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NAQSHBANDIYAH. One of the most widespread and vigorous of the Sufi orders, the Naqshbandiyah is found in most regions of Muslim Asia (although rarely among Arabs) as well as in Turkey, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the Volga-Ural region. Originating in Bukhara in the late fourteenth century, the Naqshbandiyah began to spread to contiguous areas of the Muslim world within a hundred years. New impetus was given to its expansion by the rise of the Mujaddidi branch, named after Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi Mujaddid-i Alf-i Thani (“Renewer of the Second Millennium,” d. 1624), which by the close of the eighteenth century was virtually synonymous with the order as a whole throughout South Asia, the Ottoman lands, and most of Central Asia. The leading characteristics of the Naqshbandiyah are strict adherence to the shari `ah, a sobriety in devotional practice that results in the shunning of music and dance and a preference for silent dhikr, and a frequent (although by no means consistent) tendency to political involvement.

History. Most Mujaddidi Naqshbandis of the past two centuries traced their initiatic descent through Ghulam ‘Ali (or Shah `Abdullah Dihlavi (d. 1824), because in the early nineteenth century India was the chief intellectual and organizational center of the order. Ghulam `All’s khanaqah (hospice) in Delhi drew followers not only from all parts of the subcontinent but also from the Middle East and Central Asia. The khdnaqdh has continued functioning down to the present (with a hiatus occasioned by the British sack of Delhi in 1857), but what might be termed its Pan-Islamic function was inherited largely by representatives and successors of Ghulam `Ali who were established elsewhere in the Muslim world. Particularly important were shaykhs resident in Mecca and Medina: the holy cities served to disseminate the Naqshbandi order in many Muslim lands until the Wahhabi conquest of the Hejaz in 1925 resulted in the proscription of all Sufi activity. Thus Muhammad Jan al-Makki (d. 1852), Ghulam `All’s representative in Mecca, initiated many Turkish and Bashkir pilgrims who established new branches of the Naqshbandiyah in their homelands. The first successor of Ghulam `All at the Delhi khanaqah, Shah Abu Sa’id, spent a period in the Hejaz dispensing initiations, and Abu Sa’id’s son and successor, Shah Ahmad Sa’id, chose to settle in Medina after the events of 1857, transferring the direction of the Indian Nagshbandiyah temporarily to the Hejaz. Ahmad Sa’id’s three sons jointly inherited his legacy: two left for Mecca, where they attracted a circle of Indian and Turkish followers, while the third, Muhammad Mazhar, remained in Medina administering a following of religious scholars and students from India, Turkey, Daghestan, Kazan, and Central Asia. Most significant among Muhammad Mazhar’s initiates was, however, an Arab, Muhammad Salih alZawawi, who did not share the disdain generally shown by the indigenous `ulama’ to non-Arabs in their midst. As a teacher of Shafi’i fiqh, he had special access to the Malays and Indonesians who congregated in the Hejaz, and it is to al-Zawawi and his disciples that is owed the first serious implantation of the Nagshbandiyah in Southeast Asia. There alone, in Pontianak on the west coast of Kalimantan, does any trace persist today of these various Naqshband-i lineages that emanated from the Hejaz.

The impetus that has carried the Nagshbandiyah forward into modern times came from another successor to Ghulam `All Dihlavi, Mawlana Khalid al-Baghdadi (d. 1827). Such is his importance in the development of the order that his initiatic descendants are known as Khalidi, and he is sometimes regarded as having been the “renewer” (mujaddid) of the thirteenth century of the Islamic era, just as Sirhindi was seen as the renewer of the second millennium. The Khalidiyah has not differed markedly from its Mujaddidi antecedents: new, however, was Mawlana Khalid’s attempt to create a centralized and disciplined order, focused on his own person by means’ of the devotional practice known as rdbitah (“linkage”) or concentration on the mental image of Mawlana Khalid before engaging in dhikr. This attempt was connected in turn to an activist political stance, aimed both at securing the supremacy of the shari `ah within Muslim society and at repelling European aggression. No centralized leadership existed after Mawlana Khalid’s death, but the political attitudes that had underlain the attempt have indeed survived.

Born in the Shahrazur district of Southern Kurdistan in 1776, Mawlana Khalid spent about a year with Ghulam `All in Delhi before returning to his homeland with

“complete and absolute authority” as his representative in 1811. Before leaving Delhi, Mawlana Khalid had told his preceptor that his supreme goal was to “seek, this world for the sake of religion”; from his three successive places of residence-Sulaymaniya, Baghdad, and Damascus-he accordingly set up a network of i 16 representatives, each with a carefully delineated geographic area of responsibility. His initiates included not only members of the Ottoman religious hierarchy but also a number of provincial governors and military figures. Particularly important in advancing the prestige of the Khalidiyah was Mawlana Khalid’s second representative in Istanbul, `Abd al-Wahhab al-Susi, who recruited Makkizada Mustafa `Asim, the shaykh al-Islam of the day, into the order. The attempt at gaining influence on Ottoman policies that these efforts implied was never fully successful, but something of an alignment between the Khalidiyah and the Ottoman state took place during the reign of Sultan Abdulhamid II, who associated with the leading Khaid shaykh of Istanbul, Ahmed Ziyaud-din Gumushanevi (d. 1893). Gumushanevi’s importance by far transcended the political: his numerous writings on Sufism in general and the Naqshbandiyah in particular represent the last major flowering of Ottoman Sufi literature. Thoroughly opposed to Abdulhamid by contrast, was another prominent Naqshband-i shaykh, Muhammad As’ad of Irbil in northern Iraq.

Mawlana Khalid’s impact was perhaps most immediately visible in his Kurdish homeland. The branch of the Naqshbandiyah he introduced there thoroughly eclipsed the Qadiriyah, previously the most prominent order in Kurdistan, and gave rise to a number of families which, as hereditary leaders of the order, came to exercise a leading role in Kurdish affairs. The gradual intertwining of these Naqshbandi lineages with Kurdish separatism and later nationalism is first seen in the great Kurdish uprising of 188o led by Shaykh `Ubayd Allah of Shamdinan, which succeeded in temporarily freeing most of Iranian Kurdistan from Iranian control. A similar uprising against the nascent Turkish Republic was led in 1925 by Shaykh Sa’id of Palu in eastern Anatolia. The Barzani family was likewise enabled to dominate the expression of Kurdish nationalism in Iraqi Kurdistan for several decades through its inherited Naqsh-bandi prestige.

The Khalidiyah also took swift and permanent root in Daghestan, the mountainous region lying at the junction of the Caucasus with southern Russia. This region had made its first acquaintance with the Naqshbandiyah in the late eighteenth century, but it was the arrival of the Khalidiyah that made it Nagshbandi territory while Mawlana Khalid was still alive. The dual emphases of the Khalidiyah in Daghestan were the substitution of the shari`ah for non-Islamic customary law and resistance to the imposition of Russian rule. The first Nagshbandi leader of the Daghestanis, Ghazi Muhammad, was killed by the Russians in 1832, and his immediate successor met the same fate two years later. By contrast, Shaykh Shamil, who next assumed leadership of the movement, was able to hold the Russians at bay until 1859-one of the most prolonged and celebrated instances of Muslim resistance to European imperialism. The Naqshbandi influence in Daghestan proved ineradicable; Naqshbandis were active in the uprising of 1877 and provided the leadership for the short-lived Imamate of Daghestan and Chechenia that flourished in the interval between the collapse of tsarist Russia and the establishment of Soviet rule.

Another Russian-ruled area of Muslim population that proved receptive to the Khalidiyah was the Volga-Ural region (corresponding to present-day Tatarstan and Bashkiria). Mawlana Khalid’s representative in Mecca, Abdullah Makki (or Erzincani), initiated at least one disciple from Kazan, Fathullah Menavuzi; however, it was a Bashkir follower of Gumushanevi, Shaykh Zaynullah Rasulev of Troitsk, whose influence proved decisive. Originally the initiate of a Mujaddid! line that went back to Bukhara, Rasulev transferred his loyalties to Gumushanevi after a visit to Istanbul in 1870. On his return he swiftly set about the propagation of the Khalidiyah, thereby arousing both the hostility of rival shaykhs and the suspicions of the Russian authorities; this led to a period of imprisonment and banishment. Free again in 1881, he consolidated and expanded his following to the extent that he brought under his influence hundreds of mullahs not only in the Volga-Ural region but also in Kazakhstan and Siberia. On his death in 1917 he was eulogized as “the spiritual king of his people,” and his prestige seems to have echoed posthumously in the Soviet period: three of the heads of the Spiritual Directorate for the Muslims of European Russia and Siberia that functioned under Soviet supervision had been among Rasulev’s disciples.

Finally, the Khalidiyah also secured the permanent implantation of the Nagshbandiyah in the MalayIndonesian world. Abdullah Makki had a disciple from Sumatra, Ismail Minangkabawi. After a lengthy residence in Mecca, Minangkabawi settled at Penyengat in the Riau archipelago at the tip of the Malay Peninsula. There he gained the allegiance of the ruling family, which had already been introduced to the Naqshban-diyah by emissaries sent from Medina by Muhammad Mazhar. He also traveled in Malaya as far north as Kedah, propagating the Khalidiyah wherever he went. His efforts were, however, those of a pioneer, and were superseded by the activities of two Khalidi shaykhs resident in Mecca-Khaiil Hamdi Pasha and Shaykh Sulayman Zuhdi. The fact that these two were rivals, denouncing each other for alleged deviations from Naqshbandi principles, suggests how rich the MalayIndonesian world had become as a source of recruits for the Nagshbandiyah. Shaykh Sulayman Zuhdi was in the long run more successful than his rival, to the extent that Jabal Abi Qubays in Mecca, where he resided, came to be regarded in Southeast Asia as the fountainhead of the entire Naqshbandi order. Among the numerous disciples of this shaykh who established the Khalidiyah at various centers in Sumatra, Java, and Sulawesi, the most significant was perhaps Syaikh Abdul Wahab Rokan (d. 1926). He was dispatched from Mecca in 1868 with the mission of spreading the Khalidiyah throughout Sumatra, from Aceh to Palembang, a mission he fulfilled with great success from his pesantren (teaching center) at Bab al-Salam, Lengkat; a three-year sojourn in Johore enabled him to extend his influence farther in the Malay Peninsula.

Naqshbandi practice in the Malay-Indonesian world has from the very beginning been distinctively marked by the ritual known as suluk, a retreat of variable length accompanied by a partial fast; the origins of this practice, greatly at variance with Nagshbandi tradition, are unknown. The severance of links with Mecca following the Wahhabi conquest of the Hejaz has tended further to endow the Naqshbandis of Malaysia and Indonesia with specifically regional characteristics.

Political Role. Not all formative developments concerning the Nagshbandiyah were connected with Ghulam `All Dihlavi and his descendants. One branch of Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi’s progeny established itself at Shur Bazar in the suburbs of Kabul in the midnineteenth century, and members of this branch played important roles in Afghan affairs down to the formation of the first post-Communist administration in 1991. Elsewhere in Central Asia, Naqshbandis of various lineages were prominent in resistance to the Russian conquest and its aftermath. Thus the defense of Goktepe by the Akhal-Tekke Turkmen was directed by a Naqshbandi, Qurban Murad, and the great Andijan uprising of 1898 was led by another, Muhammad ‘Ali Ishan (Dukchi Ishan). Naqshbandis also headed rebellions against Chinese rule in Xinjiang in 1863 and 1864 and in Shaanxi and Gansu between 1862 and 1873.

The distinctively militant character that such activities seem to indicate has often been invoked to describe the role of the Naqshbandiyah in several modern states, most notably Turkey. Precisely in Turkey, however, Nagshbandi resistance to secularism has always been passive (with the single exception of the uprising of Shaykh Sa’id); the depiction of the Menemen incident in 1931 as a Nagshbandi conspiracy for which Shaykh Muhammad As’ad (Mehmed Esad) was justly punished by execution has now been discredited. A number of Naqshband! leaders have been particularly important as spiritual and intellectual teachers: Mahmud Sami Ramazanoglu (d. 1984), a successor to Shaykh Muhammad As’ad; Mehmed Zahid Kotku (d. 1980), a spiritual descendant of Gumushanevi together with his successor, Esad Cosan (still living); and Mahmud Ustaosmanoglu (still living) and Resit Erol (d. 1994). The teaching activities of these and other shaykhs have naturally had political implications, tending however to Naqshbandi integration into the structures of the Turkish Republic rather than rejection of them. It was significant that several Nagshbandi leaders were in prominent attendance at the funeral of Turkish president Turgut Ozal in 1993.

No uniform picture can be drawn of Naqshbandis, their numerical strength and intellectual orientation, in the present-day Islamic world. Their influence is strongest, perhaps, in Turkey and the Kurdish lands, and weakest in Pakistan. In the Soviet period much was made of Naqshbandi influence on the “underground Islam” of the Caucasus and Central Asia, but the end of Soviet rule has not seen any noteworthy surfacing of Naqshbandis. What is certain is that the order has not produced in the twentieth century a leader of notable gifts that would give him broad universal appeal and reinvigorate the order as a whole. Instead, groups varying in size, influence, and emphasis operate separately across the Islamic world, from the Balkans to Indonesia.

[See also Sufism, article on Sufi Orders; Sufism and Politics; and the biography of Sirhindi.]


Algar, Hamid. “Some Notes on the Naqshbandi tariqat in Bosnia.” Die Welt des Islams 13 (1972): 168-203.

Algar, Hamid. “Der Naksibendi-Orden in der republikanischen Tiirkei.” In Jahrbuch zur Geschichte des Vorderen and Mittleren Orients, edited by Jochen Blaschke and Martin van Bruinessen, pp. 167196. Berlin, 1985.

Algar, Hamid. “Bagdadi, Mawlana Kaled.” In Encyclopaedia Iranica, vol. 3, pp. 410-412. New York, 1987.

Algar, Hamid. “A Brief History of the Naqshbandi Order” and “Political Aspects of Naqshbandi History.” In Naqshbandis: Cheminements et situation actuelle d’un ordre mystique musulman, edited by Marc Gaborieau et al., PP. 3-44, 123-152. Istanbul and Paris, 1990.

Algar, Hamid. “Shaykh Zaynullah Rasulev: The Last Great Nagshbandi Shaykh of the Volga-Ural Region.” In Muslims in Central Asia: Expressions of Identity and Change, edited by Jo-Ann Gross, pp. 112-133. Durham, N.C., 1992.

Bruinessen, Martin van. “The Origins and Development of the Naqshbandi Order in Indonesia.” Der Islam 67.1 (1990): 150-179. Fletcher, Joseph. “Les `voies’ soufies en Chine.” In Les ordres mystiques dans l’Islam, edited by Alexandre Popovic and Gilles Veinstein, pp. 13-26. Paris, 1986.


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

  • writerPosted On: May 27, 2017
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