At-Tafriqa Bayna `Ilm’t-Tasawwuf

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About This Work

The Tafriqa of Shehu Uthman ibn Fuduye` is an early text on the science of Sufism, written during the beginning of the reform movement that resulted in the establishment of the SOKOTO CALIPHATE, the largest most successful Islamic polity in Africa.

The text is called:

at-Tafriqa Bayna `Ilm ‘t-Tasawwuf Alladhi Li ‘t-Takhalluq wa Bayna `Ilm ‘t-Tasawwuf Alladhi li ‘t-Tahaqquq wa Madaakhil Iblees (The Distinction Between the Science of Tasawwuf for Character Transformation and the Science of Tasawwuf for Divine Realization & the Incursions of Ibless into the Souls).

The style of writing indicates that the text was composed between the period of 1780 and 1787, when the Shehu was attempting to confront the antagonists of the path of Sufis, as well as the charlatans within the path that had become prevalent during that period.

Sultan Muhammad Bello tells us in his Infaq al-Maysuur:

“Likewise, he (Shehu) refuted another faction which had become prevalent in these lands who made false claims and pretended to have unveiling of hidden knowledge, even though they had not even withdrawn themselves out of the grip of Satan and their own corrupt passions. Many of these false claimants knew nothing of what was incumbent upon them from the individual obligations (furuud ‘l-`ayaan). Out of their ignorance they happened upon some of the books of the science of spiritual purification (tasawwuf). They then shriveled their huge nafs into the attire of dignity and asceticism as a means of conjuring the rubble of this world’s life. Out of jealousy and stupidity they would fight those who resembled them from among the genuine and false Sufis. Some of them knew nothing of the path of tasawwuf but only pretended to that in order to prevail upon this world and to pilfer its vanities.”

The Tafriqa is divided into three sections:

1: On the Science of Tasawwuf for the Transformation of Character
2: On the Science of Tasawwuf for Divine Realization
3; On the Incursions of Iblees Into the Soul of Humanity

In his Fat’hu al-Basaa’ir, the Shehu said:

“The first division is related to the reformation of character (at-takhalluq) and it is the abandonment (at-takhalli) of every blameworthy trait from the heart – like conceit (`ujb), pride (kibr), unjust anger (ghadab bi’l-baatil), envy (hasad), greed (bukhl), showing off (riya’u), the love of rank (hubb’l-jaah), the love of wealth (hubb’l-maal) in order to boast, false hope (amal), and having an evil opinion of the Muslims (isa’at d-dhann).

It also includes the endowment (at-tahalli) of the heart with every praiseworthy characteristic – like repentance (tawba), sincerity (ikhlaas), fearful awareness (taqwa), patience (sabr), doing without (zuhd), reliance (tawakkul), leaving matters over to Allah (tafweed), contentment (ridaa), fear (khawf), and hope (rajaa).

This division is apart of the individual obligations (furuud’l-`ayaan) as al-Ghazzaali explained in is Ihya `Uluum ‘d-Deen and as Abd ‘r-Rahmaan as-Suyuuti explained in his Itmaam ‘d-Diraaya Sharh an-Niqaaya.

The second division of the science of tasawwuf is related to spiritual certitude (tahaqquq) and includes the knowledge (ma`rifa) of the spiritual states (ahwaal) of the disciples (murids), the permanent spiritual stations (maqaamaat) of the protected friends (awliyya), the knowledge of the Self Disclosure (tajalli) of the Acts, the knowledge of the Divine Names and the Self Disclosure of the Divine Essence (tajalli ad-dhaat).

This division is not only among the collective obligations (furuud ‘l-kifaaya), but part of this science is specifically established for the awliyya – without dispute.

The responsibility for explaining the first division related to character formation (takhalluq) fell to men like Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazaali and Imam al-Muhaasibi. Whoever wants to follow this should take them as an example.

The responsibility for explaining the second division related to spiritual certitude (tahaqquq) fell to men like Shaykh Abu ‘l-Hassan as-Shadhili, may Allah be pleased with him – as Ahmad az-Zarruuq clarified in his Qawaa’id ‘t-Tasawwuf.”

In the final section, the Shehu clarifies exactly how Satan makes his incursions on the spiritual Path to prevent the mureed from attaining their Goal. This section was the source from which Shaykh Abdullahi ibn Fuduye` composed his Tahdheeb ‘l-Insaan Min Khisaal as-Shaytaan. You can say that this final section is a ‘war manual’ on how to conquer and subdue the enemy of Allah and humanity.

In this age when charlatans to spirituality abound and ‘murshids’ are self-appointed or appointed based upon intrigue, it is important for those of us who want to direct ourselves sincerely on this spiritual Path, that we know what it is, and what it is not.

The Shehu said in his Usuul ‘l-Wilaayat quoting one of the fixed stars of the spiritual Path:

“Whoever knows the Path, traveling it is made easier for him.”

The Tafriqa does just that. It clarifies what is ‘sufism,’ and it delineates the intrigues that Satan makes in order to prevent humanity from arriving at direct gnosis of their Lord.

Shaykh Muhammad Shareef bin Farid
Tuesday, the 5th Sha`baan, 1438, (May, 2, 2017)
Zawiyya Shehu Uthman ibn Fuduye`
Zerni, Yerimadio, Bamako, Mali

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