What is Sufism? Is it a deviation?

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.

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