What is Chishti Sufism

Sufism & Qur'an

11 Veils of Sufism

Imam Al-Ghazzali

Glossary of Terms









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Tassawuf In The Light Of Qur’an And Hadith

   All Sufis obey the Holy Qur’an implicitly and also follow the Prophet's traditions (Hadith) rigidly. According to Sufis, tassawuf means unbounded love of Allah and selfless service of His creation under Shariat. There is a clear indication in the Holy Qur’an that "Allah loveth those who love Him". When a Sufi reaches the pinnacle of his career, he is above all worldly things. He then enters the domain of the spiritual world, the existence of which is as certain as this material world.


   Thus when the lover and the Beloved are in divine harmony and unity, there is nothing else but a serene happiness--a rare type of happiness which no pen or human intellect can describe adequately.

   It is this reciprocal link of divine love between Allah and man which is called Ma'Arifat in Sufi parlance. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, in his Tarjumaan-ul-Qur’an, clarifies this point. He says: "Again and again the Qur’an has revealed the fact that the relation of Allah with man is nothing but a relation of their mutual love. In appreciation of man's own wonderful creation, Allah gracious expects nothing but his love and devotion only."

   A true devotee of Allah thus becomes His true lover. And, at this stage, the devotee is very near to God. Having attained the position of Allah's beloved friend, he soars high in the spiritual world or exists in a state of a kind of so-called ‘other-worldliness.’ And this is the ultimate goal of a Sufi--the true meaning of all his devotion and mujahedas (strivings).

The Qur’an gives a central place to its religious principles in order to guide the conduct of man in his life, and that is why all Sufis follow it scrupulously to develop their love of Allah and win His pleasure and blessings. Allah says: "O Mohammed, We have given you the Book as well as the secrets of our Hikmat (Divine knowledge) and We shall tell you those things which you never knew."

   As promised, the Prophet did receive this divine wisdom or the secret knowledge and, in turn, imparted and passed it on to some of his very near associates, especially to Hazrat All, who were indeed the source of light or the guiding stars of Tassawuf for the succeeding generations of a particular class of Muslim ascetics who played such a glorious role in the service of mankind at various critical junctures of Islamic history.

Characteristics of a Sufi

   Discussing the characteristics of Tassawuf and Surfs, Hazrat Ali Hujwari supports what Hazrat Junaid Baghdadi says about these qualities. Hazrat Junaid attributes the following eight exemplary qualities of a Sufi. A true Sufi possesses:

  1. The courage and magnanimity of Prophet Ibrahim.
  2. The obedience of Prophet Ismail.
  3. The patience and forbearance of Prophet Ayub.
  4. The signs of Prophet Zakaria.
  5. The poverty of Prophet Yahya.
  6. The traveling nature of Prophet Isa (Jesus).
  7. The simplicity of dress of Prophet Muss (Moses).
  8. The Fuqr (contentment and renunciation) of Prophet Mohammed.

Sufism is Something Divine

   Sufism is not the name of any Uloom (knowledge) or rasoom (customs, traditions). It is the name of a special religious conduct based upon Divine Knowledge and guidance. If it were Uloom then it should have been acquired by common knowledge; and if it were rasoom then it should have been acquired by mere mujahedas (practice and strivings).

   But it is neither acquired by 'ilm nor by mujahedas alone. It is something Divine bestowed by the grace of Allah upon a selected few who renounce this material world and devote themselves exclusively to the worship of Allah and service of his creatures.

Sheikh Ali Hujwari further lays down four important characteristics of a Sufi: (1) implicit faith in and obedience to Allah by giving up all other worldly hopes and hypocrisy; (2) honoring of the elders and welcoming of the younger ones with equanimity, love and respect; (3) desiring neither rewards nor any other kind of appreciation from any quarter whatever except God; and (4) over-powering all sensuous desires of the evil of Nafs.

Dress of Sufis

"Wearing of the coffin-cloth in life time."

   The Kashf-ul--Mahjoob deals elaborately in three chapters with the details of the dress of Sufis. It says: "A Sufi uses only one solitary covering generally called gudri (a quilt made of patched cloth) following the tradition of the prophets and saints which is the symbol of their fuqr (contentment) and riyazat (strivings). But there are certain extremely rigid conditions too which must be fulfilled before a Sufi aspires to wear this coveted gudri.

   First of all, he must completely renounce the world and have unshakable faith in God, His last prophet Mohammed, the Book and the Hadith; secondly, he can wear this gudri only when his Pir-o-Murshid adorns him with it after testing his ability to wear it with honor. Thirdly, it is incumbent upon him to serve an apprenticeship of at least two years before qualifying for this gudri.

The most important condition of this service is that he must give his love and sympathy indiscriminately to all the creatures of Allah alike, irrespective of all religious distinctions. For the Sufi, service means whatever he does, he does it for the sake of Allah without expecting rewards. Fourthly, he must possess a most courageous heart to pass through the hard tests of the curriculum of Sufism, and no worldly worries whatever must disturb his equilibrium.

   When all these conditions are carried out rigidly, then only the Sheikh or Pir can adorn the mureed (disciple) with this coveted and hard-earned gudri of fuqr. As a matter of fact, this adornment means nothing but wearing of one's coffin-cloth when one is still living. The aspirant now becomes a perfect faqir or Sufi, a true devotee of Allah and real servant of mankind.

Unparalleled Forbearance

   One of the greatest characteristic weaknesses of man is the control of his temper. Insult or ridicule of the friends of Allah is their relishing food. A true Sufi takes no notice of any insult done to him. How great Sufis have mastered this difficult evil is illustrated by the following few brilliant instances.

   Once Sheikh Abu Taher, a great Sufi of his time, was passing through a bazaar when some one hurled a jeering insult at him by addressing him as "O Pir Zindiqi" (meaning, "O you faithless Pir"). One of the mureeds of the great Sheikh walking with him was awfully enraged at this insult of his revered Pir and wanted to retaliate with the offender on the spot.

   But the Sheikh calmly restrained him. On reaching home, the Sheikh, to pacify the mureed's anger, showed him a bundle of letters in which the writers, who were the country's leading dignitaries, had addressed him with high regards, courtesies and alqaabs (adorations). The Sheikh then warned his disciple: "Everybody has his own opinion or views about me according to the limits of his own knowledge and status. All opinions or views are mere expressions of one's own wisdom, ability or status. If some one calls me a zindiqi (faithless), why should we quarrel over mere reflections of his own ignorance? Certainly this reflection does not represent my actual Personality and all that goes with it. The alqaabs, good or bad, are mere prefixes or suffixes attributed to one's personality according to the people's own estimation and ability. We should take no impression of such irresponsible behavior. Even if it insults us, then Allah alone has the right and power to punish the offenders and not we? Who are we to take Allah's law into our own hands and wreck vengeance?" The mureed learned a great lesson in Sufism from his Pir, and kept quiet.

Another Lesson

   Another brilliant example of saintly forbearance is illustrated by the story of Hazrat Abu Yazid, another great Sufi of his time, who returned to his home town in the month of Ramadhan after a long journey in Hedjaz. Contrary to all his protests, the citizens arranged a royal public reception in his honor.

   During the function, Hazrat Abu Yazid felt very uneasy and lost his constant spiritual contact with Allah temporarily, i.e. his constant devotion to Allah was disturbed. In order to distract his attention from this forced show in which he was not at all interested or happy, and to regain his lost devotional contact with God, he suddenly took out a tikya (a small cake) from the pocket of his sleeve and began to eat it. The audience was simply aghast at this irrelevant act by such an exalted Sufi dervish in a public meeting. Their regard for him was rudely shaken, and they began to condemn him bitterly for his freakish behavior. But the saint took no notice of all this. He had, in fact, invented this act purposely in order to regain the lost touch with his beloved Allah at the expense of even public ridicule and insult.

Another Wonderful Example

   Hazrat Sheikh All Hujwari gives us another wonderful story of how ridicule and insult have been gracefully swallowed by the beloved friends of God. He says: "Ridicule or hatred of Sufi saints is actually a refreshing garden for them." He then cites the following example of Hazrat Ibrahim Adham, one of the greatest Sufi luminaries of his time. He says:

   "Once a person inquired of Hazrat Ibrahim Adham whether he had ever been successful in meeting his heart's best wish during his long career as a Sufi? The great saint replied, "Yes, only twice in my life." "Once," he said, "when I was traveling incognito in a boat, wearing torn and dirty clothes with disheveled hair. Seeing me in this shabby condition, my fellow travelers not only pulled my hair but also ridiculed me and indeed made a laughing stock of me on the journey.

It was at this time that my heart's dearest wish was fulfilled and the cup of my happiness swelled for the first time, in the love of my beloved God. But this happiness was short-lived, because, the next day, a fellow came up and actually discharged his urine upon my clothes which I was obliged to change under the law of Shariat. With my changed dress, the people became cautious and stopped the fun they were having with me, and I lost my happiness."

   Hazrat Ibrahim Adham went on: "The second occasion of the fulfillment of my heart's dearest wish occurred on a rainy day during a severe winter, when I was on a journey and was drenched. I was in search of a refuge for shelter, and when I reached a village, my jubba (cloak) was actually dripping with rain. I sought shelter in a mosque, but they would not let me in and, in fact, drove me away very rudely. Due to severe cold, I then entered into the furnace of a hammam (public bathroom) to comfort myself and sat there, preserving my clothes carefully from the fire. With the soot and smoke of the furnace, all my face and clothes were blackened and when I got out, I was unrecognizable. My dear friend, this was the second time when nay heart's dearest wish was fulfilled and I felt extremely happy at this test of my beloved God. Such examples of forbearance of the great Sufis can be multiplied.

Ancestors of Sufism

   The Sufis maintain that they must act strictly upon the same Divine Commandments, both in letter and spirit, which were received by the Prophet about his own devotion to God: "Cut off yourself from everything and concentrate your attention towards Me." A Hadith Qudsi of the Holy Prophet relates that Allah describes such extraordinary devotion in this manner: "When a devotee seeks Me devoutly, I also reciprocate his love and become his ear by which he hears, his eye by which he sees, his hand by which be works and his feet by which he walks."

   There was a group of prophet's beloved followers, popularly called Ashaab-e-Suffa, who had renounced the world and had dedicated their lives to prayer and recitation of the Holy Qur’an day and night. They lived in an annex to the Prophet's mosque and did not marry; those who married among them had to leave the group. For their livelihood, they depended entirely upon the benevolence of Allah on the Qur’anic promise of "providing for every creature on earth."

   Sometimes the Ansars would bring in a bunch of dates and hang it in the roof of the mosque. When the ripened fruit fell to the ground, these ascetics would pick it up and eat. They lived in strict austerity and looked after all their necessities of life by themselves. They drew water and picked up firewood from the jungle to sell and make their living. The well-known Hazrat Abu Huraira, who is an authority on Prophet's Hadith (traditions) was one of them.

Many great Ulema and historians have paid them high tributes for their heroic life of austerity, sacrifice and devotion. The love of the Prophet himself for their exemplary religious life was naturally immense and unbounded. It is, therefore, safely presumed that some of this group of early ascetics were the ancestors of some of the leading Sufis of the world apart from the lineages of the Holy Prophet and his four distinguished Caliphs.

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