About the term “Tasawwuf”

By a brother:

The science of tazkiyah (spiritual purification) has been known by derivatives of the word taṣawwuf from as early as the second century, just as the science of Islamic law has been known as fiqh for many centuries. There can be no considerable difference of opinion on the permissibility of using the term taṣawwuf to refer to the ❝science of spiritual purification❞ as people are permitted to coin any term they prefer for any meaning.

The usual response to the above by some is, ❝Did the Prophet ﷺ or the companions use the word taṣawwuf to refer to tazkiyah?❞ The answer again is: It doesn’t really matter. There is no prohibition in using a term that the Messenger ﷺ or his companions did not use. In fact, we do this in many sciences including ‘aqīdah (theology) itself; for the word ‘aqīdah was not used by the Messenger ﷺ or his companions to refer to theology. However, that is not reason enough to discredit it.

In fact, even the word ❝fiqh❞ itself, as used by jurists for centuries, is not entirely the same as the meaning of ❝fiqh❞ in the Quran or the Sunnah. Sacred texts usually use the word fiqh to mean ❝the understanding of religion❞ in general, whereas scholars have been using the word ❝fiqh❞ to mean ❝Islamic law❞ for the better part of Islamic history.

The second response usually is that: ❝Unlike other nomenclature and terms, taṣawwuf had been tainted by foul practices.❞ Whilst it is true that some forms of taṣawwuf (the science of spiritual purification) had been tainted by foul practices, this is also true for all other sciences including ‘aqīdah itself. For instance, some strongly believe in the idea of ‘infinite regression of causes’ which is considered disbelief by the consensus of the Islamic scholars throughout the centuries and is one of the arguments used by some atheists today to explain away the existence of God. However, some insist that this should be considered true ‘aqīdah.

Would it be appropriate to discontinue using the term ‘aqīdah because of the aforesaid consequential mistake or other such mistakes that some or many may have made? The obvious answer is no. By the same logic, because of some mistakes of specific individuals in the field of taṣawwuf (spiritual purification), the term itself cannot and should not be rejected.

N.B. Suggesting that other linguistic derivatives of the technical term ‘aqīdah are found in a few traditions doesn’t change the reality that the word ‘aqīdah itself as coined later is not found in sacred texts. In this way, taṣawwuf, and ‘aqīdah are the same.

4 thoughts on “About the term “Tasawwuf””

  1. AsSalamu Alaykum
    Can we have a post on Mansur Al-Hallaj here. I couldn’t find many good articles in defence of Hadhrat Thanwi (RH) on the internet. It would be great if you post one
    JazakumAllah khayr


    1. Wa alaykumus Salaam,
      I have been working on something regarding Shaykh Mansur al-Hallaj (rahimahullah) since a year, I’ll update it once its ready in a month or two Insha Allah.
      As for defending Shaykh Ashraf Ali Thanawi (rahimahullah) there are a couple of articles which I had posted here whose links are the following:

      1. The Slander against Hakim al-Ummah Hazrat Thanawi (Rahmatullah alayh): Degrading the Status of Rasulullah (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam), and its Reply: https://islamreigns.wordpress.com/2016/10/22/the-slander-against-hakim-al-ummah-hazrat-thanawi-rahmatullah-alayh-degrading-the-status-of-rasulullah-sallallahu-alayhi-wasallam-and-its-reply/

      2. OBJECTION ON BAHISHTI ZEWAR – RESPONSE TO THE ARTICLE: “WUDU IN REVERSE”: https://islamreigns.wordpress.com/2018/02/18/objection-on-bahishti-zewar-response-to-the-article-wudu-in-reverse/

      3. DID MAULANA ASHRAF ALI THANVI RAHIMAHULLAH ‘INSULT’ ANY QUR’ANIC VERSE?? LET’S ANSWER THE LIAR: https://islamreigns.wordpress.com/2016/01/15/did-maulana-ashraf-ali-thanvi-rahimahullah-insulted-any-quranic-verse-lets-answer-the-liar/

      4. Refuting the Accusation on Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi (Rahimahullah) of “Magic”: https://islamreigns.wordpress.com/2019/01/09/refuting-the-accusation-on-maulana-ashraf-ali-thanvi-rahimahullah-of-magic/

      If you have any other topic on which Hadhrat Thanawi (rahimahullah) should be defended, then please send it to me Insha Allah.


      Liked by 1 person

      1. JazakumAllahu khayran brother. I will read all your articles on this topic inshaAllah so that all my doubts are cleared, and so that I can clear others’ doubts as well.

        Liked by 1 person

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