The Concept of Sufism and its Status in Ahmadiyyat
The concept and history of Sufism is rich and fascinating. Its roots are firmly grounded in the Holy Qur’an, Sunnah, and Hadith; and in practical terms, it has been practiced for centuries across the Muslim world. Through the passage of time, however, its concepts and practice became muddled as innovations seeped into the faith and distance between the time of the Holy Prophetsa grew further. Nevertheless, in accordance with the prophecies of the Holy Qur’an and the Holy Prophetsa, through the advent of the Promised Messiahas—the hakam and adl (judge and arbiter)—the original teachings and practice of Islam were revived and along with it, so too was the true understanding of Sufism.
In this presentation, I will briefly discuss the origin, concept and development of Sufism, and its status in view of the works of the Promised Messiahas.
What is Sufism?
Sufism is an English term which connotes the branch of Islamic mystical knowledge and practice. In Arabic, this is known as tasawwuf, and one who practices tasawwuf in its truest sense is known as a “Sufi”. [In this essay, the terms ‘Sufism’ and tasawwuf have been used interchangeably.]
The etymology of this term has been the subject of debate for centuries. Most scholars have agreed that there is no single linguistic reason for it to be called tasawwuf.
Hazrat Syed Ali al-Hujwiri (d. c. 1072 CE), commonly known in the Subcontinent as ‘Data Ganj Bakhsh’, notes in his Kashf al-Mahjub, the oldest Persian treatise on Sufism, that there are multiple reasons why a ‘Sufi’ is thus named:
Some assert that the Sufi is so called because he wears a woollen garment (jama’-i suf); others that he is so called because he is in the first rank (saff-i awwal); others say it is because the Sufis claim to belong to the Ashab-i Suffa, with whom may God be well-pleased! Others, again, declare that the name is derived from safa (purity)…Therefore, since the people of this persuasion have purged their morals and conduct, and have sought to free themselves from natural taints, on that account they are called Sufis.
Definition of Sufism
The core concept of Sufism is stated in the Qur’anic verse:
بَلٰی ٭ مَنۡ اَسۡلَمَ وَجۡہَہٗ لِلّٰہِ وَہُوَ مُحۡسِنٌ فَلَہٗۤ اَجۡرُہٗ عِنۡدَ رَبِّہٖ ۪ وَلَا خَوۡفٌ عَلَیۡہِمۡ وَلَا ہُمۡ یَحۡزَنُوۡنَ ﴿۱۱۳﴾٪
The truth is that whoever submits himself completely to the will of Allah and acts righteously, shall have his reward with his Lord. No fear shall come upon such, nor shall they grieve. (2:113)
Thus, Sufism, in its purest sense, is actually another name for Islam.
In his famous al-Risalah al-Qushayriyya, Abul Qasim al-Qushayri (d. 1072 CE) defined Sufism in the words of prominent saints who had traversed the path of tasawwuf.
Of the many definitions attributed to those saints, the descriptions quoted from Hazrat Junaid al-Baghdadi (d. 298 AH/910 CE) appear to be the most comprehensive. For example, he said that tasawwuf means that God Almighty causes you to annihilate your soul (i.e., your nafs) and grants you life in Him. In another quote, he described tasawwuf as remaining with God, without attachment to anything else. He also said that Sufism is the remembrance of God from the depth of one’s heart and to feel ecstasy at the mention of His remembrance, and to act in compliance with the Shariah.
Hazrat Dhul-Nun al-Misri (d. 246 AH/861 CE) is reported to have said that the Sufis are those who have chosen God over all else and whom God has chosen over everyone else.
Abu Nasr as-Sarraj (d. 988 CE), author of Kitab al-Luma, the oldest extant book on Sufism, noted that all matters of tasawwuf are derived from the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah, and those who act contrary to them are not treading the path of tasawwuf. In fact, he went on to state that the path of Sufism (also referred to as tariqa) is another name for the fulfillment of Shariah because it means that the physical (zahir) commandments of Shariah (e.g., Salat, Zakat, Hajj, etc.) have permeated into one’s heart (batin) and transform into stations of the path, e.g., faith, sincerity, patience, love, trust in Allah, etc.
Who are the Sufis?
Considering that the definition of Sufism is to annihilate oneself in the love of God Almighty—to live through Him, becoming a manifestation of His attributes; to love the creation of God Almighty, and to serve it sincerely, in a sense, the greatest ‘Sufis’ were the prophets who embodied these attributes perfectly.
The Perfect Human
The greatest of all was the Holy Prophet Muhammad Mustafasa, the Seal of the Prophets. He was the best of creation and the perfect human (al-insan al-kamil), in all aspects—by following him, one can attain the love of God Almighty, as it is mentioned in the Holy Qur’an:
قُلۡ اِنۡ کُنۡتُمۡ تُحِبُّوۡنَ اللّٰہَ فَاتَّبِعُوۡنِیۡ یُحۡبِبۡکُمُ اللّٰہُ
Announce: If you love Allah, then follow me, Allah will then love you (3:32)
He is the exemplar whose blessed model we all strive to emulate in our daily lives, as Allah the Almighty states:
لَقَدۡ کَانَ لَکُمۡ فِیۡ رَسُوۡلِ اللّٰہِ اُسۡوَۃٌ حَسَنَۃٌ
You have in the Messenger of Allah an excellent exemplar (33:22)
The Noble Companions
Next to him, the character of his noble companions—especially the Khulafa-e-Rashideen—epitomized the essence of Sufism.
Hazrat Uwais al-Qarani, Hazrat Salman al-Farsi, Hazrat Abu ad-Darda al-Ansari, Hazrat Abu Dharr al-Ghifari, Hazrat Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah, Hazrat Mus’ab ibn Umair and Hazrat Abdur Rahman bin Auf, may Allah the Almighty be pleased with them, are just some of the stalwart companions who have been commonly mentioned as those whose character reflected the true picture of a Sufi.
Abu Nasr as-Sarraj has noted that the Sufis have been mentioned in the Holy Qur’an as ‘those who possess knowledge’:
شَہِدَ اللّٰہُ اَنَّہٗ لَاۤ اِلٰہَ اِلَّا ہُوَ ۙ وَالۡمَلٰٓئِکَۃُ وَاُولُوا الۡعِلۡمِ قَآئِمًۢا بِالۡقِسۡطِ ؕ
Allah bears witness that there is none worthy of worship beside Him, and so do the angels and those who possess knowledge… (3:19)
Imam as-Sarraj posited that since the Holy Prophetsa said that ‘those who possess knowledge’ (ulema) are the inheritors of the prophets, therefore, his opinion is that they are those who hold fast to the Book of Allah the Almighty, strive to follow the Holy Prophetsa, his companions and those who saw them (tabi’in), and tread on the path of God’s righteous servants.
He further stated that the Holy Qur’an is filled with mention of those who adopt the path of tasawwuf; for example:
وَالۡقٰنِتِیۡنَ وَالۡقٰنِتٰتِ وَالصّٰدِقِیۡنَ وَالصّٰدِقٰتِ وَالصّٰبِرِیۡنَ وَالصّٰبِرٰتِ وَالۡخٰشِعِیۡنَ وَالۡخٰشِعٰتِ
…and obedient men and obedient women and truthful men and truthful women, and men steadfast in their faith and steadfast women, and men who are humble and women who are humble… (33:36; trans. Hazrat Maulawi Sher Ali)
اِذَا ذُکِرَ اللّٰہُ وَجِلَتۡ قُلُوۡبُہُمۡ وَاِذَا تُلِیَتۡ عَلَیۡہِمۡ اٰیٰتُہٗ زَادَتۡہُمۡ اِیۡمَانًا وَّعَلٰی رَبِّہِمۡ یَتَوَکَّلُوۡنَ
… those whose hearts are smitten with awe when Allah's name is mentioned and whose faith is strengthened when His Signs are recited to them, and who put their trust in their Lord. (8:3)
Similarly, verses that mention ‘those who have firm faith’ (mu’qinun), ‘those who do good’ (muhsinun), ‘those who excel in goodness’ (sabiqun), ‘the righteous’ (abrar), etc. are in fact mentioning traits of true Sufis.
Evolution of Sufism
The question arises: If the concept of Sufism is firmly rooted in the Holy Qur’an, how did it evolve to become such a distinct branch of Islamic practice?
Hazrat Hafiz Raushan Ali has answered this question in his comprehensive essay on Sufism. He stated that the Holy Prophetsa came to the world when it was entrenched in its darkest era; ignorance and evil were rampant, and the Arabs were the worst of people in that respect. Through the advent of al-Insan al-Kamil, however, Divine light was manifested, and he transformed barbaric people into godly people. With the passage of time, through the spread of Islam in non-Arab nations, the branches of Islamic knowledge expanded into distinct fields—to be studied and analyzed in depth. This is the era in which the knowledge of fiqh (jurisprudence), tafsir (exegesis), and hadith (traditions of the Holy Prophetsa), for example, began to develop.
Thus, Sufism also developed as a branch of deeper spiritual knowledge and practice. Incidentally, many of the early scholars of fiqh were also Sufis, such as Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Shafi, and Rabi’ah Basri.
Saints and Mystics
Over centuries, Sufism spread throughout the Muslim world. Many books have been written about the life, character and miracles of the Sufi saints. Fariduddin Attar’s Tadhkirat al-Auliya is one of the most famous collections on the lives of Sufi saints, although the mention of early saints is also found in the earlier, seminal works of al-Qushayri (Al-Risalah) and Syed Ali al-Hujwiri (Kashf al-Mahjub).
Some of the famous early Sufis include:
- Hasan al-Basri (b. 21 AH/642 CE; d. 110 AH/728 CE); he met many companions, including 70 companions who took part in the Battle of Badr
- Malik ibn Dinar (d. 130 AH/748 CE); was a disciple of Hasan al-Basri and an early calligrapher of the Holy Qur’an
- Rabi’ah al-Adawiya al-Basri (d. c. 135 AH/752 CE); her sayings contributed to the development of the concept of love of God in Sufism
- Ibrahim ibn Adham (d. 165 AH/782 CE); a prince who left his kingdom and migrated to adopt a life of asceticism, and worked throughout his life to earn money
- Dhul-Nun al-Misri (d. 246 AH/861 CE)
- Abu Yazid al-Bistami (d. c. 261 AH/874 CE)
- Abul Qasim Junaid al-Baghdadi (d. 298 AH/910 CE)
- Mansur al-Hallaj (d. 309 AH/913 CE); was martyred due to his proclamation of Ana al-Haq, an expression of his closeness with God Almighty; he has become a symbol of those intoxicated in the love of God, with no care for what others think or say about them
Although there is hyperbole in many of the narrations regarding the saints, there is no denying the fact that the saints had a deep impact not only on their contemporaries, but also on Islamic philosophy and theology.
Sufi thought also found profound expression in poetry, most notably in Farsi. The Masnavi of Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi is not only the most famous poem on Sufi ideology, but also perhaps the most widely read and studied. Fariduddin Attar’s Mantiq at-Tair (‘The Conference of the Birds’) is another significant work on Sufism, presented in the form of an allegorical poem chronicling the journey of a hoopoe (hudhud) on his search for the legendary Simorgh (a mythical bird like the phoenix). The tale symbolizes the Sufi’s journey towards the highest stage of enlightenment, where the self is annihilated, and the soul begins to live through the Divine being.
Modern Concept of Sufism
In the modern era, concepts surrounding Sufism have unfortunately taken on a different shape. Those who claim to practice the path heedlessly ignore the core teachings of the Holy Qur’an. Instead of obeying the Sunnah of the Holy Prophetsa, al-Insan al-Kamil, by which they would earn the love of God Almighty and attain the heights of spirituality, they have begun concocting pointless exercises which cause nothing but frustration—and in fact lead away from the true Sufi path.
There appear to be several reasons for this muddled modern concept of tasawwuf:
Firstly, the general Muslim public has become so engrossed in innovations in the faith, that it is often hard for them to discern which aspects of Islam are true and which were added later on. This is especially prevalent in South Asia where so-called ‘Sufis’ and ascetics can be found in practically every village and town.
Secondly, while the work of the Orientalists, starting from the eighteenth century, has been beneficial in many aspects, it has also led to numerous mistranslations and the Westernization of classic texts on Sufism. Such mistranslations and misinterpretations—be they deliberate or by mistake—have perhaps done more harm than good. The myriad translations of Rumi and Hafiz’s work are notable examples of how the actual meanings have been perverted to conform to the Western readership and Western ideology (for instance, see Coleman Barks’ work on Rumi).
Third, and most importantly, the Muslim Ummah is without a guide in the modern age. It is essential for any wayfarer on the path of tasawwuf to have a guide, for without one, he is lost. The great Orientalist Annemarie Schimmel notes in Mystical Dimensions of Islam that according to the manuals of Sufism, “in order to enter the spiritual path, the adept—called murid, ‘he who has made up his will’ (to enter the Path)—is in need of a guide to lead him through the different stations and to point the way toward the goal.”
In this age, without the Promised Messiahas, the concept of true spirituality, which is the essence of Sufism, is lost. This underscores the need for the Promised Messiah and Mahdi, through whose advent it was prophesied that faith would be restored to its original splendour.
Status of Sufism in Ahmadiyyat
Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, the Promised Messiah and Mahdi, was the ardent and complete follower of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa. It was through his complete obedience that he was granted the exalted station of prophethood subordinate to the Holy Prophetsa. Hence, the spiritual transformation which was brought about by the Holy Prophetsa was again manifested in this era through the Promised Messiahas.
Literature of the Promised Messiahas
The Promised Messiah’s literature is filled with deep insight into the spiritual and transcendent aspects of Islam, which has been classified as matters of tasawwuf by previous scholars, although he does not necessarily refer to it in such terms.
The various stations (maqamat) of tasawwuf, which are originally derived from the Holy Qur’an, are frequently mentioned by the Promised Messiahas in his books and discourses. Some of those stations are:
- Striving (mujahada)
- Fear of God (taqwa)
- Renunciation (zuhd)
- Trust in God (tawakkul)
- Patience (sabr)
- Servanthood (ubudiyyat)
- Prayer (dua)
- Poverty (faqr)
- Divine gnosis (ma’rifat)
- It is important to note that despite the numerous works on tasawwuf over the centuries, the remarkable understanding, depth, concision, and effectiveness of the Promised Messiah’sas writings is unparalleled. Tomes on tasawwuf cannot express what he has articulated in even a brief couplet.
By way of illustration, a few passages, from both his prose and poetry, are given below to demonstrate the profundity of his work.
The Reality of Islam
In A’ina-e-Kamalat-e-Islam, the Promised Messiahas has eloquently described the reality of Islam, which centers around verse 2:113 of the Holy Qur’an. He explains how Islam demands that one should belong entirely to God Almighty, both in doctrine (by considering that he has been created for obedience to Him) and in practice (to act solely for the sake of God).
Further expounding upon this central concept, he outlines the three stages of fana (annihilation), baqa (life; subsistence in God), and liqa (joining; communion with God) which he terms as sa’adat-e-tammah (perfect felicity).
He explains that fana (annihilation) refers to the station a person attains after surrendering all his faculties, possessions, and everything to God Almighty. This is the stage where one “resigns oneself to His service with a complete extinction of his selfish desires and pleasures” and brings about a death upon oneself.
The second stage, baqa (life), is where—after having effaced one self and having brought about a death of one’s egoistic desires—one begins to subside in God and is granted a new, spiritual life, per se.
The Promised Messiahas elucidates the qualities of the third stage, liqa (communion), as that in which one attains such certainty in Allah as if one is seeing Him. It is at this stage that one no longer has any fear or grief of anything from the past, present or future, and he experiences spiritual delights in this world. This is the stage at which one is termed a muhsin (doer of good), as mentioned by the Holy Prophetsa, that ihsan is the level where a person connects so deeply with God through worship that it is as if he can see him.
Signs of the Beloveds of God
In a succinct poem, the Promised Messiahas has beautifully encapsulated the reality of Islam and the qualities of those who have surrendered themselves to God Almighty. He states:
خدا سے وہی لوگ کرتے ہیں پیار جو سب کچھ ہی کرتے ہیں اُس پر نثار
اِسی فکر میں رہتے ہیں روز و شب کہ راضی وہ دلدار ہوتا ہے کب؟
اُسے دے چکے مال و جاں بار بار ابھی خوف دل میں کہ ہیں نابکار
لگاتے ہیں دل اپنا اُس پاک سے وہی پاک جاتے ہیں اِس خاک سے
Only they love God
Who sacrifice everything for Him
Day and night, they are only concerned about this:
How is that Beloved pleased?
They offered Him their wealth and lives over and over
But they still fear that they are worthless!
Those who set their heart upon that Holy One—
Are they who depart from this world purified.
The signs mentioned in this poem all reflect the attributes of Sufis.
Islam: Self-annihilation for God
Along the same vein, the Promised Messiahas further expounds upon the stations of fana and baqa in some of his famous couplets:
عاشق جو ہیں وہ یار کو مر مر کے پاتے ہیں جب مر گئے تو اُس کی طرف کھینچے جاتے ہیں
زندہ وہی ہیں جو کہ خدا کے قریب ہیں مقبول بن کے اُس کے عزیز و حبیب ہیں
اسلام چیز کیا ہے؟ خدا کے لئے فنا ترکِ رضائے خویش پئے مرضیٴ خدا
جو مر گئے اُنہی کے نصیبوں میں ہے حیات اس رہ میں زندگی نہیں ملتی بجز ممات
[True] lovers are those who find the Beloved after suffering death upon death;
When dead [to their selves], they are drawn towards Him.
They alone are alive who are close to God;
Being accepted by Him, they are His dear and beloved ones.
What is Islam? Self-annihilation for the sake of God;
To relinquish one’s own desire for the pleasure of God.
Those who die are the very ones in whose destiny is life—
In this path one does not attain life except through death.
It ought to be noted that the Promised Messiahas has also provided guidance on the practical means to attain these high spiritual standards. He emphasizes that it is impossible to attain God without first annihilating one’s base desires and adopting the garb of humility. Describing the means to attain union with God, he says:
جو خاک میں ملے اُسے ملتا ہے آشنا اے آزمانے والے یہ نسخہ بھی آزما
اِس بے ثبات گھر کی محبت کو چھوڑ دو اُس یار کے لئے رہِ عشرت کو چھوڑ دو
بد تر بنو ہر ایک سے اپنے خیال میں شاید اسی سے دخل ہو دار الوصال میں
چھوڑو غرور و کبر کہ تقویٰ اسی میں ہے ہو جاؤ خاک مرضیٴ مولیٰ اِسی میں ہے
He who mingles with the dust finds that Intimate Friend.
O you who experiment! Test this prescription as well.
Shun the love of this transient abode;
Abandon the path of luxury for the sake of that Beloved.
Think of yourself as inferior to everyone else;
Perchance, thereby, you may enter the Place of Union.
Abandon pride and arrogance, for in this indeed is taqwa;
Become dust, for in this is God’s pleasure indeed.
Love & Salvation
Whilst delving in the subject of tasawwuf, we would be remiss to not explore the concept of love and its role in salvation. Love, which is expressed in the terms of tasawwuf through the words hubb, ishq, mahabba, etc., is what drives a wayfarer on his path to salvation.
The Promised Messiahas has stated that the principal aim of religion is to attain certitude in God’s existence and to love Him. He further says:
’’اصل حقیقت اور اصل سرچشمہ نجات کا محبتِ ذاتی ہے جو وصالِ الٰہی تک پہنچاتی ہے۔ وجہ یہ کہ کوئی محبّ اپنے محبوب سے جدا نہیں رہ سکتا۔ اور چونکہ خدا خود نور ہے اس لئے اس کی محبت سے نورِ نجات پیدا ہو جاتا ہے اور وہ محبت جو انسان کی فطرت میں ہے خدا تعالیٰ کی محبت کو اپنی طرف کھینچتی ہے۔ اسی طرح خدا تعالیٰ کی محبتِ ذاتی انسان کی محبتِ ذاتی میں ایک خارق عادت جوش بخشتی ہے۔اور ان دونوں محبتوں کے ملنے سے ایک فنا کی صورت پیدا ہو کر بقا باللہ کا نور پیدا ہو جاتا ہے۔‘‘ (چشمہ مسیحی، روحانی خزائن، جلد 20، صفحہ 364 تا 365)
The real source and essence of salvation is man’s personal love for God, which leads to his union with Him, because a lover cannot remain separated from his beloved. Since God Himself is Light, His love produces 'the light of salvation'.
The love which is ingrained in human nature draws the love of God, and then God’s personal love gives extraordinary strength and enthusiasm to man’s personal love, and the union of the two results in the state of ‘annihilation’ (fana) and culminates in the light of ‘immortality with God’ (baqa billah).
To illustrate the phenomenon of Divine love uniting with human love, the Promised Messiahas gives the example of a man who is struck by lightning. It is powerful attraction which causes the lightning bolt from the sky to smite a person, resulting in the annihilation of the body. He then explains:
’’پس در اصل یہ روحانی موت بھی اسی طرح دو قسم کی آگ کو چاہتی ہے۔ ایک آسمانی آگ اور ایک اندرونی آگ اور دونوں کے ملنے سے وہ فنا پیدا ہو جاتی ہے جس کے بغیر سلوک تمام نہیں ہو سکتا۔ یہی فنا وہ چیز ہےجس پر سالکوں کا سلوک ختم ہو جاتا ہے اور جو انسانی مجاہدات کی آخری حد ہے۔ اِسی فنا کے بعد فضل اور موہبت کے طور پر مرتبہ بقا کا انسان کو حاصل ہوتا ہے۔‘‘ (چشمہ مسیحی، روحانی خزائن، جلد 20، صفحہ 365)
In the same way, spiritual annihilation also requires two kinds of fires: the heavenly fire and the inner fire of man. The meeting of both these fires creates a state of annihilation (fana), without which the spiritual journey remains incomplete. This is the state of annihilation (fana) where the journey of the spiritual wayfarers comes to an end, and it is the limit beyond which human endeavour cannot go. After reaching the point of fana, man is granted the status of ‘eternity’ (baqa) as a gift and a favour.
He has beautifully captured this concept in his Urdu couplet:
دیکھ لو میل و محبت میں عجب تاثیر ہے ایک دل کرتا ہے جھک کر دوسرے دل کو شکار
See how wonderful the power of love and affection is;
One heart bows down to win the other.
In his poetic works, the concept of love has been expressed in different ways, each with its own nuances. For instance, in Farsi, he says:
اے محبت عجب آثار نمایاں کر دی زخم و مرہم برہِ یار تو یکساں کر دی
وَہ چہ اعجاز نمودی کہ بیک جلوہٴ فیض درِ رفتن بِزدِی آمدن آساں کر دی
ہمہ جا شورِ تو بینم چہ حقیقت چہ مجاز سینۂ مشرک و مسلم ، ہمہ بِریاں کردی
Love! You have exhibited such wondrous effects—
In the path of God, you made the injury and the salve equal.
What a wonderful miracle you have manifested that with the splendour of grace—
You closed the exit and made arrival easy!
I observe your clamour all around—be it in reality or as an illusion,
For you roasted the hearts of pagans and Muslims alike.
Epistles to Mir Abbas Ali of Ludhiana
A treasure trove of the Promised Messiah’s insights into the subject of tasawwuf lies within the 62 epistles (letters) he wrote to Mir Abbas Ali of Ludhiana, from 1882 to 1892. They are collected in the first volume of Maktubat-e-Ahmad.
A very brief overview of the concepts expounded upon in some epistles is as follows:
- Epistle 8: The nature of dreams, how they can be fulfilled, and why a person is unaware of reality while dreaming; In the state of fana-e-atam (complete annihilation), does a person have a sense of reality? The station of ubudiyyat (servanthood) and fana-e-atam are the same.
- Epistle 9: The difference between sukriyat (intoxication) and fana fil fana is like being in a dark room as opposed to a very bright one—the sight is affected in both, but for different reasons; an example is of Prophet Moses falling unconscious upon seeing the manifestation of God Almighty (7:144)
- Epistle 16: A true relationship is that in which there is prayer for one another—when the murshid is like an ashiq (lover) and the murid is like a ma’shuq (one that is loved); all prophets possessed quwwat-e-ishqi (the power of love) which propelled their actions, and the Holy Prophetsa was the greatest in his love for God’s creation (26:4)—this is the principle of masterhood and servitude (piri muridi)
- Epistle 24: How to attain tabattul-e-taam (complete detachment) which is synonymous with fana-e-atam (complete annihilation); the characteristic of tabattul-e-taam; true love leads a salik (wayfarer) towards the actual understanding and practice of faith; all blessings lie in being engrossed in the love of the Holy Prophetsa
- Epistle 25: Detailed explanation of the four stages a salik (wayfarer) traverses outlined in Futuh al-Ghaib by Hazrat Abdul Qadir al-Jilani: (i) nasuti (the primal stage, where man is led by his base desires), (ii) jabruti (the wayfarer progresses on the path after achieving true repentance), (iii) malakuti (acting upon the Divine commands becomes easy for the wayfarer and he attains pleasure from them; by overcoming carnal passions, he becomes angelic, per se), and (iv) lahuti (the wayfarer advances to the stage where he no longer has any personal desire or intention—he is like an instrument in the hand of God; this is a stage born out of overwhelming love, and hence it exceeds the status of angels; but it is exclusive for the elect of God and is through His special grace)
- Epistle 26: The three types of inqita (separation) necessary for a person to become the recipient of ma’arif-e-ilahiyyah (Divine gnosis): (i) inqita khalq-illah (when one truly realizes that everything is under the command of God; can be attained by remaining in the company of a perfect spiritual master), (ii) inqita hawa-e-nafs (when the salik becomes completely obedient to Allah and His Messengersa), and (iii) ridha bi qadha (he comes so content upon the decree of God that he accepts whatever may befall him with complete pleasure)
- Epistle 28: The difference between a sufi (i.e., one who is treading on the path, like a wayfarer, going from one place to another) and safi (one who has attained the level of complete annihilation, and is in an entirely different realm of spirituality); the tale of Mosesas and Pharaoh represents the battle and struggle between the ruh (soul) and the nafs-e-ammarah (soul that incites to evil)
The concepts of Sufism, or tasawwuf, are summarized in the philosophy and reality of Islam; they are grounded in the Holy Qur’an and were manifested in their full glory by the Holy Prophetsa.
In this era, the Promised Messiahas restored the original intent of these deep theological concepts, which was to establish a lasting connection with Allah the Almighty. He not only explored the subtle aspects of tasawwuf, but also made them understandable to the laypeople and practicable. After him, his Khulafa carried on this work, endeavouring to inculcate the love of God and His creation in the hearts.
Although they may not be technically classified under Sufism, today, the faith-inspiring sermons, discourses, and addresses of Hazrat Khalifatul-Masih Vaa provide us practical guidance on how to attain communion with God.
And that, in a nutshell, is the essence of Sufism.