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Saturday, May 15, 2004

Sufism

The Sufi movement is a mystical strain in Islam which reflects the need of individuals to transcend formal religious practices in order to attain higher levels of spiritual fulfillment. The Sufis are represented in all schools of thought in Islam and found in all Muslim communities. Because of its mystical, spiritual character, Sufism appeals more to individuals and small groups. It does not constitute either a sect or a school of thought, but is rather a spiritual or transcendental practice which persists despite criticism from orthodox theologians. Sufis believe they follow the Prophet's mysticism, particularly during the Meccan period of the revelations. Thus, in their practices there is much meditation and solitary or group recitation of prayers and incantations of their own religious formulas. They seek a life of ascetic pietism, shunning worldly pleasures and seeking the inward purity of a relationship with God through love, patience, forgiveness, and other higher spiritual qualities.

Their influence on the development of Islam is more significant than is usually recognized. Their ascetic piety and rigidly ethical conception of Islamic society have influenced generations of Muslims. They have also had from time to time strong political influence. What characterizes Sufis the most is their "inwardism" or belief that the Sharia only regulates external conduct, whereas inward feelings are matter strictly between each person and the Creator. Because of their emphasis on the love of God, they have developed the doctrine of Tawakul (reliance on God), which is central to the relationship between Man and God. Sufism also has had a significant impact on the practical aspects of administering a state.

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