• Category Category: K
  • View View: 2638
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

KHALWATIYAH. This Sufi tariqah derives its name from khalwah, periodic retreat, which is an important feature in most branches of the Khalwatiyah. It is significant that the order derives its name from an institution rather than from an eponym, because the tariqah does not trace its origin to one founder. Originating in Central Asia, the Khalwatiyah entered the Ottoman Empire in the fifteenth century. Within a century it had become the most widespread Sufi order in the empire, although it experienced periods of stagnation, regression, and revival.


As a shari `ah-oriented tariqah, the Khalwatiyah stressed the combination of knowledge (`ilm) and practice (`aural). It also required the tying of the heart (rabt al-qalb) of a disciple (murid) to that of his master (shaykh or pir) so that the relationship between the two should be stronger than that between a father and his son. Other features, in addition to the khalwah are silence (samt), vigil (sah ar), participation in the dhikr (the chanting of God’s names), and the communal recital of wird al-sattar, composed by Yahya al-Shirwani in the fifteenth century, which is the center of the Khalwad ritual.

The revival of the Khalwatiyah was initiated by Mustafa ibn Kamal al-Din al-Bakri (1688-1748), a native of Syria who lived most of his life in Jerusalem. But it was in Egypt that the Khalwatiyah experienced a radical change through al-Bakri’s disciple Muhammad ibn Salim al-Hifn! (1689-1768). In the middle of the eighteenth century the Khalwatiyah rose from a marginal group to become the dominant order in Egypt. In the words of al-Jabarti, it was “the best of the Sufi orders (khayr al-turuq).” For eighty years (1757-1838) all but one of those who held the office of shaykh of al-Azhar were Khalwatis.

Three elements in al-Bakri’s teaching probably contributed to the resurgence of the Khalwatiyah: the demand for an exclusive affiliation to the tariqah, and stricter discipline in the performance of the litanies; a larger scope for the participation of common people in the rituals of the tariqah, and adherence to the shari `ah. Inspired by al-Bakri, al-Hifni made the Khalwatiyah in Egypt into a cohesive, shari`ah-oriented order that accommodated leading scholars but also-reached out to the common people.

Scholars from the Maghrib, mainly pilgrims on their way to Mecca, visited Cairo in the eighteenth century in growing numbers, where they were deeply influenced by al-Hifni and by the Khalwati shaykhs who succeeded him, like Mahmud al-Kurdi (1715-1780) and Ahmad al-Dardir (1715-1786). Subsequently two new orders developed in the Maghrib as offshoots of the Khalwadyah. Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Rahman al-Azhar! (1713-1793), who had been initiated to the Khalwatiyah by al-Hifni, spread the Khalwatiyah in Algeria, where the new branch became known after him as the Rahmaniyah. It was al-Azhar! who initiated Sid! Ahmad alTijan-i to the Khalwatiyah. Al-Tijanl learned additional secrets from Mahmud al-Kurdi in Cairo and from Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Karim al-SammAn in Medina. The latter had been initiated by Mustafa al-Bakri during one of his pilgrimages. [See Tijaniyah.)

Two of al-Samman’s disciples spread a tariqah, called alSammaniyah to Sumatra and to the Sudan. One was `Abd al-Samad al-Palimbani (c. 1703-1788), who spent most of his working life in Arabia and initiated students from Sumatra into the Sammaniyah. The Sammaniyah was introduced into the Sudan by Ahmad al-Tayyib ibn al-Bashir (d. 1823), who had been initiated by al-Samman in Medina. The Sammaniyah, organized on a wider geographical and societal scale with a central hierarchical authority, expanded in the Sudan at the expense of the two older tariqahs, the Qadiriyah and the Shadhiliyah, which had been adapted to the local parochial pattern of holy families. [See Qadiriyah; Shadhiliyah.]

In the nineteenth century these three extensions of the Khalwatiyah gave rise to militant movements in different parts of Africa. The Rahmaniyah led the revolt against the French in Algeria in 1871; al-Hajj `Umar alFuti initiated a jihad of the Tijaniyah in West Africa; and the Mahdi of the Sudan, Muhammad Ahmad, had been a member of the Sammaniyah for ten years (1861-1871).

In Egypt the activities of the Khalwatiyah, together with other Sufi orders, were regulated and brought under close government supervision by a decree of Muhammad `Ali in 1812. Almost a century and a half later, another authoritarian government, that of Gamal Abdel Nasser, further reduced the influence and economic resources of the Sfifi orders. In a list of Sufi orders in Egypt prepared in 1964, ten branches of the Khalwatiyah were recorded, although most of them were inactive. In 1988 Gideon Weigert visited the zawaya of two branches of the Khalwatiyah in Cairo, the Demirdashiyah and the Shabrawiyah, which were physically in a state of neglect and ruin, and spiritually without a shaykh.

In Turkey, the Sufi orders were declared illegal in 1925 as a part of the Kemalist reform programs. However, the orders continued in clandestine form and began to reemerge in public life by the late 1950s. The Khalwatiyah was a part of this process but did not assume a highly visible role in the Islamic resurgence of the late twentieth century. In the Balkans, some Khalwatiyah centers continued to be active, especially in Albania, where the order survived in the official atheism of the Communist era.


Bannert, E. “La Khalwatiyya en Egypte, quelques aspects de la vie d’une confrerie.” MIDEO 8 (1964-1966): 1-74.

Jong, F. de. Turuq and Turuq-Linked Institutions in Nineteenth-Century Egypt. Leiden, 1978.

Kissling, Hans Joachim. “Aus der Geschichte des Chalwetijje dens.” Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenldndische Gesellschaft (1953): 233-289.

Martin, B. G. “A Short History of the Khalwati Order of Dervishes.” In Scholars, Saints, and Sufis, edited by Nikki R. Keddie, pp. 275305. Berkeley, 1972.

Weigert, Gideon. “The Khalwatiya in Egypt in the Eighteenth Century: A Nucleus for Islamic Revival.” Bulletin of the Israel Academic Centre, Cairo 19 (1994)


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

  • writerPosted On: July 23, 2014
  • livePublished articles: 768

Most Recent Articles from K Category:

Translate »