What is Sufism? - History of Islam
Welcome to Quatr.us Study Guides!

What is Sufism?

people dancing

Not long after the foundation of Islam and the life of Mohammed, about 650 AD, there were people who became known as Sufis (SOO-fees). Sufis can be Sunni or Shiite. These people wanted a more direct relationship with God. Instead of just doing things like praying or good deeds, or the Hajj to Mecca, Sufis wanted to experience the greatness of God within themselves, through meditation or through ecstatic dancing or in other ways.


Here's a video of some Sufi dancing.

The "whirling dervishes", for example, are a branch of Sufism that got started about 1300 AD in the Seljuk empire, where people used dancing to get themselves into a religious frenzy that helped them have a personal experience of God.

Other Sufis, like al Tusi in the 1200s AD, were more philosophical, looking for ways to use logical thought to get closer to God. In this way they were like the Neo-Platonists of a thousand years earlier.

Another way that Sufis tried to get closer to God was by eating roasted coffee beans, which they got from East African traders. Sufi people were the first people outside of East Africa to use coffee, about 1450 AD.

Sufis wrote a lot of great poetry, as another way of helping people make that connection to God. An Indian poet, a woman called Lalla Arifa, for example, wrote Sufi poetry in the 1300s AD.

This desire to connect directly with God is present in other faiths as well - you might want to compare Sufiism with Buddhism, or Taoism, or the early Christian heresy of Montanism.

More about Islam

Bibliography and further reading about Sufism:

Shiites and Sunnis
More about Islam
Quatr.us home


Please help other teachers and students find us: link to this page from your class page.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Sign up for more free articles and special offers in Quatr.us' weekly newsletter:
We will never share your e-mail address unless you allow us to do so. View our privacy policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.
Check out our new ebook: Short and Simple: Ancient Greek Myths! - just out! Twenty-five easy to read, illustrated stories, from Pandora to Medea, Icarus, and the Trojan Horse (you can read these online as samples). Get it this week for just $14.99, five dollars off the regular price of $19.99.
Cite this page
  • Author: K.E. Carr
  • Title:
  • Site Name: Quatr.us Study Guides
  • Publisher: Quatr.us
  • Date Published:
Did you find what you needed? Ask your teacher to link to this page so other people can use it too! Send it in and win a Quatr.us "Great Page!" award!
Sign up for more free articles and special offers in Quatr.us' weekly newsletter:
We will never share your e-mail address unless you allow us to do so. View our privacy policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.
Comment on This Article
Quatr.us is loading comments...
(Comments will appear after moderation, if they are kind and helpful. Feel free to ask questions, and we'll try to answer them.)
Cite this page
  • Carr, K.E. . Quatr.us Study Guides, . Web. 27 June, 2017
ADVERTISEMENT