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Who is a true darvish?

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Salam, I am aware that many Muslims do not consider Sufism a part of true Islam, but isn't Shia Islam very closely related to erfan philosophy which is the same that Sufis follow and highly appreciate? From where is the disagreement between Sufis and Shia Muslims originated? Why is it that Sufis are not considered "true" Muslims? 


Another question, as far as I have understood, not any practicing Sufi is a dervish. Is there anyone here who considers oneself a dervish and could explain what makes one a dervish? Could you be a dervish by yourself or do you need to be recognized by others as one?

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At first, it is necessary to know that Islam is a school that guarantees prosperity and happiness of mankind in this world and in the Hereafter. The material and spiritual needs of those who adhere to Islamic doctrines are fulfilled.  It can easily be understood through the Qur'anic verses that God has called on His servants to relinquish worldly desires and pay attention to spirituality and the Hereafter [1] but He has also reminded them not to go to extremes by isolating themselves and giving up activities related to the material world. In fact, they should also benefit from worldly bounties and blessings and carry on their daily activities in accordance with religious standards and be not oblivious of God at the same time. [2]

Therefore, a real Muslim is one who is not whimsical and worldly-mind but he benefits from the worldly blessings and uses them as a means for the after-world. Thus, he prays to God for his good both in this world as well as in the hereafter. [3]

However, there have always been people who go to extremes and who take only one aspect of the religion into consideration practicing it and neglecting the other aspects.

Some of them adhere only to the worldly aspects of the religion such as maintaining law and order, establishing government, agricultural activities, business, scientific advancements etc. They are negligent of the fact that all of these are only preludes for the perpetual life in the Hereafter, and more importantly, they are meant for seeking God's pleasure and that they are valueless by themselves.

Some others stick to the spiritual aspects of Islam abandoning the world and leaving any activities that are an integral part of a social life thus making themselves a burden on the others. It is interesting to know that some of these individuals use the apparent renunciation of the world as a means for saturating their carnal and worldly desires!

Therefore, in view of the fact that woolen garments were the cheapest of clothes in the early period of Islam, normally poor and indigent people used to wear such type of garments. If a person wore such clothes to fight his carnal desires and renounce the world, there would have been no objection to it. In this respect, Abuzar Ghaffari who was a great pious man says as such: "I have two loaves of bread; one of which I eat at midday and the other at dusk and I have two pieces of woolen cloth one of which I wear to cover my private part and the other I put on my shoulders, I have nothing to do with the world! [4]

In fact, by saying this to the people around him, he wanted to imply that a person could be contented with the least if necessary and that he himself did not exchange his faith for the world and it did not mean that he considered divine bounties to be haraam because we know for sure that when Abuzar lived in exile, he had some thing, though little, for himself and his family to eat and to survive. [5]

Later on, a group of Muslims went to extremes in terms of pietism secluding themselves from the world to the extent that they termed wearing shabby woolen clothes as the Muslim expression raising objections even to the Infallible Imams and the nobles. [6] In other words, they turned real piety which is recommended by the religion to piety-mongering (pietism) seeking clients for themselves and falling, willy-nilly, into the trap of a world which they were apparently renouncing.

Considering that the lexical root of 'tasawwuf' is traced to sūf "wool", gradually those who were wearing simple wool-made cloaks were known as Sufiyah or Mutsawwefah and their school of thought was named "tasawwuf". In late centuries, names like Dervish, Kharabati etc. have also been used to refer to these individuals. Terminologies like Khaneqah, Mey, Pir, Qalandar etc. enjoy a special place in their school.

Moreover, we must know that Sufi teachings are not restricted to wearing woolen clothes and that the masters of this school have announced other behavioral standards or codes of practice to the proponents. Some of these codes are baseless and ungrounded religious innovations and some others were evaluated in line with Qur'anic and Shari'ah rules. In this connection, sometimes the actions which were rooted in the religion were modified somehow and changed into an innovation. For instance, there are narrations [7] prescribing a certain deed to be performed sincerely for a period of 40 days which, if done accordingly, will lead to very positive results but the Sufis have changed it into "seclusion rite" [chelle nishini] and added certain manners to it which are not consistent with the sacred Shari'ah of Islam. As a result, Sufism changed into a composite of valid practices and innovations originating in the Sufists' tastes. [8] This led some Muslims who were seeking to perform only the religious laws and engage in self-reconstruction according to the divine instructions to be labeled and accused of being Sufists or dervishes.

In view of the above, it can be said that although some external forms and rites of Sufism are not rooted in the religion, we cannot and should not reject or endorse the entire Sufi teachings. In fact, the Sufi teachings should be examined section by section and its conformity with the religion should be checked. Moreover, it is not appropriate to accuse a Muslim, who gives more importance to the spirituality and to self-reconstruction methods, of being a Sufi.    

[1] - Al-An'am: 32; Yonus: 24; Al-Ankabut: 64; Muhammad: 36; Al-Hadid: 20 and hundreds of other verses.

[2] - Al-A'raf: 32; Al-Baqarah: 168; and 172; Al-Maedah: 88; Al-An'am: 141; Al-Mulk:15 etc.

[3] -Al-Baqarah: 201,

"ربنا آتنا فی الدنیا حسنة و فی الآخرة حسنة و قنا عذاب النار".

"Our Lord! Give us good in this world and good in the hereafter and save us from the torment of the (Hell) fire."

[4] - Kulayni, Muhammad bin Ya'qub, Al-Kafi, vol.2, pg.134, hadith No.17, Islamic Publications, Tehran 1986.

[5] - Majlisi, Muhammad Baqir, Behar al-Anwar, vol.22, pg.429, hadith No.37, Al-Wafa Institute, Beirut, 1404 A.H.

[6] - Al-Kafi, vol.5, pg.65, hadith No.1.

[7] Ibid, vol.2, pg.16, hadith No.6.

[8] - For further information about the emergence and development of Sufism, see books like "An Inquiry into Iran's Sufism" by Dr. Abdul Hussein Zarrinkoob.




With Duas.


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