Many westerners discovered Islam through Sufism, while others discovered Sufism through Islam. So what is Sufism?
One of the most eloquent definitions of Sufism comes from Samnun who said Sufism is “to not possess anything nor be possessed by anything”. Short as it maybe, this definition summarizes the essence of the Sufi tradition. Indeed, Sufi practitioners strive towards becoming a saint (wali) by performing prayers and contemplation beyond what is required, leading an ascetic lifestyle, leaving behind fancy clothing, food, housing, etc., and steering clear from life’s temptations. As such, a Sufi renounces worldly pleasures and possessions that invariably end up “possessing” us.
The picture becomes clearer when you add Al Jariri’s definition of Sufism. “Sufism consists of entering every exalted quality (khulq) and leaving behind every despicable quality”. This second definition complements Samnun’s, focusing the spotlight on qualities that a Sufi should strive to acquire…
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