Tasawwuf or Sufism

Genesis of Tasawwuf:
“It is the privilege of the men of God to see the sublimest mysteries of the spiritual world and instruct men in Righteousness; they warn and shield men against evil.” - The Holy Quran

“Tasawwuf or Sufism - the Islamic mysticism - means scrupulously maintained moral character and religious discipline which one must necessarily cultivate and observe towards all the creatures of God in the interests of peace and happiness of mankind.”- Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Hasan Chishty (R.A.)

Jacques de Marquette remarks in his introduction to Comparative Mysticism : ‘In fact mysticism seems to be able to solve most of the dilemmas confronting our generation in nearly all the avenues of thought and activities. Hence the timely character of our attempt to study its modalities and to interpret whatever message it may have in store for puzzled modern man’ (P. 18). Much the same is the raison d’ etre for this study : the relevance of Sufism to the needs of modern society.

Mysticism, it is said, has no genealogy. It is as old as man himself and echoes the eternal quest of the human soul to have direct experience of the Ultimate Reality. It proceeds on the assumption that ‘The divine disclosed itself in the human race as a whole’ and that it is possible for all human beings – irrespective of their caste, colour or creed – to have direct communion with Him. The spark of divine love shines alike in the heart of the learned and the illiterate, the Hindu, the Christian, the Muslim and the Sikh. It is not the exclusive privilege of higher religious intellects to strive to understand the essence of Divine Reality; a shepherd also, as Rumi has shown, may communicate with God while grazing his herd in the lonely valleys.

Ali, the Wali Allah:
According to Islamic ideology as Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the seal of prophets and there would not be any prophet after him so the prophet designated Ali as his spirituial vicegerant at Ghadir-e-Kuhm on the pious occasion of Hajjatul-wada (The last pilgrimage of the prophet) and the prophet caught hold of Ali’s arm and raising it up high said “MANKUN TO MOULAHO FA HAZA ALIYUN MOULAHO, ALLAHHUMMA WA LY MANWALAHO WA ADE MAN ADAHO”.

(whoever takes me as his Maula (Master) should also take this Ali as his Maula. O Allah ! be a friend to his friends and foe to his foes.” According to Hazrat Shaikh Ahmed Sirhindi Naqsbandi Mujaddid-e-Alf-e-Sani, Ali was designated as SHAH-E-WILAYAT-E-KUBRA (Qutbiyat-e-Kubra) by Allah since the day of the beginning of creation. (letter no. 134, Maktubat-e-Shaikh Ahmed Sirhindi, Vol.3).

Hazrat Imam Ali is unanimously acclaimed by the Sufis as the founder of their sect because he combined mystical intuition with the firmest grasp of Islamic theology, the traditions of the Sufis depict him as “Wali Allah” (friend of God) and ascribe to him esoteric spiritual powers. They maintain that the highest aim of knowledge, as preached by Ali, is the awakening of latent spiritual faculties. They hold that if a person follows certain “Tariaqas”, or “Paths”, as laid down by their Saint of Saints, he will be enabled to discover his true and inner self. To this inner self, God will reveal Himself, while the self will disappear in the vision of the All-Absorbing Reality.

Ali, the Prince of Saints:
The Sufis look Ali as the founder of that knowledge of "Tasawwuf" which harmonises the mystical, moral and intellectual approaches to Reality. They call the period when he was Caliph, "The Sufistic epoch" and speak with intense pride of the way in which his spiritual intuitions re-inforced the doctrine of "Tauheed" (monotheism); and of how, by his personal example, Ali illumined the way in which the struggles of a man in this world can fulfill the covenant between the created and the Creator.

The Need of Spiritual Director:
The Sufis from time immemorial have recognized the necessity of a “Shaikh” or “Pir” or “Spiritual Director” to whom humanity may be entrusted for guidance and instruction. Staunch obedience was to be offered to this director, who was supposed to possess topmost Spiritual powers and to be well acquainted with all the paths of “Tariqat”. The disciple was required to remain with him for a number of years until he had familiarised himself with ‘mystic’ experiences and could himself graduate as a leader.
Since Ali possessed a noble, religious and philanthropic spirit to the highest degree, the Sufi recognize in him their first Spiritual Director; it was he who showed the way to eternal bliss. They hold that if Muhammad (may peace be upon him) was the seal of Prophets, Ali the spiritual sovereign of all the Sufi denomination was, undoubtedly, the seal of Saints. Without intercession of Hazrat Ali no saint can attain the degree of Wilayat and Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Hasan Chishty (R.A.) is direct descendant of Hazrat Ali (Alehissalam)

The quintessence of Sufi teachings is service to humanity regardless of caste, creed, colour, of faith. The Sufis believe, al khalq-o-ayalullah, meaning that the whole creation is the ‘family of God’. Love of God is not complete without loving his ayal (family). The Sufis believe that true worship is not in the performance of rites, rituals and supererogation. True worship is in the service of humanity. As Shaikh Saadi says:

Ibadat bajuz khidmat-e-khalq neest Ba tasbih-o-sajjadah-o-dalq neest
Without service of humanity,prayer means nothing It is not counting beads, sitting on the mat Or wearing tatters.

S.M. Zaman's 'Role of Social Service and Women in Sufism.' On the question of Khidma, says Zaman, the Sufi manuals are full of instructions and injunctions to be observed in providing service in Ribats to Muslims as well as non-Muslims. It was the single factor most responsible for making Sufism a strong force for the propagation of Islam. Thus humanism helped the Muslim saints in India and the basic character of its composite society. For them India was neither dar-ul-Harb nor dar-ul-Islam. It was God's earth with variety of men, and stores of wisdom, a land where Adam and Eve first walked and where the Prophets Shis and Ayyub lay buried. Sayyid Jalaluddin Bukhari Mukhdum-I-Jahanian once said:

So many gifts of God and such a variety of men and Treasures of knowledge as one finds specifically in India Are not to be found anywhere else in the whole world.

For both Vedanta and Sufism, there is a common discipline. It includes purification of self, mastering of passions and desires,

filling of the mind exclusively with the thought of God, obtaining control over bodily functions and mental processes till the objective world ceases to distract consciousness, till man passes away (fana/nirvana) from phenomenal existence and attains union with the divine. The soul stands self-enlightened and unperturbed by temptations and apprehensions.

The Sufis were held in high esteem among the masses who followed their simple teachings with eagerness and understanding. They laid stress upon the dignity of man, for they thought that every individual should reach the highest goal of human life by his own effort.

This essential unity of India has manifested itself in a beautiful synthesis of music and dance, drama and painting, literary and philosophical discourses which are also indicative of the rich and varied Indian panorama. Love of humanity is the key to the understanding of that essential unity. Maulana Rumi, the jem of the Sufi poets, perceived the same unity in Islam like the poet of Upanishads. In his words,

 O love! You are my greatest stimulator, you are the
    Medicine for all my ailments. Your are the true friend,
    Philosopher and guide of my soul and you are like
    Hakeem Jaalinus. You are the surest remedy for my
    vanity and pride. My being has adored the Vedas and
    Temples of Hindus, the Zendavesta of Parsis, the
    Quran of the Muslims, the Enjeel (the Bible) of the Christians
    And the Atishkada (fire-temple) of the Parsis.
    There is no second God for me other than love.

                                                                            This is the essence of Sufism.