What is Sufism?
SUFISM (TASAWWUF) IS the form which mysticism has taken in Islam. The term Sufism embraces the
philosophy and practices in Islam which aim at direct communion between God and man.
The Derivation of Sufi
SCHOLARS DIFFER AS to the meaning and derivation of this word which is used for those who opt for
this spiritual path. Some of them associate it with the Arabic word ‘safa’ meaning purity. Others
are of the view that it may refer to the Ashabus Safa, or the people of the bench. When the
Prophet migrated to Madinah, with his companions, the majority of them managed S to earn their
livelihood by engaging in trade or taking up some employment. Some of them worked in orchards,
while others engaged in trade as they used to do in Makkah. But there were a sizeable number of
people who could not engage themselves in any such activity. They did not even have their own roof
to take shelter under. These people used to stay in the verandah or porch of the Prophet’s mosque.
Here they spent their time in worship, in listening to the Prophet’s words and memorizing them.
Similarly they memorized the verses of the Quran as they were being revealed from time to time.
Having all the time at their disposal, they managed to preserve in their memory both the Quran and
Abu Hurayrah, being one of them, had memorized the greatest number of traditions. Having no
worldly activities to engage their attention they lived a very simple life.
They often gathered sticks for a living and satisfied their hunger by eating the dates which had
fallen from the palm trees.
The Prophet looked after them and asked his companions to help them. Since the porch of the mosque
had become virtually their home, they came to be called Ashaabus Safa.
However, the majority of the scholars are of the opinion that the word sufi comes from the word
‘Sufi’ or wool. This is because most of the early ascetics wore undyed woolen garments of a coarse
quality. This coarse cloth symbolized their voluntary poverty and renunciation of the world and
all its pleasures.
Back of the Book
In the book, A Simple Guide to Sufism, the author focuses on the continuing relevance of Sufism,
which is increasingly acknowledged as a spiritual answer to modern materialism. As an introductory
guide, it offers students a lucid account of the origin, development and distinguishing features
of the major Sufi orders, and their impact on the development of Islamic tradition. In its
examination of their organization, it presents in detail their various rituals, practices and
ceremonies. Highlighting the relevance of Sufism in modern life, it concludes with a chapter on
meditation and zikr (remembrance of God), the central part of the Sufi tradition.
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