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One of the indispensible conditions of Sufism is Ilm or Knowledge.

The Holy Prophet Muhammad (sallal lahu alaihi wasallam) said, "The search for knowledge is obligatory for all Muslim men and women". He was once asked, " O Prophet of Allah, which action is best?". He replied " Knowledge ". He was then questioned " Which knowledge do you mean? ". He said " Knowledge about Allah ". They said " We ask you about action and you speak of knowledge ". The Prophet said

"With your knowledge of Allah, a few actions will suffice and your ignorance about Allah will not suffice even though actions are numerous".

It is stated in a Hadith-e-Qudsi, where Allah says " I was a hidden treasure, I loved to be known and created the world to be known ", and according to this Hadith it is important to recognize Allah and this fact is supported in Fiqh that " First learn to know Allah and then worship him ".

Hujjatul Islam Imam Muhammad Al-Ghazali (radi Allahu anhu) states that Knowledge is the foundation of every action and the pivot of religion . The goodness in this world or the hereafter cannot be achieved without knowledge nor can Iman or Belief be perfected without it.

Hazrat Data Ganje Baksh (radi Allahu anhu) says that a dervish can reach the pinnacle of his spiritual glory by first of all acquiring the necessary Ilm and then strictly following its dictates rigidly. The wise men of Islam say that an ignorant cannot recognize Allah. The Prophet was asked " Is seeking knowledge better than reading the Quran ". He replied:  " Can one gain any benefit from the Quran without knowledge? ".

Hazrat Muhammad Fadl al Balkhi (radi Allahu anhu) says that there are three kinds of Knowledge :

1) Ilm Min Allah { Knowledge from Allah }

This is the knowledge by which the Prophets and saints recognize Allah. Since he is beyond description, human intellect and explanation, is incapable of knowing him except through his grace.

2) Ilm Ma’a Allah { Knowledge from Allah }

This is knowledge conferred by Shariat which is compulsory upon all.

3) Ilm Bi Allah { Knowledge with Allah }

This is the knowledge of the journey to Allah and all the stations and stages thereof.

This shows that Ma'rifat is not possible without Shariat and Shariat cannot be said to have been followed properly if it does not result in Ma'rifat. To attain the recognition or Ma’rifa of Allah can be known in two ways :

  1. One can know him as communicated by the great scholars of the Ahle-Sunnah.
  2. Through the great Mashaaikh and Sufis.


  1. Knowledge attained through divine inspiration.
  2. Pertains to ones spiritual state and cleanliness.
  3. Carnal soul has perished.
  4. The soul becomes a firm believer and Iman is protected and at this stage ones worship is real.
  1. Knowledge can be gained by means of study.
  2. Pertains to knowledge and intelligence.
  3. Carnal soul has not given up obedience.
  4. Iman and worship are in superficial form because the nafs has not become a believer yet.

Hazrat ALI (Karamallahu Wajhul Kareem) said in a poem:

Glory is due to none other than the learned
Guided are they and proofs to the seeker of guidance.
Everybody is honoured, proportionate to his knowledge.
But the illiterate are disgraced, as enemies of the learned, you will be immortal.
All men are dead, only the learned are alive.

The question know arises as to who are these learned persons who are honoured so much?

For this answer we go to the Holy Quran in which Almighty Allah says, " Of all the servants of Allah only the Ulama fear him most". (Sura 35:Verse 25). There is also a Hadis that declares that the Ulama are the inheritors of the Prophets.

This Quranic ayat and narration of the Prophet (sallal lahu alaihi wasallam does not refer to those who have gained knowledge by studying for several years on the tenants of Islam and sold their knowledge for this material world and also this does not refer to those Ulama who only possess Ilm-e-Zahir (Outer Knowledge) but to those who live up to their knowledge possess piety and achieve success in attaining both Ilm-e-Zahir (Outer Knowledge) and Ilm-e-Batin (Inner Knowledge) The light of knowledge does not enter the hearts of those who possess Ilm-e-Zahir since they have not become sincere in their resolution and have not been rescued from the claws of desire and lust. For them only the fire of Hell will clear their hearts. For one to truly fear Allah, shows that they have recognised him because how can one fear someone that one does not know and without any doubt the true Ulama according to this ayat are the Aulia (Saints) and Saleheen (Pious) because they have recognised Allah. Therefore the Prophet (sallal lahu alaihi wasallam) said "To be in the company of the learned (Ulama) is better than praying one thousand rakaats of salaat, visiting a thousand sick people and attending one thousand funerals".

Hazrat Yahya Muadz Razi (radi Allahu anhu) has warned that one must abstain from being in the company of heedless Ulama who are in the habit of worshipping wealth, taking pride in wordly grandeur, nursing their arrogance, flattering kings and dignitaries, condemning the true leaders of men, praising their own power of eloquence and intellectual attainments. All this is not knowledge.

It is compulsory for one to first gain some knowledge in regards to Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence) before adopting the spiritual path because performing religious duties such as, namaaz, hajj and all the other religious practices are impossible without this knowledge. Hazrat Junaid Baghdadi (radi Allahu anhu) said My Murshid said to me once "With whom do you keep company when you leave my house ?". I said "I keep company with Mohasabi". He said "Yes, follow his knowledge and manners but avoid subtleties of his scholastic theology and return it to him". When I left him I heard him say "May Allah make you first a Muhadith and then a Sufi but not first a Sufi and then a Muhadith".

Imam Ghazali (radi Allahu anhu) explains in his commentary that the meaning of this is that he should acquire first the science of tradition and learning and then become a Sufi and then will he get salvation, but he who becomes a Sufi before acquiring knowledge throws himself into faults.

The Prophet (sallal lahu alaihi wasallam) once said "Shall I not inform you about a perfect Faqih". The companions said "Yes". He said "A perfect Faqih is one who does not deprive the people of the mercy of Allah, does not give hope of freedom from punishment, nor makes them loose hope of his mercy nor discards the Quran in favour of something else". Hazrat Imam Al Qastalani (radi Allahu anhu) states in his Al-Mawahib that the Holy Prophet (sallal lahu alaihi wasallam) said that on the night of Me’raj "My Rabb revealed to me three different types of knowledge, he told me not to reveal the first to anyone because none but I can understand this knowledge. He said you may communicate the second science to whom you wish and teach the third to all you Ummah".

These 3 sciences of knowledge are :

  1. None but the Prophet (sallal lahu alaihi wasallam) knows the first science.
  2. The second is the knowledge of Sufism and secret sciences.
  3. The third one is the knowledge of Fiqh or Islamic Jurisprudence.


The most mysterious part of Sufism is the delicate subject of Ilm-e-Ladunni or secret knowledge which is beyond all human conception and intellect. Knowledge is of two types:

  1. One which we receive from Madressa, Schools and Universities.  Whatever is learned in these institutions is dubbed as knowledge.
  2. One which is imparted directly from Allah without the medium of schools, madressas, etc.  This is known as the secret or hidden knowledge

About this science the Holy Prophet (sallal lahu alaihi wasallam) said "This is such a knowledge which is like a hidden thing. None can grasp it except those who know Allah. Don’t despise such learned men whom Allah has given a portion of it, as Allah does not despise a man to whom he gives a gift". This knowledge is not recorded in books and even if a person reads a million books he will not attain it. Hazrat Abu Huraira (radi Allahu anhu), one of the ASHAB-US-SUFFA said "I learnt two sciences from Rasullallah (sallal lahu alaihi wasallam), I have conveyed to you the first one. You cannot comprehend the second one and you would kill me if I disclose it to you". The first science is the outer knowledge and the second one being the inner knowledge known only to the Awliya.

Attainment of this knowledge depends totally upon the grace of Allah who bestows it upon whom he wishes eg. He gives one knowledge from himself as he did for Hazrat Khizr (alaihi salatu was salaam). Allah says in the Holy Quran "Then they found a bondsman from our bondsman whom we gave mercy from ourselves and bestowed upon him our inspired knowledge". (Sura Kahaf verse 65). Then man with the consciousness of what he has received reaches the level of divine wisdom where he knows his creator and worships him whom he knows. This knowledge has been bestowed upon the chosen Aulia and their only object of life is the duty to guide humanity on the right path of truth and love whenever it goes astray.

A perfect Sufi is in constant communion with Allah through Ilm-e-Laduni and has unlimited powers to prevail upon the whole creation of his Creators universe. This Ilm-e-Laduni has the following four mediums of communication with Allah :

1.  WAHI

         This was a communication only between Allah and his chosen Prophets.


    A Type of Prophetic dream inspired by Allah, inspired by Allah to divine personalities for the benefit of mankind.


    This a stage of the highly developed divine intelligence acquired by Saints and the pious.


This is the hidden or secret knowledge both of earthly or heavenly things. This knowledge also lies dormant and hidden in certain verses of the Holy Quran. This knowledge is interpreted by those Sufis only who reach the pinnacle of spirituality.

Hazrat Data Ganj Baksh (radi Allahu anhu) says that "Mans life without any spiritual or divine knowledge is faithlessness". The secret science is a light which illuminates the heart. Through this knowledge a person begins to understand things which he heard of but did not understand. A certain Sufi said "Whoever has these two characteristics that is heresy and pride, will never be blessed with this secret science".

The disclosure of this Ilm is strictly prohibited by the Mashaaikh. Hazrat Khwaja Qutbudeen Bakhtiyaar Kaki (radi Allahu anhu) says "A Sufi must have strong courage, will power and tolerance to resist the temptation of divulging divine secrets as it would amount to the disclosure of the secrets of his ‘friend’ (Allah)". Hazrat Junaid Baghdadi (radi Allahu anhu) said "A thousand pities on that lover who is madly in love with his beloved (Allah), but when he sees Allah’s myriad Divine Secrets and beauties he discloses them to others".

When Allah wishes to bestow upon anyone the crown of Wilayat and if that particular person has insufficient or no knowledge then Allah bestows upon him this inspired knowledge which encompasses the external and internal knowledge. There is a famous saying of Imam Shafi’ee (radi Allahu anhu) that "Allah does not make an ignorant a Wali". We find great personalities such as Hazrat Ahmad Ibn Hambal (radi Allahu anhu) {Hambali Madhab named after him}, who was the most superior scholar of his age and was at a high degree of knowledge and Ijthihad, became the disciple of Hazrat Bishr Hafi (radi Allahu anhu) to obtain this knowledge. When he was asked as to why he had kept the company of Hazrat Bishr Hafi (radi Allahu anhu), he answered "He knows Allah better than I do".

Another example is Imam-e-Azam Hazrat Imam Abu Hanifa (radi Allahu anhu) {The Hanafi madhad is named after him}. He gave up the work of Ijthihad in his latter years and became the disciple of Hazrat Imam Jaffar Sadiq (radi Allahu anhu). When he was asked as to why he had done so, he replied "Nu’man (his real name) would have perished if it were not for those two years of his company".

Hazrat Imam Shafi’ee (radi Allahu anhu) (The founder of the Shafi’ee Madhab) used to sit near Hazrat Sha’iban Ray (radi Allahu anhu) and consult him on many matters. The people asked the great Imam "You are so learned, why do you seek advice from a Bedouin". He replied "This man has learnt what we have not learnt".

As we can see these very great Imams of the Ummah who had high grades in knowledge and worship, humbled themselves in the presence of the grand masters of Tassawuf to attain the secret Ilm. These Imams clung to and joined the service of the Mashaaikh and became great Sufis themselves.

This shows that salvation and spiritual success depends totally on one becoming a disciple or mureed of a perfect spiritual master or Pir-o-Murshid.



  • The Quran - English translalation - from Ala' Hazrat Imam Ahmed Raza Khan's Kanzul-Iman
  • Kashful Mahjoob - Hazrat Data Ganj-e-Baksh (radi Allahu anhu)
  • Secret of Secrets - Hazrat Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani (radi Allahu anhu)
  • Ihya-Ul-Uloom -  Volume 1- Hazrat Imam Al Ghazali (radi Allahu anhu)
  • Maktubat of Imam Muhammad Masoom Farooqi (radi Allahu anhu) -Waqf Iklas - Turkey
  • Excellence of Knowledge and the Ulema - Hazrat Imam Muhammad Naqi Ali Khan Qaderi Barkati (radi Allahu anhu)
  • The Great Beyond - Sayed Ale' Rasool Hasnain Mia Barkati
  • Advice for the Muslim - Waqf Iklas - Turkey
  • The Big Five of India - W.D.Begg
  • Al Kausar Newsletter - Lenasia Monthly Newsletter
  • Siratul Muslimeen - Manchester Sunni Monthly magazine


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