What is Sufism?

﴾ بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم ﴿

Praise be to Allah…

Through the history of Islam, scholars and defenders of the religion have always been determined to defend it against those who attack it, intentionally or unintentionally. There have always been those who are never short of ways to encounter and distort Islamic concepts, either by destroying it or changing it. Those who seek destroying it, the Kuffar, are not of our concern today. We are today dealing with those who did not accept it as it was first revealed to our Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), which are called “Ahl Al-Bida’a” the people of Innovation. Ahl Al-Bida’a are the basis of the Sects that have always weakened the Islamic world and threatened its integrity.

There are two reasons for this article:

i) one is to explain meaning of Bida’a and revealing the origin and believes of Sufism, one of the most dangerous and distorted Sects.

ii) The other, actually secondary, reason is to point out and name some of those groups and individuals that promote Sufism in North America, secretly and in public.

I, first, would like to go over the “Bida’a” definition and what Sufism means, and how it shatters the Islamic integrity and defies its main concepts. To sum it up, Sufism is a new kind of religion, which has its own definitions, practices, and concepts. I will start with a quick background of the name “Sufism”, and from where it was derived. Then I will go over the early practitioners of Sufism, and how it was developed- as a separate sect- over time, until it reached its final format, and how it deviated from the only correct way, the Sunna.

I urge you, brothers and sisters in Islam, who read this article, to read it with an open heart and receptive mind. If you are ready to accept what is presented to you from  Quran and Sunna, so be it and Allah shall give you the reward for that. But if you start by having predetermined thoughts or you are a member of this or that group, or you have an inclination toward some ideas just because you see it nice or tempting- think twice, as this might not actually do you good.

Part One

Before I start the first section, I have to go over some very important ideas, which I urge all the brothers and sisters who listen to this tape to try to comprehend and, if necessary, to repeat over and over, to completely understand,

  1. First, that Allah (SWT) has completed this Deen (Islam), and that the Prophet (PBUH) has delivered the message of Allah as was sent with nothing left out for anyone to complete or to finish. Of course, this is part Aqida (creed/ belief of faith) not in Fiqh, as Fiqh grows with the different types of incidents faced by Muslims over time. Allah (SWT) said

    “This day I have completed your religion”. (5:3)

    The Prophet said: “I have left two things for you that if you follow them you will never get lost: The Book of Allah (Quran) and my Path (Sunna)”. Thus, whoever dare to say that he created a new type of ritual or way to worship Allah (SWT), he is actually saying that the Deen has not been completed! And that he is the one who introduces that missing component!! Of course, such a claim holds its own falseness.

  2. The “Hawa” (desires) which affects Muslims, does really exist, and Allah (SWT) has mentioned it in many places in the Quran. However, it has always been mentioned with falseness and disrespect, as it always leads the person to follow the wrong path. Allah (SWT) said:

    “And do not follow the Hawa (personal desire), so it shall mislead you away from the path of Allah” (38:26).

    And He said:

    “and if Haq (Allah) has followed what they wish (their Hawa), the Heavens and Earth would have been ruined and so those who occupy them”. (23:71)

    So, one should not leave himself to follow his own wishes (Hawa).  Each person has to abide by the Sunna as presented by the Prophet (PBUH).

  3. The Prophet (PBUH) has warned us of Bida’a. He said: “This Ummah shall be split into seventy three sects, all are in hellfire except one that shall be saved. The followers said: who are they oh, Prophet of Allah? He said: those who are on the same path that I, and my followers, am following”. This means that firstly: Bida’a and sects do exist. We cannot deny their presence like some people do by ignoring that they exist or trying to pretend that all of them are ok. This gives the impression that those on the Sunna path are like those of Bida’a, which is wrong.  As the Prophet (PBUH) stated they are not the same. The Hadith has expressed Bida’a using the word “Kul” which means “All”. This means all Bida’a is wrong.  It is not as some argue that there can be good Bida’a or bad Bida’a. This is not true, unless we us the word Bida’a in the linguistic sense. There might be a good Sunna and bad Sunna, but not good Bida’a or bad Bida’a- and you have to be aware of the difference. Good Sunna is when some one develops an action that complies with the general rules of Sunna and that was actually mentioned or partially done by the Prophet (PBUH), such as the act of Omar Ibn Al-Khatab when he gathered people to do the Taraweeh Prayer in Ramadan, and when people asked him about it, he said: It is a Bida’a and it is a good one”. But, the Prophet (PBUH) was the one who accepted the gathering of people in the first place, while he was still alive. So, this was not something unknown.
  4. The bad can actually look like the good and you might admire it sometimes, but that does not mean that it is right. Allah says:

    “say good and bad can never be deceived even if you like the abundance of the bad” (5:100).

    From this point we understand that the talk to of the innovators and their lectures can have some right built into it. There may even be lots of right things in their lectures according to where the innovative stands from Sunna. They are not devils per say; they do not ask people to commit adultery or drink. They think that they do things that make them on right track and that by doing such innovations they become closer to Allah SWT.

  5. The fifth point, which is very important, is: how we can evaluate man. Man has to be evaluated according to how much they hold of the truth and how much is right in their speech. They have to be evaluated according to the right and not visa versa. We do not recognize the right by identifying who is saying it. Their knowledge of Shariah, and/or education, and/or the books and publications are the most important criteria that we can use to judge people. If we see someone who has no background in terms of official study, which is the lowest level of knowledge, compared to those who are educated, read books, and publish articles and research, the second group is much superior. If someone does not have any of either the lower end, which is the official learning or the higher end which is accepted publications and research in Islamic topics, it is wrong to take such person as a leader. It would be a very big mistake of those who accept such a person. Also, assessment of man is not built or cannot be judged according to the good will of the person or his fear and Taqwa or Allah (SWT) because such things are internal. Secondly these things are good to the people doing it but not to those who they teach. We have to distinguish between the two. Muslims have to learn how to assess people.  Does the person you turn to for knowledge have any formal education and substantiates that education with publications and credible research?  If so, then you can listen to that person. If not you have to be very hesitant to listen or learn from such a person. After all you would not accept medical advice and help from someone who is not a real doctor.  The matters of religion are too important to leave to those who do not know.

I would like here to tell you a story about one of the followers of the followers, one of the most well known- Abdullah Ibn Almubara. He was told that there was a man that every time we recite Quran in front of him he faints, so Abdullah said: put him on the stage of a high building and the recite Quran and let us see what happens. So this means that crying while in public is not the criteria to judge man. On the contrary, it has to be hidden, like in Hadith, that Allah said there were seven groups of people who would enter Paradise; one group are those who remember Allah cries while they are alone.

Another point, which I would like to mention here, is that many of Ahl Al-Bida’a tries to condemn Ahl Al-Sunna by calling them names like “Wahabia”, after Imam Mohammed Abdel-Wahab, of the Arab Peninsula. It’s a well known tactic to make a certain group deviate and deny their attachment to their original principles. Imam Mohammed Abdel-Wahab was active in the Arab Peninsula in the 18th century, when Bida’a took over the Aqida of most of Muslims, in the heart of Islamic territory. Sufism was the dominant religion of the people of the Arab Peninsula. You cannot imagine the Shirk that those people used to practice in the holy places. He and his followers took upon them selves to revive the correct Aqida (belief/creed) according to Ahlul Sunna, as was first introduced by the Prophet (PBUH) and the practices of his followers. He succeeded to do so, but he attracted many enemies such as the British authorities, because such a revival would certainly put their interests of the area of the Middle East in jeopardy. Ignorant people and Sufis just follow the trend and used this word to condemn Ahlul Sunna. So, be aware of such tactics. Naming names that are not actually chosen by a group might be misleading. Sufis choose to be named Sufis. Ahl Al-Sunna chose to be called so- so, what does Wahabis mean? We can then call Ahl Al-Sunna Taymias or Ibn Qaimyias. There is no need to say how much this is ridiculous.

Now, we embark on the explanation of the word Bida’a.

Imam Al-Shatebi, in his great book “Al-Eetsam”, which he wrote in defence of the Sunna against Bida’a, stated that: “Bida’a is an innovated new way in Deen (religion), with the intention of serving Allah SWT more extensively” V1, P37. So, from the definition, we can see that Bida’a is similar to Sunna in the sense that it is meant to serve Allah (SWT). But, it differs and contradicts it in the sense that it is not made in the same way that the Shariat has chosen and introduced to Worship Allah (SWT). At this point, we have to mention the Correct Hadith of the Prophet (PBUH), “any act (of worship) that does not match what we are doing, is not accepted (returned back on the actor)”. The rule here is that any act of worship has to be pure with the sole intention of Allah SWT, and done the correct way, which means on the way of Sunna of the Prophet (PBUH). Worship actions are called by scholars “Tawqifiya” which means, in English, that they are to be changed, neither by adding nor by taking away from it. It has to be exactly as was introduced to us by the Prophet (PBUH) and not done by reason of the new act (Bida’a) is being good or nice or any other reason that might appear to be legitimate to the dower.

At this point, it is useful to give some examples, which were mentioned by Imam Al-Shatebi. He mentioned (some newly invented acts in) the Zikr (remembering Allah (SWT) by reciting his name) collectively, the birth date of the Prophet (PBUH) as a holiday to celebrate, fast at the middle of Shaban etc. It is narrated that Ibn Masoad, the great follower, passed by a Masjid where a man was standing and saying to people: Mercy be upon those who praises Allah by saying “Subhan Allah” few times. People repeated it after him together, then, he said: Mercy be upon those who praises Allah by saying “AlHamdu Lillah” few times. People repeated it after him. Ibn Masoad said: “Have you now been guided to something that your Prophet (PBUH) have not been guided to?!. I swear on the name of Allah SWT that you have embarked on a wrong path already”. Look how this “new way” of making Duaa was not accepted, and, furthermore, was denounced by Ibn Masosd. Also, Imam Malik replied to a man who asked him if it is allowed to make Ihram (for Hajj) from Medina instead of Zi-Al-Hulaifa (Medina is few miles further away from Mekka), where the Prophet used to make Ihram. That would be a great sin, because as Imam Malik explained, the man might think that he did something good, which the Prophet did not do.

What is Sufism?

Many explanations where offered for the reason why this sect was called Sufism? “Soof” in the Arabic Language is the material “Wool”. Ibn Taymia has mentioned some of the reasons that were claimed to be the origin of the word, such as being one of the “Soffi’s”- after Ahl-Al-Soffa – those poor people who used to stay in a place adjacent to the masjid of the Prophet PBUH. Also, it was said that the name is related to some one called “Sofa Ibn Bishr”, who invented the concept of “self-torture”. But, according to Ibn Taymia, it is related to wearing wool for the sake of thr “self-torture” concept. This “self-torture” concept is prohibited in Islam. In Islam, if you do something that is obligatory by Shariah, like making wudu, and you have no access but to a stream of cold water in the winter, then your thawab  (deed) shall be multiplied. But, if you have an access to warm water, and you preferred to make wudu by the cold water, then you do not get any thawab for that. On the contrary, you might get a bad deed for torturing your self without reason, as Allah SWT said:

“As He did not let any difficulty on you in performing your Deen” (22:78).

Also, those who try to make a connection between Ahl Al-Soffa, and the Sufis, are trying to establish in your mind that Sufism actually started since the days of the Prophet PBUH. You might get more on that issue in Ibn Taymia “The Fatawa Collection” V11.

However, Sufism did not appear altogether in one shot. Like any other deviation from the original, it started close to Sunna, then, gradually and slowly, it started to depart from the Sunna, until what we were warned about by the Prophet finally took place and the obvious Kufr was committed under the umbrella of the Sufism sect.

The first phase of the sect was in the 2nd century, where a group was identified as the “worshipers and ascetics”. The practices of that group was merely to concentrate on worshiping Allah (SWT) and trying to place less attention on Dunia (the world), for the sake of the hereafter. It was a reaction to the more materialistic wave, which hit the Islamic world after many countries were conquered and the Islamic world was expanding phenomenally. The practices of this group was the same as the followers of the Prophet (PBUH), without being singled out and identified as a separate class. Some famous characters of that class were: Aamer Ibn Abdullah, Ibn Al-Zubair, Safwan Ibn Saleem. A second stage of this phase also started to appear, where those people who become part of that original group, started to develop and use their own expressions and to write books about these practices. The use of the word “affection”, which is normally used to describe the male/female relationship, was used to describe the relationship between man and Allah SWT. It is/was very awkward to use such words in that context. One of the famous characters of this second stage of the first phase is Rabia Al-Adawiya. The great Imam Abu Dawood (Sunnan) has accused her of being a Kafir. But, Imam Al-Zahabi said that she is not bad. However, when two testimonies of such two great critics of men are in conflict, it is wise to be careful in your judgement. It still makes one uncomfortable with such a character.

Until that stage, the deviation was not that large phase, then, started to emerge, in the dawn of the 3rd century. The practices of those who claimed to be Sufis started to be completely different from the correct Sunna way. They innovated words, concepts and practices that are completely groundless. One innovation is what they called hearing- “Samaa”. It means that they write and sing poems, written in ways that sound as if they are meant to be for women and claim that it is for Allah SWT! They also started to signify their way by using words like: “our way, our method, our Madhab” and the like. They have also employed some conditions which are not Islamic, to accept students to be part of their group. According to Al-Qushairy in his Book “the Letter” the conditions are: not to marry as long as you are following their path, to follow a hard diet that goes less and less to eat, and not to learn the Science of Hadith. The reason they discourage studying hadith is that the hadith scholars exposed the fake practices and innovations of such people, when applying the principles of criticizing men who relate hadith to the Sanad (Chain) of Hadith.  This enables Muslims to receive the correct Hadith in a way to rule out any fabrication or acceptance of hadith that are counter to the ways of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The Sufis had also promoted the concept of “Siyaha” which means going out in the desert without food or water. The Prophet PBUH told a man who asked permission to do the Siyaha, that the Siyaha of this Umma is Jihad. Sufis, until this period of time, were still under the general umbrella of Islam, in spite of the innovations that they created, and the mess they included in their reported talk. For instance, Al-Gonaid was reported by Ibn Taymia as being on the right path most of the time. Still, he reported that there were many things that were very confusing in his words such as: “sane people have ended up in total confusion (when thinking about Faith)”. Ibn Taymia, has chosen to explain that confusion by saying that it might not be his own words. The significant part here is what Ibn Taymia said about, Al-Gonaid being on the right path “most of the time”. The question here is why did they feel the need to create new words and definitions? Did not the Prophet (PBUH) leave us with every thing we need in terms of Aqida (belief)? Did not the Quran and Sunna spell out all that we need to know about our religion?  Don’t the Quran and Sunna show truth from falsehood and lift any confusion? If sane people (those who think) end up in confusion, then are those who are not confused about their God and their religion are insane?

Then the third and final episode of this saga started with the innovation of more new words and beliefs such as Fana (Annihilation), Ishq (intense love) and the like. These words, as reported by Ibn Taymia can carry wrong meanings (Baatil) as much as they can carry right meanings (Haq). Ibn Taymia reported three meanings for Fana (Annihilation). One is right and two are wrong. One meaning is to have annihilation by only thinking of Allah (SWT) and not of any one else.  This is a Haq meaning. The second is to Annihilate in the existence of Allah (SWT) by considering that He is the only one that exists. And this wrong (Bateel) as there are two types of existence: the self-sustained (Allah’s) and the created existence (every thing else). This second concept has led to the third concept, which is pure Kufr (disbelief), of annihilating IN Allah (SWT). This means that the person becomes Allah (Unification concept). This is the religion of people such as Ibn Arabi and Ibn Sabeen. It is also the obvious meanings of what people like Abu Alyazid Albastami said. ‘Ana al-Haqq‘ (I am the Truth) or ‘Subhanee‘ (Glory to Me!) and he will say ‘maa fil jubba ill-Allah‘ (there is nothing in this cloak except Allah ), That is why these words are so dangerous. The question again is why? Why did they use such confusing words and concepts, while Allah (SWT) has given us what we need in Quran and Sunna? Did these people more Taqwa (fear of Allah that leads one to do good and avoid bad) than the Prophet (PBUH) and his followers?  Al-Hafiz Al-Zahabi has reported in his book (Biography of the Famous Nobles) about Abu Alyazid Albastami: “he said: Heavens (Janna) what is heavens? It’s just a child’s play! Hellfire (Nar) what is Hellfire? Make me a sacrifice for its people or I’ll swallow it!! Jews? Why are you torturing them? Just give them to me! (Contradicting Allah’s will in Quran!!)”. This is the Fana! And this is the state they achieve to blame Allah for what he judged!!. Al-Zahabi said: “these people have went into deep oceans and talked about great secrets without any proof”. Some other people like Saead Al-Kharaz told a story about himself. He said: “I was in the desert by myself. I felt great hunger. I wanted to ask Allah (SWT) and make Duaa to get me some food, but I refrained myself from doing that as this contradicts the Tawakul (depending on Allah)”. This is completely against the Shariat. Allah (SWT) likes people to ask him all the time, to show them His generosity and mercy.

This last phase, then, has led the Sufis to the concept of Unification (Itihad) and Occupancy (Hulool). Ibn Taymia has said in the Fatawa: “some of these people believe in these concepts, such as Ibn Arabi and Ibn Sabean. They say that there is only one existence”. He continues: “This is a proof of the Kufr of these people and the wrong of their beliefs. The sayings of these people carries internal Kufr more than what it even obviously shows” V2 P364/366.  May Allah degrade those Sufis who sing their poems and worship their words.

These, briefly, are the phases through which Sufism developed. This is how such ideas developed by man have developed to full Kufr. I have to mention here that this does not mean that every person who describes himself as a Sufi can be called a Kafir. Some of these people are merely blindly following their leaders, without knowing what it means to be part of such an innovated sect. They are just fools.

Also, we have to mention here that some of Ahlul-Sunna Imams have apologized for some of those people who said words of Kufr, as Ibn Taymia said about Al-Bastami. He said that Al-Bastami maybe said these Kufr words while he was in this so-called Annihilation stage, and that he went insane at that time, so he might not be responsible for that. Such excuse should not be taken as a credit to the Sufis in general, as Ibn Taymia and Al-Shatabi had never said that the sect is any good. They merely expressed a possibility that some of these people might have an excuse of being crazy at the time. Does this mean that we take them as leaders or Imams? Does this mean that we use their methods and follow their path? Does this mean that we should do what they do and end up saying Kufr words when we become insane? Also, Al-Zahabi had an explanation for what was reported that Al-Gonaid said about knowing the future, he said: “Al-Jonaid has a great status, and some of what was reported as his own words, was put on his mouth” Biography of the Nobles V20 P254. The point here is that whether it was put on their mouth, or they were insane at the time they said these things- how and why we then take them as Imams? Why don’t we just follow the Prophet and the real Imams who never have been insane or said such Kufr words, to leave people in such a controversy about their religion? However, some of the Sufis, such as Ibn Arabi, are outside the boundaries of Islam- as Ibn Taymiya reported him as being a major Kafir. It is rather obvious that those who promote Sufism believe in such concepts, but are not able to say it out loud.

Also, Sufism has promoted a humiliating attitude within its followers. Some of their rules:

  1. Be with your Shaikh like the dead between the hands of the mortician.
  2. Do not say no, otherwise you shall be expelled.
  3. Who ever says no to his Shaikh shall never succeed.

Sufis have a wrong understanding of the concept of “Waali”. It is important to understand the concept of Waali. In Islam, every true Muslim (not hypocrites) is a Waali of Allah SWT to a certain degree. When a Muslim performs a good deed, he becomes closer to Allah (SWT) and acquires a higher degree of Wilaya at this point of time. When he commits a sin he becomes further away from Allah SWT and looses some of his Walaa to Allah. They think of the Waali as Christians think of the saint. It is, to them, a degree or level, which a person achieves and becomes sacred and acquires a status that is, for some of them, even above Prophets and messengers. Ibn Taymia mentioned the concept of the “Ring (Khatam) of Awliya” as opposed to the “Final (Khatam) Messenger”, where Sufis considered that the “Ring of the Awliya” is higher than the Prophet Mohammed. They give such A’awliya a status like “Khutb” and Ghaws”.  This invented status raises them to such a level that makes them control the universe, on behalf of Allah (SWT)! Allah (SWT)said in the Quran: “Allah is Wali of the believers” which means He is a supporter of the Believers. He did not say: “Allah Waali of the Sufis”. This means that no one can have such a special status, where he can quit performing obligatory Islamic duties, or know the future (Gaib) or be a holy person like those in Christianity. See Ibn Taymia V11 P174.

Also, Sufis stated some other rights, which their saints (Awliya) have, such as having the best manners with them, do not marry or travel without his permission, do not keep any of your personal thoughts from him (like the Christians’ confession concept!). I still recall a story that happened in Jordan, early 80’s with the head of the PEJ (Professional Engineers of Jordan) his name was Laith Shebelaat. Shebelaat Sufi Shaikh saw his wife and liked her. The Shaikh ordered Laith to divorce his wife and he married her! The story took place while I was a resident of Jordan at that time. I ask every one of you- What do you think? Is this the religion you want to follow?

They also believe in the “Elm Ladonni” which means that knowledge can come to them directly from Allah without intermediate. They can receive their own revelation, which is new to them and not brought by a prophet. Sufis had to come up with such a concept as most of them have no knowledge. They only play games with the minds of simple people. According to this concept one can know every thing including the Gaib (future) without reading or having a tutor. Their tutor is Allah SWT Himself! They take the story of Al-Khider “the guide which Allah sent to Moses” as an example that one can have all the knowledge from Allah without any mediation. Of course, the Khadir was sent from Allah Himself to accomplish a specific task of showing Moses how Allah knows every thing and that he cannot do any thing without guidance from Him. This situation was between two characters that were sent by Allah (SWT) to carry out a specific task. Moses was to teach the human race and Al-Khidr to teach Mosses, and Allah taught both. But, what does this situation have to do with Sufis or us or regular people? This is merely a scam to make ignorant Sufis look as if they have all the knowledge they need to control those who believe. That is why they teach the new followers not to ask the sheik in front of people because he might not know and would then look ignorant.

As for their relationships to dictator governments- it is so obvious that they survive with such regimes beautifully. No one ever heard of a Sufi who was imprisoned because of his Sufism. On the contrary, Sufi innovators, in the festival, perform a lot of tricks, haram acts and games, and are protected by the police. Members of almost every side of the Islamic movement get captured and imprisoned except the Sufis. This is a fact that no one can deny. This is because they are more than compliant with the system. They actually serve the system better than any thing else. They make people in a state of ignorance, depending on having knowledge through direct contact with Allah. They make people in a state of unconsciousness and Fana (Annihilation) and the like where no system would fear of them or respect their will.

﴾ وآخر دعوانا أنِ الحمد لله ربِّ العالمين ﴿

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