- The Naqshbandi sufi order, or Islamic mystical brotherhood, rapidly became the most influential order throughout Kurdistan in the 19th century and still holds that distinction despite the inroads of modernization. Together with the rival Qadiri order, the two were the only organizations in Kurdistan that cut through tribal boundaries and were independent from the state.The present orders came into existence only in the 14th century. The Naqshbandi tariqa (school of thought) originated in central Asia, but the sheikh from whom it takes its name, Bah ad-Din Naqshband of Bukhara (1318-1389), was not its founder. He was, however, an important reformer of the order whose rules were apparently first established by Abd al-Khaliq Ghujdawani of Ghujdawan (near Bukhara), who died in 1220. Given these origins, it is not surprising that the Naqshbandi order is influenced by Buddhist mystical techniques. The order spread to India and Anatolia, where it flourished. Maulana Khalid (c. 1778-1826), a Kurd from what is now northern Iraq, journeyed to Delhi in 1808 to study and receive the ijaza, or authorization to transmit the order.Maulana Khalid returned home in 1811, which precipitated the order's quick proliferation throughout what is now northern Iraq, in part at the expense of the older, rival Qadiri order. This rapid success was partially due to the Naqshbandis' willingness to transmit the ijaza to anyone who was qualified, not just relatives, as was done by the Qadiris. The Naqshbandi order also may have seemed to many to be spiritually superior in its rituals compared to the ecstatic excesses of the Qadiri order. In addition, the collapse of the Kurdish emirates during this period helped both Naqshbandi and Qadiri sheikhs to assume significant political powers.The Naqshbandi majlis (also called khatma), or ritual, differs considerably from that of the Qadiri order. The zikr (recitation of the divine name) is silent, and ecstasy is not encouraged. There are usually one or two ritual meetings per week held in a khanaqa (also called tekiye or zawiya) or meeting house (oratory, convent, or retreat) of the sheikh. The sheikh or his khalifa (deputy) sits surrounded by his disciples (murid). A mulla might recite prayers for the Prophet and verses from the Koran. Silent periods intervene in which the murids recite to themselves these verses several times. Meditative contemplations on death follow in which the murids imagine themselves in the grave having to give an account of their misdeeds to an angel. Loud sighs indicate how vivid these thoughts must be. Then the mulla announces the rabita bi'sh-sheikh, or connection with the sheikh and through him ultimately with the Prophet. A silent zikr and then the first part of the shahada, or confession of faith, follows: "La illaha illa llah" ("There is no god but God"). The recitation of the silsila (spiritual pedigree of the sheikh) concludes the ritual.No self-mutilation occurs in Naqshbandi rituals. Although the terms dervish and sufi largely overlap, in Kurdistan the Naqshbandi refer to themselves as sufis and strongly resent being referred to as dervishes. This latter word is used instead for followers of the Qadiri order.Since Maulana Khalid had no recognized successor and there is no acknowledged head of the Naqshbandis today, the Naqshbandi order is decentralized. Nevertheless, Naqshbandi connections certainly helped Sheikh Said of Palu to mobilize fighters in his rebellion in Turkey in 1925. As a result of this revolt, however, the Turkish authorities branded the Kurdish movement in Turkey as nothing more than religious reaction. In quick order they closed the madrasahs (Islamic religious schools) and tekiyes (religious convents or oratories) and outlawed all sufi and dervish orders, including the Naqshbandis.Although greatly reduced, the Naqshbandis and other orders simply went underground. The greater freedoms allowed in Turkey after Adnan Menderes's Democratic Party came to power in 1950 allowed the religious orders to make somewhat of a comeback. In more recent times the late Turkish president Turgut Ozal was known to be sympathetic to the Naqshbandis. Indeed Ozal's brother Korkat was apparently a formal member. Today the Naqshbandis are tolerated in Turkey and have become the largest sufi order in the southeast of Turkey. During the Iraqi civil war that followed the U.S. invasion during the second Gulf War of 2003, a so-called Naqshbandi Army connected to Saddam Hussein's former vice president Izzat Ibrahim ad-Douri and led by an ex-Iraqi army noncommissioned officer named Abdurahman Naqshbandi fought against the U.S. forces.
Historical Dictionary of the Kurds. Michael M. Gunter.
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