The word Sufi is derived from the Greek "Sophia", meaning Wisdom. It is known as Tasawwuf ( Mysticism ) in Arabic, and is considered by scholars as the mystical, the inner or psycho-spiritual aspect of Philosophia Islamica. The great scholar, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, considered Sufism as the esoteric dimension of Al Islam.
Sufism emphasises on the Unity of Absolute Being, Wahdat al Wujud. Absolute Being alone exists in se and the Relative Universe is only a superimposition upon the Absolute Reality. Absolute Being is also Absolute Beauty, before Whose Beauty all earthly beauty is but a pale comparison !
The Influence of Neoplatonism on Sufism
Plotinus, the founder of Neoplatonism conceived
the Divine as the Alpha and Omega of Existence, its Source & Goal. The
translations of Plotinus provided the philosophical ground for Sufism. One is
struck by the similarities which exist in both systems, with regard to the
concept of God, the soul, the body, Vice and Virtue, Life and Death and Beauty
Sufism was influenced by Orpheus and Pythagoreanism. Orpheus was a poet who lived in Anatolia in the 6th and 7th centuries BCE. He had divine qualities and he could influence wild animals with his music. He postulated that the human soul can achieve perfection by refining itself from all passions and worldly possessions. Soul travels from body to body for self purification and reaches the Perfect State. Pythagorus adopted Orpheus' philosophy and integrated it with his own concepts. Plotinus, the founder of Neoplatonism took Plato's Theory of Ideas and reinterpreted them from Protagoras' point of view. Neoplatonism considers the Divine as the Alpha & the Omega. From Him everything comes into being, in Him everything exists, and to Him all return. Communion or Union with Him is the highest Goal, therefore. Our lives have only a symbolic meaning and it is good and necessary as a Becoming. But all Becoming has Being as its Goal and Fulfillment and God is the only Being !
Sufism is the Path of Love - Al Muhabba. The Lord is understood as Universal Love and the aim of Sufism is to unite with the Source of all Being, Universal Love ! Love without Philosophy is superstition and Sufism therefore encourages the adventures of the intellect, the scientific and the philosophical pursuit, Al Marifa !
When he was asked about Sufism, Junayd ( the preceptor of Mansur Al Hallaj ) said, "Sufism is that you should be with the Divine-- without any attachment."
Sufism emphasises upon the struggle to overcome the dominance that one's Negative Ego ( Nafs ) has over one. The war depicted in the great Epics - Iliad & the Odyssey etc - depict the great war between Good and Evil happening inside the human bosom - where the great struggle for supremacy is fought out on the ground floor of our existence, between the black and white opposites of Virtue and Vice, Light and Darkness, prosperity & adversity. The Beloved ( God ) may manifest as Benevolence or Severity and the Sufi aspirant has to love both !
As Rumi said:
I am a lover of both His benevolence and severity!
Amazing it is that I'm in love with these opposites !
If the aspirant can overcome one's Negative Ego, ( in the inner War, Jihad ul Nafs ) he can achieve Bliss, the Bliss for which the world's derelict sorrows yearn !
If you could get rid of yourself just
The secret of secrets would open to you.
The face of the Unknown, hidden beyond the universe
Would appear on the Mirror of your perception. ~Rumi
Annihilation in the Divine Ocean
Like the waves of the Ocean, we are individual egos in the Divine Ocean of Existence. The aspirant, desirous of union with the Beloved, has to go through many stages of Consciousness. He has to lose his illusory individuality in the Infinite and this can only be achieved by Annihilation and Subsistence.
The Sheik of Naqshbandi wrote
In my annihilation of annihilation
In my annhilation
I found You !
Annihilation in the Divine Beloved.
For every initiate, there will be a Master ( Shaikh ). The Shaikh imparts his power to the disciple. The initiate goes through a process of purification and initiation. Once the initiate attains maturity, by the Grace of his Shaikh, he attains the state of Fana fi Shaikh, a state of annihilation in the astral plane.
The next stage is Fana fi Rasool, enjoying the qualities of the Prophet. Grace descends on him as he furthur advances on the path.
Next stage in the Evolution of Consciousness is the state of Fana fi Allah, annihilation in the Beloved. The initiate loses his identity in the all embracing Beloved, who he now understands is the Prime Mover of everything and who permeates the cosmos !
I thought about You so often
That I completely became You !
Little but little You drew near
Slowly but slowly I passed away.
This passing away is Annihilation in the Beloved ( Fana fi Allah ). There is another
intermediary state - Fana al Fana and the last state is Baqi bi Allah or Permanence in the
Beloved, which is the Eternal or Ultimate State. Fanah refers to Annihilation & Bakah refers to Subsistence.
The Universal Truth, extolled by all religions and philosophies, is the Essential Self, which is the substratum or the basis for the Persona, or the superficial personality. Every man has a Persona or Mask, but deep within him is the Ultimate Reality or Essential Self. Now to manifest the Essential Self, the initiate goes through a process of purification & transmutes his carnal ego into a refined ego, by the process of Prayer and Meditation. He seeks the Divine, loves the Divine, embraces the Divine, lives with the Divine and sacrifices for the Divine ! By his noble sacrifice, he earns for himself Heaven ! Only by hard sacrifice is high Heaven earned !
About Universal Truth, Ibn Arabi, the Great Master , ( al Shaikh al Akbar ) wrote
She has eluded the learned of Islam
And those who have studied the Psalms
The Jewish Rabbi
The Christian priest !
The greatest Sufi was Mohammed himself ( Peace be upon him ), he who said that " Shariah ( Ethical Law ) is my speech, Tariqat ( the Way ) my actions and Haqiqat ( Truth ) my states " !
Sufism can function as a Universal Religion & the well known scholar Kabir Edmund Helminski wrote thus about Sufism
Sufism recognizes one central truth, it is the unity of being, that we are not
separate from the Divine. The unity of being is a truth which our age is in an
excellent position to appreciate -- emotionally, because of the shrinking of our
world through communications and transportation, and intellectually, because of
developments in modern physics. We are One: one people, one ecology, one
universe, one being. If there is a single truth, worthy of the name, it is that
we are all integral to the Truth, not separate. The realization of this truth
has its effects on our sense of who we are, on our relationships to others and
to all aspects of life. Sufism is about realizing the current of love that runs
through human life, the unity behind forms."
Inner & Outer Jihad ( Struggle ) in Sufism
"And those who perform jihad for Us, We shall certainly
guide them in Our ways,
and God is surely with the doers of good". (Quran XXXIX; 69)
"You have returned from the lesser jihad to the greater jihad" . (Hadith)
Jihad means struggle and there are two types of struggle. The lesser Jihad is struggle against the oppressors; the greater Jihad is the inner struggle against the inner enemies, the Seven Deadly Sins ( lust, greed, anger, jealousy, sloth, covetousness & gluttony). The outer struggle is defined as Al Jihad Al Asghar and the inner struggle is Al Jihad Al Akbar !
Fighting against one's negative ego is the most difficult, as the most difficult conquest is the conquest of the Mind. Verily it is said that the noblest conquest is the conquest of Mind or the greatest conquest is the conquest of oneself.