Growing up in a fairly conservative suburb we get told all sorts of things about Sufis and how deviated they are, bidah, etc. I was pleased to read this piece from Darul Ifta as one of their Q&A’s
My question is regarding sufism, i have all the love and respect for the science of tassawuf, but ive been a bit confused, i just want to know why do they whirl and dance and do other unusual things?? is this allowed? and what is a tariqa?? and why do they have them? and what is a hadra? and are there any deviencies in some sufi tariqa’s? what about the naqshbandi?? and if one were to study tassawuf how would i know if what there doing devient? my biggest fear is doing something that puts me out of the fold of islam.
In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
Assalaamu `alaykum waRahmatullahi Wabarakatuh
Alhamdulillah, we are pleased to receive your question regarding Tasawwuf and delighted to learn of your enthusiasm to learn about this blessed discipline. The word Tariqah linguistically means â€œmannerâ€ or â€œmethodâ€ and in reference to the field of Tasawwuf, it refers to a school or order, e.g. the Chishti Tariqah, Naqshbandi Tariqah, Shadhili Tariqah etc. Tariqah in relation to Tasawwuf is analogous to the word â€œmadhhabâ€ in relation to the schools of Fiqh.
The science of Fiqh concerns itself with the external injunctions and regulations pertaining to things such as salah, fasting, stealing, interest etc., and the science of Tasawwuf concerns itself with the internal injunctions and regulations pertaining to things such as praiseworthy qualities, e.g. gratefulness, patience, sincerity etc. and reprehensible qualities, e.g. pride, ostentation and greed etc.
In essence, the goal of all the Tariqahs is one and the same, namely to cure spiritual maladies of the heart, elevate the spiritual status and ultimately gain closeness to Allah; the dissimilarities of the various Tariqahs mainly revolve around the difference of approach towards achieving this objective. Some Tariqahs implement one set of spiritual exercises whilst other Tariqahs implement a different set of exercises. Some differences in spiritual exercises stem from the differences of the Madhahib of the Shuyukh of each Tariqah. Considering the fact that the Shuyukh of Tasawwuf adhere strictly to the letter of the law, each Tariqah will differ in exercises of dhikr as well. This will be discussed later. At present, it should suffice to understand that this science pertains to the abstract metaphysical internal element of the soul, thus there exists many seemingly unusual practices and exercises prescribed by the Shuyukh to address such matters.
These exercises were implemented to kindle the burning love of Allah in the heart cleansing it from the rust caused by the passions of the ephemeral Dunya and all that towards which the lower self calls. Dhikr is the nourishment and sustenance of the soul. Just as there are various types of food with varying nutritional benefits, similarly, the various types of dhikr prescribed by the Shuyukh affect the spirit of a person in diverse ways. The field of Tasawwuf is usually likened to the field of medicine. Throughout history, man has discovered cures to various physical maladies, so to have the Shuyukh, the spiritual doctors, discovered cures for spiritual maladies. Some of the practices and cures are mentioned in the Qur’an, some in the Ahadith, and others have been discovered through the institution of tajrubah (personal experience). Generation after generation, the Shuyukh of Tasawwuf have dedicated their lives to this field, therefore, they know the effects of various adhkar upon the heart and soul. To those unfamiliar with Tasawwuf, such exercises may seem extremely peculiar and unusual.
It is understandable for people to feel uncomfortable and queasy during their first experience with such exercises. However, to repel this discomfort, one should bear in mind that the Shuyukh donâ€™t claim that these adhkar and spiritual exercises are new forms of worship where it would be classified as an innovation (bidâ€˜ah) in Din. Only those bereft of the understanding of Fiqh and the subtleties of Din make such professions. These spiritual prescriptions should be seen and regarded as a form of treatment (tadawi) for the sicknesses of the heart. Just as the physical body must be put through certain therapeutic exercises for the benefit and rejuvenation of the body, so to do the Shuyukh put the spiritual patient under various exercises to strengthen and treat the soul.
To give you some examples of such exercises, the famous Hadith of Rasulullah (pbuh) describes the various stages of a believer, from Islam, to Iman to Ihsan.
Jibril (AS) asked Rasulullah (pbuh) regarding Ihsan to which Rasulullah (pbuh) replied,
â€œIt is that you worship Allah as if you are seeing Him and if you are unable to see Him, then (know well) that He is seeing you.â€
From this Hadith we come to know that there is an extremely high spiritual position known as Ihsan. The question that arises is that how does a person reach such a status. The next question that arises is to whom should one go in order to learn how to attain it. If a person goes to a Muhaddith, his field and preoccupation is to merely to tell the questioner whether the Hadith is Sahih, Hasan, Dhaâ€˜if, how many chains of narration exist for the Hadith, and which narrators transmitted the Hadith etc. In regards to the meaning of the Hadith, at best, they could offer only a literal translation. If a person goes to a Faqih, he would only explain the various rulings that could be extracted from the Hadith as it pertains to the external injunctions of the Shariâ€˜ah.
The Faqih too could not advise the questioner how to attain such a status nor the reality of such a position because such a question does not pertain to his field of expertise. If a person wants to learn the reality of this spiritual position and experience it, he will have to go to a person who has himself reached it. He will have to go to such a person who has dedicated his life in perfecting his internal attributes and character. Only that person who has already reached the destination can direct the lost seeker to it. To acquire this state, some of the Shuyukh advise the Murid to sit in solitude and absolute silence with full concentration and in a state of wudhu, whilst closing his eyes, constantly repeating and deeply pondering over the verse,
â€œDoes he not know that Allah is watchingâ€
After continual practice, the Murid will ultimately establish the understanding and perception that Allah is watching him at all times, whether he is walking, talking, eating, praying etc. Only after exercising great patience and perseverance in acting upon the prescription of his Shaykh and continuously informing the Shaykh of his conditions and states will he understand and experience the quality of Ihsan.
Other peculiar forms of spiritual exercises include making loud dhikr with bodily motion whether standing, as in the case of hadrah as performed by the Shadhilis, or sitting, as performed by the Chishtis. Other exercises include certain breathing exercises like pas anfas as performed by the Chishtis and various forms of muraqabah (meditation) as done by the Naqshbandis etc.
The inherent permissibility or impermissibility of some of these exercises will rest upon the differences of the various Madhahib since some of these practices cross the boundary of a mere internal metaphysical sphere to the externally physical; thus, falling under the jurisdiction of the Fuqahaâ€™. To present a brief example, the practice of hadrah, a type of spiritual bodily movement similar to swaying that some refer to dancing coupled with loud dhikr, is permissible for the followers of the Shafiâ€˜i Madhhab since according to their â€˜Ulama and Madhhab dancing is permissible with certain conditions.
Consequently, it will be permissible for the Shuyukh and Murids who follow the Shafiâ€˜i Madhhab to participate in the hadrah. On the contrary, it will not be permissible for the Shuyukh and Murids of the Hanafi Madhhab to participate in the dancing or swaying of the hadrah since no form of dancing is permitted in the Madhhab unless one is overtaken by an uncontrollable state of ecstasy. It is for this reason that the majority of Shuyukh of the Ahnaf prescribe a different form of dhikr that produces the same result and effect as produced by the hadra. In the Chishti Tariqah, the Shuyukh prescribe loud dhikr of the Kalimah, La Ilaha illa Allah where the Murid sits and focuses his concentration on his heart with his head turned towards the direction of his heart. Then, with full devotion, absorption and zeal he recites La ilaaha (there is no deity) while moving his head towards the back and left intending thereby the negation and purging of everything other than Allah from the heart. Thereafter, with full vigor and force, he recites illa Allah (except Allah) while meditating that the love of Allah is flooding his heart. The similar effect of the hadra, namely, that of purification of the heart and spiritual vigor is thus produced which are some of the main ingredients for reviving the diseased heart.
It is important to bear in mind that unfortunately, there has always existed groups of self-centered, worldly motivated pseudo-Sufis who misrepresented Tasawwuf and used some of the practices of the Sufis, not to mention concocted some of their own, to suit their nafsani (selfish) desires. Some of them feign being Sufis in order to gain fame and popularity, others to engage in singing and dancing and others to earn money etc. It is from such people that deviances began to crop up in this pristine and praiseworthy science. Examples of their innovations include the Qawali where singing and music are rampant under the guise of Dhikr, grave-worship where people commit shirk by prostrating to the inmates of the grave, Salami where people stand up to offer salutations upon Rasulullah (pbuh) with the belief that Rasulullah (pbuh) visits the gathering and other similar practices that have no real connection with Tasawwuf. Because of the existence of such perfidious people and their impermissible practices, it has become a daunting task for sincere people such as you to find a true Shaykh and Tariqah. Every Tariqah has these imposters in their midst preying upon the ignorant masses; therefore, one must be cautious as to who one takes as a Murshid (guide). You should ensure that before taking formal bayâ€˜ah to any Shaykh or entering into any Tariqah, that the Shaykh is a complete adherent of the Shariâ€˜ah and upholds its dictates. Anyone who intentionally and openly breaks a single commandment of the Shariâ€˜ah is not worthy to be a Shaykh. A qualified Shaykh is he whose outward and inward appearance and actions conform to the Sunnah of Rasulullah (pbuh) A pious and righteous Shaykh is he in whose company a person feels the urge to act upon the dictates of the Shariâ€˜ah not disregard them. We advise you to continuously make duâ€˜a to Allah Taâ€˜ala to guide you to a pious and upright Shaykh who will guide you in the field of Tasawwuf. You should make Mashwarah with pious local â€˜Ulama if any for their views on finding a genuine Shaykh. It is also important to understand that aside from the Shaykh being firm upon the Shariâ€˜ah, it is imperative that one have some congeniality with the Shaykh so that one can gain spiritual benefit from him. Without the existence of this congeniality and amiability, it will be difficult to consult with oneâ€™s Shaykh and follow his advices. Once you have found such a Shaykh who is strict in adherence to the Shariâ€˜ah and the Sunnah and you have an amicable relationship with him, you should place all your trust in him and follow all of his instructions without any doubt. Inshallah, in this manner you will ascend the stages of Tasawwuf with relative ease and obtain your objective.
And Allah knows best
Wassalam u Alaikum
Ml. Yusuf bin Yaqub,
Student Darul Iftaa
Checked and Approved by:
Mufti Ebrahim Desai
Darul Iftaa, Madrassah In’aamiyyah