Understanding Sufism Essay

Religion has been one of the most powerful purveyors of human enlightenment since it has been recorded as a part of human history, we have either rebelled from it reins or have been carried with the ideals it conveys. Sufi, a religion which can be defined into many beliefs depending on the individual has been boxed in by many Western historians, as a mystic dimension of Islam, in order to avoid confusion in their audience. Though the religion itself has many meanings it has been able to deliver a sense of purpose to the individual in that the divine goal is creating a path with oneself to create a direct relationship with god.

Sufi or taṣawwuf translates roughly to “ Wearer of wool ” it can be dated back to the centuries after the passing of the prophet Muhammed. A movement of asceticism grew as a response to the expanding urbanity of Muslims, many Sufis wore wool as protest to this expansionist movement among the elitists. The peoples of this religion had earned the nickname “those who weep” during the Umayyad Dynasty for they had meditated on the Doomsday passages of the Quran. These Sufis exemplified the simpleness of religion in a strict and perplexing way, they had adopted night prayers and adhered strictly to the Quran which is seen as the word of God. The conflicts that had taken place in Iraq and Khorasan led to a growth in Sufism as a response to the growth of persecution and power of the elite. Under the Abbasids the Sufis had solicited for the reformation of the basic understandings of Muslim theology , were thus branded Heterodox. The political lexicon of these early religions catered more to those in power and had an aloof disregard for the lower class peasnetry. As a result of the political and socioeconomic positions of the area a rise in Sufism. The growth and popularity of the religion met with the rise of demanding materialistic standards, led to the opposition of those who could not compete with the materialism, those who at the hands of their leaders were opposed to the braggadocio which they represented, and consequently those who believed materialism was corroding the purity of the Islamic doctrine.

The change from Asceticism to mysticism was led on by Rabia of Basara, which is credited for introducing one of the main theoretical beliefs of mysticism which would be ‘all love and all trust to Allah’ . This century for Sufism was known for their practices in self control and focus on inward wisdom. The prophets behind these fundamentals are remembered in dikhir. In this time period Sufism was relatively small and only shared throughout close social circles thus, the various aspects of the religion could be traced back to different masters and individuals. The development of various viewpoints conversely, could be seen in the different schools of thought which essentially still promoted the fundamentals of the religion, but many had different aspects; one being the development of absolute trust in God

The institution of Sufi orders did not occur until the tenth-twelfth centuries when tariqas were formed these would eventually be where the community would follow the shaykhs ritual systems. One of the most accredited orders is the Qadiryah formulated based on the teachings of Abd al-Qādir al-Jīlānī of Baghdad and most notably the Shadhiliyya (Abu al-Hassan al-Shadhilyah) in North East Africa and Chishtiya ( Mu in al-Din al-Chishti) in Central and South Asia. Today many of these orders are in the membership number of millions. Before this though in the tenth century, there was a movement for textbooking the orders and histories of Sufis, many of these have never been found and are only known about through quotations and excerpts in later works. Through the large institutionalization of Sufism it was able to transcend into India; Ahmad Shrinid has been credited for his ability to gain many followers of the Mughal Court to appeal to Sufism.

Each of these orders has different rituals, but many start with dikhir or the lowering of the souls. Once the individual has been trained to obey the sharia, he will pass on to the Tariqat. Tariqat entails seeking the pathway to god within oneself and usually requires the help of a Shakyh, ‘he must observe his rules, such as service, humility, vigils, in vacations, occasional fasts as directed by his Pir, as a novice these rulings must be obeyed without hesitation’ Once these observances have been processed and accepted the Sufi is handed a ritual cloak and the next stages compose through mental enlightenment of the individual in which the Sufi will reach the divine truth and self-purification.

Though Sufism has had a long rooted history in Islam it has been the notable target of extremist groups such IS and Al-Queada, this little known Islamic religion has unsettled these extremists through its fidelity of peace, self control, patience, and love. Sufism has been looked upon in times of hardship because of its appeal of divineness and individual inwardness, allow Sufis to escape the hardships of the world in order to establish a direct relationship with god. Although, it escapes the grasp of human nature in the sense of organization for the sake of definition, it is a religion that emphasizes the piety of god through the individual allowing for its different interpretations to perplex the minds of those who want to enamor its spirit.