Part Three of Six Answers by Shaykh Hisham Kabbani
= Tazkiyyat an-Nafs – Purification of the Self
The term Tasawwuf was used to identify the way of cleansing the heart, originally called Tazkiyyat an-Nafs in the Qur’an, but which became known later as the Science of Tasawwuf. Originally this ‘ilm (science) was known by the terms the Science of Austerity (Zuhd), the Science of Purification (Tazkiyyah) and the Science of Perfection of Character (Ihsan). The terms Zuhd, Tazkiyyat and Ihsan were the terms used in the time of the Prophet (s). Later these terms were defined in extensive detail and were refined as were the other sciences of Islam such ‘Ilm al-Hadith, ‘Ilm al-Kalaam, ‘Ilm an-Nahu, and the many other sciences, including ‘Ilm at-Tasawwuf. These Sciences were defined and their schools were established, based on what the Prophet (s) was doing, explaining and speaking in his time.
The Necessity of the Development of Islamic Sciences After the Prophet (s)
We see that in the time of the Prophet (s) there was no need for ‘Ilm an-Nahu to be taught, even to a child. Because in their natural state (fitra), raised in the land of Hijaz , even a child could read a poem or Arabic text without any need for diacritical marks (tashkil). It came naturally as they were raised knowing it. But later, when many non-Arabs entered Islam, they were reading the Qur’an incorrectly. It therefore became necessary to create new disciplines to assist new Muslims in reading Quran, so ‘Ilm an-Nahu and ‘Ilm at-Tashkil were established.
Similarly the State of Perfection (Ihsan), the State of Austerity (Zuhd), the State of God-fearingness (Wara’) and the State of God-consciousness (Taqwa) were naturally practiced by the Sahaba because they were in the company of the Prophet (s) and those states were a direct result of that association. It was for this reason that they were called Sahaba, because they were the Associates of the Prophet (s) and it was that Association with him which allowed them to become purified.
Similarly after the Sahaba, as many impure people entered Islam, who did not have the opportunity to meet the Prophet (s) nor the Sahaba, and many new Muslims of that time left the true path of Islam, it became necessary to establish a school with its foundation, just as ‘Ilm an-Nahu was established with its schools.It was necessary to establish schools through which were developed the disciplines ‘Ilm at-Taqwa, ‘Ilm al-Wara’, ‘Ilm al-Ihsan, ‘Ilm az-Zuhd, and these matters were combined under the main discipline ‘Ilm at-Tasawwuf, the Science of Tasawwuf. It is obvious and well-known that any term may be used to name a science and one is free to define or use any term one wishes. Similarly ‘Ilm al-Ihsan is not changed by giving it a different name.
What I wish from all my heart is that no one will be prevented or forbidden from learning this important science, as mentioned in Qur’an and in Hadith, due to prejudice against the term Tasawwuf.If the term is problematic to someone, let him give it a different name, but let him learn the science, by whatever name he wishes to call it.
We must know that Tasawwuf is not something new in Islam nor something innovated. Rather it is something taken from the Prophet (s) and from the Sahaba and its roots are in Islam. It is not as some enemies of Islam–Orientalists and their students–have said. they have innovated many new names for tasawwuf in order to attack the science and state of Ihsan which the Prophet mentioned in his Holy Hadith. They attempted to apply the term “superstition” (shawwaza) to the Science of Tasawwuf.
© 2012 As-Sunnah Foundation of America