Ahmad Ibn Idris (1750–1837)

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AHMAD IBN IDRIS (1750–1837)

Ahmad b. Idris was a Sufi teacher who influenced the formation of many reforming Sufi brotherhoods in the nineteenth century.

Although he never formed tariqa (brotherhood) of his own, Ibn Idris was a key figure in the development of Sufi thought in the nineteenth century. Being firmly based in traditional Sufism, in the line from Ibn ˓Arabi, Ibn Idris promoted the idea of tariqa Muhammadiyya—focusing the Sufi experience on following the example of and having mystical encounters with the Prophet—while vehemently rejecting blind imitation (taqlid) of earlier scholars. According to his teaching, it is the responsibility of each generation of Muslim scholars to discover the Muslim path by relying directly on the sources of divine revelation and not be restricted to what earlier and fallible human authorities have decreed.

Ibn Idris was born in Maysur, a village near Larache in Morocco, and received his basic training in the reformist scholarly milieu in Fez of the late eighteenth century, before moving through Egypt to Mecca in 1799. He stayed in Mecca during the Wahhabi occupation, unlike many colleagues, and had an ambivalent relationship to the Wahhabis; he shared some of their reformist views but rejected their recourse to anathema and violence against other Muslims. After a later disturbance in Mecca, he left in 1828 and settled in Sabya, the capital of ˓Asir, then a part of Yemen, where he stayed for the remainder of his life. Several of his students formed important Sufi brotherhoods to disseminate his ideas, among them the Sanusiyya of the Sahara, the Khatmiyya and Rashidiyya/Dandarawiyya of Sudan, Egypt, and the Indian Ocean regions, and the Salihiyya of Somalia.

See alsoAfrica, Islam in ; Tariqa ; Tasawwuf ; Wahhabiyya .


O'Fahey, Rex S. Enigmatic Saint: Ahmad Ibn Idris and theIdrisi Tradition. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1990.

Radtke, Bernd; O'Kane, John; Vikør, Knut S.; and O'Fahey, Rex S. The Exoteric Ahmad Ibn Idris: A Sufi's Critique of the Madhahib and Wahhabis. Leiden: Brill, 2000.

Thomassen, Einar, and Radtke, Bernd, eds. The Letters ofAhmad Ibn Idris. London: Hurst, 1993.

Knut S. Vikør