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ARĪQAH . The Arabic word arīqah, meaning a road or path, also signifies a "mode" or "method" of action as well as a "way" or code of belief. In the context of Sufism, arīqah refers to both the path of spirituality itself"the way"and the manner of traveling (sulūk ) along this path as the wayfarer passes through various stages (manāzil ) and stations (maqāmāt ) in the quest to approach nearer to God.

More concretely, however, arīqah (and its plural, urūq ) is used as a generic term for the various organized brotherhoods or ūfī orders that direct this spiritual quest into a particular code of practices pursued in a communal setting. It is in this sense that the word arīqah is most frequently used: a confraternity founded around the figure or the memory of a charismatic figure of spiritual authority. arīqahs are arranged hierarchically around loyalty and obedience to a living guide or master, following fixed rites of initiation, observing specific spiritual practices and a code of etiquette, typically centered in a physical structure other than a mosque (e.g., a shrine, lodge, hospice, retreat), and financed by pious endowments (waqf) of real property and income.

A number of these arīqah brotherhoods date their development into formal institutions to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries; in the succeeding centuries they became geographically and culturally more pervasive and more structurally defined. These arīqah ssome regional, others widely distributed, but few of them highly centralizeddeveloped into a rich and diverse complex of religious associations throughout the Middle East, North and sub-Saharan Africa, Arabia, Central Asia, South and Southeast Asia, and China and in the twentieth century in Europe, North America, and Australia. They were influential not only in the popularization of Sufism but in the spread of Islam as a religion; sometimes they have also fostered resistance movements or developed into political forces in their own right.

Beyond this the influence of the arīqah s has been manifold: they add an emotional, psychological, and spiritual dimension to devotional practice, in many cases by integrating poetry and music, the visual arts, and mystical contemplation into religious life; they contribute to the intimacy of social life; they are associated with trade and craft guilds; they have provided staging posts and hospices for travelers and merchants; and they maintain shrines and other facilities by means of charitable endowments. They have also served as credit and finance institutions, thus contributing to commerce and a stable network of trade throughout the Muslim world, especially along the great distances of the Silk Road across Central Asia to China and in the maritime trade of the Indian Ocean.

Though their influence as institutions waned somewhat over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, a wide and vibrant variety of arīqah institutions still exist in various forms in both urban and rural locales.

Origins and Early Development

The use of the word arīqah in the writings of al-Junayd (d. 910), al-allāj (d. 922), al-Sarrāj (d. 988), al-Hujwīrī (d. 1072), and al-Qushayrī (d. 1074) denotes a method of moral psychology for the guidance of individuals directing their lives toward a knowledge of God. In early Sufism the term arīqah was thus understood as a method or path by which an individual passing through various psychological stages in the obedience to and practice of the law (sharīʿah ) proceeds from one level of knowledge of God to a higher one with the ultimate reality of God (aqīqah ) as the goal. Although Sufism has been accused of advocating or permitting an antinomian path, the arīqah orders for the most part held to the belief in the primacy of sharīʿah (which is itself etymologically related to another root for road or path). As Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī's famous Persian mystical poem, Mathnawī, expresses it:

Sharīʿah is like a candle lighting the way. You must take this candle in hand before the way can be traveled. Having set out on the way, your walking is arīqah, and when you arrive at your destination, that is truth (aqīqah, the real, or God).

The institutional elaboration of this path derived from a spiritual impulse that established itself early in Islam. It originates in part from a mystical hermeneutic applied to the lexicon of the Qurʾān, investing particular verses and scenes with special significance, and from the intense, passionate spirituality evident in the sīrah of the Prophet and some of his companions. It was an impulse that grew stronger in the seventh and eighth centuries with the emergence of what Marshall Hodgson (1974) has described as "the piety-minded opposition" to the luxury, worldliness, and nepotism of the Umayyad caliphate and later dynasties. The mystical traditions of Sufism emerged from this piety-minded alternative to both the political and the religious establishments. Islamic spirituality has also reemerged at various historical junctures, especially the colonial period, in the form of counterculture, protest, or even militant resistance movements.

This religious quest for interior purity and control over the self (nafs ), the slaying of which was described by later ūfīs as the greatest of human struggles (jihād-i akbar ), fell heir to the rich spiritual traditions of Hellenism and Christianity in the eastern Mediterranean. In the manner of the desert monks and other ascetics in Syria and Egypt, some Muslims began to wear a distinctive habit of coarse wool (ūf). The term ūfī was used as early as the eighth century ce to describe a man wearing such wool garments, and ūfīyah is attested in the following century in reference to groups or nascent communities of such ūfīs.

Spiritual Exercises

Early Islamic spirituality emphasized reliance upon God through the practice of poverty (faqr ). Indeed two words for a "poor person," dervish (Persian darwīsh ) and fakir (Arabic faqīr ), retain their association with ūfī asceticism. Techniques of the ūfī via purgativa included fasting, seclusion (khalwah ), a daily calling oneself to account for one's behavior (muāsibah ), and scrupulous introspection (murāqabah ) with a view to weeding out impure intentions. ūfīs also spent much time in personal devotions, performing vigils, litanies (azāb ), and intimate prayers (variously called wird, munājāt, duʿāʾ ) in addition to the prescribed ritual prayers (alāt ).

Some contemplative or ecstatic exercises came to be performed in groups, such as the ceremonial dhikr, or "remembrance" of God, involving the repeated and rhythmic recitation of words and phrasesusually attributes of God derived from the Qurʾān or forms of the Shahādahoften in combination with controlled breathing. Another group ceremony was the majlis-i samāʿ (listening session or concert). As early as 850 ce there were samāʿ houses in Baghdad in which the ūfīs could listen to music and let themselves be drawn into mystical states. Samāʿ might also feature the chanting or singing of poetry on spiritual themes, accompanied by music, to which the listeners might respond with rhythmic movement. Although similar to dancing, such responses were conceived as either a deliberate form of motive meditation or as an uncontrollable response to an ecstatic state. Most of the ʿulamāʾ rejected samāʿ as an impious practice (in part because of the associations of music and dance with royal courts and dancing slave girls) and it was not universally accepted among the arīqah s, though many ūfī manuals defend it when properly regulated. Some orders also hold communal ceremonies involving the piercing of body parts with skewers or knives in trance-like states to induce or demonstrate the achievement of ecstatic states.

Communal Life

The nucleus from which the arīqah s developed was the relationship established between master and adept. This mirrored the teacher-student relationship in the madrasah s or the master-apprentice relationship in the urban craft guilds (from whose ranks the arīqah s drew much of their membership). A popular preacher or revivalist, a healer, a visionary mystic, an ascetic or other holy man might draw a number of devoted listeners to hear lectures or to experience the charisma and spiritual energy (barakah ) of his presence. This might develop into a lasting relationship between a spiritual guide (murshid ), or elder (Arabic, shaykh ; Persian, pīr ), directing his seeker (murīd ). Prior to the twelfth century the relationship of such disciples to one another was typically unstructured, though they might travel together when accompanying the master on a journey and either do odd jobs or beg to support themselves. Some groups, such as the Karrāmīyah (based on the teachings of the ascetic preacher Ibn Karrām, d. 869), apparently evolved into more systematic movements.

ūfī teachers who acquired a wider reputation were eventually able to set up hospices or lodges of their own to accommodate students. One of the earliest, a "small cloister" (duwayrah ), was established by the ascetic ʿAbd al-Wāid ibn Zayd (d. c. 750) on the island of ʿAbbādān in the Persian Gulf and continued to operate after his death. Other similar institutions at about this time are described as existing in eastern Persia, in Damascus, on the Byzantine frontier, and in Alexandria and North Africa.

As a fraternity grew, it might move from the master's private house or shop to a separate compound, which could include a hall for devotional exercises, a large kitchen for guests and disciples, a small mosque, and possibly a school. Larger centers included living quarters for some initiates, either individual cells or a larger dormitory. Often such centers grew up around the tomb of the founder of the arīqah or a local shrine visited by pilgrims. The names of these centers or retreats varied according to location and function, typically zāwiyah and ribā in the Maghreb; tekke in Anatolia and the Balkans; khānaqāh, a Persian word, throughout Iran and India (sometimes as khānagah ) as well as in Egypt and the Levant (as khānqāh). The Persian word dargāh (literally "threshhold" but used for the royal court or palace) is also found, particularly in India. The Chishtīyah shaykhs in India prefer to use their own personal residence, designated as a "community home" (jamāʿat-khānah ), to avoid the adepts becoming entangled in the mundane distractions of administering a large center and its endowments.

Some such khānaqāh centers kept open house, while others might be visited only by appointment. The shaykh lived with his family in one quarter, saw his disciples at fixed hours, and led the five daily prayers. Some khānaqāh s were large and could accommodate both long- and short-term visitors. The Saʿīd al-Suʿadāʾ in Egypt, founded by Saladin (alā al-Dīn) in 1173, accommodated three hundred dervishes, and contemporary chronicles record how every Friday people gathered round to gain blessings by watching them leave the compound for the Friday noon prayer.

The communal life of the arīqah had obvious attractions. Congregational prayer gave strength and warmed faith, collective pursuit of spiritual exercises created an encouraging environment, and communal worship ceremonies like dhikr and samāʿ fostered mystical experience. The communal setting of the arīqah also led to greater formalization of the relationship between the shaykh and his disciples. Favored disciples enjoyed close companionship and conversation with the shaykh, pursued in some of the arīqah s through the technique of tawajjuh, or total face-to-face concentration. This was practiced by the disciple concentrating on his shaykh as he performed the dhikr or by the shaykh who reciprocated by concentrating on his disciple, entering his heart and guiding him.

The spiritual authority of the arīqah s and their shaykhs are certified by a silsila, or "chain" of transmission, which (in a parallel to the isnād of a adīth report) certify the founder of the order's link to a presumed oral tradition of interpretation handed down the generations from the Prophet. These silsila s, not all of them historically plausible, function as spiritual geneaologies and naturally diverge according to the date, birthplace, and heritage claimed by the founder of the particular arīqah. Most, however, converge on Jaʿfar al-ādiq (d. 765) and trace their way back to Muammad through his cousin and son-in-law ʿAlī, who thus holds a special mystical significance for both Sunnā and Shīʿī ūfīs.

A master of outstanding spiritual authority and charisma might create so strong an impression on his followers that his method and the community of disciples attached to him continued after his death. His mantle, literally symbolized by the bestowal of a ceremonial patchwork cloak (khirqah ), was passed to one or more of his chosen disciples, who inherited his authority and continued his work either in the home khānaqāh or in an ancillary one in another city. This new shaykh, who might be chosen from among the elder shaykh 's sons, appointed by the shaykh, or elected, was succeeded in turn by one of his disciples. In this way a line of transmission of authority and barakah was established, so that the spiritual power of the founding shaykh could be transmitted forward to future generations of disciples.

A new disciple then did not become simply the follower of a shaykh. He made his oath of allegiance both to his shaykh and to the founder of the line of transmission to which his shaykh was heir. By so doing he gained the right to have knowledge of the special dhikr formulas distinctive to the order and to share in the spiritual power of the entire line of transmission. Thus to the relationship between teacher and disciple (joined by their mutual desire to draw closer to God) was added the component of initiation into a source of spiritual insight and power that extended over generations.

Most ūfī orders insisted on the necessity of a living guide to follow the arīqah, but there were exceptions. Some ūfīs, calling themselves Uwaysīs after the example of Uways al-Qaranī (a contemporary of the Prophet who only met him in a dream), claimed to have been initiated or illuminated through a dream or vision of a past master rather than through the guidance and presence of a living master. Qalandarī dervishes underwent an initiation ritual that included shaving the face (including eyebrows) and head but normally practiced their wandering, mendicant, and antinomian lifestyle without direction from a shaykh.

The arĪqah as an Established Institution

The madrasah system of education, by licensing professors, formalizing the curriculum, and subsidizing students, succeeded in professionalizing the legal discipline in the eleventh and twelfth centuries ce. In the thirteenth century the Abbasid caliph al-Nāir encouraged the spread of young men's chivalric societies (the futūwwa orders), establishing an interest in and conveying legitimacy on the idea of urban fraternal organizations. These institutional models must also have suggested themselves to the ūfī communities. If the community of disciples of a particular ūfī master survived and replicated itself for a generation or more after the death of the founder, it would often become known as the "method," or arīqah, of its eponymous founder, as, for example, "the method of Najm al-Dīn Kubrā," or arīqat al-Kubrāwīyah. It has been supposed that the development of the arīqah orders into formal religious institutions centered around a lodge or shrine, following a fixed rule, and projected to continue functioning indefinitely began in the twelfth century (as some of the orders' Silsilah s claim). Commonly, however it was the children or grandchildren of the founding Shaykh s, rather than the Shaykh s themselves, who organized the disciple communities into institutional orders, a process that can be clearly documented for the late thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Later in the Ottoman period the arīqah institutions become corporate entities with subbranches that were sometimes described by a different generic term, āʾifah (plural, awāʾif) as "societies."

Despite the esoteric character of the theosophy they promulgated, the ideas and rituals of the arīqah s attracted the masses with the hope of obtaining spiritual and temporal benefits from the sanctity and spiritual power of the great figures in the orders, from the tombs in which they were buried, and from the places and relics with which they were associated. Thus the arīqah s became great communities, comprising all strata of society, offering something to the educated and uneducated alike, fostering devotional poetry and music, tolerating a wide range of folk practices, yet preserving and extending a great tradition of spirituality. They likewise played a major social role. Their hospices (khānaqāh s) offered lodging to travelers, medical treatment for the sick, and help for the poor. They also became centers for popular devotion. They extended their membership by granting associate tertiary status to individuals who, while living outside the community, practiced their normal trades, performed the daily prayers in the arīqah environment under the direction of the shaykh and took part in dhikr exercises, litanies, or samāʿ sessions.

Initiation Rituals

Most of the arīqah s have similar rituals of admission, although degrees of fervor, sincerity, and integrity have varied over time and place. An initiation, a great event in the life of both the initiate and the community, is marked by a day of festival. A model initiation ceremony described in one of the manuals for the Qādirīyah arīqah is described as follows. The candidate first performs ritual ablutions; he then prays two rakʿah s and sits facing the shaykh with his knees pressed together. Clasping his shaykh 's right hand, he recites the opening sūrah of the Qurʾān followed by a series of formulas invoking blessings upon the Prophet, and the various silsila s, especially those of the Qādirīyah line, by which his shaykh establishes his authority. Afterward the shaykh has him repeat, phrase by phrase, a formula containing various components: a prayer asking God's forgiveness; a testimony that the vow he is taking is that of God and his apostle; recognition that the hand of the shaykh is that of ʿAbd al-Qādir, founder of the order; and a promise that he will recite the dhikr as the shaykh requires him to do. The shaykh then utters a prayer and recites the Qurʾanic verse of allegiance: "Those who vow their allegiance to you, vow their allegiance to God; the hand of God is upon their hands. Thus whoever violates it, violates himself, but whoever fulfills what he has promised God he will undertake, God will give him a mighty reward" (48:10). Alternately verse 16:91 is used: "Fulfill the pact of God once you have made a pact with him."

Social Ethics and Etiquette

The number of manuals filled with stories illustrating and enjoining delicate, tactful, and respectful behavior on the arīqah initiates demonstrates a remarkable sensitivity to etiquette and propriety. One of the earliest treatises on the norms of proper behavior among members of a arīqah, Abū al-Najīb al-Suhrawardī's Ādāb al-murīdīn (The manners of the disciples) dates from the twelfth century ce. It is representative of practices in a number of orders and elaborates an etiquette of great sensitivity. Apart from its intrinsic interest, it demonstrates the primacy of human values and courtesy over rigorous ascetic practices and complex theosophical ideas in the brotherhoods. It also shows clearly that the arīqah s did not see themselves as subsects outside the regular religious disciplines.

The work classifies religious scholars into three groups (in practice these were not fixed identities but points on a continuum of religious orientation with considerable overlap): traditionalists, jurists, and (ūfī) ʾulamāʿ. The traditionalists are the watchmen of religion, who deal with the external meaning of adīth. The jurists are the arbiters of religion, whose specialty is their ability to make legal inferences. The ūfīs in turn base their lives and conduct on both groups of specialists and refer to them in case of difficulties. Tradition and law are the basis for their lives, including both their inner modes of spirituality and their outward behavior. In the description of this outward behavior one sees an extraordinary concern for personal relations in both family and community life: patience with the ignorant, compassion with one's wife and family, agreement with brethren. Openness, modesty, and humility are the ideals. The movements of tongue, ear, eye, heart, hands, and feet are to be directed to charity.

Meticulous attention is given to the details of social behavior, personal cleanliness, modesty in dress, and restraint in eating. The brethren at any hospice should exercise great care in their treatment of guests. As host, the shaykh should encourage them to overcome their shyness at the table and offer them whatever food he is able to provide. The guest, for his part, should sit where he is directed, be pleased with what is given to him, and not leave without excusing himself. The host should then accompany the departing guest to the door of the house. In certain circumstances joking is permitted, provided that slandering, mimicry, and nonsense are avoided. This practice is supported by a tradition relating words attributed to ʿAlī: "When the Prophet saw one of his friends distressed, he would cheer him up by joking."

The Role of Women

ʿAbd al-Ramān Al-Sulamī's (d. 1022) compilation of the lives of women ūfīs attests to the involvement of many women besides the famous celibate saint Rābīʿah al-ʿAdawīyah (d. 801). Ibn ʿArabī (11651240) also writes about the miracles of ūfī women, one of whom was his teacher. In Tunisia there is a shrine for a thirteenth-century woman saint, ʿĀʾisha al-Mannūbīyah, whom oral tradition asserts to have been a disciple of al-Shādhilī, and ūfī women healers in contemporary India or Uzbekistan attract many informal disciples.

Although outstanding exemplars of female chastity and purity in life or in literature have been upheld as saints and ūfī heroines, in which role they become public figures as honorary "men" (rijāl), the wayfarer along the arīqah is conventionally assumed to be male. A rather misogynistic attitude can be found in some ūfī writings, including the view that women (as well as children and the entaglements of supporting a household) are distractions from the path of true spiritual struggle.

The arīqah orders operate in the public sphere, which has historically been a male domain in most Muslim societies, whereas women's religious organizations tend to operate in the domestic sphere. In Saljūq Anatolia and probably elsewhere female members of ruling families cultivated relationships with ūfī teachers, often financing the construction of their lodges, as dedicatory inscriptions attest. This probably gave aristocratic women considerable influence in the promotion of specific orders, but it would appear that, as in a mosque, women usually attended talks or other ceremonies at ūfī lodges in a segregated gallery or behind a curtain or grille. There is also documentary evidence of the wives or female servants of shaykhs serving ūfī brotherhoods in some capacity behind the scenes, and the daughters of various shaykhs were married into the families of political or community leaders, solidifying membership and backing for the arīqah.

After World War II women shaykhas directing circles of exclusively female disciples were noted among established ūfī orders in Soviet Central Asia and the Caucasus, including the Naqshbandīyah and Qādirīyah of Daghestan, though this development was condemned by the Muslim Spiritual Board of the North Caucasus. In the late 1970s western ūfī women in northern California met with an elder Mevlevi initiate from Turkey who encouraged their efforts; as a result some ūfī organizations in North America and in Turkey have begun not only accepting female disciples but even holding integrated ceremonies. However, in Turkey it is more common for women to participate in female-only dhikr ceremonies in the homes of individuals. The public participation of women in the arīqah environment (or the madrasah system) is not well documented for the medieval period. In the absence of contrary evidence, it can be assumed that the integrated public participation of women in the arīqah orders is a development of the late twentieth century.

The arīqah s of the thirteenth through the fifteenth centuries are the culminating point in a shift from an individualistic, elitist, ascetic spirituality to a corporate, congregational organization with a place for individuals representing a whole range of spiritual attainment and every stratum of society. There may be an inclination to see in them a counterpart to the religious orders that developed in the Christian tradition from the fifth century onward and that also channeled a large part of the impulse for solitary asceticism into an institutional framework. The analogy is only partly valid, for the two types of organization were different. The shaykh of a zāwiyah did not have the administrative authority of an abbot, nor did the arīqah s have the same centralized government and formal lines of communication that linked the houses of the Benedictine order, for example. While the arīqah s were, in one meaning of the term, corporate, they did not become corporations in the Western sense.

Individual arĪqahs

There are over two hundred arīqah s, and in fact many more if the numerous branches and subdivisions are counted. The selection presented here is intended to show aspects of their individuality as reflected in the social classes to which they made their appeal, their attitudes toward government authority, their spiritual exercises and theosophy, and the circumstances in which they flourished.


The Qādirīyah arīqah is commonly viewed as the first of the brotherhoods to emerge in the form of a structured organization, and it is still operating in the early twenty-first century. It began in Baghdad but eventually established itself as far afield as Yemen, Egypt, Sudan, the Maghreb, West Africa, India, and Southeast Asia. It claims ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Jīlānī (10881166) from the region of Gīlān near the Caspian Sea in Iran as its founder, tracing its silsila through al-Junayd. ʿAbd al-Qādir was a anbalī legal scholara follower of the strictest, most literalist school of Islamic lawand was invested with the ūfī habit by the founder of the first anbalī madrasah. Although he was a stern teacher, ʿAbd al-Qādir has become perhaps the most famous saint in the Islamic world, and stories of his miracles abound from Java to Morocco. His tomb in Baghdad has remained a place of pilgrimage for members of the brotherhood to the twenty-first century, with pilgrimsmany of them from the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent, where the Qādirīyah was introduced in the late fourteenth centuryremaining there for weeks, silently sweeping his sanctuary with little brooms. Old Sindhi songs tell how ʿAbd al-Qādir's spiritual realm extends through every town and region between Istanbul and Delhi.

The Qādirīyah had a very catholic appeal; all strata of society from ruler to peasant found a place within it. In popular belief ʿAbd al-Qādir was a renewer of Islam, and among members of the order there is a well-known story that he discovered a man by the wayside on the point of death and revived him. The "man" then revealed that he was the religion of Islam. The order, it should be noted, was to play a particularly important role in the Islamization of West Africa.


Slightly later than the founding of the Qādirīyah, the establishment of the Rifāʾīyah order in southern Iraq is credited to Amad al-Rifāʾī (d. 1182). Although never as popular as the Qādirīyah, it was widespread in Antaolia by the fourteenth century and is still represented there and in Egypt. It is distinguished by one of its ritual practices, a particularly loud recitation of the dhikr, which led members to be known as the Howling Dervishes.


One of the oldest arīqah s is the Suhrawardīyah, named after its founder, Abū al-Najīb ʿAbd al-Qāhir al-Suhrawardī (d. 1168), author of the above-mentioned Ādāb al-murīdīn, and also a professor of Shāfiʿi law at the Niāmīyah college in Baghdad. Significantly he was a pupil of Amad al-Ghazālī (d. 1126), younger brother of the great Abū āmid al-Ghazālī (d. 1111), who helped win acceptance for the ūfī dimension of Islam within the wider Islamic community. The influence and scope of the order was extended and given its decisive character by ʿAbū al-Najīb's fraternal nephew and student, Shihāb al-Dīn Abū af ʿUmar al-Suhrawardī (11451234), whose treatise ʿAwārif al-maʿārif (Masters of mystical insights) became a standard work on the theory of ūfī devotion.

The Abbasid caliph al-Nāir built a ribā for Shihāb al-Dīn and his disciples in 1203 and appointed him as the caliphal envoy to the Ayyūbid rulers of Egypt and Syria in 1208 and then to the Saljūqs of Asia Minor in 1221. Shihāb al-Dīn Suhrawardī's disciples spread from Asia Minor and Syria through Persia and northern India, and it was they who established the Suhrawardīyah brotherhood on a permanent footing. Its origins, however, are credited to Abū al-Najīb and his nephew, Shihāb al-Dīn, who also figure in the silsila of the Kubrawīyah brotherhood as teachers of its founding figures, Najm al-Dīn Kubrā (d. c. 1220) and Najm al-Dīn Rāzī (d. 1265). The Suhrawardīyah became one of the most prominent and influential brotherhoods, though it subdivided into numerous branches after the fourteenth century.


The Mawlawīyah order, more commonly known by its Turkish adjectival form, Mevlevi, takes its name from the title Mawlawī (my master), by which the Persian mystic poet Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī (12071273) was addressed. His community of disciples in Konya was systematized into an order by Sulān Walad (d. 1312), Rūmī's son, who built a shrine dome (türbe ) over Rūmī's resting place. From this base Sulān Walad and his son, Ūlū ʿĀrif Chalabī, established Mevlevi lodges throughout Anatolia, each with its own deputized shaykh.

As a boy Rumi had lived with his father, Bahāʾ al-Dīn-i Walad (d. 1231), a visionary and mystically minded anafī preacher (wāʿi ), in the small town of Wakhsh (in modern-day Tajikistan) and then in Samarqand before migrating to Anatolia. Though Bahāʾ al-Dīn is seen as the seminal figure of the order, his importance has been exaggerated in the hagiographical accounts of his life (the ūfī genre of biography typically casts its subjects in a miraculous light, emphasizing their importance and spiritual authority). Bahāʾ al-Dīn apparently had a small handful of disciples in Khorasan but enjoyed no great reputation before accepting the patronage of the Saljūq sultan in Konya, who established a madrasah for him, which functioned more as a ūfī center than a college of law. When Bahāʾ al-Dīn died, one of his old disciples came from Khorasan to take charge of the Konya disciples, a role Rūmī eventually assumed after he had completed studies of law in Syria and a period of seclusion. Rūmī also cultivated relations with the Konya Saljūqs and developed a following of his own but temporarily abandoned this role late in 1244 after meeting Shams al-Dīn Tabrīzī, an itinerant and iconoclastic ūfī with some training in Shāfiʿī fiqh, with whom Rūmī spent an intense period of ubah and seclusion. The encounter and the eventual disappearance of Shams from Konya led Rūmī to an ecstatic form of love mysticism expressed through poetry and samāʾ, extravagantly praising Shams, though subsequent figureheads of the disciple community, alāh al-Dīn Zarkūb (d. 1258) and Husām al-Dīn Chalabī (d. 1284), are also praised. Rūmī's extraordinary output of Persian poetry in his Mathnawī and Dīwān has been recited widely, from Bosnia to Bengal and throughout Central Asia, inspiring many ūfīs of various arīqah affiliations to imitate or comment upon it.

The Mevlevi arīqah operated primarily in the territories of the Ottoman Empire, where it became a wealthy corporation with close ties to the imperial court. It was a hereditary order and, thanks to its central organization, did not fragment, though its character did change somewhat in the midsixteenth century, when Dīwānah Muammad Chalabī and Yūsuf Sīnachāk introduced Shīʿī influences into the order. The Mevlevi order promoted calligraphy and Persian literature, though it operated almost exclusively in Turkish- or Arabic-speaking environments. In later years there seems to have been much overlap between Mevlevi membership and that of other Anatolian orders, such as the Bektāshīyah, founded around the same time, and the Khalwatīyah, founded in the fourteenth century, both of which appeared more active by the twentieth century than the Mevlevis.

After serving 1001 days in the kitchen of the Mevlevi lodge, initiates were permitted to participate in the characteristic "turning" ceremony, a meditative graceful spinning performed in distinctive robes and hats to the accompaniment of a musical ensemble, usually consisting of a singer/reciter and a variety of instruments, almost always including drums and a reed flute. Beginning in the late eighteenth century, a visit to one of the Mevlevi lodges to observe one of these so-called Whirling Dervish ceremonies became an important part of European tourists' experience of Istanbul.


Rather different in character is the Shādhilīyah, founded by Abū al-asan al-Shādhilī of Tunis (11961258), who traveled widely in the Maghreb and Spain, finally settling in Alexandria, where he died. In contrast to both the Rifāʿīyah and the Mawlawīyah, this arīqah practices internalized and silent devotions. Thus its appeal is individualistic, focusing on the development of private prayer. Nonetheless the emphasis of Abū al-asan's teaching was against the solitary and the institutional life alike, and he urged his followers to realize their yearning for God through faithful attention to their daily responsibilities in society. They were not enjoined to beg or even to live in voluntary poverty; Egyptian sources refer to the Shādhilīs' tidy attire, which distinguished them from many of the other ūfīs thronging the streets of Cairo. The Shādhilīyah of Yemen are also credited with discovering the value of brewed coffee beans as a means of staying awake during periods of night prayer.

This order has no special theosophical ideas apart from the fact that members are held to have been predestined to join it from pre-eternity. Rather, the goal is a deep yet sober spirituality, drawing on al-Muāsibī, the teacher of al-Junayd, on al-Makkī and his Qūt al-qulūb (The nourishment of the heart), and on the spiritual teaching of al-Ghazālī in the fourth volume of Iyāʾ ʿulūm al-dīn (The vivification of the religious sciences). Its teaching is subtle and not directed at the masses, as can be seen from the ikam (Maxims), an enduring classic of ūfī spirituality written by Abū al-asan's immediate successor, Ibn ʿAtāʾ Allāh al-Iskandarī (d. 1309). This work, a collection of 262 brief sayings followed by four short treatises and a number of prayers, has generated numerous commentaries in many of the languages of the Muslim world.

Like many of the orders, the Shādhilīyah produced a variety of local offshoots all over the Muslim world. Among them, the āmidīyah Shādhilīyah is one of the modern orders that still attracts and provides a basic spiritual formation for many Egyptians. The appeal of the Shādhilīyah extends primarily to the officials and civil servants of the middle class, whose responsibilities, values, and attitudes are embodied in the order's attention to detail. Even after the Atatürk government prohibited ūfī orders in Turkey in 1925, the Shādhilīyah retained its attraction for the middle class. It has also gained a following among some European Muslims.


India was particularly fertile ground for the development of the arīqah s, and it is impossible to write the history of Islam in the subcontinent without a detailed study of them. Along with the Suhrawardīyah, the Chishtīyah was among the earliest arīqah s operating in India, and the first to originate in the subcontinent. It was founded by Muʿīn al-Dīn Chishtī (d. 1236), a native of Sīstān, who had been for a time a disciple of Abū Najīb al-Suhrawardī. He arrived in Delhi in 1193 and then moved to Ajmer, an important city in newly conquered Rajputana, where he founded a khānaqāh. Niām al-Dīn Awliyāʾ (d. 1325) spent fifty years extending the Chishtīyah throughout India by dispatching hundreds of his own disciples from his center in Delhi. The simplicity and ardor of Chishtī teaching, their extreme hospitality and charity, and their readiness to welcome guests without discrimination attracted many followers. In fact the Chishtīyah illustrates in an exemplary manner the extraordinary contribution of the arīqah s to the Islamization of the subcontinent.

At first the adherents kept their distance from government, but later they developed a close association with the Mughal court. Salīm (later Jahāngīr), the heir apparent of Emperor Akbar (d. 1605), was born in the home of a Chishtī shaykh, and in gratitude Akbar commissioned a splendid dargāh for the Chishtīyah in Fatehpur Sikri. Jahāngīr himself decorated the Chishtī city of Ajmer with beautiful buildings of white marble, and Jahānārā Begum (d. 1681), daughter of Shāhjahān and Mumtāz Maall, wrote about the life of Muʿīn al-Dīn Chishtī and requested to be buried in his shrine compound. The Chishtīyah, like other arīqah s in India, contributed immensely to the development of literature in the vernacular languages, and a Chishtī, ʿAbd al-Ramān, who lived during the reign of Awrangzīb (16581707), is regarded as the greatest mystical poet in the Pashto language. This arīqah was noted for its active encouragement of the practice of samāʿ, an example followed by various other orders in South Asia, where the genre of ūfī music known as Qawwālī, which Fateh Ali Khan and other performers popularized around the world in the 1980s, developed.


Bahāʾ al-Dīn-i Naqshband (13181388) traces his mystical heritage through Amīr Kulāl, a spiritual adviser to Tīmūr (Tamerlane), to the Persian-speaking Central Asian lineage of ūfīs, the Khwājagān, initiated by Abū Yūsuf ʿAlī Hamadānī (d. 1140). Bahāʾ al-Dīn founded the Naqshbandī arīqah in Bukhara, which he left only three times: twice for pilgrimage to Mecca and once to meet with the ruler of Herat, Muʿizz al-Dīn usayn, to whom he taught the Naqshbandī principles. His tomb, surrounded by a large shrine complex, is a place of pilgrimage. From here the arīqah spread geographically, coming to rival the popularity and influence of the Qādirīyah. It was to have an important role in Central Asia and India and also developed branches in Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkey, China, Sumatra, the Riau archipelago, Java, and other Indonesian islands. The order still has a strong following scattered over the length and breadth of the Muslim world. In the late eighteenth century Ma Ming-Hsin, who had become a Naqshbandī-Jahrī while on pilgrimage to Mecca, returned to Kansu Province in China to found the politically important "New Teaching" movement. In the first Indonesian elections in 1955, a Sumatran Naqshbandī was elected to the national parliament as the sole representative of the Ţarīqah political party.

Bahāʾ al-Dīn-i Naqshband rapidly established connections between his arīqah, the trade and craft guilds, and the merchant houses, so that as his spiritual influence grew, so did his wealth. The order soon gained a position of power in the Timurid court and, assuming a custodial role over government, supervised the administration of religious law. Indeed under the leadership of Khwājah Arār of Herat (14041490), the Naqshbandīyah virtually dominated political life in Central Asia. It was his conviction that "to serve the world, it is necessary to exercise political power"; in other words, it is necessary to maintain adequate control over rulers in order to ensure that they implement the divine law in every area of life.

Unlike the Chishtīyah and those who followed their example, the Naqshbandīyah recited their dhikr silently and banned music and rhythmic movements. They believed that through dhikr without words one could achieve a level of contemplation in which subject and object became indistinguishable and the individual soul returned to God as it had been before creation. Among their techniques of meditation was concentration on their shaykh ; another practice was regular visitation of saints' tombs in the hope that, by concentrating on the spirit of the departed shaykh, they would increase their spiritual strength.

The Naqshbandīyah was a moderate order that did not demand heroic austerities; like the Shādhilīyah, it regarded spiritual purification and education of the heart as more productive than harsh mortification designed to conquer the lower soul. It taught a middle way, that the mean between excessive hunger and excessive eating was the safest. The true fast consists of keeping the mind free from the food of satanic suggestions. Despite its essential sobriety, this method proved congenial to the poets of the time, and by the beginning of the eighteenth century all the leading poets in the Indo-Persian style were either members of the Naqshbandī arīqah or under its influence.

The order played an important role in the religious and political history of Mughal India as leaders of a movement of reaction against the syncretist Dīn-i ilāhī (Divine Religion) of the emperor Akbar. An important figure in this reaction was Amad Sirhindī (d. 1624), who was initiated into the order by its shaykh, Khwājah Bāqī Billāh, in 1600. The order remained involved in political developments, including a strong reaction against Hindu practices, up to 1740. The Naqshbandī Shāh Walī Allāh (17031762), enrolled concurrently in the Qādirīyah, became the greatest reformer of eighteenth-century Delhi and one of the leading figures in the renewal of Islam; his influence contributed to reform movements in the nineteenth century and beyond.

In Sulaymānīyah in Iraqi Kurdistan, Mawlānā Khālid Baghdādī (d. 1827) established a subbranch of the Naqshbandī order, which developed an independent character as the Khālidīyah. It absorbed most of the other Naqshbandī branches in the Middle East and displaced the Qādirīyah arīqah in Kurdistan. It cultivated relations with the Ottoman elite and fought for the Turks in the Russo-Turkish War. Later implicated with opposition to the Turkish Republic, it was closed down with the rest of the ūfī orders in Turkey in 1925. After the Iraqi revolution in 1958, the Khālidīyah shifted its operations to Iranian Kurdistan until the Iranian Revolution of 1979.

The literature of the Naqshbandīyah arīqah is written in Persian, and one of the great Persian mystical poets, ʿAbd al-Ramān Jāmī (d. 1492), was integrally involved in the order. Because of its Sunnī loyalties, however, the Naqshbandī inroads in Persia were uprooted in the sixteenth century by the Shīʿī Safavid dynasty, paradoxically itself tracing its lineage to a Sunnī ūfī teacher, afī al-Dīn of Ardabīl (12521334). His descendants eventually converted the order to Shiism, built it into a militant movement, and ultimately conquered Iran in the late fifteenth century, establishing a long-lived dynasty during which the country was converted to Shiism.


Most of the ūfī fraternities discussed here were founded and developed in a Sunnī environment. Shāh Niʿmat Allāh Walī (d. 1430), the eponymous founder of this arīqah, was a Sunnī, though descended from the Prophet through the Shīʿī lineage of Ismāʿīl, son of Jaʿfar al-ādiq. He studied in Shiraz and traveled widely among ūfī circles in the Arabic-speaking Middle East before establishing several lodges of his own in Central Asia, where he came into competition with the Naqshbandīs. After Tīmūr grew suspicious of his aims and banished him from Transoxania, Shāh Niʿmat Allāh moved to Herat and finally settled in Māhān, from where he promoted the theosophy of Ibn ʿArabī in his prolific and popular writings and poetry, winning many followers in the area of Shiraz and Kirmān. His son, Khalīl Allāh, was invited to South India by Amad Shāh Bahmān in 1436, establishing a further Niʿmatullāhī following among the Deccani aristocracy. Exactly how the order took on a Shīʿī character is obscure, but the Safavid ruler and ardent Shīʿī Shāh Ismāʿīl appointed a Niʿmatullāhī shakyh, Mīr Niām al-Dīn, as the chief religious official of the Safavid domain in 1512. Though the Safavid house intermarried with Niʿmatullāhīs, the order lost favor under Shāh ʿAbbās when it was implicated in a rebellion. It was only revived in the eighteenth century by help sent from the Deccani branch of the arīqah in the person of Maʿūm ʿAlī-Shāh, who had gained a large following throughout Central Iran. He was executed in 1797 at the behest of Shīʿī scholars implacably opposed to Sufism.

In the nineteenth century the Niʿmatullāhīyah of Iran broke into several branches, represented in the early twenty-first century principally by the afī-ʿAlīshāhīs and the Sulān-ʿAlīshāhīs, both of which were encouraged under the Pahlavi dynasty. In 1974 the order was brought to the West, where it was represented by Javad Nurbakhsh as Khaniqahi-Nimatullahi.

Tijāniīah and Sanūsīyah

The eighteenth-century revival movements of Shāh Walī Allāh in India and Muammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhāb in Arabia had a counterpart in the arīqah s. Sometimes this revival was expressed in the reform of existing orders, sometimes in the development of suborders, sometimes in the appearance of new ones. The generation of orders in fact never ceased. In North and West Africa, for example, between 1500 and 1900 at least twenty-eight arīqah s emerged, one-third originating in Morocco. Here it is sufficient to draw attention to two that were to play an important role in Islamic revival movements in the Sudan, Egypt, and North and West Africa. The first was the Tijānīyah, based in what is now Algeria and Morocco, and the other the Sanūsiyah in Libya.

The founder of the Tijānīyah was Abū al-ʿAbbās Amad al-Tijānī (17371815). He spent several years studying in Fez, then he studied in Abya for five years, and in 1773 he went to Mecca and Medina and finally to Cairo, where he studied under various shaykhs, one of whom suggested that he found a arīqah. He then returned to Fez, where, although he continued to travel extensively, he maintained his center.

The demands of the order are exclusive, and members may not join any other order. The Tijānīyah have their own formulas for dhikr, to be recited as many as a hundred times at particular points in the day. They are further distinguished from many of the other orders by their submission to established government, even where this has been non-Muslim. Thus throughout the French occupation of Algeria, they remained for the most part on good terms with the French authorities. When the emir ʿAbd el-Kader, a Qādirī named after the founder of the order, attempted to enlist them in a struggle against the French in 1836, the Tijānī chief refused, saying it was their purpose to live a religious life in peace. The emir then marched on their town and demanded that they submit to him, but they again refused and, although outnumbered, resisted a siege for eight months, took refuge in another town, and in the following year offered moral and material aid to the French.

This arīqah won adherents in Egypt, Arabia, and other parts of Asia and still enjoys a strong following in parts of Africa formerly under French rule. In the first half of the nineteenth century it was propagated in French Guinea by ʿUmar Tal after his return to Dinguiray (which became one of the most important religious cities in the region), where it took over and displaced the Qādirīyah tradition.

Sīdī Muammad ibn ʿAlī al-Sanūsī was born in Algeria in 1791. From 1821 to 1828 he lived in Fez, where he studied Qurʾanic exegesis, adīth, and jurisprudence. Traveling for the pilgrimage, he remained in Mecca from 1830 to 1843, founding his first zāwiyah there in 1837. On leaving Mecca he settled in Cyrenaica, where he founded additional zāwiyah s. After his death in 1859 the order was continued by his two sons, Sīdī Muammad al-Mahdī (18441901), his successor, and Sīdī Muammad al-Sharīf (18461896). Al-Sanūsī left detailed instructions relating to initiation into his order, and his devotional writings became the basis of the Sanūsī routines. At the same time all his activities were imbued with a rigorous work ethic. He inspired his followers to work together to build roads, to form trade cooperatives, to undertake irrigation projects, and to establish agricultural communities.

In fact such activities were integral to the work of many arīqah s, such as the Tijānīyah and its offshoot in Senegal, the Murīd movement. The discipline of the brethren had a counterpart in the discipline of a trade guild or corporation. Likewise the tremendous vitality of the nineteenth-century arīqah s was also channeled into political activity, especially diplomatic negotiations with the European powers. Throughout this period it is clear that they operated as an invisible international network attempting to protect the cultural and religious identity of Islam against the European powers. The same Emir ʿAbd el-Kader who tried to involve the Tijānīyah in an uprising against the French had received an ijāzah (license) to found his own branch of the Qādirīyah when he led the 1832 revolt against the French in Algeria and proclaimed a jihād. Captured by the French in 1847, he wrote to Napoleon III in 1865, petitioning him to mediate with Czar Alexander II on behalf of the release from prison of a Naqshbandī-Khālidī ūfī shaykh in Daghestan, Imām Shāmil (17961871), who had been imprisoned for taking part in a jihād movement against the Russian Empire in the northern Caucasus.

There are also grounds for seeing a Sanūsī inspiration in the late nineteenth-century Achehnese war against the Dutch, just as there had been a strong international Naqshbandī movement behind resistance to the Dutch in West Sumatra and other parts of the Indonesian archipelago. These influences, inspirations, networks, and personalities thus ranged between Algeria and the Caucasus, Cyrenaica, Malaya, Indonesia, and East and West Africa, with the hub of the network at Mecca, where the shaykhs of the various regional establishments of the orders met and pooled information and ideas.

Tradition and Change

In spite of this political vitality, the influence of the arīqah s was reduced to a minimum after the reformist movement inaugurated by Jamāl al-Dīn al-Afghānī and Muammad ʿAbdūh resulted in an intensive campaign against them. There had been movements against the arīqah s before, yet a relative balance between the strength of their supporters and their opponents had prevailed. In the early twentieth century, however, there was a qualitative change and a definite shift in balance as the convergence of various factors militated against the arīqah s in a special way.

The reform movement was inspired in part by nineteenth-century European secular rationalism and in part by a renewed emphasis upon the rationalist or puritanical understanding of Islam by movements such as Wahhabism (which led eventually to a ban on ūfī orders in Saudi Arabia). As a result many of the practices of the order were seen not only as idolatrous innovationssuch as the celebration of the birthdays of deceased saints, the honoring of their tombs, and certain forms of meditationbut also as harboring superstitions that disgraced Islam by making it appear contemptible to Europeans. Dervishes were also associated with the use of narcotics (to induce ecstasy) and with the practice of pederasty, a habit attested in ūfī sources from the medieval period though not sanctioned by the official code of the arīqah s. Moreover since the reformists believed the arīqah s attracted people to otherworldliness and magic instead of challenging them to face reality, they considered it a root cause of the backwardness of Muslims. Muammad ʿAbdūh and Rashīd Riā, for example, while accepting the ethical and spiritual ideas of Sufism (as per al-Ghazālī), regarded every aspect of the arīqah s as degenerate, and in Turkey under Atatürk they were outlawed altogether.

Abuses were easy to find. Some shaykhs believed that holiness was hereditary; certain heads of orders regarded great wealth as a right, an outward manifestation of the spiritual favors they had received. Barakah (the blessing a shaykh and his silsila could give) was something to be bought and sold. Moreover despite the international networks so characteristic of the arīqah s, many individual shaykhs remained too attached to family clan and local traditions to respond to the rise of nationalism.

Modernization and secularization also undermined the social and economic foundations of the ariqah s. Employment now required training in public institutions created by the state rather than the parochial education offered by arīqah schools and "study circles" (alaqāt). Clubs and associations took over the social role of the arīqah s, and industrialization weakened the trade and craft guilds with which they had been formerly associated. There were also rival religious organizations: for example, in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, because of its dispersion into local groups, was able to offer the community individual guidance and service that had previously been the province of the arīqah s. Moreover the local orientation of many branches of the orders made them appear irrelevant to communities increasingly related to the outside world.

If modernity has weakened the traditional membership base and structure of the arīqah s and governments have regulated or curtailed their functions, they nevertheless retain vitality and the potential to adapt to changed circumstances. It is striking that in Indonesia, for example, the reformist-oriented anti-arīqah party, the Masyumi, which during the 1950s appeared to reflect the dominant Islamic ethos, was eclipsed by the traditional, adaptive arīqah -tolerant group, the Nahdatul Ulama. Research on African arīqah s shows that they contribute to social stability and, in a very special way, to the work ethic. The Murīdīyah of Senegal, born in an African environment, is an example of the moral authority and social dedication of a modern arīqah. Equally important, various offshoots of the Naqshbandī order in former Soviet territories, such as Daghestan and Chechnya, have become numerous and influential.

The tariqah s still play an important social and political role in addition to the enrichment they bring to the spiritual lives of millions of people. Traditional celebrations like the mawlid s, or saints' birthdays, often sponsored by arīqah associations, remain extraordinary public events and displays of devotional fervor in India. This is also true in Egypt, where the Supreme Council of ūfī Orders estimated in 1989 that between three and five million people belonged to one of the seventy-three registered orders. The interest in theosophical Sufism has also increased, largely because it jumped across confessional boundaries in the twentieth century as Western scholars engaged with the ūfī tradition, first in the form of translations of ūfī poetry, then as the object of metaphysical study (for example, in the Eranos seminars in Switzerland). In the West, Sufism was offered as the "perennial philosophy" and popularized as a method of spiritual psychology by Idries Shah and others.

Finally, ūfī poetry found a broader commercial audience. Following the earlier example of Hazrat Inayat Khan, Meher Baba, and other teachers who came to the United States from India and elsewhere to establish disciple communities, the traditional arīqah orders have also responded to this "New Age" receptivity. Traditional orders have established branches or subbranches in Europe and the United States, including the Khaniqahi Nimatullahi, Shādhilīyah (counting René Guénon among its members), Naqshbandi-Haqqani, and Jerrahi Order of America. Previously interrupted traditions have also been successfully revived or recreated by Western devotees, as is the case of the Mevlevi Order of America and the Threshold Society, which do not, however, require their members to be Muslims. These Western arīqah branches purchase centers, appoint shaykhs, train disciples, teach classes, sponsor festivals and academic conferences, and maintain a presence on the internet. Meanwhile new orders, such as the MTO or Maktab-i ariqat-i Uwaysī, founded by Shah Maghsoud Angha (d. 1980), are actively promoted among diaspora communities and indigenous Westerners. The International Association of Sufism, a nonprofit organization founded by Nahid Angha and Ali Kianfar in 1983, attempts not only to promote Sufism but to foster dialogue among the various organizations and orders of Sufism and to undertake pan-arīqah activities.

Of equal significance is the renewed interest upon the part of educated urbanites in the Middle East in Sufism as a tolerant and inner-directed expression of Islamic spirituality, in contrast to fundamentalist or Islamist formulations of religion. For example, there was a significant surge of interest in the teachings of Rūmī and the practices of the Mevlevis throughout the 1980s and 1990s among young people in Iran, who saw him as representative of an expansive and tolerant understanding of Islam. The Turkish Ministry of Culture also promotes Rūmī and the Mevlevis as representatives of the great cultural and spiritual heritage of that country.

The historical importance of the arīqah s is profound. After the fall of Baghdad to the Mongols in 1258, they helped maintain communication and intellectual interchange across the Arabic-, Turkish-, and Persian-speaking regions. They had a stabilizing role in critical periods of change and political uncertainty, and as new political centers of power became established, notably the Mughal and Ottoman Empires, they either associated themselves with the ruling classes or became a significant element in the social fabric of the new polity. Far from being rivals to the ʿulamāʾ, the founders of the arīqah s and their successors, the great ūfī shaykhs were masters of the law, and their spiritual exercises were a further dimension of their competence in fiqh, not a substitute for it. In India in particular their contribution to a creative acceptance of Islam and faithful observance of the norms of Islamic lawthe Naqshbandī-inspired reform movement in seventeenth-century Delhi is a notable exampleis enormous.

The new centers of political authority both recognized them as the standard-bearers and exemplars of the norms of religious behavior and provided them with ample opportunities to gain wealth, power, and influence. Given such acceptance, they added a richness and color, a vitality, and an emotional intensity to every stratum of religious and social life. Their cultural significance as promoters of literature and music and their role in Islamizing the vernaculars of many regions of the Muslim world have likewise been enormous.

See Also

Attention; Bisāmī, Abū Yazīd al-; Dance; Darwīsh; Dhikr, Ghazālī, Abū āmid al-; Ibn al-ʿArabī; Ibn ʿAā Allāh; Islam, articles on Islam in Central Asia, Islam in South Asia, Islam in the Caucasus and the Middle Volga; Islamic Law, article on Sharīʿah; Islamic Religious Year; Khusraw, Amīr; Madhhab; Madrasah; Mosque; Mysticism; Niām al-Dīn Awlīyā; Retreat; Rūmī, Jalāl al-Dīn; Samāʿ; Sufism; ubah; Sunnah; Walāyah; Waqf.


General Works

Literature in English, German, French, Arabic, and Turkish on the arīqah orders and Islamic sainthood is extensive and is causing a significant reevaluation of views. The selective bibliography focuses on works in English. Spencer Trimingham's The Sufi Orders in Islam (New York, 1971; reprint 1998), though now somewhat dated, remains the standard handbook on the subject. Readable scholarly overviews of the history and practices of the arīqah s are in some general works on Sufism, including Carl Ernst's The Shambhala Guide to Sufism (Boston, 1997) and William Chittick's Introduction to Sufism (Oxford, 2000). Alexander Knysh's Islamic Mysticism: A Short History (Leiden, 2000), conceived as a reference work, provides a detailed history of the theory and praxis of Sufism, including the orders, systematically presented. John Voll, "Sufism: Sufi Orders," in The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World, edited by John L. Esposito (Oxford, 1995), provides an excellent précis and is especially good on the role of the arīqah s in resistance to colonialism. Specialist bibliographies are in the articles on the individual brotherhoods and their founding figures in Ehsan Yarshater, ed., Encyclopaedia Iranica (New York, 2001), and H. A. R. Gibb et al., The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2d ed. (Leiden, 1960). The articles "arīqa" and "Taawwuf" in the latter are especially important and comprehensive. Alan Godlas's online article "SufismSufisSufi Orders: Sufism's Many Paths," available from, contains extensive scholarly information about the arīqah organizations, complete with links to ūfī teachers, orders, and subbranches on the web.


Abū al-Najīb al-Suhrawardī's Ādāb al-murīdīn is available in the abridged translation of Menahem Milson as A Sufi Rule for Novices (Cambridge, Mass., 1975). See also H. Wilberforce Clarke, trans., The ʿAwarif uʾl-maʿarif by Shahab-uʾd-Din b. Muhammad Suhrawardi (New York, 1973).

Special Studies

Abbas, Shemeem. The Female Voice in Sufi Ritual: Devotional Practices of Pakistan and India. Austin, Tex., 2002.

Abun-Nasr, Jamil. The Tijaniyya: A Sufi Order in the Modern World. Oxford, U.K., 1965.

Baldick, Julian. Imaginary Muslims: The Uwaysi Sufis of Central Asia. New York, 1993. A précis and analysis of a history of the Uwaysi tradition written circa 1600.

Bashir, Shahzad. Messianic Hopes and Mystical Visions: The Nūrbakhshīya between Medieval and Modern Islam. Columbia, S.C., 2003.

Bennigsen, Alexandre, and S. Enders Wimbush. Mystics and Commissars. London, 1985. Excellent coverage of the ūfī brotherhoods of the Caucusus and Central Asia, including their development after the 1917 revolution.

Bos, Matthijs van den. Mystic Regimes: Sufism and the State in Iran, from the Late Qajar Era to the Islamic Republic. Leiden, 2002. An anthropological approach to the Niʿmatullāhī brotherhood, focusing on the twentieth-century relations of the competing afī-ʿAlīshāhī and Sulān-ʿAlīshāhī branches and their connection to the Iranian state.

Buehler, Arthur. Sufi Heirs of the Prophet: The Indian Naqshbandiyya and the Rise of the Mediating Sufi Shaykh. Columbia, S.C., 1998. Traces the history of the Naqshbandis, the impact of colonialism and modernity, and the changing construction of spiritual authority of Naqshbandi shaykhs in South Asia.

Clarke, Peter B. West Africa and Islam: A Study of Religious Development from the Eighth to the Twentieth Century. London, 1982.

Clayer, Nathalie. Mystiques, état et société: Les halvetis dans l'aire balkanique de la fin du Xve siècle à nos jours. Leiden, Netherlands, 1994.

Cornell, Rkia Elaroui, ed. and trans. Early Sufi Women. Louisville, Ky., 1993. A translation of the earliest collection of the vitae of ūfī women, by al-Sulamī (d. 1021), with introduction on the role of women in Sufism.

Cornell, Vincent. Realm of the Saint: Power and Authority in Moroccan Sufism. Austin, Tex., 1998.

DeWeese, Devin. Islamization and Native Religion of the Golden Horde. University Park, Pa., 1994. Describes the role of the Yasawiyya in the Islamization of the Central Asian steppes.

Ernst, Carl W. Eternal Garden: Mysticism, History, and Politics at a South Asian Sufi Center. Albany, N.Y., 1992. A study of the role of Sufism and ūfī shrines in the Deccan and their influence on Indian political history and conversion to Islam, based upon the Chishtis of Khuldābād.

Ewing, Katherine Pratt. Arguing Sainthood: Modernity, Psychoanalysis, and Islam. Durham, N.C., 1997. Explores the postcolonial construction of ūfī identity, particularly the figure of the Pīr and the Qalandar, on the basis of fieldwork done in Lahore, Pakistan.

Gilsenan, Michael D. Saint and Sufi in Modern Egypt: An Essay in the Sociology of Religion. Oxford, 1973.

Gramlich, Richard. Die schiitischen Derwischorden Persiens. 3 vols. Wiesbaden, 19651981.

Gramlich, Richard. Die Wunder der Freunde Gottes: Theologien und Erscheinungsformen des islamischen Heiligenwunders. Stuttgart, 1987.

Gramlich, Richard. Weltverzicht: Grundlagen und Weisen islamischer Askese. Wiesbaden, 1997.

Hodgson, Marshall G. S. The Venture of Islam. Chicago, 1974.

Hoffman, Valerie. Sufism, Mystics, and Saints in Modern Egypt. Columbia, S.C., 1995. Includes an examination of the role of women and a comparison with elements of spirituality shared in common with Coptic Christianity.

Huda, Qamar-ul. Striving for Divine Union: Spiritual Exercises of Suhrawardī Sūfīs. London, 2003.

Johansen, Julian. Sufism and Islamic Reform in Egypt: The Battle for Islamic Tradition. Oxford, 1996. Includes translations of the Egyptian government's 1976 and 1978 ordinances concerning the ūfī orders.

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

Jong. F. de, and Bernd Radtke, eds. Islamic Mysticism Contested: Thirteen Centuries of Controversies and Polemics. Leiden, 1999.

Karamustafa, Ahmet. God's Unruly Friends: Dervish Groups in the Islamic Later Middle Period, 12001550. Salt Lake City, Ut., 1994. Discusses the history and practices of Qalandars and non-affiliated ūfīs and dervishes.

Karrar, Ali Salih. The Sufi Brotherhoods in the Sudan. Evanston, Ill., 1992.

Lapidus, Ira. Muslim Cities in the Later Middle Ages. Cambridge, Mass., 1967.

Lewis, Franklin. Rumi: Past and Present, East and West. Oxford, 2000. Chapter 10 in particular deals with the history of the Mevlevi order.

Lewisohn, Leonard, ed. The Heritage of Sufism. 3 vols., 2d ed. Oxford, 1999. A number of articles in these volumes discuss individual brotherhoods in the Persianate world.

Lifchez, Raymond, ed. The Dervish Lodge: Architecture, Art, and Sufism in Ottoman Turkey. Berkeley, Calif., 1992. An excellent study of the physical structures maintained by various ūfī organizations in Anatolia and their functions.

Martin, Bradford G. Muslim Brotherhoods in Nineteenth Century Africa. Cambridge, U.K., 1976.

Massignon, Louis. Essai sur les origines de lexique technique de la mystique musulmane. 3d ed. Paris, 1968.

McChesney, R. D. Waqf in Central Asia: Four Hundred Years in the History of a Muslim Shrine, 14801889. Princeton, N.J., 1991.

Naguib al-Attas, Syed. Some Aspects of Sufism as Understood and Practised among the Malays. Singapore, 1963.

Netton, Ian Richard. Sufi Ritual: The Parallel Universe. Richmond, U.K., 2000.

O'Fahey, Rex. Enigmatic Saint: Ahmad Ibn Idris and the Idrisi Tradition. Evanston, Ill., 1990.

Pinto, Desiderio. Piri-Muridi Relationship: A Study of the Nizamuddin Dargah. New Delhi, 1995.

Popovic, Alexandre, and Gilles Veinstein, eds. Les ordres mystiques dans l'Islam: Cheminements et situation actuelle. Paris, 1986.

Qureshi, Regula. Sufi Music of India and Pakistan: Sound, Context, and Meaning in Qawwali. Cambridge, U.K., 1986; reprint Chicago, 1995.

Raudavere, Catharina. The Book and the Roses: Sufi Women, Visibility, and Zikir in Contemporary Istanbul. Istanbul, 2002.

Rizvi, Saiyid A. A. A History of Sufism in India. 2 vols. New Delhi, 1983.

Schimmel, Annemarie. Mystical Dimensions of Islam. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1975.

Schimmel, Annemarie. My Soul Is a Woman: The Feminine in Islam. Translated by Susan Ray. New York, 1997.

Sirriyeh, Elizabeth. Sufis and Anti-Sufis: The Defence, Rethinking, and Rejection of Sufism in the Modern World. Richmond, U.K., 1999. A geographically wide-ranging study of Muslim and colonial European reactions to popular Sufism as well as the reshaping of Sufism from the eighteenth century to the twenty-first century.

Taylor, Christopher. In the Vicinity of the Righteous: Ziyāra and the Veneration of Muslim Saints in Late Medieval Egypt. Leiden, 1999. Discusses the role of visitation of saint's tombs in Egypt and its historical connection with the rise of the arīqah s.

Vikør, Knut. Sufi and Scholar on the Desert Edge: Muammad b. ʿAlī al-Sanūsī and His Brotherhood. London, 1995.

Werbner, Pnina, and Helene Basu. Embodying Charisma: Modernity, Locality, and Performance of Emotion in Sufi Cults. London, 1998. Analyzes the rituals of local ūfī shrines and centers in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

Wolper, Ethel Sara. Cities and Saints: Sufism and the Transformation of Urban Space in Medieval Anatolia. University Park, Pa., 2003.

Zarcone, Thierry, Ekrem Işin, and Arthur Buehler, eds. Journal of the History of Sufism. Istanbul, 2000. Vols. 12 cover the Qādirīyah order.

A. H. Johns (1987)

F. D. Lewis (2005)

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