What exactly does Sufi mean

 Sufism in general
Sufism is the mysticism of Islam. The Sufi not only wants to understand the Koran externally and to direct his life according to it, but also to discover its "inner" side and thereby fully fulfill the devotion (= Islam) to God. This means that the Sufi is not satisfied with the fulfillment of the Islamic duties (The five pillars of Islam) and the keeping of the law (Shari'a). He seeks the direct experience of God that leads him into unity with God. The Prophet Mohammed was always the model and was regarded as the first "Sufi" to lead a life completely permeated by God. Sufism is a vastly diverse movement. In the more than 1000 years of history, countless orders and brotherhoods have formed, each of which has developed its own methods.

Origin of the word: Sufism is most likely derived from the Arabic word "suf" (wool). "suf" was the name given to the white woolen dress that the first mystics wore as a sign of humility. Another possibility is the derivation of arab. "safu" (purity), as the Sufis strive for spiritual purity.

Outline of the history of Sufism
Due to the rapid expansion of Islam at the time of the first caliphs, such wealth accumulated in their hands that certain signs of decadence appeared in the Islamic metropolises. In order to counteract the impending loss of Islamic ideals, the first ascetic communities emerged from the 8th century onwards. As forerunners of the Sufis, they lived in poverty, preached about verses from the Koran and walked around in woolen robes. The first Sufi and founding father of the movement, who is recognized by the later masters, is Hasan al-Basri (640-728), who founded the first school in Basra (Iraq) and from whom the saying is passed: "Who God knows, loves him; whoever knows the world renounces you. "

The rigor of the first generation was followed in the 9th century by a time of spiritual emotion, in which the knowledge of the unity of being matured. The mystics formulated the first textbooks, so that a still loose Sufi doctrine emerged in which the Sufis described their experiences about the extinction of the ego, ecstasy and about survival in God. (A prominent figure of that time was the Sufi master Al-Junayd [d. 910]), who systematized all existing Sufi literature and developed an influential philosophy of "extinction in God" in which he existed in divine unity described: "God lets man die himself (fana ') in order to be able to live in him.") In addition to the representatives of moderate Sufism, who were tolerated to some extent by the Islamic rulers, a trend developed which one called the " Drunken Sufis "and who shocked the religious" normal "feeling of a Muslim with their ecstatic slogans and provocative utterances. One of their exponents was Al-Hallaj, who was executed for blasphemy in 922. He taught the "oneness of substance" which led him to make claims such as: "I have become what I love; I have become who I love. We are two spirits, fused in one body."

In the following centuries (10th-12th centuries) more brotherhoods and orders began to be formed, which differed mainly in the methods of achieving unity with God. And after a rather creative period, the focus was now on the formulation of Sufi thinking. Due to the drunken Sufis and false dervishes (poor, Persian word for mendicant monk, Sufi), who misled and exploited the people with magic tricks, the movement, which was already constantly fighting against suspicion of heresy, had fallen into disrepute. In numerous treatises (so-called Kitab), which examined the entire doctrine and even contained definitions of the mystical states, the striving for orthodoxy was shown down to the last detail. The aim was to show the legal authorities that Sufism was fully in line with the fundamental principles of Islam. Abu Bakr al-Kalabadhi (d. 1000) wrote a famous treatise with the significant title "Book of Information on the Doctrine of Men of Sufism". The work comprises 75 chapters and proves the legitimacy of the teachings of the Sufis by means of innumerable definitions.

In the following period (12th and 13th centuries), thanks to the apologetic writings of its predecessors, Sufism was generally recognized and spread throughout the Islamic empire. It was a golden age for Sufism with a flourishing poetry. Special mention should be made here of the Persian poet and mystic Jalalu`d-din Rumi (1207-1273), who lived in Konya (Turkey) and founded the Maulawiyya order. An order that mainly cultivates samafi (song and dance) and is therefore also called the "Brotherhood of Whirling Dervishes". Or the important writer and theologian Mohyaddin Ibn Arabi (1165-1240), who is called "the greatest of all masters" and who gave Sufism even more respect and depth.

In the period that followed, up to the 20th century, there were still many profound Sufis, some of whom founded completely new brotherhoods or broke out of an existing order and formed a side branch of it. There are over 70 Sufi orders in total. The "Lexicon of Islam" lists the 32 most important and oldest orders.

Essentials of Sufism
The goal of the Sufi is union with the Beloved (God). This union is described as a state of purity, wholeness, or perfection. In order to achieve this, the ego, the unauthorized drive (nafs), must be fought and overcome. The central organ for this is the heart, which must be kindled in love for God. The heart recognizes that only God exists and that all things exist in him (divine unity: tawhid). The variety of appearances is an illusion. There are many different spiritual paths (tariqa) ​​to God, but they can be roughly divided into two groups: 1. Some tend to go an emotional path in order to achieve union with God. In these orders, the Samafi (listening to or singing Sufi songs and dancing in rhythmic movements) and the Dhikr (devotional exercise with recitations of the name of God) play a major role. 2. Other orders, which are more intellectually oriented, convey an instruction, a guide to the attainment of the highest consciousness (tawhid), which speaks more strongly to the cognitive ability of the human being. Another characteristic of Sufism is the way in which methods are imparted: The student (murid = "aspirant") is in close contact with the master (murschid = "leader"), that is to say with the head of the order (sheikh). The master passes on the necessary knowledge to the student in portions and accompanies him as a "confessor" on his whole journey. The exact knowledge of the method is usually esoteric and is not disclosed by the members of the order. The student obeys the Sheikh, whom he worships as the representative of Muhammad, unconditionally. The rite of initiation is correspondingly important and rich in symbols. It is also typical of Sufism that the master of the order stands in a succession row. The present Sheikh is the last link in a spiritual chain (silsila) that goes back to the founder. There are orders that trace their chain of tradition back to Ali (son-in-law of the Prophet), Abu Bakr or Mohammed himself, who knew the most pure knowledge of the union with God.

Sufism is based on Islamic revelation. The Sufis keep the law, abide by the five pillars of Islam, and venerate Muhammad as the last prophet.)

Representatives of neo-Sufi organizations see no genetic connection between Sufism and Islam and claim to be able to be Sufi without being a Muslim. In their opinion, Sufism is an ancient wisdom (Sufism is derived from the Greek word Sophia = wisdom) that was known to people even before the time of the religions.
Sufis in German-speaking countries
Traditional Sufi orders in German-speaking countries:

- Ni'matullahi Order (Khaniqahi Ni'matullahi)

- Order of Tidjanyyah


Neo-Sufi communities in German-speaking countries:

- International Sufi Order of Hazrat Inayat Khan

- Idries Shah

Andreas Frei, 1998
Last change 1998, © af 1998, Infostelle 2000
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