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Sufism or Taṣawwuf (Arabic: تصوف), is defined as the inner mystical dimension of Islam. Practitioners of Sufism, referred to as Sufis (ṣūfī) (/ˈsuːfi/; صُوفِيّ), often belong to different ṭuruq or “orders”—congregations formed around a grand master referred to as a mawla who traces a direct chain of teachers back to the Islamic prophet, Muhammad. These orders meet for spiritual sessions (majalis) in meeting places known as zawiyas, khanqahs, or tekke. Sufis strive for ihsan (perfection of worship) as detailed in a hadith: “Ihsan is to worship Allah as if you see Him; if you can’t see Him, surely He sees you.” Rumi stated: “The Sufi is hanging on to Muhammad, like Abu Bakr.” Sufis regard Muhammad as al-Insān al-Kāmil, the primary perfect man who exemplifies the morality of God. Sufis regard Muhammad as their leader and prime spiritual guide.
All Sufi orders trace many of their original precepts from Muhammad through his cousin and son-in-law Ali with the notable exception of the Naqshbandi, who claim to trace their origins from Muhammad through the first Rashid Caliph, Abu Bakr. Sufi orders largely follow one of the four madhhabs (jurisprudent schools of thought) of Sunni Islam and maintain a Sunni aqidah (creed).
Classical Sufis were characterised by their asceticism, especially by their attachment to dhikr, the practice of repeating the names of God, often performed after prayers. Sufism gained adherents among a number of Muslims as a reaction against the worldliness of the early Umayyad Caliphate (661–750). Sufis have spanned several continents and cultures over a millennium, originally expressing their beliefs in Arabic before spreading into Persian, Turkish, and Urdu among dozens of other languages. According to William Chittick, “In a broad sense, Sufism can be described as the interiorization, and intensification of Islamic faith and practice.”