There is a lot of confusion concerning this word: tasawwuf. Whereas the Quran and Sunnah are held as the highest point in a Muslim’s obedience creed, tasawwuf is mistakenly thought to supersede the two. This view is held by many people and has split the Muslim faith into two distinct camps of which one abides by the Quran and Hadith, the other by tasawuff.
Actually, the tasawuff is a later part of the Shariah, relating to feelings of the heart, and very much a part of the older religion. Every external deed is for the betterment of the heart’s feelings and thus allowing a person to pass happily into the afterlife. If this unconditional love is not obtained, then the person is destroyed inside. It is the growth of this love, the desire is to have Divine pleasure and it gives total obedience to the orders of the Shariah that makes it what it is.
Tasawuff exists purely to purify the heart from every lowly desire, lust, jealousy, nastiness whether by deed or speech, vanity and all the negatives that live in a Man’s heart and words. In return it wishes to clothe the heart with all things that are above these other emotions. These are fear of Allah, trust, love, truth, pure thoughts, and all that will make a Man worthy of attention in the afterlife, but most especially Allah’s mercy and love. This is its primary reason for existing and its soul.
To determine the problems of the heart in these issues is usually placed in the hands of a Shaykh or teacher. This person in turn has to be qualified according to the Shariah rulings, have had teachings by a suitably qualified Shaykh, who is respected by his followers, has no interest in worldly wealth for himself, tries very sincerely to teach his followers with education and morality, and has the needed religious knowledge, among other things. This person does not have to produce karamat or miracles, nor do they need to be able to see the future. Indeed, if they do, they may not be a Shaykh at all.
In order to follow the teachings of tasawuff it is good if you find a Shaykh whom you trust and like, for it will make your conversion easier. Once you have found this person, then there is a promise shared between you both in that he guides you and you follow him. There are several parts which the initiate vows to pursue, of which are to start an everyday self-assessment before going to bed in order to repent the bad ones and give thanks to Allah for the good ones, make sure that your eyes, ears and tongue are watched strictly to prevent doing or saying the wrong things, develop a humbleness whereby you do not judge others for what they do or think you are better than them, remember Allah frequently and other items which are part of this ritual.