Aviva Directory » Faith & Spirituality » World Religions » Abrahamic Religions » Islam » Denominations & Sects » Sufi

Sufism is a major religious movement within Sunni and Shia Islam that is generally described as Islamic mysticism.

While Sharia provided the duties, the rights, and the order for the life of individual Muslims and the Muslim community, Sufism provided a spiritual path through which a Sufi could, not only follow but know God. The traditional Islamic way of life was expressed in the Sharia, but Sufism appealed to those who felt the need for more than mere obedience to the will of God.

Most Sufis were Sunni Muslims, but strands of Sufism developed within the Shiites as well.

The Sufis developed an ascetic lifestyle of detachment from the material world, striving not to be detached from God. They feared God, strictly observed Islamic law, and led a strong prayer life.

Many of them took to wearing simple woolen clothing, emphasizing their detachment from the world, which may have been how their movement got its name, as sufi means "one who wears wool."

This early focus on ascetic detachment and meditation evolved into a devotional love of God. Over the years, the lives, teachings, and examples of the Sufis provided the core of beliefs that later generations would build upon. Sufism became a major movement in Islam.

At points in Islamic history, Sufi idealism was met with suspicion, hostility, persecution, and executions, particularly in the 11th and 12th centuries.

This period also saw the formation of the first lasting Sufi orders, transforming from loose associations into organized religious orders. By the 13th century, Sufi orders were built upon the traditional master and student relationships.

Sufi centers served as social, cultural, and spiritual centers for Islamic communities which developed their own forms of monastic rule, which varied from order to order, and may have differed according to a geographic area, as well.

At the center of Sufi belief is that the self must die in order to make room for God. The goal of the Sufi was and is to gain direct knowledge of God, and a personal religious experience of the presence of God. The Sufi master (shaykh) leads disciples through stages of discipline, such as renunciation, purification, and insight, and along the way, the disciple is rewarded by God through the granting of various religious experiences.

In order to pass through these stages, the Sufi adopts certain practices, such as poverty, fasting, celibacy, silence, and other disciplines designed to train the mind and to reduce distraction.

In some orders, other disciplines are employed. These may include breathing exercises, meditation, and chanting, as well as the use of music, song, or dance.

It's not a perfect example by any means, but Sufism might be compared to charismatic Christianity in that the Sufi is seeking a more personal experience with God.

Major Sufi orders include Bektashi, Chishti, Kubrawiya, Mawiawiyya, Muridiyya, Naqshbandi, Nimatullahi, Qadiri, Senussi, Shadiliyya, Suhrawardiyya, and Tijaniyya.

The focus of this category is on Sufism, Sufis, and related topics. While it is understood that Sufism is not a denomination or sect within Islam, but a movement within the existing Islamic denominations, we have elected to place the category here, as Sufism is found in both Shi'a and Sunni Islam.



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