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Sufism Sufism fast facts and introduction

Sufism is less an Islamic sect than a mystical way of approaching the Islamic faith. It has been defined as "mystical Islamic belief and practice in which Muslims seek to find the truth of divine love and knowledge through direct personal experience of God."1

Islamic mystics are called Sufis and their way of life is Sufism (also spelled Sufiism). These terms evolved in Western languages in the early 19th century and derive from the Arabic term for a mystic, sufi, which in turn derives from suf, “wool.” This likely refers to the woollen garment of early Islamic ascetics.

Similarly, Islamic mysticism in general is called tasawwuf (literally, “to dress in wool”) in Arabic. Sufis are also referred to as fuqara, “the poor,” the plural form of the Arabic faqir. The Persian equivalent is darvish. These are the roots of the English terms fakir and dervish, used interchangeably for an Islamic mystic.

  1. Schimmel, “Sufism.” Encyclopaedia Britannica Online.  

  • Glossary of Sufism

    Definitions of terms related to Sufism. full article →
  • History of Sufism

    Sufism has been a prominent movement within Islam throughout most of its history. It grew out of an early ascetic movement within Islam, which sought to counteract the worldliness that came with the rapid expansion of the Muslim community... full article →
  • Sufi Beliefs

    Sufi beliefs are based firmly in orthodox Islam and the text of the Quran, although a few Sufi teachers have strayed too close to monism or pantheism to remain within the orthodox fold... full article →
  • Sufi Practices

    Sufi practices have their foundation in purity of life, strict obedience to Islamic law and imitation of the Prophet. Through self-denial, careful introspection and mental struggle, Sufis hope to purify the self from all selfishness, thus attaining ikhlas, absolute purity of intention and act... full article →
  • Timeline of Sufism

    The history of Sufism at a glance. full article →


  • Sufism.” BBC Religion & Ethics. 8 Sep. 2009. Web. Accessed 26 Nov. 2016.
  • The Inayati Order.” Web. Accessed 26 Nov. 2016.
  • The Whirling Dervishes of Rumi. Web. Accessed 26 Nov. 2016.
  • Godlas, Alan. “Sufism -- Sufis -- Sufi Orders.” Islam and Islamic Studies Resources: For Studying Islam and the Diverse Perspectives of Muslims. Web. Accessed 26 Nov. 2016.
  • Schimmel, Annemarie. “Sufism.” Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. Web. Accessed 26 Nov. 2016.