Imam Ahmad Didn't Praise Sufis or Sufism
Fatwa No: 408061

  • Fatwa Date:1-12-2019 - Rabee' Al-Aakhir 4, 1441
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I have heard that Imam Ahmad praised Sufis and said that they only do Raqs (dance) out of joy/love/emotion for Allah S.W.T. Is this true? And if not then what did he say about them. And also is it permissible to move, or sway or dance during the Majalis of Dhikr because it is an expression of deep emotion and love? And also Imam Ahmad reported in his Musnad a Hadith of Anas R.A from Rasul S.A.W where the Abyssinians performed some play with their weapons and danced in front of Rasulullah S.A.W and recited words of praise of Rasul S.A.W. Does this mean that it is permissible to dance out of joy or to move out of love and emotion when remembering Allah S.W.T or Rasul S.A.W. Could you please clarify from the views of scholars like Al Ghazzali and Imam Ahmad and such big scholars. Jazak Allahu Khairan
Wassalamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakaatuhu


All perfect praise be to Allah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah, and that Muhammad  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) is His slave and Messenger.

We have no knowledge of the claim that Imam Ahmad  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him praised Sufism in its totality, or that he justified their dancing and gave them excuses to do so as an act of worship.

In fact, Sufis are not all the same; some of them are righteous, while others are wicked. The terms “Tasawwuf” and “Sufism” appeared relatively late, and were not known during the best first three virtuous generations of Islam; but were introduced and widely used later on.

The phenomenon of “Tasawwuf” first emerged in Basra as its people were known to be extremely ascetic, devout worshippers, fearful of Allah, and the like.

In its early beginning, Tasawwuf was a sound practice (devoid of Sharee‘ah violations) and some prominent Muslim scholars, who were known for their knowledge, asceticism, and religious prudence, practiced Tasawwuf like Al-Junayd  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him. However, those scholars practiced it within the framework of the Sharee‘ah. In essence, Tasawwuf was prompted by the intent to promote praiseworthy asceticism, denouncement of worldly pleasures, devotion to worship, self-discipline, and commitment to refined morals, in order to overcome the countertrend of hedonism and overindulgence in worldly pleasures at the time.

Afterwards, different groups of people, who were given to religious innovations and heresy, claimed to practice Tasawwuf, giving rise to multiple sub-groups and diverse categories of adherents.

Contemplating the contemporary Sufism, one realizes that it abounds in religious innovations and acts of Shirk. The late Sufi adherents are dramatically different from their predecessors, as they practiced many religious innovations and deviated from the correct path.

For example, they introduced some practices like worshipping Allah, the Almighty, through dancing, jumping, whirling and swaying while reciting Thikr (mention of Allah), all of which are considered deniable religious innovations according to the consensus of Muslim scholars.

Many scholars from various approved mainstream schools of Fiqh declared such acts as religious innovations and strongly denounced them. Were it not for the sake of brevity and our adherence to the website’s policy in answering English questions concisely, we would have cited for you many statements of Muslim jurists in this regard. However, we shall cite below some statements as examples.

It is stated in the Maaliki book Fat-h Al-‘Aliyy Al-Maalik fi Al-Fatwa ‘ala Math-hab Al-Imam Maalik by the Maaliki scholar ‘Ulaysh  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him: “Imam Abu Bakr At-Tartooshi, may Allaah have mercy upon him, was once asked: ‘What is your opinion on the school of Sufism? Note, may Allah protect you, that it is practiced by some men who mention Allah and (invoke blessings on) His Prophet Muhammad  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) abundantly. They beat drums made of leather with sticks; some of them dance and start screaming and shaking until they faint, and then they serve food. Is it permissible to attend their gatherings? Please advise, may Allah reward you.

He  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him replied: ‘May Allah have mercy upon you. The ideology of Sufism abounds in ignorance, falsehood and error. Islam is no more than what is found in the Quran and the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ). However, dancing and ecstasy were first introduced by As-Saamiri when he made a statue of a calf having a mooing sound, and people danced around it in ecstasy. Thus, such a practice is the way (the religion) of the disbelievers and worshippers of the calf.

As for the stick and drum, they were first used by the heretics to distract Muslims from the Quran. On the contrary, the Companions used to sit with the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) as if there were birds perched on their heads out of solemnity. Therefore, the Muslim ruler and his deputies should prevent those people from gathering in mosques and other places. It is not permissible for anyone who believes in Allah and the Last Day, to attend their gathering or help them practice their falsehood. This is the adopted opinion of Maalik, Abu Haneefah, Ash-Shaafi‘i, Ahmad ibn Hanbal and other Muslim Imams  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  them. Verily, success is granted by Allah, The Exalted.’” [End of quote]

Moreover, Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him said: “As for dancing, this was not enjoined by Allah, The Exalted, or His Messenger  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) or any of the early Muslim scholars. Rather, Allah Says in His Book (what means):

• {And be moderate in your pace} [Quran 31:19]

• {And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily...} [Quran 25:63]

The term “easily” in the second verse denotes walking with calmness and serenity. Muslims worship their Lord by bowing and prostration.” [End of quote]

As for the story of the Abyssinians who were playing in the mosque, it is irrelevant because the Abyssinians played with spears as a training in carrying weapons or to display their skills. It was not intended as a devotional act of worship and did not involve dancing while reciting Thikr. Ibn Hajar, may Allaah have mercy upon him, said in Fat-h Al-Baari: “Some Sufis bring forth this Hadeeth as evidence to prove the permissibility of dancing and listening to musical instruments. However, the majority of scholars refuted such inference due to the difference of purpose; for the Abyssinians’ playing with spears was for the purpose of training for war, and so, the Hadeeth cannot be used as evidence to support the permissibility of dancing for amusement purposes.” [End of quote]

For more benefit on Sufism, please refer to Fataawa 82017, 31043, 31031, and 29243.

Allah knows best.

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