A Short Introduction to Origin, Beginning and History of Sufism or Tasawwuf
Sufism or Tasawwuf is the name given to mysticism in Islam. The term Sufism embraces the philosophy and
practices which aim at direct communion between God and man, and those who practice Sufism are called Sufis. Scholars
differ as to the derivation of the term Sufi, for it is not mentioned in the Qur’an or the books of Hadith, nor does it figure in
the standard Arab dictionaries that were compiled as late as the 8th century A.D. According to Qushayri (d. 465/1074),
author of al Risala, the word Sufi was used as a generic term to describe individuals adopting a particular religious attitude
based on austerity and spirituality, and came into usage only at the beginning of the 9th century. This he explains simply:
‘After the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) Sahabi (companion) was the only title given to the Muslims of that period. The
Sufis trace the origin of Sufism or Tasawwuf to the Prophet of Islam. They believe that there were two dimensions to the
revelations received by the Prophet: one took the form of the words of the Qu’ran, the other that of the divine inspiration
within his heart. The former was meant for all, while the latter was to be imparted to the chosen few and conveyed directly
‘from heart to heart’. ‘Book knowledge’ or the knowledge of the words of the Qur’an and hadith was known as ilm-e-safina,
while ‘the knowledge of the heart’ was known as ilm-e-sina. It is generally said that Sufism came into being toward the close
of the second or beginning of the third century of Islamic era. It is a mistaken idea that leads some modern scholars to
connect Sufism with Greek Philosophy, which had begun to creep into the mind of some of learned Muslims. The earliest of
three greatest Islamic mystics were Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.), his life-partner, Bibi Khadijah (R.A.) and Imam Ali
(R.A.). There were others also from prophets’ family and his companions who were actively engaged in Sufi-practices.
However, an overview of their spiritual struggle will entail a long discussion. Hence my little attempt and the aim of this
paper is to trace the origin and beginning of Sufism.
Keywords— Sufism, Origin, Beginning, History.