Archive for the ‘Sufism’ Category

What is Sunna and what is not

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

An article I read suggests that a congregational supplication after a prayer is discouraged, because neither the Prophet (PBUH) nor the Sahaba (his fellows) have done it.

They may not have done it, but the Prophet (PBUH) never said we couldn’t do it. There is a difference between “not practiced” and “forbidden.”

The problem with issues like that one is that the people who rule in such a way, do so out of concern that something which is not Sunna becomes a regular part of Islam in the minds of the masses. That would establish a Bid`a (novelty) in religion, which the Prophet (PBUH) warned us not to do. The solution to this problem, IMHO, is not to forbid what is not forbidden, but to ensure that it doesn’t become a novelty, by deliberately not doing it on a consistent basis.

Scholars have differed on what constitutes a Sunna (Practice of the Prophet). That’s because following the Sunna is a requirement of Islam. Therefore, knowing what is Sunna and what is not becomes of religious essence.

The Sunna is not simply everything that the Prophet (PBUH) said or did or approved or did not disapprove, but rather what he consistently said and did and encouraged us to follow him on. The scholars have attempted to differentiate between the two by classifying the latter as Sunna Mu’akkada (Emphasized practice). That’s fine. Then, what we are required to follow is the emphasized Sunna.

As usual you gave me the words to clarify the issue. Not practiced and forbidden. A world apart. It opens a new universe.

You may already know this hadeeth, but it illustrates the point very clearly. One day, Khaalid ibn Al-Waleed (RA) invited the Prophet (PBUH) and others to dinner. His aunt, Maymoona, had prepared for them a grilled porcupine! Everyone stretched their hands to grab a bite of it, except the Prophet. Khalid’s face paled like he saw a ghost. He said to the Prophet (PBUH), “Is it forbidden, O Messenger of God?” He answered, “No, but I find myself not agreeing with it!” Narrated by Khaalid and reported by Al-Bukhaari.

So, just because the Prophet didn’t do something is no reason for us not to do it. Only if he told us “don’t do it!”, then we will have to stay away from it. It seems obvious, but in these days of massive confusion and disinformation, the obvious needs to be stated!

That is why the world always needs teachers. They are know to excel in one thing: to repeat and repeat and repeat.

We have so much confusion. Our faith is ripe not with bida but cultural and nationalistic nonsense. Yet, the hadeeth of the simple woman who kept repeating her question to the embarrassment of the Prophet (swas) helps us. She wanted an answer, although it was intimate, she would not give up until she gained knowledge.

We need to simplify Islam. We have so much on the agenda. Let’s forget trying to save the universe and remember how to make salat.

On a personal note: Eid Mubarak. May Allah reward you immensely for your kindness to me. I have been given a trial which in turn seems to be a blessing. It has made me reach deep into my being. Kinda sorta letting go of a lot of pretenses in life, too. I heard a sheik relate a hadeeth about the Prophet (swas) telling some Sahaba (ra) sometimes our deen is like a hot coal in our hands. (I have always been the princess who felt the pea at the bottom of ten mattresses). Your kindness is akin to the cool of the fire for Prophet Ibrahim.

A blessed and happy Eid to you and your loved ones.

Thank you for your kind words.

How do you simplify something which both God and His Messenger have repeatedly said was already simple? By removing the fluff and pork that accumulated on it over the centuries. My blog is my humble way of doing that.


All I can respond is to write “Blog on baby blog on!” It takes wisdom to understand simplicity. When endeavoring to resolve a complex problem the walls are everywhere. Once we have the solution it is so simple.

Likewise, our faith has been mingled with politics and men of various ambitions. The simple laity is lazy. We want the ends and care little about the means. For those of us who are foolish, we seek the means. It makes for a lonely road. (Cf. Zen/Sufism).

Your blog serves the purpose of giving the readers solutions without having to do all the homework. Blog on baby blog on.

(Trust me, I do take advantage of your wisdom…I am all over the universe in my thoughts and it helps to have some notion of being grounded).

There is no problem in taking a voyage in a hot-air balloon, as long as you can always land safely on earth 🙂

I guess I have a license, then, to keep blogging? LOL.

Cut-and-paste Muslims

Monday, May 30th, 2011

I think we need to discuss Taqleed (blind following). I see so much culture infused with blind following.

The confidence it takes to use your mind is a tome in itself. We have a generation of cut-and-pasters who do not take the time to reflect.

How do I put it? Those who follow blindly do not take well to questions posed from a philosophical perspective. And specifically from a western orientation and or Sufism. I am seeking the essence of matters. Blind following has no room for seeking the essence. It is the easy way out.

If blind followers pause for a minute to reflect, they may ask themselves this simple question: Is the man, or group you’re following blindly, are they infallible?

The answer is obviously not, and I’m sure most of them will answer correctly. With that established, how can they justify following those who may be wrong, may have misconstrued things, may have misinterpreted the texts, may have misunderstood the intent and/or spirit of the revelation?

They can’t, of course, but in their minds, there is no better alternative! They do not trust their own minds. They see those whom they follow as superior to them in knowledge, intellect and spirituality. While that may be true, it is no reason to annul one’s mind and choose to be led by others without questioning. If that were part of our religion, then how come God asks us many times in the Quran the rhetorical questions,

“Have you not been using your minds?” (36:62),
“Did they not walk in the land and have hearts with which to understand, or ears with which to hear? Verily, it is not the eyes that go blind, but the hearts which are in the bosoms.” (22:46),
“Don’t you use your minds?” (2:44),
“Should you not then reason?” (7:169),
“That is because they were a folk who did not reason.” (5:58),
“The most evil of creatures, in the sight of God, are the dumb, mute who do not reason!” (8:22),
“Or do you think that most of them hear or reason? They are but like animals, nay, they are more misguided!” (25:44)

What a strong and harsh chastisement to those who elect to suspend their minds! If any reader is a blind follower, I urge you to reflect on Rumi’s advice, “Do not let others lead you; they may be blind, or worse: vulchures!”

God gave each of us a sound mind as a valuable gift, urges us to use it and trusts it to make the right decisions! Don’t turn away God’s gift.

Can we call upon other than God in supplications?

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

I have noticed that Sufis (transcendentals) call upon Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in their supplications. Some of them believe that he is still alive in his grave and hears all supplications and greetings sent his way. I seriously doubt this view, though it’s making me a bit confused in my theology, because God emphasizes in the Quran so many times that we must not call upon any one but Him.

You arrived at the right conclusion, Bless your heart. And how did you do it? You consulted the source of guidance: the Quran. It’s not hard to arrive at the truth and clear up any confusion. Simply test an argument/evidence against the Quran. If it fails, it has no value regardless of who said it! Always put God first.

How do we struggle “in God”?

Friday, April 15th, 2011

I enjoyed reading your posts about Sufism. I’m not Sufi, but I’m curious: You quoted 29:69, which says, “And those who struggle in Us…”. How does one struggle in God?

Thanks. Interestingly, God answers that question immediately after the phrase you quoted! He says, “and God surely is with benefactors.” (29:69)

Benefaction (Ihsaan) is to do beautiful things. The Arabic word has the noun root Husn which means beauty. So, benefaction is more than doing good, it is doing good in a beautiful manner. God calls every good deed Hasana (a beautiful thing).

The Prophet (PBUH) defined the difference between Islam (submission), Eemaan (faith) and Ihsaan (benefaction). He said that Islam is to do the five pillars of it: Shahaada (testimony of faith), prayer, fasting, Zakah (alms giving) and pilgrimage to Mecca if you can. He defined Eeman as belief in the six pillars of it: Belief in God, His angels, His scriptures, His Messengers, the Final Day (the Hereafter), and the Qadar (precision and wisdom of God’s timing and provision). Finally, he defined Ihsaan as follows, “That you worship God as if you see Him! While you do not see Him, He sees you!” That is the realization that causes a Muslim to be a benefactor: God is watching and appraising what we do and the angels are writing down in our eternal record of deeds.

Which group is at fault?

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

There has been tension recently in Egypt, between Salafis (strict followers of ancestors) and Sufis (transcendentals) Muslim groups regarding shrines of Awliyaa’ (saints). Some Salafis have demolished some of those shrines and that got the Sufis, who are naturally quite meek, animated and furious.

Peace makers have tried to mediate between the two groups, and I just read that the negotiations have failed. See this article:

What is the Islamic view on this issue? Whom do you think are at fault here?

According to the article, the sticking point was the insistence of the Sufi negotiator that the reconciliation document rule that destruction of shrines was forbidden in Islam. The Mufti (scholar authorized to give fatwas) of Egypt has given a fatwa (religious conclusion) that such act is contrary to Islam. So, the Sufis had a legitimate cause to ask for such a statement. I imagine they wanted a guarantee of sorts that this won’t happen again.

But Salafis are hung up on the established Sunna (teaching of the Prophet PBUH) that visiting the graves must not turn into excessive practices that are often seen at those shrines. Practices like people praying to the shrine, rubbing hands against the shrines for blessing, etc. Those are blasphemous acts. So, Salafis are right in their precaution, but certainly not right in demolishing shrines.

It seems to me that an agreement could have been reached, if both concerns were addressed! Sufis vow to monitor shrines in order to educate visitors about deviant practices, and Salafis vow to not cause harm to shrines or their visitors and prosecute those who do.

I know someone who describes herself as a Sufi Salafi! She would’ve been ideal as a go-between. The Mufti was right also when he said that this is but a Fitna (sedition) between the two groups that should be averted.

What is Sufism? Is it a deviation?

Friday, January 28th, 2011

Many Muslims I meet are highly influenced by the Zaytuna institute that was founded by Hamza Yusuf. Most converts in my area gravitate towards that group. In their mosque, Sunnis pray next to Shia! Women may or may not wear the hijab (head cover) – they are encouraged to “express their own interpretations”. In their classrooms, men and women sit together in the same room.

They practice “taṣawwuf” (Sufism). What exactly is it? Did our Prophet (PBUH) practice it?

The word “Sufiyya” (Sufism) is probably an Arabization of the Greek word Sophos, which means wisdom. Sufism is sort of like transcendental meditation, in that it aims at achieving purity of thought and feeling, and thus strengthening faith and achieving inner peace. Its history, however, proves that it’s a slippery slope! It tends to lead its followers astray by becoming convinced that they are literally one with God, or pieces of Him, etc. Such perceptions border on Kufr, since God is above and beyond His creation and their imaginations.

For those who want to be close to God, sufism is not the answer. God gave us the answer in a Qudsi hadeeth. He said,
“My servant has not approached Me with anything better than what I have mandated on him. And as My servant keeps approaching Me with voluntary worship (Nawaafil), I love him. When I love him, I become his eyes with which he sees, his ears with which he hears, his hands with which he reaches and his legs with which he endeavors! And if he asks Me, I will certainly answer him and if he seeks refuge in Me, I will certainly shelter him.”

Sounds like being one with God, doesn’t it? Only it’s metaphorical of course.

People tell me Sufism is a deviant denomination that teaches “Wahdatul Wujood” (communion of all beings) and “Al fanaa” (dissolution in God). These are not teachings of Islam, are they?

Of course not. But that is what the “elite” (الخاصة) of the Sufis believe, not the masses. It is that which should be renounced, not Sufism. I’m not defending Sufism, because, like I said before, it’s a slippery slope to shirk. I’m only differentiating between its excesses and its good contributions. Whenever anyone asks me for advice about Sufism, I tell them it’s a risky road to take and can ruin their faith, so they are better off not taking it.

The same thing applies to Shia teachings. Most Shia folks are unaware of what their elite believe. I had several Shia friends and their faith and practice are remarkably similar to Sunnis. Yet, when you read books written by their elite, such as “Al-Kaafi fil Usool”, your jaw will drop!

The religion is based on Quran and Sunnah. Where do we find any basis for sufi heresies in the Quran or Sunnah?

Heresies no, but mainstream plenty, e.g.,

“And those who struggle in Us – We shall certainly guide them to Our ways” (29:69),

“My servant keeps approaching me with voluntary worship until I love him. When I love him, I become his eyes with which he sees, his ears with which he hears, his hands with which he reaches and his legs with which he endeavors.” A Qudsi hadeeth, reported by Al-Bukhaari and narrated by Abu-Hurayra.

That is the point that is missing in this discussion: the blanket rejection of the good, the bad and the ugly. Only the bad and the ugly should be rejected.

Life in the grave

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Some Sufis believe that the Prophet, peace be upon him, and the Awliyaa (Saints) have a real life in their graves. Is there a basis in Islamic teachings to back that up?

No. All dead have a different kind of life in the grave, called the life of Al-Barzakh (the labyrinth), but not the regular life we have here, and the Prophet (PBUH) and the saints are no exception.

I have always understood being as a timeless process caught in time while we are here.

We can not dwell on the past nor the future; all we can manage is the present nano-second.

You sound like Eckhart Tolle whom I listened to a few times and liked what I heard.

While all we have is indeed the present moment, our attitude toward our past greatly affects what we decide to do with the present. We can be bitter or content. We may repeat our mistakes or learn from them. His past frightened Umar ibn Al-Khattab, may God have been pleased with him, his entire life! It caused him to abandon arrogance, obstinacy and hardness which he was known for prior to Islam and caused him the sins he could never forgive himself for. That made him the remarkable Muslim he was, renowned for justice and humility. Nobody would have ever guessed that he would turn out like that!

Dr. Wayne Dyer is fond of saying, “We’re not human beings living a spiritual experience, we’re spiritual beings living a human experience!”

I agree. We’ve had a life before the Trust was offered to the heavens, the earth and the mountains and they declined. We had a life in the backbone of Adam, before we were conceived by our mothers, when we gave testimony to God that He is our Lord. And we had a life in the womb, have a life on earth, will have the life of Barzakh in the grave and finally the real life in heaven, in-sha-Allah (God willing).

What some Sufis get wrong is that the life in the grave for the Prophet (PBUH) and the awliyaa’ (Saints) is the same sort of life on earth. It is not. The Prophet (PBUH) said that the dead person hears the clicks of the shoes of the people who go to his funeral as they leave and s/he hears their prayers for them only they cannot reply. It’s a life but not the same kind of life. It’s a life of waiting without work or talk. On the Day of Judgment, all will feel that life on earth, including the portion of the grave, was but an hour of a day.

I will read up on Tolle. But life teaches us to live in the present.
I am afraid of the grave and do wish to have it expanded.

Dumb question: we give the Prophet our salaams (salutations). Is he in the same reality as the other dead? I had assumed he went home.

He is in the same reality as all who died. The angels convey to him the greetings from Muslims. The dead do hear their visitors, per authentic hadeeths, they just cannot reply.

Approaching Islam through mysticism

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

I am very interested in Islam now. I have been a religious seeker for many, many years, and even became an Eastern Orthodox Christian 3 years ago. However, I keep stumbling over the Atonement theory, the Incarnation, and the Trinity. The principle of tawhid appeals to me so much, as does having a direct connection to God without needing intermediaries (eg the priesthood). The Oneness of God seems an essential religious tenet to me now.

As an esoterist, being mystically inclined by nature, I wonder how most Muslims feel about Sufism. I know that there are more traditional Sufi orders, grounded in the Quran and Islam, and psuedo-Islamic Sufi orders, which I feel inclined to stay way from. I originally became an Orthodox Christian primarily because of theosis, the principle of achieving oneness with God or participating in the life and energies of God. There are hesychasts, particularly on Mount Athos, who live very ascetic lives and who invoke the name of Jesus Christ as a practice (called Prayer of the Heart). They’re the Christians who’ve made me want to be one! However, as I’ve said, I’ve been intellectually stymied due to theological and doctrinal issues.

How do most people here feel about Sufism? Is it considered heretical? Is it something that interests most Muslims?

Welcome. You have your heart in the right place.

Achieving union with God is a slippery road. That is why many Sufis deviated from the Straight Path and delved into transcendental imaginations. While that did produce some fabulous poetry, it is overall harmful to their souls. Why? Because Islam is a religion that balances this world and the Hereafter, materialism and spirituality, the individual and the society, the heart and the mind. It does not lean toward any of those.

Getting close to God and experiencing His love, on the other hand, is the ultimate aim of Islamic rituals. In a holy narration (Hadeeth Qudsi) God says: Whoever comes near Me a cubit, I come near him a fathom. In the same narration, He says: My servant keeps approaching Me with extra good works until I love him. When I love him I become his eyes with which he sees, his ears with which he hears, his hands with which he reaches, and his legs with which he endeavors. And when he asks Me, I surely will answer him, and when he seeks refuge in Me, I surely will give him refuge.

Does that sound like what you’re looking for? It’s all metaphorical of course. The danger is when one starts to believe that it has become physical or metaphysical.

Is the practice of dhikr (remembrance of God) recommended for all Muslims, or just Sufis? Is the repeated invocation of the Name of God a basic feature of Islam?

If by that you mean mantras, like what the whirling dervishes do, the answer is no. But if you mean the frequent remembrance of God then the answer is a definite yes. God says in the holy Quran,
“And mention God much, that you may prosper” (62:10)

And the Prophet, peace be upon him, advised, “Let your tongue remain moist with the remembrance of God”, reported by At-Tirmizhi and Ibn Hanbal.

Are there any Muslim mystics that are universally appreciated? For example, Shaikh Ahmad Al-Alawi or Al Ghazali? Are saints recognized in Islam?

Yes. Jalaal-ud-Deen Ar-Roomi, known as Rumi, is one that jumps to mind. His poetry is out of this world, and you can see from some of it how he ventures into dangerous transcendental territory and that’s why many Muslims have strong reservations about him.

Saints are called Awliyaa’ in Islam. The word means allies [of God]. Muslim history is filled with them. Some were Sufi, but the majority were regular folks who had a job or business, raised families, taught and/or authored books on the many disciplines of Islamic knowledge, theology and law. And some were heads of the state!

Knowledge or understanding?

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

In my online debates, I am beginning to see that people are seeking knowledge and once they find it they are content. I seek understanding.

I feel as if I hit a brick wall. It has hurt my iman (faith). Thus, I am not responding to them anymore.

I’d add that many are seeking less; they’re seeking direction. A quote from a fatwa web site (Islamic rulings) is sufficient for them. It’s not for me, but I can appreciate why it is for them. Working the mind is harder than following. That’s why most people follow. Even most leaders follow other leaders.

That would be OK if what is followed is right. Unfortunately, in many cases, it is not. In Islam, no one has the authority to declare anything forbidden or mandated after the death of the Prophet, peace be upon him. Yet, countless scholars have done just that, often with flimsy evidence.

The word used for jurisprudence in Islam is Fiqh, which takes understanding (Fahm) to a higher level: the level of recognition of contingency (`Illa) and wisdom (Hikma) of each ruling. That level enables a jurist to derive other rulings without additional text. That is the primary benefit of the discipline of Usool-ul-Fiqh (Foundations of Deduction).

When I read jurisprudence I hit a wall. It becomes very arcane. Sometimes the language, in translation, becomes obtuse.
I understand the need to provide governance.

Am I correct in understanding this arena is for scholars and not the ordinary seeker?

It seems that the sufi path is easier for the non-scholar. It is the path of the simple beliver.

Understood. But the basics need to be familiar to all IMHO. Otherwise, flawed and agenda-driven fatwas can wreak havoc among Muslims as they have. Without the ability to tell the flaws in what you’re told by someone who appears to know what he’s talking about, you end up forbidding upon yourself what is permitted and mandating what is not and misunderstanding Islam altogether in some cases.

I have reservations about Sufism. Like transcendental meditation, it starts out beneficial and spiritual but tends to develop dangerous beliefs later. It is risky business.

There is no better way to be close to God than the way He told us in a Qudsi (holy) hadeeth, “As My servant continues to offer Nawaafil (voluntary worship) to get closer to Me, I get to love him. When I love him, I become his eyes with which he sees, his ears with which he hears, his hands with which he reaches and his legs with which he endeavors; and when he asks Me, I surely will give him and when he seeks refuge in Me, I surely will give him refuge.”

And that is the crux of the problem. I am in need of a teacher. We do need direction.

I agree about the risky business of Sufiism. Many participants do not understand the demands of the path that you tread upon. They do not see the flip side. It does entail giving up much.

I am seeking the gentle balance of wisdom and intellect.

What are Sunni, Shia, Wahabi and Sufism?

Tuesday, May 1st, 2007

Sunnis are the people who accepted Abu-Bakr as the legitimate first caliph after the Prophet’s death and the Shia are those who did not and wanted Ali instead. There are other differences but that’s how it started.

Sufism is a deeply spiritual practice that is sort of like transcendental meditation. It’s not a sect.

Wahabism is not a sect either. It is a reform movement started by Muhammad bin Abdul-Wahab in Saudi Arabia that aimed at ridding Muslims of supersitions and the practice of intercession and returning them to the way of the early Muslims  (Salaf). Followers of the movement may have added to it or may define it differently but that’s how it started.