَتَصوف فلا يومن علي دعاءهم كتَب عند اللَّه من الغافلين

“He who hears the voice of the Sufis and does not say Amen to their prayer is inscribed before Allah among the heedless.”

The true meaning of Tasawwuf تصوف (Sufism) has been much discussed and many books have been written on the subject. Some assert that Sufi is so called because he wears a woolen (suf صوف) garment, while others say that he is in the first row (saf صف). Some because of their attachment with to Ashab-i Suffa[1], call them Sufi and still some are of the opinion that the name is derived from safa (purity). These explanations are far from satisfying the requirements of etymology.

The word Safa صفا (purity) is praiseworthy under all circumstances and its opposite is kadar كدر (impurity). The Prophet (peace be upon him) said,

ذهب صفو الدنياَ وبقي كدرها

the pure part (the best) of this world is gone, and its impurity remains.”

The fine and the delicate part of something is called safwa صفو (purity), whereas its impure and dirty part is called kadar (impurity). Since the seekers of the path of tasawwuf keep their morals and conduct pleasing and pure their inwards from the evils and worldly desires, on that account they are called Sufis. So, this name has become a sign of recognition whereas the nobility of the Sufis is too great for their dealings to be unknown, so that name should need a derivation.

In the present age, Allah has kept the majority of the people away from the path of tasawwuf and Sufis and has veiled them from the mysteries and realities of tasawwuf. Accordingly some imagine that it consists merely in practice of outward piety and does not have any inward contemplation. Some others suppose that it is a meaningless form which has no essence and root. They by adopting the views of scoffers and worldly Ulama have denied Sufism altogether and because of ignorance feel delighted on their search. The people in general, conforming to this opinion, have expunged from their hearts the quest for inward purity and have discarded the tenets of the virtuous ancestors and the companions of the Prophet.

ان  الصفا  صفت    الصديق       ان اردت صوفيا علي التحقيق

“Verily, purity of heart is the characteristic of Siddiq, if you desire to be a true Sufi see him”.

The Safa صفا (purity) has a root and a branch, its root being separation of the heart from others (other than Allah), and its branch is that the heart should be empty of this deceitful world. Both these are the characteristics of the Siddiq (the Caliph) Abu Bakr Abdullah b. Abi Quhafa, (may Allah be pleased with him). He is the Imam (leader) of all the people of this Path. He was free of others so much that when Prophet (peace be upon him) died and the companions got saddened and heart broken, that Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) drew his sword and threatened to decapitate anyone who asserted that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was dead, Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) stepped forth cried with loud voice,

الا من عبد مُحَمَّدٌا فان مُحَمَّدٌا قدمات و من عبد رب مُحَمَّد فانه حي لا يموت

“whoever worshiped Muhammad let him know that Muhammad is dead, but whoever worships Lord of Muhammad, let him know that He is living and dieth not.”

Then he recited the following verse of Quran:

وَمَا مُحَمَّدٌ إِلاَّ رَسُولٌ قَدْ خَلَتْ مِن قَبْلِهِ الرُّسُلُ أَفَإِن مَّاتَ أَوْ قُتِلَ انقَلَبْتُمْ عَلَى أَعْقَابِكُمْ

“Muhammad is no more than a Messenger: many were the messengers that passed away before him. If he died or were slain, will you then turn back on your heels,” (Q 3:144).

It means that who is acquainted with the mortal, he is annihilated and afflicted when the mortal is annihilated, but one who acquaints himself with the Truth (Allah) becomes immortal, even though his physical body is annihilated. Those who regarded Muhammad (peace be upon him) with the eye of mortality ceased to venerate him as soon as he departed from this world, but to those who regarded him with the eye of reality his presence and absence were alike, because they saw both his existence in this world and his departure from here as truth and from the Truth. One at the maqam of بقا باللَّه, saw the Prophet (peace be upon him) living (baqi) with the Truth (Allah), and one who at the maqam of فنا في اللَّه saw the Prophet (peace be upon him) fani (dead) with the Truth (فنا في اللَّه). That is to say, he looked not at the particular change which came to pass, but at the Author of all changes, and venerated Muhammad (peace be upon him) only in proportion as Allah honored him. He did not attach his heart to anyone (except Allah), and did not open his eyes to gaze upon mankind, inasmuch as:

من نظرالي الخلق هلك       ومن نظرالي الحق ملك

“One who beholds mankind waned but that who returned unto Truth (Allah) attained the place of angel.”

Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) showed that his heart was empty of this deceitful world, for he gave away all his wealth and dressed in a rough garment when he came to the Prophet (peace be upon him), who asked him what he had left for his family. Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) replied, “Allah and His Prophet (peace be upon him).” When the heart of Abu Bakr Siddiq (may Allah be pleased with him) was cleansed from the worldly love, automatically impurities got washed out and he sacrificed everything to please His Lord. All this is the characteristic of sincere Sufi and to deny them is the denial of the Truth and obstinacy.

As I have mentioned that safa (purity) is the opposite of kadar (impurity), and kadar is one of the qualities of man, therefore, the true Sufi is he who is clean from worldly impurities. When the human nature existed with the Egyptian women, they felt jealousy with Zulaikha. But when they looked upon amazing beauty of Yusaf (may blessings of Allah be on him), got fascinated and enraptured. Their human nature got annihilated and they cried

مَا هَـذَا بَشَرًا إِنْ هَـذَا إِلاَّ مَلَكٌ كَرِيمٌ

no mortal is this! This is none other than a noble angel.” (Q 12:31).

Here their human nature annihilated and they made Yusaf (may blessings of Allah be on him) their object but gave expression of their own state. Hence the Sheikhs of the Path have said:

ليس الصفاء من صفات البشرلان البشرمدرلا يخلوا من الكدر

“Purity is not the quality of man, for man is created with clay, and clay involves impurity, and man cannot escape from impurity.”

Therefore, neither heart can be purified through acts and deeds, nor impurities of human nafs (lower soul) can be destroyed by means of efforts. The attribute of purity is isolated to acts and states, and its name is also unrelated with outward names and titles.

الصفا صفته الاحباب وهم شموس بلا سحاب

“Purity is in the nature of the lovers (of Allah), who are suns without clouds,” because purity is the attribute of those who love, and the lover is he that is fani (dead) in his own attributes and living in the attributes of his Beloved, and their “states” resembles the clear sun in the opinion of mystics. When Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked concerning the state of Haritha[2] (may Allah be pleased with him), he answered,

عبد نوراللَّه قلبه بالايمان

he is a man whose heart is illuminated by Allah with the Nur (light) of faith, so that his face shines like the moon from its effect.”

An eminent Sufi says:

ضياء  الشمس   و  القمر   اذا   اشتركا        انموذج من صفاء الحب والتوحيد اذا اشتيكا

“When the Nur (light) of the sun and the moon is mingled together, it illustrates like the combination of purity of Love and Unification.”

Surely the light of the sun and the moon is worthless beside the Nur (light) of Love and Unification of Allah Almighty. Although, there is no comparison between them but no light is more evident than these two luminaries in this world. Through their light eyes are enabled to see the sky, whereas the heart through the light of Marifat (knowledge), Tawhid (unification) and love sees the Arsh (Empyrean), and while being still in this world explores the next world. All the Sheikhs of the Path are unanimous on that when a man has escaped from the captivity of maqamat (stations), got rid of impurity of states, and freed from the worldly changes and decay he is endowed with all praiseworthy qualities under all circumstances. Then he is separated from his own praiseworthy qualities, i.e. no thought of any of his praiseworthy quality comes to his mind. He neither sees it nor makes any self conceit thereby. He achieves the state where his intelligence is overcome and he is free from doubtless thoughts. He finds neither any danger in their presence nor does his existence depend on any cause, for purity is the name given to everlasting presence and such existence which is free of any cause and such presence which has no absence and such attainment which is free of causes. Because such presence which is annihilated by absence is really not a presence and that existent which is due to some cause is not existent. The elders have said:

لان الصفا حضور بلا ذهاب ووجود بلا اسباب

“Inward purity is such a presence (with Allah) which never disappears, and is such a wealth which is bestowed upon by the grace of Almighty Allah, and not achievable through acquisition.”

Therefore, there is no absence from His presence and it is granted without acquisition and endeavor. And when the aspirant arrives at this maqam (stage), he becomes annihilated both in this and the next world, and he is attached with divine attributes while still existing in human body. The gold and mud becomes same in his eyes, and observance of the Shariat ordinances becomes easy to him. As when Prophet (peace be upon him) asked Haritha:

كيف اصبحت يا حارثه

“O Haritha what was your state in the morning?”

He replied that he started his morning with full faith on Allah.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “See O Haritha, think what are you saying, everything has some reality, what is the reality of your faith?”

He replied: “I have cut myself away from the world, my heart no more seeks it and its gold, silver and clay are all equal in my sight.  I have passed my nights in wakefulness (praising Allah) and my days in fasting until I manifest to have vision of the Throne of the Lord, and the people of Paradise visiting one another, and the people of Hell cursing each other.”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said thrice,

عرفت فلزم

you have been blessed with Marifat (knowledge of Allah), therefore persevere.”  


Sufi is an honorable name by which the most perfect saints and spiritual adepts are being remembered. One of the Sheikhs has said: 

من صافاه الحب فهو صاف و من صافاه الحبيب فهو صوفي

“He that is purified by love is pure, and he that is absorbed in the Beloved and has abandoned all else is a Sufi.”

The word Sufi has no derivation answering to etymological requirements, for the derivation of one thing from another demands homogeneity but Sufi is such an exalted noun that there exists no homogeneous to it from which it might be derived. All that exists is the opposite of it, and things can not be derived from their opposites. The meaning of Sufi is clear to Saints like the sun and does not need any explanation, as it cannot be described through expressions and signs. It has been said,

لان الصوفي ممنوع من العبارة والاشارة

Sufi cannot be encompassed with words or signs (indications).

So, when words and expressions are incapable to really define the word Sufi, and even if the whole world may try to explain it irrespective that whether they are successful or not in their effort, would not affect its dignity.

The perfect among them are called Sufi, and the aspirants among them are called Mutasawif متصوف (sufistic), for tasawwuf belongs to form tafaul تفعل , which implies “taking trouble,” and is a branch of the original root. The difference both in meaning and in etymology is evident. As it is said:

الصفا ولايته ولها ايته و روايته والتصوف حكايته للصفا بلا شكايته

“Purity is saintship which has signs and marks, so Sufism is that anecdote of obtaining purity which holds no objection.”

The meaning of purity is clear and manifest and tasawwuf تصوف is the description of the same meaning and reality.  Its followers in this degree are of three kinds, the Sufi صوفي, the Mutasawuf متصوف and the Mustaswif مستصوف.

The Sufi صوفي is one who is fani (annihilated) to self and baqi (existent) by the Truth. He has escaped from the human faculties and their usage and has attained the Truth (Allah).

The Mutasawuf متصوف is one who is seeking to reach this rank by means of self-mortification and in his search, is following the footsteps of accomplished Sufis.

The Mustaswif مستصوف is one who pretends like Sufis for the lust of wealth, power and worldly gains. He has neither any acquaintance with the Sufis and Mutasawuf nor he possesses any knowledge of the Path. It has been said about such a person: 

المستصوف عند الصوفيته كالذباب و عند غيرهم كالذءاب

“In the opinion of Sufis the Mustaswif is as despicable as flies, and for others he is like a wolf.”

The Sufis call the Mustaswif like flies because they animate Sufis for the sake of lust and they are like wolves for people because wolves are habitual of tearing, rending and eating carrion. Therefore the Sufi is called a man of attainment, the Mutasawuf a man of principles, and the Mustaswif a man of superfluities.

He who after attaining his object and desire has achieved the maqam (station) of union, he gets free from all other desires and objectives. And he, who achieves the state of mystic path, becomes firm in the “states” and steadfastly devotes himself for higher states. And that who achieves separation is left devoid of all, and satisfies himself with mere forms of Sufism, and because of this reality is never manifested on him and he remains devoid of union and righteous path.

The Sheikhs have many subtle definitions of Sufism which cannot all be enumerated, but we shall mention some of them in this book, if Allah wills, Who is the Author of success.

Dhu al-Nun says:

الصوفي اذا ناطق بان نطقه من الحقاءق وان سكت نطقت عنه الجوارح بقطع العلاءق

“The Sufi is one who when speaks, his words are the reality, and in his silence the conduct of his body parts explains his state of faqr (that he has cut all worldly ties).”

It means that when Sufi speaks, it is all truth and reality of his state and he says nothing which he does not possess. When he is silent, his conduct be an evidence of his maqam and state and he is evidently free from the worldly evils i.e. all that he says is based on sound principles and all that he does is pure detachment from the world. When he speaks his speech is entirely the truth, and his actions are wholly faqr (poverty). Junaid says:

التصوف نعت اقيم العبد فيه

“Sufism is an attribute wherein is Man’s subsistence.” 

When he was asked whether it was an attribute of Allah or mankind, he replied,

نعت الحق حقيقته ونعت والعبد رسمًا

its essence is an attribute of Allah and ceremonially is an attribute of mankind;” i.e. the reality of Sufism demands annihilation of man’s attributes which takes place with the existent of attributes of the Truth, for it is the attributes of Allah. The attributes being ceremonial involves that it demands self-mortification which is an attribute of Man. In other words we can say that it is incorrect to attach Man with any attribute in the Real Unification, for the attributes of mankind are not everlasting and these are just ceremonial which in themselves are nothing. Therefore, one need to accept principally the emergence of these attributes in man are in fact the acts of Allah. For example, Allah commands His servants to fast and on obedience he is named as Saim (one who is fasting). Apparently the Saim is the man and fasting is the work or attribute of him, but in reality it is the command of Allah i.e. it belongs to Him. Allah revealed to Prophet (peace be upon him), “الصوم لي وانا اجزي به fasting is for Me, and I will give its reward.” He is the real owner of whole creature and relationship of anything with mankind is just ceremonial.

Abu al-Hasan Nuri says:

التصوف ترك كل حظ النفس

“Sufism is the renunciation of all selfish pleasures.”

And it is of two kinds i.e. formal and essential. When one is rejecting pleasure of the selfish desires, it is formal renunciation but if the pleasure itself is rejecting the man, it is the annihilation of pleasure and delight and a real contemplation. Therefore renunciation of pleasure is the act of Man, but annihilation of pleasure is the act of Allah. The act of Man is formal and metaphorical, while the act of Allah is real. This saying clarifies the saying of Junaid which is quoted above.

Abu al-Hasan Nuri also says:

الصوفيته هم الذين صفت ارواحهم فصا روافي الصف الاول بين يدي الحق

Sufis are those people whose spirits have been purified, hence they attaining the front place have found rest with the proximity of Truth (Allah).” It means that those whose spirits through self-mortification have been purified from the contamination of humanity and self desires, and having fled all save Him and after achieving the highest degree of attainment, have found rest with proximity of Allah among the first ranks.

Abu al-Hasan Nuri further says:

الصوفي الذي لا يملك ولا يملك

“The Sufi is not he who possesses anything nor is he possessed by anything.”

Sufi should not claim ownership of anything nor should he himself be slave of anyone save Allah. This is the true Maqam-i Fana (annihilation), since one whose qualities are annihilated he neither owns anything nor is possessed by anyone. It is because ownership can only be applied to existent things. The Sufi does not own any worldly asset or any glory of the next world, for he is lost to himself. He does not desire authority over others, nor can he be subjugated by others. This saying is very subtle and refers to the sayings of those who are convinced of complete annihilation. If Allah wills, we shall mention in this work the points wherein they have fallen into error.

Ibn al-Jalla says:

التصوف حقيقته لا رسم له

“Sufism is an essence without form,”

The form belongs to mankind in respect to their conduct while the essence thereof is peculiar to Allah.  Since Sufism consists in turning away from mankind, therefore it cannot be expressed and defined.

Abu Umru Damashqi says:

التصوف رويته الكون بعين النقص بل غض الطرف عن الكون

“Sufism is to see the universe with imperfect eye, rather to shut the eyes from it.”

To see the universe with imperfect eye is the attribute of those who are at state of fanafillah (annihilated to the Truth), because the objects of sight are phenomena, and when phenomena disappears, sight also disappears. And to close eyes to the universe is the attribute of those who are at state of baqibillah (living with the Truth), because shutting the eye to the phenomenal world leaves the spiritual vision subsistent, i.e. whoever becomes blind to self sees by means of the Truth. In that state the aspirant has no self vision, rather it’s the Truth through which he sees. The seeker of the world only sees the world and finds no way to come out of it. One who sees the world with imperfect eye i.e. with abhorrence, and does not desire it, is better than the former, and still the best is one who totally ignores it. One who sees the world with imperfection is veiled, for seeing of other is a veil.  He who does not see is not veiled by his blindness, because he sees through the Truth.

This is the maqam (station) which aspirants consider an important foundation of the path, but to explain it here is unsuitable.

Sheikh Abu Bakr Shibli says:

التصوف شرك لانه صيانته القلب عن رويته الغير ولا غير

Tasawwuf in one sense is also polytheism, because it implies to guard one’s heart from the vision of other, but other does not exist.”

This means that in Tawhid (Unity of Allah) vision of other (than Allah) is polytheism, and when other has no existence and value in one’s heart then from whom one need to guard his heart.

Sheikh Husri says:

التصوف صفاءالسر من كدورة المخالفته

“Sufism is to purify the heart from impurity of the discord.”

It means that one should refrain from discord with Allah, because love is the name of concord, which is the opposite of discord. The lover has no other duty in this world but to keep the commandment of the beloved and if the object of desire is one, how discord can arise?

Muhammad b. Ali b. Hussein b. Ali b. Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with them) says:

التصوف خلق فمن زاد عليك في الخلق زاد عليك في التصوف

“Sufism implies morality. He that has the better disposition is a better Sufi.”

Good morality is of two kinds, goodness towards the Truth (Allah) and goodness towards humanity. The former is acquiescence in the Divine decrees, i.e. goodness to Allah is to remain contended on all matters. In later case the goodness to humanity is that one accepts all their evils and humilities for Allah’s sake. Both these aspects are beneficial for the seeker of the Path as Allah is independent of the seeker’s acquiescence or resistance, and these two qualities depend on the marifat (knowledge) of His Tawhid (Unity). And Abu Muhammad Murtaish says:

الصوفي لا يسبق همته خطوته البتة

“The Sufi is one whose inward thoughts should also not take lead to his foot steps.” i.e. he is whole heartedly present: his soul is where his body is, and his body where his soul is, and has uniformity in his acts and deeds; his deed where his foot is, and his foot where his deed is.

This is the sign of presence without absence. This is contrary to the doctrine of those who say that one is absent from himself and present with Allah. Nay, it is not so. Rather the reality is that he is present with himself as well as with Allah. This is the sign of perfect union, because there can be no absence from self so long as one regards one’s self. And when seeker ceases to regard self presence, he is absent from self and present with the Truth (Allah). The saying of Shibli closely resembles to it,

الصوفي لا يري في الدارين مع الله غيرالله

the Sufi sees nothing except Allah in both the worlds.”  The self existence of man is other (than Allah), and when a man does not see other, he does not see himself also and becomes totally void of self, whether he is at Maqam of fana (annihilation) or baqa (subsistence).

Junaid says that Sufism is founded on eight qualities, generosity, acquiescence, patience, symbolism, traveling (strange hood), woolen dress, pilgrimage hood and faqr (poverty).

-          the generosity of Abraham (may blessings of Allah be on him), who offered his son for sacrifice;

-          the acquiescence of Ishaq (may blessings of Allah be on him), who submitted to the command of Allah to give up his life;

-          the patience of Ayub (may blessings of Allah be on him), who patiently endured the affliction of worms and the jealousy of the Merciful;

-          the symbolism of Zakarriya (may blessings of Allah be on him), to whom Allah said,

أَلاَّ تُكَلِّمَ النَّاسَ ثَلاَثَةَ أَيَّامٍ إِلاَّ رَمْزًا

thou shalt speak to no man for three days but with signal.” (Q 3:41)

and again to the same effect,

إِذْ نَادَى رَبَّهُ نِدَاء خَفِيًّا

Behold! He cried to his Lord in secret.” (Q 19:3):

-          the traveling (strange hood) of Yahya (may blessings of Allah be on him), who was a stranger in his own country and an alien to his own kin;

-          the wearing of wool by Moses (may blessings of Allah be on him), who wore woolen garment throughout;

-          the pilgrimage hood of Jesus (may blessings of Allah be on him), who was so detached therein from worldly things that he kept only a cup and a comb. He threw away his cup when he saw a man drinking water through use of palms of his hands, and the comb likewise when he saw another man using his fingers to dress his hair;

-          the poverty of Muhammad (peace be upon him), to whom Allah Almighty had given the keys of all the worldly treasures saying: “Lay no trouble on you, but procure every luxury by means of these treasures;” and he answered: “Lord, I desire them not, keep me one day full-fed and one day hunger.”

In the way of Path this is an excellent principle.

Abu Husri says:

الصوفي لا يوجد بعد عد مه ولا يعدم بعد وجوده

“The Sufi is he whose existence is without non-existence and his non-existence without existence,”

i.e. he never loses that which he gets, and he never follows that which he loses.

Other meaning of this is, that his finding has no gain, and neither his no gain has any finding at any time, so that there is either an affirmation without negation or a negation without affirmation.

The object of all these expressions is that the Sufi’s state of mortality should entirely lapse, and that his bodily feeling should disappear and his link with everything is cut off, in order that the mystery of his mortality may be revealed and his various parts united in his essential self, and that he may subsist through and in himself. The effects of this can be seen in two Apostles. The one was Moses (may blessings of Allah be on him), in whose existence there was no non-existence, so that he made a plea to Allah,

رَبِّ اشْرَحْ لِي صَدْرِي -- وَيَسِّرْ لِي أَمْرِي

O my Lord! expand me my breast; ease my task for me.” (Q 20:26-27).

Secondly, the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), in whose non-existence there was no existence, so that Allah said,

أَلَمْ نَشْرَحْ لَكَ صَدْرَكَ

have We not expanded thee thy breast? (Q 94:1).

One pleaded for adornment and the other was adorned without any demand.

Ali b. Bandar al-Sarafi Nishapuri says:

التصوف اسقاط  الرويه للحق ظاهرا ً وباطنا

“Sufism is that the Sufi should not regard his own outward and inward, but should regard as all belonging to Almighty Allah.”

Thus, if he looks he sees only Almighty Allah because if he sees self outward, he visions an outward sign of Allah’s blessing, and as he sees outward actions will not have the weight even of a gnat’s wing besides the blessing of Allah. Therefore, he will immediately refrain from seeing self outward. And if he looks at the inward of the self, he should consider these achievements also blessing of Allah, and consider his personal efforts weighing less than a grain in comparison to blessing of Allah. So he sees nothing save Allah in both inward and outward states through His blessing and considers own efforts worthless.

Muhammad b. Ahmad al-Muqri says:

التصوف استقامة الاحوال مع الحق

“Sufism is maintaining state of steadiness with Allah,” i.e. the conditions cannot change the inward state of Sufi and neither can he be diverted from path of the Truth. It is because whose heart is devoted to the Author of states is not cast down from the rank of rectitude nor hindered from attaining to the Truth.


Maxims of Conduct

Abu Hafs Haddad of Nishapur says:

التصوف كله اداب لكل وقت ادب و لكل مقام ادب و لكل حال ادب فمن لزم اداب الاوقات

بلغ مبلغ الرجال و من ضيع الاداب فهوبعيد من حيث يظن القرب و مردود من حيث يظن القبول

“Sufism consists entirely of etiquettes; every time, place, and circumstance have their own etiquettes; he who observes them religiously attains the high rank of holy men; and he who neglects them is far removed from the nearness (to Allah) and is cast off from the accepted maqam (station) of the Truth.”

The meaning of this is akin to the saying of Abu al-Hasan Nuri:

ليس التصوف رسوما ولاعلوما ولكنه اخلاق

“Sufism is not composed of practices and knowledge (of religion), but it is morals (etiquettes),” i.e. if Sufism is consisted of practices, it could be gained by self-mortification and if it is consisted of knowledge, it could be gained by instruction. It is etiquettes, and it can not be acquired until one demands it from self and act on its principles. The distinction between practice (of social conduct) and etiquette (good moral conduct) is that practices are ceremonial actions devoid of sincerity and proceeds from certain motives, and are at variance with spirit. The morals are praiseworthy actions without ceremony or motive; it is in harmony with the spirit and clear of boastfulness.

Murta’ish says,

التصوف حسن الخلق

Sufism is the name of good manners.

This is of three kinds:

-          To follow the commands of Allah with regularity and sincerity.

-          To extend respect to one’s elders and superiors; be kind to younger and inferior; and show justice to his equals by seeking no recompense.

-          Avoid selfish desires and devilish acts.

Whoever adorns him with these traits, he is counted amongst the good natured men.

Whatever I have narrated is according to the following Hadith that once when mother of the believers Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) was asked about the Khulq (manners) of the Prophet (peace be upon him), she replied to read the following verse of Quran:

خُذِ الْعَفْوَ وَأْمُرْ بِالْعُرْفِ وَأَعْرِضْ عَنِ الْجَاهِلِينَ

“Hold to forgiveness; command what is right; but turn away from the ignorant.” (Q7:199).

Khawaja Muhammad Murtaish says:

هذا مذهب كله جد فلا تخلطوه بشيء من الهذل

“The Sufism is wholly earnest, keep it clear from facetious acts.” It means, avoid the fake Sufis and do not follow them. 

When the people of our time see these formalists among the aspirants to Sufism, and become aware of their raqs (whirling), see them deeply involved in enjoying singing, visiting the courts of sultans for the sake of meager benefits, they consider all Sufis to be alike. They also consider that the principles of Sufism and tenets of the ancient Sufis were just the same. They do not recognize that this is an era of affliction where Sultans are acting with tyranny and people are mostly committed to evils. Ostentation incites the ascetic to hypocrisy, and vanity incites the Sufis to dance and singing. You must know that the seekers who hold the doctrine can vanish but principles on which these are based cannot become extinct. The evil lies in the practitioners, not in the principles on which these are based. If some scoffers disguise their follies in the earnestness of true mystics, the earnestness of the later is not thereby turned to folly.

And Abu Ali Qarmisini says:

التصوف الخلاق الرضية

“Sufism is good morals and approved actions.” The good moral is that man’s conduct under all circumstances should be praiseworthy and to Allah’s approval. He should be content and satisfied.

Abu al-Hasan Nuri says:

التصوف هوالحرية والفتوة وترك التكلف والسخاء وبذل الدنيا

“Sufism implies to liberty, courage, generosity and abandonment of ineffective trouble.” It is that liberty and courage through which one gets free from the prison of selfish desires and overcomes evil lust.  He is purged from the conceit of his guts, and does not strive after worldly appurtenances and rewards. It is that generosity through which he leaves this world to the people of this world.

And Abu al-Hasan Fushanji[3] says:

التصوف اليوم اسم بلا حقيقة وقد كان حقيقة بلا اسم

“Nowadays Sufism is a name without a reality, but formerly it was a reality without a name.” In the time of the companions (may Allah be pleased with them) of Prophet (peace be upon him) this name did not exist, but the reality thereof was in everyone’s heart. Now only the name exists, but the reality is vanished. That is to say, formerly the practice was known but no one used to claim, but nowadays the pretense is known and the practice is unknown.

I have brought together and examined the sayings of the Sheikhs on Sufism, in order that Path may become clear to you (May Allah  grant you felicity!) and that you may get hold skeptics and be able to say them that what do they talk about it? If they deny only the name it is no matter, but if they deny the essential ideas, this amounts to denial of the whole Shariat of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his praised qualities. And I enjoin you may Allah grants you the felicity to hold these ideas in due regard and satisfy their just claims, so that you may refrain from idle pretensions and have an excellent belief in the Sufis themselves.



[1] See Chapter IX

[2] Abu Abdullah Haritha b. al-Nauman al-Ansari, companion of Prophet (peace be upon him).

[3] An eminent Imam of Khurasan, Died 348 A.H.


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