Qoshairi Manifest

Chapter 42
On Tasawwof (Sufism)

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It is narrated that Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, was heard to say, in dismay, “Safaawat (Purity) has left this world and all is left is darkness. Today death is a gift for the believer.”  (The Sufi, like 'Safā' (purity), may be either pure or gone, and nothing in between.)
And this name, 'Sufi', has described a person, male or female, from a certain group: someone is a Sufi (mutasawwaf) who has striven to reach the Path (tariqa) with the people of Motasawifah or Tasawwof.  The derivation the word 'Sufi' is mysterious; it does not seem to be derived directly from any words in the Arabic language and now it is just a title like any other title, with its meaning obscure to many.

Some say 'Sufi' is from the Arabic suf meaning 'wool' because the Sufi is a wool-wearer.  But clearly this group did not always wear the coarse wool of certain ascetics.
Some say the word comes from the Arabic word Soffah [1] of the Prophet Mohammad’s mosque. However, this derivation is doubtful;  'Sufi'  does not sound similar enough to 'Soffah' to be a direct derivative.
If someone says the word 'Sufi' has come from Safā (Purity), again, the words are too different to warrant that association.
Some say the word 'Sufi' comes from the Saff (ranks or rows of people), insinuating that they, the Sufis, being close to Allah, are in the first rank.  While there is some truth in this concept, the words are not directly connected in the Arabic language and, moreover, the folk (sufis) are too spiritual to be referred to by any spatial attribute.

On the meaning of Sufism many have uttered much, therefore the following is but a partial account of these saying:

Jorair was asked, "What is Sufism?", and he responded, 'Adopting the most excellent morals and disposition and avoiding all bad and evil manners".
Junaid said, "Dying away from your Self (while still alive) and being given life by the Lord ITself".
Hussein Mansoor said, "The essence of Sufism is that of Oneness (Tawhid). No one can reach or accept it and it reaches or accepts no one.' (It's essence is non-dual.  No one can reach a Sufi’s solitude and a Sufi does not want or accept or seek anyone else.)

Abu Hamzeh Baghdadi said, “The sign of a true Sufi is that he falls into poverty after wealth, falls from power to weakness and from fame to obscurity. The sign of false Sufi is that he is one who is gaining wealth, power and fame from Sufism”.

Amro Ben Othman Al-Makki said, “Sufism is that which increases the value of each moment of life”.  (It increases the quality and meaning of life.)
Samnoon was asked about sufism, and he replied, “
Sufism is when nothing belongs to you and you belong to nothing either”.
Junaid said, “Sufism is when you are with the Lord without any love and passion”. (All human faculties and feelings, whether for this world or the next, or for the God ITself are all lost and all that is left is the presence of you Creator & Lord, beyond thought, reason, imagination, and feeling.)

Rowaym said, “Sufism is based upon three characteristics: One, deliberate poverty (Iftiqār); two, forming habits around sacrifice and generosity; and three, forsaking objections, taking control of one's speech”.
Ma’aroof Karkhi said, “Sufism is to take part in affairs with truth and dedication, and despairing of what is in the hands of the people”.
Hamdoon Qassār said, “Befriend the Sufis because they excuse all your evil and they are not threatened by your goodness and shall honor and magnify you with your own goodness”.
āz answered, “Sufism is for the folk who are reckless with their generosity and denial destroys them."  (ie. they cannot deny things to people, it is spiritual death.)
Junaid said, “
Sufism is a war with no peace”. (A war with your Self with no respite for the Self, unless and until there is unconditional surrender and obliteration of the Self.)
    And he also said, “They are the dwellers of one household with no strangers in their midst.  They live as a community, listening to their peers and following good advice.”
    Further, Junaid said, beautifully, “The Sufi is like a land wherein all evil is sowed and from it grows only the good.”
    Again, it was Junaid who said, “The Sufi is an earth upon which both good and bad roam, and the Sufi is like a cloud that casts shade upon anything and rains upon anything.”  (The Sufi judges not and             reacts not to the good & evil he conducts himself and without attention to any good and bad of others. And his benevolence is like a cloud indiscriminately generous with its shade and rain.)
    Lastly, from Junaid: “On the surface the Sufi looks busy and devoted to the daily affairs and work, but internally he is a ruin.”
Sahl Bin Abdullah said, “The Sufi would not demand or justify revenge or justice if his own blood were shed, but forbids the shedding of the other people’s blood. Moreover, the Sufi is at rest during poverty and generously sacrificing of his funds during times of affluence.”
āni said, “Sufism is morality and a propensity for good manners and disposition. The more one excels in behavior the more Sufism is within him.”
Abu Ali Roodb
āri said, “Sufism is to make beds upon the courtyard of the beloved and no matter how many times he is driven away he comes back to his love.”  (For both  the Divine and the worldly beloveds.)
Others have said, “The most evil and ugly in thing from the perspective of Sufism is miserliness.”  And, “Sufism is an empty hand and a happy heart.”  (That is, poverty and contentment.)

Shebly said, “To be a Sufi is to reside close to the Lord without any sorrow.”  And he added, “The Sufi is the one who is cut off from the people and yet has not reached the Lord.”  “And I have prepared thee for Myself (for service)" (Koran 20:41) said Allah to Prophet Moses, to destroy Moses’ greed towards anyone, and then Allah added, “By no means canst thou see Me directly.”  (Koran 7:143 ) (That is, you are for Me alone, yet you cannot reach Me.)

Mansoor Al-Mashir said, “
Sufi is the one to whom the Lord is pointing whilst people point at the Lord.
    And he also said, “Sufis are child-like in front of their Lord.”
    And also, “Sufism is a burning light.” (Lights and burns all in its path)
    And finally, “Sufism is prevention from gazing upon the creation.”
Abu Torab Nakhashbi said, “The Sufi is not polluted by anything and all evil is purified by him.”
And people have said, “the Sufi is not bothered by seeking and neither causalities nor destiny overwhelm him.”
Dhan-noon said, “Sufi is a community that chooses Allah above all things and Allah chooses them above all as well.”

Waaseti said, “Sufis are a nation amidst isharat (pointing towards the Lord) and thus movements are made here and there, but finally nothing is left except pining and lament.”

Hosry said, “The Sufi is too ethereal for the earth to grasp his steps, and skies cannot cast a shadow upon him and this is an isharat (hint) about his fading out of this world.”

Others said, “The Sufi is the one who, when facing two situations or two choices of behavior, always chooses the best, the more suitable one.”

Shebly was asked, “Why do Sufis have this name?”  He replied, “Because there is something left of their Self (nafs), since if there was nothing of their Self left there would be no need or possibility for naming them.”

Ibn Jalla said, “We do not consider someone a Sufi because of his knowledge, but a Dervish is the person who is independent of the causalities of life, close to the Lord, void of any place to be, and Allah does not deny him any knowledge.”

People said, “Sufism is to drop the pomp and much shame in both worlds.”

Abu Yaqoob said, “
Sufism is a state wherein traces of people fade and dissolve away.
Abul-Hasan Sirwani said, “Sufism is by iradaat (Elan, see chapter 27) not by chants and cosmetics.”

I heard from Abu Ali, “
The best description of Sufism is that it is a tariqat (way, path) upon which Allah sweeps away all the evil trash by the souls of the Sufis.”
And he said more, “The Dervish has and is nothing, and even if offered to the dogs they would not want him.”
Abu Sahl So’looki said, “Sufism is prevention of all objections.”

Hosri said, “Sufi is the one who having once lost the Self will not find it again, and once finding It (the Beloved) will never lose It again. Once he loses his Self and finds the Beloved, he does not seek the creation and thus, fallen from the state of Self, incidents and destiny do not impact upon him.”

And some said, “
The Sufi is the one that reflects whatever Allah has shone upon him. "  (Like a mirror.)
Some others said, “The Sufi is defeated by the attribute of Divinity and cloaked by the attribute of Deification.”  (The Sufi is destroyed without a trace when it comes to the Divine Being and cloaked, that is, . blocked or moved away from, any trace of apotheosis due to arrogance, ownership and power.  Because he is destroyed by perfect slavehood, or 'defeated by Divinity', Allah becomes the eye with which he sees, the hand with which he grasps, and so on.) 
āz said, “I was visiting Qirwaan and one day I saw a man begging and saying, “I am a Sufi, I have become weak and poor, give me some charity!"  I turned towards him to offer something but he did not take it, and said, “My need is not what you suspect,” and walked away. 



[1]Soffah’ was the title of a small group of highly spiritual and pious companions of the Prophet Mohammad who lived in his mosque and had no occupation other than the worship and practice of the spirituality of Islam. Names are such as Salman Bin Farsi or Bilal. They did not have any occupation other than preaching and worship. Mohammad, peace be upon him, assigned them each night to some household for food and they slept in the Prophet’s Mosque.

© 2009-2002,  Dara O. Shayda, Editor: Amina Attar