Sufism or tasawwuf, as it is called in Arabic, is generally understood by scholars and Sufis to be the inner, mystical, or psycho-spiritual dimension of Islam. Sufism (Sufism) may be best described as a mystical practice that emphasizes certain unique rituals for guiding spiritual seekers into a direct encounter with God. Muhammad is considered their chief prophet and many consider Sufism to be a mystical brand of Islam. Today, however, many Muslims and non-Muslims believe that Sufism is outside the sphere of Islam. The essence of Sufi practice is quite simple. It is that the Sufi surrenders to God, in love, over and over; which involves embracing with love at each moment and the contents of one's consciousness (one's perceptions, thoughts, and feelings, as well as one's sense of self) is considered as gifts of God or, more precisely, as manifestations of God.
Definition: When asked about Sufism, Junayd said, "Sufism is that you should be with God- -without any attachment."
Ruwaym ibn Ahmad said, "Sufism consists of abandoning oneself to God in accordance with what God wills."
Samnun said, "Sufism is that you should not possess anything nor should anything possess you."
Etymology: Sufism is a difficult term to actually define because its meaning is supposed to have derived from various words, with differing connotations: Bishr ibn al-Harith has said that, "the sufi is he whose heart is sincere towards God." Thus, one of the words from which Sufism is supposed to have derived is safa meaning pure -- this due to the purity of the sufis' heart.
The conventional view is that the word originates from Suf (صوف), the Arabic word for wool, referring to the simple cloaks the early Muslim ascetics wore. However, not all sufis wear cloaks or clothes of wool.
Others suggest the origin is from "Ashab al-Suffa" ("Companions of the Porch") or "Ahl al-Suffa" ("People of the Porch"), who were a group of Muslims during the time of the Prophet Mohammad who spent much of their time on the veranda of the Prophet's mosque devoted to prayer. They were a group of people who were the devotee of Allah. So, it is a spiritual way of devoting God. Yet another etymology, advanced by the 10th century author Al-Biruni is that the word, as 'Sufiya', is linked with Sophia, the Greek term for "wisdom" - although for various reasons this derivation is not accepted by many at the present.
Basic belifs: The essence of Being/Truth/God is devoid of every form and quality, and hence unmanifested, yet it is inseparable from every form and phenomenon either material or spiritual. It is often understood to imply that every phenomenon is an aspect of Truth and at the same time attribution of existence to it is false. This apparent paradox of the relationship of creator and created is the basis of Sufi metaphysics. The chief aim of all Sufis then is to let go of all notions of duality, including a conception of an individual self, and to realize the Divine unity.
Sufism: Name and Origin: Sufism is generally believed to have originated among Muslims near Basra in modern Iraq, though there is a history of Sufism in Transoxania dating from shortly after the time of Muhammad. Almost all traditional Sufi schools (or "orders") trace their "chains of transmission" back to Muhammad via his cousin and son-in-law Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib; the Naqshbandi order is a notable exception to this rule, as it traces its origin to caliph Abu Bakr. Worth noting is that the original Islamic scriptures (Qur'an, tafsir Ibn Ishaq ,tafsir al-Tabari) have no mention whatsoever of Sufi traditions or practices.
Some orientalist scholars believe that Sufism was essentially the result of Islam evolving in a more mystic direction. For example, Annemarie Schimmel proposes that Sufism in its early stages of development meant nothing but the interiorization of Islam. According to Louis Massignon: "It is from the Qur’an, constantly recited, meditated, and experienced, that Sufism proceeded, in its origin and its development."
Remembering God or Sufi practices:
Dhikr:Dhikr is the remembrance of God commanded in the Qur'an for all Muslims. To engage in dhikr is to have awareness of God according to Islam. Dhikr as a devotional act includes the repetition of divine names, supplications and aphorisms from hadith literature, and sections of the Qur'an. More generally, any activity in which the Muslim maintains awareness of God is considered dhikr.
Some Sufi orders engage in ritualized dhikr ceremonies, the liturgy of which may include recitation, singing, instrumental music, dance, costumes, incense, meditation, ecstasy, and trance.
Hadhra:Hadhra is a form of dhikr practiced primarily in the Arab world. The word Hadhra means Presence in Arabic.
Qawwali: Qawwali is a form of devotional Sufi music common in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Afganistan, Iran and Turkey. It is known for its secular strains. Some of its modern-day masters have included Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and the Sabri Brothers. Amir Khusro, a disciple of Nizamuddin Auliya, of the Chishti Order, is credited with inventing Qawwali in the 14th century.
Sama:Sama or Sema' (Arabic "listening") refers to Sufi practices which can involve music and dance. (In Uyghur culture, this includes a dance form also originally associated with Sufi ritual.,
Khalwa:Khalwa refers to a form of retreat, once widespread but now less common.
Struggle With One's Nafs : The behavioral absolutes of the shari'ah (Islamic law) set the outer limits that the Sufi must keep within. But the Sufi struggle with one's nafs puts further curbs on the Sufi's behaviour and consciousness. Usually this struggle is spoken of as having two dimensions: negation (nafy) and affirmation (ithbat), corresponding to the two components of the first shahadah (testification of faith), La ilaha (There is no deity) and illa Allah (except for God). The "negation" can be said to take the form of attempting to control oneself from acting out one's anger or gratifying addictions.
The "affirmation" can be said to take the form of embracing and engaging the presence of God in whatever form it may appear within one's consciousness.
In this regard, the struggle with one's own nafs has been called the greater struggle or greater "holy war" (al-jihad al- akbar) in contrast to the lesser struggle (al-jihad al- asghar), which is against injustice and oppressors in this world. The concept derives from the popular hadith of the Prophet, in which he said to Muslims returning from a battle, "You have returned from the lesser struggle to the greater struggle." And he was asked, "What is the greater struggle?" He answered, "The struggle against one's self (nafs), which is between the two sides of your body." Needless to say, in Sufism these two struggles are mutually reinforcing and occur simultaneously.
In particular, the practice of "engaged surrender" in the "greater" struggle with one's own nafs diminishes certain obstacles in the consciousness of the Sufi, obstacles that--if not stuggled against--will hinder the Sufi's capacity to engage in the "lesser" struggle in their life in the world.