سم الله الرحمن الرحيم
A brief Insight into Sufism
 
Foreword
 
Hudhaifa bin Al-Yaman narrated: "The people used to ask Allāh’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) about the good, but I used to ask him about the evil for fear of it reaching me.. So I said, 'O Allāh's Messenger, we were living in ignorance and in an (extremely) bad atmosphere, then Allāh brought to us this good (i.e., Islām); will there be any evil after this good?'  He said, 'Yes.'  I said, 'Will there be any good after that evil?'  He replied, 'Yes, but it will be tainted (not pure.)''  I asked, 'What will be its taint?'  He replied, '(There will be) some people who will guide others not according to my tradition. You will approve of some of their deeds and disapprove of some others.'..."  (see Saheeh Al-Bukhārī, vol. 9, book 88, no. 206 for full text)
 
It is upon the principle laid out in the above hadeeth that we will explore some aspects of Sufism in this article, inshā Allāh.  This article will be kept brief, providing the reader with references for further reading for those who wish to obtain a more detailed understanding.
 
 

Introduction

 

The word "Sūfiyyah" (Sufism) was not known at the time of the  Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) or his companions or the Tābi’een (the next generation of muslims who took knowledge from the Companions of the Prophet).  It is said that Sufism arose at the time when a group of ascetics who wore wool (“sūf”) emerged, and this name was given to them.  The word is not derived from al-safa’ (purity) as some of them claim, because the adjective derived from safa’ is safaa’i, not sūfi. 

 


Brief Overview of Sufi Ideologies and Concepts

  • Hulool - This is the ideology of Divine incarnation and can be classified into two types. 
    • The first is the specific Hulool; the claim that Allāh can be incarnated in the Sufi saints.  Amongst the most daring Sufis who held to the concept of incarnation was Al-Husayn ibn Mansoor Al-Hallaj, who was executed for his heresy in 309AH (922 CE).  Deobandi-scholar Ashraf Ali Thanvi reported that: “Someone asked al-Hallaj: 'Since you are Allah, to whom do you prostrate?'  He (al-Hallaj) answered: 'I have two states, one outward and the other inward.  My outward self prostrates to my inward self.'"  (Malfoozat Hakim al-Ummat - biography of Ashraf Ali Thanvi - by Muhammad Iqbal Qurayshi, vol.1, p.251)
    • The second type is the general Hulool and it is the claim that Allāh, in His Essence, is everywhere[1].
  • Wahdatul-Wujood - This is the concept that all in existence is a single reality, and that everything we see is only aspects of the Essence of Allāh.  Under such concept, the presence of creation is an illusion or an imagination.
    The chief claimant of this belief was Ibn 'Arabi al-Haatimi at-Taa'i, who died in 638AH. 
  • Fanaa' - This is the concept of annihilation; the claim that once the Sufi becomes assiduous in the remembrance of Allāh, he acquires sufficient tranquility of heart to experience a delusion which helps him pass through following stages. First he is bewildered, then intoxicated with love of the Remembered One, and finally he passes through the stage of or annihilation (fanaa'), in which he becomes fully absorbed to the point of becoming unaware of himself or the objects around him.  Every existing thing seems to vanish, and he feels free of every barrier that could stand in the way of his viewing the Remembered One and nothing else.
  • Kashf - This literally means "unveiling"; in Sufi terms it refers to mystical disclosure whereby Sufis claim to perceive and witness all of the realities of existence as well as those of the Ghayb (unperceived realities).  
  • Sufi Hierarchy of Sainthood 
    • Al-Qutb - Sufi belief is that there is an unseen realm, in which 'saints' control the affairs of mankind.  At the top of the hierarchy of saints is one who is called the Al-Qutb Al-Akbar (great pole or axis) or Al-Ghawth (source of help), and he is the one who is running the affairs of the entire realm.  
    • Al-Awtaad - Meaning "tent pegs"; these are the four Sufi saints that are 'holding the earth'.
    • Al-Abdaal - These are the seven other Sufi saints who each control one of the seven continents of the world (abdaal, from the word badalahu – because when one of them dies, another takes his place).

For more details, see the following link: Reaility of Sufism in the Light of the Qur'ān & Sunnah  

 

 

Sufism Today

 

Sufism or Tasawwuf is divided into many sects, called Tareeqahs[2].  The four major Tareeqahs are: Chistiya, Qadriyah, Naqshbandiya and Soharwardiyah.  Sufism in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh is represented mainly by the "Barelwi's"[3] and "Deobandis" or offshoots therefrom, who follow all these four Tareeqahs.

 

Until the 17th century, there was no distinct school of thought amongst India’s Sufi Hanafi Scholars. But mutual disagreements later caused a great rift among them and led to the formation of two different and opposing institutions; "Barelwis" and the "Deobandis".  Hostilities and bitter disagreements between these two groups have taken dangerous proportions and the Barelwi in particular have exaggerated in declaring Kufr on the Deobandis. Both these groups claim to follow the Hanafi Madhhab, though they mainly follow the Hanafi Fiqh and do not [necessarily] share the beliefs of Imām Abu Haneefah (rahimahullāh)...

 

To read further, click on the following (external) link: ahya.org/tjonline/eng/contents.html

 

 

The Barelwis

 

The Barelwi[2] movement was started in 1880 to promote South Asia's distinctive Islamic practices that are deeply influenced by Sufism.  The movement in British India was greatly shaped by the writings and teachings of Ahmad Riza Khan (d.1921), thus, the movement takes its name from his home city of Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh India.

 

Amongst Ahmad Riza Khan’s teachers was Mirza Ghulam Qadir Baig, the brother of the false-prophet Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiyani (to know more about him, click on this link: Qadiyanis are not Muslims).

 

The book Separatism among Indian Muslims: The Politics of the United Provinces' Muslims 1860–1923”, by Francis Robinson, mentioned Ahmad Khan as the “chosen scholar” of the British rule in India.  He supported the agenda of the British rule over India and wrote against those who were striving to gain freedom from the British rule (see his book al-Mahajjat al-Mu'tamana, p. 208).

 

Barelwi distinctive beliefs and practices

  1. Attachment to the Graves and Tombs of their scholars and ‘righteous’ ones – worshiping at these places and requesting the dead to fulfil their needs.
  2. The belief that the Sufi awliyas / pīrs are able to intercede with Allāh on behalf of the living.
  3. Wearing and hanging of amulets (taweez) on the walls and places to receive blessings and protection from evil.
  4. Their belief that the Prophet (sallAllāhu `alayhi wa sallam) is not human and is made out of noor (light).
  5. Their belief that the Prophet (sallAllāhu `alayhi wa sallam) is present in all places and at all times despite his physical death. Consequently, their saying “Yaa Rasool”, “Yaa Nabi”, “Yaa Muhammad”.
  6. Gathering after the Salāt al-Jumu'ah, standing and reading nasheeds to send praises to the Prophet sallAllāhu `alayhi wa sallam.
  7. Innovated celebrations such as `Eed Mawlid an-Nabawi.

Some quotes from Barelwi books:

  • Al Fatawa al Ridwiyyaa (Vol 6, p 142): “Krishna, the unbeliever, used to visit thousands of places in a single moment. This he did despite his unbelief. Why cannot the saints visit numerous places in a single moment?”
  • Al Dawlat al Makkiya (p58): “The Prophet (sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam) knows, rather sees and watch over all that which happened and all that which will happen from the first day to the last.”  
  • Khalis al Itiqad (p 38)“The knowledge of the Tablet, the knowledge of the pen and the knowledge of whatever existed and of whatever will exist are part of the knowledge of the Prophet.”
  • In al-Amn wal-ala (p. 12-13), Ahmad Riza said: "Ali removes calamity and obliterates misery from him who recites the well-known Saifi supplication, 7 or 3 times, or only once.  This supplication is as follows: Call Ali for help who is the manifestation of wonders; you will find him a helper to you at the calamities. Every calamity and misery will be gone by your protection, O Ali, O Ali‘.”
  • In his book Hadaiqi Bakhshish, Ahmad Riza is quoted as invoking: “O helper, [Abdul-Qadir Al-Jeelani all the saints of the world go around the noble house of Allaah but the kaabah itself goes around your exalted gate.
  • In his Malfuzat (p. 307), Ahmad Riza said: "During my life I did not seek help from anyone, and I do not ask anyone for aid except Shaykh Abdal Qadir. Whenever I seek help, I seek it only from him. Whenever I ask for aid, I ask him alone.”

Note: The above quotes about Shaykh Abdul-Qādir Al-Jeelanī (rahimahullāh) are beliefs held by Barelwi-scholars and not by the Shaykh himself.

 

For more details on Barelwi beliefs and practices, see the following link: Analysis of Barelwi Beliefs



(The next section of the article is currently being written and will be available soon inshā Allāh).

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[1] Allāh is above the heavens, above His `Arsh (Throne), and separated from His creatures and His creatures are separated from Him.  His knowledge encompasses all things; He is the Supreme, far removed from every imperfection and impurity.  

"And He is Allāh above the heaven, and on the earth He knows your private and public affairs. And He knows what you achieve." (Al-Qur'ān, 6:3)

[2] Tareeqah and Sharee’ah: According to the Sufis, Tareeqah is the way by which one reaches Allah, and Sharee’ah is the path which reaches Jannah. Tareeqah is special and Sharee’ah is common. Tareeqah is based upon a particular set of beliefs, actions and exercises.

[3] Barelwi, sometimes also spelled as "Barelawi", "Barelavi", "Brelwiand other similar spellings.