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Sufism

SUFISM.

Sufism is the English rendering of the Arabic word tasawwuf, which derives from suf, meaning "wool." Tasawwuf in early Islamic history refers to the attitude of people who used to wear a white woolen garment as a sign of renunciation of worldly possessions. To be properly understood, the emergence of Sufism must be situated in the context of Islamic expansion. During the first and second centuries of Islamic expansion, Muslims conquered vast tracts of land that were part of the Byzantine or Persian Empires. They acquired huge amounts of wealth. Many of them became obsessed with mundane things. At that moment, a few believers, haunted by the Prophet's model of perfection and remembering the description of the hereafter in the Koran and the punishment reserved to those who went astray, did not only content themselves to follow the commandments of God and abandon his prohibitions. They devoted much of their time to praying, fasting, and nightly vigils. These are the first people who practiced what has come to be known as tasawwuf or Sufism. Sufism became one of two dominant paradigms in Islamic theology as to how Muslims might interpret the teachings of the prophet Muhammad.

The other paradigm is based on the premise that the prophet Muhammad was sent to deliver the Koranic message to the whole of humanity. In addition to the Koran, the deeds and sayings of the prophet Muhammad (known as the sunna) would provide guidance to Muslims who lived during his lifetime as well as to subsequent generations of Muslims until the day of the Last Judgment. But, according to this paradigm, no communication with the Prophet was possible after his death. This understanding led to a perspective labeled legalistic, fundamentalist, or scriptural based on the dual premise of the immediate readability of religious texts, which govern their rights and duties, and of the conceptual equality of all Muslims. This perspective also developed an individual approach to salvation.

Conversely, the Sufi paradigm is based on the belief that, after the passing of the prophet Muhammad, communication with his soul remains possible. As Islam spread and Islamic theology became more and more elaborated, Sufis developed very complex sets of doctrines and worldviews, some of which bore a similarity to other forms of mysticism. One of the most fundamental Sufi ideas is that the Koran, in addition to an apparent meaning (Ar., zahir ) that is accessible to all, has a hidden meaning (Ar., batin ). To have access to the latter, one must follow a path (Ar., tariqa ; pl., turuq ) that leads to spiritual fulfillment. This was the justification for the creation of Sufi orders, which quick became and still remain a dominant form of spirituality in the entire Muslim world.

Another fundamental Sufi idea is that there exists a conceptual inequality among believers, some of whom are closer to God by virtue of enjoying a higher rank in His eyes in relation to others. The Arabic word wali, "friend of God," which suggests the idea of proximity and friendship, renders the notion of proximity to God. It occurs several times in the Koran either in the singular (wali ) or in the plural (awliya ) but is interpreted differently within each of the two above-mentioned paradigms. For legalist Muslims, every pious believer is close to God, whereas in the Sufi tradition, the status of wali is accorded exclusively by divine grace to certain individuals. Sufis believe that the awliya have extraordinary powers, because they are close to God. For example, they have the power to secure happiness in this world and in the next for their disciples and their descendants by blessing them. They have retaliatory powers over their enemies, whom they can curse and punish. They have the mystical power to heal the ill, and so on. These desires for happiness and healing constitute the basis of the veneration of Sufi awliya in the Muslim world. Sufis have successfully established themselves as mediators between God and believers throughout the Muslim world.

The commitment to Sufi Islam is marked by a formal introduction in the course of which a disciple is initiated by a master. The master was himself initiated by another master through a chain of initiation (Ar., silsila ) going back to the founder of a Sufi order, who usually claims to have started his order subsequent to prophetic revelation. Once initiated, the disciple is expected to obey the master. Moreover, on his or her way to spiritual fulfillment, the disciple is believed to be in the hands of the master as a cadaver is in the hands of a mortician. In other words, there is an assumed relationship of utter dependence of the disciple on the master.

Islam in Africa was greatly influenced by Sufi ideas and understanding of salvation. The majority of African Muslims practice Sufi Islam. Historically, the two orders of the Tijaniyya and Qadiriyya spread in the whole Islamized part of the African continent during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. These orders provided a paradigm of salvation based on the belief that certain persons have supernatural powers. But there are also orders that were founded locally, such as the Muridiyya established by the Senegalese Shaykh Ahmadu Bamba (1853 or 18541927).

The book Rimah hizb al-rahim 'ala nuhur hizb al-rajim (1863), written by 'Umar B. Sa 'id Tall (17971864), is one of the most elaborate expositions of the doctrine of the Tijaniyya Sufi order. It is a good illustration of the special privileges that God bestows on followers of Sufi orders. According to the Rimah, all disciples of the Tijaniyya will be spared from the agonies of death, they will not be persecuted in their graves by angels, and they will be safe from all tortures in the grave from the day of their death until the day they enter Paradise. God will forgive all their sins and they will not have to account at the Day of Judgment. They will be among the first group of believers to enter Paradise together with the prophet Muhammad and his Companions. They will die as awliya (friends of God) because of their love for the founder of the Tijaniyya, Shaykh Ahmad al-Tijani (17371815). Finally, because, they are members of the Tijaniyya, not only will they go to Paradise, but members of their family will also go to Paradise.

More than just religious fraternities, Sufi orders have often been vital economic, political, and social organizations that perform many social functions. They are organized around zawiya (lodges), which are centers of religious learning, initiation places for disciples in search of spiritual realization, shelters for fugitives, and locations of saintly shrines where disciples go to seek healing and blessing.

In Africa, there were times when some Sufi sanctuaries were virtual states within states, for example the Senusiyya in Cyrenaica (modern Libya) and the Tijaniyya in Algeria, and the Mourides in Senegal. Since the tenth century, Sufi orders have constantly risen, declined, regenerated, and split. Sufi orders exist in all Muslim countries.

Sufism provides ingredients through which many Muslimseducated and uneducated, "modern" and "traditional," men, women, and childrenunderstand their universe.

See also Asceticism ; Islam ; Mysticism ; Religion .

bibliography

Bousbina, Said. "Les mérites de la Tijaniyya d'après 'Rimah' d'al Hajj Umar." Islam et sociétés au sud du Sahara 3 (1989): 253259. A brief discussion of Tijaniyya doctrines related to salvation as exposed in the Rimah hizb al-rahim of 'Umar Tall.

De Jong, Frederick, and Bernd Radtke, eds. Islamic Mysticism Contested: Thirteen Centuries of Controversies and Polemics. Leiden, Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 1999. The most comprehensive and recent survey of Islamic mysticism and its opponents.

Robinson, David. Paths of Accommodation: Muslim Societies and French Colonial Authorities in Senegal and Mauritania, 18801920. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2000. A study of the emerging pattern of cooperation between Muslim societies and French colonial authorities in Senegal and Mauritania.

Robinson, David, and Jean-Louis Triaud, eds. Le temps des marabouts: Itinéraires et stratégies islamiques en Afrique occidentale française v. 18801960. Paris: Karthala, 1997. Rise of Sufi orders in West Africa in the context of French colonial rule.

Triaud, Jean-Louis, and David Robinson, eds. La Tijâniyya. Une confrérie musulmane à la conquête de l'Afrique. Paris: Karthala, 2000. A survey of the most widespread Sufi order in sub-Saharan Africa.

Ousmane Kane

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Sufism

Sufism

Sufis are members of a small Islamic sect that arose as a protest against the growing worldliness of Muslims after the time of the Prophet. Sufis strive to imitate the words and deeds of Muhammad, and traditionally adopt a life of poverty and abstinence. Although Sufism is firmly anchored in orthodox Islamic doctrine, it emphasizes the inner pursuit of love, obedience, and devotion to God over concern with the outward law or shari ʿa, and is often associated with mysticism and esotericism. There are hundreds of Sufi orders that have developed within different cultural contexts so that there is no one Sufi way.

Role of Food in the Sufi Tradition

Sufis are guided by the adab, written treatises that prescribe manners or norms of conduct modeled on the life of Muhammad, which includes the food sayings and practices of the Prophet in minute detail. Muhammad praises the virtues of hospitality, generosity, and moderation, and food was and is clearly seen as a means of encouraging these virtues. As an integral part of the daily spiritual life of Sufis, food provides a way of sharing in the greatest of Divine blessings, of creating unity among people and of linking to all creation. Hospitality and eating together were highly commended by Muhammad and, since early times, Sufis have been associated with the serving of food to others. Communal kitchens and guest lodges for feeding the poor and travelers were features of early Sufi settlements, a tradition that continues in Sahas, or Sufi centers where massive concrete tables may serve up to one hundred diners at a sitting. At moulid festivals, feeding stations are set up to offer food and drink to passers-by.

Food Symbolism and Rituals

There is extensive use of food imagery and metaphor in Sufi writings. Sugar and other sweet foods represent the sweetness of piety and community with God, while salt symbolizes purity and incorruptibility. Bread is regarded as sacred in Islam and is treated reverentially. Through the pronouncement of Bismallah during the bread-making process, the bread is imbued with spiritual power or baraka, which is shared by those who eat the bread. The transformation of the raw wheat to finished bread is used as an analogy for Sufi spiritual development.

Sufi ritual observances (dhikr ) are concerned with remembrance of God through exaltation and praise. Singing, dancing, and drumming are commonly part of such rituals, as is sharing of food. For example, ashura is a dish that takes its name from the festival celebrated by all followers of Islam. During preparation of the ashura, Mevlevi Sufis stir the pot in a special way while pronouncing the name of God. Sharing the ashura then becomes a way of spreading remembrance of God in the form of bodily nourishment.

Holidays and Festivals

Sufis observe general Muslim holidays and festivals. Ashura has particular significance for Sufis and Shiʿa. In addition, they celebrate numerous saints' days, or moulids. Major moulid festivals attract hundreds of thousands of people and can last for two to three weeks. Sufi orders set up hospitality stations (khidamet) in public buildings, in tents, or simply on cloths spread on the ground. Drink and (usually) food are offered to passers-by, and must be accepted as the food contains the baraka of the saint being honored and therefore confers spiritual blessing on the recipient. For the poor, these stations provide an additional opportunity for physical as well as spiritual nourishment.

Fasting and Feasting

Fasting is an essential feature of Sufism, especially during the forty-day retreat undertaken by initiates in many orders. Early Sufis placed great emphasis on asceticism in the pursuit of self-control and suppression of worldly desires. Eating was seen to be an important source of potential harm to the new initiate, and there are many Sufi stories of extreme restraint. Later, excessive fasting came to be viewed as unfavorably as excessive eating, for the message of the adab was one of moderation. Indeed, Muhammad even enjoined His followers to break a fast if invited to eat, for to refuse an invitation to share in God's blessing was wrong.

Food and Social Circumstance: Prescriptions and Proscription

While the asceticism of early Sufism has largely disappeared, gluttony is frowned upon and moderation is enjoined. Sufis follow Qurʾanic injunctions regarding food and are usually fastidious about observing the prohibition on pork consumption. While many Muslims do eat meat other than pork, Sufi teachings recommend that such meat be consumed only in small quantities. Some orders, both ancient and modern, have praised vegetarianism as a more compassionate practice, and have viewed animal consumption as conducive to animalistic behavior.

See also Fasting and Abstinence: Islam; Iran; Islam: Shiʿite Islam; Islam: Sunni Islam; Middle East; Religion and Food.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Hoffman, Valerie. "Eating and Fasting for God in the Sufi Tradition." Journal of the American Academy of Religion 62, no. 3 (1995): 465484.

Reynolds, Gabriel Said. "The Sufi Approach to Food: A Case

Study of Adab." The Muslim World 90 (2000): 198217.

Seidel, Kathleen. Serving the Guest: A Sufi Cookbook and Art

Gallery 2000. Site posted August 2001. Available on the Internet at http://www.superluminal.com/cookbook/.

Paul Fieldhouse

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Sufism

Sufism (sōō´fĬzəm), an umbrella term for the ascetic and mystical movements within Islam. While Sufism is said to have incorporated elements of Christian monasticism, gnosticism, and Indian mysticism, its origins are traced to forms of devotion and groups of penitents (zuhhad) in the formative period of Islam. The early pious figures, later appropriated by Sufism, include Ali, Hasan al-Basri (d. 801), and Rabia al-Adawiyya, a woman from Basra (Iraq) who rejected worship motivated by the desire for heavenly reward or the fear of punishment and insisted on the love of God as the sole valid form of adoration. The word Sufi first appears in the 8th cent., probably in connection with the coarse wool that many ascetics wore.

Two central Sufi concepts are tawakkul, the total reliance on God, and dhikr, the perpetual remembrance of God. Al-Muhasibi (d. 857) and his disciple Junayd (d. 910) are representative early figures. The introduction of gnostic elements (marifa) into Sufism is often attributed to Dhu-n-Nun al-Misri (d. 859). Sufism nonetheless faced growing opposition from orthodox clerics. The scholastic and ecstatic paths further diverged with the concept of fana, the dissolution into the divine, advocated by al-Bistami (d. 874), and used by Hallaj in the declaration of his unity with God, which eventually led to his execution in 922. Islamic orthodoxy and Sufism were not irreconcilable, as attested by the attempt by al-Ghazali (d. 1111) to infuse conformist Muslim religious life with mysticism.

The evolution of Sufism in the post-Ghazali period was influenced by Ibn al-Arabi and Ibn al-Farid. Their theoretical contributions led to the development within Sufism of a complex system of initiation and progression toward the Divine and set the stage for the emergence of organized Sufi orders. This phase of literary Sufism was also characterized by the prominence of Persian works, notably those of Shihab ad-Din Suhrawardi (d. 1191), Farid ad-Din Attar, and Jalal ad-Din Rumi, and the subsequent development of Persian, Turkish, and Urdu mystic poetry. Important Sufi figures elsewhere in the Islamic world include Muin ad-Din Chishti in India and Baha ad-Din Naqshband (d. 1390) in central Asia.

Sufi orders, which assimilated aspects of native religious traditions more readily than more dogmatic versions of Islam, played a major role in the expansion of Islam into sub-Saharan Africa and central, S, and SE Asia. The oldest extant order with attested historicity is probably the Qadiriyya, founded by Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (d. 1166) in Baghdad. Other important orders include the Ahmadiyya (notably in Egypt), Naqshbandiyya (Central Asia), Nimatullahiyya (Iran), Rifaiyya (Egypt, SW Asia), Shadhiliyya (N Africa, Arabia), Suhrawardiyya and Chishtiyya (S and central Asia), and Tijaniyya (N and W Africa).

The work of Idries Shah was instrumental in introducing Sufism to the West; see his The Sufis (1964) and The Way of the Sufi (1968). Although Sufism has made significant contributions to the spread of Islam and the development of various aspects of Islamic civilization (e.g., literature and calligraphy), many conservative Muslims disagree with many popular Sufi practices, particularly saint worship, the visiting of tombs, and the incorporation of non-Islamic customs. Consequently, in recent centuries Sufism has been a target for Islamic conservative and reformist movements.

See A. J. Arberry, Sufism (1970); L. Lewin, ed., The Diffusion of Sufi Ideas in the West (1972); A. Schimmel, Mystical Dimensions of Islam (1975) and As through a Veil (1982).

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Sufism

Sufism

A mystical movement of Islam. The name derives from the woollen clothing (suf ), worn by Sufis as a token of penitence, similar to the Christian penitent tradition of wearing hair shirts.

In medieval times Sufism was characterized by a complex system of striving for spiritual attainment and divine grace. The spiritual stages involved include conversion, abstinence, renunciation, poverty, patience, trust in God, and contentment; with spiritual states of meditation, nearness to God, love, fear, hope, longing, intimacy, tranquility, contemplation, and certainty. Much of this is analogous to the yama and niyama of Hindu yoga.

There were four orders of Sufis: the Qadiriyya, an orthodox wing emphasizing devotional exercises leading to spiritual experience; the Suhrawardiyya, less orthodox and with a suggestion of pantheism; the Shadhiliyya (widespread in Egypt and North Africa) with intense devotion and utter dependence on God; and the Mevlevi order, founded by the poet Rumi, which developed the special mystical dance of the dervishes.

Sufism has influenced religious movements in India, Java, and elsewhere and played a part in the development of such unorthodox prophets as Baha'u'llah of the Baha'i faith and the mystic Meher Baba. The major emphasis in Sufism is intense love for God, expressed in the perfection of the soul.

A Western Sufi organization is the Sufi Order (headed by Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan), whose traditions are said to predate Islam and to have become incorporated in it. In 1910 the Sufi Order was established in Europe and the United States through the lectures of Hazrat Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan. The order stresses that God is one and that there are no barriers between religions. Address: Sufi Order Secretariat, Box 574, Lebanon Springs, NY 12114. British branch: Barton Farm, Pound Lake, Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, England.

A separate group of the Sufi movement is the Sufi Islamia Ruhaniat Society. Address: The Mentorgarten, 10 Precita Ave., San Francisco, CA 94110.Another Sufi group is the Sufi Cultural Center in London, established in 1971. It places great emphasis on the mysticism of music, and encourages the teaching of classical Indian music with the more modern adjunct of health foods and alternative healing.

(See also Idries Shah )

Sources:

Khan, Pir V. The Message in Our Time: The Life and Teachings of the Sufi Master, Hazrat Inayat Khan. New York: Harper & Row,1979.

Shah, Idries. The Sufis. London: W. H. Allen, 1964. .

The Way of the Sufi. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1970.

Subhan, John. Sufism: Its Saints and Shrines. York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, 1973.

Williams, L. F. R., ed. Sufi Studies: East and West. London: Octagon Press, 1974.

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Sufism

Sufism the mystical system of the Sufis, the esoteric dimension of the Islamic faith, the spiritual path to mystical union with God. It is influenced by other faiths, such as Buddhism, and reached its peak in the 13th century. There are many Sufi orders, the best-known being the dervishes.

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Sufism

Sufism Mystic philosophical movement within Islam that developed among the Shi'ite communities in the 10th and 11th centuries. Sufis stress the capability of the soul to attain personal union with God. See also Dervish

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Sufism

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