Sufism is the last augmented rendition of Islam to be thrust wholesale upon Black American Muslims and converts. I said years ago that after Sufism hits, there will be nothing left to hit us with from abroad, and what will remain is the original Islam of the Prophet (SAWS). Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I have an issue with Sufism per se, it’s just that Sufism, just like Salafiyyism, Qadianism, Ikhwaanil Muslimeenism, Hizbul Tah’reerism, and the other theological addendums to the original Islam of the Prophet (SAWS), each reported to a foreign shaykh, leadership, or headquarters that was held as a higher Muslim lifeform than the Back American Muslim. Sufism is no different.
I don’t have an issue at all with real Sufism as a spiritual discipline, based upon the sunnah and built upon prophetic tradition and sharia law. We have Sufism within our family clan, not withstanding that many of the great scholars of history were and are Sufis to this day. However, Sufism as a spiritual discipline, comprising sunnah, sharia, and religious order is one thing. And faddish, novel style Sufism amongst Black Americans, especially those under forty, is something totally different. Sufism, when introduced to a culture that readily embraces faddism, easily becomes a fad itself.
We as Black American Muslims, have to take into consideration the nature by which we embrace ideas and concepts that are novel to our domestic ummah. We are society of fads and 15 minutes of fame. As a rule, actual Sufis that I know and have known for years, tend not to get riled up about people having issues to Sufism. Just like people who follow madhaahib (schools of legal thought). they tend not to get all riled up with people who reject madhaahib. Sufism is a spiritual path that focuses on the inner, not the outer. In the United States already, there are dozens of Sufi “tariqas” (paths), each having its own practices, daily devotions, hierarchy, initiation process, rules, guiding principles, and founder. Then there are Sunni orders, Shiite orders and non-denominational orders of Sufism. There are Whirling Dervishes, and Sufi orders that practice magic. There are orders that par strict attention to sharia law and those that dispense with the law completely.
Sufism to many new domestic adherents, is like the Crips and the Bloods. In my view, some brothers become readily agitated anytime people question the utility of Sufism we are too new out of jaahiliyyah (pre-Islamic ignorance) to fully embrace the salient and disciplinary concepts of Sufism, especially when novice, undisciplined Sufis promote it, and try to sell it to the Back American Muslim public. In many ways our people (Black American Muslims) are not spiritually mature enough for real Sufism because there is no real Sufism without the sharia and we still have a problem with the sharia, and sharia becomes reckless without the order brought forth by the madhaahib and we certainly have a problem with legal schools of thought. Other Black Americans and converts to Islam are more spiritually advanced than what most tariqas have to offer. Becoming a Sufi adherent to a particular taqiqa for many, is actually a demotion in my view, not a promotion, nor a lateral move..
Black American Muslims are currently a largely “un-mosqued” community and is grappling with religious order in general, let alone the introduction of Sufi orders. Many of us have issues with bay’at (fealty), with operable fiqh, issues with knowledge that does not agree with emotion, and some even have issues with hadith. Additionally, with the dozens of popular brands (tariqas) of Sufism circulating around (no pun intended) in the United States, its simply too much of a burden on the average Muslim to have to sift through them like they are in a shoe store trying to find a pair of shoes that fit. There are Qaadiriyyam, Shaathiliyya, Naqshabandiyya, Tijaaniyya, and Chisti, just to name a few, and even some of those have sub-branches.
Of course there are Black American Muslim brothers and sisters who are steadfast in a spiritual path and directly benefit from it although it’s makes some of them too passive to address the social ills that surround us.
Sufism as an individual practice has it’s merits but selling Sufism as a singular panacea for the dysfunctional woes for Black American Muslims and converts is a bad idea. The best Islam for Black American Muslims and converts is the original Islam of the Prophet (SAWS) that they converted to in the first place, without the isms. Once you start promoting Sufism amongst us as the go to flavor of Islam, it becomes a fad. Once it becomes a fad, it loses its function. I could be wrong, but I think that many if not most Black American Muslims and converts are just tired of trying new forms of Islam that promises to be the cure. People just want salvation and jannah, in the simplest way possible. People want their Lord, people want their Prophet (SAWS) . People are tired of sects. What the Prophet (SAWS) brought was simple, and pure, and cannot be matched by any of the sects that came after him. This is just my opinion and observation. And Allah knows best. – Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad
Imam Luqman Ahmad is an associate Imam and resident scholar at the Toledo Masjid al-Islam in Toledo Ohio. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org