The main quest of Sufism is a mystical experience of God like that of Prophet Mohammed. Main line Muslims argue that the experience of Prophet Mohammed was a unique one. We as Christians think it’s a demonic experience that Prophet Mohammed had. That is exactly what he thought first, before being convinced by his first wife, Khadija, and her uncle that he actually had encountered the divine. Many Sufis are unable to articulate clearly their experience of God in their ecstatic state. It is a vague and undefined phenomenon, which they claim can only be experienced. The fast pace of the rhythm of music at which this experience happens is not unique to Sufism. Hare Krishna devotees indulge in rhythmic chanting leading to an experience of Krishna consciousness. Many tribal religions are also involved in a similar type of worship which is regulated by rhythmic drumming and ecstasy as worship. In Voodoo, there is rhythmic music and ecstasy, opening up to possession by spirits. Therefore this psychological phenomenon cannot be considered an encounter with the divine. None of the prophets of the Old Testament, or even Jesus, indulged in mysticism. Moreover this practice has actually opened up people to commune with demons rather than with God.
In his book, The City of Djinns, William Dalrymple explains his encounter with a dervish. As a young man he meets a dervish, who talks to him about how he stood waist deep in the Yamuna River as a spiritual exercise to encounter the unseen. During one of these sessions, he gets a revelation from a djinn, not God. So the Sufis knowingly or unknowingly started dabbling in the occult. Such dervishes become famous black magicians who are in business all over the Indian Subcontinent, casting spells and claiming to cure illnesses. The mausoleum’s of famous dervishes become the places where people believe they still are available to help them, even after their death. The Mausoleum of Hazrath Nizammudin in Delhi is one such place where Sufism has led to necromancy. Necromancy opens up the door to the world of ‘Dark Islam’, where local magicians do business using the evil spirits.
In some cases Sufism has led to pantheism-like expressions like, “I am God” indicating the mystical union with God. This is also a possible case of demon possession. Such dervishes were persecuted and executed by their Islamic contemporaries for blasphemy. There is no consensus regarding Sufism among Muslims. Some accept it, some reject it as evil.
Some of the good things that have resulted from Sufism include a trend towards peace and tolerance, a focus on service to humanity, a renunciation of the worldly in search of the spiritual, non –political stance etc. Thus, it stemmed the spread of radical Islam and gave rise to moderate Islam.
The dervishes seek to find God by their works of piety and acts of love and service. They believe that God will reveal himself to them and they can experience him and have a relationship with him, if they do the list of things taught by the Sufi orders. They seek salvation through works and devotion. It is a heavy burden, a call to step into unfamiliar spiritual ground where they encounter evil spirits rather than God. God in and through Christ, offers salvation as a gift. He does not accept our self-righteous acts. Everyone needs to receive the gift of Salvation, get born again, be regenerated by the Spirit of God so that they can enter into a relationship with God. In this relationship we are the children of God. He takes care of us. The salvation offered by Christ is so much more transformative and practical than the uncertain ways of the dervishes. There is no assurance of Salvation in Islam. But the bible repeatedly teaches assurance of Salvation.
The goal of Sufism is noble and in the right direction. But it fails miserably in fulfilling it’s goal, which is to bring it’s practitioners into an intimate relationship with the true God.