Sufism is the inner or mystical dimension of Islam. A Sufi is a mystic who strives towards eternal communion with God It is believed that Sufism came into existence in the eight and ninth century as a result of the impersonal and formal nature of Islam. The search for deeper meaning began with a pietistic asceticism which lead to the development of Sufism. The Sufis follow the path towards God by means of love.
From their practice of constantly meditating on the Quran, these ascetics became known as "those who always weep" and those who considered this world "a hut of sorrows." They were distinguished by their scrupulous fulfillment of the injunctions of the Qur'an and tradition, by many acts of piety, and especially by a predilection for night prayers. The introduction of the element of love, which changed asceticism into mysticism, is ascribed to Rabi'ah al-'Adawiyah (died 801), a woman from Basra who first formulated the Sufi ideal of a love of God that was disinterested, without hope for paradise and without fear of hell.
The Sufi saints have a large following among Muslims and Hindus of every stratum. A number of Hindus come from all parts of the world for the mela at Jalalani Sharif. There is no place for religious differences among Sufis and hasn't been since the centuries. Sufism has no room for fundamentalism or fanaticism because it has challenged the institution of the ‘mullah’ (Muslim cleric).
Sufi’s have over the centuries played a significant role in the evolution of techniques and disciplines that have influenced mystics in all religions achieve a higher state of consciousness. For example the practices of fasting for ten (Daha) or forty (Chalihya) days, staying up for meditation at night (Jago), and repetition of God’s name as a Mantra are all contributions made by the Sufi’s.
Over the years, many different Sufi orders were formed in different places which include the Chisti, Mevlevi, Qadri, Naqshbandia etc.
Although different Sufi orders have various principles and rituals, the central ones are:-
1. Fana - . The doctrine of passing away or merging with God (Fana) is a central issue in the structure of Sufi theory.
2. Yakin - Complete faith in God.
3. Tawwakul - Trust in God.
4. Muraqba – It is the Sufi word for meditation. Literally it means “to watch over” and is probably derived from ‘raqib’ or a watchman and refers to the desirability of contemplating the attributes of God or the life hereafter.
5. Zikr - The practice of "zikr" is the central feature in all Sufi orders. "Zikr" is the Arabic word for the devotional practice of the "remembrance of God," It is performed by the repeated invocation of the Names and Attributes of God. It is based on the Qur'anic verse in which God says "Remember Me and I will remember you," During Zikr, concentration is aimed at 6 subtle points in the body The practice of "zikr" may vary in different orders; but its ultimate object is to create spiritual awareness and love for God. It can be practiced individually, or collectively. Some orders perform it silently (khafi) and some loudly (jali); all under the direction of the Sufi master.
6. Murshid & Mureed - Concept of a spiritual teacher or a guide (Murshid) and the disciple (Mureed).