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The Meaning and Origin of Sufism


Shaikh Saalih Al-Fawzaan

Haqeeqat-ut-Tasawwuf (pg. 11-15) [1422 1st Edition]

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
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 Allaahs 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 persons 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, Taabieen and the Atbaa atTaabieen.
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 AbdulWaahid 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
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-Tuaimah 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 Quraan and the Sunnah.
Likewise, we dont 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 Allaahs 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] Translators Note: The Ahlus-Suffah (People of the Bench) referred to the poorer Companions who
would sit outside the Prophets (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: Mutaqidan wa Maslakan (pg. 17)
[4] At-Tasawwuf: Al-Mansha wal-Masdar (pg. 28)
[5] Masra at-Tasawwuf (pg. 19)