Friday, December 24


Like A Dog: "In the beginning of my Travel on this Way, I met a lover of Allah and he told me, 'it seems as if you are from Us.' I told him, 'I hope you are from Us and I hope to be a friend to you.' One time he asked me, 'how do you treat your self?' I said to him, 'If I find something I thank Allah and if not I am patient.' He smiled and said, 'This is easy. The way for you is to burden your ego and to test it. If it loses food for one week, you must be able to keep it from disobeying you.' I was very happy with his answer and I asked his support. He ordered me to help the needy and to serve the weak and to motivate the heart of the brokenhearted. He rdered me to keep humbleness and humility and tolerance. I kept his orders and I spent many days of my life in that manner. Then he ordered me to take care of animals, to cure their sicknesses, to clean their wounds, and to assist them in finding their provision. I kept on that way until I reached the state that if I saw an animal in the street, I would stop and make way for it."

"Then he ordered me to look after the dogs of this Association with Truthfulness and Humility, and to ask them for support. He told me, 'Because of your service to one of them you will reach great happiness.' I took that order in the hope that I would find one dog and through service to him I would find that happiness. One day I was in the association of one of them and I felt a great state of happiness overcome me. I began crying in front of him until he fell on his back and raised his forepaws to the skies. I heard a very sad voice emanating from him and so I raised my hands in supplication and began to say 'amin' in support of him until he became silent. What then opened for me was a vision which brought me to a state in which I felt that I was part of every human being and part of every creation on this earth." -- Shah Naqshband.

Bakhtoudin (Baha-ud-din) Naqshband (1318-1389), a Bukhari Persian of Arab origin, was a Sufi master whose Tariqa, or Method, or Order, would become one of the most 'potent' of the ten-or-so such orders. Since its advent, Islam functioned as a top-down ideology of power and political consolidation (which organized religion doesn't?) ; from the Transoxian substratum of Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism arose a bottom-up response as the Peoples Religion of the Sufis.

While most of the Sufi orders 'connect' to Muhammad via that most charismatic of the Arabs, Ali, the Naqshbandiyya trace the golden chain back to the Prophet via his original gerontocratic business partner, Abu-Bakr. Feeling the tug of the center-of-gravity of popular religion, the 'papacy' of the Naqshbandi order moves from Arabia to Iran c. 850 CE (Bayazid Bastami of Bistaam), to Turkmenistan c. 1150 CE (Yusuf al-Hamadani of Bayram-Ali), to Uzbekistan c. 1200 CE (Abdul Khaliq al-Ghujdawani of Ghijdawan). After Bakhtoudin, the order is called Naqshbandiyya, meaning (depending on interpretation) "the engravers (of the heart)", "related to the image-maker", "pattern maker", "image maker", "reformer of patterns", "way of the chain" and "golden chain." It is also possible that, in deference to the instruction to Sufi masters to keep a vocation howsoever humble (as inoculation against becoming a grandee), Bakhtoudin became a maker of the kind of patterned majolica tiles that decorate every monument in Central Asia.

Bakhtoudin's shrine in a village 30-minutes out of Bukhara is Uzebekistan's (and perhaps Central Asia's) holiest place. You can see the stream of people content to caress the inscriptions on his tomb in the video clip accompanying the post on Hodja Nasruddin below (start around minute 6:30.)

Circa 1600, in the reign of Akbar, the Naqshbandi chain passes into India (to Baqi Billah Berang of Delhi.) It stays in India across several centuries of masters in Sirhind and Delhi; after the more-Hindu-reconciled Chishtiyya becomes predominant in the subcontinent, the chain then moves back into Iraq c. 1800 (Khalid al-Baghdadi of Baghdad), and then to the Caucasus and Daghestan; today the head is in Turkish Cyprus (Mawlana Sheikh Nazim Al-Haqqani of Lamaca.)

Ma Laichi brought the Naqshbandi order to China, Chinese Naqshbandis played major roles in the Dungan Revolt (1895-96) against the Qing dynasty. All the Chinese Muslim warlords of the Ma Clique (Ma Zhan'ao, Ma Anliang, Ma Fulu, Ma Fuxiang, Ma Hongkui, Ma Hongbin, Ma Qi, Ma Bufang, and Ma Buqing -- Ma is typically Chinese for Muhammad) belonged to Naqshbandi Sufi orders.

In India, Naqshbandi theology tried to follow the changing space accorded to religion by state-policy. (Clearly, its spirit and structure allowed each Master to disagree with his elders, a sign of vitality.) The sect came to India during the time of Akbar, a relatively amicable period in Hindu-Muslim relations. Ahmed Sirhindi, 25th Naqshbandi Master, tried to take a position against Akbar's top-down syncretism, especially mixed marriages: "Muslims should follow their religion, and non-Muslims their ways, as the Qur'an enjoins 'for you yours and for me my religion.'" After Aurangzeb's fundamentalism, a popular backlash against his divisiveness enabled Mirza Mazhar Jan-i-Janan to declare a divine origin for the Vedas, which he claimed were revealed by God at the beginning of creation; he then declared acceptance of the Hindus as people of the book. In Mazhar's view, Rama and Krishna were both Prophets who preached the oneness of Vishnu, and their religion was one that pleased God; it is just that Hinduism should be 'updated' by the more recent revelation in the Quran. (Jan-i-Janan was subsequently assassinated in 1781, apparently by a Sunni zealot, for penning some praise of Ali.) A few months ago, the Dawn carried an interesting op-ed on Jan-i-Janan's position in this respect.

While the auls of the Sufis occupy the same space as the bauls of the Bhakti cults of Hinduism, it must be noted that Hindu sahajiya cults have no hierarchy or organization comparable to Sufism; their Masters do not go in jets to address Washington or New York; their adherents do not painstakingly maintain wiki pages showing how the Master is related to saints and kings of 'ere. The degree of need for hierarchy and legitimacy that contemporary Sufi orders exhibit indicate there must be spoils to be had for appearing legitimate.

As an antidote to Muslim fundamentalism, it has occurred to most of those governments not seduced by Wahhabism that co-opting organized Sufis may help get leverage on the 'good mussulmans' and split the ummah into those who sit inside the tent with secular powers, and who are consigned by history or geography (or just benightedness) to sit outside. The 'good mussulmans' have sensed the opportunity for official largesse if they can deliver a body of pliant moderates; go to Nizamuddin in Delhi, the mazaris will hand out nicely typed cards and fire up their laptops to enter your particulars in their 'subscribers' databases. The bauls are not thus co-opted, so still produce the music, the insight, the power to move men that the organized Sufis are fast losing.

In India, the Chishtiyya with their hallmark adoption of all devotional traditions was more able to transcend the Hindu-Muslim divide; to the point that Naqshbandiyya declined in the subcontinent and the Chishti became poster children for the official syncretism that fronts the Government's quest for a muscular nationalism modeled on the West (and also creates a sweet fantasy about how Muslims should be), as illustrated in the following propaganda clip.


Blogger Munirah said...

Thank you

12:23 AM  

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