There are as many ways to know God as there are people. The search is not for inward knowledge, as is often supposed, even though we will become more aware of it as our confidence increases in the course of it, but for the outward confirmation of the inward knowing. And true knowledge can be defined as that which confirms, (a charity from Allah, as is all outward existence), that which is in confirmation of, knowing. This declassifies much of the presumed corpus of knowledge to the realm of information.
And that that which is in reality quested is certainty, or certitude, a positive outward confirmation or reflection of an inward sense of truth, of being, a validation of the reality of your own personal existence, a self-affirmation, or "reality check". The Sufi "way" is nothing but a continuance of the confirmation and support of the knowledge of God's goodness and benevolent intent within you.
The need for this is reflected in the outward clinging to conviction. The need to be convinced is the need for certainty. But in many cases this need is so great as to disallow any further search after some facsimile of it is acquired, and there are myriad inconsistent convictions to be had. This accounts for the rising phenomenon of religious fundamentalism.
There is truth in all falsehood, as it is for the most part but a fictitious, inadequate reflection of truth, and must in time dissolve as a consequence of its very nature. The fear of this knowledge of dissolution is the cause for the reasoning that it requires religious struggle to keep it alive.
The manifest truth is now very open and well expressed in the English language. I appreciate the summary statement made by Peter Young delivered at the Ibn Arabi Society Symposium in Oxford, 1999 in his thesis "Ibn 'Arabi: Towards a Universal Point of View" . "Existence is an absolute unity and totally present everywhere without division." And I highly recommend reading his article.
There are as many ways to express this truth as there are people and each person is an expression of this truth, whether they choose to be or not, by the mere fact of their existence. God is One. Unity is Whole, not partial.
The exclusion of this reality, taught and practiced by the Sufis as well as Unitist spiritualists of every faith and denomination, by the people who cling, desperate for salvation, to their convictions based on the fiction that their way is right and other ways wrong, is the cause of the deterioration of the Muslim peoples and the degeneration of the 'status' of Islam, in the eyes of the world, from that of a benevolence to humanity. Muslims themselves are often asking, "If we are so right, Lord, and the "chosen" people, why then are we so poor and feeling of powerlessness?" And the answer is simply "If I were to give you power in your present state of understanding, you would wreak havoc on my earth, being not the bringers of peace that you were destined to be as soon as you find it (Me) in yourselves." This is reflected in Qur`an and verified in at least two very well-known Islamic traditions stating roughly that if the people to whom the truth has been given did not treat it right, it would be given to another people, better than them, who would. And that the best of the people of this faith were those closest to the Prophet and that the succeeding generations would deteriorate, except for a few. And that "By over zealous followers my back hath been broken". And these are the people who deny the reality Allah in this life, so ardent is their seeking for their own sensory satisfaction in the next.
They thoroughly ignore the Prophetic mandate to "Die before you die", the behavior pattern of "Rahmatun lil Alameen" - A Mercy unto all the worlds, and many others of such meaning. They cling tenaciously and with religious conviction to the life of their illusions and slam shut the doors of paradise to all others but themselves. It is the same in all fundamentalist beliefs, and no different, obviously, in Islam.
The psychological analysis of these 'believers' in their own limited understanding but not in the wisdom of their elders is plainly recognizable in both western and Sufi parlance. And it is in fact their fears of their fathers, which they have conveniently translated into fear of Allah, which they are running from and which keeps them from seeking the counsel of their Sufi elders. For they are actually in mortal fear of being wrong. And the seeking of counsel is the allowing of that possibility. This is not the Islam that the Prophet preached, and it is not, obviously, the way of the Sufi.
It is however, a reflection of the psychological evolution of humanity both individually and en masse, and as such is to be viewed also with compassion and understanding and not with disdain.