SUFISM: THE METHODOLOGY OF THE TRUE SUFIS IS PART OF THE RELIGION OF ISLAM
THE METHODOLOGY OF THE TRUE SUFIS
The statements which comply with the laws of the Religion are the sound sayings, whereas the sayings which contradict the Religion are abhorrent and evil. With reference to Sufism, the sound saying which complies with the laws of the Religion is that Sufism is the methodology implemented by the true Sufis and is very much a part of the Religion. True Sufis are people who realize the importance of the Obligatory Knowledge of the Religion and endeavor to acquire it through proper channels, i.e., through trustworthy and knowledgeable teachers. They acquire the knowledge, then implement it and encourage others to do the same. Sufis are a people who follow the great Messenger, Muhammad, in a full 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 as unlawful, and they do not deem unlawful that which Allah ordained as lawful. They judge ugly what the laws of the Religion judge ugly, and they judge good what the laws of the Religion judge good. They do not indulge their appetites, and do so willingly. They go against the desires of their selves. They are a people who keep busy worshipping their Lord, 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 their hearts.
WHO ARE THE TRUE SUFIS?
True Sufis are those who follow the teachings of the Messenger of Allah, his companions, and their followers. They have attained the high ranks of righteousness and piety in Islam. The true Sufis from Ahl us-Sunnah are the best examples to follow. The leader and best example of them all was Prophet Muhammad r. He was the most knowledgeable creation of Allah–the best–and the one with the highest status. He was sent to teach the people the true Religion. He showed the path to guidance and the route to success in this world and the Hereafter. He had the best ethics, the best manners, and the most love for Allah. He encouraged and urged the people to acquire the Knowledge. After Prophet Muhammad, the greatest leaders of the true Sufis were the four caliphs: Abu Bakr, ^Umar, ^Uthman, and ^Aliyy. Abu Bakr as-Siddiq was the best of the humans after the prophets. After him, ^Umar Ibnul Khattab, then ^Uthman Ibn ^Affan, then ^Aliyy Ibn Abi Talib. They are the greatest Sufis of the nation of Prophet Muhammad. They were the most knowledgeable among the companions of the Prophet. They understood that the Knowledge of the Religion is the foundation for success and, in turn, urged and guided the people to acquire it. After these superior men, the great men of Sufism acquired the knowledge, highlighted its importance, taught it, ordered others with it, and spread it. Great men such as al-Jilaniyy, al-Awza^iyy, Abu Hanifah, Malik, ash-Shafi^iyy, Ahmad, Sufyan ath-Thawriyy, al-Junayd, al-Ash^ariyy, al-Maturidiyy, at-Tahawiyy, ar-Rifa^iyy, al-Ghajdawaniyy, and many others were great Sufis who adhered to the teachings of the Prophet. Another was Uways al-Qarniyy, whom the Prophet praised in his hadith:
In this hadith, the Prophet told us the best of the followers of the Companions was a man by the name of Uways Ibn ^Amir from the tribe of Qarn, a part of the tribe of Murad. He was known for his kindness to his mother. He had been inflicted with leprosy from which he was cured–except for a small spot. The Prophet ordered the companions, should they meet Uways al-Qarniyy, to ask him to make supplication to Allah to forgive them. This is what our Master ^Umar Ibnul Khattab did during his caliphate when some reinforcements from Yemen came to al-Madinah to support the Muslims in their battle with the blasphemers. The reinforcements had come to our Master ^Umar, in al-Madinah so that he would tell them where to go and what to do according to his battle strategy.
Our Master ^Umar inquired whether or not Uways was with them. When he found him he asked him, “Are you Uways, the son of ^Amir?” Uways said, “Yes.” ^Umar asked him if he was good and kind to his mother and again Uways replied, “Yes.” ^Umar asked him, “Were you inflicted with leprosy and cured except for a spot as small as one dirham?” He said, “Yes.” Then our Master ^Umar, remembering the order of the Prophet, asked Uways to make supplication to Allah to forgive him. Out of his humbleness, Uways told ^Umar that Umar’s supplication would more likely be answered since ^Umar had recently returned from performing Hajj. However, ^Umar told Uways about the order of the Prophet, and Uways made supplication for him.
Uways was a very humble person. Some of the children used to think he was a crazy person because he was so poor and his clothing so old. Our Master ^Umar told him he would write to the ruler of the country where Uways was headed to list his name as one of those who would receive money from time to time, however, Uways did not accept–despite his very poor situation. Rather, he told ^Umar, “I prefer to be like other people.”
In another hadith, the Prophet said:
Among the true Sufis are the waliyys–the highly righteous Muslims–who attained such a high level because of their adhering to the laws of the Religion and their following the Prophet in sincerity. They perform the obligations, refrain from all the prohibitions, and engage in performing many supererogatory acts of worship. They are the ones about whom Allah said in Surat Yunus, Ayah 62:
which means: [There is no fear on them and they will not be sad (on the Day of Judgment).] Those waliyys did not reach their high status by ignorance. It is known and unanimously agreed upon that Allah did not make any ignorant person a waliyy. All the waliyys of Allah are knowledgeable.
KARAMAHS OF THE WALIYYS
Moreover, Allah endowed the waliyys with karamahs. Karamahs are extra-ordinary actions which might occur to the waliyy, and are a sign he is truthfully following his prophet. A miracle, on the other hand, is the extra-ordinary event which occurs at the hand of a prophet as proof of his truthfulness. For example, when Prophet Musa threw his staff and it became a serpent, Pharaoh’s magicians knew what he did was not witchcraft and that Musa was a prophet. Another miracle occurred with Prophet Ibrahim when the people threw him in the blazing fire and neither his body nor his clothes burned. Many people witnessed the karamah of our Master, Ahmad ar-Rifa^iyy, a great waliyy who lived about 800 years ago. Once when standing in front of the grave of the Prophet, Imam Ahmad asked that the Prophet put out his hand so he could kiss it. The Prophet did so in front of a large and great crowd of people. What happened to our master, Ahmad ar-Rifa^iyy was a karamah, not a miracle, because although it was an extra-ordinary event, it occurred to one not claiming the status of prophethood.
Abu Muslim al-Khawlaniyy is an example of another great waliyy. He stood up against al-Aswad al-^Ansiyy, an evil man who falsely claimed the status of prophethood. When Abu Muslim al-Khawlaniyy refuted al-Aswad al-^Ansiyy, he tried to kill him to silence him. So, al-Aswad al-^Ansiyy set a blazing fire and tried three times to burn Abu Muslim in it. However, that fire did not burn Abu Muslim or his clothes–a karamah for Abu Muslim. Seeing this, al-Aswad decided to banish Abu Muslim from his land. Abu Muslim went to al-Madinah, the city of the Prophet, a place he had never been before. He was met at the borders of al-Madinah by ^Umar Ibnul Khattab. Although ^Umar had never before met Abu Muslim, Allah gave our Master ^Umar the knowledge of his story. ^Umar said, “Praise be to Allah Who made one of the members of the nation of the Prophet similar to Ibrahim al-Khalil”– meaning that the fire did not burn Abu Muslim as the fire did not burn Prophet Ibrahim before him.
Many people have reported witnessing incidents of karamahs. One such incident occurred to our Master ^Umar Ibnul Khattab while he was giving a speech in al-Madinah. All of a sudden he called out, “O Sariyah, the mountain, the mountain.” The people in the mosque did not understand what was going on. When ^Umar came down from the platform, they asked him about what had happened, but ^Umar refused to explain to them. All he said was, “A matter had occurred to me.” Later, the soldiers of the Muslim army led by Sariyah told the people how they escaped falling into a trap the blasphemers had schemed for them, because they heard ^Umar’s voice calling, “O Sariyah, the mountain, the mountain.” As a result, the Muslim army went to the mountain, escaped the trap, and defeated the blasphemers. This was a karamah for our Master ^Umar.
Our Master Ahmad ar-Rifa^iyy used to give lessons that were attended by 100,000 people–all able to hear his lesson without modern-day microphones or any other instruments!!! It was reported a man could be working in his field, planting and plowing, and still be able to hear the lesson. Ahmad ar-Rifa^iyy used to teach the people fiqh, tawhid, the Arabic language, the fundamentals of the Religion, and other knowledges.
Imam an-Nawawiyy was a waliyy and a great scholar who authored many works. Allah illuminated Imam an-Nawawiyy’s finger for him at night when the lantern was out of oil so he could see and continue writing about the Religion. This was a karamah for Imam an-Nawawiyy.
Our Master ^Abdul Qadir al-Jilaniyy used to give twelve lessons every day in the fiqh and tawhid. Once, when he was praying, he saw an illumination, and a voice addressed him saying, “O ^Abdul Qadir, I am your Lord, and I relieve you of all the obligations.” He signaled by his hand, “Go away, you are the devil.” The devil told him, “I have mislead 70 people before you by that, but your knowledge protected you.” Al-Jilaniyy knew what he saw was the devil, because he knew Allah does not resemble His creations. What he saw came from a direction and as an illuminated body. It spoke with a sound and a letter and a language. He knew Allah is not an illuminated body, is clear of directions, and is clear of sounds, languages, and letters. Moreover, al-Jilaniyy knew even Prophet Muhammad was not relieved of the obligations, so why should one of less status be relieved of them?
These are the examples of the great waliyys, those who adhere in sincerity to the methodology of the Prophet, who perform the obedience and refrain from the sins, who perform many optional acts of worship, and who implement their knowledge. They are the true Sufis to whom Allah gives such powers.
Among the true Sufis, you will find those who follow a tariqah, and sit in circles to remember Allah together. The tariqah is a good innovation in Islam. It falls under the permissibility in the Religion for the top scholars of the nation of Muhammad to innovate matters in the Religion which comply with the Qur’an, hadith, ijma^, and athar. Those scholars who innovate such innovations are greatly rewarded, as are
those who practice their good innovations. Muslim narrated the Prophet said
There are about 40 tariqahs–all of them are sound in principle and origin. Examples are: the Rifa^iyyah tariqah, the Qadiriyyah tariqah, the Naqshabandiyyah tariqah, the Shadhiliyyah tariqah, the Badawiyyah tariqah, among others. All of them were established and founded by great scholars of Ahl us-Sunnah in compliance with the Religion, i.e., in compliance with the Qur’an, hadith, ijma^, and athar. However, today there are many people who claim to be followers of a particular tariqah, yet have perverted and misapplied the original tariqah–thereby doing things contrary to the Religion. Although such people exist, they do not shake the foundation, the truthfulness, or the credibility of the tariqahs.
SAYINGS AND DOINGS OF SOME GREAT SUFIS
Those 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.
Al-Junayd al-Baghdadiyy, who is the master of the path of the Sufis, said, “Our path is guided by and based on the Book of Allah, and the Sunnah of the Messenger.” Shah Naqshaband, another great name among the great Sufis, said, “The correct way to our path is to follow the Prophet, sallallahu ^alayhi wa sallam.” Among the famous sayings of our Master Ahmad ar-Rifa^iyy is: “The tariqah is the same as the laws of the Religion, and the laws of the Religion are the same as the tariqah.” This means the tariqah applies the rules of the Religion, and the rules of the Religion order that which is practiced in a sound tariqah. Abul Hasan ash-Shadhiliyy, the founder of the Shadhiliyy tariqah, said, “If extraordinary matters happen with you that contradict the laws of the Religion, the Book of Allah, and/or the Sunnah of the Messenger, then definitely leave them out and follow the rules of the Religion.”
Those great Sufis, founders of tariqahs, all advised their students to acquire the knowledge and implement it. Imam Ahmad ar-Rifa^iyy, the founder of the Rifa^iyyah tariqah, advised the Muslims at large to quote the sayings of Malik, Ahmad, ash-Shafi^iyy, 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 schools of thought.
Al-Ghajdawaniyy, who set the foundation for the Naqshabandiyyah tariqah, wrote a letter to one of his students. In his letter he said,
I urge you to acquire the knowledge and the good manners and to be God-fearing. Follow the traces of the good scholars who lived during the first 300 years after the immigration of the Prophet and the scholars who followed their path after them. Adhere to Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jama^ah. Study the fiqh, [that is, the knowledge of the rules of the Religion]. Study the hadith, [the knowledge of the sayings of the Prophet]. Study tafsir, [the interpretation of the Qur’an], and beware and avoid those who are ignorant and claim to be Sufis.
The Prophet, did not indulge his appetite; He ate a little with the intention of supporting his body to be able to carry out Allah’s orders. It is known that an entire month would pass and the Prophet would not light a fire in his house to cook. Rather, he and his family would choose to eat dates and drink water. Abu Bakr as-Siddiq, at one time, was a very wealthy man. After he became Muslim he gave all of his money to help the Muslims and to support the propagation of Islam. After that, he was seen carrying merchandise on his shoulder to sell in order to earn a humble living for himself and his family. This is the situation of the Sufis. They are humble, not arrogant. They do not indulge their appetites or their selves. Even though they might be engaged in some worldly matters, it is for a religious reason, and their hearts are not attached to these matters.
Al-Junayd, the son of Muhammad al-Baghdadiyy, is known as the Master of the true Sufis. He lived during the beginning of the 4th Hijri century. He was a faqih. He was knowledgeable in the matters of the Religion. He was a scholar of hadith. Linguists, scholars of the language, and scholars of the Religion used to come to attend his circle to benefit from his knowledge. Among his sayings is: “We did not acquire this level of Sufism just by talking about it; but rather, we acquired it through spending the nights awake in prayer, experiencing hunger from fasting the days, and going against our worldly desires.” This is, of course, after acquiring the knowledge and implementing it–all in sincerity to Allah.
Hence, Sufism is very much a part of the Religion of Islam. History is full of many great examples of true Sufis. It is only intelligent on our part to follow their example and beware of those who claim to be Sufis–yet spread falsehood and misguidance. Moreover, we must fulfill the obligation of ordering the lawful and forbidding the unlawful by warning the Muslims at large from those misguided people who cheat them in the matters of their Religion whether they claim to be Sufis or not.