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Sufi - Salafi Tug of War with Timeline of Rise of Modern Sufism


By Hammad Rizwan

Jan 28, 2009

In my readings over the past few weeks, I've compiled some highlights and some points that I think we all need to ponder and consider…

As a layman, I have come out from my self-imposed periodic silences on these types of topics to highlight some common understandings I believe we should all have amongst ourselves.

Maybe some of the laymen, those with limited knowledge and no Ijaza, are willing to speak on these issues because they fear minimal repercussions whereas those individuals have higher repute and scholarship are limited in what they are able to say due to external factors, whether governmental or social amongst their peer group/teachers and their years of scholarship being at risk... Or maybe we speak out of ignorance. I hope it's the former and not the latter.

Nonetheless, I would appreciate any comments and feedback and I apologize for any errors and may Allah forgive me. The following is comprised of my thoughts and postings I've read from other sites from the likes of Fazza, Kamals, Sameer, etc. May Allah SWT bless the brothers that I've mentioned and any others that I may not have who have contributed to the work.

As Umar RA said, may Allah SWT have mercy upon the one who points out our faults.

The Sufi-Salafi Tug-of-War

Muhammad is the messenger of God, and those who are with him are strong against unbelievers and compassionate among themselves. You see them bowing and prostrating themselves, seeking grace from God, and acceptance. Their mark is on their faces, from the traces of their prostration. That is their model in the Torah, and their model in the Gospel, like a seed that sprouts its shoot, and makes it strong and sturdy so it stands upright on its stem, delighting the ones who sow, incensing the unbelievers at them. God has promised those of them who have faith and do good works forgiveness and a tremendous reward. [48: 29]

Abd ar-Rahman ibn Nasir as-Sa'di (Ibn Uthaymeen's teacher) said the following:

To strive, to call, to unite the Muslims and to repair what has befallen them is the best of deeds. It is better than spending one's time in fasting and prayer. Such deeds are amongst the greatest and best of jihads in the path of Allah.

It is incumbent upon the Muslims that they do not allow differences between them, whether in positions and opinions concerning matters of leadership or politics, to become a barrier between them, and the demands of their religious brotherhood and the links of their faith. Rather, Muslims must relegate all differences and secondary aims subordinate to this great principle of brotherhood and links of faith. (As-Siyaaf Al-Sharaiah, p. 13)


With the highest level of respect and regard to the truthful scholars of the Muslim World I write the following …

Many 'scholars' of today, whether of the Salafi or Sufi persuasion, are, either willingly or unwillingly, part of the efforts at modernizing and eliminating Islam politically as a threat to Western domination of the Muslim World.

The same way the West pushed Salafi Islam when it was politically expedient and convenient is the same way they're pushing Sufism today. The same blind adherence the 'Salafis' had shown when something was said against their scholars when they were issuing Fatwas and perspectives that were 'West-friendly' is the same thing the 'Sufis' are doing when their scholars are mentioned now. The scholars who fit the Western agenda now are being promoted the same way the Salafi scholars were promoted then. When the West had finished using them they were jailed and blacklisted, as we clearly see. This is not a condemnation of those scholars, because they spoke the truth and may Allah SWT reward them for their sacrifices. However we need to realize that when that truth was no longer palatable to the West, it clamped down hard upon it.

Historically, the West has always been toying with the Muslims and trying to benefit from our ideologies for their personal gain. When it is in their favour, they incite the Jihad amongst Muslims, as they did with the end of the Ottoman Caliphate and the whole establishment of the Saudi state. When they obtain their purposes, they turn it off, like they did in India with the 'pacifistic apolitical' movements that are funded and break off from the mainstream.

This isn't the first, and it won't be the last, effort to undermine Islam.

Just look at the British strategy to permanently subjugate the Muslims of the sub-continent in the 19th century: They launched a three year survey headed by William Moore to determine a way to permanently keep the Muslim resistance down. After three years Moore submitted a proposal to the Viceroy that Britain would need to implement three measures to free itself from these frequent uprisings.

Moore's first suggestion was that the Muslims' strong link to the Holy Quran needs to be severed; his second suggestion was that the British would have to find a means to root out the intense passion for jihad from the hearts of Muslims. The third and last thing he stated was that the British had to sever any ties that the common Muslims had with their [truthful] scholars, and thus their knowledge base.

As an example of this policy in action several decades later, Mirza Ghulam Ahmed in his own words: "Behold! I have come to you people with a directive that henceforth jihad with the sword has come to an end but jihad for the purification of your souls still remains. This injunction is not from me but rather it is the will of God."

As an example of this policy in action several decades later, Mirza Ghulam Ahmed in his own words:"Behold! I have come to you people with a directive that henceforth jihad with the sword has come to an end but jihad for the purification of your souls still remains. This injunction is not from me but rather it is the will of God."

He forbade fighting the Empire due to his favour for British rule and support, in a letter to Queen Victoria he said '…For the sake of the British government, I have published fifty thousand books, magazines and posters and distributed them in this and other Islamic countries. It is as the result of my endeavours that thousands of people have given up thoughts of Jihad which had been propounded by ill-witted mullahs and embedded in the minds of the people. I can rightly feel proud of this that no other Muslim in British India can equal me in this respect…' [Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Sahib of Qadian, 'The British Government and Jihad,' ]

We Muslims need to wake up and stop in-fighting amongst each other. We need to stop being manipulated by whichever way the wind blows. We just need to accept it and recognize that Muslim groups have been, are, and will be used by outsiders.

Gain knowledge but keep an open mind, and be smart enough to know that 'Ulema' of today will err, willingly or not, and they have too many times to mention on too many issues. Take everything with care - Ijaza or no Ijaza - for the Ijazaat of today are only Ijazaat of theoretical knowledge. One doesn't gain Taqwah through an isnad nor does one confirm unflinching adherence to the Shariah through an Isnad. We take what is good and worth taking, and leaving the rubbish aside.

As Anwar Awlaki said: Ulema are not infallible; they are not Ambiyaa. So if people are going to blindly follow Ulema, there is no guarantee that they are going to take them to the right path.

As Abdullah Azzam said, Take the good from wherever you find it. Take the Aqeedah from the Salaf, the spirituality from the Sufi, the mannerisms of the Tableekhi, the politics of the Ikhwaani. All of us have something to offer collectively. We need to intellectually recognize and assess what it is and take it and leave the rest. There are two components, theory and application. No group has the solution cornered.

Which of our great "traditional Islam following" scholars of today have studied the history of Islamic decline sufficiently to be able to pass an opinion as to how to reverse the situation? Where is their analysis? Where are their books? Where are their publications charting the downfall of the Ummah and the causes behind it? Is this a justice to 'classical Islam'?? Classical Islam is a tradition and a WAY of thinking about Islam and practicing it; it is not a clique of x, y, or z scholars.

Any scholar who pertains to lecture the Ummah on how to revive, without having gone back and studied the political and ideological framework in which this took place, is, frankly, a fool, and does an injustice to our Deen at large. If anyone thus prescribes spirituality as the sole cause of the problem, and then spirituality or whatever as being the solution, then too he is a fool.

Our solution does not lie in the thoughts of certain scholars who postulate spirituality to the mutual exclusion of Islamic activism.

If one really wants to adhere to classical Islam, consider this: the classical Islamic scholars never spoke on what they didn't know - for any matter on which they gave opinion, they had knowledge and understanding, both theoretical and applied. This meant understanding the reality and applying the Islamic texts.

If one adhered to these tenets, the voices we would be hearing today regarding military aggression are the ones who actually practiced it and have the literal experience to talk about it. Unlike the gung-ho activism of jihad a decade ago, which was sponsored and promoted by all, all we hear today is:

When the Prophet SAWS returned from the wells of Badr he said: 'we have returned from the lesser jihad to the greater jihad, jihad un Nafs jihad ul Akbar."

Ibn Taymiyyah says: "this Hadith has no source and nobody in the field of Islamic knowledge has narrated it" (al furqan p44-45).A hadith regarding this Hadith it is said to be fabricated due to one khalaf bin muhammad bin ismael al khiyam. ibn Adi says "his Hadith are false" (Tahzeeb ut Tahzeeb 11/261) Abu ya'la al kahlili says: "he often adulterates, is very weak and narrates unknown Hadith" (mashari ul aswaq 1/31)

For arguments sake even if this Hadith were true the Prophet SAWS only said it AFTER RETURNING FROM THE BATTLEFIELD OF BADR he didn't use it to abrogate or invalidate jihad nor as an excuse to shirk his responsibility of doing it like the way some modernists do.

In the world of today, are we to assume that all the brothers who sacrificed, were tortured, slaughtered in Chechnya, Afghanistan, and Bosnia over the past few decades were 'extremists'? Is it extremism that causes people to leave their homes and sacrifice everything Allah has given to them to help some random strangers in some far away land that they haven't even heard of? How can an equation in which every factor is the same equate to Jihad in one instance and when USSR is replaced with US the equation is reduced to Spirituality. It doesn't take much thought to realize that something is not right.

Assuming the 'Scholars' of today, giving the benefit of the doubt as one should do for Muslim brethren, are politically naive — all the more reason for them to understand the political and sociological dimension of Islam. That political and sociological dimension also includes understanding (but obviously not following) the politics of those who "want to destroy our Deen in the name of "revisionism" and "modernism".

If we (the collective Muslim Ummah) fail to understand those kinds of politics, if our Imams, our Sheikhs, and others in leadership capacity of the Muslim Ummah, fail to clarify the politics of deceit - and how war criminals get to be professors at elite universities such as Harvard, Yale and Oxford — Then we will see more and more Muslims losing themselves and we will indeed find ourselves moving further and further away from the truth.

Those who want Muslims to move away from this understanding, within an Islamic context, the political and sociological ways of the world - would want Muslims to just remain quiet while they attack, kill, and destroy our families, children, and the lands on which Muslims live… — and we'll find more Muslims duped into buying the fraudulent propaganda and buying into the me-first mentality, whereby if my family and Nationalistic Ummah are safe, then I couldn't give a damn about the rest of the Ummah.

Subhan Allah. Let’s bang on about spirituality but when the true tests come - when the war on Islam is ignited, when the disbelievers hound our brothers and sisters, let's not rush to their aid - HECK, lets rush to the oppressor's aid against them and teach them how to make their destruction of the Ummah more palatable! Is the manifestation of "spirituality" we seek!?

Spirituality is the relationship with Allah SWT reflected in EACH action. It isn't sitting there in Tazkiyah circles with 'scholars with Ijaza' working on oneself while our brothers and sisters are slaughtered next door. Spirituality isn't the only life within Islam. Islam is comprehensive and covers all aspects of life. This sort of revival based on spirituality will never work, because other sides of Islam, such as political/economical are completely ignored.

If a revival is to happen and be successful then it has to be comprehensive and cover all aspects of Islam, not just focus on one thing. There is no mutual exclusion between islamo-political activism and being spiritually near Allah... enjoining the good and forbidding the evil occurs in all aspects of one's life.

What do the scholars of today have to say about what Islam says how to go about addressing our problems today? Isolated commentary on the spiritual deficiencies of the Ummah aren't a solution, regardless of how much they extol spirituality - the imperative of which is a foregone conclusion by the way (i.e. no one is disagreeing with this) - so what in the way of an alternative has been offered by the great traditionalistic scholars of our time?

An Ijtihad has two components:

A) Understanding the Manat - the reality - the history of decline, the causes, the historical events, studying them in depth.

B) Applying the Islamic texts on how to go about resolving the problems and reversing the decline.

I don't doubt the ability of these men to do B; as for A – many are clearly found wanting; and this is reflected either in their apolitical stances, apologist, or, as one brother above put it, "pandering to the whims of the disbelievers."

One needs to be careful of where one takes the knowledge from, but also careful that there would-be "traditional" sources of knowledge don't pass off absurd opinions either on fiqhi issues or current affair issues, or that their would be traditional sources of knowledge don't sit on their thumb postulating traditional Islam while abandoning the great tradition of verification and feeling comfortable in their roles as being self proclaimed carriers of traditional Islam while continuing to do injustice to the very notion itself.

In conclusion, I believe that we all want the best for each other. We are all brothers and the discussions and debates that occur aren't to detract or insult the beliefs of one individual or another, or at least I hope they aren't. They serve a purpose of us waking up and recognizing that we are all responsible for our own actions and that we need to stop attempting to transfer risk to someone else and take the advice of the Prophet SAWs who said that during the time of Fitan, everyone would be responsible for themselves.

To the Salafis: Give up the Takfeer and tone down on the Bid'a, growing up in the West, I saw that when the brothers ran out of other Muslim groups to do Takfeer on, they started doing it on each other. With regard to Bida.. There are acceptable variances according to authentic Salaf traditions within Madhabs. These are a mercy from Allah, not a source of exploitation. Actions could be committed in different ways, as long as they fall in the framework of the Sunnah. There isn't only one way to do something. Ibn Taymiyya vigorously opposed Sufi pantheism and such practices as the worship of saints and pilgrimages to their shrines, although he accepted a Sufism based on Islamic legalism and tradition.

To the Sufis: Recognize that the West is pushing a new form of Sufism that is apolitical and anti-jihad. Not because they love Islam, but because they want to pacify it. This fact has been supported by numerous articles, including the recent one in the Economist and an earlier one in US News.

Some Extracts from a recent article further clarified historic Sufism and its military component:


Sufism is not a sect, nor is it a heretical or schismatic movement; it is an integral part of orthodox Islam. [emphasis added] Western analysts in particular are prone to lose sight of this fact, frequently alluding to Sufism instead as something foreign to Islam, indeed something aberrant...the heritage of Sufism [includes] not only in its cultural, intellectual and mystical aspects, but also...its militant holy war [i.e., jihad] tradition.

Much to the dismay of modern Sufi movements, Sufism has been linked integrally to the Muslim institution of jihad war since the 11th century C.E.

Al—Ghazali, a Sufi orthodox Muslim, and follower of the Shafi'i school of Islamic jurisprudence, wrote this about jihad war and the treatment of the vanquished non—Muslim Dhimmi peoples, in the Wadjiz:

[O]ne must go on jihad (i.e., warlike razzias or raids) at least once a may use a catapult against them [none—Muslims] when they are in a fortress, even if among them are women and children. One may set fire to them and/or drown them...If a person of the Ahl al—Kitab [People of The Book — primarily Jews and Christians] is enslaved, his marriage is [automatically] revoked...One may cut down their trees...One must destroy their useless books. Jihadists may take as booty whatever they decide...they may steal as much food as they need...

It is also important to highlight, in contrast, the very flimsy theological foundation of the much ballyhooed Sufi notion of the so—called 'greater' spiritual jihad. Even the Islamophilic scholar Reuven Firestone has acknowledged the dubious nature of the hadith ostensibly outlining this potential interpretation of jihad as coming as a fact nowhere to be found in the canonical collections of hadith.


To other 'spiritual' groups that think Muslims need to focus internally on esoteric requirements at the expense of exoteric duties… To conclude that the problem is spiritual is to deny the role of the other elements that contributed to the decline of the Ummah. Are we so sure that Allah SWT hasn't given us his Nusrah because of our spirituality? Was the Prophet deficient in his striving for Allah for the 13 years before the Nusrah of the Ansaar came to him? Just because one hasn't achieved the Nusrah doesn't mean that there is some massive spiritual chasm that is the cause of it.

Every group needs to understand and assess its own limitations objectively and know when to approach the other groups and for what type of information. You're not going to find marital advice from a Shaykh who's been single his whole life, likewise use some common sense in addressing the issues of the Ummah.

If there is too much confusion as to who to follow… Firstly ask Allah SWT sincerely for Hidayat and guidance and follow the deceased scholars of our Ummah, you know how they ended their lives and on which path, whether they were upon truth or falsehood. We are living in a time where we can't vouch for our own selves, but yet we are ready to vouch for someone's lectures we heard, a book we read, or a course we took?

May Allah SWT guide us all to the truth and protect us from his wrath.

May Allah give the Ummah more of the likes of past revolutionaries such Syed Qutb (Ikhwani), Abdullah Azzam and Modern scholars such as Imran Hossein (Sufi), Musa al-Qarni (Salafi), Anwar al-Awlaki, who even though they may have many differences amongst themselves, Understand the concept of wala wa al-Bara (love and hate for Allah's sake), and don't sell their brothers and sisters short for worldly gain.

Ibn Taymiya, Majmu al-Fatawa: Vol 28

When a believer recites the Dua, "Our Lord, forgive us, and our brothers who have preceded us in faith," then therefore he implies everyone from this Ummah who has preceded him in faith, even those who have committed a sin and an error and opposed the sunnah. For such a person is still amongst his brethren and have preceded him in faith and still enters into the general context of this verse, even if he is amongst one of the 72 sects. For there is not a single sect from the 72 sects except that among the ranks are many individuals who are not unbelievers, but rather believers who have erred and sinned and as a result of which deserve divine punishment, as sinful believers deserve on account of his sins. The Prophet SAWS did not take them out of the fold of Islam but rather regarded them as a part of his ummah, nor did he say that they will be condemned to Hell-fire for all of eternity. This is a great principle that has to be taken into consideration. [Minhaj as-Sunna, vol 5, p 241]

Al-Fudayl bin 'Iyad said:

"Stick to the path of guidance, and do not be hurt by the small number of people who take this path, and beware of the path of misguidance, and do not be fooled by the large number of people who destroy themselves on this path." [''Uluww al-Himmah'; p. 41]

Ibn al-Qayyim said:

"[Such a person] does not become disheartened by those who differ from and oppose him, as they are lesser in importance and significance, even if they might be greater in number, as some of the Salaf said: "Traverse the paths of the truth, and do not be discouraged by the small number of people who do the same." Every time you feel disheartened by your being alone on this path, then look to those who came before you and strive to catch up with them, and turn away from everyone else, as they will not benefit you in the least with Allah. If you happen to see them somewhere along the path that you are upon, then do not turn to look at them, for if you do so, they will distract you and simply delay your progress."

['Madarij as-Salikin'; 1/21]


Quick timeline 'rise of neo-Sufism' more or less…

Timeline of Rise Of Sufi Islam

[A similar one can be made for the Western support of Salafi Islam a decade earlier]

2001: 9-11

2001: October: HY advising US/UK Governments

'It is as though he has gone through a second, possibly more radical conversion than the first from Christianity.'

2004: RAND Corporation: Civil Democratic Islam

RAND makes favourable mention of Sufis as a counterweight to fundamentalism and the need to support and empower them.

2004: Nixon Centre: Understanding Sufism and its Potential Role in US Policy

2004: UK Government Secret 'Project Contest' Leaked to Sunday Times

The government intends to cultivate a layer of pro-Western, media-savvy Muslim academic careerists and government-friendly imams... …The government also intends to "promote awareness" of foreign-based imams, including Hamza Yusuf, Suhaib Webb and Tariq Ramadan.

2005: British Muslim Forum Launched

2006: Sufi Muslim Council Launched [Sh. Kabbani who was a participant in 2004 Nixon Centre Conference is heading up]

Craig Murray, the former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, has written an article claiming that the group is a Labour government project designed to replace the Muslim Council of Britain.<sup>[6]</sup> Murray has also argued that the Sufi Muslim Council is linked to neo-conservative groups in Washington.

2006: In a hilariously ironic turn of events, it seems that the Russian Federation central government is now encouraging Chechens to return to observance of their indigenous flavor of Sufism, after 200 years of official anti-Islam policy ranging from denial that observant Muslims even existed to active persecution of believers.

2006: Article: UK Government Funding website: Radical Middle Way:<wbr>news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/<wbr>2006/10/22/nterr22.xml

A key government weapon in the struggle to win hearts and minds is the decision to fund covertly an Islamic website appealing for moderation. A classic of New Labour terminology, it is called the Radical Middle Way. Government documents disclose that the site is "run as a grassroots initiative by Muslim organisations". However, it has "most of its financial backing from the Foreign Office and Home Office". The site uses video and podcasts to spread an "alternative message" to young Muslims. Some content is available through the iTunes website with no indication that it is effectively an arm of Government.

Radical Middle Way speakers promoted: Hamza Yusuf, Suhaib Webb, Tariq Ramadan, Habib Ali Al-Jifri, Sh Abdallah b. Bayyah, etc. [Inclusive of the ones mentioned in 2004 Leaked report]<wbr>videos.php

2007: RAND Corporation: Building Modern Muslim Networks

"We cannot come in as outsiders, as a non-Muslim country, and discredit the radicals' ideology," Rabasa said. "Muslims have to do that themselves. What we can do is level the playing field by empowering the moderates."

RAND makes favourable mention of Sufis as a counterweight to fundamentalism and the need to support and empower them.

Building Modern Muslim Networks Report contained the following: Characteristics of moderate Muslims include: support for democracy, internationally recognized human rights including gender equality and freedom of worship; acceptance of non-sectarian sources of law; and opposition to terrorism.

2007: HY at Radical Middle Way gives speech defending it's Governmental Support as a 'rebate' from the government for taxpayers

2008: HY at a forum with Tony Blair regarding Malaria. Subsequently, many raise issues as to why HY shared the stage with a war criminal. [What about Bush?!]

Zaid Shakir writing public letters on his forum defends HY and states how HY was 'tricked' into sharing the stage and later amending through another posting to state that HY was 'not told' that he would be sharing a stage and there was miscommunication.

2008: Quilliam Foundation Founded by ex-HT members to combat 'extremism'

2009: Quilliam exposed along with their £1M funding from the Government

Support for 'Mainstream Muslim Scholars' scholars: Habib Ali al-Jifri, Hamza Yusuf, Sh Abdallah bin Bayyah, etc. http://www.quilliamfoundation.<wbr>org/media.html, http://www.quilliamfoundation.<wbr>org/links.html

However, the critical government minister said that the foundation was receiving so much public money because it was perceived to be toeing the government line... ...the Government knows that if you want a Muslim to say pro-government things, then Quilliam is the answer."