This blog offers a general overview of Sufism and 193 links to sites on the subject matter. It is a beginner’s introduction to writings on Sufism. But for exploring and experiencing the richness of the Sufi Path, there is no better way than delving into the practice itself through the guidance of a sheikh.

Sunday, May 15, 2005


Introduction. It was some 22 years ago when I first encountered Islam. It was during a trip to Istanbul, which was part of the University of Pittsburgh Semester-At-Sea Spring 1983 Program that I was in. I remember being in trance the whole visit because of the calls to prayer and the hours I spent sitting inside the Sultan Ahmet Mosque or popularly known as the Blue Mosque because of its blue-ish interior tiles.

On the last night of the trip, we, the students of the program were invited to watch a “performance” of whirling dervishes. I didn’t know anything about dervishes and the Sufi tradition, but all I knew during that time was falling into a place of deep peace as I took in the music and watched the endless swirls and whirls of the dervishes. Since then I was curious about Sufism and fortunately, by serendipity, had stumbled upon books by Idries Shah, G.I. Gurdjieff, and the poetry of Hafiz and Rumi. But I didn’t go beyond reading them because I had the impression, owing to years of mis- and dis-information on Islam that women could not become Sufis.

Fortunately, a wonderful class on Race, Religion and Islamophobia taught by Dr. Ibrahim Farajaje at the Graduate Theological Union and a moving dhikr with Moroccon Sufi Sheikh Sidi Ahmed Kostas at the Starr King School for the Ministry this spring erased my notions that only men could be Sufis. Additionally, my own experiences from Tantra yoga meditation over the past 20 years have brought me to appreciate the beauty and depth of Sufism.


Sufi teachers explain Sufism in many ways, but a favorite is that offered by James Fadiman and Sheikh Ragip Robert Frager Al Jerrahi, authors of Essential Sufism. They write: “For thousands of years, Sufism has offered a path on which one can progress toward the “great end” of Self-realization, or God-realization. Sufism is a way of love, a way of devotion, and way of knowledge. Sufism is often described as a path, suggesting both an origin and destination. The aim of Sufism is the elimination of all veils between the individual and God. Traveling this path, one can acquire knowledge of Reality. God is the ultimate reality, not this phenomenal world of multiplicity.” (James Fadiman and Robert Frager, Essential Sufism (Castle Books, 1997) 1.

A Short History of Sufism

Sufism, writes Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, the present Master of the Nimatullahi Order, is the third main group that formed after the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 A.D. The group comprised the companions (ashab) and ascetics (zohhad) of the Prophet’s day consisted, who wanted to focus on “the inner spiritual dimension of Islam and upon the worship of Allah and devotion to the One Reality (Al Haqq).” (Javad Nurbakhsh, Sufi Women, (New York: Khaniqah-Nimatullahi Publications, 1983), 14.) The two other main groups were the Sunnis and the Shi’ites.

Nurbakhsh notes that during the early development of Sufism, Sufis chiefly trained their attention to keeping night-vigils and asceticism (zohd). The night vigils were inspired by the Prophet’s belief that such practice was a virtue. The practice of asceticism, which involved silence, seclusion, fasting, and remembrance of God through repeated recitation of Allah’s various names (dhikr), was regarded as the Sufi’s effort to “abandon the world.” (Nurbakhsh, 17.) By incessant remembrance and utterance of Allah, the Sufi merges with Allah. (Soraya Susan Behbehani, The Messenger Within: Discovering Love and Wholeness Through Meditation (San Francisco: Mellen Research University Press, 1991), 205.)

During this early stage, Sufis had devout hope for a heavenly reward following death, but at the same time were anxious about hell. Hence, they emphasized a life of perfect piety. But in Sufism’s second stage of development, love (eshq) and loving-kindness (mahabbat) of God (Nurbakhsh, 18) – as inspired by woman Sufi saint Rabi'a al-'Adawiya became part of the practice along with asceticism. Nurbakhsh comments that an emphasis on Divine Love eventually replaced the previous emphasis on the fear of God’s punishment.

As Rabi’a-‘Adawiyya al-Qaysiyya of Basra used to pray: “Oh my Lord, if I worship Thee from fear of Hell, burn me in Hell, and if I worship Thee from hope of Paradise, exclude me thence, but if I worship Thee for thine own sake the withhold not from me Thine Eternal Beauty.” (Margaret Smith, Rabi’a: The Life and Works of Rabi’a and Other Women Mystics in Islam (Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 1994), 50.)

In its third stage of development, both the ethical practice and theory of Sufism expanded. By its fourth stage, the speculative philosophy of Sufism, which was part and parcel of the issue of “The Unity of Being” flourished. Throughout the centuries, the tradition saw the rise of notable masters including Jalalod-Din Rumi, Mahmud Shabestari, Fakhrod-Din ‘Eraqi, and Shah Ne’matollah. (Nurbakhsh, 19).

Sufi Women Saints

The Sufi is a person who worships God for God’s sake alone because s/he has witnessed God and knows God. S/he worships God because s/he loves the Divine, which is not an image, idea, or specter of the mind. S/he keeps an eye on her/his heart, collects her/his thoughts and surrenders every care to God, which readies the Sufi for union with God. (Behbehani, 214.)
Such conception of the relations between the Sufi and God, notes Margaret Smith, leading scholar on Rabi’a Al-Adawiyya and other Sufi women saints, left no room for the distinction of gender. She writes that the development of Sufism within Islam gave women the chance to attain sainthood. Rabi’a Al-Adawiyya was undoubtedly the foremost of the women mystics of Islam. However, there were many women both during her time and after her, who also became saints and made contributions to the growth of Sufism. (Smith, 21.)


Rabi'a al-'Adawiya

Rabi'a al-Badawiya

Women and Sufism

Sufi Orders in the West

Women and Sufism

The Practice of Meditation

Sufis use different kinds of meditation techniques. One practice is silent meditation that starts with inhaling and exhaling one of the names of Allah. While thoughts, emotions, sensations are not repressed and allowed to be experienced, the meditator gently brings her/his attention back to God. (Mohammad Shafii, M.D. Freedom from the Self: Sufism, Meditation and Psychotherapy (New York: Human Sciences Press, 1985), 93.)

The Stages of Sufism

In the practice and understanding of Sufism, there are four stages, writes Sheikh Ragip Robert Frager Al Jerrahi, co-author of Essential Sufism. These are religious law (shariah), the mystical path (tariqah), Truth (haqiqah), and Gnosis (marifah), which he defines:

Religious law or Shariah, which means ‘road’ in Arabic, comprises the teachings on morals and ethics of Islam that provide guidance on how to live properly in the world.

The mystical path or Tariqah is the practice of Sufism and literally means the path – which is not clearly marked, even visible -- in the desert that the Bedouin would follow to go from oasis to oasis. And to find one’s way, one needs the guidance of a Sufi teacher (sheikh).

Truth or Haqiqah is the Sufi’s direct experience of God within.

Gnosis or Marifah is knowledge of Reality, which is that “ongoing state of attunement with God and with Truth.”

Finding A Teacher

The basic test for a real Sufi teacher is s/he practices what s/he preaches. As Sheikh Ragip Robert Frager Al Jerrahi notes, “Empty words have no weight.”

Sufi Orders in the West

More links below

Sufi-Related Resources

Sufi Women

Rabi'a al-'Adawiya

Rabi'a al-Badawiya

Sufi Women Organization sufi

Women and Sufism

Women and Sufism

Discussion Lists and Web Forums

Threads of Love Sufi Conference

Caravansarai: an informal discussion list for friends and for visitors of

Discussion list for A CHERAG'S LIBRARY

Chishtiyya discussion group

Hafiz mailing list

Mushkil Gusha discussion list

Osmanli Naksibendi discussion group

Sufi Circle (MSN Community for ahlus-Sunnah wal Jammah Sufis)

Sunlight mailing list
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Abjadiyyah Malay Martial Arts, Sufism and Sunni or

Ahl-i Allah (People of Allah)

Ahmed Baki's Sufism and Science Page

Alan Godlas’s Website: Islam and Islamic Studies

Almiraj Sufi Books

Alif Publishing: Books on the Sufi Tradition

Allah-Sufism-Islam from author Ahmed Hulusi or newsgroup

Amir Khusro Dehlavi website (Sufi poet from 13th century)

Aouliya Foundation (Qadiri-Chishti tariqa in Melbourne, Australia)

Australian Centre for Sufism

Baba Farid website

Based on the teaching of hazrat Sultan Bahoo

Barzakh Foundation Homepage

Barzakh Foundation: Sufi Healing for AIDS patient

Bawa Muhaiyaddeen Fellowship

Belgium Sufi Center (in Flemmish and French)"

Book of Soul by 17 century Saint Hazat Sultan Bahoo (R.A)

BOOKWEAVER: Books For The Mind Body and Spirit

Centro Naqshbandi de Psicología Transpersonal (Argentina)

Paul Cheneours Sufi Music site

A Cherag's Library -- links to sacred scripture from many traditions intended for use by the Cherags of the Church of All and of all churches founded by Hazrat Inayat Khan

Chishti Qadhiri order

Chishti website


David and Chandra's Qawwali Page

Dervish Project -- DVD movie about altered states of consciousness while doing Sufi practices in the Sufi Order International

Gharibnawaz (Indian Chisti Sufi Center)

Gohar Shahi

The Golden Sufi Center-Events and Publications

Gurdjieff and Sufi Paths

Haqqani Foundation homepage

Hazrat Nizamuddin Spiritual Foundation:

"The Heart of True Love"

The HU Page

Ibn Arabi Society

Il Giardino della Conoscenza

International Association of Sufism

International Sufi Movement


Islam and Muslim Links

Islam Understood & Wisdom (from Indonesia)

Islami Roohani Mission (Naqshbandiya Mujaddediya tareeqah)

Islamic Bookstore: Islamic Mysticism section

ISRA: Islamic Studies and Research Association

Jaffe Institute of Healing on Spiritual and Physical Levels, returning the heart and spirit to oneness with God

Jamil Islamic Center Of California -- Naqshbandi Haqqani Order

Halveti-Jerrahi Order

Katinka Hesselink Net Sufism: articles on universal Sufism, from Idries Shah, Robert Frager and Inayat Kahn.

Konya, Turkey pictures (including Rumi's tomb)

KOTKU Education, Friendship and Assistance Foundation (Naqshbandi tariqa)

Khusro: Videos for sale of Amir Khusro's Music

"La Rosa Mystica"

Madrassa -i- Towheed Homepage

Makhdoom's Quality Quest pages on islam, shah, sufism, poetry, and sindh)

Masjid al-Farah

Master of the Jinn: A Sufi Novel

Maternal Sufi Order-TGNJ-RVA

Meem Connection

Mevlevi Order of America

Mevlevi-Order in Germany

Moon.Over.Medina: A Sufi Bookstore

"Movimento Sufi Internazionale in Italia e Ticino" (Official Italian representative of The International Sufi Movement, under the guidance of Shaikha Dahnya Bozzini-van Gelder, e-mail: )

MTO Shahmaghsoudi website

Muhayiddin Ibn Arabi Society

Murabitun Worldwide Movement

Muridiyya International: Sufi school of Shaykh Abdoulaye Dieye

Sufi Musfaad homepage

Naqshbandi Center in Argentina - Islam in its true form

Naqshbandi-Center of Sheikh Nazim Efendis Murids (in German)

Naqshbandia Dargah of India/Pakistan: Luari Sharif

Naqshbandi Foundation for Islamic Education

Naqshbandi-Mujaddedi Sufi group in London, UK.

Description: Sufi group in London, UK offering teachings of the Naqshbandi, Mujaddedi, Chishti, Qadiri and Shadhili orders.
Naqshbandi Order (Shaykh Mahmud Es'ad Cosan of Istanbul)

Naqshbandi-Haqqani Homepage

Nimatullahi Sufi Order (Khaniqah Nimatullahi) - Contains the principles and practices of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order. Includes books on Sufism, the Sufi magazine, poetry and music.

Ni`matullahi-Safi `Ali Shahi Sufi Order

A Sufi Resource of Nuradeen

Nur Ashki Jerrahi Sufi Order

Nur Ashki Jerrahi Sufi Circle of Atlanta discussion/announcements group

Omega Publications: Sufi Books, Music & Gifts

Oveyssi Sufism (see
MTO Shahmaghsoudi)

Parole Soufie (in French)

Pearl Publishing House

Petama Project (International Sufi Movement)

Polish Naqshbandi Mujaddidi group

Postcards from the Path

Qadiri-Nushahi Homepage
Distribution of rare Dhikr on audio cassettes from around the world

Qadiri Rifa'i Order

Qalandariya (Sheikh Baba Sultan)

Radiant Valley Association -- Tariqat Nabvi Gul Nur Jehaniya

Rare 16mm Film entitled Islamic Mysticism: The Sufi Way

Rifai-Kadiri-Arusi Tariqas

Rifa'i Marufi Order of America
created in collaboration with the dervishes in the Rifa'i Marufi Order, Site featuring music, videos, photos and text that offers the seeker a multimedia experience of Sufism as it is practiced in the USA.

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

Rumi html file, about his life and a collection of poems

Rumi's Spiritual Path

A Mevlana Jelauddin Rumi home page: Shamsuddin's Homestead in the Internet Wilderness

A tribute to Rumi

Russian Sufi page

Saraswati Society (Mevlevi Whirling in Great Britain)

Seattle Area Sufi Order International Community Page

Serving the Guest: An Online Sufi Cookbook

Shadhiliyyah Sufi Center of North America

Shaduli Sufi Center for Healing and Mystical Studies

Shahmaghsoudi Sufism (see
MTO Shahmaghsoudi)

Sidi shaykh muhammad al-jamal ar-rifa'i as- shadhili's teachings:

Snow Upon the Desert – An Extensive List of Sufi Resources

South African Sufi Site

Spiritual Foundation

Story Park: Sufi stories, poetry and more

Sufi and Rumi Links

Sufi Book Catalog

Sufi Cabala

Sufi Center Bookstore

Sufi Circle (MSN Community for ahlus-Sunnah wal Jammah Sufis)

Sufi Conference: A Celebration of Love and Wisdom

Sufi Events and Conferences

Sufi Films

Sufi Foundation: Workshops with Adnan Sarhan

Sufi Healing Order

Sufi Music, art, and books..UlhaqBrothers

Sufi-Mystic - Questions/Answers about Sufism, Gudri Shahi Sufi Order (Ajmer, India),
Sufi-related resources

Sufi Saint School

Sufi Order International (formerly the Sufi Order of the West)

Sufi Order Switzerland

Sufi Path

Sufi Poetry

Sufi Portal

An Article on Sufi Psychology and Cosmology

The Sufi Reiki Association

Sufi Saint Pir Aboo Bakar Shah

Sufi Saints and Sufism Ancient Wisdom, Principles, Practices, and teachings of the Great Masters.

Sufi Selected Articles

A Sufi Spiritual Abuse Recovery Assistance Resource

Sufi Study Circle of the University of Toronto (Canada)

The Sufi Study Circle

Sufi Studies Today

Sufi Traditions

Sufi World


A Journal of the History of Sufism

A Journal of Sufism

Articles on Sufi Psychology and Sufism

Sufism, An Inquiry

Sufism: An Annotated Resource Guide

Sufism's Many Paths

Sufism Symposium

Sufism: The Other Side of Sufism

SurrenderWorks: A Center for Sufi Healing

Swiat Sufi/Tariqa Naqshbandi Poland

Tabala Wolof: Sufi Drumming of Senegal (information about a recording)

Tasavvuf & Sufiler (Turkish)
English version:

Threshold Society, Mevlevi Order, publications by the Helminskis

Threshold Society, Mevlevi Order (in Dutch)

Tijani Home Page: Information about The Tariqa Tijaniyya, Shaikh Ahmad Al-Tijani (RA), Shaikh Ibrahim Niasse (RA), Shaikh Hassan Cisse and The African American Islamic Institute, Inc.


Traingle Sufi Center

Project Turuq Intercultural

The Winged Heart

Uwaiysi Tarighat
Wikipedia: Sufism
Zahuri Sufi Website

ZenSufi Park