Testimony of the Scholars of External Knowledge in Support of the Precedence of the Scholars of Internal Knowledge

Imam Abu Hanifa (81-150 H./700-767 CE)

Imam Abu Hanifa (r) (85 H.-150 H) said, “If it were not for two years, I would have perished. For two years I accompanied Sayyidina Jacfar as-Sadiq and I acquired the spiritual knowledge that made me a knower in the Way.”

The book Ad-Durr al-Mukhtar, vol 1. p. 43, mentions that Ibn cAbideen said, “Abi Ali Dakkak, one of the sufi saints, received his path from Abul Qassim an-Nasarabadi, who received it from ash-Shibli, who received it from Sariyy as-Saqati who received it from Macruf al-Karkhi, who received it from Dawad at-Ta’i, who received the knowledge, both the external and the internal, from the Imam Abu  Hanifa (r), who was supporting the Sufi Spiritual Path.” The Imam said before he died: lawla sanatan lahalaka Nucman, “Were it not for a certain two years, Nucman [i.e. myself] would have perished.” There were the last two years of his life, when he began accompanying Jacfar as-Sadiq (q).

Imam Malik (94-179 H./716-795 CE)

Imam Malik (r) said, “Whoever studies jurisprudence [fiqh] and didn’t study Sufism (tasawwuf) will be corrupted; and whoever studied tasawwuf and didn’t study fiqh will become a heretic; and whoever combined both will be reach the Truth.” This saying is mentioned and explained in the book of the scholar ‘Ali al-Adawi with the explanation of Imam Abil-Hassan, a scholar of fiqh, vol. 2, p. 195.

Imam Shafici (150-205 H./767-820 CE)

Imam Shafici said, “I accompanied the Sufi people and I received from them three knowledges:

1. they taught me how to speak 2. they taught me how to treat people with leniency and a soft heart. 3. they guided me in the ways of Sufism.”

This is mentioned in the books, Kashf al-Khafa and Muzid al-Albas, by Imam ‘Ajluni, vol. 1, p. 341.

Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal (164-241 H./780-855 CE)

Imam Ahmad (r) said, advising his son, “O my son, you have to sit with the People of Sufism, because they are like a fountain of knowledge and they keep the Remembrance of Allah in their hearts. They are the ascetics and they have the most spiritual power.” This is explained in the book Tanwir al-Qulub, p. 405, by Shaikh Amin al-Kurdi.

Imam Ahmad said about the Sufis, as mentioned in the book Ghiza al-Albab, vol. 1, p. 120, “I don’t know any people better than them.”

Imam al-Muhasibi (d. 243 H./857 CE)

Imam al-Muhasibi reported that the Prophet (s) said, “My Nation is going to split into 73 divisions and only one of them will be the Group of Salvation.” And Allah knows best that the Group is the people of Tasawwuf. He went deeply into the explanation of that subject, in the book Kitab al-Wasiya p. 27-32.

Imam al-Qushayri (d. 465 H./1072 CE)

Imam al-Qushayri said about Sufism, “Allah made this group the best of His saints and He honored them above all of His Servants after His Messengers and Prophets, and He made their hearts the secrets of His Divine Presence and He chose them from among the Nation to receive His Lights. They are the means of humanity. He cleaned them from all connnections to this world, and He lifted them to the highest states of vision. And He unveiled to them the Realities of His Unique Oneness. He made them to observe His Will operating in them. He made them to shine in His Existence and to appear as Lights of His Lights.” [ar-Risalat al-Qushayriyya, p. 2]

Imam Ghazali (450-505 H./1058-1111 CE)

Imam Ghazali,  hujjat ul-Islam, the Proof of Islam, said about Sufism, “I knew to be true that the Sufis are the seekers in Allah’s Way, and that their conduct is the best conduct, and their way is the best way, and their manners are the most sanctified. They have cleaned their hearts from other than Allah and they have made them as pathways for rivers to run receiving knowledge of the Divine Presence.” [al-Munqidh min ad-dalal, p. 131].

Imam Nawawi (620-676 H./1223-1278 CE)

Imam Nawawi said, in his Letters, al-Maqasid, “The specifications of the Way of the Sufis are five:

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