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Location: Karachi, Pakistan

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Owaysi Order: Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What does the word Sufism ( Irfan ) mean?

A: Some scholars said that Sufism is derived from the word ahl-suffa - the People of the Bench- which refers to the platform on which Prophet Mohammad and the believers used to sit while worshiping God. Others say that they were named Sufis because of their habit of wearing suf (wool).

And yet others have concluded that Sufis were named so because of the safa – purity - of their hearts and the cleanliness of their actions. Therefore, the practitioners of safa are called Sufis, meaning “pure-hearted.” The aim is to reach a state of purity, through which they would be in direct relationship with God and attest to the Oneness of God. Reaching this state means that no other but God is in one's heart – safa .

The word that captures the essence of Sufism is irfan , derived from the word ma'rifa which means “knowing” or “cognition.” This refers to cognition of oneself and the cognition of God.

Q: Is Sufism a new religion?

A: Sufism is not a new religion. It has existed since the beginning of human history, for its seed lies within every human heart. Sufism is the essence of the prophets' teachings. It is the way of the prophets. In each age, God has sent prophets to lead people to the knowledge of Him - Zoroaster, Buddha, Moses, Jesus, Mohammad (Peace be upon them) - to name a few. Each prophet has brought humanity a unique instruction to be learned and mastered in order to progress on the inward journey toward “God.”

The great ninth century Sufi, Bayazid Bastami, described the history of Sufism by stating,

“Its seeds were set at the time of Adam, and formed at the time of Moses, and they ripened at the time of Jesus. In the time of Mohammad, they were made into pure wine.”

Q: Why do we need a teacher to practice Sufism?

A: In order t o travel to unknown lands, one needs a guide. Rumi, the renowned 13 th century Sufi, stated, “Whoever travels without a guide needs two hundred years for a two days' journey.” On the journey of Self-knowledge, the seeker needs a teacher to whose care he/she is given so that by the teacher's guidance, he/she may overcome the obstacles of the journey and find the way to the source of knowledge within.

The spiritual teacher provides the guidance of one who has been there, and knows the way to attaining purification and the highest wisdom. The spiritual teacher, called the “Pir,” (meaning “The Light of the Path”) illuminates the darkness to help seekers to find their way.

Q: Does one need to become a Muslim to follow the Sufi path?

A: No. Following a verse in the Qur'an ( 2:56 ), “Let there be no compulsion in religion,” converting to Islam is neither required nor recommended. The M.T.O. Shahmaghsoudi, School of Sufism® teaches stability, not change. Sufism teaches the reality of religion. The path to discovering this Reality is through Self-cognition. Boundaries and categories that mankind has created to further generate difference is not applicable to the path of Self-Cognition.

Q: What is the role of women in Sufism?

A: There exists no gender identity in Sufism. Sufism teaches that the intent of religion is for the spiritual elevation of each individual, and that religion addresses the soul, which is not subject to gender classification. It is above any notions of ‘masculine' and ‘feminine.' Indeed, at M.T.O. Shahmaghsoudi, School of Sufism®, women serve as instructors, researchers, recite the Koran, lead zikr, teach meditation classes, and are regarded as equals to men.

Q: What is the relationship between Sufism and Islam?

A: Sufism is commonly known as the mystical dimension of Islam. In fact, Sufism is the body, soul and spirit of Islam and so the two cannot be separated. Sufism is the essence of each and every religion. It teaches that if one cognizes his/her true identity, one cognizes God. “Islam” means submission, surrendering to the ultimate knowledge of Existence, to God. The goal of Sufism is submission to God by way of Self-knowledge in order to achieve unification – like a drop in the sea.

Q: How can I find out more information about Sufism?

A: There is much literature on the topic of Sufism. Please see M.T.O. Publications for a list of books, pamphlets, tapes, videos and CD's in several languages. You can also send us an email at and we can assist you in finding more information.

Q: Are there classes nearby I can attend?

A: Yes, we have centers throughout the United States . Sessions about Sufism, zikr, retreats, and meditation are available. Please check our map for locations, types of classes offered, and the days and times. The M.T.O. Sufi Association also has ongoing events you can participate in.

If you have a question about Sufism, or have a suggestion for a FAQ, please write to us at:


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