The Soofees -- By: Daniel P. Noyes

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 006:22 (May 1849)
Article: The Soofees
Author: Daniel P. Noyes

The Soofees

Daniel P. Noyes

The Soofees are a sect of Mohammedan Mystics, or Quietists. “Traces of the Soofee doctrine,” says Sir John Malcolm, “exist, in some shape or other, in every region of the world. It is to be found in the most splendid theories of the ancient schools of Greece, and of the modern philosophers of Europe. It is the dream of the most ignorant and the most learned, and is seen at one time indulging in the shade of ease, at another traversing the pathless desert.” The opinions of this sect have prevailed most extensively in Hindostan and Persia. At the time when the author just quoted wrote his history (which was published in 1829), their numbers, in the latter kingdom, were estimated by some as high as two, or even three hundred thousand; and the great reputation acquired by one of their ancient priests, enabled his descendants to occupy the Persian throne from A. D. 1500 to 1736.

The name (Soofee) is derived, in the opinion of Tholuck, from the Arabic “sof” (wool), in allusion to the material of their garments. Others have referred it to the Arabic “sufa” (pure), and some to the Greek “σοφός” (wise).

A variety of opinions have prevailed, likewise, with regard to the origin of the Soofic doctrines. Some have been disposed to look for it in4he philosophy of India; others, in that of Greece; and Tholuck was, at one time, inclined to the opinion that it took its rise shortly after the death of Haroun Al Raschid, among the Magi of Khorassan. But these views, on thorough examination, appear to be untenable; and we must, therefore, look to Mohammedanism itself, and the native character of the Eastern nations, for the source of this ancient mysticism.

Mohammed found the Arabs strongly inclined to monastic life; and, for the purpose of checking this tendency, he declared that “the journey to Mecca was accepted, by the Most High God, in its place.” But his effort was unavailing. For in less than thirty years after his death, hermits had become numerous in the deserts; and so strong was the national propensity, that even the most eminent of his followers, Abubeker and Ali, were founders of monastic communities. These were the parents of the later organizations of like nature, and from them, even as late as the twelfth century, Soofism derived all its most famous doctors. The genius and the opinions of those holy men who were placed at the head of these associations, and whose memoirs have employed the ablest pens, furnish the most satisfactory proofs that the Soofic mysticism was something well known in that age. Anecdotes and sayings illustrative of this fact are abundant. The following may be taken as an exampl...

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