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Sufi Orders

To: soc.religion.gnosis
From: (Jay)
Subject: Sufi Orders
Date: Fri, 16 Sep 1994 17:46:29 GMT

*******************From Gnosis Mailing List Archives******************

A 30-Second Guide to Sufi Orders Found in North 

Bektashi (founder: Haji Bektash Veli 
[d.1335?]). Found primarily in Turkey and Eastern 
Europe, the Bektashis are renowned for their good 
humor and nonorthodox perspective. They are 
particularly noted for their acceptance of men and 
women meeting together and the high position they 
accord to Jesus and Ali. Bektashi leaders are 
called Baba (father in Turkish). There is a 
primarily Albanian Bektashi tekke (lodge) outside 
of Detroit.

Chishti (founder: Muin ad-Din Muhammad Chishti 
[1142-1236]). The Chishtis are most prominent in 
India and Pakistan and are known for inclusive, 
universalist teachings as well as their musicians 
and religious songs (in notable contrast to some 
Muslims who narrowly say that music is incompatible 
with Islam.) Chishti representatives were the first 
to introduce Sufism to Europe and North America. 
Hazrat Inayat Khan and his son Pir Vilayat Khan are 
the best known Chisti teachers in the West.

Helveti-Jerrahi (founders: Umar al-Khalwati 
[d.1397], Hazreti Pir Nureddin Jerrahi [d.1733]). A 
primarily Turkish branch of the widespread 
Khalwatiyyah (Turkish: Helvetiyye), this syncretic 
order includes teachings from several major orders. 
The now-departed Grand Sheikh of the order, Sheikh 
Muzaffer Ozak, brought the order to New York. ItUs 
present leaders in the U.S. include Sheikh Nur al-
Jerrahi (Lex Hixon), Sheikh Tosun Bayrak, and 
Sheikh Ragip Frager.

Mevlevi (founders: followers of Mevlana 
Jellaluddin Rumi [1207-1272]). Perhaps best known 
as the "whirling dervishes," the Mevlevis are an 
inclusive Turkish order that places particular 
emphasis on the "religion of love." Mevlevis call 
their leaders Dede (honored elder). Teachers in the 
way of Mevlana in the U.S. include Kabir Helminski 
of the Threshold Society and Jelaluddin Loras, son 
of Suleyman Dede, the now departed sheikh of Konya.

Naqshbandi (founder: Muhammad Baha' ad-Din 
Naqshband [1317-1389]). Particularly strong in the 
Caucasus and Central Asia, the Naqshibandi order is 
considered a "sober" Sufi order, its founder being 
a great reformer of Sufism. One of its hallmarks is 
the "silent dhikr," wherein the names of Allah and 
other dhikr phrases are repeated inwardly rather 
than verbally. Naqshbandi Sheikhs in the West 
include Sheikh Nazim al Haqqani and his khalifa 
Sheikh Hisham Kabbani, Idries Shah and Omar Ali 
Shah, and Irina Tweedie.

Nimatullahi (founder: Shah Wali Nimatullah 
[1330-1431]). The Nimatullahis are the most 
widespread Shi'ite Sufi order and are most 
concentrated in Iran. Their leader Dr. Javad 

Nurbakhsh now lives in London and they are found 
throughout the U.S.

Qadiri (founder: Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani [1077-
1166]). Founded in Baghdad, the Qadiris were 
reputedly the first Sufi tariqah to be formally 
organized. They are particularly widespread, with 
some branches characterized by ecstatic dance and 
feats of wonderworking. Jilani is today the most 
revered Sufi saint. The best known Qadiri Sheikh in 
North America has been Bawa Muhaiyaddeen.

Rifa'i (founder: Ahmad 'Ar-Rifa'i [1106-1182]). 
Founded at roughly the same time as the Qadiri 
Order, the order has a tendency to ecstatic dhikr 
as a result of Central Asian influences. Like the 
Qadiris, some branches of the Rifa'i order have 
declined into public displays of wonderworking. 
However its adherents range from the most sober to 
the most ecstatic.

Qadiri-Rifa'i (founder: Muhammad Ansarai [circa 
1900]).  This primarily Turkish order represents 
the merging of the Qadiri and Rifa'i orders and 
teaches the practices of both lineages. It migrated 
from Baghdad to Istanbul around the turn of the 
century. It is presently represented in the U.S. by 
Sheikh Taner Vargonen. 

Shadhili (founder: Imam ash-Shadili [1196-
1258]). Founded in Egypt by a Tunisian, the 
Shadhiliyyah are strong throughout North Africa. 
Like the Naqshbandis, they are considered a "sober" 
order, and their Western representatives generally 
emphasize Islamic tradition.

Shadhili-Alawi (founder: Abu-l-Abbas al-'Alawi 
[1869-1934]) This branch of the Darqawis (see 
below) was founded by an Algerian mujadid (renewer 
of Islam) who was the subject of Martin Lings's 
celebrated biography, A Sufi Saint of the Twentieth 
Century. Frithjof Schuon traces his lineage to this 

Shadhili-Darqawi (founder: Mulay-l-'Arabi 
Darqawi [1737-1823]). A branch of the Shadhiliyyah, 
the Darqawi Order was founded by a Moroccan mujadid 
who ignited great fervor in North Africa. Sheikh 
Fadhlalla Haeri is a representative of this order 
in the West.

Uwaysi (founder: Uways al-Qarani [7th 
century]). A tendency mainly found in Iran, the 
Uwaysi follow inner links to Uways al-Qarani, a 
contemporary of the Prophet, rather than a formal 
tariqa. An Uwaysi tendency founded by Mir Qutb al-
Din Muhammad Angha in the early 20th century and 
formalized by his son, Shah Maghsoud Sadegh Angha, 
has spread to the West. 

 -Jay Kinney

Sources: Cyril Glasse, The Concise Encyclopedia of 
Islam (New York: Harper & Row, 1989); J. Gordon 
Melton, The Encyclopedia of American Religions, 
second edition (Detroit: Gale Research, 1987); 
Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Islamic Spirituality: 
Manifestations (New York: Crossroad, 1991).

This guide originally appeared in GNOSIS Magazine 
#30 (Winter 1994), a special issue on Sufism. 
Copies of this 88-page issue are available for $6 
(+ $1.50 shipping) from:

Gnosis, P.O. Box 14217, San Francisco, CA 94114 USA

The preceding is posted in response to a suggestion
by Dean Edwards. Any mistakes are purely my own.

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