True Sufism/Tasawwuf Has Always Been Accepted and Recognised By the Ummah

Addendum to “Baseless Criticism of Tasawwuf

(See here: http://reliablefatwas.com/baseless-criticism-tasawwuf/)

(Compiled by Admin)

Tasawwuf (Sufism) is the science of purification of the soul. Although the word ‘Sufism’, ‘Tasawwuf’ and other terminologies related to this science may not have been present during the time of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), its essence, reality and principles were present right from the advent of Islam. Similar is the case with Fiqh, Aqaaid, Tajweed, Nahw, Sarf, and the many other sciences and terminologies that were codified, developed, or invented after the time of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) in order to aid in the preservation of the different aspects of the Deen.

That Sufism and Tasawwuf has always been an integral part of the Deen is clear from even the teachings of the main Imaams whom the Salafis have adopted, such as the likes of Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah, Shaykh Ibn Qayyim, Shaykh Ibn Kathir, Shaykh Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, Imam ad-Dhahabi. Their books are replete with praiseworthy references to the genuine Sufis. The extracts gathered below from their books provide only a glimpse into what is commonplace in their books, and give an indication on how wide the divide is between our scholarly tradition and the Salafi Sect, who are far from even those few scholars whom they claim to represent.

Hafiz Ibnul Qayyim (rahimahullah)

When Allah wishes Good for someone, He places them in the company of the Sufis

Ibn al-Qayyim writes in Madarij al-Salikin (vol. 2, p.366):

“As to Junayd’s saying, “When Allah wishes good for a murid he places him with the Sufis and prevents him from the company of the Qurra.”

The qurra in their terminology are the people of devotion and worship, regardless of whether they recite the Qur’an or not. The qari according to them is he who indulges in plenty of worship and devotion and has confined himself to exoteric worship, not the essence of ma‘rifah, the realities of faith, the essence of love and the actions of the heart. All of their ardour is spent in performing worship; they have no knowledge of what the people of Tasawwuf, the people of the hearts and the people of ma‘rifah have. It is because of this that someone said: “Our path can be weakened but not conquered.” Their (the Sufis’) journey is with the heart and soul, while the journey of those (the qurra) is only with the outer shell and form…

Hence, Abu al-Qasim Junayd has indicated that when Allah wishes good for the murid who sincerely wants Allah, he places him in the company of the Sufis who rectify his manners, direct him in purifying his soul, removing its reprehensible traits and replacing them with praiseworthy traits, and acquaints him with the stations of the path, its desert areas, the robbers on the path, and its danger points.

As to the qurra, they pound him with such forms of worship such as fasting and prayer; they do not allow him to taste anything from the sweetness of the actions of the hearts and the purification of souls, as that is not their way. It is on account of this there is a sense of dislike between them and the people of Tasawwuf as has been mentioned before.”

Using Imam al-Shafi’i’s Praise of the Sufis (during the Salaf)

Ibn al-Qayyim writes in Madarij al-Salikin (vol.3, p.128):

“Imam al-Shafi‘i (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “I remained in the company of the Sufis and did not benefit from them in anything except two sentences. I heard them say, ‘Time is a sword, if you don’t tear it apart, it will tear you.’ And, ‘If you don’t preoccupy yourself with the truth then it (yourself) will preoccupy you in falsehood.’”

I say: how excellent are these sentences. How beneficial, concise and representative are they regarding the lofty aspirations of he who uttered them and his vigilance. Al-Shafi‘i’s praise of this Group, in relation to the value of their words, suffices in this matter.

Using Sufyan al-Thawri’s (another Imam from the Salaf) Praise as Proof for the “Greatness of the People of Sufism”!

Ibn al-Qayyim writes in Madarij al-Salikin (vol. 2, p.307):

“Tasawwuf is one of the elements of real wayfaring (suluk), and the purification and rectification of the soul to prepare it for its journey to the companionship of the Al-Rafiq al-A‘la (The Greater Company) and the company of He Who you love. For indeed a man will be with whom he loves. It is as Simnun said, “The lovers have taken the glory of this world and the hereafter for indeed a man will be with he whom he loves. And Allah knows most.”

Section — He (Shaykh al-Islam al-Hirawi) says: “The third level is adorning one’s manners by purifying them, then rising beyond the ‘separation’ of adorning one’s manners and then adorning one’s self by passing all of the manners.”

This level consists of three things. One of them is purifying the manners by completing what has been mentioned in the two levels before. So one should clear them from every speck of dirt, dust and confusion. When you have done so, then you will ascend from its separation (tafriqah) [from Allah] to associating (jam‘iyyah) yourself to Allah. Indeed, [the concept of] adorning one’s self with good manners and Tasawwuf involves rectifying and preparing for the association. [The concept of not being attached to Allah due to the preoccupation with adorning one’s manners] has only been called “separation” (tafriqah) because it involves preoccupation with something apart from Him, and Suluk demands one’s complete attention and the preoccupation of one’s self to the Cherisher alone from anything apart from Him.

Then he shall rise above all of that — that is passing all manners in such a way that he disappears from all manners and from adorning himself with them. This absence is, according to them, of two levels:One is preoccupation with Allah Most High from everything apart from Him. The second is annihilation (fana) in the uniqueness [of Allah], which they call the divine union (hadhrat al-jam‘a) and which is the highest objective according to them. It is awarded (wahabi) and not earned (kasabi). However, the slave, when he persists and is truthful in searching, it is hoped he will be successful in attaining his purpose. Allah knows most…

It is mentioned that Sufyan al-Thawri (may Allah have mercy on him) said, “The greatest of people are of five types: the ‘alim who is abstinent, the jurist who is a Sufi, the wealthy person who is humble, the poor person who is thankful and the nobleman who is Sunni.”

Ibn al-Qayyim writes regarding “the greatness of the people of Sufism” in the eyes of the Salaf:

“We can witness the greatness of the People of Sufism, in the eyes of the earliest generations of Muslims by what has been mentioned by Sufyan ath-Thawri (d. 161 AH), one of the greatest imams of the second century and one of the foremost legal scholars. He said, “If it had not been for Abu Hisham as-Sufi (d. 115) 1 would never have perceived the action of the subtlest forms of hypocrisy in the self… Among the best of people is the Sufi learned in jurisprudence.” 

Ma‘rifah is the fruit of the efforts in completing actions and the manifestation of Wajd (ecstasy) in spiritual states (Sufi Talk!)

Ibn al-Qayyim writes in Madarij al-Salikin (vol.3, p.334):

“Some said, “The ostentation (riya) of the ‘arifs is better than the sincerity of the murids.” This is a sentence that is, on the outset, deeply abominable and in need of explanation: the ‘arif does not show off to people with an aim of seeking a position in his heart; his ostentation is only a means of advice, guidance and instruction to be followed. He calls to Allah through his actions in the same way that he calls towards Him through his words. He benefits himself with his knowledge and others also benefit from him.

The sincerity of the murid [on the other hand] is confined to himself. The ‘arif combines sincerity and da‘wah to Allah. His sincerity is in his heart and he expresses his knowledge and spiritual state so that he may be followed. The ‘arif benefits in silence, while the ‘alim only benefits through his words — and if they were to remain calm then realities would once more open to them….

Abu Sa‘id said, “Ma‘rifah comes from Allah and through effort.” This sentence is excellent, it indicates that ma‘rifah is the fruit of the efforts in completing actions (‘amal) and the manifestation of wajd in spiritual states; this is the outcome of the actions of the limbs. The spiritual state [experienced by] the heart cannot be attained just by knowledge and discussion. He who has no ‘amal and spiritual state, for him is no ma‘rifah…

Some of the predecessors said, “The sleep of the ‘arif is wakefulness, his breathing is tasbih, and the sleep of an ‘arif is superior than the prayer of one who is heedless (ghafil) of his Lord.” The sleep of an ‘arif is only wakefulness because his heart is alive while his eyes sleep and his soul is in prostration beneath the throne of his Lord and Creator. His body is in bed while his heart is around the throne. His sleep is only superior to the salah of the ghafil because the body of he who is ghafil is standing in prayer while his heart is in the lavatories of the world and in [worldly] aspirations. That is why his wakefulness is a [type of] sleep, because his heart is dead.”

Hafiz Ibn Kathir (rahimahullah)

Hafiz Ibn Kathir’s books are replete with praiseworthy references to the Sufis. Below are just a couple of extracts:

Qutubs, Abdals, and Awtads, and Those of Spiritual States (Hal) and Kashf

Hafiz Ibn Kathir mentions in Al-Bidayah wa ‘l-Nihayah (part 13, p. 141) regarding events that occurred in 631 ah:

“[Among those who died this year was] Shaykh ‘Abdullah al-Armani. He was one of the worshippers and ascetics who would traverse lands. He would live in deserts, mountains and lowlands. He would gather with the qutubs, abdals and awtads, and those of spiritual states (hal), kashf, spiritual exercises and travel in all regions and directions. He had studied the Quran at the beginning [of his studies] and memorized [Mukhtasar] al-Quduri according to the madhhab of Abu Hanifah. He then preoccupied himself with rectifying conduct and spiritual exercises. He then took up residence in Damascus at the end of his life where he died. He was buried at the foot of Mount Qasyun.

Many beautiful things have been narrated about him. Among that is that he said: “I once cut close to a town while travelling and my soul sought that I enter it. I promised myself I would not eat food therein. I entered it and passed by a laundry man who looked at me with aversion and so I became fearful of him and fled the town. This man caught up to me and with him was some food. He then said: ‘Eat, for you have exited the town.’ So I said to him: ‘You have such a [spiritual] station and you wash clothes in the markets?’ He replied: ‘Don’t raise your head and don’t look at any of your deeds. Remain a slave unto Allah. If he uses you in good, then be pleased with that.’ He then said:

If it were said to me to die, then I would say hear and obey,

And I would say to the caller of death: welcome, welcome (ahlan wa marhaba).””

Many Kashf and Miracles narrated from a Qutub

Hafiz Ibn Kathir mentions in Al-Bidayah wa ‘l-Nihayah (part 13, p. 227) regarding events that occurred in 658 ah:

“Abu ‘Abdullah ibn Abu ‘l-Husayn al-Yunini al-Hanbali Taqi al-Din, the faqih, the Hanbali, the hafiz of hadith, he who benefitted others, the erudite, the worshipper and the ascetic. He was born in the year 572 AH….

Many spiritual states (hal), incidents of kashf and miracles have been narrated about him — may Allah have mercy on him. Some of them have said he was a qutb for twelve years. Allah is most knowledgeable.”

Hafiz Ibn Rajab (rahimahullah)

Many of Hafiz Ibn Rajab’s books contain numerous praiseworthy references to Sufi shaykhs, their words and conditions. Below are just a few extracts from his Al-Dhayl ‘ala Tabaqat al-Hanabilah, in which he mentions his Hanbali predecessors in such a light that it is evidently clear that the Salafis are far from being true representatives of the Hanbalis of the past.

Tasting Spiritual Bliss (Dhawq), Experiencing Ecstasy (Wajd), Spiritual Lights (Tajalli), Being Overcome with Speech of Sufis and Delving into their Mysteries (All Experienced By The Specialist in Sufism – Hafiz Ibnul Qayyim!!!)

Imam Hafiz Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali writes in Al-Dhayl ‘ala Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (vol. 2, p.448) regarding Hafiz Ibn al-Qayyim:

Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr ibn Ayyub ibn Sa‘d ibn Jurayz al-Zara‘i, then al-Dimashqi, the jurist, the theoretician (usuli), the exegete (mufassir), the grammarian (nahwi), the ‘arif, Shams al-Din (the Light of the Faith) Abu ‘Abdullah ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, our shaykh, was born in 691AH…

He mastered the madhhab, became distinguished and delivered fatwas. He stayed in the company of Shaykh Taqi al-Din (Ibn Taymiyyah) and acquired knowledge from him. He gained in-depth knowledge in the sciences of Islam. He was an expert in tafsir, in which none could contend, and the principles (usul) of faith — two sciences in which he was at the pinnacle of knowledge; hadiths, their meanings and understanding them, and the art of deducing fine points from them, subjects in which he was not joined; fiqh and its principles; and Arabic, in which he was most proficient. Apart from this, he studied belief (kalam), grammar and other sciences.

He was a scholar of the knowledge of Suluk, and the speech of the people of Tasawwuf, their instructions and intricate matters. In each of these sciences he was a specialist…

He was tested and troubled many times. He was imprisoned with Shaykh Taqi al-Din on the last occasion in the citadel in isolation from him. He did not leave the shaykh until he died.

During his imprisonment, he remained occupied with the recitation of the Qur’an, which he used to do with meditation and contemplation. On account of this, great goodness opened to him and he experienced a great deal of spiritual bliss (dhawq) and authentic ecstatic states (wajd). As a result he became overcome with speaking about the knowledge of the people of ma‘rifah and delving on their mysteries. His writings are full of this…

Hafiz Ibn Rajab mentions in Al-Dhayl ‘ala Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part 2, p. 358):

“Ahmad ibn Ibrahim ibn ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Mas‘ud ibn ‘Umar al-Wasiti al-Hizami, the ascetic, the exemplar (qudwah), the knower of Allah (‘arif), ‘Imad al-Din, Abu al-‘Abbas, the son of the shaykh of the Hizamis. He was born on 11 or 12 Dhu al-Hajjah, 657 ah in the eastern portion of Wasit. His father was the shaykh of the Ahmadiyyah group…

Shaykh Taqi al-Din ibn Taymiyyah would exalt and honour him and would say regarding him: “He is the Junayd of his time.” He also wrote him a letter from Egypt and wrote at the beginning: “To our shaykh, the imam, the knower of Allah (‘arif), the exemplar, the salik (he who traverses the Path).”

He would fill his time with litanies (awrad), acts of worship, writing, studying, dhikr and contemplation; he would devote his self to meditating, loving and being fond of Allah, and remaining with Him; he was someone who was greatly dedicated to tasting spiritual bliss (dhawq), and experiencing spiritual lights (tajalli) and the light of the heart.

Al-Birzali said regarding him in his index: “He is a pious man, a knower of Allah, a man of devotion, worship, seclusion and aversion from the world. He has solid words regarding correct Tasawwuf. He was a caller to the path of Allah Most High…”

Al-Dhahabi said: “He was a man of standing (sayyid), a knower of Allah, of lofty rank and someone who had withdrawn himself to Allah Most High. He would write calligraphy for a stipend and would sustain himself through this. It was very rare that he would accept anything from anyone. He wrote numerous books regarding Suluk and travelling to Allah Most High, and in refutation of the Ittihadis (heretics who claim to be Sufis) and innovators. He was a caller to the Sunnah. His madhhab in regards to the Attributes of Allah was that of the pious predecessors, he would pass by them as they came…”

The Awtad through whom the tide of the river Nile increased and decreased

Hafiz Ibn Rajab mentions in Al-Dhayl ‘ala Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part 1, p. 306):

“It has been narrated from Shaykh Abu Ishaq Ibrahim ibn Muzaybil al-Darir, the faqih, the Shafi‘i, the ascetic — may Allah Most High have mercy on him — that he said: “Shaykh Abu ‘Amr ibn Marzuq was from among the awtad of Egypt. His mention was widespread and many miracles appeared from him. The Nile greatly increased in depth one year and it was close that Egypt would be flooded and it had taken over land until it was close that the time to sow seeds would pass. People came to Shaykh Abu ‘Amr ibn Marzuq and made a hue because of this. He went to the bank of the Nile and performed wudu in it. At that moment it decreased by two cubits (dhira‘) and came off the land until it became clear and the people were able to sow the next day.”

He said: “Some years, the Nile did not rise at all and a major portion of time to till the land had passed; prices increased and destruction was feared. The people came to Shaykh Abu ‘Amr ibn Marzuq and made a hue, so he went to the bank of the Nile, performed wudu in it using a jug that was with his attendant. The Nile rose that very day. Its increase continued until it reached its limit. Allah sent with it many benefits and He placed blessings (barakah) in the people’s harvests that year.”

Amongst the Abdals and Awtads

Hafiz Ibn Rajab mentions in Al-Dhayl ‘ala Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part 1, p. 384):

“Sa‘d ibn ‘Uthman ibn Marzuq ibn Humayd ibn Salamah al-Qurashi, al-Misri by birth and al-Baghdadi in terms of residence, the jurist, the ascetic, Abu al-Khayr, the son of Shaykh Abu ‘Amr who was mentioned before…

Al-Qadisi said: “He was one of the ascetics, the abdals and awtads. A person to whom people would travel and whoever is devoted to Allah then people turn to them. He would fast during the day and stand during the night. He came to Baghdad and stayed at Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir’s ribat. He would never accept anything from anyone. He would never call at the door of any of the kings.

Every year, he would be given something from his property in Egypt that would suffice him the entire year. My father told me: ‘I used to often visit him and so I came to him one day when it occurred to me that I have been visiting him for some time and that he has never taken an oath to me and never presented me with anything.

I had hardly finished thinking this when he said to me: “Oh Ahmad, I swear by Allah that I am not happy for you to eat my food, for it is the food of the wretched.”

I was then overcome with immense ecstasy (wajd). He then went inside to bring me something from his provisions. So I thought to myself: “If he brings me left over bread then people will disapprove.” He then quickly said from inside: “Oh Shaykh Ahmad, but two pieces of bread.” My astonishment and awe increased. Shaykh Sa‘d was someone who would cry a lot and someone who was of immense humility.’”

Walking on Water

Hafiz Ibn Rajab mentions in Al-Dhayl ‘ala Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part 2, p. 133):

“‘Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Qudamah ibn Miqdam ibn Nasr ibn ‘Abdullah al-Maqdisi, then al-Dimashqi, al-Salihi, the faqih, the ascetic, the imam, the shaykh al-Islam, one of the noteworthy individuals, Muwaffaq al-Din, Abu Muhammad, the brother of Shaykh Abu ‘Umar who was mentioned earlier…

Abu al-Hasan ibn Hamdan al-Jara’ihi narrated: “I used to dislike the Hanbalis on account of the foul words in relation to corrupt beliefs that were uttered against them. I then fell ill such that my limbs would suffer from cramp. I remained like this for seventeen days; I could not move and yearned death. When it was time for ‘Isha, al-Muwaffaq came and recited some verses [of the Quran] over me. He recited: ‘We reveal the Quran, which is cure and mercy for the believers; and it adds nothing to the unjust but loss.’ (17:82) He then wiped his hand over my back and I felt better…

I have read in the writings of al-Dhahabi: “I heard our companion Abu Tahir Ahmad al-Duraybi who said, I heard from Shaykh Ibrahim ibn Ahmad ibn Hatim — and I visited the grave of Shaykh al-Muwaffaq along with him — say: ‘I heard the faqih Muhammad al-Yunini, our shaykh, say: “I saw Shaykh al-Muwaffaq walking on water.”’”

Hafiz Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullah)

Kashf and Supernatural Acts – A Means Through Which To Raise a  Man’s Status

Ibn Taymiyyah states:

“There are certain extra-natural events which are related to knowledge, such as Kashf. Others are related to power and kingdom such as enacting acts which are extra-natural. Others are related to self-sufficiency in apparent gifts people are given, such as knowledge, authority, wealth and independence. All these what Allaah grants His slave is in order for him to use it as an aid upon what Allaah loves and is pleased with, and to draw closer to Him. Through it He raises his status through the commands of Allaah and His Rasūl. In that way his rank and closeness to Allaah and His Rasūl increase.” [al-Fatāwā, V11, p299]

Kashf and Supernatural Effects – a Basic Tenet of Islam

Ibn Taymiyah states in al-Waṣīyah al-Kubrā which explains the basic beliefs of Islaam,

“Amongst those of you who are abstentious of the world and engage in worship, there are those who have purified states and a pleasing path, and receive Kashf and effects.” [p 17]

Knowing a Forthcoming Punishment through Kashf

Ibn Taymiyah said,

“As for the special ones amongst people, they know the punishments of nations through the Kashf Allaah gives them.” [Fatawa, v11; p69]

Kashf Can Also Occur in Deeni Matters

Ibn Taymiyyah states:

“Just as Kashf of the worldly matters can be made for the believing slave, whether on a definite or speculative basis, Dīnī matters are similar… Sometimes it is a proof placed in the believer‟s heart in which further interpretation is impossible… many people of Kashf get in their hearts that this food is Ḥarām, or this man is a Kāfir or Fāsiq and there is no apparent proof for these.” [v10; p477]

One May Walk on Water, Become Invisible, Suddenly Appear to Fulfil Needs, Or Inform People About Unseen Matters…!

Ibn Taymiyyah states:

“You will find many like these and will believe that he has to be Allaah’s friend because of the Kashf he displayed in certain matters, or extra-natural acts such as he indicates to someone and that person dies, or he flies in the sky to Makkah or elsewhere, or sometimes walks on water, or he fills up an empty container, or he at times spends from unseen sources, or he may become invisible to people‟s eyes, or someone is in need and he is not there but he suddenly appears and fulfils his need, or he informs the people about their stolen goods or other unseen matters, etc…. These matters are extra-natural and the performer may be Allaah’s friend or His enemy. Do not think that whoever performs these acts is necessarily Allaah’s friend. Friends of Allaah are assessed according to their qualities, deeds and conditions as outlined in the Quraan and Sunnah. [al-Fatawa, v11; p214]

Resurrecting the Dead!

Ibn Taymiyah mentioned many other miracles which the saints performed. These include:

“A man from the Nakha tribe had a donkey which died during a journey. His companions said, “Come let us move his baggage onto our mounts.” He told them, “Give a little chance.” He then performed an excellent Wuḍū‟, offered Ṣalāh and asked Allaah, Who resurrected his donkey. It then continued carrying his goods.” [Chapter 1, Fatawa 11; p 299]

Supernatural Hearing and Seeing Abilities Whether Awake or Asleep!

Ibn Taymiyyah states:

“Amongst those extra-natural acts in regards knowledge are those where the slave sometimes hears that which others cannot hear. Sometimes he can see that which others cannot see, whether awake or asleep. Sometimes he learns that which others do not such as through Waḥy or Ilhām or revealing of necessary knowledge; or true insight. These are called Kashf, Mushāhadāt and Mukāshafāt. Hearing is called Mukhāṭabāt, seeing is called Mushāhadāt and knowledge is called Mukāshafah. They are also collectively called Kashf/Mukashafah i.e. Kashf was made to him. [al-Fatawa, v11; p313]

Sight Without the Use of the Physical Senses

Ibn Taymiyah said,

“In the same way there are slaves who can witness with the heart, so much so that the physical senses are negated and he perceives it to be a vision of the physical eyes.” [al-Waṣīyah; p 27]

It is worth noting that many Salafi scholars unambiguously assert, or imply, that Allah is in a specific direction and cite the proof that seeing Him in the hereafter necessitates Him being in a particular direction.

Dua More Likely To Be Accepted at the Graves of the Pious

In his book Iqtiḍāuṣ Ṣirāṭil Mustaqīm, Ibn Taymiyah strongly refutes those who deny that duā near the graves of Rasulullaah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and the pious may be more likely to be accepted due to their blessings:

“It is not part of this topic what has been narrated in regards some people hearing a return of their greeting from the tomb of the Nabī r or the graves of others amongst the pious. Indeed Sa„īd bin al-Musayyib heard the Aẓān from the grave during the nights of al-Ḥarrah. [p373]

“In the same way it is narrated that a man came to the Nabī‟s (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) grave and complained about drought. He then had a vision of him and he ordered him to go to Umar and tell him to go with the people and perform Istisqā‟.” [p373]

And he does not restrict it only to the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam):

“Similar occurrences happen to those less than the Nabī (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and I know many such incidents.” [p 373]

From The Best of Generations (The Salaf-us-Saliheen)

Junayd al-Baghdadi lived in the third century after Hijrah – that is, at the time of the major compilers of hadith like al-Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, Nasa’i etc. Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi (d. 463) has a biography of him in his Tarikh Baghdad. Al-Khatib said:

“Al-Junayd ibn Muhammad ibn al-Junayd Abu al-Qasim…His birth and upbringing was in Baghdad. He heard hadith there and he met the ‘ulama and he studied fiqh under [the great Faqih] Abu Thawr (d. 240), and he accompanied a group of the righteous, and from them he became reputed for accompanying al-Harith al-Muhasibi and Sari al-Saqati (d. 253). Then he engaged in worship and persisted in this until he became old in age. He became the Shaykh of his time, and a peerless [scholar] of his age in the science of internal states (ahwal) and discussion on the science [lit. tongue] of the Sufiyyah and the method of admonition. He has famous reports, transmitted miracles, and he narrated hadith from al-Hasan ibn ‘Arafah.” (Tarikh Baghdad, Bashshar ‘Awwad ed. 8:168)

Al-Khatib narrates with his chain from Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Ubayd Allah al-Munadi:

“Al-Junayd ibn Muhammad ibn al-Junayd had indeed heard many hadiths from the shuyukh, and he saw the righteous and people of gnosis…” Junayd al-Baghdadi himself said: “I would issue fatwa in the circle of Abu Thawr al-Kalbi al-Faqih (d. 240) when I was 20 years old.” (ibid. 8:169)

Abu Thawr was a contemporary of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal and founder of an extinct madhhab. The above illustrates al-Junayd al-Baghdadi’s rootedness in the sciences of fiqh and hadith. However, the primary science for which he became known and which he taught to hundreds of successors, is the science of Tasawwuf.

Al-Khatib narrates with an authentic chain:

Abu Nu‘aym al-Hafiz [i.e. al-Asbahani the famous hafiz] reported to us: He said: I heard ‘Ali ibn Harun al-Harbi and Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Ya‘qub al-Warraq both say: We heard Abu al-Qasim al-Junayd ibn Muhammad say multiple times: “This science of ours [i.e. Tasawwuf] is tied down to the Book and Sunnah. Whoever did not memorise the Book, and write down hadith, and did not acquire fiqh, he is not imitated [in this science].” (ibid. 8:170)

Al-Khatib also narrates:

Abu al-Qasim ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn ‘Abd Allah al-Sarraj reported to us at Naysabur, he said: I heard ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Ali al-Sarraj say: I heard ‘Abd al-Wahid ibn ‘Ulwan al-Rahbi say: I heard al-Junayd ibn Muhammad say: “This science of ours, meaning the science of Tasawwuf, is intertwined with the hadith of the Messenger of Allah.” (ibid)

Al-Junayd al-Baghdadi’s assessment that the science of Tasawwuf originates in the hadiths of Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) is clear to anyone who has studied hadith and has accurate understanding of the science of Tasawwuf. An excellent book illustrating the connectedness between the two (hadith and tasawwuf) is Mawlana Ashraf ‘Ali Thanawi’s recently translated work “A Sufi Study of Hadith.”

Al-Junayd al-Baghdadi was certainly speaking, in this early period, of a developed science, one that began much earlier in the time of the Salaf, i.e. the first three generations of Muslims. One of his primary teachers was known as “Sufi”: Muhammad ibn ‘Ali Abu Ja‘far al-Qassab al-Sufi (d. 275) of whom al-Junayd said:

“The people affiliate me to al-Sari, when my teacher was al-Qassab.” He also became one of the greatest teachers of this science. For example, one of the major exponents of Tasawwuf, Abu ‘Ali Rudhbari (d. 322) said: “My teacher in Tasawwuf is al-Junayd and my teacher in hadith and fiqh is Ibrahim al-Harbi and my teacher in Nahw is Abu al-‘Abbas Ahmad ibn Yahya Tha‘lab.” (Tarikh Baghdad 2:181)

Tasawwuf was thus treated as a science just like Hadith, Fiqh and Nahw from the time of the Salaf.

Shaykh al-Islam Abu Isma‘il ‘Abd Allah al-Ansari (396 – 481) [a contemporary of al-Khatib al-Baghdadi and Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr], a famous Hanbali Sufi and author from Herat (present-day Afghanistan), and greatly admired by ibn Taymiyyah, said in his Persian work Tabaqat al-Sufiyyah (which is his redaction of Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman’s Arabic work with the same name) that the first person to be called “Sufi” was Abu Hashim al-Sufi who lived at the same time as Sufyan al-Thawri (97 – 161) which puts him squarely in the period of the senior Atba‘ al-Tabi‘in.

Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi narrated with his chain that a group of Sufis accompanied ‘Abd Allah ibn al-Mubarak (118 – 181) (sahibahu al-sufiyyah) into battle (Tarikh Baghdad 11:394). Therefore the term ‘Sufis’ was already present during the generation of ‘Abd Allah ibn al-Mubarak, Sufyan al-Thawri, Malik ibn Anas, Sufyan ibn ‘Uyaynah, Waki‘ ibn al-Jarrah etc.

Ibn Taymiyyah said, calling Abu Isma’il “Shaykh al-Islam”:

“The Shaykh al-Islam is well-known and revered by the people. He was an imam in hadith, Tasawwuf and tafsir. In fiqh, he followed the school of the hadith scholars (Ahl al-Hadith); he would exalt al-Shafi‘i and Ahmad, and would combine between them in his answers in fiqh with that which agrees with the view of al-Shafi‘i at times and that which agrees with the view of Ahmad at times. The following of hadith according to the way of Ibn al-Mubarak and his like was predominant over him.” (source)

Earlier Sufis were referred to by terms such as ‘ubbad/zuhhad/fuqara/nussak. From the second and third generation, examples are: ‘Awn ibn ‘Abd Allah, Mis‘ar ibn Kidam, ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn Abi Rawwad, Fudayl ibn ‘Iyad, Dawud al-Ta’i, Shaqiq al-Balkhi, Ma‘ruf ibn Fayrazan al-Karkhi.

In the fourth generation of Muslims, there were many “Sufis”. For example, a narrator from Sahih al-Bukhari, al-Hasan or al-Husayn ibn Mansur ibn Ibrahim al-Shatawi, a shaykh of Bukhari with a hadith in the Sahih, a student of Sufyan ibn ‘Uyaynah, Waki‘ and those of their generation, was known as “Ibn/Abu ‘Allawyah al-Sufi.” (Tarikh Baghdad 8:464-6, Tahdhib al-Kamal 6:327 – both refer to him as “Sufi”) He was probably born around 160 H as he heard from Ibn ‘Uyaynah and Waki’. One of his teachers, Ayyub ibn al-Najjar al-Hanafi (a narrator found in Bukhari, Muslim, Nasa’i and declared thiqah by Ahmad and others) was known to be extremely pious such that it was said “he was from the abdal.” He was therefore probably the source of Ibn ‘Allawyah’s Tasawwuf.

Thus the terms ‘Tasawwuf’ and ‘Sufism’, began to be employed during the best of generations.

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