In Sufism is another branch of Islam.’ ‘Islam is

In this essay I’m going to analysethe influence of non-Islamic religions like Christianity has had on thedevelopment of Sufism and what it is. Sufism is another branch of Islam.’ ‘Islam is areligion that tells people what to do and what is wrong and right. Thesepractices are delineated and codified by the Sharia, which is the Islamic lawbased of Koranic teachings and prophetic practice. The Sharia can be likeIslam’s ”body” because it designates proper activities all of which areperformed by the body, and it supports the traditions life and awareness. Onthe deepest level Islam is a religion that teaches people how to transformthemselves so that they may come into harmony with the ground of all being’1. ‘Islamic Mysticismotherwise known as Sufism, has an undeniable role in Islamic history.’2 It ’emerged at the very early stage of Islam’s development.

Sufism’s internal diversity has produced an equally wide variety of itassessments by both insiders and outsiders. They range from soberly detachedand critical to empathetically enthusiastic and apologetic.’3If we are to look at Sufism then we must’first look at what mysticism means. Mysticism contains something mysteriousnot to be reached by ordinary means or intellectual effort. Mysticism has beencalled ”the great spiritual current which goes through all religions” notjust Islam. It can be defined as the consciousness of the One Reality. It canbe described as love of the Absolute.

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‘4’During the Ummayed period, there was adirect contact between Christianity and Islam this contact gave rise tomysticism which was influenced by the Islamic faith and principle. Mysticalreligiosity was deemed as an independent movement despite its Islamic culturaloutlook. People who have adopted this movement are known as Sufi’s.’5’Sufistrace their origins to Islamic teachings, which they believe succeedinggenerations of the Prophet passed on over time and established in Sufism. Theynever tire of insisting that their teachings and practices are rooted in theQur’an, the prophets exemplary custom and the moralethical standards set by thefirst two generations of Muslims’6’Many people both Muslims and non- Muslimsconsider Sufism to be alien to Islam.’7’As a structured discipline, Sufism developedinto a distinct system of thought and practice in the late 10th century,emphasizing a definable course of personal and spiritual development inrelation to the divine with the ultimate goal of attaining union with thedivine’8’Sufism isthe study of seeking the knowledge of the One Ultimate Reality. Muslimsconceive Allah as the one who is unique in his attributes and essence, Allah isunlike anything in the whole creation.

Sufis on the other hand hold ”God asthe one Real Being which underlines all phenomena”. The purpose of a Sufi isto get rid of his ‘I-am-ness’ they do this by realizing that there existsnothing but God. They pass through stages to which are known as magamat topurify their inner-self. After they get the purification of the inner-self theyreach the stage of annihilation also known as fana, this is the stage wherethey touch the peak of perfectness. They can only achieve this by attachingthemselves to Tariqat this can be regarded as a sufi order and their submissiontowards a master.’9Sufism ‘extendssignificantly beyond this structured approach to spirituality, and hashistorically been influenced by its specific local contexts and diverseexpressions of Islam (Morris, 1993), According to Murata and Chittick (1994),in its wider sense Sufism is an interiorization of Islam based on a vision ofthe unity of God {tawhid). Practically it requires adherents to follow theexample of the Prophet and to embody the Qur’an in order to attain awareness ofGod in everything and to actualize the divine qualities within oneself.’10’Sufism has aresemblance with other traditions such as Kabbalah, Christian Mysticism, Yoga,Vedanta and Zen.

In early texts loadof definitions where gave for the words Sufi and Sufism.’11’One interpretation of the word Sufi is thatit is derived from the Arabic word suf which means a woollen cloth. The reasonfor this interpretation is that Sufis where supposed to wear a woollen garment,why they wear this garment is it is to avoid worldly luxuries and it is also toshow simplicity’12’The word Sufism is an Arabic word, it is problematic inIslamic civilization. It was widely used in several languages, it did nothowever have the broad meaning that it has now. The meaning it now has comesfrom the writings of Western scholars. As Carl Ernst says the word was givenprominence not by the Islamic texts but by British Orientalists, who wanted aterm that would refer to various sides of Islamic civilization that they foundattractive and would avoid the negative stereotypes that was attributed to theIslamic religion. In Islamic texts there is no agreement on what they word Sufimeans. Those who used the word in a positive way connected it with humanperfection by following the example of the prophet Muhammad.

Those who used itin a negative way associated it with the various distortions of Islamicteachings.’13Sufism’s ‘main goal is for the person to develop a strong and uniquerelationship between the creator who is God and the created. Sufis reject theconcept of incarnation, the also deny the belief that God can incarnate in man.People who are true Sufis are not influenced by westernmystical tendencies, these true Sufis reject the pantheistic approach anddistinguish God from his servants.

They maintain the goal that they must develop one’s self to such a high level of consciousnessthat it may resemble the character and essence of God. In order for them toreach this stage man would have to strive to gain knowledge through mysticalexperience’14’The early Sufi teachers held that theyspoke for the animating spirit of the Islamic tradition. From their view whereever this spirit flourishes, Islam is alive to its own spiritual and moralideals. This identification of Sufism with Islam’s spirit is seen in the sayingsof the prophet known as they ”Hadith of Gabriel”.  According to this hadith, the prophet and hiscompanions where sitting together when a man approached the prophet and askedhim questions.

When the man left the prophet told his companions that the manhad been the angel Gabriel who had come to teach them their religion. Thereligion of Islam has three basic dimensions they are submission otherwiseknown as Islam, faith known as Iman and the spiritual dimension known asIshan.’15On the eve ofIslam, the Middle East and North Africa were home to several highly developedand sophisticated traditions. Judaism was one such tradition as wasChristianity which inherited its ascetic, world-renouncing attitudes not onlyfrom Judaism but also from pagan traditions of the Greco-Roman world. EarlySufis admired the devout and self-abnegating beliefs and practices of theChristian monk.’16’Many European scholars such as AdalbertMerx and Arend Jan Wensink where interested in the influence of Christianity.’17’The British scholar of early Christianityand Islam Margaret Smith (1884-1970), recognized the Christian roots of Muslimascetic-mystical piety.

Smith also pointed out the possible role of Christianwives of the Arab conquers, in steering their children towards living liveslike the Christian monks. According to smith, the high opinion that Muslimascetic’s and mystics had of the beliefs and practices of Christian monks inthe middle east was genetically inherited. Other Western scholars of Sufism focusedtheir attention on the socioeconomic conditions of the early Muslim state. Theyconstructed these conditions as the reason why some Muslims attempted to escapethis imperfect world into an internal immigration. The ubiquitous presence ofChristian monasteries in Egypt, Syria and Mesopotamia made contact betweenearly Muslims and Christians unavoidable.’18’European scholarshave responded to Islamic mysticism in different ways.

Europe’s first encounterwith Sufi ideas can be traced back to the middle ages. The works of theCatalanian mystic and Ramon Lull show a remarkable influence of Sufiliterature. The first figure of Sufi history to be introduced into Europeanliterature was Rabi’a al-Adawiyya, who was the great woman saint of the eighthcentury.

Her legend was brought to Europe by Joinville who was the chancellorof Louis IX in the thirteenth century. In the nineteenth century, historicalsources and important Sufi texts were made available in print in both theMiddle East and in Europe. Scholars could now form their own ideas about theorigin and early development of Sufism.

However, most of the sources that whereavailable were of late origin and rarely contained reliable information aboutthe earliest stages of the mystical movement. Therefore, most interpretersagreed that Sufism was a foreign plant in the sandy desert of Islam. A Germanprofessor of Divinity, F. A. D. Tholuck produced the first comprehensive bookon Sufism in 1821 called Ssufismus sive theosophia persarum pantheistica andfour years later he produced an anthology called Bluthensammlung aus derMorgenlandische Mystik. During the following decades several theories about theorigin of Sufism where brought fourth. E.

H. Palmer in his book OrientalMysticism (1867), held that Sufism is the development of the primeval religionof the Aryan race. Sufism has often been considered a typically Iraniandevelopment inside Islam. Many eminent scholars mainly in Great Britain havestressed the importance of Neo platonic influences upon the development ofSufism. Many scholars are interested in Indian influences on the formativeperiod of Sufism, some of these scholars are Alfred von Kremer (1868) andReinhart P. Dozy (1869).

However, even Max Horten’s numerous articles on thisIndian influence could not bring any stringent proof of such influences. Somescholars where also interested in influences from Turkestan such as RichardHartmann. Ignaz Goldziher pointed out parallel traditions in Islamic mysticaltales and Buddhist stories. Some scholars like Omar Farrukh where interested inthe influence of Chinese traditions. The Japanese scholar Toshihiko Izutsu hasdrawn some interesting parallels between Taoist structures of thought and IbnArabi’s mystical system.’19The view that Sufism came under the influence ofnon-Islamic religions is not accepted by all ‘the reason they don’t accept theview that it came under influence is that it is casting doubt on Islam’sself-sufficiency and ability to develop its own vaulted spirituality andsophisticated philosophy that Sufi Islam is often seen as representing. Somefind this notion to be offensive to the majesty that is Islam.

’20’The assumptionthat Sufism has emerged from the pristine sources of Islam is captured in thefamed assertion by the French islamologist Louis Massignon. According toMassignon ”the Qur’an, through constant recitation, meditation and practice,is this source of Islamic mysticism, as it is beginning and throughout itsgrowth”. Massignon’s thesis is ignored by the advocates of Sufism’s Qur’anicroots.  Massignon was right about thecentrality of the Qur’an to the Muslim intellectual and spiritual universe andthe Sufi version of it in particular.’21 ‘Massignon provides a list of terms thatare used in Islamic mysticism and shows how the great Sufi al-Hallaj deepenedtheir meaning.

Massignon draws several conclusions, the most important beingthe originality of Islamic mysticism. He was the first orientalist to assertthat Sufism was based on the Qur’an and the Hadith, at a time when mostorientalists claimed that Sufism could not have emerged within Islam and,rather, owed its existence to Aryan sources. Massignon argues that, after thefirst three centuries of Islam, Sufism entered into decomposition, especiallyafter al-Hallaj. He believes that Sufis cannot achieve perfection if they do notfollow the figure of Christ, as did, in his opinion, al Hallaj.’22’Tor Andrae like the French scholar LouisMassignon, emphasized the primacy of the Islamic roots of Sufism,notwithstanding the latent influence of Christian ideas, Andrae was a committedChristian. He ranks among the first scholars of Sufism who focused on themovement’s early formative period, he concentrates on leading figures between750 and 900 A.D such as Dha’n-Nfin, Muhasibl and Junayd, and shows how thegloomy and stern piety of asceticism develops, under the influence of lovemysticism, into a dynamic and powerful spiritual movement that seeks totransform the human self to the likeness of God’23In conclusion ‘Islam teaches people what is right and whatis wrong.’24Sufism is a form of Islam most people know it as theMystic form of Islam.

‘The Sufi persons role is to get rid of his I-am-ness,they do this by passing through the stages of magamat. Their aim is to reachthe last stage where they enter perfectness. There is an ongoing debate about what the’term Sufi means but the most widely accepted term is the Arabic word Suf whichmeans woollen cloth.’25 For people whoare Sufi’s their main goal is for the person to develop a strong and uniquerelationship between the creator and the created. They reject the concept ofincarnation, they also deny the belief that God can incarnate in man. Forpeople who are true Sufis are not influenced by western mystical tendencies,they pantheistic approach and distinguish God from his servants.

Their maingoal is to develop one’s self to such a high level of consciousness that it mayresemble the character and essence of God. For them to reach this stage manwould have to strive to gain knowledge through mystical experience.’26 There is a huge debate about whether Sufism has beeninfluenced by non- Islamic traditions, most scholars will agree that Sufism wasinfluenced by other religion such as Buddhism and Christianity. Some scholarswill also say it was not only influenced by religions but by other countriessuch as China.   BibliographyAbdullah, Somaya, ‘Islam andcounseling: models of practice in Muslim communal life’, Journal of Pastoral Counseling, Vol.

42, (2007),pp.42-55.Asani, Ali, ‘In the Garden of Myrtles:Studies in Early Islamic Mysticism (Book Review)’, Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol.109, Issue.4, pp.705-706.Begum, Shagufta & Awan, Aneega Batool, ‘A Brief Account of Sufism andits Socio-Moral Relevance’,The Dialogue (1819-6462), Vol.10, (2015), pp.

23-34.Chitick, William C., Sufism:A Beginner’s Guide, (Oxford, Oneworld Publications, 2011), Kindle E-Book.

El-Zein, Amira, ‘Essay on the Origins of the Technical Language ofIslamic Mysticism by Louis Massignon and Benjamin Clark (Book Review)’, Vol.33,(1999), pp.84.Knysh, Alexander, Sufism:A new history of Islamic Mysticism, (Oxfordshire, Princeton UniversityPress, 2017), Kindle E-Book.Schimmel, Annemaire & Ernst, Carl W., ‘What is Sufism’,eds.

, Mystical Dimensions of Islam,35th Anniversary Edition, (United States, University of NorthCarolina Press, 2011), Kindle E-Book, Chapter Location.488-1040.1William C. Chittick, Sufism: A Beginner’sGuide, (Oxford, OneworldPublications, 2011), Kindle E-Book, Locations.

221 & 228. 2 Shagufta Begum & Aneeqa Batool Awan, ‘A Brief Account of Sufism and its Socio-Moral Relevance’, The Dialogue (1819-6462), Vol.10, (2015), pp.23-34, p.24.3Alexander Knysh, Sufism: A new history ofIslamic Mysticism, (Oxfordshire, Princeton University Press, 2017), KindleE-Book, Locations.142 & 147.

4Annemaire Schimmel, and Carl W. Ernst, ‘What is Sufism’ eds., Mystical Dimensions of Islam, 35thAnniversary Edition, (United States, The University of North CarolinaPress,2011), Kindle E-Book, Chapter Location: 488-1040, Locations.493 &503.

5 Begum & Awan, ‘A Brief Account of Sufism’, p.24.6Knysh, Sufism: A new history of Islamic Mysticism, Kindle E-Book, Location.478.7Chittick, Sufisma beginner’s Guide, Kindle E-Book, Location.182.

8Somaya Abdullah, ‘Islam and Counselling: models of practice in Muslim communallife’, Journal of Pastoral Counselling,Vol.42, (2007), pp.42-55, p. 49.9Begum & Awan,’A Brief Account of Sufism’, p.

24.10Abdullah, ‘Islam and Counselling’, p. 49. 11Chittick, Sufism: A Beginner’s Guide,Kindle E-Book, Locations.154, 161, 169,182 & 190.12Begum & Awan, ‘A Brief Account of Sufism’, p.

24.13Chittick, Sufism: A Beginner’s Guide,Kindle E-Book, Locations.154, 161 & 169.

14Begum & Awan,’A Brief Account of Sufism’, pgs.25 & 26.15Chittick, Sufism: A Beginner’s Guide,Kindle E-Book, Locations.190 & 197.

16Knysh, Sufism:A new history of Islamic Mysticism,Kindle E-Book, Location.613.17Schimmel & Ernst, ‘Mystical Dimensions of Islam’, kindle E-Book, ChapterLocation.488-1040, Location.620.

18Knysh, Sufism:A new history of Islamic Mysticism,Kindle E-Book. Location Chapter.606-690, Location.622 & 630.19Schimmel & Ernst, ‘Mystical Dimensions of Islam’, kindle E-Book, ChapterLocation.488-1040, Location.573, 594, 602,612, 630 & 540.

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21Knysh, Sufism: A new history of Islamic Mysticism, Kindle E-Book. LocationChapter.606-690, Location.648.

22Amira El-Zein, ‘Essay on the Origins of the Technical Language of IslamicMysticism by Louis Massignon and Benjamin Clark (Book Review’, Vol. 33, (1999),pp.84, p.84.23Ali Asani,’In the Garden of Myrtles: Studies in Early IslamicMysticism (Book Review)’, Journal ofthe American Oriental Society, Vol.109, Issue.4, pp.705-706, p.705.24Chittick, Sufism a beginner’s Guide,Kindle E-Book, Location.221.25Begum & Awan, ‘A Brief Account of Sufism’,p.24.26Begum & Awan, ‘A Brief Account of Sufism’,pgs.25 & 26.