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one of the major sufi orders in the islamic world.

The most distinctive characteristics of the Naqshbandi order are the tracing of the silsila, or initiatic chain, from the Prophet Muhammad to Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, a companion of the Prophet Muhammad; use of the silent invocation of God (dhikr ); and a strong adherence to the shariʿa or Islamic law. The first figure of importance in the history of the Naqshbandiya is Yusuf Hamadani (born 1048). In addition to providing four successors, he set down eight principles, or "sacred words," that provided the doctrinal framework of the order.

Although it is not possible to conclude that all branches or members of the Naqshbandiya were politically
active throughout the history of the order, the fervent belief in the adherence to the shariʿa and the Sunna and a worldly attitude toward the role of Sufis in Islamic society contributed to the political participation of some Naqshbandi leaders. In the late medieval and premodern periods, it was not uncommon for Naqshbandi leaders to mediate in political disputes, pay taxes on behalf of a population, act in defense of popular sentiment, influence administrative policy, or control large tracts of land. In the regions of Khorasan and Transoxiana, in which Turko-Mongols ruled over predominantly Persian populations, Naqshbandi leaders at times played the role of defending Sunni Islam against Shiʿism and of thwarting the influence of TurkoMongol nomadic customary law in favor of Islamic law. The Naqshbandi order gained adherents among both the Turkic and Persian populations of Central Asia and was prevalent in both urban and rural areas. However, at the height of its power in Khorasan, the Naqshbandiya was firmly entrenched in the intellectual and cultural milieu of the capital city of Herat, enjoying great renown under the leadership of Saʿd al-Din Kashgari (died 1462) and then Abd al-Rahman Jami (died 1492).

Several separate branches of the Naqshbandi order developed, the main ones being the Yasavi, begun by Ahmad Yasavi (died 1167); the Mujaddidi, established first in India by one of the four successors of Hamadani, Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi (born 1563); and the Khalidi, established by Mawlana Khalid Baghdadi (born 1776), the last branch of the Naqshbandi to achieve strong adherence throughout the Islamic world. There was an extraordinary diffusion of the different branches into regions as widespread as Ottoman Turkey, Kurdistan, Eastern Turkistan, Syria, Palestine, India, central Asia, and the Indonesian-Malaysian world.

A major renewal of the Naqshbandiya came through the leadership of Mawlana Khalid Baghdadi (died 1827), who founded the Khalidi branch that became particularly strong in Turkey and spread as far as Malaysia. His concern with the preservation of the shariʿa was especially significant during a time when the Ottoman state was facing increasing challenges from the West. The Khalidi Sufi network spread throughout the Turkish, central Asian, and Arab world but was strongest in Anatolia and Kurdistan. The legacy of Naqshbandi activity is reflected today in the eminent position of established Naqshbandi families within Kurdish society, although over time most of those assumed political rather than spiritual leadership, one of the most well-known examples being that of the Barzani family.

In the modern period, particularly the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Naqshbandis played a role in reformist and anticolonial resistance movements. Among the numerous examples are Shaykh Shamil's resistance to Russian imperialism in Daghestan in the nineteenth century, the active role of the Naqshbandiya in the mojahedin in the Soviet-Afghan war, the role of Shah Abd al-Aziz (died 1826) in the legal reform movement in India under British rule, and the role of Naqshbandi-led rebellions in China. Although it is difficult to ascertain the true extent of Naqshbandi activity in the new central Asian states today, there is particularly strong adherence in the regions of Dagestan and the Fergana valley, and Naqshbandi shrines continue to be popular places of pilgrimage. In other regions of the Islamic world, the Naqshbandiya maintains a following, particularly in Turkey, but also in Afghanistan, the Kurdish regions of Syria and Turkey, India, Indonesia, and China.

see also barzani family; shariʿa; sufism and the sufi orders; sunna.


Algar, Hamid. "A Brief History of the Naqshbandi Order." In Naqshbandis: Cheminements et situation actuelle d'un ordre mystique musulman, edited by Marc Gaborieau, Alexandre Popovic, and Thierry Zarcone. Istanbul and Paris: Editions Isis, 1990.

Algar, Hamid. "The Naqshbandi Order: A Preliminary Survey of Its History and Significance." Studia Islamica 44 (1976): 123152.

joann gross

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