Response to a Misleading Article on Islam and Sufism

This article was written by Fariduddien Rice, an Australian brother who was for a long time present on the Usenet group soc.religion.islam and had an interest in the Turkish Naqshbandi shaikh Mahmud Es’ad Cosan (pronounced Joshan). The brother had a website, which has since disappeared, so I decided to repost it here after rescuing it from the Google caché, after seeing that the article it was written to refute, Sufism - The Deviated Path, by Yusuf Hijazi (published in the Australian Wahhabi magazine Nida’ul Islam or the Call of Islam in the mid 1990s) is still being forwarded around. Not all the points made in this article are correct, but it demonstrates how wide of the mark Hijazi’s essay was.

Response to a Misleading Article on Islam and Sufism

Assalamu alaikum,

The following is a response I wrote to an article, “SUFISM: The Deviated Path” by Yusuf Hijazi, which spreads many lies about Islam and Sufism. The conclusions I came to regarding this article are:

  • Most of his sources criticizing the Sufis are in fact non-Muslim sources. This author seems to like to use non-Muslim sources to criticize and condemn Muslims, and to weaken the Muslim Ummah.
  • Most of his claims are demonstrably false, and the author is therefore guilty of spreading lies and slander about other Muslims, an act which is strongly condemned by the Prophet (s.a.w.), and which has major consequences in the next life.
  • The author accuses all Sufis of shirk and kufr. According to the Prophet (s.a.w.), if he is wrong in these claims, then the author of this article has himself left Islam.
  • The author also lacks knowledge about Ibn Taymiyah’s views of Tasawwuf. Ibn Taymiyah praised some Sufis, and criticized others, on the basis of his understanding of Shari`ah.
  • The author also does not distinguish between authentic Tasawwuf and pseudo-Sufism, which is a major mistake.
  • The author apparently is not aware of a number of hadiths which support saying dhikr in a circle, saying “La ilaha illa llah,” and saying “Allah Allah” as part of dhikr.

Here is the full response, which includes many references….

SUFISM: The Deviated Path By Br. Yusuf Hijazi

Insha-Allah, we will endeavour to answer every point explicitly.

The Prophet (s.a.w.) taught us that it is important to check and be very careful about what you say, and that your tongue is one of the things that can lead you into the Fire. It is unfortunate that, today, many people spread lies about other Muslims. And what do they use as their sources? They use the writings of non-Muslims!

The essay I am replying to is an example of this kind of writing. It includes slander and lies about Muslims, and it uses as its source the writings of non-Muslims to criticize Muslims. That this is done appears to indicate that the author of this article considers himself closer to the non-Muslims than to the Muslims, since he prefers to use non-Muslim sources to slander his Muslim brothers in faith.

Insha-Allah, we will endeavour to point out the many errors which are contained in this article. Insha-Allah, we will also endeavour to clarify that most of the sources used in the article are in fact from non-Muslims. Why would someone use non-Muslim sources to attack his fellow Muslims? The only reason that comes to my mind is that such a person may consider himself closer to the non-Muslims than to the Muslims, and Allah knows best.

Although many sects have appeared throughout the ages, none have outlasted as long and spread their effects into the homes of so many as Sufism has.

Only the first sentence, and already an error. Tasawwuf is not a “sect.” One of the great Sufis in history is Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi, also known as Imam-i Rabbani, the great Renewer of Islam from India. Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi wrote that the Shariah has three parts: knowledge, actions, and sincerity. The role of Tasawwuf is to improve our practice of the third aspect of the Shariah, namely sincerity.

Do Muslims who endeavour to improve their sincerity constitute a “sect”? Certainly not.

The emotional attachment that a countless number of Muslims have towards this sect is so powerful that any analysis should be purely from an objective perspective; thus this article takes an objective approach, and tries to be conservative rather than extreme in its analysis of Sufism.

The author seems to imply that “emotional attachment” is a negative thing. Many people also have a strong “emotional attachment” to the Final Religion of Allah, the religion of Islam. Is this a bad thing too?

Its conclusions however leave no doubt as to the alien nature of Sufi teachings that have infiltrated into the religion that our beloved Prophet (s.a.w) left us upon.

We shall see, insha-Allah.

Sufism: Its Origins The word Sufi is most likely to be derived from the Arabic word “soof”, meaning wool. This is because of the Sufi habit of wearing woolen coats, a designation of their initiation into the Sufi order.

A number of origins of the word “Sufi” have been given.

In the book “Secret of Secrets” (Sirr al-Asrar), which has been attributed to Shaykh Abdul-Qadir al-Jilani, we read:

There is a group of people called the Sufis. Four interpretations are given for this name. Some see, looking at their exterior, that they wear rough woollen garb. In Arabic the word for wool is suf, and they call them Sufis from this. Others, looking at their way of life free from the anxieties of this world, and at their ease and at peace, which in Arabic is safa, call them Sufis on that account. Yet others, seeing deeper, look at their hearts, which are purified of everything other than the Essence of Allah. Because of the purity of those hearts, in Arabic safi, they term them Sufis. Others who know call them Sufis because they are close to Allah and will stand in the first row, in Arabic saff, before Allah on the day of the Last Judgement. (Shaykh Abdul-Qadir al-Jilani, Secret of Secrets, translated by Shaykh Tosun Bayrak, p. 65.)

The early Sufi orders considered the wearing of this coat as an imitation of Isa bin Maryam (Jesus).

Certainly some Sufis might have considered this, however it is certainly far from universal. Others would say because the wearing of a simple woollen garment is simple and unpretentious.

In reply to this, Ibn Taymiyyah said: “There are a people who have chosen and preferred the wearing of woolen clothes, claiming that they want to resemble al-Maseeh ibn Maryam. But the way of our Prophet is more beloved to us, and the Prophet (s.a.w) used to wear cotton and other garments.”1

Ibn Taymiyah did criticize some sayings and actions of some Sufis, while on the other hand praising others. One of the Sufis he praised was Shaykh Abdul-Qadir al-Jilani, the founder of the Qadiri tariqa.

Often, people today only show one side of Ibn Taymiyah’s writings — those where he criticizes some Sufis — and ignores the other part of his writings — those where he praises some Sufis. It is important to keep this balance in mind, when considering the truth about Ibn Taymiyah.

Ibn Taymiyah’s general attitude to Sufism is given in the following statement:

“Some people accept everything of Sufism, what is right as well as what is wrong; others reject it totally, both what is wrong as well as what is right, as some scholars of kalam and fiqh do. The right attitude toward Sufism, or any other thing, is to accept what is in agreement with the Qur’an and the Sunnah, and reject what does not agree.” (Quote originally from MajmuFatawa Shaykh 'l-Islam Ibn Taymiyah, compiled byAbd ‘l-Rahman ‘l-Asimi and his son Muhammad, Riyadh, Vol. X, p. 82. English translation of this statement from “Sufism and Shari`ah: A Study of Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi’s Effort to Reform Sufism” by Muhammad Abdul Haq Ansari, published by the Islamic Foundation, 1986, p. 130.]

Ibn Taymiyah was certainly not opposed to Sufism, though he did oppose some of the statements of some Sufis, such as Ibn al-Arabi, while on the other hand greatly praising other Sufis, such as Shaykh Abdul-Qadir al-Jilani. Ibn Taymiyah even wrote a commentary on Shaykh Abdul-Qadir al-Jilani’s collection of talks, “Futuh al-Ghayb,” which he had much praise for.

More details on Ibn Taymiyah and Sufism can be found in the book, “Sufism and Shari`ah” by Muhammad Abdul Haq Ansari, published by the Islamic Foundation in 1986, pp. 130-139.

Sufism is known as “Islamic Mysticism,” in which Muslims seek to find divine love and knowledge through direct personal experience of God [2].

Reference 2 here which the author is using is Encyclopaedia Britannica. It helps to demonstrate that he is relying on non-Muslim sources to slander Muslims.

Regarding the statement, it is true that Tasawwuf is a path of experience of getting closer to Allah. However, it is usually non-Muslims who call it “Islamic Mysticism,” and the author has decided to copy the probably non-Muslim authors of the Encyclopaedia Britannica in his use of the term.

Mysticism is defined as the experience of mystical union or direct communion with ultimate reality, and the belief that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience (as intuition or insight) [3]

This is a definition from a dictionary he has referred to. It is not clear that it has any relevence, since he has not used any Muslim sources so far, but instead the author prefers to follow the words of non-Muslims.

Both the terms Sufi and Sufism and Sufi beliefs have no basis from the traditional Islamic sources of the Qur’an and Sunnah, a fact even admitted by themselves.

The term “tafsir” and many other terms also have no basis from the Qur’an and Sunnah. So what? It is the meaning which we are discussing. Clearly there were commentaries on the Qur’an were a reality before such commentary came to be known by the name “tafsir.” The same also goes for Tasawwuf, which is the science of perfecting your ikhlas (sincerity), according to Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi.

Rather, Sufism is in essence a conglomerate consisting of extracts from a multitude of other religions with which Sufi’s interacted.

The author does not give a reference here, however this theory comes from non-Muslim orientalists of late last century and early this century. By following this theory, the author again shows that he prefers to follow the words of non-Muslims rather than the words of Muslims.

By the way, not even non-Muslim orientalists believe this any more. This theory is nowadays only kept alive by those Muslims who find it convenient, and use it to attack and slander other Muslims, and who like to divide and weaken the Ummah.

Why do they do this, and constantly weaken the Muslim Ummah? I believe it is from the ego…. by attacking others, the ego gets a sense of self-gratification and superiority, like Iblis who refused to bow down to Adam, because he thought he was superior, as he was made from fire, while Adam was made from clay. May Allah protect us from such arrogance and egotism, and help us to be humble.

During the primary stages of Sufism, Sufis were characterised by their particular attachment to zikr (remembrance of Allah) and asceticism (seclusion), as well as the beginning of innovated practices to ‘aid’ in the religious practices. Yet even at the early stage of Sufism, before their involvement in innovated rituals and structured orders, the scholars warned the masses of the extremity of Sufi practices. Imam Al-Shafi’ had the opinion that “If a person exercised Sufism (Tasawafa) at the beginning of the day, he doesn’t come at Zuhur except an idiot”.

No reference has been provided. You can provide all these references to non-Muslim sources, but you cannot even provide a reference for a supposed statement by Imam al-Shafi’i? Why can’t you provide the reference?

Imam Malik and Ahmad bin Hanbal also shared similar ideas on this new movement which emanated from Basrah, Iraq.

Again, no references are provided for these claims.

On the other hand, we do have the reported saying of Imam Malik, who said:

“He who practices Tasawwuf without learning Shariah corrupts his faith, while he who learns Shariah without practicing Tasawwuf corrupts himself. Only he who combines the two proves true.” (The English translation of this comes from the book “Islamic Beliefs and Doctrine According to Ahl al-Sunna” by Shaykh Hisham Kabbani, p. 278. The original references are given as: “It is related by the muhaddith Ahmad Zarruq, the hafiz Ali al-Qari al-Harawi, the muhaddithsAli bin Ahmad al-`Adawi and Ibn ‘Ajiba, and others.” More references are listed in a footnote, for those who wish to find the complete references.

Although it began as a move towards excessive Ibaadah, such practices were doomed to lead to corruption, since their basis did not come from authentic religious doctrines, but rather from exaggerated human emotions.

This is an incorrect exaggeration. There is no limit to dhikr, there are hadiths to this effect. Are you claiming that there is a limit to dhikr, in contradiction to the hadiths?

Sufism as an organised movement arose among pious Muslims as a reaction against the worldliness of the early Umayyad period (AD 661-750) [4].

This is incorrect. The earliest organized Sufi tariqa was the Qadiri tariqa, which was founded by Shaykh Abdul-Qadir al-Jilani (or, more technically, by his sons). Shaykh Abdul-Qadir al-Jilani lived in the 12th Century CE. To my understanding, the organization of the Sufi turuq was a reaction to the Mongol invasion, which destroyed and disrupted everything in its path. The various turuq were organized in the wake of the Mongol invasion to help preserve their teachings.

The Sufis exploited the chaotic state of affairs that existed during the fifth and sixth centuries A.H. and invited people to follow their way, alleging that the remedy to this chaos was conformity to the guidance of their order’s Sheikhs. Dar al-Majnoon was established during the reign of Khalifah Ma’moon, where he invited the scholars of the Romans and Greeks to meet with the Muslims and ‘discuss’ their respective positions. This provided the perfect breeding ground for the synthesis between Islam and Pagan theology, to produce the Sufism of the likeof Ibn Arabi.

No references have been given, however such theories usually come from orientalists, who are not Muslims. I suggest it is probably likely that the above story has come from non-Muslim orientalists, which the author of this article seems to prefer to follow instead of the words of Muslims, even though not even present-day orientalists believe in this any more.

The Mixing Pot With the demise of the Companions and their successors, the door became open for the distortion of Islamic Principles. The enemies of Islam had already burrowed deep into the ranks of Muslims and rapidly caused Fitnah through their spreading of forged hadith and subsequently created new sects such as the Khawaarij and Mu’tazilah. Sufism gained its breeding ground during this period, whereby it gained its support from the Dynastic Rulers, who had deviated from Islam to the extent whereby magic was used as entertainment in their courts, even though magic is considered as Kufr in Islam. [5]

I have never heard of Sufis using magic in the courts! What a ridiculous story. The reference (5) given here is a reference to a book by Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, a present-day writer. What was his source? Please provide original sources, since I wouldn’t be surprised if the source for this also came from non-Muslim orientalists, which is where many such stories originate from, until they are copied by Muslims seeking ways of attacking other Muslims and wanting to divide and weaken the Ummah, by following the words of non-Muslims.

During this period, Sufism developed its Shi’a flavour, indeed the roots of contemporary Sufism have been traced back to Shi’a origins (see later). Sufi ideology and thinking flourished during the times of the likes of Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi, Jalal Ad Din Rumi, and Imam Ghazali. Their translation of Greek philosophical works into Arabic during the third Islamic century left an indelible mark on many aspects of Sufism, resulting in Greek pantheism becoming an integral part of Sufi doctrine. Pagan practices such as Saint worshipping, the use of magic and holding venerance towards their Sheikh overtook the Orthodox practices of Islam and had little resemblance to the Islam left by our Prophet (s.a.w). By examining the mystic doctrines of Christianity, Hinduism, Taoism and other religions, it becomes clear how closer Sufism is to these religions than to Islam. In fact, Sufism is never characterised under “Islam” in any system of catalogue, but rather under ‘Mysticism’. Sharda highlights these unsurprising similarities by stating that:

Sharda is a Hindu, to my understanding. Again, we see the phenomenon of trusting the words of non-Muslims more than the words of Muslims, which perhaps shows with whom this author’s true agreement lies.

The claim that Sufism originated in religions other than Islam comes from non-Muslim orientalists, such as, for example, R. A. Nicholson and others. The above paragraph is another clear example of how this author has preferred the words of non-Muslims more than the words of Muslims, using theories by people like Nicholson (a Christian) and quoting the words of Sharda (a Hindu).

The traditional Islamic perspective on Tasawwuf (Sufism) is that it originates in the Qur’an and the teachings of the Prophet (s.a.w.). Each Sufi tariqa has a silsila (chain of authority) reaching back to the Prophet (s.a.w.). Modern orientalists also consider that Tasawwuf originated in Islam, in agreement with traditional Islamic views on the topic, and it is only the orientalists of late last century and early this century who proposed the theory the author of this article likes. It is shameful that some Muslims today have reached a stage where they prefer to follow non-Muslims even more than their own brothers in Islam.

The following comparison demonstrates the non-coincidental similarity that Sufism shares with other religions: Concept of validity of all religions

<…Things deleted….>

Here the author claims that Tasawwuf teaches the validity of all religions. This claim is false and incorrect.

A clear discussion of this, from the viewpoint of traditional Islam (of which Tasawwuf is a part), can be found in the article by Nuh Ha Mim Keller: On the validity of all religions in the thought of ibn al-‘Arabi and Emir ‘Abd al-Qadir.

Nuh Ha Mim Keller shows that the belief in the universal validity of all religions is not part of authentic Sufi teachings, and not part of the teachings of Ibn al-Arabi (contrary to the claims of the author of this article and some others, who take only a very selective reading of the writings of Ibn al-Arabi, rather than a comprehensive one).

Union with the Creator Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’aala is completely distinct from His Creation. He neither resembles His Creation, nor is He enclosed by it. Sufis however, with their deviant doctrine of Wahdat ul Wujood, believe contrary to this. […Rest on this topic deleted…]

There are differing opinions regarding this matter among those of the Sufi path, and the author incorrectly does not acknowledge this.

For example, Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi (the great Shaykh I mentioned earlier), criticized Ibn al-Arabi’s doctrine of Wahdat al-Wujud as being erroneous. This he has clearly stated in his writings. He considers this doctrine to be an error of not having traversed far enough along the path of spiritual experience. More information on this topic can be found in the book “Sufism and Shari`ah” by Muhammad Abdul Haq Ansari.

On the other hand, others also interpret “Wahdat al-Wujud” to mean that nothing exists of itself, independent of everything else, except Allah. Such an understanding is certainly within Islam, since everything which isn’t Allah depends upon Allah for its existence. For more on this understanding, see the article “‘Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulsi and Akram Safadi,” by Ustadha Umm Sahl.

The approach taken by the author of the article I am responding to is simply naive and incorrect, and certainly does not do justice to the issue.

Incorporation of Music in Rituals

(Editor’s note: authentic Sufi groups do not use music, end of story. That musical instruments are prohibited is the main position of all four schools and this is reflected in the practices of Sufis of all turuq. The status of one or two of the groups that are known to employ it, like the Harraqiya, I will leave open to others, but they usually turn out to be corrupted forms of the original tariqa.)

Insha-Allah, I won’t deal with this in great detail, as it is a lengthy topic in itself, with much discussion already by others, such as in the writings of al-Ghazali, for example.

Music of all forms is forbidden by the majority of scholars, and remains attached to forbidden practices such as drinking, fornication and parties.

This is false, as there is a hadith that the Prophet (s.a.w.) permitted the use of the drum at weddings, for example. Furthermore, if I recall correctly, there are hadiths which mention that Prophet Dawud (a.s.) played the flute.

(Editor’s note: this is an abrogated evidence, since it concerns the time of Bani Isra’il, not the present Ummah. The rest of this can be edited out; one may find it on Usenet or on the Google caché if one wishes.)

Sufi Sheikhs: Role Models or Deviants? Bayazid Tayfur al-Bistami Bayazid is considered to be “of the six bright stars in the firmament of the Prophet (s.a.w)”15, and a link in the Golden Chain of the Naqshibandi Tariqah. Yet his life reeks of Shirin all aspects. Bayazid al-Bistami was the first one to spread the reality of Annihilation (Fana’), whereby the Mystic 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.

Such a state is mentioned in a hadith qudsi:

On the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him), who said that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: Allah (mighty and sublime be He) said:

Whosoever shows enmity to someone devoted to Me, I shall be at war with him. My servant draws not near to Me with anything more loved by Me than the religious duties I have enjoined upon him, and My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory works so that I shall love him. When I love him I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes and his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask [something] of Me, I would surely give it to him, and were he to ask Me for refuge, I would surely grant him it. I do not hesitate about anything as much as I hesitate about [seizing] the soul of My faithful servant: he hates death and I hate hurting him.

It was related by al-Bukhari.

In one of these states, Bayazid cried out: “Praise to Me, for My greatest Glory!” Yet this concept is to be found nowhere in the Qur’an, nor Sunnah, nor in the behaviour in the Salaf us Saalih.

These statements are not considered to be statements of reality, but rather statements of what they felt under ecstatic experience. The experience is one of overwhelming experience of Allah.

If you read the above hadith carefully, you will see it refers to this type of experience. The key is that on the authentic path of Tasawwuf, these statements are not considered to be statements of reality, but rather of experience, and it is what is also referred to in the hadith qudsi quoted above.

Bistami’s belief in the Unity of all religions became apparent when asked the question: “How does Islam view other religions?” His reply was “All are vehicles and a path to God’s Divine Presence.”

I am not aware of such a statement. What is the reference? No reference has been given.

<…Some more claims about Abu Yazid al-Bistami, again with no references and which I have never heard of before, I have deleted….please provide references…>

But strangest of all was his obedience to a dog he once came across. The dog had apparently become upset at Bayazid’s attempt to avoid him, to which the dog spoke to him and scolded him. So Bayazid pleaded “O dog, you are so enlightened, live with me for some time.”17

You have left out most of the story!

Here is a summary of the story….

According to a Sufi teaching-story from Fariduddin Attar’s “Tadhkirat al-Awliyya,” upon coming across a dog, Abu Yazid al-Bistami is reported to have said to the dog,

“You are unclean outwardly, I am inwardly unclean. Come, let us work together, that through our united efforts we may both become clean.”

The dog rejected this suggestion to work together, since the dog’s view was that

“You are not fit to travel with me and be my partner. For I am rejected of all men, whereas you are accepted of men. Whoever encounters me throws a stone at me; whoever encounters you greets you as King of the Sufis. I never store up a single bone for the morrow; you have a whole barrel of wheat for the morrow.”

At this, Abu Yazid lamented,

“I am not fit to travel along with a dog, how then shall I travel along with the Eternal and Everlasting One? Glory be to that God, who educates the best of creatures by means of the least of creatures!”

Abu Yazid al-Bistami was not too haughty to learn from a lowly creature — in fact, what he learned from the dog was simplicity and humility, and to eschew haughtiness and fame. Avoiding haughtiness is a very fundamental Islamic lesson, since haughtiness is in fact what caused Satan to rebel against God (Qur’an 2:34). Those who are too haughty to learn from a lowly creature are most likely in fact those who need this lesson the most.

Unfortunately, by cutting out most of the story, the author of the article I am replying to completely distorts the story, and the whole meaning of the story is not given, which is about teaching humility, an important teaching of Islam.

Ibn Arabi

<…Rest deleted…>

Insha-Allah, I won’t discuss Ibn Arabi. For more, please refer to what I said already regarding opinions on “Wahdat al-Wujud.”

Also, insha-Allah, I won’t discuss Hallaj, except to note that, among the Sufis, there were also those who opposed him, such as his own teacher, Junayd.

Evidence Against their teachings: their beliefs and practices Position of the Sheikh and Wali The Sheikh or Wali is given a similar standing as that of a Catholic Saint, or the Dalai Lama himself. Complete obedience is enforced on his followers, and any questions are deemed as a betrayal of trust:

This is false, in my experience. The Shaykh is a teacher, and is obeyed as one would obey or disobey a teacher, in accordance with the Qur’an and Sunnah.

The Sheikh is given the standing of a deity in Sufism.

This kind of statement is slander of the worst kind, and is absolutely false. The relationship of a Shaykh and murid is just the relationship of a teacher and student.

The Prophet (s.a.w.) condemned such statements in the strongest terms.

It is reported on the authority of Ibn `Umar that the Prophet (may peace and blessings be upon him) said:

Any person who calls his brother: O Unbeliever! (then the truth of this label) would return to one of them. If it is true, (then it is) as he asserted, (but if it is not true), then it returns to him (and thus the person who made the accusation is an Unbeliever).

[Muslim]

(Editor’s note: Shaikh Nuh has told us that what returns to the accuser is the sin of calling someone a kafir, not the fact of being a kafir.)

By saying that the role of the Shaykh is that of a deity, this person is calling all Sufis to be mushriks. According to the statement of the Prophet (s.a.w.), if this person’s claim is incorrect, then the author of this article has, by his statement, left the religion of Islam. By my own witness and experience, the statement of the author is incorrect.

May Allah protect us from following the slanderous author of this article in his fate.

Distortion of the concepts of zikr, hadith, Qur’an Since the Qur’an and Saheeh Hadith cannot be changed, the Sufi’s have reverted to Ta’weel, a method of changing the apparent meaning of the verse or hadith to have a hidden one. This provided them with sufficient lee-way to support any concept they desired, by simply stating that the verse/hadith had an inner meaning which only the Sheikh himself could know.

It is true that the Qur’an has depths upon depths of meaning. One does not have to be a Shaykh to realize the incredible richness of the Qur’an.

Say: “If the oceans were ink (wherewith to write out) the words of my Lord, sooner would the ocean be exhausted than would the words of my Lord, even if we added another ocean like it, for its aid.”

[Qur’an 18:109]

It is unfortunate if Allah has not given you the eyes to see it.

The act of making Zikr in circles and jumping/moving frantically is also totally unfounded. Zikr in the true Arabic sense means “Remembrance of Allah.” The Prophet’s (s.a.w) method, which Muslims agree to be the best and only acceptable one, of zikr consisted in reciting Qur’an, discussing religion with his companions, and making Tasbeeh on his hands. Yet the act of sitting in circles and loudly or silently chanting “Allah, Allah” was never practised by the Prophet (s.a.w) nor the Salaf, and all hadith which state that the Prophet (s.a.w) did so (such as when he supposedly went into a room, told the companions to lift up their hands and chant “La Ilaha Illa Allah” ) are unanimously agreed upon to be forged.

There are a number of hadiths about making dhikr in a group, and making dhikr saying “La ilaha illa Allah.”

Hazrat Jabir relates that he heard the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) having said:

“The best remembrance of Allah is `La ilaha illa llah.’”

[Tirmizi, also related in the Riyadh us-Saliheen of Imam Nawawi]

Another relevent hadith is the following one…

Hazrat Abu Saeed Khudri relates that once Hazrat Muawiyah visited the mosque and saw a circle (of reciters). He asked, “What has made you sit?” The said, “We have assembled here to remember Allah.” He said, “By Allah you did not sit except for this purpose?” They affirmed, “We did not sit except for this.” Hazrat Mu`awiyah then told them, “I did not ask you to swear on account of any malice. None of you can match me for scanty narration of the Prophet (s.a.w.) (and as such have narrated very few traditions about him). The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) once visited a gathering of his companions and inquired, ‘What has made you assemble here?’ They answered, ‘We have gathered to remember Allah and praise Him for having led us to Islam and granted this favour to us.’ The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) inquired, ‘Do you affirm by Allah that it is so?’ The Holy Prophet’s Companions affirmed, ‘By Allah we are sitting here for this purpose only.’ He said, ‘I have not put you on oath on account of any doubt, but angel Jibreel had visited me and told me that Allah felt proud of you among the angels.’”

[Muslim, and also in the Riyadh us-Saliheen.]

This hadith shows clearly that

  • In the time of the Prophet (s.a.w.), he approved of people gathering in circles for dhikr (against the claims of the author we are responding to)
  • The hadith is from Sahih Muslim, so it is a sound hadith.

This tradition of making dhikr in a circle in assembly continues in the Sufi turuq.

The Qur’an also says in meaning:

Lo! In the creation of the Heavens and the earth and in the night and day are tokens (of His sovereignty) for men of understanding, such as remember Allah, in standing, sitting, and reclining.

[Qur’an 3:190-191]

What this part of the Qur’an establishes is that posture is not important in performing dhikr — standing, sitting, or reclining. Presumably other postures are also okay, so criticisms about posture during dhikr is irrelevent.

Finally, the Qur’an also says

Say: “Truly Allah leaves to stray whom He will, but He guides to Himself those who turn to Him in penitence — Those who believe, and whose hearts find satisfaction in the remebrance of Allah, for without doubt in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find satisfaction.”

[Qur’an 13:27-28]

This part of the Qur’an suggests that if from your dhikr you are finding peace in your heart, then there is something good about your dhikr. It is for this experience of peace in your heart, which is a reality which can be experienced, for which many on the Sufi path do dhikr, to get closer to Allah.

Ibn Taymiyyah stated that this practice opened the door to Shaytaan, whereby the Shaytaan would enter the gathering (since they were involved in innovation) and take the form of a pious person. He also stated that the recital of “Allah, Allah” was forbidden, as it was never declared to be a form of zikr, and has no attached word to complete it (such as Allahu Akbar, Subhaan Allah).26

The Prophet said, “The Hour will not arise before ‘Allah, Allah’ is no longer said on earth.”

[Muslim]

This hadith clearly refers to repetition in saying, “Allah, Allah.”

Much more discussion, based on clear hadith, regarding dhikr, can be found on this web page.

The stories also of Khidr and his meeting with the ‘Awliyaa’, the 40 Abdaal’s who are always on the Earth and can be at any place in the wink of an eye, are derived from Jewish and Christian legends, not Islamic traditions.

Khidr is generally understood to be the one referred to in Qur’an 18:60 onwards, who meets Musa (a.s.), though he is not named.

Innovation Imam Malik remarked: “That which was not religion at the time of the Messenger and his companions, may Allah be pleased with them all, is never to be religion today. He who introduces a Bid’ah (innovation) in the religion of Islam and deems it a good thing, claims by so doing that Muhammad (s.a.w) betrayed the Message.” The Sufis are to be found indulging in and spending an enormous amount of resources defending innovated practices, declaring them to be “good innovations.” These include celebrating the death of the Prophet (s.a.w) (a practice adopted from the reign of Fatamids, who began this innovation in order to seek the pleasure of the masses),

I have never heard of “celebrating the death of the Prophet.” I wonder where this came from???

Why they still survive Emotional attachment The Sufi’s have become such an integral part of the lives of so many Muslims that Muslims are finding it difficult to accept that the Sufi path is wrong, and accuse anyone who pinpoints the errors of Sufism as an extremist or a follower of some ‘deviant’ sect. Sufism calls to human emotions rather than intellect and Islamic evidence.

Well, I can only speak personally here. The reason I am in favour of Tasawwuf, or Sufism, is because it is through the practice of dhikr within a Sufi tariqa that I felt my heart open, and I really felt some closeness to Allah.

In contrast to the understanding of Islam of some other Muslims — which is often dry and devoid of spiritual reality, and consists instead of slandering anyone who disagrees with them — the people of the Sufi path I have known are soft-hearted, speak kind words, and seem to truly manifest the authentic spirit of Islam.

For example, poetry and music were the most popular form during the past hundreds of years, whereby “Sufi ideas permeated the hearts of all those who hearkened to poetry.”27

Yes, it is true, much Sufi poetry is very beautiful. What is the subject of this poetry? Usually the subject of this poetry is their overwhelming love of Allah.

Those of faith are overflowing in their love for Allah.

[Qur’an 2:165]

Today, Sufism is followed by masses of people who desire to leave behind the complexities of this world, instead of building the ability to challenge it. Sufism provides the perfect escape, where its followers can meditate instead of thinking about the other Muslims who are suffering, let alone help them.

These claims are very strange, since it is often Sufi organizations which are active in helping other Muslims.

Similarity with pagan beliefs Sufism is so similar to other religions, and as we noted earlier very tolerant of them,

As I pointed out earlier, this claim is false. The authentic Sufi viewpoint considers Islam as the final religion.

The author does not distinguish between true Sufis and pseudo-Sufis, which is a big mistake he makes. All the great Sufis condemned the pseudo-Sufis, who use the words of the Sufis, but know nothing of the reality of the path.

that a change to Sufism does not involve a complete change of life, as Islam requires. So Buddhists, Sikhs, Taoists and mystic Jews and Christians looking for an easy alternative find solace in Sufism which perhaps only adds another dimension to their previous way of life, rather than uprooting it and starting afresh

This is often a hallmark of pseudo-Sufism, not authentic Tasawwuf.

Sufism offers its followers a life carefree from fighting (Jihad),

What a strange claim! The Sufis have often been at the forefront of Jihad. The founder of the Islamic independence movement in Chechnia was Shaykh Shamil, a Naqshbandi Sufi Shaykh. The founder of the Chinese Muslim independence movement in China last century was Ma Hualong, who was also a Naqshbandi Sufi Shaykh. The founder of the Ikhwan al-Muslimeen, Hasan al-Banna, was a Sufi of the Hasafiyya tariqa. And there are many other examples in addition to this!

politics,

Again, Hasan al-Banna was the founder of the Ikhwan al-Muslimeen, and he was a member of the Hasafiyya tariqa. One of the founders of the Islamic movement in Turkey was Shaykh Mehmed Zahid Kotku, a Naqshbandi Shaykh. The man who was largely responsible to bringing much of India back to authentic Islamic rule in the 17th Century CE, after the pro-Hindu rule of Akbar, was Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi, a Naqshbandi Shaykh.

The man largely responsible for helping to bring Islam to West Africa was Uthman dan Fodio, a Qadiri Shaykh. And there are many more!

The claims above, that Sufis are not involved with jihad or in bringing the state to Islam, are clearly based on sheer ignorance of history.

the initiative to seek knowledge and teach it, the work of Da’wah,

Again, this is complete ignorance. Tasawwuf was largely responsible for bringing Islam to Central Asia, Chechnia, China, Indonesia and Malaysia, the many countries of West Africa, and other places besides!

How can it be claimed that Sufis do not do Da’wah? It is simply a statement based on complete ignorance of history.

Support from the governments Any group which manages to gain the support of an anti-Islamic Government must be suspicious. During the reign of the tyrant Mustafa Kemal, under whose leadership thousands of scholars were executed and Islamic practices banned, special permission was granted by the Turkish government in 1954 allowing the Mawlawi dervishes of Konya to perform their ritual dances.

What this statement ignores is that all the Sufi turuq were banned by Mustafa Kemal. So to claim that Kemal approved of the Sufis is again based on complete ignorance of the history of Turkey.

In fact, it was especially the Mevlevi tariqa which was persecuted, because the Mevlevi Sufis were close to the Ottomon Sultans, and a number of the Ottoman rulers of history were actually members of the Mevlevi tariqa.

As for the “special permission,” it was not permission for the tariqa to function, but just permission to give a show as a tourist attraction. It was probably a further plot to try to kill the tariqa, and certainly not a favour.

The Sheikh of the Naqshibandi’s of America has greeted and received praises from the President of America Bill Clinton himself. And why shouldn’t he, since the ‘Islam’ he portrays is one of pacifism and unity with the Kuffar.

To my understanding, the Shaykh in question is inviting people to Islam, including Bill Clinton. This is in the tradition of the Prophet (s.a.w.), who dictated letters which were sent to various rulers, inviting them to Islam.

It is a shame that this author’s knowledge of Islamic history seems to be so amazingly poor.

<….Some repetition here, which I already addressed above, so it has been deleted….>

For example, Ibn Taymiyyah is attributed to have been a member of the Qadiri order and had been initiated, and spoken great words on Bistami and his likes. Yet Ibn Taymiyyah spent the majority of his life fighting against the teachings of Sufism, was imprisoned because of them, and bluntly stated “…Ibn Arabi who wrote ‘Al-Fousous,’ and other slandering atheists such as Ibn Sab’een and his like. They even witness that they are simultaneously the worshipers and the ones being worshiped.”

It is unfortunate that the writings of Ibn Taymiyah are not studied by the above author.

Ibn Taymiyah divided Sufis into three groups.

The first group were those who, according to Ibn Taymiyah, were never “intoxicated” and did not lose their sense of discrimination, and who never said or did anything even remotely against the Qur’an and Sunnah. In this group, Ibn Taymiyah included Ibrahim ibn Adham, Junayd, and Abdul-Qadir al-Jilani, for example.

The second group were those whose experience of fana (“annihilation”) and intoxication (sukr) weakened their sense of discrimination, and made them say words which they later realized were incorrect (in their outer sense) when they became sober. However, he does not condemn their experiences or what they said or did, and he offers apology for them on account that they were in an intoxicated state, and had lost control over reason. In this group, Ibn Taymiyah includes Abu Yazid al-Bistami and Abu Bakr ‘l-Shibli.

The third group are those who Ibn Taymiyah strongly criticized. Those in this group include al-Hallaj and Ibn al-Arabi.

This is reported in the book, “Sufism and Shari`ah,” by Muhammad Abdul Haq Ansari, pp. 130-132. A large portion of chapter 5 of this book is devoted to discussing Ibn Taymiyah’s views of Sufism.

Therefore, to say that Ibn Taymiyah uncritically condemned Sufism is completely incorrect. Rather, he supported some Sufis, and condemned some, based on his understanding of Shari’ah.

Conclusion Sufism was doomed to destruction from when it first emerged, because of its deviation from the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah. The small excess, the little innovation, led to the snowball effect, such that it emerged as a movement for well-meant increased Ibaadah and Zuhd, to Kufr and Innovation.

These claims have certainly not been proved in this article. Rather, what we have mostly seen are a mixture of lies about the Sufis, based on non-Muslim sources, lack of knowledge about many hadiths and lack of knowledge about history. We have also seen accusations of shirk and kufr, however, we have also seen that, according to a hadith, if this author is incorrect in his claims, then he is in fact the one who has left Islam, and will pay for leaving Islam in the life to come.

In truth, Islam is sufficient for us, and it is only Shaytaan who wishes to turn us away from our religion, to make us exceed the limits, and fall into his trap. The only sure way to avoid this is to grasp tightly onto what was left to us by our beloved Prophet (s.a.w), the Qur’an and Sunnah, as understood and believed and acted upon by the best people to have lived: the Salaf us Saalih, the Companions and those who followed their footsteps.

In conclusion, we note:

  • Most of his sources criticizing the Sufis are in fact non-Muslim sources. This author seems to like to use non-Muslim sources to criticize and condemn Muslims, and to weaken the Muslim Ummah.
  • Most of his claims are demonstrably false, and the author is therefore guilty of spreading lies and slander about other Muslims, an act which is strongly condemned by the Prophet (s.a.w.), and which has major consequences in the next life.
  • The author accuses all Sufis of shirk and kufr. According to the Prophet (s.a.w.), if he is wrong in these claims, then the author of this article has himself left Islam.
  • The author also lacks knowledge about Ibn Taymiyah’s views of Tasawwuf. Ibn Taymiyah praised some Sufis, and criticized others, on the basis of his understanding of Shari`ah.
  • The author also does not distinguish between authentic Tasawwuf and pseudo-Sufism, which is a major mistake.
  • The author apparently is not aware of a number of hadiths which support saying dhikr in a circle, saying “La ilaha illa llah,” and saying “Allah Allah” as part of dhikr.
  • May Allah bless and reward those who seek closeness to Him sincerely.

    Wassalam,

    Fariduddien Rice

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