Two excellent articles ( by two English muslims) on sufism which i came across again today and thought I’d share. The first is “The Meaning of Tasawwuf” by Shaykh Shahidullah Faridi (ra) and the second “Seeing with Both Eyes” by Shaykh Abdal Hakeem Murad. Strongly recommended to all!
Tasawwuf can be called the inwardness of Islam. Islam, like most other faiths to a greater or lesser extent, consists firstly of certain beliefs, such as the existence of God, and the coming of the Judgement, and reward and punishment in the next life, and the outward expression of these beliefs in forms of worship, such as prayer and fasting, all of which concern man’s relationship with God; and secondly, a system of morality, which concerns man’s relationship with man, and has its outward expression in certain social institutions and laws, such as marriage, inheritance, and civil and criminal laws. But it is obvious that the basis of this faith, the spirit that gives it life, is man’s relationship with God. Forms of worship are simply the physical vehicles of this relationship, and it is this relationship again which is responsible for the origin, the significance and the ultimate sanction of the principles of morality and their formulation into a specific social and legal system. If the interior converse with the Supreme Being and inspiration from Him are present, then they are comparable to the soul within the body of the exterior religion; if they die away, or in proportion to the extent that they wither or become feeble, the outward form of the faith becomes like a soulless body, which by the inexorable law of nature swiftly succumbs to corruption. It is therefore man’s direct relationship with his Maker which is the breath and life of religion, and it is the study and cultivation of this relationship that the word tasawwuf connotes.
At the beginning of our story, the balance between the zahir and the batin was perfect. The Messenger, upon whom be the best of blessings and peace, was the man of the Mi‘raj, and also the hero of Badr. He loved women, and perfume, and the delight of his eye was in prayer. The transition between moments of intense colloquy with the supreme archangel, and of political or military or family duty, was often little more than momentary; but his balance was impeccable, for he showed that body, mind and spirit are not rivals, but allies in the project of holiness, which means nothing other than wholeness.
The Companions manifested many aspects of this extraordinary wholeness, the traditional Islamic term for which is afiya, and the proof of whose accomplishment is the presence of adab. The luminosity of the Prophetic presence reshaped them, so that where once there had been the crude, materialistic egotism of the pagan nomad, there was now, barely twenty years later, a unified nation led by saints. It seemed that the crudest people in history had suddenly, as though by a miracle, been transmuted into the most refined and balanced. The pagan Arabs seem almost to have served as a preview of the temper of our age, and the man who came among them, unique among prophets in the unique difficulty of his mission, is the alpha amid the omega, the proof that an Adamic restoration is possible even under the worst of conditions, even in times such as ours.