By Aftab Ahmad, New Age Islam
30 April, 2014
There are groups among Muslims who are of the firm opinion that Sufism is not compatible with Islam. They believe that Sufism is akin to monasticism as practiced by the Christians. But the study of the various verses of the Quran leads us to the conclusion that Sufism based on the basic principles of the Quran is a part of Islam.
There are many explanations to the origin of the word Sufi. But the most acceptable origin seems to be the term “As’haab-e-Suffa” (People of Suffa). Suffa in Arabic means a shaded place. Suffa was a shaded place in the Masjid-e-Nabwi (The mosque of the Prophet in Medina) where homeless and destitute people stayed and gave company to the holy Prophet round the clock. They were poor and led a very ascetic life. They were 70 or 80 and their numbered increased and decreased with time. They led a content and simple life.
With the passage of time such a simple life became a way of Muslims who engaged in the remembrance of God, worship and meditation throughout the day. They discarded the worldly pleasures and luxuries of life. In the 8th century this way of Islamic life assumed the status of a school with certain rules and principles like meditation, remembrances of God, namaz and scant eating. This way of life developed mainly in Kufa and got the name of Sufism. The first person who was called a Sufi was a pious man called Abu Hashim Kufi. People called him Sufi Abu Hashim Kufi. Another person who was also called a Sufi was a Shia chemist Jabir bin Hayan. Thus Sufism as a school of Islamic spiritualism originated and flourished in Kufa. Later Sufis like Owais Qarnin, Hasan Basri and Abdul Qadir Jilani emerged.
So far as the Quran is concerned, there are at least six verses that hint towards Sufi practices, though they do not directly hint at Sufism.
“And remember your Lord within yourself in humility and in fear without being apparent in speech - in the mornings and the evenings. And do not be among the heedless. “(Al A’raf: 205)
The following verse refers to women coming to the Prophet pledging allegiance which is a way in Sufism where the disciple pledges allegiance to the spiritual guide.
“O Prophet, when the believing women come to you pledging to you that they will not associate anything with Allah, nor will they steal, nor will they commit unlawful sexual intercourse, nor will they kill their children, nor will they bring forth a slander they have invented between their arms and legs, nor will they disobey you in what is right - then accept their pledge and ask forgiveness for them of Allah. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. “(Al Mumtahanah: 12)
“O you who have believed, remember Allah with much remembrance. And exalt Him morning and afternoon. “(Al Ahzab: 42-43)
The verse quoted above refers to the act of remembrance of God day and night by the Sufis, softly and aloud. The Sufis follow all the principles of Islam like contentment, discarding the worldly luxuries and a complete reliance and dependence on God.
The word ‘Wasilah’ (means) in the following verse again refers to the verse“(Al Mumtahanah: 12) where God instructs the Prophet to accept the pledge of the women who seek ‘Wasilah’ to get close to God. A spiritual guide leads the disciple to God.
“O you who have believed, fear Allah and seek the means [of nearness] to Him and strive in His cause that you may succeed. “(Al Maidah: 35)
Thus, Quran seems to approve Sufism as a branch of Islam as the Sufis follow the Islamic principles and as Sufism is based on the practice of using Waseela (Peeri-Muridi) which the Quran itself prescribes.
Aftab Ahmad is an occasional contributor to New Age Islam and a freelance journalist. He has been studying the Holy Quran for some time.