Removing misconceptions about Sufism: An answer

Shaykh Nuh Mim Keller writes in his article, The Place of Tasawwuf in Traditional Islam, which was first recommended to me when i became interested in entering sufism:

"What about the bad Sufis we read about, who contravene the teachings of Islam?

The answer is that there are two meanings of Sufi: the first is "Anyone who considers himself a Sufi," which is the rule of thumb of orientalist historians of Sufism and popular writers, who would oppose the "Sufis" to the "Ulama." I think the Qur'anic verses and hadiths we have mentioned tonight [see article] about the scope and method of true Tasawwuf show why we must insist on the primacy of the definition of a Sufi as "a man of religious learning who applied what he knew, so Allah bequeathed him knowledge of what he did not know."

The very first thing a Sufi, as a man of religious learning knows is that the Shari‘a and ‘Aqida of Islam are above every human being. Whoever does not know this will never be a Sufi, except in the orientalist sense of the word—like someone standing in front of the stock exchange in an expensive suit with a briefcase to convince people he is a stockbroker. A real stockbroker is something else.

[Important para]
Because this distinction is ignored today by otherwise well-meaning Muslims, it is often forgotten that the ‘ulama who have criticized Sufis, such as Ibn al-Jawzi in his Talbis Iblis [The Devil’s deception], or Ibn Taymiya in places in his Fatawa, or Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyya, were not criticizing Tasawwuf as an ancillary discipline to the Shari‘a. The proof of this is Ibn al-Jawzi’s five-volume Sifat al-safwa, which contains the biographies of the very same Sufis mentioned in al-Qushayri’s famous Tasawwuf manual al-Risala al-Qushayriyya. Ibn Taymiya considered himself a Sufi of the Qadiri order, and volumes ten and eleven of his thirty-seven-volume Majmu‘ al-fatawa are devoted to Tasawwuf. And Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyya wrote his three-volume Madarij al-salikin, a detailed commentary on ‘Abdullah al-Ansari al-Harawi’s tract on the spiritual stations of the Sufi path, Manazil al-sa’irin. These works show that their authors’ criticisms were not directed at Tasawwuf as such, but rather at specific groups of their times, and they should be understood for what they are."

Read complete article (lecture transcription) here. For another short introduction to Sufism, a work that negates or clears misconceptions firsts, and then affirms or elucidates what the matter is all about - (this is analogical to what Shahadah in Islam is, i.e., La ilaha illa'llah) - i find this work useful: Sufism: Principles & Practice by Dr. Hamid Algar.
Sufism: Principles & Practice

16 did criticisms:

Akhtar Wasim Dar said...

intelligent argument

Thinking said...

hmm...your post inspires me cause it totally depend on Suufism and Sufi.

Most of the time I wonder why Ulama reject Sufi for being the good muslims?

Or is it Sufi are looking for the Allah in easy way?


Your post sure gives a lot of insight about the questions.

Nice....thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

you haven't posted in a while

I enjoy reading your blog, you always have interesting things to say. :)

M. Umer Toor said...

@ Anon,

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オテモヤン said...


Edward Ott said...

a most excellent article.

Edward Ott said...

most excellent article really helps people understand what is Sufism.

Anonymous said...

a well posited argument but i differ ibn-i-taimiyya in more than one opinions. he more than often is crude in his understanding of spirituality.
keep up the good work.

Samad said...

nice post

Shah said...

I do believe in Sufism and i have a good trust on it..

Muhammad Umer Toor said...

@ All,

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I move to new blog: Umer Toor Blog 2 with same spirits inshaaAllah. please follow it:

Shaheryar Ali said...

This is a very interesting article but the answer does not take into account the historicist perspective. The question that Sufi will keep Sharia and Islamic belief without question doesnt convey the full reality of the picture.
Even most stringent proponents of Sharia in mysticism like Hujjat-ul-Islam Imam Ghezali who famously led the inqusition against muslim philosophers and established the paradigm of "Sharia first" even in sciences and philosophy (with terrible results as we can see for ourselves) had to make a distinction between the "sharia as understood by the commons" and Sharia as understood by the "enlightened elite". The most fundamental of concepts like "Toheed" , he comments about the chapter of Toheed in Koran, Kul ho Allah ho Ahad---" saying its the Toheed of the commoner. Not those of a enlightened elite (Sufi). This "accomodation" has to be made even by most sharia following sufis too. Because its not the same experiance , the Sharia and Tareqa , Most important minds of muslim failed to resolve this conflict like Ghezali, Tamiyiia, Iqbal--- chamging from one position to another.
Later Ghezali was declared Kafir i think by Tamiya himself. He nevertheless citicized him. Ghezali influence led to mass book burning in muslim world, later history records burning of his books by Mullah for being "un islamic"
Iqbal moved from declaring Ibn e Arabi Kafir and later quoting him in his works and last of allma works show he started thinking on same line which he criticized. Javed Nama celebrated Hussein Hallaj.

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In my point of view MURSHID is compulsory but KAMIL MURSHID

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