Ask Difference

Sufism vs. Islam — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Urooj Arif — Updated on April 22, 2024
Sufism is a mystical Islamic belief system focused on the inward search for God and shunning materialism, while Islam is a broad religion practiced by Muslims worldwide, encompassing beliefs, practices, and laws derived from the Quran and Hadith.
Sufism vs. Islam — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Sufism and Islam


Key Differences

Sufism, known as Tasawwuf in Arabic, represents the inner, mystical dimension of Islam, emphasizing personal spirituality and direct experience of God. Whereas, Islam provides a complete framework of faith, practice, and community life based on the teachings of the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad.
Sufis strive for a personal connection with God, often through meditation, chanting, and other ritual practices aimed at purifying the soul and achieving spiritual enlightenment. On the other hand, mainstream Islam focuses on adherence to the Five Pillars (profession of faith, prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and pilgrimage), which define the religious life of Muslims.
Sufism has historically expressed itself through various orders or brotherhoods, each with its own practices and teachings led by a spiritual guide or sheikh. Conversely, Islam as a whole does not emphasize hierarchical spiritual leadership, focusing more on the communal and egalitarian aspects of worship and religious duties.
The teachings of Sufism often utilize poetry, music, and dance, such as the whirling dervishes of the Mevlevi order, to express ecstatic devotion to God. Whereas, traditional Islam typically maintains a more conservative approach to worship and religious expression, adhering strictly to the rituals prescribed in the Quran and Hadith.
Sufism emphasizes the concept of Ihsan, or "perfection of worship," which involves worshipping God as if one sees Him, and although He cannot be seen, He sees all. On the other hand, while Islam broadly encompasses this concept, it places more emphasis on community, law, and daily practice as paths to relate to God.

Comparison Chart


Mystical Islamic belief system
Religion of the Muslims


Inward spirituality
Comprehensive religious practice


Meditation, chanting, rituals
Five Pillars, Sharia law


Use of poetry, music, dance
More conservative, ritualistic


Spiritual guides (Sheikhs)
Community leaders (Imams)

Compare with Definitions


Mystical dimension of Islam focusing on the inward search for God.
He explored Sufism to deepen his spiritual connection with God.


A monotheistic religion based on the Quran.
Islam's teachings are derived from the Quran, which Muslims consider the word of God.


Characterized by unique rituals like chanting and meditative practices.
Sufism incorporates whirling dances as a form of devotion and meditation.


Followers practice the Five Pillars of Islam.
During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset, fulfilling one of the Five Pillars.


Emphasizes direct personal experience of God.
Sufism teaches that one can experience God directly through intense spiritual work.


Focuses on community and equality among believers.
The weekly Friday prayer service is a time for community gathering and worship.


Often organized into orders or brotherhoods.
The Sufi was a member of the Qadiri order, known for its rich spiritual practices.


Conservative in its traditional practices and interpretations.
Islam traditionally prohibits the depiction of prophets to prevent idolatry.


Uses arts like poetry and music to express spiritual concepts.
Sufi poetry often delves into themes of divine love and the soul's quest for God.


Includes a body of law known as Sharia.
Islamic societies are often guided by Sharia law, which covers both public and private life.


Sufism (Arabic: ٱلصُّوفِيَّة‎), also known as Tasawwuf (Arabic: ٱلتَّصَوُّف‎), is mysticism in Islam, "characterized ... [by particular] values, ritual practices, doctrines and institutions".


Islam (; Arabic: اَلْإِسْلَامُ‎, romanized: al-’Islām, [ɪsˈlaːm] (listen) "submission [to God]") is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion teaching that Muhammad is a messenger of God. It is the world's second-largest religion with 1.9 billion followers, or 24.9% of the world's population, known as Muslims.


Islamic mysticism.


A monotheistic religion characterized by the doctrine of absolute submission to God and by reverence for Muhammad as the chief and last prophet of God.


A refined mysticism among certain classes of Mohammedans, particularly in Persia, who hold to a kind of pantheism and practice extreme asceticism in their lives.


The people or nations that practice Islam; the Muslim world.


Islamic mysticism


The civilization developed by the Muslim world.


The religion of the Mohammedans; Mohammedanism; Islamism. Their formula of faith is: There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet.


The whole body of Mohammedans, or the countries which they occupy.


The religion of Muslims collectively which governs their civilization and way of life; the predominant religion of northern Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan and Indonesia


The monotheistic religion of Muslims founded in Arabia in the 7th century and based on the teachings of Muhammad as laid down in the Koran;
The term Muhammadanism is offensive to Muslims who believe that Allah, not Muhammad, founded their religion

Common Curiosities

What is Sufism within Islam?

Sufism is considered the mystical branch of Islam, focusing on the spiritual connection with God.

What are the core practices of Sufism?

Core practices of Sufism include meditation, chanting of God's names, and spiritual ceremonies.

How does Sufism differ from mainstream Islam?

Sufism emphasizes personal spirituality and mystical union with God, while mainstream Islam focuses on communal practices and adherence to established religious laws.

Can a Muslim practice Sufism?

Yes, Sufism is a part of Islam, and many Muslims incorporate Sufi practices into their religious life.

What is the role of a Sufi Sheikh?

A Sufi Sheikh acts as a spiritual guide and teacher, helping followers on their path to spiritual enlightenment.

How does Islamic law view Sufism?

Islamic law generally accepts Sufism as long as it adheres to the core tenets and practices of Islam.

Are the Five Pillars of Islam practiced in Sufism?

Yes, Sufis adhere to the Five Pillars of Islam but also engage in additional spiritual practices.

How do Sufis express their devotion to God?

Sufis express their devotion through ritual practices, poetry, music, and dance that symbolize their mystical connection to the divine.

What are Sufi orders?

Sufi orders are spiritual brotherhoods that follow specific teachings and practices laid out by their founding Sufi masters.

What is the significance of poetry in Sufism?

Poetry in Sufism is used to express deep spiritual truths and the intense longing for divine union.

Is Sufism a separate religion from Islam?

No, Sufism is not a separate religion but a mystical dimension within Islam.

Can Sufism be practiced without belonging to a Sufi order?

Yes, one can practice the principles of Sufism independently, although belonging to an order can provide guidance and community.

What impact has Sufism had on Islamic culture?

Sufism has greatly influenced Islamic culture, contributing richly to its art, music, and literature.

How is community life different in Sufism compared to mainstream Islam?

Sufi community life is often centered around a Sufi order and its spiritual practices, while mainstream Islam focuses more on broader community worship and activities.

What is the philosophical basis of Sufism?

The philosophical basis of Sufism involves seeking a direct personal experience of God through inner purification and spiritual practices.

Share Your Discovery

Share via Social Media
Embed This Content
Embed Code
Share Directly via Messenger
Previous Comparison
Registerable vs. Registrable

Author Spotlight

Written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

Popular Comparisons

Trending Comparisons

New Comparisons

Trending Terms