The great Imam Nu’man ibn Thabit Abu Hanifah, or al-Imam al-A’zam (or the Grand Imam), divided fiqh into three categories. According to his definition of fiqh, which meant simply “understanding one’s rights and responsibilities”, the highest level of fiqh consisted of a sound comprehension of authentic creed. This level of fiqh he termed al-Fiqh al-Akbar, or Major Fiqh.
According to the Imam, the lowest level of these three categories, al-Fiqh al-Asghar (Minor Fiqh), covered legal rulings, or ahkam. In other words, in relation to rank of importance, creed held the first position while legal rulings, or what we call fiqh today, held the last.
Above this last category of fiqh, Imam Abu Hanifah positioned al-Fiqh al-Awsat. This medium level of fiqh was defined by the science of perfecting one’s character and esoteric attributes, in other words: purification of the soul.
This level of fiqh, preceded only by the science of ‘aqidah (creed) in importance, has enjoyed many labels over the centuries. Some people called this Middle Fiqh tazkiyah or taziyat al-nafs. Others called it fiqh al-batin. Still others called it tasawwuf. Whatever the label happened to be, however, the goal and purpose remained the same.
Unfortunately, however, as certain labels began to share association with the troubling actions of some who claimed adherence to them, the word tasawwuf began to suffer the same collective guilt syndrome that Islam is now afflicted with today.
It is due to this unfortunate association that today tasawwuf and sufis have a bad name. In particular, many Muslims who attribute their creed and fiqh to the pious Salaf – and then label themselves therefore “Salafi” – have an allergy, as one of my teachers would call it, for tasawwuf.
This book tackles the issue of tasawwuf from the angle of those who are considered the “Imams of the Salafi movement”. The author, a respected student and deputy of the great hadith master, Shaykh al-Hadith Muhammad Zakariyya al-Kandhalawi (may Allah have mercy on him), has collected a large number of quotations from the books of Imams Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, Dhahabi, Ibn Kathir, Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, and Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab (may Allah have mercy on them) and proved through their own sayings that they supported tasawwuf and sufis, if even only in concept.
Over three hundred pages, the book is a must for every student of the science of tasawwuf, especially for those seekers who are faced daily with a barrage of objections from shallow-minded literalists who attribute themselves to the Salaf.