In the Name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful.
Sufism (Tasawwuf) is the esoteric
teaching of Islam. We are living in the 21st Century, the
age of instant communication, social media and YouTube and
so would hope by now that Sufism does not require too much
explanation. This teaching has been made more accessible
around the world not only by way of the internet, but by
the thousands of books written on the subject and the biographies
of the great Saints of Islam. We are not surprised when
we discovered that the best-selling books around the world
are by the great Sufi mystical poets. For the sake of clarification
and explanation, and as an introduction to our web site,
we put forward a short introduction to this great esoteric
teaching of Islam. Like anything else, there is an inward
and an outward and Islam is no exception.
There are many different explanations of where
the name 'Sufi' began. One is 'suf'- the Arabic word meaning
'wool'. It has been said in the Traditions of the Holy Prophet
that the Prophet Musa (Moses) was wearing wool when he went
to speak with God on Mount Sinai . In the early days wool
was a very cheap commodity, worn by ascetics as a sign of
humility and detachment. Wool is the opposite of silk, which
represents wealth and material comforts. In some Traditions
the Sufis are connected with the Companions of the Holy
Prophet. There was a group of very highly devoted and sincere
seekers of God named Ahl as-Suffa, the People of the Bench.
They spent their lives in a state of remembrance of God
and complete detachment from this world.
It has also been said, that Sufism is related
to the root of the word "safa" - to purify - here
meaning to purify the heart of everything other-than-God.
There are many names attached to this particular teaching.
The Sufis nonetheless say: "If one says he is a Sufi,
he is not a Sufi". To be a Sufi is to be in a state
of complete awareness of the self, in service to the creations,
and complete awareness of the Divine Supreme Being (Allah).
"The goal of self-transformation is to
remove all the veils between us and God. The final veil
is the "I", the sense of separateness we each
carry. To remove this is far from easy. Ask yourself, "How
can I take the "I" out of me?"
The Sufis take as their starting point the
Unity of God - Laa ilaha illa'Allah - There is no god but
One God; There is no reality but One Reality. It is not
that we have to acknowledge the Unity of God. God does not
need our confirmation. It is for our own benefit that we
make this declaration. When one starts with Unity it is
easy to integrate all the different "I's" which
have no function except to confuse and mislead us. For this
reason the Sufis use the remembrance of Allah (Dhikr) in
all of its forms, including prayer, fasting, charity and
selfless actions in order to awaken the subtle centres of
In Islam and in Sufism there are seven states
of consciousness that have been mentioned in the Holy Qur'an.
When we progress through them we will reach the Ultimate
Truth and the Ultimate Unity of Realization of God. It is
hard; and at the same time it is easy. If we are sincere
and if we desire and really wish to be with God then, as
Allah says in the Holy Qur'an, 'He is closer to us than
our jugular vein'. And, 'If you take one step towards Me,
I will come running towards you'.
"The Sufis are people who love God over everything
and God loves them more intensely".
So the first step on the journey is , as we
mentioned, the acknowledgment of God, which includes the
acceptance of 124,000 prophets and messengers of God who
have been sent to humanity and to the entire creation at
large. This should not be difficult since we did not create
ourselves, but were created by the Merciful and Loving Allah,
who is the Creator and Sustainer of all things.
The last Prophet and Messenger of God is the
Holy Prophet Muhammad (may the Peace and Blessings of Allah
be upon him). If we acknowledge this then the second step
is to worship, because there is no point in acknowledging
God if we do not obey Him. As a Sufi poet said: "You
disobey Allah and you claim His Love. That is indeed a very
strange kind of love!" If you are truly a lover of
God you will obey Him because the lover is in a state of
total surrender to his Beloved. So - worship you must! However,
worship is not just the movements of the body. It is a state
of knowledge, because in the true sense you cannot worship
something that you do not know. So, the Sufis say: "Worship!"
Worship in the Arabic tradition is called ibadat. Ibadat
should take us to ubudiyya meaning slavehood. If worship
does not produce this result then it has not been done properly.
The highest state of consciousness is to be completely and
totally submitted to our Beloved, Allah.
There are four stages of practice and understanding as
taught by the Holy Prophet:
Shariah (religious law),
Tariqah (the mystical path),
and Marifah (Gnosis).
Each is built upon the stages that go before.
There are also other steps in this method
of development of the self. It is highly recommended to
observe the one month of fasting every year (the Holy month
of Ramadaan) in order to experience something of hunger
and to tame the animal self. The Murshid, or Teacher, of
a Sufi order or school to whom one attaches oneself, may
recommend other fasts if they are required.
There is also zakat, the poor tax, which deals
with material wealth. When we practise zakat, which requires
2.5% of our wealth to be given to the needy, then, according
to the esoteric Teaching, we are learning detachment and
generosity and many other qualities. We must know that the
best gift one can give to others is a heart full of love
and respect for all the creations of God. The required poor
tax is the absolute minimum, but it is much better to be
generous at all times in every area of life. This practice
will accelerate the illumination of the self.
Additionally there is the Hajj or pilgrimage.
The Holy Prophet said: "Whoever dies without the intention
to go on the Pilgrimage, may die on a different faith than
that of surrender to Allah". One must strive to perform
pilgrimage to the House of Allah once in a lifetime. However,
the real pilgrimage is to travel to one's heart because
it is the Real House of Allah. Allah says 'Neither My heavens
or My earth contain Me, but the heart of My believing slave
Die before you die.
The Sufis use all of these methods and more to transform
the self. It is common knowledge that the ego-self cannot
surrender to itself. From day one we are learning from our
parents, our peers, schoolteachers, our university lecturers,
and the masters of whatever trade we undertake. There is
always someone at the beginning who must show us how to
learn. No one is born knowing everything and the Sufi aspirant
is no exception. In Tasawwuf there is something called the
Spiritual Genealogy. In some parts of the world it is called
Mukafaf - People of the hand. That is, you must take the
hand of the one nearest to you to link you to the chain
which goes back to the First Teacher who brought this Teaching
to us, the Holy Prophet Muhammad, who links us to Allah
Himself. It is like a magnetic circle. The one who attaches
himself becomes like a magnet, receiving the barakah, spiritual
blessings, and participating in the Universal Remembrance
of God, because this Teaching is for all humanity. It is
Universal. It is fresh and unadulterated and it gives you
access to everything that your heart desires and everything
that you wish for on this earth and beyond.
Almiraj Sufi & Islamic Study Centre was
established in Australia in 1983. It provides all those
who want to know - and who really want to know - with a
large range of books on the Sufi traditions and their original
sources and other traditions as well. So, I hope this introduction
helps to give you some idea, but if you want more than the
menu - the kitchen and the Cook are here on the Web. May
your search bring you success in this life and the next.
And may Allah fill our hearts and yours with Peace, Love
and Knowledge and Guide us all to Him, by Him. Ameen.
Wa ma tawfiq illa Billah.
Murshid F.A. Ali ElSenossi- Spiritual Director, Almiraj
Sufi & Islamic Study Centre
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