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Sufism: An Introduction pdf download

  • Book Title:
 Sufism An Introduction
  • Book Author:
Farida Khanam
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Sufism: An Introduction


Book contents

  1. The Origin and Evolution of Sufism  
  2. The Early Development  
  3. Towards Mysticism
  4. The Formative Period  
  5. The Chishti Order  
  6. The Qadri Order  
  7. The Suhrawardi Order  
  8. The Naqshbandi Order  
  9. The Firdausi Order
  10. The Sufi Concept of Meditation  
  11. Tasawwuf Today  
  12. Glossary  
  13. Index  
  14. Selected Bibliography  

Book’s introduction

This book is a historical study of Sufism (Tasawwuf) with specific reference to its spread throughout the Indian subcontinent.

 It deals with the major Sufi orders, their distinguishing features and the ideology and method of Sufism.

The aim of Tasawwuf, to put it briefly, is to attain the realization of God.

The realization of God produces all kinds of spiritual qualities.

Although the term Tasawwuf came into vogue as late as the 2nd century A.H., Tasawwuf was actually integral to the believer’s life from the very beginning. Tasawwuf is, in fact, another name for the Islamic realization of God.

In later periods of Islamic history, the propagation of Islam all over the world was due less to the spread of the Muslim empire than to the efforts made by the Sufis..

The greatest feat of the Sufis has been the development, by dint of great striving, of a version of Islam which has been found acceptable to all.

This version of Islam is free of all negative features such as hatred, the desire for revenge, and the urge to perpetrate violence. It is characterized rather by love, compassion and charitableness.

This is why Sufism became so popular in the medieval world. If the ruling class can take credit for the political expansion of Islam, the Sufis can take credit for the spiritual spread of Islam.

In respect of method, Tasawwuf places great emphasis on meditation. The Sufis held that, in reality, meditation existed in the form of reflection, contemplation and pondering in the days of the Prophet and his companions.

However, the Sufis developed it into a discipline. Generally, religious scholars regard it as a deviation from the real Islam, but the Sufis do not subscribe to their views.

They think that meditation facilitates the attainment of the higher stages of Tazkia, (purification of the self) Ihsan (excellence in worship) and Maarifah (realization of God)—the goal of Islam. A glossary of Sufi terms has also been provided. Farida Khanam

Evolution of Sufism

The meaning of the term Sufi

Sufism (tasawwuf) is the name given to mysticism in Islam

. The term Sufism embraces the philosophy and practices which aim at direct communion between God and man, and those who practice Sufism are called Sufis.

Scholars differ as to the derivation of the term Sufi, for it is not mentioned in the Qur’an or the books of hadith, nor does it figure in the standard Arab dictionaries that were compiled as late as the 8th century A.D.

According to Qushayri (d. 465/1074), author of al Risala, the word Sufi was used as a generic term to describe individuals adopting a particular religious attitude based on austerity and spirituality, and came into usage only at the beginning of the 9th century.

This he explains simply: ‘After the Prophet Muhammad, sahabi (companion) was the only title given to the Muslims of that period.

This was the highest title for them, and they therefore required no other title for their piety and religiosity.

 The next generation that received religious education directly from the sahaba was called tabiin (followers of the companions), while the title taba tabiin (followers of the followers of the companions) was the title given to those who had received religious training from the tabiin.’

According to Khaliq Ahmad Nizami1 , those who devoted their lives to religious studies and religious devotion after the times of the tabii were called zahid – ‘the pious’ – and abid – ‘the servant (of Allah)’. It is

The Origin and Evolution of Sufism

 only in relation to the succeeding generations that one comes across the term Sufi. According to Abdur Rahman Jami2 , who quotes earlier sources, the first spiritualist to be given the title of Sufi was Shaykh Abu Hashim Kufi (d. 776).3

Let us examine the etymological meaning and origin of the term Sufi.

 It is made up of three Arabic letters: s- w- f, but there is much scholarly dispute surrounding it.

One view is that the word Sufi is derived from the Arabic word saf, which means line or row,

referring here to those early Muslim contemporaries of the Prophet who stood in the first row during prayer, having reached the mosque well in time.

Others contend that the word is derived from the word suffa, the verandah or porch of the Prophet’s mosque in Madinah.

The traditions say that a number of the companions of the Prophet who had no home stayed in this verandah.

They spent their time in worship, in learning by heart the verses of the Qur’an and memorizing the words of the Prophet. They disengaged themselves from worldly activities.

The Prophet and his companions looked after their needs. Since the porch of the mosque had virtually become their home, they came to be called Ashaab-i Suffa or ‘People of the Porch’.

However, the majority of the scholars are of the opinion that the word Sufi comes from the word suf, or wool. This is because most of the early pious people were inclined to asceticism and wore undyed, coarse woolen garments.The rough cloth symbolized voluntary poverty and renunciation of the world with all its pleasures.

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