A mystical movement of Islam. The name derives from the
woollen clothing (suf), worn by Sufis as a token of penitence,
similar to the Christian penitent tradition of wearing hair
In medieval times Sufism was characterized by a complex
system of striving for spiritual attainment and divine grace.
The spiritual stages involved include conversion, abstinence,
renunciation, poverty, patience, trust in God, and contentment;
with spiritual states of meditation, nearness to God, love,
fear, hope, longing, intimacy, tranquility, contemplation, and
certainty. Much of this is analogous to the yama and niyama of
Hindu yoga.
There were four orders of Sufis the Qadiriyya, an orthodox
wing emphasizing devotional exercises leading to spiritual experience;
the Suhrawardiyya, less orthodox and with a suggestion
of pantheism; the Shadhiliyya (widespread in Egypt and
North Africa) with intense devotion and utter dependence on
God; and the Mevlevi order, founded by the poet Rumi, which
developed the special mystical dance of the dervishes.
Sufism has influenced religious movements in India, Java,
and elsewhere and played a part in the development of such
unorthodox prophets as Baha’u’llah of the Baha’i faith and the
mystic Meher Baba. The major emphasis in Sufism is intense
love for God, expressed in the perfection of the soul.
A Western Sufi organization is the Sufi Order (headed by Pir
Vilayat Inayat Khan), whose traditions are said to predate Islam
and to have become incorporated in it. In 1910 the Sufi Order
was established in Europe and the United States through the
lectures of Hazrat Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan. The order
stresses that God is one and that there are no barriers between
religions. Address Sufi Order Secretariat, Box 574, Lebanon
Springs, NY 12114. British branch Barton Farm, Pound Lake,
Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, England.
A separate group of the Sufi movement is the Sufi Islamia
Ruhaniat Society. Address The Mentorgarten, 10 Precita Ave.,
San Francisco, CA 94110.
Another Sufi group is the Sufi Cultural Center in London,
established in 1971. It places great emphasis on the mysticism
of music, and encourages the teaching of classical Indian music
with the more modern adjunct of health foods and alternative
healing. (See also Idries Shah)
Khan, Pir V. The Message in Our Time The Life and Teachings
of the Sufi Master, Hazrat Inayat Khan. New York Harper & Row,
Shah, Idries. The Sufis. London W. H. Allen, 1964.
———. The Way of the Sufi. New York E. P. Dutton, 1970.
Subhan, John. Sufism Its Saints and Shrines. York Beach,
Maine Samuel Weiser, 1973.
Williams, L. F. R., ed. Sufi Studies East and West. London
Octagon Press, 1974.