For a variety of reasons I had not planned to publish any response to Stephen Schwartz’s Weekly Standard article touting Sufism as peaceful and tolerant. However, many people have emailed it to me, and I am seeing it pop up here and there as a sign of hope. I am all for hope, but I am not for false hope. Andrew G. Bostom has put together this piece, which will give you a clearer view of the Sufis and what non-Muslims can expect from them:
Stephen Schwartz, a convert to Sufi Islam who has also published under the name Suleyman Ahmad Al-Kosovi, has written in The Weekly Standard a new panegyric to Sufism as a paradigm of pluralism within Islam. It was reprinted at FrontPage magazine with the subheading: “There is a tolerant, pluralist tradition in Islam. We can’t afford to ignore it.” Yet in this piece he does not consider evidence I presented over two years ago in National Review Online demonstrating that Sufi Islam historically has been just as intolerant as other Islamic traditions.
Sufism as practiced in the Indian subcontinent was quite intolerant of Hinduism, as documented by the Indian scholar K. S. Lal:
The Muslim Mushaikh [Sufi spiritual leaders] were as keen on conversions as the Ulama, and contrary to general belief, in place of being kind to the Hindus as saints would, they too wished the Hindus to be accorded a second class citizenship if they were not converted. Only one instance, that of Shaikh Abdul Quddus Gangoh, need be cited because he belonged to the Chishtia Silsila considered to be the most tolerant of all Sufi groups. He wrote letters to the Sultan Sikandar Lodi, Babur, and Humayun to re-invigorate the Shariat [Sharia] and reduce the Hindus to payers of land tax and jizya. To Babur he wrote, “Extend utmost patronage and protection to theologians and mystics… that they should be maintained and subsidized by the state… No non-Muslim should be given any office or employment in the Diwan of Islam… Furthermore, in conformity with the principles of the Shariat they should be subjected to all types of indignities and humiliations. They should be made to pay the jizya…They should be disallowed from donning the dress of the Muslims and should be forced to keep their Kufr [infidelity] concealed and not to perform the ceremonies of their Kufr openly and freely… They should not be allowed to consider themselves the equal to the Muslims. (The Legacy of Muslim Rule in India , p. 237)
Since that time, while researching my forthcoming book, The Legacy of Jihad, I have discovered that there are many other influential Sufis who shared, and who share today, these bigoted views. Sufi intolerance is clear from, most importantly, never-before-published translations of the great Sufi Al-Ghazali himself (which I’ve presented at FrontPage), as well as from statements by an important contemporary Shi’ite Sufi ideologue, Sultanhussein Tabandeh (also published at FrontPage).
The eminent Islamic scholar W.M. Watt stresses Al-Ghazali’s Muslim orthodoxy. He says that Al-Ghazali was “acclaimed in both the East and West as the greatest Muslim after Muhammad, and he is by no means unworthy of that dignity…He brought orthodoxy and mysticism into closer contact…the theologians became more ready to accept the mystics as respectable, while the mystics were more careful to remain within the bounds of orthodoxy.”
Here is Al-Ghazali, evidently with no intention of departing either from Sufism or Muslim orthodoxy, writing about jihad war and the treatment of the vanquished non-Muslim dhimmi peoples:
[O]ne must go on jihad (i.e., warlike razzias or raids) at least once a year…one may use a catapult against them [non-Muslims] when they are in a fortress, even if among them are women and children. One may set fire to them and/or drown them…If a person of the Ahl al-Kitab [People of The Book – primarily Jews and Christians] is enslaved, his marriage is [automatically] revoked…One may cut down their trees…One must destroy their useless books. Jihadists may take as booty whatever they decide…they may steal as much food as they need…
[T]he dhimmi is obliged not to mention Allah or His Apostle…Jews, Christians, and Majians must pay the jizya [poll tax on non-Muslims]…on offering up the jizya, the dhimmi must hang his head while the official takes hold of his beard and hits [the dhimmi] on the protruberant bone beneath his ear [i.e., the mandible]… They are not permitted to ostentatiously display their wine or church bells…their houses may not be higher than the Muslim’s, no matter how low that is. The dhimmi may not ride an elegant horse or mule; he may ride a donkey only if the saddle[-work] is of wood. He may not walk on the good part of the road. They [the dhimmis] have to wear [an identifying] patch [on their clothing], even women, and even in the [public] baths…[dhimmis] must hold their tongue….  (From the Wagjiz, written in 1101 A.D. Emphasis added.)
This modern Sufi leader wrote a whole treatise against various elements of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that are at variance with Islamic law: an “Islamic perspective” on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights . According to Professor Eliz Sanasarian of the University of Southern California, who has analyzed the plight of religious minorities in the Islamic Republic, Tabandeh’s tract became “the core ideological work upon which the Iranian government…based its non-Muslim policy.”  His views on non-Muslims, says Sanasarian, were implemented “almost verbatim in the Islamic Republic of Iran.” 
Tabandeh begins his discussion by lauding Shah Ismail I (1502-1524), the repressive and bigoted  founder of the Safavid dynasty, as a champion “of the oppressed.”  He reaffirms the traditional inferiority of non-Muslims to Muslims as sacralized by the Shari’a:
Thus if [a] Muslim commits adultery his punishment is 100 lashes, the shaving of his head, and one year of banishment. But if the man is not a Muslim and commits adultery with a Muslim woman his penalty is execution…Similarly if a Muslim deliberately murders another Muslim he falls under the law of retaliation and must by law be put to death by the next of kin. But if a non-Muslim who dies at the hand of a Muslim has by lifelong habit been a non-Muslim, the penalty of death is not valid. Instead the Muslim murderer must pay a fine and be punished with the lash. 
Since Islam regards non-Muslims as on a lower level of belief and conviction, if a Muslim kills a non-Muslim…then his punishment must not be the retaliatory death, since the faith and conviction he possesses is loftier than that of the man slain…Again, the penalties of a non-Muslim guilty of fornication with a Muslim woman are augmented because, in addition to the crime against morality, social duty and religion, he has committed sacrilege, in that he has disgraced a Muslim and thereby cast scorn upon the Muslims in general, and so must be executed. 
Islam and its peoples must be above the infidels, and never permit non-Muslims to acquire lordship over them. Since the marriage of a Muslim woman to an infidel husband (in accordance with the verse quoted: ‘Men are guardians of women’) means her subordination to an infidel, that fact makes the marriage void, because it does not obey the conditions laid down to make a contract valid. As the Sura (‘The Woman to be Examined’, LX v. 10) says: ‘Turn them not back to infidels: for they are not lawful unto infidels nor are infidels lawful unto them (i.e., in wedlock). 
Tabandeh is not an aberration among Sufis. He follows in the tradition of Turkish Sufi dervishes whose violent fanaticism contributed to the forced Islamization of the indigenous Christians in Asia Minor (see the copious documentation of this phenomenon from Turkish, Greek, Near Eastern and other sources in Professor Speros Vryonis’ monumental The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor and the Process of Islamization from the Eleventh Through the Fifteenth Century, Berkeley, 1971, pp. 340-43, and especially chapter 5, pp. 351-402).
Tabandeh would also no doubt have looked with approval upon tracts against non-Muslims produced by prominent Indian Sufi theologians in the 17th and 18th centuries, including lionized Sufi teachers such as Sirhindi and Shah Walli Allah. Some of their statements:
III. Sirhindi (d. 1624)
Shariat can be fostered through the sword.
Kufr and Islam are opposed to each other. The progress of one is possible only at the expense of the other and co-existence between these two contradictory faiths is unthinkable.
The honor of Islam lies in insulting kufr and kafirs. One who respects kafirs, dishonors the Muslims. To respect them does not merely mean honoring them and assigning them a seat of honor in any assembly, but it also implies keeping company with them or showing considerations to them. They should be kept at an arm’s length like dogs….If some worldly business cannot be performed without them, in that case only a minimum of contact should be established with them but without taking them into confidence. The highest Islamic sentiment asserts that it is better to forego that worldly business and that no relationship should be established with the kafirs.
The real purpose in levying jizya on them (the non-Muslims) is to humiliate them to such an extent that, on account of fear of jizya , they may not be able to dress well and to live in grandeur. They should constantly remain terrified and trembling. It in intended to hold them under contempt and to uphold the honor and might of Islam.
Cow-sacrifice in India is the noblest of Islamic practices. The kafirs may probably agree to pay jizya but they shall never concede to cow-sacrifice.
The execution of the accursed kafir of Gobindwal [a Sikh who lead an uprising against the oppressive Muslim rule of his community] is an important achievement and is the cause of great defeat of the accursed Hindus…Whatever might have been the motive behind the execution, the dishonor of the kafirs is an act of highest grace for the Muslims. Before the execution of the kafirs I had seen in a vision that the Emperor had destroyed the crown of the head of Shirk. Verily he was the chief of the Mushriks and the leader of the kafirs.
Whenever a Jew is killed, it is for the benefit of Islam. 
IV. Shah Wali-Allah (d. 1762)
It has become clear to my mind that the kingdom of heaven has predestined that kafirs should be reduced to a state of humiliation and treated with utter contempt. Should that repository of majesty and dauntless courage (Nizam al-Maluk) gird his loins and direct his attention to such a task he can conquer the world. Thus the faith will become more popular and his own power strengthened; a little effort would be profoundly rewarded. Should he make no effort, they (the Marathas) would inevitably be weakened and annihilated through celestial calamities and in such an event he would gain no credit…As I have learnt this unequivocally (from the divine) I spontaneously write to draw your attention to the great opportunity laid before you. You should therefore not be negligent in fighting jihad.
Oh Kings! Mala a’la urges you to draw your swords and not put them back in their sheaths again until Allah has separated the Muslims from the polytheists and the rebellious kafirs and the sinners are made absolutely feeble and helpless.”
In his testament to ‘Umar, Abu Bakr had informed him that if he feared God, the entire world would be frightened of him (‘Umar). Sages and declared that the world resembled a shadow. If a man ran after his shadow it would pursue him, and if he took flight from the shadow it would still pursue him. God has chosen you as the protector of the Sunnis as there is no-one else to perform this duty, and it is crucial that at all times you consider your role as obligatory. By taking up the sword to make Islam supreme and by subordinating your own persona needs to this cause, you will reap vast benefits.
We beseech you (Durrani, a Muslim ruler) in the name of the Prophet to fight a jihad against the infidels of this region. This would entitle you to great rewards before God the Most High and your name would be included in the list of those who fought jihad for His sake. As far as worldly gains are concerned, incalculable booty would fall into the hands of the Islamic ghazis and the Muslims would be liberated from their bonds. The invasion of Nadir Shah who destroyed the Muslims left the Marathas and Jats secure and prosperous. This resulted in the infidels regaining their strength and in the reduction of the Muslim leaders of Delhi to mere puppets.
When the conquering army arrives in an area with a mixed Muslim-Hindu population, the imperial guards should transfer the Muslims from their villages to the towns and at the same time care for their property. Financial assistance should be given by governments to the deprived and the poor as well as to Sayyids and the ‘ulama. Their generosity would then become famous with prompt prayers for their victories. Each town would eagerly await the arrival of the Islamic army (‘that paragon of bounty’). Moreover, wherever there was even the slightest fear of a Muslim defeat, the Islamic army should be there to disperse infidels to all corners of the earth. Jihad should be their first priority, thereby ensuring the security of every Muslim. 
In painting his picture of “the enlightened traditions of Sufism,” Stephen Schwartz has not mentioned any of these data. It would be one thing if he had written simply of certain individual Sufi teachers with enlightened views; but when he asserts that the traditions of Sufism themselves “stress … respect for all believers, whether Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, or other,” as well as a “commitment to mutual civility, interaction, and cooperation among believers, regardless of sect,” he raises questions that must be asked in light of his recommendation that Western countries cultivate good relations with Sufis as a matter of policy. Surely Schwartz cannot maintain that the teachings of the prominent Sufis quoted above in any way resemble respect for non-Muslims, or mutual civility. Is he unaware of these teachings, or simply indifferent to them?
And most importantly, what may be the consequences of ignoring or glossing over these elements of Sufism in an ever more desperate pursuit of the elusive moderate Muslim? For the embattled non-Muslim minorities in Muslim countries who will likely suffer the most direct effects of any large-scale Western engagement with Sufism, these are questions to which a wrong answer will be costly in the extreme.
(The title of this piece was inspired by that of a 1919 essay, “Mohammed Without Camouflage- Ecce Homo Arabicus”, by the great scholar of Sufi Islam, W.H.T. Gairdner)
1. Watt, W.M. [Translator]. The Faith and Practice of Al-Ghazali, Oxford, England, 1953, p. 13.
2. Al-Ghazali (d. 1111). Kitab al-Wagiz fi fiqh madhab al-imam al-Safi’i, Beirut, 1979, pp. 186, 190-91; 199-200; 202-203. [English translation by Dr. Michael Schub.]
3. Tabandeh, Sultanhussein. A Muslim Commentary on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, English translation by F. J. Goulding, London, 1970.
4. Sanasarian, Eliz. Religious Minorities in Iran, Cambridge University Press, 2000, p. 173, footnote 92.
5. Sanasarian, p. 25.
6. See earlier notes 10-12, and Seddon, C.N. (translator), A Chronicle of the Early Safawis [Being the Ahsanu’t-Tawarikh of Hasan-i-Rumlu], 1934, Vol. II, p. xiv.
7. Tabandeh, p. 4.
8. Tabandeh, p. 17.
9. Tabandeh, pp. 18-19.
10. Tabandeh, p. 37.
11. Saiyid Athar Abbas Rizvi, Muslim revivalist movements in northern India in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Agra, Lucknow: Agra University, Balkrishna Book Co, 1965, pp. 247-50; Yohanan Friedmann, Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi: an outline of his thought and a study of his image in the eyes of posterity. Montreal, McGill University, Institute of Islamic Studies, 1971, p.74.
12. Saiyid Athar Abbas Rizvi. Shah Wali-Allah and his times. Canberra, Australia, Ma’rifat Publishing House, 1980, pp. 294-296, 299, 301, 305.