Quora Answer: How are Sufis Different from Muslims?

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ 

The following is my answer to a Quora question: “How are Sufis different from Muslims? 

Technically, the term “Sufi” refers to the scholars of the field of Islamic spirituality, which we call “taswawwuf”, “‘irfan”, or “ihsan”.  It is a tradition and religious science within orthodox Islam.  The practices and doctrines are derived from a specific understanding of the Qur’an and ahadits.  People who practice taswawwuf, or “Sufism” are not Sufis. They are either muridun, students, or muhibbin, lovers.  These are two different levels of adherence.  The murid is the one seeking a gnostic understanding in addition to the practices of ‘ibadah, these acts of worship.  The muhib is the casual practitioner.  The ones who have mastered this field, and pass on the deeper understanding of the doctrines are the Sufis, the Ahl asw-Swafa’.  In the same manner, not every person who studies fiqh, jurisprudence, is a faqih, jurist; or not every person who studies ahadits, prophetic narrations, is a muhaddits, scholar of narrations; not every practitioner of taswawwuf is a “Sufi”. 

One of the conditions to being a Sufi is to be a Muslim.  There are those who claim to be “Sufis”, but are not Muslims.  This is a separate New Age pretension that has nothing to do with actual taswawwuf.  They may call themselves “Sufis”, but they have no relationship with actual taswawwuf.


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