Basically speaking, what we mean by the term pseudo-sufism is an incomplete path. It is an incomplete teaching which is not enough to guide the seeker all the way along the spiritual path which leads to self-knowledge and gnosis of God. Every religion and prophet, whether genuine or false, advocates moral virtues such as generosity, goodness, kindness, love and so on. However these qualities cannot take root and grow without being protected by a 'container' of outer laws (Sharia) and beneficial behavior. We find that every society or culture advocates its version of what is considered good and virtuous, but these qualities cannot develop and bear fruit unless they are protected and guarded by the outer bounds of laws which enable them to be nourished and to grow continuously and purposefully. More specifically, as regards the spiritual path and the teacher and the taught, we find that the pseudo-sufi teachers do not possess all the attributes of a true spiritual master, which have already been mentioned, especially the express permission to teach and guide others on the path of self-knowledge, given by another enlightened and experienced teacher who himself has been given permission to teach, and so on, back to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Another form of pseudo-sufism ,
which has become active and popular in our times, is indulgence in intellectual
pleasure through the study of Sufi literature and Sufi Orders. During the last
150 years, much research into Sufism has been undertaken, both in the West and
in the East, by orientalists and Muslims alike. This is like compiling menus on
Sufism rather than actually partaking in the feast. They discuss and analyze
which Sufi menu, that is which Sufi Order, seems to be better, but without
tasting any of them. How can you evaluate something which you have not
experienced? Intellectual discussion about Sufism cannot lead to inner awakening
and enlightenment, because Sufism is a feast which can only be consumed.
In pseudo-sufi movements we find much euphoria and temporary states of excitement which are achieved by utilizing certain practices and techniques. Occasionally they bring about a state of upliftment and delight. However such states are not lasting and are the result of a combination of several variable factors. The true art of Sufism leads the seeker towards the steady state of being contented, integrated, wise, courteous, kindly and at peace. To occasionally feel inner delight and contentment is not difficult to achieve, but in order to reach a station which is lasting, one needs to adhere to the primal way that is intended by the original way of Islam, with its outer laws, code of conduct and integrated way of life. Although inner development is possible to a certain degree without following the outer laws, if a person wishes to develop himself fully, then he has to participate in the Islamic Law and way of life fully.
The outer practices of the Sufis include varying amounts of prayers, invocations, recitations and supplications. If a Sufi Order developed in a nomadic environment, then we find most of their practices being performed while the caravan is on the move, and with many of the gatherings and circles of remembrance of God occurring at the beginning or the end of the night, because the caravan is stationary at these times. If a Sufi Order became active amidst the people of the bazaar in a city such as Cape Town, for example, or Morocco, then we find a different pattern of practices, in which gatherings tend to take place in the afternoon or early evening or at a time which is convenient for shopkeepers.