Sufism is a science whose objective is the reparation of the heart and turning it away from all else but God.
Sufism spelled as tasavvuf and tasavvof according to the Persian pronunciation, is generally understood to be the inner, mystical dimension of Islam. A practitioner of this tradition is generally known as a ṣūfī (صُوفِيّ), though some adherents of the tradition reserve this term only for those practitioners who have attained the goals of the Sufi tradition. Another name used for the Sufi seeker is Dervesh.
Classical Sufi scholars have defined Sufism as "a science whose
objective is the reparation of the heart and turning it away from
all else but God." Alternatively, in the words of a Sufi teacher, "a
science through which one can know how to travel into the presence
of the Divine, purify one’s inner self from filth, and beautify it
with a variety of praiseworthy traits."
During the primary stages of Sufism, Sufis were characterized by their particular attachment to dhikr "remembrance of God" and asceticism. The Sufi movement has spanned several continents and cultures over a millennium.
In its early stages of development Sufism effectively referred to nothing more than the internalization of Islam. According to one perspective, it is directly from the Qur’an, constantly recited, meditated, and experienced, that Sufism proceeded, in its origin and its development. Others have held that Sufism is the strict emulation of the way of Muhammad, through which the heart's connection to the Divine is strengthened.
From the traditional Sufi point of view, the esoteric teachings of Sufism were transmitted from Mohammad (salalahu alaihy wasallam)to those who had the capacity to acquire the direct experiential gnosis of God, which was passed on from teacher to student through the centuries. Some of this transmission is summarized in texts, but most is not.
Sufism had a long history already before the subsequent institutionalization of Sufi teachings into devotional orders (tarîqât) in the early middle Ages. Almost all extant Sufi orders trace their chains of transmission (silsila) back to Mohammad (salalahu alaihy wasallam). The Naqshbandi order traces the origin of its teachings from Mohammad (salalahu alaihy wasallam) to the first Islamic Caliph Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA).
The practice of muraqaba can be likened to the practices of
meditation attested in many faith communities. The word muraqaba is
derived from the same root (r-q-b) occurring as one of the 99 Names
of God in the Qur'an, al-Raqîb, meaning "the Vigilant" and attested
in verse 4: 1 of the Qur'an. Through muraqaba, a person watches over
or takes care of the spiritual heart, acquires knowledge about it,
and becomes attuned to the Divine Presence, which is ever vigilant.