The Fourth Period

Sufism and the propagation of Sufism

This period is characterized by:

  • Tests of conciliation between Sufism and the other Islamic sciences (Sharia, Fiqh etc)
  • The propagation of Sufism beginning from its centre in Baghdad before moving to Iran and India in the East and the Maghrib and Andalusia in the West.
  • The blossoming of the Sufi brotherhoods (Turuq).
  • The expansion of Sufism from the 3rd Century AH/ 12th Century CE and the blossoming of the brotherhoods (particularly in Morocco), are detailed in the chapter entitled ‘Moroccan Sufism’.

This deals with the relationship between the scholars of the Sharia and the Sufis, which is marked by a certain polemic. The criticism of the scholars were not only directed at the Sufis but were also common between themselves. There was however mutual respect and co-operation between the Sufis and scholars of Sharia. The Sufis were devoted to the study of the books of Islamic sciences and the Sufi scholars which they undertook under the direction of the Masters. Imam Ahmad Bin Hanbal exclaimed after attending a talk by Harith Al Muhassibi: ‘I have never heard the words of knowledge of the truth explained like this man.’

Friendship and brotherhood existed between Bin Mubarak (one of the Masters of Imam Bukhari), author of the famous ‘Sahih’  and the Sufi Fouad Bin Ayad.  Ibn Taymiyya said of Fudayl Bin Ayad that he was the best Muslim of his time….’

The great Imam of hadith, Ibn Khauzima asked GOD that he be buried near the tomb of the Sufi Bikr Al Hafi.  His wish was fulfilled. In this site see the chapter Origins of Sufism / Testimonies (or click here).


After having gained influence over the whole of the central Islamic world including Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt during the 7th/13th and 8th/14th centuries the brotherhoods (who also played a significant role throughout the period of the Ottoman Empire) became the focus for the Islam of the new territories that came under Muslim domination or influence. This included the Indo-Malay territories in the East and West Africa and Andalusia in the West. The brotherhoods made a significant contribution throughout the centuries in presenting the true face of Islam – the Islam of beauty and love.

Sufism not only represented a practical and specific stream of religious thought but also played an important cultural role in Islam. Announced initially in the traditional encyclopaedias as a curiosity, which highlights the aspects of Divine Beauty, it soon influenced modes of expression in Arabic poetry as is found in the ‘Zuhdiyyat’ (ascetic poems). It also played an important role in the development of literature. Sufism then became an important topic amongst the leading poets, particularly in Persian, before it passed into other languages such as Ottoman Turkish and Urdu. Of particular note are the Persian poets; Farid ad –Din (died 627AH/1230CE and Hafiz of Shiraz (died 792 AH/1390CE).

Sufism also appears in other art forms such as dance and music and the Indo-Persian miniatures which decorate the philosopher’s stones in verse and prose. Sufism became an integral and fundamental element of religious thought and Islamic sensitivities and became fully absorbed and moulded into the civilization of the time.

The Literature of the Sufis

To mention but a few there are the works of

  • Harith Al Muhassibi, the book ‘Aloumaa’ of Abu Bakr Kalabadi
  • ‘Risala Qushariyya’ of Abdul Karim Qushayri
  • ‘Ihyaa Uloom ad Deen (Rebirth of the Religious Sciences)
  • ‘Mishkat Anwar’  of Al Ghazali
  • ‘Tabaqat Al Awliya (The Hierarchy of the Saints) of Abdur Rahman Soulami
  • ‘Hilyat Al Awliya’ (The Ornament of the Saints) of Abu Naim Asfahani.

You can view more books click here : Sufi Literature