By Salmiah binti Talip, IIUM
Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. We thank Allah for the blessing of Islam and ask Him to raise the rank of the Prophet Muhammad, his kind families and Companions, and to protect his nation from that which he fears for it. May Allah grant us the sincere intentions and the proper understanding.
Sufism is an essential part of Islam. Indeed, the leader of all Sufis was the Prophet Muhammad SAW, who was sent by Allah to teach people the matters which, if performed and practiced in the proper way, would lead to their success in this life and hereafter. Unfortunately, many things which are, in reality, contradictory to the teachings of the Prophet, are today labeled Sufism. There are some, who under the guise of being Sufis, spread falsehood and misguidance and dare to label it Sufism. On the other hand, there are groups like the Wahhabis and those who follow them, who categorically deny Sufism and claim that it is not even the part of Islam.
It is the writer’s intention to shed light on the methodology of the true Sufis and encourage others to follow their path while exposing those fakes, the “false Sufis,” and warning against their misguidance. The writer has divided the essay into two parts. First, to explain Sufism and give examples of the genuine Sufis in Islamic history. Second, to expose those “false Sufis” by presenting examples of their misguidance. The writer’s intention is based on the order of Allah mentioned in the Qur’an, what means: “You are the best nation brought to people, ordering the lawful, forbidding the unlawful, and believing in Allah” (Al Imran: 110).
SUFISM AND ITS PRAISEWORTHY METHODOLOGY
The Sufis are people who realize the importance of the Obligatory Knowledge (fardh ‘ayn) of the religion and endeavor to acquire it through proper channels; for example, through trustworthy and knowledgeable teachers. They acquire knowledge and implement it and encourage others to do the same. Sufis are people who follow the great Messenger, Muhammad SAW, in a complete manner by following his teachings and his example. They weigh things by the scale of the religion. They do not deem lawful that which Allah ordained unlawful, and they do not deem unlawful that which Allah ordained lawful. They are the people who are busy worshipping their Lord, and fighting laziness and ignorance. They may work in the matters of this life, yet they do not have an interest in worldly acquisitions, because the world has departed from their hearts.
True Sufis are those who follow the teachings of the Prophet SAW, his Companions and their followers. They have attained the high ranks of righteousness and piety in Islam. The true Sufis from ahl al-Sunnah are the best examples to follow. For them, the leader and best example was Prophet Muhammad SAW, who was the most knowledgeable creation of Allah, and the one with the highest status. After him, the greatest leaders of the true Sufis were the four caliphs: Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman and ‘Ali RA. Great men such as al-Jilani, al-Awza’i, Abu Hanifah, Malik, al-Shafi’i, Ahmad, Sufyan al-Thawri, al-Junayd, al-Ash’ari, al-Maturidi, al-Tahawi, al-Rifa’i, al-Ghajdawani, al-Ghazali and many others were also great Sufis who adhered to the teachings of the Prophet SAW.
Among the true Sufis are the awliya’; the righteous Muslims who attained the highest level because of their adherence to the laws of the religion and following the Prophet SAW sincerely. They perform the obligations, refrain from all the prohibitions, and engage in performing many optional acts of worship. In addition, Allah endowed the awliya’ with karamahs, extra-ordinary actions which may be performed by the waliy and are a sign of his truthfulness. For example, a karamah that happened to the great Imam Ahmad al-Rifa’i during the Hajj season in 550H. The karamah did happen when he was standing in front of the grave of the Prophet. Imam Ahmad asked the Prophet SAW put out his hand so he could kiss it. The Prophet SAW did so in front of a large crowd of people. This event took place in front of many scholars and laymen and it is mutawatir. Imam al-Suyuti narrated it in his book, entitled al-Sharaf al-Muhattam.
Also, among the true Sufis, they are the followers of certain tariqahs. A tariqah is a commitment between a person and his shaykh to say certain zikr statements at specific times, which help him reach the status of piety if he did not reach it yet, or to increase his piety if he is already a pious person. The tariqah is a good innovation in Islam. The scholars who innovate such innovations are greatly rewarded, as are those who practice their good innovations. Imam Muslim narrated that the Prophet SAW said that: “The one who innovates a good innovation in Islam shall have its reward and the reward of those who implement it, until the Day of Judgement, without lessening any of the rewards of those who implement it”.
There are about forty tariqahs, which are sound in principle and origin, such as the Rifa’iyyah, the Qadiriyyah and the Badawiyyah tariqahs. All of them were established and founded by great scholars of ahl al-Sunnah, in compliance with the religion. However, today there are many people who claim to be followers of a particular tariqah, yet have perverted and misused the original tariqah thereby doing things contrary to the religion. The great Sufis and founders of tariqahs all taught that the proper methodology and the route to success in this life and the hereafter is to follow the methodology and Sunnah of the Prophet SAW. Imam al-Junayd al-Baghdadi, who is the master of the Sufi path, said: “Our path is guided by and based on the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of the Messenger”. Shah Naqshaband, another great Sufi, said: “The correct way to our path is to follow the Prophet”. Abu al-Hasan al-Shazili, the founder of the Shaziliyyah, said: “If extraordinary matters happen with you contradictory to the laws of the religion, the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of the Messenger, then definitely leave them out and follow the rules of the religion”.
Those great Sufis all advised their students to acquire the knowledge and implement it. Imam Ahmad al-Rifa’i, the founder of the Rifa’iyyah tariqah, advised the Muslims to quote the sayings of Malik, Ahmad, al-Shafi’i and Abu Hanifah. This is to highlight the importance of learning the matters of the religion through the great scholars of Islam, the scholars of the four most recognized mazhabs. Hence, Sufism is an essential part of Islam. History is full of many great examples of true Sufis.
FALSE SUFIS: MISGUIDED PEOPLE SPREADING FALSEHOOD UNDER THE GUISE OF SUFISM
Today there are many “false Sufis”, who falsely claim to be Sufis, yet do not have even a drop of piety in them. They are dangerous people who delude others into following their misguidance by their false appearance of piety. They exaggerate to give the appearance of being humble and their superficial efforts are to lower their heads and their gaze and to close their eyes whenever they say statements to remember Allah (zikr). For all their concern about their appearance, these “false Sufis” are people who did not learn the Obligatory Knowledge of the religion. As a result of their ignorance, they neither follow the Prophet SAW in what is lawful nor do they avoid what is unlawful. They claim to love the Prophet SAW when they really belie and oppose him. Their hearts are attached to the love for leadership, power and recognition. They want the fame, titles, money and other worldly matters. They misinterpret the matters of the religion to suit their own desires and as a result, they pervert these rules and are drawn into sinning. They breach the laws of the sound circles of remembering Allah and falsify the sound rules of followership under the tariqah. For example, when they get in circles to remember Allah, they pervert His name and say: ((Ah, Ah)) instead of saying ((Allah, Allah)).
Those false Sufis are not interested in seeking knowledge of the religion. They are ready to misinterpret the verses of the Qur’an and the hadiths of the Prophet SAW to suit their own desires and to justify their bad inclinations and the enormous sins they commit. As a result, they commit the unlawful. Some of them say that the Iblis (shaytan) will be saved on the Day of Judgement. This is blasphemy, because it explicitly contradicts the Qur’an. Allah said in the Qur’an, what means: “…Iblis (shaytan) is a blasphemer”. It is well known that whoever dies a blasphemer will be in Hell forever. Some of them say that on the Day of judgement, there will be no difference between the one who is obedient and the one who is sinful. Some of them say that the occupants of Hellfire actually enjoy Hellfire. Some of them also say that the Prophet SAW is an illuminated part of Allah. They say, “Allah took a part of His light and ordered it to be Muhammad, so it became Muhammad”. For me, this is wrong for three reasons. Firstly, because they say Allah is an illuminated body. Secondly, because they say Allah has parts. Thirdly, because in the Qur’an is explicitly stated that Prophet Muhammad SAW is a human being. In fact, the proper understanding of the “light” of Prophet Muhammad SAW has two dimensions. The first is that the Prophet SAW guides to the path of Islam. The second refers to the light which emanated from the Prophet SAW when he smiled when one looked at his face.
He was the most beautiful creation, yet he was also a human being as clearly stated in the Qur’an, what means: “Say, (O Muhammad), I am only a human being as you are, however I receive the revelation”. Thus, the reader should be warned against a book titled Mawlid al-‘Arus, which was unrightfully attributed to Ibn al-Jawzi. This book includes a statement that Allah took a part of His Light, ordered it to be Muhammad and it became Muhammad. Anyone who believes Allah is a light and part of it transformed to become Prophet Muhammad is wrong. Similarly, the verse 35 of Surah al-Nur does not mean that Allah is the Light of Heavens and Earth. Ibn ‘Abbas said that it means: “Allah is the Creator of the light of guidance in the hearts of the inhabitants of the heavens the believing inhabitants of Earth”. So, Light here refers to the light of “faith”.
Al-Juwaini in his book, entitled Nihayatul Matlab said: “We do not infer any other meaning from he who utters an explicit word of apostasy”. Therefore, the one who says, “I am Allah” and then claims he meant another meaning is still a blasphemer. The religious rule and judgement is not to infer another meaning from an explicit word. This is why the scholars of Baghdad pronounced al-Husayn, the son of Mansur, al-Hallaj as a blasphemer. Al-Hallaj was killed and his head was placed on a pole by the orders of the ‘Abbasids Caliph, al-Muqtadir Billah in 309H in accordance with the fatwas of the scholars. Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami said in his book Tabaqat al-Sufiyyah: “Most of the true Sufis disowned al-Hallaj”. Also, in the same ground, Al-Khatib al-Baghdadiy said in his book, The History of Baghdad that: “They did not consider him a Sufi”.
Therefore, be warned against some of the followers of the Tijaniyyah who say about Prophet Muhammad SAW that he is the Self of Allah. This is simply a blasphemy. It does not confirm that the statement was said by the founder of the tariqah, but some people who practice the Tijaniyyah said it. Also, be warned of another group who link themselves to the Dandarawiyyah who say that: “O Allah, raise the rank of all the creatures and their creations”. They claim the creatures create, in a meaning that the creatures bring things from the state of non-existence into the state of existence. They belong to the school of the Mu’tazilah and the school of Hizb al-Tahrir, both claim that the creatures create their own actions. Also, be warned against a faction known as al-Daghistaniyyah who claim to follow the Naqshabandiyyah. They follow a man called ‘Abdullah al-Daghistani who claimed that he had died but 124 000 prophets came and brought him back to life. He said that he would not die again until al-Mahdi will appear and that he would live for seven years with Imam al-Mahdi. The truth is, he died about four months after he had made that claims! His successor is a man named Nazhim al-Haqqani, also known as Nazhim al-Qubrusi. His group is present in the United States represented by a man by the name of Hisham Qabbani and in other countries represented by his brother, ‘Adnan Qabbani.
Those Sufi-claimers do not recognize the true religious knowledge or valid proofs, but they surrender to their delusions and the whisperings of the devil. According to them, they do not need knowledge, prayers or other Islamic matters. What matter for them is the intention. But as we know, in Islam, what is the inside (intention) must go hand in hand with what is the outside (deeds). To gain reward for his good deeds, the person must perform it with the proper intention, for the sake of Allah and in accordance with the rules of the religion revealed to the Prophet SAW.
To conclude, seeking Obligatory Knowledge of the religion, therefore, a must upon every accountable person, in order to learn how to differentiate between lawful and unlawful, between the true Sufis and the fake one. This is paralleled with the hadith of the Prophet SAW, that: “Seeking knowledge (obligatory knowledge) is obligatory upon every Muslim (man and woman)”. Let us make sure that we obtain the Obligatory Knowledge, implement it and be sincere about it in our hearts. Let us spread this knowledge and teach it to the others. Let us be among those who protect and preserve the creed of Prophet Muhammad SAW. Let us speak the truth with sound statements. Let us order what is lawful and forbid what is unlawful and encourage others to do the same.
Also, be alerted that the true Sufis are those who follow the Prophet SAW and propagate Islamic knowledge through acceptable methodologies. They are those who brought victories and opened the lands and unified the Muslims throughout Islamic history. They are the ones who spread Islam and defend the religion. The true Sufis today are endeavoring in sincerity to establish unity among the Muslims. In doing so, they are following the path of the Prophet SAW, the Companions, the followers and all great scholars of Islam. This is the basis of unity and it is what we should strive for as being stated in the Qur’an, what means: “Apply the rules that are in the Book of Allah, adhere to the religion of Allah and do not disunite”.
We ask Allah to make us among those who order the lawful and forbid what is unlawful and to grant us the sincerity in all the matters of our religion and all that which we do.
Allah knows best