Home > The War against Shirk and Bidah > The Meaning and Origin of Sufism

The Meaning and Origin of Sufism

The words Tasawwuf and Soofiyyah were not known during the first generation of Islaam. Rather, they were o­nly introduced into it after that or they were adopted into Islaam from other nations.

Shaikh-ul-Islaam Ibn Taimiyyah, may Allaah have mercy o­n him, said in Majmoo’-ul-Fataawaa: “As for the term Soofiyyah (Sufism), then it was not heard of during the first three generations of Islaam. Rather, speech concerning it o­nly became known after the first three generations. Several Imaams and scholars spoke about it afterward, such as Imaam Ahmad bin Hanbal, Abu Sulaymaan Ad-Daaraanee and others. It was also reported from Sufyaan Ath-Thawree that he spoke about it. Some of them also mentioned that o­n the authority of Al-Hasan Al-Basree. They differed in their views o­n the meaning of what a Soofee ascribes himself to, since the word ‘Soofee’ is a noun indicating an ascription, such as Al-Qurshee, Al-Madanee and so o­n.

It is said to be an ascription to Ahlus-Suffah,[1] but this is an error, since if this were the case, they would call themselves Suffee. It is also said to be an ascription to the saff (row) that is the foremost before Allaah, but this is also wrong, since if this were the case, they would call themselves Saffee. It is also said to be an ascription to the safwah (best) from Allaah’s creation. This too is an error, since if it were so, they would have to call themselves Safwee. It is also held to be an ascription to Soofah bin Bishr bin Udd bin Taabikhah, an Arab tribe that used to be located next to Makkah in the past, which the ascetics would ascribe themselves to. Even though the ascription of Soofee is in conformity to this person’s name (Soofah) from a grammatical standpoint, it is also a weak opinion, since these people were not well known to most of the ascetics and because if the ascetics were to ascribe to them, it would have been more likely that they would have ascribed to them during the era of the Sahaabah, Taabi’een and the Atbaa’ at-Taabi’een.

It is also due to the fact that the majority of those who speak o­n behalf of the Soofees are not aware of this tribe and they are not pleased with being attributed to a tribe from the Days of Ignorance (Jaahiliyyah), which did not exist during the era of Islaam. It is also held, and this is the most well known opinion, that Soofee is an ascription to soof (wool). This was since the first time that the Soofees appeared was in Basrah (‘Iraq).

The first people that established the role of Soofiyyah were some of the companions of ‘Abdul-Waahid bin Zayd. ‘Abdul-Waahid was o­ne of the companions of Al-Hasan Al-Basree who lived in Basrah and was into such great lengths in abstinence (zuhd), worship (‘ibaadah), fear of Allaah (khawf) and so o­n, the likes of which were not found in the rest of the inhabitants of other lands.

Abush-Shaikh Al-Asbahaanee reported with a chain of narration connected to Muhammad bin Sireen that it reached him that a group of people preferred wearing wool, so he said: ‘There are some people that prefer to wear wool claiming that they resemble the Messiah, son of Maryam. However, the guidance of our Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) is more beloved to us, and he (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would wear cotton and other types of clothes.’ Or he stated words similar to this.”

Then he (Ibn Taimiyyah) said after this: “These people ascribe themselves to outer garments, which in this case is wool (soof) garments. So it can be said about o­ne of them that he is a Soofee. However, their methodology is not restricted to the wearing of woolen garments, nor do they mandate that o­n anyone or adhere to ordering it. They o­nly attach themselves to it due to it being the outer condition.”

Then he said: “So this is the origin of Soofiyyah (Sufism). After this, it branched off and diversified.” [2]

Ibn Taimiyyahs words, may Allaah have mercy o­n him, indicate that Sufism originated in the lands of Islaam at the hands of some very pious worshippers from Basrah as a result of their going to great lengths in abstinence (zuhd) and worship (‘ibaadah). Then after that, Sufism evolved and changed.

The conclusion that some modern-day authors have come to – that Sufism crept into the lands of the Muslims from other religions, such as Hinduism and Christian monasticism – has become accepted based o­n what Shaikh Ibn Taimiyyah reported from Muhammad bin Sireen, that he said: “There are some people that prefer to wear wool claiming that they resemble the Messiah, son of Maryam. However, the guidance of our Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) is more beloved to us!” This indicates that Sufism has a connection to the religion of the Christians!!

Dr. Saabir At-Tu’aimah said in his book: “Sufism – Its Beliefs and Methods”: “It appears that it came about due to the influence of Christian monasticism in which the monks would wear woolen garments and reside in their monasteries. There were many of them that would be upon this practice throughout the lands, which Islaam freed by way of Tawheed…” [3]

Shaikh Ihsaan Ilaahee Dhaheer, may Allaah have mercy o­n him, said in his book “Sufism: Its Source and Origin”: “When we look deep into the teachings of the first and latter-day Sufis and the statements that have been quoted and narrated from them in the Sufi books of old and present, we see a huge difference between it and the teachings of the Qur’aan and the Sunnah. Likewise, we don’t see its roots or its seeds in the history of the chief of all creations (Prophet Muhammad) (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) nor in that of his righteous and noble Companions, from the best of Allaah’s creation. Rather, contrary to that, we see that it has been derived and acquired from Christian Monasticism, Brahmanism, Hinduism, the religious devotion of Judaism and the asceticism of Buddhism.” [4]

Shaikh ‘Abdur-Rahmaan Al-Wakeel, may Allaah have mercy o­n him, said in the introduction of the book “The Downfall of Sufism”: “Indeed, Sufism is the lowest and vilest of schemes, which the Devil innovated so that the servants of Allaah can mock and ridicule along with him in his war against Allaah and His Messengers. It is the veil of the Magians (Majoos), which gives the impression that it is divine. Rather, it is the veil of every enemy to the true religion. Examine it and you will find in it Brahmanism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and the Manichaean beliefs. You will find Platonism in it. You can even find Judaism, Christianity and the idolatry of the Days of Ignorance in it.” [5]

Through presenting the views of these modern-day writers regarding the origin of Sufism, as well as many other writers not mentioned here that hold these same views, it becomes clear that Sufism is a foreign concept that was introduced into Islaam. This shows in the practices of those who ascribe themselves to it – those practices that are foreign to Islaam and far removed from its guidance. By this, we intend the latter-day adherents to Sufism whose mystical illusions and fantasies have become many and great.

But as for the former predecessors, such as Al-Fudayl bin ‘Iyyaad, Al-Junaid, Ibraaheem bin Adham and others, then they were upon a state of moderateness.


[1] Translator’s Note: The Ahlus-Suffah (People of the Bench) referred to the poorer Companions who would sit outside the Prophet’s (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) masjid, waiting for charity and waiting for the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) to come out so that they could accompany him and learn hadeeth from him.

[2] Majmoo’-ul-Fataawaa (11/5-7, 16, 18)

[3] As-Sufiyyah: Mu’taqidan wa Maslakan (pg. 17)

[4] At-Tasawwuf: Al-Mansha’ wal-Masdar (pg. 28)

[5] Masra’ at-Tasawwuf (pg. 19)

AUTHOR: Shaikh Saalih Al-Fawzaan
SOURCE: Haqeeqat-ut-Tasawwuf (pg. 11-15) [1422 1st Edition]
PRODUCED BY: Al-Ibaanah.com

  1. Shen
    April 2, 2013 at 16:07

    Your own grand shaikh is saying the greatest extremist are not the followers of tableegh but the followers of yahya hajoori who had a lecture of his put up here only a few weeks ago.

    The salafis are in turmoil, especially the madkhali salafis. How could you possibly convince people you are upon the haq if you people follow the grand masters shaykhs that you do. Dont you think people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones? You love talking about tabligh this and sufis that. But you salafis are always interfighting anyway.

    libyans against algerian, sub continent salafis concentrating on fiqhi issues and not understanding arabic. Arab salafis dismissing the ignorant ajami salafis. Western students rumour mongering to get salafis (or ex) bros ‘written off’. All the accusations about abusing and reviling sahaba etc etc.

    Does this sound lie a sincere da’wah to you? I mean would you wait 7 years to tell someone they called a major sahabi an innovator if you indeed did love the salaf? Would you only expose your brother after he attacked someone you loved mre dear (i.e. jabiri).

    Doesn’t it sound ridiculous to you that salafis can do all of the above and yet remain sincere and on the truth?

    Salafis claim to follow the truth whereever it may be and don’t wish to blind follow especially fanatical blind following in the face of clear evidence.

    Now any truthful sincere person can see the salafees both leaders and followers are not being sincere in their claim.

    Please reflect on this and consider it. Do you think the shaykhs you follow are sincere in their claims and refutations without any exaggerations?

  2. shehzadsattar
    April 3, 2013 at 21:35

    Asalaamulaykum Wa Rahmahtullahi Wa Barakatuhu.

    You talk about manners in your past posts yet you show nothing of yours???

    In the Fadhaail A’maal, English edition printed by Anjuman-E-Islahul Muslimeen of UK, Page 225.

    “It has been reported from a number of companions and from amongst them
    Hadhrat Uthman, Hadhrat Abu Huraira, Hadhrat Anas, etc. in different
    wordings that there are some people who possess the ability of Kashf. They
    can feel the sins being committed by people. Therefore the story of the Imam
    of the world Hadhrat Abu Haneefa is famous that he used to stand outside the
    Masjid of Koofah and see the sins of the people fall out as they performed
    wudu.” (Kandalvi continues): It has also been reported from Hadhrat
    Uthman that the Prophet said, “Those who possess such abilities should not
    become arrogant.”

    “My Lord! Judge You in truth! Our Lord is the Most Gracious, Whose Help is to be sought against that which you attribute!” [Soorah Al-Anbiyaa(21):112]

    Allaah is the One whose help is sought. How can Molvi Zakariyya Khandelvi attribute such a lie to the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them all). How can he attribute the Unseen to the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them all). Yet Tabligh Jamaat is out there promoting these lies under the guise of rectification? How can he attribute such a lie on one of the great Imaams, Imaam Abu Hanifa (may Allah have mercy on him)?

    My brother, you need to take a step back and look at what these Sufi Deobandis are actually promoting in their books, and they say that only the elite have real understanding and the rest have no idea.

    Have you read Mashaaikh e Chist, Seriously, any laymen after reading that will understand that there is a corruption in the creed of Deoband

    Fabrications are rife in the book Fadhaail A’maal.

  3. Shen
    April 3, 2013 at 23:25

    Wa’alaykum salam warahmatullah wabarakatu,

    Brother all i want to say is, there may be a group of people sincere yet misguided. Some maybe upon shirk beleifs and others may not. They have good intentions and want to rectify themselves. Yes, good intentions are not enough but for a lot of people from the deobandi muslims their may fall under the mercy of Allah when their time comes.

    as for the salafi group, based on what we know i.e. not refuting based on sincerety. Otherwise would you wait 7 years to call someone a reviler of companions? And this is not the first time either.

    We all know the conditions for actions to be accepted and sincerety is one of those conditions.

    the question is why do the salafis think they are on the haq alone when it’s obvious they are not, well at least those shaikhs who sit around refuting people (even their so called own salafees). Some of them give verdicts on western people they have never met. And worse than this are all those western salafis who just spread the infighting and evil talk. I mean just look at the salafi websites, if what you are saying is true i.e. shirk is biggest concern. Then why is it most of them especially salafi forums concentrate on REFUTING OTHER SALAFEES?

    Sincerety is important. and basically I could never see a truthful person knowing what is known about the salafees – joining THEIR MOVEMENT (and i know you don’t like being called a movement).

    brother, leave the issue of deobandis/sufis aside for just 1 minute. Let’s say they are wrong in many many things. Just ask yourself are the salafis on the haq, more specifically are the shaykh you follow in particular madkhali and his group the only haq and do you think salafees are blindly following him?

  4. shehzadsattar
    April 6, 2013 at 10:49

    Asalaamulaykum Wa Rahmahtullahi Wa Barakatuhu.

    There is a big difference between being misguided or wanting to seek the Truth and being misguided, knowing the misguidance and still not seeking the Truth to rectify oneself. This is the whole point of some of the articles in relation to Sufisim, Deoband, Brelwiyyah, Jamaat Tableegh, etc.

    I was part of Jamaat Tableegh, I’ve done the 4 months, gusht in my locality and another locality, stand outside the house, don’t look inside the house, recite third kalimah, Tuesday night mashwira at markaz, Thursday night lecture at marrkaz, give 2.5 hours to the mosque, morning/evening dhikr, etc.

    I learnt the actions of Salaah, I did not learn what nullifies salaah, when the sajdah of forgetfulness is valid and not valid in salaah and the list can go on. I learnt to start making major corrections to my salaah and perfect it when I came upon and made friends with Salafi brothers. I started to learn who Allah really is by studying tawheed and I started to learn the most dangerous and evil disease that every Muslim must learn, Shirk.

    By no means have I perfected my eemaan, tawheed, salaah, I am light years away from a actually receiving a droplet of knowledge.

    Allah the Mighty and Majestic says in the noble Quran:
    “And verily, this is My straight path, so follow it, and follow not (other) paths, for they will separate you away from His path. This He has ordained for you that you may have Taqwa” Surah al-Anam:153

    Shaykh Muhammad Nasrud-deen al-Albaani (rahimahullaah) said: “The path to Allaah is long and we pass along it like turtles. The goal is not that we arrive to the end of the path. Rather the goal is that we die while we are on the (straight) path”

    Indeed you may not like Shaykh Muhammad Nasrud-deen al-Albaani (rahimahullaah); but for one moment, lets put the personality of who said the quote aside and let’s look at what he said ok? I’ll repeat the quote:

    “The path to Allaah is long and we pass along it like turtles. The goal is not that we arrive to the end of the path. Rather the goal is that we die while we are on the (straight) path”

    It’s a very true, powerful and thought evoking ayat and the statement. Let’s ponder and think about the last part of the above statement; “… the goal is that we die while we are on the (straight) path”

    The correct Aqeedah, that belief of Allah the Most Merciful and the Bestower of Mercy, we know and understand. Acting upon the correct Aqeedah to the best of our ability. This my brother; will be the ticket to success in the dunya, the grave, the questioning in the grave, on The Day of Standing, the questing by Allah on the Day of Standing, distribution of the Book of Deeds and so forth.

    Ashraf Ali Thanvi wrote a book called “A’mal e Qurani”, yellow cover in Urdu. You can google image it and find the image of the book cover. He gives many spells and incantations. I will mention one of them, there are too many and I believe the entire book is riddled with black magic.

    Thanvi teaches how to use some magic to separate between two persons: “(Allah said:) ”We have put hatred and animosity between them until the day of Resurrection”
    If you desire to separate and put hatred between two persons, write this verse on a Bhuj stone, then write (the picture):
    And below the picture write the sentence: may the separation occur between Fulan (so and so) and Fulan. Write the names of the two persons instead of Fulan, make a Ta’wiz (Tameemah) of it and bury it between two old graves , but don’t do it for people not deserving this, as it will be a sin.”

    However no one stands up against Thanvi promoting this evil magic. People raise his status as a flawless scholar. I hope you’re reading what I am saying. Can you go back to your scholars and ask them for evidence of where they got this from? Now don’t answer from your own intellect, speak to your scholars and you will see what will happen.

    What you see here or even in this entire blog is not even touching the tip of the iceberg of the deviancy promoted by tableegh jamaat and deoband. Jafar has mentioned to you that our parents, families, friends and colleauges are also upon this falsehood for me most of the people in my life. Do you comprehend the punishment of what will happen to people who die upon Shirk? Can these misguided people get the Mercy of Allah…….. No they won’t and why? Because Allah has stated in the Quran that associating partners with Him is an unforgivable sin. Do you really think I care about what the other Salafi infighting is going on, that doesn’t even affect me personally, over my family, my blood, my friends, my children and the people I would die for? Think about it, it shouldn’t take a second to know and understand who comes first.

    Allah the Mighty and Majestic says in the noble Quran:
    “O you who believe! Ward off from yourselves and your families a Fire (Hell) whose fuel is men and stones, over which are (appointed) angels stern (and) severe, who disobey not, (from executing) the Commands they receive from Allâh, but do that which they are commanded.” (At-Tahrim 66:6).

    You know the Truth my brother, I know it’s difficult to accept, and I know it’s shocking when you actually read the Quran and the authentic AHaadith and the books of the Sufi methodology. Fudayl ibn ‘Iyaad (D: 187AH) “Upon you is the path of guidance and don’t worry about the few people on it. And beware of the path of misguidance, and don’t be deceived by the many people [on it].

    Many of the brothers upon Salafiyyah in Leicester if not all of them are from the Deoband/Barelwi. If you want to sit with them and discuss this, then come and see us at Masjid Quba, St Matthews, we have nothing to hide. We are willing to correct our mistakes and are willing to accept advice if we have made mistakes.

    And Allah knows best.

  5. Shen
    April 6, 2013 at 21:14

    May allah reward you brother, but i am not affiliated to any of these schools of thought like deoband or brelwi or salafi or any other you care to mention.

    So it’s not my job to defend magic in ashraf thanvis book if that is the case. Neither do i have any hatered for albani. rather all of these scholars err and some more than others.

    You can find many “mistakes” in the books of “salafi” ele hadith scholars. Even going back to sub continent giants like nawab khan or some others who perhaps had some speech which is like wahdat ul wujood.

    My question is why are you and other salafis blinded by obvious errors in your group? Do you think you get reconciliation with other muslims by attacking those they love? Earlier in this blog, their were clear links to a website which had attacks upon imam abu hanifa. Is this beneficial?

  6. shehzadsattar
    April 9, 2013 at 05:54

    And may Allah reward you too brother. However I have not come across any attacks on Imaam Abu Hanifah (may Allah have mercy on him). If you want to kindly share.

  7. Shen
    April 14, 2013 at 19:51

    The website was linked to by brothers here who were selling the book about the deviancy of the elders of deoband.

    So it just follows, those who were promoting the book were also of the opinion that Imam Abu Hanifa needed to be “exposed” as it were as part of the ahnaf problem these ele hadis fanatics have.

    Regarding maturudism, then i doubt even 1 in a thousand of the hanafis in leicester is aware of them or their beleifs. Likewise with the ‘asharees. Some may even call themselves ‘asharees, but don’t understand what it is in reality. Going around belittling imam abu hanifa or even bringing up maturudism as a first point would not be beneficial to most hanafis in Leicester in my opinion.

    Even iMam as-sabuni author of the creed book popular with the salafees, is said to have carried al’asharis book with him, yet we all know his aqeedah was not what could be considered ‘ashari. my point is, don’t look at everything in black and white. Sometimes these people or their imams might claim for them to be maturudi or ‘ashari, but i doubt the vast majority of them know what that even entails.

  8. Shen
    April 14, 2013 at 20:35

    In the translation of an recording below Shaykh Muhammed ibn Hadee mentioned in his refutation of Ibraheem Ar-Ruhaylee (who claimed Murjiatul Fuqahaa are not declared innovators) that the Murjiatul Fuqahaa opposed Ahlussunnah in 3 matters; in the issue of Al-Emaan and that they for this were declared innovators.

    Speech of Shaykh Muhammad bin Haadee:

    Whereas they (the Murjiatul Fuqahaa):

    1, they don’t do the الإستلناء in it ( Al-Emaan)
    2, they see whoever has it ( Al-Emaan) the same, they (they person of with emaan) don’t have some better then others (increased eemaan) and some worse others ( little emaan)
    3, they don’t see it that actions enter in it (Al-Emaan)

    With these 3 foundations Al Murjiatul Fuqahaa in koofa eg Hammaad ibn abi Sulaymaan and who ever followed him( like) Abu haneefa and who ever was with him went with it against Ahlussunnah and because of this they (Ahlussunnnah ) they increased in there proving that they(Murjiatul Fuqahaa and there false principles) are wrong and and declared them as INNOVATORS

    And shaykh Al islaam ibnu taymiyyah also said in the 10th volume of Al Mujmoo’ Al fatawa in 478

    “and At-takfeer not one of the salaf has made takfeer of them (Murjiatul Fuqahaa) but they declared them as innovators…

    Here Shaykh Muhammed mentioned Abu Haneefah ,May Allaah forgive him of his errors, by name as an innovator ,and al-Imaam al-Humaydee* was reported to have called him(Abu Haneefah) Abu Jeefah

    One may now ask, are those that see the Murjiatul Fuqaha and/or Abu Haneefah ,May Allaah have mercy on him, as innovators and speak ill of him to be labled with hadaadiyyah? Or this all brought out just now with weak and vain tries to bring down the DawatuSalafiyyah in Yemen?

    Reference: This was brought to my attention by the brother abu Abdullah hishaam ibnu Hussein:

    Read more regarding Abu Haneefah here:

  9. April 15, 2013 at 11:09

    The subject of the post is not inter salafi disputes nor Abu hanifa so i would kindly request that you stick to the topic which is the meaning and origin of sufism.if you continue to try to deploy your diversionary tactics i will simply edit your post deleting those parts that are irrelevant to the topic.Thank you for your co-operation

    • shen
      May 10, 2013 at 02:27

      You are right that is not the topic. But if you are truthful in your claims of being salafi. Then let me ask you why you are now defending the Sahaba (RA) like Uthmaan (ra) from the statements made by Muqbil and many other ahlul hadees people in India? Hajuri is being attacked now for the sake of the love of the sahaba (RA). My question to you is, if you are truthful in this claim of love, where was it all these years?

      The deobandis amongst many other non salafi groups were saying this about salafis along time ago. They were defending Uthmaan (RA) from such attacks of bid’ah a long long time ago.

      Who are the real ones who love the sahaba (RA) sincerely?

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