The Qadiriyya Order was named for Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (c. 1077–1166), Sufi teacher and founder of a Hanbali madrasa and religious hostel. Biographies of Abd al-Qadir date from more than a century after his death, so not much is known for certain about his life. Many apocryphal stories exist, attributing miracles, sayings, and poems to him.
Adb al-Qadir was born in the Jilan district of modern-day Iran, south of the Caspian Sea. He went to Baghdad at a young age to study philosophy and law and began preaching at about age fifty. The institutions that he founded in Baghdad were perpetuated, in large part by his forty-nine sons and other associates, until Baghdad fell to the Mongols in 1258. Abd al-Qadir is buried in Baghdad, and his tomb is a pilgrimage site.
Surviving works of Abd al-Qadir include The Resource for Seekers of the Path of Wisdom (a guidebook to Hanbali belief and practice, with a concluding section on Sufism), The Divine Beginning (a collection of sixty-two sermons), and The Revelation of the Hidden (a collection of seventy-eight sermons). The main theme of his work is the integration of Hanbali and Sufi thought in Islam.
Some claim that the Qadiriyya was widespread during Abd al-Qadir's lifetime. Although he was unquestionably a charismatic figure with many followers, the founding and spread of a brotherhood with fully developed institutions probably date from well after his death. In any case, the Qadiriyya was one of the earliest and became the most widespread of Sufi brotherhoods, playing a significant role in the spread of Islam.
From Iraq, the Qadiriyya spread first to Syria in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, with centers in Damascus and Hama. Refugees introduced the Qadiriyya into Morocco after they were expelled from Spain in 1492. The Qadiriyya spread to other parts of the Fertile Crescent and the Maghrib (North Africa), then to central Asia, the Arabian peninsula, India, and Eastern Europe. In the nineteenth century, the Qadiriyya reached subSaharan Africa and the Malay Peninsula.
Through his sermons, Abd al-Qadir taught asceticism, peacefulness, generosity, humanitarianism, and submission to the will of Allah. The emphases of the Qadiriyya have varied by time and place. Some brotherhoods venerate the personage of Abd alQadir and suggest that he performed miracles; others stress his teachings. Many brotherhoods are also derivative of the Qadiriyya but are named for followers of Abd al-Qadir.
see also hanbali school of law; sufism and the sufi orders.
Schimmel, Annemarie. Mystical Dimensions of Islam. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1975.
Trimingham, J. Spencer. The Sufi Orders in Islam. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.