What is Spirituality (Tasawwuf) in Islam?

Dear respected reader, Have a cup of coffee or tea then embark on the journey through spirituality in Islam:
1. Islamic Spirituality is (Observation and Experimentation)
2. Description of  true servant of Allah (S.W.T)
3. Who are the Awliya (Friends of Allah) ?
4. There are two types of Wilayat:
5. Hadith on all servants of Allah
6. How to recognise a Wali-Allah

These are the elect servants of ALLAH, of whom ALLAH Most High has said, “The servants of the All-Merciful are those who tread lightly on earth.”


Islamic Spirituality is (Observation and Experimentation)

This cannot be refuted that faith becomes a driving force of life after experimentation and observation have endorsed it. The question arises as to how can this culmination of faith be achieved. How can a person get ascertained of his faith through experimentation and observation? The scientists do carry out experimentation of their expounded theories for validation. Are there any means to reassure faith in the tenets of Islam through observation and experiments? The answer is in affirmative.

There is a system, which brings about tangible results of faith through experimentation and observation. This system based on spiritual experiments and observations is called ‘Tasawwuf’, which is a spiritual discipline and which the English term ‘mysticism’ perhaps cannot fully describe.

However, for reader’s convenience, we henceforth call it mysticism. The experts and preceptors of this system are the spiritual incumbents conventionally known as Awliya Allah. Spirituality is the only means of the internal experiences and observations. When the belief in the unseen passes through the evolutionary processes, it changes into the firmest belief. Spirituality brings about the internal observation of the faith to the zenith of certainty.

When Spirituality, through observation, endorses faith, the faith becomes firm and unequivocal. The Awliya Allah, pass through rigors and tribulations for ascertaining their faith. They see the miraculous feats of Allah in their lives.

Their actions excel the force of action of millions of people in the world. Their action is vitalized by Benefaction and Beneficence of Allah. Their action is based on observation and experimentation while layman’s action is based on the theoretical assumptions and perceptions.

Description of  true servant of Allah (S.W.T)

Imam Bayhaqi relates that Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami (ALLAH have mercy upon him) said that someone said,
“The description of true servants of ALLAH is that:

 Poverty is their honor (means they are not greedy);
obedience of ALLAH, their sweetness;
love of ALLAH, their joy;
to ALLAH, their need;
piety ,their provision;
with ALLAH, their dealing;
upon Him, their trust;
in Him, their intimacy;
upon Him, their reliance;
hunger, their food;
renunciation, their fruit;
good character, their dress;
cheerful disposition, their jewelry;
generosity of spirit, their trade;
good relations, their company;
knowledge, their leader;
patience, their driver;
guidance, their ride;
the Qur’an, their speech;
thankfulness, their adornment;
remembrance, their concern;
contentment, their rest;
sufficiency, their wealth;
worship, their earnings;
the devil, their enemy;
worldliness, their dumps;
modesty, their shirt;
fear,their habit;
the day, their lesson;
the night, their reflection;
wisdom, their sword;
truth, their guard;
this life, their journey;
death, their destination;
the grave, their shelter;
Firdous(highest paradise), their residence;
beholding the Lord of the Worlds, their longing.

These are the elect servants of ALLAH, of whom ALLAH Most High has said, “The servants of the All-Merciful are those who tread lightly on earth.”” [Bayhaqi, al-Zuhd al-Kabir, 2.264]

“And the servants of (Allah) Most Gracious are those who walk on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say, Peace!”
(Holy Quran 25:63)


The awareness that one is a servant of ALLAH is deeply rooted in the heart of the true believer. This awareness is the starting point for all his or her deeds, through which he or she seeks to earn the pleasure of Almighty ALLAH.

Who are the Awliya (Friends of Allah) ? 

Wilayat  is a very special rank and position of acceptance given by Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala) to His beloved servants.  A Wali is a pious Muslim who attains this position of wilayat.  Wilayat is deduced from the root word  “Wila”, which means closeness.  Some attain this position due to their sincere  devotion and worship.  Some attain this position from birth, but ultimately, it depends on Allah’s mercy and kindness.

A Wali, no matter how great his status, cannot reach the status of a Prophet or a Sahaabi (companions of the Beloved Prophet (Sallallahu  Alaihi wa Sallam).  All the Awliya Allah take care of what is most beloved to Allah and cannot be Awliya if they have beliefs contrary to the teachings of Sayyadina Rasoolallah (Salla Allahu ta’ala Alayhi wa Sallam).  The following narration explains the status  of the Awliya:

Narrated Umar ibn al-Khattab (Radi Allahu ta’ala Anhu):
reported the Prophet (ﷺ Sallallaho Alaihi wa’Sallam) as saying: There are people from the servants of Allah who are neither prophets nor martyrs; the prophets and martyrs will envy them on the Day of Resurrection for their rank from Allah, the Most High.

They (the people) asked: Tell us, Messenger of Allah, who are they? He replied: They are people who love one another for the spirit of Allah (i.e. the Qur’an), without having any mutual kinship and giving property to one. I swear by Allah, their faces will glow and they will be (sitting) in (pulpits of) light. They will have no fear (on the Day) when the people will have fear, and they will not grieve when the people will grieve.

He then recited the following Qur’anic verse: “Behold! Verily for the friends of Allah there is no fear, nor shall they grieve.”
(Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 23, Hadith 3520,  Grade: Sahih by Al-Albani)

From Abu Sa’id al-Khudri(r.a): “The Abdaal from my nation did not enter into Paradise with their actions, but rather through the mercy of Allah, through the unparalleled generosity of their souls, the fact that they hold no grudge or hatred against anyone and their hearts being at peace with everyone, and through mercy for the entirety of Muslims.”          (Hawi li-l Fatawi (2:241ff) Sakhawi’s Maqasid  #8).


 “Beware, verily on the friends of Allah, there is no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (Surah Yunus, Verse 62)

There are two types of Wilayat:

1)   Wilayat-e-Amma (general closeness to Allah)

This is the closeness  of Allah to every believer, as Allah declares in the Qur’an al-Kareem:
“We are closer to him, than his own jugular vein.”
(Surah Al-Kaaf, Verse 16)

2)  Wilayat-e-Khaas (special closeness to Allah) 

This closeness is exclusive to the Awliya.  This is a speciality of those who have traveled
on the path of Tasawwuf, and attained nearness to Allah.  This is declared in a Hadith-e-Quddsi, where Allah says to the Most Beloved Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam), “Among the things that bring My servant close to Me, the ones I love best, are the things
that I have made fard (compulsory).  When My servant does nafil ibaadat (optional prayer), he gets very close to Me.  So much so, that I love him very much…”

Allah’s closeness is not like material closeness that can be understood by reason, or perceived through the sense organs.  It can only be comprehended  through the knowledge of Ma’rifa bestowed by Allah upon the Awliya.

From the Awliya of all the ummahs (of the previous Prophets), the greatest  Awliya are from the Ummah of Sayyadina RasoolAllah  (Sallallahu Alaihi  wa Sallam).  There have been Awliya Allah in every era and there will always be  Awliya Allah in every era.  However, their recognition may be difficult.


The Qur’an al-kareem divides those that are favoured by Allah into 4 groups:

a)  The Prophets – This cycle has ended after the appearance of Sayyadina Rasoolallah (Salla Allahu ta’ala Alayhi wa Sallam).

b)  The Siddeeq (The Truthful) – This rank is next after the Prophets.  The greatest Siddeeq was Hadrat Abu Bakr (Radi Allahu ta’ala Anhu).  The meaning of Siddeeq is Truth. Such a person recognizes truth in all its manifestations.

c)  The Shuhada (Martyrs) – One need not actually be killed in the battlefield to prove one’s self as shaheed (martyr).  One in this stage feels satisfied by sacrificing everything that he has for the Creator.

d)  The Salih (Pious) – This is the lower grade that one can attain by devotional activities.  In this stage, one cleanses himself from all spiritual impurities such as jealousy, hatred, hypocrisy etc.

From the Awliya of the ummah of Sayyadina Rasoolallah (Salla Allahu ta’ala Alayhi wa Sallam), the most superior Awliya are the four Khulafa-e-Rashideen  (The Righteously guided Caliphs), namely

Hadrat Abu Bakr Siddique (Radi  Allahu ta’ala Anhu),

Hadrat Umar Farooq (Radi Allahu ta’ala Anhu),

Hadrat Uthman Ghani (Radi Allahu ta’ala Anhu),

and Hadrat Ali Murtaza (Radi Allahu ta’ala Anhu),

and then all the other Sahaba.  All the Sahaba were Awliya, BUT  all Awliya are not Sahaaba.

Amongst the Awliya are the following groups:

In fact, amongst them, one does not  know the other, and they themselves are not aware of the validity of their actions and devotion. whether male or female, it all depends on the piety and behavior towards humans and code of conduct regarding living one’s life.

Ibn Mas’ud (Radi Allahu ta’ala Anhu) asked, “Ya Rasoolallah (Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam), by what means do they attain that degree?”

“They attain it by being generous, and by advising muslims,” said the Beloved Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam).

 Do remember that although all the Awliya Allah are equal as far as Wilayah is  concerned, they differ as far as status is concerned.

Hadith on on all servants of Allah

 On the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may ALLAH be pleased with him), who said that the Messenger of ALLAH (peace and blessings of ALLAH be upon him) said:
“ALLAH (mighty and sublime be He) said:
Whosoever shows enmity to someone devoted to Me, I shall be at war with him. My servant draws not near to Me with anything more loved by Me than the religious duties I have enjoined upon him, and My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory works so that I shall love him. When I love him I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes and his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask [something] of Me, I would surely give it to him, and were he to ask Me for refuge, I would surely grant him it. I do not hesitate about anything as much as I hesitate about [seizing] the soul of My faithful servant: he hates death and I hate hurting him.”
[Sahih Bukhari]

Abu Hurairah (May ALLAH be pleased with him) reported: Messenger of ALLAH (PBUH) said, “ALLAH, the Exalted, has said: `I will declare war against him who treats with hostility a pious worshipper of Mine. And the most beloved thing with which My slave comes nearer to Me, is what I have enjoined upon him; and My slave keeps on coming closer to Me through performing Nawafil (voluntary prayers or doing extra deeds besides what is obligatory) until I love him, (so much so that) I become his hearing with which he hears, and his sight with which he sees, and his hand with which he strikes, and his leg with which he walks; and if he asks Me something, I will surely give him, and if he seeks My Protection (refuge), I will surely protect him”


This is the most authentic of ahadith about the auliya-allah. The Blessed Prophet (sallallaho alaihe wa’salam) said, ‘Whoever makes an enemy of the wali of Allah brings himself in the battlefield to fight a war (with Allah).” In another hadith qudsi, Allah says, ‘Whoever ridicules My wali, challenges Me to a war. I become so angry in My feelings for My wali that I become like a furious lion.’ And this is because the auliya believe in Allah Subhana Wa’Ta’ala and befriend Him. They like only he who is liked by Allah  , despise he who is despised by Allah  , love he who is loved by Allah  , and are angry with whom Allah  is angry. They order that which Allah orders and prohibit that which Allah prohibited.

This Hadith tell us the status and distinctive signs of the favoured men of ALLAH (‘Auliya’ ALLAH) The Noble Qur’an has defined them as:
“Those who believed (in the Oneness of ALLAH) and used to fear ALLAH much (by abstaining from evil deeds and sins and by doing righteous deeds)”. (10:63)


How to recognise a Wali-Allah

The method of recognizing a Wali and a non-Wali is to rectify one’s heart  and mind, and to adopt his company.  Thereafter if you find that his company generates the thought and love of Allah in your heart, then he is a Wali.  On the contrary, if the heart indulges in worldly thought, then he is not a Wali, because it is said, “The heart is a mirror of another heart”.

Imam Nawawi (Radi Allahu ta’ala Anhu), and also Ibn Maja (Radi Allahu ta’ala Anhu) report that when Sayyadina Rasoolallah (Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam) was asked about the characteristics of the Awliya, he (S.A.W.W) declared, “Allah is remembered when they are seen.”


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