Essay: Sufism

Sufism is the heart of the Islamic tradition established by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). It aims to perfect human beings as part of the revealed religion transmitted by the prophet which is Islam; by following a set of spiritual teachings and Muhammad’s prophetic guidance. The Prophet Muhammad was the spiritual guide for his Companions and he is the perfect model which inspired all spiritual masters and all Muslims through history and all around the world. Ab?? Hurayrah relates that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: ‘I have only been sent to perfect good moral character.’ [Musnad Ahmad (8595)]

The term “Sufism” Tasawuf in Arabic, is defined as an initiatory teaching and spiritual progression that involves different steps of purification of the soul. Sufism has been transmitted from the first centuries of Islam by small groups of scholars. The origin of this term is surrounded by three hypotheses. According to the first hypothesis, “Sufi” comes from Arabic safa meaning ‘crystal clear’. According to the second hypothesis, the word “Sufi” comes from Ahl al- sufa meaning ‘the people of the row’ in the sense of “seniors” blessed and elite of the community. In the third hypothesis, the word “Sufism” could be coming from al- suf in Arabic meaning “wool” which gives sufi meaning “woolly”, the Sufi was indeed wearing a woolen garment, being the cheapest fiber for clothing and other textile articles in the past and generally worn by the poor as a sign of modesty.

The word Sufism is a polysemous word which arouses much controversy in the Muslim world up to now. It is scary for many people because it historically refers to movements that are completely out of Islam. When it comes for example to engage in worship of saints, move towards the tombs, and eventually go beyond the limits found in the Qur’an and the Sunnah, by attitudes and forms of ritual that are completely foreign to Islam. The scholars refer to it as popular Sufism and condemn the people who take advantage of the credulity of other people to deceive them and deviate them from a sound understanding of Islam and the Sunnah. However, the word Sufism means also ‘Ilm al Ihsan’ which means ‘the knowledge that leads to excellence’ representing the third pillar of the religion which encourages the Muslims to seek the essential quietude in their hearts and inner life within the relation with God.

The religion is based on three pillars through which the human being could reach the absolute adoration of God. Firstly ‘Al Islam’ which includes visible aspects of worship and its rituals as the testimony of faith, the establishment of the five daily prayers, the almsgiving, the self-purification through fasting and the pilgrimage to Makkah for those who are able to afford it. Secondly and ‘El Iman’ which means ‘the faith’ and it goes in the sense of the depth of the elements that are part of what man will believe internally by believing in God, the angels, the messengers, the resurrection and last day of judgment and the predestination of all things; then there is a third degree which ‘El Ihsan’ which is the fact of excelling in the worship of God through spirituality and reach a certain satisfaction in life which every single person is looking for.

It is for the human being to remove all that is not God to go to God in order to have with him a relationship of proximity that makes him closer to the creator than to the creature in that the most important is not only to obey God but also to get closer to him. Seeking to approach God and the ultimate satisfaction within the relation with him cannot only be measured by the hardness and strictness of the rules, but also by the consistency of the behaviors and the ethics; in that the Islam one is supposed to live will not be the Islam of the rule that judges, but the Islam of the path which brings together the human and his creator.

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