The essential message of Sufism is to remember God and serve others. Like all forms of mysticism, it is above all the search for God and this search may be expressed in many different ways, taking various forms. On the other hand, by reason of its esoteric aspects ; it introduces secret practices, initiation rites that vary depending on the masters who teach them.
A Sufi’s way of life is to love and be of service to people, deserting the ego or false self and all illusion so that one can reach maturity and perfection, and finally reach God.
Sufis have no country, and they do not live in any geographic pages. They exist throughout the Islamic world as both, Shia and Sunni. Sufis represent the spiritual or mystical dimension of Islam. Sufism is known as the way of the heart, the way of the pure. It is the path that takes the secret to the divined presence. The term Sufi appears to be derived from the Arabic word “suf” meaning “wool” in the sense of “cloak,” referring to the simple cloaks the original Sufis wore. Some initiates are given a specially designed, coloured wool vest which is symbolic of the woolen robes of poverty worn by ancient dervishes, and signifies the loving commitment of the dervish to serve humanity.
Unity is a core principle of Islam, which refers to the oneness of God or the intimate relationship between God and creation at all levels. However, for the Sufi, unity or tawheed (in Arabic) is a fundamental mystical experience of reality, meansing we arise from God and return to God, and this truth can be experienced and known. Sufis search for their inner soul to communicate with the divine.
History and origins
The first historical traces of Sufism go back to the time of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). He was a profound mystic, and it's said that he taught his son-in-law, Hazrat Ali the techniques and inner truths of this mysticism. Thus, almost all Sufi schools represent Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and Hazrat Ali, as a door to spiritualism.
The earliest known Sufis were solitary mystics, who attracted followers on the strength of their personal piety. They taught their students the techniques they had used to become friends of God. Those students who attained spiritual realisation in turn, taught others.
By the ninth century, what had originally been in formal teacher-student relationships, formalised with the finding of the orders, originating from a different Sufi saint.
Practices and teachings
Sufis often use music as a source to connect with God. Although musical expression in Islam is often seen as debatable, Sufi musical performances have played an important role in creative literature and poetry, as well as in spreading the message of Islam throughout the world.
Sufi practices including chanting, singing, dancing, and meditation all of which are intended to lead followers towards the experience of annihilation or Fanaa of the ego in God.
Sufism teaches that the ideal state of realisation is in subsistence, where a mystic is conscious of both this unity and of his own individual identity. The Sufis quest is to experience God within oneself, this is often called Marifah.
What is most essential to Sufis cannot be learned, but can only be reached through personal experience and inner transformation.