|Answer: My opinion is that tasawwuf has the following
problems from an Islamic point of view:
i) In tasawwuf one has to be unconditionally obedient to
one’s murshid (spiritual guide in tasawwuf). This blind acquiescence to someone
other than the Prophet (sws) is an un-Islamic approach. The Qur’an tells us that
we are responsible for our own deeds and that, on the Day of Judgement, the
excuse that an individual followed his leader unwittingly would not be
entertained at all as an excuse for a religiously incorrect behaviour.
ii) Many of the practices in tasawwuf which a murshid Sheikh
demands of his docile disciple (murid) do not originate from the Prophet (sws).
Such so-called spiritual practices are common amongst people of different
faiths. For instance, many concentration exercises (muraqabah) amongst Sufis are
the ones that you would find amongst the Hindus in their Yoga exercises as well.
I remember when a couple of years ago the famous Sufi Nuh Keller came to LUMS, I
attended one of his sessions. During that session he chanted some dhikr (words
for God’s remembrance) in a peculiarly distinct tune repeatedly. I immediately
recalled the tune of it because I had only heard it a few days ago on a
Sony-channel religious program where a Hindu Yogi was chanting a mantra in
exactly the same tune before a large group of his disciples.
iii) Tasawwuf sets forth for itself the target of getting
back to become a part of God as the ultimate goal of a genuine Sufi. The life of
paradise and being eligible to be a part of it is not even a part of the
objectives of a true Sufi. For him we have emerged from God and we have to
return to Him in the literal, physical sense. That is why the word for death in
Sufi dictionary is “wisal” which means “joining”, this life being “firaq”, which
iv) Sufis believe that the entire existence is a part of God.
“No one exists except Allah (la mawjuda ilallah)” is the ultimate kalimah of
Sufis. The kalima “La Ilaha Ilallah” is for the ordinary people and the beginner
v) For a Sufi, khatm-i nubuwwat doesn’t mean that angels
cannot come to communicate with humans anymore. Sufi saints have all along
claimed that they have been receiving guidance from angels directly. If you read
the da‘wah literature of Ahmadis (Qadiyanis) you would find that they are
challenging the Muslim claim that it is a unanimous Muslim understanding that
the chain of the prophets has come to an end after prophet Muhammad (sws) by
presenting volumes of evidence from Sufi literature which claim that angels of
God have very much been visiting Muslim Sufis after prophet Muhammad (sws). (If
you want to know the truth of these experiences, please read my article
“Experiencing Jinn” on my site
Please don’t consider the last three points as exaggerated
claims. There are scores of evidences to prove them from the writings of famous
Sufis like Abu Ishmael Harwi, Imam Ghazali, Shah Wali Ullah, Shah Ishmael Shahid,
Ibn ‘Arabi etc. If anyone claims that the Sufi understanding is anything
otherwise, he is either unaware or lying for the “noble” purpose of not causing
people to be upset on receiving such shocking revelations. It is only through
gradual indoctrination that a docile murid starts believing in all these
“truths” when he reaches the higher spiritual levels to experience them himself.
Tasawwuf has its virtues as well. The following are some of
i) Sufis are very good at reaching out to people through
effective psychological techniques. They know how to influence people; for that
purpose they work really hard. They would spend long hours at times even with a
single individual, solving even very small worldly problems. Alongside that,
they are so pleasant, polite, and soft in their approach that an ordinary person
can’t fail to be impressed by them. They maintain a good group of a number of
disciples who together form a strongly knit unit. The members of a Sufi group
are like a very strongly knit family with the murshid as its central,
ii) The exercises of dhikr suggested by Sufis and the other
things suggested in the path of tasawwuf (tariqah) give people a sense of relief
from tension, and a feeling of solace. Indeed this virtue is what most people
are seeking through tasawwuf at least at the initial stage of their affiliation.
Relief from tension is an objective which brings a large number of people close
to other forms of mysticism as well. Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and
other faiths have their respective versions of mysticism. Indeed tasawwuf is the
Muslim version of mysticism. When mysticism adapts to the conditions of Jews, it
takes the form of Kabala; when it adapts to the conditions of Muslims it becomes
tasawwuf. In all its forms it offers the virtue of a feeling of tension-free
solace to its followers.