For Muslims: Sufism?


For Muslims on this board: what is the status of Sufism in today’s Islam?

Thank you!


Greetings Paradoxy.

Sufism has been a controversial topic in Islam through the last century or so, mainly due to it becoming ‘popular’ in the West; and so a type of pseudo-Sufism has developed carrying along with it many inauthentic and unIslamic practises, such as calling on ‘saints’ for intercession, praying at graves and certain beliefs that almost amount to pantheism.

However, despite this Sufism ***is ***a part of Islam, indeed there’s a very famous quote from Imam Malik that goes: “He who practices sufism without learning shari’ah corrupts his religion, while he who learns shari’ah without practicing tasawuf corrupts himself. Only he who combines the two proves true”, and there has been a movement from many scholars of Sufism recently to educate people as to what authentic Sufism is, and isn’t.

HERE’s a nice read.


Thank you, Kadaveri.

So there are still genuine Sufis out there? I’ve read that they were banned in Turkey, but wasn’t sure what the reason was. I’ve also read about the rise of “New Age” Western cults calling themselves Sufis. So I was wondering if there still were people like Rumi and Rabi’a out there. If there are, that’s nice to know.

So are they in any way “official” or part of a structure, like Christian monastic orders? Would you, for example, be able to just join one day if you wanted to?

The page you quote is informative, but I find its understanding of Christianity somewhat limited (to Western expressions of Christianity). You might be surprised to find many correspondences between Sufi and Eastern Orthodox practices and general mindsets.

All the best!


But these are well-established practices historically. As I understand it, it is the Wahhabi *rejection *of visiting the graves of saints that is a modern innovation. From what I’ve read on the subject, the reaction against Sufism was not due to Western interest but arose out of the Wahhabi reform, which tried to return to the beliefs and practices of the original four caliphs–much like fundamentalism or Puritanism in Christianity.



There are a lot of Sufis out there. Which of them are “genuine” or not is for Muslims to decide. My dad’s cousin converted to Sufism. She and her husband follow an Indian sheikh and seem to have a very tolerant, syncretistic approach to religion. So probably many Muslims would think they are not “real” Muslims–but they certainly think they are.



That’s exactly the kind of thing I was talking about really, you can’t convert to Sufism, as it’s not a religion nor is it a sect/denomination/school of thought or anything like that, it’s a practice of Islam. It’s like saying one can convert to “Kabbalah”; it shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what Sufism is. No Muslim in a position to say who is and isn’t a ‘real Muslim’, but we are (at least, those who are knowledgable are) in a position to tell others what practises are that of genuine Sufism and what aren’t; I’ve never been a fan of this Post-Modernist outlook on religion preaching that everyone can believe and worship however they want and call it whatever they want without criticism even if what they’re saying is plain wrong. I’d imagine Catholics would share this frustration Muslims have too. Take, for instance, there’s a group of people worshipping Pagan deities and claims that Jesus peace be upon him is an incarnation of some Hindu god, while insisting that they’re Catholics, would it be so wrong to tell people that they’re not practicing genuine Catholicism?

I acknowledge some interpret this as intolerance (when it’s not, really), but it must be said that there are many so-called Sufis (or to give the PC term, ‘non-traditional Sufis’) out there who do not practice authentic Sufism. A good litmus test for this is to ask them what is the first thing one must study to begin to persuit of Haqiqah (spiritual truth); and if they’re practicing genuine Sufism then the answer you’ll **always **get is Shari’ah (Islamic law), if you get something else, then they *are *something else.

And sorry I wasn’t entirely clear in my last post, I didn’t mean unIslamic practises from supposed ‘Sufis’ originated in it becoming somewhat of a New Age fad in the West, they didn’t. What I meant was it attracting interest in the West is the main reason why it’s controversial, and said this from a *Western *perspective, I wasn’t referring to issues in the Middle-east.

The Salafi-lead reaction against Sufism in Arabia of course doesn’t have anything to do with it being popular in the West, but arises wholly from a desire on the part of the Salafis to purify Islam from innovative practises that have appeared over the centuries that have no theological basis. Although I do think they had noble intentions, in some aspects they’ve went too far and have swung to the other side of the spectrum of where pseudo-Sufis are, in that they forbid practises which *do *have theological justification. Your post is a prime example of where Salafis have gone wrong Contarini; notice how I said praying at graves and calling for the intercession of saints was unIslamic, but you went on to say the Salafi rejection of *visiting *the graves is a modern innovation? Now they’re not the same thing, praying to dead people is absolutely forbidden in Islam and the Salafis are absolutely right to stop people doing it, but going so far as to forbid from just *visiting *graves? That’s extreme, and is a modern innovation.

Now on how Sufi orders work, I’m not an expert on this so I can only give the basics, but from what I know there are numerous orders/schools one may join which are called a ‘Tariqah’, and each Tariqah is headed by Murshid, who ideally should be the most knowledgable scholar of Sufism and serves as a teacher/guide for the students there. Traditionally a Murshid stays in his position until he dies, and a successor is chosen through Shura (mutual consultation between the elite). So not quite as closely structured as Christian monastic orders, but there are similarities. And yes I could join one if I wanted to (you have to be a Muslim to join, though), they’re pretty open about letting people (including non-Muslims) visit and just have a look around though, at least the ones I’m aware of are.

Yes there are very much still genuine Sufis out there. I think what you’ve read about them being banned in Turkey refers to the purges of their orders by Mustafa Kemal after he took power, since he was a staunch secularist and felt the numerous Sufi orders in Turkey were a threat so they were all destroyed. At least that’s what was attempted, but it didn’t really work and by the 1990s they’re pretty much back in the open again in Turkey now.

Peace. :slight_smile:


Thank you, Kadaveri!

Informative and balanced, as always!

Peace and God bless!

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