The origin of Sufism dates back more than 1400 years ago, to the time of the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh). In general, social, cultural, ethnic and tribal influences which shape and form religion by the hands of people are mistaken for the genuine message of religion.
However, well-known scholars attest to the true origin of Sufism. Ann Marie Schimmel, in The Mystical Dimension of Islam, states that Sufism traces its origin back to the Prophet himself, as the Prophet Mohammad is the first link in the spiritual chain of Sufism. His ascension through the heavens becomes the prototype of the mystic’s spiritual ascension into the intimate presence of God.
The Sufi phenomenon is not easy to sum up or define. The Sufis never set out to found a new religion, a mazhab or denomination. They were content to live and work within the framework of the Islamic religion, using texts from the Quran . Their aim was to purify and spiritualize Islam from within, to give it a deeper, mystical interpretation, and infuse into it a spirit of love and liberty.
In the broader sense, therefore, in which the word religion is used in our time, their movement could well be called a religious one, one which did not aim at tying men down with a new set of rules but rather at setting them free from external rules and open to the movement of the spirit.
There is a Sufi way, a Sufi doctrine, a form of spiritual knowledge known as ‘irfan or ma’rifat, Arabic words.
The concept of Shari’a, Tariqa, and Haqiqa are interconnected for the Sufi practitioner. Shari’a is derived from the Arabic root shara’a, ‘to introduce’ or ‘to prescribe’ and refers to the canonical law of Islam. Tariqa literally translates to ‘path’ and is used as a synonym for ‘school,’ ‘brotherhood,’ or ‘order’ of mystical Sufis. Haqiqa means ‘truth’ or ‘reality’ and refers to the concept of an esoteric essential truth that transcends human limitations.
It is the relationship of the three that scholars and philosophers have contemplated and debated throughout the history of mystical Islam. This three part series will examine the fundamental exoteric and esoteric components of the relationship between the Shari’a, the Tariqa, and Haqiqa.