Sufism, Sufis, and Sufi Orders:  Sufism's Many Paths

Professor Alan Godlas, University of Georgia

What is Sufism? :
Early Definitions

When asked about Sufism, Muhammad ibn 'Ali al-Qassab--the master of Junayd--said, "Sufism consists of noble behavior (akhlaq karima) that is made manifest at a noble time on the part of a noble person in the presence of a noble people."

When he was asked about Sufism, Junayd said, "Sufism is that you should be with God--without any attachment."

With regard to Sufism, Ruwaym ibn Ahmad said, "Sufism consists of abandoning oneself to God in accordance with what God wills."

On one occasion when he was asked about Sufism, Samnun said, "Sufism is that you should not possess anything nor should anything possess you."

Concerning Sufism, Abu Muhammad al-Jariri said, "Sufism consists of entering every exalted quality (khulq) and leaving behind every despicable quality."

When he was asked about Sufism, 'Amr ibn 'Uthman al-Makki said, "Sufism is that at each moment the servant should be in accord with what is most appropriate (awla) at that moment."

Regarding Sufism, 'Ali ibn 'Abd al-Rahim al-Qannad said, "Sufism consists of extending a 'spiritual station' (nashr maqam) and being in constant union (ittisal bi-dawam)."

All of these definitions of Sufism given by Sufis who lived in the 9th and 10th centuries (CE) are provided by al-Sarraj (d. 378 AH/ 988 CE) in the earliest comprehensive book on Sufism, the Kitab al-Luma' (The Book of Flashes) (ed. by R. Nicholson, pp. 34-35). These definitions of Sufism, however, are mere signposts pointing one

to the Doorway to Sufism, Sufis, and Sufi Orders: Sufism's Many Paths.

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Translations copyrightę1988 by Dr. A. Godlas. Not for publication
in any media except by written permission of the translator.