What is Sufism? Like many things it depends on your point of view.
Author Daniel Ladinsky writes:
In the West, Sufism is usually regarded as a form of Islamic mysticism. However, the Sufis themselves say their “way” has always existed, under many names, in many lands, associated with the mystical dimension of every spiritual system. In ancient Greece, for example, they were identified with the wisdom (sophia) schools of Pythagoras and Plato.
At the time of Jesus, they were called Essenes or Gnostics. After Mohammad, they adopted many of the principles and formulations of Islam and became known in the Muslim world as “Sufis,” a word given various meanings, including “wisdom,” “purity” and “wool” (for the coarse woolen habits of wandering dervishes).
From about 800 to 1400 A.D., Sufi schools flourished under the guidance of master teachers such as Rumi and Ibn Arabi. As individual schools developed, their methods of teaching diversified according to the needs of each group. Some stressed formal meditation, others focused on selfless service to the world, and still others emphasized devotional practices: song, dance and spiritual poetry celebrating love for God. The Sufis cherish Hafiz as a perfect expression of the human experience of divine love
Sufism is not a religion but a discipline that adjusts to the needs of the individual, the time and the place. Sufism is like the story of the blind men who discover an unknown animal and proceed to identify it.
One feels it’s hide and says, “It is like a rhino.” Another feels a section and says, “It has wings.”
The third says, “It must be a large snake.”
An elephant is difficult to describe if you only look at the parts.
Sufism is for those who seek a deeper understanding of Life, for those who ask the hard questions: Who am I? Why am I here? What is life and death? Why is there suffering?
Is Sufism about mysticism? (Click to listen to audio from our book Getting Out Of The Way: Living Sufism)
These videos, made by Shaykh Ibrahim, go into more detail: