Sufis are adherents of the religion of Islam who emphasize and promote the mystical form of Islamic faith that is known as Sufism. This expression of Islam is based on the writings of Shaykh Adhmad Zarruq, considered by many to be the mystic master of the Sufi faith. His 15th century work The Principles of Sufism continues to be an important work for all practitioners of the Sufi discipline.
While all Muslims understand that it is possible to become close to Deity after physical death, persons who seek to connect with God through Sufi belief understand that it is possible to become close with the Divine while still in this life. To that end, Sufi mystics tend to practice a form of Islam that is very contemplative in nature. Sufi brotherhoods, known as Tariqa, provide opportunities for individuals to live and worship together for the purpose of practicing this form of mysticism.
Sufi masters and practitioners tend to make use of parables or stories to illustrate points of the faith. Along with parables, the use of metaphors and allegory are also very common. The goal is to help individuals transcend the temporal aspects of existence and begin to see existence as not strictly divided into temporal and spiritual aspects. By abandoning these artificial boundaries, the Sufi believes it is possible to see life in the here and now as part of eternity and recognize the deep connection with the eternal.
The underlying principle of Sufi faith and practice has to do with seeking to not only acquire understanding but to personally experience a connection with God that is enduring and not subject to corruption by outward influences. This is often considered to be a lifelong pursuit for the devout Sufi that will continue once the individual passes from life on the earth and enters into the spiritual realm. The faithful Sufi will engage in a series of personal learning experiences that are linked by periods of contemplation and prayer so that a greater understand can be achieved. From this perspective, a Sufi can be said to have some common ground with mystics in other world religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christian denominations that contain elements of mysticism and gnosticism.