chapter  XXXI
21 Pages

SŪFĪ MYSTICISM

THE term Sufi is derived from suf, 'wool', in allusion to the woollen garment often, but not universally, worn by people who follow this rule of life. The suggestions that the term is derived from safa, saf, 'clean', or from u-orpor; are now generally rejected. Generally speaking, the Siifis are men and women who adopt the ascetic or quietistic mode of life. The system is believed -to have arisen among the Persian Musalmans in the ninth century as a reaction against the rigid monotheism and formalism of Islam. 1

The custom of initiating (talqin, bayat) of disciples (murid) had its origin with our ancestors, and this duty is entrusted to wise, reverend persons (mashaikh). \Vhen a man or woman wishes to become a disciple they go to the sages belonging to the household of the particular Pir or Saint who is recognized as such by family descent (silsila), or the candidate invites the Pir and other friends and relations to his own house, where he entertains them. Either before or after dinner, in the presence of the company, or in a closet, the spiritual guide (murshid), after doing the minor ablution (wuzu'), with his face turned eastward, seats the candidate before and facing him, so that the latter may look in the direction of the Qibla or Mecca. Some, however, allow him to face in any direction. Then he takes hold of the right hand of the candidate, so that their thumbs touch. In the case of a woman who is not secluded she holds one end of a handkerchief or sash (patka), and the guide the other. But if she be a veiled woman (pardanishin), 2 she sits behind a screen or curtain, because the Pir, though he be

a Murshid, is not regarded as a relation, and from where she sits she takes hold of the scarf as already described. The fee to the Murshid consists of a suit of clothes (khil'at), money, parched rice, sweetmeats, sandalwood, miniature flower gardens (chaman), and lighted pastilles. The Murshid sees that the rite of initiation is duly performed, that the candidate is shaved and bathed, that he learns the names of the heads of the Order, that he promises to revere them, that he receives certain articles of dress, that he gets a new name, learns a new form of salutation, swears not to lie, steal, or commit adultery, that he promises to work hard as a beggar, or in some other calling,. that he eats only things lawful, and, finally, that the initiation feast is duly given.