al-A'immah of the 4 Schools on Taswawwuf

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following are the opinions of the founders of the four schools of Sunni jurisprudence on taswawwuf and the Sufis.

Imam Malik ibn Anas (r.a.) said, “Whoever practices taswawwuf without learning shari’ah corrupts his faith, while whoever learns shari’ah without practicing taswawwuf corrupts himself.  Only he who combines the two proves true.”

This was a famous saying related by the muhaddits, Imam Ahmad az-Zarruq (q.s.) in Qawa’id at-Taswawwuf; the hafizh, Mulla ‘Ali al-Qari al-Harawi (r.a.) in Sharh ‘Ayn al-‘Ilm wa Zayn al-Hilm; the muhaddits, Imam ‘Ali ibn Ahmad al-‘Adawi (r.a.) in Hashiyat al-‘Adawi ‘ala Sharh Abi al-Hasan li Risalat ibn Abi Zayd al-Muswammat Kifayat ath-Thalib ar-Rabbani li Risalat ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani fi Madzhab Ma’alik; and Imam ibn ‘Ajibah (q.s.) in Iqaz al-Himam fi Sharh al-Hikam.

Imam Abu Hanifah Nu’man ibn Tsabit (r.a.) is the founder of the Hanafi madzhab.  It was reported by Imam ibn ‘Abidin (r.a.) in ad-Durr al-Mukhtar that Imam Abu Hanifah (r.a.) said, “If it were not for two years, I would have perished.  For two years I accompanied Imam Ja’far asw-Swadiq and I acquired the spiritual knowledge that made me a gnostic in the Way.”

This was further explained by Imam ibn ‘Abidin (r.a.), “Abu ‘Ali Daqqaq received his path from Abu al-Qasim al-Naswirabadi, who received it from ash-Shibli, who received it from as-Sirr as-Saqathi who received it from al Ma’ruf al-Karkhi, who received it from Dawud ath-Tha'i, who received the knowledge, both the external and the internal, from the imam, Abi Hanifah.”  Shaykh Abu ‘Ali Daqqaq (q.s.) was the shaykh of Imam al-Qushayri (r.a.).

Imam Abu ‘Abdullah Muhammad ibn Idris ash-Shafi’i (r.a.) wrote, in his Diwan:

“Be both a faqih and a Sufi; do not be only one of them.
Verily, by Allah’s Truth, I am advising you sincerely.”

The muhaddits, Imam al-‘Ajluni (r.a.) recorded in Kashf al-Khafa wa Muzil al-Albas that Imam ash-Shafi’i (r.a.) said, “Three things in this world have been made lovely to me: avoiding affectation, treating people kindly, and following the way of taswawwuf.”

Imam ibn al-Qayyim (r.a.) in Madarij as-Salikin and Imam as-Suyuthi (r.a.) in Ta’yid al-Haqiqah al-‘Aliyyah quoted him thus: “I accompanied the Sufis and received from them but three lessons: their statement that time is a sword; if you do not cut it, it cuts you; their statement that if you do not keep your ego busy with truth it will keep you busy with falsehood; and their statement that deprivation is immunity.”

Shaykh Ahmad al-Ghumari (r.a.) wrote in Tashnif al-Adzan, “The Sufis are often accused of bid’ah, but Imam ash-Shafi'i (r.a.) refuted these individuals: ‘Anything which has a support from the shari’ah is not bid’ah, even if the early Muslims did not do it.’”

Imam Abu ‘Abdullah ash-Shaybani Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Hanbal (r.a.) founded the Hanbali madzhab.  It was related from Imam Ibrahim ibn Abdullah al-Qalanasi (r.a.) that Imam Ahmad (r.a.) said about the Sufis, “I do not know people better than them.”  This was recorded by Shaykh Muhammad ibn Ahmad as-Saffarini al-Hanbali (r.a.) in Ghidha’ al-Albab li Sharh Manzhumat al-Adab.

Advising his son, Imam ‘Abdullah ibn Ahmad (r.a.), Imam Ahmad (r.a.) said, “O my son, you have to sit with the people of taswawwuf, because they are like a fountain of knowledge and they keep the remembrance of Allah in their hearts.  They are the ascetics and they have the most spiritual power.”  This was reported by Shaykh Amin al-Kurdi (r.a.) in Tanwir al-Qulub.


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