1. tasawwuf

"s" pronunciation as in "sorry"

"Sufism" (tasawwuf) is the science through which we can attain the modalities for our journey toward the King of kings; it is also the inner purification (tasfiya) from the vices (radhaa' il) and the inner beauty by the means of all virtues (fadhaa'il); or the erasing (ghayba) of the creature, be it lost in the vision (shuhuud) of Truth (God; al-Haqq), or going back to the manifested world (al-athar).

Its beginning is "science" ('ilm), its medium "action" ('amal) and its aim "gift" (mawhiba) [from God].

Regarding the word itself, it derives:

-possibly from safaa', purity, as its aim is purification (tasfiya) ;
-possibly from sifa, quality, because it is the qualification (ittisaaf) derived from perfections ;
-possibly from suffa, the "bench" at the Prophet's Mosque, as the sufis look very much like the People of the Bench from their orientation [towards God] (tawajjuh) and from their renouncing to the world (inqitaa') ;
-and possibly from suuf, the wool, because most of them used to wear garments made with wool as a sign of detachment of the things from this world, and also imitating those Prophets that were dressed with clothes made in wool.

This last etymology seems the most convincing from a linguistic point of view, it also corresponds in a better way to the literal sense. Effectively, the garment made in wool is what has a connection with the external judgment (hukmzaahir), based on the appearances, while the other derivations imply an inner interpretation (baatin) ; but the external interpretation is more direct. It is said: "he has taken the suuf" (tasawwafa) from someone who is dressed with wool, as well as it is also said: "taqammasa" from someone who has dressed himself with a shirt (qamiis) , and this person is qualified as "suufii".

Sahl [al-Tustari] said: "The sufi is someone who is pure (safaa) from trouble (kadar), he is filled with thinking (fikr) and has renounced to the human for the Divine ; someone for whom gold and mud have the same value", that is to say, someone who doesn't desire or wish anything but his Lord and Master.

Al-Junayd said: "The sufi is like the earth: the rubbish is thrown over it, and only good things come up". He also said: "The sufi is like the earth, a place where both an innocent and a guilty walk on in, like the sky that shadows everything, like the rain that waters everything".

(Translated from
Glossaire du Soufisme. Ibn 'Agibah. A. Saleh Hamdan)

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