Because of Islam's austere rational and intellectual qualities, many people have felt drawn toward the more emotional and personal ways of knowing God practiced by mystical Islam, or Sufism. Found in many parts of the Muslim world, Sufism endeavored to produce a personal experience of the divine through mystic and ascetic discipline.
Sufi adherents gathered into brotherhoods, and Sufi cults became extremely popular, particularly in rural areas. Sufi brotherhoods exercised great influence and ultimately played an important part in the religious revival that swept through North Africa during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Sufi followers understand Islam in a mystic way. Sufi doesn't differ from Islam in the theological point of view, to use a Western term. The Sufi interpretation is a different way to look at Islam. Ardor is the medium to get in touch with God. Sufi followers use a variety of techniques to move toward God, like singing, circular dances, etc.
The fundamental nature of Sufi is that the person who has chosen this path can reach an individual contact with God. Sufi followers have a teacher who acts as an intermediary between God and the person. The teacher gives the precepts according to which people should behave. Usually Sufi followers respect these rules. A wali Allah is a Sufi who has reached the end of the Journey to Allah.
Sufism has come to mean those who are interested in finding a way or practice toward inner awakening and enlightenment. This movement developed as a protest against corrupt rulers who did not embody Islam and against the legalism and formalism of worship which paid more attention to the form rather than content of the faith. Many of the sufis became ascetics, began to gather disciples around themselves and developed into religious orders, known as dervishers. Others forsook the orders and became mendicants, traveling around the country side, living off the charity of others. Many sufis were outstanding men of saintly stature. Not all sufis were accepted by the more conservative elements of Islam due to their unorthodox habits and beliefs. Sufi influence has grown over the centuries and today there are literally hundreds of mystic orders with millions of adherents. They are most prevalent in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Arabia.
Islam's mystical tradition emphasizes the direct knowledge, personal experience, and spiritual sovereignty of God, is at odds with the official Sunni establishment and its dedication to enforcing the legal and political sovereignty of Allah. Sufism, which makes use of paradigms and concepts derived from Greek, Hindu, and other non-Islamic sources, is generally less concerned with reinforcing and defending religious boundaries. The Sufi doctrine of "the unity of being," moreover, has inclined Sufis to emphasize interiority and the oneness of humanity, often at the expense of militant Islam's insistence on the conformity of the external world of state and society to Shari'a.
To the Sufi, perhaps the greatest absurdity in life is the way in which people strive for things - such as knowledge - without the basic equipment for acquiring them. They have assumed that all they need is "two eyes and a mouth," as Nasrudin says. In Sufism, a person cannot learn until he is in a state in which he can perceive what he is learning, and what it means ... This is why Sufis do not speak about profound things to people who are not prepared to cultivate the power of learning-something which can only be taught by a teacher to someone who is sufficiently enlightened to say: "Teach me how to learn." There is a Sufi saying: "Ignorance is pride, and pride is ignorance. The man who says 'I don't have to be taught how to learn' is proud and ignorant."
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|