EXTRA NOTE: I seem to get a lot of hits for this article, but this is an old one, when I was still learning about things. Since then, I’ve learned more and built off of this article. See the following posts in addition to this:
NOTE: This is going to be a very sensitive and controversial topic. The only reason I touch upon it is because I know that now it is dying down and people are more receptive to it. This is a result of Muslims becoming more and more serious about learning Islam and understanding that the more they learn, the more and more they realize they know.
Additionally, I want people to get comfortable with the Sufi tradition as I will be discussing more and more about it in the future. This post will be heavily moderated.
People have a tendency to think these two are diametrically opposed. But the truth is quite the opposite.
As you know, Salafis are known for following the Fiqh us-Sunnah (the “correct” position which is a very recent creation) or sometimes one of the 4 schools of Fiqh (how-tos), their Aqidah (theology) is against Kalam (Islamic philosophy) and sticks to what the Prophet SAAWS taught, and lastly they reject Tasawwuf (Sufism). And then the Sufi follows one of the 4 schools of Fiqh (how-tos), their Aqidah (theology) is that of a certain school of Kalam (Islamic philosophy), and they are murids (students or disciples) in a Sufi Tariqa (or an Order and there are many of them). Fair enough?
But what happens when you mix the two…?
If you check out at Riyada Nafs blog . There are a bunch of other discussions as well but I’m going to focus on the Salafi-Sufi controversy in the interest of throwing new light and dispelling misconceptions.
A few facts that may surprise you:
-The shaykh of Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahab rahimullah (who basically started modern day Salafi) was an Ashari Naqshbandi Sufi from India, Shaykh Muhammad Haya al-Sindhi rahimullah who introduced the works of Ibn Taymiyyah rahimullah. May Allah’s mercy be on all of them.
-Sufism (Tasawwuf) was never opposed by Sh. Wahhab rahimullah, only certain practices that were shirk were opposed. In other words, the same things the Sufis disagreed with, so did Sh. Wahhab. Although, Sh. Wahhab was not a Sufi, the students who studied with him under Sh. al-Sindhi were all Sufis.
Now, let’s take it a bit further back and look at Ibn Taymiyyah rahimullah.
(Ibn Taymiyyah’s unmarked grave is tucked away amidst some administrative buildings of Damascus University near Baramkeh (Syria) surrounded by weeds and garbage. 😦 )
-People have thought of Ibn Taymiyyah to be a Salafi figure but this has been disputed. The reason Salafis love him is because he speaks harshly of Kalam and certain acts of Tasawwuf (Ibn Arabi rahimullah for example). But his main message called for a return to the Quran and Sunnah. Sufis love him because he returned to the roots of Islam and because they believe he was a Sufi and this is another topic of debate. If it is true than we find that his Fiqh was Hanbali, Aqidah was “Salafi” (reject Kalam) but he was quite possibly a Sufi of the Qadiri Tariqah order.
And as far as we can go back.
The masjid of Abdullah Ansari in Herat, Afghanistan
-Ibn Taymiyyah rahimullah was strongly influenced by and followed Shaykul Islam Abdullah Ansari rahimullah. Ansari was of Hanbali Fiqh (like Ibn Tayymiyah), a very passionate “Salafi” in Aqidah delivering khutbahs against Kalam, and a well-known and respected Qadiri Sufi. Ibn Taymiyyah’s student, Ibn Qayyim rahimullah wrote a book which was a commentary on a work of Abdullah Ansari rahimullah. Ibn Qayyim named his book Madarij us-Salikeen. And this book is studied today in AlMaghrib’s class “A Heart Serene”.
OK so why’d I write this all out?
1) People do not know about this and get dragged into the hullabaloo of bashing this group or another.
2) Salafi and Sufis are essentially one in the same and you CAN have people in the middle.
3) There ARE people in the middle–there are Salafis who are Sufis and do not fall into these neat groupie categories.
4) At some point we all WILL become one in the Ummah even with the differences between groups simply because we are all linked as this post demonstrates.
5) How the scholars were accepting of different viewpoints.
6) The Salafi perception of Tasawwuf is more accepting than people believe.
There are countless more points where it becomes clear that Tasawwuf is an inseparable part of Islam–mainly from the fact that the scholars of Islam have overwhelmingly been Sufis and the majority of Islamic work has historically been done by Sufis. If a person is going to dismiss Tasawwuf–then they might as well dismiss the Islam that has been practiced for over 1400 years! Also this is important to know because when tasawwuf is dismissed–one compromises their adaab (manners) and becomes more susceptible to psychological problems such as depression, negativity and over-critiquing others until they are left alone. This is not to say that you MUST be in a Sufi Tariqah, however simply to point out that dismissing Sufism as a whole as haraam or bida–is nothing short of ignorant. There are bidas and mistakes in Sufism–just as there are mistakes in the study of Hadith but that does not mean we dismiss it–we correct it instead. People think showing a few videos of Sufis doing strange things is sufficient proof when in fact this is not even touching the iceberg. Simply put, Sufism is too intertwined with Islam for us to dismiss it.
There is plenty more to discuss but the take home message is the more you learn about the deen the more you realize you know very little. People will call out “bida!” when in fact the truth is they have not come across the relevant Islamic literature and it is, in fact, something the Prophet SAAWS himself encouraged. Insha Allah, He will make us among the knowledgeable.
And a hadith reminder to remind people who comment of adab (manners) :
On the authority of Abdullah ibn ‘Amr (may Allah be pleased with them both) that the Prophet SAAWS said:
“Four traits whoever possesses them is a hypocrite and whoever possesses some of them has an element of hypocrisy until he leaves it: the one who when he speaks he lies, when he promises he breaks his promise, when he disputes he transgresses and when he makes an agreement he violates it.”
(Muslim and Bukhari)