Sufism

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Sufism – What is it?
Sufism (Sufism) may be best described as a mystical practice that emphasizes certain unique rituals for guiding spiritual seekers into a direct encounter with God. Muhammad is considered their chief prophet and many consider Sufism to be a mystical brand of Islam.

Sufism is a difficult term to actually define because its meaning is supposed to have derived from various words, with differing connotations:

  • Bishr ibn al–Harith has said that, “the sufi is he whose heart is sincere towards God.” Thus, one of the words from which Sufism is supposed to have derived is safa meaning pure -- this due to the purity of the sufis’ heart.

  • Others have derived sufi from the word saff; this refers to the sufis’ “first rank” before God. Sufis believe that they are in a prominent position in relation to God. The term suffab -- meaning, “People of the Bench” -- and the word suf which refers to the Sufis habit of wearing wool are two more popular supposed derivations of the word sufi.
These two latter definitions gained acceptability because they quite accurately described the observed behavior of the sufi. Sufis, being people who are neither possessed or possess were as the People of the Bench (people who lived in the time of God’s Prophet) -- people who had fled the world, wanderers, without this world’s goods, not clothed in soft raiment but dressed in coarse wool.

Sufis teach that Sufism may be practiced with any religion -- it is the “heart” of religion. No one faith or belief is questioned; each can follow his own church, religion, or creed.

Sufism – What do Sufis believe about God?
Sufism holds a doctrine of God which is extremely lofty. Here is an excerpt taken from one of their descriptions of God:

    “...‘before’ does not outstrip him; ‘of’ does not vie with him for precedence; ‘from’ does not accord with him; ‘to’ does not join with him...”
When attempting to decide whether or not God is still in the act of creating, some Sufis are at odds; some say yes, he continues to create since Creator, Maker, and Former (one who formed) are his eternal attributes. Others say he did not become creator, maker, and former by performing these tasks; otherwise he would have been eternally deficient, only becoming complete through the act of creation.

Sufis believe that God is responsible for everything they do, every act that they, as his servants perform. If not, then they would be equal to God, doing whatever they wanted. Thus God is responsible for every thought and deed. God can do with his servants whatever he wills, whether it is to the servant’s advantage or not.

One of the important rituals in Sufism is the zikr. During a zikr, one remembers God through meditation, chant, and movement -- certain attributes of God are repeated until the seekers become “saturated” with God. This ritual supposedly, shatters and transforms them. As they spin and whirl around for hours, they reach a state of ecstasy and purity where the heart is only conscious of God. The seeker surrenders his or herself to total abandonment -- a total emptying of self.

Sufism – What is the Christian view of Sufism?
Sufism presents God as one who is indefinable. Their definitions are circular, so flamboyant and extreme as to lend no enlightenment, only a sense of a being that is unreachable. Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Wāsitī said: “As his essence is not caused, so his attributes are not caused: to attempt to display the eternal is to despair of understanding anything of the realities of the attributes or the subtleties of the essence (of God.)”

As Christians, we, too, hold to a lofty view of God; we believe that He is above all. No one is like Him; no one can be called along side to compare with Him. But the glory of the incarnation is that God was manifested in human form. Jesus Christ came to make the lofty God knowable to all mankind.

Hebrews 1:3: “The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”

John 1:18: “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known.” While the Sufis whirl around chanting during their zikr, giving themselves over to total abandonment, vulnerability, and susceptibility, we who believe in Jesus Christ offer up our worship with soberness and joy. We are awake, conscious, aware, fully known and seeking to know more and more of God.

2 Timothy 1:7: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”

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