Sufism as an umbrella term for a multitude of philosophical, social and literary phenomena that occur in the Islamic world. In the narrower sense, the term refers to a number of schools of Islamic mystical philosophy and theology, to religious orders and guilds that have greatly influenced the development of Islamic politics and society, as well as to the diverse expressions of popular piety throughout the Islamic world.
In a broader sense, Sufism is often seen as the spiritual muse behind many premodern verses in the Islamic world, as an expression of popular Islamic piety, as the primary social arena open to religious participation by women, and as an important force in the Islamic world Conversion of people to Islam in Africa and Asia.
Sufism was called Tazkiya Nafs (Purity of the Soul) in the Koran. Islamic scholars and those who have learned the Koran with translation know the meaning of this verse. “The day when neither wealth nor sons will benefit, but only the one who comes to Allah with a clean heart.” Surah Ashurah, 26: 88-89. Sufi orders served as educational institutions that promoted not only religious studies, but also music and decorative arts. Sometimes Sufi leaders served as theologians and judges, combining school and charismatic forms of leadership. at other times they led the challenge against the legal and theological establishment.
Where Sufism Began:
The origins of Sufism lie in a very informal movement of personal piety that originated in the first century of Islam. These earliest Sufis emphasized prayer, asceticism and withdrawal from society. The term “Sufism” or “Tasawwuf”, as the tradition is called in Arabic, can come from the practice of wearing wool (Suf in Arabic) or possibly from the Arabic word for purity (safa). The earliest Sufis spent almost all of their waking hours in prayer and often committed suicide as a form of prayer practice by starving to death or staying up all night. They gave up their connections to the world and had little other than the clothes on their backs. Much of these early Sufis were women, some of whom, like Rabia Basri, are still worshiped today.
It is very likely that after observing Christian ascetics in Syria and Palestine, the Sufis have adopted the practices of asceticism and wearing wool. However, the Sufis see the origins of their movement in the Quran and in the life of Muhammad (peace be upon him). They quickly realize that Muhammad SAW lived an extremely simple, almost ascetic life and had a habit of withdrawing from Mecca to meditate in a cave. While meditating in this way, he actually received his first revelation. The Sufis therefore view their practices as imitating Muhammad and hope for the same close relationship with God as he did.
The Sufi path:
The Sufis believe that the average person cannot understand the true nature of spirituality because of their small concerns. Striving for spiritual understanding in Sufism is seen as a path that every Sufi must take under the guidance of a teacher or master. This path has many levels, the number and names of which vary depending on the Sufi school.
In most cases, the first step on the Sufi path is to learn the Quran with translation, and then there is the step of repentance. The Sufi are expected to repent of all the bad deeds they have done in life and to take a vow to avoid all earthly delights. After the Sufi have regretted the past, they should separate themselves from earthly objects, which also include the bond with friends and family. In practice, this process of material and emotional unbundling is extremely difficult, often takes a long time, and requires rigorous meditation exercises under the guidance of a master.