Sufism & the Four Imaams


Traditions promoted by Sufis are very much similar – as we shall see – to a Christian evangelist who appears on TV and asks his audience to donate cash because Jesus called him last night and asked the people to donate. If the reader has no problem with such silly shows, there should be no problem in taking information from the Sufis who present a tradition from a certain author (Sufi in most cases) who delivers a report from one of the Imams, like Imam Malik without having the opportunity to meet him.

In the case of Imam Malik, as it will soon appear, they presented a tradition directly from the author who relates the tradition to Malik without any narrator chain and with very serious problems that may burden logic.

Traditions in Islam are either attribu ted to the Messenger – Salla Allahu ‘alayhi wasallam – or the companions of the Messenger, or someone else . All considerable traditions come with a supporting chain that can be analyzed in numerous techniques. Usually, the structure of an authentic traditi on comes in that way:

The supporting chain of narrators…

The content of the narration

The presenter of the report

The grade of the report

The requirements in parenthesis are optional.

The delivery of the report is determined from the medium type in which the report was transmitted. In some variations, the narrator hears directly from another, or hears from a middle man, or a middle man was informed about the narration. And then, from the massive biographies available, the credibility of each person in the chain can be inspected when tracing the report. This is a brief summary of a science that is way too complicated.

Stephen Schwartz authored ” The Other Islam, Sufism and the Road to Global Harmony. ” The book markets Sufism to the Western world as the alternative, peaceful, esoteric Islam which deserves all the attention from the West. His book has been glorified by the U.S. News & World Report, where they include a review about the book which includes the following clarification:

What is Sufism?

Sufism is the esoteric, metaphysical, and mystical tradition within Islam, similar to and influencing [Jewish mystical] kabbalah and Catholic spirituality. It is the tradition in Islam that looks behind the sacred text s, behind the practice, behind the outward manifestations of the religion, seeking the inner truth, the truth of the heart.

Basically, that’s Sufism: It’s a religion that spans and settles in other religions. Sufism is in Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism and everywhere. It’s also a religion that does not rely on texts. Unlike other religions, however, Islam treats knowledge very precisely – everything must be documented to be accepted. As the description above clarifies, Sufism is not concerned with the “texts,” it rather looks “behind” the texts, and that made it very hard for Sufism to survive within Islam.

In order to survive, the Sufis have forged numerous traditions to paint the Sufi way with legitimacy and sound scholarship. In this process, they have targeted the “4 Imams” – the leaders of the four schools (Imam Abu Haneefa Al – Nu’maan, Imam Malik bin Anas, Imam Al – Shaf’i, and Imam Ahmad b in Hanbal). By targeting those Four Imams, they tried to market Sufism as the path favored or praised by those Four Imams. If they were successful, many people would have followed them. Unfortunately their attempt to forge traditions and relate them to the four Imams was a complete failure as we shall see in this paper.

In this document, we shall inspect the traditions Sufis attribute to the Four Imams:
  1. Traditions Attributed to Imam Abu Hanifa
  2. Traditions Attributed to Imam Malik bin Anas
  3. Traditions Attributed to Imam Al – Shaf’i
  4. Traditions Attributed to Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal

We have copied all traditions as they appear on Sufi websites, copying the text of the traditions and pasting them in Google will reveal numerous web sites that withhold these traditions. We also include the original text of these tradit ions in Arabic if necessary to show if there has been any tampering with the translations.

1. Traditions Attributed to Imam Abu Hanifa

The following tradition is taken from a Sufi website in an attempt to convey that imam Abu Hanifa praised Sufism and was himself a Sufi :

Ibn `Abidin relates in his al Durr al mukhtar that Imam Abu Hanifa said: “If it were not for two years, I would have perished.” Ibn `Abidin comments:

For two years he accompanied Sayyidina Ja`far al – Sadiq and he acquired the spiritual knowledge that made him a gnostic in the Way… Abu `Ali Daqqaq (Imam Qushayri’s shaykh) received the path from Abu al – Qasim al – Nasirabadi, who received it from al Shibli, who received it fr om Sari al – Saqati who received it from al Ma`ruf al Karkhi, who received it from Dawud at Ta’i, who received the knowledge, both the external and the internal, from the Imam Abi Hanifa. 

The Problems:

 Problems with the reference:

It is known that Al – Durr Al – Mukhtar was written by the Hanbali scholar, The Faqeeh, Al – Hasafaki. Ibn ‘Aabdeen wrote a commentary on that book which is called Al – Rad Al – Mukhtar ‘alaa Al – Durr Al – Mukhtar, which is commonly known as Haashiyat ibn ‘Aabdeen. So practically, the name of the reference is incorrect, and the correct form is that Al – Haskafi (not ibn ‘Aabdeen) is reporting that Abu Ali Al – Daqqaaq has taken “the way of the path” from Abu Al – Qasim Al – Nasrabaadi – and this report will be inspected in a while.

In fact, in the original Arabic, the report clearly starts with:

“Abu ‘Ali Al – Daqqaaq said : ‘ I took this Tareeqa (way) from Abi Al – Qasim Al – Nasrabaadi’. And Abu Al – qasim Al – nasrabaadi said : ‘ I took took it (the Tareeqa) from Al – Shibli (…) ”

And here’s the tradition in Arabic:

نقل الفقيه الحنفي الحصكفي وذلك في كتاب (الدر المختار ج1 ص43 وعليه حاشية ابن عابدين) أن أبا علي الدقاق رحمه الله تعالى قال: أنا أخذت هذه الطريقة من أبي القاسم النصر أبادي، وقال أبو القاسم: أنا أخذتها من الشبلي، وهو من السري السقطي، وهو من معروف الكرخي، وهو من داود الطائي، وهو أخذ العلم والطريقة من أبي حنيفة رضي الله عنه، وكل منهم أثنى عليه وأقر بفضله. ثم قال صاحب الدر معلقاً: عجباً لك يا أخي؟ ألم يكن لك أسوة حسنة في هؤلاء السادات الكبار؟ أكانوا مهتمين في هذا الإقرار والافتخار وهم أئمة هذه الطريقة وأرباب الشريعة والحقيقة؟ ومن بعدهم في هذا الأمر فلهم تبع وكل ما خالف ما اعتمدوه مردود مبتدع.
This denotes that the report is not just a mere commentary from ibn ‘Aabdeen, but it is a tradition which was reported by the source ibn ‘Aabdeen is commenting on: Al – Durr Al – Mukhtar, by Al – Hasafaki.

The importance of that information we corrected should be highly emphasized, because in a while, the tradition will be traced – the tracing process requires that if a tradition appears without being reported by an existing supporting chain, the author (if he is an early source) becomes the soul reporter.

The first portion of the tradition:

1 . In the first portion of the tradition, ibn ‘aabdeen comments on events that he did not witness nor did he have any proof that Abu Haneefa learned Tasawwuf from his friend, Imam Ja’far Al – Sadiq.

2 . Moreover, the fragment: ” acquired the spiritual knowledge that made him Gnostic in the Way ” is an insertion by the translator – it does not exist in the Arabic text.

3 . And even more: There is absolutely no evidence that Abu Hanifa gained knowledge from Ja’far Al – Sadiq in those two years or any other years. Throughout the teachings of Abu Hanifa, there isn’t anything that suggests that Abu Hanifa got this or that piece of knowledge from Ja’far Al – Sadiq.

4 . And even more: If Abu Hanifa learned from Ja’far Al – Sadiq, he would report his teachings, or even more: Follow his school. But there is no evidence for that .

5 . The Sufi who falls for such twisted traditions should ask: What Tareeqa did Ja’afar Al – Sadiq follow? Who is his shaikh? What is the name of the Tareeqa Ja’far Al – Sadiq formed? There are no answers for any of those questions which forms a barrier between Imam Ja’far al – Sadiq and the claim that he was a Sufi. Actually, in the Sufi Land of Wonders, all scholars happen to be Sufis, even the most notorious critics of Sufism like Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal and ibn Taymiyya.

The second portion of the tradition:

In the tradition presented by the Sufis contains no supporting chain of narrators , and that makes the author who presented the tradition the soul reporter, and that introduce s the following problems when the tradition is traced:

• Abu Hanifa died in 150 A.H.

• Dawoud At – Taa – ee died in 162 A.H.

• Ma’rouf Al – Karkhi died in 200 A.H.

• Al – Sari Al – Saqti died in 253 A.H.

• Al – Shibli was born in 247 A.H. and died in 334 A.H.

• Al – Nasr – Abadi died in 367 A.H.

• Abu ‘Ali Al – Daqqaaq died in 450 A.H.

Under the light of the above facts, the following analysis takes place:

[1] For Al – Hasafaki’s report to be true, Abu Ali Al – Daqqaaq must have heard from Abu Al – Qasim Al – Nasrabaadi; This however, cannot be verified. This is the first gap.

[2] If the first gap is filled, however, we can safely conclude that Al – Nasrabaadi could have heard from his shaikh, Al – Shibli… But…

[3] Al – Shibli lived his first six (6) years, before his shaikh Al – Sari Saqti died! That, means that Al – Shibli took the Tareeqa and completed the task when he reached the age of six. Of course, that’s another gap.

[4] There is no evidence that Al – Sari Saqti and Ma’rouf Al – Karkhi accompanied each other.

[5] Imam Al – Thahabi (in Siyar A’laam Al – Nubalaa) denied the possibility that Ma’rouf Al – Karkhi met with Dawoud Al – Taa-ee. However, if we bend the impossible and make it possible, then…

[6] … we must assume that Dawoud Al – Taa-ee renounced the world and left his shaikh Abu Hanifa before the latter’s death in 8 years – and this is unusual in the Sufi land of wonders.


2. Traditions Attributed to Imam Malik 

The popular tradition Sufis cite about Imam Malik is the following:

” He who practices Tasawwuf without learning Sacred Law corrupts his faith, while he who learns Sacred Law without practicing Tasawwuf corrupts himself. Only he who combines the two proves true. “

This tradition is found in numerous

Sufi websites

. Exactly under the tradition, the Sufis cite the first person who attributed it to Imam Malik and others who distributed it:

” It is related by the muhaddith Ahmad Zarruq (d. 899 ), the hafiz `Ali al – Qari al – Harawi ( d. 1014 ), the muhaddiths `Ali ibn Ahmad al `Adawi ( d. 1190 ) and Ibn `Ajiba ( d. 1224 ), and others.

And here is the tradition as it appears in Arabic text:

قال إمام دار الهجرة الإمام مالك رحمه الله، وذلك في كتاب الشفا للقاضي عياض شرح ملا علي القارئ ج 5 ص 408): من تفقه ولم يتصوف فقد تفسق، ومن تصوف ولم يتفقه فقد تزندق، ومن جمع بينهما فقد تحقق.

The Problems:

As it is clearly mentioned by the Sufi website, the first appearance of the tradition comes from Zarrouq Al – Maghribi and he is the one responsible for inserting this forged tradition which hasn’t been known to be a uthentic in the Maliki cliques. Furthermore, the tradition lacks a supporting chain, and thus obtains zero credibility in the methodologies of the sciences of Hadeeth, and thus, the natural evaluation for this tradition is to reject it.

Moreover, none of the Maliki scholars who inspected the traditions – like Alqurtubi, ibn ‘Abd Al – barr, or Alquraafi, and others – mentioned this tradition. Also, this tradition does not appear in the traditions of Malik, such as Al muwatta, or Almudawwana by Imam Suhnoon, or even Almukhtasar – those sources contain the authentic teachings of Imam Malik.

And by inspecting the dates we find that:

[1] Imam Malik died in 179 A.H.

[2] Zarrouq Almaghrbi is the first reporter, he died in 899 A.H. The gap between the two is 720 years , and that makes it impossible to accept that Zarrouq Almaghribi hea rd from Imam Malik. So the first reporter should be confidently discarded.

[3] Ali Al – qari Al – Harawi died in 1014 A.H. The gap betwe en him and Malik is 835 years! For this re port to be true, there should be at least 13 narrators between Ali Al – Qari and Imam Malik. However , we only see Ali Al – Qari alone; And that makes it impossible for the two to meet and communicate with one another.

[4] Ali Al – Adawi died in 1190 A.H. The gap between him And Malik is 1011 years.

[5] Ibn ‘Ajiba died in 1224 A.H. The gap between him and Malik is 1045 years.

The dates show that it is impossible for any of these people to meet Imam Malik and hear from him. And this makes the tradition a poorly forged hadeeth that deserves to be discarded due to failing basic analysis.


3. Traditions Attributed to Imam Al – Shaf ‘i

The Sufis thump two traditions which they relate to Imam Al – Shaf’i:

1. ” Al – hafiz al – Suyuti relates in Ta’yid al – haqiqa al – `aliyya that Imam al – Shafi`i said:

I accompanied the Sufis and received from them but three words: their statement that time is a sword: if you do not cut it, it cuts you; their statement that if you do not keep your ego busy with truth it will keep you busy with falsehood; their statement that deprivation is immunity. ”

The Problems:

1. As usual, the Sufis have tampered with the translation to cover up a problem.

The tradition in Arabic, directly from the book appears below :

قال الشافعي -رضي الله عنه – ” صحبت الصوفية فلم استفد منهم سوى حرفين : أحدهما قولهم
الوقت سيف فان قطعته , والا قطعك وذكر الكلمة الأخرى
ونفسك ان لم تشغلها بالحق والا شغلتك بالباطل. وقولهم: العدم عصمة. انتهى


Al Suyooti didn’t say that Al – Shaf’i said: “… and received ” as the Sufis translate the tradition, he said : “fa lam astafid…” meaning, ” I did not benefit from them except three words :… ”

That doesn’t look like Imam Al – Shaf’I is praising the Sufis, but it looks like he is criticizing them because there is nothing beneficial to learn from them except those three words.

Of course this tradition comes in more than one narration, one of them begins with: ” I accompanied the Sufis for ten years , and I have not benefitted from them except three words …” (Reported by ibn Alqayyim and others.)

Sorry, but that doesn’t look like praising, but totally the opposite. Not to mention that the tradition lacks a supporting chain which makes it devious and worthy of rejection. However, we will pass by authentic traditions – in a while – with proper supporting chains.

2. ” The muhaddith al – `Ajluni also relates in his book Kashf al khafa wa muzil al albas that Imam Shafi`i said:

Three things in this world have been made lovely to me: avoiding affectation, treating people kindly, and following the way of tasawwuf. ”

The Problems:

[1] Imam Al – Shaf’ i died in 204 A.H.

[2] Al – Ajlouni died in 1162 A.H.

The gap between the two is 958 years. And due to the lack of a supporting chain, we can only conclude that Al – Ajlouni heard directly from Imam Al – Shaf’i, and this is impossible due to the 958 – years gap.

What did Al – Shaf’i Say About Sufis?

1. Al – Imam Albayhaqi reported: Abu Abdallah Al – Haafith informed us that: He heard Abu Muhammad, Ja’far bin Muhammad bin Al – Harith saying that: I heard Abu Abdallah, Alhusayn bin Muhammad bin Bahar saying that: I heard Yunus bin Abd – Al – A’laa saying that: I heard Al – Shaf’i saying :

” If a man enters Sufism in the beginning of the day, he wouldn’t reach the middle of the day without being a lunatic!

[Reported by Albayhaqi, in Manaqib Al – Shaf’i]

2. The above report is also reported by Abu Na’eem Al – Asbahani: Muhammad bin Abdulrahmaan reporte d to us that: Abu Alhasan bin qitat reported to him that:Muhammad bin Abi Yahya reported to him that: Yunus bin Abd – Al – A’la said :

” If a rational man enters Sufism in the beginning of the day, he wouldn’t reach the middle of the day without being a lunatic . “

[Reported by Abu Na’eem Al – Asbahani, in Tuhfat Al – Awliya a , V. 9 ]

Arabic Source :

” لو أن رجلا تصوف أول النهار ، لا يأتي الظهر حتى يصير أحمق ”

It came to my attention that some Sufis have once again distorted the meaning of this tradition and translated it as:

“If a rational man does not become a Sufi he does not reach noon except he is an idiot!”

What happened in their silly translation is that they tampered with the conditional instrument LAWLA / لولا (the first word) and made it all by themselves, and without respect to the Arabic language – they’ve ma de it an instrument of negation, and this is wrong. LAWLA is a plain instrument used as a conditional ( آداة شرط غير جازمة ) and categorized along with: LAWW, LAWMAA, and ITHAA. So in other ways:

“A man does not become a lunatic by noon, because he did not become a Sufi in the beginning of the day.”

Anything other than that means:

” Every rational man who does not become a Sufi is a lunatic. “

That means the Messenger (S) and all the Companions were lunatics because they were NOT Sufis . This only make s sense to Sufis, although it’s only a typical form of abusing and distorting basic grammatical principles as it usually happens in the Sufi Land of Wonders .

Think about the Sufi translat ion for a while: How could a rational man be rational if he is not a Sufi in the first place? So if the rational man is not a Sufi in the beginning of the day, he can’t be a lunatic in the midst of the day just because he is not a Sufi, because – according to the Sufi

translation – he is already a lunatic for rejecting Sufism since the beginning of the day.

Perhaps some might know that many Sufi shaikhs were lunatics and ended up in mental confinements like Al – Shibli, the student of Junayd, he used to enter trances where he would lose his mind and his students would take him to be confined in a Maristan (mental hospital) until he gets back to his senses. And also Ibn Rajab Al – Hanbali presents the biography of Ahmad bin Ibrahim bin Abdil – Rahman bin Mas’ood bin ‘Umar Al – Waasiti Al – Huzaami, in Volume 2, Page 256 of his book: Thayl Tabaqaat Al – Hanaabila , where we are informed about this great Sufi shaikh :” … He died in 711 A.H. in the small Maristan (nut house) in Damascus.” And many Sufis were like that due to the Sufi rituals and practices.

That’s why Al – Shaf’i linked the Sufis with lunacy – many of their great figures were lunatics who ended up or used to be common patients in mental hospitals.

I this is not what was intended in the report gi ven by Abu Na’eem, then read on.

3. Abu Na’eem Al – Asbahani also reported that: he was informed by Abu Muhammad bin Hayyaan from: Abu Al – Hasan Albaghdadi, from: ibn Saa’d, who reported that Imam Al – Shaf’i said:

” Sufism is constructed on laziness .” 

[Reported by Abu Na’eem Al – Asbahani, in Tuhfat Al – Awliyaa, V. 9]

The tradition above is mentioned two pages before #2 , which also clarifies the position of Al – Shaf’i according to Abu Na’eem.

In Arabic:

 قال الشافعي رحمه الله أسس التصوف على الكسل

Al – Kasal ( الكسل )

means Laziness

, but obviously in the Sufi Land of Wonders , it is probably a reference to the fountain of youth .

The reader should be able to see the difference between what is authentic, and that which is cooked in the Sufi Land of Wonders . A tradition worthy of consideration comes with a supporting chain, but almost all of the traditions related to th e supposed pra ise of Sufism appear without a chain that could be inspected.

4. Traditions Attributed to Imam Ibn Hanbal

This school – The Hanbali school – consist of the most notorious scholars who have criticized Sufism and Sufis, and Ibn Hanbal is no exception. Nevertheless, the Sufis do not hesitate to forge traditions to Ibn Hanbal that falsely convey that Sufism is worthy to follow. We shall see the two traditions Sufis use to thump Sufism on Ibn Hanbal’s behalf.

1. Imam Ahmad (r) said, advising his son :

“O my son, you have to sit with the People of Sufism, because they are like a fountain of knowledge and they keep the Remembrance of Allah in their hearts. They are the ascetics and they have the most spiritual power.” [Tanwir al – Qulub , p. 405, by Shaikh Ami n al – Kurdi.

The Problems:

[1] This is a very interesting tradition, regardless of its forgery. The Sufis n ever asked themselves what natural responses will float when the audience receive this tradition and wonder:

• Why didn’t the son (Abdullah) take his father’s advice and follow the Sufis? (It is not known that the son followed the Sufis or any Sufi Tariqa).

• Even more: Why didn’t the father apply this advice himself and follow the Sufis or a Sufi Tariqa?

[2] The author of the reference, Amin Al – Kurdi, is a Naqshabandi Shaikh (A Sufi!) who died in 1332 A.H. – that’s around 100 years ago . So there is no way for him to know that Ibn Hanbal delivered this wonderf ul advice to his son with a supporting chain missing to confirm the credibility of this tradition.

[3] Focusing on the translation, we see that ” they are like a fountain of knowledge ,” and ” they have the most spiritual power ” – this shows that the Sufis have tampered the forged tradition. Does the reader get the idea? It’s not only a forged tradition, but even the translation is forged. Here is the Arabic text of the forged tradition which the Sufis translated from:

” ياولدي عليك بالحديث، وإياك مجالسة هؤلاء الذين سموا أنفسهم صوفية، فانهم ربما كان أحدهم جاهلا بأحكام دينه. فلما صحب أبا حمزة البغدادي الصوفي، وعرف أحوال القوم، أصبح يقول لولده: ياولدي عليك بمجالسة هؤلاء القوم، فانهم زادو علينا بكثرة العلم (والمراقبة والخشية والزهد وعلو الهمة” ( من تنوير القلوب للعلامة الشيخ أمين الكردي


• Only this portion (colored in blue ) has been translated, the above has been dismissed in the Sufi translati on. The portion above includes Ibn H anbal’s first advice to his son Abdullah to stay away from the Sufis, and then he met Abu Hamza Albaghdadi, and changed his opinion about the Sufis.

• The first underlined phrase (transliterated): “fa innahum zadu ‘alayna bikathrat al – ‘ilm,” literally means: “They have excelled over us (us = we, people of Hadeeth) in knowledge.” They have translated that to: ” they are like a fountain of knowledge !

• The sec ond underlined phrase (transliterated): “wa ‘uluw al – himma,” literally means, “and they are hard workers.” They translated that to: “and they have the most spiritual power ! ”

2. Muhammad ibn Ahmad al – Saffarini al – Hanbali (d. 1188) relates in his Ghidha’ al – albab li – sharh manzumat al – adab from Ibrahim ibn `Abd Allah al – Qalanasi that Imam Ahmad said about the Sufis:

” I don’t know people better than them.” Someone said to him: “They listen to music and they reach states of ecstasy.” He said: “Do you prevent them from enjoying an hour with Allah ?”


[1] Ibn Hanbal died in 241 A.H.

[2] Al – Saffarini, as it is shown in the Sufi citation, died in 1188 A.H.

[3] Al – Saffarini’s source comes directly from a report from Ibn Al – Akhdhar who related the report to Al – Qalanasi, and here it is in Arabic:

ذكر الحافظ بن الأخضر فيمن روى عن أحمد في ترجمة إبراهيم بن عبد الله القلانسي قال: قيل لأحمد بن حنبل : إن الصوفية يجلسون في المساجد بلا علم على سبيل التوكل قال: العلم أجلسهم ؟ فقال: ليس مرادهم من الدنيا إلا كسرة خبز وخرقة, فقال: لا أعلم على وجه الأرض أقواما أفضل منهم قيل إنهم يستمعون ويتواجدون قال : دعوهم يفرحون مع الله تعالى ساعة قيل: فمنهم من يغشى عليه ومنهم من يموت فقال: { وبدا لهم من الله ما لم يكونوا يحتسبون }.

   الآداب الشرعية لابن مفلح ج/ 2 صفحة : 322 – 333

[4] The point above shows another gap between Alqalanasi and Ibn Al – Akhdhar from one side, and Alqalanasi and Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal from another side .

[5] Imam Al – Thahabi treated this tradition in Volume 3, Page 120, of his book Meezain Al – I’tidaal , under the entry: Ali bin Al – Hasan Al – Tarsousi, Al – Thahbi said: ” He (Ali bin Al – Hasan Al – Tarsousi) is a Sufi who inserted (forged) the story of Imam Ibn Hanbal praising the Sufis and correcting their ways; Al – Ateeqi narrated this story from him (Al – Tarsousi) . ”

[6] Al – Haafith Ibn Hajar also treated this tradition in Volume 4, Page 220, in his book Lisaan Al – Meezan , under the entry: Ali bin Al – Hasan Al – Tarsousi , Ibn Hajar said: “[Al – Tarsousi] is a Sufi who inserted a story about Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal in an attempt to praise the Sufis. His story was embraced and narrated by Al – Ateeqi .” On the other hand, Al – Ateeqi’s narrative can be found in Al – Tiyooriyaat, a coll ection of traditions compiled by Abu Al – Husain Al – Tiyoori.

As it is clear, the first and the second reports are fully fabricated.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here