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What is Sufism?

What is Sufism?
Highlights

Nearly 75 people were killed in a horrific attack on a Sufi shrine in Sehwan in Sindh province.  The shrine honoured the mystic Muslim Sufi holy...

Nearly 75 people were killed in a horrific attack on a Sufi shrine in Sehwan in Sindh province. The shrine honoured the mystic Muslim Sufi holy figure Usman Marwandi, also known as Lal Shahbaz Qalander. Sufis always preach peace and brotherhood among people.

According to Britannica.com, Sufism is a mystical Islamic belief and practice in which Muslims seek to find the truth of divine love and knowledge through direct personal experience of God. It consists of a variety of mystical paths that are designed to ascertain the nature of humanity and of God and to facilitate the experience of the presence of divine love and wisdom in the world.

Islamic mysticism is called taṣawwuf (literally, “to dress in wool”) in Arabic, but it has been called Sufism in Western languages since the early 19th century. An abstract word, Sufism derives from the Arabic term for a mystic, ṣūfī, which is in turn derived from ṣūf, “wool,” plausibly a reference to the woollen garment of early Islamic ascetics. The Sufis are also generally known as “the poor,” fuqarāʾ, plural of the Arabic faqīr, in Persian darvīsh, whence the English words fakir and dervish.

Though the roots of Islamic mysticism formerly were supposed to have stemmed from various non-Islamic sources in ancient Europe and even India, it now seems established that the movement grew out of early Islamic asceticism; only later were foreign elements that were compatible with mystical theology and practices adopted and made to conform to Islam, adds Britannica.com.

Sufism in India
Following the entry of Islam in the early eighth century, Sufi mystic traditions became more visible during the 10th and 11th centuries of the Delhi Sultanate. By building a syncretic medieval culture tolerant and appreciative of non-Muslims, Sufi saints contributed to a growth of stability, vernacular literature, and devotional music in India.

The Chishti Order Sufis in India, especially, crystallized khanqahs with the highest form of modest hospitality and generosity. By creating egalitarian communities within stratified caste systems, Sufis successfully spread their teachings of love, spirituality, and harmony. It was this example of Sufi brotherhood and equity that drew people to the religion of Islam.

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