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Difference Between Islam and Sufism

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Islam vs Sufism

Islam is a dogmatic and monotheistic religion founded by Prophet Muhammad about 1400 years ago on the basis of revelations of Allah contained in the holy book of Quran. Islam is a strictly enforced way of life according to dictates of Quran and Hadith (subsequent explanations of Muhammad’s sayings) that every believer of Islam is mandated to follow. Islam believes there is only one God and that is Allah and no other God. According to Islam the purpose of life is to live according to Quran and Hadith and thereby serve Allah.

Sufism, on the other hand is spiritual dimension of God-man union. Some scholars on religion and spirituality believe Sufism is a mystical concept that predates history, long before organised religion came in to existence. It is claimed that the idea of Sufism has been expressed by Hindu and Christian hermits and later influenced Islam. Nevertheless it is safe to say that Sufism has been blossomed in the structure and practices of Islam. Some believe Sufism among Muslims developed out of disenchantment of the materialistic and luxurious life-styles of moneyed Muslims, especially the Umayyad Caliphate. According to Ali Hujwiri, Ali Talib was the founder of Sufism within Islam. Many scholars of Islam and Sufism believe that Sufism is all about internalisation of Islam that includes such practices as recitation, meditation, and other ritualistic activities. It is also claimed by some scholars that Sufism means emulation of the life of Muhammad, and striving to be exactly as Muhammad was.

Perception about the right path to God
The fundamental difference between Islam and Sufism pivots around the path of attaining union with Allah. According orthodox mainstream Islam, it is the Quranic teachings of Muhammad, Sharia Law, and Hadith that set the guidelines to be strictly followed by Muslims in order to attain eternal closeness with Allah, the divine.

Differences between Islam & Sufism
Sufism, on the other hand gives less emphasis on Hadith and Sharia, and focuses on mystical and ritualistic practices of praising Allah.

Importance of Sharia
The traditional orthodox Muslims believe serving Allah without strict adherence to the Islamic Sharia law is impossible. This major Muslim block believes Sharia is sacrosanct not only in the context or religious belief, but is at the root of Islamic identity politics. Importance of Sharia in the collective psyche of orthodox Muslims is so much so that it has been the point of discontent in matters of governance of states in many democratic set-ups. Mainstream Muslims believe any legal system other than Sharia is anti-Islam.

Followers of Sufism believe that strict adherence to Sharia is no guarantee to attaining union with God. They believe that progressive ritual practices and meditation would bring a Muslim in the close proximity of Allah. They also do not believe that Sharia should be the only legal system for Muslims, and nurses no intolerance to democratic system.

When to Attain God
Mainstream Muslims believe that by strictly following the Quran and the Hadith, a Muslim can attain divine closeness in the paradise after death. Hadith announces priceless gifts for strict adherents to Quran and Hadith in paradise after death. Believers of Sufism are of the view that by meditation and ritualistic practices a Muslim need not wait for death, rather can embrace divine closeness with God in this life itself.

Dimensional Difference
Differences between Islam & Sufism
Mainstream orthodox Islam is more concerned with adherence to Islamic law and as such it is exoteric in dimension. Sufism, on the other hand emphasises on spirituality and so has esoteric dimension.

Materialistic luxury
Mainstream Islam does not forbid materialistic pleasure and luxury, although there are instructions in Quran to give grants and donations to the poorer members of the community. Those who believe in Sufism voluntarily accept poverty and celibacy, and refrain from any kind of worldly pleasure.

Mainstream Islam is more allied to hard-core dictates and lacks spiritual value. The concept of Sufism, on the other hand is based upon the search for deeper spiritual meaning of Islam. Sufism fill-up the spiritual void created by Islamic law centric religious system. According to famous Sufi philosopher Baba Garib Shah, Islamic law is not conducive to attaining oneness with God, but it is Sufism that leads to God.

Viewing Hajj
Mainstream Islam believes that pilgrimage to Mecca, known as Hajj, would purify the mind of a Muslim and would make him Hajji. But Sufism does not believe pilgrimage to Mecca would amount to Hajj.

Differences between Islam & Sufism

According to Sufis Dhikr or state of ecstasy by ritualistic practices is the way towards God. Orthodox Muslims believe that only Muhammad could experience such a phenomenon, and experienced God in lifetime, and no other human being can ever experience that in lifetime.

Place of Music and Dance
In mainstream Islam, music of any kind other than chanting of Quranic verses are disallowed. Sufism on the other hand not only takes recourse to music in praising God, but also introduced dance in the realm of worshipping Allah. Orthodox Muslims believe that dance and music are leisure activities and would distract the performer from truly serving God.

i) Mainstream Islam believes adherence to Quran is the only way to serve God, whereas Sufis believe in mystical way to finding God.
ii) Sharia is viewed at very high esteem in mainstream Islam, Sufis on the other hand give less importance to Sharia.
iii) In mainstream Islam it is believed that union with God is possible in the afterlife, Sufis hold that divine closeness can be embraced in this life itself.
iv) Orthodox Islam lacks spirituality, Sufism focuses on spirituality.

Differences between Islam & Sufism

v) Mainstream Islam views pilgrimage to Mecca as Hajj, Sufism does not subscribe to that view.
vi) Sufis believe dhikr or state of ecstasy leads to God, whereas mainstream Islam believes the phenomenon was experienced only by Muhammad, and nobody else can ever experience it.
vii) Music and dance as methods of worship are forbidden in mainstream Islam, but Sufis view music and dance as more fruitful exercises in praising God.

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  1. Who wrote this, a Sufi?
    Islam is the surrender to Allah the rest is His doing, and all the mysticism will only strengthen the false ego!
    Mystics fail in the end because their only human, and their desire for specialness leads them from the straight path.

  2. This was definitely not written by a Sufi! I don’t even think it was written by a Muslim!
    Almost every other sentence has an error in regards to Islam, it outercore, the Shariah, and its innercore, tassawuf. If someone here is a serious learner, I recommend reading “The Heart of Islam” by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, professor of Islamic Studies at George Washington University.

  3. First sentence alone has a really sad error. Islam is not the youngest religion, nor youngest world religion.

  4. Islam is not founded by prophet Muhammed.
    Prophet Muhammed was the last prophet(Messenger) of the Islam.

  5. Defining ‘Sufism’ and ‘Islam’ in opposition to each other is pretty misleading and unscholarly. The comparison doesn’t make any sense. Islam is a religion that accommodates a variety of spiritual orientations—Sufi mysticism is one of those. Sufism is a product of Islamic civilization and doesn’t predate it in any historically meaningful way.

    So Islam and Sufism aren’t two poles that can be compared and contrasted. Sufism exists within a broader Islamic tradition: anything that can be said about the former is also true of the latter in a more limited sense. ‘Sufism’ vs. ‘Orthodox Islam’ is also a useless dichotomy since, especially after the Mongol invasions, most ‘orthodox’ Sunni scholars were attached to Sufi orders. The idea that Sufism isn’t authentically Islamic–an assumption that this article seems to make–is completely ahistorical, even if certain aspects of Sufism have been criticized by non-Sufis and legalistic Sufis.

    • Sufism is actually shirk and against the Islam. Sufism says about Wadatulwoojud. Meaning, Only Allah exists and all things like human, animal, water, air earth sun, moon and universe is merely manifestation of Allah. In other words they are saying Universal matter is Allah by which everything had been created. Associating Allah with universal material is shirk. Mansoor Sufi Hallaj said I am Hak meaning I am god. This is clear shirk and against Islam. Sufism had weaken muslims politically, economically and shackled the muslim under their man made rituals and practices. Mysticism, monasticism are not allowed in Islam. Sufism only introduced Bidahaa which blocked real simple Islam from flourishing among the heart of innocent believer who do not have proper knowledge of Islam and Sufisim.

  6. Extremely misleading! The majority of Sufi groups stress adherence to the shariah AS WELL AS diving deeper into the reality of Islam (haqiqah). And “mainstream Muslims” do forms of dhikr (literally, “remembering Allah”, not “states of ecstasy” ) as well: the five daily prayers are a form of dhikr. Please edit this article so it is not so misleading.

  7. Whoever wrote this needs to think about the implications of any incorrect information being expressed, at the very least, they should warn the reader of any possible oversights…

    This is disrespectful at best.

  8. the writer himself has not studied Islam.there are so many false statements in this article with regard to Islam.plus there are no references from either Quran or Hadith.

  9. Such misinformation.

  10. Shocked to read that Islam and Sufism are anti. Writer should have researched well before posting the article. Not only less factual but also too much misleading.
    Oversight needed!

  11. Stupidest, most inaccurate post. Islam and Sufism can not be compared. Spiritualism is a part of Islam. It’s how you see it.

    The author needs to read some books before he starts writing gibberish

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