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Controversial Nature Of The Subject Of Sufism Religion Essay

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Before tenth century there had been started a new emphasis began to develop within the religion of Islam. This emphasis was a reaction against the prevailing impersonal and formal nature of Islam. For many Muslims the shari'a, while seen as necessary, failed to satisfy their deepest spiritual longings and desires. The search for deeper meaning led to the development of the popular mystical side of Islam - known as tasawwuf or Sufism.

The controversial nature of the subject of Sufism becomes evident when one realizes that this short introduction already reveals a viewpoint which the Sufi would strongly disagree with. For, if the Sufi spiritual quest is to be viewed as legitimate, even within Islam itself, it must be rooted in the Quran and the Sunna of Muhammad. (p.b.u.h)

In defense of Sufi legitimacy, some Muslims argue that it was simply a response to the growing materialism in the Islamic world. However, this argument skirts the basic reason for Sufism, as during early Islamic times under Muhammad's (p.b.u.h) leadership, wealth was enjoyed and served as a great motivation for the military expansion of Islam. Muslims, at the time, followed a legal system allowing unbridled materialism, though they were fully observant of the present religious doctrine. The formal and legal nature of the Islamic system never addressed the issue of materialism, and as a result was seen as inadequate by those who became Sufis in their search for deeper spirituality.

Sufism has inclined many Muslims, and is, especially in the West, represent and regarded as a valuable and legitimate part of the Islamic faith. Fazlur Rahman, in his work Islam, says that "considerable ink has been spent by modern scholarship on the 'origins' of Sufism in Islam, as to how far it is 'genuinely' Islamic and how far a product, in the face of Islam, of outside influences, particularly Christian and Gnostic." Rahman seems to hint that some of this ink has been wasted, as he concludes that "outside influences must have played an accessory role and these no one may deny, but they must have supervened upon an initial native tendency." However, aside from a vague reference to the ideas of trust in and love of Allah as being a result of "developments within the intellectual and spiritual life of the community,"

In reaction to critics, Sufis argue that tasawwuf has been present from the very initial stages of Islam, and profess to find evidence for their claims in the Sunna and the Quran. On this basis they state that tasawwuf "is the batin aspect of Islam."

According to Sufi principle a number of verses in the Quran provide clear support for their mysticism. Perhaps the most often quoted as a proof is Surah 24:35, "Allah is the Light of Heaven and Earth! His light may be compared to a niche in which there is a lamp; the lamp is in a glass; the glass is just as if it were a glittering star kindled from a blessed olive tree, {which is} neither Eastern nor Western, whose oil will almost glow though the fire has never touched it. Light upon light, Allah guides anyone He wishes to His light."

Sufism does throw in in the means of spirituality to the religion of Islam. Mounting out of the weakness of the Islamic system of faith and practice, it, however, added a aspect which has varied and further destabilized the structure of Islamic belief and practice.

Reflecting on the authentication presented, and ending given, we see that to suppose Sufism, with its important concepts, is a rightful part of Islam introduces definite problems for anyone who then challenge to try to defend Islam as a logically consistent set of beliefs. For Sufism not only points to a lack of spirituality in Islam, but also contradicts orthodox Muslim teachings - in the process clearly opening the door to all the world's religions

There have been a lot of aspects which should be discussed and reconsidered regarding this aspect of orthodox teachings of Islam, so I can write it is to be continued

Reference Notes:

Sufism, Reformed Internet Ministries

Andrew Rippin, Muslims: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices (New York: Routledge, 1990), 118, 119, 120

Fazlur Rahman, Islam (London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1966), 131, 148,149

Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Sufi Essays (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1972), 11-12, 15, 137, 138, 139, 147, 149

Tara Charan Rastogi, Islamic Mysticism - Sufism (New Delhi: Sterling Publishers Private Ltd., 1982), 1..

Titus Burckhardt, An Introduction to Sufism (Wellingborough: The Aquarian Press, 1990), 15, 16

In Arabic "Inna li'Llahi wa-inna ilayhi raji 'un." Martin Lings, What Is Sufism? (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1975), 28,32

Haqiqa refers to the 'inner Truth' or 'inner Reality' that Sufis believe is at the heart of Islamic revelation. William Stoddart, Sufism - The Mystical Doctrines and Methods of Islam (New York: Paragon House Publishers, 1986), 41, 66,67,83,74

Eisegesis, or the practice of interpreting meaning into a passage, bears a striking resemblance to Sufi methods of Quranic interpretation. Orthodox Muslims opposed to Sufism argue that Sufi interpretations are indeed eisegesis - in other words the Sufis are ascribing an 'inner' meaning which the verses themselves do not contain.

Fazlur Rahman in his work Islam states, "the Sufis, in order to justify their stand, formulated (ie. verbally invented) statements, sometimes quite fanciful and historically completely fictitious, which they attributed to the Prophet." Rahman, 132,133,134..

J. Spencer Trimingham, The Sufi Orders in Islam (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1971), 246..

Rahman, 140. Other authors also agree with Rahman's position on this point. A.J. Arberry argues that Abu Hamid al-Ghazali brought about Sufism's reconciliation and assimilation with orthodox Sunni theology and religious law, through a number of writings consolidated in the Ihya''ulum al-din, which was written between 1099 and 1102 A.D. A.J. Arberry, Sufism - An Account of the Mystics of Islam (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1950), 74. .

Ibn al-'Arabi (1165-1240 A.D.) was one of the great Sufi masters of all time and is referred to as 'The Greatest Shaikh' (al-Shaykh al-Akbar). Muslim opinion has always been split about Ibn al-'Arabi: for some he is a great heretic; for others, a great saint. Ian Richard Netton, A Popular Dictionary of Islam (London: Curzon Press, 1992), 110..

Elliot Miller, "Sufis - The Mystical Muslims," Forward (Spring/Summer 1986), 17-23..

Martin Lings, What is Sufism? (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1975), 84, 85, 99..

Dara Shikoh (also spelled Shukuh) was a Sufi of the Qadiriyyah order and a devout Muslim - according to Seyyed Hossein Nasr. Shukuh believed the Upanishads to be the 'Hidden Books' to which the Quran refers (lvi. 77-80) and wrote that "they contain the essence of unity and they are secrets which have to be kept hidden." Nasr states that "it is enough to read Shukuh's translation of any of the Upanishads to realize that he was not only translating words into Persian but also ideas into the framework of Sufism." However, as usual Nasr follows up with a statement denying that this is "an attempt to syncretize," once again revealing a blatant disregard for the evidence presented, not to mention a complete lack of logical thought.

The members of one popular order (the Mawlawiyya) begun by Jalal ad-Din Rumi (d. 1273) are the origin of the Western term 'whirling dervishes'

John Alden Williams, ed., Islam (New York: George Brazillier, 1962), 155-156..

Idries Shah, Reflections - Fables in the Sufi Tradition (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1972), 1.; Miller, 20..


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