In the western, secularist mind, and in the mind of the majority of Muslims. The word sufi conjures up a whole host of images and ideas. It has become an acronym used to refer to a variety of expressions, feelings and ideologies. For many, the word Sufi, Rumi, Love, Romance, and idle days spent counting daisy flowers in a late summers afternoon, have become synonymous to what Sufism is. If you were to ask people who is a Sufi? The response would pretty much be expected. Many people typically draw the idea, Sufis are a group of people who are estranged from the world. Who have no interest, or involve themselves in political activities. Hermits and monks who are busy living life alone and in constant hunger, weakness, frailty and hardship. People who spend their days crying and sobbing. Others assume, Sufis are people who write love poems and spend long summer days sitting idly in fields surrounded by flowers. Under a blue sky plucking the petals of flowers. Signing ‘Does she love me. Does she not?’
The truth is far from this!
This idea was mostly impregnated by the British funded Wahhabis’, formulated and spoon fed by colonialist lords of the British empire. From their large estates in surrey and Hertfordshire. When the khilafah system was abolished and finally dismantled in the early 19th century.
Many orientalist historians wrote the downfall was due to;
Muslims had split themselves from political involvement and active participation in the geopolitical sphere. Secondly, they had become too ‘other worldly’. Their ambitions and aspirations no longer included improving the standards of living in the world, but solely the hereafter. They had become too focused with matters only on the religious duties. That being: prayers, fasting, performing other optional deeds, etc. Hence, slowly moved away from matters of governance and issues of international political involvement. Coup de grâce given by the Sufis.
Many historians paint the idea that, the khilafah system would not have declined had it not been for the rise of Sufism which caused the eventualities to occur. It catapulted people into becoming estranged with trade, governance and welfare of the state. This is idea is further spearheaded by the wahabi’s. Who say ‘It is because of people like Rumi, and Ghazali, who turned the hearts of people away from active involvement in the world, unlike the companions. Turning them into monks and hermits who speak only of flattering love poems, romance and other ‘worldly ambitions’.
The reality is, the Sufis were not the cause of the downfall of the khalifa. Some of the greatest military commanders/fighters in the late 20th century such as were Sufis; Shaykh Shamil, Shyakh Sanusi, Shaykh Ahamd Raza Khan, Shyakh Ashraf ali Thanvi to name but a few. Nor, do Sufis sit idly watching the scenes of life go by before their eyes. Contrary to the popular beliefs. Unfortunately, the pseudo-sufis and the novices in the paths of tasswuff do not help. They further serve to increase this myth, by misquoting teachings and misrepresenting the ways of the awliyah. For instance, a few days back i was involved in a discussion with a person who said the infamous Rumi quote during the conversation:
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
Inadvertently telling me to stop trying to talk/discuss about other issues and focus on myself. Now, this is silly! A perfect example of how the pseudo-sufis think Sufism is only about focusing on oneself. Forgetting or removing oneself from the affairs of the world. From having or showing a concern on current events and situations.
Unfortunately, they are forgetting a fundamental aspect of tassawuff. Which is to do ‘Amar bil maruf wa nihiyalil munkar‘. (Forbidding evil and enjoying the good). Remember, tassawuf goes hand in hand with trying to rectify your own self and others. Dawah and tableegh is an integral part, in the path of ihsan. To leave it out, is to leave out the great sunnah of the prophet (saw). I have seen many people use this quote. Without understanding or really grasping the concept, they are plastering it all over every item and everyone! Only to give fuel to the naysayers and detractors of the path of ihsan, the wahabis. However, there are many others who think to be a sufi is to have an appearance of a poor person. Wear ragged and teared clothes, walk with a bent back, in a crouched position, and to show that you are weak and have no clear dunya on your person. This is their idea of Zuhd! This is a completely satanic idea, and not the definition or understanding of zuhd which the companions and the saliheen had!. People sad to say, due to lack of guidance and support come up with their own ideas and understandings of the stations of ihsan.
Once Syyiduna Umar (r) saw a man walking with a bent back, in a hunch position and walking very slowly, clearly, in a poor health condition. He rebuked the man severely in front of others. Saying ‘ is the effect of prayers and zuhd? This is not zuhd but, destruction! you should be strong and healthy. Show the blessings of Allah on you and walk with a straight back. You are Muslims and be proud of that’.
Tassawuff is contrary to popular beliefs. The companions were the greatest sufis and lovers of the prophet (saw). They did not estrange and remove themselves from the world. leaving matters of governance, trade, business, and interaction to go and live in a remote part of the world. Only focusing on themselves and not giving a thought to current events and situations. This fanciful idea which the orientalist and the novice-pseudo sufi has, of a sufi being a person who spends time signing and writing love poems. Playing guitar and drinking cups of mint tea is baseless, shambolic and simply a product of orientalist thought. When the Christians first came in contact with the works and poems of Imam Rumi and Imam Ghazali, they were mesmerized with the beauty of such works. Many then turned to see Sufism become the language of love and romance. This satanic idea was then spurred on by the wahabis. In trying to put path the path of ihsan on the back foot in peoples mind.