THE ROLE OF TASSAWUF
The branch of Sharia that deals with the spiritual condition of the heart (a’mal batini) is called Tasawwuf, and the branch of Sharia relating to physical acts (a’mal zahiri) is called Fiqh. The subject matter dealt with in tasawwuf is the beautification of character (tahdhib al-akhlaaq) while its motive is the attainment of the divine pleasure of Allah (ridwan). The method of acquisition of this divine pleasure is total obedience to the commands of the Sharia.
Tassawuf is the spirit (ruh) and the state of perfection of the religion. Its role is to rid man’s heart (batin) of vile, unrefined attributes such as:
- Love of the world
- Love of fame
- Calamities of the tongue
- Pride e.t.c
At the same time, tasawwuf seeks to adorn the heart with the lofty attributes of:
- Perseverance doing good and abstaining from evil
- Fear of Allah
- Love for Allah
- Remorse over sins
- Contemplation e.t.c
In this way, awareness of Allah is instilled in man which is the true purpose of life itself! It is obligatory for every muslim to follow the path of tassawuf (i.e. to seek rectification of the heart) for without it one cannot be described as a perfect, complete believer.
THE NEED FOR TASSAWUF
Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi RA states in the introduction of Haqiqat Al-Tariqat:
After rectification of beliefs and external acts, it is fardh (compulsory) upon every Muslim to rectify his esoteric acts. Numerous Quranic verses and an untold number of ahadeeth explicitly indicate the obligation of this. however, most people of superficial understanding are heedless of it because of their subservience to base desires. […]
Is there any doubt that noble qualities have been commanded, and the base traits (of evil) forbidden? This is the actual meaning of reforming the esoteric acts. This is the primary purpose of the spiritual path (tariqa). That it is obligatory (fardh) is without doubt an established fact.
TASSAWUF IN LIGHT OF THE QURAN
Both external (zahiri) and internal (batini) acts and duties are commanded in the Qur’an. For example, Allah commands us to “establish the prayer and give Zakat” (Qur’an, 2:43), He also commands us to “be grateful unto Allah” (Qur’an 2;172).
Similarly, along with the verse “When they stand for prayer, they stand halfheartedly” (Qur’an 4:142), is to be found “They show people” (Qur’an 4:142) i.e. they perform prayer for ostentation. Therefore just as the Qur’an reprimands and condemns those heedless of prayer and zakat, it also condemns evil qualities like arrogance and vanity. Just as the Qur’an commands us to worship outwardly, it also commands us to develop good qualities and abstain from evils inwardly.
The same applies to ahadeeth. Just as detailed chapters on prayer, fasting, trade, commerce, marriage, and divorce are to be found in hadiths, so too are detailed chapters on ostentation, arrogance, and so on found.
(The above is an edited excerpt from The Path to perfection published by White Thread Press. Mujlisul Ulama of South Africa first published this book with the title Shariat and Tassawuf. To read the PDF copy please click here.)