|A Closer Look at Sufism|
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Perhaps the biggest challenge in learning Islam correctly today is the scarcity of traditional ‘ulema. In this meaning, Bukhari relates the sahih or “rigorously authenticated” hadith that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said,
The process described by the hadith is not yet completed, but has certainly begun, and in our times, the lack of traditional scholars—whether in Islamic law, in hadith, in tafsir or “Qur’anic exegesis”—has given rise to an understanding of the religion that is far from scholarly, and sometimes far from the truth. For example, in the course of our own studies in Islamic law, our first impression from Orientalist and Muslim-reformer literature was that the Imams of the madhhabs or “schools of jurisprudence” had brought a set of rules from completely outside the Islamic tradition and somehow imposed them upon the Muslims. But when we sat with traditional scholars in the Middle East and asked them about the details, we came away with a different point of view, having been taught something about the bases for deriving the law from the Qur’an and sunna.
And similarly with Tasawwuf—which is the word we will use below for the English Sufism, since our context is traditional Islam—quite a different picture emerges from talking with scholars of Tasawwuf than what one is exposed to in the West. The follow essay presents knowledge taken from the Qur’an and sahih hadith, and from actual teachers of Sufism in Syria and Jordan, in view of the need for all of us to get beyond clichés, the need for factual information from Islamic sources, the need to answer such questions as: Where did Sufism come from? What role does it play in the din or religion of Islam? and most importantly, What is the command of Allah about it?