Sufism

Sufism, or Taṣawwuf (الْتَّصَوُّف‎), variously defined as "Islamic mysticism", "the inward dimension of Islam" or "the phenomenon of mysticism within Islam", is mysticism in Islam, "characterized ... [by particular] values, ritual practices, doctrines and institutions" which began very early in Islamic history and represents "the main manifestation and the most important and central crystallization of" mystical practice in Islam. Practitioners of Sufism have been referred to as "Sufis" (from صُوفِيّ‎ ṣūfiyy / ṣūfī). Historically, Sufis have often belonged to different ṭuruq or "orders" – congregations formed around a grand master referred to as a wali who traces a direct chain of successive teachers back to the Prophet Muhammad.

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Amina Inloes, Amina Inloes is originally from the US and has a PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Exeter on Shi'a hadith. She is the program leader for the MA Islamic Studies program at the... Answer updated 3 months ago

Different Muslims, both Sunnis and Shi'is, have varying views about al-Hallaj. Some take a negative view of him, especially this statement, and others appreciate the spirit of it.

Regarding al-Hallaj, Ayatollah Motahhari says in his introduction to 'irfan:

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Now famous simply as al-Hallaj, he is one of the most controversial mystics of the Islamic world. The shathiyyat uttered by him are many, and he was accused of apostasy and claiming divinity. The jurisprudents pronounced him an apostate and he was crucified during the reign of the 'Abbasid caliph al-Muqtadir.

The 'urafa' themselves accuse him of disclosing spiritual secrets. Hafiz has this to say about him:

He said, that friend, who was raised high on the cross,

His crime was that he used to reveal secrets.

Some consider him no more than a charlatan, but the 'urafa' themselves absolve him and say that the statements of al-Hallaj and Bayazid that gave the impression of unbelief were made when they were beside themselves in the state of 'intoxication'.

Al-Hallaj is remembered by the 'urafa' as a martyr. He was executed in 309/913. 

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So there are varying views.

Sayyed Mohammad Al-Musawi, Sayyed Mohammad al-Musawi is originally from Iraq and heads up the World Ahlul Bayt Islamic League in London. Other than being involved in various humanitarian projects, he frequently responds to... Answered 3 months ago

Hussain Ibn Mansoor Al-Hallaaj was a Sufi who deviated and claimed that he is a representative of Imam Al-Mahdi (AS). He claimed many dangerous claims including claiming that he is Allah or part of Allah (SWT). He was cursed by our Shia scholars as well as as Sunni scholars. Our great scholar Shaikh Al-Mufeed wrote a book against him and his cult called Tasheeh Al-E'tiqadaat Al-Imamiyyah. His claim (Ana Al-Haqq) shows his deviation and falsehood.

Even Sunni scholars refused his false claims and complained against him to the Abbasid king Al-Moqtadir who killed him in year 309 Hijri.

His cult was called Al-Hallajiyyah and they did not pray Salah nor perform any Islamic worship. This was mentioned by Shaikh Al-Sadouq in Al-E'tiqadaat (97).

Wassalam,

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Amina Inloes, Amina Inloes is originally from the US and has a PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Exeter on Shi'a hadith. She is the program leader for the MA Islamic Studies program at the... Answered 6 months ago

It's not haraam. Different things benefit different people and at different times of life. 

Sayyed Mohammad Al-Musawi, Sayyed Mohammad al-Musawi is originally from Iraq and heads up the World Ahlul Bayt Islamic League in London. Other than being involved in various humanitarian projects, he frequently responds to... Answered 6 months ago

Being a Shia Muslim means to be a follower of the Prophet (SAWA) and his Holy Progeny Ahlul Bayt (AS). Following Ahlul Bayt in faith, shariah and spirituality will never let the follower in need to follow any one else. Sufi meditations were created to fill the Spiritual gap which was felt by Muslims who were kept away or born in areas away from the spiritual teachings of Ahlul Bayt (AS).

Real Shia Muslim has enough spiritual food in the life, teachings and supplications of Ahlul Bayt (AS).

Wassalam.

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Sayyed Mohammad Al-Musawi, Sayyed Mohammad al-Musawi is originally from Iraq and heads up the World Ahlul Bayt Islamic League in London. Other than being involved in various humanitarian projects, he frequently responds to... Answered 6 months ago

This claim is Not acceptable at all. Allah, The Most Exalted, The Most Merciful, The Most High will never be united with any one neither in this life nor in the hereafter. Allah says in Quran : There is nothing like Him. (Sura 42, verse 11.

Ameerul Mo'mineen Ali (AS) said: Allah is much higher than mixing or being similar to His creatures وتنزّهَ عن مُجانسة مخلوقاته.

Wassalam.

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Rebecca Masterton, Dr Rebecca Masterton graduated with a BA in Japanese Language and Literature; an MA in Comparative East Asian and African Literature and a PhD in Islamic literature of West Africa. She has been... Answer updated 7 months ago

"Meditation in the life of the Prophet (sawa) predated the divinely revealed instruction on canonical prayer. The Prophet (sawa) underwent long periods of spiritual retreats known as tahannuth on mount Hira. As we have seen given the fact that His daughter used a black knotted prayer rope used in the hesychast tradition indicates that he himself most probably engaged in body-breath-mind meditative practices BEFORE the command of performing Salah was given through divine revelation." (Dr. Francisco Luis).

The field of the transmission of practices from the Imamiyya to what later became Sufi groups and then orders is one of the most neglected in Islamic Studies, although it is slowly developing. Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezzi mentions possible links between the muraqaba techniques practiced by the Naqshbandiyya-Mujadidiyya and the Imamiyya (pps 50-51, The Divine Guide in Early Shi'ism) - although this does not involve breathing techniques, but rather connection through intention to subtle centres called 'lata'if'. It is interesting that the Naqshbandiyya arose in Khorasan where there were many Imamiyya. It is a general rule that with the democratisation of a religious/spiritual movement, there can be a watering down of its teachings. Similarly, we have almost no extant texts from the early period of Islam - and that can't be just because all of the texts were burned or destroyed; so the question remains with regard to the full extent of what has been lost, and why.

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Rebecca Masterton, Dr Rebecca Masterton graduated with a BA in Japanese Language and Literature; an MA in Comparative East Asian and African Literature and a PhD in Islamic literature of West Africa. She has been... Answer updated 1 year ago

Analysis of the texts shows that Sufism as a recognised movement, which began to be consolidated under the Sunni Shafi'i Junayd al-Baghdadi, started to take shape during the minor occultation. Even the earliest famous Sufis, such as Sahl al-Tustari (from Shushtar, Iran) and Bayazid Bastami, were from this era. The time of the Minor Occultation and beyond saw an explosion and proliferation of occult (hidden) and mystical movements. The Isma'ili movement also started during this time.

Many Sufi doctrines were copied and pasted from Imami Shi'ism, such as the concept of the walayah of the saint/wali of God (borrowed almost word-for-word from the concept of the walayah of the Imam). In addition to concepts and practices arising from Imami (Twelver) Shi'ism, other concepts also most likely entered Sufi culture, such as that of fana' fi-llah (ecstatic annihiliation in God). This could come from the Greek concept of henosis, which existed in the Neoplatonic tradition.

Most of the well-known Sufis were technically Sunni (even if people claim that Sufism has no madhhab. You can test that out by asking anyone who considers themselves Sufi what they think of the first three khulafa). The question arises therefore, from a Shi'i perspective: why did these 'great Sufis' not recognise the imamate of the Imam of their time? Why did they choose an alternative route? Why do Sufi orders focus on the adhkar and practices of their founders, but not on those of the Imams?

Some strains of Sufism, such as that of Mansur al-Hallaj (executed during the Minor Occultation), also play around with theology; for example, Hallaj championed Iblis and Pharoah, claiming that they were in fact true monotheists, and were simply 'annihilated in God' and were therefore victims of their perfect love for God. This directly contradicts what the Qur'an says about Iblis and Pharaoh, and what the Imams have said also. This kind of Sufism challenged the 'conventional' ideas of tawhid and espoused the idea that true tawhid is when it is realised that there is no difference between the Lover (the human) and the Beloved (God). There is no evidence in the teachings of the Ahl al-Bayt (as) to support this. In the School of Ahl al-Bayt (as), of course love and intimacy with God are encouraged, but the idea of merging the identity with God's identity most likely originates from India, or, as I said, from the Neoplatonic tradition.

With regard to the tariqas themselves, close scrutiny of their chains up to the time of their eponymous founders during the early medieval period (12th-13th centuries CE) reveals inconsistencies and illogicalities, which indicate that they have been fabricated. Sufis were under intense pressure from the authorities to justify their beliefs and practices, and most likely borrowed the idea of a chain of saints from the Imami Shi'i school - or else from many of the other spiritual movements of the region that also had chains of initiation as a way of trying to prove their legitimacy.

The Naqshbandi Order's chain effectively espouses the idea that Imam al-Sadiq (as) 'inherited' knowledge from Abu Bakr. (Does that really make sense, when al-Sadiq's (as) forefather was Imam Ali (as)?) It also claims that Bayazid Bastami was Imam al-Sadiq's (as) water carrier and inherited knowledge from Imam al-Sadiq (as), but Imam al-Sadiq (as) had already passed away 150 years before Bayazid Bastami lived. The Chishti Order claims that Hasan al-Basri inherited knowledge from Imam 'Ali (as), but if you read the book 'Between Myth and History' by Suleiman Ali Mourad, you can see the extent to which the person of Hasan al-Basri was fabricated by different schools of thought. Who he really was, we don't know. He worked for the Umayyads, and never supported Imam Ali (as) once Imam Ali (as) had departed for Kufa. Many Sufis also had close ties to the governments of their time, such as 'Abd al-Qadir Jilani (Gilani), who taught in Baghdad.

The best thing to do is to study Sufism and the orders while bearing in mind the historical, social and political context of the era. Overall, Sufi Orders are Sunni and go as far as denouncing the Shi'a. One order, the Kubrawiyya, did split, and one branch became Shi'a, hence why texts from the Kubrawiyya Order are taught as part of the 'irfani tradition in Iran. Nevertheless, the roots of the Kubrawiyya are technically Sunni. 

Abbas Di Palma, Shaykh Abbas Di Palma holds a BA and an MA degree in Islamic Studies, and certifications from the Language Institute of Damascus University. He has also studied traditional Islamic sciences in... Answer updated 1 year ago

as salam alaikum

Shi'a authentic spirituality does not fall under the category of "sufism" as it is widespread nowadays. Shi'a spirituality is based on a deep understanding  of the Qur'an and Sunnah and it includes taqwa, zuhd, dhikr and love for Allah in the way practiced by the Imams and their followers. Concepts and practices that have been introduced later on are not part of the spiritual Shi'a legacy.

In other words the purification of the soul according to Quranic teachings and Prophetic Sunnah as transmitted from the Imams is endorsed but no innovations should be introduced in it.

This does not tantamount to deny the possibility of mystical experiences by the believer but rather it confirms it as Allah wills.

With prayers for your success.

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Amina Inloes, Amina Inloes is originally from the US and has a PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Exeter on Shi'a hadith. She is the program leader for the MA Islamic Studies program at the... Answer updated 1 year ago

It really depends who you ask. People who are against irfan and Sufism will say no, and cite their arguments. Some other people will say yes and cite their arguments.

My personal view is that the general ideas and goals behind irfan and Sufism are in concordance with the teachings of the Prophet (S). For instance, many people who practice the mystical traditions emphasize compassion, forgiveness, humility, self-purification, awareness of God, service, and spiritual development. (If they aren't focusing on these things, they aren't doing a very good job at being mystics!)

(This is not to say I agree with everything said or done by everyone who practices Sufism and irfan, only that I feel that some of what is said matches what I believe to be the core values of Islam.)

However, in my view, some of what is said by people who practice Sufism is not really directly from the Prophet. It may have truth and it is possible for something to be true and beneficial even if does not come directly from the Prophet, I am just saying that attributing it to the Prophet seems to be historically unsourced. However this is a very broad subject since there are so many varieties of Sufism and mystical traditions in Islam.

The same thing could be said about practices, one can evaluate them individually to see whether or not they seem to be reflective of the intent of the Prophet.

From a broader perspective, historically, the mystical and literal approaches to Islam have tended to balance each other out and provide balance in society, and I think it is worth appreciating this. Some Muslims go to the extreme of promoting a heavily literal and harsh interpretation of Islam (for instance, putting all their focus into checking how other people do their wudu and instructing them if they see something they personaly think is incorrect) and this is also not, in my view, the ethos of the Prophet. So I think the mystical traditions of Islam have provided a good contribution to Islamic civilization. 

EDIT: From the perspective of maraji', some maraji' have supported 'irfan, and others have not. For instance, Imam Khomeini was a strong advocate of 'irfan. I have heard that in his younger years, Ayatollah Khoei also practised some 'irfani practices. 

Sufism is a more complicated question because most Sufi orders are more associated with Sunnism, and have their own authority structures.

However, it doesn't need to be an either-or question. That is, one might go to a marja' to get a fatwa or judgment or even political advice, and go to an 'irfani or Sufi shaykh to ask for personal spiritual guidance.

My experience is that when practising Shi'is wish to explore 'irfan or Sufism, it is usually because they want something that is not available locally to them in their religious communities. It could be a stronger spiritual experience, fellowship, or something else.

However I feel that the main conflict that can arise with non-Shi'i Sufi orders is a difference in worldview and theology - that is, at some point, there may be teachings that conflict with a Shi'i worldview, In that case, one has to decide what to follow. 

Also, different people are receptive to different types of spiritual practice. For instance, for some people, reciting a du'a text will be a very strong experience; for others, they might gain more spiritually from actions, such as helping people. Sometimes, also, after reciting the same du'a repeatedly for years and years, they may integrate it into themself and, while continuing to recite the du'a because it is mustahhab, they may wish to explore other approaches to spiritual growth. I do not personally see anything wrong with this, but again we are getting back to my personal view!

(I am also qualifying it as my personal view to take full responsibility for it, and to make any errors my own)

Also, some Sufis recite the same du'as as Shi'is, for instance, Jawshan al-Kabir or Nad-e-Ali

Sayyed Mohammad Al-Musawi, Sayyed Mohammad al-Musawi is originally from Iraq and heads up the World Ahlul Bayt Islamic League in London. Other than being involved in various humanitarian projects, he frequently responds to... Answered 1 year ago

The real authority in religious matters is the most learned scholars who are known as Maraaji' of Taqleed. Their opinion is based on comprehensive research in Quran, Hadeeth, Intellect and Ijmaa' (consensus). Among them, the verdict of the most learned is to be taken. 
Irfan and Sufism are two terms about which there are many different opinions among the scholars. 
Many think that spiritual upliftment can be achieved through Sufism. This is not the real picture which we read it in Quran and Hadeeth and life of the Prophet (SAWA) and Ahlul Bayt (AS). Spiritual upliftment is achieved by self control and self purification acts,like thinking, fasting, night prayers, reciting Quran and Du'a, strengthening our will power, remembering our near future (tomorrow) after this life and above all, humbleness in following the Prophet and his Ahlul Bayt(AS). These acts lead to Spiritual purification do not need any of ways of Sufism.

Followers of Ahlul Bayt (AS) have very rich and comprehensive spiritual materials which is more than sufficient to provide them with spiritual purification in every step and degree. That is why you find most of the followers of Ahlul Bayt (AS) and their scholars not involved in Sufi ways while you see that many of our Sunni brothers seek spiritual purification through Sufi ways because they do not have in their books the great treasures which we have from Ahlul Bayt (AS). Just see as an example the book known as Sahifa Sajjadia which has number of supplications narrated from Imam Al-Sajjad (AS) as well other supplications from other Imams like Du'a Kumail, Du'a Al-Sabah, Du'a Abi Hamza al-Thimaali, Du'a Jawshan and many other supplications. 
Many non Shia scholars were amazed when they came across supplications narrated from Ahlul Bayt and found it unique and with no similar in the the whole Muslim books.

Wassalam.

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Amina Inloes, Amina Inloes is originally from the US and has a PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Exeter on Shi'a hadith. She is the program leader for the MA Islamic Studies program at the... Answer updated 1 year ago

Allah says in the Qur'an that the only thing that will not be forgiven is that partners be associated with Allah, and that Allah forgives whatever else Allah wills.

Allah also says in the Qur'an that whoever believes and works righteous deeds, including Jews, Christians, and Sabeans, will have a good afterlife.

With that in mind, how can someone exclude some people from heaven just because they are not Shi'i (or Shi'i Ithna Ashari)? 

Only Allah has the authority and power to send people to heaven or hell. 

Nowadays, also, people often follow religions or sects due to inherited understandings and doctrines. A Sunni who loves certain individuals (who do not have the same status among Shi'is) does so because they have heard very good things about them, or because they believe the Prophet (S) loves them, not because they are trying to fight against the Imams or support wrong.

It is a different situation for someone who actually was alive during the time of Imam 'Ali (A) and saw him and rejected him or physically fought against him. Anyway most Sunnis, and most or all Sufis, respect Imam 'Ali and other Imams, they just have a different understanding of their role. 

However, following the teachings of Ahl al-Bayt (A) through the Imams can help develop one's ethics, actions, and spirituality in such a way that can, insha'allah, help with going to heaven. Also one can hope for the intercession of the Imams (A) if one has a close relationship to them and is dedicated to them, and this is also an invaluable gift. 

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Sayyed Mohammad Al-Musawi, Sayyed Mohammad al-Musawi is originally from Iraq and heads up the World Ahlul Bayt Islamic League in London. Other than being involved in various humanitarian projects, he frequently responds to... Answered 2 years ago

Our scholars study the chain of narrators and the text of every narration to assess the authenticity of it. We do not say that all narrations claimed to be from Imam Jafar Al-Sadiq (AS) are authentic. 

Wassalam.