You think you know somebody

April 5, 2006

A recent discussion/debate on Muslim Message has left me rather perplexed. A sister began the discussion asking about the salafi/wahhabi/or whatever you want to call it school of thought (that doesn’t consider itself a school of thought). She was basically asked what were some of the objections that the majority of Muslims had to accepting them. Most Muslims answered that they would be perfectly fine with accepting Salafis, if Salafis were willing to accept them. In other words, by being intolerant themselves, by insisting that their way is the “only” way, the “true Islam,” they alienate themselves from the majority of Muslims.

To my surprise a few people came onto the forum jumping to the defense of Salafis, not to deny the charges against them, but rather to justify their intolerance by saying that they were thrusted into their extremism by Sufis who “worshiped graves.” It was, in fact, the “sufi grave worshippers” who instigated the formation of the wahhabi movement; thus, it was a fungus that grew under the right conditions of darkness and moisture. In their eyes, it was a nice, edible fungus (mushroom). To the rest of the Muslim world, it appeared to be a disease.

Anyway, I tried to explain that, if, as they claim, some Sufis did worship graves, it was not something that the ulema` or the awliyah had started or condoned. Nevertheless, they insisted that it was an official Sufi practice and that I was unaware of it because I had not “lived in asia” where this type of practice is prevalent and encouraged by the shuyukh. Nothing I could say would change their minds, and they were unwilling to offer any proof that “grave worship” was actually taking place. They said that they had seen “strange things” from sufis but never once provided any examples. Finally, an admin closed the discussion because the antagonists had violated the rules of the forum (by insulting other groups).

Then, to my surprise, another admin (who is shi’a) said that she didn’t see what the big deal was with their bashing of sufis and that she too had seen “strange things” from sufis in Pakistan. She said that, no matter how hard I tried to convince them that Sufism was a “science of Islam,” they still had the images of those “strange things” etched into their memories. In other words, their prejudices against sufis were permanent and could not be erased through simple dialog.

What I find most interesting is that the people, particularly one brother, who rushed to attack Sufism, are the very people who always yelled the loudest for unity. They are the ones who always say, “We’re just Muslims, and we don’t need any other titles or -isms,” “we just follow the Qur’an and Sunnah, brother,” “Islam is the middle path,” and other such slogans. It reminds me of the motto of the khawarij, “Authority belongs to God alone.” Indeed.



  1. Sad, isn’t it? I’ve noticed a lot of this sort of “unity, except for…” attitude amongst… just about everyone, actually. Sad, sad

  2. I know what you’re talking about. These “strange” practices in South Asia have nothing to do with tawwasuf or Sufism, just like beheadings in Iraq have nothing to do with Jihad. I think people from that region are just tired and frustrated with those that practice that kind of behavior and just label all of it “sufism.” Sufism used to have a really good reputation back in the days, but now people, due to ignornace, associate it with “grave-worshipping,” because of the actions of others. And Allah knows best.

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