In Part One a conclusion has been reached to the effect that the essence of Sufism is quite similar,if not identical, to the essence of Islam. Hence, one may consider Sufism as, at least, a "persuasion" of Islam, if not a full pledged "Order" of Islam.
In this essay, an attempt will be made to outline the imperative requirements to become a genuine Sufi. These requirements are mainly four stages or rather levels a potential Sufi has to climb and go through as climbing on a ladder having four steps. That means one cannot possibly reach at the fourth step of the ladder without passing the first,second and third step. If you want to call them steps that is fine,if that helps you comprehend what is involved in each step and finally what is really involved in the totality of the four steps. The writer of this essay prefers to call the four steps as The Four Levels of Sufism. The first level is the foundation of the second level,and the first and second levels are the foundation of the third level,and finally the first,second and third levels are the foundation of fourth level.
The main intent of the writer of this essay is to try to provide the readers,especially the novice readers,with a degree of comprehension of Sufism and what a Sufi has to go through in order to become a genuine Sufi. It certainly is not easy to reach the final level.
The Imperative Requirements Of Sufism:
As mentioned in the Introduction above, in order to become a Sufi, one must go through and must understand the four essential levels of Sufism. Those four essential levels of Sufism are called by the writer of this essay, as The Imperative Requirement Of Sufism, for the purpose of stressing the extreme importance of understanding the four levels. The usage of the word,"Imperative" in the title seems to fit splendidly. Let us explore the four levels as briefly as possible:
Level One Is "Shari'ah" :
"Shari'ah" is an Arabic word that means a " Pathway", although most books and other essays called it "Religious Laws". Yes, the meaning of "Shari'ah" can be used to mean "Religious Laws", as long as the larger meaning of "Shari'ah" is not forgotten, but kept in mind. Since the fundamental intent of religious laws is to deal with the affairs of Muslims in justice and peaceable manners-a just and peaceable "Pathway". Such affairs can encompass a variety of human issues,ranging from marriage to divorce to burial to inheritance etc...and these affairs need some kind of an enlightenment to treat justly. Such an enlightenment is the" Religious Laws". The potential Sufi must know all the religious laws and become a reliable scholar in their interpretations. This is considered as an external dimension of Sufism.
Level Two is "Tariqah" :
"Tariqah" is an Arabic word that means a "Method". A university student in chemistry or physics, for example, must be formally trained in a set of experiments in the laboratory to prove certain and well specified theoretical principle or concept. The theoretical principle or concept has to stand the laboratory tests or laboratory scrutiny. Otherwise,the theoretical principle or concept will be false and consequently rejected. By a similar analogy,the potential Sufi must know his theoretical or rather the abstract values of his or her morality and ethics and spiritual belief and test them in the laboratory of the mundane world and see how strongly his inner self or her inner self can withstand the confusion,misery and entropy of humanity. In short, the potential Sufi must know his or her inner perception as he or she follows the worldly concepts of ethics,morality and justice provided by Shari'ah. This, too, is considered an external dimension of Sufism.
Level Three Is "Haqiqah" :
"Haqiqah" is an Arabic word that means the "Truth". When the word truth is written with capital "T" as such as "Truth",it means the "Absolute Truth", "The Divine" or God. As the potential Sufi passes the first two levels outlined above,he or she will know the inner meaning what he or she has experienced in Shari'ah and Tariqah. With such experiences the prospective Sufi will know the presence of God within himself or herself. In other words,the "Truth", within oneself cannot be attained without the tough experiences and test of time, as one encounters in Shari'ah and Tariqah. When that happens,the future Sufi will discover the spirit of God within his or her well being. This is considered an internal dimension of Sufism.
Level Four Is "M'arifah" :
"Ma'rifah" is an Arabic word that means, in the literal sense, "Epistemology", but epistemology has to do with the knowledge of the mundane world. It cannot be used as a meaning of "M 'arifah,since the word "M'arifah" has profound connection with the spiritual truth,not the mundane knowledge. What it really means is that the Sufi in this level has reached a level of profound knowledge characterized with
outstanding wisdom and spiritual thoughts, because of his or her inner communications with The Divine,meaning God. Only very few, such as a Messenger of God,The Prophets,great Saints,Sages and Imams, can reach such a level of Spiritual M'arifah . Nevertheless, genuine Sufis try to achieve communications with The Divine-God,through their own ways of Dervish dancing,music and poetry. This is considered the superior dimension of Sufism.
The Exponents Of Sufism :
The recorded history of Sufism shows so many people,Muslims and non-Muslims,who practice Sufism. It is beneficial to remember the following names as the most exponents of Sufism :
* Ibn Arabi.
The poetry and prose of Al-Rumi are beautiful. The wisdom of Al-Ghzali and Ibn Arabi are fascinating. They are worth exploring and learning from.