Link Between Islam and Sufism
Sufism is considered as the mystical branch of Islam

What’s the Link between Islam and Sufism?

Link between Islam and Sufism: Sufism is a branch of Islam. A Sufi is known as the supporter/member as the inner dimension of Islam. It is an existence of  Islam via Muslim Scholars, therefore a practitioner and preacher of Islam thoroughly is known as a Sufi.

He/She belongs to different category and order and often meet for spiritual gatherings (majalis). Most of their Actions are perceived from the preachings and actions of Hazrat Muhammad s.a.w., they practice perfection of worshipping Allah.

To understand the link between Islam and Sufism we have to understand what happens in sufi’s innerself. The objective of a Sufi is to purify the heart and body and beautify it with true Islamic virtues and traits while turning it away from all evil, and filth. Even non-Muslims respect and follow the path of Sufism to find eternal peace. For a true Sufi it is necessary to be a practicing Muslim because his life is not operative without Islamic affiliation however some sectors of Muslim opponents consider Sufism outside the Islamic bounds.

Sufism is characterized as a process of cleansing and purifying of the heart which may be rewarded by knowledge of God. It is concerned with law pertaining to actions of human heart and consists of rules relating to worship, transactions, marriage, judicial rulings, criminal law, repentance from sin, contemptible qualities and evil traits

The term Sufi is derived from “ ahl aṣ-ṣuffah”  i.e the people of the Islamic group. These People were companions of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w., who held the gatherings of Zikr and Islamic Beliefs.

Sufi is an effective physician of the heart who has the knowledge and pure intention to serve Allah. He prescribes a course of treatment appropriate to the seeker via spiritual guidance. The seeker therefore can’t self-diagnose or undertake any of the said practices alone and without formal authorization. The Seeker/follower must practice Five Salaah , fast in the holy month of Ramadan, and follow life of the Supererogatory Muhammad P.B.U.H and His Sunnah.

 Saying of Quran “ My servant draws near to Me through nothing I love more than that which I have made obligatory for him. My servant never ceases drawing near to Me through supererogatory works until I love him. Then, when I love him, I am his hearing through which he hears, his sight through which he sees, his hand through which he grasps, and his foot through which he walks”.

It is necessary for him to have a correct creed (aqidah) and he must turn away from sins, love of this world, the love of company and renown, obedience to satan, pride, arrogance, envy.

The Naqshbandi order of Sufis follow spiritual link through Muhammad’s grandsons and its teachings originate from first Islamic Caliph, Hazrat Abu Bakr. The spread of Sufism  is a definitive factor in the spread of Islam and Islamic cultures, especially in Africa and Asia. It flourished during 13th-16th century throughout the Islamic world known ad “The Golden Age”.

Turkey and Persia together have been a center for many Sufi lineages and orders. It spread towards  Cyprus, Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Bosnia, Kosovo and to the USA (via Albania).

To understand more about the link between Islam and Sufism we need to look at the history as well. In the twentieth century a few modernist Muslims called Sufism a superstitious religion that holds back Science and Technological Achievements. The first official representative of  Sufi order in Europe, was a Swedish born Sufi Adbul Hadi Aghili  also known as Ivan Agueli. Rene Guenon a French scholar, became a Sufi in  twentieth century and was known as Sheikh Abdul Wahid Yahya.

“Multan” in Pakistan is known for many Sufi Saint Tombs. The basic aim of all Sufis is to seek the guidance by Allah. They work all their lives by restoring the actual sense of Islam told by the Quran and to achieve this they don’t defy Allah and undertake a single motivation of Love of Allah.

Early Sufis lived in a room of a mosque and taught religion to small group of people from different classes. While loving Allah it was impossible to maintain a union with the divine world. A Sufi began by finding a teacher who must be genuine and  have received the authorization to teach from another Master in the way of Islam, in an unbroken succession  leading back to Muhammad P.B.U.H.

Sufism is based on the concept of a “Perfect Man” derived from spiritual guidance by Allah’s grace to mankind. It is concerned with direct personal experience. It requires that the sufi lives with and serves his teacher for many years. For eg. Baha-ud-Din Naqashband Bukhari served his teacher, Sayyid Muhammad Baba As-Samasi, for  about 20 years until the death of As-Samasi. He served the weak and needy members of his community with himself being very tolerant and humble. He was taught to care for animals, cure them during their sickness, cleaning their wounds, and assisted them.

Imam Al Ghazali taught that Sufism originated from the Quran and did not contradict Islamic Law. Even today Muslim Scholars and Western academics are making Imam Al-Ghazali’s works available in English translation, allowing English-speaking readers to judge for themselves the compatibility of Islamic Law and sufism. They practice Zikr which is also called  Zikr-e-Qalb i.e remembrance of Allah by heartbeat. The idea in this practice is to visualize the Arabic names of Allah, as if they are written on the disciples of heart. During a “Muraqaba” a sufi is to collect all of his body senses in concentration, and to cut himself off from the worldly notions that inflict upon the heart. He turns his full consciousness towards Allah.

Fiqh Academy of Jeddah, in July 2006, specifically recognized the validity of Sufism as a part of Islam. The Shariah (traditional Islamic law) and the Sunnah are seen as crucial for any Sufi aspirant. Almost all the famous Sufi masters of the past Caliphates were experts in Shariah. They were renowned as people with great faith and excellent practice.

In the world of today many films have been made with concept of Sufism via story, dance or music.

The Jewel of the Nile (1985) in which The “Jewel” is actually a Sufi holy man.

In Hideous Kinky (1998), “Julia” Kate Winslet travels to Morocco to explore Sufism and a journey to self-discovery.

In Monsieur Ibrahim (2003), “Omar Sharif’s” plays a Muslim in the Sufi tradition.

Bab Aziz (2005), a film by Tunisian director Nacer Khemir, draws heavily on the Sufi tradition, containing quotes from Sufi poets such as Rumi and depicting an ecstatic Sufi dance.

Famous music these days is also derived from Sufism.

An evening ceremony on Fridays is observed at at Dargah Salim Chisti, India.

Abida Parveen, a Pakistani Sufi singer is one of the foremost exponents of Sufi music.

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is also considered the finest Sufi vocalists of the modern era.

Sanam Marvi another Pakistani singer has recently gained recognition for her Sufi vocal performances.

A. R. Rahman, the Oscar-winning Indian musician, has several compositions which draw inspiration from the Sufi genre; examples are the filmi qawwalis “Khwaja Mere Khwaja” in the film Jodhaa Akbar, “Arziyan” in the film Delhi 6 and “Kun Faya Kun” in the film Rockstar.

Bengali singer Lalan Fakir and Bangladesh’s national poet Kazi Nazrul Islam scored several Sufi songs.

Junoon, a band from Pakistan, created the genre of Sufi rock by combining elements of modern hard rock and traditional folk music with Sufi poetry.

In 2005, Rabbi Shergill released a Sufi rock song called “Bulla Ki Jaana”, which became a chart-topper in India and Pakistan.

Madonna, on her 1994 record Bedtime Stories, sings a song called “Bedtime Story” that discusses achieving a high unconsciousness level. The video for the song shows an ecstatic Sufi ritual with many dervishes dancing, Arabic calligraphy and some other Sufi elements. In her 1998 song “Bittersweet”, she recites Rumi’s poem by the same name. In her 2001 Drowned World Tour, Madonna sang the song “Secret” showing rituals from many religions, including a Sufi dance.

Singer/songwriter Loreena McKennitt’s record The Mask and Mirror (1994) has a song called “The Mystic’s Dream” that is influenced by Sufi music and poetry.

The band mewithoutYou has made references to Sufi parables, including the name of their album It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! It’s All a Dream! It’s Alright (2009).

 Tori Amos  makes a reference to Sufis in her song “Cruel”.

 Mercan Dede is a Turkish composer who incorporates Sufism into his music and performances.

The names of prominent Sufis in the Subcontinent are :


Abdullah Ansari

Abu Said Abul Khayr

Abdul Qadir Jelani

Abdullah Faizi  ad-Daghestani

Afaq Khoja

Ahmed Ghazali

Ahmed Yesevi

Ahmed Al-badawi


Al Hallaj

Amir Kulal

Ali Shair Navai

Al Fozail bin Ilyaz

Abdul Khaliq Ghujqawani

Abdullah Ansari

Abdul Qadir Jelani

Abu Said Abul Khair

Abdullah Faizi ad Daghestani

Afaq Khoja

Ahmed Ghazali

Ahmed Yesevi

Ahmad Al Badawi

Abu Al Hassan Al Kharaqani

Al Qasim Ibn e Abi Bakr

Dawad Al Qaysari

Sadr Al Din Al Qunawi

Safi Ad Din Ardabili

Ibn Ata Allah

Farid Al Din Attar

Balim Sultan

Baba Fakruddin

Baha Ud Din Naqshband Bukhari

Bande Nawaz

Khawaja Baqi Billah

Bayazid Bastami

Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai

Bulleh Shah

Shah Ghulam Ali Dehlvi

Ibrahim Al Desouki

Esad Arbili

Ibrahim Hakki Erzurumi

Farid Ud din Ganjshakar


Husn u ask

Mohi-ud-Din Chishti

Khwaja Ghulam Farid

Gul Baba

Haji Bayram

Haji Bektash


Maulana Halid e Baghdadi

Imam Al Haddad

Yusuf Hamdani

Jamal Ud Din Hansavi

Arabati baba Teke

Usman Harooni

Ali Hujwiri

Ibrahim Ibn Adham

Ibn Arabi

Fakhar Al din Iraqi

Jabir Ibn Hayyan

Jafar Al Sadiq

Jahaniyat Jahangasht


Mirza Mazhar Jan-e-Jaan

Mir Sayyid Ali Hamdani

Mir Sham ud Din Iraqi

Maruf Karkhi

Magtymguly Pyragy

Mohammad El Jazouli

Abdul Karim Jili

Junaid Al Baghdad

Qutbuddin Bakhtiar kaki

Alaudin Sabir Kilyari

Omar Khayyam

Amir Khusrou

Najmuddin Kubra

Aziz Mahmud Hudayi

Fazl Allah Astarabidi

Abu Ul Najib Al Shuarwardi

Nasir Khusrou

Imadaddin Nasimi

Nasiriddin Hoca

Nathar Vali

Shah Naimatullah Wali

Nizam Ud Din Auliya

Shah Syed Muhammad Nur Baksh Qahistani

Saint Noori

Otman Baba

Pir Sultan

Qutb Ud Din Haider

Qutb Ud Din Shirazi

Ahmed Sirindhi

Rabia Basri

Najm Al Din Razi

Ahmed Al Rifa

Shah rukn-e-Alam



Salman Al Farsi


Sari Saltik

Sheikh E Debali

Ashraf Jehangir Samnani

Suleman Hilmi Tunahan

Abu Ul Hassan Shadhili

Shah Wali Ullah Shahab Al Din Suharwardi


Abu Bukr Shibli

Sultan Walad

Jalal Ud Din Surkh Posh Bukhari

Zahed Gilani

Abu Hafs  Umar al Suharwardi

Sahl Al Tusari

Yunus Umre

Baha Ud Din Zikria

Ahmad Zurruq

Zu Al Nun Al Misri


The author “Shehryar Arshad” is a regular contributer to and can be contacted via the contact form.