Sufi or mystical Islamic philosophy rests on the basic distinction between the inner and the outer, the esoteric and the exoteric, the hidden and the open. Mundane sense experience and even the conclusions of reason give us only superficial knowledge, and we need to go deeper if we are really to know anything significant. A frequent Qur’anic passage quoted by the Sufis is fa aynama tuwallu fa tamma wajh Allah (‘Wherever you turn, there is the face of God’ – 2.115). When we become aware of the real truth we feel at peace and the contradictions and confusions of everyday life are resolved. This is easier to say than to do, since for this feeling to arise we have to bring together things which are very different from each other, such as the one and the many, the present and the past and future, the same and the other, the transcendent and the immanent, the finite and the infinite. As one might expect, as the Sufi becomes more adept at resolving these contradictions, the scope for language to describe the process becomes progressively less feasible. Language is after all very much built on these dichotomies.
   Sufism does not see itself as an alternative to other ways of philosophizing, but more as a supplement. There is nothing wrong with finding things out by using our senses, nor with extending our knowledge by reasoning. We should use these faculties to their furthest extent. A number of philosophers in the classical period were also Sufis, and they argued that one has to work up to mysticism by first mastering the lower forms of thought. Only when these were perfected could one hope to move further along the path of knowledge to contact with what lies behind and beyond us ordinarily. Sufism places emphasis on the importance of realizing not only intellectual awareness of God but dhawq or taste, where there is actually a felt experience of nearness to the Deity, and they contrast this closer state of being to the more restricted level of awareness reached by the Peripatetics when they talk of coming into contact with the active intellect. There are many varieties of Sufism, some ecstatic in form while others are very much opposed to such behavior. Most Sufis accept the need for a guide, for spiritual preparation along a path and for the systematic and gradual increase in the sort of gnosis (‘irfan) that brings one closer to God.
   See epistemology; al-Ghazali; Ibn al-‘Arabi; Ibn Masarra; Ibn Sab‘in; mysticism
   Further reading: Arberry 1950/90; Chittick 1989; al- Ghazali 1980/2004; Nasr 1981, 2006; Schimmel 1975; Sells 1994, 1996

Islamic Philosophy. . 2007.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • SUFISM — (Ar. Taṣawwuf). The Arabic form Taṣawwuf is the name by which Islamic mysticism has been known since the early 9th century C.E. and to which many paths (ṭarīqa, pl. ṭuruq) and individuals still adhere today. The name derives, most probably, from… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

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  • Sufism — Su fism, n. A refined mysticism among certain classes of Mohammedans, particularly in Persia, who hold to a kind of pantheism and practice extreme asceticism in their lives. [Written also {sofism}.] [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • sufism — 1817, from SUFI (Cf. Sufi) + ISM (Cf. ism) …   Etymology dictionary

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  • Sufism — Sufistic, adj. /sooh fiz euhm/, n. the ascetic and mystical system of the Sufis. Also, Sufiism /sooh fee iz euhm/. [1810 20; SUFI + ISM] * * * Mystical movement within Islam that seeks to find divine love and knowledge through direct personal… …   Universalium

  • sufism — From around 800 the term Sufi (from the Persian for coarse wool, denoting the kind of garment worn) was applied to Islamic mystics who adopted ascetic practices as a means of achieving union with God. The philosophers Al Ghazali and Al Farabi… …   Philosophy dictionary

  • Sufism — noun see Sufi …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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  • SUFISM —    the doctrine of the Sufis, a sect of Mohammedan mystics; imported into Mohammedanism the idea that the soul is the subject of ecstasies of Divine inspiration in virtue of its direct emanation from the Deity, and this in the teeth of the… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

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