Sufism as a Heart of Islam
There is always the knowledge passing through which is a kind of test for people for the moral improvement. The people who passed this difficult way of the spiritual searches become moral and spiritual ancestors called differently in different centuries and different nationalities. In India, they were called “Mahatma” and “Makharisha”, in Greece – “wise men”, in ancient Judea – “the prophets”, in Egypt – “saints” and “devotees”, in the Middle East – “Sufis”. There are two extremely opposite points of view on the adherence of Sufism to Islam. The followers of the idea that Sufism is a heart of Islam say that Sufism is the way to the Absolute Reality. Love is the inducing force for the movement in it, and the purposeful concentration and internal steadiness in any situation is the means of its promotion. There is nothing except the God at the end of this way. The opponents of the idea that Islam is based on Sufism say that it is the mystical movement in Islam. This term includes all Muslim doctrines the purpose of which is to develop the theoretical bases and the practical ways allowing a direct communication between a person with God. Sufis call it “the knowledge of the truth”. The truth is when Sufi, having exempted from the carnal desires, in the condition of ecstasy - intoxication by the divine love - is capable of the intimate communication with a deity. Sufis include all those who believe in the direct communication with the God and do everything for the achievement of it. Therefore, being one of the mystical movements in Islam, Sufism has a lot of followers and opponents, the first of which consider it to be the heart of Islam, while the others – the perversion of Islam.
The journey of the Sufi will usually consist of four stages – the first is gradual removal of the ‘nafs’ or the animal spirit so that our higher qualities come to the fore, the second is the cleansing of the heart and the creation of love for God alone, the third is constant remembrance of God and the last stage is illumination in God or “Fana” (the passingaway of the self and living in God). As Rumi says: The heart is nothing but the sea of light… the place of the vision of God.
Sufism is the multi-causal cosmopolitan phenomenon, which incorporated the elements of various cultures and united the representatives of many nationalities of the Middle East. The main part of this population accepted Islam and created the so-called Muslim culture. Islam and the Quran are the main sources of Sufism.
The ideas of humanity and free-thinking are inherent in Sufism. This side of Sufism widely involved thinkers, philosophers and poets. Besides, the orientation of the Sufi pantheism against the Islam dogmas, the Sufi practice calling for the indifferent attitude to the requirements, the external submissions of Sharia undoubtedly, directly promoted the shaking of the fundamentals of Islam and the Sharia. Together with the natural sciences and other progressive currents Sufism promoted the growth and strengthening of free-thinking.
The fundamentalism and religious extremism, being covered by the Islamic dogmas, forge their true essence, give the political coloring, thus being the slogan about the creation of the uniform caliphate under the green banner of the sacred Islam. In this ideological, sometimes political struggle the research of the historical and philosophical essence of Sufism, which resisted the violence and injustice at all stages of the development, acquires a special relevance. The doctrine of Sufism, its true aspirations are alien and completely denied by the modern Islamic fundamentalism and religious extremism.
Sufism occupies an important place in the history of the spiritual life of the Muslim world of the East. The scientific researches conducted by the historians, philosophers, and the representatives of the other social humanities give the chance for the explanation of the social roots of this mystical stream in Islam. Moreover, they define its role in the spiritual and social development of the Muslim society, the discrepancy of its social, political and ideological tasks and formations of the ideas of the fourteen-century evolution. During the emergence and development of Sufism, proceeding from the historical stages, the regional social, political, cultural and spiritual features were revealed in various forms and directions. During this period of time, Sufism turned into the perfect doctrine.
Sufism as a movement developed from the historical Islam. The opponents of Sufism declare just the opposite, stating that Sufism is the reaction against the Islam positions. The third consider that the Sufi ideas come from the Christianity or that they partially or completely can be carried to the influence of the Persian Zoroastrianism, or they come from China or India. The Sufis claim that Sufism is an esoteric doctrine in the context of Islam with which it is considered to be quite compatible and, at the same time, is much wider.
Sufism is the way of the purification of a human soul from the bad qualities and instilling of laudable qualities to the spirit or “rukh”. This way is passed by “murid” (“the one who searches for”) passes under the direction of the “murshid” (“the spiritual mentor”) who already achieved the end of the way and got the permission to the mentorship from the murshid. The murshid - the Sufi sheikh - is a part of the chain of sheikhs which goes back to the Prophet. “Suf” (Arabic “صوف”) is the woolen clothes, “Sufi” means “the person dressed in the woolen clothes, a sackcloth”. Traditionally, Sufis wore the woolen clothes. “Hyrka” is the honorable clothes of a dervish. It symbolizes the Divine Morality and Attributes. Some people mistakenly believed that the sackcloth possessed these qualities, and considered those who wore them to be saints.
Sufism is the way of self-improvement, purification from the sins and the development of virtues. Sufism gives the superiority leading to sanctity. The beginning of this way includes the true knowledge, the following step - observance of the rules in accordance with the knowledge, and the result – mauhibat or gift. In Sufism, there are the concepts and terms having a deep value. Mauhibat is the fruit of the Sufi’s way of the personal development of the spiritual state. The way of Sufism was explained by the Muslim theologians: “Sufis learn the results of the states which are consequences of the good acts”. For example, when people sin, their spiritual states worsen, and when observes the commands of the God, their states improve. For the correct actions, the correct knowledge based on the correct belief are necessary. The correct knowledge includes about the Allah and Rasul Allah, the observance of the Allah’s command, etc. The Sufi try to choose those acts which will bring more remuneration and will help to achieve the highest virtue. Such acts develop honor and piety.
Sufism in itself is the science, worthy honoring; its core incudes the following to Sunnah and the refusal of innovations, the withdrawal from the flesh and its habits, self-interest, desires and will, submission to the Allah and content of His decisions, search for His love and humiliation of all the rest. Sufism is based on the tassavuf, representing the clarification of heart from the blamed properties and qualities, from the bad motives of a soul, it is the communication with the knowledge and following to the prophet Mahomed in accordance with the norms of Islam - the Sharia. Islam is not limited only to the observance of the external ceremonies of worship. The execution of the ordered ceremonies without the corresponding internal state cannot satisfy the Muslim. Ihsan is one of the fundamentals of the Sufism. It is based on the worshipping Allah based on the idea that a person can see the God and He can see a person. Therefore, the goal of the tassavuf includes the purification of a human heart, being based on the Quran and Sunnah.
The Sufi brotherhoods existing since the Middle Ages differed with the choice of the way of the mystical knowledge and the movement to truth. In these Sufi brotherhoods, the murid had to pass the whole way to the truth under the leadership of the murshid. Mentors claimed that there are the possibilities of the release from the personal “I” and connection with the God.
The accusation of paganism, polytheism, and address to the dead people is considered to be the most severe argument against Sufism. Actually, it is the practice called “tavassul” when believers ask from the Allah for the sake of the prophets and righteous persons or, on the contrary, address the prophet or the holy men with the request to pray for them. Such a practice is also considered legal (and even desirable) provided that people consider prophets or “auliya” only as the means for the achievement of Allah’s favor and content.
The Sufi mystics claimed that in the case of the complete deepening into the meditation about the love for the God, about the unity with the God, there is the feeling of the elimination of “I”, the person disappears, and there is only the God. There is the name of this state – “fan”. This name has become the technical term of Sufism since the end of the 9th century and acquires the huge value because the fan is understood by the most part of the Sufi schools as an ultimate goal of the traveler of a tariqa (a Sufi way). The way of the mystical self-improvement was divided into three main stages. Sharia - the first stage - is the beginning of the way of knowledge, the code of the Muslim religious laws. This stage is necessary for a Sufi, as without passing it, it is impossible to start the further study of the five pillars of Islam, including the belief, five times pray, fasting during Ramadan, pilgrimage to the sacred city of Mecca, and payment of zakat.
Tariqa – the second stage - or the way of the spiritual improvement which contains various moral and psychological methods by means of which a person who is looking for self-improvement can be directed to the purpose in the shortest way. It is a kind of the guide of the spirit, looking for the God. The tariqa means the spiritual life of the traveler on the way to the God. Each traveler who chose the Sufi method of knowledge of the Truth has a personal, individual inner world, peculiar only to him. Therefore, the Sufi sheikhs say that the quantity of the ways to the God corresponds to the number of travelers.
Being based on the principles, which have nothing in common with Islam, its enemies try to prove that there are a lot of names for Sufism and they include the Buddhist monks, the Christian saints and the Indian fakirs. They indicate the existence of the Buddhist, Christian, Indian and Persian Sufism. However, the believing person will get to the truth and understand that Sufism is the practical embodiment of Islam, and there is no other Sufism, except for the Islamic one.
The main goal of Sufism is the comprehension of the absolute reality. However, this comprehension is based not on the explanation by the scientists, the logical proofs, and vivid examples, but on the idea how it exists in itself. This knowledge can be found only by means of a heart - inspiration and spiritual contemplation. Sufism is the way to the God through love. It is the heart of Islam. Thus, being based on all the above-mentioned arguments, it is possible to say that Sufism is not the collection of the harmful innovations or Islamic mysticism, it is the science or the way within Islam which sets the purification of a human heart from defects as a goal and his approach to Allah’s favor. The Islamic scientists approved and acknowledged the legality of this science, and many of them even follow this way.
Sufism represents the controversial name, given to the various social and institutional manifestations of the internal essence of the Islamic belief. The word “Sufism” was not known at the time of the Rasul Allah, his associates, and followers. It arose when there was a group of the ascetics who carried wool (“suf”), giving the name for this movement. The emergence of this new name and the group of people to which it was applied aggravated the division of Muslims. The early Sufis differed from the late ones, as they extended the innovations more and entered polytheism into the customs of people.
There are three main tendencies in the Sufism. Firstly, the promotion and formation of the external embodiment of the religious structures connected with the mystical experience led to such things as the cultivation of miracles and the veneration of saints. From the mystical point of view, it is the perversion of Islam. The perversion in Sufism could have especially negative consequences. Secondly, the wide recognition of the speculative cosmology as an integral part of the life of Sufi is connected with the emphasis on the ecstatic visions and even visions of the imagined life as central for the spiritual growth. Thirdly, both the promotion and the emphasis on vision promoted the more attention to the methods of the fast meditation and ecstasy, sometimes with the help of drugs.
The opponents of Islam state that Sufism is the perversion of Islam and the so-called Sufi neglect the Islamic bases. Sufism, underlying the Islamic culture containing the cult if saints and special rituals and the respect of the Sufi brotherhoods, is the perversion of the divine nature and origin of Islam. The Sufi have polytheism, worshipping the prophets and aulia, alive and dead, together with the Allah. Moreover, the Sufi attribute the extraordinary abilities to their teachers, including the flying in the air, walking on water like it’s solid ground, reading somebody’s mind, etc.
Another argument against the adherence of Sufism to Islam includes the statement that Sufism is the backwardness of the Muslim world. According to this position, Sufism is the religion of the illiterate people, being the result of the superstitious beliefs, brought from the other religions and cultures. Sufism should be eradicated for the restoration of the pure Islamic tradition and the development of the modern science and technologies. In parallel with the development of Sufism in the Muslim world, there was the spread of the Sufism studies in the West. The great number of the Sufistic books were translated into the European languages. The majority of them do not have anything in common with the real bases of Sufism. Instead, they justify the dubious studies about Allah and the pillars of Islam.
The paradox consists in the fact that Sufism, attracting the laymen by its mysteriousness and the poetic atmosphere of the sublime gnosis is rather trivial and, like any pantheism, is narrowed to the organic paradigms of the so-called “natural religion”. Sufism represents the distortion of the essence of Islam. It leads people to the meditation, withdraws them into themselves, doing them inactive. In fact, people become vegetables singing the zikra songs and consider the sheikhs to be the intermediaries between them and the God.
Sufism is the very delicate deception of the Satan entered into Islam. The supporters of Sufism remind all pagans with their cult of honoring of the saint teachers, worship of their remains and graves. The so-called Sufi sheikhs deceive people, pushing the doctrine about the reincarnations and the God’s many-hypostasis nature, about the admissibility of the worship the images of teachers into Islam. In fact, there is only the name of Islam in Sufism.
Therefore, there is the tactical development designed to substitute the Muslim science of the spiritual enhancement with the hybrid of various occult and mystical ideas based on the atheistic “ephemeral” values of the modern western society. The conditions created by Islam are suitable for the Sufi doctrine. Islam provided more favorable conditions for the spread of the secret doctrine than any of the prior religions.
Sufism is the heart of Islam. The sincere address to the Almighty True Allah, the honoring and compliance with the Prophet’s Sunnah composes the fundamentals of Sufism. To sum up, Sufism is the mystical tradition, the purpose of which includes the spiritual transformation and perfection. The ideas of Sufism are universal and can be found in the most various spiritual doctrines and religions. The doctrine of Sufism is not narrowed to any one doctrine, but it takes a new shape depending on the historical circumstances and psychological features of the specific people. It is the way leading the seeker to the reality. It is diverse like a life itself, and each person has his or her own way, though the purpose is common. Sufism is the name of the method of the comprehension of reality. From this point of view, Sufism is ahistoric movement, preceding religion. The love and devotion compose the cornerstone of Sufism. Thus, there is no contradiction between Islam and Sufism, as the former is only one of the sciences of the Muslim doctrine like Muslim legislation, dogma, Quran readings, etc.