What Is Tasawwuf
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Tasawwuf is a branch of Islamic knowledge which focuses on the spiritual development of the Muslim.
Allah sent His final messenger, Prophet Muhammad , as a source of knowledge for the entire ummah. He was the fountain of Quran, Hadith, tafsir, rhetoric, fiqh, and so on. After the Prophet, the scholars of this ummah carried and propagated each of these branches of knowledge. Because no one person can attain the perfection of the Prophet , who single handedly assumed all of these roles, various branches of the Islamic sciences developed. For example, Imam Abu Hanifah preserved the science of fiqh and after him thousands of scholars continued in his footsteps. Hence these scholars preserved the fiqh of the Prophet . Similarly Imam Bukhari and the other famous scholars of Hadith, preserved the words of the Prophet. The scholars of tajweed preserved the recitation of the Prophet . And, the scholars of Arabic grammar preserved the language of the Prophet .
Along these lines, the Prophet was the model of spirituality for the world. His God-consciousness, deep spirituality, acts of worship, and love for Allah were preserved and propagated by an Islamic science called Tasawwuf. The aim of the scholars of this science was purification of the heart, and development of consciousness of Allah through submission to the shariah and sunnah.
How is Tasawwuf Related to Sufism?
Studying the life of the Prophet , the scholars who propagated the science of tasawwuf understood that a requisite for approaching Allah was abandonment of the common pursuits of the world. They often wore wool because of its simplicity and low cost. In Arabic the word for wool is suf and thus, those who wore it became known as the Sufis. Another possible derivation of the word comes from the root word safa, which means "to clean." Because the scholars of tasawwuf focused on cleansing the heart, they later became known as the Sufis.
What Do Our Scholars Say About Tasawwuf?
Traditional Islamic scholars have accepted Tasawwuf as an important branch of Islamic learning, so long as it remains within the guidelines of the Shariah and emphasizes following the Sunnah of the Prophet .
* On Moderation - Imam Rabbani (may Allah be pleased with him)
* The Inner Dimensions of Fasting - Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (may Allah be pleased with him)
* Maulana Jami - Excerpts from the poems of Maulana Jami (may Allah be pleased with him)
* Maulana Saadi - Excerpts from the poems of Maulana Saadi (may Allah be pleased with him)
* What is Tasawwuf? - Condensed from the writings of Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi (may Allah be pleased with him)
* Fighting the Ego - Imam Nawawi (may Allah be pleased with him)
I Have Heard That Sufis Teach Praying At Graves, Dancing, Music, And Other Innovations?
It is true that there have been, and currently are, people who have deviated from the teachings of tasawwuf, thus misrepresenting this science. This is not unique to tasawwuf. Our history is full of examples of people who called themselves scholars of tafsir, or hadith while misrepresenting the essence of these sciences. Each of the Islamic sciences is interlinked and bounded by its sister sciences. For example, a scholar of tafsir cannot interpret the Quran by contradicting the hadith. Similarly a true shaykh of tasawwuf (sufism) never breaks even the smallest tenets of the shariah or the sunnah. Rather, he sees them as the means of his progress towards his Lord. In fact, he prefers death over falling into even a minute sin.
I saw a holy man on the seashore wounded by a tiger.
No medicine could relieve his pain; He suffered much,
but he nevertheless constantly thanked God, the most high, saying,
"Praise be to Allah that I have fallen into a calamity and not into sin."
If Not All Sufis Are Authentic How Can I Judge Which To Learn From?
Many of our scholars have addressed this question by listing the "signs" of a true shaykh. Needless to say the common principle has always been submission to the shariah, by following the teachings of one of the four schools of fiqh, and a complete submission to the inner and the outer of the sunnah. This is based on the idea that the Prophet is the nearest and most God conscious of Allah's creation. His daily acts are an exemplification of how the most God-conscious of all of creation lived his life. For example, the Prophet's treating others with kindness, soft speech, humility, preference for white clothing, growing of a lengthy beard, use of the tooth stick, etc are all intentional acts of service to Allah . If someone lacks these sunnan, while claiming they can help bring you closer to Allah, know that they will eventually lead you to a dead end.
What Is The Goal Of The Student Of Tasawwuf?
The goal is complete submission to the shariah and sunnah in order to attain purification of the heart and soul and to develop a true, deep, and lasting connection with Allah .
How Can A Shaykh Assist In These Goals?
A shaykh of tasawwuf spends years in training in order to develop his character, mannerisms, daily schedule, outer being, acts of worship, and knowledge under the guidance of a spiritual master. They learn the essence of worship and practical implications of abandonment of the mundane life of this world from those who are models of god-consciousness. Further, they often spend years mastering the Islamic sciences of Hadith, Quran, tafsir, fiqh, etc. Each aspect of their training further connects them through chains of scholars to the Prophet who, of course, was sent to connect creation to their Lord.
When you enter the company of such a shaykh, their knowledge and extensive experience allows them to assess your spiritual state and hence, advise you on the best "medicine" to cure the diseases of your heart. Just as a doctor is trained to cure physical ailments, so the scholars of tasawwuf treat the maladies of the diseased heart.
I Thought That All One Needs Is The Quran And The Sunnah?
It is true that the Quran and the Sunnah are sufficient. However, at the same time it is also true that a teacher is required to master any subject. If the Quran was sufficient, then Allah could have easily sent the book without a messenger. However, he sent the Prophet as a model of the Quran so that people could directly learn from his example. This then became the method of learning for each of the Islamic sciences. For example, each hadith that Imam Bukhari compiled in his collection of hadith is directly linked to the Prophet through a continuous chain of narrators. Thus, each person in the chain must have learned from someone and must be able to state who that person was. Similar requirements are present in other branches of Islamic science as well. The science of tasawwuf is no exception.
Is It Mandatory That I Learn And Develop My Spirituality Under A Shaykh?
The juristic scholars of the ummah have ruled that taking a spiritual guide is a sunnah. That is, it is not mandatory, however, it is the way of the Prophet . However, according to the scholars of this ummah achieving the aims of tasawwuf are mandatory. For example, purifying the heart from pride, rectifying one's character, etc are essential to ones religion. Thus, if one can achieve these goals on their own, they may. However, if one tries and continually fails, it is highly recommended that he seek the assistance of a spiritual doctor.
What Are The Responsibilities Of The Murid (Student) Of The Shaykh?
The murid takes an allegiance with his shaykh seeking Allah's forgiveness for past sins, shortcomings, and mistakes, and pledging to establish the shariah and sunnah in his life. The shaykh then assigns certain daily exercises of dhikr (remembrance of Allah) to the student in order that they attract the blessings of Allah . Each student has a set daily regimen of Quranic recitation and dhikr, which, if done diligently leads to rapid progress. For more information refer to Shaykh Zulfiqar's Letter Number 2 from his book Wisdom for the Seeker.