Sufism is the Essence of the Shari'ah

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is extracted from Shaykh Sha'rani (r.a.) in his Thabaqat, as quoted by Shaykh Ibrahim Niyas (r.a.) in his Kashif al-Ilbas.

“Dear brother, may Allah have Mercy on you!  Know that the science of Sufism is a knowledge kindled in the hearts of the saints, until the practical application of the Qur'an and the sunnah completely illuminated their hearts.  For anyone who puts the religion into practice like this has such sciences kindled in him, along with moral virtues, secrets, and divine realities that tongues are incapable of enunciating.

This is similar to the way in which the scholars have had knowledge kindled in their hearts from studying the legal rules, and they likewise have put into practice what they have learned.  Consider how the sciences of rhetoric and eloquence are the cream of the knowledge of grammar.  Similarly, Sufism, provided the servant is free from false pretexts and self-indulgence, is simply the sweet cream of practicing the rulings of the sacred law.  In the same way that rhetoric and eloquence may be considered either independent sciences or part of the science of grammar, so too Sufism can either be considered its own science or the essence of the sacred law.

Sufism stems from the essence of the sacred law.  This cannot be tasted, however, save by the one who delves into the depths of the sacred law.  When the servant enters into the Sufi path, plunging into its ocean, Allah Gives him the capacity of discovery.  This pertains to both the external rulings as well as the obligations of the spiritual path; its recommended procedures, its proper conduct and manners, and what is forbidden or reprehensible.  He is able to distinguish what is appropriate and what is not, similar to the scholars of independent legal reasoning.

But it is not proper for a jurist endowed with the authority of independent legal reasoning to declare something obligatory unless its obligation is explicitly stated in the sacred law.  It is equally improper for a saint of Allah to say that a rule within the spiritual path is obligatory, unless its obligation is made explicit in the sacred law.  This has been said in no uncertain terms by Shaykh al-Yaf'i (r.a.) and others, who explain that all saints are equal before the Law; Allah has simply Chosen then for His religion.  Those who pay attention realise that the sciences of Allah's people contain nothing that departs from the sacred law.  How could it be otherwise, when these sciences have linked them to Allah in every moment?

He who doubts that the science of Sufism stems from the essence of the sacred law is unfamiliar with people of the spiritual path and has not thoroughly mastered the knowledge of the sacred law.  This is why Imam Junayd (r.a.) said, ‘This knowledge of ours is built of the Qur'an and the sunnah,’ in reply to those of his time or any other who imagine that it has departed from them.

Every Sufi is an expert on jurisprudence, but not every jurist is a Sufi.  Generally speaking, no one dares to criticise the spiritual states of the Sufis unless he is wholly ignorant of their conditions.  Imam al-Qushayri (r.a.) used to say, ‘No ear of Islamic history has had a shaykh of this Sufi group to whom the leading scholars of the time did not pay homage to, show humility towards and seek blessing from.  If the people of the spiritual path had not been endowed with special excellence and distinction, the opposite would have been the case.’”


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