The Beginning and Development of Soofism – Dr. Saleh as Saleh

Second Part: When Did It All Start? [9]
The Beginning and Development of Soofism
Innovations usually start small then grow big

Some scholars traced the seeds of Soofism to the early stages of the second Century of the Hijri calendar, while others pointed out that the early features of it began before the year 200 After Hijrah (AH).10 The early deviation was exemplified in exaggerations in worship and extremism in avoidance of the worldly life. In the beginning, some people became interested in leading a pious life of Zuhd (an abstemious way of life), patience, clemency, sincerity, truthfulness, although some of them exaggerated and (or) introduced innovated forms of worship and innovated concepts. Then those who attached themselves to such practices became lax in allowing singing and dancing, something which they refer to as Samaa’ [singing aimed at stimulating a state of Wajd (ecstasy) and excessive worship.]

As, with every Bid’ah, Iblees beautifies it in the eyes of its beholder and drives him to do more Bida’. The Soofism is just one case of Talbees Iblees (A devil’s deception), whereby he turned them away from knowledge and showed them that what matters is action. Though many of them may have started with good intentions, nevertheless they took off from the course of the Sunnah.

During of the third century, introduction of new concepts and practices became more evident. Some became interested in monasticism (living like monks), while others spoke of poverty, hunger, sleeplessness, wonderment, seclusions, dancing, clamping, innovated forms of Thikr, etc. Many abandoned marriage and the seeking of means of sustenance. Others exaggerated in disassociating themselves from Hadeeth and its knowledge. In the course of this development, the masters would put certain regulations that made them see themselves as the “special” who have “special inward knowledge” that takes the person directly to Allaah. They referred to this state as Al-‘Ilm Al-Baatin (special “inward” knowledge). Such baseless classifications marked the beginning of the introduction of the so-called “knowledge of Al-Haqeeqah (lit. Reality), in reference to the so-called “mystic knowledge” of Allaah.

By the end of this century, Soofism spread and Soofee orders began to sprout and some of its deviant creeds like Al- Hulool (indwelling of Allaah in incarnation), Ittihaad (union between Allaah and the created) were adopted by some of their extreme masters. New states of Soofism were defined and the masters spoke of specific terminology defining such states, like Fanaa’ (annihilation), Thawq (experience), Kashf (perception and witnessing all of the realities of existence as well as those of the unseen), Wajd (ecstasy), Samaa‘ (mystic singing and dancing as a means of inspiration), and other philosophical terms.

During the 4th century, Soofism was almost transformed into orders accommodating all sorts of Bida’ in ‘Aqeedah (creed) and Ittibaa’ (way of following). It was a blend for every sect. Amongst them you find the Jahmiyyah, the Mu’atazilite, the Maatureedi, the Ash’aree, the Shee’iee, the philosopher, the Murj’i, the Jabri, and followers of all sorts of Ahwaa’(desires and innovations). For Ahlul Ahwaa’ (followers of lowly desirers and innovations), Soofism became a universal ground which they penetrate in the name of spiritual guidance

During the sixth century, a group of mystic Soofis claimed to be descendents of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and each one of them established for himself a special Soofee order with special followers. Ar-Rifaa’i appeared in ‘Iraaq, Al-Badawi and Ash-Shaathili in Egypt. These orders branched into other orders. In this century and in the next two, the Soofee Fitnah reached its climax with the ‘Aqeedah of Wahdat Al-Wujood (Unity of Existence), appearance of new Bida’ (building on graves and magnifying them, innovated celebrations, etc.), more Soofee orders and more superstitions. This was supported by the establishment in Egypt of the ‘Ubaydiiyyah State (known as the Fatimid State), which spread its influence over many Muslim lands.

Finally, during the latter centuries, the ninth, tenth, and eleventh, the Soofee orders reached the thousands and the Soofee practices and affiliation spread over the entire Muslim world. Today, Soofism has establishments, preachers, funding, and almost unrestricted movement of its people across the borders of many Muslim and non-Muslim countries. As to its most important objectives, I leave it to a Soofee enthusiast well known in the circles of Soofism, Saayed Hossein Nasr, who stated that, “All that we can do is to stress that the Soofee teachings center upon two fundamental creeds: Wahdat Al-Wujood, and Al-Insaan Al-Kaamil (the Perfect Man). [11] [12]

During all of this past of Soofism and nowadays, Soofism was not left without challenge. The Salaf gave their advice and warned against the early deviations and mistakes of some the early Soofis. They exposed the false concepts of beliefs and practices of Soofism in the past and in the present. This, by Allaah’s Grace, benefited and continues to benefit the Muslims worldwide. The truth propagated by the followers of the Salaf is finding its way everywhere despite the efforts by its opponents who try to disseminate among the people it causes rifts between the Muslims while they represent “the way of unity” through their so-called Mainstream Islam. The Path of the Salaf distinguishes between the truth and falsehood and calls to unite the Muslims on the true Tawheed and pure Ittibaa’ (following of the established Sharee’ah). This makes it binding that the followers of the Salaf should be a good example and use wisdom and kindness in their efforts to propagate the truth without compromising the principles of the Deen. Errors by some of the followers of the Salaf should not hinder the truth seeker from accepting the truth regarding matters of the Deen, and he should judge according to the principle not the mistakes of people.


[9] References: Ibn Al-Jawzee’s Talbees Iblees, pp. 156-165, Ibn Taymeeyah’s Majmoo’ Al-Fataawaa, vol. 10, pp: 366-367, Saadiq Saadiq’s Masaadir At-Talaqee, pp. 38-35; and others.

[10] Ibn Taymeeyah holds the first while Ibnul Jawzee and Ibn Khaldoon are of the second opinion (See Talbees Ibleess, p. 201 and Al- Muqaddimah, p. 467, respectively).

[11] Al-Insaan Al-Kaamil: In the world of Soofism, Al-Insaan Al-Kaamil is the “barrier” qualified with both the Essence of Allaah and the essence of creation (or man). And he is the one who comprises all the worlds of the Divine and that of creation, the complete and the partial. He deserves the Names of the Thaat (Allaah’s Essence) and the Divine Qualities. The Soofee mystics refer to Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم) as being the “Perfect Man” or the “Al-Haqeeqah Al-Muhammadiyyah”: The Thaat (Essence of Allaah) in its first designation; to him (Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم)) belongs all of the Most Beautiful Names [of Allaah] and that he is Al-Ism Al-A’tham (Allaah’s Greatest Name). From Muhammad, the entire creation, this world and the Hereafter, was brought to exist!! This is most fully described by ‘Abdul al-Karim Al- Jeeli (d.820 AH/1417 C.E.), a Soofee of the school of Ibn ‘Arabi, in his book Al-Insaan Al-Kaamil. See V. 2, p. 73 (4th edition), 1395 AH/1975 C.E.. See also Mu’jam Al-Mustalahaat As-Soofeeyyah by ‘Abdul Mun’im Al-Hafnee, p. 27. Also refer to Mu’jam Al- Mustalahaat As-Soofeeyyah by Anwar Fouad Abee Al-Khazzaam, p. 49, published by Maktabat Lubnaan, Beirut, Lebanon, 1993. Al-Jeeli’s book Al-Insaan Al-Kaamil is filled with plain statements of Kufr. Just consider his belief regarding the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) (above).

[12] As-Soofeeyyah bayna Al-Ams wal Yawm ,p.22, translated by Kamal Khaleel Yaazijee (1st. ed), 1975

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