Definition of Sufism by William C Chittick
‘One of the terms used in the classical texts to designate what I call “Sufism” is ma’rifa (or irfan), a term that literally means ‘knowledge’ or ‘recognition’.
However, the term connotes a special, deeper knowledge of things that can only be achieved by personal transformation, and hence it is often translated as ‘gnosis’. The goal and fruit of this type of knowledge is commonly explain by citing the Prophet’s saying, “He who knows (arifa) himself knows his Lord”
As the hadith suggests this sort of knowledge demands a simultaneous acquisition of both self-knowledge and God-knowledge. The text tell us repeatedly that it cannot be found in books.
Rather, it is already present in the heart, but it is hidden deep beneath the dross of ignorance, forgetfulness, outwardly oriented activity, and rational articulation. Access to this knowledge comes only by following the path that leads to human perfection.” p39 Sufism William C Chittick.