Muslim Communities of Grace: The Sufi Brotherhoods in Islamic Religious Life 9780231143301, 0231143303, 9780231143318, 0231143311

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Muslim Communities of Grace: The Sufi Brotherhoods in Islamic Religious Life
 9780231143301, 0231143303, 9780231143318, 0231143311

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Muslim Communities of Grace The Sufi Brotherhoods in Islamic Religious Life

Columbia University Press New York


HU Az7

tool Columbia University Press

Publishers Since 1893 New York & Chicester, West Sussex Copyright © 2007 Jamil M. Abun-Nasr All rights reserved First published in the United Kingdom by Hurst & Company Library o f Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A complete CIP record is available from the Library o f Congress ISBN 978-0-231-14330-1 (cloth: alk paper) ISBN 978-0-2 3 1 -1 4 3 3 1 -8 (pbk: alk paper) ISBN 978-0-23 1 -5 1 2 7 9 -4 (e-book) 00

c 10987654321 p 10987654321

To Sonia, Nadia and Anke

Contents Preface Note on Transliteration

page ix x



Chapters 1. The Problem of Religious Authority in Islam The Caliphs' religious authority Institutionalisation o f religious authority 2. The Sufi Tradition of Piety The Emergence o fa tradition The Elaboration o fSufi belief The Consolidation o fthe Sufi tradition Wal&ya: the core o fthe Sufi tradition 3. Sufi Challege to Institutionalised Religious Authority The Sufi shaykhs’ religious guidance The Sufi shaykhs as the Prophet's deputies in the guidance o f the community The Sufi shaykhs and the Prophet's eternal essence The Sufi shaykhs’ baraka 4. The Special Sufi Paths (Tariqaf) The Appearance o f the Sufi tariqas The Xariqas ofthe Islamic heartland The Q&diriyya The Sh&dhiliyya The CentralAsian (ariqas The Naqshbandiyya The Khalwatiyya The Ecstatic {ariqas vii

7 1 19 26 26 39 46 51 56 57 62 69 75 79 80 86 86 96 112 113 119 121







Contents The Rifii'iyya The Mawlawiyya From Tariqa to Brotherhood The Transformation o fthe Sufi (ariqas into brotherhoods The Khalwatiyya-Bakriyya brotherhood The Naqshbandiyya-Kh&lidiyya brotherhood The Idrisiyya brotherhood The Tij&niyya brotherhood The Centralised Sufi Brotherhoods The Saniisiyya brotherhood The Qcldiriyya-Mukht&riyya brotherhood The Centralised Sufi brotherhoods and Muslim rulers The Sufi Brotherhood as a Religious Community The Sufi brotherhoodas a community o fgrace The Sufi brotherhoods' religious rules The Sufi brotherhoods'social influence The Sufi Brotherhoods and European Colonial Rule Sufi shaykhs’ resistance to cobnial rule Sufi shaykhs’ accommodation to colonial rule The Tijdniyya brotherhood under French colonial rule The Muridiyya: a \cobnial’brotherhood The Religiousprice ofaccommodation to cobnial rule The Sufi Brotherhoods in the Age of Reform Religious reformers and the Sufi brotherhoods Modernising Muslim rulers and the Sufi brotherhoods Sufi shaykhs in the modem world

Gbssary Bibliography Index


122 124 127 127 132 135 143 147 157 158 163 170 178 180 188 194 200 202 214 218 229 233 236 238 243 251 256 261 271

Preface This book is a product of the German phase of my academic career. From 19801 worked in the agreeable atmosphere of the university of the Upper-Franconian town of Bayreuth. The teaching responsi­ bilities of a professor of Islamic studies notwithstanding, I carried out research at this university with a team of young scholars working for advanced degrees on the influence of Islam in Africa. This research was generously funded by the German national research foundation, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) for twelve years. I wish to express here my gratitude for the friendship and help I received from many colleagues at the University of Bayreuth and for the financial support of the DFG. Since the writing of this book entailed the time-consuming exami­ nation of the development of the Sufi tradition on the basis of the original sources, I could only apply myself fully to it after my re­ tirement in 1997. Much of the sustenance I needed for carrying on with this work I received from Anke Bossaller. She has been an affec­ tionate friend and a patient companion who tolerated my obsession with the life histories and beliefs of Sufi shaykhs and patiendy listened to my expatiation on them. But I owe her more than support in the writing of a book. Bayreuth, March 2006

J a m il

M. A b u n - N a sr

Note on Transliteration In the transliteration of Arabic words in this book the method of the Encyclopaedia o fIslam is used, but the Arabic letterjim is transcribed as ‘j’ instead o f‘dj’ and q&fzs ‘q’ instead of ‘k\ No account has been taken in transliteration of the assimilation of the definite article aT before the shamsiyya letters, thus, for example, al-Shirwini is used instead of ash-Shirwani. Personal names are transliterated systemat­ ically, except when they had become known in European languages in set forms. The name of the former president of Egypt will thus be written Abdel-Nasser instead of being transliterated as ‘Abd al-N&sir. Place names too are transliterated systematically, except when their English forms have become widely known. The name of the birth­ place of Islam is thus written Mecca instead of Makka and of the capital of Egypt Cairo instead of al-Q&hira.

Introduction The communities of grace referred to in the tide of this book are the Sufi brotherhoods. The author’s reading of Sufi literature, especially Sufi hagiographies, has convinced him that divine grace is the central element of the Sufis’ system of beliefs. They equate it with the mani­ festation of wal&ya in the world as a spiritual authority with which God endows the awliyd’ (p\. of wait), a term which they use in the sense of special confederates of God. In the Qur’&n God is referred to as the Walt (the Guardian), and walttya is ^sed in the sense of his guardianship of the believers (see below, pp. 51-5). To Sufis divine grace thus consists of the manifestation of Gods attribute as the Guardian as a spiritual authority with which he endows the awliy&\ to whom he delegates the believers’ guardianship in the world. Each of the Sufi brotherhoods has as its acknowledged founder a reputable wait to whose spiritual guardianship its members entrust their salva­ tion and wellbeing in the world. And each of them also has a distinctive religious rule which its members perform, in addition to the common rites of Islam, as a token of allegiance to its founder’s spiritual autho­ rity. The Sufi brotherhoods thus represent a distinct form of Islamic religious communalism. The author is aware that by speaking of the religious "communalism’ of the Sufi brotherhoods, he gives this term a sense that goes beyond its standard English connotations. He feels, however, that deviation from standard English usage is justified in this case by the aim of highlighting the central thesis of this book, which is that the Sufi brotherhoods, while being part of the general commun­ ity of Islam, constitute distinct Islamic religious communities that have features which markedly distinguish them from it. Research on the Sufi brotherhoods in the past fifty years has shown that their form of Islamic religious communalism has become since the eighteenth century a dominant aspect of the Muslims’ religious life, and that their shaykhs exercised great influence in most Muslim 1



societies. However, the religious factors that account for the ap­ pearance of this form of Islamic religious communalism, and for the appeal it has had to Muslims living under disparate social and political conditions, remain unexplained. Muslim religious scholars have been too preoccupied with debating the doctrinal validity of Sufi beliefs to attach significance to these factors, and the European tradition of Sufi studies has been dominated by other preoccupations. Europeans first discovered Sufism through the ecstatic mystical practices of devotees to whom they referred as ‘dervishes’. In Persian, its language of origin, as well as in Turkish the term ‘dervish’ means a mendicant Sufi. The association of the Sufis with ecstatic mystical practices seems to have come from the reports of European travellers in the nineteenth century in various parts of the Ottoman empire about the colourful ceremonies of Sufi groups, especially the Mawlawiyya and RifiTya brotherhoods (see below, pp. 121-5). However, since the beginning of the twentieth century European scholars working in the field of Islamic studies discovered the Sufis’ highly developed mystical beliefs, and wrote major scholarly works on them. Perhaps the greatest of these is Louis Massignon’s La Passion d A ’ lHallaj, which celebrated the life of the Sufi devotee al-Hallaj, whose utterances on mystical union with God led to his execution on the charge of apostasy in 922. Six years after the first appearance of this book in 1922, Margaret Smith created a scholarly monument for the early woman Sufi RAbi'a al-‘Adwiya (d. 801) with the publication of her RAbia the Mystic and herfeUow-saints in Isldm. On al-Muh&sibt (d. 857), who developed the first elaborate Islamic mystical doctrine, a book has been published in each of Europe’s three major langua­ ges—English, French and German. Other works of European schol­ arship dealt with the spiritual journey of al-Ghazili (d. 1111) and the mystical poetry of Farid al-Din al-Attir (d. 1190 or 1230). However, the Sufi thinker who had a lasting fascination for European scholars was Muhyi al-Din Ibn Arab! (d. 1240), on whose notions regarding the unity of existence and the self-disclosure of God in the universe dozens of books and learned articles have been written in various European languages. But the scholars who studied Sufi beliefs have been too engrossed in their elucidation and the establishment of links between them and non-Islamic mystical traditions to take any genuine interest in investigating the Muslims’ pious concerns that shaped them.



Since the 1960s scholarly interest in Sufi beliefs has been over­ shadowed by the emphasis in Sufi studies on the Sufi brotherhoods’ influence in Muslim societies. This line of investigation evolved out of the preoccupation in the colonial period of officials specialising in Muslim affairs with monitoring the activities of the Sufi brother­ hoods’ influential shaykhs in the Muslim lands under their control. Because in the French colonial territories of North and West Africa the influence of the Sufi brotherhoods’ shaykhs was pervasive, French officials in charge of Muslim affairs led the way in this line of investi­ gation. The colonial specialists in Islam collated detailed information on the prominent Sufi shaykhs’ religious and family ties, economic resources and methods of exercising their influence. They also pub­ lished sometimes highly informative studies of the Sufi brotherhoods in the form of books and articles in learned journals. Two factors con­ tributed towards making their line of investigation the dominant one in Sufi studies. The first was that the detailed information they gathered on the brotherhoods lent itself well to the writing of disser­ tations by aspiring young scholars; most of the monographs pub­ lished on the brotherhoods since the 1960s, including my own on the Tijiniyya, were first written as dissertations and drew extensively on the materials available on them in the archives of the former colonial powers. The second factor was the interest that political leaders and the educated public in Europe and America came to have in under­ standing the role of Islam in the social and political life of Muslim countries after most of them achieved independence around 1960. This line of investigation was consolidated and given academic respectability by the new discipline of anthropology. The anthropol­ ogists provided research on the brotherhoods with a methodology and conceptual tools which found their way into most of the works pub­ lished on them since the 1960s, even when their authors came from other academic disciplines. The present study of the Sufi brotherhoods would not have been possible without the extensive factual information made available on them by the research of generations of diligent scholars. In the past fifty years dozens of books and hundreds of articles have been pub­ lished on the various Sufi brotherhoods. In The Sufi Orders in Islam (Oxford 1971) Trimingham offered a pioneering, now factually out­ dated, synthesis of their history, and in the past twenty years a number



of collective works have been published on them, consisting mosdy of papers presented at learned conferences. The most monumental are Alexandre Popovic and Gilles Veinstein, Les Voiesd ’AUah (Paris 1996), and Frederick de Jong and Bernd Radtke, Islamic Mysticism Contested (Leiden 1999). The available works on the Sufi brotherhoods provide valuable information on the influence of their shaykhs in different societies, their rivalries with each other, and the controversies aroused by their teachings. They also highlight these shaykhs’ability to adapt the exercise of their spiritual authority to the disparate social and political conditions of Muslim societies. But they make hardly any contribution towards explaining the common religious purpose which the Sufi brotherhoods’ religious communalism satisfies, and which accounts for the appeal it has had to Muslims in countries as far apart as Egypt, India, Indonesia and Senegal. In a sense this book is a work of synthesis, but not one intended as a Sufi work of reference. It is rather a reconstruction of the development of the Sufi tradition, intended primarily to explain the emergence of the Sufi brotherhoods’ form of Islamic religious communalism and the great appeal it has had to the Muslims. Since the author is neither a Sufi nor a Muslim, the book does not present an insider’s point of view. It presents rather the point of view of someone whose under­ standing of central problems of the Muslims’ religious life has been shaped by many years of work in the field of Islamic studies, and by the discussions he has had on them over the years with Muslim scholars trained in the Islamic and modern European traditions of learning. His understanding of the development of the Sufi tradition was shaped especially by his awareness of the significance which the problem of religious authority faced by the Muslims after the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 has had for the development of their religious communal life. This problem arose from the inability of the Prophet’s successors in the leadership of the Muslim community to live up to the pious ideal—that he represented as its founder and first head—that its political leadership was a subordinate function of its religious guidance. Sufi sources, when read with the aim of under­ standing Sufi beliefs in the context of the Muslims’ religious communal life, rather than as elements of abstract systems of mystical thought, would be found to provide ample support for the central thesis of this book: that the cardinal Sufi beliefs were shaped by the



Muslims’ preoccupation with the perennial problem of the leadership of their religious community. It is contended in this book, first, that the distinctive features which the Sufi tradition developed in its formative period were determined by the inability of the caliphs, the Prophet’s acknowledged deputies in the supreme leadership of the Muslim community, to live up to the pious ideal that its political leadership was a subordinate function of its religious guidance. Its second contention is that the core of the Sufi tradition is the belief that divine grace is the manifestation of wal&ya in the world as a spiritual authority with which God endows his favoured confederates, the awliy&’AMh, whom he entrusts with the believers’ authoritative religious guidance. It is contended, thirdly, that the emergence of the Sufi brotherhoods’ form of religious com­ munalism was the outcome of a long-drawn-out adaptation of the scope and nature of the spiritual authority the Sufis ascribed to the awliyd’to the Muslims’ major pious concerns. Fourthly, the appeal and credibility of the spiritual guidance of the Sufi brotherhoods’ shaykhs have been sustained by their being validated by a spiritual authority which, unlike that of the officeholders in the religious estab­ lishments of Muslim lands, is not one the rulers can bestow or at will withdraw. The centrality of the problem of religious authority in Islam to the reconstruction of the development of the Sufi tradition provided in this book accounts for the dedication of its first chapter to an examination of the factors that prevented the caliphs from pro­ viding an adequate solution for it. In writing this book, the author was confronted with sometimes insurmountable terminological problems. These problems arose partly from the fact thar, although central Sufi terms such as waUlya, wait and baraka occur in the Qur’an, with the development of the Sufi tradition they acquired connotations which differed from those they have in the Holy Book. Hence the reluctance of Sufi authors, including the authors of Sufi lexicographical works, to give definitive and concrete definitions of these terms. The present author has relied in his understanding of them on the connotations implied in their use by Sufi authors, especially in the hagiographies of the reputable awliyd ’ The explanation of these terms in a European language is another aspect of the terminological problems the author has faced. He has found most of the interpretations given of Sufi terms in the



European tradition of Islamic scholarship unhelpful and sometimes even misleading. For example, the use of‘friend of God’ for the Sufi term wait in European works of Sufi scholarship is a simplistic solution of a difficult problem of interpretation not justified by Sufi usage. The present author uses ‘confederate of God’ for wait, because it conveys the Sufi belief that the wait is one who enters into a covenant with God that entails the renunciation of affiliation with, and reliance on, the help of family and tribe. But he is also aware that this translation does not convey all the meanings the term wait has for Sufis. That is why he has found it necessary to use the Arabic names Sufis give to their central concepts, while explaining them in the context in which they first occur. The translations he gives of Sufi terms in the glossary should therefore be viewed as brief explanations which do not cover all the shades of meaning they have in different contexts. In the eight years which the author spent working on this book, he had Sufi shaykhs as his intellectual companions. While not sharing their beliefs, he has admired their commitment to them and dedi­ cation to their calling as spiritual guides. He has come also to appreciate the significance of the contribution they have made to the satisfaction of the Muslims’ religious communal needs. If this book could enable its readers to recognise the significance of this contri­ bution, it would have fulfilled an important part of the purpose it was intended to achieve.

1. The Problem of Religious Authority in Islam The Sufi movement did not develop only, or predominandy, out of the mystical experiences and pious utterances of monastic devotees. It started in the town of Basra as a movement of ascetic devotees whose pious ideals implicidy condemned the worldliness that prevailed in the Muslim community under the Umayyad caliphs (661-750). By the second half of the ninth century, this movement had developed mystical tenets which the religious scholars viewed as a challenge to the system of beliefs they had worked out, and with which they and the ‘Abbasid caliphs (750-1258) equated Islamic orthodoxy. These tenets constituted an implicit condemnation not only of the world­ liness that prevailed in the Muslim community, but also a challenge to the institutionalised system of religious leadership that developed in it after the Abbdsids came to power. In this system religious leadership became a subordinate function of the caliphs’ political leadership of the community, exercised by prominent religious scholars they ap­ pointed to important religious offices in their system of government. The Sufi movement came to represent from the second half of the ninth century onwards the ideal of the independence of the religious guidance of the Muslim community from the holders of political power in it. The available evidence makes clear that the development of Sufi beliefs since this time paralleled the growth of the Sufi shaykhs’ influence as spiritual guides at the expense of the holders of religious offices in the caliphs’ system of government. The Caliphs' religious authority To the Muslims the Prophet Muhammad was not the founder of Islam, but the Messenger (al-ras&t) chosen by God to reveal it to man­ kind. But Muhammad was the historical founder and first leader of 7


The Problem o f Religious Authority in Islam

the Islamic umma, a religious community which was also a polity. His ability to prevail against his mighty Meccan opponents and to found an umma, united under his authority in the affirmation of the oneness of God, was the historical confirmation and fulfilment of his pro­ phetic call. Consequendy, Muslims continued to refer to their re­ ligious community as al-Umma al-Muhammadiyya, even after it came to include a multiplicity of peoples who did not belong to the original community he founded in Arabia. The intertwining of Muhammad s political leadership of his community with his prophetic authority led to the emergence of the Islamic ideal that the political leadership of the Muslim community was a subordinate function of its religious guidance. The problem of religious authority in Islam arose from the caliphs inability to live up to this ideal, especially after they became the rulers of a vast empire. Because the Prophet made no arrangements for succession to his authority, it fell to those of his sah&ba (Companions), who had exercised influence in the community during his lifetime, to determ­ ine the form of its leadership after his death. Abfi Bakr, who assumed the leadership of the community after the Prophets death in 632, adopted the tide of khalifat Ras&lAUdh (deputy of the Messenger of God). The religious authority Ab& Bakr claimed to himself when he assumed this tide was vague, but, as Shaban suggests, that was pro­ bably why he chose it. (Shaban 1994, p. 19) Since to the Muslims Muhammad was the last of the prophets, AbA Bakr, by describing himself as his khalifa, merely affirmed that, while succeeding him in the leadership of the umma, he did not claim prophetic authority to himself. But he and his successor ‘Umar (634-44) compensated for the ambiguity of their religious authority by emphasising the prin­ ciple that khil&fa (deputation) for the Prophet entailed the contin­ uation of his practice in the leadership of the Muslim community. This principle accorded with the standing they had in the community as the Prophet s early and close companions on whom he had relied in the conduct of its affairs. It also enabled them to prevent the Prophets family, the Ahl al-Bayt, from claiming the supreme leadership of the Muslim community to themselves as a birthright. Madelung argues that the stories of past prophets related in the Qur’&n, which highlight the inheritance of their authority by members of their families, as well as the passages in the Qur’an which accord the Ahl al-Bayt a position

The Caliphs religious authority


above the rest of the faithful, can be construed as an indication of the Prophets wish to have a member of his family inherit his authority. (Madelung 1997, p. 16) Madelung adds that the Prophet might have hoped to live long enough to be able to appoint one of his grandsons as his successor, and that during his mortal illness, he “may ... have been unaware of the approaching end until it was too late”. (Made­ lung 1997, p. 18) The Prophets grandsons were Hasan and Husayn, the sons of his daughter Fatima, who was married to his paternal cousin ‘All. At the time of the Prophet’s death Hasan was seven and Husayn six years old. Besides being one of the Prophet’s early Companions, Abft Bakr was the father of his favourite wife ‘A’isha. He could assume the lead­ ership of the community through the support he received from ‘Umar, another influential early Companion and also a father-in-law of the Prophet. AbA-Bakr’s and ‘Umars accession to power seems to have been also aided by the other leading Companions’ desire to prevent ‘Alt’s assumption of the caliphate, which would have trans­ formed it into a hereditary right of the Prophet’s family. ‘Umar seems to have pursued this aim when he appointed a sh&rd (consultative) council consisting of six prominent early Companions to choose his successor. As a prominent early Companion, ‘Alt was a member of this council, but ‘Umar’s known opposition to him was decisive in the choice of ‘Uthmdn to succeed him. (Madelung 1997, pp. 72-3) AbA Bakr and ‘Umar emphasised the principle that following the Prophet’s practice in the leadership of the community was the foun­ dation of the caliphs authority, and therefore their style of leadership was held by later Muslims to be a model for the true caliphate. But this principle precluded the caliphs’ monopoly of the religious leadership of the Muslim community because it implied that, besides the caliphs, the other early Companions, being acquainted with the Prophet s practice, were also entided to it. Indeed, during the reign of these two caliphs the Muslims turned not only to them, but also to the other early Companions for guidance in the teachings of Islam and the arbi­ tration of conflicts in accordance with the Qur’in and Prophet’s sunna. And the accounts the various Companions gave of the Pro­ phet’s sayings and decisions, which came to constitute the body of holy literature called hadith, were the starting point of the Islamic tra­ dition of religious learning and the emergence of the religious scholars


The Problem o f Religious Authority in Islam

as the caliphs’ rivals in the religious leadership of the Muslim com­ munity. This principle also made a distinction between the religious and political leadership of the community inevitable, especially after Islamic conquests outside Arabia during ‘Umar's reign transformed the caliph into the ruler of lands inhabited by non-Muslims. ‘Umar’s adoption of the honorific title amir al-mumintn (Prince of the Faithful) brought this distinction to the fore. Noth has suggested that amir al-mumintn was a military tide, whose adoption by ‘Umar im­ plied that the conquests took place under his supreme command. (Noth 1991, p. 76) Be that as it may, this tide reflected ‘Umar’s position as the ruler of an expanding empire, in which he alone had the authority to appoint the governors and lay down the adminis­ trative and fiscal rules. His adoption of this tide thus implied that, while being prepared to share the religious leadership of the Muslim community with the other early Companions, as caliph he was the sole holder of political authority in the Muslim empire. The rebellion against the third caliph ‘Uthm&n (644-56) reflected the difficulty inherent in the establishment of the caliph’s exclusive political leadership of the Muslim empire to the exclusion of the other early Companions who shared with him the leadership of the Muslim religious community. ‘Uthmin’s political authority, like that of his two predecessors, was legitimised by the other early Companions’ bay1a (pledge of allegiance) to him. Furthermore, several of the early Companions, such as Talha b. ‘Ubaydallih, Zubayr b al-‘Aww4m, Zayd b. Thibit and Sa‘d b. Abi Waqq£s, to name but a prominent few, had become important figures in the Muslims’ political life. And having amassed great fortunes from their shares of the spoils of con­ quest and the endowments they received from the two previous caliphs, they built palatial residences and surrounded themselves with retainers and other marks of distinction. (Ibn Khaldtin n.d., pp. 204-5) Consequendy, they resented ‘Uthmin’s reliance in estab­ lishing his political authority in the Muslim empire on members of his family, the Band Umayya, whom he appointed as provincial gov­ ernors. The rebellion against ‘Uthmin was triggered off by a multi­ plicity of grievances (see Shaban 1994, pp. 67-70), and having started in Egypt, it rapidly spread to the provinces of Basra and Kufa in Iraq. The prominent Companions, including the ‘Mother of the Faithful’, the Prophet’s widow ‘A’isha, abetted the rebellion, and after ‘Uthm&n

The Caliphs’religious authority


was killed by the rebels in his palace in June 656, they fought one another over succession to him. Besides ‘Alt, whom ‘A’isha vehe­ mently opposed, Talha b. ‘Ubaydallih and al-Zubayr b. al-‘Awwim claimed the caliphate and vied with each other for her backing. But the Basran and Kufan rebels opted for Alt, and while in Medina they compelled the Companions present there to pledge allegiance to him. Immediately afterwards, several leading Companions, including Talha and Zubayr, joined ‘A’isha in Mecca and, accusing All of com­ plicity in the murder of ‘Uthmin, rebelled against him openly. Realising their inability to conquer Medina, the rebellious Com­ panions, with ‘A’isha at their head, moved with their forces to Basra, which they succeeded in taking. But they were defeated by ‘Ali in a batde outside the town in December 656, in which both Talha and Zubayr were killed. This batde came to be called the Batde of the Camel because of the severity of the fighting around the camel on which ‘A’isha’s liner was mounted. (Madelung 1997, pp. 141-71) By trying to prevent the consolidation of ‘Alt’s authority as caliph, ‘A’isha sought, as her father AbA Bakr had done, to prevent the trans­ formation of the caliphate into a hereditary right of the Prophet’s family. Alt s success in the Batde of the Camel did not enable him to establish this right, but he sought to mitigate the hostility of his opponents by setting free the prisoners he took in the batde and allowing the property of those who had been killed in it to go to their legal heirs. And while insisting that AbA-Bakr and ‘Umar usurped a position which belonged to himself from the start, he praised their conduct of the affairs of the community and prevented his followers from abusing their memory. But he bore the stigma of having been installed as caliph by the rebels against ‘Uthmin, and of taking no action to punish his murderers. And he did not have the means to establish his authority by force. His supporters consisted of a loose coalition of groups that pursued conflicting interests, and he had a powerful opponent in the person of Mu‘iwiya, ‘Uthmin’s second cousin and governor of Syria. When ‘Uthm&n was killed in 656, Mu‘iwiya had been in control of Syria for sixteen years and had under his command seasoned warriors belonging to loyal Arab clans. He was at first prepared to recognise Alt as caliph, on condition that he would cede the government of Syria to his family as a hereditary right. When ‘Alt rejected this demand,


The Problem o f Religious Authority in Islam

Mu‘£wiya accused him of responsibility for the murder o f‘Uthmin and declared war against him under the pretext of fulfilling a duty, recognised in the Qur’in (XVII:33), of avenging his cousins mur­ derer. After several weeks of duels and skirmishes, the armies of Alt and Mu'awiya met in a major batde at §iffin on the Euphrates river on 26 July 657. When the batde started to turn against Mu'iwiya, he could bring the fighting to a halt by having his soldiers raise copies of the Qur’&n on their lances as a sign of wanting the conflict to be settled in accordance with the Holy Book. Alt had no choice but to yield to this demand. However, when in the ensuing negotiations he also agreed to entrust the setdement of the conflict to two arbiters whose terms of reference implied that they could decide on his right to the caliphate, a zealous group of his Iraqi supporters felt betrayed and declared they were no longer bound by their pledge of allegiance to him. Their defection, which formed the start of the extremist sec­ tarian group of the Khirijites {Khaw&rij—Secessionists), weakened Ali militarily. His religious authority was compromised when AbA Mftsi al-Ash art, his pious but naive representative in the arbitration, was induced by his wily counterpart Amr b. al-‘A$ to endorse a joint declaration stating that ‘Uthmin had been killed wrongfully. When shortly afterwards, in April or early May 658, Mu‘4wiya had himself proclaimed caliph by his supporters, ‘Alt was left no choice but to resume the war, which he could do only after ending the rebellion in his own camp. Sometime towards the middle of May 658, i.e. shortly after the proclamation of Mu'awiya as caliph, Alt’s forces attacked an encampment of the Khirijites at Nahrawin. Some 1,500 of the Khirijites were killed by the numerically superior force attacking them. ‘Alt’s readiness to deal so mercilessly with Muslims who had been among his most pious and loyal supporters threw his other confederates into consternation and disarray. And before he could reorganise his ranks and resume the war against Mu‘4wiya, he was assassinated by a Khirijite in the mosque of Kufa on 26 January 661. (Madelung 1997, pp. 184-310) With ‘Alts death the period in which the Muslim community’s supreme leadership was held by al-khulafcl ’al-rdshidUn (the Righdy Guided Caliphs) came to an end. These four caliphs were early Com­ panions of the Prophet who had close personal and family ties with him. AbA Bakr and ‘Umar were the Prophet’s fathers-in-law, ‘Uthmin

The Caliphs religious authority


was his son-in-law, and ‘All was his cousin, son-in-law and the father of his two grandsons. ‘Alis death marked the severing for all time of the intimate personal link between the caliphs and the Prophet, and the end of the period in which their religious authority was validated by personal knowledge of his practice in the supreme leadership of the Muslim community. Before Alt’s death the early Companions’ sons and disciples, commonly referred to as the t&bt&n (followers), had become recognised as authoritative guardians of the Prophet’s tra­ ditions. In the stalemate in the conflict between Alt and Mu'iwiya after the batde of §iffin, the t&bi&n sought to end the strife between them by presenting their own candidate to the caliphate. This was Abdullih b. ‘Umar, the second caliph’s son and an acknowledged authority on the Prophet’s traditions. Mu'iwiya nipped in the bud this rival claim to the caliphate in a meeting he had in January 659 at Adhruh with the most eminent of the t&bi'Un. ‘Abdullih b. ‘Umar attended this meeting, but did not dare to assert his claim to the caliphate in Mu‘iwiyas presence. But Mu‘iwiya referred to it himself, and told the assembled religious notables that he was more worthy of the community’s supreme leadership not only than Abdullih b. ‘Umar, but also than his illustrious father. He also told them that they should henceforth “stick to their business of arguing about the minutiae of the Prophet’s Sunna and ... leave high politics to the experts, such as himselfand ‘Amr b. al-‘A$”. (Madelung 1997, p. 285) He thus indicated his unwillingness to make adherence to the Prophet’s sunna the foundation of caliphial authority. This orien­ tation he underscored by making Damascus, rather than Medina, which had become the main centre of occupation with the collation of the Prophet’s traditions, the capital of the caliphate. Mu‘iwiya was the founder of the Umayyad dynasty that ruled the Muslim community from Damascus until its downfall in 750. Muslim historians note with varying degrees of disapproval that the Umayyads transformed the caliphate into mulk (kingship) sustained, in the words of Ibn Khald&n, by !ajabiyya (tribal solidarity) and the sword. (Ibn Khald&n n.d., p. 208) This transformation was made possible by the emergence of the Arab tribes in the territories the Muslims conquered outside Arabia as a dominant ruling caste, and the elevated position the Umayyad clan had had in Mecca in preIslamic times. But it was also facilitated by the absence in the com­


The Problem o f Religious Authority in Islam

munity of a coherent and effective religious opposition to it. The early Companions had compromised their religious standing by their rivalry over political power, and by 661 most of them had died. And the tradition of religious learning initiated by their sons and disciples, who viewed themselves as their successors in the religious leadership of the Muslim community, started to have acknowledged and influ­ ential representatives only since the beginning of the eighth century. The only potentially significant form of religious opposition which the Umayyads faced at the beginning of their rule was the claim of the Prophet’s descendants to the supreme leadership of the community. After Alt’s assassination in 661, his followers in Kufa proclaimed his eldest son Hasan as caliph, but Hasan realised the futility of oppo­ sition to Mu'iwiya and, having been assured by him of his safety, retired to Medina, where he lived in comfort until his death in 670. Alt’s younger son Husayn rebelled against the Umayyads in 680, shortly after Mu'&wiya’s death and the accession of his son Yazid to the caliphate. His death in the batde of Karbali’ in October 680 marked the beginning of the emergence of Alt’s followers, the Shfites, as a sec­ tarian group opposed to the Umayyads. But, as we see later, the Shfites became a significant force of religio-political opposition to the caliphs only after the overthrow of the Umayyad dynasty in 750. Con­ sequently, Mu‘£wiya could transform the caliphate into an Arab monarchy whose authority was sustained by Arab tribes allied with his dynasty. The warriors of these tribes constituted the regular troops (jund) paid from the public treasury, and their chiefs became a political aristocracy accorded by the Umayyad caliphs a similarly priv­ ileged status to that enjoyed by the Prophet s Companions under AbA Bakr and ‘Umar. The Umayyad caliphs claimed to themselves the supreme political as well as religious leadership of the Muslim community, but they consciously evaded the legitimisation of their authority in terms of the continuation of the Prophet’s practice in its leadership. And they were especially averse to giving the acknowledged guardians of the Prophet’s traditions any say in the government of their vast empire. On the basis of his analysis of statements made by the Umayyads and their supporters in justification of their caliphate, Watt says that it was justified in two ways. The first was that the Umayyad caliphs inhe­ rited the caliphate from the third caliph ‘Uthmin, and the second was

The Caliphs'religious authority


that it was bestowed upon them by God. (Watt 1971, pp. 568-71) Crone and Hinds could show that, although the Umayyad caliphs were usually addressed with the honorific tide amir al~mumintny when khatifa was used as an official designation of their function, it stood not for khatifat ras&lAMh but for khaUfatAMh. The caliph was thus not only the supreme head of the Muslim community, but also the source of its religious guidance 0buda). He implemented the divine commandments revealed to the prophets, which reached their culmination with the prophethood of Muhammad, but he derived his authority not from him, but from God. (Crone and Hinds 1986, pp. 11-27 and 34) The notion that the caliph was the ultimate source of religious guidance and acted on the authority bestowed upon him by God, allowed no role for the acknowledged guardians of the Pro­ phets traditions in the religious leadership of the Muslim community. It was especially in the area of the law that the Umayyad caliphs gave substance to their claim to being the ultimate source of the Muslim community’s religious guidance. In the period of al-khulafil ’ al-r&shid&n, the Muslims still followed the pre-Islamic Arab practice of tahkim (arbitration), according to which the parties to a dispute chose a trusty person to arbitrate it and committed themselves to accept his decision. But in this period Muslims had their conflicts arbitrated by the Companions, the acknowledged authorities on the Prophet’s sunna. And through the Companions’ rulings in constandy recurring disputes, especially in the areas of family and inheritance law, a relatively coherent body of Islamic positive law came into being. (Coulson 1978, pp. 11-26) Under the Umayyads, adjudication be­ came an authority vested in the caliph, exercised either by him per­ sonally or in his name by the governors of the provinces and other subordinate officials. Towards the end of the Umayyad period, the office of q&distarted to emerge as a consequence of the governors’ del­ egation of their judicial functions to their learned scribes. The q&dis were expected to decide in accordance with Qur’&nic norms, but rather than relying in their interpretation on the Prophet’s sunna, they relied on their own personal discretion, except in matters where rulings by the caliphs set authoritative interpretations of them. Besides reserving to themselves the final say in the interpretation of Qur’inic norms, the Umayyad caliphs legislated in their own authority as supreme heads of the Muslim community in areas such as taxation and the


The Problem o fReligious Authority in Islam

treatment of their non-Muslim subjects not covered by them. Conse­ quently the Umayyad legal system became a synthesis of Qurinic norms and of concepts and institutions adopted from the legal tra­ ditions of the conquered territories. (Coulson 1978, pp. 27-35; Crone and Hinds 1986, pp. 43-57) Of significance to die question of religious authority was that the law applied in this system was val­ idated not by the Prophet’s sunna but by the caliphs’ authority as supreme religious guides of the Muslim community. Opposition to this conception of the caliphs’ authority came from groups of religious scholars who insisted that the valid law of the com­ munity should be based on the Qur’inic norms as implemented by the Prophet. At the beginning of the eighth century two important schools of the religious law had appeared, one in Medina in Arabia and the other in Kufa in Iraq. Schacht has maintained that, contrary to what the Muslims later believed, these first schools of Islamic law based their decisions on the provisions of the law on the Companions’ own rulings, rather than on their reports of the Prophet’s sayings and decisions known collectively as hadith. (Schacht 1975 [1950], p. 213) He also contended that the Muslim legal scholars’ consistent reference to hadith as the decisive criterion of validity became established under the influence of Muhammad b. Idris al-Shifi‘i (767-820), i.e. after the consolidation of the first schools of religious law. And he aroused the Muslims’ indignation by the assertion that hardly any of the hadith texts “can be considered authentic: they were put into circu­ lation, no doubt from the loftiest of motives, by the Traditionists themselves from the first half of the second century [a h ] onwards”. (Schacht 1979 [1964], p. 34) This assertion has been questioned on the basis of evidence showing that the Companions’ accounts of the Prophet’s sayings and decisions were being recorded during their lifetime by their disciples. (Sezgin, vol. 1,1967, pp. 62-9) In any case, since the Companions’ rulings derived their validity from the know­ ledge they were presumed to have had of the Prophet’s practice, re­ gardless of whether the scholars associated with the first schools of law relied in determining its provisions on the Companions’ rulings or genuine hadith, they affirmed their recognition of the Prophets sunna as the decisive criterion of their validity. These scholars did not play any significant role in the revolution that led to the Umayyads’ over­ throw. But they established a conception of the valid religious law of

The Caliphs’religious authority


the Muslim community that denied the caliphs any role in deter­ mining its provisions. The revolution that led to the Umayyads’ overthrow was spear­ headed by the H&shimiyya, a religious movement that emphasised the prior right of the Prophet’s family to the caliphate. To the Shfites the descendants of ‘Ali whom they recognised as imams embodied the prior right of the Prophet’s family to the Muslim community’s supreme leadership. But after ‘Ali’s second son Husayn was killed by the Umayyads in 680, none o f‘Ali’s descendants whom the Shfites recognised as imams was prepared to lead them in opposition to the caliphs. Husayn’s son ‘Ali Zayn al-‘Abidin (d. 713) and the latter’s son Muhammad al-Biqir (d. 733), whom the Shfites recognised as their fourth and fifth im&ms respectively, lived in Medina and avoided con­ frontation with the Umayyads. The sixth im&mJa‘far as-§4diq (702765) was a distinguished religious scholar who made a significant contribution to the elaboration of Shi‘ite law, but he too lived in Medina away from the main Shfite groups in Iraq. (Halm 1988, pp. 26-9) The Hishimiyya movement, rather than claiming the caliphate for the Shi‘ite imttms, called since the 720s for it to be entrusted to any one of the descendants of the Prophet’s grandfather Hashim who enjoyed the believers’ riM (consent). Since 747 the ingenious political activist AbA Muslim had started to recruit the dis­ contented Arab and Persian Muslims in the province of Khurasin in north-eastern Persia to the cause of overthrowing the Umayyads. AbA Muslim acted on behalf of Ibrihim, a descendant of the Prophet’s uncle Abbis, but apparendy in order not to alienate the Shfites, he kept the identity of his patron secret and had the highly disciplined and religiously motivated army he recruited in Khur&sin pledge alle­ giance to the im&m from the Prophet’s family on whom the com­ munity would agree. And being Persian, he remained in Khurisin when this army, commanded by Arab leaders, started its march westwards in 748. By the time it entered Kufa in September 749, Ibrihim had been arrested by the Umayyads and killed. Consequendy, after consultation with other members of the ‘Abbisid family, the commanders of the army proclaimed Ibrihim’s brother AbA alAbbis as caliph. The end of the Umayyad caliphate of Damascus came soon afterwards. The Umayyad caliph Marw&n II was defeated on the Zab river in January 750 and fled to Egypt, where he was again


The Problem o fReligious Authority in Islam

defeated and killed in August 750. (Shaban, 1970, pp. 138-68, and Halm 1988, pp. 27-33) The phenomenal success of a revolutionary movement, launched in the name of an unknown member of the Prophet’s family, was aided by contradictions in the Umayyad caliphs’ political system arising from the Arab basis they created for it. By enabling the Arab tribes identified with their authority to emerge in various parts of their empire as exclusive imperial castes, they prevented other Arab groups from enjoying the privileges to which they felt entided in the Arab-Muslim empire. And their system of government accorded a humiliatingly inferior status to the non-Arab converts to Islam. In pre-Islamic Arabia, foreigners to a tribal group could be affiliated with it by a form of clientage called wait? or muwdlAt. Because in the con­ quered territories outside Arabia Islam became identified with the Arab conquerors, non-Arab converts to Islam became integrated in the Arab-Muslim community through this form of clientage. The non-Arab Muslims thus became mawdli (pi. of mawld—client) of Arab tribal groups or prominent personalities. (Al-Miqdid 1988, pp. 32-72) The number of non-Arab converts to Islam increased rapidly in the Umayyad period, and the elaboration of Islamic teachings enabled them to distinguish between the norms of Islam and those of the Arab tribal society that discriminated against them. The Khirijites, who repeatedly rebelled against the Umayyads in Iraq in the 670s and 680s, emphasised the principle of equality in Islam, and even affirmed the right of non-Arab Muslims to assume the supreme leadership of the Muslim community. But they achieved real success only in the Maghrib, where they led the Berbers in a rebellion against the Umayyads that in 740 brought their rule to an end in the greater part of that region. (Abun-Nasr 1987, pp. 37-50) But this rebellion did not seriously threaten the Umayyad caliphs’ authority in the Middle East. The principle of equality in Islam could play a decisive role in the collapse of their rule only after the Hishimiyya movement made it an adjunct to the call to entrust the Prophet’s family with the supreme leadership of the community. Hence the readiness of the non-Arab Muslims and many Arab groups that did not belong to the privileged ruling caste of the Umayyad caliphate to rally to this call. The revolution which brought the Abb&sids to power started in Persia, but Arabs and non-Arab Muslims joined forces in it in opposition to the Umayyads. (Shaban 1970, pp. 114-37)

The Problem o fReligious Authority in Islam


Institutionalisation o f religious authority The multi-national character of the community the Abbisid caliphs ruled impelled them to create a coherent Islamic religious foundation for their authority. Before they came to power in 750, non-Arabs had converted to Islam in large numbers, and many had come to dis­ tinguish themselves as religious scholars and even as men of Arabic letters. The Abbisid caliphs recognised the significant role the nonArab Muslims played in the revolution that brought them to power and, intent on freeing themselves from the vagaries of Arab tribal politics, relied on them in the creation of their bureaucracy and pro­ fessional army. The non-Arab Muslims thus ceased to be despised maw&ttand came to have a vested interest in safeguarding the Abbisid caliphs’ authority. Since 945 power in Baghdad was exercised in the name of the Abbisid caliphs by two non-Arab dynasties in succession, the Persian Buyids until 1055 and the Turkish Salj&qs until 1194. Although the Buyids were Shf ites, they defended the Abbisid cali­ phate even against the Shi'ite imams who in 910 founded the Fitimid state and claimed to themselves the supreme leadership of the Muslim community (see below, pp. 20-21). The Abbisid caliphs’ interest in the creation of a coherent religious foundation for their political authority was also nurtured by the Shf ite threat to it. By justifying their appropriation of the caliphate in terms of the prior right of die Prophet’s family to it, they arrogated to themselves a symbol of political legitimacy to which Alfs descendants were more entitled. The Shf ites in Iraq supported the Hishimiyya movement in the hope of securing power for their imdm, but they could not prevent the Abbisids’ assumption of the caliphate, and their sixth imdm Ja‘far al-§idiq (d. 765) did not challenge it. Never­ theless, the Abbisids caliphs saw in the Shf ites a major threat to their authority, especially after the major split that occurred in their ranks over succession to Ja'far al-§idiq. This im&m’s son Ismi‘!l, whom he appointed as his successor to the imamate, died before him, and his eldest son Abdullih al-Afjah died shortly after him. Consequently, the imamate of the Shf ites fell to Ja‘far a$-S4diq’s third son MAsi alKi^im (d. 799) who, like his father, was not prepared to challenge the Abbisid caliphs’ authority. However, his own authority was rejected by a group of Shf ites who insisted that Ismi'll was not dead but ghd tb (hidden), and that he was their legitimate seventh imdm. The notion


The Problem o fReligious Authority in Islam

of the true imAms ghayba (state of being in hiding) expressed this group’s rejection of the ‘Abbisids’ authority. It came to have an added appeal to the Shf ites after the caliph HirAn al-Rashid, while on the pilgrimage to Mecca in 793, had MAsi al-Kizim brought from Medina to accompany him to Iraq. There MAsi al-Kizim was held in detention, first in Basra and then in Baghdad. He and his four descendants who succeeded him to the imamate died in the caliphs’ custody. The Isma'ilites’ notion of the imAmsghayba was adopted also by the Shfites who recognised MAsi al-Kizim and his descendants as their imAms, when their eleventh imAm Hasan al-Askar! died in 874 in the caliphs’ custody without leaving a son to succeed him. Hasan al-Askari’s followers believed him to have been poisoned, and rather than accepting the end of their imamate’s line of succession, insisted that he had a son called Muhammad, whom he had kept in hiding in order to keep him out of the Abbisid caliphs’ reach. Thus the twelfth imAm of this branch of the Shf ites, who became known as the Twelver, wasghA’ib from the start. (Halm 1988, pp. 34—47) The Twelver Shfites and the Ismi'ilites differ on a number of sig­ nificant points of doctrine, and subsequent splits in the latter group led to the appearance of a complicated network of sectarian subdi­ visions and corresponding doctrinal superstructures. But both groups agreed that, as direct descendants of the Prophet, their imAmswere the only legitimate heirs of his authority as supreme head of the Muslim community, and insisted that they were divinely inspired guides, immune from error and sin, and infallible interpreters of the Qur’in. With this notion of the imAms’ authority, the Shfites rejected the legitimacy of the caliphs’ supreme leadership of the Muslim com­ munity as well as the validity of the religious scholars’ guidance. While the Twelver Shfites were prepared to wait for the reappearance of the imAm and tolerate the Abbisids’ supreme leadership of the Muslim community, the Ismi'ilites worked to overthrow the Abbi­ sids. They succeeded in mobilising the Kutama Berbers of the Kabylia region of north-eastern Algeria against the Aghlabid dynasty who had ruled the eastern Maghrib in the name of the Abbisids since 800, and having overthrown them they founded in 910 the Fi{imid state whose rulers claimed for themselves the tide of imAm, in spite of the belief that the hidden Shf ite imAm would reappear only at the end of time. (Talbi 1966, pp. 555-692) At first the Fi^imid imAms ruled

Institutionalisation o f religious authority


only the eastern Maghrib from Mahdiyya in present-day Tunisia, but after conquering Egypt in 969 and moving their seat of government to Cairo two years later, they came to constitute a major threat to the ‘Abbisid caliphs. But with the help of the Persian Buyids and, from 1055, of the Turkish SaljAqs, the Abbisid caliphs could retain control of Baghdad and its dependencies. And in 1171 the Fi{imids were overthrown by the AyyAbids, who recognised the Abbisid caliphs’ authority. In order to secure the religious scholars’ cooperation in the creation of a coherent religious basis for their political authority, the Abbisid caliphs were prepared to recognise their exclusive responsibility for the establishment of the religious law of the community. At the time when they came to power, the two earliest schools of Islamic law, the Hanafite school of Kufa and the Milikite school of Medina, had become firmly established. But these two schools differed concerning various provisions of the religious law, although several scholars of the Hanafite school studied with Milik b. Anas (d. 795), after whom the school of Medina was called. Ibn al-Muqafia (d. 756), a man of letters of Persian descent in the service of the second Abbisid caliph AbA Ja‘far al-Man$Ar (754-75), suggested in his book Risdla f i al§ahdba that the caliph should review the provisions of the law worked out by the religious scholars, and having drawn up a code of the pro­ visions he endorsed, make it binding on the q&dts. (Lambton 1991, pp. 50-4, and Crone and Hinds 1986, pp. 85-8) Neither al-Man$Ar nor any of his successors was prepared to act on this suggestion. Instead the Abbisid caliphs identified their authority since the reign of HirAn al-Rashld (786-809) with the Hanafite school. HirAn alRashid gave the Hanafite qddt of Baghdad AbA-YAsuf (d. 798) the title of q&di al-qud&t (judge of the judges), thus recognising him as head of the caliphial judicial system (Lambton 1991, pp. 55—8), and after this time the caliphs gave preference to Hanafite scholars also in the appointment of q&dis in the provinces, but without making the office of q&di a privilege reserved only to them. The first century of Abbisid rule witnessed the final consolidation of the equation of the Prophets sunna with the ffadSth which the religious scholars collated and verified. The great jurist Muhammad b. Idris al-Shifi‘i made a decisive contribution to this development. He studied with Milik b. Anas in Medina and spent some time in Iraq


The Problem ofReligious Authority in Islam

before settling in Egypt in 813, where he composed his important legal works. He insisted that badith was an infallible guide in the interpretation of Qur’inic norms, and by setting stringent criteria for its verification, ensured its recognition as a scriptural source of the law. (Coulson 1978, pp. 53-61) But the aim he ardendy pursued of bringing about unity among the religious scholars over the provisions of the religious law remained elusive, and he himself became re­ cognised as the founder of yet another school of Islamic law. But he made a lasting contribution to the Muslims’ religious life by his vindi­ cation of the equation of the Prophet’s sunna with the fyaMth which the religious scholars collated and verified. The major fyadith com­ pendia were compiled in the half-century after his death in 820, and the emphasis placed thereafter on their study became a testimony to the Muslims’ conviction that the Prophet’s sunna embodied in hadith was their abiding source of religious guidance. The ‘Abbisid caliphs acquiesced in the monopoly the religious scholars acquired over the establishment of the religious law of the community, but they were not prepared to relinquish their claim to being its ultimate religious guides. The conflict with the religious scholars inherent in this claim came into the open when the caliph alMa’mtin (813-33) recognised the Mu‘tazilite doctrine as the official dogma of the community. Al-Ma’mAn viewed himselfas the Prophet’s deputy in the supreme leadership of the Muslims responsible for teaching them the true faith. The Mu‘tazilites were a group of ratio­ nalist theologians who questioned tenets of the faith based on the literal interpretation of the Qur’in and validated by hadith. They insisted on the allegorical interpretation of the numerous references in the Qur’&n to the attributes (fi/at) of God on the ground that beliefin them was irreconcilable with tawhid (the affirmation of the oneness and uniqueness of God), the cardinal article of the Islamic faith. And they called for the allegorical interpretation of the passages in the Qur’in that justified the belief in predestination on the ground that predestination was incompatible with divine justice. Especially offensive to pious Muslims was the Mu‘tazilites’ rejection of the belief in the Qur’in as the eternal, non-created speech (kal&m) of God, although it is referred to as such in the Qur’in itself. Al-Ma’mAn’s rec­ ognition of the Mu‘tazilite doctrine as the dogma of the community implied that as the caliph he had the authority to determine its

Institutionalisation o f religious authority


religious beliefs. And he added insult to injury by requiring the rep­ utable religious scholars to appear before the q&dts and affirm their endorsement of this doctrine, thus in effect demanding their acqui­ escence in his claim to the supreme religious guidance of the Muslim community. But al-Ma’m&n’s attempt to establish this claim failed, because the rationalist Mu‘tazilite doctrine had litde appeal to ordi­ nary believers, and many of the prominent religious scholars openly denounced it as heresy. The caliph al-Mutawakkil (847-61) ended the religious turmoil it caused by formally disavowing the Mutazilite doctrine in 848. The prominent scholar Ahmad b. Hanbal (d. 855), who had been ill-treated and imprisoned for his rejection of this doctrine, emerged after 848 as a triumphant defender of Islamic orthodoxy. (Lambton 1991, pp. 36-41) He also became the founder of a new school of Islamic law- the fourth- called Hanbalite after him, which identified Islamic orthodoxy with the rejection of intellectual speculation in the faith and the recognition of hadith as the ultimate guide in the interpretation of the Qur’in. Al-Mutawakkil’s disavowal of the Mu‘tazilite doctrine paved the way for the consolidation of a compromise over the religious lead­ ership of the Muslim community that had been in the making since the Abbisids came to power. Its essential components were the religious scholars’endorsement of the caliphate as a deputation for the Prophet in the supreme leadership of the Muslim community that was essential for its existence, and the caliphs’ recognition of the validity of the tenets of the faith and the provisions of the religious law endorsed by the scholars. This compromise led to the appearance of elaborate rationalisations of the institution of the caliphate as it developed under the Abbisids. The best known was that put forth by Ali b. Muhammad al-Miwardi (d. 1058) in al-Ahkdm al-$ult&niyya (Rules for Kings). Al-Miwardi held the office of qddiin various towns before being appointed to this office in Baghdad. Because he wrote at the time when the Abbisid caliphs’ political authority was exercised in their name by the Persian Buyids, he elaborated a theory of the caliphate which allowed for the delegation of the caliph’s political authority to others. The caliphate, he said, was an imamate, and as such a religious leadership of the Muslim community that ensured its governance in accordance with the provisions of the sharia. As its imAm, the caliph was the Prophet’s deputy (khalifa) in its supreme


The Problem o fReligious Authority in Islam

leadership, and his authority guaranteed its existence. He should be a learned religious scholar capable of the exercise of ijtih&d (authori­ tative deductive reasoning in the religious law), but in the conduct of the affairs of the community he should abide by the provisions of the shari'a validated by the consensus of the religious scholars. (Lambton 1991, pp. 83-102) The pragmatic compromise reached over the religious leadership of the Muslim community was achieved at the price of the aban­ donment of the pious ideal that the political leadership of the Muslim community was a subordinate function of its religious guidance. This was because it led to the institutionalisation of religious authority in such a way that it became exercised by reputable scholars whom the caliphs appointed to the important religious offices in their system of government. As officeholders, the religious scholars performed the specific religious responsibilities assigned to their respective offices, and had to accept the restrictions imposed on their performance by the caliphs and their political representatives. These restrictions were especially manifest in the area of the religious law. The caliphs recognised the religious law worked out by the scholars as the valid law of the community, and required the qAdts to apply it in their judgements. At the same time they restricted the qtidis’ ability to uphold it in all spheres of life by setting fixed areas for their juris­ diction and incorporating siyAsa in the judicial system: this was a form of administrative justice which the caliphs and their political repre­ sentatives exercised independendy of the qAdis jurisdiction. (Schacht 1979, p. 54, and Coulson 1978, pp. 122—3) Other pillars of institu­ tionalised religious authority were the imAms of the major mosques, and the professors in the higher institutions of learning, whose authority as religious guides was limited to the specific responsibilities of their particular offices. The more conscientious among the religious scholars considered the holding of one of the religious offices in the caliphial system of government, especially that of q&dt> incom­ patible with their religious integrity; but the great majority vied with one another over these offices, which secured them a regular income and an elevated social status. This system of institutionalised religious authority was also adopted by the Umayyad caliphs who ruled in Spain from 756 to 1031, and the Almohad caliphs who ruled the Maghrib and parts of Spain between 1157 and 1269.

Institutionalisation o f religious authority


The political utility of this system ensured its survival, albeit in a debased form, after the final collapse of the institution of the caliphate. As an institutionalised deputation for the Prophet in the supreme leadership of the Muslim community, the caliphate came to an end with the conquest of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258. In the eighteenth century the Ottoman sultans, seeking to strengthen their hand in dealings with the European powers, started to use ‘caliph’ as an official tide, but their caliphate was not recognised, not even by the Ottoman religious scholars, as deputation for the Prophet in the religious leadership of the Muslim community. The institutionalised system of religious leadership which came into being under the Abbi­ sids survived the institution of the caliphate because Muslim rulers continued to exercise the prerogative, validated by the caliphs’ prac­ tice, of themselves appointing, and when necessary dismissing, the holders of the important religious offices in their lands. Long be­ fore the collapse of the caliphate, the religious scholars’ credibility as guardians of the Prophet s sunna had lapsed. At least since the tenth century they had become the custodians of an established religious tradition, consisting of the tenets of the faith and the provisions of the religious law endorsed by the leading scholars of the past. By becom­ ing officeholders under Muslim rulers who had no credible religious authority of their own, they acquiesced in and confirmed the subordi­ nation of institutionalised religious guidance in Muslim lands to their rulers’ political aims. Since its inception the Sufi movement was an apolitical religious movement. It consequendy made no significant contribution to the realisation of the pious ideal that the political leadership of the Muslim community was a subordinate function of its religious gui­ dance. However, after the caliphs’ system of institutionalised religious leadership became consolidated in the second half of the ninth cen­ tury, it came to represent the alternative ideal of the independence of the Muslim community’s religious guidance from its political lead­ ership. The development of the Sufi notions of spiritual authority after this time were impelled by the growing appeal this alternative ideal came to have to the Muslims. The high point of this devel­ opment was the emergence of the Sufi brotherhoods as distinct re­ ligious communities within the general community of Islam, each bound by spiritual allegiance to a Sufi shaykh whom its members recognised as the wait embodying divine guardianship in their life.

2. The Sufi Tradition of Piety The Emergence o f a tradition In his pioneering work The mystics o fIslam, first published in 1914, Reynold Nicholson divided the development of Sufism into two stages, the first being that of ascetic piety, followed by one in which asceticism gave way to theosophy. He says: “The earliest S&fis were ... ascetics and quietists rather than mystics. An overwhelming con­ sciousness of sin, combined with a dread... ofJudgment Day and the torments of Hell-fire, so vividly painted in the Koran, drove them to seek salvation in flight from the world.” (Nicholson 1975, p. 4) Nicholson contributed to the consolidation of a European scholarly tradition which related the development of the Sufi movement after its initial ascetic phase to various non-Islamic influences, such as Neoplatonism, Christian gnosticism and Buddhism. Consequently much time and scholarly ingenuity have been invested in the explo­ ration of the non-Islamic beliefs which putatively influenced this development, and correspondingly litde attention paid to the Islamic religious factors that impelled it and determined its course. That the transformation of Sufi beliefs was influenced by non-Islamic mystical traditions is an assumption that neither can be entirely excluded nor proved in any specific way. For this reason, and because the available evidence justifies the assumption that non-Islamic influences had only an insignificant, ancillary function in a process in which Sufi beliefs were transformed by adaptation to the Muslims’ major pious concerns, hardly any reference is made to them in this work. When the Sufi movement first made its appearance in Basra at the beginning of the eighth century, it consisted of devotees associated with Hasan al-Basri (d. 728), a learned scholar and leading spokes­ man of the Qadariyya doctrine. Adherents of the Qadariyya rejected predestination and, insisting that God was the source of guidance only to the good, affirmed the believers’ freewill and responsibility for 26

The Emergence o fa tradition


their sinful deeds. The great appeal of this doctrine to pious Muslims at the beginning of the eighth century was one aspect of widespread disapproval of the Umayyad caliphs’ religious leadership, and an implied rejection of their claim that all their deeds, including their deviation from Islamic norms in the conduct of government and personal life, were preordained by God. Whereas in Syria adherents of the Qadariyya developed the character of a party of political oppo­ sition to the Umayyads, in Basra they were above all ascetic devotees who constituted a challenge to the Umayyad caliphs’ religious autho­ rity only in so far as their ideals of piety were an implied criticism of the caliphs’ luxurious lifestyle and excessive spending. (Ess 1991-5, vol. 1, pp. 23-4) Of Persian origin, Hasan al-Basri had taken part in the Muslim wars of conquest in eastern Persia and Afghanistan before setding in Basra in the late 660s. There he made a name for himself, among other things, by sending episdes to the caliphs and other prominent personalities, calling them to taqwd (God-fearing piety). Although he was a mawla, he was appointed qddt of Basra by ‘Umar II (717-20), the only Umayyad caliph noted for piety and emphasis on the study of hadith, to whom Hasan al-Basri sent one of his episdes. (Ess 1991-5, vol. 2, pp. 41-5) To Hasan al-Basri was ascribed the first known treatise on the Qadariyya doctrine (published in Ritter 1933, pp. 67-83), which he was said to have written at the request of the caliph ‘Abd al-Malik (685-705). His authorship of this treatise is no longer accepted, but his commitment to the Qadariyya doctrine is not in doubt. (Ess 1991-5, vol. 2, pp. 46-8) Holding the believers responsible for their own salvation, Hasan alBa$rf chartered for it a path guided by two norms of piety: zuhd and taqwd. Because the ascetic devotees of Basra called themselves zuhhdd, i.e. adherents of zuhd, this term acquired in the Sufi movement the connotation of ascetic poverty. But this connotation of zuhd was not widely accepted by Muslim scholars at the time, and was not endorsed by Hasan al-Basri. Leah Kinberg, who examined the use of the term zuhd in the Islamic religious literature of the first three Hijra cen­ turies, has shown that it was used not in the sense of a life of ascetic poverty, but rather in the sense of “purification of the soul and total devotion to God”. (Kinberg 1985, p. 30) The connotation Hasan alBa$ri gave to zuhd comes out clearly in his epistle to the caliph ‘Umar II, in which he says that, although God has created the world, he


The Sufi Tradition o f Piety

attached no worth to it. He adds: “It [the world] was offered to our Prophet with all its keys and treasures ... but he refused to accept it; and nothing prevented him from accepting it—for there is naught that can lessen him in God’s sight—but that he knew that God hated a thing, and therefore he hated it. ... Had he accepted it, his acceptance would have been a proof that he loved it; but he disdained to love what his Creator hated”. (Quoted in Arberry 1956, p. 34) In this episde Hasan al-Basri also says that not only the Prophet Muhammad but also Moses and Jesus disdained the world. The con­ notation of disdain of the world he gave to zuhd was endorsed about a century later by the celebrated jurist Ahmad b. Hanbal (see above, p. 23) in his Kitdb al-zuhd, in which he ascribes zuhd, in the sense of disdain of the world, not only to the Prophet Muhammad but also to his Companions and all the prophets before him. (Ibn Hanbal 1983, pp. 43 ff.) Ritter has concluded, on the basis of a detailed analysis of Hasan al-Ba$ri’s pious aphorisms, that he did not consider ascetic poverty an ideal in itself and dismissed the wearing of rough woollen garments, by which the ascetic devotees of Basra began to distinguish themselves in his time, as unbefitting ostentation. Ritter adds that to Hasan al-Ba§ri taqwd was a personal, spiritual commitment to God, guided by the believer’s sidq (truthfulness) to himself and leading him to judge his deeds as they will be judged by God in the Hereafter. (Ritter 1933, pp. 34-7) The ascetic devotees who made their appearance in Basra at the beginning of the eighth century were inspired by Hasan al-Basri s pious ideals, but they developed them in a way he apparendy con­ sidered objectionably ostentatious. Speaking of themselves as the awliyd’ AMh (confederates of God), they made commitment to ascetic poverty an essential requirement of total devotion to God. With them zuhd became equated with the rejection of gainful work and satisfaction with whatever food the charity of others brought their way. And it also became their custom to wear rough garments made of wool (siif). The wearing of woollen garments became asso­ ciated in the Umayyad period with social debasement because of the practice of parading convicted criminals in the streets in such garments. (Ess 1991-5, vol. 2, pp. 87—9) By opting for this attire, the Sufi ascetics might have consciously sought to identify with the downtrodden and socially despised. But they also evoked with it an

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idealised picture of the first generation of Muslims, which depicted them as simple austere nomads, whose faith had not become cor­ rupted by the luxurious lifestyle Arab Muslims adopted after becoming in the Umayyad period the ruling caste of a vast empire. Because the wearing of simple garments of rough wool became the patent mark by which the ascetic devotees of Basra underscored their total devotion to God, they became known as mutasawwifa or mutasawwifUn in the plural and mutasawwifot s&fi in the singular. Hence the name with which the Islamic mystical movement became known over the centuries. And, as will be further explained below, the ref­ erence of the ascetic devotees of Basra to themselves as awliy&’All&h had great significance for the development of the beliefs with which the Sufi movement became identified. About a century after Hasan al-Basri s death, his pious ideals were developed into a coherent doctrine by al-Hirith b. Asad (d. 857), better known by the sobriquet al-Muhdsibi. Born in Basra, al-Muhisibi spent most of his adult life in Baghdad, which at the time was the unrivalled centre of Islamic religious thought. There he followed the many religious controversies which divided the Muslim community, the most divisive being the one aroused by the Mu'tazilite rationalist doctrine and its recognition as official dogma by the caliph al-Ma’mfin (see above, p. 22). Al-Muh&sibi condemned the religious scholars’ worldly ambitions and vainglorious squabbles, and sought to elabo­ rate a coherent system of beliefs based on the doctrine of tawhid, which he hoped would end religious disunity in the Muslim com­ munity. He insisted that tawhidwas not only the cardinal article of the Islamic faith, but also a conscious dynamic orientation towards God. Its opposite, he maintained, was submission to the carnal desires and worldly aims of the inner self (nafs), from which all sinful deeds ensue. Like the Mu'tazilite theologians, he attributed to reason (‘aqt) a de­ cisive role in setting the believers on the path of tawhid; this he insisted, was because only by the employment of his rational faculties in the elucidation of his inner motives would the believer progres­ sively overcome the desires and aims which are incompatible with total commitment to God. The sobriquet ‘al-Muhisibi’ (the self­ examiner), by which he became known, reflects the great emphasis he placed on self-examination (muh&saba) as a means of overcoming sin. Al-Muhisibi held zuhd to be an inner orientation to God which


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requires neither ascetic poverty nor the shunning of gainful work And he did not consider the supererogatory fasting called (hunger) which ascetic Sufis practised to have any merit in itself; it becomes meritorious only if intended as a conscious training in overcoming the desires of the nafi. But al-Muh&sibi endorsed two tenets which the ascetic Sufis of his time also emphasised. The first was that the true believer is motivated to overcome the sinful cravings of the inner self not by fear of divine punishment but by the love {mahabba) which binds him to God. The second was that the highest reward the believer can hope to obtain for total orientation towards God is marifa, which al-Muhasibi defined as knowledge of the essence o f tawhid. (Ess 1961, pp. 31-228) Al-Muhasibi preached his doctrine in Baghdad in the midst of the controversy over the Mu(tazilite rationalist doctrine. After the caliph al-Mutawakkil revoked the recognition of this doctrine as official dogma in 848, the triumphant religious scholars who had opposed it made rejection of intellectual speculation in the faith, and recognition of hadith as the ultimate guide in the interpretation of the Qur’in, the essential criteria of Islamic orthodoxy. The jurist Ahmad b. Hanbal, founder of the strictest school of Islamic religious law who had suffered persecution and imprisonment for his rejection of the Mutazilite doctrine, enjoyed after 848 popular esteem and influence in the caliphs court. Considering al-Muh&sibi’s rationalist doctrine pernicious, he warned against association with him, thus causing him to leave the capital and spend some time in Kufa. Al-Muhdsibi re­ turned to Baghdad shordy before he died in 857, but hostility to him was such that only four persons attended his funeral, although he had had many students in Baghdad, and Ibn Hanbal had been dead for some two years. (Smith 1935, pp. 14—17) Under the leadership of al-Muhdsibi’s disciple al-Junayd (see below, pp. 36-37) a Sufi school developed in Baghdad since the second half of the ninth century that steered away from mystical speculation and sought to affirm the intrinsic orthodoxy of Sufi beliefs. But in Basra al-Junayd’s contemporary Sahl b. Abd-Allah al-Tustari (d. 896), bom in Tustar in south-western Persia, elaborated a mystical doctrine as offensive to the guardians of Islamic orthodoxy as al-Muhisibis. AlTustari’s spiritual formation was influenced by his studies in Basra, a period of seclusion in the ribAt (Sufi hostel) of Abbadin in the Shaft

The Emergence o f a tradition


al-‘Arab, and his pilgrimage to Mecca in 834. He became known in Basra as a teacher and ascetic Sufi who subjected himself to long periods of fasting. He outraged the religious scholars by claiming to be the hujjat AllAh. The term hujja means proof, and by describing himself in this way al-Tustari meant that he was the proof of God’s abiding presence in the human soul. The religious scholars also attacked him because he rejected identification with any of the re­ cognised schools of Islamic law, thereby implying that his mystical knowledge of God transcended the guidance derived from the law. (Bowering 1980, pp. 43-99) In his voluminous recorded utterances, and especially in his mystical commentary on the Qur’in, al-Tustari sought to justify his belief that God was man’s ultimate destiny. He maintained that while inaccessible to man, God abides in him as a secret (sin) of his inner self (najs). But because the nafs is also the seat of lust, its purification is a prerequisite for the removal of the barriers which separate man from beholding God. Another essential require­ ment is the constant practice of dhikr (the intonation of God’s name) in a way which transforms this verbal act into an awareness of the treasured presence of God in the human soul. The mystic who attains the state of beholding God with the spiritual eye of the heart achieves ma'rifa, which he defined as an esoteric knowledge of God accom­ panied by an awareness of his lordship (rubtibiyya) that leads toyaqin, the state of absolute certitude in the faith. (Bowering 1980, pp. 145261) Al-Tustari s mystical doctrine was preserved in Basra by a Sufi group called Silimiyya after his disciple Muhammad b. Silim who recorded his teachings, but it had hardly any adherents elsewhere. The available evidence shows that the coherent mystical doctrines elaborated by thinkers like al-Muhasibi and al-Tustari had hardly any significance for the development of the Sufi tradition of piety. The development of this tradition was impelled rather by the legends of the ascetic devotees the pious venerated as awliyel AMh. From the second half of the eighth century onwards Basra was no longer the only or most important centre of the Sufi ascetic tradition. Sufi bio­ graphical literature shows that at that time this tradition had followers in other parts of Iraq as well as in Syria, Egypt and Khurasan in Persia. It also shows that the Sufi movement underwent then two significant transformations. The first was that its ideals came to have leading representatives, celebrated by legends that ascribed their tawba


The Sufi Tradition o fPiety

(repentance) and conversion to a life of ascetic poverty to divine inter­ vention in their life. The second was that the term awliyd* All&h, which the Sufis in Basra originally used to refer to themselves as a group, gradually lost its collective connotation. Its singular waliyu AUdh, or simply wait, came to be used to refer to one of these legend­ ary figures. One of the earliest of these legendary Sufi figures was Ibrihim b. Adham (d. 161 ah/777-8 a d ), the scion of a noble Arab family long living in Balkh in Khurisin. His tawba and conversion to a life of ascetic piety arc attributed in his legend to a voice (h&tij) which he heard while hunting. The voice came from the pommel of his saddle and warned him three times that he was not created for a wasteful life of pleasure. Recognising this warning as a divine call to repentance, Ibn Adham turned at once to a life of ascetic poverty. He gave the horse he was riding to a shepherd in exchange for his woollen gar­ ment, which he thereafter wore. Some time later he set out on foot towards Mecca, and while in the desen he met a man who was under­ taking the arduous journey without the usual provisions of food and water. After performing the evening prayer with him, the stranger unered words which Ibn Adham could not understand. Suddenly, an unseen hand placed before them water and food for the evening meal. Before leaving Ibn Adham, the stranger taught him Gods most exalted name. (Al-Sulami 1986, pp. 27-31) Ibrihim b. Adham is said to have spent some time in Syria and taken part while there in wars against the Byzantines. (AbA Nuaym 1967, vol. 7, pp. 388-9) Partic­ ipation in the holy war against the enemies of the faith is thus pre­ sented as a component of his tawba. Bowering has analysed the legendary accounts of Ibn Adham’s tawba and those of four other renowned ascetic devotees who died before the middle of the ninth century. These were Milik b. Dinir (d. 749), Ibrihim b. ‘Iyid (d. 803), Shaqiq al-Balkhi (d. 809), and Bishr al-Hafi (d. 841). The last-mentioned not only abandoned the life of pleasure he had led before his tawba, but also buried his books and with them the aim he had had of becoming a religious scholar. Bowering says that the tawba of these devotees is presented in the leg­ endary accounts of their lives as ua dynamic principle of radical reori­ entation to God” (Bowering 1999, p. 45), which they attributed to a “break-through of the Divine into their lives”. (Bowering 1999,

The Emergence o fa tradition


p. 49) Thus, whereas al-Muhisibi held tawba to be a personal endeav­ our aided by the helping hand of God (Ess 1961, pp. 186-8), the legends of these ascetic devotees depicted their tawba as an unfath­ omable act of God, by which undeserving, sinful Muslims became his awUy&\ These legends also show that since the beginning of the ninth century Sufis no longer considered the awliyA’to be ordinary ascetic devotees, but persons chosen by God as channels of his mercy to mankind due to no personal merits of their own. The appearance of this belief was the important turning point in the emergence of the Sufis’ distinct tradition of Islamic piety. As chosen ones of God, the reputable awliyd ’ became venerated as exemplars of a divinely inspired religious guidance. Hence the inclusion in their legends of accounts of their utterances and mystical practices intended for the guidance of other Muslims. These accounts laid the foundation for the emergence of the tenets and mystical practices with which the Sufi movement became gradually identified. The legends of three reputable awliyci' of the latter part of the eighth and the first halfof the ninth century had great significance for the emergence of Sufi beliefs. The first of these was Ribia al-Adwiyya (d. 801), whose life as an unmarried woman who led an independent life of ascetic piety and prayer was unusual in Muslim society. In her study ofRibia, Margaret Smith says that the available accounts of her life “may not, and in many cases certainly do not, correspond to historic facts”. (Smith 1984, p. 5) Nevertheless, they constitute the elements of a legend that transformed her into an exemplar of the guardianship God extends to the awliyd ' and the mystical love (:mahabba) that binds them to him. In Ribia’s legend, God’s pro­ tective care is made to accompany this fourth daughter (hence the name RAbia, the fourth) of a poor family of Basra from her birth in 717 or 718 and throughout her life. Upon her birth, the Prophet appeared to her father in a dream, told him that his daughter was a great saint, and enabled him to provide for her and the rest of the family by causing the governor of Basra to give him four hundred dinars as penance for neglecting the prayers he was wont to say. Ribia’s parents died when she was young, and she was seized some time afterwards by an evil man who sold her as a slave. However, her master set her free when he saw her praying at night enveloped in the light of a lamp hanging above her head without a chain. (Smith 1984,


The Sufi Tradition o fPiety

pp. 5-7) God also confirmed RAbia’s tual&ya by enabling her to work miracles. In one of them she flew in the air with her fingers lighting like a lamp. (Smith 1984, pp. 35-6) According to Ribias legend, many pious and prominent men sought her hand in marriage; but she rejected all of them because she would not accept a substitute for the union in love with God. (Smith 1984, pp. 10-19) In the formative period of the Sufi tradition the wait who aroused the greatest religious controversy was AbA Yazid Tayftir al-Bis{4mi, for whose death two alternative dates (234 and 261 a h /848 and 875 a d ) are given in the sources. (Al-Sulami 1986, p. 67) Al-Bis$mi was an ascetic Sufi who spent the last thirty years of his life as a hermit at Bistam in Persia. He was said to have possessed at the time of his death only a single garment and a pair of sandals he had worn throughout these thirty years. He did not write anything himself, but his sayings were recorded and propagated by his nephew Abu MAsi. The religious scholars condemned most of these on the ground that they had doctrinal implications incompatible with cardinal Islamic beliefs, but Sufis defended them as shatab&t (unguarded utterances) made in a state of mystical ecstasy. In them he described the path to God as a form zuhd, in which renunciation of the world was only the first stage. The second was renunciation of the rewards of the Hereafter, and the third and last was renunciation of everything other than God. (Al-Qushayri n.d., p. 23) He expressed the same pious aim by saying that he “wanted from God only God himselP (Al-Sulami 1986, p. 72), and that the preoccupation of believers with securing God’s rewards in the Hereafter makes them cease to think of God himself. (AbA Nuaym 1967, vol. 10, p. 39) That is why, according to another of his sayings, compliance with divine commands can be as perniciously sinful as disobeying them. (AbA Nu aym 1967, vol. 10, p. 36) A number of miracles were attributed to al-Bis{4mi, but he was remembered above all for calling the believers to disdain the rewards of the Hereafter out of love for God. In the legend of DhA ’l-NAn al-Misri (d. 860), the first prominent Sufi who appeared in Egypt, love of God is interwoven with the belief that he entrusted the awliycl ’ with the religious guidance of the believers. Unlike al-Bistimi, DhA ’l-NAn was not a hermit. Besides performing the pilgrimage to Mecca, he visited other countries of the Middle East and spent some time in Baghdad. Several poems are

The Emergence o fa tradition


attributed to him in which he addresses God in the passionate language of the devoted lover. The opening verse of one of them reads, “I die, and yet the ardour of my love for you does not die”. (Al-Sulami 1986, p. 21) In a meeting he was said to have had with al-Mutawakkil, the Abb&sid caliph who disavowed the Mu‘tazilite rationalist doctrine, he also spoke of the awliyd ’as the ultimate spiritual guides of the community. According to his legend, the meeting took place at the wish of the caliph, who sought religious guidance from him. (AlQushayri n.d., p. 14) When the caliph asked him to describe the awliyd' he said that they were “human in their bodies, but heavenly in their hearts. For their hearts are filled with ma'rifa of God.” He added that God delegated the guidance of those who loved him to the awliyd \ because he would not take the tyrannical, arrogant and wealthy into his service. And because of the high demands God made upon the awliyd \ he bestowed upon them his bounty and vanquished their foes. (AbA Nuaym 1967, vol. 9, pp. 337-8) Another tradition has DhA ’l-NAn describing the awliyd'as God’s trustees (umand) on earth, who call others to him and guide them in the faith. (AbA Nuaym 1967, vol. 9, p. 349) According to still another saying attri­ buted to DhA ’l-NAn, the awliyd 'are held back from sin not by fear of God’s punishment, but by the gratitude they feel for his bounty towards them. (Al-Sulami 1986, p. 24) DhA ’l-NAn achieved special notoriety by speaking of the raf al-hijdb (the lifting of the veil) which engulfs God and makes him inaccessible to man. He affirmed in one of his sayings that the awliyd ’ break through all the barriers that separate man from God and hear his very words when he speaks. (AbA Nuaym 1967, vol. 9, p. 355) Legend has it that during DhA ’1-NAn’s funeral green birds fluttered over the heads of the mourners standing around his grave. (AbA Nuaym 1967, vol. 9, p. 363) The belief that reputable awliyd’like Ribi a, al-Bistami and DhA ’1NAn were divinely inspired guides was a serious challenge to institu­ tionalised religious authority. It implicidy questioned the finality of the revelations made to the Prophet Muhammad, for whom the caliphs deputised in the supreme leadership of the Muslim com­ munity. It also implied that the pious ideals of the awliyd’ had an intrinsic validity that transcended the guidance of the religious law, whose guardianship by the scholars appointed by the caliphs to the important religious offices in their system of government constituted


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the foundation of institutionalised religious authority. Furthermore, some of the tenets they put forth, such as insistence that the believer s love of and devotion to God were ends in themselves and not means of securing his reward in the Hereafter, controverted orthodox Islamic beliefs. The Sufis in Baghdad were especially aware of the challenge the mystical beliefs emanating from the reputable awliyd 'represented to institutionalised religious authority. And, having been made aware by al-Muhasibi’s fate of the risks it entailed, they sought to bring Sufi teachings in line with Islamic orthodoxy. Consequendy, a Sufi school started to emerge in Baghdad in the second half of the ninth century that eschewed mystical speculation and insisted that the only valid Sufi beliefs were those that accorded with the teachings of Islam derived from the Qur’in and the Prophets sunna as embodied in hadith. Al-Junayd, the acknowledged founder of this school, was one of al-Muh&sibi s disciples. Al-Junayd b. Muhammad (d. 910) studied in Baghdad with alMuhAsibi and a number of other renowned religious scholars, but the teacher who is said to have had a lasting influence on the development of his religious career was his maternal uncle Sari al-Saq^i (d. 866), who urged him to dedicate himself to the study of hadith and the religious law. Two traditions related on the authority of al-Junayd s students highlight the emphasis he placed on the reconciliation of Sufi beliefs with the norms of Islamic orthodoxy. In one of them he said that Sufi beliefs were derived not “from rational speculation (alqil wa l-qdl), but from fasting and renunciation of this world”. (AbA Nuaym 1967, vol. 10, pp. 277-8, andal-Qushayri n.d., p. 31) The second contained the dictum, which made al-Junayd widely known, that the Sufis’ mystical knowledge was bound (or should remain bound—muqayyad) by the Qur’in and the Prophets sunna. (AbA Nuaym 1967, vol. 10, p. 255, and al-Qushayri n.d., p. 32) Al-Junayd approved of the Sufis’ aspiration to attain rruirifa (mystical knowledge of God), but said that it was only a means of attaining absolute cer­ titude iyaqin) regarding cardinal tenets of the Islamic faith, such as tawhid and tawakkul (trust in God). He argued that rruirifa, being knowledge of God, was an aim pursued by all believers. The kh&ssa (the elite), by whom he apparendy meant the awliyd\ attain a higher degree of it than the ordinary believers, but even they cannot com­ prehend him, who is beyond all comprehension. (AbA Nuaym 1967,

The Emergence o fa tradition


vol. 10, pp. 257- 8) Al-Junayd implicitly dissociated himself from alBistimi when answering the question, put to him by an unnamed person, whether marifa dispensed believers from the obligation to seek divine reward by the observance of the religious obligations (a'mdl) of Islam. Al-Junayd said in reply, that such a contention amounted to a disregard of the requirements of the faith more heinous than adultery and theft. (Abfi Nuaym 1967, vol. 10, p. 278) Because al-Junayd became the acknowledged representative of the orthodox Sufi path, later Sufi masters sought to defend themselves against the charge of subscribing to bida‘ (false innovations in the faith) by tracing their spiritual genealogies to him. Twelve years after al-Junayd s death, Abti MansAr Husayn al-Hall&j paid with his life for preaching Sufi tenets in Baghdad which blatandy breached the doctrinal limits of Islamic orthodoxy. Born around 244 a h / 858-9 a d in Tflr in the province of Fars in southern Persia, Ai-Hallaj was the son of a hall&j (wool-carder), hence the name with which he became known. At the age of sixteen he went to Tustar and studied there with Sahl al-Tustari for two years before the latter moved to Basra. He then went to Basra and became a disciple of the Sufi shaykh Amr al-Makki, in whose house he at first lived. About a year later he joined the circle of another Basran Sufi shaykh, AbA Yaqfib Aqta‘, whose daughter he married and in whose house he then lived. al-Hallaj developed the tenets by which he later became known in the year 270 a h / 883-4 a d , which he spent in meditation in the Ka'ba. Thereafter he became widely known as the Sufi whose claim to total mystical union with God led him to say of himself and al-Haqq (I am the Real One, i.e. God). This patendy heretical utterance made lead­ ing Sufis, including al-Junayd whom he met in Baghdad, as well as his former mentor al-Makki and his father-in-law Aqta\ reject him. But rather than making him repent, the hostility of influential Sufi shaykhs made him spend about twenty years as a wandering preacher, during which he travelled widely in Iran and western India, and went twice to Mecca, where he spent extended periods of meditation in the Ka'ba. He then setded in Baghdad in 291 a h /903 or 904 a d . (Massignon 1982, vol. 1, pp. 21- 8) Al-Hallij became known in the Abb&id capital as an ecstatic Sufi who had a miniature version of the Ka‘ba built in his house, and who preached about repentance and union in love with God in market


The Sufi Tradition o f Piety

places and at the doors of mosques. But he also became entangled in religious and political conflicts that involved central institutions of the caliphate. His popularity with the simple people, and the critique of the existing religio-political order implied in his teachings, made him the ally of religious scholars, the majority of whom were Hanbalites, who condemned the corruption which reigned in the central institutions of the caliphate and called for their reform. A major political crisis in which al-HalUj became involved occurred in 908, when the religious reformers made an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the thirteen-year-old al-Muqtadir, whom palace officials had recendy installed as caliph, and replace him with a more worthy member of the Abbasid dynasty. The widespread hunt for those involved in this attempted putsch conducted by the newly-appointed vizier Alt b. al-Furit, and the arrest of several Hanbalite scholars and other persons with whom al-Hallaj was associated, made him flee from Baghdad, but he was arrested in 911 and brought to the capital for trial. However, since shortly afterwards Ali b. ‘Isa, who was favourable to him, acceded to the vizierate, his trial was suspended and rather than being imprisoned he was confined in the caliphs palace. There al-Hallaj could demonstrate his mystical powers and gain the sympathy even of the queen mother, by among other things curing the caliph of an illness and bringing the crown princes dead parrot back to life. His trial was opened some ten years later as a result of the rivalry between Ibn ‘ls& and the former tax-collector H&mid who held the vizierate conjoindy with him. In a bid to discredit Ibn ‘Isa, Hamid had the Malikite qddi of Baghdad AbA ‘Umar al­ ii am madi charge al-Hallaj with apostasy and order his trial. The charge of apostasy levelled against al-Hallaj had two foundations. The first was that he believed in hul&L, the indwelling of God in man, an accusation substantiated by his famous utterance and al-Haqq and sayings, in which he spoke of the fusion of his spirit with God. The second was that he called for the abandonment of the obligatory rites of the Islamic faith. This accusation was based on utterances he made about the inner connotation of the religious rites and his insistence that the believer could perform the Hajj by the circumambulation of the Ka‘ba in his heart. The Malikite qddi pronounced the death sentence against al-Hallaj, although other qAdis and religious scholars who rejected his teachings disapproved of condemning him to death.

The Elaboration o fSufi beliefs


The caliph confirmed the death sentence on 26 March 922, and on the same day al-Hallij was led in chains to the place of execution. First his hands and feet were cut, then he was exhibited on a gibbet. He was beheaded the following day, and then having been burnt his ashes were thrown in the Tigris river. (Massignon 1982, vol. 1,28-52 and 510-59) Al-Hallaj’s only extant work Kitdb at- Tawdsin (Book of the Pea­ cocks), which he wrote while in confinement in the caliphs palace, consists of meditations on the mystic’s union with God. Other works which bear his name, such as Akhbdr al-Halldj (Narratives of alHallaj), are later compilations of his sayings, but all are centred on this theme. The mystic’s union in love with God had become a central element of Sufi beliefs long before al-Hallaj, but his statement and alHaqq was too provocative to be condoned, regardless of how it was construed, and several of al-Hallaj’s other utterances, when taken lit­ erally could be found incompatible with Islamic beliefs. But he seems to have been condemned to death primarily because the religious appeal of his teachings brought into the open public dismay over the corruption and intrigues of the officials who exercised power in the caliphs name. His execution thus transformed him not only into a martyr of total devotion to God, but also into an exemplar of the uncompromising commitment to the faith which the pious did not find in the holders of important religious offices in the caliphs system of government. His legends glossed over those of his utterances irrec­ oncilable with Islamic beliefs, and celebrated him as a man of God whose spiritual guidance transcended the religious law without vio­ lating it. (For details of these legends see Massignon 1982, vol. II, pp. 62-353) The Elaboration o f Sufi beliefs Al-Hallij s execution emphasised the subordination of the holders of religious offices in the caliphial system of government to the holders of political power in it. The Malikite qddi put al-Hallij on trial on the viziers injunctions, and condemned him to death despite the other religious scholars’ doctrinal misgivings. Al-Hallij s execution thus enhanced the reputation of the awliyd'as religious guides over whom the holders of political power exercised no control. It also spurred Sufi authors to compose works in which they justified the mystical tenets


The Sufi Tradition o fPiety

and pious ideals validated by their spiritual authority. In their justifi­ cation of Sufi beliefs these authors employed two main forms of religious argumentation. The first consisted of the affirmation that, like the Islamic beliefs whose validity the religious scholars established through the uliim (pi. of Him), i.e. the Islamic religious sciences, the validity of Sufi beliefs was established through a Him, this being the Him al-tasawwuf, but whereas the ul6m pursued by the religious scholars were founded on the Qur’an and hadith, Himal-tasaurwufwas founded on the ma'rifa of the awliy&\ The second form of argumen­ tation these authors used was the contention that, when correctly understood, Sufi beliefs would be found to be the quintessence of Islamic piety as exemplified in the life of Muslims of the pure faith over the centuries. The contention that Sufism was a Him based on the marifa of the awliyA ’is put forth in the earliest known treatise on Sufi beliefs, AlLuma'fi ’l-Tasawwuf(Flashes of light on Sufism) ofAbft Nasr ‘Abdul­ lah al-Sarraj (d. 988). Al-Sarraj came from Tfts in Khurasan, but he travelled widely with the aim of collecting information on the great Sufi masters and their teachings. He says in the first chapter of his book that tasawumfis a Him, and that the Islamic ul&m do not have only two foundations but three, these being the Qur’an, the Prophet’s sunna, and the wisdom (hikma) emanating from the hearts of the awliyd He adds that each of the ul&m has its special subject matter and scholarly norms. No one person can attain mastery in all the ul&m, and the grade of learning one attains in any one of them is set for him by God. (Al-Sarraj 1914, pp. 5-7) In a later chapter he says that only the recognised authorities of a Himare qualified to speak for it, and warns against the harm caused by those who disparage the awliyA "without having true knowledge of their teachings and spiritual states. (Al-Sarraj 1914, pp. 19-20) But while asserting that the foun­ dation of Himal-tasawumfis the ma'rifa of the awiliyct\ he insists that the beliefs derived from it do not contradict the teachings of the Qur’an and the Prophet’s sunna. He adds that the case of al-Bistami shows how misinterpretations of utterances made by the awliyd 'when in a state of mystical ecstasy lead to the erroneous assumption that they subscribe to beliefs incompatible with the true faith. (Al-Sarraj 1914, pp. 380-95) The most notable example of such misinterpre­ tations, he says, was the condemnation of al-Hallij to death on the

The Elaboration o fSufi beliefs


charge of apostasy in spite of his professing the doctrine of tawfjid and continuing to affirm it even while being taken to his place of exe­ cution. (Al-Sarrij 1914, pp. 303-4) Al-Sarrij’s contemporary Abft Talib Muhammad al-Makki (d. 996) further elaborated the contention that Sufism was a 'ilm in his Qtit al-Qul&b (Food of the Hearts). Al-Makki was born in Persia, but he grew up in Mecca where he was initiated into Sufism. He then lived in Basra, where he became associated with the group of alTustari’s disciples called Silimiyya (see above, p. 31), but he wrote Q&t al-Qul&b in Baghdad, where he spent the last years of his life. (Bowering 1980, pp. 25-7) In this book al-Makki describes Sufism as 'ilm al-bdtirt (science of the interior), which he distinguishes from the Himal-zdhir (science of the exterior), a term he uses for the entirety of the Islamic tradition of religious learning. He also calls the ‘ilm alzdhir Him al-lisdn (science of the tongue), and says that its purpose is the establishment of the ahkdm (legal rules) which govern the believers’ life in this world. He adds that fiqh (jurisprudence) epitomises the Him al-z&hir; and those who seek proficiency in it aspire to success in this world and gaining influence with the holders of political power (al-umard). On the other hand, the experts in the ‘ilm al-bdtin, which al-Makki also calls ‘ilm al-qul&b (science of the hearts), are the ascetic Sufis whose faith is imbued with love of God. Theirs is the Him AMh whose aim is to attain certainty in the faith iyaqtn), the ultimate criterion for the validity of all religious deeds. (Al-Makki 1961, vol. 2, p. 283) An important landmark in the consolidation of the conception of Sufism as a 'ilm was the composition by AbA ‘Abd al-Rahmin Muhammad al-Sulami (d. 1021) of Tabaq&tal-$&fiyya, the first work of Sufi biography. The term tabaq&t (pi. of tabaqa—layer) in its tide is commonly used in Islamic religious literature for biographical works, in which each generation of the acknowledged authorities in a religious discipline is presented as a tabaqa representing a stage of its development. Thus by using the term tabaqtlt in the title of his work and dividing the prominent Sufi devotees of former times into gener­ ations representing stages in the development of Sufism, al-Sulami gave substance to the contention that it was a 'ilm. He further em­ phasised this contention by the employment of the method of isn&d for establishing the authenticity of the Sufi masters’ sayings. For isnM


The Sufi Tradition o f Piety

is a method of verification which the religious scholars recognised as the foundation of the ‘ilm al-hadtth, whereby the authenticity of a hadith text is substantiated by a continuous chain of acknowledged authorities who had related it, beginning with one of the Prophet s Companions. By providing each of the utterances of the reputable awliyd’he cited with such a chain of authorities going back to the Sufi master who first uttered the text, al-Sulami implicidy affirms that Hm al-tafawwufhad the same claim to validity as the prestigious ‘ilm al-hadith. Whereas al-Sarrij, al-Makki and al-Sulami justified Sufi beliefs by the contention that they were validated by the authorities in the 'ilm they called ‘ilm al-tasawwufor ilm al-bdtin, AbA Nuaym al-Isfahani (d. 1038) sought to demonstrate in Hilyat al-Awliyd’wa TabaqdtalAsfiyd ’ (Ornament of the Awliyd' and ‘Layers’ of the Pure Ones), a massive biographical work of ten printed volumes, that Sufi beliefs were the quintessence of true Islamic piety, and that the core of these beliefs was a tradition of zuhd initiated by the Prophet’s Companions and handed down from one generation of Muslims of the pure faith to the following one. In the introduction to the Hilya he censures the Muslims who claim to be Sufi devotees but propagate false tenets such as hul&lwhich, he says, justify considering them to be heretics ifussdq) or even apostates (kuffhr). This is a clear reference to al-Hallij, whose biography he does not include in his work. Abu Nuaym adds that his aim in composing his biographical work was to highlight the Sufis’ unquestionable orthodoxy and unadulterated piety. (Abu Nuaym 1967, vol. 1, p. 4) He holds the essence of Sufism to be the ma'rifa of God, which includes knowledge of his names and attributes, and of the evil desires of the human self and the means of overcoming them. This knowledge, he says, determined the norms of piety the zuhh&d represented throughout Islamic history. (AbA Nu‘aym 1967, vol. 1, p. 24) AbA Nuaym opens his work with the biographies of forty-two of the Prophet’s Companions, whom he describes as zuhhdd and whom he qualifies with pious ideals, such as shukr (gratitude to God) and tawakkul (trust in God), which by his time had become recognisable elements of Sufi beliefs. But he considers a special group of the Com­ panions, known as the ahl or ashdb (people of) al-sujfa, the first exem­ plars of the tradition of zuhd which the Sufis came to represent in the

The Elaboration o fSufi beliefs


Muslims’ religious life. These were poor Arab tribesmen who settled in Medina after the Hijra and lived from charity. They were called ‘people of the fuffd after the covered portico (juffit) of the mosque of Medina where they slept. Abd Nu aym says that the ash&b al-$uffa set an example for later Sufi ascetics by their willing acceptance of poverty and relinquishment of family ties. (Abfl Nuaym 1967, vol. 1, p. 337) He also idealises the life of several prominent women Companions, as well as that of the tAbi'ftn, qualifying each with a recognisable element of Sufi piety. He even includes among the zuhhdd the founders of the schools of Islamic religious law; thus when he comes in the sixth volume of Hilyat al-Awliyd ’to the biographies of the acknowledged Sufi masters, he presents them as the bearers of a continuous tradition of Islamic piety going back to the original Muslim community of Medina. A more sophisticated justification of Sufi beliefs on the ground that they represented the quintessence of the Islamic faith was offered by AbA Hiinid al-Ghazili (d. 1111) in IhyA ’ ‘Uliim al-Din (The Revivifi­ cation of the Religious ‘Sciences’). Only a brief account needs to be given here of the life and achievements of this great figure of Islamic intellectual history, which are examined in many scholarly works, (see Bosquet 1955, Smith 1944, and Watt 1953 and 1963) Al-GhazMi was born in Tds in Khurisin in 1058, and in his youth went to NaysabAr and became there the student of Abfi al-Ma‘ili al-Juwayni (d. 1085), a great scholar of the religious law. He attained prominence after he became professor of Shafi'ite law at the prestigious Nizimiyya madrasa in Baghdad in 1091. While there, he applied himself to the study of philosophy and became sufficiendy accomplished in it to write Maqtifid al-FaUsifa (The Aims of the Philosophers), which became a standard work of Islamic philosophy. But, shordy after writing this book, he also wrote Tah&jut al-Fal&sifa (The Incoherence of the Philosophers) in which he argued against twenty theses current among Muslim philosophers and pronounced three of them to be heretical. After four years of teaching at the Nizimiyya, al-Ghazili experienced a psychological crisis, apparendy caused by awareness of the religious scholars’ worldly ambitions and his conviction that religious learning did not set the believers on the path to God. As a result he gave up his teaching post in Baghdad and embarked on a life of ascedc piety. After making the pilgrimage to Mecca, and spending


The Sufi Tradition o fPiety

about two years in Syria, he settled to a life of solitary meditation and mystical exercises in his home town Ttis. While there he wrote the Ihyd1VlUm al-Dtn. The Ihyd ’ is a monumental work consisting of four volumes of some 500 pages each. Al-Ghazali offers in it a comprehensive expo­ sition of Islamic beliefs, and relies in their elaboration on the Qur’&n, hadith and the traditions of the Prophet s Companions, while making hardly any reference to the teachings of former reputable scholars. And he disregards the division of Islamic religious learning into dif­ ferent specialised uliim, and speaks instead of a single valid Himwhich he calls Him tariq al-dkhira (science* of the path to the Hereafter). (AlGhazili, Ihyd\ 1967-8, vol. 1, p. 10) But he divides this Him into four branches, dedicating to each a quarter of his work and hence one volume of the printed book. The first branch deals with the acts of worship (‘ibdddt), the second with the Islamic norms of social conduct (&&*), the third with the human desires and aims which lead to perdition (\ous foundations) created for them. However, in the Maghrib several of the older ribdts served orig­ inally as garrison posts. But since the eleventh century, most of the ribdts and khdnqdhs had become hostels where Sufis led a common life under discipline. In a few cases these hostels were also founded by the

The Sufi shaykhs’ religious guidance


Sufi shaykhs who headed them. (Trimingham 1971, pp. 166-71) The discussion of the norms that should govern life in the ribdt by AbA Ishiq ‘Umar al-Suhrawardi, who himself headed an important ribdt in Baghdad which he had inherited from his uncle, suggests that its function was to enable Sufis to develop their spiritual faculties away from the pressures of normal life. He said that communal life in a ribdt promoted the development of ties of affection and trust among the Sufis, and allowed those not yet secure in their Sufi calling to pursue it away from the influence of its detractors. He insisted that life in the ribdt was not intended for those seeking free accommodation and food, but for devotees whose occupation with God left no place in their life for gainful work. And the inmates of a ribdt, he said, should abide by its rules of cleanliness, and perform their tasks and attend the communal meals at the times assigned to them. And the young among them should be ready to serve their seniors and view such service as an act of worship. The shaykh of the ribdt, he said, earned the respect of its other inmates by his dignity and ability to promote harmony and unity among them. But he should also employ his authority to discipline an unruly young inmate by having him spend periods of solitude in the zdwiya (corner) of the ribdt where he (the shaykh) had his prayer-mat. (Al-Suhrawardi 1983, pp. 103-17) Although ribdts and khdnqdhs were sometimes monumental build­ ing which had substantial revenues from the awqdfcreated. for them, living in them seems to have appealed to only a small minority of practising Sufis. The suhba they offered was not as appealing to the Sufis as the authoritative personal tarbiya of a reputable Sufi shaykh. Al-Suhrawardi’s account of life in the ribdt shows that its shaykh was primarily responsible for ensuring its inmates’ adherence to the rules of its disciplined life, and not for their tarbiya. The suhba most Sufis sought, at least from the eleventh century onwards, was that of a Sufi shaykh. Through it, they had the benefits of his personal tarbiya and his other disciples’ suhba, while being able to lead a normal life in human society. This form of suhba transformed the Sufi shaykh into the head of a spiritual family, whose members sought his guidance in the religious and other aspects of their lives. As heads of spiritual families whose members consisted of Muslims leading normal lives in their societies, the Sufi shaykhs became prominent figures in public life. With the growth of their social influence, they became


Sufi Challenge to Institutionalised Religious Authority

increasingly assertive in the confrontation with institutionalised religious authority. The Sufi shaykhs as the Prophet’s deputies in the guidance o f the community The most significant indicator of the Sufi shaykhs’assertiveness in the confrontation with institutionalised religious authority was the appearance of the notion that they were the Prophet’s authoritative deputies in the religious guidance of his community. This notion evolved gradually out of the unqualified trust Sufis placed in the religious guidance of their shaykhs. However, it became a central element of Sufi beliefs after it was endorsed and given concrete, albeit variant, connotations by the two influential thinkers Abfi Ishaq ‘Umar al-Suhrawardi (d. 1234) and Muhyi al-Din Ibn ‘Arabi (d. 1240) in the context of the futile attempt made by the caliph al-N&$ir li Din Allah (1180-1225) to create new religious foundations for the Abbasid caliphate. This attempt seems to have been prompted by two events. The first was the overthrow of the Fatimids, who had represented the Shfite rival claim to the Muslim community’s supreme leadership some nine years before the caliph al-Nasir came to power in 1180. The second was the collapse in 1194 of the Salj&q sultanate that had exercised power in the caliphs’ name in Baghdad since the middle of the eleventh century. But the caliph al-Nasir acted from a position of political weakness. The Ayytibids, who overthrew the Fapmids in 1171, nom­ inally recognised the Abb&sid caliphs’ religious authority, but ruled Egypt, Syria and Yemen independendy from them; and in 1186 they even occupied Mosul in Iraq and, after conquering the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem in 1187, also ruled the greater part of Palestine. Persia and Anatolia were also ruled in the latter part of the twelfth century independendy from the caliphs by a number of Saljdq princes. Ange­ lika Hartmann’s study of al-Na$ir’s caliphate (Hartmann 1975) shows that this caliph, realising his inability to impose his political authority over the various independent Muslim rulers in the Near East by force, sought after 1194 to transform the caliphate into a form of religious leadership that transcended the Muslim community’s dogmatic, sec­ tarian and political divisions. He claimed to himself the guardianship

The Sufi shaykhs as the Prophets deputies


of the Prophets surtna by compiling his own hadith compendium, of which he sent copies to various countries of the Near East. In order to make the Shfites recognise his authority, he chose viziers from among them and entered into a religious dialogue with moderate Shl‘ite scholars. And with the help of Abfi Ishlq ‘Umar al-Suhrawardi, he also sought to transform the Sufi shaykhs into a mainstay of his religious authority. At the time when the caliph al-Nisir embarked on this ambitious religious enterprise, AbA Ish&q ‘Umar al-Suhrawardi was one of the most prominent religious personalities in Baghdad. Besides being a leading Sufi shaykh, he was head of a ribAt in Baghdad, which he inherited from his uncle and teacher AbA Najib ‘Abd al-Qihir alSuhrawardi (d. 1168). But he was also a learned scholar of the Sh£fi‘ite school of religious law, and an eloquent and moving preacher who drew large audiences to his preaching sessions. The caliph al-Ni§ir, who came to the ribdt to hear him preach, made him his agent in the realisation of his religious enterprise, and sent him on a number of missions to the Ayyubids in Egypt and Syria, and to the SaljAqs in Konya, with the aim of persuading them to strengthen their ties with the caliphate. He also attempted to organise with al-Suhrawardl s help a Sufi branch of the Islamic chivalric tradition ofjutuwwa committed to the defence of the caliphate. (Hartmann 1975, pp. 231-54) AlSuhrawardl gives no indication in his major work Awdrifal-Ma ‘d rifof when he wrote it, but Angelika Hartmann could ascertain that he did so before 1215 (Hartmann 1997, p. 780), i.e. at the time when he was the main propagandist of al-Nifirs religious policy. Nevertheless, the conception he puts forth in it of the Sufi shaykh’s religious authority suggests that he did not accord the caliphs any role in the religious guidance of the Muslim community. Al-Suhrawardi says that mashyakha (shaykhdom) is one of the highest Sufi ranks, and is a deputation for the Prophet in calling the believers to God. Following the Prophets example, the Sufi shaykh makes the essence of his calling the instilling in his disciples of the love of God. (Al-Suhrawardi, ‘Awdrifal-Ma ‘drif, 1983, p. 83) He adds that the Sufi shaykh attains his elevated spiritual authority by persevering in overcoming the worldly desires of his inner self ( until he brings it into total harmony with divine commands and achieves total spiritual tranquillity. And he ‘rears’ the inner selves of his disciples as


Sufi Challenge to Institutionalised Religious Authority

he had reared his own, so that they undergo under his guidance a spiritual rebirth which makes them part of his own self. (‘Aw&rif, pp. 84-5) Al-Suhrawardi says that the Sufi adept’s wearing of his shaykh’s distinctive khirqa (patched garment) is a token of submission to his authority, which is tantamount to submission to the authority of God and the Prophet, and a reaffirmation of his allegiance {bay'd) to the Prophet. (Aw&rif, p. 95) And the Sufi adept should obey his shaykh in all religious and worldly matters, and accept all that he tells him as al-haqq (the truth) inspired by al-Haqq, i.e. God. For the Sufi shaykh is the bearer to his disciples of divine inspirations in the same way that the angel Gabriel was the bearer of divine revelations to the Prophet. And, like the Prophet, he is guarded in his utterances against all falsehood and illusions of the self. {‘Awdrifi p. 404) Accordingly, the adept should view the guidance he receives from his shaykh as being the guidance he would have received from the Prophet if he had lived in the Prophets lifetime. (Awdrif, p. 408) Unlike AbA Ishaq ‘Umar al-Suhrawardi, Muhyi al-Din Ibn Arabi set neither religious nor personal hopes on the caliphate. He was born to an Arab family in Murcia (Muslim Spain) in 1165 and grew up in Seville, where his family moved in 1172. He converted to a life of ascetic piety at the age of sixteen and became known in Seville as a devotee who spent much time meditating in cemeteries. He sought instruction from various Sufi shaykhs in Spain as well as the Maghrib, where he made several extended visits between 1193 and 1201. After­ wards he travelled to the heartland of Muslim lands in the Near East, where he spent the rest of his life. He travelled via Cairo and Jerusalem to the Muslim holy places in Arabia, and after spending about a year there he visited other important towns of the Near East, including Baghdad. He also made frequent visits to Konya in Anatolia, where he enjoyed the support and hospitality of its SaljAq rulers. Then, in 1223, he setded in Damascus where he lived under AyyAbid rule until his death in November 1240. (Chodkiewicz 1986, pp. 16-18) By the time Ibn Arabi setded in Damascus, whatever illusions the caliph alNisir might have regarding the revival of the Abbisid caliphate had been dispelled. For, shortly before this date, the Mongols’ conquest of Khurasan from the Khwarazmshahs had led the latter to move west­ wards into Iraq. The caliph al-NSsir, who had tried unsuccessfully to have the Khwarazmshahs recognise his authority at the time when

The Sufi shaykhs as the Prophet’s deputies


they were the masters of Khurasan, became preoccupied during the last three years before his death in 1225 with repelling their invasion of Iraq. Even under these circumstances the Ayytibids, under whose rule Ibn ‘Arab! lived in Damascus, ignored the caliphs appeal for military help, and Ibn Arabi himself made known in Fusils alHikam (The Bezels of Wisdom), the major work he wrote in Damas­ cus, that he regarded the caliphate as an institution that was reli­ giously dispensable. In his voluminous works Ibn Arab! was interested above all in expounding the belief, which he claimed was instilled in him by kashf (unveiling, spiritual revelation), that existence [wujHd) is the self-dis­ closure (tajallt) of God in the universe. He became known specially as the advocate of the doctrine of wahdat al-wuj&d (the unity of exist­ ence), a term which does not occur in his writings. But the famous Hanbalite theologian and jurist Ahmad b. Taymiyya (d. 1328), who denounced his Sufi doctrine as heretical, used this term to describe it; and because it was a conveniendy short and relatively accurate desig­ nation of Ibn Arabi s vision of reality, it became widely used by the middle of the fifteenth century also by his acknowledged followers. (Chittick 1989, pp. 74-87) Ibn Arabi s ideas were attacked over the centuries by Muslim religious scholars, and in some cases by Sufi thinkers as well. For, as Abu ai-Ala’ al-Afifi, who produced the standard scholarly edition of Fusils al-Hikam, says in his introduction to this work, the doctrine of wahdat al-wuj&d undermines the con­ cept of God on which all revealed religions are founded and sets aside tenets, such as chose of reward and punishment, which are central elements of the Islamic religious law. (Al-Afifi in Ibn Arabi s Fusils 1980, p. 43) But in spite of the controversy that surrounded Ibn Arabi s teachings, a distinct school of Sufism, to whose adherents he was al-Shaykh al-Akbar (the Grand Master), came into being under the influence of his stepson Sadr al-Din al-Q&nawi (d. 1274), and various elements of his ideas influenced the beliefs of Sufis who did not subscribe to the doctrine of wahdat al-wujUd. In what follows, only a brief account of Ibn Arabi s teachings will be given on the basis of Fusils al-Hikam, with the emphasis being placed on his conceptions of walAya and of succession to the Prophet in the religious guidance of the Muslim community. Ibn Arabi ascribes this work, which is recognised as the summation of his mystical beliefs, to the Prophet.


Sufi Challenge to Institutionalised Religious Authority

He says in its opening passage that the Prophet appeared to him in a vision at the end of Muharram 627 (December 1229), gave him the FufAs, and commanded him to make it known to the people so that they might benefit by it. (Ibn ‘Arabi, Fustis, 1980, p. 47) The Fusils al-Hikam purports to be a treatise on the unity o f existence based upon prophetic revelations. In it Ibn Arabi typifies the divine message revealed through each of the twenty-seven prophets referred to in the Qur’in by a kalima (word) which he claims to be the quintessence of the truth it conveys, and he elaborates his doctrine by the explication of these messages. But, as Nettler suggests, Ibn Arabi’s interpretation of the Qur’inic passages referring to the prophets was determined by a certain knowledge of their true meaning which, he claimed, had been disclosed to him by divine inspiration. (Nettler 2003, p. 29) Consequendy, while differing in his interpretation from the established method of the Quranic exegetes, he could affirm its intrinsic agreement with the divine truth revealed in the Qur’an. In the elaboration of the doctrine of wahdat al-wuj&d he distinguishes between God’s pure essence, which is not manifest and is beyond all comprehension, and his divinity (uluhiyya) which he says is the sum total of the asmtl ’(names, i.e. attributes) by which he is referred in the Qur’an. (Fusus, pp. 72-3) Cosmic reality, he contends, is the manifestation of God to himself through his attributes. To God cosmic reality is then like an image of himself which he sees in a mirror. (FusHs, p. 48) God is thus the Creator and the created, the One Essence and the many manifestations of his attributes in cosmic reality. (Fus&s, pp. 78 and 184) God’s attributes, Ibn Arabi affirms, are identical with his essence, but they are also the archetypes (Jawdmi) of its many manifestations, each bestowing reality on the elements of existence of which it is the archetype, while allowing for individual differences in each of them. (Fus&s, p. 65) Divine determi­ nation (qadar), Ibn al-Arabi says, is none other than God s knowledge of what each element of existence is in itself. This is the great secret of determination (sirr al-qadar), the knowledge of which gives great comfort and also great pain to those who possess it, for it entails the recognition that no creature can attain a higher grade in the hierarchy of existence than the one assigned to him in divine knowledge. God revealed this secret only to the Prophet Muhammad who, being the khdtim al-rusul and the kh&tim al-awliyd was endowed by him with full knowledge of his divine essence. (Fustis, pp. 62 and 131-4)

The Sufi shaykhs as the Prophet’s deputies


In the first chapter of the Fusils, which is dedicated to the kaUma of Adam, Ibn Arab! affirms that man is the cause of existence. He confirms the Quranic account that Adam was the progenitor of the human race, but gives it an esoteric meaning by describing Adam as the Perfect Man (al-Insdn al-Kdmil) who embodies all the attributes of God. (Fufty, pp. 48-55) But humanity attained its ultimate per­ fection not in Adam but in the Prophet Muhammad, to whose kalima Ibn Arab! dedicates the last chapter of his book. Muhammad, he says, existed while Adam was “water and clay”. And while Adam embodied the divine attributes as they are manifested in the phenomenal world, Muhammad embodied them in their divine essences as the archetypes of existing things. The human race (al-insdniyya al-unsuriyya) came into being when God blew from his spirit into Muhammad. From a pan of him God then made the woman and made love of her the means of human procreation. Muhammad’s love of women, Ibn Arabi adds, was a divine love ensuing from the working of the divine spirit in his heart. (Fusty, pp. 214—20) Ibn Arabi develops his conception of cosmic reality in a way that provides an original solution of the problem of the relationship between waldya and prophethood. He argues that since cosmic reality is a manifestation of divine attributes in the universe, and waldya is one of them, it is “the all-engulfing cosmic reality... and the source of all revelations”. (Fusty, p. 134) Accordingly, it is a higher spiritual authority than prophethood—but, he adds, all prophets are endowed with waldya. He distinguishes between two kinds of prophethood, that of tashn (legislation), with which all the rusul (the messengers of God) were endowed, and a common, non-legislative prophethood (nubuwwa 'dmmd). The legislation revealed through the rusul corre­ sponded to their own communities’ specific needs, and came to an end with the Prophet Muhammad. However, waldya, being a divine attribute, does not cease, and because God has mercy upon his creatures (latifa bi 'ibddihi) he allowed its manifestation as a non-leg­ islative prophethood to subsist. Ibn Arabi adds that his assertion that waldya is superior to prophethood should be understood only in the sense that the prophethood of each prophet is an aspect of his waldya. Furthermore, the legislative prophets occupy higher grades of waldya than the other prophets. Accordingly the non-legislative prophet, i.e. the wali, is always a subordinate follower of the ras&l, the legislative


Sufi Challenge to Institutionalised Religious Authority

prophet, of his religious community. Even the Prophet Muhammad, who as the kh&tim al-awliyd 'embodies waUtya in its complete form, is bound by the legislation revealed to him in his capacity as the khdtim al-rusul. (Fusils, pp. 62 and 134-6) On the basis of this notion of waldya, Ibn ‘Arab! develops a con­ ception of deputation for the Prophet in the religious guidance of the Muslim community that makes the historical caliphate a religious aberration. He distinguishes between two kinds of religiously valid khildfa: the first is deputation for God on earth, stating that the Qur’an shows that only the rusul (messengers of God), who are prophets of (legislation), are God’s true deputies on earth. But the khildfa of the rusul ended with Muhammad, and was replaced by the second kind of khildfa, that of deputation of the non-legislative prophets for the rusul. (Fusils, pp. 162-3) He adds that, although the religious guidance of the non-legislative prophets accords with the divine commands revealed to the rusul, it is validated by their autho­ rity as awliyel (Fusils, p. 135) Ibn Arabi describes the historical cali­ phate as al-khiletfa al-zdhira, the apparent’ (in the sense o f‘unreal’), deputation for the Prophet. This, he says, is the caliphate of the sword (khildfat al-sayf), the competition for which has been the cause of much strife among the Muslims. Its holders, he adds, could have become genuine deputies of the Prophet if they were truly just. How­ ever, he dismisses this theoretical possibility outright by saying that if it were to come true it would lead to the appearance of two forms of true khildfa for the Prophet, a proposition he considers as absurd as the belief in more than one true god. (Fusils, pp. 164—5) Ibn Arabi in effect says that the historical caliphate was not willed by the Prophet, and that the religious scholars’ view that it was necessary for the existence of the Muslim community was baseless. Put forth in a book which Ibn Arab! said the Prophet handed to him at a time when the Abbasid caliphate s collapse was foreseeable, this notion amounted to claiming the Prophet’s authority for considering its collapse to be a religiously desirable development. It also implied that the spiritual guidance of the awliyd \ the Prophets genuine khulafil \ would ensure the continued existence of his religious community. But who are the awliyd ’ who deputised for the Prophet in the religious guidance of the Muslim community? The long-held belief, endorsed by former Sufi authors, that God revealed the identity of the

The Sufi shaykhs and the Prophets eternal essence


awliyd ’only to fellow awliyd, led al-Suhrawardi and Ibn ‘Arabi to hold fast to the formal distinction between the Sufi shaykhs and the awliyd Al-Suhrawardi described the Sufi shaykhs as the Prophet’s deputies in the religious guidance of the Muslim community, and ascribed to them the spiritual attributes Sufis associated with waldya, without referring to them as awliyd ’. Ibn Arabi, on the other hand, regarded the awliyd9as prophets in their own right and the Prophet Muham­ mad’s only authoritative deputies in the religious guidance of the Muslim community, without indicating how they were to be recog­ nised or ascribing waldya to any known Sufi shaykh. However, ordin­ ary Sufi believers, not restrained like these two outstanding Sufi thinkers by the demands of doctrinal consistency, tended to attribute waldya to the prominent Sufi shaykhs they accepted as authoritative spiritual guides. As in other major developments in the Sufi tradition, the notions that satisfied the religious needs of the large majority of simple believers prevailed over those upheld by the learned Sufi thinkers. Since the thirteenth century, the Sufi shaykhs who were suffi­ ciently prominent for their hagiographies to be recorded by Sufi authors were invariably described as awliyd'. However, Sufi hagi­ ographies show that waldya was not attributed to all Sufi shaykhs, but reserved to those among them who upheld Islamic religious norms in defiance of the holders of political power in their lands, and were said to have performed kardmdt by which they punished the evildoers and promoted their communities’ wellbeing. The Sufi shaykhs and the Prophet's eternal essence The fusion of waldya with the spiritual authority of the Sufi shaykhs whom the pious venerated as authoritative religious guides, and the recognition of these shaykhs as the Prophet’s deputies in the religious guidance of the community, became confirmed and transformed into a coherent mystical doctrine by Abd al-Karim al-Jili. No biographical account is available of Abd al-Karim al-Jili’s life, but Yusuf Zaydan’s analysis of the dispersed references to it in his writings has shed some light on its important turning-points. Al-Jili was born in Baghdad in 1365, where he lived until he was about twenty years old. Afterwards he travelled in search of learning first to Persia and afterwards to India. In 796 a h / 1393—4 AD he went to Zabid in Yemen. Three years later he travelled to Mecca and to Cairo and then returned to Zabid, where he


Sufi Challenge to Institutionalised Religious Authority

wrote his major work al-Ins&n al-KAmil (The Perfect Man) and lived until his death in 1423. This date Zaydan accepts in preference to other dates given for al-Jili s death, because it is the one given by his Yemenite contemporary Badr al-Din al-Ahdal (d. 1451) in his bio­ graphical work of the religious scholars and Sufis of Yemen. (Zaydan 1992, pp. 14-22) Zabid was at the time the important Sufi centre of Yemen. There al-Jili became the disciple of Ismi'il b. Ibrihim alJabarti (d. 1403), the local authority on Ibn Arabis teachings, to whom he referred in his book as his shaykh and the greatest of the awliy&\ Al-Jili remained attached to al-Jabartis Sufi community also when, after his death, it was led by his disciple Ahmad al-Radd&d. (Zaydin 1992, pp. 26-34) Whether Abd al-Karim al-Jili belonged to the family of Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani, the eponymous founder of the Q&diriyya tariqa who is also known as al-Jili, cannot be ascertained; but his name, birth in Baghdad, and great admiration for this Sufi shaykh (see below, p. 74) suggest that he might have been. At the time when Abd al-Karim al-Jili wrote al-Insdn al-KAmil towards the end of the fourteenth century, veneration of the Prophet as an eternal spiritual essence had become an important element of popular Islamic beliefs. The Prophet did not claim divinity, and Islamic orthodoxy emphasised his humanity; but Muslims continued to discover in him noble and superhuman qualities which reflected their changing religious and communal needs. The Shi'ites con­ tributed to the belief in him as the embodiment of a transcendent and abiding spiritual authority by the notions they developed of the spiritual attributes they believed their im&ms inherited from him. Sufi authors such as Sahl al-Tustari and Ibn Arabi contributed to the emergence of a picture of the Prophet as the source of mystical inspi­ ration. But his veneration as,an eternal spiritual essence ever present in the life of Muslims became consolidated after the final collapse of the institution of the caliphate in the second half of the thirteenth century, thus justifying the assumption that it compensated for the disappearance of institutionalised deputising for him in the lead­ ership of the Muslim community. This form of veneration manifested itself, among other things, in the ecstatically festive celebration of his mawlid (birthday) on 12 Rabi‘ I. The mawlid festival had its origin in an official court ceremony held by the Fatimid imams until their downfall in 1171, by which they made much of their descent from the

The Sufi shaykhs and the Prophet’s eternal essence


Prophet. But since the thirteenth century the mawlid gradually be­ came a popular Sunnite festival. The large-scale participation in it of the common people and the Sufis in Cairo dates from this century, and thereafter it spread rapidly and became a popular and joyous festival celebrated in some Muslim lands throughout the month of Rabf I. Special devotional poems have been composed for the mawlid which are recited, and often sung to musical accompaniment, during this festival. In them the Prophet is celebrated in terms, such as the divine light, reminiscent of the language of the Sufis. (Fuchs 1991, pp. 895- 6) Al-Jili’s doctrine tallied with and justified this popular and ecstatic veneration of the Prophet. Al-Jili acknowledges Ibn ‘Arabi’s influence on the development of his mystical beliefs, but rejects those of his tenets that contradict cardinal elements of the Islamic faith. And he modifies the position Ibn Arab! assigned to the Prophet in his mystical cosmology in away that transforms him into an eternal mystical reality ever present in the Muslims’ life. Al-Jili claims divine sanction for the propagation of his doctrine. In the introduction of al-Insdn al-K&mil he says that, after starting to write, he became unsure of his ability to do justice to its important subject and stopped working on it. But, he adds, God commanded him to finish the book and assured him that it would bring great benefits to its readers. He insists that all he says in it is in agreement with the Qur’an and the Prophet’s sunna, and counsels readers who entertain doubts in this regard to ascribe them to their own shortcomings. (Al-Jili 1981, vol. 1, pp. 6- 8) He adds that he makes this admonition so that no one would be deprived by mistrust from “the knowledge that God causes to flow upon my tongue in this book”. (Al-Jili 1981, vol. 1, p. 10) Ibn Arabi uses the title al-Ins&n al-Kctmil (The Perfect Man) for Adam, but al-Jili insists on the basis of Ibn Arabi’s own premises that the Prophet Muhammad alone merits this designation. He confirms Ibn Arabi’s contention that the Prophet Muhammad was the em­ bodiment of divine attributes in their essence and Adam the em­ bodiment of their manifestations in the universe, and deduces from it that whereas God made Muhammad from his own essence, he made Adam a copy (nuskha) of the Muhammadan essence. He adds that, after his expulsion from Heaven, Adam became part of the created world and consequendy ceased to exist as an essence in himself. (Al-Jili


Sufi Challenge to Institutionalised Religious Authority

1981, vol. 2, p. 58) Muhammad is the Perfect Man because his essence, which al-Jili describes as al-haqiqa al-Muhammadiyya (the Muham­ madan reality), is the highest grade in the eternal hierarchy of exist­ ence and is not of the created world. Al-Jili confirms Ibn Arabi s notion of the unity of existence, but rejects his conception of the cosmos as a self-disclosure of God on the ground that it is incompatible with the belief that the universe was created by God. And he considers Ibn Arabis contention that existing things are manifestations of the divine attributes in the universe in the forms they had in divine knowledge to be untenable. For, he says, it implies that they existed in divine knowledge before they were brought into reality, an implication he considers incompatible with the belief that eternity (qidam) belongs only to God, and that he created the universe ex nihib (min al-'adam). (Al-Jili 1981, vol. 1, p. 82) Al-Jili insists that God alone is a pure and self-subsistent essence, and that he manifests himself to human understanding through his names and attributes, but in a manner that reveals neither his true essence nor his infinite perfection. (Al-Jili 1981, vol. 1, pp. 21-5) The unity of existence al-Jili ascribes not to Gods self-dis­ closure in the universe, but to the unity of the life (hay&t) with which he endows the objects of his creation. He divides life into two main categories: complete life {haydt tdmma) which is granted to the creatures of God that exist for themselves, and subsidiary life {hay&t idAfiyya) which is allotted to those that exist for others. God exists entirely for himself and his life is complete and eternal. He endowed with complete life only al-Ins&n al-K&mil (i.e. the Prophet Muham­ mad) and the higher angels, who also exist entirely for themselves. The ordinary ‘animal’ man {al-insdn al-hayaw&ni), the lower angels, and the jinn have the illusion that they have complete life, but they do not because they exist for God and not for themselves. Man is fol­ lowed in the descending order of life by the (non-human) animals, and then by the plants, which together exist entirely for the other creatures of God. Al-Jili insists that existence is life, and the unity of existence is the unity of life. Although God endows his creatures with different grades of it, life, being a divine attribute, is single and indi­ visible. When in the glorification of God the believers address him by his name al~Hayy (the Living One), al-Jili concludes, they testify to their belief that their life was a gift he bestowed on them. (Al-Jili 1981, vol. l,pp. 73-4)

The Sufi shaykhs and the Prophets eternal essence


Al-Jili dedicates to the systematic elaboration of the doctrine of the Perfect Man only one—the sixtieth—of the sixty-three chapters of his book, or seven of its 284 printed pages. He justifies the little space he dedicates to this topic by saying, “And know that this chapter is the foundation for all other chapters of this book. From beginning to end, it is nothing but an explication of this chapter.” (Al-Jili 1981, vol. 2, p. 71) He then says that he uses the designation al-Insdn al-KAmilonly for the Prophet Muhammad, because he alone embodies perfection in its totality. (Al-Jili 1981, vol. 2, p. 72) He adds that the Perfect Man is the qutb (axis) upon which existence in its entirety has revolved since it was brought into being, and will continue to revolve for ever. And whereas Ibn Arabi considered cosmic reality to be the manifestation of God to himself in which he sees himself as in a mirror, al-Jili says the Perfect Man is the mirror in which God sees himself. For he is the form the divine attributes have in existence. (Al-Jili 1981, vol. 2, p. 77) And being the axis upon which the universe revolves, the Prophet Muhammad is an eternal essence that appears to Muslims in different human guises suitable to different times. Al-Jili says that he met the Prophet in Zabid in 796 AH (1393—4 a d ) in the guise of his shaykh Ism&'il al-Jabarti, although on that occasion he did not know that the shaykh was the Prophet in disguise. In any case, he says, correct behaviour requires the Prophet to be addressed in the name of the human guise he takes. (Al-Jili 1981, vol. 2, p. 74) When, he adds, the believer is favoured by the appearance of al-haqtqa al-Muhammadiyya to him in a dream, he would recognise it as the Prophet, regardless of the human form it takes in the dream. But when alhaqtqa al-Muhammadiyya manifests itself by mystical revelation (i.e. not in a dream), the seer should give it the name of the form (i.e. the person) it takes, and treat the owner of this form with the deference due to the Prophet. For it is the habitual practice (sunna) of the Prophet, he says, to assume the form of the most perfect men in every age in order to exalt their dignity and enhance their authority. These men are outwardly the Prophets deputies (khulafil*) and he is their inner reality. (Al-Jili 1981, vol. 2, p. 75) Besides being the axis of existence, the Prophet, al-Jili says, is the holder of al-watitya al-kubrd (the supreme wal&ya), which he regards as the highest of seven grades of piety. The first and lowest grade, alJili says, is that of the common believers who fulfil the five basic


Sufi Challenge to Institutionalised Religious Authority

requirements of Islam—the profession of faith, performance of the ritual prayers, almsgiving, fasting during the month of Ramadan and the pilgrimage to Mecca—and seek no more. He characterises each higher grade by the norms of piety belonging to the preceding one and an additional, spiritually loftier one. The al-waUya al-kubrd, which is the seventh and highest grade of piety, al-Jili describes as the grade of qurbd (proximity, i.e. to God). Like Ibn ‘Arabi, al-Jili says that all the prophets are awliyd \ and he divides prophethood into two categories, that of tashrt‘(legislation) and that of common prophet­ hood. He says that the Prophet Muhammad was endowed with both kinds of prophethood, and Sufi shaykhs only with the common one. And since the prophethood of tashrt‘came to an end with the Prophet Muhammad’s death, the Sufi shaykhs, while being prophets and awliyd’who derived their spiritual authority from God, became his deputies (khulafh ) in upholding the divine commands revealed to him. (Al-Insdn II, pp. 130-3) Al-Jili considers Abfi Yazid al-Bist&mi, Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani and Ibn Arabi to be exemplars of the genuine Sufi shaykhs who, while being awliyd ’and prophets in their own right, deputise for the Prophet Muhammad in the religious guidance of the Muslim community. {Al-Insdn II, p. 132) Thus al-Jili confirms the Sufi belief that, as awliyd \ the Sufi shaykhs are the Prophet’s authoritative deputies in the religious guidance of the believers. And by saying that the Prophet appears in the guise of the most perfect men of every age, he introduces the notion that the awliyd' are human embodiments of the Prophet’s eternal essence in the Muslim community. He also confirms the long-held belief that the Prophet appears to favoured Muslims in dreams, and that those to whom he appears in a dream would not fail to recognise him, regard­ less of the human guise he takes in it. By the confirmation of this belief and the affirmation that the Prophet was the holder of the supreme waldya, he lent support to the assumption that the Prophet’s appearance to a Sufi shaykh in a dream was a confirmation of his waldya. Through this assumption practising Sufis justified the attri­ bution of waldya to the Sufi shaykh they recognised as their authori­ tative spiritual guide. The significance the Prophet’s appearance in dreams to Sufi shaykhs came to have since the fifteenth century for the confirmation of the belief in their waldya is illustrated by the career of Muhammad al-

The Sufi shaykhs’ baraka


Zawiwi (d. 1477), a Sufi from Bijiya (Bougie) in north-eastern Algeria. J.O. Katz’s account of al-Zaw£wi’s life shows that he was a careerist who decided to become a wali after making no headway as a religious scholar, and that he kept a record of the conversations he claimed to have had with the Prophet when he appeared to him in dreams in order to substantiate his claim to waldya. The dreams in which al-Zawiwt saw the Prophet began in Bijaya in November 1447, continued after he moved to Constantine and then to Cairo, and came to an end in April 1453 after his return to Bijiya. He claimed that the Prophet commanded him to record his conversations with him and publish them in book form, and that the Prophet even gave the book its tide: Tuhfat al-Ndzir wa Nuzhat al-Mandzir (The gift of the seer and the pleasure of the sights). In one of the dreams alZawiwi tells the Prophet: “O Messenger of God I want to be one of the awliyd”, and the Prophet answers him “You will be. You are already one of them.” Al-Zawawi also says that the Prophet assured him that he was as much of a wali as his teacher Sa'id al-Safrawi. (Katz 1996, pp. 36—7) Al-Zawawi seeks advice from the Prophet in reli­ gious and mundane personal matters, and requests him, among other things, to have the sultan of Egypt give him a generous financial gift. But the Prophet’s confirmation of his waldya was the overriding theme of his dreams. He records that in one of them ahe saw an enormous pyramid or tent and himself clothed in the Prophet’s robe. The mass of awliyd’had entered the tent and were likewise gathered up under the evidently ever-widening Prophet’s robe.” (Katz 1996, p. 153) Al-Zawawi apparently failed to recognise that, according to Sufi beliefs, the Prophet confirms a Sufi shaykhs waldya, but he does not confer it. Consequently, the Sufi shaykh’s claim that the Prophet appeared to him in visions and Prophet confirmed his waldya derives its credibility from an already existing belief in him as a wali. The Sufi shaykhs’ baraka Through the erosion of the distinction between the Sufi shaykh and the wali, waldya acquired a concrete and personified presence in the human society. Its repositories became Sufi shaykhs known to the believers either personally or from legendary accounts of their life. And their waldya manifested itself in the life of their communities as baraka. Sufi authors have been as wary of giving a concrete definition


Sufi Challenge to Institutionalised Religious Authority

of baraka as of waldya. But the references made in the hagiographies of the reputable awliyd ’to their baraka show that it was viewed as the dynamic element of the divine grace inherent in waldya by which it operates in human life. It sets the believers who entrust themselves to the spiritual guardianship of the awliyd’on the path to God, redeems their sins, and promotes their wellbeing in the world. The singular noun baraka does not occur in the Qur’in, but its plural barakdt is used in it in the sense of the blessings God bestows on the believers. And in verse XI:73 members of the Prophets family, the Ahl al-Bayt, are mentioned as the special recipients of divine blessings. This verse, which reads “The mercy of God and his blessings (barakdtuhu) be upon you, O Ahl al-Bayf, accounts for the Muslims’viewing of the Prophets descendants, to whom they refer as shurafd’ (pi. of shartf, a noble person), as privileged recipients of baraka and its chan­ nels to the believers. It also accounts for the belief that the Prophets descendants have a special right to the leadership of the Muslim com­ munity, which started to emerge in the early days of the caliphate and became the foundation of the Shfite doctrine of the imamate. After the Shfites succeeded in the foundation of the F&timid state in 910, the shartfwho ruled it was recognised as the imdm, and his baraka acquired the connotation of a special authority that entided him to the supreme religio-political leadership of the Muslim community. When the founder of the Fatimid state, al-Mahdi Billah (903-34), designated his son al-Qa’im (934-46) as his successor, this act was officially described as the investment of al-Q&’im with the imdms special baraka. Thereafter, the Fatimid imdms baraka became an insti­ tutionalised and hereditary religio-political authority. (Halm 1991, pp. 246-7) Sufis predicated baraka not on descent from the Prophet, but on the belief in divine grace as a manifestation of waldya in the world. Accordingly, Sufi shaykhs who claimed descent from the Pro­ phet, were held to be the repositories of a special baraka inherent in their waldya. And unlike the baraka of the Shfite imdm, the baraka of the Sufi shaykh-cum-walt is not an authority exercised in the gov­ ernance of the Muslims. It is an apolitical spiritual authority exercised in the guardianship of those who placed their trust in their waldya* which manifests itself in their life as kardmdt. As explained above (p. 54), kardmdt are miraculous deeds by which God confirms the waldya of a Sufi shaykh. They include such

The Sufi shaykhs’ baraka


marvellous acts as flying in the air, walking on water, traversing great distances in no time, and foretelling important future events. More often they are miraculous deeds by which Sufi shaykhs help the believers in overcoming the difficulties of human life and in the ful­ filment of worldly and pious aims. They include healing the sick, enabling barren women to bear children, causing rain to fall in times of drought, taming wild animals, ending invasions of locusts, and punishing oppressive rulers and evildoers. The belief that God performs kareLm&t on behalf of a Sufi shaykh is central to the belief in him as a wall. It ensures his veneration during his lifetime and, after his death, it leads to the transformation of his tomb into a shrine where his baraka would be invoked by the pious in the fulfilment of religious and legitimate worldly aims. Belief in the baraka of the Sufi shaykhs the pious venerated as awliyd ’ became since the thirteenth century an important component of the Muslims’ religious as well as social life. In many localities the cult of a local wait defines the identity of a rural community, and the annual ziyetra (lit. visit) to his shrine constitutes a communal festive occasion at which prayers are inter­ mixed with the playing of musical instruments, singing and dance. Ibn Taymiyyas attacks on the belief in the Sufi shaykhs’ baraka provide concrete information on the notions of piety and religious practices that had become associated with it in the thirteenth century, and contain the central doctrinal objections the religious scholars made to them over the centuries. Like other Hanbalites, Ibn Taymiyya approved of Sufism as a tradition of ascetic piety. And while considering Ibn Arabi s beliefs to amount to heresy, he praised the teachings of such leading Sufi shaykhs as al-Tustari, al-Junayd and Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani. But he was outraged by the form the cult of the Sufi shaykhs had taken in his time, and attacked the notions of piety and religious practices to which the belief in their baraka had given rise in two of his many works: Fiqh al-Tasawwuf(The religious law and Sufism) and Ziydrat al-Qub&r (Visits of the tombs). He con­ demns the practice of appealing to the Sufi shaykhs, especially the dead ones, for spiritual protection and help as an act of infidelity and says, the true believer appeals only to God for custody and help. (Ibn Taymiyya, Fiqh al-Tasawwuf, 1994, pp. 273—5) He considers the wide­ spread belief that the Sufi shaykhs intercede with God on behalf of those who ascribe themselves to them and ensures their admission to


Sufi Challenge to Institutionalised Religious Authority

Paradise to be a heinous bid'a because, he says, God alone decides on the believers’ entidement to admission to Paradise. (Fiqh alrTasawwuf, pp. 283-4) The awliyd ’, he says, are guides to God, but they are not infallible. Unlike the prophets, they should not be obeyed in all they command and their sayings in matters of the faith should be accepted only if they agreed with the Qur’in and the Prophet s sunna. (Fiqh alTasawwuf, pp. 115-19) Ibn Taymiyya does not reject the belief in kardmdt altogether, but he warns against recognising them as a proof of waldya. The proof of waldya, he says, is conformity with the tenets of the faith and the rules of the religious law, and not the flying in the air or walking on water. He adds, the ability to perform supernatural deeds is limited neither to the awliyd ' nor to the Muslims. Fur­ thermore, it belongs to the devil’s arsenal of abominable tricks. (Fiqh, p. 123) He inveighs in Ziydrat al-Qub&r against the practice of visiting the tombs of Sufi shaykhs with the aim of invoking their baraka for the achievement of worldly and religious aims, saying that the believer is commanded to worship only God and to appeal only to him for help. He adds that it is an act of infidelity (shirk) to entreat a prophet or a Sufi shaykh, dead or alive, for the forgiveness of sins, the healing of illness and the like. (Ibn Taymiyya, Ziydrat al-Qub&r 1414 AH, pp. 3-8) The believer, he says, may ask a living shaykh to pray for him, but instead of seeking help from a dead one, he should pray for him at his tomb and invoke divine mercy for him. (Ziydrat alQub&r, pp. 18-28) The belief in the Sufi shaykhs' baraka survived its denunciation by Ibn Taymiyya and later religious scholars. For it is a source of solace and hope which the norms of Islamic piety upheld in public life by the learned religious scholars do not provide. And the innumerable, often simple, shrines of Sufi shaykhs found in Muslim towns and in the countryside, anest to the important role the belief in their baraka played in the alleviation of the daily concerns of the poor and down­ trodden in Muslim societies. This belief took a significant new direction at about the time when Ibn Taymiyya directed his diatribes against it in the laner pan of the thirteenth century, with the appear­ ance of the Sufi tariqas. For the eponymous founders of the tariqas were held to be the repositories of a transcendent grade of waldya, and the spiritual guardianship inherent in their baraka was held to be a universal and abiding one embodied in their tariqas.

4. The Special Sufi Paths (Tariqas) Sufis originally spoke of their tradition of piety as alrtariq (the path), i.e. to God. However, with the growing identification of the Sufi tra­ dition with distinctive tenets and mystical practices, they started to speak of it as al-tariqa (the method), thus presenting it as a method by which the believers are set on the spiritual path to God. The pref­ erence Sufis came to have for the term tariqa is documented since the eleventh century by al-Qushayri s Risdla and al-Hujwlris KashfalMahj&b. Al-Qushayri opens the Risdla by saying that he was impelled to write it by fear that this tariqa might perish after the death of the shaykhs whose guidance embodied its distinctive norms of piety (AlQushayri, n.d., p. 4). In another passage he commends steadfastness in this tariqa. (Al-Qushayri n.d., p. 317) Al-Hujwiri speaks of the rules which the shaykhs of this tariqa set for their disciples (Al-Hujwiri 1980, p. 245), and describes Abd Abd al-Rahmin al-Sulami as the chronicler of this tariqa and the recorder of its shaykhs’sayings. (AlHujwfri 1980, p. 289) In his Sufi lexicographic work Kitdb al- Ta'rifilt (Book of Definitions), which must have been written in the latter part of the fourteenth century, Ali b. Muhammad al-Jurj&ni (d. 1413) gives tariqa the connotation of the Sufi path to God, and says that altariq consists of the divine commands Muslims are required to observe. (Al-Jurjini 1306 a h , p. 61) Towards the end of the thirteenth century, the term tariqa acquired for the Sufis a significant new connotation. While continuing to use it when referring to the totality of the Sufi tradition, they came to use it also in the sense of a special path to God validated by the waldya of a prominent Sufi shaykh. And because the Sufi shaykh’s baraka was viewed as the dynamic element of the divine grace inherent in his waldya, the beliefgradually emerged that it was the spiritual essence of his ytriqa. It could thus be transmitted to the believers in his waldya through initiation into his tariqa. But since tariqa also retained its 79


The Special Sufi Paths fjarlqas)

original connotation as the totality of the Sufi tradition of piety, its use for a Sufi shaykh’s special path to God implied that it was the quin­ tessence of the Sufi tradition. Hence the ascription to the acknow­ ledged tariqa founders of the highest grade of waldya. The ground was prepared for the appearance of this novel notion of tariqa by the belief in the existence of different grades of waldya. As indicated above (pp. 54-5), by the middle of the eleventh century, when al-Hujwiri wrote Kashf al-Mahj&b, the Sufis had come to believe in the existence of a hierarchy of the awliyd ’ having seven ranks. The holder of the highest rank in it is the qutb who, being the main channel of divine grace to mankind, is also called al-ghawth (the saviour). Ibn Taymiyyas denunciation of the belief in this hierarchy points to some of the components it came to have in the thirteenth century. One of them was the affirmation that the elevation of a wait to the rank of qutb is announced by the sending of his name from Heaven to the Ka‘ba in Mecca on a green sheet of paper. Another element, which Ibn Taymiyya condemned as apostasy (kufi), was the belief that the qutb, being al-ghawth, was the saviour on whom all creatures depended for their wellbeing and success, and that he was the source of the baraka channelled to mankind by the holders of the lower grades of waldya. (Ibn Taymiyya, 1414 AH, pp. 39—44) The belief in the existence of a hierarchy of the awliyd ’ prepared the ground for the appearance of the new notion of tariqa, but it does not explain it. For, although the eponymous founders of the special tariqas were invariably acclaimed as qutbs, the spiritual authority ascribed to them differed from that of die qutb in this hierarchy. In it the spiritual authority of the qutb is exercised by the holder of this rank only during his lifetime and passes after his death to a new qutb. By contrast, as a tariqa founder, the qutb exercises an abiding spiritual authority that does not cease with his death, and his baraka is embodied not only in his person, but also in his tariqa. The Appearance o f the Sufi tariqas Two relatively coherent theses have been put forth by J.S. Trimingham and Eric Geoffroy regarding the process that led to the ap­ pearance of the special Sufi tariqas. Trimingham considered the emergence of Sufi schools identified with the teachings of prominent Sufi shaykhs as the important first stage in this process. He says: “From

The Appearance o fthe Sufi {ariqas


the banning of the thirteenth century certain centres (if we think of the centre as being a man, not a place) became the sees of tariqas, mystical schools or teaching centres. This happened when a centre or circle became focused on one director in a new way and turned into a school designed to perpetuate his name, type of teaching, mystical exercises, and rule of life.” (Trimingham 1971, p. 10) The Sufi school, Trimingham says, became consolidated through succession to its founder of “men who combined practical abilities along with spiritual qualities and insight, who made collections of his sayings and episodes of his life, and taught his pupils in his name” (Trimingham 1971, p. 31). Trimingham contends that a significant turning point in this first stage of development was the appearance of what he calls tariqalines. The second stage was that of the formation in the fifteenth century of t&’ifas each identified with a tariqa. He translates t&’ifa as association and says, “While tariqa is the method, tA’ifa is the organi­ sation.” (Trimingham 1971, p. 67) Geoffroy considers the first stage in the process that led to the appearance of the special tariqas to have been the wearing of a Sufi shaykh's distinctive khirqa (patched gar­ ment) by his disciples as a symbol of identification with his spiritual authority. The khirqa, he says, was either a khirqat al-ir&da (aspi­ ration), whose wearer hoped to inherit the spiritual authority of the shaykh from whom he received tarbiya, or a khirqat al-tabarruk which merely made its wearer the recipient of the shaykh’s baraka. According to Geoffroy, the wearing of the khirqa signalled the emergence of the Sufi silsilas (chains) of spiritual authority from which the tariqas developed. The second stage, Geoffroy says, consisted of the appear­ ance between the end of the thirteenth and the beginning of the fif­ teenth century of centres of initiation {foyers initiatiques) in the traditions of the eponyms of these Sufi lines. Geoffroy follows in some detail the appearance of these centres in different Muslim lands with the aim, he says, of explaining the development of the Sufi brother­ hoods in time and space. (Geoffroy 1996, pp. 44-67) Trimingham’s assumption that the first tariqas developed out of Sufi schools is patendy wrong. As will be explained below (pp. 82-3), the founders of the important Sufi schools of the twelfth and thir­ teenth centuries did not become recognised by the Sufis as tariqa founders. But he and Geoffroy point to a factor which had great sig­ nificance for the appearance of the first special tariqas, namely the


The Special Sufi Paths (Tariqas)

consolidation of their eponymous founders’ legends and the elabo­ ration of their teachings by their disciples. And both these distin­ guished scholars recognise that the decisive stage in the process that led to the first tariqas appearance occurred in the thirteenth century, with Trimingham placing it at the beginning and Geoffrey at the end of that century. But neither of them seems to have recognised the con­ nection between it and the decline of the caliphs’ institutionalised religious authority and its eventual collapse in the second half of the thirteenth century, although this connection is suggested by the leg­ endary spiritual genealogies with which the first tariqas were pro­ vided. Each of these tariqas was provided with a silsilat al-tariqa, a spiritual genealogy consisting of the names of reputable awliyd 'pur­ ported to have transmined it to its founder from the Prophet via one of his close Companions. The tariqa founders were thus implicitly declared through these spiritual genealogies to be the Prophets authoritative deputies in the religious guidance of the community, whose religious guidance did not depend on the institution of the caliphate for its validity. The eponymous founders of the first tariqas were inspiring Sufi shaykhs, but none of them seems to have conceived of himself as a tariqa founder endowed with an abiding spiritual authority. They were invariably recognised as such after their death. This fact raises the question of why some of the prominent Sufi shaykhs were recog­ nised posthumously as tariqa founders, while others were not. It does not seem that the decisive factor in this posthumous selection was a Sufi shaykhs renown as a Sufi thinker or the founder of a Sufi school. Abd Ishaq ‘Umar al-Suhrawardi (see above, p. 63) was a great Sufi thinker who exercised influence over all kinds of Sufis, and after his death the leadership of his ribdt in Baghdad was assumed by his son and grandson in succession. Nevertheless, the Suhrawardiyya did not become recognised as a tariqa, and remained what Trimingham called “a family td’iftT. (Trimingham 1971, p. 36) By contrast, ‘Abd al-Q&dir al-Jilani, who also lived in Baghdad and during his lifetime had neither the fame nor the political influence al-Suhrawardi achieved, became the eponym of one of the most influential tariqas. Also the famous Ibn ‘Arabi, whose ideas continued to inspire Sufis over the centuries, including Sufi shaykhs belonging to the established tariqas, did not become recognised as the eponymous founder of a distinct

The Appearance ofthe Sufi tariqas


tariqa. As will be explained further below (p. 100-101), the Sufi school of the Maghrib became consolidated in the twelfth century under the influence ofAbd Madyan Shuayb (d. 1198), but it was Abd al-Hasan al-Sh£dhili (d. 1256) who became recognised as the founder of the tariqa with which this school became identified in later cen­ turies. Ydsuf al-Hamadini (d. 1140) was the acknowledged founder of an important Central Asian Sufi school, but it was after Bahi’ alDin Naqshband (d. 1389) that the most important tariqa of this region came to be called (see below, pp. 112—14). The detailed information that has come to light through the research of the past fifty years shows that the first tartqas’eponymous founders were Sufi shaykhs who achieved recognition during their lifetime not as Sufi thinkers, but as teachers and preachers. Two common features of these Sufi shaykhs’ life histories point to the factors which account for their posthumous acclamation as tariqa founders. The first was that they acted as spiritual guides of their local communities either in defiance of the caliphs’ institutionalised re­ ligious authority or outside its scope. As will be explained further be­ low, the eponymous founders of two of the more important of the first tariqas, the Qidiriyya and Shidhiliyya, achieved fame under caliphial rule, but their legends identified them with defiance of the institutionalised religious authority exercised in the name of the Abb&sid and Almohad caliphs respectively. The founders of the two other important first tariqas, the Naqshbandiyya and Khalwatiyya, achieved renown and influence in regions to which the caliphs’ insti­ tutionalised religious authority did not extend. Thus it would appear that one of the two essential requirements of the posthumous recog­ nition of a Sufi shaykh as a tariqa founder was that his spiritual autho­ rity was viewed as a credible alternative to the institutionalised religious authority exercised in the caliphs’ name. The second factor seems to have been the intellectual ability and personal ambitions of the disciples of the first tariqas’eponymous founders. The significance of this factor was recognised by Ibn At&’ Allih, who played the decisive role in the transformation of Abd alHasan al-Shadhili s mystical tradition into what became known as the Shidhiliyya tariqa. He says in Latd ’i f al-Minan (The choice of bene­ factions) that it is the heir to the wali who establishes his spiritual authority after his death by raising a minaret for his spiritual light.


The Special Sufi Paths (Tariqas)

That is why, he adds, more people join the wait’s tariqa after his death than during his lifetime. (Ibn A$a Allih 1974, p. 167) Among the many prominent Sufi shaykhs who flourished in the twelfth and thir­ teenth centuries, those who became recognised as tariqa founders had able disciples whose fame became intertwined with that of their masters. The disciples propagated traditions which pointed to the acknowledgement of their masters’ transcendent waldya by other rep­ utable awliyd \ and contained legendary accounts of their kar&m&t. They underpinned the belief in their masters as founders of special tariqas by giving a definite form to their mystical traditions through the collation of their maxims of Sufi piety and, when available, also their writings. They also established the exact wording of the super­ erogatory prayers ascribed to their masters and set rules for the per­ formance of the mystical practices they favoured. By consolidating the belief in their masters’ abiding spiritual authority, the disciples of these Sufi shaykhs enhanced their own authority as the acknowledged deputies who represented it in the life of the Muslim community. Thus the appearance of the first tariqas was a process of legend— building, in which the claims made regarding one of their eponymous founders’ spiritual authority by his disciples influenced the claims made regarding the spiritual authority of the others. The claims made towards the end of the twelfth century with regard to Abd al-Qadir alJilini’s transcendent authority by his son Abd al-Razzaq provided a foundation for his legend as a tariqa founder. The available evidence suggests that Abd al-Qidir al-Jilini’s legend, which became consol­ idated towards the end of the thirteenth century, served as a model for the legends of the other important tariqas’ eponymous founders. Hence the great similarity in the kind of spiritual authority ascribed to them. In spite of this similarity, the first tariqas differed notably in the sig­ nificance they attached to the reconciliation of Sufi spiritual guidance with the norms of Islamic piety validated by the Prophet’s sunna. In this regard the first tariqas can be divided into three main groups. The first consisted of the reputable tariqas that developed in the Islamic heardand, i.e. the lands in which religious authority was exercised before the collapse of the caliphate by the holders of religious offices in the caliphial system of government. The two important tariqas that appeared in these lands, the Qidiriyya and Shidhiliyya, derived their

The Appearance ofthe Sufi {ariqas


appeal to the Muslims as much from the belief in the redemptive efficacy of their founders’ baraka as from their emphasis on strict observance of the norms of the religious law. Their distinctive Sufi ideals and mystical practices thus became spiritual complements to the norms of Islamic piety upheld in public life by the religious scholars. The second group consisted of the Naqshbandiyya and Khalwatiyya tariqas that appeared in Central Asian lands in which Sufi shaykhs had been the main agents of the expansion of Islam. At the time of the appearance of these tariqas, these lands had no official Islamic religious establishments, and the norms of the religious law had not become integral elements of their social life. Their shaykhs thus became leading representatives of Islam in their countries, and employed their influence to have their Muslim rulers observe Islamic religious norms in the conduct of public affairs. In the spiritual guidance of these tariqas*shaykhs, Sufi notions of the mystical expe­ rience of God were blended with emphasis on the Prophet’s sunrut as the ultimate source of religious guidance. The third group consisted of tariqas whose eponymous founders were Sufi shaykhs who relied in the establishment of their fame on the miraculous and ecstatic elements of the Sufi tradition. These shaykhs affirmed their com­ mitment to Islamic religious norms, but they assumed no responsi­ bility for promoting their observance in Muslim societies. Their tariqas, which are represented in what follows by the Rifa'iyya and the Mawlawiyya, developed exotic, sometimes artistically captivating religious practices, which especially appealed to the religious sen­ timents of the rural communities and the uneducated urban lower classes in Muslim societies. The significance attached in the different tariqas to the reconcil­ iation of Sufi spiritual guidance with the norms of Islamic piety val­ idated by the Prophet s sunna was reflected in the mystical practices employed in their dhikr ceremonies. The eponymous founders of all the first tariqas approved of the dhikr ceremony, but none of them set a fixed form for its performance. However, the preference they were known to have had for certain mystical practices influenced the forms given in their tariqas to this ceremony. Only the Naqshbandiyya became identified with the khafi (hidden, i.e. silent) repetition of the divine name Alldh in it. The other tariqas opted for its vocal into­ nation, but differed greatly with regard to the bodily movements and


The Special Sufi Paths (Tariqas)

methods of breathing they employed in the enhancement of spiritual ecstasy. The inclusion of samd\ a term used for the playing of musical instruments and singing in the dhikr ceremony, had been the object of much religious controversy long before the appearance of the first tariqas. It became the dominant feature of the dhikr ceremony only in the ecstatic tariqas. And since the founder of the Qidiriyya tariqa did not categorically prohibit it, many of its branches integrated the playing of musical instruments in their dhikr ceremonies. The Tariqas o f the Islamic heartland By the ‘Islamic heardand’ is meant here the lands of the Middle East and the Mahgrib, the majority of whose population had become Muslim before the Abbasids came to power in 750, and in which religious authority was exercised thereafter either in the name of the ‘Abbasid caliphs or by their rivals in the supreme religious leadership of the Muslim community. These were the lands in which the important centres of Islamic religious learning appeared, religious life was regulated by the holders of the important religious offices, and the religious law was administered by q&dis appointed by the caliphs or their deputies. Two of the more important of the first tariqas, the Qidiriyya and the Shadhiliyya, appeared in these lands. Their epony­ mous founders, Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani and Abd al-Hasan al-Shadhili respectively, were Sufi shaykhs who achieved renown during their lifetime as inspiring preachers and teachers. But their legends pre­ sented them also as uncompromising spiritual guides who earned the caliphs’ hostility by their defiance of the institutionalised religious authority exercised in their name. Their reputation as tariqa founders and possessors of a spiritual authority which, unlike that of the caliphs, was apolitical and abiding became consolidated in the im­ mediate aftermath of the collapse of the caliphate. The Q&diriyya In spite of the great trust the pious in many countries came to place since the late thirteenth century in the spiritual guardianship o f‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani or al-Jili (d. 1166), the eponymous founder of the Qidiriyya tariqa, the available evidence suggests that he did not view himself as a tariqa founder. He achieved prominence in Baghdad as a

The Q&diriyya


learned Hanbalite religious scholar and a Sufi shaykh who kept his Sufi beliefs in tune with the norms of Islamic orthodoxy. He was born in Nayf in the Persian district of Jilin to the south of the Caspian sea in c. 1077. His fathers name Jangidost leaves no doubt that he was of Persian origin. ‘Abd al-Q4dir came to Baghdad at the age of eighteen and studied there with reputable scholars of different branches of Islamic religious learning. His main teacher in the religious law was the Hanbalite scholar AbA Sa‘id b. Ali al-Muharrami (d. 1119), the founder and shaykh of a madrasa in Baghdad. The institution of the madrasa, which owed its development to the patronage of the SaljAq dynasty that exercised power in Baghdad in the caliphs’ name until 1194, was a college that provided accommodation to its shaykh and students, and in which instruction in the religious law was especially emphasised. ‘Abd al-Qidir received instruction in Sufi beliefs from a number of teachers, but the master to whom he referred as his shaykh was AbA al-Khayr Hammid al-Dabbis (d. 1131). This ascetic Sufi master left nothing in writing, but he was known by his strict method of tarbiya and his great dedication to the spiritual guidance of his dis­ ciples. (Braune 1933, pp. 2-7) ‘Abd al-Qidir first made a name for himself in Baghdad as a public preacher. His religious and social standing changed radically in 1133 with his appointment as shaykh of the madrasa founded by his teacher al-Muharrammi. Because al-Muharrammi had no heirs, his madrasa was managed after his death in 1119 by the department of tarikdt (legacies), which administered the property of deceased persons hav­ ing no known successors. A Hanbalite member of this department, ‘Abd al-Wihid b. Sharif (d. 1133), not wanting to have this Hanbalite madrasa go into disuse, is said to have been instrumental in the appointment of Abd al-Qidir as its shaykh. Thus ‘Abd al-Qadir, who had come to Baghdad as a poor student, became through appoint­ ment as head of this madrasa one of its prominent religious person­ alities. In it he taught his students and held preaching sessions that are said to have been attended by large numbers. He also had a house in the madrasa, and was assured of a regular income from the revenue of its awqdf, that enabled him to live in relative comfort with his large family. (Chabbi 1973, pp. 92-5) And because he remained shaykh of this madrasa until his death in 1166 and was buried in it, and his son ‘Abd al-Wahhib (d. 1197) succeeded him to the post of its shaykh, it


The Special Sufi Paths (Tariqas)

became defacto a property of his family. In later years its standing as an institution of religious learning was overshadowed by its fame as the shrine of the Qidiriyya tariqas founder. ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilinfs metamorphosis from a reputable Sufi shaykh and religious scholar to the eponymous founder of a Sufi tariqa occurred after his death. Chabbi notes that an important component of Abd al-Qidir s legend was that he was an ‘opposantpolitique of the caliphs, but says that the available evidence does not justify the assumption that he was one. (Chabbi 1973, pp. 96-9) Indeed, Abd al-Qidir would not have been appointed shaykh of one of Baghdad’s important madrasas if he had been viewed at the caliphs court as a political opponent. But it seems that the ascription to him in his legend of hostility to caliphial authority did not arise from what he said or did, but predominandy from the contrast between his attitude to the caliphate and that of AbA Ishiq ‘Umar al-Suhrawardi, who attained prominence in Baghdad in the years after his death in 1166. Like al-Suhrawardi, Abd al-Qidir was in his time the leading Sufi shaykh of Baghdad. Having died some fifteen years before the caliph al-Nisir came to power in 1180, he was spared entanglement in his futile attempt to revive the religious authority of the caliphate. AlSuhrawardi, on the other hand, threw in his lot with the institution of the caliphate by supporting this attempt. In so doing, he compro­ mised his standing as the authoritative representative of the Sufi tra­ dition of Baghdad, which developed in the shadow of the Abbisid caliphate since the ninth century without becoming identified with it. As will be explained in what follows, Abd al-Qidir s son Abd alRazziq (d. 603 a h / 1206-7), who was al-Suhrawardis contemporary, laid the foundation for the legend that celebrated him as the founder of a tariqa that epitomised the independence of this Sufi tradition from caliphial authority. The madrasa of Abd al-Qidir al-Jilini survived the destruction wrought by the Mongols when they conquered Baghdad in 1258. It seems to have retained its influence thereafter as a Sunnite religious institution, although Baghdad was controlled in the period between the Mongol invasion and its conquest by the Ottoman Turks in 1534 either by non-Muslims or Shfites. For the Jilinis emerged in this period as the leading religious family of Baghdad, with their claim to descent from the Prophet firmly established, and their social standing

The Qddiriyya


bolstered by the large revenue they derived from the madrasas extended awqdfand the donations of the Qidiriyya tariqas followers. The Shfite Safawids, who ruled Iraq from 1508 to 1534, appointed one of them in 1531 as naqtb (chief) of the ashrdfof Baghdad, and since this time the post became reserved to them. And shortly after the Ottoman Turks occupied Baghdad, sultan Sulaymin had a dome built on the tomb of both Abfi-Hanifa and of Abd al-Qidir and houses for the poor attached to both of them. (Luizard 1999, p. 292) Whereas with the monumental reconstruction of Abd Hanifas tomb sultan Sulaymin honoured the founder of the Ottoman empires official school of religious law, with the reconstruction of Abd alQidir s tomb he signalled the recognition of his family and the Qidi­ riyya tariqa as his main Sunnite allies in Iraq in the confrontation with the Safawid Shfites. To Abd al-Qidir is attributed the authorship of three books, which consist mainly of sermons he apparently delivered in his madrasa. One of them, the Futtih al-Ghayb (Revelations from the invisible world), consists of seventy-eight of Abd al-Qidir s maqdldt (pi. of maqdla—essay, article) compiled by his son Abd al-Razziq. In spite of the reference to them as maqdldt, these seventy-eight pieces of writing are not essays, but short statements on Islamic doctrines and Sufi beliefs apparendy made by Abd al-Qidir verbally and written down by his son. For each of them begins with the phrase qdla radiyaAUdh ‘anh (he said, may God be pleased with him). In the introduction of this book, Abd al-Razziq says that he decided to compile and publish these maqdldt for the benefit of the seekers of truth, but he included in the book in which he published them a hagiography of his father, which became the foundation of his legend as a tariqa founder. Another book, whose authorship is attributed to Abd al-Qidir, is alFath al-Rabbdni tua al-Fayd al-Rafymdni (Revelation from the Lord and the outflow of his mercy), which consists of sermons he delivered in sixty-two preaching majdlis (pi. of majlis, session) held in his madrasa between Shawwil 545 and Rajab 546 / January-November 1151. The published text seems to be a record of what Abd al-Qadir said in these sessions made by one of his disciples. For each sermon begins with qdla (he said) followed in the first sermon by the name of Abd al-Qidir and in the other sermons by the standard eulogy radiya AUdh 'anh. In these preaching sessions Abd al-Qidir addresses his


The Special Sufi Paths (Tartqas)

audience in the second person plural, calls them to trust in God and compliance with his commands, and interpolates his exhortations with citations from the Qur’in and hadith. The third book attributed to ‘Abd al-Qidir is al-Ghunya li Tdlibi Tariq al-Haqq (That which is indispensable for the seekers of God’s path), which is the largest and most comprehensive of the three books. It too was the product of compilation, apparently made after his death. It consists of various pieces of Abd al-Qidir’s writings, sup­ plemented by a record of some of his important sermons, and is divided into five parts, each dealing with a branch of Islamic learning. Part one, which carries the tide fiqh (jurisprudence), examines the requirements of conversion to Islam and the norms to be observed in married life, the treatment of slaves, and in body care and dress. Part two, which is entided 'aq&’id (tenets of the faith), consists of two treatises. In the first Abd al-Qidir explains the ninety-nine names of God on the basis of relevant passages of Qur’in, and in the second he discusses the teachings of ten Islamic theological schools. The school to which Abd al-Qidir accords his unqualified approval is the one he calls ahl al-sunna wa ’l-jam&'a (people of the [Prophet’s] sunna and the community [of the scholars]), thus affirming his identification with the tenets of the faith validated by the Prophet’s sunna and the consensus of the religious scholars. The largest part of the book, about two-fifths of its 650 printed pages, is Part three, which has the title maj&lis waz (preaching sessions). These sermons consist of learned discourses in which Abd al-Qidir examines the moral and mystical connotations of various passages of the Qur’in. Part four is given the title a'mdl (works) and deals with supererogatory acts of piety. Signifi­ cantly, Part five, which has the tide tasawwuf, is the shortest one. Thus it would appear that the greater part of the three books attributed to Abd al-Qidir consists of records of what he said extemporaneously in his teaching and preaching sessions. It cannot be said with any cer­ tainty that his son Abd al-Razziq, besides compiling the maq&Ult published in the Fut&h al-Ghaybt also recorded the sermons published in the other two books, but he undoubtedly played the decisive role in the consolidation of his father’s tradition of piety and the estab­ lishment of his reputation as founder of a tariqa and the holder of the highest grade of waldya. A recurring theme of Abd al-Qidir’s preaching was the struggle against the evil desires of the inner self, which he depicts in the sixty-

The QdMriyya


seventh maqdla in Futkh al-Ghayb (p. 155) as al-jihdd al-akbar (the greater holy war). In the Ghunya he says that the aim of this inner struggle is tawba (repentance), and that it is attained in two stages. In the first stage the penitent repudiates the evil deeds prohibited by the religious law, and in die second he overcomes the hidden dispositions of the inner self, such as greed, vanity, fear and the desire to dominate, which direct the believers attention away from God. The state of bliss to which the true penitent should aspire is that of overcoming all desires other than being taken into the custody of God. (Ghunya, vol. 1, pp. 245 and 275) ‘Abd al-Qldir endorses the belief in the awliyd’as chosen ones of God whom he entrusts with the spiritual guidance of the believers, but he also insists that the Prophet’s sunna is the ultimate source of authoritative religious guidance. In the fortysixth sermon in al-Fatfj al-Rabbdni (p. 148) he says that it is the Prophet who brings the awliyd* into the proximity of God, which alone enddes them to the authority they exercise over other creatures. In one of the sermons quoted in the Ghunya, Abd al-Q&dir speaks of six different impulses of the inner self, the loftiest being that o fyaqin (certitude in the faith) which he describes as the essence of the faith. Yaqin, he adds, is a divine gift reserved to the holders of the highest grades of waldya. (Ghunya, vol. 1, pp. 204-5) He defines waldya in the context of distinguishing between it and prophethood in the part of the Ghunya entided tasawwuf. Prophethood, he says, consists of a divine revelation (wahiy) made in God’s own speech, whereas waldya is a divine inspiration (ilhdm) by which God guides the utterances of those he takes unto his custody. (Ghunya, vol. 2, p. 275) Abd al-Q&dir does not consider the Sufi shaykh to be necessarily a divinely inspired guide. He says that the authority the Sufi shaykh exercises over his disciples is derived from his responsibility for their tarbiya, and it ends when they become able to assume the tarbiya of others themselves. He requires the Sufi shaykh to keep all he knows about his disciples to himself, and not to seek any personal advantage from taking charge of their tarbiya. But, he says, not all Sufi shaykhs deserve the trust their disciples place in them, for they sometimes illtreat them and speak of their faults before others. Such shaykhs, he adds, need to undergo tarbiya at the hands of more trustworthy shaykhs. (Ghunya, vol. 2, pp. 281-6) Nevertheless, he urges Sufi dis­ ciples to place unqualified trust in their shaykhs, and to keep no secrets


The Special Sufi Paths (Tariqas)

from them. He adds that out of respea for his shaykh, the disciple should comply with all his instructions, even those that may appear religiously reprehensible to him. He illustrates this injunction by de­ scribing how the disciple should conduct himself if his shaykh practises samd'. He says that a true Sufi disciple should neither practise nor willingly watch the performance of samd*. However, if his shaykh practised it in his presence, and required him to participate in it, he should comply out of respect for him. (Ghunya, vol. 2, p. 302) ‘Abd al-Qidir s discussion of the shortcomings of Sufi shaykhs, many of whom he considered unworthy of the trust their disciples placed in them, suggests that he considered himself superior to most of them. But there is no indication in any of his three books that he considered himself a wait, still less the holder of the highest rank among xht awliyd'. This claim is made on his behalf by his son Abd alRazziq in the supplement he appended to his fathers maqdldt which he published in Fut&h al-Ghayb. This supplement consists, besides Abd al-Razziq s hagiography of his father, of a record of the testa­ mentary counsels {wasaya) he gave his sons when on his deathbed, and seventeen poems attributed to him. Abd al-Razziq introduces each of these poems with a remark either that his father was its author or that it was ascribed (mansUb) to him. The poems whose authorship by Abd al-Qidir is explicidy affirmed dwell on common themes of Sufi piety. In the first and longest of them, called al-ayniyya because all of its 211 verses end with the letter 'ayn, the first two verses speak of the author s heart being lit by the sun of divine love. The thirty-ninth verse proclaims that his love of God is not equalled by that of anyone else, and the forty-sixth says that he sees divine beauty in all beautiful things. But from the 137th verse until the end the author affirms the doctrine of tawhid and the belief in the attributes of God. (FutUh alGhayb, pp. 199-249) By contrast, the poems prefaced by the remark that they were ascribed to Abd al-Qidir dwell on his ascendancy over all other awliyd’. These poems are so consistent in the way they com­ plement the extravagant claims Abd al-Razziq makes in the hagi­ ography regarding his father s spiritual rank that his (Abd al-Razziq s) authorship of them can be safely assumed. In the introduction of Futdh al-Ghayb Abd al-Razziq gives his fathers name as Abd al-Qidir al-Hasani al-Husayni, and justifies this designation in the hagiography by saying that his father was descended

The Qddiriyya


on his fathers side from Hasan, the older son of the Prophets daughter Fitima, and on his mother s side from her younger son Husayn. For each of these assertions he provides a corresponding genealogy. ‘Abd al-Razziq then goes on to say that his father was also related, through one of his paternal or maternal grandparents, to all four of the venerated al-khulafi’al-r&shid&n. According to Abd alRazziq, the first holder of the post of qutb was none other than the Prophet Muhammad himself. This rank passed after the Prophets death to his cousin, the fourth caliph Ali, and was inherited from him in succession by qufbs who each invested his trusted disciple with it. Abd al-Qidir was invested with the rank of qutb by AbA Sa'id b. Ali al-Makhzdmi, who held it before him in this continuous chain of suc­ cession. (Futdh al-Ghayb, pp. 187-92) The second poem in the sup­ plement to the Futdh al-Ghayb, which is attributed to Abd al-Qidir without his authorship of it being affirmed, says that God invested him with the rank of qutb and allocated to him a position in his proximity next only to that of his grandfather; the grandfather referred to here is the Prophet. In this poem Abd al-Qidir is also made to assert that he was the qutb al-aqt&b (axis of the axes), i.e. the chiefof all qutbsy and that they all derived their spiritual authority from him. This poem concludes with the affirmation that Abd al-Qidir owed this unmatched spiritual rank to his being the only one among the men of God (rijMal-AU&h), i.e. the awliyd who was descended from the Prophet on both his fathers and his mothers side. {Futdh alGhayb, pp. 248-51) Another poem which is attributed to Abd alQidir without his authorship of it being affirmed is called alGhawthiyya—a name derived from al-ghawth (the saviour) which, as explained above (p. 55), indicates that the qutb was the main channel of divine grace to mankind. Abd al-Razziq wrote a preface to this poem in which he describes his father as al-ghawth and says that whoever recites this poem eleven times every day would have great favour with God. He whose belief in Abd al-Qidir as al-ghawth prompts him to carry this poem on his person, or recite it three times, or even to have it recited to him, would be rewarded by seeing Abd alQidir in his dreams and receiving the favours of princes and kings. In this poem Abd al-Qidir is made to say that all the other qutbs occupied an elevated spiritual rank, but none of them attained his own. For God bestowed on him the robes of glory and the crown of


The Special Sufi Paths (Tariqas)

perfection, and brought him closer to his proximity than any other wait. ‘Abd al*Qidir is also made to say in this poem “These my feet are on the necks of all the [other] men of God”, an impudendy graphic affirmation of his superiority to all other awliyd Abd al-Qidir is also made to affirm that God revealed to him an eternal secret (sirr qadtm) which enables him to raise the dead, crush mountains, dry the seas, and know all future events. The poem ends by assuring those who place their trust in Abd al-Qidir s spiritual guardianship that they need have no fear of divine punishment, for God bestowed on him a spiritual authority second only to that of his grandfather the Prophet. {FutHh al-Ghayb, pp. 272-7) In his son’s hagiography and the poems he ascribes to him, the Persian Abd al-Qidir becomes one of the noblest of the Arabs: a descendant from the Prophet on his fathers and his mother’s side, and a relative of all four of al-khulafb ’al-rdshid&n, the Prophet’s most ven­ erated Companions. He is also acclaimed as the qutb al-aq$b and as such the holder of a spiritual authority superior to that of all the awliyd\ including those who will appear after his time. Although as the qutb al-aqtdb he derived his transcendent spiritual authority from God, he was—as the founder of a tariqa derived from the Prophet— his authoritative deputy in the Muslim community’s religious guidance. And by making al-Junayd, the acknowledged founder of the Sufi school of Baghdad, one of the awliyd’from whom his father inherited the rank of qutb, Abd al-Razziq squarely identifies him with this school. Abd al-Razziq acted out of filial piety, but he undoubt­ edly sought also to bolster his family’s standing in Baghdad. He wrote at the time when al-Suhrawardi had become the leading Sufi shaykh o f Baghdad and the caliph’s agent in the revival of caliphial authority. It would thus seem that the extravagant claims he made regarding his father’s noble descent and elevated spiritual rank were intended, among other things, to affirm his superiority to al-Suhrawardi as Sufi shaykh. The legend of Abd al-Qidir, for which his son Abd al-Razziq laid the foundation, was given the definite form which spread widely in Muslim lands by Nfir al-Din Alt al-ShaftanAfi in Bahjat al-asrdrfi bad mandqib Abd al-Qddir (The joy of the secrets in ‘Abd al-Qidir s meritorious deeds) in the aftermath of the collapse of the Abbisid caliphate. Al-Sha{tan&fi was born in Cairo in 644 a h / 1246-7 a d , and

The Qddiriyya


died in Mecca in 1314, but he spent most of his active life teaching at al-Azhar university-mosque in Cairo. (Braunc 1933, p. 2) Whereas in the affirmation of his fathers transcendent spiritual authority ‘Abd alRazziq apparendy sought to consolidate his family’s standing in Baghdad, al-Sha{tan&f! sought to establish and propagate the belief in ‘Abd al-Qidir as the ultimate channel of divine grace to the Muslim community at large. He affirmed the belief in ‘Abd al-Qidir as the qutb al-aqtdb, but corroborated it by the attribution to him of fabu­ lous kardmdt, the popular instrument of the confirmation of waldya. Kardmdt hardly figured in Abd al-Razziq s hagiography, still less in Abd al-Qidir s own sermons and writings. The elaborate legendary accounts al-Shaftan&fi gives in Bahjat at-asrdr of Abd al-Qidir’s mar­ vellous and miraculous deeds account for the great appeal of his hagi­ ography to ordinary believers. He even affirms that Abd al-Qidir performed the first of his kardmdt in aid of the Muslim community when still a nursing child; it consisted of his announcing the begin­ ning of the month of fasting, by refusing his mother’s breast, when bad weather prevented the sighting of the moon marking the first day of Ramadan. (Braune 1933, p. 13) But the fantastic kardmdt which al-Shattanftfi and later authors attributed to Abd al-Qidir do not alone explain the appeal his legend came to have to the pious from the end of the thirteenth century. Al-ShaftanAfi consolidated the legend of ‘Abd al-Qidir as the holder of the highest authority among the awliyd’and the Prophet’s deputy in the religious guidance of the Muslim community in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the caliphate—the only insti­ tutionalised deputation for the Prophet the Muslims ever had. His legend thus alleviated the great religious uncertaintities this cataclys­ mic event caused to the Muslims, and accorded with the nostalgic sen­ timents Baghdad evoked in the Muslims after the collapse of the caliphate. In the five centuries during which it was the capital of the ‘Abbisid caliphate, Baghdad became the cultural and religious metro­ polis of the Muslim world. Its influence extended even to Muslim lands, such as the western Maghrib and Spain, which were ruled by dynasties that did not recognise the Abbisid caliphs’ religious autho­ rity. And Baghdad developed after the ninth century a distinctive Sufi school. The great esteem with which this school was held is evident from the accounts—often patendy mythological—found in the hagi­


The Special Sufi Paths (Tariqas)

ographies of Sufi shaykhs who achieved prominence in various Mus­ lim lands in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries of meetings they had with Baghdad’s reputable Sufi shaykhs. Hence the fusion in ‘Abd alQidir s legend of his recognition as the leading representative of this Sufi school with his veneration as the qutb al-aqtdb. The Qidiriyya spread more widely than any other tariqa. By the fifteenth century it had come to have branches, not only in the Arab countries of the Middle East but also in Morocco, Spain, Turkey, India, Ethiopia and Somalia, as well as among the Tuareq in presentday Mali. In the sixteenth century it reached China and Malaysia, and from the seventeenth century it came to have followers also in the European territories of the Ottoman empire. In the fourteenth cen­ tury Abd al-Qidir’s sons played an active role in the propagation of his tariqa. (Zarcone 1996b, pp. 463-5) Its dynamic expansion there­ after was propelled by the personal initiative of Sufi shaykhs in different lands who enhanced their religious standing by acting as re­ presentatives of the prestigious Qidiriyya, without renouncing their independence as spiritual guides of their local communities. For the Qidiriyya did not have any centralised spiritual leadership. Abd alQidir s family, the Jilinis, became in the century after the collapse of the caliphate the leading Sunnite family of Baghdad, but the head of this family acted as the guardian of its interests, rather than as supreme spiritual head of the Qidiriyya tariqa. Furthermore, the Qidiriyya did not have a fixed religious rule set for it by its eponymous founder which its shaykhs in different lands were expected to observe. Abd alQidir approved of the communal dhikr ceremony, but did not lay down rules for its performance. And he commended (in the Ghunya, vol. 2, pp. 158-67), the recitation of supererogatory prayers in praise of God which he called award, and indicated a number of alternative prayers which the pious might recite, but did not give preference to any of them. Consequendy, the Sufi shaykhs in various Muslim lands who belonged to the Qidiriyya tariqa had much leeway in deter­ mining the mystical practices they validated by his spiritual authority. The Shcldhiliyya The eponymous founder of the Shidhiliyya tariqa, AbA al-Hasan alShadhili (d. 1258), came from the Maghrib and was reared in its Sufi

The Sh&dhiliyya


tradition. But his tariqa became consolidated in Egypt in the latter pan of the thirteenth century by his leading Egyptian disciple Taj alDin Ahmad Ibn ‘A ti’ Alldh (d. 1309). In the transformation of alShidhili’s mystical tradition into a coherent tariqa, Ibn A ti’ Allih grafted on to it notions of spiritual authority foreign to the Sufi tra­ dition of the Maghrib. Since by this time the legend of Abd al-Qidir had become firmly established and widely known in Egypt—thanks, among other things, to al-Shattinttft’s hagiography of him—it can be assumed that Ibn Ati’Allih was inspired by this legend with regard to the transcendent and universally valid spiritual authority he ascribed to his master. The Sufi tradition of the Maghrib started to take shape in the twelfth century, its belated appearance and the special features it acquired being determined by the dominant influence exerted by the Malikite school of religious law in this region. Present-day Tunisia, especially Qayrawin, had reputable Milikite scholars from the first half of the ninth century onwards, the most prominent of these being Sahn&n al-Tan&khi (d. 855), whose Mudawanna was the first sys­ tematic compendium of the rules of Islamic law endorsed by the scholars of the Milikite school. Tunisia and eastern Algeria were ruled between 800 and 910 in the name of the Abbisid caliphs by the Aghlabid dynasty. The Aghlabid rulers and the Arab landed aris­ tocracy who constituted the mainstay of their power belonged to the Hanafite school of Islamic law which the Abbisid caliphs favoured. By contrast the ethnically mixed peasant and urban communities of this region belonged to the Milikite school, whose scholars emerged from the ninth century as spokesmen of religious opposition to the Aghlabids’ highhanded and oppressive system of government. The Milikite scholars also emerged in the ninth century as defenders of doctrinal orthodoxy who adamantly rejected the Mu‘tazilite doctrine (see above, p. 22), which the Aghlabids and the Hanafite scholars associated with them adopted after the caliph al-Mam&n made it the official dogma of the caliphate. (Talbi 1966, pp. 231-42) And after the Aghlabids were overthrown by the Shfite rebellion that led to the creation of the Fitimid state in 910, they became the defenders of orthodoxy also against Shi‘ite beliefs. Consequently, the Malikite scholars emerged in the Maghrib as the representatives of austere and puritanical norms of Islamic piety, as appealing to believers as those


The Special Sufi Paths (Tariqas)

endorsed by the spiritual authority of the awliyd ’ These norms inspired the Almoravid religious reformers who led the Sanhaja Ber­ bers of present-day Mauritania in the conquest of the Maghrib and Muslim Spain between 1056 and 1086, and founded the Almoravid state. Sufi beliefs started to expand in the Maghrib from the begin­ ning of the twelfth century, after the puritanical Malikite tradition of this region was deprived of its vitality and popular appeal by identifi­ cation with the Almoravids’ spiritually stifling religio-political system of government. The Milikitc scholars of the Maghrib denounced Sufi beliefs as btda 'from the time they came to have adherents in this region towards the end of the ninth century. One of the first attacks came from Yahyi b. ‘Umar (d. 289 a h / 901-2), who lived in Qayrawan and led a campaign against the use by the Sufis of two mosques in this town as places of assembly. The celebrated Milikite scholar Ibn Abl Zayd alQayrawini (d. 996), whose Risdla became a standard handbook of Milikite law, also denounced Sufi beliefs. (Idris 1962, pp. 693-5) In the Almoravids period the Milikite faqihs (jurisconsults), who acted as the rulers’ counsellors in the conduct of public affairs, were also uncompromising in their hostility to Sufi beliefs. They condemned even al-Ghaz&li s Ihyd ' ‘uliim al-din, and were able to prevail upon the Almoravid ruler ‘All b. Tashfin (1106-43) to order that this book be publicly burnt. (Al-Marr&kishi 1949, p. 173) Nevertheless, since the first half of the twelfth century Sufi beliefs came to have prominent local representatives in the Maghrib, but the dominance of Malikite norms of Islamic piety in this region ensured that the patendy unor­ thodox Sufi tenets did not gain ground in it. Towards the end of the Almoravid period, Sufi beliefs came to have two leading representatives in the Maghrib. One of them was Abfl Yi‘zi Yilan&r, who is said to have been about one hundred and thirty years old when he died in 1177. Abd Yizi belonged to the Masmuda Berbers of the Middle Adas region of southern Morocco, but he spent extended periods in the Almoravid capital Marrakish, where he was venerated as wali and spiritual guide. So great was his fame that, shordy after his death, Abfi al-Abbis al-Azfi (d. 1236) wrote a hagi­ ography of him (Cf. Al-Azfi 1989) whose title, Da ‘dmat al- Yaqin (The pillar of certitude in the faith) highlights the belief in his autho­ rity as a spiritual guide. The belief in his waldya was underscored by

The Sh&dhiliyya


the attribution of various kar&m&tto him. These included the reading of his detractors’ thoughts, healing the sick, and the subjection of fierce lions to his will. That he was viewed as an opponent of the Almoravids is evident from the significance attached in his legend to his great admiration for al-Ghazili’s Ihyd\ and to his being im­ prisoned in Marrakishforafewdaysin about 541 a h / 1146-7 AO, i.e. shortly before the downfall of the Almoravids in 1147. (Al-Tidli 1984, pp. 213-15) The second prominent wali of the latter part of the Almoravid period was AbA al-Hasan Ali b. Harzihim (d 1164), an ascetic devotee from Fez who spent much of his life in Marrakish. He was a learnedfaqih as well as a Sufi, who was said to have spent a whole year in the study of al-Ghazalfs Ihyd \ At first he doubted the orthodoxy of the book and wanted to burn it, but was deterred by a dream in which he was punished with eighty strokes of the whip for slander. Still feeling the pain of the whipping on his back when he woke up, he re-read the Z£y4’and became convinced that it was fully in agreement with the Qur’in and the Prophet’s sunna. According to his legend, Ibn Harzihim was imprisoned by the Almoravid governor of Fez, and set free on the day after he had dreamed of seeing AbA Yi‘za marching with the soldiers who had brought him to prison. Ibn Harzihim’s kardmdt included the answering of his interlocutors’ questions before they asked them and the prediction of future events. He could even tell the exact day of his own death in advance. (AlTidili 1984, pp. 168-73) The Sufi tradition of the Maghrib, of which AbA al-Hasan alShidhili was to become recognised as the authoritative representative, started to take definite shape in the Almohad period (1147-1269). Its beginnings can be traced to AbA Abdullih al-Daqqiq, who died some time towards the end of the sixth century AH (1204 a d ). Al-Daqqiq was a Sufi from the oasis of Sijilmasa in southern Morocco, but he spent much time in Fez where he died and was buried. His claim to waldya aroused much controversy in the religious circles of Fez, but it was confirmed by the Prophet; appearing to one of al-Daqqiq’s detractors in a dream, the Prophet gave him a key and told him he would find a wali behind every door he opened with it. Still in the 1 dream, the detractor then found himself in a house with many rooms, and each time he opened the door of one of them with the key the Prophet had given him, he found al-Daqqiq behind it. The next


The Special Sufi Paths (Tariqas)

morning he went to al-Daqqiq and, before telling him of his dream, was told by him: indeed, you were certain to find me behind every door. (Al-Tadili 1984, pp. 156-7) The Sufi master who played the decisive role in the consolidation of the Sufi tradition of the Maghrib was Abd Madyan Shuayb (d. 1198), an Andalusian of modest social background who came to the Maghrib in his youth to study. The accounts of Abd Madyan’s life provided by al-T&dili (1984), Ibn Qunfudh (1965), al-Ghibrini (1970) and Ibn Maryam (1908) agree that he had a broad religious education in the important centres of learning of the Maghrib, espe­ cially Fez, as well as receiving Sufi instruction from this regions rep­ utable awliyd’, including Abd Yi‘zi, Ibn Harzihim and al-Daqqaq. He also travelled to the Mashriq in search of learning, and according to one tradition he met al-Ghazali in Damascus. (Ibn Qunfudh 1965, p. 13) Since al-Ghazali died some eighty-seven years before Abd Madyan, this tradition must be dismissed as apocryphal, but it high­ lights the great reverence with which al-Ghazali was held by the Sufis of the Maghrib. After returning from the Mashriq, Abd Madyan setded in Bijaya (Bougie in north-eastern Algeria), at the time one of the Maghrib’s important centres of religious learning. While there his fame became so great that the Almohad caliph Abd Ydsuf Yaqdb (1184-99), concerned over his growing religious influence, summoned him to the capital to account there for his beliefs. His death at al‘Ubbad near Tlimsan (Tlemcen) in western Algeria while on the way to Marrakish transformed him into a legendary saintly personality, whose veneration soon became a popular cult. According to Abd Madyan’s legend, he foresaw before he set out for Marrakish that he would die on the way, and that when he broke the journey at al‘Ubb&d he knew that he would be buried there. (al-Ghibrini 1970, pp. 60-1) And because the caliph Abd Ydsuf died about a year later, Abd Madyan’s legend interpreted the caliph’s death as divine retribu­ tion for his hostility towards him. (Ibn Maryam 1908, p. 114) Tlim­ san adopted Abd Madyan as its patron saint, and by the beginning of the fourteenth century his cult had become so great that the Marinid sultan Abu al-Hasan (1331—50) honoured him by having a sumptu­ ous mosque and a madrasa built at his tomb. (Ibn Marzdq 1981, pp. 403-7) Abd Madyan did not write any major Sufi work. His writing?, pub­ lished in Arabic with English translation by Vincent J. Cornell in The

The Shddhiliyya


Way o fAbd Madyan (Cambridge 1996), consist of a short treatise on creed (4aqida), supplications For divine forgiveness, counsels regarding the proper conduct of the Sufi adepts (murids), and eight short poems. (Cornell 1996, pp. 40-173) These writings and the short maxims attributed to Abd Madyan by his hagiographers show that Abd Madyan’s Sufi teachings remained firmly grounded in Islamic orthodoxy. He called to renunciation of the world and affirmed that zuhd, religious learning (‘ibn), trust in God (tawakkul) and certitude in the faith (yaqin) were the essence of Sufism. (al-Ghibrini 1970, p. 63) But he achieved a great reputation through dedication to the tarbiya of the many disciples who came to him from different parts of the Maghrib. Ibn Maryam says that about 1,000 ofAbu Madyan s dis­ ciples became reputable Sufi shaykhs whose waldya was confirmed by the kardmdt they performed. He adds that Abd Madyan was also recognised as a leading scholar of the religious law, and that he con­ stantly received questions on points of Malikite law from various parts of the Maghrib, which he always answered in writing without delay. He was also a popular preacher and, according to Ibn Maryam, not only did a large number of people attend his preaching sessions, but the birds always hovered above his head to hear his words. (Ibn Maryam 1908, p. 108) The belief in Abd Madyan as a wali was enhanced by the many kardmdt he was said to have performed—one of them when he was seized while standing one day on the coast (presumably of Bijaya where he lived) by Christian pirates who wanted to take him with other Muslim captives to their country. The pirates soon realised that he was a man of God, because their ship would not move in spite of the strong wind that blew in its sails, and decided to set him free. But he refused to disembark and did not let the ship move until the pirates agreed to free all the Muslim captives they had on board. (Ibn Maryam 1908, p. 112) However, the decisive factor in the consolidation of AbO Madyan s fame as wali and authoritative spiritual guide was his death while on the way to Marrakish. For by summoning him to account for his beliefs at the court, the Almohad caliph implicitly recognised him as the leading spokesmen of the tradition of Sufi piety that developed in his realms, over which the religious establishment in Marrakish had no control, and which consequendy it feared. With the development of the Sufi tradition of the Maghrib, hagiographic works were written in it by authors who celebrated its


The Special Sufi Paths (Tariqas)

reputable awliyd 'and kept alive the memory of their kardmdt. One of the earliest of these works was YAsufb. Yahyi al-Tidilis al-Tashawwuf ild Rijdl al- Ta$aunimf(Gto&i&c2 t\ot\ of the inquirer regarding the Sufi shaykhs), which was completed in 1221. Al-T&dili opens this work by saying that he has included in it only the biographies of the awliyd ’ who lived, or spent some time, in the capital Marrakish (Al-Tidili 1984, pp. 31-3), apparently because he lived there himself. Other biographical works followed, dealing either with the awliyd* of the authors region, such as ‘Abd al-Haqq al-Bidisi’s al-Maqsad al-Sharif (The noble aim) on the awliyd*of the Rif in northern Morocco com­ pleted in 1311, or with the biography of a Sufi shaykh in whose waldya the author believed. One of the earliest of the works dedicated to a single wait was al-Azfis hagiography of AbA YizA called Da'dmatalyaqin (see above, p. 98). Another is Uns al-faqir (The joy of the men­ dicant) of Ahmad al-Khatib Ibn Qunfudh (d. 810 ah/1407-8 a d ), which celebrates AbA Madyans waldya some two centuries after his death, and provides information on the many reputable Sufis of the Maghrib who ascribed themselves to his spiritual authority. The authors of these works invariably attributed waldya to the reputable Sufi shaykhs whose biographies they recorded, and justified the belief in their waldya by the kardmdt they purportedly performed. Ibn Qunfudh said that the kardmdt of the awliyd’were manifestations of their baraka and that they performed them also after their death. He supported this conviction by saying that the wali of Sala (Said) Ahmad b. ‘Ashir (d. circa 1363) confirmed that AbA al-‘Abbas al-Sabti (d. 1205) of Marrakish performed many kardmdt after his death, and added that even non-Muslims who believed in al-Sabti s baraka were helped by it. He related the story of a Jew who cried to al-Sabti for help when the caravan with which he was travelling was attacked by highway robbers. As soon as he uttered al-Sabti s name, the high­ way robbers turned away and let him go in peace. (Ibn Qunfudh 1965, p. 7) Sufi hagiographic works of the Maghrib of the thirteenth and four­ teenth centuries show that their authors viewed waldya mainly as a profound spiritual commitment to the faith. Consequently, when they speak of a hierarchy of the awliyd they refer to different grades of spiritual commitment, rather than to ranks of spiritual authority. AlTadili says that forty awliyd’axe endowed with the highest grade of

The Shddhiliyya


waldya, and they are called abddl (substitutes) because God chooses a substitute for each of them when he dies. He adds that these devotees attain their elevated spiritual status by generosity of the spirit, purity of the heart and soundness of counsel. (AJ-T&dili 1984, p. 45) Although the forty abdM al-T&dili mentions figure in the hierarchy of the awliyd ’described by al-Hujwiri as the occupants of the third grade in it (see above, pp. 54—5), he does not place them in any hierarchy of spiritual authority. Writing about a century later, al-B&disi shows his rejection of the spiritual hierarchy of the awliyd 'accepted by the Sufis in the Mashriq by giving a brief account of it without any comment, at the end of a lengthy text in which he divides the awliyd* into three grades of commitment to the faith. The first grade is that of the awliyd 'who earn their living from honest work, while guarding them­ selves against all transgression of divine commands, and whose identity as awliyd’is known only to God. The second grade is that of devotees who have neither fixed abode nor any occupation other than the worship of God. Because these awliyd* entrust themselves to the custody of God, he causes others to provide for their needs in atonement for their sins. The third grade is that of the awliyd*whose total commitment to God makes them break all human ties and live in the wilderness, eating whatever nature provides and consorting only with wild beasts. But from time to time one of them is com­ manded by God to setde in a big town so that the believers would profit from “the divine wisdom that flows from his heart”. (Al-Bidisi 1982, pp. 18-28) The veneration of the awliyd* in the Almohad period as represen­ tatives of total devotion to God and as spiritual guides contravened the official doctrine by which the Almohad caliphs legitimised their authority. According to this doctrine, Ibn T&mart, the founder of the Almohad religious movement, was the mahdi and as such the divinely inspired and infallible guide of the Muslim community. As Ibn Tdm art’s deputies in the supreme leadership of this community, the Almohad caliphs could not remain indifferent to the appeal which veneration of the awliyd*came, to have in it. However, as the example of Abd Madyan shows (see above, p. 100), the attempts they made to curb their influence invariably failed and contributed instead to the enhancement of their prestige. As will be explained further below, caliphial persecution was also an important factor in the estab­


The Special Sufi Paths (Tariqas)

lishment ofAbd al-Hasan al-Shidhilis reputation as waliand author­ itative spiritual guide. That he, and not Abd Madyan, became the eponym of a tariqa with which the Sufi tradition of the Maghrib became identified was due to the development of his legend in Egypt under the influence of notions of spiritual authority which the Sufis of the Maghrib had so far eschewed. Abd al-Hasan Ali al-Sh&dhili was born in the Ghumira country between Ceuta and Tangier in northern Morocco. The exact date of his birth is not known, and the three Hijra dates given for it—581, 591 and 593—make it possible merely to say that he was bom at some time between 1185 and 1197 AD. He spent some time studying in Fez before travelling in 1223 to the Mashriq. In Iraq he became attached to a number of Sufi shaykhs, one ofwhom was Abd al-Fath al-W&siti, a disciple of Ahmad al-Rifais, the eponymous founder of the Rifa‘iyya tariqa. Al-Shidhili s legend identifies him with the Sufi tradition of the Maghrib by having al-Wasiti tell him that he would find the quth he sought in his homeland. After returning to the Maghrib, alShadhili found the quth in the person of Abd al-Salam b. Mashish (d. 1227), the ascetic hermit of the Jbila region in northern Morocco. Also according to Al-Shadhili’s legend, Ibn Mashish designated him as his successor to the rank of quth, and in addition ordered him to setde in Shidhila, a village to the south of Tunis now extinct, telling him that he would achieve there the recognition he deserved. Abd alHasan moved to Shadhila and became known as al-Shadhili by ascrip­ tion to this village after he left it and setded in Tunis. (Brunschvig 1947, vol. 2, pp. 322-3) While in Shidhila, Abd al-Hasan established contacts with the Sufis of Tunis and became closely associated with that towns leading Sufi shaykh, Abd Sa‘id Khalafal-Baji. Abd Sa‘id died in June 1231 and was buried on the hill overlooking Carthage, where the picturesque village named after him Sidi Abd Sa‘id (Bou Said) subsequendy ap­ peared. After Abd Sa‘id’s death, al-Shadhili setded in Tunis and took charge of his disciples; he lived there, but assembled his disciples on top of the Zallaj hill to its south-east, where a shrine was later erected in his honour overlooking the cemetery where some fifty of his pro­ minent disciples were buried. (Brunschvig 1947, vol. 2, pp. 328-9) He was not a Sufi thinker interested in the elaboration of Sufi beliefs, but a highly inspiring teacher and preacher.

The Sh&dhiliyya


Al-Shidhilis standing as a spiritual guide was enhanced during his stay in Tunis in the 1230s by a crisis in the Almohad system of relig­ ious authority. This crisis was precipitated by the renunciation of the doctrine of Ibn Tumart, the official dogma of the Almohad state, by the caliph al-Ma’mdn in 1229. Al-Ma’mdn initiated in 1227 a re­ bellion in the Andalus against the caliph al-‘Adil and captured power in Marrakish with the help of an army provided by Castile. His com­ ing to power with the help of the Christian state against which the Almohads had fought in die name of Islam, and his subsequent re­ nunciation of the official Almohad doctrine, undermined his autho­ rity with the founder tribes of the Almohad movement. The eastern Maghrib had been governed since 1228 by Abd Zakariyya Yahya, a descendent of Abd Haf? ‘Umar, who had given Ibn Tumart the pro­ tection of his tribe when he was hunted out by the Almoravids, and whose family, the Hafsids, occupied a position in the Almohad com­ munity next only to that of the caliphial family. After the caliph alMa’mdns renunciation of the Almohad doctrine, Abd Zakariyya renounced allegiance to him, and secure in his control of the eastern Maghrib he declared himself in 634 a h / 1236-7 AD the legitimate heir of Ibn Tumart s religious authority and assumed the caliphial tide amir al-muminin. (Abun-Nasr 1987, pp. 118-19) Abd al-Hasan al-Shidhili setded in Tunis some two years after the caliph al-Ma’mdn renounced the official Almohad doctrine and five years before the Hafsid Abd Zakariyya declared himself the legitimate Almohad caliph, and achieved influence in its religious life in this period of uncertainty regarding the Almohad community’s religious leadership. However, after Abd Zakariyya had himself proclaimed caliph, he apparendy came to view the influence al-Shidhili had in his capital a challenge to his yet not firmly established religious authority. For he allowed Ibn al-Bari’, the q&dt al-jarrui \'a(chiefqddt) of Tunis, to launch a campaign against him in which he was accused, amongst other things, of being a Shfite agitator. Hoping that hostility to him would abate if he absented himself for sometime from Tunis, alShidhili went on the pilgrimage to Mecca. But since after his return he was faced with still more uncompromising attacks, he decided to leave Tunis and settle in Egypt. In the course of the campaign against him, al-Shidhili is said to have been made to appear before a council of scholars held at the court to defend his beliefs, and also to have been


The Special Sufi Paths (Tariqas)

imprisoned for a short rime. But he was allowed to leave Tunis by ship to Alexandria in 642 a h / 1244-5 a d unmolested, and to sell his house and other property before his departure. Of the many disciples he had in Tunis, only a few went on with him to Egypt, and one of these was the Andalusian AbA al-Abbis al-Mursi (d. 1287), who was to become recognised as the heir of his spiritual authority. (Al-Najjir 1992, pp. 127- 8) Al-Shidhili seems to have been well received in Egypt, although according to his legend the chief qddi of Tunis sent a letter to the authorities there describing him as a religious agitator and urging them to imprison him. This warning was ignored, and al-Shidhili was allowed to setde in Alexandria and to live there in a tower of the citywall, where he also taught his disciples and held preaching sessions. And since he was allowed to preach in the Attirin mosque, it can be assumed that he was accepted by Alexaderia’s religious community. During his stay in Egypt al-Shidhili made the pilgrimage to Mecca every year. He died in 1258 at Humaythara on the Red Sea coast while on his way to Mecca and was buried there. (Al-Najjir 1992, pp. 1289) At the time of al-Shidhili s death, his community in Alexandria included a number of distinguished Sufi shaykhs, the most prominent of whom was Makin al-Din al-Asmar, on whose authority Ibn A{i’ Allih relates several of al-Shidhili s traditions. (Ibn Ati’ Allah 1974, pp. 142-3 and 163- 4) However, before al-Shidhili s death, the standing of AbA al-Abbis al-Mursi, the disciple who accompanied him from Tunis, as his chosen successor had become established, and his assumption of the leadership of his masters community in Alex­ andria was not contested. Al-Mursi remained the undisputed head of this community during the remaining twenty-nine years of his life, and the magnificent mosque built for him in Alexandria, in which his tomb stands, testifies to the esteem in which he was held there. Although the tariqa called Shidhiliyya after AbA al-Hasan alShidhili became the dominant one in the Maghrib, it came into being in Egypt under the influence of AbA al-Abbis al-Mursi s disciple Tij al-Din Ahmad Ibn Ati’Allih (d. 1309). In his book Latd 'if al-Minan Ibn Ati’ Allih created a legend of al-Shidhili in which he celebrated him as the qutb and as a tariqa founder, and acclaimed al-Mursi as the heir of his spiritual authority. In so doing he implicitly proclaimed himself al-Mursi s successor in this tariqas supreme leadership. An

The Shddhiliyya


Egyptian, Ibn ‘A{4’ Allih was not inhibited in the development of alShadhili’s legend by the restrictive notions of the spiritual authority of the awliyd’to which the Sufis of the Maghrib still subscribed in the thirteenth century. And he seems to have been inspired too in the elaboration of al-Shadhili’s legend by that of Abd al-Qidir al-Jilani which circulated widely in Egypt at the time. Ibn Ati’ Allih set forth al-Shidhili’s legend in the first chapter of Latd’ifal-Minan. He confirmed al-Mursi’$ description of al-Shidhili as the qutb, and corroborated it by the testimony of other prominent Sufi shaykhs and by accounts of the kardmdt he was said to have per­ formed. But he went further and proclaimed that al-Shidhili was alqutb al-jdmt. By using the adjective jdmt (all-embracing) for his master s authority as the qutb, Ibn Ati’ Allih claimed for him a tran­ scendent spiritual authority similar to that implied in the reference to Abd al-Qidir as the qutb al-aqtdb. He affirmed that al-Shidhili was al-ghawth and the essence of divine lights, and that God revealed to him the most closely guarded of spiritual secrets, qualities also ascribed to Abd al-Qidir. He also said that al-Shidhili was a Sufi shaykh who mastered the esoteric knowledge of the Sufis and the exoteric knowledge of the religious scholars, besides being a leading authority on the Prophets sunna. (Ibn A{i’ Allih 1974, p. 138) And because al-Shidhili came from the Maghrib and Abd Madyan s fame had reached Egypt, Ibn A ti’ Allih quoted al-Mursi’s account of a vision he had in order to affirm the superiority of al-Shidhili s spiritual authority to Abd Madyan s. In this vision al-Mursi roamed in Heaven when he saw Abd Madyan dangling from the leg of the divine throne. While in the proximity of God, al-Mursi asked Abd Madyan about his spiritual rank and Abd Madyan answered that he was only one of four deputies of the qutb, and that his grade of waldya was much inferior to that of al-Shidhili, whose spiritual authority was as boundless as a sea having no shores. Ibn A{£’ Allih then quoted a statement by al-Shidhili himself in which he refuted any assumption that the only spiritual authority he had was one he had inherited from his Maghribi master Abd al-Salim b. Mashish. In it al-Shidhili said that he ceased to ascribe himself to Ibn Mashish after he had come to swim in the seas of the Prophet, of the four rightly guided caliphs and of the five angels of the spirit. (Ibn A $’ Allih 1974, p. 146) Ibn Ati’ Allih also quoted a statement in which al-Mursi said that al-Shidhili s


The Special Sufi Paths (Tariqas)

tariqa belonged neither to the Maghrib nor to the Mashriq. It was the one and only true tariqa, whose first head was the Prophet’s grandson Hasan from whom al-Shidhili inherited both his fariqa and jthe rank of qutb. (Ibn ‘A ti’ Allih 1974, p. 165) Al-Mursi is acclaimed in al-Shidhili’s legend as his divinely preor­ dained successor. Ibn Ati’Allah relates a tradition in which, when al> Mursi came as a young man from Murcia in Spain to Tunis, he was accosted on the day of his arrival there by someone who wanted to take him to al-Shidhili. Al-Mursi answered that, before agreeing to this proposal, he wished to seek divine guidance. That night he had a dream in which he climbed a mountain on whose top he saw a man wearing a green burnous. As he approached him, the man welcomed him saying, “At last I have found my khalifa for all time.” After the morning prayer next day, al-Mursi let himself be taken to al-Shidhili. He immediately recognised him as the man he had seen on the mountain-top in his dream. And al-Shidhili received him, as he had done in the dream, saying “at last I have found my khalifa for all time”. Al-Shidhili then told al-Mursi that he had known of his coming for the past ten years. (Ibn Ati’ Allih 1974, pp. 147—8) The bond between al-Shidhili and his acknowledged successor became very close. Ibn Ati’ Allih relates that al-Shidhili once told al-Mursi: “I have made you my companion so that you would becomc me and I become you.” (Ibn A{i’ Allih 1974, p. 169) Al-Mursi married his master s daughter and went with him to Egypt when he left Tunisia. He accompanied him on his annual pilgrimages to Mecca and became the disciple who after his death explained and developed his teachings. Ibn A ti’ Allih corroborates the belief in al-Mursi as the heir of al-Shidhili’s spiritual authority by a vision in which a man of piety and religious learning witnessed al-Shidhili coming down from heaven. Attired in a white garment, al-Shidhili vanished as he entered into the head of al-Mursi, who stood upright awaiting his descent. (Ibn Ati’ Allih 1974, p. 186) Al-Mursi was also an active participant in the kar&m&thc related in confirmation of his master’s waldya. He related that while in Alex­ andria he had a dream in which he heard someone saying “Mecca and Medina”. Interpreting this dream as a summons to the Muslim holy places, he hurried to Cairo where al-Shidhili was staying at the time. When al-Mursi appeared before his master, the latter at once said

The Shddhiliyya


“Mecca and Medina”. But the money they had was not sufficient for the expenses of the journey to the holy places. To this problem alShidhili found a miraculous solution by having al-Mursi buy wheat with the ten dinars he had, which someone bought from him four days later for 1,000 dinars. By another of his kardmdt al-Shidhili saved al-Mursi’s life. Shordy before he died while on his way to Mecca, al-Shidhili taught al-Mursi a prayer which would make stormy seas quiet. After al-Shidhili died and was buried at Humaythara, al-Mursi resumed the trip to Mecca, and while they were crossing the Red Sea, a ferocious storm engulfed the ship on which he was travelling. Death seemed imminent, but when al-Mursi stood at the side of the ship and uttered the prayer his master had taught him, the sea replied with altda (obedience) and immediately afterwards quieted down (Ibn Ati’ Allih 1974, p. 150). Whereas al-Shidhili chose al-Mursi as his spiritual heir, Ibn Ati’ Allih was a self-appointed guardian of al-Shidhili’s mystical tradition. He belonged to a distinguished Alexandrian family of Malikite scholars and was educated in the religious law. He says that he con­ tinued to doubt the orthodoxy of Sufi beliefs until he heard the preaching of al-Mursi, whose circle of disciples he then joined, and to which he remained attached in the last twelve years before al-Mursi’s death in 1287. He relates that al-Mursi approved of his continued preoccupation with the study of the religious law and told him that he would attain prominence both as a Sufi shaykh and as a faqih. (Ibn A ti’ Allih 1974, p. 185). However, although Ibn Ati’ Allih refers to several occasions in which al-Mursi intimated the great regard in which be held him (Ibn A ti’ Allih 1974, pp. 190-2), he does not claim that al-Mursi chose him as his successor in the leadership of the Shidhili community. This perhaps explains why he moved from Alex­ andria to Cairo shordy after al-Mursi’s death. There he taught at alAzhar university-mosque and the Mansftriyya madrasa, but he also became known as an eloquent Sufi preacher and the leading shaykh of the Shidhiliyya. Ibn Ati’ Allih was the true founder of the Shidhiliyya tariqa. He established the belief in al-Shidhili as the qutb, and the fame of his tariqa through preaching it in Cairo and through his writings. Whereas the only writings attributed to al-Shidhili and al-Mursi are ahzdb, i.e. structured supererogatory prayers, Ibn A ti’ Allih was a


The Special Sufi Paths (Tariqas)

prolific author, whose writings covered Sufi and non-Sufi religious subjects. His LatA ’ifal-Minan became the standard hagiography of alShidhili of which new editions have continued to be published and sold in large numbers to the present day. In one of his Sufi works Miftdh al-Faldh tva MisbAh al-Arwhh (The key to success and the lamp of the spirits), he defended the communal dhikr- ceremony, quoting passages from the Qur’in and fyadith that affirmed its spiri­ tual merits. His Kitdb al-Hikam (Book of maxims) is a collection of beautifully formulated pious aphorisms that inspired believers over the centuries. A learned commentary on it by the distinguished Andalusian Sufi Ibn Abbid al-Rundi (d. 1394) contributed much to its fame, and the many later commentaries on it testify to the great appeal it continued to have to the pious. Besides his preaching and writings, Ibn A $’ Allih made a lasting contribution to the consolidation and expansion of the Shidhiliyya tariqa by the leading role he played in defending Sufi beliefs against their detractors. Ibn Taymiyyas attacks on the Sufis’ belief in the baraka of the awUyet’and the religious practices associated with it (see above, pp. 77-78) aroused much controversy in Cairo at the end of the thirteenth century. Ibn A{i’ Allih made a name for himself as an articulate and determined defender of Sufi beliefs against these attacks. On one occasion he is said to have led some 500 Sufis in a march on the citadel of Cairo to demonstrate against Ibn Taymiyyas diatribes. (Shoshan 1993, p. 17) G. Makdisi suggests that Ibn Taymiyyas brief imprisonment while on a visit to Cairo in 1308 was due to Ibn A ti’ Allih’s campaign against him. (Makdisi 1971, p. 723) Under Ibn Ati’Allih’s influence several of Cairo’s leading Sufi shaykhs joined the Shidhiliyya tariqa. The most prominent was Muhammad al-Wafi’ (d. 1358), the eponym of the Waf&’iyya, one of Cairo’s most distinguished Sufi families. This family became famous through the foundation of a zAwiya, in which learned members of the family preached and provided free religious instruction. (Winter 1992, pp. 144-6) Like the Qidiriyya, the Shidhiliyya tariqa did not have a single supreme head or a fixed religious rule. The only Sufi ritual Ibn A{i’ Allih expressly commended was the dhikr ceremony, but he fell short of setting fixed rules for its performance. In M ifify al-FalAh he says that an essential requirement of the dhikr ceremony is the cleanliness

The Shidhiliyya


of the participants in it and of the room in which it is held. He mentions various formulae that may be employed in it and different forms in which they may be intoned, without committing himself to any one formula or form of intonation. (Ibn Ati’Allih 1993, pp. 202) He approves of thtjahri (vocal) performance of the dhikr, but also recognises the merits of its silent performance, saying that thereby it is transformed into an intimate spiritual colloquy with God. (Ibn A d’ Allih 1993, pp. 16-17 and 37-40) And like the Qldiriyya, the Shidhiliyya expanded through the personal initiative of Sufi shaykhs whose initiation into it bolstered their religious standing without cur­ tailing their authority as independent spiritual guides of their local communities. The expansion of the Shidhiliyya thus led to the appear­ ance of independent local branches having different mystical practices and disparate rules for the performance of the dhikr ceremony. The Shidhiliyya came to have a dominant religious influence espe­ cially in the Maghrib. The many disciples whom al-Shidhili left behind in Tunis when he left for Egypt transformed his veneration there into an important local cult. However, it came to exercise a dominant influence in the Maghrib through a branch of it founded by the Moroccan Muhammad b. Abd al-Rahmin al-Jazftli (d. 1465). An inspiring Sufi shaykh from the region of Sus in southern Morocco, alJaz&li was initiated into the Shidhiliyya tariqa in Fez. There he also wrote DalA'il al-Khayrdt (Signs of the [Prophets] benefactions), a book that made veneration of the Prophet the core of Sufi piety. Its eloquent devotional prayers, in which the Prophet is acclaimed as the manifestation of divine light and the abiding source of spiritual guidance, have had a lasting appeal to Muslims over the centuries. Since the middle of the fifteenth century the sharifian cult, which had roots in Morocco going back to the ninth century, acquired a new sig­ nificance in this country’s religious and political life. Its revival was a religious response to the political anarchy which Morocco experi­ enced, especially after the Wattisids’ usurpation of power in 1472, and paved the way for their overthrow in 1510 by the Sa‘di dynasty of sharifi. (Abun-Nasr 1987, pp. 206 ff.) Under sharifian rule, al-Jaz&li’s branch of the Shidhiliyya, the Shidhiliyya-Jaz&liyya, became the dominant Sufi cult in Morocco to which even the prominent religious scholars of Fez belonged. And because Fez was a leading centre of re­


The Special Sufi Paths (Tariqas)

ligious learning that attracted students from various parts of the Maghrib, it spread widely there. The CentralAsian tariqas The Central Asian Sufi tradition developed under the influence of Sufi shaykhs reared in the Persian Sufi tradition, especially that of Khurisan, the region that produced many of the prominent Sufi per­ sonalities of the ninth and tenth centuries. This was an ecstatic mystical tradition little affected by the doctrinal preoccupations of the religious scholars in the Islamic heartland. And Persian, rather than Arabic, was the language predominantly used in it. Since the fif­ teenth century the Naqshbandiyya and Khalwatiyya tariqas became its main representatives. Before this time, most of its shaykhs were teachers who provided rudimentary instruction in the Qur’an, and won adherents by ecstatic dhikr ceremonies that appealed to the simple believers. This tradition produced in the twelfth century a few prominent Sufi shaykhs whose fame overshadowed that of the many local shaykhs belonging to it. Najm al-Din Kubra (d. 1221) became famous through the large number of disciples who ascribed them­ selves to his spiritual authority, and Ammar al-Bidlisi (d. circa 1200) through the khdnqdh he built in Khawirizim in which he provided instruction in Sufi beliefs. (Trimingham 1971, p. 55) And two of the leading shaykhs of the twelfth century had a lasting religious influence. The first was the Persian AbAYaqAb YAsufal-Hamadini who studied in Baghdad and travelled widely in various lands before settling in Marw in Khurasan, where he died in 1140. To al-Hamadini, who viewed dhikr as a means of attaining mystical union with God and was categorical in the rejecting of the inclusion of samA' in it, the Naqsh­ bandiyya tariqa traces the origins of its mystical tradition. The second was al-Hamadani’s disciple Ibrihim b. Ali al-Yisi (d. 1167), who came from Turkistan and played a significant role “in the adaptation oflslam to a Turkish nomadic milieu”. (Trimingham 1971, p. 58) The diffuse Central Asian Sufi tradition acquired cohesion only after the infusion in it of the notion of tariqa after it had become con­ solidated in the Islamic heartland. Since the fourteenth century, leading shaykhs of this tradition became acclaimed as tariqa founders and were accordingly recognised as the holders of a transcendent

The Naqshbandiyya


spiritual authority that superseded that of its many local shaykhs. This transformation led to the appearance of tariqas, such as the Baktashiyya and Mawlawiyya, that represented the ecstatic elements of this tradition, and whose influence remained limited predominantly to Turkey. It also led to the appearance of the Naqshbandiyya and Khalwatiyya tariqas that brought the Central Asian Sufi tradition in line with orthodox Islamic beliefs. In the teachings and mystical practices of these two tariqas, the emphasis of the Central Asian Sufi tradition on mystical union with God was blended with the recognition of the Prophets sunna as the ultimate source of Islamic religious guidance. This blend accounts for the wide expansion of these two tariqas, since it enabled their shaykhs to act both as the guardians of an established mystical tradition and as custodians of Islamic norms in the life of Muslim communities having no institutionalised forms, of Islamic religious leadership. The Naqshbandiyya The Naqshbandiyya is called after Baha’ al-Din Muhammad Naqshband, who was born in the village of Hinduw&n near Bukhara in present-day Uzbekistan. He died there in 1389, where a magnificent mausoleum was built for him together with several mosques and a madrasa in the sixteenth century by the amirs of Bukhara. The origins of this tariqa are traced to the Prophet through two main silsilasx one via the first caliph Abd-Bakr, and the other via All, the Prophet s cousin and fourth caliph. But the silsiia that traces its origins to the Prophet via Abd Bakr became the one its shaykhs most emphasised. (Al-Khini 1997, pp. 23-9) Its traditions also stress Baha’ al-Din Naqshband s position as the seventh in a chain of reputable Central Asian Sufi shaykhs starting with Abd Yaqdb Ydsuf al-Hamadini (see above, p. 112), who is recognised as the founder of this tariqas mys­ tical tradition which they all represented. (Algar 1993, p. 933) Because the Persian title khawdja (pi. khawdjagdn), rather than the Arabic shaykh, is used for al-Hamadini and the other Sufi masters who belonged to his tradition, the Naqshbandiyya is referred to as tariqat al-khatvdjagdn. Of the seven masters in this series Abd al-Khiliq alGhujdawini (d. 1220) had a special significance for the emergence of the Naqshbandiyya as a distinct tariqa, because he insisted on the


The Special Sufi Paths (Tariqas)

khafi (hidden i.e. silent) performance of the dhikr, with which it be­ came identified. (Al-Khini 1997, p. 353) Early in his life Naqshband joined the circle of Muhammad al-Sammlsi, the fifth master in the chain of the seven khaw&jag&n, and when this master died Naqshband sought instruction from Amir Gulil, who counts as the sixth Sufi master in it. Before Amir Qulil’s death, Naqshband broke with him by rejecting his practice of the vocal dhikr. He claimed that in so doing he was reviving the tariqatal-khaw&jagctn on al-Ghujdawinis behest, who appeared to him in a vision and enjoined him to practise the silent dhikr. (Zarcone 1996c, pp. 451-3 and Algar 1993, pp. 933—4) Although Bahi’ al-Din Naqshband was the eponymous founder of the Naqshbandiyya, the available evidence suggests that it owed its emergence as a coherent tariqa to ‘Ubaydall&h Ahrir (d. 1490), who belonged to the second generation of his disciples. Ahrir was born in 1404 in a village near Tashkent in Uzbekistan. He studied with Naqshband s disciple YaqAb al-Sharkhi (d. 1447) and his son-in-law Hasan Attir before establishing himself in 1431 as a Sufi shaykh and farmer in Tashkent. He is said to have started farming with one acre of cultivable land, and came after a while to own 3,000 acres in various parts of Uzbekistan. (Al-Khani 1997, pp. 486-7) Legend has it that after he became an influential and prosperous Sufi shaykh, he had a dream in which someone told him that with his support the shana would prevail in his land. (Al-Khani 1997, p. 500) With this dream pious justification was provided for the support Ahrir gave the fugitive TimArid prince AbA-Sa‘id that enabled him to conquer the TimArid capital, Samarqand, in 1451. Ahrir helped AbA-Sa‘id in the recruitment of warriors, but it was also believed that his baraka ensured the victory of this prince. During AbA Sa‘id’s rule (1451-69), Ahrir became the largest landowner in Transoxania, and he used his wealth and influence with the king to establish his religious authority in its public life. At the same time he posed as the supreme heir of Naqshband s spiritual authority and sent disciples to propagate his Sufi tradition in neighbouring countries. (Algar 2004, pp. 50-1) Consequendy, during Ahrir s lifetime the Naqshbandiyya emerged as a coherent tariqa, having a recognised silsila that related its followers to Naqshband through him. The distinctive element of the Naqshbandiyyas tradition of piety is the silent performance of the dhikr. The standard justification offered

The Naqshbandiyya


for this practice is that it prevents the participants in the dhikr from becoming preoccupied with the movement of the tongue instead of being engrossed in directing the ‘heart’ towards union with God. An important component of the Naqshbandiyya dhikr is the rdbita (spiritual bond) maintained during it with the tariqas founder. It is believed that this bond is forged by the participants in the dhikr through keeping the ‘perfect shaykhs picture’ in the mind’s eye, and that it provides them with the spiritual sustenance required for attaining the state of union with God. (Al-Kh&m 1997, pp. 802-3) Naqshband did not set rules for the performance of the dhikr other than that it should be silent and should not include music and other forms of distraction. Al-Ghudjawini indicated eight spiritual stages through which the participants in the dhikrvro\A& have to pass before experiencing mystical union with God. Naqshband transformed them into three. These are, in ascending order, wuq&fzam&ni, i.e. the ‘temporal control’ of the spiritual state; wuq&fadadi, this being the numerical control’ of the times the divine name is silendy repeated with the aim of preventing the intrusion of distracting thoughts; and wuq&fqalbi, ‘stoppage of the heart’, i.e. its spiritual control with the aim of directing it entirely towards consciousness of God. (Trimin­ gham 1971, pp. 203-4 and Algar 1993, p. 933) A subsidiary rite of the Naqshbandiyya is the Khatm al-Khawdjag&n. This is a short supererogatory prayer, in which God is ac­ claimed as the guide to the confused; usually it is recited aloud after the performance of the silent dhikr. It is believed that, whereas the rdbita forges a spiritual bond between the participants in the dhikr and their fariqa’s founder, with the recitation of the Khatm they invoke the spiritual bond that relates them to all seven of its khawtljag&n. The origin of this supererogatory prayer is not clear, but the merits of its recitation are said to have been confirmed by Naqshband. (Al-Irbili 1996, pp. 279-80) The Naqshbandiyya’s sober mystical tradition and its shaykhs’t mphasis on stria adherence to the Prophet’s sunna account for its appeal to Muslims living in lands which have no established Islamic religious and legal institutions, and no important centres of religious learning. It started to expand outside its homeland in present-day Uzbekistan after ‘Ubaydallih Ahrir gave it a distinct identity in the latter part of the fifteenth century, and his disciples played a decisive role in the


The Special Sufi Paths (Tariqas)

early phase of its expansion. Thereafter, it expanded widely through the activities of Sufi shaykhs who, having been initiated in it, acted as its representatives in their local communities. It achieved its greatest success in India, where its shaykhs emerged from the seventeenth century onwards as leading advocates of Islamic religious orthodoxy. Before the appearance of the Naqshbandiyya in the Indian subcon­ tinent in the seventeenth century, Sufi beliefs had become established in it in forms adapted to the Hindus’ religious practices and pan­ theistic beliefs. The period of the Delhi Sultanate (13th-l6th cen­ turies) witnessed the appearance of the Chistiyya, an entirely Indian tariqa whose eponymous founder, Mu‘in al-Din Chisti (d. 1236), studied in many of the important centres of religious learning in Central Asia and the Middle East before moving to the Indian sub­ continent. After visiting al-Hujwir!’s shrine in Lahore, Chisti setded in Ajmer. His fame as a saint became so great that his shrine at Ajmer became a sanctuary for Hindus and Muslims alike. His standing as a tariqa founder became established after his death through the many Sufi shaykhs who recognised his spiritual authority and founded Sufi centres in various parts of the Delhi sultanate. The shaykhs of the Chistiyya tariqa forged a link between Sufi tenets and Hindu pan­ theistic beliefs by the endorsement of Ibn Arabi’s doctrine of wahdat al-wuj&d. But they owed much of their popularity to the inclusion of Hindu sacred music in the dhikr ceremony and the use of local lan­ guages in their mystical songs. (Gaborieau 1985, pp. 107-8) The Q&diriyya had followers in the Indian subcontinent in the fifteenth century, but it expanded its influence in the period of the Mughal empire (I6th-18th century). Its shaykhs too accommodated the Sufi tradition to Hindu pantheistic beliefs and developed large followings through the employment of music in the dhikr ceremonies. (Gabo­ rieau 1985, p. 112) The Mughal emperors, exercising power in the name of Islam in a region where the Muslims constituted a small minority, tolerated the Sufi shaykhs’accommodation of Islamic beliefs to those of the Hindu majority in their lands. By contrast to the shaykhs of the Chistiyya and of the Indian bran­ ches of the Qadiriyya, the shaykhs of the Naqshbandiyya became identified since their appearance in the Indian subcontinent with strict adherence to Islamic orthodoxy. The first important shaykh of the Naqshbandiyya in the Indian subcontinent was al-Biqi Billih

The Naqshbandiyya


(d. 1603), a Sufi shaykh who came from Kabul and established a centre for this tariqa in Delhi. The Naqshbandiyya expanded widely in India through the influence which al-Baqi Bill&hs disciple Ahmad al-Sirhindi (d. 1624) had at the Mughal court. Al-Sirhindi was a re­ vivalist Muslim leader who was acclaimed during his lifetime as the mujaddid (renovator) of the faith in the second Islamic millennium. Hence the name Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya given to his branch of this tariqa. His notions of Islamic renovation, which he put forward in a book he entided al-Makt&b&t (the written ‘things’), were informed by the specific problems of Islam in India. He wrote this book in Persian, but it was later translated into Arabic, Urdu and into Otto­ man and modern Turkish. In it he equated the renovation of the faith with strict adherence to the Prophet’s sunna. He condemned the Indian Sufis’ pantheistic beliefs as being incompatible with the Isla­ mic faith and, because they were justified by Ibn Arabi’s doctrine of tvahdat al-wuj&d, he was unequivocal in its rejection. And he is said to have persistently reminded the Mughal emperors that as Muslim rulers they were bound to exercise their authority in accordance with Islamic norms. (Zarcone 1996c, pp. 453 and Nizami 1993, pp. 937-9) In the eighteenth century, revivalist religious ideals had a similar appeal to the Muslims in India as they had to Muslims elsewhere, and they were nurtured there too by the Muslims’ awareness of their rulers’ inability to countervail the expansive power of the European states. In this century factional conflicts in the Mughal empire enabled the British East India Company to exercise a dominant influence in its political life and eventually to have the emperor Shah ‘Alam place himself under its protection in 1803. In this period of decline in Muslim political power in India, the shaykhs of the NaqshbandiyyaMujaddidiyya became the leading champions of Islamic religious revival in it. One of the most eminent among them was Wali Allih (d. 1762), whose father had a madrasa in Delhi. After returning in 1732 from the pilgrimage to Mecca, he sent a letter to the Mughal emperor and other prominent Mughal leaders condemning their deviation from Islamic norms in the conduct of public affairs and making detailed suggestions for dealing with the pressing problems of the Indian Muslim society. Wali Allih’s son Abd al-Aziz (d. 1824) continued his revivalist tradition. And when the Mughal emperor Shih ‘Alam accepted the British East India Company’s protection in 1803,


The Special Sufi Paths (Tariqas)

‘Abd al-Aziz expressed his disapproval of this act in a letter to the em­ peror, in which he addressed him as the Imdm and accused the British of restricting free practice of the Islamic faith. (Rizvi 1970, pp. 71—3) Before ‘Abd al-Azizs death, one of his disciples, Ahmad Barelwi, had emerged as a determined champion of Islamic religious revival. When the last obstacle to the consolidation of British rule in northern India was overcome with the final defeat of the Marathas in 1818, Ahmad Barelwi issued a manifesto of Islamic religious reform. Significantly, this manifesto was composed by his two trusted disciples, one of whom was Wall Allah’s grandson Ismi'il Shahid and the other Abd alAziz son-in-law Abd al-Hayy. In 1821 Barelwi went on the pilgrim­ age to Mecca with some 600 disciples, and after his return he initiated an ineffective and short-lived jih&d against the ‘infidels’ living in India. He died in 1831, together with his two trusted disciples Isma‘il Shahid and Abd al-Hayy in a holy war he launched against the Sikhs of Peshawar in present-day Pakistan. (Gaborieau 1999, pp. 453-8) Through its shaykhs’championship of the cause of Islamic religious revival, the Naqshbandiyya exercised in the eighteenth century great influence not only in India, but also in the Ottoman empire and among the Muslims in China. The Naqshbandiyya had spread in the Ottoman empire since the beginning of the sixteenth century. It was introduced into Istanbul by one of Ahr&r’s disciples, Abdull&h Ilihi, whose disciple Amir Ahmad Bukhiri (d. 1516) established for it three tekkes (lodges) there and won to it numerous religious scholars and men of letters. But it was in its revivalist Mujaddidiyya form that it came to exercise a major influence in the Ottoman empire. By the latter part of the eighteenth century the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya had become so influential in the Ottoman capital that out of nine new tekkes built for it there during the reign of Sultan Selim III (1789-1807), one was founded by the Grand Vizier Mehmet Isset Pasha and three by other senior officials. (Abu-Manneh 2001, pp. 8-9) The Naqshbandiyya, as well as the Qidiriyya, YSsawiyya, and Shattariyya tariqas had followers among the Muslims in China since the fifteenth century, with the Naqshbandiyya exercising a dominant influence among those in the north-west of the country. In the eigh­ teenth century an Islamic revivalist movement was initiated in this region by the Naqshbandi shaykh Ma Mingxin (d. 1781) after return­ ing in 1761 from a trip during which he performed the pilgrimage to

The Khalwatiyya


Mecca and spent a period of study in Bukhara and Yemen. Ma Mingxin denounced the corruption of Sufi beliefs in China, which he attributed to the influence of the menhuan, i.e. saindy lineages, in the Muslims’ religious life. He caused a split in the Naqshbandiyya by calling for the vocal (jahrt) performance of the dhikr\ a practice he said was approved by shaykhs of this tariqa he met in the Haramayn (the Muslim holy places of Mecca and Medina) and in Yemen. This novel practice was opposed by the followers of Ma Laichi (d. 1753), another prominent shaykh of the Naqshbandiyya in north-west China, who held fast to the silent (khafi) performance of the dhikr. The resulting split of the Naqshbandiyya in China into jahriyya and khafiyya factions has continued well into the twentieth century. (Fletcher 1986, pp. 16-22) The Khalwatiyya The name of this tariqa is derived from khalwa (mystical retreat), a practice whose spiritual merits Sufis had long emphasised. Its acknow­ ledged eponym was a legendary ascetic devotee from the Jilan region in Persia called ‘Umar al-Khalwati, who moved about in various countries of the Middle East and died in Tabriz in 1397. He became known as al-Khalwati on account of the long periods of khaltua he spent on high trees. (Kissling 1953, pp. 235-7) The tariqa called Khalwatiyya after him was founded by Yahyi al-Shirwini (d. 1464), from whom the silsilas of the shaykhs of its various branches stem. AlShirwinl was born in Sham&kha near Baku in Azerbaijan, where he first established himselfas a Sufi shaykh. But he was forced by a quarrel with another Sufi shaykh who also belonged to ‘Umar al-Khalwati’s silsila to move to Baku, where he achieved great popularity and re­ mained until his death. Although separated from ‘Umar al-Khalwati in the silsila of his tariqa by three other shaykhs, al-Shirwini posed as the authoritative interpreter of his mystical tradition and the heir of his spiritual authority. And he played a decisive role in the transfor­ mation of his mystical tradition into a distinct tariqa by giving it a literary form consisting of al-wird al-satt&r; a supererogatory prayer celebrating the glory of God, the prophethood of Muhammad and the merits of the Prophet’s Companions. And he provided the tariqa with a silsila which traces its origins to the Prophet via his cousin and son-in-law ‘All. The Khalwatiyya tariqa spread widely through al-


The Special Sufi Paths (Tariqas)

Shirwini s many disciples who established themselves as Sufi shaykhs in various lands. (Kissling 1953, pp. 238 ffand Clayer 1996, p. 484-5) The Khalwatiyya expanded from Azerbaijan into Afghanistan, but it exercised its greatest influence in the Ottoman empire. Shortly after al-Shirwinl’s death it came to have an important centre in Amasya in Anatolia. Its expansion in Ottoman lands was furthered by the influence that one of its inspiring shaykhs, Chelebi Khalifa, had on the Ottoman sultan Bayazid (1481-1511). Chelebi entered into an alliance with Bayazid at the time when he was governor of Amasya, and was believed to have aided him by employing his mystical powers to anticipate and frustrate the moves of his opponents in Istanbul. After acceding to the Ottoman throne, Bayazid demonstrably affir­ med his affiliation with the Khalwatiyya by participating in the per­ formance of its dhikr and entrusting to Chelebi Khalifa the education of his son Ahmad. He also had a Byzantine church in Istanbul rebuilt as a tekke for this tariqa. During his reign the Khalwatiyya became well established in the Ottoman capital, its followers including senior state and military officials. Although Bayazid s successors were not always favourable to it, it expanded widely among officials and sol­ diers in Istanbul as well as in the provinces. (Martin 1972, pp. 281— 90) After the Ottoman occupation of Egypt in 1517, the Khalwatiyya expanded widely there too, but it also had in this Arab country the character of an Ottoman, even a Turkish, tariqa, whose followers were either Turkish officials and soldiers, or individuals associated with the Ottoman administration. (Clayer 1996, p. 485) Despite its close association with the Ottoman administration, the Khalwatiyya did not develop a dominant centre of spiritual authority. It consisted of a number of autonomous branches, each called after a shaykh it recognised as its authoritative interpreter of the Khalwatiyya’s mystical tradition, and whose silsilat al-baraka related it to alShirwani and through him to ‘Umar al-Khalwati. All these branches recognised khalwa as a means of spiritual communion with God and the core of their tariqas mystical tradition, but they differed over the length of the period of seclusion it entailed and the stage of spiritual development required of those allowed to practise it. They all endorsed the vocal (jahri) performance of the dhikr and rejected the inclusion of music in it, but they differed regarding the formulae used in it. Whereas in some branches the participants in the dhikr remain

The Ecstatic tariqas


seated throughout the ceremony, in others they stand in a circle and perform a rotating dancing movement. And although all branches of the Khalwatiyya emphasise the spiritual merits of the recitation of alShirwini’s al-wirdal-sattdr, they supplement it with awrdd composed by their own shaykhs. (Clayer 1996, pp. 488-90) When at the beginning of the eighteenth century Mu$$af&al-Bakri initiated a revivalist movement in the Khalwatiyya tariqa, it had at least twenty autonomous branches in Ottoman lands, each called after its founding shaykh and having its distinctive rites. (Jong 1987, pp. 122-3) As is explained further below (pp. 132-5), Mustafl al-Bakri claimed to himself the supreme spiritual leadership of this tariqa and sought to unify it by setting for it a fixed religious rule validated by his own authority. In so doing he gave a decisive impulse to the transfor­ mation of the Sufi tariqas founded since the middle of the eighteenth century into brotherhoods, in the sense of religious communities each having a distinctive religious rule and united by exclusive allegiance to its founder’s spiritual authority. But he did not succeed in fusing the different branches of the Khalwatiyya into a single religious com­ munity united by allegiance to his spiritual authority. The Ecstatic tariqas Seen in the context of the development of Sufi beliefs since the twelfth century, the ecstatic tariqas represent anachronistic forms of Sufi piety. They appeared after Sufi authors had put forth the claim in the latter pan of this century, that the Sufi shaykhs-cum-awliyd ’were the Prophet’s authoritative deputies in the religious guidance of the Muslim community. The Qadiriyya, Shidhiliyya, Naqshbandiyya and Khalwatiyya, the tariqas that enjoyed the greatest expansion in Muslim lands, incorporated this claim in their systems of beliefs. Each of them was provided with a silsila that traced its origin to the Pro­ phet, and they all sought to demonstrate their adherence to the Pro­ phet s sunna, amongst other things by shunning mystical practices incompatible with it. Consequendy their shaykhs could provide the Muslims in different lands with a religious guidance validated by the belief in its intrinsic agreement with the Prophets sunna, as well as by the waldya of their tariqas’eponymous founders. The anachronism of the ecstatic tariqas consisted of their failure to adapt the religious guidance validated by their eponymous founders’ waldya to the


The Special Sufi Paths (Jarfqas)

requirements of deputation for the Prophet in the religious leadership of the Muslim community. The ecstatic tariqas’eponymous founders were usually Sufi shaykhs who became identified during their lifetime with miraculous and ecstatic elements of Sufi belief. And they invariably had ambitious and enterprising disciples who, after their death, affirmed their waldya and acclaimed them as the founders of distinct tariqas and, as such, as the holders of an abiding spiritual authority. And because their disciples too relied in the establishment of their own spiritual authority on the great appeal the miraculous and ecstatic elements of Sufi beliefs had to simple believers, the salient element of their fariqas became the highly ecstatic, sometimes very artistic, performance of the dhikr ceremony. No detailed account can be given here of the numerous ecstatic fariqas that have appeared in Muslim lands since the thirteenth century. They are represented in what follows by the Rifl‘iyya and Mawlawiyya, two of the earliest of these tariqas that have retained their popularity up to the present time. The Rifh (iyya The eponymous founder of the Rifa‘iyya, Ahmad b. Alt al-Rif&‘i (d. 1182), was a Sufi who spent all his life in Um ‘Ubayda, a village in the Bata’ih marshland of Lower Iraq between Basra and Wasit. He grew up in a Sufi community headed by his uncle Man§ftr al-Bati’ihi, and owed his standing as a Sufi shaykh to his appointment by his uncle to succeed him in the leadership of his community. He himselfwrote nothing, and no contemporary accounts of his teachings are available. But several kar&m&twere attributed to him, which included enabling his followers to tame and ride lions, walk barefoot on hot coals, and eat snakes without suffering harm. (Bosworth 1995, p. 525) After his death, these extravagant practices became the distinctive character­ istics of his Sufi community. Ibn Batffita, who visisted Um ‘Ubayda in 1327, says that the Rifa iyya community there had a large rib&twhere thousands lived. They celebrated in it the dhikr after the evening prayer, with their shaykh leading it while sitting on Ahmad al-Rif&Ts prayer-mat. For the performance of the dhikr they would prepare fire­ wood, and after kindling it they would dance in the middle of the fire to the accompaniment of music. Some of them would roll in the fire, while others would ‘eat’ it. Ibn Baft&ta adds that Ahmad al-RifiTs

The Rifd'iyya


followers in Um ‘Ubayda were known also for biting off the heads of large snakes with their teeth without being harmed. (Ibn Ba{{&ta 1980, pp. 183-4) Two of Ahmad al-Ri&Ts disciples, ‘Alt al-Hartrit (d. 1248) and AbA al-Fath al-Wisitt (d. 1234), played a decisive role in the consoli­ dation of the belief in his waldya, and acted as representatives of his spiritual authority in Syria and Egypt respectively. In the generation of al-Wisiti’s disciples, the Rifii‘iyya started to emerge in Egypt as a Sufi tariqa identified with extraordinary practices having their origins apparently in the kardmdt attributed to its eponymous founder. These included snake-charming, a skill by which followers of this tariqa affirmed their trust in its founders protective baraka and also made a living. But the Rifil‘iyya acquired religious notoriety through its com­ munal dhikr ceremony, in which religious ecstasy was enhanced by such practices as fire-swallowing and the piercing of cheeks with skewers. From the eighteenth century, Egypt became the most im­ portant centre of the Rifa'iyya, where the celebration of its founders mawlid on the 12th of Jumada II became a popular festive occasion. (Bosworth 1995, pp. 526) Modern Muslim scholars sometimes justify the recognition of the Rifl‘iyya as a distinct path to God, in spite of the inclusion in its dhikr of practices incompatible with the pious aim for which it is intended, by the assertion that these practices were accretions to Ahmad alRi&‘is $ariqa introduced after his death by his ignorant disciples. In a book on the Sufi brotherhoods in Egypt, ‘Amir al-Najjir says that Ahmad al-Rift‘i was an ascetic devotee whose method of tarbiya was directed towards training his disciples in overcoming the evil desires of the inner self, and that his teachings were strictly consistent with the Qur’in and the Prophet’s sunna. He explains the Rififtyya’s asso­ ciation with snake-charming by Ahmad al-Rift‘t’s love of all living creatures, including hateful reptiles such as snakes. (al-Najjir 1992, pp. 63—7) Be that as it may, the Rifi'iyya became identified after its emergence in the second halfof the thirteenth century as a Sufi tariqa, not so much with the religious guidance of the Muslims, but with a dhikr ceremony in which the efficacy of its founder’s baraka is demon­ strated by the protection it gives against the physical harm of fireswallowing and the piercing of spikes. Enacted by persons experi­ enced in their performance, these feats arouse wonder and enable


The Special Sufi Paths (Tariqas)

other members of the Rift‘iyya to experience vicariously the working of Ahmad al-Rifl‘is abiding baraka. The Mawlawiyya The name of this tariqa, which is rendered as Mevlevi in Turkish, is derived from the sobriquet mawl&na (our master) given to its eponymous founder Jalal al-Din al-RAmi (d. 1273), a Sufi shaykh cel­ ebrated by European Islamic scholarship as a great Muslim poet of mystic love. The details of his life, which have been reconstructed on the basis of the original sources by Ritter, can be summed up briefly as follows. He was born in Balkh in Afghanistan, but moved with his family in his youth to Turkey and settled in the Saljftq principality of Konya in 1225. After establishing some reputation for himself as a Sufi shaykh, he fell under the influence of a wandering Sufi called Shams al-Din Muhammad al-Tabrizi, who came to Konya in 1244. From him Jalil al-Din is said to have learnt the mystic way of love, which became the distinctive element of his tariqa. Jalil al-Din took Shams al-Din into his home, and became so overwhelmed by love for him that he neglected his disciples and all other personal attachments. Chagrined by their master s neglect, his disciples ended by killing the wandering Sufi in 1247. Thereafter Jalil al-Din became attached by a new bond of Sufi love to Husim al-Din Chelebi, which is said to have inspired his major Sufi poetic work, the Masnavi. Jalil al-t)ln wrote the Masnavi in Persian and composed in addition to it love poems in Arabic and Turkish. (Ritter 1965, pp. 393-5) His habit of dancing to the accompaniment of music when in a state of emotional ecstasy was of decisive importance to the development of the mystical dance, by which his tariqa became known. Jalal al-Din was a “master of prayer, of loving prayer, a prayer he knows does not come from himselfbut is, like everything else, a divine gift”. (Schimmel 1994, p. 18) He taught of the love of God and of everything in this world, and experienced the height of his mystical experience by “annihilating himself in the flame of love”. (Schimmel 1994, p. 20) After his death in 1273, Husim al-Din Chelebi became the spiritual leader of his community, and after Chelebi s death in 1283, Jalal al-Dins son Sultan Walad (d. 1312) assumed the leader­ ship of his community in Konya, which was thereafter inherited by members of his family. (Ritter 1965, p. 394) Sultan Walad “expressed,

The Mawlawiyya


in somewhat simplified form, the lofty ideas of his father” (Schimmel 1994, p. 15), and initiated the development of the spontaneous dance his father performed when in a state of emotional ecstasy into a Sufi dancing ceremony that took the place of the dhikr ceremony per­ formed in the other tariqas. The followers of the Mawlawiyya tariqa became known in Europe as the Whirling Dervishes on account of the artistic rotations the participants in its mystical dancing ceremony perform to the accom­ paniment of music. This precisely structured dhikr-cum-dancing ceremony is begun by the recitation of verses from the Qur’in and of mystical ghazal (love poetry). Dressed in long white dresses, the par­ ticipants then whirl to the accompaniment of music while intoning the formula La il&ha illaAll&h (There is no god but Allah), with their arms extended to the sides and the right hand pointing upwards and the left hand downwards. By pointing the right hand upwards, the participants signify that they derive their mystical illumination from God, and by directing the left hand downwards that they pass it on to other members of their tariqa. Sultan Walad s influence on the devel­ opment of this mystical dance is evident from the name dawr-i waladi given to the rotation performed in it. But it seems that the dance took its final form about a century later, during the time when ‘Adil Chelebi (d. 1460) held the supreme leadership of the Mawlawiyya. (Yazici 1991, pp. 883-5) In spite of Jalil al-Din al-Rumfs non-Turkish origins, and of the influence exercised by the Persian Shams al-Din on the development of his teachings, he became the eponymous founder of a distinctly Turkish tariqa. The Ottoman sultans’ identification of their political authority with Islamic orthodoxy prevented the affiliation of the holders of religious and administrative offices in the Ottoman empire with this tariqa. Nevertheless, it expanded widely in Ottoman lands. Konya remained its main centre, but in the sixteenth century it came to have several important tekkes elsewhere in Turkey, with four in Istanbul alone, and other centres in Aleppo and Egypt. Following the banning of the Sufi orders in Turkey in 1925, its tekkes in Turkey were confiscated like those of other tariqas in the country. But it continued to have centres in Arab lands and the Balkans, and more recently it came to have adherents in several European countries, drawn to it no doubt by the ecstatic religious experience of its mystical dance and its ecumenical message of mystical love. (Margoliouth 1991, pp. 887-8)


The Special Sufi Paths (Tariqas)

The various tariqas represented different ideals of Sufi piety and competed with one another for the allegiance of believers. In spite of the extravagant claims made in some of them regarding their epony­ mous founders’ transcendent spiritual authority, none of them be­ came recognised as the only valid spiritual path to God. Consequently, initiation into one of them was not considered by practising Sufis to entail exclusive attachment. And the more arduous among the Sufis, including the most learned, often sought through multiple initiation to secure the simultaneous spiritual guardianship inherent in the baraka of several of the tariqa founders. The learned Egyptian Sufi Ibn al-Mulaqqin (d. 1402), author of the Sufi biographical work Tabaqdtal-Awliyd joined the Qidiriyya and endorsed the beliefin its founder Abd al-Qidir al-Jilini as the qutb al-aqt&b. Nevertheless, he had himself initiated into various other tariqas, including the rival Shidhiliyya. (Ibn al-Mulaqqin 1986, pp. 494-510) Multiple ini­ tiation remained widely practised till the second halfof the eighteenth century, since when the followers of each tariqa have become an exclusive religious community, pledging exclusive allegiance to its founder’s spiritual authority and the punctilious performance of the religious rule he set for it.

5. From Tariqa to Brotherhood Much confusion arises from the indiscriminate use of the English term ‘Sufi brotherhood’, and its equivalents in other European lan­ guages, for the Sufi (ariqa. The Sufi brotherhoods are tariqas, but before the middle of the eighteenth century the followers of the various Sufi tariqas did not constitute brotherhoods in the sense of exclusive religious communities. Muslims initiated into one of them were not required to pledge exclusive allegiance to its founder’s spi­ ritual authority, and multiple initiation was common among the more ardent Sufis. And whereas the ecstatic tariqas, which exercised a marginal influence in the Muslims’ religious life, had distinctive relig­ ious rules of some sorts, the tariqas that expanded widely in Muslim lands did not. They were identified each with a diffuse tradition of Sufi piety, and their leading shaykhs in different lands had much leeway in the choice of the mystical practices they validated by their eponymous founders’ spiritual authority. By contrast to these older tariqas, those founded since the middle of the eighteenth century were intended by their founders from the start to be distinct and exclusive religious communities. Each of them had a distinct religious rule set for it by its founder, and its followers were required to pledge exclusive allegiance to his spiritual authority. The indiscriminate reference to the Sufi tariqas as brotherhoods thus blurs the transformation they underwent after the middle of the eighteenth century and the signif­ icance it had in the communal religious life of the Muslims. The Transformation o f the Sufi tariqas into brotherhoods Like other important developments in Sufi religious life, the transfor­ mation of the tariqas into brotherhoods was accompanied and sus­ tained by the adaptation of the spiritual authority the Sufis associated with waldya to the Muslims’ major pious concerns. Like the eponyms 127


From Tariqa to Brotherhood

of the older tariqas, the founders of the tariqas that appeared after the mid eighteenth century were reputable awliyti\ and their tval&ya was viewed as a manifestation of divine grace as an abiding spiritual autho­ rity that entided them to the spiritual guidance of the believers. How­ ever, they viewed themselves not only as authoritative spiritual guides, but also as the leaders of an Islamic religious revival that should enable Muslim societies to affirm their strength in a world which was becom­ ing increasingly dominated by the Europeans. Consequendy they claimed to themselves the authority to guide the Muslims in all aspects of their social life which they considered essential for their revival. The call for religious revival is a recurrent theme of Islamic history, but whereas in former times it was usually the individual call of zeal­ ous religious scholars whose influence was limited to their immediate communities, it became in the eighteenth century a universal call. Its universality was the result of it being a response to a common pious concern arising from the awareness the Muslims had in their different lands of their rulers’ inability to countervail the dynamic expansive power of the European (Christian) states. Especially significant for the crystallisation of this pious concern was the decline of the Otto­ man empire, the Muslim power that had stood in the front line of military confrontation with the Europeans since the sixteenth cen­ tury. The Ottoman empires military weakness became especially evident in its war with Austria, which began in 1683, led to the unsuc­ cessful siege of Vienna, and ended in 1688 with the loss of the Otto­ man province of Hungary. And since the beginning of the eighteenth century a much enlarged Russia became a formidable enemy with which the Ottoman empire contended for domination in various parts of Europe, and to which it lost Crimea in 1783 and with it con­ trol of the Black Sea. At the same time, the British East India Com­ pany was taking control of parts of the Mughal empire in India, and the Dutch East India Company was expanding its domination in Indonesia. The call for Islamic religious revival in the eighteenth century was a response to these and other signs of decline in Muslim power, which was conditioned by the Muslims’ belief that theirs was “the best community (umma) ever brought forth” (Qur’an, III: 110), and by their pride in the successes of former times. To the ulamd’religious revival consisted of the resuscitation of the Prophet s sunna as a guiding principle of the Muslims’ communal life.

The Transformation o fthe Sufi tariqas into brotherhoods


Its instruments were the rejection of taqlid, in the sense of the unques­ tioning adherence to the norms of the different schools of the religious law, and the re-establishment of hadith as the ultimate source of religious guidance. Hence their identification of religious revival with the study of hadith. Levtzion and Weigert highlight the contri­ bution religious scholars resident in the Haramayn (the two sanc­ tuaries, i.e. Mecca and Medina) made to the consolidation of Islamic revivalist consciousness by the emphasis they placed on the study of hadith. (Levtzion and Weigert 1998, pp. 267-70) But the role of the Haramayn in the consolidation of Islamic revivalist consciousness went beyond the renewed emphasis on the study of hadith. For they were the sanctuaries where Muslims from various parts of the world were imbued during the pilgrimage with a fresh consciousness of their religious unity, and provided with an opportunity to exchange infor­ mation about the problems they faced as a religious community. In them Muslims thus became aware of the common threat they faced in their different lands from the Europeans’ expansive power, and also nurtured the pious hope that their religious revival would enable them to prevail against the enemies of their faith. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, when the Muslims had experienced the humiliations and the advantages of European colon­ ial rule, the call for Islamic religious revival was transformed by the Salafiyya movement into a programme of genuine religious reform. And, as will be explained further in Chapter 9, this movement had authoritative spokesmen whose ideas gained wide acceptance in most Muslim lands under colonial rule. In the eighteenth century Islamic religious revival was a pious hope having no concrete plan and no widely acknowledged authoritative spokesmen. Its leadership was claimed by the Wahhibiyya movement of Arabia, called after the Hanbalite scholar Muhammad b. Abd al-Wahhib (1703-92). The Wahhibiyya equated religious revival with strict adherence to the teachings of Islam as they are determined by responsible religious scholars on the basis of the Qur’&n and hadith without resort to alle­ gorical interpretations. This movement achieved political success in Arabia through Ibn Abd al-Wahhib s alliance with Muhammad b. Saud, the ruler of Diriyya, which led to the foundation of the King­ dom of Saudi Arabia. Outside Arabia, revivalist religious scholars viewed Ibn Abd al-Wahh4b’s notions of Islamic revival at best with


From Tariqa to Brotherhood

indulgent tolerance, and sometimes with unequivocal rejection. But none of them proffered a widely acceptable alternative to them. The Sufi shaykhs response to the call for Islamic religious revival was informed by the belief that, as awliyd \ they were the Prophets authoritative deputies in the Muslim community’s religious guidance. Accordingly, those among them who launched new tariqas from the middle of the eighteenth century onwards implicitly or explicidy claimed that their waldya entitled them to deputise for the Prophet in the leadership of their community’s religious revival. The transfor­ mation of the Sufi ptriqas into brotherhoods followed from the adap­ tation of the notions of spiritual authority the Sufis identified with waldya to this claim. The emphasis placed by the founders of a few of the new tariqas on the study of hadith has led Levtzion and Weigert to assume that a general "fusion of hadith and tasawwuf” occurred in the eighteenth century. (Levtzion and Weigert 1998, p. 262) This assumption was made with special reference to Ahmad b. Idris, whose career is discussed below (pp. 143-7), but, as will become apparent from an examination of the teachings of the founders of new tariqas since the middle of the eighteenth century, these Sufi shaykhs claimed for themselves the leadership of Islamic religious revival as awliyd ’ exercising a spiritual authority bestowed on them by God, and not as f?adith scholars. They affirmed the intrinsic agreement of their relig­ ious guidance with the Prophet’s sunna, but the religious revival they initiated did not have the aim of transforming their societies’ religious institutions in accordance with norms derived from it; it had rather the aim of the generation of a fervent spiritual commitment to Islam. And they relied in achieving it on supererogatory prayers and mystical practices which they transformed into fixed religious rules of their ptriqas. And because the performance of these religious rules required neither religious learning nor Sufi mystical training, the founders of the new tariqas could appeal with them to the religious sentiment of Muslims in all walks of life, including the simple uneducated masses. Although the Sufi brotherhoods had in common their founders’ insistence on the exclusive allegiance of their followers to their spiri­ tual authority, they differed greatly in the degree of the centralisation of spiritual authority in them. In this they can be divided into two broad categories. The first was that of the brotherhoods founded by Sufi shaykhs who achieved distinction in major Muslim towns, where

The Transformation o fthe Sufi (ariqas into brotherhoods


religious life was regulated by the influence of the religious scholars and the working of Islamic legal institutions. These shaykhs viewed themselves as the leaders of universal Islamic revival and their tariqas as its instruments. They sought to substantiate their claim to the uni­ versal validity of their tariqas by the appointment of khalifas from among their disciples whom they entrusted with their propagation in foreign lands; and they identified their spiritual guidance with norms of Islamic piety not immediately related to the religious problems of any specific Muslim society. The wide expansion of these universalist, revivalist Sufi brotherhoods prevented the centralisation of spiritual authority in them. But belief in the special efficacy of their founders’ baraka and in the universal validity of their distinctive religious rules, enabled them in most cases to preserve their unity as distinct religious communities. The second group consisted of Sufi brotherhoods whose founders became identified by birth or the circumstances of their lives with rural Muslim communities over whom the religious scholars and Islamic legal institutions exercised no significant regu­ latory influence. These brotherhoods’ founders were learned Sufi shaykhs committed to the cause of Islamic religious revival, but, as will be further explained in the next chapter, the religious revival they promoted consisted primarily of the establishment of Islamic norms as a regulatory social force in the life of their rural communities. In these brotherhoods centralised systems of spiritual leadership came into being,, which were adapted to the patterns of social and economic life of their communities. Of the universalist revivalist Sufi brotherhoods that appeared after the middle of the eighteenth century, two evolved out of revivalist movements initiated in old prestigious tariqas. The first was launched in the highly segmented Khalwatiyya tariqa by Mustafa al-Bakri (d. 1749), who might be considered the pioneer of the trans­ formation into coherent Sufi communities. He did not succeed in unifying the Khalwatiyya under his leadership, but he laid the foun­ dations for the transformation of his branch of this tariqa by his dis­ ciples into a coherent brotherhood called Khalwatiyya-Bakriyya after him. The second was initiated by Shaykh KMlid al-Sharaz&ri (d. 1827) in the Naqshbandiyya tariqa and led to the appearance of a broth­ erhood named Naqshbandiyya-Khilidiyya after him. While acting as revivalist religious leaders, Mu${af! al-Bakri and Shaykh Kh&lid


From Tariqa to Brotherhood

related their authority to the Prophet through the silsilat al-fariqa of the tariqas which they sought to revitalise. By contrast to them, Ahmad b. Idris, founder of the Idrisiyya fariqa, and Ahmad al-Tijinl, founder of the Tijiniyya fariqa, established a direct link between their authority and the Prophet by the claim each of them made that the tariqa he launched was al-fariqa al-Muhammadiyya. The concept of al-fariqa al-Muhammadiyya does not seem to have originated with these two Sufi shaykhr, both spent the formative periods of their lives in Fez, whose Sufi tradition was shaped since the sixteenth century by the Shadhiliyya-Jazfiliyya that made veneration of the Prophet the core of Sufi piety. One of Ibn Idris’ Sufi masters in Fez, Abd alWahhib al-Tizi (d. 1792 or 1798), described his fariqa as al-tariqaalMuhammadiyya and claimed that it was handed to him directly by the Prophet. (O’Fahey 1990, p. 44) The direct link that Ahmad al-Tijini and Ahmad b. Idris established between their spiritual authority and the Prophet seems to account for the great fame they achieved as Sufi shaykhs committed to the cause of Islamic religious revival. The Kbalwatiyya-Bakriyya brotherhood Before Mus^afi Kamil al-Din al-Bakrl initiated the revivalist move­ ment that led to the appearance of the Khalwatiyya-Bakriyya bro­ therhood, the Khalwatiyya had become, despite its Central Asian origins, a predominantly Ottoman fariqa. Most of its followers were either Turks or groups associated with the Ottoman administration. But it was split into a number of autonomous branches, each founded by one of its reputable shaykhs. Mustafl al-Bakrl was an Arab, born in Damascus in 1688 and educated there. He joined a number of rep­ utable tariqas, including the Qidiriyya and Naqshbandiyya, before being initiated into the Khalwatiyya tariqa, with which he became identified for the rest of his life. He became affiliated with the Qarabishiyya branch of this tariqa, which was founded by All Qarabish (d. 1685), and headed at the time when Musfaft al-Bakrl joined it by his son Hasan, who had his main centre at Oskiidar in Turkey. At this time the Khalwatiyya had numerous followers in Damascus, but they were split into a number of rival groups. Apparendy realising that he could not establish his authority as shaykh of this tariqa in Damascus, al-Bakrl left it in 1718 and setded in Jerusalem, which became there­ after the main centre of his activities. He achieved fame there as an

The Khalwatiyya-Bakriyya


eloquent, moving preacher, and became widely known in Iraq, the Hijaz, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria through the frequent visits he made there. (Eiger 2000, p. 165) With the expansion of his influence and fame, Mustaft al-Bakri came to view himself as the shaykh of this ven­ erable old tariqa, destined to unite it and transform it into an im­ portant agent of Islamic religious revival. Frederick de Jong has pointed out that, although Mustaft al-Bakri wrote some 220 books and tracts, he did not introduce any significant changes in the teachings of the Khalwatiyya tariqa. (Jong 1987, p. 126) Indeed, although this erudite Sufi shaykh dealt in his writings with central aspects of Sufi religious life, such as the spiritual training of the murids, the merits of the dhikr ceremony and the norms to be observed in the practice of khalwa, he did not question the intrinsic validity of the Khalwatiyyas mystical tradition. But he elaborated this nebulous tradition, whose core consisted of the practice of khalwa and the recitation of Yahya al-Shirwini s al-wird al-satt&r (see above, p. 119), and gave it a form that greatly enhanced its popular appeal. He composed supererogatory prayers (awrAd) of his own and required his followers to perform them at fixed hours of the day. The wird he especially emphasised, and on which he wrote several commentaries, was al-fath al-qudsi wa al-kashfal-unsi (the holy inspiration and the joyful revelation), which became commonly known as wirdal-sahar (the dawn wird), because he required his followers to recite it at day­ break {sahar). He also ended, at least for his followers, the controversy among various branches of the Khalwatiyya over the question of whether the cloth of the turban its followers wore on festive occasions should be wound thirty-two or forty times, by ruling that it should be wound forty-eight times. He ended for his followers another con­ troversy by taking a clear stand against the inclusion in the dhikr ceremony of a rotating dance movement (dawarAn) of which several shaykhs of the Khalwatiyya, including ‘Ali Qarabash, approved. (Eiger 2000, pp. 172-4) He also departed from the common practice of the Khalwatiyya regarding the recitation al-Shirwani’s al-wird al-sattAr. This wird was usually recited at set festive occasions, with all those present participating in its recitation. Al-Bakri introduced the prac­ tice of having it chanted on these occasions by a single trained reciter, with the other participants remaining silent, and he insisted that lis­ tening to its recitation was spiritually more beneficial than taking part


From Tariqa to Brotherhood

in it. Qong 1978b, p. 992) Thus while not questioning the intrinsic validity of the Khalwatiyya’s mystical tradition, Mustaft al-Bakri identified it with a fixed religious rule, consisting of mystical practices having great ecstatic appeal. Although he forbad the performance of the rotating dance movement in the dhikr ceremony of which other shaykhs of the Khalwatiyya approved, the chanting of the divine name in the dhikr ceremonies he held in Jerusalem was so ecstatic, that the participants in them sometimes fainted because of excitement and exhaustion. And the dhikr ceremonies held in Cairo by his Egyptian deputy al-Hifni “became so popular that he had to repeat the dhikr days and nights [in order] to admit the many thousands who wanted to attend it.”. (Levtzion 1997, p. 152) With the growth of Mustafa al-Bakri s fame, the Ottoman autho­ rities became intent on using his influence to promote loyalty to the Ottoman sultan-caliph in Arab lands. When the Ottoman vizier Righib Pasha visited Jerusalem, he met him, had him accompany him to Egypt, and afterwards arranged for him to travel to Istanbul. Mustafii al-Bakri s stay of four years (1722-6) in the Ottoman capital seems to have been decisive in making him give a distinctly Arab identity to his branch of the Khalwatiyya. Ralf Eiger says on the basis of his analysis of Mu${aft al-Bakri s writings that, whereas before his visit to Istanbul he dealt in his writings predominantly with Sufi themes, he presented himself subsequendy as an Arab adtb (man of letters). He cultivated personal relations with reputable Arab authors, and composed poems and other literary works in elegant and cul­ tivated language. Consequendy, his reputation as a Sufi shaykh end­ owed with privileged mystical knowledge of God gradually merged with his standing as a distinguished man of Arabic letters. (Eiger 2000, pp. 174-7) Among Mustafa al-Bakri s many disciples, the closest to him was Muhammad S&limal-Hifni (d. 1767), an Egyptian who came to Jeru­ salem to seek mystical training from him. Mustafa al-Bakri seems to have attached special significance to the establishment of his spiritual authority in Egypt. He appointed al-Hifni as his khalifa in Cairo and frequently visited this town. When he came to Cairo in 1749, large crowds assembled to welcome him and seek his baraka. But he died about a month after his arrival and was buried there in the Qardfa cemetery. Qong 1987, pp. 117-23 and Martin 1972, pp. 297-8)

The Naqshbandiyya-Kh&lidiyya


Muhammad Silim al-Hifni, who in the last nine years of his life was the rector of al-Azhar university-mosque, completed the transfor­ mation of his masters branch of the Khalwatiyya into a brotherhood named Khalwatiyya-Bakriyya after him. Cairo became the main centre of this brotherhood, where its supreme head resided, but it spread widely in other Arab countries of the Middle East. Two prominent Sufi shaykhs from the Maghrib, Ahmad al-Tij&m and Muhammad b. Abd al-Rahm&n, also became affiliated with it before launching their own brotherhoods, the Tijiniyya and Rahminiyya respectively (see below, pp. 149-50 and 172-3). Mu${aft al-Bakri was a highly inspiring Sufi preacher and teacher. But he seems to have achieved his remarkable success by responding to the Muslims’ yearning for authoritative religious leadership in two ways. The first was the validation by his own authority of the fixed and spiritually inspiring religious rule he set for his branch of the Khalwatiyya, and the second was his insistence on his followers’ ex­ clusive allegiance to his spiritual authority. Frederick de Jong, refusing to recognise the significance and novelty of Mu${aft al-Bakri’s insist­ ence on his followers’ exclusive allegiance to his authority, quotes in support of his position a statement by ‘All Qarabish in which he says that the murid*should have his heart always tied to his master”. (Jong 1987, p. 128) But, with this statement ‘Ali Qarabash seems merely to have reiterated the notion, which Sufi authors had accepted since the middle of the eleventh century, that the murids exclusive submission to his shayktis authority was an essential requirement of the personal tarbiya he received from him. Mustafl al-Bakri, on the other hand, demanded exclusive allegiance to his spiritual authority not only from his personal disciples, but also from all those initiated into his branch of the Khalwatiyya. The significance of this novel notion of spiritual authority was not lost on the founders of new tariqas since the middle of the eighteenth century. Besides following al-Bakri’s example by themselves laying down fixed religious rules for the tariqas they founded, they invariably made the pledge of exclusive allegiance to their authority an essential requirement of initiation into them. The Naqshbandiyya-Kh&lidiyya brotherhood Like the Khalwatiyya-Bakriyya, the Naqshbandiyya-Khilidiyya owed its origin to a revivalist movement in an old prestigious tariqa. Its


From Tariqa to Brotherhood

founder, Shaykh Khilid Ahmad al-Shaharzftri (1779-1827), was born in Qaradagh in Kurdistan, and was educated in it and in Sulayminiyya, where the Baban ruling family had its seat of government. He was in Mecca when its ruler, the sharifG)\$Xib, submitted to the Wahhibis in 1806, but he seems to have strongly disapproved of their teachings. For he attached great significance to an encounter he had in the Ka‘ba with a Sufi shaykh who told him that he would not find spiritual enlightenment in Mecca, and told him to seek it instead in India. Shaykh Khilid undertook the arduous trip to India some three years later in the company of an Indian Sufi he met in Sulayminiyya, who urged him to travel to Delhi and seek instruction from its prominent shaykh Ghulim All (d. 1824). A prominent shaykh of the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya, Gulim All made veneration of the Prophet and the study of hadith cardinal elements of Sufi piety. He was a contemporary of Abd al-Aziz, another leading shaykh of the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya, whose father Wali Allih had set his religious hopes on the revival of the Mughal empire. Abd al-Aziz himself openly condemned on religious grounds the Mughal em­ peror’s acceptance of British protection in 1803 (see above, pp. 117— 18). Ghulim All seems to have been intent on dissociating himself from Abd al-Aziz and other shaykhs of the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya who ascribed themselves to Wali Allih and opposed British rule in the name of Islamic religious revival. He insisted that his silsilat altariqa related him to Ahmad al-Sirhindi, the founder of the Naqsh­ bandiyya-Mujaddidiyya, not through Wali Allih but through the latter’s contemporary Mazhar Jin-I Jinin (1699-1781). Shaykh Khalid spent a year with Ghulim All, who is said during that time to have subjected him to periods of seclusion and intensive mystical training. His trip to India is presented in the hagiographic accounts of his life as the turning point in his career, and he himself commemorated it by a long poem of his own. For it enabled him to claim after returning to Kurdistan in 1811, that Ghulim All appointed him as his khalifa and authorised him to propagate the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya in the Middle East. (Abu-Manneh 2001, pp. 13-16 and Al-§awwif2000, pp. 86-90) Nevertheless, within a few years after returning from India, Shaykh Khilid came to identify Islamic religious revival, unlike his master Ghulim Ali, with the Muslims’ ability to countervail Euro­ pean expansion in their lands.

The Naqshbandiyya-Kh&lidiyya


After returning from India, Shaykh Khilid settled in Sulayminiyya and sought at first to establish his authority in Kurdistan as represen­ tative of the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya. But he was forced to leave this town a few months later by the hostility of Kurdistan’s old religious families. The most adamant and powerful of his opponents there was the shaykh of the Qidiriyya, Ma'rfif al-Barzinji, who belon­ ged to one of Kurdistan’s most influential families. Shaykh Khalid’s claim to a superior spiritual authority struck at the root of the Barzinjis’ power, for it threatened “their influence with the Bibin [ruling] family and even their wealth, based as it was on the awqdfrhcy con­ trolled and gifts from followers.”. (Hourani 1972, p. 96) From Sulay­ miniyya, Shaykh Khilid travelled to Baghdad. After a short stay there, he returned to Sulayminiyya, only to return to Baghdad in 1813. There he found a less restrictive atmosphere than in Kurdistan and an influential mentor, Asad §adr al-Din al-Haydari, who belonged to a prominent family of Kurdish origins and was at the time Hanafite mufti of Baghdad. With al-Haydari’s help, Shaykh Khilid took con­ trol of one of Baghdad’s important madrasasywhich he transformed into a centre for teaching and preaching, and soon came to have a large circle of followers which included several renowned ulamd'. The Ottoman governor of Baghdad, recognising his growing religious influence, treated him with deference. (Abu-Manneh 2001, p. 17) In Baghdad Shaykh Khilid affirmed his independence from the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya and initiated his metamorphosis into the supreme head of a Sufi brotherhood that owed exclusive allegiance to his spiritual authority. One of his leading disciples there, Muham­ mad b. Sulaymin, wrote in 1233 a h / 1817-18 a d a biography of him, in which he said that the ikhtu&n (brethren), i.e. Shaykh Khilid’s disciples, decided to call their tariqa Khilidiyya after their master. It can be assumed that the master himself inspired this decision (AbuManneh 2001, pp. 13 and 28), but since Shaykh Khilid did not re­ nounce his ascription to Bahi’ al-Din Naqshband by having himself proclaimed the founder of a new tariqa, he merely affirmed the inde­ pendence of his brotherhood from the Indian NaqshbandiyyaMujaddidiyya. The ruler of Kurdistan, Mahm&d Bibin, apparently impressed by the fame Shaykh Khilid attained in Baghdad, overruled the Barzinjis’ objection to him and invited him to return to his homeland. Shaykh Khilid travelled to Sulayminiyya in 1820, and


From Taiiqa to Brotherhood

acted while there as the supreme head of a Sufi brotherhood, appoint­ ing khalifas to represent his authority in various parts of Kurdistan and in the towns of central and eastern Anatolia. But he did not stay there long, leaving Sulayminiyya in October 1820 and never return­ ing there. (Abu-Manneh 2001, pp. 17-18) Shaykh Khilid seems to have been impelled to leave Sulayminiyya by the limited opportunities he found there for the fiilfilment of his ambitions as a self-appointed leader of Islamic religious revival in the Middle East. As Butrus Abu-Mannehs reconstruction of Shaykh Khi­ lid s career suggests, his religious success in Baghdad made him set his hopes for the fulfilment of these ambitions on the opportunities offered by the important urban centres. On leaving Sulayminiyya, he returned to Baghdad. During his earlier stay in it, he had sent two dis­ ciples, Abd al-Rahmin al-Qasr! and Ahmad al-Kha{lb al-Irbilf, to spread his brotherhood in Damascus. Their success induced him to make this major town a new centre of his religious activities. Before setting off for Damascus with a large retinue of disciples in 1823, he appointed three khalifas in Baghdad and several others in other parts of Iraq and Kurdistan. In Damascus, as earlier in Baghdad, he had an influential mentor: Ismail al-Ghazzi, head of a prominent Dam­ ascene family, whose sister he married shortly after settling in Damas­ cus, and with whose help he acquired a large mansion, part of which he used as a zdwiya. But he was also supported by Husayn al-Muridi, the mufti of Damascus. And although Shaykh Khilid s career was cut short by his death from the plague in 1827, he became known in Damascus as a learned and zealous advocate of Islamic religious re­ vival. Its leading religious scholars are said to have attended the teach­ ing and preaching sessions he held in his z&wiya, and he promoted his standing as a revivalist Sufi shaykh by having his disciples take over mosques that had fallen into disuse, revive them as places of worship, and use them for the performance of the Naqshbandiyya dhikr. And he was constantly preoccupied while there with directing the activities of disciples he sent to various countries of the Middle East to propa­ gate his notions of religious revival. (Abu-Manneh 2001, pp. 18-21 and Al-$awwaf2000, pp. 23-8) Shaykh Khilids notions of religious revival seem to have been shaped by pious concerns aroused by the political and military set­ backs the Ottoman empire suffered during his lifetime in its confron­

The Naqshbandiyya-KhMutiyya


tation with the Europeans. The Ottomans could not prevent the occupation of Egypt in 1798 by the French expeditionary force led by Napoleon; and they could only force the French to evacuate it three years later with English help, for which they paid the price of coneluding with England the first military alliance between an Ottoman sultan and a non-Muslim state. The Ottoman sultans’ loss of power in Europe was highlighted by the outbreak of a rebellion in Serbia in 1808 and another in Greece in 1821 against their rule, which were to lead after Shaykh Khalid’s death to the independence of both coun­ tries in 1830 and 1833 respectively. (Hourani 1991, pp. 265-8) Shaykh Khiiid’s preoccupation with the fate of the Ottoman empire is evident from a risdla (episde), in which he expounded his conception of the r&bita (spiritual bond) with the Sufi shaykh, which will be exa­ mined below (pp. 142-3). He opens this epistle by referring to the Ottoman sultan as the caliph and defender of Muslim lands to the end of time, and concludes it by describing the Ottoman caliphate as the pivot of Islam and requiring his followers to rally to its support against the enemies of the faith (see text of this risdla in Al-§awwif 2000, pp. 123-32). Shaykh Khiiid’s preoccupation with the fate of the Ottoman empire is also evident from the determined effort he made to gain influence in its capital. Shordy after he was proclaimed by his disciples in Baghdad as the head of a distinct tariqa in 1817/18, he appointed one of his disciples, ‘Abd al-Wahhib al-S&sl, as his khalifa in Istanbul. Al-Stisl arrived in the Ottoman capital in 1819 and suc­ ceeded in winning the spiritual allegiance of the Shaykh al-Islam (head of the Ottoman empire s religious establishment) and several religious scholars and ministers to his master. In later years Shaykh Khalid’s deputies in Istanbul became so impudent in challenging the spiritual authority of other Sufi shaykhs and aggressive in the recruitment of followers that they were reprimanded by an official order in 1828 for the disturbances they caused and required to desist from encroach­ ment on other Sufi shaykhs'spheres of influence. (Abu-Manneh 2001, p. 47 and Al-§awwif2000, p. 27) The rapid expansion of Shaykh Khiiid’s influence in Ottoman lands was due in no small part to his dedication to the training of dis­ ciples who propagated his revivalist ideals and spread his fame. His writings consist almost exclusively of rasd'il (epistles) he wrote to his khalifas in different lands, in which he directed their activities and


From Tariqa to Brotherhood

explained his notions of Islamic religious revival. In these episdes he emphasised the rulers’ responsibility for the decline of Muslim societies, and directed his khalifas to cultivate the trust of the holders of political power in their lands with the aim of guiding them in its exercise in accordance with the religious law. He also stressed his attachment to the Prophet’s sunna, the belief in it as the abiding source of the Muslim community’s authoritative religious guidance, and recognition of the Prophet’s Companions as its ultimate exem­ plars. And he highlighted the Naqshbandiyya tariqas identification with the first caliph Abd Bakr by describing it as al-siddiqiyya, a term derived from Abd Baler’s honorific tide al-siddtq (the truthful). (Abu Manneh 2001, pp. 22-4) As indicated above (p. 113), the silsilataltariqa of the Naqshbandiyya that traces its origin to the Prophet via Abft Bakr is the one endorsed by the majority of its shaykhs. Shaykh Khilid gave substance to his authority as the founder of an independent Sufi brotherhood by setting his own rules for the per­ formance of the Naqshbandiyya dhikr ceremony. Before his time, die dhikr of the Naqshbandiyya was a non-structured assembly in which the participants, each acting on his own, forged a r&bita with their tariqas eponymous founder by the invocation of his picture before their mind’s eye and sought mystical union with God in three stages that he specified (see above, p. 115). In an episde to his disciples, Shaykh Khilid laid down rules for the performance of the dhikr vAiidh transformed it into a communal, not entirely silent, ceremony. He required the participants to sit facing the Ka‘ba, with the right foot under the left leg, and to start it by saying ‘with the tongue’ astaghfiru Alldh five, or fifteen, or twenty-five times. Then with the eyes and mouth closed and the tongue pressed to the roof of the mouth, they should reflect on their sins and contemplate death until they feel one with it. They should then say the Fdtiha (opening sdra) of the Qur’in and the stirat al-Ikhlds three times ‘with the tongue’, and offer their reward to Bahi’ al-Din Naqshband. Thereafter they should place Naqshband’s picture before their mind’s eye and draw it into their hearts, while contemplating the connotation of the divine name AlWf until they experience wuq&fqalbi (‘stoppage’, i.e. spiritual control, of the heart), a state Shaykh Khilid considered the essence of the dhikr. While in this state, they should say ‘with the tongue of the heart’, i.e. silendy, ‘Oh God, you are my hope and your approbation is my goal’

The Naqshbandiyya-KhMidiyya


and after it AWlh, AMh one hundred times. After that they should repeat ‘in the heart’ both invocations as often as they can while re­ maining in the state of wuqUfqalbi. In this way Shaykh Khilid assured his followers that they would receive unawares the spiritual gifts assigned to each of them by God. Significantly, Shaykh Khilid endor­ sed the wuq&fqalbi, the third of the three stages Naqshband indicated for the attainment of mystical union with God by the participants in the dhikr; and ignored the first two. And he insisted that the per­ formance of the dhikr in the form he set for it was not only a spiri­ tually rewarding act, but also a token of exclusive attachment to his tariqa, entailing the binding of the heart to its shaykh, i.e. to himself, and the shunning of all contacts with its detractors (see text of this episde in Al-$awwif2000, pp. 93—7). Another significant departure from the Naqshbandiyya’s estab­ lished tradition which Shaykh Khilid introduced related to the ini­ tiation of new followers. According to the Naqshbandiyya tradition, the seeker of initiation (murid) should undergo a suhba (compan­ ionship) with one of its shaykhs, during which he would abstain from turning to any other shaykh for spiritual guidance. The duration of suhba was not fixed, but ended when the shaykh became satisfied that the murid had attained under his guidance the grade of spiritual maturity required for formal initiation. This form of suhba con­ stituted the foundation of a rdbita that binds the disciple to the shaykh who takes charge of his spiritual training and initiates him into the tariqa. Shaykh Khilid transformed this traditional method of ini­ tiation in a way that reconciled his claim to the exclusive spiritual alle­ giance of his brotherhood’s followers with the aim of expanding it by the admission into it of Muslims whose spiritual training he could not personally undertake. He retained suhba as a requirement of initia­ tion, but transformed it into a preliminary stage during which the murid practised it with one of his trusted disciples. Afterwards, the murid was required to undergo khalwa (mystical seclusion) lasting forty days, during which he received spiritual training either from Shaykh Khilid himself or, more often, from one of his khalifas. This form of standardised spiritual training called khalwa arba'iniyya (forty-day khalwa) was practised before Shaykh Khilid by a few shaykhs of the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya, but it was a contro­ versial practice which al-Sirhindl was known to have rejected. Never-


From Tariqa to Brotherhood

thclcss, it became the standard practice of the NaqshbandiyyaKhilidiyya (ariqa. (Abu-Manneh 2001, pp. 28-30) Shaykh Khiiid’s insistence on his followers’ exclusive allegiance to his spiritual authority led to his taking a highly controversial position on the question of the r&bita. The Naqshbandiyya tradition recog­ nised two forms of this spiritual bond. One was the r&bita between the followers of the tariqa and its founder Bahi’ al-Din Naqshband, which they invoked especially during the dhikr ceremony. The other was between the murid and the shaykh who takes charge of his spiritual training and initiates him into the Naqshbandiyya. Shaykh Khilid recognised the first form, but insisted that the performance of the dhikr in the form he set for it was also a token of allegiance to his own spiritual authority. And he rejected the second, because its endorsement would have undermined the unity of his brotherhood, whose foundation was exclusive allegiance to his own spiritual autho­ rity. Accordingly, he required his khalifas in different lands to have those they initiated into his tariqa to enter into a r&bita exclusively with him. The more successful of his khalifas resented this require­ ment, and a few of them openly rebelled against it. One of these was his first khalifa in Istanbul, Abd al-Wahhib al-S&si, through whom he sought to establish his religious authority in the Ottoman capital. Shaykh Khilid expelled al-SAsi from his brotherhood after the latter persisted in his rejection of the connotation he gave to the r&bita and endeavoured to have other shaykhs of the brotherhood join him in its rejection. Another recalcitrant khalifa was Ismi'il al-Shirwini, who spread the Naqshbandiyya-Khilidiyya in Daghistan and Chechnia. But al-Shirwini recanted his disobedience after Shaykh Khilid wrote him a harsh letter of reprimand. (Abu-Manneh 2001, pp. 33-5) The episde Shaykh Khilid wrote on the r&bitawas intended to quell oppo­ sition to the connotation he gave to it. He addressed it to the ‘loyal brethren in the Ottoman empire, and its opening statement was an expression of his satisfaction over the many letters of support he had received from followers of his tariqa affirming allegiance to him despite the defamations of his detractors. He did not mention these detractors by name or refer to the specific cause of their disaffection. Instead, he affirmed that the r&bita was a central element of Naqsh­ bandiyya teachings, and described it as a spiritual bond with the per­ fect shaykh that enables his murids to receive his spiritual sustenance

The Idrisiyya


and guidance without having personal contact with him. He ended with the warning that those who give credence to the lies and falsifi­ cation of the misguided run the risk of undermining their faith (see text of this episde in al-§awwif2000, pp. 123-32). The contradictions in Shaykh Khilid s position on the question of the rdbita reflected the ambiguity he cultivated regarding the question of whether he was the founder of a new tariqa or merely the supreme head of a Sufi brotherhood that was also an autonomous branch of the Naqshbandiyya. By having himself proclaimed by his disciples in Baghdad as the founder of a new tariqa, he apparently sought to assert his independence of the Mujaddidiyya branch of the Naqshbandiyya. And while affirming his spiritual allegiance to the Naqshbandiyya’s eponymous founder and endorsing the intrinsic validity of this tariqa's mystical tradition, he developed it in a way that justified his supreme leadership of the brotherhood that came to be called Naqshbandiyya-Khilidiyya after him. He was the supreme head of this brotherhood for barely ten years, but before his death in 1827 it had become well established and spread widely in Ottoman lands. His moral authority, and the help of influential supporters, enabled him to check dissension over the question of the rdbita. After al-SGsi’s expulsion from the brotherhood and al-Shirw&nis recantation of his disobedience, opposition to his insistence on exclusive allegiance to his spiritual authority died out. But because his brotherhood’s unity had no foundation other than his dominant personality, it quickly broke down after his death. When he fell ill with the plague in 1827, he appointed one of his leading disciples, Ismi'il al-Anirini, as suc­ cessor and instructed his various other khalifas to submit to his authority. He also chose two khalifas whom he wished to assume the brotherhood’s supreme leadership in succession after al-Anirini s death. (Al-§awwif2000, pp. 51-2) Nevertheless, after his own death his brotherhood split into a number of branches whose shaykhs affirmed allegiance to his spiritual authority, but acted as supreme heads of autonomous Sufi communities. The Idrisiyya brotherhood Among the founders of the fariqas that appeared from the middle of the eighteenth century onwards, Ahmad b. Idris, the eponymous founder of the Idrisiyya fariqa, was the most consistent in equating


From Tariqa to Brotherhood

Islamic religious revival with the resuscitation of the Prophet’s sunna. He was born in 1750 in Mays&r near al-Ara’ish (Larache) on the north-western coast of Morocco to a sharifian family that claimed descent from the Idrisid dynasty that ruled that country in the ninth century. When he was about twenty years old he went to study in Fez, where he remained for about thirty years. The religious life of Fez was undergoing a significant change at the time, propelled by a revivalist impulse sponsored by the sultan Mawliy Muhammad b. ‘Abdullah (1757-90). As in other important centres of Islamic relig­ ious learning at the time, religious revival was equated in Fez with the rejection of taqlid and the study of hadith. The sultan compiled a hadith compendium himself entided al-Fut&kelt al-ll&hiyya, in which he arranged the Prophet’s traditions in accordance with the degree of the scholars’ agreement on their authenticity, and he held in his palace sessions of hadith study on Friday after the evening prayer. He also charged a committee of hadith scholars with reforming the curricu­ lum of the Qarawiyyin university-mosque of Fez with the aim of ending the emphasis on taqlid in the teaching there of the religious law. (Abun-Nasr 1963, pp. 92-4) Ibn Idris studied with several of the religious scholars engaged in this revivalist religious activity. With Muhammad al-Tawudi b. Stida (d. 1795), a member of the commit­ tee charged with reforming the curriculum of the Qarawiyyin, he is said to have studied all the major hadith compendia. He was also educated by several Sufi shaykhs, one of whom was the above-men­ tioned Abd al-Wahh&b al-Tizi (d. 1792 or 1798) who claimed to have been taught al-tariqa al-Muhammadiyya by the Prophet. But, apparendy realising that as an outsider he could not obtain a position of influence in the socially exclusive community of Fez, Ibn Idris left it in 1798 and spent the rest of his life in the Islamic East. (O’Fahey 1990, pp. 27-50) Ibn Idris achieved fame in Mecca, where he became known as a Sufi shaykh who called the believers to al-tariqa al-Muhammadiyya, and as an erudite hadith scholar committed to the cause of religious revival. But he also became willy-nilly entangled there in the religious and political conflicts the Muslim holy places were experiencing at that time. When he arrived in Mecca in 1799, he was well received by its sharifian ruler Gh&lib, and although he was known for his criticism of elements of Muhammad b. Abd al-Wahh4b’s beliefs, the Wahh&bis treated him with respect after they took control of Mecca in 1806. But

The Idrisiyya


Mecca was occupied in 1 8 1 3 in the name of the Ottoman sultan by the viceroy of Egypt, Muhammad ‘All, and thereafter was governed, until the Hijiz was brought under direct Ottoman control in 1 8 4 0 , in the name of the Ottoman sultan by a sharifchosen by the viceroy of Egypt. Ibn Idris seems to have resented die Turco-Egyptian occu­ pation of the Muslim holy places, since he left Mecca at its outset with a group of his disciples and setded in upper Egypt, then outside the direct control of the authorities in Cairo. While there he sent one of his disciples, Muhammad b. ‘Uthmin al-Mirghani, to spread his teachings in the Sudan and Ethiopia. He returned to Mecca in 1 8 1 7 at the time when the Band Zayd, the sharifian family to which his former sponsor Gh&lib belonged, held the governorship of Mecca. He left it again in 1 2 4 3 a h / 1 8 2 7 - 8 a d and went this time to Yemen, shortly after Muhammad 'Ali had the Band Zayd replaced in the gov­ ernorship of Mecca by a rival family of sharifs. Before leaving for Yemen, Ibn Idris appointed his disciple Muhammad b. Ali al-Sanusi, the future founder of the SanAsiyya brotherhood, as a khalifa en­ trusted with the guidance of his many followers in Mecca. In Yemen he moved about for some two years before settling in 1 8 3 0 in a small village called Sabya in Asir, where he remained until his death in 1 8 3 7 . (O’Fahey 1 9 9 0 , pp. 5 8 - 7 0 and Karrar 1 9 9 1 , pp. 17- 2 0 ) Mecca provided Ahmad b. Idris with a forum for the propagation of his revivalist notions among Muslims from various parts of the world, but its local scholarly community apparendy viewed him with hostility. Its leading ulamd ’were angered by his emphasis on the need for a new ijtihddbascd on the Qur’in and the Prophet’s sunna, and his claim to being qualified to undertake it, which implicidy questioned their religious authority. His disciples related several instances in which Meccan mi'sought to discredit him by challenging him to answer difficult doctrinal questions on the basis of a new ijtih&d, adding that he could always give conclusive answers to them substan­ tiated by reliably authenticated hadith. (O’Fahey 1 9 9 0 , pp. 7 3 - 9 ) The Wahhibis resented, among other things, his condemnation of their view that Muslims who subscribed to false beliefs were infidels and that it was permitted under the law to put them to death when they were defeated in batde. However, aware that he shared their com­ mitment to the resuscitation of the Prophet’s sunna, Wahh&bi scholars considered him a potential convert to their cause, and sought to win him over by entering into doctrinal debates with him; the Wahhabis


From T&r!qa to Brotherhood

apparently continued their efforts to do so even after he setded in Yemen. A record exists of a public debate he had in §abya with the Wahhibi scholar N&$ir al-Kubaydi, in which he is said to have applauded Muhammad b. Abd al-Wahhibs dedication to the resto­ ration of the faith to its pristine purity, but repudiated his condem­ nation of Muslims who disagreed with his beliefs as infidels. He also rejected the Wahhibis* condemnation of Ibn Arabi s teachings as unbelief, saying they were in agreement with the Qur’in and the Prophets sunna. The Wahhibis, for their part, criticised Ibn Idris especially for allowing his disciples to kiss his hand or knee when greeting him, contending that such a token of excessive devotion was a form of worship to which none of God s creatures was entided. (O’Fahey 1990, pp. 100-5 and Karrar 1991, pp. 20 and 41) As in the case of Shaykh Khilid, much ambiguity surrounds the question whether Ahmad b. Idris viewed himself as the founder of a new tariqa. He called the believers to al-tariqa al-Muhammadiyya, i.e. to the Prophet s own tariqa, into which he was initiated in Fez by Abd al-Wahhib al-Tizi. He viewed himself as the wait whom the Prophet entrusted with the supreme leadership and propagadon of this tariqa, and he claimed that the Prophet taught him its special wird, which he called al-$aldt al-‘Azimiyya because God is addressed in it with his name al-Azim (the Glorious). With the recitation of this wird, the believer invokes divine blessings for the Prophet and his family, then beseeches God: And unite me with him [the Prophet] as you unite the spirit and the soul, inwardly and outwardly, in wakefulness and sleep, and make him my inner self in all forms, in this world before the Hereafter (see text in Karrar 1991, p. 133). Spiritual unity with the Prophet, for which the believer beseeches God in this prayer, is the central element of al-tariqa al-Muhammadiyya as it was preached by Ibn Idris. Thus, although Ibn Idris did not claim to be the founder of al-tariqa al-Muhammadiyya, or even the Sufi shaykh who first received it from the Prophet, he gave it a concrete doctrinal substance and a distincdy revivalist orientation. And he acted during his lifetime as the supreme head of a revivalist Sufi brotherhood that owed exclusive allegiance to his spiritual authority. Although Ibn Idris disclaimed being the founder of a new tariqa, he became widely recognised after his death as the founder of one, which came to be called the Idrisiyya tariqa after him. And several of

The Tijdniyya


his leading disciples founded Sufi brotherhoods which, they declared, epitomised his tariqa. Muhammad b. ‘All al-SanAsi, the disciple he appointed as his khalifa in Mecca when he moved to Yemen, founded the San&siyya brotherhood (see below, pp. 158-61). Muhammad b. ‘Uthmin al-Mirghani, whom he had entrusted with the propagation of his revivalist teachings in Sudan and Ethiopia, founded the Khatmiyya (also called Mirghaniyya) brotherhood (see below, pp. 175-6). And Ibr&him al-Rashld (1813-74), who left his home in the Shiyqiyya region of northern Sudan to join Ibn Idris in §abya in about 1832, and remained with him until his death in 1837, founded the Rashldiyya brotherhood. The influence of this brotherhood in northern Sudan became established under the leadership of Ibr&him al-Rashid’s nephew Muhammad al-Duwayhi (d. 1919), and it came to have an important ofishoot in Egypt called al-Rashidiyya alAhmadiyya al-Idrisiyya. Another ofishoot of the Rashidiyya was the §&lihiyya, founded in Mecca by Ibr&him al-Rashids nephew Muhammad $ilih. (O’Fahey 1990, pp. 162-9) The §alihiyya achieved notoriety through the jih&d conducted by one of its leading shaykhs, Muhammad Abdille Hasan, against the British in Somalia (see below, pp. 209-13). Thus, after Ahmad b. Idris’death, his spiritual authority devolved upon his leading disciples rather than members of his family. Of the five sons who .survived him, three died young. Of the two others the elder, Muhammad (d. 1889), led an uneventful life in Asir in Yemen, but his grandson Muhammad al-Idrisi (d. 1923) initiated a rebellion against Ottoman rule that led to the establishment in Asir of a principality that became known as the Idrisid state (al-dawla alIdrisiyya). Muhammad’s younger brother Abd al-‘Al was seven years old at the time of his fathers death in 1837. Muhammad b. AJi alSan&si took him to Cyrenaica in Libya when he finally setded there in 1853. After al-San&si’s death iit 1859, Abd al-‘Al left for Egypt and from there to Dongola in Sudan, where he died in 1878. His son Muhammad al-Sharif (d. 1937) established there a Sufi brotherhood he called the Idrisiyya that had most of its followers in northern Sudan and Upper Egypt. (O’Fahey 1990, pp. 125-9) The Tij&niyya brotherhood Like Ahmad b. Idris, the founder of the Tijiniyya brotherhood, Ahmad b. al-Mukhtir al-Tij&ni (d. 1815), also considered his tariqa


From Tariqa to Brotherhood

to be al-tariqa al-Muhammadiyya. Before launching it, he spent some time in Fez in 1778. ‘Abd al-Wahhib al-Tizl, who initiated Ahmad b. Idris into al-tariqa al-Muhammadiyya, was still alive at the time and it can therefore be assumed that during his stay in Fez Ahmad al-Tijani became acquainted with this novel method of ascribing the Sufi tariqa to the Prophet, and aware of the appeal it had to Muslims at a time when religious revival was equated with the resuscitation of the Prophet s sunna. He justified the reference to his tariqa as al-tariqa alMuhammadiyya by the daim that the Prophet appeared to him when he was awake, ordered him to launch his tariqa, and taught him the Jawharat al-Kamdl (the pearl of perfection), a supererogatory prayer he made a central element of its religious rule. By using the desig­ nation al-tariqa al-Muhammadiyya for his tariqa, he thus underscored the special recognition he claimed that the Prophet accorded to it, while leaving no doubt that he considered himself the founder of the tariqa he propagated, and not merely the supreme shaykh of the Prophet s own tariqa. The only source available for Ahmad al-Tijini’s early career and his teachings is Ali Harizim b. al-Arabi Baridas Jaw&hir al-Ma ‘d ni wa Bulitgh al-Amdnif i Fayd Sidi Abi al-Abbds Ahmad al- Tijdni (The pearls of meanings and attainment of the hopes in the [spiritual] ema­ nations of my master AbA al-Abbis Ahmad al-Tijini). Barida was Ahmad al-Tijini s trusted disciple, and he presented in this book the account of his masters life and teachings that he heard from him. And he says that, after completing this book, he read it to his master, who approved it in January 1802. (Barida, Jawdhir, 1988, vol. 2, p. 282) In the absence of any other source, the reconstruction of the course of Ahmad al-Tijinis life and career offered here depends on facts gleaned from Baridas idealised account of them. Barida says that the appellation Tijini comes from the name of the Algerian Berber tribe Tijin or Tijina, and that it was adopted by Ahmad al-Tijini s family when one of his forefathers married a woman from this tribe. But he also insists that his master was a de­ scendant of the Prophet through his grandson Hasan, and that his sharifian descent was indisputable, although he made it known only after he launched his tariqa. He records that when his master was asked about the belated assertion of his sharifian descent, he replied that his scruples did not permit him to make it known before the

The Tijdniyya


Prophet confirmed it in a vision in which he said to him ‘Truly you are my son three times. (Jawdhir, vol. 1, p. 26) Ahmad al-Tijini was born in the Algerian oasis of ‘Ayn Midi in 1737 and was at first educated there. (Jawdhir; vol. 1, p. 24) In order to further his edu­ cation he went to Fez in 1171 ah/1757-8 a d , and while there studied hadith and joined three tariqas: the Qidiriyya, Ni$iriyya, and the litde known tariqa of Ahmad al-Habib b. Muhammad. After a short stay in Fez, he started a period of wandering in search of mystical guidance. He spent five years of meditation in the zdwiya of Abd alQidir b. Muhammad, commonly known as Sidi al-Shaykh, at alAbiad (El-Biod) in the Algerian desert. And having been told by Sufi shaykhs he met in Morocco and Algeria that he would attain waldya at the hands of the qutb, he decided to search for him in the Mashriq. (Jawdhir, vol. 1, p. 29) Ahmad al-Tijini started his journey to the Mashriq in 1186 a h / \ 772-3 AD. On the way he spent about a year in Tunisia, and is said to have taught Ibn ‘A (i’ Allih s Kitdb al-Hikam (see above, p. 110) in Tunis with such success that the ruler All Bey (1757-82) invited him to stay and teach at the Zaytfina mosque, and offered him a house and a substantial salary. But he rejected this magnanimous offer because MahmAd al-Kurdi, the head of the Khalwatiyya-Bakriyya broth­ erhood in Cairo, appeared to him in a dream and promised ‘to trans­ form his copper into gold’. Hopeful of attaining waldya in Cairo, Ahmad al-Tijini hurried to it, and during his stay there al-Kurdi is said to have told him that he was destined to become the greatest of the qutbs. {Jawdhir; vol. 1, pp. 38—9) He received a further confirma­ tion of his spiritual ascendancy in Mecca, where he arrived in December 1773, from an Indian Sufi shaykh called Ahmad b. Abd Allih. This Indian shaykh professed to be forbidden to have contacts with human beings other than his servant, and consequendy refused to meet Ahmad al-Tijini. But he informed him through his servant that he had expected his arrival, and that God had chosen him to inherit all his occult knowledge. When two months later Ahmad b. Abd Allih died, Ahmad al-Tijini went to Medina to visit the Prophet’s tomb. He met there ‘Abd al-Karim al-Sammin, the founder of the Samminiyya tariqa, who is said to have recognised him as the supreme qutb. Nevertheless, when Ahmad al-Tijini again stopped in Cairo on his way back to the Maghrib, he had himself appointed by


From Tariqa to Brotherhood

Mahmfid al-Kurdi as khalifa of the Khalwatiyya-Bakriyya broth­ erhood in the Maghrib. (Jaw&hir\ vol. 1. pp. 38—42) After returning from the Mashriq, Ahmad al-Tijini apparently intended to establish himself as shaykh of the Khalwatiyya-Bakriyya brotherhood in Fez. For soon after his arrival in January 1778, he ini­ tiated into it his disciple All Harizim Barida, whom he had met on the way in Wajda (Oujda) in north-eastern Morocco. (Jaw&hir, vol. 1, p. 43) But since Ahmad al-Tijini did not stay long in Fez, it can be assumed that he did not achieve success there as a representative of the Khalwatiyya-Bakriyya. When he left it, he travelled first to the oasis of Tuat and afterwards moved to the oasis of AbA Samgh&n. There he announced in 1196 ah/1781-2 ad that the Prophet appeared to him when he was awake, ordered him to launch his own tariqa, and taught him the Jawharat al-KamM. (Jatvdhir, vol. I , pp. 42-3) He also said that the Prophet commanded him to break his links with all other tariqas, thus implicidy relinquishing his position as khalifa of the Khalwatiyya-Bakriyya. Ahmad al-Tijini moved once more to Fez, this time as the founder of a new tariqa. Barida relates that, two months after their arrival in Fez in September 1789, his master told him that the Prophet had once again appeared to him and instructed him to put his teachings in writing for the believers’ guidance. He adds that his master also ordered him to destroy the record he had pre­ viously kept of his sayings, and justified this order by the requirements of al-waqt wa al-hdl, i.e. o f‘the time and the [new] situation’. {Jawdhir, vol. 1, p. 45) The new situation in which Ahmad al-Tijin! found himself was that of living under the rule of a sharifian sultan and in a community in which veneration of sharifi was a central element of religious and political life. He responded to this new situation, by declaring that he too was a descendant of the Prophet, and that his tariqa, having been launched at the Prophet’s personal command, was in effect al-tariqa al-Muhammadiyya. The religious community of Fez was hostile to him, but the support he received from the new sultan Mawliy Sulaymin (1792-1822) enabled him to establish his autho­ rity there. Mawliy Sulaymin gave Ahmad al-Tijini a sumptuous house to live in, allowed him to build a zdwiya for his tariqa, granted him a regular salary, and made him a member of his learned council. (Abun-Nasr 1965, pp. 20-1) The support he gave this Algerian Sufi shaykh seems

The Tijdniyya


to have followed from his determination to stifle opposition to the establishment of his authority as supreme religious head of the Moroccan community. Because his religious authority as a sharifwas rivalled by that of the many other sharifs in the country, he sought to bring them under state control. He appointed one of them as a naqib charged with the verification of their genealogies, and allocated stip­ ends to those recognised as genuine sharifi. He also sought to bring the scholarly community under state control by organising the rep­ utable religious scholars in a hierarchy and allocating fixed salaries to the holders of its different ranks. (El-Mansour 1990, pp. 150-60) And, as Mohammed el-Mansour suggests, by enabling the outsider Ahmad al-Tijani to establish his tariqa in Fez, Mawliy Sulaymin sought to counteract the politically centrifugal influence the shaykhs of the Shidhiliyya-Jazftliyya tariqa exercised in various parts of the country. (El-Mansour 1990, p. 172) In spite of the sultans support for Ahmad al-Tijani, the religious scholars of Fez remained generally hostile to him. The chairman of the sultans learned council al-Tayyib b. Kirin (d. 1802) attacked him even in the meetings of the council, stating that both his claim to being a Sufi shaykh and his assertions regarding the Prophet’s role in the foundation of his tariqa were false. (Abun-Nasr 1965, p. 21) The contemporary historian al-Zay&ni ridiculed Ahmad al-Tijini’s claim that the Prophet appeared to him when he was awake and that his tariqa would remain valid to the end of time. And he referred to Ahmad al-Tijini’s followers as the people of the bid'a, adding that his unfounded claims regarding the redemptive efficacy of his baraka attracted to his tariqa mosdy evildoers seeking admission to Paradise while persisting in their evil ways. Al-Zayini also vilified Ahmad alTijini, saying that the Ottoman governor of Wahrin (Oran) had him imprisoned and flogged for counterfeiting coins, and that he came to Fez only because, after his followers in Abd Samghdn swelled with the ‘dregs of the Berbers and Arabs’, the governor of Wahrin sent orders to its people to expel him from this oasis. (Al-Zayini 1967, pp. 460-3) The historian al-Nisiri, who knew Ahmad al-Tijini personally, also said that he was driven from Algeria by its Turkish rulers. He added that Ahmad al-Tijini himself said in a letter he wrote to Mawliy Sulaymin, that he left Algeria because of the oppression of the Turks, and appealed to him for protection and help as a fellow sharif. (Al-


From Tariqa to Brotherhood

Nisiri 1956, vol. 8, p. 105) Al-Zayini and al-Ni$iri seem to have ex­ pressed the outrage of the scholarly community of Fez over the auda­ city of Ahmad al-Tijini’s claims regarding his transcendent spiritual authority and the special favours the sultan bestowed on him. In spite of this hostility, Ahmad al-Tijini was able to establish himself in a grand way in Fez. He lived in a sumptuous house on whose construction the sultan was said to have spent 20,000 mithq&ls of gold. (Al-Nisiri 1956, vol. 8, p. 105) Besides the salary he received from the sultan and the donations of his followers in Fez, who were rich if only few, he had a regular income from the contributions of his followers in the Algerian desert. And, rejecting the equation of zuhd with ascetic poverty (see below, p. 154), he did not affect austerity. He wore the choicest of clothes and is said to have instructed the purveyor of provisions for his household to buy only the best goods. (AbunNasr 1965, p. 46) As an important centre of religious learning, Fez also provided Ahmad al-Tijini with the means of promoting his brotherhoods expansion in foreign lands. Three of the foreign scholars he initiated into his tariqa in Fez made a great contribution to its expansion during his lifetime. Muhammad b. Fuwaydir al-Abdallawi (d. circa 1821) spread the Tijaniyya in the Tunisian and Algerian Jarid districts. Muhammad al-Hifiz (d. circa 1830) introduced it into Mauritania from where it reached other parts of West Africa. The third of these early propagators of the Tijiniyya was Ibrihim al-Riyihi (d. 1226 a h / 1849-50 a d ), a leading Tunisian scholar who joined the Tijiniyya when he came to Fez in 1803 to solicit Mawliy Sulaymin to send wheat to Tunisia, which was then suffering from a severe famine. Al-Riyihi was not the first to propagate the Tijiniyya in the Tunisian capital, but by joining it he enhanced its prestige there. (Abun-Nasr 1965, pp. 82-3) After Ahmad al-Tijini s death in 1815, his zdwiya in Fez, in which he was buried, became a shrine visited by Tijinis from distant countries. The core of Ahmad al-Tijini s teachings is his claim that he was the khdtim al-awliyd’and the qutb al-aqtdb. By asserting that he was the khdtim al-awliyd \ he claimed that he occupied among the awliyd a similar position to that occupied by the Prophet Muhammad, the khdtim al-anbiyd\ among the other prophets. Accordingly, his waldya comprised and superseded that of all other awliyd’in the same way that Muhammad’s prophethood comprised and superseded that of all

The Ttj&niyya


other prophets. He did not preclude the appearance of awliyA*after him, but he insisted that they would derive their spiritual sustenance from him. {Jaw&hir, vol. 2, pp. 17-18) The tide qutb al-aqt&b had bccome widely known to the Sufis since the thirteenth century by its use for ‘Abd al-Qidir al-Jilini as a corollary of the belief in him as the holder of the highest spiritual authority among the awliyd'B y claiming it for himself, Ahmad al-Tijini implied that his spiritual authority at least equalled that of the founder of the prestigious Qidiriyya tariqa. Ahmad al-Tijini made repudiation of affiliation to all other tariqas a condition for initiation into his tariqa, but he also assured his fol­ lowers that he would guarantee admission to Paradise to all those who entrusted their salvation exclusively to his transcendent spiritual authority. In his preaching he repeatedly urged the Muslims to abide by divine commands, but he also insisted that, because of the cor­ ruption of the age, only those endowed with the privileged mystical knowledge of God the Sufis called ma'rifa could fulfil his commands in all respects. Accordingly he commended ordinary Muslims, who would not be able to attain salvation by their efforts alone, to entrust their fete to God and hope for his redemptive grace. (Jaw&hir, vol. 2, pp. 151-84) And he presented himself as the ultimate channel of divine grace. In one of his episdes he wrote: ‘Those who persevere in loving us until their death would be safe [from punishment in the Hereafter] regardless of their state [ofsinfulness]. Also those who have taken our wirdvnW be ... admitted to Paradise without being brought to any account or undertaking any punishment, together with their parents, spouses and children, but not grandchildren. (Jaw&hir,; vol. 2, p. 153) Significandy, the Prophet himself vouchsafed the admission of Ahmad al-Tijini s followers to Paradise. Barida quotes a document he says he found in Ahmad al-Tijini s handwriting in which he says that the Prophet assured him that all the offspring of his ancestors back to the eleventh generation and until the reappearance of Jesus (i.e. until the end of time), as well as the women who suckled him together with their children and parents, his teachers in all spheres of religious knowledge, and every person who recognised him as his shaykh, invoked God’s blessings for him, served him or catered for his needs would be admitted to Paradise without being brought to account for any reason. He also says that the Prophet assured him that those


From Tariqa to Brotherhood

who changed to enmity cowards him after love and benefaction would be excluded from this guarantee. The document ends with Ahmad alTijinls assurance to his followers, ‘If you persevere in loving us, then rejoice in what I told you, for it will surely come to pass.’. {Jaw&hir, vol. 1, pp. 109-11) He also warns that he whoever denigrates him and does not repent dies as an infidel. {Jawdhir; vol. 1, p. 112) Ahmad al-Tijini did not lead a life of ascetic poverty and did not require it from his followers. Replying to a question apparently addressed to him by a wealthy merchant from Fez regarding the charity the rich should give the poor, he recommended moderation, saying that it would be sufficient to give as charity one dinar out of fifty, especially if one had a family to support. He added, ‘Take good care of your money, for with it your faith is safeguarded, but if you gave it away your faith would be destroyed.’ {Jawdhir, vol. 2, p. 175) ‘Umar b. Sa‘id al-Fftti (d. 1864), the West African Tijini scholar and holy warrior whose major work Rimdh Hizb al-Rahim was printed in the margin of Jawdhir al-Ma'dni, developed on the basis of his master’s acceptance of wealth a conception of zuhd that excluded its identification with ascetic poverty. He said that the true zuhd (zuhd al-kamM) did not consist of the emptiness of the hand from the goods of the world, but of not attaching any value to what one possessed. He added that, in the sense of emptiness of the hand, zuhd might be nothing other than the inability to earn one’s living, a condition acceptable for women but not reconcilable with true manhood. (AlFfiti, Rimdh, vol. 2, pp. 12-13) While guaranteeing the admission of his tariqas followers to Paradise, Ahmad al-Tijini enjoined them to observe the religious law, and set for them a religious rule whose central element was the ven­ eration of the Prophet. This unusually elaborate religious rule consists of three rites: the wird, the wazifa and the hadra. The wird is an office to be performed twice a day, in the morning and the evening, and consists of the recitation of the formula of penitence astaghfiru Alldh (I beg forgiveness of God) 100 times; saying a prayer for the Prophet, preferably in the form of Saldt al-Fdtih, 100 times; and the recitation of the Haylala CLa Ildha ilia AUdh—There is no god but Allah) 100 times. The Saldt al-Fdtih is a prayer in which divine blessings are invoked for the Prophet which Ahmad al-Tijini said was delivered from Heaven to the Egyptian mystic Muhammad b. ‘Abd al-Rahman

The Tijdntyya


al-Bakri (d. 1545) on a tablet of light where it could be read from all sides. He claimed that the Prophet informed him of this prayers great efficacy in the remission of sin, and that the merit of reciting it once was equivalent to that derived from the recitation of the Qur’in 6,000 times. {Jawdhir, vol. 1, p. 114) The wazifa is a second office which should be performed at least once in the morning, but may be per­ formed a second time after the afternoon prayer. It consists of the reci­ tation of the enlarged formula of penitence Astaghfiru Alldh al-'Azim al-ladhi Id Ildha illd Huwa al-Hayy al-Qayydm (I ask forgiveness of Allah, the Great, than whom there is no other god, the living and selfabiding) thirty times; the §aldt al-Fdtih fifty times; the Haylala 100 times; and the prayer Jawharat al-Kamdl eleven times. In this prayer too divine blessings are invoked for the Prophet, who is acclaimed in it as the mysterious light of God and the source of all knowledge. Ahmad al-Tijini claimed that the Prophet himself taught him the text of this prayer when he was awake; and because the Prophet attends its recitation without being seen, before reciting it the bre­ thren should perform the ablutions with water but not with sand, which for the performance of the ritual prayers is allowed in the absence of water. The wazifa may be performed in private, but its performance communally is considered more meritorious. {Jawdhir; vol. 1,104-5) The number of times theJawharat al-Kamdl should be recited in the wazifa became the object of heated controversy (see below, pp.225-7). In the Jawdhir it is stated that it should be recited eleven times, but most Tijinis accept the authenticity of a tradition, confirmed by ‘Umar b. Sa'id al-FAti in Rimdh Hizb al-Rahim (AlFAti, Rimdh, v° l-1>p. 236), whereby their master required the reci­ tation of this prayer twelve times. The hadra of the Tijiniyya is a communal dhikr ceremony held on Friday after the noon prayer in which the brethren recite in unison La Ilaha ilia Alldh, or merely Alldh. Ahmad al-Tijini did not set fixed rules for this communal ceremony, and left it to his followers to perform it either according to the method of the Khalwatiyya or the customary practice of their lands. {Jawdhir, vol. 1, p. 195) The Tijiniyya expanded more widely than any of the other tariqas founded since the middle of the eighteenth century. The papers pre­ sented at the Paris conference of 1982 on the present state of the Sufi brotherhoods, which were published by A. Popovic and G. Veinstein


From Tariqa to Brotherhood

as Les ordres mystiques dans I’Islam. Cheminements et situation actuelle (Paris 1986), show the existence of Tijinl groups in all countries of North and West Africa, in Sudan and Ethiopia, in most countries of the Near East, in Indonesia and in Albania. Ahmad al-Tijini s ac­ ceptance of the compatibility of Sufi piety with wealth and partici­ pation in the affairs of this world may have contributed to this remarkable success. But the decisive factor in it seems to have been his claim that the tariqa he founded was al-fariqa al-Muhammadiyya, a claim which enabled pious Muslims to reconcile exclusive allegiance to his spiritual authority with veneration of the Prophet and belief in him as an eternal essence ever present in their life. Like the other universalist revivalist tariqas that have appeared since the mid eighteenth century, the Tijaniyya did not develop a centralised system of religious leadership. It came to be led in different countries by autonomous Sufi shaykhs who claimed to themselves the authority to deputise for its founder in the religious guidance of their local communities. But their exclusive allegiance to his spiritual authority enabled it to preserve its cohesion and unity as a distinct religious community.

6. The Centralised Sufi Brotherhoods The Sufi brotherhoods that developed stable forms of centralised spiritual leadership were those whose founders exercised a regulatory religious influence in the life of rural tribal communities, with which they became identified either by birth or by the circumstances of their life. The centralisation of spiritual leadership in these brotherhoods was boosted by their founders’ claim to the exclusive spiritual allegi­ ance of their followers, but did not follow from it. It was rather brought about by their founders’ employment of their supra-tribal religious authority in upholding the norms of Islam in the life of their com­ munities, the arbitration of conflicts in them, and the promotion of agricultural activity and trade. These socially regulatory activities transformed the Sufi brotherhoods’ founders into religious leaders and benefactors of their tribal communities. They also transformed the disciples they appointed as shaykhs of their brotherhoods’ z&tuiyas into representatives of their spiritual authority, who promoted their local communities’ allegiance to it by the beneficial functions they performed in their name. Under these circumstances the families of the Sufi brotherhoods’ founders acquired a privileged religious status that set them apart from their tribal communities’ chiefly families and gave them prior right to their brotherhoods’ supreme leadership. The monopoly which the families of these rural Sufi brotherhoods’ founders had on their supreme leadership was the important factor in the appearance in them of stable forms of centralised religious lead­ ership. The founders themselves usually indicated their wish to keep their brotherhoods’ leadership in their families by each appointing a son or, in the absence of a suitable one, a close relative as his successor. And each of their successors followed their example by appointing a member of his family to succeed him and training him in the exercise of his future authority. This method of succession was buttressed by die belief that the chosen successor inherited from his predecessor the 157


The Centralised Sufi Brotherhoods

sirr (mystical secret) of the founder’s tariqa, which qualified him for its supreme spiritual leadership. This beliefwas usually given tangible form by the inheritance of the founders sajj&da (prayer-mat), the symbol of his spiritual authority, by his successors in the brother­ hood’s supreme leadership. In Sudan the new supreme head of a Sufi brotherhood takes over, besides its founder’s sajj&da, also such sym­ bolically significant articles as the pitcher he had used in the ritual ablutions, his rosary, stool, stick and ceremonial gown. (Karrar 1992, p, 129) The significance of the exercise of a regulatory religious influence in the life of rural tribal communities for the centralisation of spiritual leadership in the Sufi brotherhoods is illustrated in what follows by the examples of the SanAsiyya and Qadiriyya-Mukht&riyya brother­ hoods. The founders of these two brotherhoods differed gready in their religious background and Sufi affiliation. Muhammad b. ‘All alSanAsi, founder of the Sanusiyya brotherhood, was educated in Fez, and viewed his brotherhood as an embodiment of al-tariqa al-Muhammadiyya as it was preached by Ahmad b. Idris. Sidi al-Mukhtar alKunti, the founder of the Qadiriyya-Mukhtariyya, was educated in the Islamic religious tradition of the Western Sahara and belonged to this region’s Kunta branch of the old and prestigious Qadiriyya tariqa. Nevertheless, the dominant regulatory religious influence they exer­ cised in the life of their rural tribal communities led to the emergence in their brotherhoods of similar forms of centralised spiritual leadership. The Sandsiyya brotherhood The SanAsiyya brotherhood was founded in Mecca, but it was trans­ formed into a centralised Sufi community in the province of Cyrenaica in present-day Libya. Its founder, Muhammad b. Ali al-SanAsi, came from Algeria, where he was born in 1787 in al-W3si(a, a village to the east of Mustaghanim in western Algeria, to a family of sharifi who claimed descent from the Idrisid dynasty of Morocco. Having received basic education from members of his family in his home village, he moved to Mustaghanim, and then in 1223 AH/ 1808-9 AD to Fez in pursuit of learning. He studied in Fez with its two leading scholars HamdAn b. al-Haj and al-Tayyib b. Kirin, and it can be assu­ med that while there he followed the heated debate in which its scho­ larly community was engaged at the time over the teachings of the

The Sandsiyya


Wahhabis, which was triggered off by an episde they sent to various Muslim countries shortly after their occupation of Mecca in 1806. The element of Wahhabi teachings that aroused the greatest con­ troversy in Fez was their condemnation of belief in the baraka of the awliyd’, and the religious practices arising from it. Nevertheless, while in Fez al-SanAsi joined the Nasiriyya, Tayyibiyya and Darqawiyya brotherhoods, all of which were offshoots of the Jaz&liyya branch of the Shadhiliyya tariqa. Although he made a name for himself in Fez as a learned scholar of hadith who knew one of its major compendia, the Sahih al-Bukhdri, by heart, he left it in 1815 and started a period of wandering in search of spiritual enlightenment. He made the pilgri­ mage to Mecca in 1816, returned to Fez in 1818, then went to Cairo in 1823. He travelled again to Mecca in 1826 and, having found there the spiritual guide he had sought in the person of Ahmad b. Idris, he decided not to leave. (Vikar 1995, pp. 61-8 and 73- 98) The period Muhammad b. All al-SanAsi spent with Ahmad b. Idris in Mecca was relatively short. Since he came to Mecca in 1826 and Ibn Idris left it for Yemen in 1827 or 1828, it lasted two years at most. But the two men had much in common: a sharifian Idrisid pedigree, study in Fez, and a profound knowledge of hadith. When Ibn Idris left for Yemen he appointed al-Sanfisi as his khalifa in Mecca, and until Ibn Idris’ death, al-San&si remained unwavering in his spiritual alle­ giance to him and visited him regularly in Yemen. Nevertheless, in the period in which he acted as his khalifa in Mecca, he became the head of an autonomous Sufi community that comprised, besides the dis­ ciples Ibn Idris left behind in Mecca, a large number of his own dis­ ciples. And he consolidated his standing as leader of this community by the construction of a centre for it consisting of a zdwiya and lodg­ ings for disciples and guests. (Vitar 1995, pp. 111- 22) Being the only one of his disciples whom Ibn Idris formally appointed as khalifa, alSanAsi claimed after his death in 1837 that he was his chosen suc­ cessor in the supreme leadership of al-tariqa al-Muhammadiyya. This claim was challenged by Muhammad b. ‘Uthm&n al-Mirghani, Ibn Idris’s former emissary to Ethiopia and Sudan, who accompanied him when he left Mecca for Yemen and remained with him until his death (see below, p. 175). Although al-San&si and al-Mirghani competed with each other over the supreme leadership of al-tariqa al-Muham­ madiyya, they became the founders of two distinct brotherhoods that


The Centralised Sufi Brotherhoods

became known after them as al-SanAsiyya and al-Mirghaniyya respec­ tively. But neither of these two offshoots of al-tariqa al-Muhammadiyya achieved much influence in Mecca. They became fully-fledged brotherhoods after they were transplanted into Cyrenaica, in the case of the SanAsiyya, and north-eastern Sudan in the case of the Mirghaniyya, and came to exercise a dominant regularly religious influence in the life of these two regions’ rural tribal communities. The establishment of the SanAsiyya in Cyrenaica was not a deli­ berate choice. Muhammad b. ‘All al-SanAsi left Mecca in 1840 with the aim of setding in Algeria, his original homeland. Leaving his Alge­ rian disciple Abd Allih al-Luw&ti as his khalifa in Mecca, al-SanAsi travelled first to Egypt. There he arranged for his wife to travel by ship from Alexandria to Gabis in Tunisia, and he continued the journey with his followers by land along the coast of Libya, stopping on the way in Benghazi and Tripoli. But, after joining his wife in Gabis, he decided to retrace his steps eastwards, apparendy because of the infor­ mation he received there about the progress of the French occupation of Algeria. On the way back to Mecca he spent some time in Cyre­ naica, at first in Benghazi, and since he came to have a large number of followers there, he built in 1843 a centre for his community nearby in al-Jabal al-Akhdar, which became known as al-2%wiya al-Bayd£. (Vikor 1995, pp. 132-51) He continued his journey to Mecca in 1846, but seven years later he returned to Cyrenaica with the aim of setding there permanendy. It can be assumed that lack of success in Mecca prompted this decision, although the traditions of the SanAsiyya describe it as a response to complaints he received from his fol­ lowers in Cyrenaica about the conduct of the deputies to whom he had delegated their spiritual guidance. (Vikar 1995, pp. 161-80) Shortly after returning to Cyrenaica in 1853, Muhammad b. Alt al-SanAsi started the foundation of a new centre for his religious activ­ ities in JaghbAb, an oasis that had litde to commend it besides its loca­ tion. It was farther away from the centre of Ottoman administration in Benghazi than al-Zdwiya al-BaydA \ lying on the main pilgrimage route from the Maghrib through Egypt to Mecca, and on one of the main trade routes from the coast to the Sahara and Sudan. Al-SanAsi built in JaghbAb houses for his family, disciples and guests. He also founded in it a college for the training of his disciples, in which he deposited his large personal library. From among the disciples educated

The San&siyya


in this college, who in the SanAsiyya were alone given the designation ikhwdrt (brethren), he chose his chief lieutenants and the shaykhs of the many zdwiyas he founded in Cyrenaica. The sue years between his settlement in Jaghb&b and death in 1859 marked the transformation of the Sanfisiyya into a highly centralised Sufi brotherhood that exercised a dominant regulatory religious influence in the life of the Cyrenaican tribal community. And Jaghb&b, where he was buried, remained the centre where the ikhw&n were educated, although Sayyid al-Mahdl (d. 1902), his son and successor in the brotherhood s supreme leadership, moved his seat from it in 1895 to Kufra and in 1899 to Qiru to facilitate contacts with the many followers it had come to have in various parts of the Sahara. (Evans-Pritchard 1954, pp. 14-22) After 1835, when the Ottomans recovered direct control of the ter­ ritory of present-day Libya from the Qaramanli dynasty that had ruled it in the Ottoman sultans name since 1711, Cyrenaica consti­ tuted an Ottoman mutasarifiyya (sub-province) administered from Benghazi by a governor responsible direcdy to the central government in Istanbul. But Ottoman governance in Cyrenaica was limited to its important towns, which served as garrison posts and administrative centres, and outside them had hardly any bearing on the life of this regions semi-nomadic Arab tribes who were the great majority of its population. (Abun-Nasr 1987, pp. 314-16) These tribes’ attachment to Islam was strong, but they were ignorant of its doctrines, hardly practised its rites, and were generally given to a life of lawlessness. However, they were inveterate believers in the baraka of saints they called mwrhbitkn (pi. of murdbit—marabout). The marabouts ven­ erated by the Cyrenaican tribesmen before the advent of the SanA­ siyya were mostly devotees from the Maghrib who decided to settle in it while on their way to or from Mecca. Their tombs were shrines where their baraka was invoked and fugitives sought sanctuary. Under the influence of the San&siyya’s extended network of z&wiyas, the Cyrenaican tribesmens numerous maraboutic cults were fused in the cult of Muhammad b. Ali al-San&si. The shaykhs of these z&wiyaswere zealous and dedicated ikhw&n who acted as representatives of alSan&si’s spiritual authority. They provided in their z&tviyas, which were usually large structures, sanctuary to the oppressed and hospi­ tality to travellers. They also acted as authoritative guides of their local communities, counselling them on religious and practical aspects of


The Centralised Sufi Brotherhoods

their life, and arbitrating conflicts according to the norms of the relig­ ious law. And the tribes, recognising the benefits they derived from the SanOsiyya zdwiyas, provided labour for their construction and cul­ tivable lands for their upkeep. (Evans-Pritchard 1954, pp. 62-89) The zdwiyas of the San&siyya on the Kufra-Benghazi caravan route served also as staging posts and hostels for traders. But the brother­ hood s participation in trade ‘was essentially regulatory’. Rather than engaging in trade themselves, the shaykhs of the SanAsiyya zdwiyas on this route promoted the traders’ ‘general recognition of the baraka of the Master, from which esteem, clientele and material goods would subsequendy flow’. (Triaud 1997, p. 25) The brotherhood founded by Muhammad b. ‘Ali al-SanAsi came to be called SanAsiyya after him, although he did not consider himself founder of a new tariqa. He described his tariqa as ‘al-tariqa alAhmadiyya al-Muhammadiyyd (Vikor 1995, p. 120), thus affirming its being the Prophet’s tariqa as propagated by Ahmad b. Idris. And because he considered adherence to the Prophet’s sunna the core of this tariqas norms of Sufi piety, he did not set for it a specific religious rule validated by his own authority. The only fixed religious rule he set for it was a communal dhikr ceremony, which consisted of reading passages from the Qur’an followed by the recitation of al-§al&t alAzimiyya, the supererogatory prayer Ibn Idris said was taught him by thie Prophet. (Viker 1995, p. 200 and Triaud 1997, p. 22) Consequendy the emphasis placed in the SanAsiyya on exclusive allegiance to its founder’s spiritual authority could be interpreted by its shaykhs as a summons to compliance with the Prophet’s religious guidance of the Muslim community. The SanAsiyya was ‘fundamentally an apolitical brotherhood’ (Triaud 1995, vol. 2, p. 933), although the regulatory religious influ­ ence it exercised in Cyrenaica and various parts of the Sahara had political repercussions its leaders could not entirely elude. Its founder rejected the Ottoman sultans’ assumption of the tide of caliph on the ground that they did not have the authority to deputise for the Prophet in the Muslim community’s religious leadership. But he and his son and successor in the brotherhood’s supreme leadership, Sayyid al-Mahdi, recognised the advantages of Ottoman presence in Libya as a check to French colonial expansion from Algeria. The Ottoman authorities, anxious to secure their political allegiance, overlooked

The Q&diriyya-MukhtAriyya


their attitude in the question of the caliphate, and bestowed various favours on them. In a charter issued in 1856, the Ottoman sultan ‘Abd al-Majld exempted the property of the SanAsiyya in Cyrenaica from taxation, and recognised its head’s right to levy the tithe on its followers. A later charter also recognised the right of sanctuary in SanAsi z&wiyas. Sultan Abd al-Hamid II (1876-1909), seeking to forge with Sayyid al-Mahdi similar ties to those he established with other prominent Sufi shaykhs in Arab lands (see below, pp. 200-201), sent him episdes, urging him to recognise his religious authority in the interest of Islamic unity and inviting him to visit Istanbul. Sayyid al>Mahdi did not go to Istanbul, but he agreed to cooperate with the Ottoman authorities in Cyrenaica in the collection of taxes and the maintenance of law and order. (Evans-Pritchard 1954, p. 98 and Ziadeh 1958, pp. 61-4) However, the SanAsiyya was forced by the Italian invasion of Libya in 1911 to become involved in its political life. In accordance with the treaty of Lausanne concluded with Italy in October 1912, the Ottoman sultan renounced his sovereignty in Libya. At the same time he sent a message to the head of the SanA­ siyya, SayyuiAhmad al-Sharif (1902-33), calling upon him to assume responsibility for its Muslim population. From this time Sayyid Ahmad al-Sharif assumed the title of amir of Libya. (Ziadeh 1958, p. 69) The hollow claim to political power the use of this tide implied was given substance by the British at the end of the Second World War who, unable to find a more suitable solution for Libya’s political future, installed Sayyid al-Mahdi’s son Sayyid Idris, who remained loyal to them during the war, as its king (see below, p. 215). The Q&diriyya-Mukhtdriyya brotherhood This brotherhood came into being through a revivalist movement ini­ tiated bySidi al-Mukhtir al-Kunti (1729-1811) in the Kunta branch of the Qidiriyya tariqa in the Western Sahara, which was similar to the revivalist movements initiated by his two contemporaries Mustaft al-Bakri and Shaykh Khilid in the Khalwatiyya and Naqshbandiyya tariqas respectively. But Sidi al-Mukhtir’s conception of religious revival, unlike that of these two shaykhs, was informed not by uni­ versal pious concerns of the Muslims but rather by his ambition to exercise a dominant religious influence in the Western Sahara. And because he identified his spiritual authority with the Kunta, the


The Centralised Sufi Brotherhoods

highly centralised Sufi brotherhood he founded became a religious community dominated by this ethnic group. According to their own traditions, the Kunta were descendants of ‘Uqba b. Nifi‘, the Arab conqueror of the Maghrib in the seventh century. The name ‘Kunta’ belonged to a chief of the Abdukal group of the Sanhaja Berbers of Saqiat al-Hamra in the Moroccan Sahara, which was adopted by their learned forefather Sidi Alt b. Yahyi after he setded in this region and married this Berber chief5s granddaugh­ ter. Since the days of5a//‘Ali, the Kunta started to acquire the status of a zaw&ya family, i.e. one dedicated to the pursuit of religious learning, and rather than participating in tribal warfare, it lived under the pro­ tection of one of the warrior tribes. The Kunta’s reputation as a relig­ ious group was consolidated after Sidi Ali’s death by his learned son Muhammad, and Muhammad’s son Ahmad al-Bakki’i (d. 1515). Besides amassing substantial wealth from the long-distance transSaharan trade, Ahmad al-Bakka’i also made a name for himself as a learned religious scholar and a Sufi shaykh. He achieved fame in Walata, a leading centre of the trans-Saharan trade, where he founded a school that attracted students from neighbouring regions. Accord­ ing to his legend, the inhabitants of Walata entreated him to setde with them because from the moment he approached their oasis the lions that had preyed on their animals and threatened their lives sub­ mitted to him and left them in peace. (Batran 2001, pp. 8-25) Two developments arising from Ahmad al-Bakka’i’s setdement in Walata led to the expansion of the Kunta’s religious and economic influence in the Western Sahara. The first was the initiation there of his youngest son ‘Umar al-Shaykh (d. 1552) into the Qidiriyya tariqa. Since the second half of the sixteenth century, the Kunta of Walata boosted their religious standing as a zawdya family by acting as propa­ gators of this prestigious tariqa. The second development was that rivalry among Ahmad al-Bakka’i s many grandsons led to their dis­ persal in the Western Sahara. (Batran 2001, pp. 25-8) As a result, the Kunta emerged in various parts of the Western Sahara in the form of family groups that derived much wealth from long-distance trade, but remained dedicated to the pursuit of religious learning and the propa­ gation of the Qadiriyya. The mainstay of the Qidiriyya-Mukhtariyya brotherhood were the Kunta of the Azawad (Azaouad) region north of Timbuktu in present-day Mali, who came to exercise a dominant

The Qddiriyya-Mukht&riyya


influence in the region after one of their family groups, the Awlid alWafi, founded in it in 1720 the village of al-MabrAk (the blessed) and built a z&wiya for the Qidiriyya. The Awlid al-Wafi could consolidate their influence in this region because their chief, Sidi al-Hij AbA Bakr, secured the protection of the Ulimadan Tuareq by agreeing to pay an annual tribute to their ruler Aq al-Shaykh. The good relations of the Awlid al-Waft with Aq al-Shaykh and his descendants enabled them to expand widely both their trade and religious influence. (Batran 1979, pp. 113-27) Sidi al-Mukhtir was born in Azawad in 1729 to a Kunta family living in a village north-east of Arawan. The available accounts of his early life emphasise his fathers wealth and charity, his mothers piety, and his dedication to religious learning since his childhood. He received instruction from several reputable shaykhs both in Azawad and in the region of the Middle Niger. The teacher who exercised the greatest influence on him was a learned sharifca\\td Ali b. Najib b. Shu'ayb (d. 1756), who had been initiated into the Qidiriyya by one of its Kunta shaykhs and had a zdwiya among the Kel Intsar in the Altag region north of Timbuktu. After spending four years studying the religious sciences, with a special emphasis on Sufi beliefs and the teachings of the Qidiriyya, with Ali b. Najib, Sidi al-Mukhtir re­ turned to al-MabrAk at the age of eighteen, apparendy expecting to be recognised in it as a leading shaykh of the Qidiriyya. But, since the descendants of al-MabrAks founder Sidi al-Hij AbA Bakr treated him with disdain, he decided to seek his fortunes elsewhere. He travelled to Walata and, settling there near Ahmad al-Bakki’i s shrine, made a name for himself in this important centre of the Kunta’s religious influence as a learned shaykh of the Qidiriyya. He then embarked on a preaching tour that took him to Mauritania and other parts of the 'Western Sahara, during which he won a large number of followers. He returned to Azawad in 1753, accompanied by a large retinue of disciples. Soon afterwards he created for himself a new setdement in Azawad known as al-Hilla, which grew with the increase of his influ­ ence, and became a leading centre of religious learning and a sanc­ tuary for travellers, refugees and the poor. (Batran 2001, pp. 65-75) In Sidi al-Mukhtir s drive to establish his superiority to other shaykhs of the Qidiriyya in the Western Sahara two claims were inter­ twined. The first was that he was the renovator (mujaddid) of the faith


The Centralised Sufi Brotherhoods

in the thirteenth century of the Hijra, a claim he justified by the supe­ riority of his religious knowledge. Hence the significance attached in his legend to a debate he had with Azawad s leading scholar Hammad b. Amalan of the Kel Intsar, at the end of which the latter is said to have conceded the superiority of his religious learning. (Batran 1979, pp. 87 and 127-30) The second claim was that he was destined to revitalise and unite the Qidiriyya tariqa. This was founded on the affirmation that he was the holder of an equally transcendent grade of waldya as this tariqas founder ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani. Other descend­ ants of‘Umar al-Shaykh, the first of the Kunta to join the Qadiriyya, were considered to be awliyd ’. The belief in Sidi al-Mukhtar as the holder of a superior grade of waldya to that of other Kunta shaykhs was substantiated by the many extraordinary kardmdt attributed to him. These included the revival of the dead, appearing simultaneously in different places, bringing drought and famine to an end and, last but not least, causing great harm to his enemies by his du fd \ i.e. the invo­ cation on them of divine retribution. (Batran 2001, pp. 75-83) Sidi al-Mukhtar sought to transform the Qadiriyya into a broth­ erhood united by allegiance to his spiritual authority. He assumed the title of Shaykh al-tariqa al-Qddiriyya, set for it a fixed religious rule validated by his authority, and made the taking of a formal bay a (pledge of allegiance) to his authority, whose text he himself wrote, part of the act of initiation into his brotherhood. He maintained that the followers of a Sufi tariqa become imbued with its hidden mystical essence not by the study of its books, but by submitting totally to its shaykh, seeking his blessings constandy, and venerating all those asso­ ciated with him. He further asserted that the murids’total submission to their shaykh, being similar to the sahaba’s total submission to the Prophet, was the essence of the revival of the Prophet s sunna. And he went to great lengths in describing the rewards that would accrue to those who submitted to his spiritual authority, speaking of twenty that would be granted them in this world and twenty others in the Hereafter. The rewards that God would give them in this world included establishing them in profitable occupations, taking charge of the management of their affairs, and vanquishing their foes. The rewards of the Hereafter included eternal life in Paradise and being allowed to see God. (Batran 2001, pp. 206-19) Sidi al-Mukhtar cited and elaborated in his writings traditions attributed to the eponymous founder of the Qidiriyya, Abd al-Qidir

The Qddiriyya-Mukhtdriyya


al-Jilani, but set for his brotherhood a religious rule validated by his own waldya. The cardinal element of this religious rule related to the dhikr. He repudiated the practice of the different branches of the Qidiriyya of holding a vocal dhikr ceremony, and decreed that the dhikr should be a silent and completely private act performed in khalwa (mystical retreat). He maintained that the Sufi would attain spiritual revelation and proximity to God only if he repeated the divine name All&h to himself and contemplated its connotations when immured from the world. Thus, in the Qidiriyya-Mukhtariyya dhikr ceased to be a communal ceremony and became an individual spiritual exercise practised in khalwa which, Sidi al-Mukhtir said, should last three, preferably seven, and ideally forty days. A second element of the religious rule Sidi al-Mukhtir laid down for his broth­ erhood was an office consisting of two awrhd. The first, which is called al-wird al-khafif{the light wird), should be recited once after each of the five ritual prayers. It consists of the recitation of the formula hasbiAMh wa mm al-wakil (God is enough for me, and he is the worthiest custodian) 200 times; the formula astaghfiru AlUh alAzim (1 ask the forgiveness of the glorious God) 200 times; the haylala, i.e. la ilaha illaAMh (There is no god but Allih) 100 times; and sall&AMh ‘aid al-Nabt (May God bless the Prophet) 100 times. The second part of the office is al-wird al-kdmil (the complete wird), which should be recited twice a day after the early morning prayer and the sunset prayer. It consists of seven elements, the first being the whole of the al-wird al-khafif. The second element consists of the invocation of divine blessings for Abd al-Qidir al-Jilani and other shaykhs of the Qidiriyya tariqa; the third, fourth and fifth consist of supererogatory prayers of Sidi al-Mukhtir s own composition; the sixth consists of the performance of two prostrations accompanied by the recitation of verses from the Qur’in; and the seventh consists of the performance of two prostrations. Sidi al-Mukhtir insisted that the performance of his tariqas office was a token of spiritual allegiance to his authority incumbent on all its followers. He allowed them to recite the award of other tariqas, provided they remained steadfast in their allegiance to him as their ultimate spiritual mentor and guide. (Batran 2001, pp. 221-2 and 227-34) The greatest of Sidi al-Mukhtir s achievements was ensuring the submission of the other Kunta shaykhs to his spiritual authority, thus


The Centralised Sufi Brotherhoods

transforming them into his representatives in the religious leadership of their local communities. These learned shaykhs were enterprising, sometimes wealthy traders, and owned herds of camels and cattle. Through his active participation in trade in cooperation with them, his brotherhood became, in the words of Batran, a “holy economic empire”. Sidial-Mukht&r justified his direct involvement in economic activities by the connotation he gave to the pious ideal of zuhd. He maintained that zuhd did not entail the rejection of wealth, but the emptiness of the heart of love for it. He noted that several of the Prophets Companions possessed great fortunes and affirmed that they remained masters of this world because they did not value what they possessed. As for himself, he said that he would have detached himself from the affairs of the world had God not directed him to take an active part in it. He also maintained that the sharia enjoined the Muslims to acquire wealth and employ it in fulfilling their responsi­ bilities towards their families and communities. He set an example to his followers in the responsible use of wealth by wearing simple clo­ thes, doing without luxurious furniture or dwellings, moving about on foot, and riding on a modestly saddled horse or camel. And he spent much of his money in helping poor and needy neighbours and refugees, and providing hospitality for his many guests. (Batran 2001, pp. 223-7) Like other Kunta shaykhs, Sidi al-Mukhtar traded in salt and was engaged in the transportation and marketing of a variety of goods, including European products, in the region between Tuat and Tim­ buktu. He reared horses and had herds of catde, sheep and goats; but he took a special interest in the camels he used in his caravan trade, choosing for them trustworthy herdsmen who were often his own talAmidh (pi. of tilmidh—pupil, disciple). He also derived a sub­ stantial income from the hadiyya (gift) made to him periodically by his followers and tribal groups that recognised his spiritual authority. An essential foundation of his ‘holy economic empire’ was the belief in the devastating power of his du '& This belief enabled him to dispense with the use of weapons in the protection of his assets, and it served as a protective umbrella for those associated with his econo­ mic activities. He himself affirmed the efficacy of this supernatural weapon, and the other Kunta shaykhs confirmed it with the stories they related about the misfortunes that befell his enemies. But Sidi

The Q&diriyya-Mukht&riyya


al-Mukhtar’s authority was also sustained by the prestige he derived from the use of his wealth in the provision of cherished religious and social services. He transformed his residence in al-Hilla into a leading centre of religious learning, and established many new z&wiyas in the Western Sahara and the Middle Niger region which served as schools. And he catered for the needs of inmates of these zAwiyas by supplying them with the necessary provisions of rice, dried meat, butter etc., and where necessary with water as well. He also had wells dug at his own expense in arid regions of the Sahara and allowed free access to them. (Batran 2001, pp. 116-17 and 167-96) The influence of the Qidiriyya-Mukhtiriyya remained limited to West Africa and its leadership a preserve of the Kunta. As the shaykh al-tariqa, Sidi al-Mukhtir was the supreme head of this brotherhood, and his sons, who were the only ones in it addressed with the title sidi (my master), were its spiritual elite. By appointing his son Muham­ mad al-Khalifa (d. 1826) as his successor, he indicated his wish that the office ofshaykh al-tariqa should be inherited within his immediate family. After Muhammad al-Khalifa this office was held in succession by his two sons Ai-Mukhtir al-Saghir (d. 1847) and Ahmad al-Bakka’i (d. 1865), under whose leadership the Qidiriyya-Mukhtiriyya con­ solidated its influence in various parts of West Africa. The second rank in the hierarchy of the brotherhood was that of the shaykhs of its various local branches, who were invariably Kunta. Beneath them, a distinction was made between two grades of followers: the tal&midh and the murids (aspirants). Occupying the third grade in the brother­ hoods spiritual hierarchy, the taUlmidh derived prestige and influence from being the Kunta shaykhs’personal disciples, who acted as their deputies in the religious guidance of their local communities. The fourth and lowest grade in the brotherhood s religious hierarchy com­ prised the murids, who were members of the brotherhood initiated into it by the tal&midh and tribal groups that recognised Sidi alMukhtirs spiritual authority without being formally initiated into his tariqa. (Batran 2001, pp. 118-20) The great difficulty non-Kunta had in rising to leading positions in the Qidiriyya-Mukhtiriyya is illustrated by the career of the Mauri­ tanian Shaykh Sidiyya (1775-1868). This remarkable Sufi shaykh belonged to the Awlid Ibiri, a branch of the Hassini Arabs that lived in the Brakna district of Mauritania. He went to study with Sidi al-


The Centralised Sufi Brotherhoods

Mukhtir in Azawad shortly before the latter s death in 1811, and spent about fifteen years there, when he became the secretary and counsellor of Sidi al-Mukhtirs son and successor Muhammad alKhalifa. During this time he developed a great reputation as a learned Sufi shaykh and authoritative commentator on Sidi al-Mukhtirs writings, and he apparendy aspired to become Muhammad al-Khalifas successor in the leadership of the brotherhood. (Stewart 1973, p. 43) But, realising on Muhammad al-Khalifas death in 1826 that he would not be accepted by the Kunta shaykhs as shaykh alrtariqOy he left Azawad and returned to Mauritania where he built for himself a position of influence comparable to that which Sidi al-Mukhtar had created for himself in Azawad. He continued to affirm his spiritual allegiance to Sidi al-Mukht&r and his successors in the leadership of the Q&diriyya-Mukhtiriyya, describing himself in the certificates of initiation he issued to his disciples as a khalifa of this brotherhood. (Steward 1973, p. 128) However, by using his spiritual authority to unite the Awlad Ibiri under his leadership and forging an alliance with the amirs of Trarza, he created an independent basis for his spiritual authority. (Steward 1973, pp. 10- 86) He amassed great wealth from the religious offerings made to him, the extended agricultural lands and the livestock he owned, and trade in salt and gum. (Steward 1973, p. 109) Like the Kunta shaykhs, he employed his disciples in the organisation of his long-distance commercial caravans, the harvesting and selling of gum to European traders, and the guardianship of his livestock. (Steward 1973, pp. 115- 22) But he could achieve religious influence and wealth only after detaching himself from their imme­ diate spheres of influence. The Centralised Sufi brotherhoods and Muslim rulers Like other Sufi shaykhs, those of the centralised Sufi brotherhoods viewed the exercise of political power as incompatible with their calling as spiritual guides. Sidi al-Mukhtir al-Kunti rationalised this attitude by equating political power in Asa) with the exploitation of the innocent and defenceless, moral deprivation and disregard for the religious law. And he considered the occupation of offices that be­ stowed power on their holders as a deviation from piety, which he said was characteristic of ulamA ’al-sii \ the evil, i.e. false religious scholars. (Batran 2001, pp. 137- 8) However, the Sufi shaykhs were also aware

The Centralised Sufi brotherhoods and Muslim rulers


that their spiritual guidance had political implications which the rulers of their lands could not ignore. This was especially true of the shaykhs of the centralised Sufi brotherhoods, who exercised a domin­ ant regulatory influence mosdy in rural regions which belonged to the territories of Muslim states, in which their rulers could not effectively impose their political authority. Nevertheless, the shaykhs of these brotherhoods did not attempt to become the rulers of these regions, and Muslim rulers, recognising the benefits of securing the endorse­ ment of their political authority in these regions by their influential Sufi shaykhs, accorded them a variety of privileges that enhanced their religious influence and prestige. The accommodating attitude of Muslim rulers towards the influ­ ential shaykhs of the centralised Sufi brotherhoods was determined by considerations of religious legitimacy. After the collapse of the insti­ tution of the caliphate, Muslim rulers could no longer legitimise their political authority with nominal tokens of submission to the reigning caliph, such as having his name mentioned in the Friday prayer. In most cases they themselves had no credible claim to the religious lead­ ership of their societies, and the religious legitimacy they derived from the endorsement of their political authority by the officeholders in their religious establishments was nebulous, and it carried no weight with Muslims in rural regions where these urban dignitaries had no influence. Hence the interest they had in securing the goodwill of the influential Sufi shaykhs of these regions by granting them favours, such as exempting their property from taxation, making donations for the construction of their zdwiyas, and responding favourably to their intercession on behalf of political offenders. The Muslim rulers who depaned from this pragmatic method of dealing with the influ­ ential Sufi shaykhs were usually the ones who claimed to themselves the supreme religious leadership of their societies. The religious policy of the deys of Algeria, who ruled this country until its occupation by the French in 1830, provides a good example of the significance attached to cooperation with the heads of the cen­ tralised Sufi brotherhoods, and other prominent Sufi shaykhs in their lands, by Muslim rulers whose political authority had no credible religious foundation. The deys were military rulers chosen from among the senior officers of a self-perpetuating military caste that evolved out of the Ottoman troops who conquered Algeria in the six­


The Centralised Sufi Brotherhoods

teenth century. They recognised the Ottoman sultan as the caliph, but ruled Algeria independendy from the Ottoman government. For the inhabitants of Algeria their political authority had no religious legitimacy; they were Hanafites ruling a country whose religious life had been shaped by the religious ethos of the Malikite school of religious law. And the holy war against the Christian powers, by which the Ottoman occupation of Algeria had been originally jus­ tified, had degenerated under the Deys into piratical attacks on Euro­ pean ships from which they derived much of their income. (AbunNasr 1987, pp. 151-66) The deys sought to compensate for their political authority’s lack of religious legitimacy by cultivating the goodwill of the prominent Sufi shaykhs, both in the towns and the countryside. Since 1702 they had allocated fixed subventions to Algiers’ reputable Sufi shaykhs, and relied in securing the submission of the tribes in the mountainous Kabylia region on the cooperation of its leading Sufi shaykhs, whose goodwill they won by tax exemptions and other material favours. (Boyer 1966, pp. 26-32) In the latter part of the eighteenth century the Rahminiyya Sufi brotherhood became the major religious prop of the deys’authority in the Kabylia region. The founder of this brotherhood, Muhammad b. Abd al-Rahmin (d. 1208 a h / 1793-4 a d ), belonged to the Qashtula tribal group of Grand Kabylia, but he studied at al-Azhar in Cairo, where he was initiated into the Khalwatiyya-Bakriyya brotherhood. After returning to Algeria in 1769, he launched his own brotherhood, settling in Algiers, where he founded his brotherhood’s first z&wiya. And he consolidated his influence in the Kabylia region by the appointment of the shaykhs of its important Sufi lineages as muqaddams, thus making them heads of his brotherhood’s branches. (Levt­ zion 1997, p. 150) The rulers of Algiers, who attributed to Muhammad b. Abd al-Rahmin’s influence the fact that the Qashtula, who had rebelled against them in 1756, submitted to their authority, sup­ ported his activities. He died while on a visit to his tribal group in the Kabylia and was buried in his home village of Ait Ismail. Seeking to continue the identification of his spiritual authority with their gov­ ernment, the Turks enabled his followers in Algiers to exhume him and bring his remains for burial in the capital. His followers in the Grand Kabylia consoled themselves with the belief that his corpse was miraculously duplicated and that he was buried not only in Algiers,

The Centralised Sufi brotherhoods and Muslim rulers


but also in Ait Ismi‘tl. In this way Muhammad b. Abd al-Rahmin acquired the sobriquet BA Qabrayn, i.e. the one with two tombs. (Boyer 1966, pp. 39-41) During Muhammad b. Abd al-Rahmin’s lifetime, one of his disciples established a branch of his brother­ hood in Constantine, eastern Algeria’s provincial capital, and another founded a zdwiya for it in al-Kaf (Le Kef) in north-western Tunisia. Although the Rahminiyya later came to have several other zdwiyas in this region and in southern Tunisia, it remained predominantly an Algerian brotherhood. (Ghurib 1991, pp. 96-100) The benefits the deys of Algeria derived from cooperation with the shaykhs of the Rahminiyya and other influential Algerian Sufi shaykhs were high­ lighted by the difficulties they faced in quelling the tribal rebellion which broke out in western Algeria in 1793, which was actively sup­ ported by shaykhs of the Moroccan Darqawiyya brotherhood (see below, p. 174). The pragmatic cooperative attitude of the deys of Algeria towards the Rahmaniyya brotherhood contrasted sharply with that adopted at about the same time by the sultan of Morocco Mawliy Sulaymin towards the important Sufi brotherhoods in his country. This ruler was a shartf2nd, as indicated above (pp. 150-51), he sought to estab­ lish his authority as supreme religious head of the Moroccan society, among other things by bringing the other Moroccan sharifi and the influential religious scholars under state control. At the same time he fought against the centrifugal religio-political influence exercised by the centralised Sufi brotherhoods’ shaykhs in various parts of Morocco. His father, sultan Muhammad b. ‘Abdullah (d. 1790), had made a number of concessions to the shaykhs of the Tayyibiyya brotherhood with the aim of employing their religious influence with the tribes of northern Morocco as a prop to his authority in this region. These included the administrative autonomy of Wazzin, where they had their main zdwiya, and recognition of the right of sanctuary in this zdwiya. Mawliy Sulaymin abolished these concessions, and when the head of the brotherhood Sidi Alt b. Ahmad died in 1811, he enabled his son Sidi Tuhimi, who had close links with the court, to succeed him instead of his intractable brother Sidi al-Arabt. (El-Mansour 1990, pp. 165-7) Mawliy Sulaymin also fought against the influence of the Darqiwiyya brotherhood, whose founder al-Arabt al-Darqiwt (d. 1823) was an inspiring Sufi shaykh and an acknowledged sharifi The Darqi-


The Centralised Sufi Brotherhoods

wiyya expanded in the Moroccan countryside and the lower strata of the urban population, and its shaykh in western Algeria, Abd al-Qadir b. al-Sharif, became popular with the tribes of this region by con­ demning the heavy fiscal impositions to which they were subjected by the regime of the deys. The rebellion of these tribes against their Turkish rulers in 1793 transformed Abd al-Qidir b. al-Sharif into the religious leader of a tribal confederacy that included the major tribes of western Algeria. Alarmed by the Darqiwiyya’s growing influence, Mawliy Sulayman sought various means of undermining it, includ­ ing the closing of its z&wiya in Tatuan in 1795 and having its popular shaykh Ahmad b. Ajiba imprisoned. The supreme head of the broth­ erhood al-Arabi al-Darqiwi, apparendy seeking to assure the sultan of his political allegiance, offered in 1805 to have his deputy in western Algeria Abd al-Qidir b. al-Sharif use his influence with its tribes to have them accept its annexation to Morocco. But Mawliy Sulaymin, inclined neither to become entangled in Algerian affairs nor to enter into a political pact with the Darqiwiyya, ignored this offer. He also fought the Sharqiwiyya brotherhood, which had its main z&wiya at Buja'd at the foot of the southern Middle Adas range of mountains and exercised great influence over the tribes of the Tadla region. He dealt a decisive blow to this brotherhood’s influence by having its supreme head, al-Arabi al-Mu‘ti, brought to Fez in 1808, where he was placed under surveillance, and ordering his followers to leave Buja'd. (El-Mansour 1990, pp. 162-71) The hostility to the centralised Sufi brotherhoods’ shaykhs of Mus­ lim rulers who claimed for themselves the religious leadership of their societies comes out clearly too in the career of Muhammad Ahmad, the self-proclaimed mahdi who ruled Sudan from 1881 to 1898. The centralised Sufi brotherhoods came to have a dominant influence in the religious and social life of Sudan in the period between 1820 and 1881, when it was ruled in the name of the Ottoman sultan by the viceroy of Egypt. In this period Sudan came to have a religious estab­ lishment manned by Egyptian ‘ulamd' and the q&dis had to follow in their judgements the provisions of Hanafite law, although the majority of the Sudanese were Milikites. (Holt 1958, pp. 20-1) But aware of the Sufi shaykhs* great influence in Sudanese society, the Egyptian authorities granted those who cooperated with them monthly subventions and subsidised their religious activities. (Karrar 1992,

The Centralised Sufi brotherhoods and Muslim rulers


p. 11) Until the latter part of the eighteenth century, most of the Sufi shaykhs of Sudan belonged either to the Qidiriyya or Shadiliyya tariqa, and were referred to asfakis (faqihs)ya term which indicated that they were revered primarily as authoritative experts in the religious law. (Karrar 1992, pp. 20-41) Since the latter part of the eighteenth century, the influence of the independent fakis started to be overshadowed by that of the Sufi brotherhoods. The MajdhAbiyya brotherhood, an offshoot of the Shadiliyya founded by Hamad b. Muhammad al-Majdh&b (d. 1776), came to have a dominant relig­ ious influence in northern Sudan. The Sammaniyya brotherhood also expanded widely in the country. This was an offshoot of the Khalwatiyya-Bakriyya, which was founded in Mecca by Muhammad b. ‘Abd al-Karim al-Samman (d. 1775), and introduced into Sudan by Ahmad al-Tayyib wald al-Bashir (d. 1824). (Karrar 1992, pp. 20-55) However, the brotherhood that enjoyed the greatest success in Sudan after 1820 was the Khatmiyya, whose leaders became loyal supporters of the Egyptian regime. The Khatmiyya (also called Mirghaniyya) was founded by Muham­ mad b. ‘Uthmin al-Mirghani (d. 1852), Ahmad b. Idris’s disciple whom he sent to preach his revivalist Sufi ideals in Sudan and Ethio­ pia. He came to Sudan in 1816, and was able to have many of its pro­ minent Sufi shaykhs recognise his master’s spiritual authority. In Kordofan he married a woman from the Jalliba by whom he had his son Hasan. But he returned to Mecca before Ahmad b. Idris left it for Yemen, and remained with him until his death in Sabya in 1837. He then returned to Mecca and founded there a Sufi brotherhood he described as the embodiment of his masters tariqa. He called it Khatmiyya because he claimed to be the kh&tim (seal) of the tariqa \ and established zdwiyas for it in Mecca, Medina, Jidda and al-Taif. He also sent his eldest son Muhammad to propagate his brotherhood in Yemen and Hadramaut, and his younger son Hasan, who was born in Sudan in 1819, to propagate it there. (Karrar 1992, pp. 64-76) Hasan returned to Sudan in 1840, and before his death in 1869 the Khatmiyya had become the dominant Sufi brotherhood in the north and east of the country. He profited in the establishment of his authority in Sudan from his father’s great prestige there, but the great success of the Khatmiyya under his leadership seems to have been due to two other factors. First, it was a revivalist Sufi brotherhood with a


The Centralised Sufi Brotherhoods

coherent religious rule. Membership of it helped the ordinary Sudan­ ese to come to terms with the radical changes their customary patterns of communal life underwent under Egyptian rule. The second con­ sisted of the great influence Hasan came to have in public life through cooperation with the Egyptian authorities. He employed his spiritual authority to promote acceptance of Egyptian rule, and was rewarded by the Egyptian authorities with various marks of deference and material benefits which enhanced his social influence and prestige. Consequently tribal leaders and other notables came to view affil­ iation with the Khatmiyya as an essential prerequisite for success under Egyptian rule. (Voll 1969, pp. 186-202) The great influence the Sufi brotherhoods came to have in the religious and social life of Sudan under Egyptian rule suffered a tem­ porary setback in the seventeen years (1881-98) during which the country was ruled by the mahdi Muhammad Ahmad. The factors that led to the success of this remarkable religious leader and the circum­ stances of his overthrow by an Anglo-Egyptian expeditionary force in 1898 are examined in P.M. Holts The Mahdist State in the Sudan (Oxford 1958), and do not concern us here. It is more relevant to our purpose that Muhammad Ahmad seems to have been inspired by Sufi notions of religious revival. In his youth he was initiated into the brotherhood founded by Ahmad b. Idris’s disciple Ibrdhim al-Rashid (see above, p. 147), and because the Khatmiyya traced its origins to the revivalist Sufi tradition of Ahmad b. Idris, he tried to rally its shaykhs to his cause. But they refused to recognise him as the expected mahdi, denounced his uprising as an act of religious sedition, and called upon their followers to remain loyal to the Egyptian regime. (Karrar 1992, pp. 97-100 and 112) Their opposition to him was made unavoidable by his refusal to accord any recognition to the spiritual authority of the Sufi brotherhoods’ shaykhs, contending that as the mahdi he was a divinely inspired guide of the Muslim com­ munity, and that, had the founders of the schools of religious law and of the Sufi tariqas been alive in his time, they would ail have become his followers. Accordingly he refused to identify his authority with any of the existing schools of religious law, and in 1884 issued a decree banning the Sufi tariqas. (Karrar 1992, p. 166) The Sufi brother­ hoods survived the Mahdist regime. In the period of the AngloEgyptian Condominium (1899-1955), the Khatmiyya expanded its

The Centralised Sufi brotherhoods and Muslim rulers


religious and political influence. And the Ansdr, the ‘supporters’ of Muhammad Ahmad, became after the First World War a distinct religious community bound by a spiritual allegiance to his son Sayyid ‘Abd al-Rahmin similar to that which binds the members of a Sufi brotherhood to its supreme head. The attitude of the centralised Sufi brotherhoods’ shaykhs to the rulers of their lands was determined by their awareness of the dialect­ ical relationship that existed between their credibility as authoritative spiritual guides and their ability to exercise a significant religious influence in their societies. The revenue they derived from their fol­ lowers’ donations and their own economic activities, especially in agriculture and trade, enabled them to avoid compromising their credibility as independent spiritual guides by becoming officeholders in the official religious establishments of their lands. But they were also aware of the advantages of securing the rulers’ recognition of their spiritual authority. It enhanced their religious and social prestige, and brought them material benefits in the form of exemption from taxa­ tion and grants for the construction of their zdwiyas, which enabled them to expand the scope of their religious influence.

7. The Sufi Brotherhood as a Religious Community The transformation of the Sufi tariqas into brotherhoods in the eigh­ teenth century enabled Muslims who lived from gainful work, foun­ ded families, and strove for wealth and influence in their societies to reconcile their normal human occupations with the pursuit of the Sufi calling by initiation into a Sufi brotherhood and the performance of its fixed religious rule. As indicated above (pp. 60-62), the Sufis’ emphasis on the benefits of suhba (companionship) with one another for their spiritual advancement had led them to live together in hostels called variously ribAt and khdnqdh. This form of secluded compan­ ionship was prevented from developing into an institutionalised monastic tradition by the Sufis’ emphasis in the pursuit of spiritual development since the eleventh century on submission to the per­ sonal tarbiya (mystical upbringing) of Sufi shaykhs. And whatever appeal living in these hostels still had in the thirteenth century to aspiring Sufis was gradually eroded by the appearance of the tariqas as forms of authoritative spiritual guardianship vouchsafed by their founders’ waldya. Since this time aspiring Sufis increasingly relied in achieving spiritual advancement on initiation into one or more tariqas and the spiritual guidance of their shaykhs, rather than seeking to achieve it by their own efforts in the company of fellow mystical seekers in the sheltered life of a ribdt or a khdnqdh. With the loss of appeal living in these hostels came to have to aspiring Sufis, they be­ came used for a variety of other pious purposes. Donald P. Little’s analysis of the information available on the ribdts and khdnqdhs in Egypt under the Mamluks points to the general development they underwent from the thirteenth century onwards. Litde says that since the end of that century the khdnqdhs of Egypt gradually lost their character as Sufi institutions; they continued to have quarters, some­ times called ribdts, where Sufis lived, but they also came to incorporate 178

The Sufi Brotherhood as a Religious Community


mosques as well as madrasas offering instruction in the standard religious subjects. (Litde 1991, pp. 93-5) At the same time the ribdts came to be used mostly as residences for the destitute. Their shaykhs were chosen among the residents themselves, and did not need to have any special Sufi qualifications. (Litde 1991, p. 102) The structure that acquired a distincdy Sufi character from the thirteenth century was the zdwiya. This term, which in standard Arabic usage means ‘corner’, was used by AbA Ishiq ‘Umar al-Suhra­ wardi at the beginning of the thirteenth century for the corner in a ribdt reserved for its shaykh, where he kept his prayer-mat. (Al-Suhra­ wardi 1983, p. 108) In later centuries the term came to be used by the Sufis for the house, or the room in a house, where a reputable Sufi shaykh meditated and taught his disciples. The original association of the zdwiya with the ribdt was preserved in the use of the two terms as synonyms, and in the reference to the Sufi shaykh as a murdbit (inmate of a ribdt), a term whose Maghribi dialectical form became ‘mara­ bout’. Donald P. Little has found that from the thirteenth century the zdwiyas were built in Cairo mosdy for shaykhs representing the various tariqas. (Litde 1991, p. 95) Indeed it can be said that the expansion of the tariqas since the thirteenth century took the form of the foun­ dation of zdwiyas for them in new lands, usually by local Sufi shaykhs initiated into them. Although the zdwiyas provided in some cases accommodation for their shaykhs’close disciples, they were not Sufi hostels. Each became the centre of a branch of one of the tariqas, where its shaykh taught his disciples and the local members of his tariqa performed its communal dhikr ceremony. The appearance of the Sufi tariqas heralded the end of the Sufis’ identification with life in a ribdt or a khdnqdh, but it contributed litde to the reconciliation of the Sufi calling with normal life in Muslim societies. Since the thirteenth century the shaykhs of the various tariqas became the leading representatives of the Sufi tradition of piety. Through the sometimes ecstatic dhikr ceremonies they held in their zdwiyas, they also made Sufi mystical practices integral elements of the Muslims’ religious life. But their tarbiya was limited to small circles of disciples committed to the Sufi calling. By contrast, the founders of the Sufi brotherhoods made tarbiya accessible to Muslims in all walks of life by equating it with the performance of fixed relig­ ious rules validated by their spiritual authority. And claiming to them­


The Sufi Brotherhood as a Religious Community

selves the authority to deputise for the Prophet in the leadership of the Muslim community’s religious revival, they insisted on the exclusive allegiance of their tariqas’followers to their spiritual authority. The Sufi tariqas were thus transformed into religious communities repre­ senting a distinct form of Islamic religious communalism. Two fea­ tures in particular distinguish the religious communalism of the Sufi brotherhood from that of the general community of Islam. The first is that it is based on belief in divine grace as a manifestation in the world of the divine guardianship inherent in waldya in the form of a spiritual authority with which God endows the awliyd ’. The second is that the members of a Sufi brotherhood entrust their salvation and wellbeing in this world to its founder’s spiritual guidance and the performance of the special religious rule he set for it, in addition to the observance of the norms of Islam validated by the Qur’an and the Prophet’s sunna. The Sufi brotherhood as a community o f grace The many works written on the Sufi brotherhoods since the 1960s highlight their character as distinct communities of grace, and also the significance which their followers’ submission to the spiritual authority of their shaykhs had for the social, economic and political life of Muslim societies. Unable to explain the nature of this spiritual authority, the authors of these works often refer to it as charisma’. This term was made fashionable by Max Weber’s monumental work Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft (Economy and Society), first published posthumously in 1921 and thereafter all but mandatory reading for social scientists (often in translation). Weber uses charisma’ for the authority which extraordinary personalities, such as religious leaders and military heroes, have exercised throughout the centuries over their followers, and defines it not so much by what it is, but by what it is not. It exists in this world without being of it, he says, and in its pure form manifests itself neither in the working of a bureaucracy nor in the pursuit of rational political or economic aims. (Weber 1976, pp. 654 ff.) Thus the description of the spiritual authority exercised by the Sufi brotherhoods’ shaykhs as charisma tells us nothing more about it than what the Sufis have long recognised, namely that it is a mystery. Sufis refer to this authority as waldya, and invariably agree

The Sufi brotherhood as a community o fgrace


with the view put forth by al>Hujwtri in the eleventh century that its essence is a mystery. The Sufis’ insistence that waldya is a mystery is a requirement of Islamic orthodoxy. As indicated above (pp. 51-2), God is described in the Qur’stn as the Wali, and waldya is used in several verses in the sense of his guardianship of the believers. It is thus a divine attribute, and speculation about the essence of the divine attributes came to be viewed after the controversy aroused in the ninth century by the Mu‘tazilite doctrine as incompatible with Islamic orthodoxy. How­ ever, Sufi literature shows that Sufis believe in the manifestation of the divine guardianship inherent in waldya as a spiritual authority with which God endows his special confederates, the awliyd ’, and view it as an expression of his grace (rahma). Being waldya, the spiritual autho­ rity with which the awliyd ’are endowed is not knowable in its essence. But the attributes ascribed to the reputable awliyd1in Sufi hagio­ graphies point to the means by which the spiritual guardianship inherent in it operates in human life. These attributes show that Sufis view the awliyd*as infallible guides, whose guidance incorporates their privileged mystical knowledge of God and the norms of Islam validated by the Qur’in and the Prophet’s sunna. They also show that Sufis believe the spiritual guardianship of the awliyd* to be sustained by a spiritual power, which they call baraka and which they believe manifests itself in human life as kardmdt. As indicated above (p. 54), the kardmdtaxe miraculous deeds performed not by the awliyd’them­ selves, but on their behalf by God in order to affirm their waldya. They include such marvellous deeds as walking on water, traversing immense distances in no time, telling the future, and reading the secret thoughts of others. But more often they are responses to the waits intercession with God which lead to the healing of the sick, causing barren women to bear children, ending natural calamities, the striking down of oppressive rulers and evildoers, etc. Consequendy, when Sufis speak of the waldya of the awliyd ’, they invariably mean by it a guardianship that comprises both an infallible spiritual guidance and a spiritual power that sustains it. While pointing to the means by which the spiritual guardianship of the awliyd’operates in human life, the attributes ascribed to them in Sufi hagiographies do not explain why the Sufis recognise some of their shaykhs as awliyd 'and not others. Vincent Cornell says that these


The Sufi Brotherhood as a Religious Community

attributes are ‘conscnsuaUy validated standards’ to which a Sufi shaykhs public image must conform before his waldya can be acknowledged, but the recognition of a Sufi shaykh as wait is a subjective choice not determined by conformity to them. (Cornell 1998, p. 94) Indeed, Sufis have emphasised over the centuries that the awliyd*were indi­ viduals chosen by God as channels of his grace for no merits of their own. But divine choice in this case is also a human one. For Sufi hagi­ ographies point to a clear connection between the ability of Sufi shaykhs to alleviate the believers’ pious and worldly concerns and their recognition as awliyd \ They also show that the grade of waldya ascribed to a Sufi shaykh is related to the scope and nature of the con­ cerns alleviated by the belief in his baraka, that dynamic component of the divine guardianship inherent in waldya by which it operates in human life. Whereas the baraka of the generality of the reputable awliyd' is invoked by the believers to aid them in overcoming the ordinary problems of life and attaining personal aims, the baraka of a few among them, who are recognised as the qutbs, i.e. holders of the highest grades of waldya, is invoked in dealing with fundamental pious concerns of the Muslim community at large. The appearance of the belief that the divine grace channelled through the holders of the highest grades of waldya helps the Muslims to deal with the fundamental concern of their religious community was not fortuitous. It was the outcome of a long-drawn-out transfor­ mation of the nature of the spiritual authority Sufis associated with waldya, which parallelled and also compensated for the erosion of the institutionalised religious authority embodied in the institution of the caliphate. This transformation reached a significant high point at the beginning of the thirteenth century, i.e. shortly before the collapse of the caliphate, with the elaboration by Ab& Ishaq ‘Umar al-Suhra­ wardi and Ibn ‘Arab! of the belief that the Sufi shaykhs-cum-awliyd ’ were the Prophet’s authoritative deputies in the religious guidance of the Muslim community. As indicated above (p. 82), in the first Sufi tariqas this belief took the form of spiritual genealogies which traced their origins to the Prophet via one of his Companions. Thus while being validated by their founders’ transcendent waldya, the Sufi tariqas that appeared in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the caliphate were presented as embodiments of the Prophet’s abiding religious guidance of the Muslim community. They expanded widely

The Sufi brotherhood as a community o fgrace


from the latter part of the thirteenth century, apparently because by initiation into them the Muslims alleviated the pious concerns engendered by the disappearance of the caliphate, the only institu­ tionalised deputation for the Prophet in the leadership of their religious community that they ever had. With the transformation of the tariqas into brotherhoods went a significant expansion of the scope of their founders’ spiritual autho­ rity. Unlike the older tariqas founders, the Sufi brotherhoods’ found­ ers viewed themselves as the Prophet s delegates not only in the Muslim community’s religious guidance, but also in the leadership of its religious revival. And because the call for religious revival was a response to the Muslims’ awareness of the decline of their power by comparison to that of the European (Christian) states, by claiming its leadership to themselves the Sufi brotherhoods’ founders implicitly claimed the authority to guide Muslim societies in all aspects of life. But they had no concrete plans for religious revival, and did not even call for a reform of the religious law, as the ulami ’of the Salafiyya movement did from the latter part of the nineteenth century. Instead they employed the cherished method of Sufi mystical tarbiya to im­ bue the believers with a fervent spiritual commitment to the faith. And they expanded the scope of their religious influence by equating Sufi tarbiya with fixed religious rules which could easily be learnt and practised. They also urged their followers to participate actively in the life of their societies, rejected the identification of Sufi piety with ascetic poverty, emphasised the religious merits of useful work, and themselves engaged in profitable economic activity. Consequently their brotherhoods became large communities which often comprised wealthy and prominent personalities, but since their spiritual authority was intrinsically apolitical, they coexisted with the political insti­ tutions of their lands rather than attempting to reform them. Never­ theless they could exercise influence in Muslim societies because to the members of a Sufi brotherhood its founder is an infallible spiritual guide guarded by God against error who authoritatively deputises for the Prophet in their religious guidance. Furthermore, the spiritual guidance exercised by his brotherhood’s shaykhs, being viewed as an aspect of his spiritual guardianship, is believed to be infallible, even when dealing with concrete problems of social and political life. The coherence of the Sufi brotherhood as a distinct community of grace is sustained by the belief in the exclusiveness of its founder s


The Sufi Brotherhood as a Religious Community

baraka. As indicated above (p. 78), with the appearance of the first tariqas the Sufi notion of baraka underwent a significant transfor­ mation. The tariqa founders baraka, being the dynamic element of the divine grace inherent in his waldya, became viewed as the spiritual essence of his tariqa. It could thus be transmitted through initiation into his tariqa. The Sufi tariqas silsila (chain of initiation) consequendy also became its silsilat al-baraka, the means of conveying its founders baraka to Muslims who had no personal contact with him, but whose belief in the transcendent grade of his waldya led them to seek initiation into his tariqa. Before the transformation of the tariqas into brotherhoods, initiation into a tariqa did not entail exclusive alle­ giance to its founder’s spiritual authority, and it was therefore com­ mon for ardent Sufis to secure by multiple initiation the spiritual guardianship inherent in the baraka of several of the reputable tariqas' founders. The insistence of the Sufi brotherhoods’ founders on the exclusive allegiance of their tariqas’ followers to their spiritual authority transformed their brotherhoods into distinct communities of grace. It made the taking of a pledge of exclusive allegiance to the spiritual authority of a Sufi brotherhood’s founder a requirement of initiation into it, and transformed its silsilat al-baraka into a chain of spiritual authority which epitomised its distinct identity as a Sufi community. Initiation into a Sufi brotherhood is referred to as the akhdh alwird. The term wird, which commonly means a supererogatory prayer, denotes in this context the totality of the Sufi brotherhood’s religious rule. The verbal noun akhdh (taking) implies that the initiate had sought, and was given, licence by one of the brotherhood’s shaykhs deputising for its founder in the practice of its religious rule. The initiation ceremony is also described as the akhdh al-'ahd(the taking of the oath of loyalty) or the akhdh al-bay a (the taking of the pledge of allegiance), i.e. to the brotherhood’s founder. The different Sufi brotherhoods’ acts of initiation vary in the words and rituals employed in them, but in all the initiate is required to recognise the brother­ hood’s founder as his sole guide on the mystical path to God. (Trimingham 1971, pp. 181-7 and Karrar 1992, p. 151) In the Khatmiyya (Mirghaniyya) brotherhood, for example, the initiate is required to pre­ pare himself for the initiation ceremony by ritual ablution. In the cere­ mony itself he performs at first two rak'as (prostrations), and recites

The Sufi brotherhood as a community o fgrace


with the first rak'a s&ra 109 (Kifirftn) of the Qur’in, and with the second sAru 110 (al-Na$r). These are two short sdras consisting of six and three verses respectively. The initiate then sits before the initiating shaykh, clasps his right hand with the shaykhs right hand, and repeats after him the following formula of initiation: ‘O God, I have repented before you and accepted my master Sayyid Muhammad ‘Uthmin alMirghani [the founder of the Khatmiyya brotherhood] as my shaykh in this life and in the Hereafter. O God, confirm my love for him and his tariqa in this life and the one to come.’ After this formula the initiate recites sHra 103 (al-Asr) of the Qur’in. Thereupon the ini­ tiating shaykh pronounces him a member of the brotherhood and instructs him in its religious rule. (Karrar 1992, pp. 152-3) The exclusiveness of the Sufi brotherhoods accorded to the silsilat al-baraka, which represented their founders’ abiding spiritual autho­ rity, a significance which overshadowed that of silsilat al-tariqa. As a chain of the Sufi shaykhs said to have transmitted the tariqa from the Prophet via one of his leading Companions, the silsilat al-tariqa was an important symbol of religious legitimacy for the Sufi tariqas which appeared in the aftermath of the collapse of the caliphate. Through it they affirmed the conformity of their founders’ spiritual guidance with the Prophet’s sunna as represented after his death by his leading Companions. When the Sufi tariqas were transformed into brother­ hoods in the eighteenth century the significance of this form of legiti­ mation had become eroded by the Sufi belief in the Prophet as an eternal mystical essence embodied in the life of the Muslim com­ munity by the awliyd Its appeal to the Sufi brotherhoods’ founders was also lessened by the greater emphasis they placed in the legiti­ mation of their religious guidance on the demands of Islamic religious revival than on conformity to the norms of Islamic piety validated by the Prophet’s sunna as represented by his Companions. Ahmad b. Idris and Ahmad al-Tijini disposed of the silsilat al-tariqa altogether, and legitimised their tariqas by the assertion each of them made that his tariqa was al-tariqa al-Muhammadiyya, with the first saying that his tariqa was taught by the Prophet to his master Abd al-Wahhib alTizi, and the second claiming that he founded his tariqa on the Prophet’s personal injunction. Mu${afa al-Bakri and Shaykh Khilid found it necessary to follow the traditional method of legitimation, with the former adopting the silsilat al-tariqa of the Khalwatiyya and


The Sufi Brotherhood as a Religious Community

the latter that of the Naqshbandiyya tariqa, apparendy because their brotherhoods came into being as a result of the revivalist movements they initiated in these tariqas. Nevertheless they too viewed the Sufi brotherhood’s silsilat al-baraka as the embodiment of valid spiritual authority in it, and as such the foundation of its unity and distinct identity as a Sufi community. The significance attached in the Sufi brotherhoods to the silsilatalbaraka as the embodiment in them ofvalid spiritual authority enabled them to retain their religious coherence and distinct religious iden­ tities, in spite of their sometimes great territorial expansion. As explained in Chapter 6, the only Sufi brotherhoods that developed centralised systems of spiritual leadership were the ones that exercised a regulatory religious influence in rural tribal communities, and in which the founders’ families had a monopoly over their supreme lead­ ership. In none of the universalist revivalist Sufi brotherhoods did the founder’s family acquire a monopoly over its supreme leadership, nor was any single successor to his authority recognised by all its shaykhs as their supreme head. Nevertheless they could retain their unity through the emphasis the shaykhs of each of them placed on being links in its silsilat al-baraka and its founder’s deputies in the leadership of its local branches. They consequendy required the Muslims they initiated into their brotherhood to pledge exclusive allegiance to its founder’s spiritual authority and to perform punctiliously the relig­ ious rule he laid down for it. And the tides they used as heads of their brotherhood’s local branches underscored their status as its founder’s deputies in their spiritual guidance. The tides most widely used for the shaykhs of the Sufi brother­ hoods’ branches are khalifa and muqaddam or, depending on the language used in the lands in which the brotherhoods developed, their Persian or Turkish equivalents. The tide khalifa is usually used for a shaykh of the brotherhood recognised as its founder’s deputy in a whole country or in a large region. The title muqaddam is the past participle of the verb qaddama, which means among other things to elevate to the rank of foreman or overseer, and is generally used for the head of a local branch of the brotherhood. The holder of either one of these tides usually justifies his assumption of it by a formal, written ijdza (authorisation). The term ijdza is used in the Islamic tradition of religious learning in the sense of a document issued by a reputable

The Sufi brotherhood as a community o f grace


scholar to one of his disciples, authorising the latter to teach an im­ portant work he had studied with him. In the Sufi brotherhoods it is used in the sense of formal bestowal of authority, and the text used for it has acquired over the centuries a relatively standard form. When issued to a muqaddam, it praises his piety, learning and unswerving attachment to his brotherhood’s special path to God, formally recog­ nises him as one of its muqaddams, and authorises him to deputise for its founder in the initiation of Muslims into his tariqa. The ijdza issued to the khaltfa has a similar form but usually entides him not only to initiate Muslims into the brotherhood but also to appoint muqqadams. No coherent system exists in the Sufi brotherhoods for the choice of their muqaddams and khalifas. The founders of the four revivalist universalist brotherhoods discussed in Chapter 5 were known to have appointed khalifas who spread their tariqas and fame in foreign lands, but because these brotherhoods did not develop cen­ tralised systems of spiritual leadership, the tide khalifa was often assumed in them after their founders’ death by their prominent shaykhs in different lands without a formal ij&za. In the case of‘Umar b. Sa‘id al-F&ti discussed below (p. 206), this tide was assumed on the basis of an ij&za issued by another khalifa\ and the post of muqaddam in these brotherhoods’ long-established branches was often inherited by a son from his father. But regardless of the way by which the muqad­ dam or khalifa of a Sufi brotherhood attained his post, he justified his authority as the head of one of its branches by his standing as its founder’s deputy in its spiritual guidance. The great majority of the Sufi brotherhoods’ members are laymen whose Sufi calling does not go beyond the performance of their mys­ tical rites and the belief that their founders’ baraka aids them in the fulfilment of both their pious and their worldly aims. And a Muslims initiation into a specific Sufi brotherhood often follows from a variety of fortuitous reasons, such as living in a locality whose religious life it dominates, being born into a family long associated with it, or the personal influence of one of its members. But his decision to pursue the Sufi calling by initiation into a Sufi brotherhood follows from his desire to become affiliated with a coherent religious community. Through his performance in its local zdwiya of its communal rites, and often also the five daily prayers, he establishes personal ties of affinity and trust with its other local members. And die shaykh of its


The Sufi Brotherhood as a Religious Community

local branch becomes his spiritual mentor and guide, to whom he turns for religious guidance and moral support in dealing with the problems of life. The universalist revivalist Sufi brotherhoods could expand their influence widely because their local branches provided a coherent form of religious communal life to Muslims in different lands. They catered for the communal religious needs of Muslims in all walks of life, and also for those of Muslim minorities living in pre­ dominantly non-Muslim lands such as China, and recendy in the United States and various European countries. This remarkable suc­ cess testifies to the great ability of the Sufi brotherhoods’ shaykhs to adapt the spiritual guidance they validated by the spiritual authority of their brotherhoods’ founders to the disparate social and political conditions under which the Muslims live. The Sufi brotherhoods’religious rules The Sufi brotherhoods’ religious rules are ready-made methods of Sufi tarbiya. They are validated by the belief in their founders’ waldya, but derive their credibility as methods that set the believers on the path to God from having as a common core two religious practices Sufis had long viewed as cardinal elements of their mystical tradition. These are the recitation of supererogatory prayers as an act of pen­ itence and the communal dhikr ceremony. The significant novelty of the Sufi brotherhoods’ religious rules consists of the fixed forms they gave to these cherished Sufi practices. The supererogatory prayers recited by a Sufi brotherhood’s members constitute a fixed spiritual office recited at set times and a specified number of times, and its dhikr ceremony is a ritual performed in all its branches in the form ordained by its founder. Sufis call the supererogatory prayers they recite either awr&d(pi. of wird) or ahzdb (pi. of hizb). Awr&dis a generic term used for the pray­ ers whose recitation is an act of penitence by which Sufis supplement the five daily ritual prayers. They are mosdy short prayers celebrating the glory of God and containing invocations of divine blessings for the Prophet. The founders of the first tariq&s emphasised the spiritual benefits of the recitation of awr&d, and often wrote texts for them. But before the foundation of the Sufi brotherhoods, practising Sufis could freely choose from among the awr&dcomposed by the various tariqa founders and other leading shaykhs those they preferred to redte. And \

The Sufi brotherhoods religious rules


when Sufi shaykhs recommended certain awrdd to their disciples, they did not feel justified in requiring them to shun others. Writing in the first half of the sixteenth century, the prominent Sufi shaykh ‘Abd alWahhib al-Sha‘r£ni (d. 1565) cites a wirdwhose recitation before the morning prayer he recommended to his disciples, but he also says that, in order to avoid monotony (malal), Sufis should diversify the awrdd they recite, even if in so doing they exchanged a wird they cherished with a less appealing one (Al-Sha‘r&ni 1988, pt. 1, pp. 85 and 87). The ahzdb are usually lengthy prayers, whose authorship is ascribed to the tariqa founders and other reputable awliyd \ in which invocations of divine mercy and blessings for the Prophet are inter­ posed with verses from the Qur’in. They are believed to have the power to ward off calamities, and some of them are considered to be specially effective against specific kinds of danger. Their recitation is therefore more a supplication for divine aid than an act of penitence. The Sufi brotherhoods’founders composed their own ahzAb, but they identified their spiritual guidance with the act of penitence entailed in the recitation of awrdd. Hence the use of the term wird in the sense of the totality of a Sufi brotherhood’s religious rule and the reference to initiation into a Sufi brotherhood as the “taking” of its wird. The term wird is also used in some of the Sufi brotherhoods for one of the super­ erogatory prayers or a unit of such prayers comprised in their religious offices. But regardless of whether wird is used for the totality of a Sufi brotherhood’s spiritual office or for a part of it, its recitation is a man­ datory act for its members, and it should be performed in accordance with the rules set for it. The Sufi brotherhoods’ spiritual offices consist either of prayers their founders composed, or of ones composed by others for whose efficacy in the remission of sins they themselves vouched. And each of them is regulated with regard to the time of the day it should be per­ formed and the number of times each of the supererogatory prayers comprised in it should be recited. Their recitation is an act of pen­ itence, but it is also a means for the generation of the spiritual com­ mitment to the faith in broad segments of Muslim societies which the Sufi brotherhoods’ founders considered central to Islamic religious revival. For the religious offices consist of prayers and pious invo­ cations whose central theme is the affirmation of the oneness of God and the belief in the Prophet as the ultimate source of the Muslims’


The Sufi Brotherhood as a Religious Community

religious guidance. Consequently their recitation at set hours a fixed number of times, usually with the help of a rosary, keeps the Sufi brotherhoods’ members ever conscious of the cardinal elements of the faith. One of the most elaborate of the Sufi brotherhoods’spiritual offices is that of the Tijiniyya. (see above, pp. 154-5). That of most of the other Sufi brotherhoods is not as elaborate as that of the Tijiniyya. That of the Kabbishiyya brotherhood in Sudan consists of the reci­ tation after the morning and the sunset prayers of (1) the formula of penitence Astaghfiru Alldh seven times, and (2) the formula Bismi Alldh al-Karim wa Id hawla wa Id quunva illd bi Alldh (In the name of Allah, the Gracious, and there is no ability or might except those bestowed by Allah) three times. The founder of this brotherhood Ibrahim al-Kabbishi (d. 1286 a h / 1869—70 a d ) composed a number of ahzdb which he urged the followers of his brotherhood to recite. But he also commended them to recite the supererogatory prayers of the Qidiriyya tariqa, to which he had belonged, especially the ummiyya (illiteracy) prayer, which is much cherished by followers of the Qidiriyya in Sudan. This short prayer derives its name from the reference to the Prophet in it as al-ummi (the illiterate) and reads ‘O God, bless our master Muhammad the illiterate Prophet’. (Karrar 1992, pp. 155-6) The spiritual office of the Khatmiyya brotherhood in Sudan is far more elaborate. It has sue parts, of which the sixth pan alone consists of the recitation of the haylalah 2,000 times, interposed after every 100 times by the affirmation that Muhammad is the mes­ senger of God. The followers of this brotherhood may also recite when they wish a number of other invocations and prayers, some composed by its founder and others taught to him by his master Ahmad b. Idris. (Karrar 1992, pp. 157-9) In its basic form, the dhikr ceremony consists of the rhythmic into­ nation of the divine name Allih, or alternatively of the haylala {La ilaha ilia Alldh). Sufis have justified this ceremony by the pious aim of instilling in the believers a spiritual consciousness of God’s presence in their life. However, several of the methods they employed in the inducement of ecstasy in it have been condemned as being incom­ patible with the Prophet’s sunna. As indicated above (pp. 85-6), the eponymous founders of the first tariqas approved of the dhikr cere­ mony, but none of them set a fixed form for its performance. Conse­

The Sufi brotherhoods religious rules


quently, the shaykhs of these tariqas could develop their own rules for its performance, while adhering to their founders’ general preferences in such matters as its silent or vocal performance and the degree of spiritual ecstasy to be induced in it. The Sufi brotherhoods’ founders made the dhikr ceremony an integral element of their religious rules and themselves set rules for its performance. Consequendy the dif­ ferent branches of the same brotherhood performed it in a uniform way. However, the significance given to the dhikr ceremony in the dif­ ferent brotherhoods’ religious rules and the degree of ecstasy allowed in it varied gready. The factors that determined the significance given to the dhikr ceremony in the religious rules of the different brotherhoods cannot be ascertained in most cases. However, an important common factor seems to have been the religious and social context in which their founders established their authority as tariqa founders. The more this context made it imperative for them to reinforce their spiritual autho­ rity as awliyd'by a manifest identification with the Prophet’s sunna, the less weight they gave to the dhikr ceremony. In the Tijiniyya brotherhood, for example, the dhikr is a short, non-ecstadc ceremony, held once a week on Friday after the afternoon prayer. And it is called hadra (mystical congregation) rather than dhikr. This brotherhood’s founder Ahmad al-Tijini allowed the participants in its dhikr-cumhadra to intone as they wished either Alldh or the haylala, without fixing a number of times for their recitation. And he also permitted his followers in different lands to follow in the recitation of the dhikr the usual practise of the Sufis in their lands, preferably that of the fol­ lowers of the Khalwatiyya fariqa. (Abun-Nasr 1965, pp. 53-4) The small significance Ahmad al-Tijini gave to the dhikr ceremony can be explained by his situation in Fez as an outsider seeking to establish his authority there as the founder of a new tariqa. He lived in Fez under the protection of a sharifian sultan who identified his authority with the cause of Islamic religious revival, and he had to contend with the hostility of influential religious scholars who equated religious revival with the resuscitation of the Prophet’s sunna. A similarly insignificant role was attached to the dhikr ceremony by Sidi al-Mukhtir al-Kunti, the founder of the Qidiriyya-Mukhtiriyya brotherhood. Sidi alMukhtir relied on the consolidation of his authority as supreme head of the Qidiriyya in Western Sahara as much on his reputation as a


The Sufi Brotherhood as a Religious Community

leading religious scholar as on the belief in him as the holder of the highest grade of waldya. And he was aware that several branches of the Qidiriyya included samd ‘and other practices incompatible with the Prophet’s sunna in the dhikr ceremony. By insisting on the silent per­ formance of the dhikr; and requiring his disciples to perform it while in khalwa, he denied the validity of these practices and heightened his claim to the leadership of the Q&diriyyas revival. The minor significance attached to the dhikr ceremony in the Tiji­ niyya and Qadiriyya-Mukhtiriyya brotherhoods stands in marked contrast to its transformation into the central element of the religious rules of the Qidiriyya-Ni$iriyya, a brotherhood that came into being in northern Nigeria, and of the Rahminiyya brotherhood which flourished in the Kabyiia region of north-east Algeria. The Qidiriyya tariqa achieved a dominant influence in northern Nigeria from the beginning of the nineteenth century through the jihdd o f‘Uthmin dan Fodio (d. 1817) against its Hausa rulers. Dan Fodio was an ac­ complished scholar of the religious law, and he justified the launching of a jih&d against the Hausa rulers of northern Nigeria by their deviation from its provisions in their government. The success of this jihdd led to the foundation of the Sokoto caliphate, and because dan Fodio was a shaykh of the Qidiriyya, it became the tariqa of its religiopolitical establishment. After the Second World War the appeal of the dan Fodio branch of the Qidiriyya to the expanding urban popu­ lation of northern Nigeria was eroded by its identification with its conservative religious leadership. And its influence was eclipsed by that of the Qidiriyya-Nisiriyya brotherhood, which was founded in Kano, northern Nigeria’s largest town, by Shaykh Nasiru Kabara. This highly enterprising Sufi shaykh justified the launching of his own branch of the Qidiriyya by the claim that, during a visit he made to Baghdad in 1953, he was appointed by its founder’s descendant in charge of his shrine there as his khalifa in West Africa. He transformed his branch of the Qidiriyya into a dynamic, predominantly urban, brotherhood by setting for it a dhikr ceremony which contained ecstatic practices which the dan Fodio branch considered religiously reprehensible. In this dhikr ceremony, which is held every evening, the divine name Alldh, Alldh is intoned according to a fixed breathing method and accompanied by the rhythmic beating of a drum called banddir. Nasiru Kabara did not set a fixed spiritual office for his

The Sufi brotherhoods religious rules


brotherhood, but he won a large following for it by its popular dhikr ceremony and the holding of an annual procession in Kano on the occasion of ‘Abd al-Qidir al-Jil&ni’s mawlid (birthday) which he himself led on horseback. (Loimeier 1997, pp. 57-70) A similarly ecstatic dhikr ceremony, albeit performed without the accompaniment of music, constituted the main element of the relig­ ious rule of the Algerian Rahminiyya brotherhood, most of whose followers belonged to the tribesmen of the Kabylia region of Algeria and of north-western Tunisia (see above, pp. 172-3). William Haas says in an interesting psycho-physiological analysis of this dhikr ceremony, which he witnessed in Algeria, that it induces an abnormal state of consciousness in the participants which they “take to be an approach to or even real contact with the divine”. (Haas 1943, p. 18) The ceremony lasts about one hour and a quarter, and Haas maintains that the abnormal state of consciousness the participants experience in it is induced by the rhythmic ejaculation of the divine name Alldh in conjunction with a thoroughly regulated technique of breathing and bodily movements. The ceremony starts with the participants standing in a circle and holding hands, with the shaykh who directs it standing in the centre. In its first part the divine name Alldh is reduced to two syllables ha-hd ejaculated alternatively. With the ejaculation of the syllable ha (with a short “a”) the breath is exhaled and the knees are slighdy bent, and with the ejaculation of the second syllable hd (with a long “a”) the breath is inhaled and the body returned to the standing position. In the second part, the pattern of breathing is reversed in that the ha is ejaculated with a short and abrupt inhalation of air, and hd is ejaculated with the air being exhaled audibly and exhaustively. The lower part of the body is not moved in the second part, but the upper part is pushed abrupdy forward with inhaling and returned to the upright standing position with exhaling. In the concluding part of the dhikr\ the participants sink down to their knees to form a whole circle with the shaykh kneeling in the centre. At his command, they move the upper part of the body backwards and forwards. When he commands them to stop this movement, they throw their bodies forward and touch the floor with their foreheads, thus forming a ring around the shaykh. Remaining on his knees, he then turns round to each of the participants and utters in a low voice AlldhuAkbar (God is great). After that he signals the end of the ceremony by clapping three


The Sufi Brotherhood as a Religious Community

times with his hands. Thereupon, one of the brethren comes with a cloth, wipes the sweat off the face of each participant, and kisses his head. (Haas 1943, pp. 19-24) The Sufi brotherhoods’ religious rules are clear emblems of their distinct identities as Sufi communities. They differ in their structures and the demands they make on their members’ time, but in each of the brotherhoods, its religious rule is viewed as its distinct method of Sufi tarbiya and considered to derive its efficacy from the spiritual guardianship inherent in its founder’s baraka. Hence the warning of the untold spiritual harm that would befall the Sufi if he performed the religious rule of a Sufi brotherhood into which he was not admit­ ted by a formal act of initiation. (Osman 1985, p. 131) Hence also the great emphasis members of a Sufi brotherhood place on the punc­ tilious performance of its religious rules in the exact form laid down by its founder. This attitude is apparent from the important split which occurred in the Tijiniyya brotherhood in West Africa as a result of disagreement over the question of whether its founder ordained the recitation of the supererogatory prayer Jawharat al-Kam&l in its wazifa twelve or eleven times (see below, pp. 225-6). Besides being an emblem of its distinct identity, the Sufi brotherhood’s fixed religious rule is also an important element of its religious unity. It transforms the brotherhood’s members in different lands into a coherent religious community, united by the performance of the same religious rule as a token of spiritual allegiance to its founder s spiritual authority and trust in the abiding efficacy of his baraka. The Sufi brotherhoods'social influence The Sufi brotherhoods came into being at a time when Sufi beliefs had become integral elements of the Muslims’ religious life. The Qidiriyya, Shidhiliyya, Khalwatiyya and Naqshbandiyya tariqas con­ tributed much to the acceptance of these beliefs by shunning mystical tenets and ecstatic practices which the religious scholars considered incompatible with the Prophet’s sunna. Under their influence affil­ iation with the Sufi tariqas gained social respectability and expanded to the upper strata of Muslim societies. Notables and state officials became affiliated with them, and Muslim rulers made endowments for the building of zdwiyas for their prominent shaykhs. And the biog­ raphies of the religious scholars show that by the eighteenth century

The Sufi brotherhoods social influence


many of them were initiated into one or the other of these prestigious tariqas. But although the shaykhs of these (ariqas sometimes enjoyed great religious prestige in their lands, they had no socially recognised religious status. Their social influence consequendy depended on their personal authority as Sufi shaykhs and on being accepted by rulers, provincial governors or tribal chiefs as spiritual guides and counsellors in the conduct of public affairs. By contrast the shaykhs of the Sufi brotherhoods’ branches have socially recognised positions that bolster their personal authority as Sufi shaykhs. As muqaddam or khalifa of a Sufi brotherhood, the Sufi shaykh is the acknowledged deputy of its founder in the spiritual lead­ ership of a local branch of a coherent religious community. None of the Sufi brotherhoods had a spiritual bureaucracy that controlled and directed the activities of the shaykhs of their different branches. Even the centralised brotherhoods, each of which had a supreme head who usually appointed the shaykhs of its different branches, did not de­ velop organs of centralised guidance and control. And only in the SanAsiyya brotherhood was its main zdwiya (in Jaghb&b), where its founder was buried, also a college in which the potential shaykhs of its local branches were trained for their future functions. In the other Sufi brotherhoods the mother zdwiyas are shrines where their found­ ers are usually buried and their baraka is invoked, but not centres for the training of their future shaykhs. Thus the Sufi brotherhoods pro­ vided the shaykhs of their different branches with socially acknow­ ledged religious positions, but determined the scope and nature of their spiritual guidance neither by a uniform education nor centrali­ sed guidance and control. The Sufi brotherhoods’ different branches in different lands, like those of the older tariqas, are usually represented each by a zdwiya. And as was the case with the older tariqas, the shaykhs of the Sufi brotherhoods’ branches in different localities are usually the shaykhs of their zdwiyas. However, the scope and nature of the activities of the Sufi brotherhoods’ zdwiyas differ from those of the older (ariqas’ zdwiyas. The Sufi tarbiya offered in them, unlike that provided in the older tariqas’zdwiyas, is not determined by their shaykhs’own under­ standing of its requirements, nor is it intended for small circles of personal disciples. It is a prescribed form of tarbiya, consisting of their brotherhoods’ fixed religious rules, and is intended for Muslims in all


The Sufi Brotherhood as a Religious Community

walks of life. This form of tarbiya emphasises the standing of the zdwiyas’shaykhs as deputies of their brotherhoods’ founders in the spiritual guidance of their local communities, without however set­ ting any limits to the religious and social activities which they validate by their authority. The religious and social activities undertaken by the shaykhs of the Sufi brotherhoods’ z&wiyas are determined by their personal pref­ erences as well as the resources they have at their disposal. Most of them offer in their z&wiyas rudimentary instruction in the Qur’&nand Islamic beliefs. And besides their brotherhoods’ communal dhikr cer­ emonies, they sometimes hold in their zdwiyas other ceremonies having a broad religious appeal. For example, several of the zdwiyas of the Mik&shifiyya brotherhood in the Sudan hold sessions of madih, i.e. praise of the Prophet in the form of poems sung by trained singers called madd&h&n. Those who attend these sessions are expected to contribute to the zAwiyas’finances by throwing coins on to a cloth placed before the madd&h&n. (Osman 1985, p. 137) In East Africa, where the Prophet’s mawlid is a highly cherished festive occasion, the Sufi brotherhoods identify with it by holding mawlid ceremonies in their z&wiyas. One of East Africa’s most popular mawlid ceremonies was held in the Ribdt al-Riydda in Lamu (Tanzania), whose shaykhs belonged to the Alawiyya brotherhood. Peter Lienhardt, who in 1958 attended the mawlid ceremony held there, says that it “attracts visitors from far and wide: Bajun and Somalis from the north, Galla and Pokomo from the Tana River area, Arabs, Swahilis and even a few Indian Muslims from Mombassa, Tanga, Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar and Pemba.” (Lienhardt 1959, p. 228) The Ribdf al-Riydda was also a religious college, where at the time of Lienhardt’s visit some forty students from outside Lamu studied, and a junior Qur’inic school was attached to it. (Lienhardt 1959, p. 237) The association of a Sufi brotherhood’s different z&wiyas with similar religious and social activities is not common, and when it exists it usually follows from the continuation of activities by which the group to which its shaykhs belong had become distinguished be­ fore its foundation. The association of the zdwiyas of the QidiriyyaMukhtiriyya with religious learning and trans-Saharan trade was a continuation of a tradition initiated by the Kunta, the ethnic group to which the brotherhood’s supreme head and its other leading shaykhs

The Sufi brotherhoods social influence


belonged, long before its foundation towards the end of the eigh­ teenth century (see above, pp. 164-9.). The Ni$iriyya brotherhood evolved out of the Sufi tradition of the zHwiya of Tamigr&t, which became in the seventeenth century the main religious centre of the Dra'a region in southern Morocco. The Nisiriyya is called after Muhammad b. Nisir, a shaykh of the Shidhiliyya tariqa, who took charge of the z&wiya of Tamigrflt in 1630. Since his time it became associated with the promotion of religious learning and with a Sufi tradition that emphasised adherence to the religious law and rejection of mystical practices incompatible with the Prophet’s sunna. Because his descendants retained the leadership of the Ni$iriyya after it be­ came a fully-fledged brotherhood in the eighteenth century, the many zAwiyas it came to have in various parts of Morocco remained asso­ ciated with religious learning. (El-Mansour 1990, pp. 161-2) The shaykhs of the Sufi brotherhood’s zdwiyas developed a variety of methods for securing the funds with which they financed their religious and social activities. These methods are partly justified by a Sufi norm that can be traced to the eleventh century (see above, p. 59), which makes it incumbent on the disciples of a Sufi shaykh to cater for his needs and to view the services they render to him a service made to God. Long before the appearance of the Sufi brotherhoods, the making of donations to Sufi shaykhs in the form of a hadiyya (personal gift) had become an essential requirement of Sufi piety. The hadiyya became an important source of revenue also for the Sufi brotherhoods’ shaykhs. But in some brotherhoods, the hadiyya be­ came a donation in cash or kind which their members were expected to give their shaykhs on fixed occasions. And the rendering of services to the Sufi shaykhs became in some cases a duty their followers fulfilled by cultivating their lands, rearing their catde, and carrying out other tasks without pay. In the Mikishifiyya brotherhood in Sudan, for example, its members are expected when received by one of its shaykhs to give him a hadiyya in cash commensurate with their wealth. They are also expected to pay the shaykhs of their local zdwiyas two-and-ahalf per cent of their income as zak&t (alms). (Osman 1985, pp. 137-9) Furthermore, the shaykhs of the Mikishifiyya have their lands culti­ vated and their crops harvested by their followers, who are summoned when required by a nafir (general mobilisation). The participants in the nafir are provided with food and tea, but are not paid for their


The Sufi Brotherhood as a Religious Community

work. The shaykhs of this brotherhood provide help to needy mem­ bers of their communities, but they use the greater part of their income for the maintenance of a retinue of disciples who perform various functions for them and in their zdwiyas and the provision of hospitality to guests. (Osman 1985, p. 139) In Morocco, the supreme head of the Tayyibiyya brotherhood reinforced his spiritual authority in the Jbala region of northern Morocco by control over much of its cultivable land. In a study he wrote in 1936 when still in the service of the French colonial administration in Morocco, the distinguished scholar Jacques Berque says that the supreme head of the Tayyibiyya in some cases bought the land whose revenue he controls at specially low prices, but most of it was either donated to him personally, or made into a pious foundation intended for the maintenance of the brotherhood’s main zdwiya in Wazzin. And because the tenants who cultivated the land were members of the brotherhood, they paid its supreme head not only the rent but also a tithe described as zakdt. Consequendy, the peasants became bound to the brotherhood’s su­ preme head by a clientele which was both spiritual and economic, and one which was made durable by the inheritance of the tenancy of the land within the same peasant families. (Berque 1936, pp. 26-32) Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the religious scholars' old criticisms of Sufi beliefs were revived in the form of a campaign directed against the influence the Sufi brotherhoods’shaykhs exercised in the life of Muslim societies. Spokesmen of the Salafiyya reformist religious movement, who took the lead in this campaign, attacked the beliefs that enabled these shaykhs to exercise their influence, and con­ demned especially the belief in their baraka as a superstition which they employed for the economic exploitation of their followers. The Islamic doctrinal validity or otherwise of these attacks do not concern us here, but it should be noted that spokesmen of the Salafiyya have been unwilling to recognise that the Sufi brotherhoods’ shaykhs de­ rived their social influence from the satisfaction of communal relig­ ious needs which they could not themselves satisfy. And they have been unwilling to attach significance to the motives that lead pious Muslims to make donations to their shaykhs. With these donations the members of a brotherhood affirm their gratitude for the spiritual guardianship inherent in its founder’s waldya and the moral support and guidance they receive from its local shaykhs. They also contribute

The Sufi brotherhoods social influence


to the continued existence of a religious community, which provides them in times of need with religious solidarity and help. The material benefits the Sufi brotherhoods’ shaykhs derive from the donations made to them by their followers in cash, kind or free labour enable them to help the poor in their communities, and provide a variety of religious and social services in their zdwiyas. But they are vindicated above all by enabling these shaykhs to remain economically inde­ pendent of the holders of political power in their lands. This inde­ pendence enables them to propagate pious ideals and articulate religiously validated social grievances which the officeholders in the religious establishments of their lands have become accustomed to ignore.

8. The Sufi Brotherhoods and European Colonial Rule The French invasion of Algeria in 1830 opened a phase of colonial expansion the result of which by the end of the First World War was the imposition of European colonial rule in all Muslim lands of North, West and East Africa, and in most Arab lands of the Middle East. The British and French shared among themselves the greater part of this colonial booty. In the first half of the nineteenth century, the British had also established their rule in India and the Dutch theirs in Indonesia. The colonial powers were aware that Muslims in general resented submission to Christian rulers, but they perceived the Sufi brotherhoods as the primary source of active, religiously motivated opposition to colonial rule. This view arose from two facts whose significance was exaggerated and often misconstrued. The first was that the Ottoman sultan Abd al-Hamid II (1876-1909) suc­ ceeded in having a number of prominent Sufi shaykhs endorse, at least in principle, his Pan-Islamist policy, which was intended to foster Islamic solidarity with the Ottoman empire in its confrontation with the European colonial powers. The second was that the militant move­ ments of resistance to the colonial conquerors of Muslim lands were led by shaykhs of the Sufi brotherhoods. Sultan Abd al-Hamid Us Pan-Islamist policy was aimed primarily at securing the loyalty of the Arabs to the Ottoman sultan-cumcaliph, and kept the diplomats and intelligence services of the Europ­ ean powers busy monitoring the activities of its supporters, but brought no tangible political advantages to the Ottoman sultan. The Ottoman authorities were aware that, like other religious leaders, most of the Sufi brotherhoods’shaykhswere unwilling to recognise the Ottoman sultan as the caliph to whom allegiance was due as supreme religious head of the Muslim community. Consequendy they sought to win them over to Pan-Islamism by appealing to their religious soli200

The Sufi Brotherhoods and European Colonial Rule


darity in the confrontation with the European powers, and also to their avidity for fame and wealth. They succeeded in securing the cooperation of a few prominent Sufi shaykhs by the bestowal of mate­ rial favours on them, coupled with an invitation to Istanbul, where they were received by the sultan and given luxurious hospitality in the Yildiz palace. Abd al-Hudi al-§ayyidi, head of the Ri£i‘iyya brotherhood in Syria, and the Libyan Muhammad b. Hamza Zifir alMadanl, head of the Madaniyya brotherhood, were won over to sultan Abd al-Hamid’s Pan-Islamist policy. Each of these shaykhs wrote a book in praise of this sultan and his endeavours to defeat the schemes of the ‘infidels’, intended for their predominantly Arab societies. (Martin 1976, pp. 5-6) As indicated above (pp. 162-3), the Ottoman government attempted during Abd al-Hamld’s reign also to strengthen its ties with the SanAsiyya brotherhood in Cyrenaica, although its head, Sayyid al-Mahdi, did not recognise the Ottoman sultan as the caliph. Sayyid al-Mahdi declined the invitation to go to Istanbul, but agreed to cooperate with the Ottoman authorities in Cyrenaica in the collection of taxes and the maintenance of law and order. And the good relations that had existed since the sixteenth cen­ tury between the Ottoman government and the Jilanis, the family of the Qidiriyya tariqas founder, were strengthened during Abd alHamid’s reign. As custodians of Abd al-Qidir’s shrine in Baghdad and a reputable sharifian family, the Jilinis enjoyed religious prestige and social influence in Iraq. Sultan Abd al-Hamid issued afirman in 1879 exempting them from military service and appointing their head, Salmin al-Jilani, counsellor to the governor of Baghdad and a member of its administrative council. And he approved the payment of a large salary to him and to his brother, and of stipends to other members of his extended family. However, when the Jilinis lost these privileges after the revolution that brought the Young Turks to power in Istanbul in 1908, they became leading spokesmen of anti-Turkish Arab nationalist sentiments. (Luizard 1999, pp. 296-302) As will be explained further below (pp. 214-15), after the British obtained a mandate for the control of Iraq in 1920, Salmon’s brother Abd alRahmin, who had succeeded him to the leadership of the Qidiriyya in Baghdad, agreed to become head of the provisional council of state they set up in that year. The leadership of militant, religiously motivated movements of resistance to European colonial expansion by Sufi shaykhs stood in


The Sufi Brotherhoods and European Colonial Rule

marked contrast to the pliant attitude of the prominent religious scholars to colonial rule. The religious scholars usually belonged to prosperous, socially conservative urban families. In the interest of pre­ serving their social standing, they became attuned over the centuries to the holding of office in the religious establishments of Muslim rulers having no claim to the religious leadership of their commu­ nities, and whose adherence to the religious law was subordinated to the requirements of remaining in power. They took the same prag­ matic attitude towards the colonial rulers of their lands as they had taken towards their Muslim rulers. However, the attitude the great majority of the Sufi brotherhoods’ shaykhs towards European colonial rule was not intrinsically different from that of the religious scholars. They resented it, but sought to preserve their social influence by ac­ commodating it. The few among them who assumed the leadership of militant movements of resistance to colonial rule were upstarts in the sense that they did not belong to the socially influential Sufi shaykhs in their lands. These militant shaykhs were inspired by Sufi ideals that equated Islamic religious revival with the Muslims’ ability to countervail the Europeans’ colonial expansion. But because, as leaders of Islamic resistance to the colonial invaders, they claimed to themselves a religious authority transcending that of the influential Sufi shaykhs in their lands, these shaykhs invariably opposed them. And after the consolidation of European colonial rule in Muslim countries, the Sufi shaykhs in general, including in some cases those belonging to the families of the leaders of militant opposition to it, showed remarkable power of accommodation. Sufi shaykhs’ resistance to colonial rule The most important of the militant movements of resistance to colo­ nial expansion in Muslim lands were those led by Amir Abd al-Qidir against the French conquest of Algeria, ‘Umar b. Sa‘id al-F&ti against the French colonial expansion in Senegambia, and ‘Abdille Hasan against the British occupation of northern Somalia. These were all remarkable leaders, but as Sufi shaykhs they were all upstarts when assuming the leadership of resistance to European colonial rule in their lands. As the brief account of their movements given in what follows will show, none of them succeeded in uniting the influential Sufi shaykhs of his land under his leadership. The supercilious, reli­

Sufi shaykhs’ resistance to cobnial rule


giously disparaging attitude they took towards these shaykhs often led them to cooperate with the non-Muslim colonial invaders in com­ bating them. Amir ‘Abd al-Qidir al-Jazi’iri, who led resistance to the French occupation of Algeria, belonged to the Qidiriyya tariqa. His son Muhammad al-Jazi’iri claims in a short biography of him which he appended to his history of Algeria Tuhfat al-Zd tr (Gift of the visitor) that he was a descendant of the Prophet. This biography also shows that the family’s association with the Qidiriyya was recent, having begun when ‘Abd al-Qidir’s grandfather Mu${afi was initiated into this tariqa during a visit to Baghdad by Mahm&d al-Jilini, its found­ er’s descendant in charge of his shrine. According to Muhammad alJazi’iri, the village of al-Qaytana (La Guetna) in western Algeria, where ‘Abd al-Qidir was bom in 1807, came into being after Mu$(aj& built a zdwiya for the Qidiriyya on its site in 1206 a h / 1791-2 a d with the aim of reviving this tariqas influence in Algeria. Mustafi seems to have achieved some success; indeed, before his death six years later he had several prominent disciples. One of them was Muham­ mad Bey, the Ottoman governor of Algeria’s western province who had his seat in al-Mu‘askar (Mascara), some 15 kilometres east of alQaytana. After Mustafas death, his son Muhyi al-Din, ‘Abd alQidir’s father, became shaykh of the Qidiriyya zdwiya in al-Qaytana. ‘Abd al-Qidir was Muhyi al-Din’s second son, and was educated by him and by religious scholars in al-Mu‘askar. He is said to have learnt by heart much of the voluminous hadith-compcnd\um Sahih alBukhdri. In 1825 ‘Abd al-Qidir travelled with his father to the Mashriq with the aim of visiting the shrine of the Qidiriyyas founder in Baghdad. After performing the pilgrimage to Mecca and visiting the Prophet’s tomb in Medina, they spent some time in Damascus before travelling to Baghdad. In Damascus they met Shaykh Khilid, the founder of the revivalist Naqshbandiyya-Khilidiyya brotherhood (see above, p. 135 ff.), who had setded in the city some two years earlier. The young ‘Abd al-Qidir was apparently much impressed by Shaykh Khiiid’s teachings, since he is said to have gone often during his stay in Damascus to seek instruction from him. (Al-Jazi’iri 1964, pp. 923- 32) ‘Abd al-Qidir became in 1832 the leader of the west Algerian tribes’jihdd against the French almost by default. In the two months after starting the invasion of Algeria in May 1830, the French oc­ cupied the capital Algiers and other important coastal towns. But


The Sufi Brotherhoods and European Colonial Rule

shortly after the capitulation of the ruler Husayn Dey to them on 5 July, two important leaders of resistance appeared in the interior of the country. The first was Ahmad Bey, the governor of eastern Algeria, who had his capital in Constantine, and set about transforming his large and relatively prosperous province into an independent Otto­ man regency. But the Ottoman government could not give him any military assistance, and the French succeeded after initial setbacks in occupying Constantine in October 1837. Western Algeria fell within Moroccos sphere of influence and, as indicated above (p. 174), the shaykh of the Moroccan Darqiwiyya brotherhood Abd al-Qidir b. alSharif supported the tribal rebellion that broke out in it in 1793 against Ottoman rule and called for its annexation to Morocco. After the end of the Ottoman regime in Algeria, the Moroccan sultan Mawliy Abd al-Rahmin attempted to annex western Algeria to his realm. From the end of 1830 he had a khalifa (deputy) in Tlimsan who coor­ dinated tribal resistance to the French, but French pressure led him to agree in March 1832 to withdraw his agents and troops from Algeria. Left to fend for themselves, the tribes of western Algeria requested Muhyi al-Din, the shaykh of the Qidiriyya zdwiya in al-Qaytana, to lead them in resistance to the French. But since Muhyi al-Din was old and weak, he proposed his son Abd al-Qidir as leader of this tribal jihdd. Later in the year several of the important tribes of western Algeria formally pledged allegiance to Abd al-Qidir as their amir and leader in the war against the French. (Abun-Nasr 1987, pp. 248 ff.) At the time Abd al-Qidir was not himselfan acknowledged shaykh of the Qidiriyya, but the son of its zdwiya’s shaykh in al-Qayfana. Never­ theless, legends circulated among his followers, according to which his namesake, the founder of the Qidiriyya tariqa, endorsed his choice as leader of the jihdd against the French, appeared to him regularly, and advised him on the conduct of the war. (Neveu 1846, pp. 27-9) At the time when Amir Abd al-Qidir assumed the leadership of this tribal jihad, the French control of western Algeria did not extend far beyond the coastal town of Oran. He sought to consolidate his authority in the interior of this region by the creation of the nucleus of an Islamic government having its seat in al-Mu askar. He created spe­ cialised ministries and a consultative religious council consisting of eleven leading ‘ulamd \ and gave detailed instructions regarding the training of his tribal warriors and their transformation into a disci­

Sufi shaykhs’ resistance to colonial rule


plined professional army. For the administration of justice he ap­ pointed provincial q&dts responsible to a chief justice (