Sufism (Arabic: تصوّف) taṣawwuf,(Persian: صوفی گری) also spelled as tasavvuf and tasavvof according to the Persian pronunciation, is generally understood to be the inner, mystical dimension of Islam. A practitioner of this tradition is generally known as a ṣūfī (صُوفِيّ), though some adherents of the tradition reserve this term only for those practitioners who have attained the goals of the Sufi tradition. Another name used for the Sufi seeker is Dervish.
Classical Sufi scholars have defined Sufism as "science whose objective is the reparation of the heart and turning it away from all else but God."Alternatively, in the words of the renowned Darqawi Sufi teacher Ahmad ibn Ajiba, "a science through which one can know how to travel into the presence of the Divine, purify one’s inner self from filth, and beautify it with a variety of praiseworthy traits."
During the primary stages of Sufism, Sufis were characterised by their particular attachment to dhikr "remembrance [of God]" and asceticism. Sufism arose among a number of Muslims as a reaction against the worldliness of the early Umayyad Caliphate (661-750 CE). The Sufi movement has spanned several continents and cultures over a millennium, at first expressed through Arabic, then through Persian, Turkish and a dozen other languages.ṭuruq "Orders", which are either Sunnī or Shī‘ī in doctrine, mostly trace their origins from the Islamic Prophet Muhammad through his cousin ‘Alī, with the notable exception of the Naqshbandi who trace their origins through the first Caliph, Abu Bakr.
According to Idries Shah, the Sufi philosophy is universal in nature, its roots predating the arising of Islam and the other modern-day religions; likewise, some Muslims[who?] feel that Sufism is outside the sphere of Islam, although generally scholars of Islam contend that it is simply the name for the inner or esoteric dimension of Islam.
While all Muslims believe that they are on the pathway to God and will become close to God in Paradise — after death and after the "Final Judgment" — Sufis also believe that it is possible to draw closer to God and to more fully embrace the Divine Presence in this life. The chief aim of all Sufis is to seek the pleasing of God by working to restore within themselves the primordial state of fitra,[described in the Qur'an. In this state nothing one does defies God, and all is undertaken by the single motivation of love of God. A secondary consequence of this is that the seeker may be led to abandon all notions of dualism or multiplicity, including a conception of an individual self, and to realize the DivineUnity.
Thus Sufism has been characterized[by whom?] as the science of the states of the lower self (the ego), and the way of purifying this lower self of its reprehensible traits, while adorning it instead with what is praiseworthy, whether or not this process of cleansing and purifying the heart is in time rewarded by esoteric knowledge of God. This can be conceived in terms of two basic types of law (fiqh), an outer law concerned with actions, and an inner law concerned with the human heart.The outer law consists of rules pertaining to worship, transactions, marriage, judicial rulings, and criminal law — what is often referred to, a bit too broadly, as shariah. The inner law of Sufism consists of rules about repentance from sin, the purging of contemptible qualities and evil traits of character, and adornment with virtues and good character.
To enter the way of Sufism, the seeker begins by finding a teacher, as the connection to the teacher is considered necessary for the growth of the pupil. The teacher, to be genuine, must have received the authorization to teach (ijazah) of another Master of the Way, in an unbroken succession (silsilah) leading back to Sufism's origin with Muhammad. It is the transmission of the divine light from the teacher's heart to the heart of the student, rather than of worldly knowledge transmitted from mouth to ear, that allows the adept to progress. In addition, the genuine teacher will be utterly strict in his adherence to the Divine Law.
The term Suluk when related to Islam and Sufism means to walk a (spiritual) path (to God). Suluk involves following both the outer path (exoterism/shariah) and the inner path (esoterism/haqiqa) of Islam virtuously. Suluk also involves being ardent (passionately eager) in the search for or please God, The Signs of God, the Ultimate Truth, understanding the self, and understanding the essential meaning of life, particularly of one's own life.
The word Sulook is derived from the Qur'anic term "Faslooki" in chapter 16, An-Nahl (The Bees), verse 69: Faslooki subula rabbiki zululan (engage in the paths of your Lord made easy [for you]). A person who is engaged in this spiritual path is called salik.