Throughout Islamic history Muslims have used the Arabic word Tasawwuf to identify the practice of purifying the inner self, better known in English as Sufism. The great scholars of our illustrious tradition have defined Tasawwuf as the name for the inner or esoteric dimensions of Islam. Its ultimate objective is spiritual enlightenment through the purification of the heart, simultaneously adopting the inwardly perfected attributes of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.
It has been established that these lofty stations can only be achieved when supported and complemented by the outward exoteric practices of the faith. All of which are derived from the blessed Sharia. The Sharia is extracted from the Glorious Quran, the sacred Prophetic traditions and the consensus of the classical scholars of Islam.
The Islamic science of Tasawwuf is a tried and tested methodology of attaining the sincerest form of love for Allah ﷻ and his most noble Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. It utilises two core principles. Firstly continuous remembrance (dhikr) and consciousness of Allah ﷻ; secondly abasement and opposition of the lower self, the ego or commonly referred to as the nafs.
Great luminaries have traversed this channel which has been refined and perfected over hundreds of years. There are numerous pathways (in Arabic: Tariqa - “Path”, plural: Turuq) which one can undertake to develop the spiritual faculties; however the epicentre at which all these rivers meet is the same, that is the mercy to the universes, our Master Sayyidunah Muhammad ﷺ, who is the distributor of the divine bounties of Allah ﷻ.
The greatest Mujtahid Imams (the diligent four Imams of the Ahl as-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah) of this nation said the following in relation to inward purification of heart, mind, body and soul:
Imam Nu’man Ibn Thabit, Abu Hanifa (80 AH – 150 AH), founder of the Hanafi school of Jurisprudence: “If it were not for two years, I would have perished.” He said, “For the two years I accompanied Sayyidina Ja’far as-Sadiq (a great grandson of Imam Ali) and I acquired the spiritual knowledge that made me a gnostic (Sufi) in the way.” (Ad-Durr al-Mukhtar, vol 1. p. 43)
Imam Anas Ibn Malik (93 AH – 179 AH), founder of the Maliki school of Jurisprudence: “Whoever studies Jurisprudence (Fiqh) and does not study Sufism (Tasawwuf) will be corrupted; and whoever studied Sufism and does not study Jurisprudence will become a heretic; and whoever combined both will ultimately reach the Truth. (Kashf Al-Khafa Wa Muzid Al-Abas, vol. 1, p. 341)
Imam Muhammad Ibn Idris al-Shafi’i (150 AH – 204 AH), founder of the Shafi’i school of Jurisprudence: “I accompanied the people of Tasawwuf and I received from them three types of knowledge: how to speak, how to treat people with leniency and a soft heart, and they guided me in the ways of Tasawwuf (the inner realms).” (Tanwir al-Qulub p. 405)
Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (164 AH – 241 AH), founder of the Hanbali school of Jurisprudence: “Oh my son, you have to sit with the People of Tasawwuf, because they are like a fountain of knowledge, they keep the Remembrance of Allah ﷻ in their hearts. They are the ascetics and they have the most spiritual power.” (Ghiza Al-Albab, vol 1, p. 120)