In Islam, Sufism is a mysticism. It is also known as tasawwuf. Mysticism means being one with God. The practitioner of Sufism are called Sufis.


Sufis belong to different tariqas or orders. These orders are the congregations that form around the Grand Master. The master is called Wali. These masters trace the direct chain of successive teachers back to the Prophet Muhammad.  Sufis consider the Prophet Muhammad to be their ultimate spiritual guide.

For the first five years, Sufi orders were based on Sunni Islam. During the 600 to 700 AD, especially during the Umayyad reign, they were considered a reaction to secularity. But in modern times, Sufism is declining. Today, Sufism is strongly criticized by conservative Salafists and modern thinkers. The Salagism or Salafi movement is a Sunni Islamist reform movement. According to the Salafists, Muslims must rely on the Koran. About 90% of Muslims in the world are Sunnis.

Difference between Sufi and Sunni

Sufis can be both Sunnis and Shia. Sunnis are engaged in actions that help them get rewards from God. In the next life, reward is promised.  Sufis believe in love. They focus on meeting God directly by purifying their minds. Sunni Muslims are more involved in worldly affairs. But Sufis are then more worried about the world. Sunnis follow the Koran to heaven. They believe that the Quran helps to accomplish worldly acts that serve as a way to heaven. They are afraid of Allah. Their teachings include fear of hell. Sufis, on the other hand, achieve spiritual enlightenment through meditation and prayer, and also through giving up secular desires. Sufis follow Shariah or Islamic norms of life. Sufi saints purifies their mind through a reading called Dhikr. Sunnis do not believe in the mysticism that Sufis follow. Also, the Sufi do not worship tombs.

Shia and Sufism

The Sufi sect, especially the Safaviya sect founded by the Kurds, persuaded Sunni Muslims to convert to Shiaites. This eventually led to Iran’s 12 principles. 12 Principles is the largest branch of Shiite Islam. Twelve means following the teachings of the twelve imams, the twelve ordained leaders of Islam. The Twelve Apostles believe that the Imam Al-Mahadi, the last imam, will reappear as Mahdi.