Wednesday, January 28, 2009

About Sufism

When it is said that Islam is the religion of 'nature', or is a natural religion, it means that Islam suits human nature and can meet all its requirements. But what is human nature and how can the tenets of Islam satisfy it?

We all know that man is a combination of body and soul (or spirit). The existence of man's soul has now been scientifically proven, with evidences taken from experiences of telepathy, levitation, clairvoyance, and other 'extra sensory perception'. Photographs of the soul's aura have also been recorded by scientific means.

Since the human body belongs to the material world, it has the tendency to pull us downward to its low earthly origin. The soul, however, is of Divine nature and has the tendency to pull us upwards to its spiritual origin.

Human life is thus the name of the constant tug of war between the lower bodily and higher spiritual forces. If the former gets stronger, man succumbs to greed, anger, arrogance, and is ruined. If, however, the latter gains the upper hand, he gets exalted to Divine nearness, presence and union, and wins the battle of life.

All the prophets of God and heavenly books came to warn and help mankind to keep a happy balance between the body and soul and to reach the final destination of God without difficulty.

Another characteristic of human nature is that both the body and soul need food to survive. The body is material and its food is material, while the soul is spiritual and gets restless without its spiritual food.

The relationship between body and soul is similar to that of a horse and rider; both are needed to complete the journey: the horse to bear the rider, and the rider to guide the horse to the proper destination.

In fact, the present day restlessness, worries, conflicts and confrontation in the whole world in general and in the West in particular, are due to the fact that while everything is being done to feed the body (the horse), pretty nothing is done to feed the soul (the rider) who in the end really matters.

It is hoped that the collection of books on Sufism presented here will provide guidance to readers in feeding their souls with spiritual food that will lead to the tranquility, contentment and happiness that has been long sought after.

Everything has two sides, the exterior and the interior. Its value depends, not so much upon its exterior, as upon its interior side. A box full of diamonds and precious stones is certainly more valuable than a similar, or even better looking box, full of ordinary stones and dust.A human being has likewise two sides, the external and the internal. He is a combination of body and soul.

There is the visible and the invisible blended together in him and though, in his case, one is as necessary as the other, at least so far as the initial stages of his progress are concerned, his ultimate superiority over the rest of creation depends more upon his inner merits, his intellectual capabilities, his spiritual attainments and the polish and the brilliance of his soul, than upon his exterior form and appearance and qualities of his body.

A man's success in life depends upon the amount of knowledge he acquires of the universe and upon the proper use of that knowledge. The wider his knowledge, the greater are his chances of success. Knowledge of creation can never be complete without a sufficient knowledge of the Creator and the principles and policy upon which the universe is created and run. This is what science is searching for. The goal of Sufism and science is, therefore, the same.

To be able to control and regulate the various conflicting forces in nature, the guiding-force ought to be stronger and more intelligent than everything else in the world, for a weak and blind force cannot function properly. It is therefore, a supernatural-force in the sense that it is superior to every other force in nature and cannot be completely comprehended by less intelligent and weaker, subordinate forces.

Islam is no exception to the rule. It professes to be a revealed religion and corroborates all the Divine Truths revealed by all the preceding religions. Its only other claim is that it is cosmopolitan and its methods of approaching

the Ultimate Object are simpler and more up-to-date. However, in common with other religions, it is made up of two sides, the outer and the inner. The outer side is called the shariat and the inner side, the tariqat.

The shariat is subdivided into two parts:

  1. Ibadat
  2. Mu'amilat

Ibadat concerns fundamental belief and forms of worship and regulates man's relation with God.

Mu'amilat pertain to man's relations with man and covers the social, economic and political fields of human activity.

Tariqat deals with the purification of the inner self and keeps in view the spiritual emancipation of mankind. Since body and soul are intertwined, as it were, tariqat cannot remain independent of shariat and the two work in cooperation.

There is a third thing called Haqiqat which refers to the realities of this life as well as the life to come. It is a realisation and not a science. In other words haqiqat is what you actually see, feel and realise in the light furnished to you by the tariqat.

The knowledge necessary for a beginner is supplied by the shariat and administered by the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) and after the passing away of the Prophet (s.a.w.) to the higher regions, by his deputies who are called Shaikhs, Murshids, Pirs or teachers. They are the Ulama-i-Rashikin, that is the learned people firm in their knowledge and they have the distinction of being recognised as Heirs to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.).

The duties of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.)

Accordingly the duties of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) consist of the following four things:


1. To recite the Qur'an to his people (i.e. to communicate to them the message of God).

2. To purify their souls, which is quite a different thing from merely conveying to the people the word of God. Without such purification they would not be able even to understand properly the message of God.

1. To teach them the Holy Book. It is a different thing altogether from announcing to them the message of God. The 'teaching' here means explaining to the people the meaning and the real significance of the passages of the Qur'an and training them in the proper method of observance of Qur'anic Ordinances. Such teaching can only be effective when the process of purification of the soul has been gone through properly.

2. Finally to bring them face to face with the wisdom which follows the knowledge and action stated above.

The importance of a personal element in affairs relating to the amelioration of mankind can hardly be disputed. Fortunately this personal element has been handed down to us in the form of the Shaikh.

Muhammad, the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) combined in himself the leadership of all the various functions at his time. He was a religious teacher, spiritual guide, social reformer, commander-in-chief and political head of the Muslims. In short, he combined in his person all the functions of a temporal and spiritual leader.

He was at once a king and a prophet. His four successors, Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali (peace be upon them all), inherited this leadership in toto. The temporal power and the spiritual lead were centred in the same personality.

Aimma Ahlul Bayt are the leaders from the Holy Prophet's Family. Aimma is a plural of imam which means 'leader' and ahli bayt means 'members of the family'. These imams or leaders belonging to the Prophet's family, occupy the foremost rank as regards spirituality and other aspects of religion. All classes of Sufis, Dervishes and Faqirs owe their origin to them. Go to any Sufi in the world today and he will trace his pedigree to them and through them to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.). The Holy Prophet is like an ocean; Ali an outlet; and Aimma Ahlul Bayt are as canals that have carried the waters to the thirsty.

The difference in Sufi Orders is in form only and not in spirit

The various Sufistic Orders, or "Dynasties" as they are sometimes called, are a later development but such development is in form only, and not in spirit. It is like this: Suppose, a teacher of very high spiritual attainments and extraordinary internal powers makes his appearance or, say, comes out to India and spreads spirituality there.

His pupils, adherents, and followers are distinguished from others by being called after his name. Another teacher of similar attainments comes and

does likewise; a different name is assumed by the followers of his school. They differ merely in their mode of teaching. Chishtis, Nizamis, Qadris, Naqshabandis, Mujaddidis, Abul Ulais, Suhrawardis, Madaris, Qalandaris, Maulwites, Shadhilis, Rifais, Badawis, Sanusis and others are different Sufistic Orders spread over the world.

No comments:

Post a Comment