Central Asia Journal No. 66
Central Asian Sufism and Contemporary Pakhtun: A Study of the Chishtiyya in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
& Sakina Khan**
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa lies midway between the Indian sub-continent and Central Asia and has been influenced culturally and politically by both. This important borderland has held strategic significance, being contested in the past between the Turkic Mughals and the Persian Safavids. With the demarcation of the Durand Line and its imposition in 1893, this region was annexed to British India/South Asia. In 1901 it was formally given the status of North West Frontier Province (NWFP, renamed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2010). This province and adjacent tribal areas (Federally Administered Tribal Areas or FATA) played an important role in the ‘Great Game’ in 19th century and during the cold war in 20th century. It became a front line in the global war on terror in 21st century and has witnessed great turmoil as this war moved increasingly in its direction.
Historically, this province has been amenable to Central Asian Sufism rather than Arabian Wahabism or Indian Deobandism. The local tradition has been known as Pakhtunwali, a pre-Islamic indigenous feudal tribal honor code peculiar to Afghanistan and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. One may say that this region has been hospitable to the Sufis in accordance to the traditional Pakhtunwali code of mailmastiā. Thus Sufi saints such as Abul Hasan Ali Hujwiri of Ghazna (b. circa 399/ 1009), founders of the Indian Shattariyya Shah Abdullah of Bukhara (d. 890/1485), of the Indian Naqshbandiyya Khwaja Baqibillah of Kabul (971-1012/ 1563-1603), of the Indian Chishtiyya order Khwaja Mu’in al-Din Hasan Chishti of Sijistan (d. 633/1236), all migrated from Central Asia through this region. Many Sufis followed in their wake and Sufism gradually assimilated into the Pakhtun culture. The past few years, however, have witnessed a change owing to Talibanization of a considerable segment of Pakhtun society.
This paper explores the changes witnessed by Chishtiyya Sufi silsila (literally, chain, of initiation, order) in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the twentieth-twenty first centuries. It aims at ascertaining current methods, doctrines and the changing trends in the order. To examine and identify different perspectives in contemporary Chishtiyya Sufism, a twentieth century Chishtiyya Sufi, Muhammad Ubaidullah Khan Durrani, whose life span covers the period immediately before the Taliban phenomenon, is undertaken as case study. To provide comparative analyses, some of the current major Sufi personalities of the province are also studied. The paper follows method based on personal interviews and examination of present day Sufi literature. Rahman, the first to coin the term ‘neo-Sufism’, had advocated the reformation and absorption of Sufism by the orthodoxy. Central Asian linkages and the cultural and political significance of Central Asian Sufism vis-à-vis what has been termed as neo-Sufism, in the province is examined in order to identify any possible conflict or contradictions between them.
The Chishtiyya in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
The Chishtiyya silsila/order derives its name from a village called Chisht in Herat, Afghanistan. The founder is Khwaja Abu Ishaq (d. A.D. 940) who migrated from Syria at the instance of his shaykh Mamshad ‘Ulw of Dinawar, and settled at Chisht. Khwaja Mu’in al-Din Hasan is largely credited as the founder of the Indian Chishtiyya. He, however, had been preceded in the region now known as the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by an Afghan, Wutu son of Shura bin Khweshgi. He was a disciple of Khwaja Maudud-i Chisht (d. 1181-1182), the last of the five great shaykhs of Chisht, who appointed him as his khalīfa (representative or deputy) and ordered him to settle near Peshawar. Shaykh Wutu had considerable following among the Khweshgi and Shuryani tribes settled around Peshawar and near Qasur to whom he was known as Pīr-i Kibār or the Great Shaykh.
The Chishtiyya silsila was further promoted by Sufis such as Syed Ali Tirmizi (908-991/1500-1583, better known as Pir Baba, settled in Buner, ) and his successor Akhund Darweza Nangarhari (956-1048/ 1548-1640, settled in the Mohmand Agency) who became permanent residents of the province and FATA, assimilating gradually Central Asian Sufism into the local culture. The recent years however have witnessed a diminishing tolerance to the original Central Asian Sufism and a corresponding growth of Deobandi influence that appears to manifest itself as ‘neo-Sufism.’ Below we examine the shifting dynamics, beginning with a case study of a modern Chishtiyya Sufi, followed and compared by some of the current major Sufi personalities of the province.
Case Study of a Chishtiyya Shaykh, Muhammad Ubaidullah Khan Durrani
Muhammad Ubaidullah Khan Durrani, 1988.
Muhammad Ubaidullah Khan Durrani (1907-1990) was born in Andhra Pradesh in south India. His father was a Pukhtun, belonging to the Durrani tribe of Afghanistan, while his mother was a descendant of Syed Gesu Daraz. Educated at the Aligarh University, Baba Durrani obtained a scholarship for higher education in Sheffield, England. After his return from England he established an engineering college at Aligarh where he taught for some twenty years. In 1955, he accepted the offer to become the Principal, Engineering College Peshawar University and migrated to Pakistan. He retained this post till his retirement in 1970. Owing to his multifarious personality, he was known to many as a teacher primarily, to some as a homeopath doctor, to more as a Sufi saint.
During his student years at Aligarh, he attracted attention of a renowned Sufi saint, Baba Tajuddin of Nagpur (b. 1277/1861). As a result he spent two years in a state of attraction (jadhb). His father took him back to Baba Tajuddin who terminated this state and handed him over to Baba Qadir Awliya (b. 1320/1904) to nurture further. Baba Qadir Awliya granted him permission to instruct in all four orders i.e., the Qadiriyya, Suhrawardiyya, Naqshbandiyya as well as the Chishtiyya. Baba Durrani, finding a special affinity to the Chishtiyya mode, adopted this order.
During stay at Aligarh, he was diagnosed as terminally ill by medical specialists. After his almost miraculous cure through homeopathy he undertook to dedicate his life to the service of humanity by free treatment through homeopathy. He had obtained the blessings for doing so on a visit to the shrine of Alauddin Sabir at Rurki. His clinic still functional at the residence of his son, Dr. Jehangir Durrani and daughter-in-law Dr. Sabuhi, at University Campus Peshawar, continues to dispense free medical treatment. In 2006 he was awarded the posthumous award for outstanding services in the field of homeopathy by the National Council for Homeopathy, Government of Pakistan.
Feeding the poor, 1983.
For Baba Durrani, the easier path to God has been service to humanity. He spent Fridays or Sundays (depending, which one was a weekly holiday) mornings treating patients. His house that day gave a look of a dispensary: voluntary doctors prescribing and volunteers packing medicines; patients and visitors flooded the house with their problems. Durrani Sahib patiently attended everyone with almost total empathy. In the afternoon, in a gathering at a disciple’s house, discussions on a variety of topics were held to stimulate minds and hearts of all participants. Durrani Sahib annually inaugurated the ‘urs (nuptials, celebration of death anniversary of a Sufi saint) of both his shaykhs with great reverence.
Durrani Sahib, the Homeopath.
During summers he retreated to Qadr Nagar, Buner, where he had constructed a summer residence. Here again many of his disciples visited him, some spent the entire summer, others stayed for a shorter duration. One could observe how some of the rules set down by Abu Said ibn al-Khair (d. AD 1049, a Central Asian Sufi of Khurasan) to run a khānqāh (Sufi lodge) were naturally but discreetly applied. An outsider visiting the khānqāh could be startled to find a land-lord from Sindh sweeping the courtyard, or a young son of a doctor humbly looking after guests. His immediate circle of disciples included educated class comprising all professions such as bureaucrats, judges, doctors, engineers, professors, industrialists, landlords, businessmen and students etc. To a casual observer this unassuming clean shaven person, often dressed in western style trousers and a bush shirt, did not portray any sign of a deep, saintly personality, his closer companions knew him to be.
Ubaidulla Durrani, Principal Engineering College Peshawar University
Baba Durrani had been a keen observer of character, an accomplished psychologist possessing profound insight into human nature. His close associates alone could know how well he used certain Chishtiyya methods to transform character. According to a close disciple and former student, for spiritual nurture Baba Durrani followed the practice of the Prophet i.e., suhba/ companionship. He is not known however, to have prescribed any specific exercise such as murāqaba (literally, control; vigilant concentration) mujāhada (literally fight), and riyādha (literally spiritual exercise) etc. In fact, disciples could hardly know that they were being prepared or trained in any way.
The Mosque at Qadr Nagar, Buner.
In a jet age, those possessing the quality of service (khidma) should be trained/developed and launched as quickly as possible, he viewed. A disciple was discreetly given an invocation (dhikr, literally to remember) and instructed to repeat it in his heart before falling asleep or any other time he could remember. On some other occasion, he was in a general manner to observe that invocation had always been carried out with conceptualization (tasawwur, literally conception). The twin method for spiritual development, i.e., dhikr and tasawwur, therefore, appear to be the chief means used today by the Chishtiyya for spiritual realization. Baba Durrani worked at the level of the hidden invocation, the dhikr-i khafī that in his view belonged to the sphere of haqīqa (reality, essence).
What were Baba Durrani’s doctrinal affiliations? For him, the dhikr-i jalīy i.e., vocal invocation, and the hidden one were different, the former belonged to the sphere of sharī‘a. The former empowered the seeker to perform unusual feats; however, the dhikr-i khafī belonged to a different dimension, being wholly a matter of ‘ishq (literally, to love passionately, to inter-join closely). It was the secret of the Tradition, "I was a Hidden Treasure and yearned to be known.” The dhikr-i khafī was operative at the level of the hidden self, at the level of the sub-conscious and unconscious, and had nothing to do with the intellect or the senses. Only by “dying before death,” was the seeker able to move to subtler dimensions (e.g., from perception of a beautiful face to the perception of un-manifested beauty) and gain insight in the unity that lay hidden within creation. From this one may gather that for Durrani Sahib, the dhikr-i khafī could not be identified with the sharī‘a, and that its aim was spiritual vision.
How did this happen? Accordingly only a shaykh who was established in the Realm of Omni-potence (‘alam-i jabarut) could effect this by a look of attention (tawajjuh). When the individual spirit broke free of the prison of individuality, it joined the assembly (jam‘īat) of spirits under the flag of the Prophet. This was the association of Muhammad (nisbat-i Muhammadī). From the isthmus (barzakh) of the shaykh, the seeker was carried to that of the Prophet. This was an intermediary stage between the Creator and creation. The seeker, who had ‘died before death’ when he was annihilated in the shaykh(fanā` fi`shaykh), experienced a strange expansion of his soul that took him to the stage of witnessing. Only the awakened spirit could witness, and, in the real sense, it was only then that a person was qualified to testify.
It was essential for the seeker to embrace this relationship/association, and may accomplish only by adopting the sunna fully, the outer sunna, more specifically the inner sunna of the Prophet of service to creation. Through this newly established bond with Muhammad, the seeker had access to the hidden (ghaib). It appears, therefore, that at this stage, a transmutation or expansion of the self occurs as the seeker moves out from his egocentric existence to a communal one; he becomes a part of a greater self where concern is not for salvation or preservation of the self, but that of creation.
The perfected shaykh had the authority to link the seeker to the hidden. This happened when the shaykh gave the seeker a specific Name of the Essence (Ism-i Dhāt). For Baba Durrani, in this lay the secret of Islam’s superiority over other religions since it afforded an opening (fath) into the hidden. The seeker’s fulfillment of the sunna completes only if he has the ability to establish connection with Allah and yet be involved in creation (haq se wāsil khalq may shāmil). Service to creation is therefore essential. Traveling through dhikr first takes the seeker through the different stages of annihilation. When the seeker “dies” he is resurrected through the attention of the shaykh and brought to the stage of witnessing (shahādah). It seems that according to Sufism there are two forms of witnessing. One the outer form through physical martyrdom, and the second the inner form where the smaller isolated self dies and the spirit is resurrected, joins similar such spirits and witnesses. This is a controversial issue which Deobandi ‘ulamā` eschew.
In the Qur`ān the prophets, the sincere, the witnesses and the righteous compose what is termed the beautiful/excellent (hasuna) Fellowship The Qur`ānic term “witness”, not “those slain in the way of Allah”, appears to support such an interpretation of the Sufi path. The station of witnessing cannot be achieved without adopting the Prophetic sunna completely, specifically of service to humanity. Therefore, Rahman’s critique that Sufism twists the Qur`ānic doctrine of morality and the Sufi does not contribute anything to humanity, since he is pre-occupied in wrestling with his nafs, seems superfluous.
To sum up, Baba Durrani presents an example of a modern Sufi; who had adapted the centuries old methods to the needs of modern times. Prescription of rigorous exercises has been replaced by companionship, attention and attraction. The age of science and technology has brought numerous benefits, alongside initiation of an era of materialism, a habit of independent thought and practice of analysis. Demand of blind obedience, one of the requirements of the shaykh/ disciple relation, during such times could hardly be delivered. Baba Durrani knew the material he was working with and therefore seldom forbade or ordered anything of his disciples. The vocal invocation and all the other spiritual endeavors (mujāhada, riyādha etc) were not considered essential and are replaced by bonding and love for the shaykh. This indicates a greater influence exerted by the shaykh in the development of the seeker in comparison to the seeker’s own efforts. It appears therefore, that tawajjuh (attention) and jadhb (attraction) are replacing the hard ascetic exercises that a disciple was previously required to undertake.
For Baba Durrani the dhikr-i khafī does not belong to the sphere of sharī‘a or tarīqa (way, second stage in the three-fold path), whichimplies that in his view, Sufism cannot be identified with the sharī’a or jurisprudence as some Sufis maintain. The dhikr-i khafī can only be taught by a perfected shaykh; one at the stage of fanā` fi’llah (annihilation in God). The perfected shaykh is a vital link; only he has the ability to access the seeker to the hidden who would be unable to do so without such mediation.
During the course of our research we were struck by the observation that not all the Chishtiyya had the same beliefs or even the same practices. There were certain fundamental differences that, on closer examination, were found arising from two different schools. It has been observed that the Chishtiyya of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa either belong to the Deobandi school of thought, or the non-Deobandi Central Asian school of Sufism. The seminary at Deoband, emanating ultimately from Shah Waliullah and his sons and disciples, was originally established in 1866 to counter Christian missionaries and safeguard traditional Islamic learning. Sufis who follow the Deobandi School are affiliated to the line of Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi (b. 1863). The Deobandi leaders such as Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi, Rashid Ahmed Gangohi (1829-1905), and Muhammad Qasim Nanautawi (1833-1879) were nineteenth-century reformist ‘ulamā` (literally learned, scholars, clerics) who supported a Sufism devoid of [what they saw as] non-Islamic practices. They, for instance, discouraged ‘urs celebrations, ghyārwin (literally, eleventh) celebrations, Sufi music assemblies (samā‘ or audition), pilgrimages to Sufi shrines, and solicitations for help from deceased Sufis. Rahman points out that the seminary was established with the aim of safeguarding traditional Islamic learning and values, as well as liberating India from British domination. This seminary therefore has always had a jihādi element to it.
The establishment of the theological seminary at Deoband (as opposed to the Barelvi school of thought) by Maulana Muhammad Qasim Nanotawi and Rashid Ahmed Gangohi raised controversies causing schisms among the Hanafis of the sub-continent. Many, such as Raza Khan Barelvi and his followers began to identify the Deobandi School with Wahabism. The schisms are prevalent not only in the religious seminaries,where Deobandi madrasas such as the one established at Akora Khattak by late Maulana Abdul Haq fathered the Taliban movement, but has seeped down into Sufism dividing the Chishtiyya order.
The Barelvi school of thought was formulated by Ahmed Raza Khan Barelvi (1856- 1921), born in India (Bareilly) in a Pathan family. The Barelvis place less emphasis on the disciple’s personal responsibility and regard the disciple’s spiritual growth as depending on the mediation of the shaykh and the Prophet. Buehler calls them mediating shaykhs. Usha Sanyal draws attention to the interplay in the movement between scholarly and Sufi approaches to the faith. In her view this movement blurs the distinction between the ‘alim and the Sufi to an unusual degree. Furthermore, in the twentieth century this movement has increased its emphasis on the role of Sufism.
The Barelvi School has issues with the contemporary Deobandi such as, belief that the Prophet has knowledge of the hidden, is omnipresent (hāzir nāzir) and therefore can be called upon for help and addressed as yā rasūl Allah, has a two dimensional personality of light (nūr) and humanity (bashr), and that he may influence events of this world. Deobandi believe all these to be innovations and heresies, while the Barelvis consider the Deobandi guilty of being disrespectful to the Prophet (gustākh-i rasūl) in their repudiation of these beliefs.
In order to enable us to discriminate between the two schools of Sufism we propose to call one the Deobandi Chishtiyya and the other the Central Asian Chishtiyya. This does not imply any formal or geographical classification, but intends to distinguish certain doctrinal differences; the orders may object to such classification, nevertheless, the differences in thought have certain implications which will be examined in due course.
One such implication of Deobandi Sufism is its creedal discrimination. In an interview with a Chishtiyya disciple, it was pointed out that Deobandi school of thought could be defined as pure Sunnism, while non-Deobandi Central Asian school of Sufism was pure Sufism. The latter is above creedal distinctions such as of Shi-ism and Sunni-ism. Thus Shia may belong to a Central Asian Chishtiyya order but not to a Deobandi one. A Central Asian Chishtiyya, can accommodate disciples of various creedal affiliations including Shia, however, this is not the case with the Deobandi Sufis, who are generally not tolerant to even other Sunni schools such as the Barelvi School, much less to other creeds such as the Shia. Thus, some of the Chishtiyya have Sunni as well as Shia following, while the line of Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi, which is purely Deobandi Sunni in its creedal affiliation, does not accommodate non-Sunnis. Furthermore, some of the basic concepts of Sufism, such as Muhammad’s light, knowledge of the hidden, the Prophet’s omnipresence, are eschewed by the Deobandi.
The ‘Central Asian’ Chishtiyya
Two Chishtiyya Sufis of the Central Asian School are taken into account.
a. Syed Muhammad Hakeem Shah at Peshawar: Syed Muhammad Hakeem Shah is the sajjāda nishīn (lit: one who sits on the prayer carpet, and by extension one who replaces,) of Abdul Sattar Badshah (b. 1278/ 1862.). His astāna (threshold) is a Central Asian Chishtiyya centre that has a great cultural significance owing to its affiliation to the shrine of Abdul Sattar Badshah.
Abdul Sattar Badshah was a spiritual descendent of Syed Ali Tarmizi (Pir Baba) and originally belonged to a remote village in Hazara. He settled in Peshawar city where now his shrine continues to be a spiritual centre that draws disciples belonging to various professions and social strata from all over the country. Apart from formal disciples, people from all walks of life come to receive blessings from this shrine, such as eminent Pathan politicians, singers and musicians. The famous Pashto poet and Sufi, Amir Hamza Shinwari (b. A.D. 1907) was the khalīfa of Abdus Sattar Badshah. The silsila is currently run by Syed Muhammad Hakeem Shah known fondly as Badshah Ji, who is also son-in-law of Rafiq Shinwari, a Pashtu Sufi singer and musician of considerable fame. The cultural significance of this center can be seen from the fact that almost all the Pashtu singers of repute attend the ‘urs of Abdus Sattar Badshah.
According to Badshah Ji, the silsila did not practice collective dhikr sittings nor encouraged any chillā (retreat of forty days), murāqaba etc. Only selected disciples were given an invocation to practice as and when convenient. The formula or dhikr is a secret between the shaykh and the disciple. The formula is called a lesson which being seven in number; the disciple on completing one lesson is given the next and so on but prohibited from revealing these to anyone. Prior to commencing the lessons, the disciple must send at least 125000 times blessings on the Prophet. The seekerthrough conceptualization annihilates himself in the shaykh. He arrives at the stage of wahdat al-wujūd (unity of being), after which there are two more stages. At the first the seeker is accepted by Allah and achieves a spiritual station but is of no benefit to creation. If he is sent further along the path i.e., the stages of annihilation, others receive spiritual guidance and divine effusion (faidh, literally emanation) from him. Thus, a Sufi must serve creation if he is at the stage of fanā` fi’rasūl (annihilation in the Messenger).
Badshah Ji takes an interest in the promotion of education and does not favor any interest in political affairs. Linkages to Central Asia are limited to personal visits to shrines. He follows the wujūdī doctrine and communicates with disciples mainly in local languages such as Pushto, Hindko as well as Urdu. ‘Urs is celebrated in a typically Chishtiyya manner which includes events such as washing of the grave and its covering with elaborately embroidered covers and flowers, flag hoisting ceremony, recitation of the Qur`ān, hamd, na‘āt (a special genre of poetry sung in praise of Allah and the Prophet respectively) and qawwālī (Sufi audition) and finally a prayer for the Muslim community.
To sum up, the twin methods of silent invocation and conceptualization are employed as the seeker aims at annihilation. Ascetic exercises such as mujāhada and riyādha do not seem to be required; bonding with the shaykh is essential and appears to be the beginning of the journey. The doctrine of wahdat al-wujūd is followed; audition is practiced, and ‘urs celebrated. The Sufism of this sub-order is closely linked to the cultural environment of the region.
b. Syed Tahir Bukhari, Swabi: Another Chishtiyya center of this line operates in a village called Waruke (small) Lahore, in the district of Swabi. Tahir Bukhari Sahib who resides in Waruke Lahore is also a khalīfa of Amir Hamza Shinwari, and is known in the area as Ukhyar (wise) Badshah. Like Baba Durrani and Badshah Ji, he practices the dhikr-i khafī, which is a secret between the shaykh and disciple and gives great importance to conceptualization (tasawwur-i shaykh).
Tahir Bukhari instructs disciples individually and does not have any specific place from where he operates. He celebrates ‘urs and takes great interest in audition. Apart from this he also celebrates the death anniversary of Hazrat Ali on the 27th of Ramadan in Chishtiyya style, i.e., audition in accompaniment of musical instruments and song. In response to whether creedal discriminations were made in his order, he replied that the Sufi mission was based on a humane interpretation of religion that forbade discriminations of all kinds. If a person professed faith in Allah and the Prophet, it was not permitted to pass any judgments on that person’s faith. He also confirmed that he accepted and pledged fealty also with the Shia as they were Muslims in the full sense of the term.
Tahir Bukhari is an exponent of determinism, and the wujūdī doctrine and has written a book on the subject. His shaykh Hamza Shinwari, also an exponent of wahdat al-wujūd, believes that very few people were able to understand the essence of Ibn Arabi’s thought. He defines a ‘knower’ (‘arif) as one whose character coincided with the Name that he was created on. All the Names came under the Name Allah and were identical to it yet each Name in its outer manifestation was individual and unique. So each person could only know that aspect of the Creator on whose pattern he was created. Ma‘rifa (cognition, gnosis) was only of one’s name; as the source of all names was one, a person may arrive at some partial knowledge of other names nevertheless no one could know Allah in totality. Here ma‘rifa is understood as recognition of the self, described in similar terms by Henry Corbin in his study of Ibn Arabi.
According to Hamza Shinwari, the disadvantage of modern living was that man tended to be more dispersed, less capable of sustained physical endurance and also less inclined to spiritual matters. Therefore the Chishtiyya allow for some major concessions, and conceptualization had become the alternate method to be practiced. This method, in his view, could even replace the practice of dhikr and meditation. In fact conceptualization and commemoration (dhikr)were the same as both had to do with remembering. Conceptualization alone helped the seeker in by-passing the difficult stages of tazkiya-i nafs (purification, chastening the commanding self). The seeker, however, could not put aside his religious obligations, unless a state of attraction ensued and then only as long as this state lasted.
Tahir Bukhari, agrees with this view. For him tasawwur-i shaykh was an essential of the spiritual way as was wahdat al-wujūd. The whole spiritual traveling revolved around conceptualizing. However he was in favor of combining dhikr and tasawwur. He believes that when the shaykh directed spiritual attention at the disciple he could only benefit if he reciprocated. The seeker need not go through rigorous exercises, yet he must be obedient to his shaykh in all matters. Tahir Bukhari claimed to be immersed in the tasawwur of his shaykh from top to toe. This conceptualization was so intense that the seekerwalked, talked and even began to look like his shaykh (incidently the resemblance between Tahir Sahib and his shaykh Amir Hamza is striking!). Thus a seeker today did not have to undergo rigorous endeavors; most of the work was done by the shaykh, provided the disciple was attentive and obedient.
This position is supported by Ubaidullah Durrani who believed that if a person was engaged in battling with his nafs (ego or self) how would he progress? According to him, in the present times there was no need for hard spiritual exercises. Life had become too busy and fast. The seeker should try to by-pass the nafs through love and by involving ones self emotionally and mentally in something outside ones personality. He comes close to Hume when he says that the ego should be gradually expanded to include family, then friends and relatives, then country and nation and finally the whole of creation. He calls this process “objectivizing of one’s self.”
To sum up, the wujūdī doctrine is followed, and ma‘rifa here is seen as recognition of the Uncreated Self in the created self. Keeping the needs of modern life in mind, spiritual endeavors are not considered essential and are replaced by the twin practices of remembrance, i.e., dhikr and tasawwur. With the Central Asian Chishtiyya, focus is not on eliminating the nafs but on objectivizing and expanding it to include all humanity irrespective of religious affiliations. The mediation of the shaykh is an essential component.
The ‘Deobandi’ Chishtiyya
Two Chishtiyya Sufis of the Deobandi School are taken into account.
a. Dr. Noman, Peshawar: Noman, (b. 1954), College of Education, Peshawar University, is the khalīfa to Maulana Ashraf Khan Suleimani who headed one of the Deobandi Chishtiyya sub-orders in Peshawar. His lineage runs as follows; Haji Imdadullah Mahajar-i Makki (1817-1899), Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi, Syed Suleiman Nadvi, Maulana Professor Ashraf Khan Sulaimani.
Noman in an interview disclosed that originally he had received his training in the Naqshbandiyya order while still a student at Bannu. His initial education comprised Dars-i Nizami supplemented by Masters Degrees in Arabic and Islamiyat followed by a doctorate in Arabic. Maulana Ashraf continued to instruct Noman in the Naqshbandiyya silsila. In 1980, he accompanied Maulana Ashraf to Deoband and Ajmer where he experienced an overwhelmingly emotional state after which Maulana Ashraf initiated him into the Chishtiyya chain. Noman has been given the permission to initiate into the Qadiriyya, Suhrawardiyya, Naqshbandiyya as well as the Chishtiyya orders; he considers himself primarily a Chishtiyya.
Dr. Noman instructs on an individual basis daily, and once a week dhikr gatherings are held at Masjid-i Wusta, University Campus, Peshawar.He has approximately a hundred disciples. He differs from the Chishtiyya norm in his view of Sufism as primarily tazkiya-i nafs/ purification of the self that aims to establish taqwā (fear or God-consciousness). Tasawwur-i shaykh is practiced occasionally, in times of stress and fanā` fi` shaykh (annihilation in the shaykh) is not considered essential. He does not participate in or organize audition. Doctrinally he follows his shaykh, who believes that there is no difference in the wujūdī and shuhūdī (wahdat ul-shuhūd, unity of perception) doctrine, the difference being one of semantics; wujūd and shuhūd in both cases are mystic states, and not essentials of way-faring.
Such differences are further highlighted by Maulana Ashraf, who writes that his shaykh Syed Suleiman Nadvi did not favor the practice of conceptualization. Furthermore, the practice of attention/tawajjuh by the shaykh on his disciple had only a temporary effect, and made the disciple rely on the shaykh rather than making his own effort.
According to Syed Suleiman Nadvi there were only two forms of knowledge, the Names taught to Adam, and the sharī‘a. Since the Names related to creation, knowledge of these was arrived at through experience and reason. This amounts to a rejection of the Sufi concept of ma‘rifa. According to Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi vision of Reality(mushāhada, literally witnessing) is for the angels while spiritual struggle and endeavor against the passions (mujāhada) is for human beings. In Maulana Ashraf Suleimani’s view, a complete Islamic life has two aspects, one martial (askarī), the other of sulūk (way-faring) and Sufism. A proper application of the latter (which in essence consisted of mujāhada and tazkiya) prepared one for the former, i.e., jihād. The aim must be to establish God’s word in the world, the reward of which was to be found in the after-world. Maulana Ashraf presents a citing in which Syed Suleiman Nadvi specifically forbids his followers to partake in politics, nevertheless Maulana Ashraf himself does not take such a view and considers it a matter of personal preference depending on aptitude.
To sum up, with the Deobandi Chishtiyya of this sub-order, Sufism is primarily seen as purification of the self (tazkiya-i nafs) and struggle and endeavor against the passions (mujāhada). They do not believe in vision of Reality/ witnessing, which in their view is reserved for angels.Spiritual journeying through conceptualization and annihilation in the shaykh and Prophet do not appear to be practiced. The shaykh therefore is not a vital link of journeying. His function appears to be that of an instructor rather than mediator. Spiritual exercises are performed to prepare a person for an active life of service to religion and jihād, while service to creation is not emphasized. Knowledge is only of two kinds, that of the sharī‘a and secular knowledge. Furthermore where the standard Chishtiyya and early Deobandi do not favor participation in politics, the later Deobandi Sufis have no such inhibitions.
b. Maulana Yousaf Qureshi, Peshawar: Another sub-order that follows the above mentioned school of thought is that of Maulana Faqir Muhammad at Khanqah Imdadiyya situated at Landi Arbab. Maulana Faqir Muhammad, the khalīfa of Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi, passed away and the khānqāh at Landi Arbab is taken over by his son Abdur Rahman , also the head of Masjid-i Darwesh Peshawar Sadr. Abdur Rahman Faqir, however, does not take any interest in Sufism.
One of the deputies of Maulana Faqir Muhammad, Maulana Muhammad Yousaf Qureshi (b. 1943) heads the Jamia Ashrafiyya at Faqirabad, Peshawar. Maulana Yousaf Qureshi was initiated into the Chishtiyya order by Maulana Shamsul Haq Afghani Deobandi, who in turn was initiated into the Naqshbandiyya order by Maulana Abdul Haq Maddani at Madina. He received permission to instruct in all four orders from Maulana Faqir Muhammad as well as Qari Muhammad Tayyab. Maulana Yousaf disclosed in a personal interview, that his major occupation has been managing the Jamia Ashrafiyya. He imparted spiritual instruction only to a select few, once a week on Friday night at the Jamia Ashrafiyya, and occasionally at Masjid Mahabbat Khan, of which he is the head administrator (muhtamim). He instructs a syllabus based on the writings of Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi, identifies the sharī‘a and tarīqa (Sufi path), and does not favour audition (samā‘). Maulana Yousaf is a prolific writer having over fifty pamphlets to his credit.
His literature deals with matters pertaining to the injunctions of the sharī‘a, Islamic history and politics, to the exclusion of any Sufi elements. He takes an active interest in politics and clashed with the provincial government of Aftab Sherpao after the pulling down of a mosque and construction of a park in its place in the vicinity of the Provincial Assembly.
Another feature that sets Maulana Yousaf apart from the mood and temper of a Central Asian Chishtiyya Sufi is his condemnation of audition. In an article he claims that Hujwiri (d. A.D 1071), had favored the practice of audition, but condemned and renounced it later in his life. According to Yousaf Qureshi, Hujwiri, the author of Kashf al-mahjūb, used to practice audition till, after realizing its dangers, repented. On the basis of this Yousaf Qureshi condemns the practice of samā‘. This conclusion is debatable on two accounts, a: Yousaf Qureshi himself cites Hujwiri’s statement that samā‘ gatherings of his times had become a façade for licentious behavior. These gatherings were attended by beardless youths and women whose presence caused dangerous distractions. Hujwiri warns his readers to beware of such gatherings while repenting from past involvement. b: Hujwiri dedicates a whole chapter to audition in which he cites the Prophet as having listened to the singing of a slave girl. Furthermore he states that “theologians are agreed that it is permissible to hear musical instruments if they are not used for diversion…” and “…if audition produces a lawful effect on the mind, then it is lawful; it is unlawful if the effect is unlawful, and permissible if the effect is permissible.”
Responding to a query that the jihād movement of Syed Ahmed Bareily did not receive much support in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa due to its hostility to Sufism, he conceded that there had been considerable objections to some of Syed Ismail Shahid’s writings. In his view Deobandism in this province is a comparatively new development that has taken place only in the last thirty years or so, while in the Punjab it had been the significantly prevalent school of thought since quite some time. Consequent to active proselytizing, almost ninety-five percent of the seminaries in the province are presently following Deobandi; while only about five percent Barelvi school of thought.
Maulana Yousaf practices the vocal invocation, and does not believe in bonding and annihilation or conceptualization. Unlike the Chishtiyya he follows the shuhūdī doctrine and does not inaugurate ‘urs celebrations.
To sum up, the Sufism of Maulana Yousaf appears to be limited to purification and chastening of the self. He contravenes the Chishtiyya norm in his aversion to audition, taking interest in politics, affiliation to the shuhūdī doctrine, and his reluctance to celebrate the ‘urs.
Comparison of Doctrines and Methods: Innovations
The section compares the doctrines and methods of the two schools of Sufism described above and examines the innovative methods (if any) employed by these Sufis taking into account the needs of modern times.
Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi observes that the Chishtiyya were among the foremost to bring Islam to the sub-continent and rendered great service in the spread of Islam. Unfortunately its latter day representatives got involved in hairsplitting issues of wahdat al wujūd, excessive practice of audition with dance and ecstasy, and celebration of ‘urs in a manner that went beyond the limits defined by the sharī‘a. The ‘ulamā` of Deoband undertook to confine Sufi practice within the parameters of the sharī‘a as defined by fiqh (jurisprudence).
Latter day Deobandi ‘ulamā`, who profess to belong to the Chishtiyya order and follow Sufi practices such as dhikr, reject basic canons of Sufism on which its whole structure stands such as the light of Muhammad. For the contemporary Central Asian Sufi these beliefs are central, as for the early Sufis. According to Valerie Hoffman, “Belief in Muhammad as a primordial cosmic light of divine origin is documented as early as the 8th and 9th centuries, and reached its fullest exposition in the works of Ibn Arabi (1165-1240) and his successors.”
The Deobandi Chishtiyya, therefore, has certain fundamental differences with the Central Asian Chishtiyya. This is not unexpected if one takes into account that Deoband movement has basically been an Indian thought inspired by Arabian Puritanism. This movement may be traced back to the reformism initiated by Shah Waliullah and Sirhindi. Exact differences can be enumerated.
An article in the Journal Al Hasan of the Jamia Ashrafia, does not identify Sufism with sharī‘a as Sirhindi saw it, rather considers it a department of jurisprudence (fiqh). By implication it denies Sufism a status of its own, puts it subordinate to fiqh; thus, only scholars of fiqh educated in madrasa alone can claim to be Sufis. This position is held by some other ‘ulamā`, such as Maulana Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi of the Nidvat-al ‘Ulama, Lucknow. The Nidvat-al ‘Ulama was established by ‘ulamā` educated at the institution at Deoband, therefore, have the same stance. According to Maulana Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi, the word Sufism (tasawwuf) is a misnomer that has created confusion in the minds of Muslims. In reality, the essence of Sufism is tazkiya and ihsān (taken as performance of good deeds) which in turn is seen as inner/ hidden jurisprudence(fiqh-i bātin).
In contrast, for the Central Asian Sufi, ihsān is taken as a literal interpretation of the Tradition, to worship God as if you were seeing him sanctioning the practice of tasawwur. According to Hamza Shinwari, tasawwur takes one to the shaykh’s barzakh (barrier between this world and the spiritual one). Its culmination is when the seeker finds his shaykh in his own body. The seeker’sown personality vanishes and he feels that the shaykh himself is walking and talking in his guise. As with commemoration, tasawwur is a reciprocal process. The shaykh is now able to concentrate on the seeker and his emotions and thoughts are conveyed to him. The seeker acquires the attributes of his shaykh and becomes annihilated in him. Annihilation in the Prophet and God respectively, follow automatically. According to Hamza Shinwari the way to God is only through the shaykh’s barzakh and through that of the Prophet. Without the intervention of the shaykh, man can only see a picture that is a product of his imagination, mere fantasy.
Ubaidullah Durrani elaborates the same idea in a slightly different way: the seeker sees the shaykh in the mirror of his heart; the shaykh is according to his capacity a manifestation of Reality; thus the shaykh becomes the barzakh (barrier or intermediary). As the shaykh is annihilated in the Prophet, the shaykh is the transmitter or medium of nūr-i Muhammadi/ the light of Muhammad, so from the barzakh of the shaykh one reaches the Reality of Muhammad. In this manner visualizing the face of the shaykh becomes a means of visualizing the Prophet and encountering Reality/Haq, for according to a hadīth, “He who sees me sees Haq/Reality.”
In Nadvi’s interpretation Sufism is synonymous to ihsān which in turn is seen as having two components, tazkiya and taqwā(fear), rather than worshipping ‘as if you see God.’ For him Sufism (ihsān) is sincerity of actions. Thus there is the outer jurisprudence (fiqh-i zāhir) that regulates a person’s behavior towards God and the rest of the world, and there is the inner jurisprudence (fiqh-i bātin) that is sincerity in all these actions. The purpose of purification (fiqh-i bātin, tazkiya or tasawwuf) is to create in the person a state of God-consciousness that leads him to faith (īmān). According to this interpretation, Sufism is brought within the sphere of jurisprudence. The aim of the two ‘Sufisms’ is therefore entirely different. While standard Sufi terminology is being used by the Deobandiyya, different meanings are being assigned to it.
To cite another example, in Maulana Abdul Qadir Raipuri’s view, the activation of the subtle centres (latā`if, singular latīfa lit:-subtlety) does not mean the experiencing of some kind of illumination, but rather when one says that the subtle centre of the heart (qalb) is activated it means that the person is always in a state of God-consciousness and has rid himself of love of material things. When the subtle centre of the self (nafs) is activated it means that negative attributes have been eliminated and replaced with praiseworthy ones. The person experiencing this transformation becomes modest, humble and lowly. The Central-Asian Sufi, however, believes these to be objective realities. The ‘ulamā` here again keep the terminology but change the meaning.
The purpose of dhikr, companionship and spiritual endeavorsis only to rectify and give correct direction to a person’s character; or in other words, character building through tazkiya. As dhikr itself is not sufficient it is necessary to be initiated with a living shaykh as he can bring about the character reformation. It seems, therefore, that initiation has nothing to do with spiritual traveling but turns out only to be a promise to the shaykh to behave according to the dictates of the sharī‘a with an inner sincerity. For the Central Asian Sufi this is only the preliminary stage of Sufism; once the seeker has been prepared, he must be brought to a state of vision and witnessing, for Shams Tabrez (the guide of Rumi) quotes the Qur`ān,“Whoever is blind in this world shall be blind in the afterworld.” The Deobandi Chishtiyya stand appears to be closer to the Indian ‘ulamā`’s view than to the Central Asian Sufi.
What do the differences of the two schools imply? Sufism is generally described as consisting of three components; a) sharī‘a, Muslim law b) tarīqa, the way or manner practiced by a Sufi order and c) haqīqa, the Truth. Corresponding to these are the stages of makhāfa (fear), mahāba (love), and ma‘rifa (cognition). By limiting Sufism to tazkiya and mujāhada as part of the sharī‘a, the journey is terminated before it has even commenced. As seen above, for some the purpose of purification and spiritual endeavors is to prepare the person for jihād. This jihād is not against tyranny but to enforce the sharī‘a. It is however unclear which interpretation of the sharī‘a is to be imposed, and as this School is exclusive, there appears to be a desire to impose their own specific creed. Tazkiya is seen as implementation of jurisprudence (fiqh), divided into an inner and an outer one. Some present day Deobandi, as seen above, have eliminated even this minor distinction between the inner and outer fiqh, and made Sufism a department of fiqh; subservient to it. The stage of mahāba which initiates actual journeying, and the culmination in ma‘rifa are completely missing. For them ma‘rifa is knowledge of the sharī‘a and not the self.
Previously, for Central Asian Sufi, tazkiya through mujāhada was a preparatory stage that a disciple had to go through, before he could accompany the shaykh through subtler and subtler dimensions. This companionship was not possible for the shaykh if the disciple was unrefined, unstable and not wholly objective. In current times this preparatory stage has been replaced through bonding, where the seeker is stabilized and given objectivity through the person of the shaykh. Tazkiya/ makhāfa through spiritual endeavors and exercises, therefore, has become more or less obsolete. The preparatory stage has nothing to do with jurisprudence here but with love and bonding. However, with Deobandi Sufi, the entire Sufism is reduced to tazkiya/ mujāhada that is associated with jurisprudence, and the last two elements i.e., mahāba and ma‘rifa are eliminated.
The Central Asian Chishtiyya follow wujūdī doctrine, for them it is the highest stage of tasawwur and union, while the Deobandi Chishtiyya identify wujūd and shuhūd and consider them as unessential. The Deobandi believe in personal effort and accountability and conceive of religious leaders as teachers of the sharī‘a and role models of the sunna. Their aim is not to mediate but to transform and purify the character. As such transformation can take place only through efforts made by the disciple, they do not believe in the power of tawajjuh (strong concentration of master and disciple on each other), though their predecessor, Shah Ismail, explains Sufi concepts such as tawajjuh and himmah (high ambition, spiritual power of the shaykh) in his book ‘Abqāt. Earlier on he followed the thought of his grandfather Shah Waliullah, however, in later part of his life he came under the influence of Ahmed Shahid’s Arabian Puritanism and changed his stance.
For the contemporary Deobandi Sufi, dhikr (and Sufism) is a means of tazkiya-i nafs and the purpose is to establish fear (taqwā). The Central Asian Sufi desires more than salvation through taqwā, which essentially aims at self-preservation. Heaven and hell are God’s creation; the aim of the Sufi is God and not His creation. For him, commemoration is a means for bonding with the Prophet and achieving proximity (qurb). Their claim is that God’s command of “Remember Me and I will Remember You,” is a method of establishing mutual reciprocal relationship based on love not fear. In this process the shaykh and the Prophet both mediate. These elements of love and mediation seem missing with the Deobandi Sufi who virtually identifies Sufism with the sharī‘a, salvation therefore the aim of their spirituality.
The Central Asian Sufi believes that the reality of the Prophet is light (nūr) which is omnipresent. Herein therefore emerges the dispute that the Deobandi have with the Central Asian Sufis. The founders of the Deobandi school themselves did not repudiate the belief in Muhammad’s light; Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi dedicates the first chapter of his book Nashr al-tīb to this subject, however, they were concerned that misinterpretation of this concept could lead to beliefs such as the Trinitarian belief of Christianity or certain Hindu beliefs.
Khwaja Ameedan Zahid Wali
Integration of Sufism into the Local Culture and Politics
From the above it may also be deduced that Sufism today can be accommodated to almost any way of life. There are orthodox reformist Sufis, and there are the Sufis for whom Sufism is almost a cult of love. Sufism still finds a prominent place in Sufi poetry, such as of Hamza Baba in present times, as it did in the poetry of Rahman Baba centuries ago. Sufi activities are not restricted to specific places such as in the past where one had the khānqāh, but is to be found in madrasas and shrine cum astānas, as well as in homes, and mosques.
In the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa the local culture has primarily two expressions; one that is promoted by the local film industry; and the Sufi culture that manifests itself largely in the Central Asian Chishtiyya order, specifically in terms of importance given to shrines and ‘urs celebrations. At times such an event for many may have a cultural significance rather than religious, and on such occasions it becomes evident how deeply the local culture is embedded in the Sufi influence. Apart from the ‘urs celebrations, shrines of Sufi saints are open to the public throughout the year, visitors flock, some to obtain spiritual blessings, others to make offerings in return for material requests. This practice of presenting offerings at graves had also been a very deep-rooted custom in pre-Islamic Arabia.
At the deepest level of culture lie beliefs of a people, which might often be merely assumptions, beliefs based on habitual ways of thinking, largely unquestioned and unanalyzed. They are unwritten and customary expectations of behavior, mostly unconscious. Writing in the latter half of the twentieth century, Rahman equates Sufi culture with mass spiritual hysteria, “the total effect of superstitionism, miracle-mongering, tomb-worship, mass-hysteria and of course charlatanism – that we have described above is the moral and spiritual debris from which Muslim society has to be reclaimed for Islam.” In his opinion the best way to do this, is for orthodox Islam to absorb Sufism; once this is achieved the orthodoxy is to be reformed through a critique of the hadīth traditions, disposing most of them and retaining only those which are of a general nature. Islam is then to be reconstructed in the light of modern needs. Ironically while he demonstrates how Islam was distorted by the orthodoxy in their endeavor to vanquish their opponents by introducing moral relativism, he advocates a similar reconstruction in order to accommodate modern ideals.
While what Rahman says may have an element of truth insofar as ignorance and misconceptions about Sufism do exist, the remedy, however, does not lie in throwing out the baby with the bath water. In our opinion, it lies in going back to the Prophet with love and sincerity, focusing on what is termed as huqūq-ul ‘ibād i.e., giving humanity its due right as demonstrated by the sunna of the Prophet. A true Islamic society cannot be established without a just, humane foundation. This ‘love thy neighbor’ ethics cannot be forced from outside but must spring from the heart. It is this heart that tends to become a stone fortress in the grip of self-love that Sufism tries to liberate, for according to Sufis the way to God is through His creation.
It has already been observed above how “reformed” orthodox Sufism tends to involve a person more with his own salvation rather than benefitting humanity. Such Sufism may also be seen more as a madrasa culture and is exclusive in a sectarian sense, having the potential to increase intolerance and friction within the umma. In fact one senses that these ‘Sufis’ are more interested in substituting a ‘pseudo-Sufism’ for the original one and in politicizing Islam.
Seen in this context, the aim of the Deobandi ‘Sufi’ would be to absorb and eliminate the Sufi influences in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In Rahman’s view the Sanusi order is a representative par excellence of such reformed Sufism. “It is thoroughly activist in its impulse with a purely moral-reformist program, issuing in political action.” Is Rahman here advocating the politicization of Islam? Can one draw parallels with this order and the power politics being played by certain religious factions in the province, and the Taliban?
The religious extremism that is being witnessed today specifically in this province is an indication of the short-sightedness of such a view. The Taliban (who are products of Deobandi institutions) want to close barber shops, video centers, women’s tailoring centers and want complete gender-segregation. Their mentors however, are undergoing a complete change of orientation witnessed by the ground-breaking ceremony of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in held in October 2007. Accordingly men and women will study together and women will be allowed to drive. This project comes in the wake of the recognition of the backward state of affairs that the Muslim world finds itself in. The paradox is that the Taliban are bent in going the opposite direction. So much then for reformation!
What of Rahman’s reconstruction? According to him, the Prophet was not a pan-legist, nor the Qur`ān a legal document. The Prophet was rather an arbitrator who performed legal functions on a purely ad hoc basis, the Qur`ān providing quasi-legal legislation that was purely situational. In his view, prophets act in a historical context. Thus the early Muslim community settled their problems in the light of common sense and the existing customs. The Prophet took formal action only after consulting his major Companions; hence, the principle of ijtehād (literally, striving, an independent legal judgment) and ijmā (consensus). Thus in essence, the sunna of the Prophetwas in a general way the sunna of the early Muslims. The Muslim sunna is therefore largely that of the Muslim community themselves, and not something specific. Rahman cites the aphorism, “the Sunnah decides upon the Qur`an; the Qur`an does not decide upon the Sunnah” to substantiate his opinion that “the Community, under the direction of the spirit (not the absolute letter) in which the Prophet acted in a given historical situation, shall authoritatively interpret and assign meaning to Revelation.”
For Rahman, the sharī‘a, which is the bedrock of Islam, is synonymous to the local cultural trends sanctioned through consensus of the majority keeping in mind the general Qur`ānic spirit. Under this argument the Taliban interpretation of the sharī‘a in accordance with the Pashtunwali code would be justified, and beards worn by law! Apart from ethnic rivalry and creedal differences, such an interpretation brings in a host of other problems. An example will elicit the fallacy of such an argument: the Qur`ān gives clear instructions regarding the laws of inheritance; however according to Pashtun practice, female heirs often do not receive their share of the property under the excuse that expenses were incurred in purchase of dowry (as given by the bride’s family that in most cases has no commercial value). If one takes the “general spirit” of the Qur`ān (in disregard to its specific instruction) alone, then this act appears justified as the inheritance in the form of a dowry has been received. According to the sunna, dowry given by the bride’s family is limited to a bare minimum of a few personal items which is not a compensation to her right of inheritance. Yet another more heinous perversion of the Islamic law customary in Pathan tribes is that of receiving bride money by the bride’s guardian, thus literally selling her off to the groom. The true Islamic practice is appointment of dower (mehr) given to the bride by the groom to ensure her financial security. But the sunna of the people sanctioned by the majority legalizes the usurping of a women’s right to inheritance and dower as mehr! The truth is that the Qur`ān and the sunna/ hadīth have an organic relation, and the order of priority of the Prophetic sunna over the sunna of the people cannot be inverted without violating the Qur`ānic injunctions.
In Rahman’s view the Community’s will and the sharī‘a are synonymous. The Community accepts to follow the sharī‘a of its free will. It elects an assembly which will then legislate. The ‘ulamā`’s duty is solely limited to public preaching, they having no say in the legislative process, (unless of-course they are in power!). When the assembly (or tribal council in that case) enacts a certain law, which may be right or wrong, in so far as it reflects the will of the Community, it will be both Islamic and democratic. (The sharī‘a rather than being a categorical imperative becomes sophistic, as man becomes the measure of all; it becomes utilitarian and subjective.) Rahman would like to see a legislative assembly enact Islamic laws. The ground facts are that democracy, apart from a few cases such as Iran and Malaysia, has not worked for the Muslim countries by and large, as the vast majority of population is uneducated and politically immature, therefore opening the way to political opportunism and exploitation. Furthermore, how can legislation of the sharī‘a be left to an elected assembly whose credibility (and sovereignty) is dubious? What about tribal (ethnic) councils?
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province has been affected drastically by the turmoil in Afghanistan. This region which has for centuries provided a hospitable environment to Sufism is now witnessing a radical change. The influence of Wahabi Islam has been cultivated through the madrasa system funded by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. The Taliban who are the cause of this hostility are a product of these Deobandi madrasas. The question is where and when did the Deobandiyya become politicized?
Initially the Deobandis established the Jami‘at-i ‘Ulamā-i Islam (JUI), a purely religious movement, to propagate their belief. In 1962 Maulana Ghulam Ghaus Hazarvi, the leader of the JUI in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa changed it into a political party. During the Afghan resistance, this party was sidelined by the ISI and the Americans. Mufti Mehmood’s son and successor, Maulana Fazlur Rahman, consolidated his party by establishing hundreds of madrasas along the Pashtun belt here and in Baluchistan. By 1988 they were catering to over half a million students, mostly from poor families. These institutions were run by semi-educated mullas who were heavily influenced by the Pathan social/cultural code of Pashtunwali, and had entirely different perceptions than the original reformist Deobandi agenda. Financed by Saudi Arabia, the Deobandi began to lean more to Wahabism, and the syllabus of the madrasas was modified to serve Wahabi interest. These madrasas suffered not only a drastic shift in ideology, but also became military training grounds for a new generation of jihādis, who were now fighting a new enemy.
In 1993 the JUI allied itself with PPP to form a ruling coalition and at the same time established relations with the military and the ISI. Maulana Fazlur Rahman was made Chairman of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee for Foreign Affairs. This was a crucial period as the al-Qaeda began to re-orient, and the Taliban began to emerge. A breakaway faction of the Deobandi tradition is that of Maulana Sami-ul Haq, a religious and political leader who had been a member of the National Assembly and a senator. His Madrasa Haqqania at Akora Khattak became a major training ground for the Taliban; for Jeffrey Goldberg “a jihad factory.” This madrasa caters to not only a large number of Afghans but also to a growing number of Tajiks, Uzbeks and Kazaks. This seminary sees itself as spreading the mission of truth started by Syed Ahmed Shahid and Ismail Shahid, under the auspices of its scholars in general and in particular under the auspices of Maulana Sami-ul Haq’s leadership in all the four corners of the world. Thus by the turn of the century, in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Deobandi became powerful, politicized, and largely anti-Sufi. What happens when Islam is politicized?
In an analysis of the Islamic trends with reference to the political scene in Pakistan, Maulana Atiqur Rahman Sambhili identifies three major schools of Islamic thought that influence politics in the region. There is Islam of Maulana Muhammad Qasim Nanautavi (the school of Deoband), there is Islam of Maulana Maududi, and there exists the pro-Western Islam of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Muhammad Ali Jinnah (Aligarh school). Since Pakistan came into being as a result of the efforts of Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the Aligarh school, this pro-western school had more influence and their interpretation of Islam was fortified by a pro-Western/American political orientation that was adopted in the early days of independence.
Sambhili mentions that while Pakistan was created in the name of Islam, all previous governments have failed to establish any form of Islamic governance. Pro-Islamist factions, whose duty was to serve Islam, turned the tables and put Islam into their own service. In other words where power was the means to an end, i.e., implementation of Islamic governance, Islam became the means to power. Rahman has aptly demonstrated the orthodoxy’s distortion of Islam for political expediency. The whole vicious circle therefore is repeated when Islam is politicized, and those in power are allowed to implement their conception of Islam. In our view an Islamic Law can be worked out by an independent, well-informed, and strong judiciary, a judiciary that is able to hold to account those in power.
We asked Nimatullah Mujaddidi, brother of Sibghatullah Mujaddidi, why Sufi influences seem to be diminishing vis-à-vis the Taliban as both are said to be religiously inspired movements? In Mr. Mujaddidi’s view Sufis had always been forefront fighters whenever there was a genuine cause, his family being only one example to cite which had suffered heavily as a result of its resistance to Russian occupation. Absence of Sufi involvement in the present political turmoil indicated that there was no genuine jihād going on today. What was going on in the name of jihād was mere power politics. Anyone who sported a beard and turban was eligible to enlist as a tālib irrespective of his religious background.
Ironically, while the Taliban are everybody’s enemy, their presence seems to serve everybody’s interest. Indian and Israeli interest is to subdue Pakistan, Russian interest is to see its arch rival of the past challenged, and Saudi interest is to see its ideology established. Even the military establishment has its vested interest in the Taliban. It appears therefore that apart from some genuinely inspired religious radicals, what goes by the name of Taliban is now a hotchpotch of mercenaries. The Taliban however are said to be partial to the JUI leadership who have considerable influence on them.
While initially the Taliban movement may have had an emotional appeal for the ordinary Muslim in search of a sincere Islamic movement, few realize the extent of damage done by the narrow sectarian interpretation of such factions. The growing hold of the mulla on the backward uneducated, underdeveloped regions of Pakistan continues even as the military is trying to control the situation. Swat, once the bastion of Sufis such as Pir Baba and Saidu Baba, who rejected Indian reformist movement of Syed Ahmed Shahid, has been overwhelmed by Wahabi Taliban leaders. Mulla Sufi Muhammad mustered a force of 10,000 fighters to partake the war in Afghanistan in 1994-5 against the allied forces and the Northern Alliance. Sufi Muhammad was replaced by his son-in-law, Maulvi Fazlullah, who ran an illegal radio station for his party propoganda, in which he opposed female education and issued decrees against polio vaccination, barber shops and electronic gadgets for propagating obscenity. “Mulla Radio” as he is popularly known had a fighting force of 4000-5000, the Shaheen Commando Force, in 59 villages of Swat, who patrolled the different areas of Swat with guns fixed to their vehicles.
Khalid Wazir, a Khan Bahadur of North Waziristan confirmed the growing influence of the local mulla in the far-flung areas of Waziristan. According to him the Taliban phenomenon has changed the whole tribal social structure. Previously the local mulla’s status in the social structure was a rather insignificant one; the local maliks (tribal elders) taking all the major decisions. He disclosed that approximately thirty percent of these maliks now have been assassinated by unknown persons while many of the remaining had gone underground out of fear of suffering a similar fate. Influence and power in the region was wielded by the Taliban, with leaders such as Hafiz Amir Gul Bahadur in North Waziristan and Baitullah Mahsud in South Waziristan having their own armed forces. Baitullah Mahsud had issued a decree according to which every household of South Waziristan had to provide him with at least one recruit each. A local citizen of Khyber Agency, Haji Mangal Bagh who headed the Lashkar-i Islam, had established his own fighting force of approximately 1000 men. Mangal Bagh called himself a tālib though his religious background is said to be dubious.
An example of the growing power and influence of pro-Wahabi factions particularly along the tribal belt is the clash between the popular and influential Naqshbandi Shaykh Akhundzada Saif-ur Rahman and Mufti Shakir Munir of the Ahl Hadith school of thought. Subsequently Akhundzada Saif-ur Rahman had to leave his center at Bara and moved to Lahore so that the government could supervise his activities. In Buner ‘urs celebration of Baba Durrani was not open to the general public consequent to threats from Taliban quarters, while the ‘urs of Syed Ali Tarmizi had to be cancelled. Similarly in Mohmand agency the shrine of Ashab Baba has been partially destroyed by local Taliban to discourage visitors, while the shrine of Pashto Sufi poet Rahman Baba was badly damaged by explosives. In Malakand division militants exhumed the body of a local pir, Pir Samiullah and hung it in the main square of Gawalarai.
To sum up, the School of Deoband originally attempted to cleanse Sufism of excesses, and incorporate it into mainstream Islam. However the ‘ulamā` began to assign different meanings to Sufi terminology, thus substituting something that appeared as Sufism for something that actually wasn’t. So ‘neo-Sufism’ actually materialized as ‘pseudo-Sufism.’ In the past twenty years or so these ‘ulamā` have undergone a re-orientation in ideology leaning increasingly towards Wahabism, and have shown a diminishing tolerance to Sufism, while at the same time they have shown a growing interest in power politics. Thus while some followers of the School of Deoband are actively proselytizing a form of pseudo-Sufism and substituting it for the original, other followers such as the Taliban are explicitly hostile to Central Asian Sufism. They are consolidating themselves politically, and it appears that in the near future, given the existing state of affairs, Sufi influence may be seen as diminishing and losing out to this school. Successful carving out of an envisioned Pakhtun Emirate comprising Pakhtun areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, will surely deny sanctuary to Sufism.
During examination of current local trends in the Chishtiyya order, two major developments were observed: The first is the “Deobandisation” of the Chishtiyya order in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; originally a Central Asian order subjected to Indian influences, having differences in doctrine and method. The second deals with innovations and certain adjustments, responding to needs of the time. Hence, individual shaykhs belonging to one or the other order, employ methods that are innovative and not in strict accordance to the original order.
The Central Asian Chishtiyya of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has made major concessions by reducing the time and intensity of the preparatory stages a seeker was previously required to undertake, as nearly all of the work is carried out by the shaykh through tawajjuh, the seeker remaining almost passive. Thus with them the journey starts with mahāba i.e., love and bonding with the shaykh, and leads on to ma‘rifa or recognition of the self. Conversely with the Deobandi Chishtiyya, the journey begins and ends in makhāfa, being limited to purification (tazkiya) through spiritual endeavors (mujāhada) aimed at establishing fear (taqwā) that in turn helps to implement the sharī‘a. Furthermore the latter have undergone a doctrinal shift and prefer the shuhūdī doctrine, claiming the identity of both shuhūdī and wujūdī doctrine which in their view is not an essential of way-faring. They also eschew belief in Muhammad’s light and do not practice audition. The Central Asian Chishtiyya abstained from politics while contemporary Deobandi Chishtiyya may engage in political affairs. The present day Central Asian and Deobandi Chishtiyya (or neo-Sufism), therefore, find almost nothing in common.
With the recent phenomenal growth of madrasas in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, “neo- Sufism” has gained influence. The original Central Asian Sufism, while it yet survives, is facing a hostile environment, as the Pashtunwali culture becomes increasingly influenced with Deobandism through these madrasas. The outcome is an exclusivist religio-political force that is intolerant to all other religious schools of thought. While previously Sufism was integrated in the Pakhtun culture, this influence now appears to be threatened. In fact one may see that in the last twenty years or so Deobandism has followed an aggressive policy of proselytizing, substituting a pseudo-Sufism that culminates in its own rejection, for the genuine one. Is there a tacit understanding among the ‘ulamā` of Deoband to absorb and quietly eliminate Sufism? The differences in spiritual perceptions of mulla and Sufi is brought out in an article titled, “Aik ruhānī mehfil ki ru’edād”. The account of food served in gathering attended by the famous ‘ulamā` leaves the reader wondering where to locate the spirituality of the event? Furthermore Sufism in the region is facing open hostility by the Taliban, a prodigy of Deobandi institutions.
Religious sentiments and values lie deeply embedded within the Pakhtun culture, they form its bedrock. However these religious sentiments are at variance with each other. Sufism is potentially endangered by these conflicts. What are the consequences if the belief system of a society, which is its unifying factor, is subjected to such conflict?
Writing in the latter half of the twentieth century, Fazlur Rahman advocated the absorption and elimination of Sufism by the orthodoxy. Sufism was to be replaced by neo-Sufism, aimed at moral reformation, and politically activist. The orthodoxy in turn was to be reformed and sharī‘a reconstructed giving priority to the existing norms of the community. As a result of the emerging political conditions, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa began to witness the growing influence of Deobandism. Deobandi ‘ulamā` were offering a reformed version of Sufism (neo-Sufism) that had nothing in common with the standard Chishtiyya. Further more, they began to lean increasingly towards Wahabism. The close of the twentieth century saw the emergence of the Taliban, products of Deobandi madrasas, who are actively hostile to Sufism, are militant, and bent on imposing their version of the sharī‘a. This is in effect what Rahman had advocated, i.e., according to the sunna of the Community, (in this case the Pashtuns) keeping the general spirit of the Qur`ān and Prophetic sunna in mind. We pointed out the fallacy of Rahman’s argument which amounted to a subjective interpretation of the sharī‘a, and in certain cases even went against the spirit of Islam.
In the light of the above, Central Asian Sufi influences that were ingrained in the warp and woof of Pakhtun culture appear threatened. The values of a community are aggregate collective thinking, feelings and actions that merge or unite the individuals of a particular society. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a culture in transition, change has almost always been an outcome of conflict. Rahman had described Sufism debris, Islam had to be reclaimed of. Only time can tell change, this province is heading towards, will be for better or worse. One thing however is certain, the outcome of Rahman’s vision to reform and reconstruct Islam seems to have backfired.
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Journals and Periodicals
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Usha Sanyal. “Generation Changes in the Leadership of the Ahl-e Sunnat Movement in North India during the Twentieth Century.” Modern Asian Studies. Vol 32, no 3 (July, 1998), pp. 635-656. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 1998. http://www.jstor.org/stable/313161.
Wikipedia, s.v. “Pashtunwali.”
Sayyid Athar Abbas Rizvi, “Sufism in the Indian Sub-Continent,” pp. 239-258, Islamic Spirituality; Manifestations, ed. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, (New York: Crossroad, 1991), p. 240, p. 248, K. A. Nizami, “The Naqshbandiyya,” pp. 162-193, ibid, p. 175, Sayyid Athar Abbas Rizvi, “The Chishtiyya,” pp. 127-143, ibid., p. 127.
Shahanshah-i Khurāsan Syed Ali Tarmezi (Pir Baba) was related to the Mughal family, and had cordial relations with them. He was initiated in the Kubrawia order by his paternal grandfather and into the Chishtiyya by his shaykh Salar Rumi at Ajmer. His khalīfa was Abdul Rashid Akhund Darweza, a Turk who came from Afghanistan settled in the Mohmand Agency. Muhammad Amir Shah, Tadhkira-i ‘ulamā`-o mashāikh-i Sarhad (Memorial of the ‘Ulamā` and mashāikh of Sarhad), (Peshawar: Maktaba Al Hasan, 1972), p. 25 and Abdur Rashid, Islāmī tasawwuf aur Sufiya-i Sarhad (Islamic Sufism and the Sufis of Sarhad), (Islamabad: Tasawwuf Foundation, 1988), p. 115-120.
Naeema B. Hann and Diana Cousens, A Modern Sufi Durrani Sahib of Swat (Australia: Sakya Choekhor Lhunpo, 1998), pp. 1-13. The booklet is an English translation of a recorded interview in Urdu given by Durrani Sahib in 1989. Hereafter Naeema B. Hann and Diana Cousens, A Modern Sufi.
Maulana Professor Muhammad Ashraf Khan Suleimani, Sulūk-i Suleimānī yā shahrah-i ma‘rifa (Suleimanī Journeying or the Highway of Gnosis), vol. 1 (Peshawar: Suleiman Academy, 1981), p. 94. Hereafter M. Ashraf Khan, Sulūk-i Sulaimanī.
“…the Sufi doctrine of contrition and ascetic self-denial turns this positive morality of the Qur`ān into a struggle against oneself. Human beings are asked to wrestle with themselves. The dimension of intra-human relationship, which is the essence of Qur`ānic morality, is practically eliminated.” Fazlur Rahman, Revival and Reform in Islam (Oxford: One World Publications, 2006), p. 111-2.
Syed Abul Hasan Nadvi, Rabbāniya la rahbāniyya, tazkiya-o ihsān ya tasawwuf-o sulūk (Purification and Excellence or Sufism and Journeying), trans. Muhammad al-Hasni (Karachi: Majlis-i Nashriat-i Islam, 1979), pp. 16-17, herafter Nadvi, Tazkiya-o ihsān.
M. Y. Effendi, “editors note,” Jehanzeb Khalil, Mujahideen Movement in Malakand and the Mohmand Agencies, ed. M.Y. Effendi (Peshawar: Area Study Centre for Central Asia University of Peshawar and Hanns Seidel Foundation, 2000), p. xi.
Usha Sanyal, “Generation Changes in the Leadership of the Ahl-e Sunnat Movement in North India during the Twentieth Century,” Modern Asian Studies, vol 32, no 3, (July, 1998), pp. 635-656 (United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 642, http://www.jstor.org/stable/313161.
Abdul Ghafur Ghauri, Islām kī zinda tehrīk-i Chishtiyyat (The Living Chishtiyya Movement of Islam), (Karachi: Mashhur Afist Press, 1966), p. 235, and Hamza Shinwari, Tadhkira-i Sattāriyya (Comemoration of Abdul Sattar Badshah), translated by Syed Tahir Bukhari, 2nd edition (Peshawar, Jadoon Printing Press, 2003), p. 15.
See Yousaf Qureshi, “Yā Allah Sherpao hakūmat ko khatam kar de (Oh God Terminate the Sherpao Government),” Nasha-i iqtidār ki kharmastian (The Waywardness of Power Intoxication), (Peshawar: Motamar ul Mo’alifīn Jamia Ashrafiyya, 1997), pp. 90-95. The mood and temper of the pamphlet is very unlike a Sufi as he calls upon the wrath of God to punish the culprits in a manner lasting for generations!
Valerie J. Hoffman, “Annihilation in the Messenger of God, The Development of a Sufi Practice,” International Journal of Middle East Studies, vol. 31, no. 3 (August 1999), pp. 351-369, (United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 1999), p. 251. http://www.jstor.org/stable/176216,
The latā`if are faculties of spiritual vision and have their center in various points figuratively located in different areas of the body. They are dormant until activated by the practices of the Sufi path. According to Najmuddin Kubra as the latā`if are stimulated, their activity may be accompanied by apparitions of coloured light. M. Isa Waley, "Najm al-Din Kubra and the Central Asian School of Sufism," pp. 80-104, Islamic Spirituality: Manifestations, ed. Nasr, p. 86, also pp. 98-100.
Annemarie Schimmel, Mystical Dimensions of Islam (Lahore: Sang-e-Meel Publications, 2003), p. 16. See also Sharfuddin Ahmed Yahya Maneri, Maktūbat-i sadī. (Karachi: H. M. Saeed Company, 1993), p. 374.
Thus Qutb ad-Din Bakhtyar Kaki ordered his disciple Shaykh Farid to perform the chilla makūs or inverted chilla, while at another instance he was told to fast continuously for three days. Khwaja Abu Muhammad is said to have performed the namaz makūs. Khaliq Ahmed Nizami, The Life and Times of Shaikh Farid-ud-Din Ganj-i Shakar, (Dehli: Idara-i Adabiyat-i Dehli, 1955, reprint ed. 1987), pp. 26-7.
For a detailed examination of this topic see Ignaz Goldziher “On the veneration of the dead in paganism and Islam” pp. 209-238, in Muslim Studies (Muhammedanische Studien), vol. 1, translated by C. R. Barber and S. M. Stern, edited by S. M. Stern (London: Allen and Unwin Ltd, 1967).
Shafiq-ad din Farouqi, “Darul `ulūm ke shab-o roz (The Days and Nights at the Darul `Ulūm),”Alhaq, vol. 47, serial no. 7, chief ed. Maulana Sami-ul Haq (Akora Khattak: Darul `Ulūm Haqqania, April 2006), p. 58.