In common with other mystic or gnostic ways, the Sufi path to spiritual knowledge is followed by a community of people who seek a state of inner peace and nearness to God (Allah), or enlightenment.
Sufism springs from the heart of Islam, and this sacred knowledge has been passed in an unbroken chain through 41 generations of Muslim mystical leaders.
To Sufis, the concepts “self-realization”, “nearness to God”, “way to heaven” and “mediation” are often used interchangeably, since one tends to go with the other. Sufis assume that we are all capable of nearness to God, if only we can unblock the habits and mis-conceptions that bind us to our current state. Typical of habits that need changing are: an inability to let things go, lack of humility, unbalanced life, and narrow viewpoints. In Sufi thought, things are hidden only by our inability to see.
Sufi teaching methods (tasawuf) vary depending on the needs of the community. A central activity is group meditation through the ritual of Dhikr (zikr), a form of repetitive chanting of the names of God. This form of intense group prayer leads to a simultaneous blocking of thoughts and increased energy, allowing followers to experience a higher spiritual state. This form of teaching is followed by the Naqshbandiyya Nazimiyya Order (tarekat).
Another form of praying that comes from the Mevlevi tradition, is the Sema, or Dance of the Whirling Dervishes. Mystics who participate in this sacred dance must keep their mind clear and centred, in order to maintain their balance, resulting in purification of the soul.