THERE are different opinions about the origin of the word ‘Sufi’. Some suggest that the word has been derived from ‘suf’, which means a woollen robe worn by the early Sufis, usually in white colour, while others believe that it originated from ‘safa’, meaning purity in Arabic.
The Sufis were religious guides, who targeted a closer union with God. They chose to serve the humanity and taught simple faith, mercy of God, honesty, fellow-feeling, duties and responsibilities, the power of prayers and the beauty of the faith.
The Sufis represented the inner side of the Islamic doctrine which stresses on self-realisation, beautification of soul through piety, righteousness and universal love for all. One of the elements of Sufism is tasawwuf, or mystical thought; another is zikr, or mediation.
One of the greatest Sufis, Umar-al-jullabi al-Hujwairi, a native of Ghazni in present-day Afghanistan, settled in the subcontinent, in Lahore, in the 10th century and spread Islam in a simple way. He died in 1072 and his tomb became a shrine. The Sufi saint is popularly known as Data Ganj Baksh. Other popular sufi saints are Baba Fariduddin Ganjshakar of Pakpattan, and Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai of Sindh.
Sufism was well established between the 11th and the 15th centuries, and has had a great imprint on present-day Pakistan.
Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2021