November 27, 2017 Special Dispatch No. 7198

Saudi Journalist Following Massacre At Sufi Mosque In Sinai: Accusations Of Heresy Against Sufis Stem From Ignorance And Prejudice

November 27, 2017
Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 7198

In response to the deadly terror attack perpetrated on November 24, 2017 against Sufi worshipers in the Al-Rawdah mosque in northern Sinai, in which over 300 people were killed, Saudi writer and journalist Hani Naqshabandi published an article on the Elaph website in which he presented the positive aspects of Sufism, such as charity and tolerance. He came out against the Salafis who accuse the Sufis of heresy and of straying from the faith, arguing that these accusations stem from prejudice and ignorance regarding the true nature of Sufism.

The following are translated excerpts from his article: [1]

Hani Naqshabandi (

"The armed extremists' attack on the Sufi mosque in Egypt stems from a profound misunderstanding, especially on the part of the Salafis, of the meaning of Sufism in the Islamic world. This misunderstanding stems from two factors. First, [it stems from] the Salafis' ignorance regarding the essence of Sufi mysticism and their preoccupation with the outward [expressions of Sufism], such as seeking blessings at the tombs of saints, [reverence for] the 'Friends of God' [i.e., Sufi saints], and [belief in] miracles performed by the saints. Second, some of the Sufis contributed to [this image] by confining Sufism to actions rather than ideas, and on occasion also added a measure of self-flagellation. This is why Sufism came to be seen, especially by the Salafis, as a curse upon the body of Islam. Sufism is not a religious school or theory, but an idea based upon several principles, such as charity, self-denial and tolerance. Perhaps an excess of tolerance is what draws fire from the extremists.

"According to one Sufi principle, Paradise is not attained by people who attend the mosque regularly while their hearts are full of hatred and jealousy and their hands are stained with money [stolen from] orphans and the destitute. Paradise is attained by honest people, regardless of their religion. I am not interested in supporting or refuting this principle, but it demonstrates that self-flagellation and saint worship are not part of Sufism, but are general ideas about [ways to] purge the soul of the pleasures of this world...

"The Salafis took a radical position on Sufism based on the nonsense uttered by some [Sufi] religious preachers, without bothering to investigate the real meanings of the Sufi idea and without realizing that many [prominent] Muslims were Sufis. For example, Imam Al-Ghazali [an 11th century Persian theologian, jurist, philosopher, and mystic], author of the book Revival of the Religious Sciences; [13th century Persian poet and theologian] Jalal Al-Din Al-Rumi; [the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty in the 12th century,] Saladin Al-Ayyoubi, and the [15th century] Turkish military leader Muhammad Al-Fattah [i.e., Ottoman Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror]. Did they all seek blessings at the tombs of saints or perform any of the other practices falsely attributed to Sufism?...

"Nobody ever heard of a Sufi who committed murder, [committed a] bombing or beheaded anyone. On the contrary, one of the most important Sufi principles is the following: 'doing good is an end in itself, and does not require a reward,' because [doing] good elevates the soul and brings it closer to its Creator, leading to the discovery of pure divine knowledge, rather than superstition or Sufi pauperism.

"Some people went so far as to accuse the Sufis of heresy or even of denying the existence of God and deviating from the faith. I don't understand how people who call for purifying the heart and the soul can be accused of denying God's existence. While many Muslim countries now call for tolerance and openness towards other religions, they refrain from mentioning Sufism, [and continue regarding it] as a deviant faith or idea that cannot be treated with tolerance. I am sure that if there is anything we must explain to people, it is the [true] meaning of Sufism – for Sufism is nothing but love of good for its own sake and for everyone's benefit."


[1], November 26, 2017.

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