Sufism -- Sufis -- Sufi Orders

Sufism: an Introduction

'Ibaaraatuhum shattaa wa-husnuka waahid
Wa-kullun ilaa dhaaka al-jamaali yushiir
Their expressions are manifold and Your loveliness is one
And everyone points to that beauty
Quoted by Shaykh 'Abd al-Halim Mahmud, former Shaykh al-Azhar

Jumla ma'shuq ast-o 'aashiq pardah'i
Zenda ma'shuq ast-o 'aashiq mordah'i
All is the Beloved and the lover is a veil
The Beloved is alive and the lover is dead

Rumi, Mathnawi

Man qaala laa ilaaha ill Allah, dakhala al-janna
Whoever says, 'There is no god, but God,' enters Paradise.

Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad

Ever since Sufis first began to speak about Sufism, they have defined it in many different ways. Read a number of these at the link Classical Sufi Definitions of Sufism, (fixed 16 Nov. 1998) and see as well the online version (minus the footnotes of the original) of the poem, translated from Persian, titled What is Tasawwuf (Sufism)? and commented on by Dr. Godlas. For some time now, scholars in the West have discussed Sufism's definition and origin. Sufis--which is what practioners of Sufism are called--see themselves to be on a spiritual journey toward God. In order to guide spiritual travellers and to express the states of consciousness experienced on this journey, Sufis produced an enormously rich body of literature, often using a specialized technical vocabulary, some of the terms of which can be found in this Glossary of Sufi Terms. (linked fixed from archive, 20 February 2008) This journey is referred to as the path (tariqah). While all Muslims believe that they are on the pathway to God and will become close to God in Paradise--after death and the "Final Judgment"-- Sufis believe as well that it is possible to become close to God and to experience this closeness--while one is alive.

Furthermore, the attainment of the knowledge that comes with such intimacy with God, Sufis assert, is the very purpose of the creation. Here they mention the hadith qudsi in which God states, "I was a hidden treasure and I loved that I be known, so I created the creation in order to be known." Hence for the Sufis there is already a momentum, a continuous attraction on their hearts exerted by God, pulling them, in love, towards God. They experience the joyful ecstasy of being gently drawn to their Eternal Beloved, yet this primordially blissful return seems to have been interrupted. The Persian poet Hafiz remarked,

O Wine giver, pour me a cup and pass it around
for love seemed easy at first, but later the difficulties arose.

Continue reading the introductory essay on Sufism

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Go to Islam and Islamic Studies Resources of Dr. Godlas.