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Religious Conversion Across Cultures


Plow for Islam: Central Asia and Sufi Culture

Jacqueline Swansinger


     Sufism, an ascetic and mystical tradition, became the most effective proselytizing force for Islam for several centuries, despite its lack of any single unifying doctrine or evangelical mission. In Central Asia, from the tenth to the fifteenth century, Sufism was a diverse response in a decentralized environment that allowed a master-pupil relationship which was intimate, local and remarkably capable of creating small, repeatable conversion experiences and actions. It also permitted the incorporation of local customs to create individualized insights into Islam that were nevertheless acceptable to the orthodoxy by dint of their incorporation of the major threads of Islamic law. The varied paths of Islam, followed by pious individuals, led to the gradual supremacy of Muslim faith in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and other Central Asian lands, consequently facilitating the conversion of Mongol and Turkic conquerors. Their conversions cemented the establishment of Islam in the region, the greatest and most enduring popular accomplishment of the Sufis. Sufism's historical reputation as the proselytizing force of Islam, especially in Central Asia, rests on the well-documented conversions of Il-Khan and Chagataid Mongol leaders. 1 This early reputation is reinforced in Tamerlane's era when his dynasty is also welcomed by Sufi Sheikhs; clearly the Mongols were not a one-time hit, but rather one in a long chain of accommodations by conquerors to the culture and religion of their new lands.2 This essay examines how this diverse, non-coordinated movement could permeate a vast land and sway military conquerors to conversion.

Figure 1
  Figure: Sufi in a Landscape, Iran, Isfahan, Circa 1650–1660. Los Angeles Museum of County Art,, Accessed March 2, 2015.  

     Islamization stands in contrast to Christian missionary activity: it is harder to define and does not rest on an evangelizing purpose. It is not centralized, it is not a mission to spread one message, and it is not an agency external to the society being converted. Sufism is an internal, home-grown, agent of piety that introduces socio-religious norms and paves the way for a more formal acceptance of Islam. It is an intermediary step between non-Islamic and formal Islamic forms. Before Islam became the official faith in all of Central Asia, it was preceded by Sufi mystics, masters, teachers, and over time, communities. In contrast to European missionaries sent as emissaries of a king, or of a religious leader, Sufism arrives through a pietistic exemplar, who teaches, lives in and aids the community, and finally becomes the protector, negotiator, and a voice of the people prior to the formal application of institutional religion. That last step is often brought about by the conversion of the military conqueror, who then promotes the public rites and rituals of Islam in his new territory. The conversion becomes both a religious choice and a social-political decision to secure the loyalty of the conquered people, but it is not violent, nor contested. Sufism offers a gradual adaptation to the Muslim life.

     This peaceful transition is endemic to Sufism. Early Sufi mystics did not encounter resistance from the people they met in the cities and regions where they lived; their difficulties arose from their relationship to the established religious classes. During Islam's first two centuries, the issue of orthodoxy was important; its sources, its rituals, and the manner in which the community understood that knowledge to be defined. Sufis quickly found they needed to defend their ideas and came to argue they had a special relationship with God, and their understanding was of the heart, not the mind. This connection resulted from their search for God in defiance of the base impulses of their bodies. Their quest to separate themselves from their bodies, their wants and needs, was why they chose to renounce the world.

     Sufism's dedication to the ascetic, to piety, to solitude, meant that it was not well known in the early years of its existence. The term itself evolves slowly from Islamic history; according to Ahmet Karamustafa, it "emerged from within renunciatory modes of piety" around the end of eighth century.

Sufism: Setting the margins of the faith

     Basra, on the coast of Iraq, was one of the earliest cities in which Sufism first became active. There, a number of abstemious devotees sought a closer, more personal relationship with God through privation, moral behavior, and the general rejection of worldly pleasures. This development was not a shift away from the Islamic community, or Umma, but rather a return to the piety and examples of the Rashidun Caliphs (632–661), especially Abu Bakr and Ali; a religiosity born as a bulwark against the political and more sophisticated imperial expansion of the eighth century (Umayyad Dynasty 661–749). While the early Sufis were ascetics, over time, they became known as mystics who sought to heighten their perception of God through rejection of comforts and control of bodily impulses. These early renunciants were known for their piety, sacrifices, and lives of denial, and their stories spread among an admiring people. One of the most well-known eighth century figures, and later most beloved, was the female martyr, Rabi'a al-Adawiyya al-Qaysiyya. Rabi'a was the fourth daughter from a poor family, who lost her parents while young, was sold into slavery, and freed by her master when he saw her praying enveloped by light from a lantern hanging without a chain above her head. She led a life of ascetic piety, is credited with miracles, and revered as an early example of God's guardianship of the "friends of God" (awliya Allah). 3

     The popular love and admiration of Rabi'a and other awliya was interpreted by some religious scholars as a challenge to the Prophet's teachings. This view arose from the origins of Islamic governance which was based on the daily example and government of the Prophet and the Rashidun Caliphs. The ascent of the Umayyad dynasty following the death of Ali was a divisive moment within the Islamic community. Mu'awiyya, the first Umayyad caliph, claimed political and religious leadership of the community, and left it to companions of the Prophet in Mecca and Medina to debate issues of behavior and ethics, confident they would have limited voice. At first, the Umma (Islamic community) relied directly on the record of the Prophet's deeds and sayings and the Qu'ran, recorded in the early years of the Rashidun rule, to guide and judge their thoughts and actions. Early scholars used these documents to advise—even chastise Umayyad Caliphs—since they viewed their own role as counselors on the application of Islam to all private and public behavior. In the eighth and ninth centuries, schools of law formed to decide how rulings should be analyzed, decided, and propagated to the umma. The growth of fiqh (law) drew more religious scholars to cities and to centers where study, reading and interpretation could be conducted. In the eighth century, the Abbasids overthrew the Umayyads, and integrated the religious scholars into Baghdad's societal structure as interpreters of the law and as appointed judges (qadis). Legitimate religious authority over the community remained with the Caliph, but the day to day enforcement of the law and its interpretations lay with the qadis. This alliance meant that religious scholars were supporters of a specific political order and complicit in subordinating the pious society to the worldly one. Baghdad, as the imperial city, became the new legal and intellectual center. It was in Baghdad that religious scholars and Sufis first began to debate whether Sufism with its mystical practices was a challenge to the order of the empire and the good of the community.

     As noted, Sufis originated as an apolitical movement: their emphasis was moving closer to God, not worldly power. Their reputation for ascetic piety emerged in two temporal stages, first, fear of sin and dread of Judgment Day associated with the Basra community, and second, in the ninth century, a turn to theosophy in Baghdad.4 It was their populist appeal that made them a public challenge to institutional religion and government. This struggle, to define the limits between legitimate religious teachings and mystical, ascetic lives, played out in Baghdad as religious scholars attempted to identify how mystics could coexist with orthodoxy. Early attempts to reconcile Sufi lifestyle to the learned community began through the known Sufi practices. Hasan al-Basri,* one of the earliest well-known Sufis from Basra, rejected the idea of predestination, insisting that since God was the source of all good he would not deprive human beings of their freewill and then hold them responsible for their sinful deeds. Al-Basri proposed his followers needed to purify their souls and give their total personal and spiritual commitment to God.5 In the next century, this approach was picked up by al-Harith bin Asad, or al-Muhabisi, who proposed that this pledge should be a "conscious dynamic orientation towards God" (tawhid) motivated by love, not fear of punishment, and would be rewarded through knowledge of the essence of tawhid or ma'rifa.6 Two of al-Muhabisi's disciples continued his efforts to reconcile Sufic statements of belief with the orthodoxy of the community. Al-Junayd founded a Sufi school in Baghdad that reiterated and taught the orthodoxy of Sufi beliefs, and al-Tustari, who was both a teacher and an ascetic, used long periods of fasting to reach God. His unwillingness to associate with any legal schools brought him disrepute in Baghdad.

     Al-Junayd established boundaries for Sufism rooted in the Qu'ran and the Prophet's Sunna; in the process, he also defined heresy and innovation. His contribution was to integrate Sufism into the political affairs of Islam and bring it into acceptable forms and behavior. The second disciple, al-Tustari, believed that God abides in man secretly and must be actively sought. He proposed that dhikr (intonation of God's name) could transform the verbal act into awareness of the presence of God in the human soul. The polarity of these two perspectives, using ecstatic states to be closer to God and following religious interpretations of doctrine, played out in the execution of al-Hallaj, a Sufi mystic and pupil of al-Tustari, known for his ecstatic utterance "I am God", and his entanglement in the religious-political contest of his era, which reinforced efforts to root the legitimacy of Sufi mysticism in orthodoxy. One argument, proposed by al-Sarraj of Tus, was that religious sciences consisted of the Qu'ran, the Prophet's Sunna, and the "wisdom emanating from the heart of the awliya" (guardian).7 The ongoing debate over the legitimacy of Sufi walis (plural of awliya) revolved around whether or not an awliya has a special knowledge of God, and was finally defined by al-Ghazali in the 11th century when he stated that "Prophets are endowed with the faculty of discerning the hidden meanings of the words of God, and so is the awliya (singular of guardian) to a lesser extent".8 Finally, by the end of the eleventh century, recognition of the legitimacy of Sufi thinking and beliefs offered them credibility as spiritual guides untainted by any institutional political authority while their piety gave them recognition as guardians endowed with a special, esoteric perception of God. 9 By this time, recognized Sufi awliya, leaders, were regarded as holy men who strengthened the community, and could guard believers from external troubles.

The Sufi Way of Life

     This acceptance of Sufism by the established religious scholars occurred as central Abbasid Caliphal power was waning. Over the course of the 11th and 12th centuries, the decline of the Abbasid Empire weakened the political-religious authority of the scholars. The reach of their rulings lessened, concomitantly, the prestige of Sufi walis grew. By this time, the designation as wali was recognition of God's grant of authority and spiritual guardianship to the pious, ascetic Sufi; the trouble lay in knowing, given the wide variety of Sufi practices, who was a friend of God. The difficulty was compounded by the concept that God only revealed the identity of the wali to other awliya. One compromise to this doctrine, defined by al-Qushayri, lies in God's enabling them to perform miracles or karamat, signs of the esteem in which God holds them. Additionally, these miracles differ from those of the Prophets by the purpose they serve.10 This brief discussion highlights the ambiguity of wali authority, which was not confirmed, or named by God, but was recognized by the awliya's ability to perform miracles while being the spiritual guide of the community.

     The diffuse nature of wali authority is the foundation for the development of the function of Sufi sheikhs. Often, sheikhs were strong disciples of the Sufi master who used their understanding of his path (tariqa) to teach it. They taught the principles and exercises which the master (the original Sufi mystic) had used to reach God. Over a short course of time, these teaching disciples modified into sheikhs al-tarbiya, translated as a master who raised one or directing sheikh.11 This alteration of emphasis – from becoming a Sufi mystic to behaving in the tradition of the mystic—relied on a social shift tied to a stronger degree of loyalty to the teacher and discipline, and obedience to the tenets of the Sufi order.12 While the Sufi mystic himself may have passed, his teachings were continued through his disciples who often founded schools or retreats to teach the precepts of their master, and teach his path to students. These teachers, or sheikhs, held authority through their struggles to attain spiritual mastery and by overcoming their worldly impulses as well as through their close ties to the Sufi master.13 The sheikhs formed local communities pulled "together by the charisma of the master and the efficacy of his life example as perceived by the followers".14 Sheikhs, well versed and trained in the ascetic and mystical practices of Sufism, were spiritual guides and public figures connected to the wali through a spiritual lineage created by the tariqa. Sheikhs whose roles had been as guides to the awliya's path also became religious-legal authorities (interpreters of Shari 'a law when no qadi was available) in their communities; they were guardians, leaders, and heads of spiritual families, prominent figures in public life and wielding great influence. Frequently, the popularity of the sheikhs, the tariqa (path), and the number of disciples led to creation of kanaqhs or retreats where students and sheikhs lived, prayed, and set up communities to practice their tenets. Sometimes they were aided through charitable funding (waqf) from prominent local leaders, or from political rulers, and they were sought after through local and regional belief in their karamat.

     In Nishapur, a major center of Sufi learning, over the course of the tenth century, the proliferation of Sufi mystics was noted; five names were listed at the beginning of the era and 46 by the end of the century.15 The growing numbers of Sufis reflects a strong ascetic and pietistic culture, but it also testifies to the growth of master-student communities. The teaching of the path, or tariqa, of the mystics, to students in cities away from Baghdad is one of the characteristics of the period. These early communities were usually small, and were often led by a disciple of the wali, a sheikh, representing his leadership position in teaching the tariqa of the master. Increasingly, these sheikhs were learned in both a specific school of Shari' a law and the tariqa of the wali whose practices they taught. Scholars in this period wrote of the relationship of Sufis to law schools, to religious scholarship and of the states of Sufism so as to introduce and reinforce their legitimacy and arrival in the region of Transoxania and Khurasan. This blending of Sufi practices with legal/scholarly forms acknowledged a role for Sufism in the teaching of Islam; it even encouraged it, through the development and acceptance of training in the "Science of Islam" and the development of a literature known as the adab al-muridin which set up the proper rules of conduct for those seeking that knowledge during the 11th century.16

Blending Sufism and Islam

     The blending of these two traditions, Sufist and Islamic, their teachings, mystical practices, and recognition of the Prophet's Sunna, facilitated Sufism's wide proliferation. In a world of limited literacy, limited social stratification, geographical isolation, Sufi sheikhs "became the guardians of an established mystical tradition and custodians of Islamic norms in the life of Muslim communities having no institutionalized forms of Islamic religious leadership."17 Khurasan was a region where Sufi lodges proliferated and were linked to many initiatic chains, thus connecting the region and specific teaching sheikhs to prominent leaders, including Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali, and his brother, Abu'l-Futuh Ahmad ibn Ghazali, and the Suhrawardi and Kubrawi networks.18 Two prominent Sufi Sheikhs, Najm al-Din Kubra and Ammar al-Bidlisi, were well known in the early thirteenth century. The first was famous for the number of students who came to study with him, and was the founder of what would become the Kubrawiyya community; the second sheikh built a khanqah (lodge) where he provided instruction. The khanqah served as hospices, retreats, schools and centers—a community—where the local students could learn the rituals and patterns of the master.19 Two other sheikhs of the period deserve note: al-Hamadini, who travelled widely and is credited with building the tariqa of the Naqshbandiyya (one of the best known traditions in the region); and a disciple, Ali al-Yasi, credited with adapting Islam to a Turkish nomad community, and was the founder of the Yasivi tradition.20 The merging of tariqa rituals, taught by local personalities, rooted in the stories of the Qu'ran and the Prophet's Sunna, made Sufism a natural and essential representative of Islam. Each tariqa defined practices, rituals and traditions which helped establish lineage and identity while establishing legitimate connections to the founding members of Islam. An example is al-Hamadani's rejection of sama (music) while intoning dhikr, a refusal of a tradition commonly found is some ecstatic Sufist houses. Since al-Hamadani was a known Sufi in the lineage of sheikhs who taught Najm al-Din Kubra, the founder of the Kubrawiyya, rejection of sama became one of the traditions of this brotherhood.21 Further, the endowment of madrasas and khanqah in the same space, to teach and propagate Islamic fiqh made Sufism the popular intermediary for Islam.

     These Sufi communities and their khanqahs were also physical spaces where trade, arbitration, and political activity occurred; they were associations with both a religious and a social function. Sufi groups did not choose the politico-military rulers who conquered them, but they did select the local leaders who would speak to power and negotiate for the people.22 It was their reputation as Friends of God, or sheikhs of that tradition, that led them to speak for the people they guarded, or approach military conquerors to ask for relief from taxes, or seek protection from bad administration, injustice and corruption. There was debate within the Sufi community around the issue of power and how closely Sufi sheikhs should associate with it. Some sheikhs were advisors to rulers, but many sought to keep their fraternization limited, only speaking for the people and encouraging the ruler to facilitate the extension of the Shari' a over public and private action. This era of fluid political power meant that Sufi communities accrued legitimacy overtly. The lack of central power demanded balancing religious and political power, and in this moment, a reminder that in "Islamic societies, religious authority was more lasting than the secular variety.23"

Sufism and Political Rule

     The Kubrawiyya order is credited with the conversion of both the Chagataids and the Il-Khans. Tarmashirin of the Chaghataids, the last son of Du'a, offers a case study for noting how to welcome Islam. Once converted, his actions focused on improving relations with Muslim powers (Delhi, Mamluks), inviting Syrian merchants to trade, calling for conversion amongst his people, favoring Muslim over non-Muslim soldiers, instituting the five daily call to prayers, favoring social justice, and arguing Shari'a took precedence over Yasa law, all over a four year period.24 While this support of Islam gave him great credit with the Sufi sheikhs and his Muslim subjects, it did not help him retain his Il-Khan kingship. He did establish himself as the ideal of a strong Muslim ruler in Central Asia in his time. A more successful episode is the conversion of Ghazan and his father Arghun, two of the better known Il-khans. Sufis of moderate leanings were welcomed at the court of Arghun, and Arghun was known to have hosted a debate between a Kubrawi sheikh Ala' al-Dawla Simnani defending Islam in contrast to Buddhism. He also chose a Kubrawiyya sheikh to instruct his son, Ghazan (1295–1304). His son's teacher was the disciple of one of Njam al-Din al-Kubra's disciple, the founder of the order. 25

     Another example of conversion involving political rulers occurred during Timur's campaign, a hundred years later, to the East of Nishapur. The ruling dynasty, the Karts, well-known and respected as well as allied with the Sufi house of Jams for the past fifty years, were expecting continued support. Timur conquered the region and called for the local sheikh, Zayn al-Din, to come to him; he refused, so Timur went to him.26 During the visit Timur and the sheikh exchanged greetings, gifts and finally words regarding the future of the province and the Sufi lodge. This discussion reflects both the division of social and political influence accepted by each leader.

As the sheikh admonished Timur, the conqueror asked, "Why don't you give any advice to your own malek (ruler); he drinks wine and occupies [himself] with diversions ( malahi)and sins (manahi)? "The mawlana (sheikh) said, "We told him and he didn't listen; God, glory be to Him, sent you over him. I say to you: if you don't listen [He] will send another over you." The amir was touched and cried and he took leave of the mawlana and headed for Herat. 27

Timur is said to have heeded the advice of the sheikh, and did not overburden the people after the Kart dynasty ended. He also became a disciple of the sheikh Kh'aja Ziya al-Din Yusuf, head of the shrine at the time of the invasion. 28 His son and successor followed this policy during his rule.

     A later ruler influenced by Sufi sheikhs was the Ottoman sultan Bayazid (1481–1511) who allied with Chelebi Khalifa, a member of the Khalwatiyya order, and is believed to have used his mystical powers (karamat) to aid him against his opponent in Istanbul. After Bayazid reached the throne, he affiliated with the Khalwatiyya, performed dhikr with them, and entrusted the education of his son Ahmed to the order. 29 This particular order grew to even greater prominence under Suleiman the Magnificent (1520–1566).

     In all of these examples, extending over a period of three hundred years, one sees a pattern where Sufi influence grows by their endorsement of good rulers. When conquest occurs, Sufi sheikhs are obliged to calibrate their acceptance to the new power through their piety, their karamat, and their disciples. This sober influence, neither too religious, nor too political, allows them to navigate the currents of political shifts in leadership. In most cases, they simply rely on their faith in God's benevolence, to obtain a new, better ruler. Their role is to be the intermediary who anoints, thus legitimizes, the new ruler. In turn, the new arrival seeks benedictions upon his house – sends his son or sons to be educated by the sheikh – to demonstrate his piety and his recognition of the sheikh's karamat. These relationships are subject to negotiation, not necessarily every generation, but often enough that the common subjects feel protected or at least able to voice their complaints publicly and reach the ears of the ruler.

     The apogee of Sufi influence can be found in the rise of the Safavid Dynasty of Persia. The founder of the Safaviyya order, Sheikh Safi al-Din (1252–1334), preached a purified and restored Twelver Shi'a Islam. His son was the founder of the lodge in Ardabil, brought in disciples, built schools, and traced his lineage back to the Prophet. The fall of the Timurid dynasty and the tribal conflicts led to an emphasis on jihad most particularly against Christians in Georgia and Trebizond. Sheikh Junayd (1447–1460), a later descendant, used marriage and alliances to princely families to recruit whole tribes to his order. 'Shah Isma'il (1487–1524) proclaimed he was the hidden Imam and employed the Qizilbash (red hats Sufis of Junayd) to launch his imperial dreams. This synthesis used diverse religious influences from Shi'ism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and messianism as well as Turkish and tribal mores to create a religio-political movement.30 In this manner, a fundamentally new role for Sufi orders in Central Asia began: contests for power and rule blending both portions of civic life—religion and politics in one leader. The rise of the Safavid Sufis to the throne of Persia changed the nature of the relationship and gave this region a particularly rich but separate identity and path for power.


     Conversion across cultures in western examples usually implies introducing Christianity to other cultures; frequently it also requires military protection, or power, or a strong sense of mission to overcome the obstacles embedded in different cultures. This quick look at Sufism parallels some of these conditions; Sufis do bring new ideas about what religion is, and how it should be practiced. However, Sufi practices are founded on renunciation of earthly distraction, so an unfamiliar society, or a pastoralist/nomadic one, might be seen by a Sufi as more welcome to him than urban cultures. Sufis chose to leave hospitable spaces to adopt an "inner" looking way of life. They did not seek political or social prominence, but rather preferred isolation with their thoughts and prayers. In their first two centuries, their rejection of established leaders led to a controversial and contentious relationship with traditional Islam. Yet, from the tenth century to the twelfth as central political-military power waned, incorporation of the main scholarly religious and legal traditions allowed them to be more inconspicuous, a devoutly sought development which allowed them to blend into their local geographies. It was the final loss of centralized power and conquest by new groups in Central Asia that brought the Sufis to prominence and to a sense of public mission.

     Concomitantly, the decline and fall of the Abbasid dynasty left local regions organized around popular figures, respected for their piety, their connection to God, and their willingness to aid their neighbors. The aid can be indirect, in that for many people, it was the Karamat or grace of God, given to the wali or guardian that helped the community. This belief strengthened the community and added to the social power of the Sufi wali himself. Most walis, as renunciants, did not seek the fame, but their disciples, often capable of teaching other disciples and of organizing a house for retreats, took on the mantle of sheikhs, and developed Sufi brotherhoods, intent on teaching the path or tariqa of the wali to students. This is a concentration of spirituality that created enclaves of believers and supporters in villages and regions. It also turned sheikhs into public figures, capable of organizing, promoting, and growing Sufi lodges endowed by supporters and rulers to propagate the tariqa of the wali. This transformation gave Sufi sheikhs the authority to act as legitimizers of power, and in some cases, even kingmakers.

     The consolidation of Sufi power through brotherhoods and charismatic leaders was also perfectly capable of toppling rulers, a point not lost on the rising leaders of the Safavid, Ottoman and Moghul populations. As rulers, they included Islam in their panoply of tools to administer empires, employing religion as a political tool. They soon came to realize that strong central states did not require Sufi sheikhs to mediate their relations with the people they ruled. The Safavids were the first to unify the roles of sheikh and military leader, making the Shah the central executor of the will of the people – in Isma'il's case, defined his legitimacy to rule through Sufi doctrine, as the lineal descendant of a Sufi mystic. The Sufi brotherhoods who survived the changing political environment joined the specific factions who had aligned with the new power centers to face the future. Under rising Ottoman rule, the Bektiaris and their connection with the Janissaries offer an example of this development.

     The Sufis' function as mediators and community leaders was threatened as effective Islamic states arose. As the Safavid, Ottoman, and Moghul dynasties exercised central power within the hinterlands of Central Asia, Sufi influence shrank rapidly. They returned to geographically isolated and rugged regions to maintain their roles—one well-known case study is the itinerary of the Naqshbandiyya across India, Malaysia, Syria, Azerbaijan, Egypt over four centuries –but in more populated areas they tied their practices, lodges, and influence to specific groups – Bektiaris and Janissaries illustrate this pattern. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as Turkey attempted to modernize, Sufis who had risen to the heights of influence were actively suppressed. Today, Sufis have returned, but they have rediscovered their original character as oddly pious holy brethren, absorbed in their own ways, maintaining a distance from ordinary society.

Jacqueline Swansinger is a professor in the history department at SUNY Fredonia in Western New York, and was also president of the Mid-Atlantic World History Association (2000–2013), and an officer in the World History Association (2000–2008). Though her original specialty was American foreign policy in the Middle East, introducing the region to undergraduates, especially its history and culture, led to creating prequel courses in Islamic civilizations. She can be reached at


* Hasan al-Basri is a learned scholar and preacher from Basra (d. 728) known as the main spokesman of the Qadariyya doctrine.

al-Harith b. Asad (d. 857) known as al-Muhabisi, born in Basra, lived in Baghdad, friend and colleague of Abu'l-Qasim al-Junayd (d. 910) Muhabisi used al-Basri's teachings to formulate doctrine.

1 Devin DeWeese, Islamization and Native Religion in the Golden Horde: Baba Tukles and Conversion to Islam in Historical and Epic Tradition (University Park: Penn State University Press, 1994), 17–159.

2 Beatrice Mantz, The Rise and Rule of Tamerlane (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Reprint Edition 1999), 21–66.

3 Margaret Smith, Rabi'a the Mystic and her Fellow Saints in Islam (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Reprint Edition: 2010), 1–47.

4 Alexander Knysh, Islam in Historical Perspective (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Publication, 2011), 214–216.

5 Jamil Abun-Nasr, Muslim Communities of Grace: The Sufi Brotherhoods in Islamic Religious Life (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007), 26–28.

6 Abun-Nasr, Muslim Communities, 29–30.

7 Abun-Nasr, Muslim Communities, 39–41.

8 Abun-Nasr, Muslim Communities, 43–46.

9 Abun-Nasr, Muslim Communities, 47–55.

10Abun-Nasr, Muslim Communities, 53–55.

11 Daphna Ephrat, Spiritual Wayfarers, Leaders in Piety: Sufis and the Dissemination of Islam in Medieval Palestine (Cambridge: Harvard Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2008), 49.

12 Abun-Nasr, Muslim Communities, 59–60.

13 Abun-Nasr, Muslim Communities, 63–64.

14 Ahmet T. Karamustafa, Sufism: The Formative Period (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), 114.

15 Jacqueline Chabi, 'Remarques sur le development historiques sur les mouvements ascétiques et mystiques au Khurasan', Studia Islamica 46 (1977): 5–72.

16 Ephrat, Spiritual Wayfarers, 71–73.

17 Abun-Nasr, Muslim Communities, 113.

18 Karamustafa, Sufism, 124.

19 Ephrat, Spiritual Wayfarers, 76–77, 109–110; Abun-Nasr, Muslim Communities, 60–61; Lawrence Potter, 'Sufis and sultans in post-Mongol Iran', Iranian Studies 27 (1994): 78.

20 Abun-Nasr, Muslim Communities, 112; J. Spencer Trimingham, The Sufi Orders in Islam (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971), 58.

21 Sir H. A. R. Gibb, s.v. "Kubrawiyya", Encyclopedia of Islam, (Leiden: Brill Archive, 1954), accessed April 18, 2014,
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22 Potter, Sufis and Sultans, 92–94.

23 Potter, Sufis and Sultans, 100.

24 Michael Biran, 'The Chagataids and Islam: The Conversion of Tarmashirin Khan (1331–1334), Journal of the American Oriental Society, 122 (4), (Oct.–Dec. 2002), 747–748.

25 Reuven Amitai-Preiss, 'Sufis and Shamans: Some Remarks on the Islamization of the Mongols in the Ilkhanate' Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 42 (1) (1999): 27–46.

26Hafez Abru, as quoted in Felix Tauer, ed., 'Cinq Opuscules de Haiz-i Abru concernant l'histoire de l'Iran au temps de Tamerlan, Editions de l'Académie Tchécoslovaque des Sciences, 1959, in Potter, Sufis and Sultans, 99.

27 Hafez Abru, as quoted in Tauer, Cinq Opuscules, in Potter, Sufis and Sultans, 100.

28 Potter, Sufis and Sultans, 100.

29 B. G. Martin, 'A Short History of the Khalwati Order of Dervishes' in Nikki R. Keddie, ed., Scholars, Saints and Sufis: Muslim Religious Institutions since 1500, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972), 281–290; Abun-Nasr, Muslim Communities, 120.

30 Ira M. Lapidus, A History of Islamic Societies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2nd Edition, 2002), 282–286.

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