The Great Internet Debate

Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani



In 1994 a long debate took place on the Internet concerning the validity of Tasawwuf in Islam. The primary participants in this debate were Shaykh Hisham Mohammed Kabbani and Shaykh Muhammad Adly. A representative of the Muslim World League (Rabitat al-`alam al-Islami), the originator of the questions, Shaykh Adly, failed to respond to the presentations of Shaykh Kabbani, in which he presented the details of the daleels (evidences) for the validity of the Science of Tasawwuf, according to the Qur’an and Sunnah, the practice of the Sahaba, the practice of the Tabi’een, the Tabi’ Tabi’een and the Salaf as-Salih and according to the Khalaf scholars, including Ibn Taymiyya.

What follows is this debate as it appeared on the Internet, formatted for easy reading.

Tasawwuf – the Islamic Science of Perfection of Character


Shaikh M. Adly, addressed us with six questions on Tasawwuf via Internet’s MSA-Net.



by Shaikh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani


To our brother Shaikh Adly and to the new Muslims he mentioned in his article and to anyone that likes to have a short definition of the subject of Tasawwuf.


Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Raheem

Brothers and Sisters in Islam,

We greet you with the greetings of Islam. Allah says

    “IDHA HUYEETUM BITAHIYATIN FAHAYU BI-AHSANI MINHA …” “And when you are greeted with a greeting, greet with a better (greeting) than it or return it; surely Allah takes account of all things.” (an-Nisa, 86)

So we are greeting you with the ‘tahyat al-Islam,’ as-salaam alaykum wa rahmatullah. And we hope you greet us in the same or better way, without any ill-feelings or accusations. Because we see that on the network an extreme form of unfairness is occurring–something that is forbidden in Islam. That injustice is coming from only one side. What we perceive is that whatever we say some people come against us with accusations and whatever they say is presumed to be accepted.

The Solution to Differences of Opinion in Islam

We are not expressing our own point of view–we are expressing the point of view that MANY, MANY Muslims have accepted. From this we see that there is a difference of opinion, ikhtilaf. Sometimes there might be differences in opinion (ikhtilaf) in Islam, and that is because opinions (ijtihad) might differ. For that reason, ACCORDING TO SOME SCHOLARS, the Door of Jurisprudence, (Bab al-Ijtihad) is still open. This is not the time to open a discussion of this subject, but for those who accept that opinion, it is considered open so that people who came in later times than the Four Imams, who have more knowledge or have a different point of view can make new ijtihad.

Therefore, when Muslims disagree, they must not accuse each other–it is not from Islamic good manners (adab). The more appropriate thing to do, instead of making accusations, would be for them to become aware of what is written about the matter under discussion by the scholars representing the differing opinion. Therefore we say, “if someone is not aware of certain things that have been explained by many scholars of Islam, over 1400 years of Islamic history, then that person should go read the existing books in order to understand the subject and in order to develop a clear point of view which takes into consideration all the other viewpoints and essential doctrines on that subject as they have been explained by the scholars of Islam.”

What we are expressing today and trying to bring before the network is a subject that all ‘ulama have brought up and studied thoroughly. It is one in which they obtained a tremendous amount of knowledge and which they checked out thoroughly, verifying that its roots are deep within Islam. Moreover they expressed their opinions, saying that true Tasawwuf complies with Sunnah and Shari’ah because it originates from the heart of the Sunnah and Shari’ah.


Tasawwuf is a technical term which describes the state of Ihsan, as mentioned in the famous hadith of Jibril, and the process of Tazkiyyat an-Nafs, purification of the self which is mentioned in the Holy Qur’an. That is acceptable in Islam, as long as it does not contain superstition (shawwaza). We have said many times that we do not believe in nor follow superstition. We accept Tazkiyyat an-Nafs and the state of Ihsan, purification of the heart, as it is an *important* part of the Sunnah of the Prophet (s) and the teachings of the Holy Qur’an. We are following the definition of Tasawwuf that was clearly and extensively explained by Ibn Taymiyya, Ibn Qayyim and Ibn Kathir and all other great scholars of the other four schools of Islamic Shari’ah.

Now if some our brothers and sisters in Islam are not aware of that matter, it doesn’t mean that matter doesn’t exist. The word Tasawwuf by itself is simply a term, which can be interchanged by any other appropriate term. It is used to explain the concepts of Tazkiyyat an-Nufus and Ihsan. To say one is Sufi is like one saying “I graduated from Azhar, I am Azhari.” It is simply applying a title or an adjective. It doesn’t mean one isn’t Muslim. The word “Azhari” isn’t found in Qur’an or Hadith. However, it is a term which is used to identify a concept quickly.

If one doesn’t like the *term* Tasawwuf he shouldn’t use it. He can use some other term, of which there are many, which we will present here and in the forthcoming reply to Shaikh Adly’s questions, which we are working hurriedly to complete before we begin travelling on Friday. However, just because one doesn’t like the term Tasawwuf, perhaps because of some negative connotations that have been attributed by modernists and Orientalists, that doesn’t mean great scholars didn’t define the term and explain it, as a science in Islam and an essential part of the Din. Ibn Taymiyya did so in 1400 pages of Volume 10 (`Ilm as-Sulook) and Volume 11 (atTasawwuf) of his lifework, “The Gathered Fatawas of Ibn Taymiyya” (Majmu’a Fatawi Ibn Taymiyya), which we have summarized elsewhere. And as we are all Muslims and we know that Ibn Taymiyya was one of the Shuyukh al-Islam, for one to deny Tasawwuf is like denying and disavowing what Ibn Taymiyya and other great scholars said on this matter. Since we respect Ibn Taymiyya’s teachings, and most of the readers respect them as well, then it is necessary to know his opinion on this subject, which he explained in detail. However, to translate his vast work on this subject, encompassing 1400 pages, is a huge task and will take a great deal of time. Insha-Allah, at our leisure, we are going to explain and bring out the meaning, concepts and terminology of this subject, to the best of our ability.

As I am not an English speaker, I am an Arab, it takes time to translate, explain and give definitions. So you must excuse us, because we don’t want to write hurriedly and give a haphazard answer in our spare time. Rather we wish to define Tasawwuf precisely according to Qur’an and Holy Hadith in order to answer Shaikh Adly’s questions. We intend to answer in depth insha-Allah, to give the meaning of the term Tasawwuf, which doesn’t differ from the meaning of Tazkiyyat an-Nufus or Ihsan. Ihsan is the state of the heart which brings tears to the eyes when reading the Qur’an or Hadith, causes one to feel regret for time wasted in pursuit of the worldly life, and causes one to yearn for the presence of God and for the blessings of the Afterlife.

Some writers need two or three years to write a book. I don’t think any reasonable person expects us to give a definition of this huge subject in a short space when it deserves a whole book. Nonetheless, we will continue to translate slowly, the quotations of Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn Qayyim on Sufism, ‘Ilm as-Sulook, Ittihad, Fana’, Praising the Prophet (s), the matter of Intercession and numerous subjects which were mentioned in the books of Ibn Taymiyya, Ibn Qayyim and Ibn Kathir. Some brothers and sisters are not aware of these important subjects, because these books are in Arabic and are difficult to obtain.

As of now, we didn’t translate from any scholars other than Ibn Taymiyya, Ibn Kathir and Ibn Qayyim. We haven’t yet begun to translate how other scholars of Islam explained these terms. Because this life will end, yet the teachings of Islam will never end. Allah said, “Qul law kaana al-bahru midaadan li-kalimaati rabbi,lanafid al-bahru qabl an tafadu kalimaatu rabbi wa law ji’na bi-mithilhi maddada.” “Say: if the Ocean were ink [wherewihth to write out] the words of my Lord, sooner would the Ocean be exhausted than would the words of my Lord were to end, even if We added another Ocean like it as aid.” (Kahf, 109)

Allah’s Knowledge as mentioned in Surat al-Kahf, is like an ocean which never ends and that is why the exegesists (mufassarin) such as Ibn Kathir and Sayyid Qutb have written many volumes of explanations of the Holy Qur’an. What these scholars wrote is from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, though the average person reading it might not be able to determine that fact.

The Sciences Contained in the Qur’an and Hadith

The Qur’an is contained in approximately 500 pages. The Hadith of Prophet (s), accepted in Bukhari and Muslim, are only around 5000-7000 hadith. Yet we see that thousands of books have been put forth explaining hadith and Qur’an. If we quote only one person, Ibn Taymiyya, whom we like to quote, we find he has 37 volumes devoted purely to fatwas, not even explanations. Therefore how can one say for everything “where is it in Qur’an or in hadith?”

Scholars developed ‘Ilm an-Nahu, ‘Ilm al-‘Ajaaz, ‘Ilm ul-Kalam, ‘Ilm at-Tawhid, ‘Ilm al-‘Aqida, ‘Ilm al-Qur’an, ‘Ilm al-Fiqh, ‘Ilm al-Hadith, ‘Ilm as-Sirah, ‘Ilm as-Sarf, ‘Ilm al-Bayan, ‘Ilm at-Tafsir, ‘Ilm al-Tajweed, ‘Ilm at-Tarteel, ‘Ilm at-Tasawwuf (‘Ilm ul-Ihsan), ‘Ilm ul-Mirath and many other sciences (‘Ulum), all of which came from the Holy Qur’an and the hadith of the Prophet (s). [These are respectively: the Science of Grammar, the Science of Explaining the Miraculous Eloquence of Qur’an, the Science of the Unity of God, the Science of Belief, the Science of Qur’an, the Science of Jurisprudence, the Science of the Traditions of the Prophet (s), the Science of the Life of the Prophet (s), the Science of Linguistic Analysis, the Science of Clarification, the Science of Exegesis of Qur’an, the Science of Harmonious Recitation, the Science of Fluid Recitation, the Science of Purification of the Self–also known as the Science of Perfection of Character and the Science of Inheritance]. None of these sciences nor their terminology existed in the time of the Prophet(s). Whereas their realities did exist, as the Sahaba were practicing them better than anyone after them.


The Science of Tasawwuf, or Science of Purification of the Self is mentioned in the Holy Qur’an: “Hua alladhee ba`atha fil-ummiyyin rasulan minhum, yatlu `alayhim ayaatihi wa yuzakihim wa yu`alimahum al-kitaba wal-hikmata wa in kanu min qablu lafee dallaaalim mubeen.”

He it is Who raised among the inhabitants of Mecca an Apostle from among themselves, who recites to them His communications and purifies them, and teaches them the Book and the Wisdom, although they were before certainly in clear error.” (Jumu’ah, 2,3)

In this verse we find four essential principles. One of these four principles mentioned in this verse, purification (Tazkiyya), is mentioned under the words “wa yuzzakihim.” It means to purify the believers from all kinds of shirk (association with Allah) and to purify their hearts and to prepare them for the state of Ihsan. Ibn Kathir’s explanation of that verse goes to many pages. “Tazkiyya” means “to sanctify,” which means to raise the individual from a state of materialism to a state of purification of the heart.

The state of Ihsan, which is the second component of the Science of Tasawwuf, is mentioned in the Sunnah of the Prophet (s). This term is mentioned in the hadith of Jibril, when he appeared to the Prophet (s) while the Prophet (s) was sitting among his Sahaba, and questioned the Prophet (s) about the definitions of the terms “Islam” (the Corpus of Islam), “Iman” (the Beliefs of Islam) and “Ihsan,” (the Way of Perfecting Character). We are only mentioning this subject glancingly at this time, but we intend to expand the explanation of this subject in our answer to Shaikh Adly’s questions which we are currently in the process of preparing, due to the eagerness of the readers to hear our response.

So all these sciences, as well as those we didn’t name, came from 5000-7000 hadith and the 500 or so pages of Holy Qur’an. From this we say: “from an individual, personal reading of the Holy Qur’an and Holy Hadith scholars wrote thousands of books whose roots are Qur’an and Hadith and don’t deviate from them, AND INCLUDE EXPLANATIONS.”

Ibn Taymiyya’s “Majmu’a Fatawa” is 37 volumes, Ibn Kathir’s “Tafsir” is 20 volumes. Sayyid Qutb’s tafsir of Qur’an, “In the Shade of the Qur’an” is voluminous. Therefore what some people are saying, “if it isn’t explicitly spelled out in a verse of Qur’an or in hadith then it doesn’t exist in Islam” doesn’t coincide with the understanding of a person of intellect.

We are not saying something which has no roots in Islam, in Qur’an nor in the Sunnah. For example, Ibn Kathir who was a Shaikh ul-Islam, from childhood until the day he died, spent time memorizing Qur’an and Hadith. We cannot simply disregard or discard his explanations of the Qur’an by saying “where is the daleel?” That contradicts the reality of the knowledge these scholars had FROM QURAN AND HADITH.

And we have to say that every science from the sciences (‘ilmun min al ‘ulum) we mentioned has to have its root in the Qur’an and Sunnah. It cannot be otherwise. And we as Muslims must not accept for ourselves to take any superstitions or to take anything from a philosophy or an ideology. We don’t accept that — we only accept what is in Qur’an and Sunnah. Just because some of our brothers are not aware of the sources, doesn’t mean we are deviating from Islam. It does means they have to go deeper in reading and verifying these sources, instead of throwing out accusations that we are against Sunnah and Shari’ah.

We are sinful persons and we are only servants to Allah. Yet even the Prophet (s), who was the most Honorable Servant of Allah, used to pray “O Allah, don’t leave me to my ego [nafs] for the blink of an eye.” We are not perfect as he was and we are not Sahaba, nor are we great scholars. We must confess that we are poor servants, who are trying to imitate the way of the Prophet and Sahaba. May Allah forgive us and we repeat on the network, for all to witness, “Ashhadu an laa ilaha ill-Allah wa ashhadu anna muhammadn rasulullah” –“we testify that there is no god except Allah, and we testify that Muhammad is His Messenger, peace be upon him.” And we say that we are worshipping Allah Alone, and we are happy to praise the Prophet as His Favored Servant, peace be upon him.

We will take some time to answer the questions of Shaikh Adly. But we say again to our brothers and sisters, “please go and find books that are available in many libraries and read about Sufism from the Islamic point of view, not from a superstitious point of view. Don’t take what the charlatans do and apply that to us, but take what Ibn Taymiyya said about Tasawwuf and apply it to us.”

There are 3-4 pages in Qur’an on ‘Ilm al-‘Irth (the Science of Inheritance). Yet from these verses, thousands of volumes have been written on that subject. On the subject of the Science of the Unity of Allah, (‘Ilm at-Tawhid), which is mentioned here and there in ayats of Qur’an and in the hadith, thousands of volumes have been written by many different authors expressing many different opinions.

The Science of Tawhid (‘Ilm at-Tawhid)

Take for example the Science of Beliefs, (‘Ilm al-‘Aqida). Regarding the one verse “Al-rahman `ala al-`arsh istiwa“- “The Merciful was established on the Throne”, about Allah’s Establishment on the Throne, thousands of books have been written by scholars that came after the Sahaba and the Tabi’een up to the time of Ibn Taymiyya, among them as-Subki, as-Suyuti and Ibn Hajar al-Haythami.

Even Ibn Taymiyya, who wrote many volumes on that topic, was in disagreement with many eminent scholars who preceded him, as well as with many in his time, on the explanation of that verse. That one verse resulted in thousands of books coming into existence. What about the subject of Tazkiyyat un-Nafs (Purification of the Self) and the ways to reach the state of Ihsan–one of the main things emphasized by the Prophet (s)? Will it not need many thousands of books and intensive explanations by the greatest scholars of Islam?

This science is known as Tasawwuf in LINGUISTIC TERMINOLOGY. For example, if we look up in the dictionary the meaning of the word “hadith,” we find “opposite of ancient (qadeem), new (jadeed)” or alternatively, “something spoken.” Yet if we examine the common UNDERSTANDING of the TERM “hadith,” we find it means “Tradition of the Prophet (s)” or “the Science of the Traditions of the Prophet (s).” And if we look up the word “Sunnah” we find its linguistic definition is “tariqat, i.e. a way.” So when we say “a way,” (i.e. tariqat), scholars immediately understand that it means Sunnah. When we say “hadith,” scholars know that it means “new.” But the meaning given to that word, after the time of the Prophet (s) is anything that has been done by the Prophet (s) such as behavior, manners, speech or actions. In the time of the Prophet (s), the term “hadith” was RARELY used as it is COMMONLY used now. It began to be take on that meaning in the time of the Sahaba, after the passing of the Prophet (s), when it became a technical term to describe what the Prophet (s) used to say to them, how he used to act with them, stories about himself and them, and descriptions of what existed in the time of the Prophet (s).

The Meaning of the Term ‘Hadith’

The Prophet said, “`Alaykum bi-sunnatee wa sunnat khulafa’i min ba`adi” – “follow my Sunnah and the Sunnah of my caliphs after me.” He DIDN’T say “alaykum bi-hadithi wa hadithi khulafa’i min ba`di.” HE DID NOT SAY “follow my hadith and the hadiths of my caliphs after me.” Linguistically what he said means “follow my ‘tariqat‘ and the ‘tariqat‘ of my caliphs after me.” The word the Prophet used is “sunnah.” This shows how the term “hadith” as it is commonly understood today, came to take on that meaning after the Prophet, which is “the complete Science of the transmissions of knowledge about and from the Prophet (s)”. You can say here that the development of ‘Ilm ul-Hadith defined a science which did not exist in the time of the Prophet (s), but which Islamic scholars found necessary to develop in order to preserve the knowledge of the words, saying, practices and deeds of the Prophet (s) and his Companions and which has become integral to Islam.

That is why we find that after the time of the Sahaba and after the recording of the hadith, scholars of ‘Ilm al-Hadith‘ began to develop the rules and methods for classifying and formulating hadith. And we find that many terms are used technically to describe the different types of hadith.

For example in ‘ilm al-hadith we find many classifications of hadith. One of them is ‘sahih,‘ which is defined as “opposite of wrong.” The description of the meaning of the term ‘sahih‘ takes at least one volume to explain. The term ‘hadith hasan‘ needs another volume to explain its meaning.

The Classifications of Ahadith

The next level of classification is ‘hadith da’eef.’ Following that is ‘hadith marfu`‘, then ‘hadith musnad,‘ then ‘hadith muttassil,‘ then ‘hadith mawquf,‘ then ‘hadith maqtu`‘, then ‘hadith munqati`‘, then ‘hadith mu’adal,’ then ‘hadith mursal,’ then ‘hadith mu’alaq,‘ then ‘hadith musalsal,‘ then ‘hadith gharib,‘ then ‘hadith ‘aziz,’ then ‘hadith mashhur,’ then ‘hadith mutawwatir,’ then ‘hadith mu’ana’an,’ then ‘hadith mubham,’ then ‘hadith mudallas,’ then ‘hadith ash-shaaz,’ then ‘hadith mahfouz,’ then ‘hadith munkar,’ then ‘hadith ma’ruf,‘ then ‘hadith ‘aliy wan-naazil,’ then ‘hadith mudarraj,’ then ‘hadith muddabaj,’ then ‘hadith muttaffaq,’ then ‘hadith muftarak,’ then ‘hadith mu’talif,‘ then ‘hadith mukhtalif,‘ then ‘hadith maqloub,‘ then ‘hadith mudtarib,‘ then ‘hadith mu’allal,’ then ‘hadith matruk,’ and then ‘hadith mawdu`.’

So we find 35 precise classifications of hadith, that scholars use when they read hadith, according to which they classify them. This is how scholars knew whether a hadith could be accepted or not. A logical question arises here, “where are these terms to be found literally in the Qur’an or Sunnah?” And what follows on logically from this is, from whence came the PERMISSION to create this science and to develop these classifications and terms, because this was not done by the Prophet (s)?

These classifications came into existence when the hadith scholars such as Imam Bukhari and others came and developed the principles (usul) of ‘ilm al-hadith‘, and their gradations, which did not exist in the time of the Prophet (s). In other words these classifications of hadith are not explicitly mentioned in Qur’an or Sunnah, or in the time of the Sahaba, but were defined later by scholars.

In the time of the Prophet (s), and the Sahaba, the knowledge of the hadith and the Sunnah existed, as the Sahaba used to discuss the sayings and actions of the Prophet (s) and teach this knowledge. But it was not known as a science at that time. Then as the Sahaba began to pass away, and the Tabi’een were trying to find out what the Prophet (s) and his caliphs said and did, it became more and more necessary to formalize methods for recording and transmitting the sayings and anecdotes of the Prophet and the Sahaba. So as time passed, and the distance from the time of the Prophet (s) increased, it became necessary to add formal structure and verification methodology to the natural mechanism of transmission, which always incorporated the ‘sanad,‘ the verifiable chain of transmission of a given piece of information about the Prophet (s) or his Sahaba.

And as many, many non-Arab speakers were entering Islam and were memorizing hadith, it became necessary to establish the Science of Men and the Science of Transmission which developed the 35 different categorizations of ahadith WHICH DIDN’T EXIST IN THE TIME OF THE PROPHET. So we find from the one word “hadith” which the Prophet (s) was urging his Sahaba to learn and promulgate, developed a vast science, with its own terms and methods, which did not exist in the time of the Prophet (s). In the time of the Prophet (s), the propagation and verification of hadith was natural and was not formalized. Now ‘Ilm al-Hadith is a Science by itself. Today many scholars specialize in that science, and they are called the “muhaddithun.”

Similarly grammar and tashkil (diacritical marking) of Arabic was not formally established until after the time of the Prophet (s), when the need arose to keep the language of the Qur’an and hadith pure from changes and mispronunciation. Arabs today need must learn nahu and tashkil in order to preserve classical Arabic, whereas in the time of the Prophet (s), even a child, through its state of fitra (innocence), knew correct Arabic.

Similarly, Tasawwuf, which has its roots in Qur’an and Sunnah, is a vast science which has been divided into many areas and classifications and has numerous technical terms used to describe its depths. So do you want us–when we see that Islam comprises such vast knowledge, each subject and science (‘ilmin min al ‘ulum) going into many classifications and terms–to define the term tasawwuf in one short word, when the 35 classifications of hadith mentioned above were never been mentioned in the Qur’an or the Sunnah? Keep in mind that even the term hadith was not used in the time of the Prophet in the way it is used today by all Muslims.

The Scholars of Hadith

So we can say from what was mentioned above, that it is impossible to understand the Sunnah of the Prophet (s) without going to the Hadith of the Prophet (s). And it is impossible to obtain the hadith of the Prophet (s) without going to the scholars of the hadith, the first of whom was Imam Malik bin Anas (95 H.), Imam of fiqh and hadith in Hijaz, whose book of hadith al-Muwatta, took 40 years to prepare. Following him in time was Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal (164-241 H.), who wrote al-Musnad, wherein he chose his authentic ahadith from the 750,000 ahadith which he had memorized. These scholars came before Bukhari and put forth the principles of the Science of Hadith (usul). So we find these eight Imams, including Ahmad and Malik, collected the hadith quite some time after the Prophet (s). So if it took Imam Malik 40 years to collect and write a book of hadith, how can one expect that someone will give a definition and explanation of a similarly large science, ‘Ilm at-Tasawwuf, in only a brief time and short space.

The problem with many students of Islam nowadays is that they want to understand Islam from a very shallow, ready-made and pre-digested perspective. The greatness of this religion is that it is vast, wide and deep and has not been confined by the narrowness of human intellect, as has occurred in all other religions.

I am asking our brothers and sisters to acknowledge what I am saying. Any true scholar must know and use these classifications of hadith. Therefore I would like to know where in the Qur’an and Sunnah these 35 classifications have been defined verbatim. This is one simple example. We can go on and on in a similar vein for each of the sciences (‘ulum) mentioned above. In fact the question arises here,

      • “where are the names of the Sciences of Islam (


      ) defined by name in the Qur’an and Hadith?”

In a hadith narrated in Bukhari and Muslim, Abdullah bin Mas’ud said, that the Prophet said, “the best century is my century and the one after it” and in some narrations “the first century and the second and the third.” And after the Sahaba were the Tab’ieen and then the Tabi’ Tabi’een. All scholars of Islam said that the century of the Tabi’een was the end of 150 Hijri, and the 220 Hijri was the end of the century of the Tabi’ Tabi’een. And we find that Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Malik and Imam Shafi’I and Imam Hanbali were living in that period of time. Imam Abu Hanifa was born in 80 H. and Imam Malik 95 H., and Imam Shafi’I was born around 150 H. and Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal was born in 160 H., so we see that all these great scholars came in the time which the Prophet described as “the best time,” in contrast to the scholars who came after them. And all of them were accepting the new terms which were given to the Sciences (‘ulum) which were developed after the time of the Prophet, such as ‘Ilm an-Nahu, ‘Ilm al-ajaz, ‘Ilm al-Kalam, ‘Ilm at-Tawhid, ‘Ilm al-‘Aqida, ‘Ilm al-Qur’an, ‘Ilm al-Fiqh, ‘Ilm al-Hadith, ‘Il as-Sirah, ‘Ilm as-Sarf, ‘Ilm al-Bayan, ‘Ilm at-Tafsir, ‘Ilm al-Tajweed, ‘Ilm at-Tarteel, ‘ILM AT-TASAWWUF, [‘ILM AL-IHSAN,] and ‘Ilm ul-Mirath.

So our brothers and sisters in Islam, we are happy that we have been involved in discussing this matter and in getting to know each other, while keeping respect for each other and respecting the point of view of each other and benefiting from each others’ viewpoints. But we must be aware of accusations and avoid that as it might put us under sins. Because Allah said, “Inna ba`ad adh-dhanni ithm” – “surely some suspicion is a sin.” So we say, “may Allah forgive us and forgive you. And may Allah give us strength to worship him ALONE and not to deviate from the Sunnah of the Prophet (s).”

So as you can see from the above reply, that we are not intending to run away from the questions put to by Shaikh Adly. However, because of the vastness of the subject about which he has asked, we feel it would be unfair to those who are awaiting our answer to respond with anything less than what the topic deserves. We wished to bring to the attention of the respected audience that there are many terms and knowledges that were defined and developed after the time of the Prophet (s).

So we hope you will not be disappointed that we are not quickly answering the questions put to us by Shaikh Adly. It is not sufficient as a response to give a simple explanation of two or even ten pages, but it needs great juhd (effort) to mention the ayats and ahadith which are the definitional roots of the Science of Tazkiyya and the state of Ihsan. And if our brothers and sisters in Islam should ask why we mentioned the subject of hadith science here, they should understand that we brought forth this science intentionally as an example because the majority of us have a background and understanding of that subject. Therefore, when we give an explanation based on that subject it is easy for everyone to relate to it. And even though this subject is well-known, from the 35 categories of ahadith mentioned above, it is clear that most of us have only a rudimentary understanding of this science.

However when we mention a science such as Tasawwuf, with which the audience is not well-acquainted, we need to build an understanding of this science in order to explain it and define it later with its appropriate terms and principles, to give its aim and to show its roots in the Sunnah and the Holy Qur’an. To do this we must build up the background of the audience from history and hermeneutics. So again, we request the readers not express to us that we are “beating around the bush,” but to realize that we are preparing the ground for the foundations of the answers to the questions presented by Shaikh Adly. And if one believes that our answer should be short and to the point, then we ask “is possible to understand the classification of hadith in only a brief answer taken only from Qur’an and Hadith?” So we say here what Imam Ali said, “Al-insaan `aduw lim yajhal” — “man is the enemy of that which he is ignorant.” It is essential that we open our minds and our intellect, instead of shutting out that which we are unaware of–in this case the Science of Purification, ‘Ilm at-Tazkiyyah, also known as Tasawwuf.

Now since we were pushed to give an answer, and as Shaikh Adly mentioned it is for the sake of informing new Muslims and Muslims who are not familiar with the term “tasawwuf,” and we didn’t want to give a brief answer, but since we were being accused of running from the question, we decided to put the answer quickly, before I begin my travels. So since we were pushed to give a quick answer, though our original intention was to give a lengthy and well-developed answer, we will present a short answer tomorrow or the next day, Insha-Allah.

Jazakum Allah Khairan Akhukum,

–Shaikh Hisham Muhammad Kabbani


Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Raheem, was-sallaat was-salaam ‘ala Nabiyyina Muhammad, wa ‘ala aalihi wa sahbihi wa salaam. Our respected Shaikh Adly,

As-salaam alaykum wa rahmatullah.

Please excuse the brevity of this answer, because we feel the subject deserves a much more thorough discussion. However, this is adequate treatment for a WWW site. We will list a number of references which the interested reader can go to, in order to increase his understanding of the Islamic Science of Tasawwuf.

Answer to the First Question: “What is Tasawwuf?”

In response to the first question:

>> 1. What is Tasawwuf? Please give a detailed definition and explanation of the meaning of this terminology and the word itself?

we say:

To answer your first question, from our point of view, we see here that you are referring in your question “what is Tasawwuf” to your wanting a detailed explanation of the term and the word. This means you accept that it is only a TERM, which has been used to explain a STATE that WAS MENTIONED in the time of the Prophet (s). You then ask to define the word itself–implying that you understood that Tasawwuf is a TERM used to express a concept.

We shall try to be very precise in defining this term, because after receiving so many accusations, from here and from there, we have decided to give a concise and short definition, though we would prefer to spend more time to build up a background for the readers. But due to the number of accusations that we are running away from answering these questions, we are making it very concise at this time.

It is obvious and well-known to everyone that in this century people have differences in understanding the subject of Tasawwuf. Some people believe it is against Islam and is not mentioned in Shari’ah, Qur’an or Sunnah. On the other hand, followers of Ibn Taymiyya’s school, followers of the four Imams schools’ and followers of many other Imams who came later, such as as-Subki , as-Suyuti, Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, and many many others, accepted it and knew that Tasawwuf has its roots deep in Qur’an and Sunnah and the Shar’iah. These great scholars accepted Tasawwuf because they knew the reality of the meaning of that term.

The term Tasawwuf was not known in the time of the Prophet (s). However, [“wa in kanat at-tasmiyyatu muhdathan,”] even though the name is new, the essence of it is part and parcel of the religion and cannot be separated out from it. The purpose of Tasawwuf is to purify the heart from all kinds of bad desires and inclinations and the dirtiness that accumulates upon it due to sins and wrongdoing, either externally or internally, and to remove these bad manners and sins and to clean the self and to dress and decorate the heart with the good behavior and good manners that are demanded by the Holy Qur’an and the Holy Sunnah of the Prophet (s). Its purpose is to create the state of Ihsan, perfection of character, which was the state of the Prophet (s), and the state which each of his Companions (s) was striving to achieve.

Tasawwuf = Tazkiyyat an-Nafs

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 Scinece 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.

The Linguistic Roots of the Word ‘Tasawwuf

There are four roots given to the word “tasawwuf.” The first of the roots of the word tasawwuf is from the Arabic word “safa.” This word means “pure like crystal, transparent like water.” It is used to refer to the purity and transparency of a clean heart.

There are many other explanations for the word “tasawwuf.” Another one is that it is derived from “Ahl as-Suffa,” (the People of the Bench), who were the people who lived in the Mosque of the Prophet (s) during his life and who were mentioned in the Qur’an in the following verse: “Wasbir nafsaka ma`a alladheena yad`una rabbahum bil-ghadaati wal-`aashiyi yureeduna wajhahu wa laa ta`duw `aynaaka `anhu tureedu zeenat al-hayaat id-dunya wa laa tuti` man aghfalna qalbahu `an dhikrina wat-tabba`a hawaahu wa kaana amruhu furuta.” (Kahf, 28).

[O Muhammad,] keep yourself content with those who call on their Lord morning and evening seeking His Face; and let not your eyes pass beyond them, seeking the pomp and glitter of this life; nor obey any whose hearts whom We have permitted to neglect the Remembrance of Us, the one who follows his own desires, whose case has gone beyond all bounds.

This verse emphasizes how much the believers have to keep themselves in the state of Dhikr, Recollection of God on the tongue, in the mind and through the heart.

The third of these roots is the word “as-siffa“–“the characteristics or attributes of carrying goodness and leaving badness”

The fourth linguistic root is from “Souffattul-kaffa” which means “a soft sponge” as the Sufi, which is the noun derived from that word, is like a sponge, whose heart is very soft due to its purity. That is why the Prophet (s) was always showing such concern for his Sahaba, in order to purify their hearts and to show them that improvement of the self is based on the improvement of the heart and its being cured of all diseases, internal and external.

The Prophet Mentions the Condition of the Heart

Therefore the Prophet said, as Bukhari narrated:

“alaa wa inna fil-jassadi mudghattan, idhaa saluhat saluhal-jassadu kulluh wa idha fassadat fassad al-jassadu kulluhu, alaa wa hiya al-qalb.”

This means: “Surely there is in the body a small piece of meat; if it was good the whole body is good and if it is corrupted the whole body is corrupted and that is the heart.”

And he said in a hadith narrated by Muslim in the Chapter of al-Birr,

“Inn-Allah laa yandhuru ila ajsaadikum wa laa ila suwarikum wa lakin yandhuru ila qulubikum”

which means “Surely Allah does not look at your bodies nor at your faces but He looks at your hearts.”

So we see here that the Prophet (s) was tying everything to the good condition of the heart. When we leave bad manners and dress good manners, then we will have a perfect and healthy heart. That is what Allah mentioned in the Qur’an:

“Yawman laa yanfa`u maalun wa laa banoon illa man att-Allah bi-qalbn saleem.” (Shu’ara, 88, 89).

“the Day wherein neither wealth nor sons will avail but only he will prosper who brings to Allah a sound heart.”

Imam Suyuti said, “the Science of the Heart [at-Tasawwuf], and to know the heart’s diseases such as jealousy, arrogance and pride, and to leave them is an obligation on every Muslim.”

Muffassirun said that jealousy (hasad), ostentation (ar-riya), hypocrisy (an-nifaq) and hatred (al-hiqd) are the bad manners which Allah mentioned in Qur’an

“Qul innamaa haramma rabbi al-fawaahisha maa dhahara minha wa maa batan” (al-‘Aaraaf, 33)

say the things that my Lord has indeed forbidden are: shameful deeds whether open or secret;”

Al-fawaahisha here means hatred (hiqd), envy, jealousy and hyprocisy. And Allah’s mentioning ‘whether open or SECRET’ is the daleel for the need to not simply make the exterior actions correct, but to cleanse that which is hidden by a person in his heart and is known only to his Lord.

And the Prophet (s) said, as narrated in Muslim in “Kitab al-Iman”:

“laa yadkhulul-jannata man kana fi qalbihi mithqaala dharratin min kibar.”

“No one will enter Paradise who has even an atom of pride in his heart.”

Tasawwuf is the science and knowledge whereby one learns to purify the self of the bad desires of the ego, such as jealousy, cheating, ostentation, love of praise, pride, arrogance, anger, greediness, stinginess, respect for the rich and disregard of the poor, just as one must purify the external self. The Science of Tasawwuf teaches one to look at one’s self and to purify oneself according to the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet and teaches one to dress oneself with the perfect attributes (as-siffat ul-kamilah), such as Repentance (tawba), God-Consciousness (taqwa) , keeping to the Straight Way (istiqaama), truthfulness (sidq), sincerity (ikhlaas), Abstention (zuhd), Piety (war’a), Reliance on Allah (tawakkul), contentment with the decree (ar-ridaa’), surrender to Allah (at-tasleem) , good manners (al-adab), love (muhabbat), remembrance (Dhikr), watchfulness (muraqaba), and many, many other qualities too numerous to mention in detail here.

So we see that just as the Science of Hadith, mentioned in our introduction to this answer, has 35 classifications of hadith, so too does the Science of Tasawwuf have numerous classifications of both the good characteristics (akhlaaqan hassana) which are obligatory for the believer to develop, and the bad characteristics (akhlaaq idh-dhameema) which it is obligatory to eliminate, in order to attain the state of Ihsan–i.e. to become a Doer of good muhsin.

From here we can see the importance of the Science of Tasawwuf and its benefit. It manifests to us clearly the essence of Islam and its lifeblood, (ruh al-islam wa qalbahu an-naabid). Islam in not only an external practice, but it also has an internal life. This is as Allah says:

“Wadharu dhaahiral-ithmi wa baatihah” – “Leave the outwardness of sin and its inwardness.”

Allah also says in the Qur’an:

“Min al-mu’mineena rijaalun sadaqu maa `ahad-allaha `alayh”– “Among the Believers are men who have been true to their Covenant with Allah” (al-Ahzab, 23).

Not all believers are included in this selected group of “those who kept their covenant with Allah.” It means one can be a believer, but will not be among ‘those who have kept their covenant’ until one has reached the state of “an-nafs az-zakkiyya” the cleansed self, and the state of Ihsan, Perfection of Behavior, which the Holy Prophet mentioned in the Holy Hadith. As we have repeated many, this is what became well-known later as the Science of Tasawwuf.

What Ibn Taymiyya Says About the Term ‘Tasawwuf

And now permit us to mention what Imam Ibn Taymiyya, (ra) mentioned about the definition of Tasawwuf.

Alhamdulillah, the pronunciation of the word tasawwuf has been thoroughly discussed. From those who spoke about it were not just the the Imams and Shaikhs, but also included were Ahmad bin Hanbal, Abi Sulayman ad-Daarani, As-Sirr as-Saqati, al-Junayd, M’aruf al-Karkhi, Abdul Qadir Jilani, Bayazid al-Bistami and many others. This is a term that was given to those who were dealing with that kind of science [tazkiyyat an-nafs and Ihsan]. And it is like when one uses the term “from the Quraishi family” or from the Madani people or from the Hashemi family. It is a lineage (nasab), just as we say Hashemi for the descendants of the Prophet (s) or Quraishi for his tribe and Madani for those of his city, we say Sufi (nisbatan) indicating the relationship of those people to that science.”

He continues, “the majority of the scholars (jumhour al-‘ulama) did not deny that science since it complies with the Shari’ah and the Sunnah and they were supporting it.”

Imam Ibn Taymiyya says:

“thumma at-tasawwuf ‘indahu haqaiqun wa ahwaalun…[man saffa min al-qadari wa amtala’a min al-fikri wasstawa ‘indahu adh-dhahab wal-hajjar. At-tasawaffu kitmaanul ma’ani wa tarku-da’awi'”

Tasawwuf has realities and states of experience which they talk about in their science. Some of it is that the Sufi is that one who purifies himself from anyting whihc distracts him from the remembrance of Allah and who will be so filled up with knowledge of the heart and knowledge of the mind to the point that the value of gold and stones will be the him. And tasawwuf is safeguarding the precious meanings and leaving behind the call to fame and vanity in order to reach the state of Truthfulness, because the best of humans after the prophets are the Siddiqeen, as Allah mentioned them in the verse:

‘Fa-ula’ika ma`a alladheena an’amm-Allahu `alayhim min an-nabiyyin was-siddiqeen wash-shuhada’i was-saaliheena wa hassuna ‘ula’ika rafeeqa”

‘(And all who obey God and the Apostle) are in the company of those on whom is the grace of Allah: of the prophets, the sincere lovers of truth, the martyrs and the righteous; Ah! what a beautiful fellowship.'” (an-Nisa’, 69,70)

Ibn Taymiyya continues:

“as-Sufi hua fil-haqiqa naw’un min as-siddiqeen. Fahua as-siddiq alladhee ikhtassa bil-zuhadiwal-‘ibada.”

This translates:  “And the Sufi is in reality a kind of Siddiq (Truthful One), that Siddiq who specialized in zuhd and worship.”

Ibn Taymiyya continues,

  • “some people criticised Sufiyya and Tasawwuf and they said they were innovators, out of the Sunnah, but the truth is they are striving in Allah’s obedience [mujtahidin fi ta’at-illahi], as others of Allah’s People strove in Allah’s obedience. So from them you will find the Foremost in Nearness by virtue of his striving [as-saabiq ul-muqarrab bi hasab ijtihadihi]. And some of them are from the People of the Right hand [Ahl al-Yameen mentioned in Qur’an in Sura Waqi’ah], but slower in their progress. For both kinds, they might make ijtihad and in that case they might be correct and they might be wrong. And from both types, some of them might make a sin and repent. And this is the origin of tasawwuf. And after that origin, it has been spread and (tasha’abat wa tanawa’at) has its main line and its branches. And it has become three kinds:
  • 1. Sufiyyat il-Haqa’iq – the True Sufis
  • 2. Sufiyyat il-Arzaaq – the Professional Sufis (those who use Sufism for personal gain)
  • 3. Sufiyyat il-Rasm – the Caricature Sufis. (Sufi by appearance only). “

‘Abdullah bin Muhammad bin ‘Abdul Wahhab On Tasawwuf

    • Here we would like to quote for you from his eminence Mohammed Manzour Nu’mani in his letter, page 85, from his book “

Ad-Dia’aat Mukathaffa Di’d ash-Shaikh Muhammad bin ‘Abdal Wahhab:

      • ” where he says: “Shaikh ‘Abdullah, the son of shaikh Muhammad bin ‘Abdul Wahhab, said about

    Tasawwuf “laa nunkiru at-tariqat as-sufiyyata…”

        • “My father and I, we don’t deny or criticize the Science of Sufism, but on the contrary we support it because it cleans the external and the internal of the hidden sins which are related to the heart and the veins and the outward form, even though the individual might externally be on the right way, but internally he might be on the wrong way. And that is why tasawwuf is necessary. But we don’t expect and we don’t like to see some of those using the name of


        speak from a state of unconsciousness.”

We are going to stop here, because it will be too lengthy for our readers and our time is limited, since we said we needed more time people accused us of avoiding the issue. And what we have said here is only a drop in an ocean of what can be said about this subject. And we are still addressing only the first question.

Answer to The Second Question

You see from the first question that we have answered it in brief. And if you carefully read our first answer, you will find that most of your other five questions are already answered there.

You asked:

>> 2. “Are there any *dhaleels* (proofs & evidences) from the Quran in regards to Tasawwauf? If there are, then please state them expilicitly?”

Allah Describes Tazkiyyat an-Nafs as One Duty of the Prophet (s)

As we mentioned previously, the daleel from the Qur’an:

“Hua-alladhee ba`atha fil-ummiyyeena rasulan minhum yatlu `alayhim ayaatihi wa yuzakkihim wa yu`allimahum al-kitaaba wal-hikmata wa in kaanu min qablu lafee dalaalin mubeen”

“He is the one Who raised among the inhabitants of Mecca an Messenger from among themselves, who recites to them His communications and PURIFIES THEM, and teaches them the Book and the Wisdom, although they were before certainly in clear error.” (Jumu’a,2)

That term ‘wa yuzakkihim‘ (PURIFIES THEM) we have explained above and in the preceding introduction yesterday.

Then Allah mentioned in another verse,

“Wa nafsin wa maa sawwaaha fa-alhamaha fujuraha wa taqwaaha. qad afalah man zakaaha wa qad khaaba man das-saaha.

“By the nafs and the proportion and order given to it, and its inspiration as to its wrong and its right; Truly he succeeds who purifies it, and he fails that corrupts it.” (Shams, 7-10)

We see here that verse of Qur’an stating the necessity of purifying and cleaning the nafs (tazkiyyat an-nafs) in order to succeed, in this life and the next.

Allah Orders Believers to Accompany Sadiqeen

And Allah says:


“O ye who believe, fear Allah and keep company with those who are True to their word”

The Sadiqeen mentioned here are the ones mentioned above in Ibn Taymiyya’s quotations. And the verse above is a daleel for the need to accompany and to associate with Allah’s Near Ones, the Sadiqeen, who are the highest-level of awliya, (saints), as mentioned in Qur’an:


(Yunus, 62) “Nay they are the Friends of God, no fear shall come upon them neither shall they grieve.”

The Sadiqeen are the ones who reached one of the highest stations of faith and they are mentioned again in Qur’an:


Among the Believers are men who have been true to their Covenant with Allah

this verse continues:


and of them some have died and some still wait but they have never changed their determination (in the least.)

This means that in every time there are people who are holding fast to the Covenant of Allah.

Allah Describes Someone Who Learns Directly From His Presence

Here we will mention some of the verses, when Sayiddina Musa (as) met with Sayiddina Khidr. Allah describes this meeting eloquently:


“So they found one of Our servants on whom we had bestowed mercy from Ourselves and whom we had taught knowledge from Our Own Presence. Moses said to him, ‘may I follow you on the condition that you teach me something of the Higher Truth which you have been taught?’ The other said, ‘Surely you will not be able to have patience with me.'”

From these verses, we see that even though Sayiddina Musa (as) was a prophet, and was the only prophet to speak with Allah directly (Kalimullah), nevertheless Sayiddina Khidr possessed knowledge which Musa did not have, and which Musa sought to obtain from him, because Sayiddina Khidr was receiving knowledge directly from the Presence of Allah (‘allamnaahu min ladduna ‘ilma). And that person was one of Allah’s Friends, as described in the verse above. From these verses, as well as the ones mentioned above, we see one of the many daleels for following a guide, or shaikh at-tarbiyya, in the technical terminology of Tasawwuf.

Allah Almighty Promises to Guide Aright The Muhsineen

And Allah says:


“those who are striving in Our Way, we will guide them to Our paths, for verily Allah is with those who do right.”

Most of the great scholars of Islam were practicing tazkiyyat an-nafs and trying to reach the state of Ihsan. They are the ones who spread Islam in Central Asia, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Bosnia, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Indo-China, Spain, Eastern Europe, and MOST of Africa. All of these scholars who were practicing Tasawwuf spread Islam through these countries through their states of zuhd, wara’, taqwa and tazkiyya, which made them so attractive and so appealing to the people with whom they associated, that they were automatically drawn to Islam.

Allah Mentions the Hearts of the ‘Ulama

And Allah mentioned:


know here are signs self-evident in the hearts of those who have been endowed with knowledge, and none but the unjust reject our signs.

And Allah says:


follow the path of those who have turned to Me

That is the way of those who love Allah (commentary of Yusuf Ali). That is the state of love mentioned which is related to the heart, not to the mind.

Allah Orders Believers to Find a Means of Approach to Him


“O Believers, be wary of Allah and find a means to approach Him and strive in His Way that perhaps you may be of the successful.”

That means that one must strive in Allah’s way–not in the ego’s way, or towards the ego and desires, if anyone wishes to be successful. And it indicates the necessity to follow the footsteps of the Prophet as the wasilah (the means of approach) to Allah Almighty.

Allah Almighty Mentions Tazkiyyat an-Nafs

Allah says:

“yatlu ‘alayhim ayaatika wa yu’allimahum al-kitaaba wal-hikmata wa yuzakihim.” 

(a Messenger) who shall rehearse Your signs to them and instruct them in the Book and wisdom and Sanctify them [tazkiyyat an-nafs].” (Baqara, 129)


kama arsalna feekum Rasulan minkum, yatulu ‘alaykum ayaatina wa yuzakikum…”

A similar (favour have you already received), in that we have sent among you an Messenger of your own, rehearsing to you Our signs, and sanctifying you [Science of Tasawwuf]”  (Baqara, 151)


“qad aflaha man tazzaka wa dhakar asma Rabbihi fa-salla” 

“those will prosper who Purify themselves and glorify the Name of their Lord and pray.” (al-‘Aala, 14)

Here, Allah Almighty is mentioning the characteristics of the mutassawifs, those who are Purifying Themselves. They are always remembering their Lord, by recalling His Names and Attributes and they are attentive to their prayers.

He, Almighty and Glorified says,

“wa man tazzaka fa-innama yatazaka li-nafsihi wa ila-Allah il-maseer.”

and whoever Purifies himself does so to his own soul’s benefit; and to Allah is the Journeying” (Faatir, 18)

We find here the deep essence of Tasawwuf, the Science of the Purifying the Self. We remind the reader here that this is only a technical term, which can be replaced by any other word. This is Islam. If someone is claiming to follow or practice Islam, then they must partake in this struggle to purify the self, as it is so clearly ordered in these verses. Indeed it is meaningless to claim that there could be any Islam [surrender to Allah] without this pursuit of self-purification. Whether one is successful or not in this pursuit, is not the question, but its necessity is incumbent on every Muslim, man or woman.

wa maa yudreeka la’alahu yazzaka aw yadh-dhakara fa-tanfa’ahu dhikra”

“but what could tell you that perchance he might grow in Purity? or that he might receive admonition and the teaching might profit him.” (Abasa, 3,4)

And He, Glorified and Exalted says,

“fa aaradna an yubdillahuma Rabbahuma khairan minhu zakaatan wa aqrabu ruhma”

and We desired that the Lord would give them in exchange (a son) better in Purity and closer in affection.” (Kahf, 81).

and Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala says,

“li-ahhaba laki ghulaman zakiyya”

“…to give as a gift to you a Pure son” [here the word zakiyya is mentioned again, referring to Sayiddina ‘Isa (as)] (Maryam, 19)

and He, Glorified and Majestic, says:

khudh min amwaalihim sadaqatan tutaahirhum biha wa tuzakkihim biha wa salli ‘alayhim inna salaatuka sakanun lahum”

of their wealth take alms so you might Sanctify them and pray on them, verily your prayers are a source of security for them.” (Tawba, 99)

and He said,

wa law laa fadlullahi ‘alaykum wa rahmatuhu ma zakka minkum min ahadin abadan wa lakin-Allaha yuzzaki man yasha’u w’Allahu sami’un ‘aleem.”

if not for the Grace and Mercy of Allah on you, not one of you would ever have been Pure. But Allah Purifies whom He pleases. And Allah is One who Hears and Knows all things.” (Nur,21)

These are some of the verses in the Holy Qur’an that mention the need to purify the self. And purification of the self, Tazkiyyat an-Nafs, is one of the essentials of the Science of Tassawuf.

The Dictionary Meaning of Tazkiyya

If we take the dictionary and look up the meaning of the word tazkiyya, in all its meanings, we see ‘zaka‘ means “was clean”, yuzakki means”to clean,” and “to be purified.” Also ‘zaka‘ means “cleansed.” ‘Tazkiyya‘ is defined as “to purify, clean.” ‘Yuzakki‘ means “cleanseth and purifieth”

The word ‘Zakaatun‘ is translated “an Islamic tax, poor-due, poor-rate or charity, but none of them renders the full meaning of the term. Thus it is reasonable to use the term as such: purity, piety.”

The word ‘Azkaa‘ translates as “the purest.” ‘Zakiyyatan‘ means “pure, innocent”

The above definitions are found in “Vocabulary of the Holy Qur’an,” page 243.

Verses of Qur’an About the State of Perfected Character, Ihsan

Those were some of the verses addressing the discipline of Tazkiyyat an-Nafs, purification of the self. Now we wish to quote some of the verses addressing the state of Ihsan. We are not yet quoting the very important hadith, in which Jibril (as) asked about Ihsan in Umm ul-Hadith in Bukhari. Ihsan is mentioned in Holy Qur’an in many places and we will mention some of them here:

“INNA RAHMATULLAHI QAREEBUN MIN-AL MUHSINEEN.” (al-‘Aaraaf, 56) “For the Mercy of God is near to those who are good (muhsineen)”


“INNA ALLAHA MA’A-ALLADHEENA ‘TTAQAW WALLAHDHEENA HUM MUHSINUN” (Nahl, 128) “For Allah is with those who restrain themselves and who are good.”

and “HAL JAZA’ UL-IHSANI ILLA AL-IHSAN” (Rahman, 60) “is there any reward for Goodness other than Good?” [the word Ihsan, translated here as Good or goodness, is not adequately conveyed by these English terms, as it is a much more comprehensive meaning.]

and “WA YAJZILLADHEE AHSANU BIL-HUSNA” (Najm, 31)and He rewards those who do good with what is best.”

and we all have memorized the ayat, read at every khutbat il-Juma‘: “INN-ALLAH YA’MURU BIL ‘ADLI WAL-IHSAANI WA ‘ITTA’I DHIL QURBA…” (Nahl, 90)

Allah command justice, the doing of good [ihsan], and giving to kith and kin and he forbids all indecent deeds and evil and rebellion: He instructs you that you may receive admonition.”


nay, whoever who submits his whole self to Allah and is a Muhsin (in the state of Ihsan), his reward is with His Lord, on those shall be no fear nor shall they grieve


whoever submits his whole self to Allah and is in a state of Ihsan has grasped indeed the firmest handhold, and to Allah will all things return.”


who can be better in religion than one who submits his whole self to Allah and does good in the way that Allah likes …”

The Dictionary Meaning of Ihsan and its Derivatives

Verses about the state of Ihsan are so numerous that what we have quoted is sufficient. The true meaning of Ihsan, as the Prophet (s) defined it, which we will mention in the hadith we are coming to later, is to worship Allah in such a way that you strive and progress to make that worship perfect in both its outward form and its inward reality. One example of this is praying with humility and submission, (khudhu and khushu) as if you are seeing Allah and are aware that He is seeing you.

If we take the dictionary we find that the word Ihsan and its derivatives has many meanings and they are: ‘hasuna‘: “become excellent, to make good, to seem good, to be beautiful” [To be beautiful means to decorate oneself with good attributes, to beautify inwardly and outwardly]. Other derivatives are:

    • Ihsanan – ‘ means “to do excellently”
    • aahsanu‘: “they did good”
    • ahsantum‘: “thou did good”
    • ahsin‘: “thou do good!”
    • ahsinu‘: “you do good!”
    • ihsaanun‘: “kindness”
    • husna‘: “reward”
    • hisaanun‘: “beautiful ones”

We see here the difference in the meaning. When used as an adjective, it means kindness and an internal attitude and composure.

So the state of Ihsan mentioned in the Holy Qur’an is a very high state, which Jibril (as) showed to be an intrinsic part of the Din, and which he placed at the same level as the states of Islam and Iman. Din consists of three states, Islam, Iman and Ihsan, each of which has its own complete definition. That is why it was mentioned in the Holy Qur’an in so many places and why the Prophet (s) when asked about it by Jibril, gave it the same importance as he gave to Islam and Iman.

This is the meaning of the whole Science of Tasawwuf. You can change that term if you don’t like it, but we like because it is a well-known and well-used term. In Arabic we say “mustallahat laa talghi al-ahkaam wal haqaa’iq” “terms don’t change the basic nature or the fundamental reality of a thing.” In English we say “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

If we continue quoting, we can present many verses, but we will stop now as we didn’t want to make it a long answer, but we may return to this subject at a later time.

Answer to the Third Question:

What are Daleels from Hadith on Tasawwuf?

The third question of our esteemed brother, Shaikh Muhammad Adly is:

>> 3. Are there any *dhaleels* (proofs & evidences) from the Ahadeeths of our Prophet (saw) on Tasawwuf and its practices? If there are, then please verify their authenticity and state them explicitly?

We say:

Yes of course without a doubt there are daleels and proofs from the Sunnah of the Prophet (s) on Tasawwuf and its practices. As we said before, the term Tasawwuf is a technical term, which originated from the various meanings we quoted in the first and second answers. It has deep roots in the Sunnah of the Prophet (s) as well. And its origin is Ihsan, the state of Excellence, that is mentioned in the Sunnah of the Prophet, in the hadith of Jibril (as) which is known to all scholars as Source of the Sunnah (Umm as-Sunnah and Umm al-ahadith) and the Source of all hadith. It is considered that all hadith took their root from it. It is one of the most important hadiths in Islam, and therefore needs no additional support:

Umm ul-ahadith, The Hadith of Jibril (as)

“‘An ‘Umar (r), qala: baynama nahnu julus ‘inda Rasul-Allahi (s), dhaata yawmin idhtal’a rajulan shadeed bayaad ith-thiyaab, shadeedu thawaad ash-sha’ari laa yuraa ‘alayhi athar us-saffari wa laa ya’rifuhu minna ahadun hatta jalasa ila an-Nabi (s), fa-athnada rukbatayhi ila rukbatayhi, wa wada’a kaffayhi ‘alaa fakhidhayhi, wa qala ‘Ya Muhammadu akhbirni ‘an il-Islami?’ Faqala Rasul-allahi (s) ‘al-Islam an tashhada an laa ilaha illa-allah wa anna Muhammadan Rasul-Allah, wa tuqeem as-salaat, wa tu’ti az-zakaat, wa tasuma Ramadana, wa tahujj al-bayta in istata’a ilayhi sabila.’ Qala: ‘sadaqta’ Fa-‘ajibna lahu yas’aluhu wa yusadiquhu. Qala ‘fa-akbirnee ‘an il-imani.’ Qala ‘an tu’mina billahi, wa malaa’ikatihi wa kutubih wa rusulihi wal-Yawm il-Aakhiri wa tu’mina bil-qadari khayrihi wa sharrihi.’ Qala: ‘sadaqta.’ Qala: ‘fa-akhbirni ‘an il-Ihsaani?’ Qala: ‘an ta’budallaha ka-annaka taraah. Fa in lam takun taraahu fa-innahu yaraaka.’ Qala: ‘fa-akhbirni ‘an is-saa’ati?’ Qala: ‘maa al-mas’ulu ‘anha bi-‘aalama min as-sa’ili’ Qala: ‘fa-akbirnee ‘an aamaaraatiha?’ Qala: ‘an talida al-ammatu rabbataha, wa an tara al-hufaata al-uraata al-‘aalata riya’ ash-sha’i yattataawaluna fil-bunyani.’ thum antalaqa fa-labithtu malliyan. thumma qala ‘Ya ‘Umar atadri man as-sa’il?’ Qultu: ‘Allahu wa Rasulahu ‘aalam.’ Qala: ‘fa-innahu Jibril ataakum yu’allimukum deenakum.’ (Muslim, Bukhari and others)

This translates:

    Also from ‘Umar () who said, ‘while we were one day sitting with the Messenger of Allah (s), no whom be Allah’s blessings and peace, there appeared before us a man with a very white garment, and very black hair. No traces of journeying wee visible on him and none of us knew him. He sat down close by the Prophet (s), rested his knees against his and put his palms on his thighs and said, ‘O Muhammad inform me about Islam.’ Said the Messenger (s): ‘islam is that you should testify that there is no deity save Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger, that you should say the prayers, pay the zakat, fast during Ramadan and go on Hajj to the House if you can find a way to do so.’ Said he, ‘You have spoken truly.’ We were astonished at his first questioning him and telling him that he was right, but he went on to say: ‘Inform me about Iman.’ Muhammad (s) answered: ‘It is that you believe in Allah and His angels, and his books and his messengers and in the last Day and that you should believe in the Decreeing of both good and evil.’ He said: ‘You have spoken truly.’ Then he said: ‘Inform me about Ihsan [best behavior.]’ The Messenger answered: ‘It is that you should serve Allah as though you could see Him, for though you cannot see Him, yet He sees you.’ He said: ‘Inform me about the Hour.’ the Prophet (s) said: ‘About that the one questioned knows no more than the questioner.’ So he said: ‘Inform me about the signs of its coming.’ Said the Prophet (s): ‘They are that the slave-girl will give birth to her mistress, and that you will see the barefooted, naked, destitute herdsman of sheep building arrogantly high buildings.’ Thereupon the man went off. I waited a while and then the Prophet (s) said: ‘O ‘Umar do you know who that was?’ I replied: ‘Allah and His Messenger know better.’ He said: ‘That was Jibril. He came to teach you your religion.’ (related by Muslim).

In this hadith, Jibril (as) has divided Din (religion) into categories or main branches, from which all religion, all ahadith and all Sunnah flow. And he emphasized each branch by asking each question separate from the other. The first branch was related to his question “what is Islam?” the second was realted to the question “what is Iman?” and the third is related to the question “what is Ihsan?” We cannot say the Din is only Islam, or only Iman or only Ihsan. We say that each of these branches is essential to the Din, and none can be left out. The Prophet (s) in his answers to these questions confirmed this and said to his Sahaba after Jibril left, “Jibril came to teach you your religion.”

We see from this hadith of Jibril (as), that he categorized religion into three pillars or essential components. The first is the pillar of Islam. The second is the pillar of Iman and third is the pillar of Ihsan. The first pillar, Islam, is the practical side of the religion, including worship, deeds and other obligations. The state of that pillar is the external side of the self, which is related to the body and the community. Scholars call that pillar Shari’ah. Scholars specialized in this and it was given the name Science of Fiqh (Jurisprudence). The second pillar, Iman is the aspect of Belief through the mind and heart. This means belief in Allah, His Messengers, His Books, the Angels, the Last Day, and Destiny. And this was known to scholars as ‘Ilm at-Tawhid.

The Third Component of Din al-Islam – Ihsan (Perfection of Character)

The third aspect of the Din is known as the spiritual aspect of the heart, to make one aware when combining the first pillar–which is worship, and the second–which is belief, to keep the state that you are in the Presence of Allah, as if seeing Him, in all your actions and thoughts. And if you cannot see Him–because no one can see Allah in this life–then it means you must keep the continuous awareness of Allah’s Presence in your heart, knowing that He is Aware of every atom and every particle in your worship and in your belief–the states and qualities of your ‘Ibadaat and Iman. As a result it will produce in you a state of excellence, a state of high quality, by keeping awareness of Allah’s vision on oneslef and making one taste the spiritiual pleasure and that spiritual light of knowledge that Allah will direct to your heart from His favors and His grants. That is what scholars have termed the Science of Truth, ‘ilm al-Haqiqat, and it was known by this name in the time nearest to the Prophet, during the lives of the Sahaba, as as-Siddiqiyya, the Path of the Siddiqs. Only later did it become known by the name of Tasawwuf.

We can summarize this by saying, Islam prescribes the behaviour of a Muslim, Iman relates to his beliefs and defines them, and Ihsan refers to the state of the heart which determines whether one’s Islam and Ihsan will bear fruit in this life and the next. The evidence (daleel) for this is found in the hadith mentioned above: “alaa wa inna fil-jassadi mudghattan, idhaa saluhat saluhal-jassadu kulluh wa idha fassadat fassad al-jassadu kulluhu, alaa wa hiya al-qalb.” which means; “Surely there is in the body a small piece of meat; if it was good the whole body is good and if it is corrupted the whole body is corrupted and that is the heart.”

So from the hadith of Jibril (as), known as Umm al-ahadith, we see that Din consists of three states: Islam, Iman and Ihsan. The first pillar, Islam is divided into five components: shahada, salaat, zakat, sawm, hajj. Iman is divided into six: al-Imanu billahi, malaa’ikatihi, kutubihi, rusulihi, Yawm al-aakhir, Qadar. Ihsan is divided into many parts, including all good character and qualities of a believer under its umbrella. These parts include but are not limited to: God-consciousness (taqwa), Fear of God (wara‘), Abstention (zuhd), reverence and humility, (khu’shu and khudhu), patience (sabr), Truthfulness (sidq), Trust in God (tawakkul), morality and good character (adab) which the Prophet (s) emphasized when he said: “adabanee Rabbi fa-ahsana ta’deebee,” [My Lord taught and trained my in good manners and He perfected my manners], Forbearance (hilm), Compassion (ruhma), Generosity (karam), Humbling one’s self (tawada’a), Modesty (haya), Courage (shuja’a) and many other qualities which were dressed on the Prophet (s) by Allah Almighty.

Hazrat ‘Ayesha said, ‘khuluquhul Qur’an’ “His character was the Qur’an” And the Prophet (s) in his turn, dressed these qualities on all his Sahaba (r) such that they became perfect and shining examples to mankind of how human beings should exist in perfect harmony with the Creator and with each other.

Later we intend to translate Imam Nawawi’s explanation of Umm ul-ahadith, which consists of over eight pages. There he speaks at length on the subject of Ihsan under the terms ‘Ilm al-Mushahada (the Science of Witnessing) and ‘Ilm al-Haqiqa (the Science of Reality) which are some of the branches of Tasawwuf. However we don’t have time or space here to do that now.

The School of Ihsan and Tazkiyya

That school of which the Sahaba partook did not die with the passing of the Prophet (s). No, on the contrary, the methods and knowledge with which he was endowed (peace be upon him), were by turn given to his Companions, may Allah be pleased with them all, and each of them in turn was a school from which the Ummah derived its learning of these methods and knowledge. With the passing of time, these schools developed and formalized their methods and created a distinct science termed the Science of Tasawwuf. Just as the schools of Shari’ah formed in the first three centuries of Islam, so too did distinct and clearly visible schools of Tasawwuf form to pass on this knowledge and science to the succeeding generations of Muslims. And just as the Shari’ah did not develop outside the framework of Islam, the Qur’an and the Sunnah, even though it branches and knowledge encompassed many areas not mentioned verbatim in these sources, so too did Tasawwuf develop based on the framework established by the Book and the Sunnah and never did it step out of the bounds of these parameters.

The Relationship Between Shari’ah and Haqiqat

We give here an example for explaining what we said here about the relationship between Sharia’ah, known as Science of Jurisrudence and Fiqh, known as the Science of Ihsan or Tasawwuf. Take prayer for example. It is obligatory to offer the prayers with all its requirements in the movements, its essentials and rules, as mentioned in the Shari’ah, according to the Science of Fiqh. This is known as jassad as-salaat, the body of the prayer. On the other hand one of the essentials of the prayer is to keep the heart in Allah’s Divine Presence and to know that Allah is looking at you, during the entire salaat. That will give you the Reality and Essence of the prayer. And we can know from the practice of the salaat, that people might do the outward essentials of salaat, but their hearts may not be present. What we mean by the state of Ihsan is to keep the heart pure and clean from bad manners and attachment to the distractions of the dunya. the Prophet (s) was practicing that way, because he said that he came to take people away from the attractions of dunya and its distractions.

So we see here that the external form of the salaat is its body, and the humility and self-effacement (khushu‘) is its soul (ruh). So what is the benefit of the body without the soul? If salaat is movement without presence, then it is like a zombie. As the soul needs the body to be alive in it, so too does the body need the soul to give it life. From here we find the true relationship between Shari’ah and Haqiqa, is like the relationship between body and soul. The perfect believer who has reached the state of Ihsan is the one who can cojoin Shari’ah and Haqiqat. This is the essential understanding of Tasawwuf–to combine soul and body, to combine Shari’ah and Haqiqat.

What Great Imams Said About Tasawwuf

For that reason the Shaikh ul-Islam of his time, Imam Malik–who was born in 95 H. and who was considered from the Tabi’een–said in his famous aphorism:

“man tassawaffa wa lam yatafaqah faqad tazandaqa wa man tafaqaha wa lam yatsawwaf faqad fasadat, wa man tafaqaha wa tassawafa faqad tahaqqaq.”

which means: “whoever studied tasawwuf without fiqh is a heretic and whoever studied fiqh without tasawwuf is corrupted; and whoever studied tasawwuf and fiqh will find the Truth and Reality of Islam.”

Imam Malik didn’t accept shari’ah without haqiqat and he never accepted haqiqat without shari’ah, fiqh and truth, the state of Islam and the state of Ihsan.

Imam Shafi’i said,

“hubbaba ilaya min dunyakum thalath: tark at-takkaluf, wa ‘ishratul-khalqi bit-tallatuf, wal-‘iqtida’u bit-tareeqi Ahli tasawwuf.”

Which means “I love from his life three things: first to leave behind bad attitudes, and to show kindness to others, and to be guided by the way of Tasawwuf.”

Imam Ahmad said to his son, advising him,

“Ya walladee ‘alayka bi-jallassati ha’ula’i as-Sufiyya. Fa innahum zaadu ‘alayna bikathuratil ‘ilmi wal murqaba wal khashiyyata waz-zuhda wa ‘uluwal himmat.”

“O my son, you have to keep the association with the Sufi people because they acheived more than us in knowledge, in watchfulness, fear of Allah, austerity and intensity of their devotion to reach the state of excellence.”

Imam Ibn Taymiyya’s Opinion of One Who Rejects the Four Madhabs

And these three Imams were from the well-known Imams of Ahl as-Sunnah wal Jam’a which Ibn Taymiyya described in his book al-Mukhtasir al-Fawati al Masriyyah Published by Madani Publisher, 1980, p. 45 when he was asked “what is your opinion if someone doesn’t accept the four Imams?”

Imam Ibn Taymiyya replied:

“it is not necessary to keep one madhab, but you can take from all of them and this is good. But if you say ‘we don’t want to comply with the four Madhabs and I want to practice according to my own ijtihad, ‘then you are completely mistaken. Because truth is in these four madhabs and complies with what they have described.”

From Ibn Taymiyya here we understand that to respect the knowledge of the Four Imams is recommended and that is why Ibn Taymiyya accepted them and took their opinions. At the same time he was a mujhtahid and therefore we, who are coming in the 20th Century are accepting our Muslim scholars who came in the time of the Tabi’een (i.e. the Four Imams) and those who came later up to the time of Ibn Taymiyya and we are accepting Ibn Taymiyya and those in his time. We are quoting them, just as they have quoted each other.

We are stating here that we consider any disagreement with us on a topic about which we refer to their position as a disagreement with them and not with us. Because we are only quoting what we learned from them in their books, and which complies with the Shari’ah and Sunnah. So if we are defining Tasawwuf from the point of view of Ibn Taymiyya or other scholars, then any decision one makes must be rendered on their opinions. So we say: may Allah protect us and make us students for such great Imams and let us learn from them, because they derived their knowledge from Quran and Sunnah of the Prophet (s).

From here one can go deeper and deeper into what scholars said on this topic. Because this is a vast science, for which reason we asked for more time to define and explain that science.

The Answers to the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Questions

The remaining three questions are:

>> 4. Was our Prophet(saw) a Sufi? If yes, then please give vivid evidences from the Quran and the Sunnah only?

>> 5. Did the Prophet(saw) practice Sufism or Tasawwuf? If yes, then please give evidences from the Quran and Sunnah only?

>> 6. Did the Prophet(saw) tell/order or even recommend this, meaning Sufism and Tasawwuf? If yes, then please give us evidences from the Quran and Sunnah of the Prophet(saw) only?

The fourth, fifth and sixth questions you asked, have already been answered in our answers to the first three questions. And as we know that our audience is intellectual, we are sure they will immediately understand that the fourth, fifth and sixth questions have been answered in the responses to the first three questions. Additionally, Mateen Siddiqui, in his posting yesterday, examined the fourth question in detail and gave an adequate reply to it.

We hope that we have given the reader and our dear brother Shaikh Adly, the answer they expected, although we were very brief in our answers. We had originally intended to give each question a complete and detailed answer. But due to the shortage of time, due to the pushing of people from here and there, we have curtailed our answer. This will show how vast a subject Tasawwuf is, which now they have tried to minimize in six questions.

And may Allah forgive us any mistakes we made as we are simply human beings and we are asking that all our brothers and sisters to extend their hands with our hands together, as Allah ordered in the Holy Quran:

“hold fast altogether to the rope of Allah and do not separate.”

    • (Aali-‘Imraan, 103)

Your brother in Islam,

–Shaikh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani


1. Majmu’a Fatawa Shaikh ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyya, Imam Ibn Taymiyya, published in Egypt by Dar ar-Rahma, 1984. page 190, volume 11.

2. al-Mukhtasar al-Fatawa al-Masriyya, Imam Ibn Taymiyya, published by al-Madani Publishing House, 1980, page 603.

3. [1], page 314

4. ‘Ilm as-Sulook [the Science of Travelling the Way to God], volume 10 Majmu’a Fatawa Ibn Taymiyya , Imam Ibn Taymiyya, page 516.

5.Majmu’a Fatawa Ibn Taymiyya, published by Dar ar-Rahmat, Cairo, Vol, 11, Book of Tassuwuf, p. 497.

6.Majmu’a Fatawa Ibn Taymiyya, published by Dar ar-Rahmat, Cairo, Book 2, volume 2, pages 396-397.

Wrapup of Debate with Shaykh Adly,  

Testimony of the Scholars on Tasawwuf

Finally, to our respected brother Shaykh Muhammad Adly, and to our dear Internet readers, we would like to present our final conclusions of the “debate” between myself and Shaykh Adly in the following two parts. In the first part we will mention some of the views of the Salaf and Khalaf scholars, as well as some relatively modern scholars on the subject of Tasawwuf. In the second part we will discuss Ibn Taymiyya’s views on Tasawwuf.

Further Information on Tasawwuf 3

The Evidence

Let us look more closely at the facts:

FACT #1:

Ibn Taymiyya’s supposed anti-Sufism sentiment is a clearcut misrepresentation of the truth. To conclude that Ibn Taymiyya opposed Sufism/Tasawwuf as a whole, simply because he considered particular activities or statements by some individuals and group is as unacceptable in shari’ah, is like concluding that he opposed the Science of Fiqh because he criticized the viewpoints and practices of certain fuqaha (jurists). This would be more than an exagerration, it is completely inaccurate.

FACT #2:

Ibn Taymiyya received iniation as a Sufi shaykh. The fact that Ibn Taymiyya himself was a Sufi has been conveniently ignored by those who chose to misrepresent him, and with good reason: how could someone say that Ibn Taymiyya opposed Sufism/Tasawwuf and that he was a Sufi/mutasawwif in one and the same breath? Hence the corollary statement to Ibn Taymiyya’s alledged anti-Tasawwuf stance is that “he could certainly not have been a Sufi,” compounding inaccuracy with speculation.

Clear proof that most of the great ‘ulama and the major figures of the Four Schools of Islam were trained in Tasawwuf exists in the specialized biographical books known as TabaqatTasawwuf was part and parcel of the complete education of a Muslim scholar, from the beginning of the formation of the Islamic curriculum until the gradual weakening and dismantling of the institutions and figures of Islamic higher ecucation in the twentieth century. This resulted in the replacement of the Islamic ‘ijaza system (being “licensed” or recieving permission to teach from one’s own teacher), with the modern doctoral system of degrees, inherited from the West.

Far from denigrating or attacking the Sufi component of the Islamic sciences like of some of our contemporaries who claim him as their reference, Ibn Taymiyya in fact praised it in his time, endorsed it, participated in it, and acheived its highest formal level, which is to receive the khirqa, the equivalent of the ‘ijaza or permission in Sufi terms, from a Sufi shaykh. The khirqah, representing the cloak of the Prophet (s), is passed to a student of a Sufi shaykh, only when he is seen to be fit and fully qualified to pass on the teachings he has acquired from his shaykh in turn to students of his own. In this he as simply one of many among the Hanbali ‘ulama who both educated him or were educated by him, to undergo the expected training and instruction in the various disciplines of Tasawwuf appropriate to the scholarly vocation.

Many well-read specialists of Islam are to this day still surprised to hear that the Sufis al-Ansari al-Harawi (d. 481 H.) and ‘Abdul Qadir al-Jilani (d. 561 H) were both very strong Hanbalis. When one refers to their biographical notices in Ibn Rajab’s [student of Ibn Qayyim] Dhail ‘ala Tabaqat al-Hanabila, one finds al-Ansari referred to as “as-Sufi” and Jilani referred to as “az-zahid.” Ibn Rajab’s use of these terms in close proximity, indicates their interchangeability.

Ibn Rajab’s two volume biographical work covers a period of three centuries, from the middle of the 5th century Hijri to the middle of the 8th.. Identifiable as Sufis are over one-third of all the Hanbalis scholars treated by Ibn Rajab and other sourcesfrom the same time period.

The theory, presented by some Orientalists, that Abul Faraj Ibn al-Jawzi (d. 597 H) and Ibn Taymiyya (d. 728 H), were antithetical to Tasawwuf does not stand up to scholarly scrutiny. In fact neither of these Hanbali doctors of law qualifies as in any way antithetical to Tasawwuf. Let us examine their record.

Ibn al-Jawzi’s work Talbis Iblis is perhaps the most important single factor in keeping alive the notion of this hostility towards Sufism. In reality, this work was not written against Tasawwuf as such at all, nor against Sufis alone. However, it was an indictment of all unorthodox doctrines and practices, regardless of their sources, and opposed any which were innovations in the rule of shari’ah–i.e. not found in the Qur’an and Sunnah, wherever found in the Islamic community, especially in Ibn al-Jawzi’s time. It was written against specific innovated practices of many groups, including: philosophers (mutakallimun), theologians, traditionalists (‘ulama al-hadith), jurists (fuqaha), preachers, philologists, poets and Sufis. It is in no way an indictment of the subjects they studied and taught, but was an indictment of specific introductions of innovation into their respective disciplines and fields.

Ibn al-Jawzi has written other works which are not only in favor of Tasawwuf, but present its greatest figures in the most complimentary light. Two works considered as pillars in the field of Tasawwuf are Safwat as-Safa and Minhaj al-Qasidin wa Mufid as-Sadiqin. In addition, full length biographies in praise of the early Sufis have been penned by Ibn al-Jawzi, including Fada’il Hasan al-Basri (The Gracious Character of Hasan al-Basri), and Manaqib Ibrahim bin Adham, (The Good Qualities of Ibrahim bin Adham), Manaqib Bishr al-Hafi, Manaqib Ma’ruf al-Karkhi, Manaqib Rabi’a al-Adawiyya. In sections of his book al-Muntazam many biographical notices may be found in praise of Mutasawwifeen.

Further Information on Tasawwuf 4

Ibn Taymiyya’s Donning of the Qadiri Cloak

As for Ibn Taymiyya, one would search in vain to find in his works the least condemnation of Sufism as a discipline. He opposed the seemingly pantheist descriptions of certain Sufis, known as ittihadiyya, but he showed his great admiration for the works of the Sufis Junayd Baghdadi, Sahl at-Tustari, Bayazid al-Bistami, Abu Talib al-Makki, al-Qushayri, ‘Abdul Qadir Jilani and Abu Hafs as-Suhrawardi.

At present we are in the position to go much farther and show that this allegedly great opponent of Sufism was himself a Sufi, who belonged to more than one tariqat, but especially to that of ‘Abdul Qadir Jilani.In a manuscript of the Hanbali ‘alim, Shaykh Yusuf bin ‘Abd al-Hadi (d. 909H), entitled Bad’ al-‘ula bi labs al-Khirqa [found in Princeton, Sorbonne and Damascus], Ibn Taymiyya is found in a Sufi spiritual genealogy with other well-known Hanbali scholars, all except one (Say. Jilani) heretofore unknown as Sufis. The links in this genealogy are, in descending order:

1. ‘Abdul Qadir Jilani (d. 561 H.)

2.a. Abu ‘Umar bin Qudama (d. 607 H.)

2.b. Muwaffaq ad-Din bin Qudama (d. 620 H.)

3. Ibn Abi ‘Umar bin Qudama (d. 682 H.)

4. Ibn Taymiyya (d. 728 H.)

5. Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (d. 751 H.)

6. Ibn Rajab (d. 795 H.)

(Both Abu ‘Umar b. Qudama and his brother Muwaffaq received the khirqa directly from Abdul Qadir Jilani himself.)

Further corroboration of two links separating him from ‘Abdul Qadir Jilani comes from Ibn Taymiyya himself, as quoted in a manuscript of the work al-Mas’ala at-Tabriziyya (manuscript, Damascus, 1186 H):

labistu al-khirqata mubarakata lish-Shaykh ‘Abdul Qadir wa bayni wa baynahu ‘than

“I wore the blessed Sufi cloak of ‘Abdul Qadir, there being between him and me two.”

Ibn Taymiyya is quoted by Yusuf ibn ‘Abd al-Hadi, affirming his Sufi affiliation in more than one Sufi order:

“have worn the Sufi cloak [khirqata atTasawwuf] of a number of shaykhs belonging to various tariqas [min turuqi jama’atin min ash-shuyukhi], among them the Shaykh ‘Abdul Qadir al-Jili, whose tariqa is the greatest of the well-known ones.”

Further on he continues:

“The greatest Sufi Way [ajallu-t-turuqi] is that of my master [sayyidi], ‘Abdul Qadir al-Jili, may Allah have mercy on him.”

[found in Al-Hadi manuscript in Princeton Library, Collection fol. 154a, 169b, 171b-172a and Damascus University, copy of original Arabic manuscript, 985H.; also mentioned in at-Talyani, manuscript Chester Beatty 3296 (8) in Dublin, fol. 67a.]

Additional evidence of Ibn Taymiyya’s connection to the Qadiri silsila (lineage) is found in his lengthy commentary on the seminal Sufi work by his grand-shaykh, ‘Abdul Qadir Jilani, entitled Futuh al-Ghayb. [this is found in a Princeton manuscript, uncataloged, also in Leipzig University Library, Arabic manuscript #223, and Istanbul University, Turkish translation, Futuh ul-Gayb Hakkinda Yorum]

The essence of his commentary on Futuh al-Ghaib is to show that Sufism, when orthodox, is completely in consonance with the Qur’an and hadith and the consensus of the community [ijma’a]. A Tasawwuf not based on the revealed law is heretical. In his commentary, Ibn Taymiyya upholds ilham, or Sufi inspiration, as evidence stronger than weak analogy [qiyas], or a weak tradition [hadith,] or istis-hab cited by those who are immersed in fiqh, or divergences of the law [khilaf], or the principles and sources of the law [usul al-fiqh]. He places inspiration [ilham] on the level of legally valid evidence on which to base a preference for one action as against another when all other sources fail.

Perfection of the soul, says Ibn Taymiyya, does not consist inmere knowledge. On the contraray, along with the knowledge concerning Allah, there must necessarily be love [mahabba] of Allah, worship of Allah, and the turning back to Him in repentance. Real tawhid consists in worshipping no one but Allah, and worship calls for perfect love [kamal al-hubb], perfect veneration [kamal at-ta’zim], perfect hope, fear, reverence, and respect [kamal ar-raja’ wal-khishya wal-ijlal wal-ikram].We intend to publish a translation of that lengthy commentary by Ibn Taymiyya on Futuh al-Ghaib in the future.


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