The Naqshbandi Shaikhs of Hawraman and the heritage of Khalidiyya-Mujaddidiyya in Kurdistan

The Naqshbandi Shaikhs of Hawraman and the heritage of Khalidiyya-Mujaddidiyya in Kurdistan

Farhad Shakely

The history of the Naqshbandi order has to a great extent been recorded and studied by Western scholars as well as by the leaders of the order and their followers. Studies in this context are not, understandably, in proportion to the various periods of the history of the order or its geographical expansion. As far as Kurdistan and the Kurdish Naqshbandis are concerned, almost all of the studies have tended to focus disproportionately on Mawlana Khalid Sharazuri (1193/1779-1242/1827), the eponym and founder of the Khalidiyya suborder, and the early years in the development of Khalidiyya. This paper will be confined to studying the post-Mawlana periods of the Khalidiyya suborder, and in particular on the Naqshbandi shaikhs of Hawraman, the Siraj ad-Dini family, the most influential and prominent representatives of the Khalidiyya branch in Kurdistan and in the entire Middle-East. Emphasis will be placed on the family’s role in spreading the Naqshbandi order from the time of Siraj ad-Din I onwards. The main features of the order that have been shaped in the span of more than one and a half centuries will be examined in light of, and in comparison with, the situation of the order during the time of Mawlana Khalid at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Mawlana Khalid and Khalidiyya

The Naqshbandi order as introduced into Kurdistan in the beginning of the nineteenth century by Mawlana Khalid had special features that, no doubt, contributed to its development and the spread of its teachings. Those features were, to a great extent, identical to mainstream Sufi views established and/or reestablished by Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi (d. 1624) and his successors. It was therefore quite natural that Mawlana Khalid would represent the ideas and teachings of his masters in the subcontinent, by whom he was initiated to the path. But it is also true that Mawlana Khalid was not simply one of the hundreds or perhaps thousands of deputies who were initiated, trained and instructed by Shaikh Abdullah Dihlavi, also known as Shah Ghulam Ali, (d. 1240/1824). He was for several reasons, exceptional, in position, qualities and abilities.

Shah Ghulam Ali conferred upon Mawlana Khalid “full and absolute successorship” (khilafa tamma mutlaqa), a rank he seems to have denied to other deputies. There are statements by Shah Ghulam Ali in which he expressed his awareness of the unique position of Mawlana Khalid. (1)

After staying one year in the Khanaqah in Delhi, Shah Ghulam Ali, instructed Mawlana to return to Kurdistan. Prior to leaving, they engaged in an interesting conversation. Lastly Shah Ghulam asked him: “What else do you want?” Mawlana replied: “I want the religion (din) and I want the world (dunya) to strengthen the religion.” The Shaikh told him: “Go, I gave (bestowed on) you the whole of it.” (2) Mawlana Khalid returned to Kurdistan in 1811 and left for Damascus in 1822. Even during those eleven years he spent more than five years of his life in Baghdad. (3) This period, although relatively very short, was quite important and decisive, for it was in these years that the order was firmly established and most of the great and prominent deputies were initiated. On his way to and from India through Iran, Mawlana Khalid was confronted several times by Iranian Shi’a scholars and had heated discussions with them concerning different religious questions. In Hamadan an attempt on his life was made, but he escaped death.

The Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya was recognized as an anti-Shi’a order. This was in some measure due to the fact that there was a great Shi’a population in the original regions of the order in the Indian subcontinent, and daily confrontations strengthened that tendency. There were certainly historical reasons for the tension in relations between the Naqshbandis and the Shi’a. But when Mawlana Khalid returned to Kurdistan, this aspect was totally minimized. There was no need to emphasize anti-Shi’ism because there was no longer direct confrontation with the Shi’a.

On the other hand the Indian Mujaddidis were on good terms with the leaders and followers of the Qadiriyya order, and Mawlana got his Khilafa even for the Qadiriyya order. But once Mawlana returned to Sulaymani he was confronted with great rivalry by the leader of the Qadiri order; Shaikh Ma’ruf Node (Nudahi) (1175/1761-1254/1838). The Qadiri order was well established in Kurdistan at that time and had great influence upon the people and the rulers of the Kurdish Baban principality as well. The return of Mawlana Khalid and the rapid spread of the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya as a new and energetic order disturbed the Qadiri leaders, who resisted Mawlana Khalid strongly. The rivalry escalated to a degree that even Mawlana’s trustworthiness as a Muslim was questioned by Shaikh Ma’ruf, who accused him of being a liar and a heretic. It should be mentioned that the political factor in this conflict was not only present but also effective. The Baban Mahmud Pasha harboured ill will against Mawlana Khalid and feared his influence upon his brothers and cousins. It is not unlikely that the Pasha played a role in deepening the dispute between the two orders to benefit his political ends. (4)

Although Mawlana Khalid was deeply touched by the circumstances, he nevertheless displayed great restraint and never let himself be driven into polemics. He expressed his willingness to have discussions and dialogue with his opponents. In letters to one of the Baban princes, ‘Uthman Pasha, he suggests that Shaikh Ma’ruf and “great scholars” should come to meet him and he would debate and converse with them (in faqir ba Uha mubahatha va guftgu mikunam). He suggests further that the Pasha himself would be present in the meeting. (5)

Mawlana Khalid’s attempts to achieve a peaceful solution seemingly did not meet with success. He chose to leave Sulaimani and to reside in Baghdad where he stayed for about three years. When Mahmud Pasha succeeded his father, Abd ar-Rahman Pasha (d. 1228/1813), as the ruler of the Baban principality, he visited Baghdad and invited Mawlana to return to Kurdistan. He did so in 1231/1816 or 1232/1817. Apparently the situation was not proper for Mawlana to stay for a long time; therefore he left Sulaimani forever on the 25th of October 1820. (6) Apart from the summer months of 1821 and 1822, which Mawlana spent in Hawraman, he remained in Baghdad. After spending the summer of 1822 in Kurdistan he left via Urfa and Dayr az-Zur for Damascus where he arrived most probably in late November 1822. (7) It is often indicated that Mawlana left Kurdistan, and Baghdad, for Damascus to escape the Qadiris’ hostility. Considering the situation from an historical perspective, it is borne in one’s mind that it was necessary for the order to expand widely and not to be limited to Sulaimani or Baghdad. A settlement of sorts was, however, reached with the Qadiri leaders while Mawlana was still alive, and Shaikh Ma’ruf Node declared his repentance in his letters to Mawlana and by sending his envoys to him asking to meet and reconcile, and to forgive his, Shaikh Ma’ruf’s, shortcomings. (8)

The time between Mawlana’s return to Kurdistan as a Sufi guide and his death was relatively short, but he succeeded in establishing the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya as the most powerful and influential Sufi order in the Middle East. He is compared in this respect to Shah Ghulam Ali. (9) In 1820, when he was still living in Kurdistan, the number of his disciples was estimated at 12,000. (10) This of course is difficult to either confirm or disprove. One thing is certain: no other Naqshbandi-Mujaddidi Shaikh before him succeeded as he did in initiating as many great and distinguished scholars to the order. (11)

The Siraj ad-Dini Shaikhs

The Siraj ad-Dini sheiks have been the most prominent representatives of the Khalidi sub-order in Kurdistan since Mawlana Khalid left Kurdistan for Damascus at the end of 1237 A. H./autumn, 1822. Indeed Shaikh Uthman Siraj ad-Din I (1195/1781-1283/1867) was the most important figure among Mawlana Khalid’s disciples even at a time when Mawlana was still living in Kurdistan and/or in Baghdad. The two men knew each other as students of Islamic sciences (faqe in Kurdish), and they met once again in Baghdad in 1226/1811 when Mawlana stayed in the mosque of Shaikh Abd al-Qadir al-Gaylani for five months, shortly after his return from India to Sulaimani. (12) It was then that Faqe Uthman, later known as Siraj ad-Din I, was initiated to the path by Mawlana. After two years of spiritual training, he was the first person to become a khalifa (deputy) of Mawlana. (13) He was then thirty-three years old.

Shaikh Uthman Siraj ad-Din was born in Tawela, in Hawraman region, near Halabja. According to many sources his parents were descendants of the Prophet Muhammad. The family is thus a Sayyid family. But the Siraj ad-Dini Shaikhs never claimed to be Sayyids. Shaikh Uthman signed his letters with his own name followed by al-Khalidi al-Mujaddidi an-Naqshbandi.

Shaikh Uthman accompanied his preceptor during the years in which Mawlana was twice obliged to leave Sulaimani for Baghdad. In Sulaimani Shaikh ‘Uthman usually substituted for Mawlana in the khatm assemblies. The disciples were instructed by Mawlana to attend Uthman’s khatm circles. Among these were outstanding names such as Sayyid Isma’il Daghistani, Mulla Abd al-Hakim Kashghari and Shaikh Muhammad of Halabja. (14) Apparently Mawlana Khalid, who had a good deal of organizational ability, was preparing his disciple to succeed him and to take the difficult and crucial responsibility of spreading the order in Kurdistan. When Mawlana left Sulaimani for Baghdad for the last time in 1820, Shaikh Uthman did not follow him. He moved instead to his home region, Hawraman, and began there to establish a strong base for the order. Hawraman became one of the most important centres for the Khalidi suborder in the entire Middle East and continued to be so until the 1950s. This center not only contributed greatly in spreading the Sufi teachings of the Naqshbandi order, but also produced a number of poets whose poems are examples of the most significant and marvellous Sufi poetry.

This indispensable position of Siraj ad-Din for Mawlana and for the order becomes more clear when we know that during the summer months of 1236/1821 and 1237/1822 Mawlana left the heat of Baghdad for the summer resorts of Hawraman. There he met Siraj ad-Din and supervised the Naqshbandi networks in Kurdistan. Shaikh Uthman also visited Mawlana in Baghdad at least once during this period. It was from Kurdistan, not from Baghdad, as is commonly, but wrongly, accepted in the sources on the Khalidi suborder, that Mawlana Khalid went to Damascus.

After leaving Sulaimani in 1236/1822, Mawlana was represented in his Sulaimani khanaqa by Shaikh Abdullah Hirati (d. 1245/1839-40), who was assisted by Shaikh Muhammad Sahib (d. 1283/1866), the brother of Mawlana. When Mawlana died in 1242/1827, Hirati, and shortly thereafter, Sahib, left for Damascus. A few years later, in 1254/1838 the Baban Ahmad Pasha invited Shaikh Uthman to take charge of the Khalidi khanaqa in Sulaimani. The Shaikh accepted the task and supervised the khanaqa, but he did not abandon Hawraman, where he often returned.

With the exception of those two years, Shaikh Uthman lived in Tawela and Biyara, in Hawraman, from 1236/1820, the year Mawlana left Sulaimani for Baghdad, until his death, i.e. Shaikh Uthman’s death, in 1283/1867. In nearly half a century he was the most prominent khalifa of Mawlana Khalid in Hawraman and Baban regions. (15) The Shaikh had a great number of khalifas and mansubs /deputies and affiliates from different regions in Kurdistan and the Middle East. In his hagiography about Mawlana Khalid and the Naqshbandi Shaikhs of Hawraman, Mala ‘Abd al-Karim-i Mudarris enumerates 96 khalifas and 33 mansubs of Shaikh Uthman. Among them we find many great ‘ulama and poets but also two powerful rulers; Ahmad Pasha of Baban and Rizaquli Khan of Sina (Sanadaj) in Ardalan. This is contrary to what many researchers have inferred: that the Naqshbandiyya was only an assembly for opposition sects in Kurdish society.

In addition to his letters there are a few lines of poetry and ten advisory articles by Shaikh Uthman, in which he instructs his disciples in the issues of the order. In one of these articles, dated 1272/1856, he appoints his sons, Muhammad Baha’ ad-Din and Abd ar-Rahman, as his deputies and successors and advises his followers to obey them.

Shaikh Uthman Siraj ad-Din I was succeeded in turn by five Shaikhs in his family. But it should be indicated also that other members of the family have been in charge of the path in different periods, each with his own disciples and khanaqas. He was succeeded directly by his son Shaikh Muhammad Baha’ ad-Din (1252/1837-1298/1881). Although in his testament Siraj ad-Din had appointed two of his sons; Baha’ ad-Din and Abd ar-Rahman Abu al-Wafa (1253/1837-1285/1868) to be his successors, apart from a very short time, Shaikh Abd ar-Rahman declined the position and resided in Baghdad. He was a creative poet. The small number of poems to which we have access today, some 70 poems in Persian, mostly ghazals, indicates his talent as a Sufi poet. Baha’ ad-Din was also a poet, although only a few of his poems are extant.

The third Shaikh in the Siraj ad-Din silsila (initiating chain) was Shaikh Umar Zhia’ ad-Din (1255/1839-1318/1901). He was distinguished from his predecessors in some respects. It was in his time as a Shaikh that dhikr-i jahr (vocal remembrance) was practiced besides dhikr-i khafi (silent remembrance). He was known for his enthusiasm for science and education, and for culture as a whole. He built several new khanaqas in Khanaqin, Kifri, Qizrabat, Biyara, Tawela and Sardasht. He was a brilliant poet in Kurdish, Persian and Arabic. In his poems he used “Fawzi” as his takhallus (pen name). We have access also to some fifty letters written by him to his deputies or to the great men of his time, among whom we find the Qajari Shah Muzaffar ad-Din (reigned 1896-1907) and the Ottoman Sultan Abd al-Hamid II (reigned 1876-1909). There are, moreover, three treatises on Sufi teachings. A remarkable feature in the life of Shaikh Umar Ziya’ ad-Din was his good relation to the Qadiri Shaikhs and their disciples and followers, which will be dealt with later.

The immediate successor in the chain was his son Shaikh Najm ad-Din (1280/1863-1337/1918) who was known for his zuhd (renunciation). The Ottomans wanted to give him a monthly salary to use it for the khanaqa and its visitors, but the Shaikh rejected the offer. He had great interest in intellectual conversations with the scholars who so often visited the khanaqah in Biyara. He was a poet, but the number of the poems available to us is very small.

Shaikh Najm ad-Din was succeeded by his brother Shaikh Muhammad Ala’ ad-Din (1280/1863-1373/1954). He wrote a treatise in Arabic entitled Tibb al-Qulub (Healing the hearts), which contains advices and recommendations. He was a well-known physician who helped thousands of people in the region and he prescribed them herbal medicine.

When Shaikh Ala’ ad-Din died in 1954 he was succeeded by his son Shaikh Muhammad Uthman Siraj ad-Din II (1314/1896-1417/1997), who was already a well-known and established Sufi leader. Shaikh Uthman II was deeply learned in Islamic theology as well as in Kurdish and Persian poetry. He was moreover a skillful physician with wide knowledge of herbal medicine. When the monarchy in Iraq was overthrown by General Abd al-Karim Qasim, Shaikh Uthman left Iraqi Kurdistan in 1959 and resided in Iranian Kurdistan about two decades. After the Iranian revolution he came back to Hawraman, Iraqi Kurdistan, but he soon left it for Baghdad. He spent the last seven/eight years of his life in Istanbul, where he died on 30 January 1997. He was buried inside his residence, close to the khanaqa in Istanbul. Shaikh Uthman was also a poet; two volumes of his poems, in Kurdish and Persian, are published (16), as well as a volume of his treatises and letters entitled Siraj al-Qulub “Lantern of Hearts” (17) of which an English translation is also published. (18)

Shaikh Uthman died almost simultaneously; as his brother Shaikh Mawlana Khalid, also a Sufi leader, in Sanadaj, Iranian Kurdistan. No one of them knew, at least outwardly, about the death of his brother, and thus a great wish of their lives was fulfilled. Both had wished that he might never experience (the usual Kurdish expression here is not to see) the death of his brother. In tens of poems and hundreds of letters that were coming and going between them in the span of the last 70-80 years, they expressed that wish time and again. This was one of the last wondrous deeds (karamat) so often attributed to them throughout their lives. Shaikh Uthman was 101 years old when he died and Shaikh Khalid was 99. Shaikh Uthman was named after his great-grandfather Uthman Siraj ad-Din I and Shaikh Khalid was named after Mawlana Khalid.

The role of the Naqshbandi Shaikhs of Hawraman in spreading and establishing the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya-Khalidiyya in Kurdistan and in parts of the Middle East is of central importance. It was under the guidance of them and their deputies that the order reached most of the regions in Iraqi and Iranian Kurdistan, Turkman Sahra in Iran, Northern Syria, Lebanon and Bosnia. Nevertheless, they still identify themselves as Khlaidis and Mujaddidis, and never invented, or claimed to have invented, a new sub-order.

The Post-Mawlana Naqshbandi-Mujaddidi in Kurdistan: Development and Evolution

The characteristics of the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya that Mawlana Khalid introduced in Kurdistan were not everlasting; they were, to some extent, the products of the Central Asian and Indian circumstances. The new Kurdish environment obviously had its impact on the development of the Khalidiyya suborder and shaped it to adjust to the Kurdish reality. It should be emphasized here that the adjustment did not involve the principal conceptions or teachings of Sufism, but mostly concerned the practical aspects; silent or vocal remembrance, the attitude towards other sects and communities; the Shi’a and the Qadiris, or the stance that should be adapted on politics and political authorities. The only exception, probably, is the opinion about Ibn Arabi and his theory of wahdat alwujud, which is not properly relevant in this case.

The first great problem to face Mawlana Khalid and his newly established suborder was the hostile attitude taken by the leader of the Qadiri order in Kurdistan, Shaikh Ma’ruf Node with all the complicated consequences the conflict implied, as was mentioned previously.

Shaikh Uthmin Siraj ad-Din I had to deal with this conflict and with the new situation as a whole when Mawlana Khalid left for Damascus and died thereafter in 1242/1827. The reconciliation reached at between Mawlana Khalid and Shaikh Ma’ruf, obviously, put an end to any open dispute between the two men and their followers further. The position of Siraj ad-Din as the main representative of the order in Kurdistan necessitated starting new and friendly relations with the Qadiri order. This new attitude marks the two orders’ relations in the coming decades and among the succeeding generations. Among the letters sent by Siraj ad-Din to different people we find a letter to Haji Shaikh Kak Ahmad (1207-1305), son of Shaikh Ma’ruf Node, which contains many friendly and sincere expressions. (19)

Shaikh Abd ar-Rahman Talabani (d. ca 1275/1858) of Karkuk (Kirkuk) was one of the prominent leaders of the Qadiri order, with whom Siraj ad-Din was on good terms. This relation was developed further when Siraj ad-Din sent his son Umar to study at the Talabani Takya (takka) in Karkuk, where he lived within Shaikh Abd ar-Rahman’s family and studied in the company of his son, ‘Ali, who afterwards succeeded his father and became the leader of the Qadiri order. Shaikh Umar Ziya’ ad-Din later married a niece of Shaikh Hasan Qarachewar of Qadir Karam, Karkuk, who also was a leader of the Qadiri order.

In a letter to the Naqshbandi deputies and novices in the Juwanro region, Shaikh Uthman Siraj ad-Din reminds them that their order is a combination of five orders, including the Qadiri and that Shaikh Sirhindi regarded Had[section]rat-i Ghawth, i. e. Shaikh Abd al-Qadir Gilani (d. 561/1166), the all-embracing means without whom nobody would be favoured on the path. (20) Apparently some people have behaved rudely with the dervishes of Shaikh Abd ar-Rahman (probably Shaikh Abd ar-Rahman Talabani). The Shaikh orders his followers “to treat them as a beggar treats a king.” He further tells them that he regards himself as the ground under the feet of the lowest of the Shaikh’s dervishes (Khak-i qadam-i ‘adna darvishi … danesta va midanam).

Shaikh Umar Ziya’ ad-Din, in a letter to one of his deputies, emphasizes that there is no difference between the Qadiri and the Naqshbandi orders, and whoever makes such a difference, he bears the signs of misfortune. (21) In another letter, addressed to Shaikh Hasan Qarachewar, a leader of the Qadiri order, he begs him for tawajjuh (attention) and describes himself as a servant (chakar). (22)

This genuine and friendly relationship between the Qadiris and the Naqshbandis was not limited to the leaders of the two orders. The Kurdish Sufi poet Mawlawi (1221/1806-1300/1882) was a deputy of Shaikh Uthman Siraj ad-Din I and his son Shaikh Muhammad Baha’ ad-Din, but, at the same time, he was a good friend of Shaikh Abd ar-Rahman Talabani and Shaikh Kak Ahmad, both great leaders of the Qadiri order, visited them and sent letters to them. He wrote poems praising Shaikh Abd ar-Rahman and wrote two elegies when the Shaikh died. (23) His friendship with the family continued even after the death of the Shaikh. Mawlawi visited Shaikh Ali Talabani and on one occasion he stayed several months in the Qadiri takya in Karkuk.

The third and fourth generations of Qadiri and Naqshbandi Shaikhs kept all the ways and bridges between them open, further developed their relations, and cooperated even on the political level when the circumstances of the Kurdish liberation movement demanded such cooperation. Shaikh Uthman Siraj ad-Din II, praises Shaikh Mahmud Hafid (1881-1956), king of Southern Kurdistan (October 1922-August 1923) in one of his poems and wishes to sacrifice his head, fortune, heart and soul for him. (24) These were not merely words of courtesy or politeness since we know that the Naqshbandi Shaikhs of Hawraman supported Shaikh Mahmud politically and militarily. In May 1919 Mahmud Khan Dizli, a chief from Hawraman, encouraged directly by the Naqshbandi Shaikhs, came with 300 of his men to Sulaymani. After clashes with the British troops he occupied the city and took the British officers as prisoners. This operation enabled Shaikh Mahmud to strengthen his authority as the governor of Southern Kurdistan. (25) It was during the same period that another Naqshbandi Shaikh, Shaikh Ahmad of Barzan, the elder brother of the legendary Kurdish leader Mustafa Barzani, started a campaign among the tribes in his region to support Shaikh Mahmud and his uprising against the British colonialists. (26)

Relations between the Qadiri and Naqshbandi orders took a political and organizational form in the middle of the 1940s when there was a need to build a new party to lead the Kurdish struggle in Iraqi Kurdistan. Mala Mustafa Barzani, a general in the army of the Kurdish Republic in Mahabad in 1945-46, sent his representatives to Iraqi Kurdistan to build such a party. In his absence–since he was outlawed by the Iraqi and British authorities–he appointed Shaikh Latif Hafid (1917-1972), son of Shaikh Mahmud, as the first vice chairman of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) founded on 16 August 1946. (27) This decision was significant both historically and politically. Barzani evidently wanted to mark the new party as a continuation of the Kurdish aspirations of which Shaikh Mahmud was a great symbol. Moreover it was of great importance to include Shaikh Latif in the leadership of the party not only to ensure support from different regions of Iraqi Kurdistan, but because he was an outstanding figure among the Qadiri Shaikhs, including the Hafid Shaikhs in Sulaymani, whose influence, socially and politically, needed to be taken into consideration. This symbolic significance was reassured a half century later when the remains of Mustafa Barzani were brought to the Great Mosque in Sulaymani and placed beside the graves of Shaikh Kak Ahmad and Shaikh Mahmud for one night, before he was moved to Barzan to be buried in his native village, in 1992. Even in our days we find that one of the three political advisors of Mas’ud Barzani, chairman of the KDP, is a professor of law from Karkuk who belongs to the Qadiri Shaikhs.

As mentioned above, Shaikh Umar Ziya’ ad-Din was sent by his father to study at the Qadiri takya in Karkuk, where he was treated as a member of the family and established a friendship with Shaikh Ali Talabani that lasted throughout their lives. This intimate acquaintance with the Qadiri order had an impact on the practical aspects of the Naqshbandi order. When Shaikh Umar succeeded his father as the leader of the Naqshbandiyya-Khalidiyya he introduced the vocal remembrance (dhikr-i jahr) into the order besides the silent remembrance (dhikr-i khafi) that has been, and still is, characteristic for the Naqshbandiyya.

The Siraj ad-Dini Shaikhs, who were always identified as Naqshbandis, began to initiate their disciples to the Qadiri order and to consider themselves as leaders for both orders. Shaikh Muhammad Ala’ ad-Din was the first to use the title, Khadim at-Tariqa an-Naqshbandiyya wa l-Qadiriyya (servant of the Naqshbandi and Qadiri orders).

The Attitude towards Ibn Arabi and His Doctrine of wahdat al-wujud

The earlier leaders of the Naqshbandiyya were apparently acquainted with and interested in the teachings of Ibn Arabi (560/1165-638/1240), especially his doctrine of wahdat al-wujud (the unity of being), in as early as the eighth/fourteenth century. This familiarity with Ibn Arabi and his teachings can be traced in the numerous treatises written by the prominent Naqshbandi Shaikhs in Transoxiana, or by their disciples and deputies. (28)

Mulla Abdullah Ilahi (d. 896/1490), a deputy of Khwaja Ubaydullah Ahrar (d. 895/1490), was the first to introduce the Naqshbandi order in the Ottoman lands. Ilahi, who was trained by Ahrar and had contact with Abd ar-Rahman Jami (d. 898/1492), was greatly influenced by the teaching of the Shaikh al-Akbar, which impacted on his writings. (29) The Naqshbandis in Kurdistan were not far from that influence. Evidently the works of Ibn Arabi were read and studied in the Sufi and intellectual circles in Kurdistan and there was a serious interest in them among the educated Kurds. (30) A literary and poetic expression of Ibn Arabi’s ideas, especially the doctrine of wahdat al-wujud, is found in the poems of the Kurdish Sufi poet Mala-ye Jaziri (1570-1640). These teachings are also artistically interwoven with the events of the Kurdish national epic Mam u Zin by Ahmad-i Khani (1651-1707). (31)

The first Naqshbandi leader who took a critical attitude towards Ibn Arabi’s doctrine of wahdat al-wujud was Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi, the Mujaddid. This attitude marked to some extent the order in the Indian subcontinent after Sirhindi, the post-Sirhindi period that was called thenceforth Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya. As far as the Khalidiyya branch of the order is concerned, it is obvious that Mawlana Khalid Shahrazuri was an initiatic descendant of Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi by five generations, and an enthusiastic Mujaddidi. It is therefore presumed that he was influenced by the teachings of Sirhindi.

We do not find in the letters of Mawlana Khalid, of which nearly three hundreds are extant, or in his treatises, any indication to Ash-Shaikh al-Akbar and his teachings. But on the other hand, he wrote several times to his deputies and disciples advising them to read works written by leaders of the tariqa and scholars who were known for their enthusiasm for Ibn ‘Arabi and his teachings, such as Ubaydullah Ahrar, ‘Abd ar-Rahman Jami, ‘Abd al-Ghafur Lari and Abd al-Ghani an-Nabulusi. (32)

It is only in later hagiographies that a critical attitude concerning Ibn ‘Arabi’s wahdat al-wujud is ascribed to Mawlana Khalid. Mala ‘Abd al-Karim Mudarris in his Yad-i Mardan quotes Shaikh Shahab ad-Din Alusi as stating that he had heard that Mawlana Khalid forbade his disciples to read Ibn ‘Arabi’s Futuhat al-Makkiyya and Fusus al-Hikam. (33) Alusi was himself a mansub of Mawlana Khalid and studied Islamic law under him. Nevertheless, when relating Mawlana’s attitude towards Ibn ‘Arabi’s works, he states that he had heard about it.

The Iraqi historian Abbas al-Azzawi indicates in an article that he had seen a list of the books belonging to Mawlana Khalid, in which he did not find anything of the books by the extremist Sufis (al-ghulat min al-mutasawwifa). Then, praising Mawlana Khalid, he adds, “far be it from him that he inclines to such books.” (34) The sentence here is not clear since Azzawi does not specify what “such books” means. But in the preceding pages in the same article, he quotes the above-mentioned Shaikh Alusi, stating that Mawlana Khalid had a pure faith, and “he did not believe in unity, unification and incarnation”, which explains Azzawi’s doubts. This is undeniably contradictory to the assertions of other sources that several of Ibn Arabi’s works were in Mawlana Khalid’s library. (35)

Although most of the leading Siraj ad-Dini Shaikhs have been good poets and active letter writers, there is not a single comprehensive work about the philosophical and theoretical aspects of the Naqshbandi order among their writings. Most of the letters and treatises were written to reply to deputies, followers and friends. In many cases they are devoted to explain questions related to the shari’a, or simply to give instructions on everyday issues. A number of these letters were written to the rulers of the time (including the Ottoman Sultan and the Qajar Shah) to ask a favour or simply to send them a few words of courtesy. The letters and treatises of Shaikh ‘Umar Diya’ ad-Din are probably the most comprehensive among the writings of the Siraj ad-Dini Shaikhs. In a few of them he discusses briefly the questions of fana’ and lata’if and other related topics, but the question of wahdat al-wujud is not dealt with anywhere.

The Cultural Heritage

In addition to hundreds of letters and a great number of treatises, Mawlana Khalid also wrote tens of poems in Kurdish, Arabic and Persian. These were collected and printed in Istanbul in 1260/1844, only eighteen years after his death. Even in his letters, Mawlana Khalid usually quotes lines of poetry. Often these are lines by known poets such as Hafiz, Mawlana Jalal ad-Din Rumi, Shah-i Naqshband, Shabustari, Jami, Bidel-i Bukhari and others. But he enriches many of his letters with lines of his own poetry. The addition of these lines of poetry clearly indicates Mawlana’s sophistication and appreciation of poetry and the impact of words as a whole.

This tradition was further developed by the Naqshbandi Shaikhs of Hawraman, the Siraj ad-Dini Shayk family. Already in the 1830s Shaikh Uthman Siraj ad-Din I had turned his home region into an important center of Sufism and culture attracting a great number of poets and scholars. Shaikhs in the family who succeeded him during the last one and a half centuries continued to promote Kurdish culture. Among their disciples there have always been great scholars and poets who participated in the spreading of the order, creating great works that constitute the grounds of Kurdish Sufi literature, which is an important feature of Kurdish culture as a whole. Many of these poets and scholars dwelled permanently in the Naqshbandi khanaqahs or visited frequently and stayed for long periods.

Mala Hamid-i Katib (1225/1810-1310/1892) was initiated to the path by Shaikh Uthman Siraj ad-Din I in 1250/1834 and remained with the family until his death. He served the Shaikh and his sons Muhammad Baha’ ad-Din and Umar Ziya’ ad-Din as their katib. Mala Hamid was a writer and poet, but his poems are mainly devoted to recording social events, including the births and the deaths of prominent members of the Siraj ad-Din family or of the order in general. His works include six books; perhaps the most important being the interpretations of the Mathnawi-ye Ma’nawi of Jalal ad-Din Rumi, in three volumes, his commentary on Gulshan-e Raz by Mahmud Shabustari and Riad[section] al-mushtaqin, a hagiography about the lives of Mawlana Khalid and Shaikh Uthman Siraj ad-Din I. Not one of these works is printed, but manuscripts are extant.

Two great Kurdish Sufi poets are certainly Sayyid Abd ar-Rahim Mawlawi, also known as Ma’dumi, and Shaikh Muhammad Mahwi (1830-1906). Undoubtedly both merit thorough study as examples of excellent and significant Sufi literature. Other important poets and scholars affiliated with the Naqshbandi Shaikhs of Hawraman are Hajj Sayyid Hasan Chorri (d.1323/1905), Mala Abdullah Jali Koyi (1250-1326), Shaikh Salim Takhtayi, also known as Salim-i Sina (1845-1909), Shaikh Muhammad Am1 ‘n Hawleri (Al-Kurdi al-Arbilli), Shaikh Umar Ibn al-Qaradaghi (1303-1353), Shaikh Baba Rasul Bedani (1303-1363), Shaikh Abd al-Karim Ahmadbirinda (d. 1361), Mala Mahmud Bekhud (1878-1955), Shaikh Ahmad Shakali (1903-1982) and Mala Abd al-Karim Mudarris (born 1901).


The return of Mawlana Khalid in 1811 from India marked the beginning of a new period in the history of the Naqshbandi order in the Middle East. Although a representative of the Mujaddidi branch of the order, the charismatic character of Mawlana Khalid made him the eponym of a branch that is called Khalidiyya that spread rapidly in the whole Middle East. Many of the leaders of the Khalidiyya played an important role in the political history of Kurdistan in different stages. Shaikh Ubaydullah Nahri (in 1881), Shaikh Sa’id Piran (in 1925) and Mala Mustafa Barzani (1945 until 1975), leaders of the Kurdish liberation movement, belonged to the Mujaddidi-Khalidi branch of the Naqshbandiyya. The role of the order in the development of Kurdish culture was even greater, since many significant scholars and poets were among the deputies and disciples of the Khalidiyya. The first deputy of Mawlana Khalid was Shaikh Uthman Siraj ad-Din I, the founder of the Siraj ad-Din I Shaikh family, also known as the Naqshbandi Shaikhs of Hawraman. The Naqshbandi center started in Hawraman in the 1830s has continued to be the most important Sufi and cultural center in Kurdistan during the last one and a half centuries.

In 1997 one of the most influential Sufi Shaikhs of Hawraman, Shaikh Muhammad Uthman Siaraj ad-Din II, died in Istanbul, without appointing any of his sons or deputies to succeed him. This was an unprecedented event in the history of the family. There are now speculations that the leading role of the family has come to an end. It is not obvious, however, to what extent this will affect the development or the survival of the Khalidiyya-Mujaddidiyya in Kurdistan.


(1) Mudarris, ‘Abd al-Karim (Mala): Yad-i mardan (Remembering the great men), vol. 1, pp. 326-7. A letter of Shah Ghulam Ali to Mawlana Khalid. See also: Abu-Manneh, Butrus: The Naqshbandiyya in the Ottoman Lands in the Early 19th Century, in: Die Welt des Islam, 1-4(XXII) 1984, P.5.

(2) ibid. p. 32

(3) This is probably the main reason why a number of historians and scholars call Mawlana Baghdadi. In his letters and treatises, of which we have access to nearly three hundreds, he signs them with his own name followed by different titles, including al-Kurdi, al-Jafi and al-Shahrazuri, but not a single time he uses al-Baghdadi. The insistance on callinig Mawlana for Baghdadi is, apparently, a political stance aiming at denying the Kurdishness of Mawlana Khalid.

(4) Mudarris: op. cit. p. 47.

(5) ibid. p. 211.

(6) Rich, Claudius James: Narrative of a residence in Koordistan, Vol. 1, second edition, England 1972, p. 320.

(7) Reading Mawlana’s letter from Damascus, dated 17th of Rabi’ al-Awwal 1238 (2 December, 1822), to two of his deputies in Baghdad, one can easily infer that he had arrived there quite recently. See: Mudarris: op. cit. PP. 416-17.

(8) Mudarris: op. cit. pp. 396-97.

(9) Abu-Manneh: op. cit.

(10) Rich: op. cit. p. 141.

(11) Mudarris: op. cit. p. 40.

(12) ibid. p. 12.

(13) ibid. p. 14.

(14) ibid. p. 15.

(15) ibid. pp. 16-17.

(16) Chapkagule la gulzar-i ‘Uthmani (A bouquet from the ‘Uthmani rose-garden), (first volume) compiled and edited by ‘Abdullah Mustafa Salih (Fanayi), 1st ed. Baghdad 1989, 2nd ed. 1992 (although no place is given, it is certainly printed in Istanbul); second volume, Istanbul 1995.

(17) Kitab Siraj al-Qulub, li al-Sheikh Muhammad ‘Uthman Siraj ad-Din an-Naqshbandi (n. d., n. p.).

(18) Siraj al-Qulub “Lantern of Hearts”, by: Hadrat Shaikh Muhammad Uthman Sirag Ad-Deen An-Naqshbandi, Khankah Canada, Canada 1992.

(19) Mudarris: op. cit. pp. 44-45.

(20) ibid. pp. 49-50.

(21) ibid. p. 238.

(22) ibid. p. 239.

(23) Diwan-i Mawlawi, compiled and edited by Mala ‘Abd al-Karim Mudarris, Baghdad 1959, p. Ya’ (y). See also: Mudarris, op. cit. pp. 486-87.

(24) Chapkagule. pp. 22-24.

(25) Hawar, M. R.: Shekh Mahmud-i Qaraman u dawlataka-y khwaru-y Kurdistan (Shaykh Mahmud the hero and the state of Southern Kurdistan), Vol. 1, Jaf press, London 1990, p. 489. See also: Hilmi, Rafiq: Yaddasht (memoirs), vol. 2, Baghdad 1956, 115.

(26) Barzani, Mas’ud: Al-Barzani wa l-Haraka al-taharruriyya al-kurdiyya 1945-1958 (Barzani and the Kurdish liberation movment 1945-1958).

(27) al-Barzani: ibid, p. 24. See also: Sharif, ‘Abd as-Sattar Tahir (dr.): al-Jam’iyyat wa l-munattamat wa l-ahzab al-Kurdiyya fi nisf qarn 1908-1958 (Kurdish societies and organizations in half century, 1908-1958), Sharikat al-Ma’rifa, Baghdad 1989, p.154.

(28) Algar, Hamid: “Reflections of Ibn ‘Arabi in early Naqshbandi tradition,” Journal of Islamic Reasearch, 1 (1991), p. 3.

(29) ibid. p. 17.

(30) van Bruinessen, Martin: “The Naqshbandi order in 17th-century Kurdistan,” in: Marc Gaborieau, et al. (eds.): Naqshbandis, Historical developments and present situation of a Muslim mystical order, Editions ISIS, Istanbul-Paris 1990, p. 346.

(31) Rasul, ‘Izz ad-Din Mustafa (dr.): Ahmad-i Khani, Baghdad 1979, pp. 455-464.

(32) Mudarris: op. cit. pp. 321, 338-344.

(33) Mudarris: op. cit. p. 67.

(34) Al-Muhami, ‘Abbas al-‘Azzawi: Mawlana Khalid an-Naqshbandi, The Journal of the Kurdish Academy 1 (1973), p. 709.

(35) Algar: op. cit. p. 20, footnote: 75.


Mudarris, ‘Abd al-Karim (Mala): Yad-i mardan (Remembering the great men), Vol. 1, Vol. II.

Abu-Manneh, Butrus: “The Naqshbandiyya in the Ottoman Lands in the Early 19th Century,” in: Die Welt des Islam, 1-4(XXII) 1984, P.5.

Abu Bakr Sipihr al-Din: Zindagani-namah-yi ‘Arif-i Rabbani Hadrat-i Shaikh Yusuf mulaqqab ba Shams al-Din Burhani, Urumiyya 1368 sh/1990.

Tavakkuli; Muhammad Ra’uf: Tarikh Tasawwuf dar Kurdistan,

Naqshbandi, Amin: Tasawwuf Chiya

Rich, Claudius James: Narrative of a residence in Koordistan, Vol. 1, 2nd edition, England 1972.

Chapkagule la gulzar-i ‘Uthmani (A bouquet from the ‘Uthmani rose-garden), (first volume) compiled and edited by ‘Abdullah Mustafa Salih (Fanayi), 1st ed. Baghdad 1989 (pp.), 2nd ed. 1992 (Although no place is given, it is certainly printed in Istanbul); Vol. 2, Istanbul 1995.

Kitab Siraj al-Qulub, li al-Sheikh Muhammad ‘Uthman Siraj ad-Din an-Naqshbandi (n. d., n. p.).

Siraj al-Qulub “Lantern of Hearts”, by: Hadrat Shaikh Muhammad Uthman Sirag Ad-Deen An-Naqshbandi, Khankah Canada, Canada 1992.

Diwan-i Mawlawi, compiled and edited by Mala ‘Abd al-Karim Mudarris, Baghdad 1959.

Hawar, M. R.: Shekh Mahmud-i Qaraman u dawlataka-y khwaru-y Kurdistan (Shaikh Mahmud the hero and the state of Southern Kurdistan), Vol. 1, Jaf press, London 1990.

Hilmi, Rafiq: Yaddasht (memoirs), vol. 2, Baghdad 1956, 115.

Barzani, Mas’ud: Al-Barzani wa l-Haraka al-taharruriyya al-kurdiyya 1945-1958 (Barzani and the Kurdish liberation movment 1945-1958).

Sharif, ‘Abd as-Sattar Tahir (dr.): al-Jam’iyyat wa l-munattamat wa l-ahzab al-Kurdiyya fi nisf qarn 1908-1958 (Kurdish societies and organizations in half century, 1908-1958), Sharikat al-Ma’rifa, Baghdad 1989, p. 154.

Algar, Hamid: “Reflections of Ibn ‘Arabi in early Naqshbandi tradition,” Journal of Islamic Reasearch, 1 (1991), p. 3.

Algar, Hamid: Nakshbandiyya, EI2

Algar, Hamid: “The Naqshbandi order: A preliminary survey of its history and significance,” Studia Islamica 44 (1976) p. 123.

Van Bruinessen, Martin: “The Naqshbandi order in 17th-century Kurdistan,” in: Marc Gaborieau, et al. (eds.): Naqshbandis, Historical developments and present situation of a Muslim mystical order, Editions ISIS, Istanbul-Paris 1990, p. 346.

Rasul, ‘Izz ad-Din Mustafa (dr.): Ahmad-i Khani, Baghdad 1979.

Al-Muhami, ‘Abbas al-‘Azzawi: “Mawlana Khalid an-Naqshbandi,” The Journal of the Kurdish Academy 1 (1973), p. 709.

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