FAQ in the category of Mysticism and Tariqah

1 Could you please explain the concepts of Sufi and Sufism?

A Sufi is a person who is freed from dirt, who constantly meditates, who turns to Allah from people and who regards gold and mud as the same. Sufi is a person whose heart Allah has purified; thus, his heart becomes full of nur (light) and he has tasted the pleasure of dhikrullah (mrntioning the names of Allah). 

Sufism represents the intuitional and emotional aspect of the Quran. The concept of Sufism is not present in the Quran as a word but it is present as a principle, purpose and lifestyle. Sufists have dealt with the concepts of ethics, meditation, dhikr, tasbih (glorifying Allah), tahmid (praising Allah), etc in the Quran and have interpreted the relevant verses.

İslam consists of belief, worshipping and ethics in general. The science of Kalam deals with belief; fiqh deals with worshipping and Sufism deals with ethics. Sufism means to practice Islam deeply. It is a product of the spiritual and conscientious perception. It means to go to the meaning from the form and to reach the essence from the outer covering. It means to do as one preaches.   

There are various definitions of Sufism. A Sufi must try to have good and beautiful things, be patient when he is in need, give things away freely when he has, do people favors without discrimination, do good deeds in return for bad deeds, must not value worldly elements like goods, property, posts and fame; on the other hand, his inner world must be better than his outward appearance; he must educate his soul, purify his heart, attain God Almighty and be a friend of His.

Kushayri reports some definitions of Junayd al-Baghdadi about sufism. According to Junayd al-Baghdadi, “A Sufi is like the ground; everything bad is thrown onto it; but, only good things come out of it. A Sufi is like the ground. Both the good and bad people walk on it by treading it. A Sufi is like a cloud. He shades both the good and bad people. A Sufi is like rain. He waters everywhere without discrimination. If you see a Sufi who gives importance to his outward appearance, know that his inner world is ruined.” (Kushayri, ar-Risala, II, 553)

The definition of Abu Bakr ash-Shibli, “A Sufi is a person who leaves people and attains God Almighty” emphasizes the relationship of a Sufi with God Almighty. A Sufi is the slave of Allah addressed as, “And I have prepared thee for Myself (for service).” (Taha 20/41)

After explaining the concepts of Sufi and Sufism, Hijwiri states the difference between a Sufi and mutasawwif. A sufi is a perfect saint and a supporter of the truth. A mutasawwif is a person who is on the way of being a Sufi and who tries hard to act like a Sufi. (DİA, Diyanet Vakfı Yayınları, 37, Sufi item)

2 Could you define ‘sheikh” and “murid” according to tasawwuf and can a Sheikh claim that on the day of judgement he will request Allah to forgive his murid?

Sheikh” is a guide and ‘arif’ (the mature human being who has attained true knowledge of God’s affection) person and a “murid” is a person who is a student of a sheikh. Sheikh, in other words ‘Murshid’ (master) is a guide who helps people to abandon public things and arrive at the ‘haqq’ (divine and absolute truth). Sheikh is an instructor in ‘dargah’ (the place where murids gather) just like a teacher at school. While the teacher is predominantly interested in mind, the murshid is engrossed in spirit. The face of the murshid is blessed, and his words are godly.

It will be quite accurate if we evaluate a murshid in that respect:

The master and spiritual guide should not be considered to be the source and origin, but known to be the place of reflection and manifestation. For example, heat and light reach you by means of a mirror. If you forget the sun, and considering the mirror to be the source, are grateful to it instead of being grateful to the sun, it would be crazy. The mirror should be preserved because it is the place of manifestation. Thus, the guide's spirit and heart is a mirror; it is the place for reflecting effulgence emanating from Almighty God. He is the means of its being reflected to his followers. He should not be ascribed a higher station with regard to the effulgence than that of being the means.

It will be fairly beneficial if we elaborate the meaning of being means to his followers. Regarding the importance of being a means to his followers, it is ordered, “O you who believe! Keep from disobedience to God in reverence for Him and piety, and seek the means to come closer to Him, and strive in His way, so that you may prosper (in both worlds)” (Al-Maidah Surah, 5:35) in the Noble Qur’an. Conveyers are things or human beings that help us to get close to God. For instance, fulfilling divine precepts, abandoning sins etc are some kinds of conveyers. Likewise, salavat [the words that Muslims utter when they hear the name of Prophet Muhammad ((MAY ALLAH BLESS HIM AND GRANT HIM PEACE)> is the means of getting close to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is the means of getting close to God.

A physician is provider of a remedy, yet, God, the Merciful, bestows the remedy. Similarly, a murshid is the means of obtaining divine enlightenment and hidayat (the way to Islam). A murid should endeavor to promote to the stage of a murshid and follow the path of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Then, he can attain the absolute truth (the true knowledge of God).

People should benefit from the knowledge of those who are well-informed about science, and they should be aware of those who have ‘irfan’ (gnosis; the attainedment of direct spiritual knowledge). The peace and relief felt in the presence of a kamil(perfect, mature) murshid is a bestowment of divine enlightenment. Their “nefes”(breath) is something that comes from the world of aalimul-gayb(the unfelt, unseen etc things). Prosperity, enlightenment, and freshness emerge with the influence of the murshid’s nefes.

Dependence on a master and loyalty to a murshid are good and worthy. Nonetheless, this loyalty should not be perceived as a person can get rid of being punished by God due to his sins, with the help of his murshid. In the Noble Qur’an, this faulty notion is explained in that way:

God presents the wife of Noah and the wife of Lot as an example for those who disbelieve. They were married to two of Our righteous servants yet betrayed them (by rejecting the Messages they brought from God and collaborating with the unbelievers). But they (their husbands) availed them nothing against God and it was said to them: "Enter the Fire with all those who enter it!" (At-Tahrim Surah, 66:10)

Noah called out to his Lord, saying: "O my Lord, my son was of my family (as a believer), and Your promise is surely true (for my believing family members), and You are the Most Just of judges." (Hud Surah, 11:45)
(God) said: "O Noah! he (being an unbeliever) is not of your family. He is one of unrighteous conduct (which embodied his unbelief). So do not ask of Me what you have no knowledge of. I admonish you so that you do not behave as one among the ignorant." (Hud Surah, 11:46)

God tells Prophet Noah “O Noah! He (Prophet Noah’s son) is not of your family.” about Prophet Noah’s son. This being forgiven is certainly not something related to one’s family but to his beliefs. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) even says to His daughter, Hazrath Fatima, that she should rescue herself from hell’s fire through her good deeds, “O Fatima, rescue thyself from the Fire, for I have no power (to protect you) from God in anything except this that I would sustain relationship with you.” This sample is quite important to put across the triviality of family in terms of being forgiven by God.

A murid says to Bayazid-i Bistami, “If you could merely give a piece of your fur, I will keep, and carry it as a gift or domination on myself.” Bayazid-i Bistami responses, “O my son! It will be useless if you do not behave yourself. Besides, it will be of no use even if you skin me and wear it.”

The given samples do not mean rejecting intercession. Of course, we will ask prophets, mature and perfect murshids etc. for their intercession; nevertheless, it is necessary to attain a certain level of good deeds and ‘ikhlas’ (sincerity or purity of intention) in order to deserve this salvation through their intercession.

1. İz, Tasawwuf, p. 100
2. Eraydın, Tasavvuf ve tarikat, p. 114
3. Eraydın, Tasavvuf ve tarikat, p. 116-1191
4. Nursî, Flashes, p. 129-130
5. Alûsi, Ruhu’l- Meâni, Vl, 124-125
6. Nursî, Flashes, p. 97
7. Eraydın, Tasavvuf ve tarikat, p. 114-115
8. Eraydın Tasavvuf ve tarikat, p. , 384
9. Mawlana, IV, 1008
10. Sahih Muslim, The book of Faith, Book 001, Number 0399
11. Tahiru’l-Mevlevi, VII, 692

Şadi Eren (Doç.Dr.)

3 difference between tasawwuf and whirling

For a Muslim there is no drawback in taking lessons or learning something from a sufi or another person. However, one should act cautiously and should not trust everybody. There are a lot of wrong and aberrant ideas nowadays and various people who present themselves as sufis or religious scholars but actually who are not.  Furthermore, it is not necessary to take lessons from Sufis or scholars in order to learn and live Islam but it will be very useful for us to make use of people who know the Islamic realities and practice them and follow their example.

The meaning of the words dervish and sufi is given below.    

DERVISH: An expression used for the members of a tariqa (sect). It is derived from Persian “deryush” which means “a beggar going from one house to another”. After the 5th century of Hegira calendar, this word began to be widely used for members of a tariqa. Words like abdal, faqir, lover, miskeen (poor), saint and father are used in the same sense. In some regions the word “ikhwan” (brothers) is used. Dervish also means doorstep, expressing that even if a dervish is stepped on like a doorstep, he should put up with all the troubles. Like the word, the concept also originated in Iran and then was transferred to other countries. Arabs took the word as it is and made it plural like an Arabic word, “darawish”.  

SUFİ; A person who purifies his heart for Allah.
Sufi is a person who is cleaned off filth, filled with contemplation, oriented towards Allah from human beings, and for whom gold and mud are equal. Sufi is a person whose heart Allah purified and so whose heart became full of light and attained the pleasure of Allah’s zikr (mentioning the name of Allah).