"Wool-clad ones," members of mystical sects of Islam, the earliest dating from 8th century Persia.
Sufism began as an ascetic movement in reaction to the drive for wealth and power characterized by the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties. They drew on the model of Muhammad and the four rightly guided caliphs. Umar was noted for his shabby clothes and Ali gave away all he had. These ascetics abandoned sensuous life and took on coarse woolen garments from which the name Sufi may derive (from suf, wool). They were also called faqir, poor one, for their aspirations to poverty. Mahabbah (love) became a focus for Sufism as exemplified in the poetry of a female mystic poet. While others strove for intellectual knowledge, Sufis strove for interior knowledge, ma’rifa.
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