The Principles of Tasawwuf
by Sheikh Muhammad al-Ya`aqubi
إن مبادي كل فن عشره الحد و الموضوع ثم الثمره
و فضله ونسبة و الواضع و الاسم الاستمداد حكم الشارع
مسائل و البعض بالبعض اكتفى و من درى الجميع حاز الشرفا
1. The definition- (الحد) Hundreds of definitions of Tasawwuf have been drawn. The great scholar sidi Ahmed Zarouq says: ”Tasawwuf has more than two thousand explanatory definitions; all ultimately refer to the following: True devotion to Allah from where He likes by the means He likes (صدق التوجه إلى الله من حيث يرضاه بما يرضاه) Some of the common definitions are: Acting upon knowledge العمل بالعلمNoble characterالتصوف أخلاق Acquiring the good characters and getting rid of the bad.
2. The subject-الموضوع: The Divine Essenceالذات العلية as how Allah can be known. Another opinion says that the subject of this discipline is hearts and souls; because it works on their purification and cultivation. Both opinions are correct as the latter looks at the goal and the former looks at the means; as it has been correctly said, ”He who knows himself will know his Lord”.
3. The fruit- الثمرة: The fruit or the benefit of this discipline is the purification of the heart and knowing the Master of the worlds.
4. The merit- فضله :Tasawwuf is a noble discipline of high merit. Its nobility stems from from its subject. Al- Ihsan الإحسان is one of the three levels of this deen and the highest.
5. The relation of this discipline to others- نسبته إلى غيره من العلوم: Tasawwuf is the base of the Sharia; without it all acts of worship would be imperfect. It is the core of the Quran and the Sunnah and the tissue of muslims spiritual life. Imam Malik says: من تصوف و لم يتفقه فقد تزندق و من تفقه و لم يتصوف فقد تفسق و من جمع بينهما فقد تحقق ”Whoever acquires tasawwuf without fiqh is a heretic and whoever studies fiqh without tasawwuf is unrighteous and who combines both has the reality”
6. The pioneer- الواضع : The word al-wadi means the one that sets forth this branch of knowledge. It is of course the Prophet (s). Many ahadith highlight this fact, most famous of wich is hadith Jibril (s). The first one who made this knowledge known is Sayyiduna Ali (r) and then his son Sayyiduna al-Hasan (r) and al-Hasan al-Basriy.
7. The name- الاسم: The name of this science is tasawwufعلم التصوف The word is derrived from souf: wool; or from safa: purity; or from suffa: the special place of a group of the sahaba in the Holy Sanctuary of the Prophet .
8. The sources- الاستمداد : Tasawwuf relies on al-Quran and as-Sunnah as the sources and proofs of its material. The sayings of the great scholars are a rich treasure for the seekers and the masters alike.
9. The legal ruling- حكم الشارع : The legal ruling of studying tasawwuf is fard i.e. obligatory. Since all human beings are susceptable to sins save for the Prophets. Imam Abul Hasan ash-Shadiliy saysمن لم يتغلغل في علمنا هذا مات مصرا على الكبائر و هو لا يشعر ”Who does not deeply study this discipline will die persisting on major sins without being aware of it”.
10. The issues discussed- مسائله: Tasawwuf tackles some of the cardinal elements of the deen such as ikhlas: sincerity; sidq: truthfulness; wara: religious cautioness; tawakkul: reliance; zuhd: asceticism; mahabba: love; and similarly their opposites, wich are called the diseases of the hearts such as insincerity; hypocrisy; arrogance; greed. It also tackles some of the subtlest subjects such as the passing of thoughts; the states of the heart; inspiration. One of its most important subjects is dhikr, the remebrance of Allah and its virtues; another is the sheikh and his qualifications, the disciple murid and his adab.
Basic works in tasawwuf:
Inna mabadi´a kulli fan-in ´ashara al-hadd-u wa l-mawdu`u thumma ath-thamara
The Definition: al-haddu
True devotion to Allah from where He likes by the means He likes
Acting upon knowledge
Subject: al-mawdhu`u (al-mawdu`)
Divine essence: adh-dhatu al-`aliyya (adh-dhat al-`aliya)
The fruit: Ath-thamara-tu (ath-thamara)
The merits: Fadhluhu (fadhluh)
The relation of this discipliine to other: Nisbatuhu ila ghayrihi mina al-`ulumi
Imam Malik says: Man tasawwafa wa lam yatafaqah faqad tazandaqa, wa man tafaqqaha wa lam yatasawaf faqad tafassaqa wa man jama`a baynahuma faqad tahaqaq
The pioneer: al-wadhi`u (al-wadhi`)
The name: al-ism (al-´ism)
Science of tasawwuf: `ilmu at-tasawwufi (`ilm at-tasawuf)
The sources: al-istimdadu (al-´istimdad)
The legal ruling: hukmu ash-shari`i (hukm ash-shari`)
Imam ash-Shadhili says: Man lam yataghalghal fi `ilmina hadha ma-ata musirran `ala al-kaba´iri wa huwa la yash`ur (man lam yataghalghal fi `ilmina hadha maata musirran `ala al-kaba´ir wa lam yash`ur)
The issues discussed: masa´iluhu (masa´iluh)