What is the ruling for a Muslim entering into a Sufi Order?
What is the ruling for a Muslim entering into a Sufi Order? Why are their numerous Orders? If Sufism is asceticism, invocation, and traveling the path to God is it not enough for a Muslim to suffice with the Qur’an and the sunnah as a manual for spiritual growth?
Sufism is the system of spiritual growth and the acquiring good character which leads a Muslim to the level of perfection (ihsan) which the Messenger of God described as “worshiping God as if you see Him, for if you do not see Him, know that He sees you.” Therefore Sufism is a program of growth which concerns itself with purifying the self of all its diseases which prevent one from reaching God, and it seeks to rectify the crookedness of man’s self as it relates to God, others, and to one’ self.
The Sufi Order is the body that takes care of this self purification and rectification, and the Sufi Sheikh is the person who provides the necessary training for those seeking to be with God.
The human self by its nature accumulates diseases such as arrogance, haughtiness, self- praise, selfishness, stinginess, anger, ostentation, leanings towards sinful acts, revenge, hatred, loathing, trickery, and greed. God says, “I do not blame myself. Lo! the (human) soul enjoins unto evil, save he who my Lord has mercy. Lo! my Lord is Forgiving, Merciful”. For this reason our ancestors were cognizant of the importance of a spiritual discipline that could rid the self of its diseases, be in harmony with society, and ultimately be successful in leading one to God.
To maintain orthodoxy Sufi Orders must contain certain characteristics such as strict adherence to the Qur’an and sunnah as Sufism is nothing more than the actualization of the Quran and sunnah. Anything that is against both the Quran and sunnah is not something that is a part or can be a part of Sufism. Another trait is that Sufism cannot see itself as separate from Shari‘ah knowledge; rather it is its essence.
Sufism has three principles which are drawn from the Qur’an and sunnah; concern for the human self: “And a soul and Him Who perfected it. And inspired it (with conscience of) what is wrong for it and (what is) right for it. He is indeed successful who causes it to grow. And he is indeed a failure who stunts it” , an abundance of invocation: “O you who believe! Remember God with much remembrance” the Messenger of God said, “let your tongue be moist with the remembrance of God” , and finally renunciation of this world and a desire for the hereafter: “Naught is the life of the world save a pastime and a spot. Better far is the abode of the Hereafter for those who keep their duty (to God). Have ye then no sense?”
As for the role of the Sheikh whom the sufi takes litanies from and whom guides them through the process of removing diseases from their hearts, he is the one who finds the most suitable program for each of his disciples (murids) as was the practice of the Prophet who used to give advice to people as to what would draw them near to God based on their psychosomatic makeup.
For example a man came to the Messenger of God and said, “tell me of that which will keep me away from the wrath of God” and he said, “do not become angry” and another person came and asked, “give me something to cling to” and he replied, “let your tongue be moist with the remembrance of God”. There were those amongst the companions who increased their night prayer, others who read the Quran often, others participated in jihad often, others invoked often, and still others who gave charity often.
This does not necessitate leaving certain matters of the religion. Rather, there are some acts of worship that a traveler on the path to God increases to help him reach his goal. It is for this reason that there are many doors to paradise, but there is still only one paradise. The Prophet, “For every people of a certain righteous act there is a door from the many doors of paradise that call those people, and for those who fast there is a special door that is called al-rayyan.” For this reason Sufi Orders have different methods of spiritual discipline depending on the specific Sheikh and disciple.
From the above discussion it is clear what true Sufism is, what the real path to God is as well as who a true Sheikh is; the one who adheres to the Qur‘an and Sunnah. We have also learned the reasoning behind the various Orders whereas the reality of them is one.
We should also mention that this above description does not apply to many of those who call to the way of Sufism today who in reality distort the realities of the path. We find many who have no religiosity, no piety such as those who dance lewdly at different occasions and who also act as those who are entranced but are nothing but mere pretenders. This is not of the matter of Sufism and we should not formulate our opinion of Sufism based on this. Those amongst the scholars who understand and practice Sufism should come together and explain these issues further to help the masses understand truth from falsehood.
There is one matter left to be discussed; taking one’s spiritual methodology directly from the Qur‘an and sunnah. This is a statement that outwardly seems to be logical, but in reality it can bring destruction. We have not learned prayer and its conditions by reading the Qur‘an and sunnah. Rather, we learned prayer from a science called fiqh (jurisprudence) that was developed by the jurists who derived rulings which constitute the corpus of Islamic law based on the Qur‘an and sunnah using many tools codified in the science of juristic methodology (‘ilm usul al-fiqh). There has never been any person who was able to read the Qur‘an and sunnah and directly create law.
There are also matters not covered by the Qur‘an and sunnah, especially in the science of Sufism, which makes it necessary to learn them from a qualified Sheikh and his teachings. These matters cannot be placed in books like the rules of Quranic recitation. The science of Sufism has been codified since the time of al-Junayd in the 4th Islamic century. As time went on and social conditions worsened so did some of the Sufi Orders that held on to outward appearances that contravened the Qur‘an and sunnah. Despite this, God will continue to protect and preserve Sufism as it is the true path to Him, “Lo! God defends those who are true. Lo! God loves not each treacherous ingrate”.
From this above discussion the different parts of the question have been addressed, and we ask God to give us insight into His religion and He is most high and all knowledgeable.