SUFISM IS ABSOLUTE AND COMPLETE ADHERENCE TO THE SHARI’A
Sufism is to take belief to the level of intimate knowledge, or in other words is the perfection of belief. The Qur’an contains 258 references to the term taqwa in its various forms. Whether we refer to Sufism or taqwa (piety), these can only be the expression, in different terms, of this single truth.
The finest demonstration of this Sufi life is the Age of Happiness, the Companions of Allah’s Messenger… They were one, they stood together, they became brothers. They proclaimed to the whole world exactly what a Muslim fellowship was. To this end, they went all the way to China, they went to Samarkand. By following the Prophet’s example, they demonstrated their faithfulness to him.
Likewise, by another definition, Sufism is the human being’s effort to perfect the shari’a through the disciplining of their inner world and feeling. The servant cannot reach perfection by reading from books. They reach perfection by purifying their spiritual state and inner world of all wickedness and vice. This is why Sufism is living the shari’a completely and without adulteration. It is to live the shari’a purely and entirely.
And the key ingredient is love. But if there is an excess of this ingredient, or if it exceeds the bounds of the shari’a, then this is not acceptable.
And we see this in some places, where there the bounds of the shari’a are overstepped, and this is also wrong. This does harm to the path. These are referred to as firaq dalla.
‘Uthman ibn Maz’un, may Allah be well pleased with him, had died. One woman said:
“How happy are you, O ‘Uthman ibn Maz’un, for you are one of the people of Paradise.”
The Messenger of Allah said,
“How do you know this? How do you know? If I were you, I should have said, ‘God willing he is of Paradise,’ and would have said these words in a state of entreaty to Allah Almighty. How can you say so with such certainty? Even I (said the Messenger of Allah) do not know what will become of me.” (See Bukhari, Tabir, 27)
And so, (saying), “We are here, we will enter Paradise, we will follow such-and-such and go to Paradise…” These are empty words; this is idle chatter. These are words that clash with Sufism. Everyone is weak and powerless. Apart from the Prophets and those indicated by the Messenger of Allah, no one is under any guarantee of entry into Paradise.
This is why Allah Almighty declares:
walā tamūtunna illā wa antum mus’limūn
“…and see that you do not die save as Muslims (submitted to Him exclusively).” (3:102) He does not say, “You will die…” He says, “And (continue to) worship your Lord until what is certain (death) comes to you.” (See 15:99)
Thus, our only path is:
man yuṭi’i yuṭi’i faqad aṭā’a l-laha
“He who obeys the Messenger (thereby) obeys Allah…”(4:80)
Our every state and manner (needs to resemble that of) the Messenger of Allah… What kind of life are we to lead from dawn all the way until midnight? How was that of the Messenger of Allah and how must ours be?
In other words, Sufism is the art of being able to attain piety.
It is the art of not getting caught up in the ebbs and flows of life. Not allowing Satanic whisperings (to occur to our minds and hearts)
Being pleased with Allah under changing conditions.
Attaining noble character and morality.
And the most important of all, the art of being able to forget complaint. I mean, complaining of who to whom? That is to say, to whom do you complain of the Divine Majesty and Divine Destiny?
And so, an altruism. The heart’s being freed from egotism. There is never “I”, but always, “You, O Lord!”
This is why that which is most prohibited by Sufism is egocentrism.
“Three kinds of people cannot be friends of Allah,” it says. The first are the arrogant. But if you were to ask any arrogant person, they would say that they had no pride. They would deceive themselves.
The miser, one who hoards for themselves. One who wastes and turns everything to their own selves.
And the fool.
And when it is asked who the fool is, the definition is this: The fool is the one who prefers the world to the Hereafter. In other words, who prefers the drop in the face of the ocean.
What does Allah Almighty declare?
illā ‘ashiyyatan aw ḍuḥāhā
” It will be, on the Day they see it, as if they had remained (in the world) but for the afternoon (of a day) or its morning.”(79:46)
It is as though, the verse indicates, our view of the world from that Hereafter is like the gloomy darkness of a single night, or the hour of dawn of a single morning.
Brothers and sisters! Now, there are certain outward obligations. These outward religious obligations are the prescribed prayer, fasting, the prescribed annual alms, pilgrimage, etc. Why does Allah make these incumbent upon us? This goes to show that the heart will attain a certain level. Vitamins for the heart. They will bring the heart closer to Allah Almighty.
For instance, there is a beautiful saying of Abu Bakr, may Allah be well pleased with him:
Being a believer (he says) and belief has been confined to the mosques. In other words, Islam has not become reflected in life, but is to be found in the mosques, where it remains limited.
Wealth remains with the miserly.
Weapons with the cowardly.
If authority remains with the weak, then all affairs will go awry.
These are outward religious obligations. (Then there are) the inner obligations.
Resembling the Messenger of Allah in our acts of worship. Resembling him in our prescribed prayer, in our fasting. Making our eyes fast, our ears fast, our tongue fast.
And when spending in the way of Allah, when giving in alms, there is to be no egotism.
wayakhudhul-ṣadaqāti (“…and [He] accepts what is offered as charity)…” (9:104)
Allah Almighty receives it. To be able to give with an air of thanks. To be able to give joyously. To be able to spend joyously in the way of Allah – not faintheartedly.
To be able to resemble (Allah’s Messenger) in character and morality.
“You are surely of a sublime character,” (68:4) the Qur’an declares.
To be able to resemble him in our daily dealings and transactions.
Love engenders obedience. A person imitates those they love. A soccer fanatic wears the same shoes worn by their favourite soccer player. They like the same things that player likes. Their mind is forever preoccupied with them. Love engenders obedience.
And the measure is this: our inner world is a lucid mirror which indicates the level of love we feel for the Messenger of Allah.
The Messenger of Allah once said:
“Coming upon you now is one of the people of Paradise.” A man came who had performed the ablution and with the water still dripping from his limbs. The same on the second day, the following day, the Messenger saying:
“Coming upon you now is one of the people of Paradise.” The same person came. The third day, still the same person.
‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Amr said:
“I ought to go visit this man and stay as a guest in his house. Let me see why the Messenger of Allah referred to him as one of the people of Paradise, and not us. Let me see his state.”
So ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Amr went to the man and said:
“I am in a dispute with my father and I have sworn not to enter my home for three days. May I stay with you?”
“Certainly, brother, be my guest,” the man replied.
I paid attention to everything he did, ‘Abd Allah says. We ate and drank together and I observed what he did during the night. There was nothing he did that was different to what I did. Three days later I said to him:
“Look brother, the Messenger of Allah referred to you as one of the people of Paradise, but he did not say any such thing of us. But I observed you closely and did not see any difference between your life and mine. Why did the Prophet say so of you and not me? There has to be something distinguishing you, tell me what it is.”
The man said:
“I am as you have seen.” “But (‘Abd Allah said), what I have seen is no different to my worship and deeds.” “But,” the man said, “I do not harbour ill feeling in my heart towards any Muslim. My heart is filled with love for all the Muslims. And I do not envy anyone because of the good that Allah has given them.”
‘Abd Allah then said:
“Indeed this is the quality that has elevated you to such a high rank.” (See Ahmad, III, 166)
This is why there are inner obligations in addition to the outward obligations incumbent on the servant.
“Tafakkur” (Contemplation): Allah Almighty demands contemplation from us in 137 different verses of the Qur’an.
Allah Almighty declares:
afalā tatafakkarūn (“…Will you not, then, reflect?”)(6:50)
afalā ta’qilūn: “Will you ever not reason and understand?”(See 3:65; 7:169; 2:44, 76; 6:32…)
He also declares: ulū l-albāb (“…yet none derives admonition except the people of discernment.”)(3:7)
And also: liqawmin ya’qilūn (“…for a people who reason and understand.”)(2:164; 29:35; 45:5…)
[It is stated] constantly: “Yet none except people of discernment reflect and are mindful. Will you not, then, reason and understand?”
Now, dear brothers and sisters! In fact, it is not the eyes that see, but the heart that sees.
Both Abu Jahl as well as Abu Bakr saw the Messenger of Allah. They saw him with the same eyes, or the same physical eyes. But, in actual fact, it is not the eye that sees, but the heart that sees. And so, Abu Bakr, may Allah be well pleased with him, was overcome with awe and admiration. He was in a state of longing even while in his presence. While Abu Jahl saw his own pitch-black heart.
This goes to show that such contemplation is one of the most important acts of worship. The servant needs to be in a constant state of contemplation. The Messenger of Allah constantly beheld the firmaments and contemplated the manifestations of Divine Majesty. And he looked in front of him also, at the point where he would prostrate.
Once again, being able to benefit spiritually, to benefit from the nights. To be in the company of the truthful. To take strength from the lawful morsel.
Unfortunately, in our day, this idea of taking strength from the lawful has greatly diminished…