First I’d like to note that Green Sufi has a number of interesting posts on his blog that contain the Qur’anic basis for the sufi perspective. Particularly worth looking at is his post on Sufism in the Qur’an. Now a few points about the views expressed by Khalid Zaheer (a student of Ghamidi sahib) mentioned in the previous post.
It is disappointing that though Khalid had undertaken to express his views on the Virtues and Evils of Tasawwuf he only made two points under the virtues section. Even these appear to be sarcastic boiling down to the fact that the sufis put on a show of goodness to trap people and that mysticism give people a sense of solace (perhaps false). Even a cursory glance at the history books could have provided Khalid sahib with a bit more material to add to his list of virtues if he had wanted to do that. Perhaps the fact that it was the sufis who kept the inner content of our faith alive when it was endangered by legalistic hair-splitting and philosophical skepticism has escaped his notice. The fact that it was the sufis who spread Islam in the Indian sub-continent and due to them many of us today are muslim may also not be worth mentioning. Perhaps also not worth mentioning are the millions who lives were changed by the impact of sufi teaching, those who repented of sins at their hands turning to lead exemplary lives of piety, embodying the very virtues that the Qur’an calls us towards. Perhaps we should also forget the contribution of the sufis to our language, literature and arts; to the preservation of humanistic values in society; and to a vision of selfless devotion to God and His creation. But perhaps in todays world these are not virtues after all.
As for the “evils” I honestly felt that these points make sweeping generalizations about sufi belief and practice and are in fact not an accurate representation of the mainstream sufi tradition. A glance through any respectable history of Islamic civilization or of Sufism itself could easily reveal that.I do not deny that there have been sufis who have strayed beyond the boundaries of correct belief and practice. There have also been Hadith scholars and Rationalists (remember the Mu’tazila?) who have also done the same. That is not an excuse for su’ az-zann (having a bad opinion of others) and it does not justify insinuating that the sufis have another deen in contrast to Islam!
I also tried to understand how and why Ghamidi sahib held that the sufis acceptance of kashf and ilham is contrary to the muslim belief in the finality (or sealing) of prophethood at the hands of the Messenger of Allah (upon him be blessings and peace). To this end I also contacted the students of Ghamidi sahib by email. However I could not get any clear answer as the person I was passed on to refused to answer my question unless I first entered into a lengthy discussion about the assertions made by Khalid Zaheer. I got the impression that our brother was more interested in testing his debating skills with me than answering my question so I politely took my leave.
To me this attitude betrays a lack of adab, not just with people but with the tradition itself. It leads to the blinkered approach expressed thus by my correspondent:
We may not consider the views of any great sufi, renowned muhaddth, expert scholastic philosopher, widely respected rationalist etc. We have before us the most concrete and clear guidance in the form of the Qur’an, the only criterion between the truth and the untruth. We will gauge such claims on the Book of God and render it superfluously carved lies and reject it outright without fearing condemnation from the pluralist as well as moderate scholars.
To me this means: our understanding of Qur’an and Sunnah is supreme and the fact that the likes of al-Junaid, al-Ghazali, Rumi, Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani and even Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn al-Qayyim have understood things differently is of no consequence whatsoever! This is a kind of Promethean arrogance which begs the question that if the best minds of this ummah have failed to understand the message correctly what hope is there that we in these latter days will do any better? Moreover, if up till now the ummah has been mistaken on such a grand scale how can you claim that the deen is preserved? It would therefore also be quite logical and rational to suppose that the collective weight of a mistaken tradition will ensure that there is no chance of our finding the truth in the future either as we are completely dependent on those past generations for the transmission of our deen. This is to say the least a very pessimistic view. Life is not just geometry, it is also music.