Revelation of Mystery (Kashf al Mahjub)

The Dress of Sufis

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Chapter IV

The Dress of Sufis


Know that mostly the dress of Sufis has been patched frock and wearing of this dress is Sunnah (custom of Prophet), for the Prophet (peace be upon him) said,

عليكم بلباس الصوف تجدون حلاوة الا يمان في قلوبكم

wear woolen raiment, so that you may feel the sweetness of faith.”

It is narrated by a companion of Prophet (peace be upon him) who says that

كان النبي صلي الله عليه وسلم يلبس الصوف و بركب الحما ر

the Prophet wore a woolen garment and rode on ass”

Prophet (peace be upon him) said to Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her),

لا تضيعي الثوب حتي ترقعيه

do not waste the garment, when torn patch it.”

It is related about Umar b. Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him), that he used to wear muraqqa (patched frock) which had thirty patches i.e. he repaired the garment for thirty times. Umar b. Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) said that the best garment is that which is cheaper and give the least trouble.

It is related that Commander of the Faithful, Ali (may Allah be pleased with him), had a shirt of which the sleeves were leveled with his fingers, and if at any time he wore a longer shirt he used to tear off the ends of its sleeves (probably there was a fashion of longer sleeves at that time).

The Prophet (peace be upon him) was also commanded by Allah to shorten his garments, for Allah said:

وَثِيَابَكَ فَطَهِّرْ

and thy garments keep free from stain!” (Q 74:4),

i.e. shorten them.

Hasan Basri says that he saw seventy companions of Prophet (they all had participated in the battle of Badr), all of them used to wear woolen garments, and the Abu Bakr Siddiq (may Allah be pleased with him) used to wear woolen garment while in his detachment from the world. Hasan Basri further says that he saw Salman Farsi (may Allah be pleased with him) wearing a woolen frock which had many patches.

It is related through Umar b. Khattab, Ali b. Talib and Harim b. Hayyan (may Allah be pleased with them) that they saw Awais Qarni clad in a woolen garment on which there were many patches. Hasan Basri, Malik b. Dinar and Sufyan Thawri used to wear such patched woolen garments.

It is stated in the book “History of the Sheikhs” composed by Muhammad b. Ali Hakim Tirmidhi that Imam Abu Hanifa at first clothed himself in wool. When he retired to seclusion and adopted solitude, he in his dream saw the Prophet (peace be upon him) who commanded him to live amidst the people, because through him his Sunnah would be revived.  Then Abu Hanifa refrained from solitude, but he never put on a costly garment. He enjoined Dawud Tai, who was one of the most accomplished adepts in the path of Sufism, to wear woolen garment.

Once Ibrahim b. Adham clad in woolen garment came to visit Imam Abu Hanifa. The latter’s disciples looked at him with contempt and belittling eyes, until Abu Hanifa spoke that our leader Ibrahim b Adham had come. The disciples pointed out to these remarks that the Imam never utters jests, how Ibrahim Adham had gained that leadership? Abu Hanifa replied that by continual devotion. He had been occupied in serving Allah while we remain engaged in serving our own bodies; hence, he became our leader.

Nowadays, if some persons for the sake of public honor and reputation have started wearing patched frocks to pose Sufis’ habits or their hearts belie their external appearance, it might be that all people are not of similar nature. Know, there is only one General in the army, similarly there are very few genuine adepts in every sect. However, all who might be just possessing one odd characteristic, are referred to Sufism. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said,

من تشبه بقوم فهو منهم

one who adopts similarity of some people, he is amongst them,

i.e. one who makes himself akin to a group either in conduct or in belief, is one of that group.

Some see only outward condition of the Sufis, and others direct attention to their inward purity. Those who aspire to join the Path of Sufism remain bound to following four conditions:

-          Those who get aspiration from such Sufis who are accomplished in their inward state, purity of heart, the subtlety, enlightenment, moderate in their outlook, and possess soundness of character. Such aspirant perceiving loftiness of these eminent occupying high states, develops liking for them and he joins to them in hope of attaining the same degree, and the beginning of his novitiate is marked by state of kashf (unveiling), purgation from desire, and renunciation of self.

-          The second class of aspirants is attracted by those, who perform decent deeds, pure at heart and God fearing, and their adherence to of Shariat (religious law), knowledge of the different sorts of discipline, and excellence of conduct. The aspirants try to follow them and consequently they seek their association and follow the practice of piety. The beginning of their novitiate is marked by mujahida (self-mortification) and good conduct.

-          The persons of third group like saints because of their humility, goodness of disposition and good deeds.  Seeing their respectable conduct with superiors and kindness to inferior, and their contended way of life, they by denouncing the world and freeing themselves from its laborious activities join the pious with peace.

-          The fourth group who themselves are lazy, proud, and lusty of power, because of their ignorance, considering just the outward actions of the Sufis, join them. When such persons join the company of Sufis, they knowing their weaknesses of the Path, treat them kindly and indulgently. But since they lack in their desire to seek the Truth, therefore, they are not much concerned to devote themselves to self-mortification and cleansing.  They only desire that people should respect and be scared of them as they respect the saints and scared of them. They try to veil their ills in saints’ piety. Although, they dress like the saints, but that cladding speaks out itself about their pretended deeds. Such people are referred in Quran as, “  

مَثَلُ الَّذِينَ حُمِّلُوا التَّوْرَاةَ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَحْمِلُوهَا كَمَثَلِ الْحِمَارِ يَحْمِلُ أَسْفَارًا بِئْسَ مَثَلُ الْقَوْمِ الَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِ اللَّهِ

“The similitude of those who are charged with the (obligations of the) Mosaic Law, but who subsequently failed in those (obligations), is that of a donkey which carries huge tomes (but understands not). Evil is the similitude of people who falsify the signs of Allah:” (Q 62:5).

Know that the last class is in majority in the prevailing era. It is imperative upon you not to even think of that which you cannot do. Your efforts of thousands of years to be in the folds of the Path can not be similar to that moment in which Truth Itself may takes you in Its folds. This does not happen by adopting religious habits but through righteous deeds. When a person follows the Path of Sufism, his royal dress also becomes muraqqa and if he is reluctant to follow the Path, even wearing of muraqqa will not save him from the torments of Hell.

An eminent Sheikh when was asked why he did not wear a patched frock, he replied that it was hypocrisy to wear the garb of the Sufis. Is it not hypocrisy to dress up like a brave without possessing attributes of chivalry? So, if you wear this garb with a wish to be known by Allah as one of His elects, He knows that already. And if you wish to show to the people that you are an elect of Allah, should your claim be true, you are guilty of ostentation; and should it be false, of hypocrisy. Hence, this Path is very laborious. The Sufis are far high to need a special garment for this purpose. Someone very rightly has said,

الصفا من الله تعالي انعام واكرام الصوف من لباس الانعام

purity of inward is a gift from Allah, whereas wool is the clothing of animals.

Dress up like Sufis is a pretension on part of those who clad like Sufis, so people might consider them also Sufis. Although the Sheikhs of this Path enjoined their disciples to wear patched frocks, and also did the same themselves, so that they are known by the people and they be watchmen on them, so that if they find them committing transgression, they might rebuke them; and also while clad in this garment, if they wishes to sin, they would be held back by shame.

In short, the wearing of muraqqa is the beauty and elegance of Allah’s saints. The common people are honored by wearing it while the elite feels debased. When a common person wear such dress he is respected and honored by the people and debased for the elite is that they are looked upon very commonly when so dressed up. Hence it is said,

لباس النعم للعوام و جوشن البلاء للخواص

the muraqqa is a garb of happiness for the common, but a shield of affliction for the elects.”

Mostly the commons are already afflicted and they possess no way to accumulate wealth and honor, whereas if the elite adopt this Path they have to forego their wealth and honor. So which is affliction for the elite that is blessing for the commons? Therefore, the elders have said,

المرقعة قميص الوفاء لاهل الصفاء و سربال السرور لاهل الغرور

muraqqa is enduring attire for the Pious and enjoying dress for the arrogant.” The pious after wearing it refrains from worldly desires, and the arrogant are veiled from the Truth and denied blessings.

In short, wearing of Muraqqa is a cause of attaining something by all. If the Pious gets purity of the heart, the other is rewarded with bounty. It is a veil for some and conformity for other. I hope all they would be saved from the torments because of their love for each other. As the Prophet (peace be upon him) said,

من احب قومًا فهو معهم

one will be with them whom he loves.

It is mandatory to desire the Truth wholeheartedly and to refrain from forms because who stick to outward he never achieves the reality. The self existence of human is a veil between him and the Truth and it is annihilated only by passing through the “states” and “stages” of mystic path. Purity is the name given to such annihilation. How can he who has gained it choose one garment rather than another, or take pains to adorn himself at all? And one who has attained the state of fana (annihilation) from humanity, how should he care whether people call him a Sufi or by some other name?


The condition of wearing a Muraqqa is that it should be worn informally with simplicity. The original Muraqqa should be mended whenever need arises. The Sheikhs have two opinions in this regard. Some hold that it is not must to do patchwork neatly, rather only torn part of cloth which needs repair should be mended. The others have opposite view and they prefer that patchwork should be done neatly and with symmetry because it is part of the practice of the dervishes to do each act with accuracy and neatness.

I while in Tus asked Sheikh, Abu al-Qasim Gurgani that what was the least thing necessary for a dervish in order that he might become worthy of poverty. He replied that a dervish at least must act for the following:

-          He must know how to do the patch work rightly on his muraqqa;

-          He must have the capability to know the truth;

-          He must know how to set his foot rightly.

A number of dervishes were present with me when he said this. As soon as we came out each one began to apply this saying to his ease. Some of them because of ignorance took it as that faqr (poverty) is only that one should be able to mend his muraqqa rightly and know how to step on ground. Every one of them thought that he had understood the Sheikh rightly. Since my heart was devoted to the Sheikh, and I was unwilling that his words should fall so lowly, therefore, I invited them to share our opinion on this subject. So everyone stated his view, and when my turn came I said:

-          A right patch is one that is stitched for poverty, not for show. If it is stitched for poverty, it is right, even though it be stitched wrongly.

-          And a right word is one that is heard in relation to the occasion not willfully, and is applied earnestly not frivolously, and is apprehended through spirituality not by reason.

-          And a right foot is one that is put on the ground with true rapture, not playfully and formally.

Some of my remarks were reported to the Sheikh, who said that Ali had spoken the reality, may Allah reward him! Hence, the intention behind wearing patched frocks is to alleviate the burden of this world and to be sincere in poverty towards Allah.

It is related that when Jesus was raised to heaven he was wearing a muraqqa. Some Sheikh saw him in his dream clad in a muraqqa, and each patch of that was emitting splendor of light (Nur). On his quest to know Jesus told him that it was reward of that labor and tribulation which he used to exert and bear while mending his muraqqa.  Allah Almighty had turned into Nur every tribulation which He inflicted on his heart.

In Transoxania I saw an old man who belonged to the sect of Malamatis (who is blamed). He had restrained himself to eat and wear all that which human beings had the habit. His food consisted of things thrown away by them, such as wasted vegetables, sour gourds, rotten carrots, and the like. His clothes were made of rags collected from rubbish and sewed into a muraqqa. And among the mystics of recent times, I have heard of an elder of Merv Alrud, who had flourishing condition and of an excellent character, that he had sewn so many patches on his seating rug and cap that scorpions brought forth their young in them. My Sheikh wore a single cloak for fifty six years, on which he used to sew pieces of cloth without taking any pain.

There were two dervishes from Iraq, one a votary of the contemplative life and the other a votary of purgative life. The former clothed himself from the pieces of cloth which were torn off by dervishes in a state of ecstasy from their own garments, while the other used for the same purpose only the pieces torn off by dervishes who were asking forgiveness. Thus the outward garb of each was in harmony with his inward disposition. This is the observance and watchfulness of the state.

Sheikh Muhammad b. Khafif wore a coarse frock for twenty years, and every year he used to undergo four chilla (seclusion for mystic commune) of forty days duration of each, and during every chilla he would compose a book on the mysteries of Sciences of Divine Verities. One of his contemporary, namely Muhammad b. Zakarriya, resident of Faris, who was well learned in the mystic way of life, never wore muraqqa. Someone asked Sheikh Khafif what was involved in wearing a muraqqa, and who was permitted to do so?” He replied that it involved those obligations which were fulfilled by Muhammad b. Zakarriya in his white clothing, and the wearing of muraqqa fits on him.


It is not must in the Mystic Path to follow each and every act of Sufis because due to two reasons some Sheikhs have abandoned muraqqa. The procurement of wool from authenticated sources has become doubtful because of regular theft and plundering of wool producing animals and that a sect of heretics has also adopted the muraqqa (patched frock) as an insignia and it is praiseworthy to depart from such heretics, may it be departures from Sunnah. Sufis have started taking pain while sewing patches. It has increased their respect and honor in the eyes of people and everyone now try to copy them. Apparently they clad themselves in muraqqa but their acts are blameworthy. Their acts annoyed Sufis so much that they have adopted unique methods to sew their garments and have made them as mark of mutual identification. They observe it so religiously that once a dervish came to one of the Sheikhs wearing a muraqqa, on which the improper patch work was done, the Sheikh expelled him from his presence. The reality of purity of heart lies in the delicacy of nature and temperament. In the purity of heart, no relaxation is tolerable.  It is but natural to disapprove incorrect actions, just as it is natural to derive no pleasure from improper poetry.

Some saints do not trouble themselves about clothes at all.  They wear what ever Allah provides to them, may it be a costly attire or normal religious habit and if Allah keeps them unclothed, they remain in that state. I approve this habit and practice it in my journeys.

It is related that Ahmad b. Khadruya when he visited Abu Yazid was wearing a quba (costly attire), and Shah b. Shuja also wore a quba when he visited Abu Hafs. This was not their usual dress, for sometimes they wore a muraqqa and sometimes a woolen garment or white dress to ensure that they did not adopt some regular habit. The human soul is habituated to things and fond of customs, and when anything becomes habitual to the soul it soon grows natural, and when it has grown natural it becomes a veil. Hence the Prophet (peace be upon him) said,

خير الصيام صوم اخي داود عليه السلام

the best of the fasts is that of my brother David (may blessings of Allah be on him).

David used to keep his fast on alternate days. He used to fast on one day and have break on the following day in order that his soul should not become accustomed either to keeping the fast or to leaving it, for fear of that he might be veiled thereby. The most pleasing act in this regard was of Abu Hamid Dustan Mervasi. He would happily accept the garment which his disciples used to put on him, but when some desired its need and he unclothed him when he was at leisure and alone, he would not refuse to that person also. Nowadays, there is a dervish Mauid in Ghazna who has no choice or discrimination with respect to his clothes and he follows is religiously.

Mostly Sheiks have liked to wear blue garments. One of the reasons is that the foundation of their mystic path is based on wandering and traveling and white dress is prone to get dirty quickly in such environments and is liable to frequent washing. Besides white dress is commonly worn and liked. The blue dress symbolizes the bereaved and afflicted, and is the apparel of mourners. Since  this world is the abode of trouble, the pavilion of affliction, the den of sorrow, the house of parting and the cradle of tribulation, therefore, aspirants of Truth remain in mourn condition and clad themselves in blue garments. The aspirants who realizing imperfection in their acts and failing in achieving their desired aims clad themselves in blue garments. One wears blue dress for the death of a dear friend, another for the loss of a cherished hope.

A dervish was asked why he wore blue dress. He replied that the Prophet (peace be upon him) left three things, poverty, knowledge, and the sword. The sword was taken by monarch, who misused it, knowledge was chosen by savants who were satisfied merely teaching it and poverty was chosen by dervishes who made it a means of enriching themselves. I wear blue as a sign of mourning for the calamity of these three classes of men.

Once, Murtaish was walking through some habitat of Baghdad. Being thirsty, he went to a door and asked for water. The daughter of the householder brought some water in a jug. Murtaish was obsessed by her beauty and would not leave the spot until the master of the house came. Murtaish cried before him that the girl gave him a drink of water and robbed him of his heart. The householder replied that the girl was his daughter and offered her daughter’s hand to Murtaish and solemnized their wedding immediately. The bride’s father, who was a wealthy man, sent Murtaish to the bath house, where they took off his patched frock and clothed him in a fine dress. At night when he got engaged in his prayer and solitary devotion, suddenly he called for his muraqqa to be brought back. On asking he answered, that he had heard a voice within, whispering:

“On account of one disobedient look We have removed your muraqqa, the garb of piety, from thy body, if you look again We shall remove the raiment of intimacy from your heart.”

The dress which is worn to gain proximity of the Truth and following in obedience of the friends of Allah is always blessed. It should only be worn if one is confident to fulfill its due rights; otherwise it is better to remain contended with the normal ordinances of the religion. It is unlawful to play dishonestly with the dress of the saints because it is better to remain a true Muslim than falsely pretending like Sufis.

Only two kinds of men qualify to wear the muraqqa:

-          those who are cut off from the world, and

-          those who feel a longing for the Lord.

It is the tradition of the Sufi Sheikhs that when a novice joins them, with the purpose of renouncing the world, they subject him to spiritual discipline for three continuous years. If he fulfills the requirements of this discipline, well and good, otherwise they declare him unfit for the Path. The discipline requires to be followed is as:

-          The first year is devoted to the service of the people.

-          The novice should spend second year in obedience to Allah.

-          In the third year should watch over and guard his heart.

It is possible to serve the people only when he places himself in the rank of servants and all other people in the rank of masters, i.e. he must regard all, without any discrimination, as being better than himself and must considers it his duty to serve all alike. He should never demand any credit for this service and neither should he ever possess such thought that because of this act he has become superior to them, for this is manifest perdition, an evident fraud, and is one of the infectious cankers of the age.

And he can serve Allah Almighty only when he cuts off all his selfish interests relating either to this world or to the next, and worships Allah purely for Him and not for anything else even for the fear of Hell or desire of Heaven, because one who worship for the lust of Heaven, then Heaven is his lord not Allah.

And he can guard his heart only when his thoughts are collected and worries are dismissed from his heart, so that in the state of intimacy (with Allah) he preserves his heart from the ambushes of heedlessness.

When novice achieves these qualifications, he is entitled to wear the muraqqa as a true mystic, not merely as an imitator of others. And the person who invests the novice with the muraqqa, must be a man of rectitude, who has traversed ups and downs of the Path and have tasted the rapture of states of the Path, perceived the nature of actions and experienced the severity of the Divine Majesty and the clemency of the Divine Beauty. Furthermore, he must be capable to examine the state of his disciple and judge what maqam (station) he will ultimately reach, and whether he is among the retiring one or who habitats at one maqam, or attain their destination. If he considers that someday he will abandon the Path, he must forbid him to enter upon it. If the novice is of the type who may abandon the path halfway, he must be looked upon and treated according to the rules of the Path, and who is capable of achieving the goal, he must be spiritually nourished. The Sufi Sheikhs are physicians of men’s souls. When the physician is ignorant of the patient’s malady he kills him by his art, because neither he knows how to treat him nor capable to recognize the symptoms of danger, and is unable to prescribe suitable doze. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said,

الشيخ في قومه كالنبي في امته

the Sheikh in his community is like the Prophet in his Ummah.

The prophets showed insight in their call to the people, and used to entertain everyone according to the requirements of the call. They kept each individual at his proper place and degree. So the Sheikh likewise should show insight in his call, and should give to everyone his proper spiritual nourishment, in order that the object of his call may be secured. So, when the accomplished Sheikh after three years training of the novice, perceiving his state through spiritual eye, and on finding perfection in novice, his act to invest the novice with the muraqqa will be a right step.

Investing muraqqa is, comparable to dressing one in a coffin (winding-sheet). The wearer must resign all his hopes of the pleasures of life, and purges his heart from all sensual delights, devote his life entirely to the service of Allah and completely renounces self-centered desires. The disciple then fulfills all the obligations invested on him through this honor, and strives with all his might to perform them, as deems it unlawful to satisfy his own wishes.

Sheikhs have uttered many allegories concerning the dress of the Sufis. Sheikh Abu Maumar Isfahani has written a book on the subject, which contains extravagance uttering of general natured aspirants to Sufism. My aim, however, in this work is not to repeat the book, but to elucidate the difficulties of the Path.

The one of the allegories concerning muraqqa is that:

-          its upper indicates patience,

-          its two sleeves points to fear and hope,

-          its two gussets point to contraction and dilation,

-          its waist refers to self-denial,

-          its collar indicates soundness in faith, and

-          its fringe points to sincerity.

Better still is the following:

-          Its upper is annihilation of intercourse with creation,

-          its two sleeves are poverty and purity, 

-          its two gussets are observance and continence,

-          its waist is persistence in contemplation,

-          its collar is tranquility in (Allah's) presence, and

-          its fringe is settlement in the abode of union.

When you have worn a muraqqa like this for your exterior, it behooves you to adopt such practices for your spiritual self also. I have composed a book on this subject, entitled “اسرار الخرق و المءونات (The mysteries of Patched Frocks and Means of Livelihood),” of which the novice should keep a copy.

If the novice, having put on the muraqqa, should be forced to tear it under compulsion of the temporal authority or being in the state of rapture, this is permissible and excusable. But if he tears it of his free will and deliberately then he has no right to wear it again. If he still wears it, he stands on the same footing as those who are content to wear muraqqa for outward show, with no achievable spiritual gain.   

The real sense in tearing or rending of dress is that aspirant has to move from one maqam (station) to another higher maqam. When Sufis pass from one stage to another, they immediately change their dress in thankfulness for having gained a higher stage. Whereas every other garment is the dress of a single stage, the muraqqa is a dress which comprises all the stages of the Path, therefore to discard it is equivalent to renouncing the whole Path. I have made a slight reference to this question, although this is not the proper place for it. I will give a detailed explanation of the principle in the chapter on rending muraqqa and revelation of the mystery of audition.

Furthermore, it has been said that one who invests a novice with the muraqqa should possess such sovereign mystical powers that any stranger on whom he looks kindly should become a friend, and any sinner whom he clothes in this garment should become a saint.

Once I was traveling with my Sheikh in Azerbaijan, we saw some persons wearing muraqqa, who were standing beside a wheat barn and holding up their skirts in the hope that the farmer would oblige them with some wheat. Observing their ill state Sheikh exclaimed:

أُوْلَـئِكَ الَّذِينَ اشْتَرُوُاْ الضَّلاَلَةَ بِالْهُدَى فَمَا رَبِحَت تِّجَارَتُهُمْ وَمَا كَانُواْ مُهْتَدِينَ

“These are they, who have bartered guidance for error, but their traffic is profitless, and they have lost true direction.” (Q 2:16).

I asked him that how had they fallen into that calamity and disgrace. He said that their Sheikhs were greedy to gather disciples, and they are greedy to collect worldly goods. No greed is better than other and pretended claim is also a greed.

It is related of Junaid that he saw a beautiful Christian youth and prayed to Allah, “O Lord, pardon him for my sake, for Thou hast created him exceptionally fair.” After a while the youth came to Junaid and made profession of Islam and was enrolled among the saints.

Abu Ali Siyah was asked that who were permitted to invest muraqqa on novices. He replied that one who oversees the whole kingdom of Allah, so that nothing happens in the world without his knowledge.

So muraqqa is the symbol of saints and badge of Sheikhs and dress of poor and Sufis. If someone deviate and use it for earning worldly benefits, for that Sufis may not be criticized.


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