The face was red with flushing blood as he tried to stop his breath for as long as he could; the eyes bulged out, though staring at nothing; small rivulets of perspiration shone on the forehead; and the voice coming through the foaming mouth was barely audible. He was not merely a fanatic: He was mad--- a paranoid to be exact. But he was not a moron. His intelligence quotient was obviously much higher than that of an average man. He was a qualified professional, an educated man, though he was not working because of his illness. Some how, probably because of my beard, he had a misconception that I was a godly person or, to put it more precisely, of his `clan'. So he took no time to open up with me. `People think I am mad, but you know... though we have to keep mum about it... you know, I am Imam Mehdi...'
His spiritual exercises had made him physically ill too. High blood pressure, kidney trouble and what not. He could scarcely speak when he tried to complete his sentence, and then did that through his gestures, nodding with statisfaction, as if the message had been transmitted to my mind by some telepathic process. Coming out of his trance after sometime, he continued, `The earthquate last night... but you know everything, don't you? It was Mohammad (pbuh)... he came here four times. Rabitai Sheikh [contact with my spiritual guide], yes, Rabitai Sheikh is a must!'
At that point I began to understand, and my suppositions about his problem changed to certainty when he said, `The fragrance of flowers, the song of birds, the air, everything... but then, you know it. Yes, yes, you know it, I am Allah, you are Allah, every thing is Allah!'
A married man with a wife and children, son of an ailing father and an anxious mother, he is only one example of a tragedy which only God knows how many families face, and which comes under the cover of religion. Such men as our Mehdi, like many heroin addicts, are only the victims. Who are the people behind the concepts underlying such tragedies, and what is the name of this intoxicant against which there is no law except the Quran and Sunnah, common sense and sound reasoning? Take cover, a bomb is going to explode, Scuds are going to be fired, and no Patriot is going to save me when I mention the name. Only those who have the courage to know, those who have the will and the strength to analyse any point, and those who are daring enough to accept the truth even if it appears to be against coventional and popular views should continue to read. The name is Tassawuf.
Tassawuf, which is usually called Sufism in English, refers to `Islamic' mysticism. Whatever my paranoiac friend said was infact, perfectly consistent with this discipline which was influenced primarily by Greek mythology, Christian pantheism, and Hindu concepts of theology and Yoga. As Islam spread to Persian, Christian, and Hindu lands, these concepts infiltrated into Islamic philosophy and created a parallel religion that was apparently like Islam, but which contradicted even the basic principles of the Quran and Sunnah.
The problem is that many people regard Hadith and the Sunnah as synonymous terms, whereas the two are quite distinct from each other. The Sunnah (or Sunnati Thaabitah) refers to those established customs of the Prophet that were passed on as religion to the Muslim Ummah (the whole Muslim community) by the Companions of the Prophet through their practical consensus or perpetual adherence to such customs. There is no doubt about the authenticity of the Sunnah as an original source of Islam. Just as the Quran was transmitted by verbal perpetuation, the Sunnah was passed on by perpetual adherence. Therefore, it is a practical explanation of the Quran, and the authenticity of the Sunnah does not depend on the narratives told by a few individuals. An entire society adopted and transmitted the Sunnah of the Prophet, thereby making it an established fact of history.
Hadith, on the other hand, refers to a short narrative which describes a statement, or an action or a tacit approval of the Prophet. Most of these narratives were told by a few individuals at each link of the chain of narrators. Therefore, a Hadith can be regarded as a source of knowledge only if the basis for the Hadith exists in the Quran, or the Sunnah, or the established principles of human nature and intellect. Moreover, it should not be contradictory to any of these bases. Confirming the reliability of a narrator may also be used as an additional criterion for evaluating the authenticity of a Hadith.
Since many Hadiths do not conform to these criteria, and since many were fabricated, it is the comparision of Tassawuf with only the Quran and Sunnah which can help us to draw sound conclusions. What is being presented here to represent Tassawuf is not a collection of whimsical remarks of any Tom, Dick, and Harry, but quotations from highly venerated works of well-known Sufis (proponents and followers of Sufism). These works are considered as most authentic expositions on this discipline. It is not possible to go into the details in the space of a short article like this one. However, a few examples concerning Tauhid---the most important article of faith in Islam---would be sufficient to indicate the difference and contradiction between Sufism and Islam.
The Quranic concept of Tauhid is that there is only one God---Allah. All the characteristics that can only be associated with God cannot be attributed to any one else.
The Quran Says:
`Say: that God is One and Alone! He is along with everyone. He begets not nor was He begotten. And there is none comparable unto Him.'[Surah 112]
Therefore, the whole world is His creation; He is above all, and there is nothing like Him:
`Naught is as His likeness; and He is the Hearer, the Seer.'[42:11]
It is the correct belief in God which enlightens the heart and solves the riddle this universe presents. Every creation points out to the fact that there must be a creator and, therefore, reflects God:
`Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth' [24:35]
The Sufis, however, do not merely believe that `everything is God's'. They move further and their `small step but a giant leap' changes `every thing is God's' to `every thing is God'. Since this is obviously Hindu pantheism, the same concept is put in differnt way as `God is every thing', or more ostensibly as `there is nothing except God'. What is the difference, you ask? None. But there are many who marvel at this semantics. The result is that according to Sufism, Tauhid expressed as laa ilaaha illallaah (there is no God but Allah) is the Tauhid of the `proles' and ordinary people, whereas the Tauhid of the elite and of the selected ones is laa maujuda illallaah (there is nothing but Allah). This means, whatever we see is, in fact, God, because nothing except God exists. And if anything exists, it is God. Sheikh Mohyuddin Ibni 'Arabi writes in his book "Fususul Hikam":
`Although, apparently Creation is distinct from the Creator, in reality the Creator is but Creation, and Creation is but the Creator. All these are from one reality. Nay, it is but He who is the only reality, and it is He Who manifests Himself in all these realities.' [Fassi Idreessiyyah].
This philosophy is called Wahadat ul Wujood and refers to a form of pantheism. The idea is that a knife and a sword, for example, are called by their names and are treated as distinct items. But when their `essence' (steel) moves Waraa ul Waraa ie beyond and beyond all forms and shapes, it is called steel. Similarly, God is seen as the reality which is beyond shapes and patterns, but in essence, immanent in all creation. In the words of Shah Ismael Shaheed:
`For all creation, maa bihitta''yyun1 is only one definite Being'. [Abaqaat,Ishara-i-Awwal, 20th Abaqah]
Another version of this philosophy is called Wahdattus Shuhood. Wahdattus Shuhood refers to a kind of monism where reality is one, and everything else is illusion. This version is again the same philosophy in a different style. According to Shah Ismael Shaheed:
`...deep analysis will show that there is no difference except that due to the difference of their stages and of their ways to reach Laahoot2, they [the proponents of the two versions] have adopted varying styles to express their opionions.' [Abaqat, Ishara-i-Awal, 20th Abaqah].
Such ideas lead to the belief that our bodies are `forms' which obstruct us from going Waraa ul Waraa (beyond and beyond). So, complete self-denial of the physical self and its requirements would join us again with the Ultimate Reality. This idea of self-denial is again not found in Islam, which emphasizes fulfilment of all human needs within specified and natural boundaries. Probably because of the nature of their ideas, Sufis's have always tried to hide their `inner light'. The Prophet was told to communicate whatever truth as revealed to him [the Quran 5:67], but these people have another story to tell:
`Therefore, it should be obvious that the ultimate of all disciplines of Mystic intuition is this Tauhid, and the secrets of this discipline and cannot be written in any book because, according to a saying of "Aa'rifs" [those who have achieved awareness], exposing the secrets of the Divine modes amounts to infidelity.' [Imam Ghazali: Ahyaau 'Uloomid Din, Volume 4, Page 641]
But whenever some Aa'rif in his ecstasy does expose these `secrets', the walls of the tombs of the Sufi saints echo with claims like Annal Haq3 (I am God) and Subhaani, maa aa'zama shaa'ni!4 (I am pure! What an exalted status is mine!)
Everything is God, God is every thing, there is nothing except God, what's the difference! My friend with bulging eyes was not saying anything novel. Misconstruing me to be a Sufi, he was only sharing his secret: `I am Allah, you are Allah, everyone is Allah!' Na'oozubillaah!