Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Sufism from Philip's Encyclopedia

Mystic philosophical movement within Islam that developed among the Shi'ite communities in the 10th and 11th centuries. Sufis stress the capability of the soul to attain personal union with God. See also Dervish


Summary Article: Sufism from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Mystical movement of Islam that originated in the 8th century. Sufis emphasize the development of spiritual knowledge of God, and believe that deep intuition is the only real guide to knowledge. They follow the Shari'a (law of Islam), but are also trained through meditation and other spiritual practices to concentrate on a direct experience of God. The movement has a strong strain of asceticism (severe self-discipline), rejects material values, and emphasizes humility and kindness. Sufi leaders are called shaikhs. There are a number of groups or brotherhoods within Sufism, each with its own method of meditative practice, one of which is the whirling dance of the dervishes.

Sufism was originally influenced by the ascetics of the early Christian church, but later developed within the structure of orthodox Islam. The name derives from Arabic suf, a rough woollen robe worn as an indication of disregard for material things. Many Sufis in the past have used poetry, music, and stories to express their experience and love of God.

© RM, 2016. All rights reserved.

Related Credo Articles

Full text Article Sufism
Chambers Dictionary of the Unexplained

A mystical tradition of Islam the adherents of which aspire to a direct, personal experience of and union with God. Sufism began in the late 7th...

Full text Article Sufism
Bloomsbury Guide to Human Thought

The name ‘Sufi’ comes from the Arabic word suf (‘wool’). In the 8th century, the century following the death of...

Full text Article Sufism (Arabic sufi: wearer of a woollen cloak, mystic)
The Macmillan Encyclopedia

A mystical movement arising within Islam in the 8th and 9th centuries AD . The goal of the Sufis was mystical union with God achieved by...

See more from Credo