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Foundational stuff

September 27, 2016



Shaykh Zarrūq's "Foundations of Sufism"




A discourse about any subject is a branch that ramifies from the conceptualization of its identifying essence, its peculiar benefit and its elemental matter. That conceptualization is the product of a mental sensation, one that is either acquired through knowledge and experience or intuitively innate in you.

The purpose of your conceptualization of the essence, benefit and elemental matter of a subject that is spoken about is for you to revert to it whenever the discourse branches out into the particularized judgments on it, by refuting or endorsing any such judgment, linking it back to its foundational root, or spreading it out in detail. 


It is therefore incumbent to give pride of place to such conceptual understanding over any engrossment in it by informing about it, encouraging engagement in it, and alluding to its primal sources, so understand.





The author, Shaykh Zarrūq, is going to speak in this book about Sufism and its foundations (and how they are inextricably tied up with Islam and Īmān). That is the subject about which he is going to plunge into a fully-fledged discourse, one that will include detailed aspects of that science and detailed judgments about it.

In order for those details to be comprehended and properly handled, he is telling us in this introductory “foundation”, it is necessary to first go to the root, as everything else branches out from it.

The root must consist in you conceiving in your mind, through acquired knowledge or inborn intuition, what represents the quintessence of the science of Sufism, what amounts to the benefit that is peculiar to it and sets it apart from other sciences, and what is its primary constituent.

Once you have established that source-concept in your mind, you can then dive into the sea of the detailed judgments about that science.

As stated by Ibn Zikrī al-Fāsī in his commentary on this work, if the reality (haqīqah) of something is comprehensively ignored, it is not possible to know either the acceptance or the refutation of whatever judgment is ascribed to it.

The source-conceptualization of the reality, distinct benefit and elemental matter of any science dealt with in speech, once formed in your mind, allows you to revert to it whenever you need to discard particular aspects of it that merit rejection, accept other, acceptable aspects, affirm the originality of whatever is original (i.e. linked to the root) in it, or remove from it vague genericity whenever a particularized treatment is required.


If you skip the first step of the basic conceptualization, you have no root to cling and go back to, and you will invariably loose your way in a confusing maze of disjointed details you are unable to re-connect to their primal springhead, i.e. to their firmly holding conceptual container.

No wonder Zarrūq  mandates us not to cause this step to be retarded by the advancement of what is conditional on it. A person’s conviction that the judgment on Sufism is established for him is suspended until he mentally conceptualizes Sufism.

Passing that judgment he feels entrenched in himself to others and proclaiming it (= informing about it) to the outside world in a promotional mode are likewise conditional on that conceptualization and subsidiary to it.

This is therefore the entry point:

Defining what is the reality of Sufism, its benefit and elemental matter is, accordingly, the prefatory task the author performs for us in this lucid book.

Foundation 2 takes the matter logically further.





The identifying essence of something is its reality, and its reality, in turn, is what the totality of such a thing indicates.

Defining that is done by a statement concisely alluding at its essence (hadd), which is more encompassing, or by a definitional tool mentioning the specificities of such a thing (rasm), which is clearer, or by an explanation (tafsīr) of what it is, which is more complete in clarifying it, and reaches people’s understanding more quickly.


Sufism has been gifted several definitions in each one of those three modes (hadd, rasm and tafsīr), the number of which reach approximately two thousand definitions.

All these myriad definitions are traced to the truthfulness of one’s orientation to Allah, Exalted is He. They are purely different modes of expressing the said unifying source, and Allah knows best.





“The identifying essence of something is its reality”:

They are synonyms sharing the specificity of existence, since the non-existent has neither identifying essence nor reality, only a concept and a name. The term māhiyyah (“identity”, “identifying essence”) is in fact derived, as mentioned by the experts, from the interrogational phrase “mā huwa” (“what is it?”). It is that by which a thing is what it is. The non-existent, by contrast, has no “he-ness” (huwiyyah) and no “what-ness” (shay’iyyah).

The reality (haqīqah) is derived from real (haqq) when it is entrenched. Reality cannot therefore be the property of anything other than what is entrenched.

Though synonymous with haqīqah, the term māhiyyah may also be used to indicate what is rationally comprehended of a thing, in which case it is more general than haqīqah.


 “[A]nd its reality, in turn, is what the totality of such a thing indicates”:

In other words, what is indicated by its parts and its essential aspects that are either expressly proclaimed or inferred from their corollaries. A general exposition is thus not paid regard to when defining a thing.


“Defining that is done by a statement concisely alluding at its essence (hadd), which is more concentrated”:

It encompasses the essential aspects of a thing better than the definitional tool of rasm.


“[O]r by a definitional tool mentioning the specificities of such a thing (rasm), which is clearer”:

It means that the tool of rasm is closer to human understanding, is easier and is clearer, to whoever desires the definition of something, than the hadd, because probing the essential aspects of something is difficult, even with regard to sensory phenomena that are outward matters.


“[A]n explanation (tafsīr)”:

It is to explicitly mention the most well-known synonym of the thing.


“[W]hich is more complete in clarifying it”:

The wording used, due to its widespread use, its constant circulation on people’s tongues and the listener’s familiarity with it in terms of conventional linguistic usage ensures that no obscurity befalls it and no confusion muddles it in any way.


“[A]nd reaches people’s understanding more quickly”:

The human mind hastens to understand the meaning of what is part of familiar usage purely upon hearing it.


“[T]he truthfulness of one’s orientation to Allah, Exalted is He”:

Its presence in the slave is established by the fact that he is harmoniously pleased with his Master and with love of Him. That is the sum-total of the Dīn the Messenger, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, brought.


The author has thus identified the essence of Sufism with its reality, which is what the entirety of Sufism indicates, and this reality is a truthful orientation towards Allah the Exalted on the part of His slave. There are numberless variegated ways of defining this single reality, of indicating what this truthful orientation consists in.


In terms of the science of logic (mantiq in Arabic, from an etymological root meaning to articulate a speech), the definitional method called hadd

(= demarcating limit) is, generally speaking, a statement that indicates the identifying essence of a thing. In the technical vocabulary of the logicians (which is what Shaykh Zarrūq has in mind here), it signifies “a statement that encompasses what a thing shares with other things alongside what differentiates it from any other thing” [Cf. al-Jurjānī’s At-Ta`rīfāt].

One can thus tersely define Sufism in such a way that, while mentioning aspects it has in common with other sciences of the Dīn, sets it apart from the rest at the same time.

Another, similar way of describing the hadd, is to say that “it is to mention the genus and the distinguisher, i.e. that part of the essence of a thing which singles it out from the remainder of things”. A textbook example mentioned in this connection is the definition “man is a talking animal” [Cf. al-Akhdarī’s As-Sullam fī al-Mantiq, a poem on the essentials of logic, with its commentaries].

As one can see, few words are used which gather the essence of the thing.


As for the definitional method that is called rasm, it broadly consists in mentioning the specificities which are exclusive to a thing, such as peculiarities that only Sufism possesses. Technically, it denotes “the mention of the genus of the relevant thing and the specificity, the latter being the description of a totality that is external to the essence of such thing, and which the different units of a single reality are all characterized by” [Cf. al-Akhdarī, op. cit.].

The  rasm (literally, sketch or mark) might be complete, by highlighting, of the thing so defined (for instance, man), both the immediate genus (the genus of animals) and the peculiar specificity in question (e.g. the fact that he laughs), whereupon we say, ‘Man is an animal endowed with laughter’ – That is the variety which al-Akhdarī considered in his aforesaid definition; or incomplete (as when we say, ‘Man laughs’ or ‘Man is a laughing creature’ generically [Cf. Al-Mu`jam al-Wasīt; At-Ta`rīfāt; at-Tahānawī’s Kashshāf Mustalahāt al-Funūn].

Lastly, an elucidation or tafsīr of Sufism would spread out in detail its characteristics, in the same way as we might say about man, ‘He is a biped whose toes are set apart from one another, whose skin protrudes out, who stands upright and who laughs due to his connatural disposition to laugh.’




If there is abundant disagreement about a single reality, that is a pointer to the difficulty of grasping the totality of it.


If, then, the many divergent views concerning that single reality are traceable back to one root only which encompasses the entire spectrum of views expressed about it, any particular way of expressing that reality, from among those disparate expressions, is the result of how one understands it.

All the different verbal ways of indicating such reality would then be particularizations of that one uniform root, and every person, in indicating that reality, pays heed to the share he has extracted from it, either in terms of knowledge of that reality, acting it out, being plunged in one spiritual state (hāl) [1] of it, tasting it, or whatever.


The disagreement on how to define Sufism falls within that category.

Accordingly, in his book Al-Hilyah [2], Abū Nu`aym [3], may Allah have mercy on him, traced most of the people whose biographies he included in it, at the time of “embellishing” his repute, to a particular statement of his which accorded with his distinctive state, saying: “It has been said that Sufism is indeed as he put it.”

By so doing, he made the reader realize that whoever has a share in truthful orientation to Allah has a share in Sufism, too, and that the Sufism of each one of them is precisely the truthfulness of his orientation to Him, so understand.




A truthful orientation to Allah is conditioned on the prerequisite that it should accord with what the Real, Exalted is He, is pleased with, and that its means to accomplish it should be pleasing to Him as well.

What is conditioned (mashrūt), in fact, cannot be valid without its condition (shart): «He is not pleased with kufr (ingratitude) in His slaves» [Sūrah az-Zumar: 7].

That being so, it is necessary to actualize īmān, i.e. confirmation of the truth: «But if you are grateful, He is pleased with you for that» [Sūrah az-Zumar: 7]. That it in turn necessitates the obligation to act by Islam.

There is accordingly no Sufism without fiqh, since knowledge of Allah’s outward judgments, may He be Exalted, is only attained from the fiqh.

There is likewise no fiqh without Sufism, since there is no action unless escorted by a truthful orientation.

Similarly, there is no fiqh or Sufism without īmān, given that neither of them is sound in the absence of it.

All three of them are thus obligatory since they are joined together in the judgment, the way spirits cohere to physical bodies: The spirits cannot in fact exist save in the bodies, exactly as bodies have no life save by the spirits, so understand.


It is in vein that one should understand the statement by (Imam) Mālik, may Allah be pleased with him: “Whoever practices Sufism without the fiqh has become a zindīq (who equates the Dīn of truth to any other dīn); whoever practices the fiqh without Sufism has split up the Dīn; and whoever joins the two of them has actualized the truth.”


I (= Zarrūq) said:

The first one has turned into a zindīq because he has adopted the view that we are coerced to act as we do, thereby inevitably negating Divine Wisdom and Judgments.

The second one has split himself up, as a sinful fāsiq, since his action is devoid of truthful orientation shielding him from disobedience of Allah, and of the undiluted sincerity (ikhlās) that is an inescapable prerequisite of any deed performed for the sake of Allah.

As for the third one, he has realized himself in the truth because he has taken up the Reality in the very essence of adhering to the Truth, so know and understand that.





The slave’s success is conditional on Allah’s pleasure with him. His pleasure is conditioned on the existence of its prerequisite. The prerequisite of Allah’s pleasure with His slave is that such slave should be grateful to Him for the cascade of blessings He has bestowed upon him, without covering up the truth. If that preliminary condition, the slave’s thankfulness in confirming the truth, is missing, what is dependent on it, which is Allah’s pleasure, is similarly lacking. That explains why «He is not pleased with kufr (ingratitude) in His slaves».

In the same way, Sufism is necessary for the purification of the slave’s inward. This essential reality, however, is premised on the condition that the slave engrossing himself with such inward purification must possess Islam and īmān as well. If the two of them are not jointly present, the reality conditioned on their existence, Sufism, cannot exist either.


Ibn ‘Atā’illāh as-Sakandarī stated in his work Tāj al-‘Arūs (“The Bridal Crown”) that beneficial knowledge is the one that assisted in obedience, adheres to fear of Allah, Exalted is He, and halting by His demarcating boundaries. It is the profound knowledge of Allah, may He be Exalted.

The one who proclaims His Oneness loose from any boundaries without fettering himself by the outward judgments of the Law, is cast into the sea of heresy (zandaqah): He is in fact required to be supported by the Reality and bounded by the Law. That is the case with the one who actualizes the truth, since he neither sets forth loosely alongside the Reality nor stops at the outward pillar of the Law, but takes a stance midway between the two [4].


In the Law, the zindīq is put to death without granting him a grace period within which to make tawbah (unless he himself, by his own initiative, comes forward, admits his wrong, called zandaqah in Arabic, and repents).

That shows how seriously our Predecessors such as Imam Mālik, viewed today’s widespread phenomenon of pursuing Sufism without accepting and adhering to the fiqh.

The zindīq is the opposite of the siddīq, the utterly veracious endorser of the truth. The latter views the cosmos from the viewpoint of the Real and says, ‘Everything in it emanates from Allah, whether it is right or wrong.’ The former, by contrast, looks at it from the perspective of the creatures and declares that ‘everything in it is true and right.’ In that way, he levels between Islam and any dīn of falsehood.

As Shaykh Zarrūq underlines, in so doing he “paralyzes” or “disables” Allah’s Wisdom (Hikmah) and Judgments (Ahkām). His Wisdom, in fact, requires that in this world of trial, until Allah inherits it and the Last Day sets in, existence is based on a duality of opposites: Islam and kufr, truth and falsehood, correctness and incorrectness, light and darkness. His Judgments implement that Wisdom and demand a choice between one of the opposites from the slave. The zindīq, instead, having refuted such Wisdom, denies His Judgments, too. He wants the gatheredness of the Reality without the separation of the Law differentiating between the acceptable and the unacceptable, the fruitful and the harmful.


The fāsiq, by contrast, remains a Muslim, but he is not “integral”. In its bare signification, the one quoted by al-Jurjānī, he is the one who proclaims the shahādah but does not follow it up by doing the actions of Islam and developing the firm conviction of īmān. As intended by both Imam Mālik in what Shaykh Zarrūq quoted and by the latter in his clarification of its meaning, it is to engage in the outward shell of Islam’s actions and the standard declarations of a mu’min without the lifeblood of true sincerity in his deeds and sayings, and Allah knows best.




Tracing something to its own root and actualizing it within that very root by establishing the proof that is specific to it, will repel the objection of whoever refutes its reality, inasmuch as truth manifesting in the reality will prevent the entrenchment of opposition to it.


The root of Sufism is the station of active beneficence [5] or Ihsān, which the Messenger of Allah, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, elucidated by stating that it meant “to worship Allah as if you saw Him, and, though you cannot see Him, with the knowledge that He sees you[6].

The entire spectrum of meanings of truthful orientation to Allah reverts in fact to this root and revolves around it, since the wording of the hadiīth is a pointer to the slave’s quest for conscious watchfulness of the Lord (murāqabah) that is conditional on the steady presence of a truthful orientation on his part.

Accordingly, the encouragement to conscious watchfulness is an encouragement to pursue Sufism itself.

In a similar fashion, fiqh or jurisprudence rotates around the station of Islam, and the science of the root-principles of the Dīn [7] around the station of Īmān.

Sufism is, therefore, one of the components of the Dīn that was taught by Jibrīl, peace be upon him, so that the Companions, may Allah be pleased with all of them, might learn it, so understand.






“The station of active beneficence or Ihsān”:

In Al-Mubīn fī Sharh al-Arba`īn (“The Clear work on the elucidation of the Forty Hadīth”), al-Fākihānī stated that what was meant by ihsān was mastering acts of worship, perfecting them, putting them right in a manner befitting them, paying due regard to Allah’s rights, may He be Exalted, concerning them, being watchful about Him, bringing to one’s attention His Immensity and Majesty when stepping into them, and persevering in them.”


[T]o worship Allah as if you saw Him, and, though you cannot see Him, with the knowledge that He sees you”:

Al-Kirmānī mentioned in Al-Kawākib ad-Darārī (“The Shining Stars”) that its meaning was that your observe the etiquette required if you saw Him and He saw you, due to the fact that He sees you, not the fact that you see Him. This meaning is present, even though you do not see Him, because He sees you. Its essential fruit is to encourage complete sincerity in worship and reaching the utmost limit in being vigilant about Him whilst performing it.


The specific proof that corroborates the reality of Sufism is the endorsement and definition of the station of Ihsān, found in the said agreed upon authentic hadīth. If one, therefore, actualizes Sufism by living out Ihsān as the Prophet, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, has described, and connects Sufism to its original root which is a truthful orientation to Allah, then the denial of the reality of Sufism by its opponents, and there have been many, would be silenced at source.


Murāqabah is a key term among the Sufis. Ayman Hamdī defined its general meaning as the heart’s aware knowledge that Allah is watching it at every moment [Cf. Qāmūs al-Mustalahāt as-Sūfiyyah]. Countless definitions of this reality and of its sub-divisions have been provided by the experts.




The conventional naming of a thing is part of what indicates its meaning, makes one sense its reality, suits its subject-matter, and identifies its signification, without any confusion or infringement of an essential arch-rule of either the Law or custom, without any obliteration of a foundational issue of the Law or a customary matter, and without any contrariness to a derivative legal judgment or contravention of any legal aspect. Add to it the fact that the word describing such a thing is capable of syntactical declension, and that its accurate formulation is accomplished. When all of that is present, there is no ground for refuting that thing.

The name for Sufism, at-Tasawwuf, fulfils all the said criteria.

It is in fact an Arabic name, of intelligible meaning, with a complete morphological composition, free from any dubiety, ambiguity or obscurity.

Not only that, since its root-derivation makes one realize its meaning at once, just as the word fiqh gives you an immediate understanding of its association with the judgments of Islam and with outward actions, and the term usūl brings to mind the rulings pertaining to īmān and the ascertainment of the truth of intangible realities endorsed by one’s inner conviction.

What is an imperative in the two of them – fiqh and the source principles of the Dīn – is an imperative in Sufism, too, as they all share the same root and the same report that has been transmitted on their realities as part and parcel of one Dīn, so understand.





“The conventional naming of a thing”:

Shaykh Zarrūq says in ‘Uddah al-Murīd as-Sādiq: “Knowledge of the technical terms of hadith, fiqh and other such sciences is obligatory under all circumstances, especially the technical nomenclature of the Sufis, which is important given its unusual words and its indication of meanings that are clear and well-known to them: whoever ignores them will oppose their expressions out of falsehood, and his neck will be bereft of accurate verification of truths.”

The common root of fiqh, usūl (ad-Dīn) and Sufism is that the Dīn necessitates all three of them from the slave. Their common textual transmission is the said hadīth reported by al-Bukhārī and Muslim, where Jibrīl, peace be upon him, established the truth of the three stations of Islam, Īmān and Ihsān.

What is imperatively demanded of each of those three stations is what is set out at the beginning of this foundation: The widespread coinage of a declinable Arabic noun, its congruity with the Law and with linguistic custom, etc.




Etymological derivation necessarily calls for us to pay attention to the meaning of the derived word and the meaning of the root it is derived from.

The import of the derived word may be sensed from its wording: if multiple, it will be sensed in more than one way; if those different ways can be reconciled, so be it, otherwise, each one will perceive the meaning of what he has understood of it, so long as it is free from any opposing element in the root.


Many different statements have been put forward as to the etymological derivation of the word at-Tasawwuf, Sufism. Five are those that are more tangibly connected to reality:

1.     The statement of those who allege that it comes from the word as-sūfah, meaning the single piece of wool, because the Sufi, in his dealings with Allah, is like a discarded piece of wool incapable of any self-management;

2.     It derives from sūfah al-qafā, the tiny strands of hair that grow on the nape of one’s neck, due to their softness, since the Sufi, like that hair, is soft and makes himself negligible;

3.     Its source root is the noun as-sifah, the defining attribute of something, since the totality of Sufism consists in imbuing oneself with the characteristics of whatever is praiseworthy and giving up any censurable attribute;

4.     It branches out of the noun as-safā’ or unalloyed purity. This particular view has been validated, to such an extent that Abu’l-Fath al-Bustī [8], may Allah show mercy on him, declaimed the following lines of poetry: {People about the Sufi argued and differed, * some saying from the wool it derived, ignorantly. I only give this name to a lad * who’s pure, purified, and is thus called a Sufi.}

5.     It is traced to as-suffah, the Bench or Veranda, as every Sufi is a follower of the People of the Veranda in respect of the defining attribute Allah has firmly associated with them when He said, may He be Exalted: «They call their Lord morning and evening, seeking His Face» [Sūrah al-An`ām: 52; Sūrah al-Kahf: 28]. This is indeed the root to which every view that has been put forward on the meaning of the noun Sufism is ultimately traced back to, and Allah knows best.




The ruling assigned to the subordinate follower is like the one applying to the one he follows insofar as the aspect in which he follows him is concerned. That is the case even though the one thus followed is better than the follower.

At the beginning of their affair, the People of the Veranda were all poor people, so much so that they were known as “Allah’s guests”.

Later, one found among them the wealthy person and the Emir, the one earning his living through some profession and the penniless fellow. In spite of their subsequent diversity, they all gave thanks when this world fell into their hands, and exercised patience whenever it was lost.

Having some shares of material benefits did not remove them from what their Master had described them by, namely, the fact that they would call him «morning and evening, seeking His Face» [Sūrah al-An`ām: 52; Sūrah al-Kahf: 28].

At the same time, it was not the fact they lacked any portion of this world which earned for them praise, rather, the fact that they deliberately sought the Face of the King Who justly rules His slaves and repays them purely in accordance with their actions. The reason for praising them is not qualified by the condition of being either needy or prosperous.

Accordingly, Sufism is not exclusively related to either penury or affluence, so long as its practitioner intentionally seeks Allah’s face thereby, so understand.





Even in Arabic syntax, we speak of a noun which is a follower (tābi`) of another noun. The former, being subordinate to the latter, must agree with it in case declension, number and gender. An example of it is the badal or substitute. An even more intelligible illustration is the na`t or descriptive. If I want for instance to provide a description for the noun for earth, ard, which is singular and feminine, and, let us say, it is the doer of an action, hence in the case of regularity or raf` (= as ardun), the descriptive “pleasant”, which I am conferring on the earth, being a follower, must similarly be singular, feminine and in the raf` = tayyibah. Everything in existence thus yields to Allah’s shaping of an orderly, regular world. The noun so described is accorded a higher rank in a syntactical context. It can in fact exist on its own, and a sentence would still be valid, whereas the ancillary, such as a descriptive, by its nature has no existence independently of what it is accessory to.

Likewise, the first Sufis were the People of the Veranda, and every one who came after is his subordinate follower in this science. Had the People of the Veranda not been there, no one of those later followers would have existed.  




A difference in designations might be due to the fact that more than one reality is involved, or it might be caused by the existence of different degrees within the selfsame reality.

It has been said that the designations “Sufism”, “spiritual neediness” (faqr), “self-reproach (malāmah)”, and “being drawn close to Allah (taqrīb)” are instances of the former category, i.e. they are ways of defining different realities; the alternative view has also been advanced that they are illustrations of the latter category, i.e. one reality but different appellations for it. This is indeed the sound view.


If, however, we wished to differentiate between them in detail, we would say that the Sufi is, more specifically, the one who acts in the field of purifying his time (waqt) [1] from whatever is other than the Real. If other than the Real drops from his hands, he would be the one in need of Allah or faqīr. The self-castigating exemplar (malāmatī) from the ranks of either the Sufis or the spiritually needy is he who neither manifests good nor harbours evil. That is the state of the affiliates to the spiritual path who pursue professions or seek their livelihood by engaging in intermediate causes of earning and their likes.

As for the one who is drawn close to Allah by a puling force, he is the one whose states have become perfected. He is thus by his Lord for his Lord. He receives no information save from the Real, and can settle with none but the Real, so understand.  





“If other than the Real drops from his hands, he would be the one in need of Allah or faqīr”:

Abun-Najīb as-Sahrawardī said that “spiritual poverty” (faqr) was different from Sufism, the furthermost point of it, its end, being the beginning of the latter. Similarly, zuhd was other than faqr. Faqr for them did not simply mean neediness and lack of means. Praiseworthy poverty in their eyes meant trust in Allah and wholehearted satisfaction with His apportionment of material benefits.


“The self-castigating exemplar (malāmatī) from the ranks of either the Sufis or the spiritually needy is he who neither manifests good nor harbours evil”:

The source of this statement is found in Abun-Najīb as-Sahrawardī’s Ādāb al-Murīdīn, where he states: “The Sufi is other than the self-castigating exemplar (malāmatī). The malāmatī, in fact, is he who neither manifests good nor harbours evil, whereas the Sufi is he who is not busy with creation and pays heed neither to their acceptance nor to their rejection.”


The malāmatī is a single exemplar of the malāmiyyah. They were highly praised by Muhyid-Dīn b. ‘Arabī. As al-Jurjānī said, they are people who do not outwardly manifest what is in their inward and who exert themselves in realizing perfect sincerity. They place matters in their apposite loci that had already been firmly established beforehand in the Unseen, and their volition or knowledge does not oppose the Will of the Real, Exalted is He, or His Knowledge. They neither discard the intermediate causes for attaining one’s livelihood, unless the context demands that they be discarded, nor do they validate such causes save whenever the situation requires their validation. Whoever, in fact, removes an intermediate cause from a context where the One Who set it up has confirmed the need to take by it has acted foolishly, oblivious to the worth of that cause; whereas whoever relies on one such intermediate cause in a context necessitating it to be pushed aside has associated partners with Allah and has swerved away from the truth, mixing it with what is not part of it.

These people, al-Jurjānī concludes, are those about whom Allah is reported as having said (in a hadīth qudsī): “My intimate friends are found under My domes. No one but I know them.”




The mere existence of divergent paths does not necessarily entail a difference in the intended destination. The goal might well be one and the same, in spite of the different routes to reach it. That is the case of worship (‘ibādah), relinquishment of worldly superfluities (zahādah), and deep knowledge of reality or gnosis (ma`rifah): They are all avenues to draw near the Real through the path of His granting a generous opening to the one engaged in any of them.

They are mutually interlaced.


The gnostic must necessarily engross his self with worship, or else no heed can be paid to his gnosis, since he would not be worshipping the One he has knowledge of.

Gnosis similarly requires renunciation of worldly redundancies as a must, otherwise no reality would be left in the gnostic’s grasp, given that he would not be shunning what is other that Him.

In a likewise fashion, the worshipper cannot possibly dispense with the other two realities, gnosis and discarding worldly surpluses. There is in fact no worship without deep knowledge, and no unhindered devotion to worship unless one has cast out worldly excesses.

Zuhd, i.e., foregoing worldly extravagances that are supererogatory and unnecessary, is the same in this regard, for it cannot exist in the absence of gnosis, nor is there any possible zuhd without worship, lest the repudiation of redundant worldly lots turns into mere idleness.


True, in spite of their mutual interconnection, if action is prevalent in one person, he is a worshipper; if what predominates in him is renunciation, i.e. omitting something, he is a zāhid who does away with worldly superfluities; whereas, if his major inclination is to deeply ponder the way the Real manages affairs, he is a gnostic.

All of them are Sufis, and Allah knows best.





“[I]f action is prevalent in one person, he is a worshipper”:

The worshipper (‘ābid), Zarrūq wrote in his 17th commentary on Ibn ‘Atā’illāh’s Hikam, is he who strives to make his action true for the sake of attaining his hope.

In another work of his, Sharh al-Haqā’iq wa ar-Raqā’iq, Zarrūq defines him as the one who seeks to verify the trueness of his actions and making them sincere without being concerned with spiritual states, their rectification and close examination, even though no spiritual state can be perfected for him save by his actions, since such a state is not his objective in terms of immediate resolution.


“[I]f what predominates in him is renunciation, i.e. omitting something, he is a zāhid who does away with worldly superfluities”:

The zāhid is for Zarrūq (17th commentary on Ibn ‘Atā’illāh’s Hikam) the one who flees from the existence of creatures in the outward, so that his yearning may be exclusively devoted to his Master on the carpet of volition and safety. In Sharh al-Haqā’iq wa ar-Raqā’iq he writes: “The pivotal axis around which the zāhid’s actions revolve is to discord lowly matters and rid himself of defects and harms, until, eventually, his zuhd leads him to relinquish what is other than his Master out of his belittling anything beside Him. He is precious, of high value, and with an elevated yearning attached to lofty matters.”


[1] This is an essential term in the Sufis’ technical lexicon. Abū ‘Alī ad-Daqqāq expressed it as follows: ‘The time is what you find yourself in.’ Similar to that is al-Jurjānī’s definition of it: “Time is an expression standing for your spiritual state. It consists in what your preparedness obligatorily necessitates”. 


[1] Entire volumes could be spent on defining this term and dealing with it in detail. Essentially, it is a meaning that comes upon the heart without affecting it, intentionally attracting it or acquiring it on purpose, be it delight or sadness, dilation or contraction, longing or stirring motion of the heart, or deferential awe.

[2] Hilyah al-Awliyā’ wa-Tabaqāt al-Asfiyā’.

[3] He is Ahmad b. ‘Abdillāh al-Mihrānī al-Asbahānī al-Ash`arī ash-Shāfi`ī (336-430 AH), the famous traveler, biographer and historian (he penned the renowned History of Isfahan as well, a work on the signs of Prophethood and an alphabetical dictionary of Companions).

[4] It is a direct reference to Sūrah al-Furqān: 67.

[5] The doing of good, and not just the willing thereof.

[6] It has been reported by al-Bukhārī, on the authority of Abū Hurayrah, as well as by Muslim through the transmission from ‘Umar b. al-Khattāb, may Allah be thoroughly pleased with both of them, in the Book of Īmān, Chapter on the Elucidation of Īmān, Islam and Ihsān and the Signs of the Hour. It is the famous narration where Jibrīl comes to the Companions in incognito to teach them their Dīn, which is an integral totality of Islam, Īmān and Ihsān.

[7] Usūl (ad-Dīn), which is the science that studies ‘aqīdah.

[8] He is a poet from Bust (near Sijistan), virtuous, knowledgeable and an elegant writer. He was born in 330 AH and died in Bukhara in 400 AH).


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