The Icon on the left is based upon the emblem of the Ni'matullah order of Sufism which follows the teaching of Shah Ni'matullah Vali (1330-1431), a Persian Sufi mystic, who is buried in Mahan in Iran and whose cult became especially popular at the end of the nineteenth century.
"...the woollen raiment is the habit of the prophets and the badge of the saints and elect, as appears in many traditions and narratives."
His assertions are borne out by the following two expressions
Both of these expressions refer to those who wear woollen clothes.
Also the wearing of woollen garments was associated with Christian asceticism, e.g. 'ziyy al- ruhban', following a hadith of Muhammad who stated that Jesus wore woollen clothes. This is echoed in the following account:
"By reliable account, Jesus, son of Mary, had a patchwork cloak, which he wore when he ascended into heaven. One of the masters of the Path once said that he had seen him in a dream, wearing that same old patchy wollen cloak, and that beams of light shone from every patch. He explained, 'I cried, "O Christ, how come these beams of light from your dress?" And he replied, "These are the rays of my misery. Every rip and tear which I had to mend, the Good Lord turned to light, representing all the pangs of suffering which have stung my heart." '" Hojwiri, 'Ali ibn-Osman, Kashf Al-Mahjub: ed. V.A.Zhukovtsky, Leningrad, 1926, trans R.A.Nicholson
We are led to the inexorable conclusion, therefore, that the original Sufis were more famed for their asceticism than their knowledge, and that the term was more often used to denote someone who forswore worldly wealth to pursue the riches of heaven, than a master of philosophy.
The first person to be called a Sufi was Abu Hashim of Kufa who lived during the middle of the 8th century CE. This is interesting since Kufa is closely associated with the Son-in-Law of Muhammad, 'Ali. It was certainly in common usage before the start of the 9th century CE and Abu Nasr further affirms that the word was first coined in Baghdad. Amongst these various assertions it is possible to deduce that there was a trnasition between asceticism and mysticisim and by the middle of the ninth century the arab, Jabiz of Basra numbered "the Sufis amongst the pietists", a reputation which was to endure until the time of Hafez. The latter's view of Sufis as "hypocritical pietists" probably masks his own adherence to the beliefs of Sufism while eschewing the asceticism that some other Sufis adopted.
The movement seems to have taken root in Basra and provided an outlet to those who found the social precepts of Islam difficult to cope with while adopting the religious principles with enthusiasm. It is frequently said that the urge towards hermetism was the result of Christian influences, but there is nothing in early sufic literature to support this. The concept of alienation is not restricted to any particular religion or culture and in the author's view any ascetic, antisocial or alienist tendencies were more likely to stem from an inner personal need than any external influence.
A parallel can probably be drawn with Catharism or Bogomilism in Christian terms, in which the emphasis on the unworldliness of God, and the need to separate oneself from material and human concerns and beliefs, leads to anomic tendencies which in turn can produce both the hermit and the anarchist. In this connection it may be appropriate to cite the first definition of Sufism by a Sufi, Ma'ruf of Baghdad: "to grasp the verities and to renounce that which is in the hands of God's creatures."
The transition from asceticism to mysticism which occurred during the latter part of the ninth and early tenth centuries cannot be attributed solely to an influx of Christian or Buddhist ideology, since the germ was already inherent in Islam itself, as shown below:
There is no God but He. All things are perishable but He
Learn much more about Sufism from Mateen Siddiqui's Haqqani Sufi Home Page
WWW Page for the Ni'matullah Order of Sufi's (http://www.Nimatullahi.org/)
Isfahan Home Page
18 February 1997