Islam, as a complete code of life or Deen, was perfected during the life of the holy Prophet Muhammad-saws. He was the sole teacher and his mosque was the core institution for the community. Although Islam in its entirety was practiced during that blessed era, the classification and compilation of its knowledge into distinct branches like ‘Tafsir’ (interpretation of the Quran), Hadith (traditions or sayings of the holy Prophet-saws), Fiqh (Islamic law), and Sufism (the soul purification) were undertaken subsequently. This Deen of Allah passed from the holy Prophet-saws to his illustrious Companions in two ways: the outward and the inward. The former comprised the knowledge defined by speech and conduct, i.e., the Quran and Sunnah. The latter comprised the invisible blessings or the Prophetic lights transmitted by his blessed self. These blessings purified the hearts and instilled in them an ardent desire to follow Islam with utmost love, sincerity and devotion. Sufism is the effort to acquire these Barakah (Blessings).
The Companions handed down his-saws teachings as well as blessings to the Taba’in. Their strong hearts were capable of infusing these blessings into the hearts of their followers. Both aspects of Islam were similarly passed on by the Taba’in to the Tab’a Taba’in. The compilation of knowledge and its interpretation led to the establishment of many schools of religious thought; famous four being the Hanafi, the Hanbali, the Maliki, and the Shafa'i, all named after their founders. Similarly, in order to acquire, preserve and distribute his blessings, an organized effort was initiated by four schools of Sufism: The Naqshbandiah, the Qadriah, the Chishtiah, and the Suharwardiah. These schools were also named after their organizers and came to be known as Sufi Orders. All these Orders aim at purifying the hearts of sincere Muslims with Prophetic lights. These Sufi Orders also grew into many branches with the passage of time and are known by other names as well.
The holy Quran has linked success in this life and the Hereafter with Tazkiyah (soul purification).
He, who purified, is successful. (87: 14)
Sufi Orders of Islam are the institutions where the fundamentals of Tazkiyah (soul purification) and its practical application are taught. They have graded programs in which every new seeker is instructed in Zikr-e Lisani (oral Zikr) and is finally taught the Zikr-e Qalbi (Remembrance in heart). However, in the Naqshbandiah Order, Zikr-e Qalbi is practiced form the very beginning.
Adherence to the Sunnah (Prophet’s way of life) is greatly emphasized in this Order, because the seeker achieves greater and quicker progress through its blessings. The essence of Zikr is that the Qalb should sincerely accept Islamic beliefs and acquire the strength to follow the Sunnah with even greater devotion.
‘If the heart is acquainted with Allah and is engaged in His Zikr; then it is filled with Barakaat-e Nabuwwat (Prophetic blessings) which infuse their purity in the mind and body. This not only helps in controlling sensual drives but also removes traces of hatred, greed, envy and insecurity from human soul. The person therefore becomes an embodiment of love, both for the Divine and the corporeal. This is the meaning of a Hadith, “There is a lump of flesh in the human body; if it goes astray the entire body is misguided, and if it is reformed the entire body is reformed. Know that this lump is the Qalb”.’
(Asrar at-Tanzil by Ameer Muhammad Akram Awan)