Bhakti and Sufism


Salam wa aleykum

Many Wahabi (I say it’s fake) books:
The Sufi adopted Monism and wifely devotion from the Vaishnava Vedantic school and Bhakti and Yogic practices from the Vaishnava Vedantic school. By that time, the popularity of the Vedantic pantheism among the Sufis had reached its zenith.”

What is the difference between Bhakti and Sufi they accuse of being similar to Bhakti?

Barakallahu Fik’


Wa `alaykum as-Salam wa rahmatullah.

Bhakti is that aspect of Hinduism emphasizing veneration, affection, or love, and therefore relates to the most popular expressions of that religion. Sufism is the heart of Islam, or rather Islamic esoterism, with aspects of love and knowledge, and has been especially pursued by an elite, even while popular traces of its teachings reached to every level of society.

The author of your quote seeks to remove the heart from Islam by identifying Sufism as a Hindu way of love, thereby revealing his hatred for Sufism and a perverse conviction that love only belongs outside of Islam. This is but another example of the attempt to attribute Islam’s inner dimension to a foreign origin, an agenda pursued by Orientalist and fundamentalist alike; both share a very impoverished understanding of the function of the Seal of Prophets, peace be upon him. The purpose of such an agenda is to destroy Islam, for what body may live without a heart?

It is not surprising that popular expressions of veneration should exhibit common characteristics between neighboring religious communities, since so many aspects of their situation in time and place are shared. After all, Sufi teachers are bound to follow the example of the Seal of Prophets in addressing people in accordance with their understanding. To be able to recognize comparable aspirations in our neighbors is not without benefit, since it fosters harmony (and here is a reason for interfaith meetings).

Concerning the inner dimension in India, there is today a very remarkable example quite opposite to the above accusation. Centered in Kanpur, there is a community of Hindu yogis that base their spiritual practice on Naqshbandi teachings. The reverse has never been the case anywhere, despite attempts to identify hosh dar dam – “conscious breathing” – as something the Naqshbandi masters must have borrowed from another religion, as if a Muslim needs more than Islam to be aware of his breathing!

Mahmoud Shelton

About Ustadh Mahmoud Shelton

Mahmoud Shelton studied at the University of Edinburgh before taking a degree in Medieval Studies at Stanford University. Shelton is the author of Alchemy in Middle Earth: The Significance of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, The Balance of George Lucas' Star Wars, and numerous articles. He is also a contributor to The Royal Book of Spiritual Chivalry and The Sufi Science of Self-Realization. Contributions by Mahmoud Shelton * Chivalry of the Night and Day * Alchemy in Middle Earth * contributor, The Royal Book of Spiritual Chivalry
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