The Basics of Tasawwuf
by Shaykh Muhammad Al-Yaqoubi
1- Definition: Purification of the heart.
True devotion to Allah in the ways He likes by the means He likes.
… Acting upon knowledge;
Acquiring the good characters and getting rid of the bad.
2- Subject: Allah, as how He can be known; or hearts & souls, as how to purify them.
3- Fruit: The purification of the heart and knowing the Master of the worlds and attaining the Station of ihsân.
4- Merit: Tasawwuf is of high merit. Its nobility stems from its subject. Ihsân is one of the three levels of this deen and the highest.
5- Relation to other disciplines: It is the base of the Sharia; without it acts of worship become imperfect. It isthe core of Quran and Sunnah and the tissue of Muslims spiritual life.
6- Name: The word “tasawwuf” is derrived from souf (wool). Tasawwuf has been known by this name since the second century of hijra, i.e. the time of the salaf. It has been frequently called `ilm as-Sulûk (initiatic traveling & spiritual behaviour), `ilm al-Ihsân, `ilm at-Tarbiyah (cultivation) or `ilm at-Tazkiyah (purification).
7- The pioneer: The pioneer of this branch of knowledge is of course the Prophet (peace be upon him). Many hadiths highlight the spiritual dimension of a Muslim’s life. The earliest scholar who elaborated on it is al-Hasan al-Basri.
9- Ruling: Acquiring tasawwuf is fard i.e. obligatory; since all human beings are susceptable to sins save for Prophets. Imam Abul Hasan ash-Shadiliy said:
“He who does not truly acquire this discipline will die persisting on major sins without being aware of it.”
10- What it tackles: Tasawwuf tackles some of the cardinal elements of the deen such as sincerity; truthfulness; religious cautioness (wara’); conscious awareness (khushû’) reliance; asceticism; love; and similarly their opposites, which are the diseases of the hearts such as insincerity; hypocrisy; arrogance; greed etc.
It also tackles subtle subjects such as the passing of thoughts; the states of the heart; inspirations. One of its most important subjects is dhikr, the remembrance (i.e. in the evocation & recitation of the name) of Allah and its virtues; another is the shaykh and his qualifications, the disciple, murid, and his adab.
Foundational works in tasawwuf:
– Hilyat al-Awliya, by Abu Nu’aym al-Asfahani
– Ihya Ulum al-Din, by al- Ghazali
– Al-Risalah, of al-Qushayri
– Al-Hikam, of Ibn Ata’illah
– Futuh al-Ghayb, by Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani
– Awarif Al-Ma’arif, by al-Suhrawardi
– Qawa’id Al-Tasawwuf, by Ahmad Zarruq