Sufi is simply an active participle for a person who practices the science of tassawuf by study and application. Tassawuf, although new in terminology, is in fact from the Qur’an and the Sunnah. It is described in the Qur’an as tazkiyah, and is known in the Ahaadeeth as Ihsaan. Imaam Ibn Taymiyyah states that “Tassawuf is the state of Ihsaan and it is described in the Qur’an as Tazkiyah an-Nafs…”
In short Tassawuf is the science of purification of the heart, mind, body and the soul, by the development of taqwa to avoid what Allah has forbidden and take the path that Allah has enjoined, and to have adab and Akhlaaq knowing “Allah is seeing you” at every moment. So not only is tazkiyah purification from sins, but also perfection of character. Tassawuf is therefore simply a synonym
Wahhabis all to often try to paint Sufis as a deviant cult but yet are unaware that Imaam Ibn Taymiyyah has dedicated a whole volume [volume 11] from his Majmu’a al-Fatawaa to the science of tassawuf, in which he wrote the following: “The Sufi is in reality from amongst the people of truth. So he is one who specialises in the field of Zuhd and worship… “as-Sufi huwa fil-haqiqah naw’un min as-siddiqeen. Fahuwa as-siddiq alladhi ikhtassa bil-zuhadi wal-’ibadah…”
The Shaykh says further: “…Some of the people accept blindly the wrong practices that has been innovated with Tassawuf, causing others to reject it in totality. The right attitude, however, is to accept what is in agreement with the Qur’an, and the Sunnah, and to reject whatever has no foundation upon [the Qur’an and the Sunnah]…”
We cannot deny the reality that not every Muslim is guided correctly on the path of Islam due to the division of the 72 cults, however it would not be correct to claim that every Muslim is misguided. Sufis are from the Muslims, some are rightly guided some are misguided. This is a reality that the true Sufiyah accept. Imaam ‘Abdur Rahmaan al-Jawzi has made a point of the deviant Sufis in his text Talbees Iblees, however we cannot forget who his teacher was, the great Shaykh Abdul Qaadr al-Jilaani!
Shaykh Abdul Qaadir al-Jilaani said in his text Sirr al-Asrar, p. 65:
“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.”
The word tassawuf and its active participle [ism faa'3l] has been around as long as Imaam Maalik’s time, for Imaam Maalik has been reported to have said ” “Whoever practices tassawuf and does not practice his fiqh has corrupted his faith; likewise, whoever practices his fiqh and does not practice tassawuf has corrupted himself. Whosoever combines the two together, has proven to be true”
We see from this that Muslims upon the Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah have long identified themselves with being upon the path of Sufis, throughout almost 1400 years as Imaam Maalik was from the first generation! The same cannot be said for the term “Salafi” which has only appeared in the 13th century AH/ 1900ce.
With this said, the claim that the Sufis are a deviant cult, simply falls to the ground
As-Salaamu ‘alaykum, Wahhabis do much disparaging talk about the four Sisalahs of Sufi Islam. Below is a little something I have recently written. Even though I specifically speak from being inside the Naqshbani Tareeqah, I would like the reader to keep in mind I mean all sisalahs in general.
The Naqshbandi Tareeqah owes it’s name to Baha-ud-Din Naqshband Bukhari [rahmatullah alayhi] who was born in the 7th century of Islam [after hijrah]. But yet out of the 13 spiritual masters [Khawajagaan] between Baha ud-deen and Abu Bakr as-Sideeq radiy Allahu anhu, the spiritual teachings and order was named Naqshbandi after him. There is nothing wrong with this labeling of the tareeqah, and since the teachings have been passed down from teacher to teacher, it is far from being an innovation of any sort.
Do those who criticize the four sisalas a ever stop to think why their favourate hadeeth collection is called Saheeh al-Bukhari instead of Saheeh al-Hadeeth?
The Sahaabah radiy Allahu anhum never quoted any hadeeth from a collection called Saheeh al-Bukhaari, nor Saheeh Muslim for that matter. These collections were unknown to them. Yet the hadeeth found within were certainly passed down from the Sahaabah radiy Allahu anhum.
The same is true when it comes to the the fiqh of tassawuf, which has only been coined with the names of the four sisalahs.
It is all too easy to confuse people regarding these matters. So much so, that the hadeeth prophecy that in the end times the Sunnah will be classified as bid’ah and the bid’ah will be classified as Sunnah has now come true. How can we distinguish sunnah from bid’ah when cultists are playing deceptive games with labels, yet fail to realize that the spirit behind these labels are in fact from the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah and his Sahaabah?
Let us look at a modern example unreleated to the deen. Let us use Asda supermarket as an example. Asda is a new company that merged with Wall-mart in 1999. Asda was unknown in the Prophet’s time, the Sahaabah certinaly did not shop for Asda special price products or ever witness the extravagance of what we know in our times as a supermarket,
Can we call Asda an innovation? What is Asda but a label? What about the products that are sold inside? Did not the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wasallam have honey? vinegar? and other products found within this “great innovation”? I am pretty sure milk has been around since the creation of a cow, has it not? In all sincerity, we cannot claim the products are innovation, no matter what label they come under. You can deceive people by the label, but not by the product. New label, same product, should register in any sound mind as not an innovation.
The unfortunate reality is that the charge of innovation is all to common amongst those who wish to foster bad opinion and evil about their brothers, This causes self righteous people to form puritan cults and make false claims and accusations against the people of truth, But let us peel back these false claims and accusations and place them under the microscope to see if they can stand the test of sincere research and examination.
If we did this with everything that our opposition claims to be innovation, indeed we would uncover the many trickery tactics and flawed logic of none other than Shaytaan, and indeed he is truly weak. With sincere research, the true facts surface and the false claims of the cultists fail dismally, and as always the truth prevails.
The simple truth regarding the Naqshbandi Sufi order is that it is in fact from the Sunnah and part of Islam. Just as the names of the four known surviving madh-habs of Fiqh, Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi and Hanbali, the sisalas [i.e. the Sufi Tareeqahs] also take their names after the Ulemaa that were most famous for reviving the science of tasawwuf. This does not mean that the science was unknown to Rasul Allah sal Allahu alayhi wasallam and the Sahaabah, all because the names Naqshbandi, Qadri, Chisti, etc were unheard of in their time.
The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wasallam taught the doctrine onto his companions in which was then passed down from teacher to student in a traditional manner. Each of the sislahs has a chain leading back to the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wasallam, and these chains are unique to the true claimants of the Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah. “
Furthermore, we fail to see any revivers [mujadiddeen] that came after the naming of the Naqshbandi ever call the Naqshbandiyyah out by name to be either innovation or deviance. Nothing is said in Ibn Hajara al-Asqalani’s works, Ibn Katheer’s works, Imaam as-Suyuti’s works, Imaam adh-Dhahabi’s works, Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali’s works. Had the Naqshbandis been in oppistion to the doctrines and the truth of the Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah, then surely we should have at least found some warning about them in the books of the mentioned Imaams!
Not even Taqi ud-Deen Ibn Taymiyyah has spoken about the Naqshbandis as being a deviated cult, not once, and the Naqshbandi movement [as Wahhabis would have us believe] is said to have originated in his era. Yet “Shaykh ul-Islam” failed to warn against this “deviated cult”? Had Ibn Taymiyyah warned against the Naqshbandiyyah, would have Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab an-Najdi studied under Muhammad Hayyat as-Shindi who was not only a Hanafi by fiqh, but a Naqshbandi Sufi! Why do we not even find in Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab’s works any mention of the Naqshbandis as being a deviated cult? The only reason why is because it is simply not there.
These accusations against the four Sufi sislahs are new, and any new thesis without any authority being sent down by Allah is simply innovation. We have no choice but to conclude that it is the modern Wahhabi rhetoric that is the true innovation. Such people who carry these ideas only deal in slander and evil opinions about their Muslim brothers, and if they are not careful, their tongues, their false accusations and slanderous remarks will be the cause of them entering the Jahhanam. May Allah save us all from this. Ameen