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Taṣawwuf (Arab., prob. form V masdar from √sūf, ‘wool’). Muslim name for the commitment of those known as the Sūfīs. If this etymology is correct, it may derive from the characteristic woollen garment worn by many early Sūfīs. Other etymologies have been proposed (e.g. ahl al-ṣuffa, those regularly sitting on ‘the bench’ of the mosque in Madīna; ṣūfiyya, those who have been purified; Banū Ṣūfa; Gk., sophos, ‘wise’, i.e. Sophists—although otherwise the Gk. letter sigma in transliteration becomes sīn not ṣād); but none seems convincing. By abjad (numerical values to letters), taṣawwuf equals the Arabic for ‘divine wisdom’, but this is fanciful. For the nature of Sufism, see SŪFĪS.

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