The History Of Sufism Theology Religion Essay Example
The History Of Sufism Theology Religion Essay Example

The History Of Sufism Theology Religion Essay Example

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Mankind has always had different perspectives, possibly due to our unique ways of thinking, believing, and acting. In the modern world, Sufism has many different tariqas (orders) and various Shayks (spiritual leaders). According to Sufis, Sufism existed even before Islam, with Jesus' disciples and Mohammed's companions also being considered Sufis (Istanbuli, 2008). The Simplified Arabic Encyclopedia mentions that both Christian mysticism and Islamic Sufis strive to purify themselves from impurities and overcome their Nafs in order to become worthy of transformation [3]. The feeling of God's love and closeness becomes stronger on August 6, resulting in a purer soul that ultimately unites with God (1965).

This essay will discuss what Sufism is in Islam, its origins, and its key figures such as Al Ghazali, Al Kalabthe, and Ibn Tymiah. Their teachings and beliefs m


ay differ from some Sufi practices. Before delving into the discussion of Sufism, it is important to define the term and its derivations. There are numerous definitions for this word stemming from various sources. Even today scholars still cannot agree on a single definition. Abu Baker Al-Kalabthe discusses various interpretations of the term "Sufi" in his book titled Al Ta'rof. According to one group, Sufis are called so because of their inclination towards secrecy, purity of actions, and subtle hints.There are various perspectives on the naming and origins of Sufism. Some argue that they are called Sufis because they strive to be among those seeking nearness to God. Others suggest that the similarities between Sufis and the Ahul As-Suffa group explain the naming. Another claim is that Sufi comes from "Soff," which refers to a humble fabric worn by them in the past.

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The final two definitions focus on the appearance of Sufis, highlighting their renunciation of worldly matters to dedicate themselves to God and His Prophet.

Sheikh Muhammad El Shaarawy, an Egyptian Muslim legal expert (1911-1998), explains that some people draw closer to God through obedience, while others become obedient because of their closeness to God. For instance, if someone wants to eat at your house, they will knock forcefully on your door so you can feed them. However, if you invite someone for dinner and insist on it, it is considered obedience. El Shaarawy adds that sometimes a person loves others but is not loved back; however, God always loves those who love Him. A person who has a relationship with God and loves Him is known as Al-Sufi. This relationship is called "Mussafa" in Arabic, from which the term Sufi derives (El Shaarawy).

The History of Sufism:

The origin and significance of Sufism have been subjects of disagreement amongst scholars.Ibn Tyamiyyah, Ibn Al Jawzi, and Ibn Khuldon all agreed that the term "Sufi" was not well-known during the first three centuries after Hijra. It only gained popularity after that period. Al Seraj Al Twasi, an old Sufi scholar who died in 378 Hijra, was asked about Sufis during the time of the Prophet and his companions. He replied that nobody had heard of Sufism during that era, not even the people who followed them. However, we know of individuals from that time who were ascetic and devout worshippers of God (Sror & Mahmoud, 1960).

Ahmed Alwosh argues that many people wonder why there was no Sufi movement during the early years of Islam or even during the

time following the companions. The answer is simple: there was no need for such a movement like Sufism during that period. The people at that time were naturally pious, devout, and good worshippers due to their closeness to the Prophet.

For example, native Arabic speakers can learn the language and its cultural nuances without studying from books or grammar since they inherit the language's culture. They can become skilled poets without learning formal systems. However, when they interact with non-native speakers and their spoken Arabic weakens, there arises a need for spreading awareness and publishing grammar books.

The companions and those who followed them were essentially Sufis, even if they were not referred to as such (Alowsh, 1956). When Islam spread to various states and races, the scope of knowledge widened and diversifiedEach civilization began to codify its own specialties, such as Arabic literature, Jurisprudence, Quran interpretation, and Arts. However, amidst this intellectual growth, spiritual spirituality started to decline.

Ibn Khaldun, in his renowned book "Al Mugadima [3]," acknowledged the legitimacy of Sufism in Islam and traced its origins back to Shaabha practices like khalwa, detachment from materialistic pleasures, and seclusion from society through itikaf. Unfortunately, many people abandoned these spiritual practices after that era but there were those who remained faithful and called themselves Sufis.

The following paragraph will discuss the work of Abu Baker Al-Kalabathe in his book "Al-Ta'rff ala Mattab Ahl At-Tsuff [1]."

Abu Baker Al-Kalabthe:

Considered one of the oldest and most precise books on Sufism (Shams-Addain 1993), "Al-Ta'rff ala Matheb Ahl At-Tsuff" was written during the 4th century after Hijra. It was a time when Sufism had reached its peak in terms of its

Shayks (spiritual leaders) and knowledge (Shams-Addain 1993). In his debut, Al-Kalabthe aims to rectify people's beliefs about Sufism. He starts by providing definitions of the word Sufi mentioning about 20 definitions. He then proceeds to introduce the Shyks of Sufism starting with Ali Ibn Al-Hussain and Zain-al-A'bedain. He also discusses the pioneers of Sufism specifically Al-Junaid Al-Bghadadi and Abul-Hussain Al-Nuri.Al-Kalabthe explores the beliefs and political orientations of the Sufis in his book. Each chapter begins with the sentence "What they are stating about..." to discuss various topics. One important topic is "What they are stating about Twahied," where all Sufis agree on the belief in one eternal and all-knowing God. Al-Kalabthe further describes God based on these agreements in the following pages. Another chapter focuses on "What they are stating about Isra' and Mi'raj," with most Sufis agreeing that the prophet did not see God during this journey. A captivating chapter addresses "What they are stating about Angels and Messengers," where some Sufis believe messengers hold a higher rank than angels. Throughout his work, Al-Kalabthe aims to provide a better understanding of Sufism while dispelling misconceptions about its beliefs and practices. Others argue that we are all creations of God, who decides our individual rankings, supported by verses from the Quran such as: "And it is your Lord That knoweth best all existences that are in celestial spheres and on Earth: We did confer on some Prophets more (and other) gifts than on others: and We gave to David (the gift of) the Psalms [2]" and "Those Messengers We endowed with gifts, Some above others: To one of them Allah spoke;Others He raised [3]".An important

chapter titled "What they are stating about Sufism" discusses the viewpoint of Al-Kalabthe, who heard Abaul-Hassan Al-Farsi saying that Sufism has ten Arkan [4]. The first Arkan is the abstraction of fusion, which refers to a clear and flawless Tawheed. The second is the understanding of hearing, emphasizing that individuals should listen to their psyche, not just acquire knowledge. Other Arkan include being in good company, practicing altruism, seeking the truth, and remembering God. They also mention the Quranic verse: "Say, [O Muhammad], 'Travel through the land and observe how He began creation [5].'". All these Arkan are widely accepted among Sufis, according to Al-Kalabthe.

The other chapters discuss various subjects such as Modesty, Patience, Children, Adult, Fear...
Thanking and Praising...
And 51 other topics.
In this paragraph we will focus on the work of Abu-Hamid Al Ghazali.

Abu Hamed Al-Ghazali:

Al-Ghazali was a Persian Muslim theologian...
legal expert...
and mysterious figure.
He published numerous books; however we will discuss two of his main books on Sufism:
"Ihya' Alom Ad-Dain" [2] and "Minhaj Al-A'bedain" [3].
The book "Minhaj Al-A'Bedain" provides guidance to readers on the correct methods of worshipping God. It explains the main obstacles that believers may encounter in their lives. The first obstacle mentioned by Al-Ghazali is Knowledge: "without knowledge you can't manage" (p.59).Al-Ghazali's encouragement to seek knowledge is rooted in the belief that God created humans for two purposes: seeking knowledge and worshiping the Divine. In his writings, he highlights Tubah as a significant obstacle to overcome. Al-Ghazali explains that Tubah holds importance because it allows individuals to receive blessings from God and ensures that their work is accepted by Him (p.71-72). Continuing on this path of worship, Al-Ghazali offers

advice to his readers. However, his book "Ihya 'Alom Ad-Dain" has faced criticism due to its doctrinal content and comments from ancient scholars. These criticisms will be addressed in the Discussion section at the end of this paper.

Sufi literature can be divided into three subdivisions. The first subdivision spans from the rise of Islam until the 2nd century of Hijra, characterized by an abundance of wisdom and spiritual discussions aimed at promoting asceticism and piety among Muslims. During this time, Sufism was portrayed as a simplistic concept.

The second subdivision emerged from the late 2nd century until the 4th century, marked by a fusion of ideas among people. This blending was evident in their poetry which introduced new forms and ideologies with the intention of reminding people about God. It wasn't until the end of the 4th century that Sufi phrases and concepts became clearer.The golden subdivision, also known as the third subdivision, spanned from the late 4th century to the mid-8th century. This period was marked by a wealth of philosophical ideas and well-structured Arabic literary systems. Renowned Arabic poets such as Ibn Arabi, Ibn Al-Fared, and Persian poets like Ar-Rumi played a significant role in the peak of Sufi literature during this time. The Sufi poems took on a philosophical nature, incorporating phrases, constructs, and political beliefs while paying tribute to the prophet and saints (Daif, 2001) (Al-Salami, 1960).


Sufism did not have a name during the days of the prophet and his companions; however, it has now become an identifiable term. Scholars continue to debate its meaning. According to Mohammed Noh Al-Qadda's interpretation, the name Sufi originally derived from wool. Conversely, Mohamed El-Sharawwy argued

that it originated from Mussafa. However, El-Sharawwy's definition contradicts Al-Kalabthe's work and is therefore not entirely accurate.

The Sufis unanimously agreed on God's omnipotence and emphasized that nothing can be compared to Him. El-Sharawwy highlighted God's creativity through Mussafa as evidence for this belief. Furthermore, they asserted that Sufism predates Islam and those who resist their desires are considered Sufis. In the Arabian Peninsula culture specifically celebrated when a man fully matures into leadership by conquering his desires.
In his famous poem "Mua'lqt Antarah", Antarah ibn Shaddad portrayed himself as a true man who does not yield to his wild "Nafs". The concept of contending the "Nafs" became prominent among the Arabs due to Hosni Abdul-Jalil's book on it in early Pre-Islamic Arabic literature [1]. Al-Kalabthe attempted to rectify public perception of Sufis through his work, but primarily depicted the average Muslim's viewpoint on faith. It is possible that either Al-Kalabthe's work or the current Sufis are incorrect. In his chapter on Thiker, Al-Kalabthe did not mention present-day Sufis' practices of tariqa or following the Shayk because tariqas did not exist at that time. However, their excessive religiousness led to criticism and questioning of their beliefs. This blending of ideologies, arts, and cultures eventually expanded throughout the country. As a result, scholars and poets from all over were attracted to the broadening circle of Sufism. During this period, Al-Ghazali published his renowned book "Minhaj Al-A'Bedai" which provided extensive knowledge for seekers of God, including both Sufis and every Muslim seeking guidance onto the right path.The book "Ihya ' Alom Ad-Dain" is highly regarded by current Sufis as a Manhaj [2], and it is uncommon for other scholars

to criticize it. However, Al-Ghazali's combination of Fiqh and Philosophy in this book has faced criticism from some [1]. Despite the criticism, Al-Ghazali referred to the works of previous Sufi scholars like Al-Bghadadi. Ibn Taymiyyah argued that although "Ihya ' Alom Ad-Dain" contains valuable knowledge, there are questionable sections concerning Tawhied and Philosophy. Additionally, Ibn Taymiyyah claims that the term Sufi is not widely recognized; devout worshippers can be found under different names such as "Al Jyoeya" in Syria, "Al Fagrya" in Basra (Iraq), and "Al Magaraba" in Khorasan, each carrying connotations of poverty, piety, and religiosity. Ibn Taymiyyah also discusses "At-Tasuff Al-Haq," noting that while Sufis are Muslims, some of their books have been disapproved by others. Some scholars have even excluded them from Islam altogether and claimed superiority over God's prophets. However, Ibn Taymiyyah rejects this claim by stating that wrong judgments were made due to misinterpretations in certain books. He argues that Sufis are committed Muslims who may occasionally make mistakes but remain dedicated overall.During a Sufi Ziker session at Ghamkol Sharif Mosque in Birmingham, I observed that the participants were reciting Arabic phrases without fully understanding their meaning. Despite making small mistakes, they failed to notice a significant error, even the Shayk. The phrase "Noor Mohammad Sali Alla" was repeated multiple times, but it is grammatically incorrect as it means "Light Mohammad Praise Upon". It is crucial for Sufism to emphasize piety and devotion; however, some individuals, including the Shayk himself, changed their clothing after the Isha prayer to more modest attire. The Shayk exchanged his fancy Moroccan Jalabya for a Punjabi outfit while others also switched from jeans to Punjabi

attire. In conclusion, it is important to focus on the meaning and accuracy of the phrases recited during religious rituals.

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