Sufism is ...


Rather than attempt to limit Sufism with a definition, here are a few quotes from Hazrat Inayat Khan which might help you gain a perspective on Sufism.


Sufism is not a religion, because it does not give any doctrine or principle, but it is a point of view. (From the Gathas, by Hazrat Inayat Khan)

Strictly speaking, Sufism is neither a religion nor a philosophy; it is neither theism nor atheism, but stands between the two and fills the gap. Among the religious, Sufis are considered to be free-thinkers; while among intellectual philosophers they are considered religious, because they make use of subtler principles in life to elevate the soul than can readily be followed by material logic. (From the book, Spiritual Liberty, by Hazrat Inayat Khan)

Is Sufism a religion? ...the religion of the Sufi is not separate from the religions of the world. People have fought in vain about the names and lives of their saviours, and have named their religions after the name of their saviour, instead of uniting with each other in the truth that is taught. This truth can be traced in all religions, whether one community calls another pagan or infidel or heathen. Such persons claim that theirs is the only scripture, and their place of worship the only abode of God. Sufism is a name applied to a certain philosophy by those who do not accept the philosophy; hence it cannot really be described as a religion; it contains a religion but is not itself a religion. Sufism is a religion if one wishes to learn religion from it. But it is beyond religion, for it is the light, the sustenance of every soul, raising the mortal being to immortality. (From Message Volume 1, in the chapter "The Sufi", by Hazrat Inayat Khan)

Sufism is not a religion, for it is beyond the limitations of faiths and beliefs which make the diversity of religions in the world. Sufism, in short, is a change of outlook on life. It is like viewing from an aeroplane a town, the streets of which one has known and walked through, and yet one has never before seen the whole town at a glance. (From the book, Spiritual Liberty, by Hazrat Inayat Khan)

Is Sufism mysticism? As green is considered to be the colour of Ireland, yet it cannot be said to belong exclusively to the Irish people, for anybody can wear green, and green is found all over the world, so mystics in Islam have been called Sufis; but Sufism, divine wisdom, is for all, and is not limited to a certain people. It has existed from the first day of creation, and will continue to spread and to exist until the end of the world. Sufism is a mysticism if one wishes to be guided by it in the unfoldment of the soul. Yet it is beyond mysticism. (From Message Volume 1, in the chapter "The Sufi", by Hazrat Inayat Khan)

Is Sufism a school of thought? Wisdom is not restricted to one geographical spot such as a country, a city, a building or meeting place. Sufism cannot be correctly described as a school of thought, if by that is meant the instruction of a certain doctrine; but it might be correct to speak of it as a school of thought in the sense that through Sufism one learns wisdom, just as in a school one learns wisdom of a certain kind. Sufism is beyond philosophy. (From Message Volume 1, in the chapter "The Sufi", by Hazrat Inayat Khan)

The greatest progress is a constant expansion of the divine spirit, expansion in any direction so long as the ideal of unity is applied; this is the ideal of the Sufis. It is not the desire of the Sufis that all should become members of the Sufi Movement; but the ideal of its members is to invite humans to become members of humanity. Sufism is not a new religion or community; it does not want to add a community to the world. It is an attitude of life, not taught by any particular principle or dogma; it is to tune oneself to a certain pitch, so that the heart can become tuned to the Lord. This is the only religion that exists; this is the only message that Christ gave. (From the book, In an Eastern Rose Garden, by Hazrat Inayat Khan)

One of the words to which the term ‘Sufi’ is related is the Greek Sophia, meaning wisdom; wisdom which is a knowledge acquired both from within and without. Therefore Sufism is not only an intuitive knowledge nor is it only a knowledge acquired from the outer life of the world. Sufism in itself is not a religion nor even a cult with a distinct or definite doctrine. No better explanation of Sufism can be given than by saying that any person who has a knowledge of both outer and inner life is a Sufi. Thus there has never in any period of the world’s history been a founder of Sufism, yet Sufism has existed at all times. (From Message Volume 9, The Unity of Religious Ideals, in the chapter "Sufism", by Hazrat Inayat Khan)

Another word which has a connotation with Sufism is the Arabic word Saf which means pure. All the tragedy in life comes from the absence of purity, and as pure really means to be natural, the absence of purity means to be far from being natural. Pure water means that no other substance is mixed with it, in other words that it is in its natural condition. Sufism, therefore, is the process of making life natural. One may call this process a religion, a philosophy, a science, or a mysticism, whatever one wishes. All the religious teachers who have come to this world at different times have brought this process of purification in the form of a religion. It is not a new process, it is the same ancient process that the wise of all ages have bestowed. If anything new is given in it, it is the form in which it is presented to suit a certain period of the world.  (From Message Volume 9, The Unity of Religious Ideals, in the chapter "Sufism", by Hazrat Inayat Khan)

If anybody asks you, "What is Sufism? What religion is it?" you may answer, "Sufism is the religion of the heart, the religion in which one thing is most important, and that is to seek God in the heart of mankind." (From the book, The Unity of Religious Ideals, by Hazrat Inayat Khan)

The idea of Sufism is to bring humanity, nations, and religions, now so far apart, into harmony and unity by awakening the thought of unity in souls. It is a message not to one community or race only, but to the whole humanity; not a call to join any particular church or religion, but a call to join in the human brotherhood. (From the book, The Religious Gathekas, by Hazrat Inayat Khan)

The object of Sufism is the uniting of life and religion, which so far seem to have been kept apart. When a man goes to church once a week, and devotes all the other days of the week to his business, how can he benefit by religion? Therefore the teaching of Sufism is to transform everyday life into a religion, so that every action may bear some spiritual fruit. (From the book, The Unity of Religious Ideals, by Hazrat Inayat Khan)

The principal teaching of Sufism is that of learning to become a pupil, for it is the pupil who has a chance of becoming a teacher, and once a person considers that he is a teacher, his responsiveness is gone. The greatest teachers of the world have been the greatest pupils. (From the book, The Unity of Religious Ideals, by Hazrat Inayat Khan) 




This page was last updated on Monday, March 27, 2017



Home Page

Website developed and maintained by Khusrau (khusrau at

 Top of Page