What is a Sufi?

Tasawwuf is an Arabic term for the process of realizing ethical and spiritual ideals; meaning literally “becoming a Sufi,” tasawwuf is generally translated as Sufism.

The primary obvious meaning of the term comes from suf, “wool,” the traditional ascetic garment of prophets and saints in the Near East. The term has also been connected to safa˒, “purity,” or safwa,“the chosen ones,” emphasizing the psychological dimension of purifying the heart and the role of divine grace in choosing the saintly.


Sufism… is the process of making life natural… By this process of Sufism one realizes one’s own nature, one’s true nature…  Sufism means to know one’s true being, to know the purpose of one’s life and to know how to accomplish that purpose.

from Social Gatheka 7, Sufism, by Hazrat Inayat Khan

The real spirituality is in living a life of fullness, in penetrating all planes of existence. It is a deep insight into life which is the sign of spirituality. Spirituality is the raising of the consciousness from personhood to Godhood. Spirituality is the widening and expanding of the heart as a bubble expands to an ocean. Spirituality is in raising the soul to the greatest heights and touching the deepest depths. Spirituality is in forgetting one’s false self and realizing one’s real self. Spirituality is enjoying and appreciating all things; understanding and comprehending everything; using and utilizing everything to its best advantage; surmounting difficulties; solving problems; clearing clouds of confusion and depression. Spirituality is fearlessness, joyfulness, calmness, and peace. 

Pir Zia Inayat Khan

Sufism is not rituals and forms and is not bodies of knowledge, not doctrines, not ideas, not theories. But it is impeccable manner, the manner of the lover in the presence of the Beloved.

Abu’l-Hasan al-Nuri, a great early Sufi

Mawlana Jalal al-Din Rumi, the great poet, was a professor in Konya and he used to teach his students with big piles of books stacked up in front of him. One day a seeming madman blew in from the dessert and rather rudely interrupted the class. He came to the front and, pointing at the books, said, “What’s all of this?”

Rumi couldn’t be bothered by a foolish question like that and said, “You don’t know.” He gestured to him to sit in the back and there Shams, the dervish, sat. Suddenly the pages of the books started to burn. Great flames were leaping from the desk. Rumi jumped up and said, as he looked at Shams, “What is this!”

Shams replied, “You don’t know.”

Ultimately, transcendent knowledge can never be encapsulated in words and is always passed down from heart to heart.

from a talk giver by Pir Zia Inayat Khan

Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay 

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