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Sufism – Major Beliefs and Practices

Last Updated : 14 Dec, 2023
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Sufism: The medieval era saw a major social and religious movement in the Islamic world called the Sufi movement. In India, along with the Bhakti movement, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the Sufi movement also became popular and left its indelible mark on the hearts of the people. The Sufi movement was a symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity. The Sufi scholars traveling across continental Asia were instrumental in the social, economic, and philosophical development of India.

In addition to preaching in major cities and centers of intellectual thought, Sufis reached out to poor and marginalized rural communities and preached in local dialects such as Urdu, Sindhi, and Punjabi.

In this article, we will read about Sufism, the major beliefs of Sufism, and its practices in detail.

What is Sufism?

Sufism originally originated from Islam, which continued to flourish in India. Some scholars argue that Sufism came to India before the Muslim invasion. Sufi mystics used to come to India with Arab travelers. The real propagation of Sufism was done by Abul Hasan and he became famous for his liberal ideology. The famous preacher of Sufism in India was Saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti.

Sufism Meaning

Sufism is a mystical and ascetic form of Islamic practice that focuses on the inward search for God and spiritual closeness. Followers of Sufism, known as Sufis or Dervishes, emphasize the importance of love, knowledge, and the direct personal experience of God’s presence

The Sufi movement also has many branches. A group of Sufi preachers took a very revolutionary path. They were mystics who renounced the material world and took up a life of penance. Apart from this, they also rejected the supremacy of Sharia laws. Such Sufis were called Be-Sharia. On the other hand, some Sufi saints criticized the extravagant lifestyle of emperors and caliphates but did not reject Sharia laws. These Sufi saints were called Ba-Sharia.

Main principles of Sufism

1. God

According to Sufism, God is one. The world is a reflection of God. Everything in the world is given by God. According to them, God is the only real being. Its form is eternal and everywhere. According to Sufi seekers, God is unique, absolute, imperceptible, infinite, and the ultimate truth. Apart from the ultimate truth, he is the ultimate welfare and supremely beautiful. Thus, the Sufi doctrine can be said to be based on Satyam Shivam Sundaram.

2. Soul

Sufi saints consider the soul to be a part of God. According to Sufis, the soul used to rule before it got imprisoned in the human body. That’s why Sufi seekers welcome death and thus the liberation of the soul. In the view of Sufi seekers, two qualities are predominant in the soul, Nafs and Rooh. Nafs is the source of all vices, pride, ignorance, anger, lust, fear. The Rooh or The spirit is the abode of God. The Nafs and Rooh are in a constant conflict.

3. Light (Noor)

According to the Sufis, when God had the desire to create the universe, he created light. The light is referred to as Noor e Muhammad (the light of Muhammad). God created the universe with this light.

4. Humans

Humans and helping fellow human beings are given the utmost importance in Sufism. According to Sufism, human beings are the best creation of God in the universe. According to Sufi seekers, man manifests all the qualities of God’s soul. Every human being should do good deeds. Good deeds bring man closer to God. Due to bad deeds, he turns away from God. A man can rise above the human condition and attain divinity. In this stage, he can listen to the teachings of God and put forth good ideas in front of the public.

5. Importance of teacher (Pir)

Pir has great importance in Sufism. Pir is the one who takes the seeker to God. A Sufi seeker cannot achieve anything without a spiritual master. Seeker always sees his Pir like God. Before being initiated into this religion, a person has to make certain vows in front of the Pir. The disciple had to do all the work like staying in the ashram, filling water, cleaning, etc. It is necessary to have a Pir to cross the difficult paths. With the help of Pir, a person achieves his real objective. Malik Muhammad Jayasi has written in this regard, “Don’t walk without your Pir, else you’ll do mistakes”.

6. Love

Love has great importance in the practice of Sufis. Love in the physical, mental, and spiritual sense is the driving force and the basis of Sufism is love. According to this God is uniquely beautiful and can be attained through love. The pleasure and benefit that comes from attachment to something is love.

Impact of Sufism

Sufism has a great impact on the culture and lifestyle of people influencing various aspects of individuals and societies:

  • Sufism has a profound impact on individual spiritual development. Followers engage in practices like dhikr (remembrance of God) and Sufi music to achieve spiritual enlightenment and inner peace.
  • Sufism often emphasizes the universality of spiritual truths, and Understanding. Sufi leaders have played roles in promoting tolerance and peaceful existence.
  • Many Sufi orders engage in charitable activities and social welfare. They contribute to education, healthcare, and helping marginalized communities, embodying the compassionate principles of Sufism.
  • Sufi teachings have inspired a rich tradition of art, literature, and architecture. Sufi motifs can be seen in Islamic art, and Sufi poetry continues to be celebrated for its profound wisdom and beauty.

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Conclusion – Sufism

As a religious and political institution, the Sufis turned to asceticism and mysticism to protest the growing materialism of the Caliphate. They were against dogmatic definitions and educational methods of interpreting the Qur’an and Sunna adopted by theologians. They emphasized attaining salvation through intense devotion and love for God. They regarded Prophet Muhammad as a perfect human being and suggested following his example.

Sufism opposes the propaganda of fanatics for faith and devotion to God. Sufism is a spiritual movement against the orthodox practice of Islam whose aim is to bring mankind to the realization of God without any intermediary. These people were interested in Hindu-Muslim unity and cultural harmony. The main aim of Sufism is to serve humanity through spiritual self-development.

FAQs on Sufism

1. What is the meaning of Sufism?

Sufism is a mystical and spiritual dimension of Islam, emphasizing inner knowledge, love, and direct personal experience of the divine.

2. What is the main belief in Sufism?

The major belief in Sufism is the pursuit of closeness to God through spiritual practices, such as meditation, chanting, and rituals, aiming for a deep, personal connection with the divine.

3. Who is founder of Sufism?

Sufism emerged organically within Islam, and it doesn’t have a specific founder. It developed as a mystical and contemplative aspect of Islamic practice.

4. What is God according to Sufism?

In Sufism, God is understood as the ultimate reality, and the goal is to experience the divine presence intimately through spiritual practices and inner transformation.

5. Is Sufism and Hinduism same?

Sufism and Hinduism are distinct religious traditions. While Sufism is a mystical aspect of Islam, Hinduism is a separate and ancient religion with its own diverse beliefs, practices, and traditions.

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