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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.

    • I like it. small but complete face of Sufism

      • I am reading , The Power Of Meaning,” by Emily Esfahani Smith.
        Very well referenced, it will remind u of, “Man’s Search For Meaning.” The practice is so old, predates 1400, so no one has a timeline. One thing is sure: Orthodox Islam Nd Sufism, do not follow the same belief systems. I’ll take Sufism any day over Shari law.

        • Sufism is the esoteric, inner mystical dimension of Islam, it’s not something separate to Islam, however, it’s something that’s part of it. Some muslims and non-muslims mistake it for being a separate part of Islam as their is the use of musical instruments, however Sufi’s use musical instruments to induce a form of divine ecstasy as a pathway to God. Music that has positive connotations and make a person closer to God is allowed to be used, however music that has negative and dark energy is not allowed- that is the difference that needs to be understood. During the time of the Holy Prophet the song, ‘Tala’ al-Badru ‘Alayna,’ which is a traditional Islamic melody was sung to the Prophet Muhammad to welcome him as he sought refuge in Madinah after being forced to leave his hometown of Mecca. This evidently suggests that it was allowed to sing and use musical instruments in Islam, it just depends on what purpose it’s used for. In today’s time, music has negative connotations, but in the Islamic World we have nasheeds which are similar to hymns. The Quran does not contain any direct references to music, it’s just that a lot of people abuse and take advantage of such things, that it does make people question whether it’s allowed or not. Another evidence is that Prophet David (Dawood) used to have a musical instrument and used to sing.

          Another thing I would like to address in the article above is that Sufi’s do go onto pilgrimage, such as Hajj or Umrah in order to make themselves pure, it’s probably that they would only go once in their lifetime and also, it’s just that they believe there are other ways to make oneself pure, like pilgrimage is not the only way. Moreover, the main aim of Sufi’s is to conqueror one’s ego and to eradicate it in order to seek divine love from God- this is something that mainstream Islam doesn’t focus on. Sufi’s emphasize on the teachings of saints, household of the Holy prophet and some Caliphs, whereas Sunni’s hold more emphasis on caliphs and Shia’s on the 12 Imams. Sufism respects teachings of everyone who is enlightened.

    • Gary you don’t know sufisms nor islam

  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.

    • I agree with whatever written except one point. Mainstream Islam does not believe in Union with Allah because meaning of Union with Allah is infuse in Allah but Islam says such believe is shirk.

      • Ya, I agree. Union with Allah is the one sin Allah will never forgive us for

      • You might not believe but thats the sufism is all about, you cant accept because you understood Allah in different way from what they have understood. In sufism there is only existance of Allah thats what meant by that union. Its trying to understand Allah in deepest possible way. Understanding Allah means understanding everything in this Universe because there exist nothing other than him. And farthest we could understand wouldn’t be even drop of whole ocean because its much deeper than that. Islam as a religion is easy way to live the life
        which includes everything that a person needs for living as a community, Islam is not as rigid as mentioned in this script, i too agree with that. But Sufism is much more interesting that religion if interested in understanding Universe. But in Quran it clearly stated the person who fear Allah and do good deeds are closer to him so being religious is also equally good.

        • And main part of it is sufism is integral part of Islam, it is not out of Islam. And every basic rules in Islam is valid for mysticism, if no it is not Islam. Author had made many mistake in understanding Islam in that regards. Both came from sharia, fiqh is skeleton and thasaweuf is soul. Both are equally important.

    • I agree completely with Rebekah. Sharia law is not of Islam, and was never practiced by Mohammad, who actually encouraged the respect and education of Women. This article was clearly written by a western man, with an ignorant, western-outlook.

  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.

      • Sufism is not Shirk, and they are Muslims so you can’t say nor claim that they are a different religion.
        Yes some practice rituals that are unorthadox but shirk is worshipping someone besides Allah. and they don’t worship another.
        as for the alter and graves of awlia or Walis (الاولياء الصالحين) most sufies don’t agree with that now a days. please stop making sufies as a whole new religion cuz my cousin is one and he’s just as Muslim as I am. this article is so misleading.

      • Deep wounded n heart broken person find Allah by sufism,islam is also fully submittion to Allah swt if you dont fully submitt then you are hypocrite..

    • Very well said. However, such distinctions rarely are pointed out nor understood today. Seems as though the two are growing fartherapart as Orthodox Islam becomes more and more radicalized.

  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.

    • Sufi despise sharia and love tariqat and tasfoof. They state that sharia is mere shell whereas tariqat and tasfoof is pulp or extract. This is clear kufar. Sufi says that Tawheed of quran is in first stage but their/sufi tawheed has advanced in stage thus they insult the Quran which is very source of Towheed. Sufi told there are two types of believes one for Khawas (choosen) and other for masses but Islam does not mention this. There is only one Islamic believe and practices for all muslims

      • You are absolutely wrong since the first stage of Sufism is the Shariah itself.The Shariah is the first of the four stages of the Sufi’s path.

        • You’re an idiot. Islam doesn’t allow your abrogation. Keep your additional 3 steps to yourself. Don’t contaminate the pure religion of Allah and his messenger[may peace be upon him].
          May Allah guide you.

  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

  12. Currently, I fond myself confused about what is right and what isn’t. But I do agree with certain points of the writer.
    Sufisim started after Islam. And clearly, Islam forbids music and dancing. So sufism must be shirk.
    Being just fifteen, I can’t make a proper decision right now. But thank you for giving me an introduction to this topic.

  13. Sufism “is the branch of Islam which focuses on the spiritual development of Muslims”. Sufism is the integral part of Islam as long as it follows Shariah, Hadith and Qur’an. At present one of the most disputed aspects of Islam is ‘Sufism’ and possibly one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted not only by Muslims but even non-Muslims. There is no doubt in it, that the word Sufi did not exist in the time of the Prophet Muhammad but at the same time, one must remember, that, the foundations of Sufism, were laid during the early days of Islam.

  14. Thank you for making people understand the difference between Sufism and Islam. Only can rare, wise people see the point. That is not surprising if many people are against Sufism as they are not aware of the truth behind this.

  15. Very helpful
    Stay Blessed

  16. I think an attempt was made to discuss both The Sunni and The Sufi as it rate to Islam. However in my opinion the author does NOT known enough about either to provide guidelines or guidance.Please see other resources perhaps search based on the merits of the website.

  17. Reading the Ihya Ulum ad Din of Al-Ghazali or Tafsir Qushayyi/Altair al Isharat I am familiar with the Orthodox Sunni Ashari Sufis and their early beliefs.

    Ghazali states that the Sufi path is not recommended to anyone who has not mastered the Sunna of Prophet Muhammad (saw) and the Ahadith, and even expressed sympathy for the Hanbali Muslims if Islam ever became dominated by the Mutazila and the falasafa who were in love with Hellenistic philosophy.

    It was his 3,000 page masterpiece the Ihya that influenced Thomas Aquinas and many Catholics in Europe, Christian mysticism and monasticism was influenced by Sufism, al-chemia, as was the Kabbalah, which is not from ancient Babylon but Medieval Rabbis through the Zohar, books of silly mystical Midrashim on the Tanakh and Yahudi bidah.

    I think in Ghazali’s time, Qushayyri before him whose student educated Ghazali I believe, Sufism was about living the Sunnah and obtaining knowledge and wisdom of Islam without Judah.

    I have never heard either support any Judah, as such while I like these old Sufis ideas and have no problem being Sufi if practiced as they did.

    But the (more famous of 2) Ibn Arabi, who claimed to receive visions and revelations in Mekka, I can not stand and unfortunately in the mind of the simple all Sufi orders are a single monolith and Ibn Arabi esteemed as the greatest Sheik, so I am happy being Ashari Sunni Muslim, after all Wisdom does not come from spinning around really fast or thinking a union with Allah is a realistic goal, when it sounds like making yourself partners with Allah.

    • Way to a possible God (Allah) is Sufism where the claim is: God is not an outside object … rather a piece of myself … as a part of my consciousness… if I do not understand me… there is no way to understand God. Sufism is the Mistical journey with oneself … by looking in … not looking out. It is very premature to define God (Allah) . Sufism creates a humble journey toward the unknown. I like the way of knowing… Sufism is a process …not a finality.

      • The best comment written for this post. They say : it takes a Sufi to know a Sufi. Scholars are not really enlightened persons. They read what others write. None of them have been told directly anything by God.

  18. I liked the article. Sufism is best explained. Even non-Muslims also impressed with Sufism. Real Sufi saints are ascetic, don’t possesss anything, love peace, everyone & serve society.

  19. Both islam&sufi lead to god even toallah,christ, buddha,rama etc.If one of them is the actual god.Thisis my belief only.

  20. Whole speech ur trying to proov that islamic religion is danm bad. But its the way of life and most easiest one. From it people making their own religions. So Allah never accept other then islam. If u dont no islam u can learn it. Dont go beyong it.

  21. I agree 100% with you but one point is not clear which is heading dhikr. Allah says in Quran, Heart finds satisfaction with dhikr(remembrance) of Allah. And Quran also has another name dhikr.

  22. Jesus Christ is Lord. There is One God, who is eternally in the form of three distinct persons. God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit who is One. Jesus taught that he was the finisher of faith, and warned about not following any new doctrines, as did his apostles who performed countless miracles. You have been led astray, ask God to show you who Jesus is and then you will know the truth.

  23. Islam is DOGMATIC religion lmao xD. Dumbass. Please anyone tell me how to report this article.

  24. Wow Great! You Described in very simple way! I love it …

  25. I am not a Muslim scholar, I only know what I know, but I can say that the mystical experience of the Divine preceeds all religions.

    Having said that, Sufism per se cannot preceed Islam as it is specifically a subgroup of Islam. Some of their techniques most likely do, though.

    Yet we find, across all religions, the inner mystical experience, which at its highest level, there is no distinction. A Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu , or Sufi mystic all have similiar techniques and realizations.

    Yet they exist within the framework of their perspective religions.
    One perspective would be that the outer, or the rules, commandments, etc, are important, but that they alone will not take you there, they are the moral framework if you will, so that an immoral person cannot attain, but yet simply following regulations is just the preparatory phase.

    In the mystic sphere, however, there is no differentiation, or very little. So a Christian or Jewish Mystic, for example, would never start a ‘holy war’ with a Muslim, or vice versa, nor try to convert. Whether you call Allah, God, Jesus, Krishna, Shiva, you are speaking of the same principle. The stories we tell about it are different, but the underlying Reality is one.

    To the person who says Sufi isn’t right because you would develop ego, really doesn’t understand. Now, there may be a stage where you think of yourself as better, or maybe develop some abilities, but this is just a stage.
    Actually the opposite is true, if you see Allah or God as something only outside yourself, you can never know the truth you can only have faith or blind belief. In reality, to realize Reality, you have to get rid of ego. So having ego attached to spiritual awakening can happen, it is just one of many errors people can have. The answer is not to don’t even try because of that, the answer is to work through it.

  26. “One who follows sufism without the shari’ah will become a heretic, one who follows the shari’ah without sufism will go astray; one must practice both to live Islam in totality.” – Imam Malik, paraphrased. The term tasawwuf was coined by Husayn ibn Ali, rahmatullaahi alaih.

    This article is about New Age stuff, which is made up by hippies.

  27. Sir
    You have posted wrong information about islam. Prophet muhammad (PBUH) isn’t the founder of islam and islam isn’t 1400 years old only .islam started 8n this earth by hazrat ADAM A.S (first man on earth ) and prophet muhammad PBUH is the last messenger of islam.( Total messengers in islam 1.24k

    • Sir, u have wrong information actually we muslims are those who belived that there is only one God and prophet mohammad is god’s messanger . And Islam is established by prophet muhammad 1400 year ago . Before that other people were belonging to the community of other prophets like Cristian of prophet Isa (a.s) . They ain’t muslims

  28. Mainstream islam has become worringly radicalised and rejection of Sufi beliefs within islam is just one example of many intolerances which exist. Many religions have branches of belief? However, only in islam does this generate radicalisation under the banner of blashempy and dillution. Islam is no more purer than any other religion and certainly not islamic Sufi’s! World peace will only be achieved by toleration and acceptance of each other.

  29. This article could not have been written by a Muslim. The book Tabaqat Al Sufiyya(Generations of Sufi’s) Names over 1,000 Scholars/ people that were orthodox Sunni/Sufi’s!Is the article implying Imam Ghazzali, Nawawi and others were deviates? Even Sh.ibn Tayymiya was in Qadiriyya Tariqa and buried in Sunni/Sufi Graveyard.

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