Tazkiyah or Sufism: Is Tasawwuf a Parallel religion to Islam? Objections about Sufism by Javed Ahmad Ghamidi & its clarification & answers according to Quran & Sunnah.

Compiled by: Mufti Umar Anwar Badakhshani


I saw a Video Clip of Javed Ahmad Ghamidi in which in response to a question about Sufism, he summed it up as follows: “Sufism is a separate religion parallel to Islam, Sufi religions have flourished in India, and the religion of Sufism has nothing to do with Islam, it is something distant that has been incorporated into Islam. We have had many elders (Mashaikh) who have tried to combine the mystical religions with Islam.”

The question is, what about Sufism? Is this opinion of Ghamdi Sahib correct? Is Sufism proven by Qur’an and Sunnah?


1: First of all understand this that an  act having different names does not change its reality. The term “Tazkiyah”(purification) is basically used in Quran and Sunnah. Ihsan, Tasawwuf, Sufism,Tareeqah, Reformation, Self improvement, Mysticism, Spirituality, Sanctification, Purification of inner self, and good morals are all synonyms of the same Tazkiyah (purification) .

2: Secondly, if we see any false and erroneous forms of any good or lawful deed mentioned in the Quran and Sunnah it should not be called  completely false because of these false and erroneous deeds. Thus “purification” or sufism and its basic principles are proven by Quran and Sunnah. The authentic sufis have always adhered to it and issued teachings and instructions to the ummah in the light of Quran and Sunnah. but whatever action is taken in the name of sufism against the Quran and Sunnah is undoubtedly false and erroneous and authentic sufis are not blamed for it. This should  be noted here that because of these wrongdoings issuing a sweeping statement about the whole of sufism is also a sign of ignorance,and against justice.

Javed Ahmed Ghamidi’s opinion on Sufism or Tazkiyah is incorrect  and against of majority of Scholars of Muslim Ummah. It should be noted that Javed Ahmed Ghamidi has many other misleading thoughts and ideas about Shariah which should be avoided and knowledge of religion should be obtained from the authentic scholars of Qur’an and Sunnah.

Here we are quoting an important extract from Maarif-ul-Quran, A Tafseer by Grand Mufti Muhammad Shafi’ in which the reality, importance and some misunderstandings of Tazkiyah or Sufism are answered in detail in the light of Qur’an and Sunnah:

(Tazkiyah) Purifying the people is also an essential prophetic function, By Grand Mufti Muhammad Shafi

The Arabic word Tazkiyah denotes purifying a thing or person from all kinds of filth, internal as well as external. One can see for oneself what the different kinds of external filth are  the shariah as clearly defined them. The internal varieties include, on the one hand, false beliefs like infidelity (Kufr), association (Shirk), or total reliance on someone other than Allah, and, on the other hand, pride, vanity malice, jealousy, love of worldly things, etc. Although the evil nature of such beliefs and tendencies has been fully explained in the Holy Quran and the Sunnah, yet in making “the purification of the people” a distinct and separate prophetic function the present verse indicates that just as a mere knowledge of words and technical terms does not make one the master of a science or art, in the same way a knowledge, or even a proper understanding of its principles does not by itself make one perfect in the science or art concerned. To attain any degree of perfection one must also learn to put the principles into practice, and “realize” them in oneself and for oneself, which again requires the supervision of an authentic teacher and guide. In the Way of Sufis (Tariqah) the function of the spiritual guide (Shaykh) is to help the disciple in obeying the injunctions of the Holy Quran and the Sunnah so thoroughly that it becomes a matter, not of effort, but of habit – so to say, his very “nature”.(1)

Now that we are on the subject of purification (tazkiyah), we might add another important consideration. From the days of the First Prophet to the days of the Last, it has been the Way of Allah that in order to guide men and to show them the Straight Path, He has been sending them not only His Books but His prophets also. This indicates the general principle that for their guidance men need, on the one hand, a Divine Teaching revealed in the form of a Book, and, on the other, a human teacher in the form of a prophet who should train and discipline them into absorbing the divine guidance fully.

Men need not merely one of these, but both. For, a man alone can be the teacher of another man, and not a book which serves only as an aid. That is why Islam began with a Book and a Prophet, and the two, working together, produced a society of men who are unparalleled in history for their rectitude. For the coming generations too, the two basic principles of guidance have continued to function in the form of the shariah and “the Men of Allah”. The Holy Qur’an has emphasized the point again and again. Let us quote a few instances:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَكُونُوا مَعَ الصَّادِقِينَ

“O believers, fear Allah, and be with the truthful ” (9:119).

In summing up the qualities of  “the truthful” (Al Sadiqin), another verse ends with the words:

أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُتَّقُونَ

 “It is they who are truthful, and it is they who are the God-fearing”. (2:177) As we have explained in our commentary on the first chapter, the Surah “Al Fatihah” is the quintessence of the Holy Quran, and the essence of this Surah is the guidance towards the Straight Path (Al-Sirat al-Mustaqim). Now, in order to indicate the Straight Path the Holy Quran has, instead of calling it the Path of the Quran or the Path of the Prophet or the Path of the Sunnah, spoken of the Men of Allah who can show the Straight Path to the seeker. Says the Holy Qur’an:

صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا الضَّالِّينَ

“… the path of  those on whom You have bestowed Your grace, not of those who have incurred Your wrath, nor of those who are misguided”. (l:7)

An-other verse provides greater specification:

فَأُولَٰئِكَ مَعَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِم مِّنَ النَّبِيِّينَ وَالصِّدِّيقِينَ وَالشُّهَدَاءِ وَالصَّالِحِينَ

“Those on whom Allah has bestowed His grace the prophets, the truthful, the martyrs and the righteous.” (4:69)

Similarly, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) has, for the benefit of all the later generations of Muslims, explicitly named certain personalities who should be followed in religious matters:

يا ايها الناس اني تركت فيكم ما ان اخذتم به لن تضلوا كتاب الله و عترتي اهل بيتي

 ” I am leaving behind me two things; if you stand firm by them you will never fall into misguidance – firstly, the Book of Allah, and, secondly, my descendants and the members ,of my family.” (Tirmidhi) A hadith reported by AI-Bukhari says:

 اقتدوا بالذين من بعدي ابي بكر و عمر

“After me, follow Abu Bakr and ‘Umar.” And a third hadith says:

عليكم بسنتي و سنة الخلفاء الراشدين

“You must adopt my way (the Sunnah) and the way of Al-Khulafa al-Rashidin”. That is, the first four rightly-guided Caliphs.

In short, whether it be religion or the different sciences and arts, the acquisition of knowledge in the proper sense of the term depends on profiting from authentic books and authentic teachers. In the case of religion, however, people are, while turning to these two modes, liable to fall into the error of putting exclusive or excessive emphasis on one of them alone, which brings them more harm than good. Thus, there are, on the one hand, people who neglect the Book of Allah, and begin to adore their scholars and spiritual masters, without taking the trouble of finding out whether they are obedient to the Shariah or not.

In fact, this has been the characteristic malady of the Jews and the Christians. Speaking of them, the Holy Qur’an says:

اتَّخَذُوا أَحْبَارَهُمْ وَرُهْبَانَهُمْ أَرْبَابًا مِّن دُونِ اللَّهِ

“They have taken their rabbis and their monks as their lords apart from Allah.” (9:31)

Obviously, this is the royal road to Shirk (association) and Kufr (infidelity), on which millions have perished, and go on perishing. On the other hand, there are people who claim that the Book of Allah is by itself sufficient for them, and that in order to understand it they do not need the guidance of a teacher or a scholar or a spiritual master. This too is a form of misguidance, for an attempt to interpret the Book of Allah on one’s own, without the aid of reliable specialists, inevitably draws one into all sorts of errors, makes one a slave of one’s own desires and inclinations, and may, in some cases at least, lead one straight outside the pale of Islam. So, what one is required to do is to put each of these two means of knowledge in its proper place, and to profit from both.

One should be quite clear about the basic principle in this respect – to Allah alone belongs the authority to lay down a commandment, and it is Allah alone we have been called upon to obey, while the Holy Prophet (PBUH) is a means of helping us to know how Allah is to be obeyed, and one obeys Him on the ground that to obey the Holy Prophet (PBUH) is to obey Allah Himself. Besides that, one should, when faced with difficulties in understanding the Holy Quran and the Hdith or in acting upon them, turn for help, willingly and respectfully, to the words and deeds of the masters in these subjects, and consider it to be the key to the door of salvation.

There is a second conclusion to be drawn from the fact that the present verse includes the teaching of the Book among the prophetic functions. As we know, Allah has promised to safeguard the Holy Quran Himself:

إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ

“It is We who have revealed the Guidance, and it is we who watch over it.” (15:9)

Consequently, every single word, every consonant and every vowel of the Holy Quran has remained intact up to this day, and shall remain intact as long the world lasts. Now, according to the present verse, the teaching of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) is absolutely indispensable for a proper understanding of the Holy Quran, and without this guidance it is not possible to act upon the Holy Quran in a real sense. It logically follows from it that the teachings of the Holy Prophet should also receive divine protection in their own degree, and remain intact as a whole till the end of the world; otherwise, the preservation of the words of the Holy Quran would not, by itself, fully serve the purpose for which Allah has revealed it. It goes without saying that the teachings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) are identical with what is called the Sunnah or the Hadith. Although Allah has not promised the same degree of protection to the Hadith as to the Holy Quran, and the words of the Sunnah have not been preserved exactly in the same manner as the words of the Holy Quran, yet the prophetic interpretations too must, according to the present verse, remain intact, and it has, taken as a whole, remained intact up to this day.

Whenever an attempt has been made to distort a Hadith or to invent spurious ones, the specialists in the science have always exposed the fraud.

Thus, in accordance with the prediction implicit in the present verse, Allah has preserved the teachings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) from the days of the blessed Companions to our own day through fully authentic collections of the Ahadith and through the masters of this subject. And this divine protection shall continue to the last day of the world. For, the Holy Prophet & himself has assured us that in his Ummah there shall always remain till the end of the world a group of authentic scholars who shall jealously and watchfully guard the Holy Qur’an and the Hadith against all attempts at distortion or misrepresentation. This hadith by itself gives the lie to some contemporary writers who have, for the ulterior motive of discrediting the injunctions of the Islamic Shariah, been trying to propagate the notion that the whole body of the Ahadith we possess is inauthentic and hence unreliable. But anyone who has eyes to see can easily understand the stratagem – if one cannot trust the Ahadith, one can no longer trust the text of the Holy Quran. And this is exactly what the Westerners and their local allies want to accomplish – that is, to make the Muslims turn away from the Holy Qur’an.

In the end, let us note that the three prophetic functions which Sayyidna Ibrahim referred to in his prayer, and which the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was sent to perform, were fulfilled in his own life-time. In order to have an idea of the great transformation which the recitation of the Holy Quran, the teaching of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and his purifying influence brought about in men, it is enough to see what the Holy Quran says in praise of his Companions:

وَالَّذِينَ مَعَهُ أَشِدَّاءُ عَلَى الْكُفَّارِ رُحَمَاءُ بَيْنَهُمْ

“Those who are with him are hard against the disbelievers, merciful to one another; you see them bowing and prostrating themselves (in prayers), seeking the bounty of Allah and His pleasure”. (48:29)

Maarif ul Quran, Vol 1, By Mufti Muhammad Shafi,
Translated By: Professor Muhammad Hasan Askari

(1) At this point, we must sound a note of warning. It has grown, in our day, almost habitual to speak of Islam as “the religion of action” if not of “activism”. In such phrases, the implication is never absent that “action” is to be considered as an anti-thesis of “thought”, and “practice” as that of “theory” as if there is a dichotomy, and the two activities can hardly be reconciled with each other. And there is always the insinuation that in order to be worthy of any respect one must make an either/or kind of choice in favour of “action” and “practice” as against “thought” and “theory”.
Such formulations are no older than four centuries, and are the necessary products of certain dilemmas which historically arose in the society of the Christian West. They do not and cannot, as such, belong to a religious or metaphysical approach to things. In so far as an activity can be described as specifically “human”, it cannot be purely automatic, but is preceded by thought. In other words, all “practice” is governed by a “theory”, and all “action” guided by “thought” or some principle, good or bad. The rule is so general that it applies even to the action of those who have been promoting the dichotomy. As far as the Islamic way of looking at things is concerned, it goes without saying that no action or practice, however good, can have the slightest merit or spiritual efficacy until and unless it carries a divine sanction. It logically follows that the foremost duty of a Muslim is to acquaint himself with divine commandments, and then to obey them. One can, if one likes, give to the first the name of “theory”, and the second the name of “practice”. But there is no dichotomy involved, nor any choice called for. No “practice” can be valid without being informed by “theory”, and no “theory” can be of much avail without being put into “practice”. It is “theory” which makes “practice” meaningful, and it is through “practice” alone that one acquires a true knowledge of “theory”.
They are not two entities, but only two ways of considering the same reality. What finally matters is “realization” or making the essential truths “real” to oneself.
In the West itself, and as late as the end of the Middle Ages, there were people who knew that theoria and praxis went together in the terminology of spiritual disciplines. In fact, the Greek word does, in its original meaning, say all that we have been trying to explain here. For, even if “theory” in modern European languages has come to mean just a ‘speculation’, or a ‘supposition’, even a ‘fancy’, the Greek verb theoreo signified “to see”, and the noun theoros denoted the “man who sees”. Thus, theoria was not merely a fancy, but a truth which could be “seen”.

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