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Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

The true meaning of the word sufi has been much discussed and many books has been composed on the subject. The word sufi is derived from safa means purity, because the foremost need in Sufism is to purify the heart. Another view suggests that the Sufis are in the first rank (saff'i awwal); others say that the Sufis claim to belong to the ashab'i suffa (the Companions of the Prophet). Some assert its derivation from suf (wool) because of wearing woolen garment (jama'i suf). The phrase labisa'l suf means he clad himself in wool occurred frequently in early Islamic literature. When the ascetism passed into mysticism, the above words generally reduced to mean he became a sufi. Fariduddin Attar writes in Mantiq-ut-Tahir (London, 1924, p. 8) that, "The doctrines of the Sufi is ancient in Islam, and is much spread, especially among the partisans of Ali." Sufism is a form of tasawwuf in Islam. It is the code of heart (fiqh'l batin), the purification of the soul (tazkiyat'l nafs) or the feeling of God's presence (al-ihsan).

Sufi is a name, which is given, and has formerly been given to the spiritual adepts. One of the Sufi Shaikhs said, "He that is purified by love is pure, and he that is absorbed in the Beloved and has abandoned all else is a Sufi" (man saffahu

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