Kitab at-Tahir: Formulation of the Principles of Political Insight

Kitab at-Tahir: Formulation of the Principles of Political Insight

by Muhammad Bello ibn Shaykh ibn Fodio

[This is a translation which was done in 1984 and recently turned up. I no longer have the Arabic to check it against to see if there are any mistakes.]

In the Name of Allah, the All-Merciful, Most Merciful

May Allah bless our master Muhammad and bless his family and his Companions and all the people of his religion. Thus speaks the Amir al-Mu’minin, Muhammad Bello ibn ‘Uthman ibn Fodio, may Allah forgive them all and cover them with His mercy by the rank of the interceding Prophet!

Praise be to Allah who has removed the darkness of ignorance from His awliya’ by the lights of gnosis and has given them knowledge of the correct criteria in the arena of the true and the false. I testify that there is no god but Allah, the King, the Eternal, and I testify that our lord and master Muhammad is His slave and His Messenger, sent with the best of all religions. He, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, lifted the darkness of all ignorance and removed all doubts. He made the path clear for the travellers and gave the most eloquent indications and proofs. May Allah bless him and grant him peace and bless all his family and Companions.

I have entitled this book “Formulation of the Principles of Political Insight”. These are important principles and provide extremely useful lessons, and anyone desiring insight should learn them, and strive to memorise them so that the way will not be unclear for him, something that has happened to most of the people of the various conflicting convictions. We ask Allah to make the way easy and give success. He is the One who brings the answer.



Any general matter is made up of various elements, and discussion of a matter can only come after formulating what it actually is. What a matter is in its essential nature is what is indicated by its totality, and knowledge of this comes by its being defined, described or explained.


What is ascribed to matters can vary either according to the difference of the matters themselves or according to the varying degrees of possibility contained within one particular matter. Thus something can be correct because of what is intended by it in one instance and incorrect because of what is intended by it in another. This matter is permitted in this first instance and forbidden in the second Ğ permitted at one time and not at another Ğ permitted in one place and not in another Ğ permitted in one state and not in another. This must be understood.


Every matter, whose rulings refer to single fixed meaning, is either entirely praiseworthy or entirely blameworthy. These essential matters are matters like belief and disbelief. Judgements about them do not vary according to what is ascribed to them, making them praised in one instance and blamed in another.

There are also matters that are relative. The former category comprises few things and the later many. Thus it has been said that there are only a few essential matters which are entirely blameworthy or praiseworthy. Most things are relative and subjective and vary according to different individuals, goals, times, places and states. Understand this properly. (Refer to a discourse by al-Hasan al-Yusi.)


Although these relative matters incur differing judgements, most of them have a predominant element and most judgements about them are based on the fact that they are fundamentally either praiseworthy or blameworthy. The exceptions are rare and due to some temporary condition. A man’s mentioning himself, lying, anger and slander are basically blameworthy qualities. They can, however, sometimes be praiseworthy due to some temporary condition. For this reason, in his book, Nuzul ar-Rahma fi’t-tahaduuthi bi’n-ni’ma, as-Suyuti says, “Scholars, may Allah be pleased with them, find it proper for a man to praise himself by mentioning his own good qualities in certain situations. This is an exception to the general rule, which is that man should be harsh on himself and not praise himself. Among the things that show this is that speaking about Allah’s blessing is obeying the words of Allah, ‘As for the blessing of your Lord, speak out!’ (96:11) They have said that a man speaking about his own good qualities falls into two categories: praiseworthy and blameworthy. The blameworthy sort is to do so boastfully, displaying ones rank and superiority over his peers and similar things. This is not permissible since Allah says, ‘So do not claim purity for yourselves.’ (53:32) It is praiseworthy if it contains benefit Ğ for instance, when someone commands the correct and forbids the objectionable, gives good counsel, points out something of benefit, teaches, disciplines, warns, reminds, makes peace between two people, averts evil from himself, or similar matters. In that case, he can mention his good qualities for that might make his words more likely to be accepted and people might be more inclined to rely on what he says.” Other people have also said this, so remember it. (cf. Bahjat an-Nufus)

They have stated that something forbidden (mamnu’) can be permissible if that will prevent something worse happening Ğ as is the case when a man tells lies in a gathering in order to break up the unity of the unbelievers to make peace between people for the common good or to protect the property, honour, lineage, or person of a Muslim or on his own behalf when he is questioned about an act of rebellion he has committed, some property which someone is trying to seize from him by force, or from someone else. This is because truthfulness would have a detrimental effect in this instance and would lead to worse results. This is also the case when he fears that his wife and child would be alienated by the truth. In other words, it is permissible to do this to avert corruption or in order to bring about a beneficial result.

It is the same with slander. It is permissible when cautioning, seeking help or other such things. The Imams have mentioned this. (See at-Tamhid and al-Qawa’id by Zarruq).

Again it is said that anger is blameworthy except when it is on behalf of Allah or His Messenger. For instance, the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, became angry when the honour of Allah was insulted. Then nothing could stand against his anger until the truth was victorious. In other words, anger has its proper place just as forbearance has its proper place. (See the Fath al-Mubin by Ibn Hajar al-Haythami)

It is also said that modesty is one of the noblest qualities and most perfect states. However, the dictates of the ShariÔa must be observed in it. There are times when modesty can be blameworthy Ğ for instance, when it prevents someone from commanding what is right or forbidding what is wrong if the necessary preconditions for doing this exist. This is a case where there is no room for modesty. It is the same when there is modesty concerning knowledge that prevents someone from asking about basic questions of the deen when they are unclear to him. Thus ‘A’isha, may Allah be pleased with her, said, “How excellent are the women of the Ansar! Modesty does not prevent them from asking about things concerning their deen.” Another hadith says, “In this deen of ours, it is not correct to be modest (i.e. this is blameworthy modesty) nor to be proud.” (See al-Fath al-Mubin)

They said, “If someone has true belief, he fears Allah in what he says with his tongue. He speaks as little as possible, especially at those times when it is forbidden to speak Ğ like after ‘Isha’ Ğ except when there is some benefit in it related to the deen, such as conveying what Allah or the Prophet said, or teaching knowledge, or commanding the right and forbidding the wrong, providing it is based on sound knowedge, or making peace between people, or saying that which is better, or speaking well to people. The best words are when you speak the truth in the presence of someone in authority whose power you fear, using words which are firm and to the point. Also included are speaking with one’s wife or guest or speaking about worldly things when they are connected to a man’s needs or his well-being.


Many matters that are considered relative are neither praiseworthy nor blameworthy in themselves. Therefore it is said that what is not blameworthy in itself can be praiseworthy, but not because of something intrinsic to it. This refers to things like possessing rank, leadership and similar things, which are neither blameworthy nor praiseworthy in themselves. Sometimes they are praiseworthy and sometimes blameworthy according to the circumstances. That is why the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, stated that this world was blameworthy when he said, “This world is cursed and everything in it is cursed.” But he made it praiseworthy when he said, “It is an excellent mount for the believers.” Allah Almighty praises people who seek leadership in this world by their saying in the Quran, “Make us imams for those who are fearfully aware.” (25:74) Ibn ‘Umar used to say, “Oh Allah, make me an Imam for those who are fearfully aware.”


Malik, may Allah have mercy on him, said, “The reward of those who are fearfully aware is immense, so what about the reward of their Imam?” The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “I ask You for mercy by which I will obtain the honour of Your favour in this world and the Next.” A man said to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, “Show me something I can do which will make Allah love me and will make people love me.” He said, “Make do with little of this world and Allah will love you. Make do with little of what other people possess and they will love you.” (Hadith) The truthful one (Yusuf, peace be upon him, said, “Put me in charge of the storehouses of the earth. I am a knowing guardian.” (12:55)

Therefore it is necessary to examine the circumstances in each case in order to ascertain whether something should be permitted or forbidden. (See at-Tamhid.)


Although two things might appear outwardly similar, it does not necessarily follow in many cases that the inward reality is the same. It is necessary to differentiate between things that appear similar. Each thing should be clearly defined or qualified according to its own specific requirements. For instance: is it is good counsel or castigation; is it is proof of disputation; or similar things. One person defends the truth, another destroys it; one is a friend of Allah, another a false pretender, and there are many other examples for this is a large subject.

As for good counsel, its aim is to benefit the person who is being counselled, and it springs from compassion and kindness whereas the point of castigation is to condemn, show disdain, censure and revile someone under the guise of good counsel.

As for proof, which is a convention based on certain definite premises, its aim is to prove a case by means of certain clear evidence whereas the aim of disputation, which is a convention based on commonly known premises, is to defeat an opponent or to convince someone who is not capable of grasping the principles of he proof, even when it is not true.

As for rhetoric, which is a convention based on accepted premises coming from a trusted person, or from premises supposed to be true, its aim is to stimulate people to do what will be of benefit to them in their livelihood or what will help them in the Next World as preachers do, while poetry is a convention based on premises by which the self is expanded or contracted through use of metre and recitation with a sweet voice, whose aim is to stimulate the self to terror or desire. Fallacious reasoning is a convention based on using false premises which resemble the truth or what is commonly known, or which is based on false hypothetical principles, whose aim is to cause doubt and preference for things which are doubtful or to make someone else fall into error by making an error correct even though it is not correct.

There are different types of this fallacious reasoning which vary according to the person who uses them or what they are used for. Anyone who makes the common people imagine that he is a wise man who draws from proper proofs when he is not actually doing so is called a sophist. Whoever sets himself up to argue and to deceive the people of verification and to confuse them by fallacious reasoning is called a disputatious troublemaker (or subverter). One variety of this is that which is used by ignorant people is when one of two opponents enrages his adversary by using words which will distract his thoughts and make him angry. For instance, he might abuse him, find fault with what he says, expose a fault he recognises in him, interrupt him, use an unusual expression against him, or divert him away from the subject of the debate. This is called extrinsic fallacious reasoning. Although it is the worst type of fallacious reasoning because the aim of the one who uses it is to injure his opponent or to deceive the common people into thinking that he has defeated and silenced him. It is the type most frequently used in our time since most of the people of this time lack any real knowledge of basic principles but love winning and cannot distinguish between truth and falsehood.

The sign of someone who defends the truth is that he is familiar with both logic and tradition. He is very precise in transmitting traditions and bases himself on clear evidence. True knowledge does not come from hearsay or bigotry or dissension or dispute. Only someone who has clear evidence and who is precise about what he says is worthy of being consulted. If he is not like that, what he says should be refuted. The sign of the former is that he only speaks about a thing when it actually exists, but not when it does not exist, and only when it is a real possibility and not when it is not. He only speaks with a clear purpose, and he intends by his refusal to talk about other things to make things clear to anyone desiring to follow him. He does not intend by it to rebuke or criticise. He is careful that his words should not be a means of disclosing people’s secrets or lead to preoccupation with their faults, or become a means of injury or castigating them, causing doubts about the people of truth or attacking them, or making sport of the honour of Muslims in gatherings of foolish people. One should be kind and merciful to ignorant people even if they are slaves, unless it is specifically necessary to speak the truth because of a judgement against them in the Shari’a. In this case, there is no room for silence or showing respect.

The clearest sign of someone who destroys the truth is that even if he knows the truth, he pretends to be ignorant of the prejudice inherent in his own opinions although that is transparent to him, vying for position or wealth by using the previously mentioned types of fallacious reasoning. His aim is abuse. This is what Sayyiduna Shaykh ‘Abdu’l-Qadir al-Jilani said, “The type of person who should be the most hated is the corrupt faqih. He sees nothing but his own point of view and is only satisfied with his own understanding and his own illusions. When he speaks, he wrongs people. When he is silent, he betrays them. He uses generalisations when he should be specific. He lets common people speak although they do not have a proper understanding of language and he does not warn them against using words outside of their proper contexts nor rebuke them for showing bias against people.”

Another sign is that he does not comply with the conventions of good counsel and does not give advice in the correct situation. He offers advice to a particular person openly and publicly in order to disgrace him or does something similar to actually naming him Ğ like mentioning qualities which could only refer to that person. There is no such thing as a generalisation when, in fact, knowledge of the circumstances or understanding of the situation indicates a particular individual.

As regards the difference between a friend of Allah and a false pretender, it would require a lengthy explanation because of the many varieties of false pretenders and the great divergence of their states. It would take a whole book to deal properly with this difference.

What we have mentioned about this principle should be adequate for anyone whose insight has been illuminated by Allah so that he recognises similar things which are ambiguous and which usually confuse people and misguide those whoa are ignorant. Since my object in writing this book is to give insight into affairs of the deen, I have presented you with these premises and given you the basis of this precept so that you will have insight into problems as they arise.

After this, we will deal with five areas showing by examples how the above principle can be applied to them. This principle is that there are different judgements about what is praiseworthy or blameworthy according to different considerations and circumstances. Allah is the One who grants success and we ask His help.

Chapter One: Principle:

Things are judged according to what is intended by them. Anyone who learns knowledge for its own sake acts on it. Anyone who learns it for sane other reason is only out to disparage others. 

Referring to this, Ahmad Zarruq said in the ‘Umda al-Murid as-Sadiq, 

“One instance of using a thing in the wrong way is when people use their knowledge to examine others, but do not use it to judge themselves. What you find is that when one of these people hears about a harmful matter into which ordinary scholars, fuqara’ and others have fallen, he says, ‘This is the state of people today. This is the way they act.’ But he does not look at the same thing in himself. He is blind to his own faults, but sees the faults of his brother. That comes from him having a good opinion of himself and considering himself blameless. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, indicated this state when he said, ‘There are those among you who see the speck in their brother’s eye and do not see the tree trunk in their own eye.’ (Hadith)”

The only thing that stops a scholar from acting by his knowledge is the fact that he learns it for the sake of other people. The only thing that will give them true fame is learning it for their own betterment. Anyone who learns knowledge for his own betterment is guided and given insight. Anyone who learns knowledge for the sake of someone else rarely benefits by it. If someone seeks this world by actions pertaining to the Next World, the punishment of his knowledge is the death of his heart, as traditions have indicated. So learn knowledge in order to apply it. Do not learn it for the sake of gain thereby making it an argument against yourselves rather than an argument for yourselves and against other people.


There are various types of things which are basically permissible but which vary greatly according to the intention behind them. It has been said that any permitted thing can, according to the intention or intentions behind it, become one of the things that bring you closest to Allah. Clothes and food are two of those things.


As for clothes, if the intention behind them is pride or to show superiority over others, there is no doubt that this is forbidden because showing-off and boasting are great wrong actions. Allah ta’ala says, “Allah does not love anyone vain or boastful.” (4:36) And it says in a sound hadith, “While a man was letting his waist-wrapper trail on the ground out of pride, he was swallowed up by the earth and he will be tossed about in it until the Day of Rising.” We read in another hadith, “If someone eats something to the detriment of another Muslim, Allah Almighty will give him the same from the boiling water of Jahannam. If someone wears a garment to the detriment of another Muslim, Allah Almighty will give him to wear a garment made of the fire of Jahannam. If someone gains a good reputation at the expense of another Muslim, Allah will appropriate his reputation on the Day of Rising.” If someone’s aim in dress is luxury and delight in permitted things, that is allowed, even though this is one of the qualities of women and idlers. It is not permitted to blame anyone who does that since Allah says, “Say: ‘Who has forbidden the fine clothing Allah has produced for His slaves?'” (7:32) Imam Fakhru’d-din ar-Razi said, “This general statement applies to all types of adornment, That includes all types of dress and jewellery. If it were not that a text had came forbidding men to use gold and silk, these would be included under this general statement as well. However, a text has come forbidding them to men, but not to women.” One of the commentators said that in general, all that can be enjoyed is included in this and there is no exception for any sort of food either unless there is a text which specifically forbids it. (See the Tafsir al-Khazin.)

I say: The following ayat confirms this interpretation. Allah says, “My Lord has forbidden indecency…” (7:33) Ibn ‘Abbas said that it means: “Eat what you like and drink what you like as long as you avoid two characteristics: extravagance and arrogance.” (See al-Khazin on the words of Allah, “Eat and drink but do not be profligate.” (7:33))

If, however, his intent is to display Allah’s blessing to him in order to show gratitude for it Ğ since the display of a blessing is a sign of gratitude for it Ğ then this is a duty for every rich man. It is stated in a sound hadith: “The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, ‘When Allah blesses a slave, he should display the mark of Allah’s blessings on him. ‘”

If his intent is to receive delegations and those he loves, wearing good clothes is recommended for leaders of the people who can afford them. The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, commanded the great Companions to wear good garments when receiving delegations and he encouraged them to do that. (See al-Iktifa’ by al-Kila’i.)

If the aim is adornment for the ‘Id prayer, wearing good clothes for the ‘Id is recommended for everyone who can afford it. It says in one tradition, “The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, commanded us to wear the best clothes we could find for the day of the ‘Id.” (See the Gloss on at-Taqyid.) Then he said, “It is prescribed that you should exalt the deen and strike terror into the enemy.”

If the intent is for studying or teaching, it is as Ibn Hajar al-Haythami said in his commentary on the Forty Hadith of an-Nawawi: “When a man with very white clothes and very black hair came to usÉ” It can be taken from this that students and teachers should wear good clothes, especially white ones Ğ a student because he is asking questions and a teacher because he is teaching you your deen.” And he said in the Commentary on the Waghlisiyya that both scholars and students should adorn themselves with good clothes, particularly white ones, but did not oppose wearing other colours. The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, wore red, black, white and green, but not blue. However, it is not related that either disapproved or approved of blue as a colour.

If the aim is to avert harm from yourself and your property or something similar to that, and it is only possible to do this by wearing fine clothes, then this is an obligation for anyone who can afford it. If, however, the intent is to gain some benefit, there is disagreement about whether that is permitted or forbidden Ğ like a horn when there is a need for it. (See Bahjat an-Nufus by Ibn Abi Jamra.)

If the aim is to be attractive to your family so your womenfolk will find you handsome and therefore be content and not be on the lookout for anyone else, this is recommended for everyone who can afford it. Observing the rights of the family is part of the Shari’a. We read in a sound hadith, “Your family has a right over you.”

If the aim is to promote the best interests of the Shari’a, this is more strongly recommended Ğ like establishing particular forms of dress for rulers, qadis and governors even though this is contrary to what happened in the time of the Messenger and Abu Bakr because outward embellishment only occurred in the time of ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, when the Companions conquered Syria. They had dealings with non-Arabs and the non-Arabs only showed respect for good garments and outward forms. Some of the Companions thought that they should unite these people and put awe for the people of Islam into them by using every permitted type of clothing. On the other hand, some of them thought that scrupulousness would have a better effect on the self, as they feared its deceitfulness. If there is a specific benefit to be gained, there is no disagreement about wearing a garment which will bring that about. Therefore it is said that when ‘Umar came to Syria and found that Mu’awiya ibn Abi Sufyan had appointed a chamberlain, was using fine horses, wearing sumptuous clothes and acting like a king, he questioned him about it. Mu’awiya said to him, “We are in a land where this is necessary.” Then ‘Umar said, “I neither order you to do that nor forbid you from it.” He meant, “You have the best knowledge of your state and know whether you really need to do this, thus making it a good thing, or whether it is unnecessary and so not a good thing. “This indicates that ÔUmar and others thought that the states of rulers and governors vary in different cities, times and circumstances. That is why it is necessary to institute new adornments and political systems that did not exist in the past. It could even be that they are necessary in certain cases. (cf. Sunan al-Muhtadin by al-Mawwaq)

Al-Qarafi said, “The innovations which are recommended are derived from the principles which govern recommendation and evidence for them in the Shari’a Ğ like the Tarawih prayers and establishing forms of dress for rulers, qadis, and governors, even though this did not exist at the time of the Companions, may Allah be pleased with them. This is because the aims and benefits of the Shari’a can only be obtained if there is respect for the governors in the minds of the people. At the time of the Companions, people respected them largely because of their respect for the deen. This was the case until that social order became unsettled and that generation disappeared. The next generation only respected the outward forms. For this reason, it was necessary to embellish the outward forms so that the best interests of the people could be served.”

Chapter Two: Principle:

Every age produces new situations and creates specific requirements. It is therefore necessary to re-examine matters so that they do not fall outside the dictates of the Shari’a. The Shari’a demands that corruption be rejected and benefits be encouraged. It is stated by the men of knowledge that at the beginning of man’s history, in the time of Adam, peace be upon him, people were in a weak state, so sisters were permitted to marry brothers, and many other things were permitted by Allah at that time. When the situation was expanded and there were many people, those things were forbidden in the time of the Israelites. Saturday, fat, camels, and many other things were made unlawful. They were under obligation to do fifty prayers a day and one kind of repentance entailed killing oneself. Impurities could only be removed by excision and there were other harsh requirements.

Then another time came when people’s bodies became weaker and their stamina decreased, so Allah showed kindness to His slaves and permitted things that had been forbidden, lightened the prayers and accepted repentance. This shows that judgements and the Shari’a differ according to the time, and this is an aspect of Allah’s kindness to His slaves and His continuing custom in His creation. It is also clear that the existence of these laws does not violate the basic principles and that they are not innovations deviating from the noble Shari’a. That is why al-Qarafi said, “There is no doubt that if the qadis, witnesses, governors, and trustees of our time had been alive at the time of the first community, they would not have been appointed or chosen for office. The government of these men would have been considered corrupt at that time. The best of our time is the worst of that time, and government by the worst is corruption. What was ugly then is now considered good and what was narrow is now wide. Judgements differ in different times.” (From the Tabsira of Ibn Farhun.)

The men of knowledge have said that if someone is deep in debt and he is entitled to something from someone else deep in debt, judgement is awarded to him according to the dictates of general policy, but not according to the texts of fiqh since in reality, the property does not belong to either of them. However, giving that judgement according to the texts would lead to great corruption. Furthermore, it is well established in the Shari’a that it is actually a duty to choose the lesser of two evils. (This is from an-Nawazil by Ibn al-AÔmash.)

The men of knowledge say that every time requires its own judgements inasmuch as the things which are considered permissible can be either recommended, forbidden, or disliked. Something that is recommended or permitted at one time can become forbidden and disliked at another. This comes about because in each case the new judgement is arrived at by using other evidence that requires that judgement. The statement that it is forbidden to gather for dhikr and that doing so is disliked in this time is a consequence of this Ğ as is forbidding women to go out to the mosques and other things which have been forbidden because of what happens in them and because of them. There are two positions about these things. Some people say that because of the principle of cutting off the means, everything leading to a forbidden thing is forbidden on account of the thing itself. That is according to the school of Malik, may Allah have mercy on him. Others do not say this, but say that only the thing that takes a forbidden form is forbidden. This is according to the school of ash-Shafi’i and others. (See at-Tamhid.)

Al-Mawwaq said, “There are two permitted ways of honouring people. The first is what has come in the Shari’a, like offering the greeting “as-salamu ‘alaykum”. The second is what is not based on a text and was not done by the Salaf because the occasion for it did not arise at that time. It has only arisen in our time. Therefore it is now an obligation for us because the occasion for it has developed. This is like the types of address used by kings and men in high position, and standing up to honour people. All these and things like them are matters of custom which did not exist in the time of the Salaf, but which we do today. They are permissible.”

Then he added that if it were not that there were recently developed reasons for these things, they would be disliked, but not haram. But after these reasons have developed, abandoning these customs would occasion a break in continuity which would itself be haram. When the disliked and the forbidden come into conflict with each other, then the decision has to be taken against the haram, even if something disliked occurs because of that. The ruling of these matters should be divided into the five categories of the Shari’a (i.e. wajib (obligatory), mandub (recommended), mubah (permissible), makruh (disliked), haram (forbidden). (cf. Sunan al-Muhtadin.)

Chapter Three: Principle:

Custom is when a particular usage predominates within an entire country or part of it. Coinage, furniture, weddings, the oaths of Muslims, indirect ways of declaring divorce, sales transactions and wills come under that heading. In other words, judgements about these things are based on customs. If those customs change, then the judgements change. If a new custom develops, that is taken into consideration. If a custom is abandoned, the judgements based on it disappear.

Ibn Farhun said about this in the Tabsira, “You find fatwas based on this principle, in other words, certain judgements are always based on custom. If a new custom develops, it is taken into consideration and if a custom is abandoned, judgements based on it disappear and you never need to refer to the texts in the books. When a man comes to you from outside your area to ask you for fatwa, do not answer him according to the customs which exist in your land. Ask him about the customs of his land and act accordingly following his customs rather than the customs of your own land and what is written in your books. This is clearly the truth. Rigidity regarding texts is always misguidance in the deen and ignorance of the goals of Muslim scholars and the Salaf.

Oaths about divorce and setting free are derived by means of this principle, both in their explicit and their indirect forms. Explicit statements can become allusions that require an explicit intention. And in the same way, allusions can become explicit statements that do not require an intention.

In the Kitab al-Ahkam, al-Qarafi said about the difference between fatwas and judgements (Question 39):

“The sound rulings concerning these matters in the school of Malik and ash-Shafi’i and others are based on habits and customs which then attain to the state of being legal precedents for the ‘ulama’ in these rulings. If these customs change and begin to indicate the opposite of what they indicated in the first place, are the fatwas which are written in the books invalid, thus necessitating a fatwa according to what the new customs demand, or should we say, “We must follow what went before (taqlid) and not invent Shari’a, because we are not worthy of making ijtihad, and therefore we can only give fatwa according to what is in the books transmitted from the mujtahids“?’ The answer to this is that when these judgements based on customs are faced with a change in those customs, they then become contrary to legal consensus (ijma’) and in this case, keeping to them amounts to ignorance in the deen. Rather, the rulings concerning everything in the Shari’a which follow custom have to change when the customs themselves change according to what the change in custom demands. This does not mean a new ijtihad on the part of those following what came before (muqallidun) which would necessitate their being qualified to make ijtihad as a precondition for doing so. It is rather a principle about which ‘ulama’ have already made ijtihad and they have agreed that it should be applied. We follow them in that without having to make any new ijtihad.

“It is also not a precondition that the custom has to change. For if we leave one land for another land where the custom is different from the custom of the land where we were at first, we must give fatwa according to the custom of that land, even though the custom of the land where we were has not changed. It is the same when anyone comes to us from a land whose custom is different to that in our land. We can only give him a fatwa according to the custom of his land.

“This being confirmed, I will present rulings by the people of the School which were made according to custom, thus making custom the basis of their fatwa. What happens today is different, so the ruling must be specific to what the new custom demands. You should know that in this case the meaning of custom is when the uttering of a phrase and its use tend to have a particular meaning so that when that phrase is used, that meaning is understood, even though the words themselves do not necessarily indicate it. This is the meaning of a custom where phrases are concerned and the true meaning of customary usage. It is the generally understood meaning which dominates, and this is what the fuqaha’ mean when they say that customary usage takes precedence over literal meaning when there is conflict between the two. The Mudawanna states, ‘When a man says to his wife, “You are haram for me” or “let go” or “free” or “I have given you to your family,” the use of those phrases makes the treble divorce binding. It is no good him claiming that he meant less than three.’ This is based on the fact that according to customary usage; these phrases are known to untie the bond of marriage and known to bring the divorce about. What is understood from the statement that the woman is haram is changed from what it normally means because if the phrase retained its literal meaning, the man would definitely be a liar, since by general agreement she is in fact lawful for him. The statement that she is haram is clearly false. The sense of this phrase taken literally does not mean that she is haram for him and that the state of her being haram existed before he made this statement. This is definitely not the truth. Therefore it must be said that it is custom that has changed the meaning in three ways Ğ it dissolves the knot of marriage, signifies a treble divorce, and makes the divorce effective. On the other hand, some of the phrases used for divorce do not effect it although they are meant to and the marriage-knot is not definitively untied. Observing this principle is the reason for the apparent difference between the later people and the Salaf concerning this matter.

“This being confirmed, you know how you will not find anybody using these earlier forms for divorce. A long time has now passed and you do not hear of anyone using these phrases to dissolve the bond of marriage nor to signify a treble divorce. Therefore the custom involving these phrases is absolutely discarded. When the custom no longer exists, only the literal meaning remains, and in normal language, these phrases are not used to mean this and no one claims that they do mean this except for someone who does not know the language. If these phrases do not convey this meaning either literally or by custom or by intention or by extension, then these rulings are without any foundation, and fatwas without foundation are null and void by legal consensus and haram for anyone who pronounces them or believes them. In fact, the expression “haram” according to our custom today does dissolve the bond of marriage, but does not signify a treble divorce. It is well known that it now means this, unlike the other expressions mentioned at the beginning, and it can only occasion a ruling of divorce which is not final. If a man uses the other expressions for divorce, he must have a specific intention. If he does not make an intention or clarify it, nothing is binding because they are hidden allusions. However, most of the people of the School and the people of this time do not agree with this and do not acknowledge it. I believe that their position is contrary to the consensus of the community regarding it. These words are clear for anyone who reflects on this matter and has a sound intellect and good opinion, and is free of fanatical adherence to anyone of the schools, a state which is not fitting for the character of those who are fearfully aware of Allah ta’ala.

“The strange thing about them is that when they are asked the question: “If a man says to his wife, ‘You are divorced (taliq),’ does he need an intention?” They say, “No, because it is a linguistically clear statement intending to dissolve the bond of marriage because the word ta’-lam-qaf means “to set free” without qualification. That is why one says, ‘a general (mutlaq) statement),’ unreservedly (talqhalal,’ ‘an open (talq) face,’ ‘and so-and-so was freed (utliq) from prison’ and ‘his stomach was emptied (intalaq).’ The tie of marriage is a type of bond. When any bond, including the bond of marriage, is undone, then the bond of marriage must necessarily be undone.” But when it is said to them, “The expression ‘You are free (muntaliqa) contains all of this,” their only answer is that this has been abandoned in customary usage and can only be used in divorce when a specific intention is made. When it is said to them, “If it happens that someone utters the expression “muntaliqa” and this is know as meaning to dissolve the bond of marriage at that time or in that place while ‘You are taliq’ is not known to dissolve the bond of marriage according to their custom, then what is the ruling?” They have no choice but to say that the divorce is binding by the expression “muntaliqa” rather than “taliq” unless by using “taliq,” the man intends to untie the marriage-knot, and this is the opposite of our position today. Then it must be said to them that it is the same with the phrase “haram” and what is said in fatwas regarding it must apply to the other expressions mentioned with it whether or not they are known by custom. Anything that is well known can be used without an intention whereas something which is not well known must be accompanied by an intention. As far as being well-known is concerned, it is not enough that it is just taken to have that meaning for that comes from the study of the School and investigation into it. Rather, well-known means that the people of that place only understand that phrase to mean that thing. It is not something which comes from what the fuqaha’ say. They use the expression to mean that. This is what ‘being well-known’ means and it changes the meaning of an expression by customary usage. And Allah knows best.”


The same rule applies to dress. Clothes are neither praiseworthy nor blameworthy in themselves. They can be praiseworthy or blameworthy with to different individuals and in different places. Thus it is said that one of the earlier people related that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, forbade the Arabs from trying to look like non-Arabs. But it has not been related that he commanded any foreign delegation that came to him to abandon their clothes in favour of the clothing of the Arabs. This is the basis of Ibn Rushd’s approach to the Murabitun. He said, “There is no harm in what they wear because they are known by the way they dress and are the protectors of the deen.” And he said, “Allah created people and he separated them in different lands and gave them different kinds of clothing. He did not oblige any of them to abandon his own clothing for any other kind of dress. The veil of the Murabitun is their garment and it is recommended for them to keep it and disliked for them to abandon it.” He said, “There is no objection if any of them prays wearing a veil which is not the case with other people.” (cf. Sunan al-Muhtadin by al-Mawwaq.)

The ‘ulama’ say that nothing that non-Arabs wear is forbidden unless it is forbidden in the ShariÔa and basic principles indicate that it should be abandoned. What was meant by the non-Arabs it was forbidden to imitate were those who followed the way of life of Khosrau at that time. The prohibition was specific to what they did which was contrary to the demands of the Shari’a. If people do something which is in harmony with what is recommended, obligatory, or permitted in our Shari’a, we do not reject that simply because they use it, because the Shari’a is not prejudiced by virtue of resemblance. The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, dug the ditch around Madina imitating the Persians. (See the above-mentioned book.)

It is said that when ‘Umar came to Syria and found that Mu’awiya ibn Abi Sufyan had appointed a chamberlain, was using fine horses, wearing sumptuous clothes and acting like a king, he questioned him about it. MuÔawiya said to him, “We are in a land where this is necessary.” Then’ Umar said, “I neither order you to do that nor forbid you from it.” He meant, “You have the best knowledge of your state and know whether you really need to do this, thus making it a good thing, or whether it is unnecessary and so not a good thing.” This indicates that ‘Umar and others thought that the states of the rulers and governors differ in different cities, times, and circumstances. That is why it is necessary to institute new adornments and political systems which did not exist in the past. It could even be that they are necessary in certain cases. (Refer to the book mentioned above. That has already been stated.)

Chapter Four: Principle:

The demands made on a person should be according to his rank and he should be addressed according to his background. A common man is not expected to have more than taqwa. A faqih is not expected to be anything other than correct. The murid is expected to have sincerity as well as the first two qualities. The gnostic is expected to have scrupulousness. A common man without taqwa is corrupt. A faqih without correctness is incompetent. A murid without truthfulness is a fraud who is amusing himself. (This is one of the principles in al-Qawa’id by Zarruq.)


Something that is common practice among ordinary people can constitute a shortcoming in the elite. That is how things are. The imperfection of the age, the imperfection of the people and the blameworthiness of the rulers, qadis, and false pretenders to piety does not mean that there has to be general corruption. Among the community of Musa there was a group who were guided by the truth and judged by it. This group continued to base themselves on the command of Allah and those who opposed them did not harm them until the command of Allah came. There is a poem on this:

Except for a group of them with virtue and restraint. There is

in respect to the common people,

a people who are elite in the sight of Allah.

This elite adorns the land as gems adorn the rings of kings.

“People are mines.” In every land there are masters and in every region there are leaders. An individual is measured by his character. That is why it is said that people are the creatures of their character. As a general rule, no one is blamed unless there is a reason for it. (This is from al-Qawa’id by Zarruq with some additions.

Chapter Five: Principle:

If undue hardship would result, things are made easy. Grapes can be cultivated in this world even though that might lead to winemaking and wine-drinking. In the same way, you have to go out to get the necessities of life and go into the marketplace even though that might lead to you seeing a woman unrelated to you, falling into argument or indulging in forbidden behaviour. This and things like it are means which could lead to wrong action, but which it is not considered necessary to ban them on that account. This is the case when the Shari’a makes it easy for the nursing woman in respect of impurities which get onto her as a result of the child, provided they cannot be seen on the nursing garment. Things are also made easy in respect of mud resulting from rain, even if there is impurity and filth in it. It is also the case when someone has impurities on him as a result of being wounded in many places, for the fighter in respect of the urine of his horse, and for the person with haemorrhoids in respect of any discharge resulting from them. It is also permitted to abandon the pillars of the prayer and the conditions applying to it when you are under constraint as in the fear prayer or in the case of a sick person who cannot pray properly or other cases of that nature.

Ash-Shafi’i said, “Whenever there is constraint, there is an accompanying dispensation,” indicating these instances when dispensation is allowed. The same thing applies when we are in a state where it is difficult to avert corruption. Then allowances are made as they are made in the previously mentioned instances. (Ibn Farhun said that in the Tabsira.)

An example of that is discovering the truth about a person who is accused of something and who is notorious for corruption according to how strong the suspicion is and the extent of his notoriety. It might be done by beating and imprisonment or by imprisonment without beating according to how notorious he is. Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya al-Hanbali said, “I have not heard of any of the Imams of the Muslims saying that a person against whom accusations of this sort are made can give an oath and be released without going to prison or undergoing sane other form of punishment. The release of someone like this after his giving an oath is not a ruling given by any school of the four Imams nor anyone else. If we were to let any of them take an oath and release him and let him go on his way in spite of knowing that he is notorious for corruption and has committed many thefts, and were to say that we could only arrest him if we have evidence from two just witnesses, that action would be contrary to the direction of the ShariÔa. Whoever thinks that the position of the Shari’a is that someone like this gives an oath and is then released is terribly mistaken and opposes the texts of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and the consensus of the community. Because of this terrible mistake, rulers have dared to oppose the Shari’a under the false apprehension that the direction of the Shari’a is not capable of dealing with people and the best interests of the community. They overstep the limits of Allah and abandon the ShariÔa by rebelling in various ways and imposing innovations in government in a way that is not permitted. The reason for this is ignorance of the Shari’a. There is a sound hadith from the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, in which he states, “Whoever holds to the Book and the Sunna will not be misguided.” The actions of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless and grant him peace, indicating punishment and imprisonment of the suspect, have already been mentioned. Know that it is permitted to beat and imprison this sort of suspect and there is evidence in the Shari’a to establish that.

Another example is the punishment of someone who accuses righteous people of something not commensurate with their state. This is to protect the honour of the innocent from the people of evil and enmity. Asbagh said, “If the accused is someone known for righteousness and innocence, the accuser is punished whether or not he intended harm. “

Another example is stopping people from obduracy in telling the truth. This is one of the great sicknesses and its cure is recognition of the situations where the truth must be stated. Even if backbiting is true, it is still prohibited. Even if scandal-mongering is true, it is still prohibited. It is also forbidden for a man to talk about what he does with his wife in bed when he comes to her, even if it is true. Talking about this is one of the great wrong actions. Even if good counsel to someone in an assembly is true, it is humiliating. Only ignorant people do that because the point of giving legitimate good counsel lies in it being put to good use and reinforcing the ties of affection. If it is given in a gathering, it will not gain acceptance and it will bring about enmity and incur the blame of Allah. The person doing this should be too embarrassed to give good counsel in a gathering because when he counsels someone in a gathering, he forces the person to lie when he makes excuses for himself and to develop a grudge against him. That is a cause of great corruption. If, however, he gives him good counsel in private, when just the two of them are present, in a sympathetic manner and shows him how he is at fault regarding the matter in question with the intention of teaching him if he is ignorant of its shamefulness, the person who is counselled will thank him and love him for that and supplicate on his behalf. That will bring him good and will weigh in his favour in his balance. Telling the truth in every instance is neither commanded nor recommended either by Shari’a or by custom except when the recipient is someone who does not accept counsel because of his insolence. This person must be told the truth because his state demands it. Anyone who removes the veil of modesty from his own face should be censured. But if civil strife occurs and the scholar remains silent, then the curse of Allah is on him.

Yet another example of this is that when travelling, someone rebelling against Allah is not allowed to shorten the prayers nor is he granted any allowance to eat carrion in case of necessity. This is to act as a restraint in order to root out the rebellion in which he is involved, whether it is highway robbery, or extortion or fleeing from justice or simply disobedience. There is disagreement about whether he is permitted to eat carrion or forbidden from it to the point that he dies of hunger. Some of the ‘ulama’ have given permission to eat carrion. Ibn al-Faris and Ibn ‘Abdu’l-Barr said that and it is the sound position.


If someone has an objection, their objection must be either based on ijtihad or intended to prevent something which might lead to the haram or due to lack of verification or weak understanding or insufficient knowledge or ignorance of the point or confusion in the presentation or sheer stubbornness. The way to guidance in all these cases is to refer back to the truth in what was said except in the last case. A stubborn man will not be impartial in the matter. As for the person whose objection is based on wanting to prevent something which might lead to corruption, if he refers back to the truth he will find that by maintaining his objection, which is intended to avert corruption, he is bringing about the very corruption which his objection is intended to prevent. An example of this is the warning which Abu Hayyan in his book, “The Sea” and “The River” and Ibn al-Jawzi in his “Tablis” and others have claimed and sworn to. What they have said indicates that this has been done by ijtihad on their part. Ibn al-Jawzi puts margins in his books containing the statements of various people and his rejection of them. That shows that his intention was to prevent something which might lead to the haram. Allah knows best.

Praise be to Allah in the first and the last. May Allah bless Sayyiduna Muhammad and his family and Companions and grant them much peace. Oh Allah, forgive me and all of those who say, “There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace.”


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Tasawwuf by Dr Ali Gomaa 

al-asyirah as-sufiyyah العشيرة الصوفية
Friday, 6 December 2013

Tasawwuf by Dr Ali Gomaa 

Modern scholars of Islamic philosophy agree that Sufism is to be considered one of the most important and central areas within the field . Still, it seems to be an independent field of study: its questions and problems, even its language and terminology, are to be distinguished as having a specific nature. And those who seek to study it are required to spend an increasing amount of effort in observing it closely and pondering it continuously for many years. 

Sufism is not a theoretical topic or set of topics that can easily be judged by logical analysis in terms of truth and falsehood. Rather, it is a matter of spiritual experience reaching depths in which spiritual manifestations and behaviors are rooted. From such experiences spring rational thoughts and literary productions, all the while the experiences being rooted in Islam from which it takes its spirit and is expressed through its values and teachings.  It is necessary at times to have a complete and clear understanding of the reality of Sufism and its various aspects and how it developed. 

The Madkhal and Tamhidat or preliminary or introductory overviews are considered one of the best ways to this, since they seek to provide an overview of all or most of its aspects, without belittling the importance of specialized studies focusing on an individual or a particular topic. 

Sufism is a part of Islam’s great heritage and, in another aspect, continues to exist in the lives of Muslims today. Both aspects require serious study from students of Islamic studies so that they try to bring out the positive elements in it without overshadowing them by negative things. 

A preliminary overview 

Mysticism is a human phenomenon. It could be stated that it emerged in every civilization in some form or other and can be expressed as a desire of the soul to purify itself and its desire to free itself of material constraints. Muslims are not an exception to this rule, since mysticism manifested in Islam just as it did in the cultures of those who preceded Islam. Mysticism is humanity’s attempt to arm the soul with spiritual values that help people to overcome material existence and it gives them spiritual balance so as to confront the difficulties of life. In this sense, mysticism or Sufism is undoubtedly a positive rather force in human eistence, as long as it connects the individual to society and maintains a balance between spirituality and material needs. 

There are positive principles in Sufism that lead to the progress of society by emphasizing that the individual should be accountable to himself continuously so that he corrects his mistakes and perfect his self through virtues. It makes his view of life balanced so that he does not overindulge in his own desires to the extent that he forgets himself and God and thus becomes extremely disoriented. 

Real Sufism sees life as a means and not an end so that one takes from it what is sufficient and does not get engrossed in money and fame so that he can be greater than others. By this, he can free himself of his desires. 
The third century of Hijra is considered an important period in which Sufism reached maturity and perfection and obtained particular principles, just as the jurists and scholars of hadith formed the legal schools and the study of hadith. 

Ibn Khaldun (d. 808 H.), in clarifying the emergence of Sufism, states, 

“It was generally found amongst the Companions and the Predecessors but when people in the second century began to turn towards worldly gains, those who applied themselves specifically to worship were given the name “Sufis”.” 

The history of Sufism spans all of Islamic Arabic civilization, beginning with the “Ahl al-Suffa” who lived in the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and ending with the various sufi orders (turuq) in modern times. However, during the Abbasid period, what can be considered the period of the flourishing of theology (ilm al-kalam) and various sects, the great figures of Sufism, who had the fire of faith in their hearts, and were signs of the path to God, emerged. They were in the words of the Sufis: stations of light 

There were of them however those who were only Sufis by name and did great harm to the Muslim community, either by transforming the values of Islam, by replacing reliance on God with refusal to act. 

We rarely find a famous Sufi whose works have not been preserved by a public or private library. There are also many rare works that preserve the history and scholarship of Sufism. 

Here, we are interested in the Sufism that began in the second century Hijri as a social and intellectual path which is free of anything contrary to purity and asceticism. 

That is, Sufism was integrated in the live of people. In this sense, it is not permitted to consider the Prophet (peace be upon him), his family, companions and successors as Sufis in this sense. As well, Sufi experience is an individual experience that has internal personal aspects that cannot be generalized as applied more broadly to Muslim society. 

The term Sufism emerged first in Kufa due to its closeness to Persia and due to the influence of Greek philosophy in the period of translation, as well as the morals of monks from the Judeo-Christian traditions.  

Scholars and historians have disputed who was the first to be called a sufi. There are three opinions. 

According to Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328 CE), and his followers, the first was Abu Hashim al-Kufi (d. 150). He was a contemporary of Sufyan al-Thawri (d. 155). Sufyan said, “If it weren’t for Abu Hashim, the subtleties of showing off would not be known.” He was also a contemporary of Ja’far al-Sadiq (d. 148 H.), and is associated with the early Shi’ites and is called the Shi’ite inventor of Sufism. Some historians state that Abdak Abd al-Karim or Muhammad (d. 210) was the first to be called sufi. Harith al-Muhasibi (d. 857) mentions that he was from a semi-Shi’ites sect that called themselves “sufiyya” that was founded in Kufa.

Maltti in al-Tanbihwa-l-Radd ala Ahl al-Ahwa wa-l-Bida states that Abdak was head of a heretical sect who believed that the world was forbidden entirely and that nothing was permitted of it except subsistence, since the leaders of guidance hold that it is only permitted for the Righteous Imam and forbidden to everyone else. 

Ibn Nadim (d. 998CE) states in the Fihrist that Jabir ibn Hayyan (d. 208), a student of Jafar al-Sadiq, was the first to be called Sufi. The Shi’ites consider him an authority and the philosophers follow him.

The second century Hijri witnessed the birth of Sufism, which was the development of the asceticism that was widespread in the Islamic Arab society at the time. Sufism took deeper roots after that, from its primary focus on asceticism to a philosophical Sufism through a certain contemplative Sufism. 

Here, we find the phase of inspiration, illumination, witnessing, enlightenment, and unveiling. The task of the Sufi is to establish a bridge between the divine and humanity through certain spiritual states and stations which the sufi arrives at through spiritual exercise.  The Sufis have, wittingly or unwittingly, aimed at overcoming every problem laid in front of them in terms of authority, law and so on in order to realize their direct connection to God by means of gnosis and divine love, something the ultimately lead to their assertion of unification and the unity of existence as we shall see. 

If we examined the encyclopedic works of the Sufis, we can find a fertile ground and source for sayings that establish the foundations for bridging human and divine love. The narrations of the authors of Hilyat al-Awliya, al-Risala al-Qushayriyya, Qut al-Qulub are good indications of that. 

Some Orientalists have tried to distinguish between Sufi orders and Islam. Indeed, they have tried to present Sufism as phenomenon influenced by the religious culture of Christianity, Buddhism, and the Ancient Greeks, which is incorrect. That is, there is much in Sufism that derives from the Qur’an and the Prophetic Sunna. There are many studies on Sufism that define the approach of Sufis and explain the spiritual stations that realize the purity of the soul and self and open all the ways to faith. 

There are certain Islamic notions and principles in the Sufi approach, for example: 

Repentance is a path to God and is a pillar of Sufism, which is based on the teachings of the Qur’an. 

There is “truthfulness” as well which is considered an important aspect of the Sufi’s life. 

There is also “sincerity”, which is one of the highest stations between the believer and God. 

There is also “reliance” on God, getting closer to God which is love as the Qur’an states, 

“If my servant asks of me, I am close, and I answer the prayer of a caller if he calls.”

There are many stations that the Sufi passes and all are through the Qur’an and Sunna. The Prophetic example is the primary model in Sufism, especially for Sunni Sufis. 

Sufism, before anything, represents a personal experience as we noted, and is not something that is common to people. For every Sufi, there is a specific path which expresses his states. In other words, it forms an internal private experience. This makes Sufism very close to an art, especially since its masters rely on symbolic style in expressing their states. This is to hide their spiritual experiences from those who are not worthy of them.

For this reason, we find some Sufis say, “The number of paths to God are as many as the number of souls,” to confirm the specific difference between them and due to the impossibility of one experience being comparable to another. 

In an anecdote about Sufism, showing that its knowledge is solely on spiritual taste, is that a student of the famous Muhiyyadin Ibn Arabi (d.1240 CE) came to him to say:

People are condemning us for our knowledge and asking us for proof for it. Ibn Arabi responded with the following advice: 

“If anyone demands a proof or demonstration for knowledge of divine secrets, then say to him: what is the proof for the sweetness of honey? He must respond by saying that this knowledge can only come by means of taste. Say the same is knowledge of divine secrets.”

Perhaps from this the Sufis refrained from expressing their states. Indeed, they went beyond this to raise their place, a result of which is that Sufi secrets developed and the insider aspect grew. 

The Most Important Sufi Sources 

These are the most important sources of Sufism are the following, and they are not all but the researcher will find to what extent the Sufis expended effort in it through the ages. It is clear the Sufi corpus and biographies are plenty, which requires a team of experts to complete its publication, organization, and indexing according to modern contemporary methods, to make it easier to access and study.  

Sources (analytic bibliography): 

It is possible to divide the sources for Sufism into two: 

First, those that are specific to Sufism, which comprise the principles, sources, and sayings expounded by Sufis, as well as the birth and development of Sufism. 

Second, those that concern the biographies of the Sufis which comprise the birth, death, life, including the most important aspects of their lives.  The connection between the two kinds is very strong to the extent that they are intermixed. That is, some sources have biographies as a part as Qushayri (d. 418 H) did in his Risala, and Hujwayri (d. 1077 CE) in Kashf al-Mahjub just as the books of biographies are full of Sufi sayings and opinions which is an important part of the life of a Sufi. 

Source for Sufism Hijri Century
Name of Source 
Author Death Date 

Riaya li-Huquq Allah Al-Muhasabi  243 H 

Khatim al-Awliya  Al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi 285H 

Al-Luma fi Tasawwuf Al-Tusi 378H

Al-Ta’arruf li-Madhhab al-Tasawwuf  Al-Kalabadhi 380H

Qut al-Qulub  Al-Makki   386H 

Kashf al-Mahjub (Persian) Al-Hujwayri 456

Al-Risala  Al-Qushayri 465H 

Ihya Ulum al-Din  Al-Ghazali 505H

Al-Ghunya li-Talibi Tariq al-Haqq  Al-Jilani 561H


Awarif al-Ma’arif Al-Suhrawardi 632H

Futuhat al-Makkiyya  Ibn Arabi  638H 

This chart about sources for Sufism is organized chronologically, with the most important works listed in it. It shows the progression of works written and their respective dates. 

Al-Ri’aya li-Huquq Allah, Al-Muhasabi (d. 243H) 

One of the most famous books on Sufism in history treats the notions of piety, taking the self into account and its actions, words, and thoughts. As well, they treat repentance, its motives and ways, and ostentation, truthfulness, arrogance, pride and so on. 

Khatim al-Awliya: al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi (d. 285H) 

One of the most important works of al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi, and one of the first works written on sainthood and its relation to prophethood. This book led to Hakim being prevented from teaching due to some extreme views in it. The book focuses on spiritual exercises regarding truthfulness, which refers to special activities that the Sufi does to get closer to God. It also examines “endowment” which is a divine gift that is given to some chosen individuals irrespective of their efforts. 

Al-Luma fi al-Tasawwuf: al-Tusi (d. 378H) 

This is considered one of the longest sources on Sufism and as having the most material. It is like Kitab al-Umm in Arabic language, insofar as subsequent authors came to use and rely on it. The author sets out the principles of practical Sufism and defines in principles and notions. It records the sayings of the Sufis, and their opinions, that were not recorded previously. 

Al-Ta’arruf ila Ahl al-Tasawwuf: al-Kalabadhi (d. 380H) 

This is one of the important compendia that was written early on and is distinguished by its theological bent. It explains the creed of Sufis with regard to tawhid and the attributes of God, and sight of God, createdness of actions, and the Good. It also treats the most important Sufi concepts, like repentance, asceticism, patience, poverty, piety, contentment, certainty and so on. The author is clearly Sunni and even-handed in presenting his views.  

Qut al-Qulub, Abu Talib al-Makki (d. 386H) 

The book treats the behavior and protocols of the Sufis. It also treats ritual worship and how it is performed according to Sufis. It focuses on the various ritual practices that are spread out through the day and night as well as taking account of the soul and training the seekers. It discusses at length the Sufi stations, the reality of asceticism and reliance. 

Kashf al-Mahjub, al-Hujwayri (d. 456H) 

The oldest work on Sufism in Persian and the first organized according to practical and theoretical principles of Sufism. It parallel Tusi’s Luma in Arabic. The book expounds the principles of Sufism and derivative principles. It has a specific section of the saints of the Sufis and their biographies. It also has a section of Sufi sects. It also treats creedal matters and ritual worship according to the Sufis as well as the protocols, symbols, and ways of the Sufis. 

Al-Risala, al-Qushayri (d. 465H) 

It is known as al-Risala al-Qushayriyya. It is a work directed to a Sufis through the Islamic lands. He wrote is in 437H when he noticed the deviance of a large number of those who adhered to the Qur’an and Sunna. It has two parts: 

1. Biographies of major figures of Sufism and their sayings; 

2. The principles of Sufism and their true ways. 

It consists of 53 chapters and various sections. The first chapter is devoted to the shaykhs of Sufism and the rest to stations, states, terms, and behavior of the Sufis. It is a primary source on Sufism. 

Ihya Ulum al-Din, al-Ghazali (d. 505H) 

It is said, rightfully, that this is the work that allowed Sufism to thrive among the other religious sciences in Islamic society. It has a lot of material concerning a wide range of subjects.
He divided into four famous parts:  

1. Rituals (10 parts) 
2. Customs (10 parts) 
3. Sources of Destruction (10 parts) 
4. Sources of Salvation (10 parts) 

It comprises everything that Sufis arrived at before him. It presents the material in a balanced manner with Prophetic reports. But the book is grounded on strong rational foundation, which is only lightened by Ghazali’s literary style and his strong belief. 

Al-Ghunya li-Talibi Tariq al-Haqq, al-Jilani (d. 561H) 

It is a book on morals, Sufism, behavior in Islam. It tries to mix Islamic rituals and Sufi morality. It pays attention to the times of remembrance and rituals and the seasons. 

It deals much with the obligatory acts and duties that one does throughout the night and day, including entering the bathroom, sleeping, and animal sacrifice, naming, and visiting the sick. It is said that Ghunya influence the masses more than the educated in Sufism. 

Awarif al-Ma’arif, Al-Suhrawardi (d. 632H) 

This is a short introductory text that focuses on practice rather than ideas and principles. After mentioning the states of the Sufis and their practices in circles of remembrance and ritual, companionship and unveiling, the author discusses a number of sufi terms. The book is distinguished by its clear language and the well-defined information presented by each chapter (63 chapters). 

Al-Futuhat al-Makiyya, Ibn Arabi (d. 638H) 

This is the largest encyclopedic work on Sufism without exception. Ibn Arabi finished writing it, the second time, in 632H. 

The book is a personal and philosophical presentation of all of Islamic knowledge according to the Sufis. In it, rational analysis attains the highest levels. It also comprises certain occult information like knowledge of the secrets of the alphabet and other things taken from Neoplatonic thought. It is also considered an important source for intellectual activity during the time of the author and for Sufism during the sixth and early seventh centuries Hijra. 

Ibn Arabi expressed some of his views regarding the unity of existence which was condemned by the jurists. But the spirit of the book makes it possible to refute this accusation.  

Table of Biographies of Sufis in Chronological Order Century (Hijri) Name of Work Author Death Date (Hijri) 

Tabaqat al-Sufiyya Al-Sulami 412
Hilyat al-Awliya Abu Nuyam  430


Tadhkirat al-Awliya (Persian) Al-Attar 627

Ruh al-Quds, Mukhtasar al-Durra al-Fakhira Ibn Arabi 683 


Nafahat al-Uns Al-Jami 989


Al-Tabaqat al-Kubra Al-Sha’rani 973 

Tabaqat al-Sufiyya, al-Sulami (d. 412H) 

It is the most important source for the life and sayings of the masters of Sufism in the fourth and fifth centuries of Hijra. It is divided into five parts, each of which contains 20 Sufis. Then he added further parts, reaching 102 biographies precisely. The author sought to tied Sufism to
 Islamic principles by mentioning Prophetic hadith at the beginning of each biography. 

Hilyat al-Awliya, Abu Nuyam al-Asfhani (d. 430H) 

This is the largest work on the biographies of Sufis (10 volumes) in Arabic. The reason for this is that the author included a large number of Companions, Successors, and Successors of Successors. As well, the author included many individuals that are not well known. Moreover, it contains the largest collection of reports with various transmissions. It mentions the names of Ahl al-Suffa. The author tries to show the Islamic bent of the Sufis included in the biographies. 

Tadhkirat al-Awliya, Farid al-Din al-Attar (d. 627H) 

Al-Attar is considered one of the three greatest of the poets of Iran (Sana’I, Rumi, Attar). It is considered the oldest works in Persian on the biographies of Sufis. It also relies on Arabic sources like Tabaqat of al-Sulami and Hilyat al-Awliya by Abu Nuyam. 

Ruh al-Quds, Mukhtasar al-Durra al-Fakhira, Ibn Arabi (d. 638H) 

These two books, written by Ibn Arabi, contain biographies of nearly 50 masters, men and women, under whom he studies and who pointed him to the path of Sufism. The book is important because Ibn Arabi mentions in it Sufi personalities who are at a high level of distinction and describes them in a direct manner. 

-Nafahat al-Uns, Abd al-Rahman al-Jami  

Jami wrote the book in 883H, relying of Sulami’s Tabaqat. It contains a short introduction and various chapters on Sufi principles and biographies of Sufi shaykhs exceeding 600 entries. 

Al-Tabaqat al-Kubra, al-Sha’rani (d. 973H)

 The author states: I summarize in it a group of saints who are to be followed on the path to God, including Companions, Successors, to the ninth and some of the tenth centuries. It also includes many miracles of the saints and extraordinary acts what occurred to them without criticism or commentary. 

-Sufism in Islam: Its Inception and Development 

Islam embraced early on the age groups: children, youth, and the elderly. It was necessary for those advanced in years, who has spent a good portion of their lives in ignorance and disbelief, to spend their efforts in applying God’s commands and the teachings of their new religion. So they did more prayers and fasting than what was prescribed for them, so that they could make penance for their sins in disbelief. So they devoted their lives entirely to worship and asceticism in the world and desires. They devoted themselves to the masjid and were called “Ahl al-Suffa”. No one contested them because they were close to the Prophet (peace be upon him). Rather, the Prophet used to give them gifts of food that would be sent to them, as did the Companions. 

Indeed, the life of the Prophet (peace be upon him) was an example of asceticism in the world, rugged living, and neglect of worldly desires. The Qur’an also calls to preferring the afterlife over this world. 

The teachings of Islam embody the highest meanings of truthfulness, sincerity, purity of the soul, and observing God’s way. All these aspects of Islam helps create a spiritual environment that developed in early Sufism that began in its first stages as implementing the pillars of the faith. It then turned to calling society to asceticism until after two centuries it was named Sufism as we know it now.  

Ibn Khaldun defined Sufism as the “sciences of Shariah that is generated in the religion,” rooted in a number of inclinations: 
devotion to ritual worship;
devotion to God;
turning away from the attractions of the world; 
turning away from people and secluding oneself. 

Ibn Khaldun (d. 808 H) states that these characteristics were not specific to a particular group in the time of Companions, Successors, or early predecessors in the first century. Rather, they were adopted generally by Muslims who were righteous and pious. 

When, in the second century, people began to turn toward the world and indulge, those who devoted themselves to worship were hidden and called Sufis. 

Ibn Khaldun states: 

It is clear that the basis of their path is: 
taking the soul into account with regard to its actions and inactions, and discussion of the tastes and experiences that they one receives due to spiritual struggle. Then the seeker arrives at a station and moves to another. Moreover, they are given hidden traits. 

Ibn Khaldun emphasizes that development in Shari’a occurred in two kinds:

1. A kind that is specific to the jurists and muftis, which is the general rulings regarding worship, practice, and transactions.  

2. A kind that applies only to Sufis, who endeavor to struggle and purify the soul, which involves the discussion of experiences, tastes and terms that they use. 

When the sciences were written down and recorded in books, the jurists wrote on law, legal principles, theology, and exegesis and so on. The Sufis also wrote works about their path. Some of them wrote on piety and taking the soul into account like Muhasabi (d. 857) in his book al-Ri’aya. There are also those who wrote on the manners of the Sufis and their states and experiences like al-Qushayri in al-Risala 

Al-Ghazali combined the two approaches in Ihya Ulum al-Din, so that rules of piety and the path are mentioned, and then he clarifies the manners of the Sufis, their practices, and their terminology. In this way Sufism became a recorded science, after it was simply a path of worship and was transmitted from person to person, in the same way that all the other sciences were recorded, including hadith, exegesis, law, and so on. 

The Relation between Ideas and Principles of Shi’ites and Sufis 

Ibn Khaldun (d. 808 H) points out that the influence and exchange between Sufism and Shi’ism was mutual. He also adds that the later Sufis also mixed with later Isma’ilis who believed in the incarnation of God and the divinity of the Imams. The result of this was the appearance of certain Shi’I beliefs in Sufism, foremost is the claim regarding the qutb, which means the leader of the gnostics. He notes that this exchange occurred in Iraq when the Isma’ilis emerged, and their positions on the Imam. The Sufis took the comparison between the exoteric and esoteric from them. So they made the qutb esoterically equivalent to the Imam exoterically, just as they made the abdal like the nuqaba or the appointed leaders of the Imam. 

Ibn Khaldun states: 
“Consider that which in the discussions of the Sufis regarding the Fatimids, and they filled their books with, which had no confirmation or negation in the words of the pious predecessors. Rather it is taken from the words of the Shi’ites and the Rafidis and their sects as found their books. 
Ibn Khaldun notes that one of the reasons for Sufis being attacked is because many jurists and muftis took up the cause of refuting those later Sufis in these positions, condemning all that went this way. They did not differentiate between what was original in this and what entered from elsewhere. 

Notes that Must be Heeded and Relied upon in the History of Sufism 

In Ibn Khaldun’s presentation of the history of Sufism by means of analysis and commentary, it is necessary to make the following notes which need to be followed and observed in studying the history of Sufism: 

1. Ibn Khaldun attributes Sufism in its inception to Islamic sources. Indeed, he considers the first generation of Muslims in the first century and expresses it in terms of this Islamic characteristic, like the ascetic or ritual bent, and denial of worldly desires.  

2. The first point of change in Sufism is represented in the focus of some Sufis on the practice of religious experiences in depth on their souls in terms of experiences and insights. This then increased in sharpness in terms of denying the bodily desires and continuing to train the self and examining its every thought in detail. 

3. The second point of change is represented by the written record of these practices and experiences in Sufi works, some of which focused on the self, others on practice, and still others on both. In this stage, Sufism moved from a lived experience in society to a science that is written, recorded and studied 

4. The scholars of the Shariah attacked Sufism on the grounds that only they understand the reality of faith and that the other sciences only provides knowledge of external things. The jurists find in the obscure words an opportunity to reject Sufism entirely. 

5. A strong influence from Shi’i notions affected Sufism, especially from the Isma’ilis in Iraq. By this various notions that did not exist spread in Sufism, like qutb, abdal, esoteric knowledge, external and internal. As Ibn Khaldun states, “Characteristics were appropriated, one from another.” 

6. It can be noted that Ibn Khaldun did not treat the flourishing of Sufism, even though it existed in his time, just as he did not point to the sufi houses which he himself was a part of at the end of the 8th century Hijri, namely Khanqa of Baybars. 

-The Stages of Islamic Sufism 

Sufism is specific spiritual phenomenon that represents devotion to worship, accountability of the self, and asceticism in the world and avoidance of the material world and love of God in absolutely.  This began with the inception of Islam and then it continued to develop until it reached the third and fourth centuries of Hijra, and it never ceased to enter life after that . 

Sufism was related to social and political developments in Islamic society and was influenced greatly by cultural factors that developed. 

The scholars do not agree on the origins of the word tasawwuf. Some view that it is related to the cloth, wool, that some of the monks and ascetics used to wear in earlier times. Others believe that it is derives from spiritual purity and still others that maintain it comes from Ahl al-Suffa. Some see it as rooted in the Greek term for wisdom, Sophia . The word tasawwuf did not emerge until the second century of Hijra. This does not mean that its sense did not exist before then. The fact is that Sufism appeared in many forms, connected to various stages, which can be summarized thus: 

1. The stage of worship: In the first stage of Islam, Muslims devoted themselves to worship. They went to extremes to the extent that the Prophet (peace be upon him) warned them to not neglect practical life but they continued to go to beyond the average. 

2. The stage of asceticism: Beginning with the early Islamic conquests and the expansion of the Umayyad kingdom, with result of increasing wealth returning to the leaders. This period saw asceticism in worldly enjoyments from the devout worshippers and ascetics who sufficed with what is necessary in their life. 

3. The stage of practical Sufism: In this stage, manners were mixed with ideas and Sufis had a presence in society and a special form of interaction and language. There new ideas developed like the notion of gnosis and divine love, which the Sufi means to worship God not out of fear of punishment or for desire for paradise but only for God Himself. 
This had many aspects in the third century, in which a major group of Sufi masters emerge, like Hallaj (d 309 H), Dhu al-Nun al-Misri (d. 859), and al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi (d. 910 CE).

4. The stage of philosophical Sufism: 

This stage is represented in what was written by some of the Sufi philosophers like Suhrawardi (d. 1191) and Ibn Arabi(d. 1240 CE). 
We see in Suhrawardi a philosophy of light, in which one sees God a perfect light, followed by lesser forms of light in perfection. This stage is distinguished by speculative thought purely as opposed to the next stage.

 5. The stage of the Sufi orders: 

These orders focus on practice and individual and social behavior of the Sufis. In this stage, we find that each order has a shaykh that is its highest leader, which the order usually carries its name. The order takes from his words and advice. The seeker who wishes to join must take a pact with the shaykh, which concern observing the rules of the order, in terms of obedience, practice and cooperation. As a result of this, the phenomenon of complacency overtook the Islamic world during its weak period.  

The most famous of the Sufi orders is the Shadhiliyya, Rafi’iyya, and Ahmadiyya.  

This division does not cover every stage from beginning to end, because something like Sufism cannot be defined precisely in terms of its stages. Various stages overlap for a certain period without there being a clear line. Also, the substance of Sufism remains the same even if its forms differ and its stages vary.  

-The Understanding of Rituals according Sufis 

Despite the allegations against Sufis, with regard to their neglect of religious practices (like prayer, fasting, and so on), or in their considering ritual as the lowest form with respect to the activities of the heart or practices of the order, it has not been reported by any of them that they neglected a religious ritual. Rather the opposite. That is, they proclaim that they take the rituals as a means to arriving at their goal, which is getting closer to God. Indeed, sometimes they go to extremes in doing so. The important point about misconceptions relating to Sufis in this regard is that the conception of worship according to Sufis differs from the jurists’ conception. 

This arises from their general method in interpreting religious sources. They believe that religious sources have an external meaning that is for the masses and majority. There is also an esoteric aspect which is for the elite few. When they apply their approach to religious ritual we see that they arrive at the natural result. That is, performing ritual worship is on two levels: formal and external, and the other internal and deep. 

The Four Rituals in Islam 

1. Prayer 

Hujwayri states in his book Kashf al-Mahjub: “Prayer lexically means remembrance and submission. 
According to the jurists it means a specific term that applies to the normal rules, which is a command of God that we pray five times and they have conditions required before beginning: 

1. Purity from filth externally and desire internally; 

2. Purity of clothes from filth externally and for it to be valid internally;

3. Purity of the soul from certain acts and ailments externally and corruptions and sin internally; 

4. Facing the Qibla, which externally is facing the Ka’ba, and internally is the Throne, and the secret Qibla is witnessing; 

5. Establishing the external according to power, and establishing the internal in the garden of proximity, with the condition that the time enters according to external Shari’a, and its continued observance in the level of reality; 

6. Making intention pure in facing God; 

7. Glorification with respect and maintaining the station of connection. Recitation with respect, bowing with humility, prostration with submission, and sitting collectedly and sending peace with the ceasing of it. Just as the Prophet’s report: “He used to pray and inside him was the murmuring like the murmuring of a pot .” 

Hujwayri reports that the stages of the various prayers represent the steps of the Sufi from beginning to end. That is when he states, 
“Prayer is worship that the seekers find in it a way to the Truth from beginning to end, and in which stations are unveiled:  

Purification is for the seekers the stage of repentance and connection;

The connection to one’s shaykh is like the stage of facing the Qibla; 

The struggle against the self is like standing in prayer; 

Continued remembrance is like recitation; 

Humility is like bowing; 

Knowing one’s self is like prostration;


Sitting for tashahhud is like being close; 

Salam is like giving up the world and freeing from the limits of stations. 

There is no doubt of the depth of conceiving prayer like it is a continuing ascension, when the Prophet (peace be upon him) arrived close to God, each time which differs greatly from the level of the juristic conception of the ritual, which considers it a set of actions and statements beginning with the takbir and ending with the taslim. 

The Sufi conception of prayer leads the Muslim to a place more spiritual and of more gravity. 

As for the releasing from religious obligations, of which Sufis have been accused, we do not see any real examples. Indeed, most of them affirm the opposite.  

2. Fasting 

Fasting gains a deeper sense with the Sufis. They see that when Allah protects someone from sin, all his acts are fasting. 
Junaid (d. 910 CE) states, “Fasting is half of the path .” 

Hujwayri reports that the reality of fasting is resisting, and resistance has conditions. Just as you protect your internal from food and drink, you must protect your eyes from looking at the forbidden and desires, as well as the ears and tongue. 

The reality is that the Sufi view of fasting had a huge influence on the view of fasting as not simply avoiding food and sexual pleasures. 
They affirm that fasting from food and drink is what babies and the elderly do. It is necessary to fast from every bad desire, intention, and will. At the same time, the Sufis do not discard the ritual of fasting. 

3. Zakat 

Sufis view zakat differently from the customary Islamic view of the ritual of zakat. This is rooted in the Sufi view of wealth and money. They do not own anything on which zakat can be placed. They give charity from it. As well, they consider wealth as something not praiseworthy. 

Indeed, Sufis expanded the notion of wealth or blessing on which zakat is placed and state that blessings are not only in wealth. There are blessings in many things external as well as internal, and there is zakat on all that.  So some Sufis used to take zakat on those things and other did not. 

4. Hajj 

Sufis viewed Hajj at two levels. One is external and the other is internal. The external is the application of the ritual elements, going to Hajj, doing Tawaf, and so on. The internal aspect is to avoid all bad qualities and to devote oneself to God in one’s heart. 

In this say the Sufis viewed the rituals of Islam with more depth with a spiritual bent. They go beyond the juristic conception of rituals to some extent. The rituals change in their hands into a means to arriving at their goal, of arriving closer to God. 

-Sufi Ideas and Schools 

Sufis had philosophers and thinkers. The characteristic of a philosopher is be concerned with thoughts, considering them at great length. The question is whether the practice of Sufism leads the Sufi to philosophical thought or is the Sufi a philosopher first and then engages in Sufism. The fact is that Sufism itself includes a philosophical approach that the philosophers used throughout the ages, which is known as the rising and falling dialectic. That is, the Sufi begins his life in isolation from people and ponders the higher dominion, in order to purify his soul and to train it in meanings and to prepare it to receive divine light. Then it receives certain spiritual gleams of light which invoke him to return to people so that he can tell them what he witnessed. 

This is done by using language that people can understand. This is the method that most philosophers used in the world, a rising dialectic and falling dialectic. 

The only difference is that the philosopher begins with what is given in the mind and logic and does not go beyond that usually. 

However, the Sufi philosopher or philosopher Sufi begins by a spiritual experience without paying particular attention to the intellect and its logic.
Most Sufi philosophers claim that they take their material from the thing that goes beyond the horizon of the intellect . 

-The Most Important Ideas and Notions of Sufi Philosophers 

We examine here some of the most important ideas, notions and schools of thought that were founded by Sufi philosophers: 

1. The notion of gnosis (Dhu al-Nun al-Misri “d. 859”) 

When Sufism began to mature in the third century of Hijra, most of its topics centered on the acts of the heart which corresponded to external actions that the jurists were concerned with. Each master of Sufism focused on an aspect of this. 
For example, al-Muhasabi focused on assessing the self. 

Junaid focused on balancing Shariah and Reality.  

For Dhu Nun, the most important thing was making gnosis a central point on which Sufism is based. 
When he was asked: Who is a Sufi? He responded: Whoever only speaks of realities when he speaks, and when he is silent, his limbs speak of disconnection from things. 

This means that he joined truth in practice with truth in knowledge and wisdom.  

He states: If certainty is true in the heart, then fear is also true of it, by making the act of the heart follow certainty which is the result of gnosis.  
He expresses his view by stating: The key to worship is thought.  

In this way Dhu al-Nun deserved to be known as the founder of the gnostic way in Sufism. It is true that some Sufis preceded him in their expression and sayings but he was the first to make it a central component of Sufism. 

2. The notion of sainthood (al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi “d. 255 H”) 

The lexical meanings of sainthood revolve around the meaning of closeness. But when it is ascribed to God it means protection, trust, and help. 

The Sufis use the term to mean the highest station in proximity to God though they make clear that it is a station lower than prophethood. 

Al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi distinguishes between two kinds: 

the first kind is one by which a Sufi gains through actions and the other is endowed. 

Naturally the second is higher than the first, since it is like prophethood which is not earned but is divinely bestowed.

Included in the characteristics of a saint is that God constantly helps him, and protects him from sins. As well, his prayers are answered when the Muslims are in need of help. 

Al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi held that there is seal of the saints just as there is a seal of the prophets. He was criticized for this. But the Sufis clarify the meaning of the seal of sainthood. 
Ibn Arabi states that they derive their knowledge from the light of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), which shows that the saint is lower rank than the prophet. 

The School of Illumination (Suhrawardi “d. 1191 H”) 

Suhrawardi is considered one of the most important philosopher Sufis who claimed this school. Here we are dealing with a sufi philosopher, who was influenced by Greek and Platonist philosophy, as well as Persian wisdom and Hermetic knowledge. The word “illumination” means the unveiling that results from the effusion of light from the divine light, which continuously flows into the hearts of people who are purified . But the Sufi will not gain this light unless he is free of all bodily attachments, and is free from material life and is fully devoted to pure spiritual life. Here Suhrawardi differs from the other Sufis with the condition that the Sufi knows rational philosophy. 

He divides Sufi philosophers into three: 

1. Divine philosopher who is deep into metaphysics but devoid of rational investigation. 

2. Philosopher who is adept at investigation but devoid of spirituality. 

3. Divine philosopher who is adept at investigation and spirituality. He places himself in the third category which combines Sufism and philosophy.  

The School of the Unity of Being (Ibn Arabi “d. 1240 CE”) 

When one mentions this school, thoughts go to Ibn Arabi who was one of the greatest sufi philosophers, who wrote poems and books, including al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya. 

This school is based on the notion that existence corresponds only to one reality, and that there is no duality or plurality in it, contrary to what our senses perceive in terms of many existent things in the external world, which we call creation .  

Still, Ibn Arabi states very clearly the God is above all created things and that he is the Creator of the world, and that only God is to be worshipped. This school of thought has brought much criticism on Ibn Arabi. Some scholars have attacked him and others have defended him. 

 The Notion of the Perfect Man (Abd al-Karim al-Jili “d. 1424 CE”)

 Abd al-Karim al-Jili, who is a famous Sufi, and supporter of Ibn Arabi, was well known for this theory and wrote a book on the topic. Jili follows his teacher Ibn Arabi in asserting the Unity of Being. However, he focuses on the qualities of man which must be divested to arrive at that highest level of perceived the effusions of the Divine.  

Jili states, “Individuals of this kind are an exact copy of the other completely, and one does not miss anything that the other has except in accidental qualities…So they are like two facing mirrors.” 

The most important point to be noted regarding the ideas and notions of Sufis is that they diverged greatly from the Sunni Sufism that distinguished itself by practice and morals, especially in the third and fourth centuries. These notions were heavily influenced by foreign ideas, Indian, Greek, Persian, Christian and so on. Still, the ideas were connected closely to the founders even though they had roots in foreign sources. 

Sufi Orders 

An order means path or Sufi way that a particular master of Sufism founded. The shaykh gains followers and increases after his death. They continue to remember him by doing birthday party, by gathering around his grave.  Hujwayri mentions some of the names of the orders that existed in his time. 

He lists 12, two of which he rejected as incarnationists, and lists ten: 

1. Al-Muhasabiyya related to al-Harith al-Muhasabi (d. 857) 
2. Al-Qassariyya related to Hamdun al-Qassar (d. 271 H) 
3. Al-Tayfuriyya related to Abu Yazid Tayfur al-Bistami (d. 877 ) 
4. Al-Junaydiyya related to al-Junaid (d. 910 CE)
 5. Al-Nuriyya related to al-Husayn al-Nuri (d. 907 CE) 6. Al-Sahliyya related to Sahl al-Tusturi (d. 896 CE) 
7. Al-Hakimiyya related to al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi (d. 869 CE)
 8. Al-Khazariyya related to Abu Said al-Khazzar (d. 277H) 
9. Al-Khafifa related to Muhammad ibn Khafif (d. 982 CE) 
10. Al-Sayyariyya related to Abu al-Abbas al-Sayyari (d. 953 CE) 

It is shown in history that these orders died along with their founders. 

As for those orders that continue to exist and are amongst the most important, even today in Egypt: 

1. Qadiriyya, founded by Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (d. 561H) 

2. Rifa’iyya, founded by Ahmad al-Rifa’I (578H)

 3. Shadhiliyya, founded by Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili (d. 656) 

4. Ahmadiyya, founded by Ahmad al-Badawi (d. 675) 

5. Burhaniyya, founded by Ibrahim al-Dasuqi (d. 676) 

6. Khalwatiyya, founded by Muhammad al-Khalwati 

There are other orders like the Naqshabandiyya, Sa’diyya, Inaniyya, Shaybaniyya, Mirghiniyya, Khudhariyya, Sawiyya, Azaziyya, Rahimiyya Qanaiyya, Khaliliyya, Kitaniyya.  

The Sufi orders grew from the sixth century onward, when Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi recognized the Sufis and built from them and his minister a sufi house in Egypt. They were given stipends. In the seventh century, we see the emergence of some of the biggest orders that continue to exist today. 

Currently, it is stated that the number of Sufis today in Egypt exceeds 10 million individuals, most of whom are in the countryside. Each order has a shaykh and a khalif who take pledges from followers, who observe the prayers and litanies . They attend mawlids and religious events.  

The Sufi orders have faced much criticism from both Muslims and Orientalists, because the latter connect the decline of Islam to the rise of Sufism. The reason for this is that they took many commoners who are lazy and unproductive and encouraged them to stop work and doing worldly things to improve life .  
As for Muslims, many have found that Sufism contain many things that go contrary to the teachings of Islam. They are involved in many innovations and heresies, which is a result of followers following the shaykh blindly.  

Critique of Sufism 

Sufism was subject to two kinds of criticism: 

1. Direct criticism: this came from the Sufis themselves. They directed Sufis when Sufism was going in the wrong direction. From the third century on, we find that there are many shaykhs that condemn the deviances. 

2. The criticisms of the jurists and scholars: This sort of criticism came from a focused perspective. That is, Sufism deviates from the Qur’an , Sunna, and Shari’a. 

Ibn Taymiyya was the most famous who stood against the aspect of Sufism which deviated from the Qur’an and Sunna, as it applied to those who claimed incarnation and unity, and licentiousness and extremism. 

There is another Hanbali jurist who stood against Sufism, Ibn al-Jawzi, who used to attack it. He devoted a large part of his book Talbis Iblis to the deviant aspects of Sufism.  Ibn al-Jawzi sees that Sufism is a path that is asceticism first, after which its adherents permitted music and dance, so commoners inclined towards it just as those of the world.  
Ibn al-Jawzi states that the name tasawwuf appeared before the second century. The early generations discussed it and spiritual training and purification until Satan confused them in certain matters. Later the confusion increased until it was firmly rooted. Thereafter they began to discuss matters that were strange like incarnation and unity. Then the Sufi masters fabricated reports in support of their views. They then state that what they know is esoteric knowledge and Shari’a is exoteric. They used to take weak hadiths without knowing as well. 

Ibn al-Jawzi states: “It is amazing their piety in food but liberality in interpreting the Qur’an”.  

Summarizing, Ibn al-Jawzi (d. 751 H) states, 
“Sufism is a known school that goes beyond asceticism and the difference between is that asceticism was not condemned by anyone and Sufism was condemned.”  

The scholars of Sufism have held in their works grand positions and have fabricated reports and so on. Ibn al-Jawzi attributes that to their lack of knowledge of Sunna and Islam. They also prefer the views of fellow Sufis and they only did so because they loved the praise of asceticism and they did not see a better state than that. As well, people are naturally attracted to them because of their focus on purification and worship. 

Imam Ahmad was asked about deviant thoughts and he responded: 
What the Companions and Successors spoke of. It should be noted that the criticism was addressed to the Sufis, that they invented a new area of knowledge that the predecessors did not speak of. It is from this angle that the jurists attacked Sufism, which the masses followed.  

Ibn al-Jawzi admits that the authentic Sufis affirm the Qur’an and Sunna and that they only got confused because of their lack of knowledge. Then he lists many reports showing how they adhered to the Qur’an and Sunna.  Ibn al-Jawzi’s criticisms show that it is necessary for the scholars to distinguish for the commoners what is good and bad. 

What do we gain from Sufism today? 
Is there anything in Sufism that we could benefit from today? 

The answer is certainly yes. We clarify how in the following: 

1. So that a person can examine himself and evaluate his place in the world: People are engrossed in the world and earning a living so that he is too preoccupied to be concerned with the afterlife. People thus need to balance between worldly needs and desires and the afterlife. Few people know that their responsibilities divide into two: 

1.worldly and 


The Sufis take a third path which is to prefer the afterlife and forgo this world. But we insist that we should balance between the two and take from Sufism the attitude that we should not take the world as an end but as a path to the afterlife. .  

2. Training and education: 

The Sufis provide a method of training and education that goes beyond anything that modern education provides because it is based on several grounds and encompasses various stages which have specific goals in each stage. 

Mimshad al-Dainuri states, “My eyes are gladdened by a true poorman and my heart is made happy by a seeker who attains.” 

The meaning of this is that education is not something that the shaykh undertakes for profit but is something that he loves to do for the seeker. It also indicates the keenness of the shaykh in keeping the seeker true.  

3. Balance between Body and Mind: 
The Sufis’ were keen on elevating the soul above the body because they knew immediately that the human ego, with all its desires and needs is the cause of trials. So they tried to quell its desires. We say that Islam tries to balance between the desires of the body and the spirit because they are like two wings needed to fly. 

4. Gaining from Sufi Wisdom: 
The masters of Sufism left behind a great legacy and treasure of sayings that became parables. Indeed, they became words of wisdom that came from spiritual and intellectual experience. 

An example is al-Fudayl bin Iyad (d. 187 H): 
Three traits make the heart hard: excess of food, excess of sleep and excess of speech. 

Bishr al-Hafi states: 
Prayer is leaving sins. 

Al-Muhasabi states: 
Good character is bearing harm, avoiding anger, smiling and good speech.
asyira sofi 

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Anecdote about Sufism

In an anecdote about Sufism, showing that its knowledge is solely on spiritual taste, is that a student of the famous Muhiyyadin Ibn Arabi (d.1240 CE) came to him to say:

People are condemning us for our knowledge and asking us for proof for it. 

Ibn Arabi responded with the following advice: 

“If anyone demands a proof or demonstration for knowledge of divine secrets, then say to him: what is the proof for the sweetness of honey? He must respond by saying that this knowledge can only come by means of taste. Say the same is knowledge of divine secrets.” 


Tasawwuf by Dr Ali Gomaa 

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Regarding The Detractors Of The Ihya

                Regarding The

            Detractors Of The Ihya *

             by Sh. G. F. Haddad

A generation after al-Ghazzali’s death, the Ihya’ was burnt in Andalus upon the recommendation of the qadi Ibn Hamdayn who was named Commander of the Believers in Qurtuba in 539 then fled to Malaga where he died in 548. Shortly thereafter, the Moroccans rehabilitated the book as stated by Shaykh al-Islam Taqi al-Din al-Subki – in a long poem that begins with the words
“Abu Hamid! You are truly the one that deserves praise.”

Ibn al-Subki narrated with his chain from Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili that Ibn Hirzahm, one of the Moroccan shaykhs who had intended the burning of the book, saw the Prophet  Allah bless and greet him — in his dream commending the book before al-Ghazzali and ordering that Ibn Hirzahm be lashed for slander. After five lashes he was pardoned and woke up in pain, bearing the traces of the lashing. After this he took to praising the book from cover to cover.

Another rallying-cry of the critics of the Ihya’ is that it contains no exhortation towards jihad and that its author remained in seclusion between the years 488-499, at a time when the Crusaders ravaged the Antioch and al-Qudus, killing Muslims by the tens of thousands. Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi replied to these insinuations with the following words:

The great Imam’s excuse may be that his most pressing engagement was the reform of his own self first, and that it is one’s personal corruption which paves the way for external invasions, as indicated by the beginning of Sura al-Isra’. The Israelites, whenever they became corrupt and spread corruption in the earth, were subjected to the domination of their enemies. But whenever they did good and reformed themselves and others, they again held sway over their enemies. He directed his greatest concern toward the reform of the individual, who constitutes the core of the society. The reform of the individual can be effected only through the reform of his heart and thought. Only through such reform can his works and behavior be improved, and his entire life. This is the basis of societal change to which the Qur’ an directs us by saying { “Lo! Allah changes not the condition of a folk until they (first) change that which is in their hearts” } (13:11).

Shaykh al-Islam Taqi al-Din al-Subki said about the detractors of the Ihya’: I consider them similar to a group of pious and devoted men who saw a great knight issue from the ranks of the Muslims and enter the fray of their enemies, striking and battling until he subdued them and unnerved them, breaking their ranks and routing them. Then he emerged covered with their blood, went to wash himself, and entered the place of prayer with the Muslims. But that group thought that he still had some of their blood on his person, and they criticized him for it.

Among the most famous commentaries of the Ihya’:

– The hadith master Murtada al-Zabidi’s ten-volume Ithaf al-Sada al-Muttaqin Sharh Ihya’ `Ulum al-Din (“The Lavish Gift of the Godwary Masters: Commentary on al-Ghazzali’s `Giving Life to the Religious Sciences'”) which contains the most comprehensive documentation of the hadith narrations cited by al-Ghazzali.

– `Abd al-Qadir ibn `Abd Allah al-`Aydarus Ba `Alawi’s Ta`rif al-Ahya bi Fada’il al-Ihya (“The Appraisal of the Living of the Immense Merits of the Ihya”).

– Mulla `Ali al-Qari’s Sharh `Ayn al-`Ilm wa Zayn al-Hilm (“The Spring of Knowledge and the Adornment of Understanding”) on the abridged version. Al-Qari begins it by stating: “I wrote this commentary on the abridgment of Ihya’ `Ulum al-Din by the Proof of Islam and the Confirmation of Creatures hoping to receive some of the outpouring of blessings from the words of the most pure knowers of Allah, and to benefit from the gifts that exude from the pages of the Shaykhs and the Saints, so that I may be mentioned in their number and raised in their throng, even if I fell short in their fol-lowing and their service, for I rely on my love for them and content myself with my longing for them.”


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Nuh Keller and Sufism

Nuh Keller and Sufism

Tawfique Hasan Chowdhury

In the name of Allah, the most Gracious, the Most Merciful


On Tue, 30 Jul 1996, Masud Khan wrote:

> Your article was amateaurish, badly written and has a distinct lack
> of references. I would feel insulted by presenting an Alim like
> Nuh Ha Mim Keller such an article. If you wish any comments to 
> be passed on to him I suggest you are more careful about the
> way you reference your articles, Nuh is very meticulous about
> research and references. you have not given a single valid point 
> that is worth answering.

I am sorry you feel insulted, especially when you and I are not scholars 
and thus have little knowledge. What is there to be insulted about? If by 
showing the article there is some decrease of respect for you in Sh. Nuh’s 
eye’s then forgive me. But if it is because of pride, or because of your taqlid 
of the scholars that support sufism, then I pray that Allah gives you 
Hidayaa. I have already told you, I support that which is based on the 
Quran and Sunnah and reject those that are not based on it. There is no 
guidance except with the guidance of the Prophet.

I don’t understand why you are saying that I haven’t referenced my 
article. I have told you about Majmu Al-Fatawa of Ibn Taymiaah. There is 
all in there for Sh. Nuh to read. If you want the expanded reference is:

   Majmu` Fatawa Shaykh ul-Islam Ibn Taymiaah, compiled by Abd ul-Rahman 
   al-Asimi and his son Muhammad, Riyadh, Vol IX, X (all pages).

If you want the references where Ibn Taymiaah has talked about the names 
of Sufis who he called mashaikh-ul-Islam and others that he denounced, then:

   Majmuat l-Rasail wa-l-Masail Cairo, Vol I, compiled by Rashid Ridaa, p179 

I have already told you, that there is enough in Majmu-al-Fatawa for Sh. 
Nuh to read. However, if he wants more:

   On Hallaj’s life, and the shirk he brought out: Risalah fi-l-Jawab an 
   Sual an l’Hallaj hal kana Siddiqan aw Zindiqan, pp185-99.

   On Ibn-Arabi’s  wahdat l-wujud : Ibtal wahdat l-wujud (Al-Rasail wal 
   Masail, Vol I, pp61-120 and pp1-101)

I have also told you about Ihyaa ul-Deen of al-Ghazzali. I include below 
a part of the email I wrote about it, and what the other scholars of 
Islam, including Taqi al-Din al-Subki has talked about it. And there are 
loads of references.

>From ha… Tue Jul 30 13:12:36 1996
Date: Tue, 30 Jul 1996 13:12:34 +1000 (AEST)
From: Tawfique Hasan Chowdhury <ha…>
X-Sender: ha…@ariel.ucs.unimelb.EDU.AU

To: Maim…

cc: soc.relig…

Subject: Re: Sufism
In-Reply-To: <96072400045…>
Message-ID: <Pine.SUN.3.91.960730122325.20313A@ariel.ucs.unimelb.EDU.AU>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; charset=US-ASCII
Status: RO

> Salam akhi,

>    I was wondering what parts of the Ihya denote shirk?

Wa-alikum wasalam

al-Ghazzali wrote Ihyaa’ulum uddin and talked about the sciences of the 
states of things and the ways of the sufis in it, but he was neither well 
acquianted with them nor well informed about them, so he fell headlong, 
and thus did not fall either among the scholars of the muslims or within 
the conditions of the sufi ascetics. He talks about those things that 
cause a believer’s heart to beat wildly and longs for Allah, but 
then says: “This is from the hidden knowledge – and it is not permissible 
to write it in the book”. This is from the Baatiniyyah and the people who 
have doubts and suspicions regarding Allah’s deen, who profit thmselves 
from that which is present and preoccupy the souls with that which is 
not. This causes a believer’s heart to bleed and destroys the unity and 
basis for the  unity of the Ummah. Sheikh AT-Turtooshee says about this 
book: “Thus if a person believes that which he wrote in his book then his 
being a kafir is not unlikely, and if he does not believe it, then how 
misguided he will still be!”.

al-Ghazzali writes: “And all the provision and longevity, and belief and 
disbelief, which Allah has divided amongst His creation, then all of it 
is totally just, and it is not possible for there to be anything better 
or more compelete, and if theat were possible and He, the Exalted, being 
able, did not create it, then it would be misterliness and oppression.” 
In other words, he is saying that there is nothing within the power of 
Allah better than this creation inits precision and wisdom, and that if 
something better were possible or more just and he did not make it, then 
that would be a deficiency in His generosity. This is impossible, because 
this statement in Ihyaa means a limitation of Allah’s power, and the 
intellect tells us that there is no limit to His power or knowledge.

What al-Ghazzali is doing is that he is twisting the attributes of Allah 
with the theory of the philosophers that every that they see around 
themselves is the best and perfect. This is utterly fasle and a gross 
error that amounts to shirk as the conclusion one draws from this is that 
Allah has a limit to his power (astagfirullah). May Allah not establish this.

al-Ghazzali says in his ihyaa: 

“The philosophers go even furter and 
explian away all that is narrated about the hereafter expliaing it to 
refer to sates of the mind and soul and tastes of the mind…And they are 
the ones who go too far in interpreting, and the correct limit for 
interpreting is between the two and it is fine and obscure. None can 
reach it except those guided to it, who understand matters due to divine 
light, not due to what they hear (narrations). Then the way to the secrets of the affaris are revealed to them and they look at what is reported and its wordings, then that which they see with the light of certainity, they   accept, and that which goes against it, they interpret it. As for the one who  takes all those matters from that which is narrated, then they cannot put a foot forward.” 

I hope you can understand what Imaam!!!! al-Ghazzali is saying here. 

What he is saying is that nothing is to be gained from the narrations f
rom the messenger about affairs of knowledge, that the hadith and all 
are useless and the Quran too is useless taken literally, but rather 
every person reaches that with what he attains of divine insight and 
light and hidden knowledge. 

Ibn Taymiaah says about this: “These are the two principles of of apostasy shice every posserssor of illumination’ if he does not weigh it according to the Book and the Sunnah then he enters into misguidance.”

Taajud-deen as-subkee says in Tabaqaat ush-Shaafi’yyah:

 “I counted around 943 ahaadeeth that for which I can find no isnaad.”!!!!!!! 
And he goes on to say :”..but as for that which has an isnaad but is 
however, weak or fabricated, then it would perhaps reach many times that 
number as well.”!!!!! 

At-Turtooshee said about al-Ghazzali: 

“He filled his book with lies upon the Messenger of Allah, and I do not know of any book upon the surface of the earth wich attributes more lies to the 
Prophet than this one! He mounled it with the opinions of the philosophers and concepts held in the “Rasaa’il iklhaanis-suffaa”. 

They (the ikhwaanus-suffa) are a people who regard Prophethood as a level that 
can be acquired, and the prophet is in their view no more than a noble 
person with excellent character who avoided what is ignoble and took hold 
of his own soul…” 

In other words, Ihyaa is full of shirk. 

Ibn Aqeel strongly censured ihyaa saying: 

“.. many of the subjects were pure 
heresy, vecuase of which the actions of a person would not be accepted (by 
Allah).” ad-Durar as-Sunniyyah (2/345).

Ibn ul-Qattan says:

 “Ibn Hamdain who did more than disapprove to thextent that he declared the disbelief of its author. He encourage the Sultan with that and used his scholars as evidence. So they aggreed that it should be burnt…and it was burnt in Qurtubaa by the west gate in the 
courtyeard of the mosque after covering it with oil.” (Nazm ul-Jumaan feemaa salafa min Akhbaariz-Zamaan)

May Allah destroy the book ihyaa-ulum uddin of Ghazzali and have mercy on 
him. May Allah cause those who blindly follow ihyaa to open their eyes 
and follow the true islam of the Quran wa Sunnah.

Mohammad Tawfique

Other books talking about he mistakes of Ihyaa in which are expounded 
some of the ideas of the sufis:

1 – “Al-Istidraak ‘alaa takhreej “Al-Ihyaa”” by al-Haafiz ibn Hajr
2 – “Shaikh ‘Adbul Haqq al’Uthmaanee wrote “Tadhkiratul-Asfiyaa’i 
3 – Ibn al Munayyir al-Iskandaree wrote: “Ad-Diyaa al Mutalaalee fee 
    ta’aqqub al-Ihyaa lil Ghazzaalee”

The above article was written after a lot of research. I hope that it 
will not insult you in front of Sh. Nuh.

> You quite clear haven’t a clue about Tasawwuf and are quite ignorant 
> of it and rely heavily on Ibn Taymiyya who is not to be relied upon, 
> as is attested to by Taj and Taqi al-Din al-Subki, Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani 
> and many other scholars of Islam.

You say that I don’t know Tasawwuf. Are you making the same claim that 
the Sufis, the people of Tasawwuf claim, that to understand these things, 
you need to have hidden knowledge? Having been following the practises 
of the sufis before, I do understand Tasawwuf. Alhamdulliah that Allah 
has removed me from that madhhab (yes, it is a madhhab). I agree 
where it agrees with the Quran and Sunnah and disagree where is leaves 
its bounds and starts with bidaa. For example, a Naqsbandi sufi shakykh 
that I know (I don’t want to tell you his name) of locks himself in his room 
for a week and fasts day and 
night without end. Are you telling me that what he is doing is not bidaa? 
A muslim male is supposed to leave home to go to the mosque to pray in 
congregation. Further the Prophet had said when there were people who 
said similar things: “I will not marry” or “I will fast day and night” etc.. 

In answer to this the Prophet had said: 

“I pray and I sleep, I fast and I break my fast, and I marry women. He who doesnot follow my sunnah is not of me”.(Bukhari) 

Is the practise of this sufi shaykh not a bidaa? 

And the Prophet had said: 

“All innovations (bidaa) are misguidance and all misguidance is in the fire.”

You mention that I rely heavily from Ibn Taymiaah. How can you say that? 
It is not permissible to relly blindly on anyone other than the Prophet 
of Allah (peace be upon him)! I mearly wrote the article when I noticed 
that Sh. Nuh misunderstood Ibn Taymiaah and his student’s position on 
Tasawwuuf. I wrote the article clarifying the position of Ibn Taymiaah, 
not my own views on it. Ibn Taymiaah was a man. He was a great scholar. 
But even scholars err. That why, I reitterate, that I take the position 
of Ibn Taymiaah when his stance is from the Quran and Sunnah, and I 
dissassocite with him, if he deviates from the Quran and Sunnah. In no 
case am I blindly following him, for blindly following anyone other than 
the prophet is to take oneself on the brink of destruction (incidently, I 
disagree with Sh. Nuh’s opinion on Madhhabs and Madhabism too).

You have mentioned al-Subki and ibn-Hajr. As regards al-Subki, I have 
quoted him from his book “Tabaqaat ush-Shaafi’yyah” {4/145} talking about 
the weak and fabricated hadith in Ihyaa-ulum-uddin. 

But Sh. Al-Aloosee says in Ghaayatul Amaanee (2/268):

“Then as-Subkee replied to some of the 
criticisms of al-Maazaree and at-Turtooshee with answers which were 
innaccurate as is his habit in blindly supporting the people of his madhhab, and even so, he was not able to deny al-Ghazzalee’s ignorance of hadith.” 

So Al-Subki was a blind follower of sufism and tried to reconsiled sufism and sharia. And sufism with its bidaa, cannot be reconsiled with the sharia.

As regards ibn Hajr, I know nothing but good about him. I would like you 
to do as you told me to do, and provide the references where ibn-Hajr is 
supposed to have denied the sholarship of Ibn Taymiaah.

I am sorry to say this, but it seems to me you have a very naive way of 
classifying scholars. How can you say about a scholar what you hear from 
others about him without reading any of the books of that scholar? And 
also, what is this use of the word: “rely on a scholar”? We rely on none 
but the prophet of Islam. If a scholar makes a point, we always ask him: 
“What is your proof”? (Proof from Quran and Sunnah). This is the criteria 
for listening to a scholar. And scholars don’t say things out of their own whims and fancies.

And next time, brother don’t use the words like ‘ignorant’, and 
‘amatearuish’ and ‘feel insulted’. I wrote as Allah has given me the 
ability. If there is something you don’t like, then tell me nicely. That is the sunnah.(For the proof on this, see the hadith in Bukhari about the 
bedouin found urinating in a corner of the mosque).

Mohammad Tawfique

8/5/96Dien Alfred Rice

In article <4tmocp$6…>, Tawfique Hasan Chowdhury 
<ha…@ariel.ucs.unimelb.EDU.AU> writes (replying to Masud Khan):

> In the name of Allah, the most Gracious, the Most Merciful

> Salamualikum,

Wa alaikum salam,

[…much deleted…]

> You say that I don’t know Tasawwuf. Are you making the same claim that 
> the Sufis, the people of Tasawwuf claim, that to understand these things, 
> you need to have hidden knowledge?

Experience is a kind of hidden knowledge, though I wouldn’t use that
term….  If I have eaten emu steak (an emu is a large Australian
bird), then I have some knowledge of how emu tastes.  However, if you
haven’t eaten emu steak, you won’t know what emu tastes like.  Knowing how emu tastes is a kind of knowledge.  The only way to get this knowledge is to eat an emu steak for yourself.

This is what is meant by “hidden knowledge.”  You must taste it.  You
can’t just read about it in books.  You could read an encyclopedia on
how emu steak tastes, but still you wouldn’t have the same knowledge
as when you taste it for yourself.

> Having been following the practises 
> of the sufis before, I do understand Tasawwuf.

I very much doubt it.  What practices?  How long?

Many true Sufis of old (eg. Jalaluddin Rumi) have warned about false
Sufis.  These pretenders have no knowledge, yet they like to pretend
they are Sufi “shaykhs” because then they can get followers, which brings with it a degree of power.  They have little or no knowledge of Allah, yet they are good at pretending.  One who follows such a
pretender will gain nothing from it.  A blind man cannot be your guide.

How do you know you didn’t follow a blind man?

Allah knows best.

> Alhamdulliah that Allah 
> has removed me from that madhhab (yes, it is a madhhab).

The true people of Tasawwuf follow the established maddhabs. Tasawwuf
itself is not a maddhab, otherwise why would they follow Abu Hanifa’s
school or Maliki’s school or…. etc.

> I agree 
> where it agrees with the Quran and Sunnah and disagree where is leaves 
> its bounds and starts with bidaa. For example, a Naqsbandi sufi shakykh 
> that I know (I don’t want to tell you his name) of locks himself in his room 
> for a week and fasts day and 
> night without end. Are you telling me that what he is doing is not bidaa?

If Allah ordered him to do it, it is not bid’a.  I don’t know what he
knows from Allah.  I prefer not to pass judgement on such things.

However, I am also aware of the hadith you say below.

> A muslim male is supposed to leave home to go to the mosque to pray in 
> congregation. Further the Prophet had said when there were people who 
> said similar things: “I will not marry” or “I will fast day and night” 
> etc.. In answer to this the Prophet had said: “I pray and I sleep, I fast 
> and I break my fast, and I marry women. He who doesnot follow my sunnah 
> is not of me”.(Bukhari) Is the practise of this sufi shaykh not a bidaa?

I prefer not to judge people…. I prefer to leave that to Allah, and
to the judges in the courts.

> And the Prophet had said: “All innovations (bidaa) are misguidance and 
> all misguidance is in the fire.”


> And sufism with its bidaa, cannot be 
> reconsiled with the sharia.

Please clarify what is supposed to be “bidaa” about Tasawwuf.  I am
sure that whatever you claim is “bidaa,” either doesn’t belong toTasawwuf or it is not really bid’a.

I would like to see you back up your claims, rather than just state
things without backing them up with some solid arguments.

[…Rest deleted…]


Fariduddien Rice

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Al-Junayd ibn Muhammad ibn al-Junayd al-Baghdadi

Imam Junayd ibn Muhammad Abu al-Qasim al-Khazzaz al-Baghdadi (d. 297 AH/  909-910 CE)

By GF Haddad and Dr. Alan Godlas

Al-Junayd ibn Muhammad ibn al-Junayd, Abu al-Qasim al-Qawariri al-Khazzaz al-Nahawandi al-Baghdadi al-Shafi`i (d. 298). The Imam of the World in his time, shaykh of the Sufis and “Diadem of the Knowers,” he accompanied his maternal uncle Sari al-Saqati, al-Harith al-Muhasibi, and others.

He is referred to by the sufis as sayyid-ut taifa i.e. the leader of the group. He lived and died in the city of Baghdad. He laid the groundwork for “sober” mysticism in contrast to that of “God-intoxicated” Sufis like al-Hallaj, Bayazid Bistami and Abu Sa`eed Abul-Khayr.

Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami stated:

His father used to sell glasses.  Hence he was called the flask seller (al-Qawariri).  His family origin was from Nahawand, and he was born and raised in ‘Iraq–that is what I heard Abu al-Qasim al-Nasrabadhi saying.  He was a scholar of jurisprudence (faqih), having studied it according to the method of Abu Thawr [Ibrahim ibn Khalid ibn al-Yaman al-Kalbi].  He would issue legal judgments in his circle of students.  [As a student] he [had] been in the company (sahiba) of Sari al-Saqati, Harith al-Muhasibi, and Muhammad ibn ‘Ali al-Qassab al-Baghdadi, and others.  He was among the leaders of the folk and among their masters, being well spoken of by all.”

Sulami included Junayd as being among the transmitters of the following hadith:

  The Prophet said, “Beware of the perspicacity of the believer, since he sees by the light of God, may He be exalted. 

Then he recited [the ayah]: Indeed in that are signs for those who have insight (Qur’an 15:75).”

Sulami stated that Junayd said, “Nearness through ecstasy (wajd) is ‘in-gathering’ (jam’); and absence through humanness is separation (tafriqah).”

Sulami stated that Junayd used to say

We did not learn (lit. take) Sufism by discourse, rather by hunger, abandoning the world, and severing [one’s attachments to] familiar and pleasant things; since Sufism consists of purity of [one’s] relationship with God.  Its foundation is in turning away from the world, as Harith [al-Muhasibi] said, “My self (nafs) has turned away from the world; so I have spent my nights in wakefulness and my days in thirst.”

Sulami stated that Junayd said, “Whoever knows God is only made happy by Him.”

Abu Sahl al-Su`luki narrates that as a boy al-Junayd heard his uncle being asked about thankfulness, whereupon he said:

 “It is to not use His favors for the purpose of disobeying Him.”

He took fiqh from Abu Thawr – in whose circle he would give fatwas at twenty years of age – and, it was also said, from Sufyan al-Thawri. 

He once said: “Allah did not bring out a single science on earth accessible to people except he gave me a share in its knowledge.” He used to go to the market every day, open his shop, and commence praying four hundred rak`as until closing time.

Among his sayings about the Sufi Path:

 “Whoever does not memorize the Qur’an and write hadith is not fit to be followed in this matter. For our science is controlled by the Book and the Sunnah.”

To Ibn Kullab who was asking him about tasawwuf he replied: 

“Our madhhab is the singling out of the pre-eternal from the contingent, the desertion of human brotherhood and homes, and obliviousness to past and future.” Ibn Kullab said: “This kind of speech cannot be debated.”

His student Abu al-`Abbas ibn Surayj would say, whenever he defeated his adversaries in debate: 

“This is from the blessing of my sittings with al-Junayd.”

Al-Qushayri relates from al-Junayd the following definitions of tasawwuf:

* “Not the profusion of prayer and fasting, but wholeness of the breast and selflessness.”1

* “Tasawwuf means that Allah causes you to die to your self and gives you life in Him.”

* “It means that you be solely with Allah with no attachments.”

* “It is a war in which there is no peace.”

* “It is supplication together with inward concentration, ecstasy together with attentive hearing, and action combined with compliance [with the Sunnah].”

* “It is the upholding of every high manner and the repudiation of every low one.”

When his uncle asked him to speak from the pulpit he deprecated himself, but then saw the Prophet  in his dream ordering him to speak.

Ibn Kullab once asked al-Junayd to dictate for him a comprehensive definition of tawhid he had just heard him say. He replied: “If I were reading from a record I would dictate it to you.”

The Mu`tazili al-Ka`bi said: 

“My eyes did not see his like. Writers came to hear him for his linguistic mastery, philosophers for the sharpness of his speech, poets for his eloquence, and kalam scholars for the contents of his speech.”

Al-Khuldi said: 

“We never saw, among our shaykhs, anyone in whom `ilm and hal came together except al-Junayd. If you saw his hal you would think that it took precedence over his `ilm, and if he spoke you would think that his `ilm took precedence over his hal.”

Like the Sunni imams of his generation, al-Junayd hated theological disputations about Allah and His Attributes: 

“The least [peril] that lies within kalam is the elimination of Allah’s awe from the heart. And when the heart is left devoid of Allah’s awe, it becomes devoid of belief.”

Once a young Christian asked him: 

“What is the meaning of the Prophet’s hadith: ‘Beware the vision of the believer for he sees with the light of Allah’?”2 

Al-Junayd remained immersed in thought then lifted his head and said: “Submit, for the time has come for you to accept Islam.” 

The young man embraced Islam on the spot.

Al-Junayd defined the Knower (al-`arif) as “He who addresses your secret although you are silent.” Ibn al-Jawzi cites another example of Junayd’s kashf in his Sifa al-Safwa:

Abu `Amr ibn `Alwan relates: 

I went out one day to the market of al-Ruhba for something I needed. I saw a funeral procession and I followed it in order to pray with the others. I stood among the people until they buried the dead man. My eyes unwittingly fell on a woman who was unveiled. I lingered looking at her. Then I held back and began to beg forgiveness of Allah the Exalted. 

On my way home an old woman told me: “My master, why is your face all darkened?” I took a mirror and behold! my face had turned dark. I examined my conscience and searched: Where did calamity befall me? I remembered the look I cast. Then I sat alone somewhere, asking Allah’s forgiveness assiduously. I decided to live austerely for forty days.

 [During that time] the thought came to my heart: “Visit your shaykh al-Junayd.” I travelled to Baghdad. When I reached the room where he lived I knocked at his door and heard him say: “Come in, O Abu `Amr! You sin in al-Ruhba and we ask forgiveness for you here in Baghdad.”3

About the Sufis al-Junayd said:

* “They are the members of a single household that none other than they can enter.”

* “The Sufi is like the earth: every kind of abomination is thrown upon it, but naught but every kind of goodness grows from it.”

* “The Sufi is like the earth: both the righteous and the sinners walk upon it. He is like the clouds: they give shade to all things. He is like the raindrop: it waters all things.”

* “If you see a Sufi caring for his outer appearance, then know that his inward being is corrupt.”

Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya related from al-Sulami that al-Junayd said: 

“The truthful seeker (al-murid al-sadiq) has no need for the scholars of knowledge” and: “When Allah desires great goodness for the seeker, He makes him flock to the Sufis and prevents him from accompanying those who read books (al-qurra’).”4

This is similar to al-Junayd’s saying reported by al-Dhahabi: “We did not take tasawwuf from what So-and-So said and what So-and-So-said, but from hunger, abandonment of the world, and severance of comforts.”

Al-Junayd also said: 

“Among the marks of Allah’s wrath against a servant is that He makes him busy with that which is of no concern to him.”5

Ibn al-Qayyim in al-Fawa’id asserts the superiority of the struggle against the ego (jihad al-nafs) over all other struggles and quotes al-Junayd:

Allah said: Those who have striven for Our sake, We guide them to Our ways (29:96). He has thereby made guidance dependent on jihad. Therefore, the most perfect of people are those of them who struggle the most for His sake, and the most obligatory of jihads (afrad al-jihad) are the jihad against the ego, the jihad against desires, the jihad against the devil, and the jihad against the lower world. Whoever struggles against these four, Allah will guide them to the ways of His good pleasure which lead to His Paradise, and whoever leaves jihad, then he leaves guidance in proportion to his leaving jihad

Al-Junayd said: “[The verse means] Those who have striven against their desires and repented for our sake, we shall guide them to the ways of sincerity. 

And one cannot struggle against his enemy outwardly except he who struggles against these enemies inwardly. Then whoever is given victory over them will be victorious over his enemy. And whoever is defeated by them, his enemy defeats him.”6

Ibn `Abidin related in his fatwa on the permissibility of dhikr gatherings:

The Imam of the Two Groups,7 our master al-Junayd was told: “Certain people indulge in wajd or ecstatic behavior, and sway with their bodies.” He replied: “Leave them to their happiness with Allah. They are the ones whose affections have been smashed by the path and whose breasts have been torn apart by effort, and they are unable to bear it. There is no blame on them if they breathe awhile as a remedy for their intense state. If you tasted what they taste, you would excuse their exuberance.”8

In his Kitab al-Fana’ (“Book of the Annihilation of the Self”) al-Junayd states:

As for the select and the select of the select, who become alien through the strangeness of their conditions – presence for them is loss, and enjoyment of the witnessing is struggle. They have been effaced from every trace and every signification that they find in themselves or that they witness on their own. The Real has subjugated them, effaced them, annihilated them from their own attributes, so that it is the Real that works through them, on them, and for them in everything they experience. It is the Real which confirms such exigencies in and upon them through the form of its completion and perfection.9

Al-Junayd went on pilgrimage on foot thirty times.

In the process of trial of al-Hallaj, his former disciple, Caliph of the time demanded his fatwa and he issued this fatwa: “From the outward appearance he is to die and we judge according to the outward appearance and Allah knows better”.

Death of Hadhrat Junayd al-Baghdadi

On his deathbed he recited the Qur’an incessantly. Al-Jariri related that he told him: “O Abu al-Qasim! Put yourself at ease.” 

He replied: “O Abu Muhammad! Do you know anyone that is more in need of Qur’an at this time, when my record is being folded up?” He finished one khatma then started over until he recited seventy verses of Sura al-Baqara, then he died. Ibn `Imad al-Hanbali said: “If we were to speak of his merits we could fill volumes.”

Before his death Junayd ordered that all the saying of knowledge attributed to him which people have written down should be buried. When people asked him the reason he said, “When the people have the knowledge of the Prophet of Allah with them, I desire that I may meet Allah Ta’ala in the state that there remains nothing attributed to me”.

After his death Shaykh Ja’far al-Khaldi saw him in a dream. Ja’far al-Khaldi asked Junayd “How did Allah Ta’ala treat you?”

Junayd replied:

طاحت تلك الاشارات وغابت تلك العبارات وفنيت تلك العلوم ونفدت تلك الرسوم, وما نفعنا الا ركعات نركعها في الاسحار

“Those subtle signs were finished, those phrases disappeared, those sciences were annihilated, those illustrations were erased and nothing helped us except some rak`ats which we used to pray before dawn”.

Main sources:

al-Qushayri, Risala 148-150;

Ibn `Imad, Shadharat al-Dhahab 2:228-230;

al-Dhahabi, Siyar A`lam al-Nubala’ 11:153-155 #2555;

Ibn al-Subki, Tabaqat al-Shafi`iyya al-Kubra 2:260-275 #60.

Tarikh Baghdad – al-Khatib Baghdadi page 248 vol 7 – via Tarashay page 28/29- Mufti Maulana Muhammad Taqi Uthmaani

al-Sulami, Tabaqatal-Sufiyah, selected from pp. 155-163 (thanks to Dr. Alan Godlas)

Blessings and peace on the Prophet, his Family, and his Companions

GF Haddad ©


1In al-Qushayri, Kitab al-Sama` in al-Rasa’il al-Qushayriyya (Sidon and Beirut: al-Maktaba al-`Asriyya, 1970) p. 60.

2Narrated from Abu Sa`id al-Khudri by al-Tirmidhi (gharib) with a weak chain, Abu Imama by al-Tabarani with a fair (hasan) chain according to al-Haythami in the chapter on firasa in Majma` al-Zawa’id, Ibn `Adi, al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi, and al-Quda`i in Musnad al-Shihab (1:387). Also narrated by al-Bukhari in his Tarikh, Ibn al-Sani, and from Ibn `Umar by Ibn Abi Hatim, al-Tabari, and Ibn Kathir in their commentaries of the verse (Therein lie portents for those who read the signs (15:75). Ibn al-Jawzi includes it in the forgeries. Al-Sakhawi in al-Maqasid al-Hasana (#23) rejects Ibn al-Jawzi’s grading of mawdu`, but considers its chains all weak, as do al-Albani in his Silsila Da`ifa (4:299-302) and al-Ahdab in Zawa’id Tarikh Baghdad (4:340-343 #687). However, al-Suyuti declares it hasan in al-La’ali’ al-Masnu`a (2:329-330) as do al-Shawkani in al-Fawa’id (p. 243-244) and al-Zuhayri – Albani’s student – in his edition of Ibn `Abd al-Barr’s Jami` Bayan al-`Ilm (1:677 #1197). The purported weakness of al-Tabarani’s chain revolves around the narrator `Abd Allah ibn Salih al-Juhani. Cf. al-Dhahabi, Mizan (2:440-445 #4383).

Al-Sakhawi cites another narration whereby the Prophet  said: “Allah has servants who know (the truth about people) through reading the signs” (tawassum). Narrated from Anas with a fair chain by al-Bazzar in his Musnad, al-Tabarani, and Abu Nu`aym in al-Tibb al-Nabawi as stated by al-`Ajluni in Kashf al-Khafa’.

3In Ibn al-Jawzi, Sifa al-Safwa 1(2):271, chapter on al-Junayd (#296).

4Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, Madarij al-Salikin (2:366).

5In Ibn al-Jawzi, Sifa al-Safwa, chapter on al-Junayd.

6Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, al-Fawa’id, ed. Muhammad `Ali Qutb (al-Iskandariyya: Dar al-Da`wa, 1992) p. 50.

7I.e. Sufis and fuqaha‘.

8Seventh Letter in Shifa` al-`Alil wa Ball al-Ghalil fi Hukm al-Wasiyya bi al-Khatamat wa al-Tahalil (p. 172-173).

9Translation communicated to the author by Michael Sells, Haverford College.




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​Was Masur Al-Hallaj’s execution Islamically justified?

Junayd of Baghdad

Junayd of Baghdad (830–910) was one of the great early Sufis. His order was Junaidia, which links to the golden chain of many Sufi orders. 

He laid the groundwork for sober mysticism in contrast to that of God-intoxicated Sufis like al-Hallaj, Bayazid Bastami and Abusaeid Abolkheir. 

During the trial of al-Hallaj, his former disciple, the Caliph of the time demanded his fatwa. 

In response, he issued this fatwa:
 “From the outward appearance he is to die and we judge according to the outward appearance and God knows better”. 

He is referred to by Sufis as Sayyid-ut Taifa—i.e., the leader of the group. He lived and died in the city of Baghdad.

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