Exegesis of the Sufis (Mystics) and its Conditions, By Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani

Certain words of the honorable Sufis about the verse of the Quran which may seem to be an exegesis but those words contradict the obvious meanings. For instance, the Quran says.

قاتلوا الذین یلونکم من الکفار

Fight those of the disbelievers who gird around you. (At-Tawbah. 9: 123)

About it some Sufis have said:

قاتلوا النفس فإنھا تلی الإنسان

“Fight your soul because it is nearest co man.”

Some people have taken such sentences as interpretations of the Quran, but in fact, they are not so. The Sufis never meant that these represent the actual intentions of the Quran and not the meanings that are apparent. Rather they have full faith in the apparent meanings proved from its original sources and admit this to be the true interpretation of the Quran, but along with it they also give vent to the ecstatic feelings they sense during the recital of the verse. Hence, the Sufis do not say that the foregoing verse does not advocate jihad against the unbelievers. What they mean to express is that while the verse, in fact, calls on us to fight the unbelievers, at the same time it tells us that the nearest enemy is his own soul that repeatedly prompts him to commit evil. Hence, he must engage in Jihad with it also at the same time as he is bound to wage Jihad with the disbelievers.

We find a large number of such intuitive interpretations of the Sufis in the Exegesis of renowned commentator ‘Allamah Mahmud Alusi. He has explained the views of the Sufis in the following words:

“The deliberations reported from the Sufis in connection with the Quran in fact point to those deep and fine disclosures that they read in it. These disclosures are truly based on the apparent meaning. The Sufis do not believe that the apparent meanings are to be ignored against intuitive meanings because this is the belief of the Batiniyyah apostates who have adopted it as stepping stone to negate the Laws of Islam. Our mystics have nothing to do with this belief. and it cannot be, because they insist that the apparent meanings of the Quran must be adopted first.

(Ruh ul Ma’ani, v1, p7, Introduction. Allamah Suyuti has reproduced the same material from Shaikh Tajuddin bin Ataullah, Al Itqan, v2, p185).

But the following considerations must he kept in mind in regard to such deliberations of the mystics:

  • (1) These deliberations should not be regarded as exegesis of the Quran. we should believe that the true exegesis of the Quran is the one that is apparent from its real source, and these deliberations are just intuitive deductions that cannot be regarded as exegesis without going astray. lmam Abdur Rahman Sulmi (R.A) had written a book, “Haqa’iqut Tafsir” which consisted of such deliberations. lmam Wahidi (R.A) has said about it, “whoever believes that this is Tafsir would become an apostate. (Al itqan, v2, p184)
  • (2) Of all such deliberations, only those may be taken as correct which do not negate the apparent meanings of a verse or an established principle of Islamic Law. If the established rules and regulations of religion are defied under the guise of intuitive deliberations it is open apostasy.
  • (3) Intuitions of this kind would he reliable only so long as they do not interpolate the words of the Quran. If anything is connoted by distorting the word of the Quran then that is also apostasy and wavering from the path. For instance, take the verse: من ذا الذی یشفع (Who is he that shall intercede). Someone said about it that it is actually: من ذل ذی یشف ع where ذی means “soul” giving the phrase the meaning. “Whoever shall disgrace the soul shall be cured. Remember.” When Allamah Sirajuddin Balqini was asked about it, he said: “Such a person is a heretic. (Al Itqan, v2, p184)


  • (4) In earlier times, there was a group of heretics named Batiniyyah. They claimed that in fact, Allah did not mean what is understood in the Quran on the face of it, but every word points to an intrinsic meaning which is its true interpretation. Such a belief is unanimously regarded apostasy by the Ummah. Hence, it will amount to subscribing to the misconceived ideas of, ‘Batiniyyat’ if we attribute such a belief to the deliberations of the Sufis.

The deliberations of the mystics (Sufis) can be studied with due regard to these four cautionary notes. Indeed, some people having an ideal bent of mind have benefitted from these deliberations. That is why Allamah Alusi has devoted an entire chapter named Bab-ul-Isharah fil Ayat in his Tafsir Ruhul Ma’ani in which he has mentioned such intuitions.

To sum up, the intuitive deliberations made by the Sufis are not against the Quran or Sunnah, and to blame them for Batiniyyah is not justified. In spite of that, we cannot resist quoting lbn-us Salah:

ومع ذلک فیا لیتھم لم یتساھلوا بمثل ذلک لما فیہ من الإیھام والإلباس

“Despite this, how I wish these people had not been so careless in delving upon these deliberations because there is much possibility of creating misunderstanding and doubt through them. (Al Itqan, v2, p184)

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