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Discuss the emergence of Sufism. What is it? How does it relate to Islam?
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There are two ways in which Sufism can be defined. In the narrowest way, Sufism relates to the schools of mystical philosophy and theology of Islam. It is the phenomenon of religious guilds and orders. Sufism exerts a great deal of influence and is the reason for the development of Islamic society and politics to a great extent. It also extends its influence to the various expressions of devotion to shrines for the Islamic world throughout the world. While giving a wider view of Sufism, it is apt to say that Sufism is considered as a spiritual muse that works behind the pre-modern verse of the Islamic world. It is the idiom, the expression of Islamic piety. Sufism is the first and primary Islamic dimension where women can also participate in the religious activities. In Africa and Asia, Sufism has been a dominant force behind the conversion of people to Islam (Heck 2007b). It easily succeeds in mesmerizing the people towards itself, and thus people get temptingly convinced to be a part of this religion. In Sufism, there are many Sufi orders working as educational institutions which adopt and spread the religious sciences as well as arts and music. The advocates of Sufism takes it in a challenging way to establish the importance of theology and jury. Sufism, in the modern times, has been appreciated and supported for its capacity to be the tools of religious reform but at the same time, it has also been seriously observed for spreading superstition and ignorance among people and for showing lack of respect for the Islamic law. It is seen that it prevails superstitions to sustain control and order over the people. But above all the discussions and debates about its shortcomings, there is no doubt that Sufis and Sufism have played a crucial role in Islamic society. It has worked a lot to spread Islam throughout the world (Knysh 2011).
Sufism is a dynamic religious reflection and cultural expression of Islam. It is mainly used as an umbrella term for various philosophical, literary and social phenomena that take place in the Islamic world (Muedini 2012). It would be wise to divide the long history of Sufism into important periods. The first period of Sufism is known as the formative period which is a time of asceticism. In this period, asceticism was used for proto-Sufi practices. The articulation of Sufi doctrines and theories happened during this time. After the formative period what follows is the classical age of Sufism. The flow that starts from the formative period reaches directly here and takes Sufism to its pinnacle. In this period, the core of the Sufi textual canon was penned down. The basic principles and doctrines of Sufism were completely articulated during this period. It is only during this period when Sufi orders came into existence and the emergence of Iranian forms of Sufism was especially identified during this period. The post-classical period of Sufism is considered from the twelfth century onwards; and because of its different facets during this period, it is divided on the geographical basis as in Iranian, Central Asian, Indian Areas, Anatolian and Ottoman.