Sufi Psychology: Definition and Meaning

The psychological techniques and teachings of the Sufi tradition in Islam are referred to as Sufi psychology. People need to learn more about themselves and how they relate to God to gain spiritual enlightenment or unity with the divine. This is the ultimate goal of these teachings and practices. They include practices that aid in spiritual development, such as devotion, prayer, and meditation, as well as music, dance, and other artistic mediums. Sufi psychology encourages people to engage in self-reflection and introspection to achieve an understanding of their thoughts and feelings.

Background of Sufi Psychology

Sufi psychology derives from Islam's Sufi tradition, which flourished in the Middle East in the eighth and ninth centuries. The Sufis were a sect of mystics and ascetics who used devotion, prayer, and other spiritual exercises to try to develop a close, intimate relationship with God. They thought they could transcend the physical realm and feel the divine presence by purifying their hearts and minds. The wisdom of preceding mystics and philosophers, along with the teachings of the Quran, were all sources used by the Sufis to construct their rich spiritual and psychological legacy over time.

They emphasized the significance of internal change and spiritual growth and created a range of methods and practices to aid people in achieving this objective. The writings of well-known Sufi mystics and thinkers like Rumi, Al-Ghazali, Ibn Arabi, and al-Hujwiri have significantly influenced Sufi psychology. These mystics offered instruction on developing spiritual knowledge, wisdom, and virtue as well as a theoretical framework for comprehending the nature of the self, the mind, and the soul. Sufi psychology is still an active tradition today and continues to shape, influence, and advance Islamic spirituality. It is also widely employed in psychotherapy, counseling, and personal development in the West as a type of spiritual psychology.

Essentials of Sufi Psychology

Sufi psychology is predicated on the idea that the human soul is fundamentally good and that regaining one's original purity and oneness with God is the ultimate aim of life. Sufi psychology's essentials include the following

The Purification of the Self − To obtain inner peace and harmony, this entails getting rid of bad habits and traits like ego, greed, and wrath. To achieve eternal joy, Sufism teaches how to purify oneself, raise one's moral standards, and strengthen one's inner and exterior lives. It entails avoiding anything that the ego (nafs) tempts you to do, keeping company with spiritual men, clinging to the Truth's sciences, being constantly occupied with what is appropriate, sternly admonishing all Muslims, remaining faithful to God, and adhering to the Prophet's Shari'at.

The Cultivation of Spiritual Virtues − This includes cultivating virtues like patience, compassion, and humility, which are thought to be crucial for spiritual development. Sufism places a strong emphasis on a number of the most significant spiritual virtues, including

  • Khushu (Humility) − This is the development of an intense reverence for God and the practice of inner simplicity and humility.

  • Tawadu' (Modesty) − To defeat the ego and comprehend the nature of the self, one must possess this virtue.

  • Tawakkul (Reliance on God) − This involves developing a reliance on God and faith in his direction and will. To achieve inner calm and tranquility, one must possess this characteristic.

  • Sabr (Patience) − This involves developing inner strength and resilience while surviving challenging circumstances with courage and endurance.

  • Husn al-khulq (Good manners) − This is developing politeness and values like generosity, kindness, and compassion.

  • Tarbiyat al-nafs (Self-improvement) − It involves self-purification and the development of qualities like self-control, self-discipline, and self-awareness.

The Realization of One is the True Self − This is the process of uncovering one's true essence and identity, which are said to be inextricably linked to the divine. The discovery of one's genuine self, commonly referred to as the "inner self" or "fundamental self," is a key idea in Sufi psychology. According to some, each person's actual self is the divine spark that connects them to the supreme truth or God. The aims of Sufi spiritual practices are purifying the ego, removing impediments and diversions, and reconnection with the genuine self, which leads to enlightenment and unity with God. This process is frequently referred to as a journey of self-discovery and transformation, in which one turns from the ego-driven self toward the true self.

The Attainment of Spiritual Knowledge − Instead of relying solely on intellectual comprehension, this entails obtaining awareness of the nature of reality and the mysteries of the cosmos through human experience. It is thought that this knowledge is the key to comprehending the true nature of existence and one's relationship with God. Sufis hold that there are many ways to gain spiritual understanding, including prayer, meditation, and the study of religious writings. Sufi psychology views the acquisition of spiritual knowledge as a path to a greater comprehension of oneself and one's relationship with God, culminating in spiritual illumination and oneness with the divine.

Connection with Spiritual Guide − The development of a strong connection with a spiritual guide is crucial for spiritual development and self-discovery since a guide may offer direction, encouragement, and insight. The shaykh acts as a mentor and role model, offering advice and assistance to the person as they travel along their spiritual path. This relationship is created through the "bay'ah" process of submission and surrender, in which the seeker swears loyalty to the shaykh and places oneself under their spiritual direction.

The Practice of Contemplation, Meditation, and Prayer − Contemplation, meditation, and prayer are seen as crucial spiritual development techniques in Sufi psychology. The act of thinking on spiritual ideas and teachings while in a state of contemplation, or "muraqaba," entails directing the mind toward the Divine. To connect with the Divine and reach a level of spiritual consciousness, meditation, or "dhikr," entails repeating the name of God or a sacred phrase. Islam's basic ritual of prayer, or "salat," is a crucial component of Sufi psychology, and it entails repeating certain words and reciting particular verses from the Quran. Doing this can better align their acts with God's will and strengthen their connection to the Divine. All three techniques aim to assist the practitioner in letting go of the self and establishing a connection with the divine, resulting in heightened spiritual awareness and enlightenment.


Sufi psychology is founded on spiritual activities and ideas that facts from science might not validate. Because of this, it may be challenging for practitioners to assess their methods' efficacy and their views' reliability. Sufi psychology has its roots in Islamic mysticism. Those from other cultures who need to comprehend these activities' context or to mean fully may misuse or misinterpret their teachings and practices.

Updated on: 06-Feb-2023


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