10 Principles of Taṣawwuf

Al-Mabādīy’at al-ʽAšharah are the ten fundamentals which every student should know before delving into a particular subject. This helps in knowing what it is about and what can be achieved from the subject.

Indeed the fundamentals of every science are ten:

The definition, the subject, and the fruits,

Its merit, relationship and founder,

The name, basis, and ruling of the lawgiver,

And the legal cases. Though some is sufficient

The one who obtains it all gains nobility.

  1. Definition
    Purification of the heart. True devotion to Allah in the ways He likes by the means He likes. Acting upon knowledge; Acquiring good character and getting rid of the bad.
  2. Subject
    Allah, as to how He can be known; or hearts & souls, as to how to purify them.
  3. Fruit
    The purification of the heart and knowing the Master of the worlds and attaining the Station of ihsān.
  4. Merit
    Taṣawwuf is of high merit. Its nobility stems from its subject. Ihsān is one of the three dimensions of this dīn and the highest.
  5. Relation to other disciplines
    It is the base of the Šharī’ah; without it acts of worship become imperfect. It is the core of the Qurʼān and Sunnah and the tissue of Muslims spiritual life.
  6. Founder
    The pioneer of this branch of knowledge is of course the Prophet ﷺ. Many ḥadiths highlight the spiritual dimension of a Muslim’s life. The earliest scholar who elaborated on it is al-Hasan al-Basri.
  7. Name
    The word Taṣawwuf is derived from souf (wool). Taṣawwuf has been known by this name since the second century of hijra, i.e. the time of the salaf. It has been frequently called `ilm as-Sulûk (initiatic travelling & spiritual behaviour), `ilm al-Ihsân, `ilm at-Tarbiyah (cultivation) or `ilm at-Tazkiyah (purification).

    Scholars agree before it’s name, it was always a reality without a name.
  8. Sources
    Taṣawwuf is derived from Qurʼān and Sunnah. The sayings of the great scholars represent a rich treasure for the seekers and the masters.
  9. Ruling
    Acquiring Taṣawwuf is fardh i.e. obligatory; since all human beings are susceptible to sins except the Prophets. Imam Abul-Hasan ash-Shadilii said: “He who does not truly acquire this discipline will die persisting on major sins without being aware of it.”
  10. Purpose
    Taṣawwuf tackles some of the cardinal elements of the deen such as sincerity; truthfulness; religious cautiousness (wara’); conscious awareness (khushû’) reliance; asceticism; love; and similarly their opposites, which are the diseases of the hearts such as insincerity; hypocrisy; arrogance; greed etc. It also tackles subtle subjects such as the passing of thoughts; the states of the heart; inspirations. One of its most important subjects is dhikr, the remembrance (i.e. in the evocation & recitation of the name) of Allah and its virtues; another is the shaykh and his qualifications, the disciple, murid, and his adab.

Foundational works in Taṣawwuf:

  • Hilyat al-Awliya, by Abu Nu’aym al-Asfahani
  • Ihya Ulum al-Din, by al- Ghazali
  • Al-Risalah, of al-Qushayri
  • Al-Hikam, of Ibn Ata’illah
  • Futuh al-Ghayb, by Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani
  • Awarif Al-Ma’arif, by al-Suhrawardi
  • Qawa’id Al-Taṣawwuf, by Ahmad Zarruq

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