Contents > Chapter 8: Worship in Islam > The Concept of the Sufis with regards to Worship


Following is a detailed explanation of the Sufi concepts based solely upon quotation from the books of the Deobandis.

Exaggeration and Innovation of the Sufis in Worship

(1) Taking the Dhikr from other than Allah’s Messenger

It has been mentioned in Irshaadul-Mulook: “Among the conditions for Dhikr is to acquire the Dhikr from a Shaikh of Dhikr just as the Sahabah took their Dhikr from Rasoolullah.”[1]


This condition in Irshaadul-Mulook gives the Sufis their allowance to prescribe innovative forms of Dhikr to their Mureeds (disciples).


Comparing the Sufi Shaikhs to the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) is a clear error, because the Sahabah (radhi allahu anhu) refered to the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) for guidance since he was the sole recipient of revelation from Allah. But the Sufi Shaikhs do not receive any revelation from Allah that their disciples must take Dhikr from them. This comparison is therefore false because comparison is only done in similar matters.


Allah says: “O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and make not vain your deeds.”[2] Hence, any matter of the religion that does not have its origin from the Sunnah can never be beneficial or a source of guidance. This is why the Sufi Dhikr is a source of hardship, torture, anxiety and insanity – as we shall see with ample proofs in this chapter, Insha’Allah.


(2) The Manner of the Sufi Dhikr

From Irshaadul-Mulook, “The Dhakir (one involved in Dhikr) should maintain his body, clothes, and place clean. He should acquire perfect purity by wudhu and ghusl and then sit in the Tashahhud position facing Kiblah, keeping both his hands on his thighs in close proximity to the knees. Alternatively, hold back the right hand with the palm of the left hand, gripping the right thumb with the left thumb… Thereafter, close the eyes and either inaudibly or a slightly raised voice, in whatever manner the Shaikh has instructed, focusing the heart on Allah, recite La-ilaha illaAllah repeatedly, expelling with full force and full attention of the heart all good and bad thought from the heart. Draw La-Ilaha from the heart and deliver with full force ill Allah into the heart.”[3]


This quote describes the manners of the Dhikr of the Sufis, for which there is no proof in the Sunnah. The Sufis act upon these types of Dhikr upon the prescription of their “Shaikhs of Dhikr.”


(3) Achieving Fanaa through Dhikr

From Shamaaim-e-Imdaadiyah, “… its reality (Wahdat al-Wajood) is experienced only when a disciple becomes distant from his own self by striving hard and ignoring every danger. Because when a person becomes unaware of his self, he is unaware of everything. Nothing remains in his thoughts or his sight except Allah. Therefore, all concentration of the disciple is upon Allah. When nothing distracts his attention and he meditates his mind on Allah; then when he opens his eyes, he sees nothing but Allah. (At this stage) the Dhikr of Hu Hu (He He) turns to Ana Ana (Me Me). This stage is called Fanah der Fanah… (Similarly) from the special Ummah, Ba Yazid Bastami said: ‘Subhaani maa Aadhaam-Shaani (Far removed am I from all imperfections, how great is my state) and Mansoor Hallaj said: ‘Anal-Haqq’ (I am the Truth) [4] (click to view scanned image of the quote)


This quote shows the beliefs of the Sufis and what they wish to achieve by their Dhikr. Their Dhikr causes them to experience Wahdat al-Wajood, as they claim.


(4) Dhikr in Isolation and Seclusion

Irshaadul-Mulook states, “The Khalwat Khana (the place of solitude) should be such a small cubicle wherein one may sit cross-legged at the time of Dhikr and stand erect for Salaat. It should be dark inside, not allowing penetrating sunlight and light of the day.”[5]


This “Khalwat Khana” is similar to the extreme punishment reserved only for hardened criminals at prisons whereby they are put in a dungeon secluded from the other prisoners without sunlight or fresh air. Such self-imposed punishments have not been prescribed by Allah and His Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam). “Allah intends for you ease and He does not want to make things difficult for you.”[6]


It should be noted here that the Khilwah is a Sufi practice on its own and is in no way related to the Itikaf in the Masjid. Itikaf involves seclusion from worldly desires, avoiding vain talk and devoting one’s time purely to worship Allah. It has no likeness to the Sufi’s practice of seclusion in a claustrophobic room with no sunlight or fresh air. Itikaf in the Masjids is not done with the extremist belief of abandoning the society because unlike Sufism, Islam teaches the middle course between associating with the people in order to benefit them and avoiding the wastage of time in vain talk and frivolities.  As Ibn Aun, said:  “There are three things that I love for myself and for my brothers (in Islam and one of them is)... That they should leave the people except when intending to do good (for them).”[7]


The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “The believer (Mu’min) who mixes with people and remains patient on their harms is better than the believer (Mu’min) who does not mix with people nor does he remain patient on their harms.”[8]


In the Fazaail-e-Aamaal, Moulana Zakariyah mentions, “…Haatim Asam Balkhy was an ascetic Sufi, who secluded himself in a vault for thirty years. He did not speak to anyone except when it was of dire necessity. When he visited the grave of the Prophet, he merely said, ‘O Allah! We have come to the grave of your beloved. Do not send us away with desires unfulfilled.’ A voice was heard from heaven saying, ‘Indeed, have We granted you the favor of visiting the grave of My beloved so that your greatest wish may be granted. Go forth now. We have forgiven you and your companions and all those who are present here.”[9]

Not only does this story support the Sufis practice of, “Khilwah”, but also assigns a great position for those who indulge in it. Keeping with this important Sufi ritual of seclusion in small rooms, or Khanqahs (hermitage) or graves, Moulana Ilyas prescribed it for his Tableeghi Jamaat, whereby the Tableeghi group goes on its trips for fixed periods of three days, or forty days, or four month. The forty-day period, known to the Sufis as “Chillah” is the same term also used by the Jamaat Tableegh.[10]


The Sufis claim that the Chillah serves as a source of purification. Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi narrates a strange story related to the forty Chillah.


He said, once a devotee went to visit a Buzurg (a Sufi Shaikh). Upon meeting his Shaikh he was greatly saddened. The Buzurg asked, ‘What seems to be the matter?’ He said, ‘On my arrival, I saw a strange thing, that your face looks like that of a pig’. The Buzurg said, ‘Go and spend a period of Chillah (40 days)’. When the devotee returned from Chillah his Buzurg’s face appeared to be like that of a dog. He was asked to spend another Chillah. On his return, the face of his Buzurg appeared to be like a cat. He again went for a Chillah and finally the Buzurg’s face appeared like a human being. The Buzurg said, “These evils were within you. I am just a mirror. The way your condition is the same you have seen in me.”[11]


(5) Holding the breath in Dhikr

This is another addition to Dhikr that has been prescribed by the Sufi Shaikhs, and many references can be found in the books of the Sufis to it. This practice is very similar to the way of the yogis and ascetics in other oriental religions.


Moulana Zakariyah says: “Shah Abu Saeed Nu’mani once wanted to experience the tajalli, which he had experienced before, so one day he sat down doing the shagl of Habs-e-dam (withholding the breath). He resolved that he will not breath as long as the tajalli does not manifest even if it means death which he preferred to the insipid life he felt he was leading. He held his breath for several hours until finally manifestations of the tajalli occurred.[12]


Moulana Zakariyah says: “Hazrat Nizamuddin al-Umri was instructed by his Shaikh to recite ‘Allahu’ 90 times, in a single breathe, gradually increasing the number in accordance with his ability. Ultimately, he developed his ability to the extend of up to 400 time with a single breath.”[13]


(6) Exaggeration in the number of Dhikr

Fazaail-e-Aamaal exaggerates greatly on the number of Dhikr.


Moulana Zakariyah says: “Fortunate are those pious people who send one Lac twenty five thousand (125,000) times Darood daily. I have heard about this number from some of the pious ancestors of my own family.”[14]


Sending Darood upon Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) is a very meritorious action, but to recite the Darood 125,000 times is not from the Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) (even if it is possible to accomplish it in the first place).


Furthermore, the Sufis speak of total absorption and oblivion of the world due to constant Dhikr.

Moulana Zakariyah says: “Shaikh Muhammad bin Shaik Aarif had gained Istighraaq (absorption) to the degree of perfection in the spiritual state known as Mushaahad-e-Mutlaq (being in divine presence with the Batini heart at all times).”[15]


They also claim that the Sufis whose hearts are continuously involved in Dhikr, continue to do so even after their death.

Moulana Zakariyah says: “After the death of Hazrat Shaikh Abdul Quddus Gangohi, Shaikh Riknud Deen after completing the ghusl, placed his hand on the blessed breast of Hazrat. He felt the movement of Dhikr-e-Qalbi (Dhikr of the heart).”[16]


We do not find any example of such kind of absorption or Dhikr of the heart after death from the lives of the Sahabah (radhi allahu anhu), who are undoubtedly the best of the worshipers. Moreover, Dhikr is an action of the tongue and not the heart, as the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “…Let your tongue be constantly occupied with the remembrance of Allah.”[17]


In Islam, the quantity of deeds does not ensure reward with Allah; rather deeds are accepted by the obedience to Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam). The following narration of Anas Ibn Malik (radhi allahu anhu), shows the importance of Ittiba (guidance or following).


“A group of three men came to the houses of the wives of the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) asking how the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) worshiped (Allah), and when they were informed about that, they considered their worship insufficient and said: ‘Where are we compared to the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) as his past and future sins have been forgiven.’ Then one of them said: ‘I will offer prayer throughout the night for ever.’ The other said: ‘I will fast throughout the year and will not break my fast.’ The third said: ‘I will keep away from women and will never marry.’ When the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) heard this, he called them and said: “Are you the same people who said so‑and­ so? By Allah! Indeed, I am the one who fears Allah the most amongst you, and the most pious of you; yet I fast and break my fast, I pray and I sleep, and I marry women. So he who opposes my Sunnah is not from me.”[18]


Therefore, deeds become insignificant and yield no gain if they are not performed with the Ittiba (guidance or following) of Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam). The three men wanted to perform more prayers and fast, which are great worships, and encouraged by Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) - but this worship would not benefit them because it lacked the Ittiba of Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam), even though their intention was solely to worship Allah and achieve His pleasure.

[1] Irshaadul-Mulook (Eng. Trans.) p.93.

[2] Soorah Muhammad (47): 33.

[3] Irshaadul-Mulook (Eng. Trans.) p.92-93.

[4] Shamaaim-e-Imdaadiyah, p.35 and 36.

[5] Irshaadul-Mulook (Eng. Trans.) p.69.

[6] Soorah al-Baqarah (2): 185.

[7] Saheeh al-Bukharee, vol.9, chapter.2, p.282.

[8] (Saheeh) Narrated by Ibn Majah and at-Tirmidhee.

[9] Faazail-e-Aamal, (Eng. Trans.), Virtues of Hajj, Chapter.9, p.169, story no. 4, (New Edition 1982, Published by Dini Book Depot - Delhi).

[10] See, ‘The Soofi Practices of Moulana Muhammad Ilyas’ by M Anwarul-Haq. [Awake, vol.4, no. 10, p.37]

[11] Maqtoobat wa Malfoozaat Ashrafeeyah (Writings and Sayings of Ashraf Ali Thanvi). A biography of Ashraf Ali Thanvi by Moulana Muhammad Shareef. p.299. 

[12] Mashaikh-e-Chist (Eng. Trans.) p.196.

[13] Mashaikh-e-Chist (Eng. Trans.)  p.192.

[14] Fazaail-e-Aamaal, (Eng. Trans.), Virtues of Darood, Chapter. 1, p.10, (Edn. 1985, Published by Dini Book Depot - Delhi).

[15] Mashaikh-e-Chist (Eng. Trans.) p.171.

[16] Mashaikh-e-Chist (Eng. Trans.)  p.181.

[17] at-Tirmidhee (1443).

[18] Saheeh al-Bukharee.