Sufism is Islamic mysticism, and focuses on cultivating an individual’s intimate, loving, and emotional relationship to God. Meditation, singing, dancing, and dhikr (recitation of Allah’s divine attributes) are common practices within Sufism that are designed to help an individual directly experience God’s divine love. Sufis believe that a person should gain religious knowledge from teachers and personal experience of God rather than exclusively through books. Sufism has a strong tradition of revering past leaders, and many Sufis make pilgrimages to shrines dedicated to saints. Sufis are grouped into various orders (known as tariqas) each with slightly different practices. Sufism is not a distinct sect of Islam, andtariqasare found within both Sunni and Shi’a communities. Although Sufis have been relatively small in number throughout history, many prominent Muslim poets and academics such as al-Ghazzali, Rumi, and Omar Khayyam have been profoundly influenced by Sufi thought. Sufis have often experienced persecution because some Muslims view their practices as bid’ah(heretical innovation).
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