Islam, as a religion, is divided into two different sects, Sunni and Shi'i. These divisions have their own separate values and rituals that create an unconquerable schism between them. The gap, however, is somewhat bridged by a twist on the Islamic faith known as Sufism. The mystic ways of the Sufi society make it very appealing to both Sunnis and Shiites, not to mention the newcomers to the Islamic faith. Sufism uses the quality of unification and the quality of appeal to make it one of the strongest aspects of Islam.
Sufism was founded on the belief that Muslims could obtain a "one-on-one" relationship with God through mystical practices. Mysticism is defined as "a particular method of approach to Reality making use of intuitive and emotional spiritual faculties which are generally dormant and latent unless called into play through training under guidance." Since mysticism is connected with many other religions also, the Sufis had to be extremely careful to be under "guidance" at all times.
They prefer the word guidance to the word teaching because they believe that the sought-after relationship with God can be reached only through personal experience.
The original Sufis, though they seem far from the orthodox views, maintained a very close tie with original Islamic doctrine. Their differences were considerable, but the link with orthodoxy was "guaranteed by their acceptance of the law and ritual practices of Islam." The Sufis believe that a person's soul abides with God before it ever inhabits the body of man. This connection is the reason for all Sufi practice. Their rituals and ceremonies are an attempt to reconnect their soul with God, its original keeper. This pursuit of God also leads Sufis to believe in a pursuit of ecstasy, which can be reached through repeated convocations, breathing exercises, and...