Sufism: Explaining the Unexplainable

by Melody Jean

Cseeker SufismlPeople often ask what religion I follow. My answer while seemingly quite simple confuses many.

Starting With Easy

I was raised Roman Catholic and while today I still celebrate some traditions, such as Christmas and Easter with family, I’m more focused on spiritual learning.

Religion is an important element of child rearing and I would definitely raise my children in this vein. Which religion would be dependent on my spouse of course. However, for me personally, I’m more spiritual than I am religious.

This answer usually suffices for the majority. Yet every now and again either the person with whom I’m speaking inquires for additional information, or I sense that he or she is open to an alternate way of thinking. In either instance, I offer a little more.

Going a Little Further

I elaborate by mentioning that I read about the Sufi Way and ask if they’ve heard of Sufism. Like before, this is another point in the conversation where I assess. Depending on my assessment I may not go any further, or I may continue.

One common response is that he or she has not heard of Sufism, though I sense there’s an interest in knowing more.

On the opposite end of this spectrum, if the response is no, and I gauge that they’re finished, I tie-up the conversation. I then just correlate Sufism with Islam by saying it’s the mystical off-shoot of Islam. Much like Kabbalah is to Judaism. While this is not entirely accurate it at least puts it into a framework where he or she can compartmentalize. In turn, I don’t appear as if I’ve gone completely mad.

Going the Farthest

Yet, there is an additional response, one that is more surprising than either mentioned above. It’s of those who have indeed heard of Sufism.

Due to its origin, Sufism is found more often in the East than the West. Since I grew up in the West it’s not widely common to meet others who have heard of Sufism. Yet this teaching is percolating to the West and therefore I’m happening upon more who have.

So for those who have heard of The Way, or show further interest, I proceed. It’s here that I explain that it’s hard for me to explain.

It’s Not Explainable in An Explainable Way

I’ve often said to my dad that I have a difficult time explaining Sufism — it’s almost unexplainable in a sense. What I’ve come to know from following Sufism, in terms of explaining this entity, is that The Way helps us to tap into our higher consciousness. It’s a knowing, the all knowing.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not meant to replace religion nor is it meant to indoctrinate. Sufism is an added essence, the holly on the tree (of religion), if you will.

–> They’re Ordinary

Sufis are found in every great religion and career field. They’re the ordinary person who lives among us. You would not know a Sufi by appearance.

–> They Don’t Call Themselves Sufis and Prefer No Name

Further a Sufi would never call himself a Sufi. To complicate this even more, they wouldn’t even name it anything if society didn’t almost force the naming system upon it. It was given a name only so people can conceptualize it as an entity.

–> The Meaning of the Word

Sufism is derived from the word suf which means wool. It was chosen perhaps in reference to a robe that some said to be Sufis donned in the early days. However, it’s rare especially in the West to see a Sufi in any form of “special” attire.

–> It’s Like Being in Love

Perhaps one of the best ways Sufism was described to me was in terms of love.

When I asked my dad to explain it to me he asked if I’ve ever been in love. I responded yes. He inquired how I knew. To that I remember saying that I don’t know really, but I know that I have. He pressed me to describe it. Here I struggled.

I know that love feels great and it’s warm and fuzzy. Yet to describe what love feels like, I cannot do. It’s something that I just know deep inside.

My dad offered that perhaps the same holds for the Sufi Way. You’ll just know it when you find it. After all, it’s a knowing. The ultimate knowing.

–> It’s the Super Highway to Higher Knowledge

There is a way to attaining higher knowledge.

Many like my father maintain that through their experience, Sufism is the super highway in this pursuit. While we see spiritual programs cropping up via speakers such as Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, and the like, the real path is that which the Sufi Way offers.

However it’s not promoted as such. It’s not promoted at all in fact. Light calls to light – it’s an attraction, an energy.

–> You Are Not Expected to Believe Anything

It’s not expected that we believe anything that which they say. This entire path is all based upon our own experience(s). It’s rumored that once we experience the Sufi Way we will know it for ourselves.

This is so unlike most aspects in our world. Most times we’re offered information, expected to process it, and to decide if we want to believe it. Yet when following the Sufi Path this is not the case. There’s no need to “believe” in anything.

–> The Difference Between Teachers & Scholars

To learn about Sufism we can enlist the help of teachers and scholars. The academics or scholars are those who study the facts such as the origin and history of Sufism. If we want to know aspects (time, place, key players) – we can seek-out just a scholar. If we want to learn the essence, or the heart of the matter, we should seek-out a teacher as well as prepare to become a viable student.

It’s worth mentioning, here, again that the Sufi Way does not replace religion – it’s an added ingredient an essential ingredient.

–> My Experience

I’m relatively new in my pursuits and was offered the chance to read the book Learning How to Learn almost 15 years ago now. It’s penned by Idries Shah who has written many titles.

My father left this book on the kitchen table when I was visiting. Being young, and of the nature where I thought that I could “borrow” anything without asking, I took it. When I spoke with him via phone two weeks later he said, “I see you took the book I left for you.” I said, “You left it for me?” He said, “Yes, I knew you’d take it.” Here is an example – light calls to light. The light called to me. And as for my dad, well, he just knew.

In more recent years I was offered the chance to read Sufism for Western Seekers which depicts Sufi “teachings” in action via students and a teacher in a modern day mystical school.

I offer these to you if you wish to learn more about the essence of Sufism. I caution that Sufism for Western Seekers is a good prelude to Learning How to Learn in that I would read it first. I read the other first back in 1998 because Sufism for Western Seekers was yet to be written.

–> I See More Clearly and Begin to Know

While I can’t explain Sufism eloquently I do know that when I read books written by practicing Sufis (not scholars or intellects) that I see everything more clearly.

To put it in a practical sense — more “coincidences” start to happen. Yet, I don’t believe in coincidence. I now understand that it’s really a higher part of my consciousness taking hold.

This course of spiritual study is not for the impatient. It’s established in a way that has worked for those who have attained the highest point to which this study allows. The Way is provided so that we too may attain higher knowledge.

Again we’re not asked to believe, or told to believe. It’s an invitation to taste of the fruit of knowledge so that we may come to know the answers ourselves.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }


You explained this beautifully. I had never heard of Sufism until I ran into the author of the book you mentioned. I read all his books and enjoyed them so very much. The Sufi Way has been a great interest of mine ever since. I really, really appreciate how you shared your thoughts on explaining the unexplainable. Thank you!


Melody Jean

Very interesting — the excellent aspect in all of this is that everyone is now privy to this information via the way of words, in written form, via books like those mentioend. As always, thanks so much for your note!



This is not what tasawwuf (sufism) is about. First of all, how can you explain sufism without mentioning islam and the Prophet Muhammad (sas) and the Ashaab al Suffah (the first sufis in the mosque of the Prophet (sas)).

Secondly, how can you explain it without references to Quran and Sunnah and without references to the sufi saints and learned men of islam. Are u studying at the feet of sufi masters of a tareeqah? If so, which one?

I’m sorry, but sufism is a very complex science (and yes, it is a science of the islamic faith, and it is nothing else!!).. so that means you can’t be sufi without being muslim. Because one of the many goals of sufism is to become absorbed in the godly essence. And how can you expect Allah to accept you if you don’t accept His religion (islam) and His Beloved Prophet Muhammad (sas).

I look forward to an answer. We can further discuss if you don’t agree with me.

Peace be upon you

Source: i’m a disciple of Shaykh Nazim al Haqqani.


Melody Jean

Thank you for your comment and sharing your experience. I offer this from Javad Nurbakhsh “Sufism is a school of spiritual state, not discourse, and a Sufi is something to become, not something to merely read about. Since spiritual states cannot be expressed in words, Sufi sheikhs have declared, “Whatever can be expressed in words isn’t Sufism.” As Rumi has stated, “When I came to love, I was ashamed of all I have ever said about love.”

“Whatever great Sufis have said in explanation of Sufism was the result of and appropriate to their particular situation and states. Such explanation, therefore do not constitute general definitions of Sufism. Rather they refer to some of its characteristics.”


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