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Sufi Orders

Simultaneous with the expansion of khanaqahs, funded by philanthropic contributions and overseen by Sufi masters, there began a process of ramification of various tariqahs and systems of rules and precepts. The schools of ten major Sufi masters were at times considered together or separately. An attempt was also underway to trace the rituals and practices of these khanaqahs back to the sunnah of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) as a means of their legitimization, where tariqah and shari`ah would appear to be in concord. This followed in the footsteps of the faqihs and traditionists who also were adamant about tracing their lineage back to the Infallible Imams (PBUT) as well as to the Companions and Successors. Thus, the shaykhs of various Sufi orders drew evidence for their rituals and practices from the body of prophetic hadiths and established chains of transmission (silsilah) for them which ran through Sufi masters back to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his companions. The collection of all the rituals and practices originating with a particular shaykh and followed by all the satellite khanaqahs was called a tariqah (Sufi order). Over time, the number of these orders continued to increase. Major orders were broken up into minor ones, which by some accounts amounted to as many as 170, which spread from India and Turkistan and Fars and Iraq, to Syria and Egypt and North Africa. Extensive research has been carried out into the ramification of these orders, however, more studies appear to be needed to paint a comprehensive picture of the subject. 

The silsilahs of many of these orders, especially those going back to the Successors and Companions, are worthy of scrutiny. Fourteen of these orders trace their lineage back to Ma`ruf Karkhi, whose link to Shi`ite Imams (PBUT) is a matter of dispute. Other Sufi orders of questionable lineage include the Uwaysiyyah, attributed to Uways Qarani, the Adhamiyyah, attributed to Ibrahim Adham, and Tayfuriyyah, attributed to Bayazid Bistami. 

Other Sufi orders include the Qadiriyyah, attributed to `Abd al-Qadir Gilani (d. 561 AH) – the famous acetic and preacher of Baghdad and a leading Sufi master, which still enjoys followings throughout the Islamic world, and one whose branches is the Rifa`iyyah, attributed to Abu ’l-Hasan `Ali Rifa`i (d. 578 AH); the Shadhiliyyah, attributed to Abu ’l-Hasan `Ali Shadhili (656 AH), which was widespread in the western parts of the Islamic lands; the Suhrawardiyyah, attributed to Diya’ al-Din Abu ’l-Najib Suhrawardi (d. 563 AH), which originated in Baghdad and was broken into four minor orders; and the Naqshbandiyyha and Ni`mat Allahiyyah, both of which appeared in the Timurid period. The various Sufi fraternities which are active in Turkey and Syria and which go under the title of the Mawlawiyyah, were founded not by Mawlana but by his descendents. 

Numerous other orders, independent or derivatives of the above orders, in a manner reminiscent of traditionists, trace their beliefs and practices, through chains of transmission from one generation to the next, all the way back to the Infallible Imams, Imam `Ali (PBUH) in particular. The Naqshbandiyyah also trace their lineage back to Abu Bakr. More research is necessary to shed light on the precise number and the relationship between these orders. Two major studies of the subject are by Louis Massignon, in the Encyclopaedia of Islam, and Spencer Trimingham, titled The Sufi Orders in Islam, both of which appear to be in need of revision.

 source: Zarrinkoob , Abdol Hossein "Islam Entry" The Great Islamic Encyclopedia. Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.8 , pp.478

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