Part 12: Trying Times for Sunnis and Sufis.
IN THE NAME OF ALLAH, MOST BENEFICIENT, MOST MERCIFUL.
"Truly, Allah does not look at your outward forms and wealth, but rather at your hearts and your works" (Sahih Muslim, 4.1389: hadith 2564).
The title of the article says “Sunnis and Sufis”. It means one and the same thing with a difference that we shall presently explain briefly.
The Ahl as-Sunnah faith, is the faith of Abu’l Hasan al-Ashari, Abu Mansur al-Maturidi and those who followed them. One who brings forth something which is not approved by Islam becomes a man of bid’ah. Sayyid Yusuf ar-Rifa’I (b.1950 in Kuwait) has stated: The real Ahl-e-Sunnah wal Jamaat are those who love Allah and the Messenger of Allah (sallal laaahu alaihi wassallam), the Ahlul Bayt, the Sahaba, Awliya-Allah, the Saliheen and believe in them, and follow one of the four Madhabs (i.e. school of thoughts) Hanafi, Shafii, Hanbali and Maliki, and should additionally be the follower or disciple of one Tariqa: either Rifai, or Qadiri or Chishti, or Naqshbandi or Shadhili, and so on, because by following a Shaykh he will enable you to purify yourself and give Tazkiya Nafsika.’
Just as the Ahl Sunnah wal Jama’ah uses the term Wahhabi etc., to distinguish the deviants from the real Sunnis, the Wahhabi/Salafis use the word “Sufi” to pinpoint the real Sunnis who don’t follow the creed of Wahhabiyyah. The difference is that Sunnis generally use the term “Sufi” for Awliya-Allah and saintly personalities in Islam, while the Wahhabis consider them polytheists though the fact is that neither their Imams Ibn Taymiyya, Ibn al- Qayyim, and al-Dhahabi nor any of the Imams before them had said that the Sufis were all polytheists.
Sometimes the word “Sufi” is used loosely by those who are not aware of the depth of the meaning of the word. But according to the Ulema there is no harm in attributing it to someone who besides carrying out all the obligatory duties (Fard) also does a lot of supererogatory acts (Nawaafil), lots of remembrance of Allah (Dhikr Allah), and purifies his soul so that all his deeds are in compliance with the Sharia (Sacred Law) and is obedient to Allah while refraining from the prohibited acts (Haraam). Such a Sufi cannot be called a “heretic”. Those pretenders and self-proclaimed “Sufis” and mendicants and charlatans who said “Kufr” are to be deprecated. Such pretenders were criticized by the Islamic scholars and such criticisms are wrongly displayed by cults such as Salafiyya to level charges of Kufr (disbelief) and Shirk (Polytheism) in order to fool the simple Muslims into believing that all Sufis are deviant. The same scholars are full of praises for the real Sufis. These scholars who praise them include Ibn Taimiyya and Ibn Qayyim whom the Salafis consider as their Shaykhs. May Allah save us from the machinations of the Salafiyya cult –Ameen!
Islamic Sufism is a fundamental aspect of Traditional Islam: Notably Ibn al-'Arabi has said, as quoted by Shaykh Nuh Keller: "Beware lest you ever say anything that does not conform to the pure Sacred Law. Know that the highest stage of the perfected one (rijal) is the Sacred Law of Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace). And know that the esoteric that contravenes the exoteric is a fraud" (al-Burhani: al-Hall al-sadid, 32)." According to Hadrat Ali b.Uthman al-Hujwiri: A true Sufi is only the one who has held fast to the embrace of the Holy Prophet, and has observed the outward forms of devotion which are incumbent on every Muslim; he must follow the path of the inner spiritual truth of mysticism and Sharia Law; they should not be separated from each other. "The Law without the Truth," says Hujwiri, "is ostentation, and the Truth without the Law is hypocrisy. Their mutual relation may be compared to that of body and spirit: when the spirit departs from the body, the living body becomes a corpse, and the spirit vanishes like wind. The Moslem profession of faith includes both: the words, 'There is no God but Allah,' are the Truth, and the words, 'Mohammed is the Apostle of Allah,' are the Law; anyone who denies the Truth is an infidel, and any one who rejects the Law is a heretic."
Tasawwuf or Sufism which is the spiritual science of Sunni Islam, is recognized and respected by all major Sunni scholars through history. To take a few examples:
Imam Abu Hanifa (85 H. - 150 H) - "If it were not for two years, I would have perished." He said, "for two years I accompanied Sayyidina Ja'far as-Sadiq and I acquired the spiritual knowledge that made me a gnostic in the Way." [Ad-Durr al-Mukhtar, vol 1]
Imam Malik (95 H. - 179 H.) - "whoever studies Jurisprudence [tafaqaha] and didn't study Sufism [tasawwaf] will be corrupted; and whoever studied Sufism and didn't study Jurisprudence will become a heretic; and whoever combined both will reach the Truth." ['Ali al-Adawi , vol. 2]
Imam Shafi'i (150 - 205 AH.) - "I accompanied the Sufi people and I received from them three knowledges: ...how to speak; how to treat people with leniency and a soft heart... and they... guided me in the ways of Sufism." [Kashf al-Khafa, 'Ajluni, vol. 1]
Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal (164 - 241 AH.) - "O my son, you have to sit with the People of Sufism, because they are like a fountain of knowledge and they keep the Remembrance of Allah in their hearts. they are the ascetics and they have the most spiritual power." [Tanwir al-Qulub]
Imam Ghazzali (450 - 505 AH.) - "I knew verily that Sufis are the seekers in Allah's Way, and their conduct is the best conduct, and their way is the best way, and their manners are the most sanctified. They have cleaned their hearts from other than Allah and they have made them as pathways for rivers to run receiving knowledge of the Divine Presence." [al-Munqidh]
Imam Nawawi (620 - 676 AH.) - "The specifications of the Way of the Sufis are ... to keep the Presence of Allah in your heart in public and in private; to follow the Sunnah of the Prophet (s) ... to be happy with what Allah gave you..."[in his Letters, (Maqasid at-tawhid)]
Ibn Taymiyya (661 - 728 AH) - "Tasawwuf has realities and states of experience which they talk about in their science. Some of it is that the Sufi is that one who purifies himself from anything which distracts him from the remembrance of Allah and who will be so filled up with knowledge of the heart and knowledge of the mind to the point that the value of gold and stones will be the same to him. And Tasawwuf is safeguarding the precious meanings and leaving behind the call to fame and vanity in order to reach the state of Truthfulness, because the best of humans after the prophets are the Siddiqeen, as Allah mentioned them in the verse: "[And all who obey Allah and the Apostle) are in the company of those on whom is the grace of Allah: of the prophets, the sincere lovers of truth, the martyrs and the righteous; Ah! what a beautiful fellowship." (an-Nisa', 69,70)”] According to him, the truth is that the Sufiyya “are striving in Allah's obedience [mujtahidin fi ta'at-illahi], as others of Allah's People strove in Allah's obedience. So from them you will find the Foremost in Nearness by virtue of his striving [as-saabiq ul-muqarrab bi hasab ijtihadihi]. And some of them are from the People of the Right hand [Ahl al-Yameen mentioned in Qur'an in Sura Waqi'ah], but slower in their progress.... And this is the origin of Tasawwuf. And after that origin, it has been spread and [tasha'abat wa tanawa'at] has its main line and its branches. [Majmu'a Fatawa Ibn Taymiyya al-Kubra, Vol. 11, Book of Tasawwuf]
Ibn Qayyim (691 - 751 AH.) - "We can witness the greatness of the People of Sufism, in the eyes of the earliest generations of Muslims by what has been mentioned by Sufyan ath-Thawri (d. 161 AH), one of the greatest imams of the second century and one of the foremost legal scholars. He said, "If it had not been for Abu Hisham as-Sufi (d. 115) I would never have perceived the action of the subtlest forms of hypocrisy in the self... Among the best of people is the Sufi learned in jurisprudence." [Manazil as-Sa'ireen]
Ibn Khaldun (733 - 808 AH.) - "The way of the Sufis is the way of the Salaf, the preceding Scholars between the Sahaba and Tabi'een of those who followed good guidance..." [Muqaddimat ibn al-Khaldun]
Tajuddin as-Subki (727-771 AH) considered the Sufis as the People of Allah whose supplications and prayers Allah accepts and by means of whom Allah supports human beings (Mu’eed an-Na’am in Chapter of Tasawwuf). Jalaluddin as-Sayuti (849-911 AH) wrote that Tasawwuf is the best and most honourable knowledge that explains the Sunnah of the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam) and to put aside innovation. (Ta’yid al-Haqiqat al-‘Aliyya).
Ibn ‘Abidin (1198-1252 AH) said: "The Seekers in this Sufi Way don't hear except from the Divine Presence and they don't love any but Him. If they remember Him they cry, and if they thank Him they are happy; ... May Allah bless them." [Risa'il Ibn 'Abidin]
Historically Sufis were a group of Muslim intellectuals forming a School of an inner path based on the instructions of the Prophet Mohammed (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam) and the teachings of the Qur’an after the advent of Islam and not before. One generally distinguishes in the history of Sufism four principal periods: (1) The first is that of the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam) and his companions ®. (2) The second is that of the great figures of Sufism such as Hassan al Basri, Rabia Al Adawiya, Al Hallaj, Al Junayd etc. (3) The third corresponds to the formalisation of the doctrines and theory of Sufism. (4) The fourth period is characterized by the propagation of Sufism starting from its centre in Baghdad in Iraq from which it spread towards Iran and India in the east and the west (Maghrib) and Andalusia in the Europe. At the time of the Prophet and his companions, the term Sufism (Tasawwuf) did not exist as a distinct discipline. Rather it was inseparably present in the spirituality of Islam. ‘It was a reality without a name’ which was practised in the daily lives of the companions through their spiritual initiation at the hand of the Prophet. He was their ‘living model’ and source of inspiration.
The ‘People of the Bench’ (Ahl As Suffa) can historically be regarded as the first Sufis as they regularly held gatherings of invocation (Dhikr) and received the blessing of being alluded to in the following revelation: “Restrain thyself along with those who cry unto their Lord at morn and evening, seeking His Countenance; and let not thine eyes overlook them, desiring the pomp of the life of the world; and obey not him whose heart We have made heedless of Our remembrance, who followeth his own lust and whose case hath been abandoned.” [Qur’an 18:28]. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, stood up and went looking for them. He found them at the back of the mosque making remembrance of Allah, exalted is He. He said: 'Praise be to Allah Who did not take away my soul until He commanded me to restrain myself with men of my community. It is with you that I live and with you that I die' ”.
Hadrat Ali bin Uthman al-Hujweri says in his Kashf al-Mahjub: It is related by Ibn Abbas ® that Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam) passed by the people of Veranda, and seeing their poverty and self mortification, he said:
”Rejoice! for whoever of my Ummah preserves in the state in which you are, and is satisfied with his condition, he shall be one of my comrades in Paradise.”
The People of the Bench were companions of the Prophet Muhammad (sal Allahu alaihi wasallam) many of whom were of foreign origin (e.g. Bilal from Ethiopia, Salman from Persia and Suhaib from Rome). They had suffered much injustice and maltreatment from the nobility of the tribe of Quraish. Both their material poverty and their high spiritual aspiration qualify them to be described as ‘faqir’ meaning poor in front of GOD and as a ‘murid’ (A murid one who wants to reach the knowledge of Allah. This term is used in the Quranic verse ‘yuridoune wajhahu’ (wanting the vision of His face). This contains the verb ‘yuridu’ meaning ‘to want’. The one who is in the state of ‘wanting’ is known as a 'murid‘. The name ‘The People of the Bench’ (Ahl As Suffa) according to some Muslim historians provided the origin of the word ‘Sufi’. Many of Ahl al-Suffa devoted themselves to the spiritual-moral life; they occupied themselves with worship at night, fasting and the study of religious sciences during the day. So while these Companions occupied themselves with learning Islam on the one hand, they tried to conduct their lives in accordance with it on the other, and as such became the object of Prophet’s affection.
Hadrat Ali bin Uthman Al-Hujweri (reh.), known in the sub-continent of India and Pakistan as “Data Ganj Baksh” gives some of the names of the Ahl as-Suffa as follows (May Allah be pleased with them all): The Muadhdhin (caller for the prayer) Bilal b. Rabah, - Abu Abdullah Salman al-Farisi, Abu Obadiah Aamar b. Abdullah al-Jarrah, Abu al-Yaqtan, Umaar b. Yasir, Abu Masud Abdullah b. Masud al-Hudhali, Utba b. Masud, Al-Miqdad b. al-Aswad, Khubab b. al-Alarath, Suhaib b. Sinan Rumi, Utbah b Gazwan, Zaid b. al-Khattab, brother of the Caliph Umar, Abu Kabisha, Abu l-Marthad Kinas b. al-Hussein al-Aganwi, Ukkasha b. al-Musin, Masud b. Rabi al-Qari, Abdullah b. Umar, Abu Dhar Jundab b. Junada al-Ghaffari, Safwan b. Bayda, Abu Darda Uwaymr b. Aamar, Abdullah b. Zaid al-Juhni, Abu Lubabah b. Abd al-Mundhir. Besides, the following also belonged to Ahl-i Suffa, but now and then they had recourse to some means of livelihood, may Allah be pleased with them: Abu Huraira, Thawban, Maud b. al-Harith, Sa'ib b. al-Khallad, Thabit b. Wadiat, Abu Ibees Uwaym b. Saaid, Salim b. Umair b. Thabit, Abu Alsar Ka`b b. Umar, Wahb b. Maghfal, Abdullah b. Unis, Hajjaj b. Umaru al-Aslami. It is therefore clear that the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wasallam) received the divine order to be present with this group of companions and to call upon GOD with them. Not having a stable income due to their devotion to the scholarly life, those members of Ahl al-Suffa without enough physical stamina did limited work such as woodcutting and carrying water to supply their needs. They did not ask for anything from anybody even when they were in need due to their modesty and dignity. Whenever the Holy Prophet (Sal Allahu 'alaihi wasallam) received something as charity he used to send it to them and would not retain anything out of it for himself (as charity was forbidden for him and his family). However, whenever he received something as a gift he would send for them and shared it with them. The Companions supported this house of science and wisdom by means of the Prophet’s encouragement and they suppported the Suffa Companions by inviting them to their homes as guests and offering them food. Many scholars attribute the word "Sufi" to the Ahl as-Suffa.
A number of origins of the word "Sufi" has been given. In the book "Secret of Secrets" (Sirr al-Asrar), which has been attributed to Hadrat Shaykh Mohiyudden Abdul-Qadir al-Jilani ®, we read: There is a group of people called the Sufis. Four interpretations are given for this name. Some see, looking at their exterior, that they wear rough woollen garb. In Arabic the word for wool is suf, and they call them Sufis from this. Others, looking at their way of life free from the anxieties of this world, and at their ease and at peace, which in Arabic is safa, call them Sufis on that account. Yet others, seeing deeper, look at their hearts, which are purified of everything other than the Essence of Allah. Because of the purity of those hearts, in Arabic safi, they term them Sufis. Others who know call them Sufis because they are close to Allah and will stand in the first row, in Arabic saff, before Allah on the day of the Last Judgement. [Shaykh Abdul-Qadir al-Jilani, Secret of Secrets, translated by Shaykh Tosun Bayrak, p. 65.]
The heretics and deviants attempt to malign the esoteric form of the religion of Islam which we have seen was known as “Ihsan” during the time of the Holy Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam). Now, if some groups copy or integrate this system under a different brand has nothing to do with Tasawwuf. That Tasawwuf conforms to the strict Islamic doctrines has been expounded by as such by Abu Nasr “Abd Allah ibn ‘Ali al-Sarraj (d.378/988) of Tus, Abu ‘l-Qasim al-Qushairi (d.465/1072); Abu’l-Hasan al-Hujwiri (d.467/1075) and other saints and Ulema. It has no connection with either Greek or Aryan influences because the early saints of Islam did not have the least recourse to translations that appeared centuries later. Even later, say in the 10th century when the form of Tasawwuf was complete, that completion was based on the works of the early Sufi masters which they received from the Salaf as-Saliheen and the Ahlul Bayt, which they passed on to the later generations. It is probably at this time that the word Tasawwuf appeared for the esoteric teachings though, as we previously noted, the reality was already there since the time of Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam).
According to Shaykh Hisham Kabbani, Tasawwuf is a technical term which describes the state of Ihsan, as mentioned in the famous hadith of Jibril, and the process of Tazkiyyat an-Nafs, purification of the self which is mentioned in the Holy Qur'an. The Science of Tasawwuf, or Science of Purification of the Self is mentioned in the Holy Qur'an: "Hua alladhee ba`atha fil-ummiyyin rasulan minhum, yatlu `alayhim ayaatihi wa yuzakihim wa yu`alimahum al-kitaba wal-hikmata wa in kanu min qablu lafee dallaaalim mubeen." In this verse we find four essential principles. One of these four principles mentioned in this verse, purification (Tazkiyya), is mentioned under the words "wa yuzzakihim." "He it is Who raised among the inhabitants of Mecca an Apostle from among themselves, who recites to them His communications and purifies them, and teaches them the Book and the Wisdom, although they were before certainly in clear error." (Jumu'ah, 2,3) It means to purify the believers from all kinds of shirk (association with Allah) and to purify their hearts and to prepare them for the state of Ihsan. Ibn Kathir's explanation of that verse goes to many pages. "Tazkiyya" means "to sanctify," which means to raise the individual from a state of materialism to a state of purification of the heart.
According to Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller: ‘In Ibn Khaldun’s words, the content of Tasawwuf, "total dedication to Allah Most High," was, "the general rule among the Companions of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and the early Muslims." So if the word did not exist in earliest times, we should not forget that this is also the case with many other Islamic disciplines, such as tafsir, ‘Qur'anic exegesis,’ or ‘ilm al-jarh wa ta‘dil, ‘the science of the positive and negative factors that affect hadith narrators acceptability,’ or ‘ilm al-tawhid, the science of belief in Islamic tenets of faith,’ all of which proved to be of the utmost importance to the correct preservation and transmission of the religion…. As for the origin of the word Tasawwuf, it may well be from Sufi, the person who does Tasawwuf, which seems to be etymologically prior to it, for the earliest mention of either term was by Hasan al-Basri who died 110 years after the Hijra, and is reported to have said, "I saw a Sufi circumambulating the Kaaba, and offered him a dirham, but he would not accept it".’
We used the word “Ihsan” above. Let us also check out what “Ihsan” is.
Perhaps the best answer is the hadith of Muslim, that ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab said: As we sat one day with the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace), a man in pure white clothing and jet black hair came to us, without a trace of travelling upon him, though none of us knew him. He sat down before the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) bracing his knees against his, resting his hands on his legs, and said: "Muhammad, tell me about Islam." The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: "Islam is to testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and to perform the prayer, give zakat, fast in Ramadan, and perform the pilgrimage to the House if you can find a way." He said: "You have spoken the truth," and we were surprised that he should ask and then confirm the answer. Then he said: "Tell me about true faith (iman)," and the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) answered: "It is to believe in Allah, His angels, His inspired Books, His messengers, the Last Day, and in destiny, its good and evil." "You have spoken the truth," he said, "Now tell me about the perfection of faith (ihsan)," and the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) answered: "It is to worship Allah as if you see Him, and if you see Him not, He nevertheless sees you." The hadith continues to where ‘Umar said: Then the visitor left. I waited a long while, and the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said to me, "Do you know, ‘Umar, who was the questioner?" and I replied, "Allah and His messenger know best." He said, "It was Gabriel, who came to you to teach you your religion" (Sahih Muslim, 1.37: hadith 8).
Regarding the above hadith shareef, Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller states (The Place of Tasawwuf in Traditional Islam): ‘This is a sahih hadith, described by Imam Nawawi as one of the hadiths upon which the Islamic religion turns. The use of din in the last words of it, Atakum yu‘allimukum dinakum, "came to you to teach you your religion" entails that the religion of Islam is composed of the three fundamentals mentioned in the hadith: Islam, or external compliance with what Allah asks of us; Iman, or the belief in the unseen that the prophets have informed us of; and Ihsan, or to worship Allah as though one sees Him. The Koran says, in Surat Maryam, "Surely We have revealed the Remembrance, and surely We shall preserve it" (Koran 15:9), and if we reflect how Allah, in His wisdom, has accomplished this, we see that it is by human beings, the traditional scholars He has sent at each level of the religion. The level of Islam has been preserved and conveyed to us by the Imams of Shari‘a or ‘Sacred Law’ and its ancillary disciplines; the level of Iman, by the Imams of ‘Aqida or ‘tenets of faith’; and the level of Ihsan, "to worship Allah as though you see Him," by the Imams of Tasawwuf. The hadith’s very words "to worship Allah" show us the interrelation of these three fundamentals, for the how of "worship" is only known through the external prescriptions of Islam, while the validity of this worship in turn presupposes Iman or faith in Allah and the Islamic revelation, without which worship would be but empty motions; while the words, "as if you see Him," show that Ihsan implies a human change, for it entails the experience of what, for most of us, is not experienced. So to understand Tasawwuf, we must look at the nature of this change in relation to both Islam and Iman… At the level of Islam, we said that Tasawwuf requires Islam,through ‘submission to the rules of Sacred Law.’ But Islam, for its part, equally requires Tasawwuf. Why? For the very good reason that the sunna which Muslims have been commanded to follow is not just the words and actions of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), but also his states, states of the heart such as taqwa ‘godfearingness,’ ikhlas ‘sincerity,’ tawakkul ‘reliance on Allah,’ rahma ‘mercy,’ tawadu‘ ‘humility,’ and so on.” Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi (1563-1624 c.e.) Mujaddid alf-e-thaani, wrote that wrote that the Shari`ah has three parts: knowledge, actions, and sincerity. The role of Tasawwuf is to improve our practice of the third aspect of the Shari`ah, namely sincerity.’
Topic on Sufism to continue Insha Allah..