Al-Mesbar’s 134th monthly book, Naqshbandism: Text, History, Impact (February 2018), examines the theological and social history of Sufism’s esteemed Naqshbandi spiritual order, tracing the order’s development and influence across Asia and Africa. Like other Sufi orders, Naqshbandism draws its pedigree from the higher spiritual authority of holy scripture, as well as a lower, human authority — in this case, Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, a companion of the prophet Muhammad and his first successor as caliph.
One of the book’s studies explores Naqshbandism’s special focus on Islamic jurisprudence — a tendency toward the doctrinal and legalistic that is relatively rare among Sufi orders. Another chapter notes Naqshbandis’ emphasis on engaging circles of worldly power and politics. This aspect of the order has at times led to the embrace of political militancy.
Naqshbandism owes its formative teachings to twelfth-century central Asian scholars Yusuf Hamdani and Abdul Khaliq Gajadwani, and to the “renewalist” teachings of Indian Sheikh Ahmad Sirhindi three centuries later. These seminal figures innovated teachings that reconciled the ethereal world of the mystic with the material realm of the statesman, and have had a profound impact on a range of Sufi orders ever since. Notably, Naqshbandis are the connecting link between the “behavioral Sufism” of the Mevlevi order and the “metaphysical Sufism” of the Akbariya order. The book traces this connection by covering transitional Sufi leaders Abdul Rahman al-Jammi and Abdul Ghani al-Nabulsi.
Naqshbandism’s many offshoots served to adapt the movement’s core teachings to their respective local environments. The so-called “renewalist Naqshbandism” of seventeenth-century Hejaz found its way as far as Siberia, by way of Tatari and Abkhazi traders. Naqshbandis, like other far-flung Sufis, were pioneers of conversion in the Islamic frontier — teachers and builders of mosques and Islamic schools.
Al-Mesbar Center would like to thank all scholars who made this book possible, notably our colleagues Khaled Mohammed Abdo and Omar Bashir Al Turabi, who coordinated the production of its chapters.