Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Significant Step

By Fadhil Ali - The Jamestown Foundation - Washington D.C., USA
Volume 6, Issue 2 (January 24, 2008)

The mystical approach to Islam known as Sufism has deep roots in Iraqi society. Adherents to Sufism normally stress prayer, meditation and the recitation of the various names of God as part of their effort to create a mystical communion between themselves and Allah.

Yet at various times and places—such as 19th century Africa or the 19th and 20th century North Caucasus—Sufi orders have formed the core resistance to colonial and imperial occupation efforts.

Heavily criticized within Iraq during the first two years of the current U.S. occupation for focusing on spiritual matters rather than resistance, Iraq’s Sufis have begun to take up arms against Coalition forces.

In the early days of Islam, Sufis tended to be lone ascetics known for wearing suf (rough wool garments), but gradually they began to organize around spiritual leaders known as sheikhs, or pirs. One of the greatest Sufi orders, the Qadiria, was founded in Baghdad by Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani, who lived from 1078 to 1166. The second most prominent Sufi order in Iraq is the Naqshbandia, introduced to Iraq from India by Sheikh Khalid Naqshbandi in the early 13th century.

Despite the common perception that Sufism is a strictly non-violent form of Sunni Islam, there are at least three insurgent groups in Iraq today that claim to be Sufi:
• Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqa al-Naqshbandia (The Men of the Army of al-Naqshbandia Order, or JRTN) is the largest Sufi insurgent group. The group announced its formation in December 2006, right after the execution of Saddam Hussein.
• Katibat al-Sheikh Abd al-Qadir al-Jilanin Al-Jihadia (The Jihadi Battalion of Sheikh Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani) was announced in August 2006.
• The Sufi Squadron of Sheikh Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani was founded in April 2005.

For hundreds of years the founders and leaders of various tariqas (Sufi orders) developed special rituals, chants and even dances to pursue the spiritual dimension of Islam and praise God and his prophet Muhammad.

Sufis have been frequently criticized by Salafist Muslims for syncretism with pre-Islamic religious practices, innovation in methods of worship and the veneration of their sheikhs and their burial places, which tend to become places of pilgrimage.

In Iraq, the Qadiria—both Arab and Kurd—are divided into several branches. The largest branch, the Kasnazania, is headed by Sheikh Muhammad Abd al-Karim al-Kasnazan, who lives in the city of al-Sulaimania.

The Naqshbandia is led by Sheikh Abdullah Mustafa al-Naqshbandi, who lives in the city of Erbil.

A third important group is the al-Rifa’ia order, whose branches do not acknowledge the leadership of a single sheikh.

According to Nehru al-Kasnazan—son of Sheikh Muhammad al-Kasnazan—there are currently three million adherents to the various Sufi orders in Iraq (al-Arabiya.net, August 23, 2005).

The Sufis enjoyed many freedoms when Saddam Hussein was in power. Ezzat Ibrahim al-Douri, his vice-president and the current head of the banned al-Baath party, is a well known Qadiri Sufi.

The former sheikh of the Iraqi Qadiria, Muhammad al-Hallab, was strongly criticized by other members of the order for the haste with which he advanced al-Douri through the spiritual teachings of the order without adequate preparation (Mafkarat al-Islam, August 24, 2006).

(...)

Conclusion
Joining the insurgency was not the decision of the recognized leaderships of Iraqi Sufi orders.

The pressure of attacks by Salafis and Shiite militias appears to have played a major role in convincing Sufis in some areas to defy the non-violent doctrine of their traditional leaders. In response to sectarian violence and military occupation, few of the Sufis turned to Salafist groups like al-Qaeda in Iraq, but those who decided to fight joined the more familiar Baathist-led resistance.

Al-Douri’s wing of the Baath Party continues to wield its traditional influence on the Sufis. Many Sufis were originally Baathists, so it was not difficult for the party to recruit them. In most areas of Iraq, Sufi insurgents are either Baathists or controlled and directed by al-Baath.

Efforts to take the Sufis out of the insurgency will have little success without first breaking the bond between the Sufis and Ezzat al-Douri’s organization. Easing the Shiite-Sunni sectarian conflict would be a significant step toward removing the Sufis from the frontlines.

1 comment:

darvish said...

It saddens me to read this, though it is not a surprise. May Allah guide them to a return to the path of Love.
Ameen.

Ya Haqq!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Significant Step
By Fadhil Ali - The Jamestown Foundation - Washington D.C., USA
Volume 6, Issue 2 (January 24, 2008)

The mystical approach to Islam known as Sufism has deep roots in Iraqi society. Adherents to Sufism normally stress prayer, meditation and the recitation of the various names of God as part of their effort to create a mystical communion between themselves and Allah.

Yet at various times and places—such as 19th century Africa or the 19th and 20th century North Caucasus—Sufi orders have formed the core resistance to colonial and imperial occupation efforts.

Heavily criticized within Iraq during the first two years of the current U.S. occupation for focusing on spiritual matters rather than resistance, Iraq’s Sufis have begun to take up arms against Coalition forces.

In the early days of Islam, Sufis tended to be lone ascetics known for wearing suf (rough wool garments), but gradually they began to organize around spiritual leaders known as sheikhs, or pirs. One of the greatest Sufi orders, the Qadiria, was founded in Baghdad by Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani, who lived from 1078 to 1166. The second most prominent Sufi order in Iraq is the Naqshbandia, introduced to Iraq from India by Sheikh Khalid Naqshbandi in the early 13th century.

Despite the common perception that Sufism is a strictly non-violent form of Sunni Islam, there are at least three insurgent groups in Iraq today that claim to be Sufi:
• Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqa al-Naqshbandia (The Men of the Army of al-Naqshbandia Order, or JRTN) is the largest Sufi insurgent group. The group announced its formation in December 2006, right after the execution of Saddam Hussein.
• Katibat al-Sheikh Abd al-Qadir al-Jilanin Al-Jihadia (The Jihadi Battalion of Sheikh Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani) was announced in August 2006.
• The Sufi Squadron of Sheikh Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani was founded in April 2005.

For hundreds of years the founders and leaders of various tariqas (Sufi orders) developed special rituals, chants and even dances to pursue the spiritual dimension of Islam and praise God and his prophet Muhammad.

Sufis have been frequently criticized by Salafist Muslims for syncretism with pre-Islamic religious practices, innovation in methods of worship and the veneration of their sheikhs and their burial places, which tend to become places of pilgrimage.

In Iraq, the Qadiria—both Arab and Kurd—are divided into several branches. The largest branch, the Kasnazania, is headed by Sheikh Muhammad Abd al-Karim al-Kasnazan, who lives in the city of al-Sulaimania.

The Naqshbandia is led by Sheikh Abdullah Mustafa al-Naqshbandi, who lives in the city of Erbil.

A third important group is the al-Rifa’ia order, whose branches do not acknowledge the leadership of a single sheikh.

According to Nehru al-Kasnazan—son of Sheikh Muhammad al-Kasnazan—there are currently three million adherents to the various Sufi orders in Iraq (al-Arabiya.net, August 23, 2005).

The Sufis enjoyed many freedoms when Saddam Hussein was in power. Ezzat Ibrahim al-Douri, his vice-president and the current head of the banned al-Baath party, is a well known Qadiri Sufi.

The former sheikh of the Iraqi Qadiria, Muhammad al-Hallab, was strongly criticized by other members of the order for the haste with which he advanced al-Douri through the spiritual teachings of the order without adequate preparation (Mafkarat al-Islam, August 24, 2006).

(...)

Conclusion
Joining the insurgency was not the decision of the recognized leaderships of Iraqi Sufi orders.

The pressure of attacks by Salafis and Shiite militias appears to have played a major role in convincing Sufis in some areas to defy the non-violent doctrine of their traditional leaders. In response to sectarian violence and military occupation, few of the Sufis turned to Salafist groups like al-Qaeda in Iraq, but those who decided to fight joined the more familiar Baathist-led resistance.

Al-Douri’s wing of the Baath Party continues to wield its traditional influence on the Sufis. Many Sufis were originally Baathists, so it was not difficult for the party to recruit them. In most areas of Iraq, Sufi insurgents are either Baathists or controlled and directed by al-Baath.

Efforts to take the Sufis out of the insurgency will have little success without first breaking the bond between the Sufis and Ezzat al-Douri’s organization. Easing the Shiite-Sunni sectarian conflict would be a significant step toward removing the Sufis from the frontlines.

1 comment:

darvish said...

It saddens me to read this, though it is not a surprise. May Allah guide them to a return to the path of Love.
Ameen.

Ya Haqq!