“God is a huge source of energy that attracts every human heart,” this was the opening statement of a book written by a Hindu Physicist. He contested in the book, the name which I have forgotten, that God is the greatest source of energy in the world and an energy that appears to have an enormous power of attraction that compels and attracts the human heart towards itself to an extent that even an atheist cannot escape from its power of attraction, no matter what he/she may apparently advocate. It is true indeed very true. Man has always searched for God from the ancient times. So thought of Him as begin the Sun and others the stars and even fire and stone and what not. It happened in times when the only purpose of life was to reproduce, eat, sleep and die. One wonders as to why it happened, why in such a time when there was nothing known to man but still he felt the need ot worship something powerful. In fact man has always longed for a God. In order for him to worship, to kneel to, to ask from for his needs and requirements and protection and above all salvation. The quest for God has been a never ending journey in the life of man and man, with his advancement and evolution, has tried to find God and become closer to him more than ever before. So yes God is the greatest power of a magnetic attraction that has a direct link with the man’s heart. A power that cannot be denied, a power that can always be felt with the eyes of the heart. A power so supreme that has always existed and shall always exist in a kingdom that never faileth.
What my personal research, no matter how feeble, has taught me so far is indeed safe for me to conclude that Sufism existed before Islam in another way with another colour but it did exist. We cannot deny a man’s right to love, worship and seek God if he is not a Muslim. God is Rab-ul-Alameen and not Rab-ul-Alam. He is universal He is greater and bigger than anyone of us has ever thought or would ever be able to fathom with our disillusioned knowledge. His Kun Fayakun for us is seven days because we live in a world bound by time, space and dimension whereas in His beautiful kingdom there is no time, space or dimension and therefore it is always young and energetic and is always and forever in the state of the ultimate now.
Man has always yearned for Him because He is that power of the greatest attraction. Therefore, as an off-shoot of philosophy, Metaphysics existed in the heart of man, either knowingly or unknowingly since time immemorial. It is indeed metaphysics that we today know, as sufism for pondering over questions like who am I? What is God? Why am I here? and then perhaps the what-if analysis and its causal effects have been in the heart of man always. All such people questioning these metaphors and seeking their answers either through logic and rationale, or perhaps through mysticism and spiritualism has been there all around. It is but natural for man to question such things and to seek out their answers. Therefore, mysticism in another form always existed before the Islamic era. God sent approximately 124,000 messengers or prophets and then before Islam. When the holy Torah was revealed unto Moses (Musa AS) do you not think there would have been people who pondered over Torah in deep depths. Same has been the case with the holy Bible (Injeel) and the people who dived in to its depths. They were all seeking God because God wanted them to through the process of sending messengers and His words through such scriptures. All those men who pondered and thought about the nature of things and sought out God were actually students of metaphysics, which is what perhaps we know today in our culture as Sufism.
Sufism in Islam has its roots from Ahl-al-Suffah (the people of the platform) who, as we all know, were people who migrated to Medina and having no resources lived in Masjid-e-Nabvi. They had no means of income and were boycotted by the Quraish of Makkah and hence the migration. The prophet loved them for their genuine remembrance of Allah and interest in knowledge and the Islamic philosophy. The prophet helped them and liked their company however the prophet has never been quoted saying that that is the only way however he also did not put an end to it and in fact like dthe company of such noble men for they would recite the Quran and ponder over its verses and question each other and try to find answers through logic and rationale. It was liked by the prophet and there is no doubt about that however he did not advocate to leave their hasool-e-rizk-e-halal and livelihood. In fact we need to comprehend the essence and nature and beauty of things. After the time of the prophet people who ask these men questions to which they sought answers; those were the questions of philosophy and logic and rationale.
I would like to quote a small incidence here in order to put light on the subject matter. During the time of Haroon-ur-Rasheed there was a man called Abu Nasr, one of the Ahl-al-Suffah. In matters in which people use their heads, he had lost his head. He never spoke until spoken to. One day while he was on the Suffah at the rear end of the Mosque (it used to be on the right side of the mosque, however, after the change of Kibla towards Kaba, its location became that to be at the rear end of the mosque) so he was asked “How do you measure Islamic gentlemanliness?” He answered, “To treat well the kinsfolk, the first and the last of them, forgiving their wrong-doings.” I asked, “What is generosity?” He answered, “The slender offering from the destitute.” I asked him, “What is miserliness?” He said, “Oof (Ufff)” and turned his head. I said, “Will you not answer?” He said, “I have answered.” This clearly reveals that these men of wisdom looked at things from a metaphysical and theological perspective. If a gentleman is defined as the one who treats well everyone and forgives the wrong-doings of everyone, then one can understand what a true gentleman means. More interesting is that generosity is not perhaps only the spending of the rich from their riches but in the true sense it is indeed that small amount of offering that comes from a destitute because a destitute does not have anything to offer but then when he does that is REAL GENEROSITY.
Now why do I love Iqbal? It is becasue he was a true sufi- meaning mystic, student of metaphysics at heart but he did not succumb to the life a sufi leads. He was a lawyer and used to do cases and I read the memoirs of his companion and he writes that Iqbal would use to take cases for his needs and do legal practice however if his expenses were Rs 200 he would only take cases for Rs 200 and the rest of the time he would do his poetry and other academic interventions including his prose work and lectures. Besides, if you read even with little interest, his Ph.D thesis called “the development of metaphysics in Persia” you come to know how the people of the woolen cloak (Suf) or sufis developed in the great Persia. People like Rumi, Saadi, Ghazali whose influence and that of the Ottomen Turks was to widespread in the Indo-Pak Sub-continent inevitably.
The conclusion that can be drawn upon these facts here is that Sufism is in Islamic culture but Islam is not only in Sufi practice. I think this very statement signifies that fact that one loves God and remembers God and can do so in many different ways. It is though the eyes of the mystic, it is through the hasool-e-risk-e-halal, it is through Namaz and other practices and rituals, through Zikr, but it is also through praising the beauty of nature, through helping others, through humanity, through showing mercy and kindness to other fellow beings.