Origins of Tasawwuf
Imam Muhammad Mathum al-Faruqi rahmatallahi ta'ala 'alaih
All the outward and spiritual perfections have been attained through Muhammad Rasulullah sall-Allahu ta'ala 'alaihi wa sallam. The orders and prohibitions, which are outward, have been transmitted to us through the books written by our 'aimmat al-madhhahib'. And the hidden knowledge pertaining to the heart and soul have been conducted through the great men of tasawwuf. It is written in the Sahih of al-Bukhari that Abu Huraira radi-Allahu ta'ala 'anh said, 'I filled two cups from Rasulullah sall-Allahu ta'ala 'alaihi wa sallam. I have explained the contents of one of them. You would kill me if I disclosed the other.'
It is also written in the Sahih of al-Bukhari that when Hadrat 'Umar radi-Allahu ta'ala 'anh died, his son 'Abdullah radi-Allahu ta'ala 'anh said that nine-tenths of knowledge had died and, seeing that the listeners were confused, added that he meant not the knowledge of fiqh but the knowledge of knowing Allahu ta'ala. All the paths of tasawwuf come from Rasulullah sall-Allahu ta'ala 'alaihi wa sallam. The superiors of tasawwuf have attained the ma'arif emanating from the blessed heart of Rasulullah sall-Allahu ta'ala 'alaihi wa sallam through their rehbers in every century.
Tasawwuf was not made up by Jews or mutasawwifs. Indeed the terms fana', baqa', jadhba, suluk and sair-i ila'llah, which were used for attainments on the way of tasawwuf, were first used by the great leaders of tasawwuf. It is written in Nafakhat that Abu Said al-Harraz radi-Allahu ta'ala 'anh was the first one who used the terms fana' and baqa'. Then ma'arif of tasawwuf came from Rasulullah sall-Allahu ta'ala 'alaihi wa sallam. The names for these ma'arif were given later. It is written in many books that, before he was notified of his Prophethood, he had performed dhikr by heart. Tawajjuh (thinking deeply) towards Allahu ta'ala, the dhikrs of nafi (negation) and ithbat (affirmation) and muraqaba (mediation) existed during the time of Rasulullah sall-Allahu ta'ala 'alaihi wa sallam and the as-Sahabat al-kiram radi-Allahu ta'ala 'anhum ajmain, too.
SHAYKH NU HA MIM KELLER
As for the origin of the term Tasawwuf, like many other Islamic disciplines, its name was not known to the first generation of Muslims. The historian Ibn Khaldun notes in his Muqaddima:
This knowledge is a branch of the sciences of Sacred Law that originated within the Umma. From the first, the way of such people had also been considered the path of truth and guidance by the early Muslim community and its notables, of the Companions of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), those who were taught by them, and those who came after them.
It basically consists of dedication to worship, total dedication to Allah Most High, disregard for the finery and ornament of the world, abstinence from the pleasure, wealth, and prestige sought by most men, and retiring from others to worship alone. This was the general rule among the Companions of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and the early Muslims, but when involvement in this-worldly things became widespread from the second Islamic century onwards and people became absorbed in worldliness, those devoted to worship came to be called Sufiyya or People of Tasawwuf (Ibn Khaldun, al-Muqaddima [N.d. Reprint. Makka: Dar al-Baz, 1397/1978], 467).
In Ibn Khaldun's words, the content of Tasawwuf, "total dedication to Allah Most High," was, "the general rule among the Companions of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and the early Muslims." So if the word did not exist in earliest times, we should not forget that this is also the case with many other Islamic disciplines, such as tafsir, 'Quranic exegesis,' or 'ilm al-jarh wa ta'dil, 'the science of the positive and negative factors that affect hadith narrators acceptability,' or 'ilm al-tawhid, the science of belief in Islamic tenets of faith,' all of which proved to be of the utmost importance to the correct preservation and transmission of the religion.
As for the origin of the word Tasawwuf, it may well be from Sufi, the person who does Tasawwuf, which seems to be etymologically prior to it, for the earliest mention of either term was by Hasan al-Basri who died 110 years after the Hijra, and is reported to have said,
It therefore seems better to understand Tasawwuf by first asking what a Sufi is; and perhaps the best definition of both the Sufi and his way, certainly one of the most frequently quoted by masters of the discipline, is from the sunna of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) who said:
This hadith was related by Imam Bukhari, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, al-Bayhaqi, and others with multiple contiguous chains of transmission, and is sahih. It discloses the central reality of Tasawwuf, which is precisely change, while describing the path to this change, in conformity with a traditional definition used by masters in the Middle East, who define a Sufi as;
To clarify, a Sufi is a man of religious learning,because the hadith says, "My slave approaches Me with nothing more beloved to Me than what I have made obligatory upon him," and only through learning can the Sufi know the command of Allah, or what has been made obligatory for him. He has applied what he knew, because the hadith says he not only approaches Allah with the obligatory, but "keeps drawing nearer to Me with voluntary works until I love him." And in turn, Allah bequeathed him knowledge of what he did not know, because the hadith says, "And when I love him, I am his hearing with which he hears, his sight with which he sees, his hand with which he seizes, and his foot with which he walks," which is a metaphor for the consummate awareness of tawhid, or the 'unity of Allah,' which in the context of human actions such as hearing, sight, seizing, and walking, consists of realizing the words of the Qur'an about Allah that,
"It is He who created you and what you do" (Qur'an 37:96).
For the full article visit TASAWWUF TODAY
The following article written by Seyedeh Dr. Nahid Angha is taken from the journal Sufism: An Inquiry.
There have been many debates concerning the origin of Sufism and how this school of inner knowledge was established. In seeking the spiritual and intellectual ancestry of Sufism, some have looked toward Greek philosophy in general and Platonism especially, some to the Hermetic Christianity of the Gnostics of the late Roman Empire, and others to Buddhism or Yogism. But Sufism, as it has been practiced since its birth, is quite a different school of belief, practice, and goal than any of these preexisting ways of thinking. Even though Sufism as the school of spiritual knowledge based on self cognition as the door toward understanding the realities of Being is a school open to all humanity, but it was born out of Islam and is the heir to the treasures of knowledge from the sacred heart of the Beloved Prophet Muhammad, May Allah Almighty shower untold blessings upon him and has practiced its way accordingly. The actual birth of Sufism as a way of thought and practice is therefore subsequent to the advent of Islam.
The history of the origin of Sufism records that during the lifetime of the Beloved Prophet Muhammad, May Allah Almighty shower untold blessings upon him, fifteen centuries ago, there was a group of pious individuals from different nations who, guided by the Laws of Islam, sought for the direct experience of the Divine. Companions of the Most Beloved Prophet May Allah Almighty shower untold blessings upon him, they were people of principles practicing certain disciplines and meditations for the sake of purification, the realization of Divine love, and the understanding of reality. They were the Lovers of God who sought union with Him through losing the limited self in His Divinity (fana), and remaining alive in that Reality (bagha).
These individuals met on the platform, or suffe, of the mosque where the Beloved Prophet Muhammad, May Allah Almighty shower untold blessings upon him used to pray in Madina, Arabia. They would meet there almost everyday to discuss the ways to inner knowledge, the truths of revelation, and the meanings of the verses of the Noble Qur'an. Thus the platform of that mosque in Madina became the first gathering place of one of the most influential groups in the history of mankind's spiritual civilization. They were called 'ahl al- suffe' the People of the Platform.
These individuals cultivated the seed of a school of spiritual practice based on knowledge of the self, and thus free of the trappings of tradition and superstition, a knowledge of the inner heart apart from the customary beliefs of their contemporary society as well as those of future civilizations. It is from this group that all the schools of Sufism that have ever existed owe their origin, for by pursuing the path of unsullied inner knowledge they were the founders of Sufism, and the binding link between its subsequent developments.
Among the most famous were: Salman Farsi, Ammar Yasser, Balla'al, and Abdullah Masoud May Allah be pleased with them; some historians have added Oveyse Gharani to this list as well. Avoiding proselytizing among the multitude, their gatherings were held in private, open only to true seekers of reality. Instead of preaching in public, these pious individuals were searchers for truth, not performers of rhetoric.
After the Most Beloved Prophet May Allah Almighty shower untold blessings upon him passed away, each of the people of suffe returned to his homeland to instruct students eager to follow upon the path of inner knowledge. There they became the great missionaries of Islam. History shows that within a century or two their style of self understanding and discipline were introduced by their students to nations as diverse and widely separated as Persia, India, Indonesia, Syria, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and North Africa. Their teachings were based on individual understanding and direct experience, not just on particular texts or rote learning. In this manner their fundamental teachings have been preserved in their style up to the present, instead of withering away into the empty formulas of scholasticism.
Through this process of diffusion, different schools and orders of Sufism gradually emerged from the single original group of suffe at Madina. Their practices differ from one another in emphasis and doctrine, but all legitimate Sufi schools trace their ultimate origins back to the original group of the Most Beloved Prophet Muhammad's May Allah Almighty shower untold blessings upon him spiritual disciples (mureeds).