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The Formation Of

Sufism As A Science

From Realities Of Sufism
Sh. `Abd Al-Qadir `Isa

Presented by Omar KN

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”Sufism is the practical implementation of Islam.”


Is Sufism something new
, not practiced
by the Prophet ( sallAllahu `aleihi wa sallam ),
the Sahabah, or the early generations?

Dr. Ahmad `Alwash* wrote:

”Many people ask themselves why the call to Sufism was unknown at the beginning of Islam and why this invitation gained prominence only after the generation of the Companions and their followers.

In response to this we say: in the first generation, there was no need for it. By their own disposition, the people of that era were already people of piety and scrupulousness, masters of spiritual rigors and keenness to worship. By virtue of their proximity and connection to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, they would hasten and race each other to follow his example ﷺ as in all of that. During that time, there was no need to establish a distinct science to guide them to something they were already upon.

The likeness of the Companions in this matter may be likened to that of the eloquent Bedouin Arab. Such a Bedouin knows the Arabic language by way of inheriting it from his elders, to the point that he is even able to compose eloquent poetry by his natural disposition and nature, even though he knows nothing about the principles of the language, inflection, poetic meter, or composition. Someone like him is in no need of learning grammar or rhetoric.

Yet despite this, when grammatical mistakes, incorrect diction, and weak rhetoric, becomes wide spread—or even when a non-Arab simply wants to learn it and understand it, or when it becomes a societal need like the need for other sciences—learning the science of grammar, the principles of the language, and poetry becomes a necessity.

Even if the Companions and followers did not take the name "Sufis", they were Sufis in reality. What is meant by Sufism more than a person living his life for his Lord and not his lower ego, while at the same time adorning his self with asceticism, persisting upon slavehood, directing his full attention to Allah with his soul and heart at all times, and observing all other perfected traits that the Companions and followers reached by way of spiritual elevation; having attaining the highest levels therein?

The Companions did not suffice themselves with testifying to the doctrines of faith, or establishing the legal obligations alone, rather they coupled their testimony with experiential knowledge and direct experience. They carried out every act beloved to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ beyond the obligations, such as the supererogatory acts.

They abstained from every detestable act—not to mention the forbidden things—until their inner eyes were enlightened and the rays of wisdom penetrated their hearts, and the Divine Lordly secrets flowed over their bodies. This was also the state of the followers after them and the generation after the followers. These three generations were the best and purest generations of Islam entire [history].

It has been reported that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: "The best generations are my generation, then those after them, and then those after them."

As time passed, and many different nations and groups entered the fold of Islam, the fields of religious knowledge expanded and were divided and distributed among the specialists, with each group specializing in their own branch of knowledge or art and codifying it.

After grammar was codified as a distinct science in the beginning, it was followed by jurisprudence, then creed, then the science of Hadith, then scholastic theology, then Qur'ānic exegesis, then logic, then the science of Hadith nomenclature, then the science of legal theory (usūl), then inheritance, and so on and so forth.

After this period, the spiritual influence started to decline bit by bit. The people began to forget the necessity of turning sincerely to Allah with pure slavehood of both heart and aspiration. Such a situation motivated the masters of spiritual rigour and asceticism to take action in their field as well, and codify the science of Sufism and establish its nobility and virtue over all other sciences.

They did not undertake this effort to codify the science—as some orientalists mistakenly assume— because they saw the other specialists codifying their own respective subjects. Rather, it was a must, so as to prevent a deficiency and to fulfil the needs of the religion in all facets of life; a must in order to work together for piety and righteousness.16


The early Imams of the Sufis built the foundations of their orders upon what is reported historically from the reliable notables. As for the history of Sufism, it is mentioned in a legal verdict answered by the Imam and Hafiz, Sayyid Muhammad Siddiq al-Ghumari (rhmA) He was asked "Who founded the Sufi orders and are they [the Sufi orders] heavenly revealed?" He replied:

”As for your question regarding the first one to establish a Sufi order, you should know that in general, the spiritual order (tariqa) is heavenly revealed among the things revealed in the Muhammadan religion.

Undoubtedly, it represents the station of Ihsān which is one of the three pillars of the religion that the Prophet ﷺ explained with his statement: "…that was Jibril who came to you to teach you your religion"—these three stations are: Islam, Imān, and Ihsān.

Islam is obedience and worship.
Imān is light and doctrine.
Ihsān is the station of vigilance and Divine witnessing (murāqaba and mushāhada):
"…that you worship Allah as if you see Him, and if you do not see Him then you know that He sees you."

…[S]o just as the Hadith indicates the three pillars of the religion, whoever falters in this pillar (that of Ihsān)— which is the spiritual order (tariqa)—then his religion is deficient because of leaving off one of its pillars. The most that can be said regarding the spiritual path is that it is indicative of the station of Ihsān, after one has corrected his Islam and Imān."

Ibn Khaldūn (rhmA) said in his Muqaddima:

”After the second generation, when people started to rush headlong into the world and mix with it, those who were known to be dedicated solely to worship were known by the name Sufi.”

Ibn Khaldūn states [in these words] that both the Sufis and Sufism came about as a result of the people's engrossment in the life of this world in the second generation after the hijra. Those engrossed solely in worship received a name that distinguished them from the common folk who were distracted by the passing life of this world.

From all of these texts cited, it is clear that Sufism is not a newly invented and novel matter. Rather, it is derived from the life of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, and the life of his Companions.

Similarly, its origin does not lie with un-Islamic sources, as was claimed by the enemies of Islam among the orientalists and their students who came up with false ideas…

Their intent behind such attacks was two-pronged. On one hand, they wished to sully the name of Sufism, and on the other hand, they wished to mislead others into thinking that Sufism was derived from ancient foundations and misguided philosophies.

The believer is not affected by their attacks and he does not fall into their traps. The believer seeks clarity in his affairs and is firm in his search for reality; he sees Sufism for what it really is:

→ the practical implementation of Islam. ←

There is no Sufism except Islamic Sufism and nothing more.


This text is by Shaykh `Abd Al-Qadir `Isa, Realities Of Sufism,
the first long quote is by Dr. Ahmad `Alwash - taken from the research:
Sufism from a Historical Perspective, by Dr. Ahmad `Alwash
(Al-Muslim: al-Mujalla al-`Ashīra al-Muhammadiyya: Muharram 1376 H); quoted in
Realities Of Sufism, Shaykh `Abd Al-Qadir `Isa, p.28ff, publ. Sunni Publications 2009


Related texts
link-in Tasawwuf - Sufism


* Living Islam – Islamic Tradition *