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IDRISIYAH. The thought and teachings of Ahmad ibn Idris (1749/50-1837) gave rise to a spiritual tradition and various Sufi orders. The term Idrisiyah is used here in two senses: to refer to various Sufi brotherhoods and schools established by his students, and to the tariqah established by his descendants over a generation after Ion Idris’s death.

In its first sense, Idrisiyah may be used to describe the geographically very widespread and multifaceted tradition derived from Ahmad ibn Idris through his numerous students. By no means have all the branches of this tradition been fully charted. Within the Idrisiyah tradition, one can distinguish a group of students, direct and indirect, including the Egyptians ‘All `Abd al-Haqq al-Qusi (1788-1877) and Muhammad Nur al-Din alHusayni (1813-1887), who spread knowledge of Ion Idris’s prayers and litanies in Egypt and the Balkans. There were several such figures within the Ottoman Empire; similar figures elsewhere include the noted Sudanese teacher Muhammad al-Majdhub (d. 1832) from the Majadhib holy clan. Most of these figures did not attempt to establish tariqahs as such.

Ahmad ibn Idris himself did not attempt to found any form of organized brotherhood. Although earlier writers have described a conflict over spiritual succession following the master’s death, in reality his students seem each to have gone his own way. His senior students Muhammad ibn `Ali al-Sanusi and Muhammad `Uthman al-Mirghani worked to establish their own orders, the Sanusiyah and Khatmiyah, respectively. A Sudanese student, Ibrahim al-Rashid al-Duwayhi (1813-1874), seems to have been recognized at least by Ion Idris’s sons as their father’s spiritual heir; he established a tari-qah called the Idrisiyah, but later known as the Rashidiyah. This order spread in the Hejaz, India, Somalia, and the Sudan.

After his death in Mecca, Ibrahim al-Rashid’s nephew al-Shaykh ibn Muhammad al-Duwayhi (c.1845-1919) took over the order, which became known as the Salihiyah. The Salihiyah spread widely in Somalia, where one of its most active proponents was the Somali leader Muhammad `Abd Allah Hasan (1864-1920), the socalled “Mad Mullah” who led Somali resistance to the British, Italians, and Ethiopians. From Somalia the Salihiyah tariqah spread along the East African coast as far as Zanzibar. Much less is known of the diffusion of the Idrisiyah Salihiyah (and later, the Dandarawiyah) tari-qah to Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia from about the 1880s onward, presumably by pilgrims returning from the holy cities. There is now a considerable literature on this tradition in the various Malay languages, including translations of Ion Idris’s prayers (a detailed recent study in Malay is Hamdan Hassan’s Tarekat Ahmadiyah di Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, 1990).

An important and vigorous offshoot of the Salihiyah was established by the Egyptian Muhammad Ahmad alDandarawi (d. 1910/11) and his son, Abu al-`Abbas (d. 1953) The Dandarawiyah spread in Egypt, where it has become one of the most active and influential brotherhoods, as well as in Syria, Somalia and East Africa, Europe, and Malaysia. Several scholars within the Dandarawiyah tradition, including the Egyptian Muhammad ibn Khalil al-Hajrasi (d. 1910) and the Syrian Muhammad Baha’ al-Din al-Baytar (d. 1910), wrote extensive commentaries on the prayers and litanies of Ion Idris.

Ion Idris’s eldest son, known as Muhammad al-Qutb (1803/04-1889), lived his long life in seclusion in the Yemen. It was a younger son, `Abd al-`Al (otherwise ‘Abd al-Muta’al, 1830/31-1878), who worked actively to propagate his father’s way in Egypt and the Sudan. Educated by al-Sanfisi, whom he accompanied to Cyrenaica, `Abd al-`Al left the Sanfisiyah after al-Sanfisi’s death in 1859. He settled first in Egypt at al-Zayniyya (Luxor) where his father had lived around 1813-1816; until today this has remained the center of the Idrisiyah family and order in Egypt. He then traveled in the northern Sudan, where he married several times; he died and was buried in Dongola. It was ‘Abd al-‘Al’s son Muhammad al-Sharif (1866/67-1937) and his son Mirghani al-Idrisi (d. 1959) who consolidated the Idrisiyah in both Upper Egypt and the Sudan (in the latter, the family’s center is in Omdurman, where the present shaykh is Muhammad al-Hasan al-Idrisi).

In contrast to the Khatmiyah and Sanfisiyah, the Idrisiyah of Egypt and the Sudan have never played a particularly overt political role. Membership has remained small and confined to particular tribes or regions; generally a “silent” dhikr is practiced, and no attempt has been made to “modernize” the order. (However, Michael Gilsenan, in Saint and Sufi in Modern Egypt [Oxford, 1973, pp. 171-173], describes a “noisy” Idrisi dhikr.) In Egypt there is a small offshoot founded by salih ibn Muhammad al-ja’fari (d. 1981), an al-Azhar `alim who published numerous works by or on Ibn Idris.

An exception to this political quietism was the career of Ibn Idris’s great-grandson Muhammad ibn `Ali alIdrisi (1876-1923); sometimes called “al-Yamani,” he was often referred to in contemporary European sources as “The Idrisi.” Born in Asir, he studied in Mecca, at al-Azhar in Cairo, and with the Sanfisiyah in Libya before spending a period with his Idrisi relatives in Egypt and the Sudan. In 1905/o6 he returned to Asir and in the following year led a successful revolt against the local Turkish administration. Between 19o8 and 1932, the Idrisi state of Asir was a factor of some importance in the politics of Arabia; al-Idrisi negotiated with the Italians, the Young Turks, and the British, published a proclamation denouncing the Ottoman state and urging Arab independence, and built up a local army. After his death, the state rapidly declined and was peacefully absorbed into the Saudi state in 1932.

[See also Khatmiyah; Sanfisiyah; and the biography of Ibn Idris.]


De Jong, Frederick. “Al-Duwayhi, Ibrahim al-Rashid.” In Encyclopaedia of Islam, new ed., supplement, pp. 2’78-279. Leiden, 1960-.

Karrar, Ali Salih. The Sufi Brotherhoods in the Sudan. London and Evanston, Ill., 1992. Contains an extensive discussion of the brotherhoods of the Idrisi tradition in the nineteenth-century Sudan.

Naguib al-Attas, Syed. Some Aspects of Sufism as Understood and Practised among the Malays. Singapore, 1963. Contains some information on the Idrisiyah in Malaysia.

O’Fahey, R. S. Enigmatic Saint. Ahmad ibn Idris and the Idrisi Tradition. London and Evanston, Ill., 1990. The first monograph devoted to Ibn Idris and his spiritual tradition; contains an extensive bibliography.

Reissner, Johannes. “Die Idrisiden in ‘Asir: Ein historischer Uberblick.” Die Welt des Islams 21 (1981): 164-192. History of the Idrisi state in ‘Asir.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/idrisiyah/

  • writerPosted On: April 16, 2014
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