Sufism -- Sufis -- Sufi Orders

Sufism, the West, and Modernity

In the twentieth century Sufism began to spread in the West. An uneven and spotty but still useful introductory on-line article is A History of Western Sufism (fixed January, 2005) by Prof. Andrew Rawlinson of the University of Lancaster.

The following articles by Kinney and Bayman illustrate some general trends and issues:

  • The Sufi Conundrum, written by Jay Kinney, the publisher and editor-in-chief of the magazine Gnosis, discusses a number of issues confronting Americans as they investigate the nature and practice of Sufism today.

  • Sufism and Modernity (link fixed, Dec. 10, 2004) is a chapter from the on-line book Science, Knowledge, and Sufism, (link fixed 20 August, 2005) by Henry Bayman (author of The Station of No Station: Open Secrets of the Sufis ), a disciple of the Turkish Shaykh Ahmet Kayhan (d. 1998). This particular chapter consists largely of a Sufi analysis of modernity, solidly based upon the writings of other scholars who have written about modernity, scholars such as Marshall Berman, Charles Taylor, and Alain Touraine.

    Sufism in the West falls into four general categories:

    Islamic Sufi Orders in the West 
    Quasi-Islamic Sufi Organizations or Orders 
    Non-Islamic Sufi Organizations or Orders 
    Organizations or Schools Related to Sufism or Sufi Orders 

    Islamic Sufi Orders in the West

    The common denominator of the Islamic Sufi Orders now established in the West is the avowed adherence to Islam and specifically to the Shari'ah, although the interpreter of the Shari'ah for a particular order may be the shaykh of that order. (In a few of these orders the shaykh may on occasion have non-Muslim disciples.) Some of the Islamic Sufi orders in the West are the following:

    Shadhili Order, the branches of which are as follows:

  • Murabitun This order was established in West by Shaykh Abdalqadir al-Murabit See The Recovery of True Islamic Fiqh: An introduction to the work of Shaykh Abdalqadir as-Sufi by the Muslim scholar Abdalhaqq Bewley. This is a branch of the Shadhili-Darqawi order. At other times it has been known as the Darqawi and Habibiya orders.
  • One offshoot of the Murabitun is the al-Haydariya al-Shadhiliyah, (link fixed, Nov. 17, 2001) headed by Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri. He is represented in the U.S. by Hajj Mustafa Ali, an American convert to Islam.
  • 'Alawiya Order, deriving from Shaykh al-'Alawi. Shaykh al-'Alawi's current fame in the West derives largely from Martin Lings' book, A Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century (link fixed 20 August, 2005). There are at least four distinct branches of this order in the West today (each of which has its own characteristics): 1) The website of Sidi Ahmed Ibn Mustafa al-'Alawi (known as Shaykh al-'Alawi) (link fixed 20 February 2008) is maintained by a disciple of the Algerian shaykh, Sidi Ash-Shaikh al-Mouloud Boudai; 2) Another branch has among its shaykhs an American convert to Islam, Nuh Keller, (link fixed 20 August, 2005) who, although he is based in Jordan, has a number of disciples in the West, one of whom maintains a website of a number of his works; 3) The third branch is that of the 'Alawiya Maryamiyyah, founded by Frithjof Schuon and noted by Seyyed Hossein Nasr in his article, "Frithjof Schuon (1907-1998)" in the initial volume of the journal Sacred Web: A Journal of Tradition and Modernity (July, 1998) (link fixed 20 Feb. 2008); 4) The fourth branch is connected to an Algerian shaykh known as Sidi 'Alawi who in the West has a number of disciples, in particular, in Switzerland and the US.
  • Shadhiliyya Sufi Center of North American and whose books are published by Sidi Muhammad Press (link fixed Nov. 17, 2001), established in the U.S. by Sidi Shaykh Muhammad al-Jamal from Jerusalem (al-Quds). The website of the Midwestern Branch of this order is called the Shadhuli Sufi Center of Peace and Mercy. Read an Outsider's Account of a Shadhili dhikr on Long Island, NY.
  • Tariqa Burhaniya, while primarily in the Sudan, where the shaykh is Sheikh Mohamed Sheikh Ibrahim Sheikh Mohamed Osman, it does have centers in New York City and Montreal (Canada). The order has one central website, titled Tariqa Burhaniya Disuqiya Shadhuliya indicating that originally it is a branch of the Shadhiliya order that later branches off with the coming of the Shaykh Ibrahim al-Disuqi (circa 12th century CE).
  • Shadhdhuli School: Green Mountain Branch headed by Shaykh A. Nooruddeen Durkee in Virginia.

    Naqshbandi Order

  • Naqshbandi-Haqqani Order established in the West by Shaykh Nazim. Currently, his khalifa (representative) in the U.S. is Shaykh Hisham Kabbani.
  • The Circle Group was founded by an American Sufi, Shaykh Ahmed Abdur Rashid (link fixed 20 August, 2005), who is the khalifa of Hazrat Azad Rasool, (link fixed, Dec. 1, 2000) a Naqshbandi shaykh from New Dehli.

    Chishti Order

  • Chishti Order (link fixed 20 August, 2005) established in the U.S. by an American Sufi, Shaykh Hakim Moinuddin Chishti.
  • Yousufi / Albayli Branch of the Chishti Order (link fixed 20 August, 2005).
  • Gudri Shahi Branch of the Chishti Order, established by Dr. M. Qadeer Shah Baig in Toronto, Canada. The current khalifa in Toronto is Syed Mumtaz Ali.
  • Gudri Shahi/Zahuri Branch of the Chishti Order previously headed by Hz Zahurul Hasan Sharib (d. 1996) and currently headed by Inaaam Hasan of Ajmer, India. This branch now has a presence in England (where its website is located), the Americas, and in a number of other regions of the world. It also has an initiatic relationship with the Qadiriya. See my description of the Gudri Shahi/Zahuri lineage

    Qadiriya Order

  • Qadiriya-Butshishiya, is guided in the U.S. by two muqaddems (representatives) of Shaykh Hamza (the current head of the order. These muqaddems are Faouzi Skali for New York and Ahmed Kostas (link fixed 20 August, 2005). Although Ahmed Kostas is also the guide for the Fez center of the Qadiriya-Butshishiya (link fixed 20 August, 2005), periodically he visits the U.S., where a growing number of followers are located. He can be contacted at the Sufi Village. (Link fixed 23 November 2001 and Dec. 5, 2002)
  • Qadiri-Rifa'i Order established in the U.S. by Shaykh Taner Ansari. (Link fixed, Dec. 5, 2002)

    Tijani Order

  • The Tijani Order (link fixed 20 August, 2005) was established in U.S. by Shaykh Hassan Cisse. (Link fixed, Dec. 1, 2000) Followers direct a center of the Tariqah Tijaniyya in Detroit.

    Jerrahi Order

  • Jerrahi Order of America was established by Shaykh Muzaffer Ozak. Its three American centers are in Chestnut Ridge, New York, where Shaykh Tosun Bayrak is the khalifa; in Redwood City, CA, where the khalifa is Shaykh Raghib aka Dr. Robert Frager; and in Chicago (Midwest Branch), where the khalifa is Shaykh Ilhan al-Jerrahi. Among the activities of the order is the school establishment in Afghanistan. (New links added November 27, 2003.)
  • Nur Ashki Jerrahi Sufi Order consider themselves to be within the Halveti-Jerrahi Tariqat in the lineage and leadership of the Turkish Sheikh Muzaffer Ashki al-Jerrahi (d. 1985) and the Westerners, Sheikh Nur al-Jerrahi (Lex Hixon) (d. 1995) and his successor (who is a woman), Sheikha Fariha (Friedrich) al-Jerrahi. See The Pavilion of Light, which consists of an online volume of transcribed discussions with Shaykh Nur, as well as the link Teachings, which includes discourses of Shaykh Nur and Shaykha Fariha.

    Nimatullahi order, although originally a Sunni order, became Shi'i in Iran in the 16th century. There at least four branches in the West, each of which refer to themselves in the following manners: 1) Nimatullahi Sufi Order, or Khaniqahi Ni'matullahi, the current pir (shaykh or master) of which is Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh; among the branches of the order in the West, this one is the most well-known, primarily on account of the prolific publications in English of its current shaykh, Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, who is now based in England; 2) Safi 'Ali Shahi order, (link fixed 8 December 2008) named after its chief figure, Safi 'Ali Shah Isfahani (d. 1316/1899); 3) the Khaneghah Maleknia Naseralishah, named after its former shaykh, Pir Malikniya, who was also known as Naseralishah. See the illuminating account of an initiate of Pir Maleknia titled One Man's Search for the Way; and the 4) Nimatollahi Gonabadi Sufi Order. (Link fixed October 26, 2002.)

    Uwaysi Order, a Shi'i branch of the Kubrawiya, was brought to the West by its shaykh, Shah Maghsoud Angha. See biographies of him at Shah Maghsoud Sadegh Angha and Moulana Shah Maghsoud. There are currently two recent and distinct branches of the Uwaysi order that are very active in the West:
    1) The Maktab Tarighat Oveysi Shahmaghsoudi Sufi Order. The shaykh of this branch is Salaheddin Ali Nader Shah Angha, the son of Shah Maghsoud Sadeqh Angha.
    2) Uwaiysi Tarighat, headed by Shah Maghsoud's daughter, Seyedeh Nahid Angha and her husband Shah Nazar Seyed Ali Kianfar. In addition, Dr. Angha and Dr. Kianfar jointly established a another organization, the International Association of Sufism, noted below. (Uwaysi section revised on July 4, 2001.)

    Muridiyah Order

  • Khidmatul Khadim, the official webpage of the Muridiyyah Order. Deriving from Shaykh Ahmad Bamba Mbacke, aka Ahmad Al Baki and Ahmad du Bamba (d. 1927) and centered in Senegal, the order now has an office in New York City. Burhani Order
  • The Borhaniyya (or Burhamiya) order (link fixed 20 August, 2005), under the leadership of Murshid F. A. Ali ElSenossi, has flourished in Australia since 1990.

    Quasi-Islamic Sufi Organizations and Orders

    In most of these organizations, although the shaykh himself or herself adhered or adheres to the Shari'a, the practice of Islam was not made a condition for receiving instructions on following the Sufi path. In some instances the shaykh may have identified him or herself as a Muslim and on other other occasions may have identified him or herself as a member or another faith. Also in some of these organizations, on some occasions the shaykh may have not observed the shari'a in the manner that is normative for Sunni's and/or Shi'is. Hence in these organizations, significant numbers of aspirants are Muslims and significant numbers are non-Muslims.
  • Bawa Muhayiadden Fellowship (link fixed 20 August, 2005) established in the U.S. (Philadelphia) by His Holiness Bawa Muhayiadden.
  • The Threshold Society and Mevlevi Order, formerly centered in Vermont, but now located near Santa Cruz in California, U.S., is headed by Shaykh Kabir and Camille Helminski. An important part of the move of the Mevlevi Order to the West was the guidance given by Shaykh Suleyman Dede.
  • A branch of the Turkish Rifa'i Marufi order is led in the US by Sherif Baba (el-Hajj el Fakir er Rifa'i M. Catalkaya). Sherif Baba lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and teaches throughout the United States. He received a traditional religious medrese training in addition to his training in Sufism with masters of the Rifa'i-Marufi, Halveti, Kadiri, Bektashi, and Melami Sufi orders. One of the activities of the Rifa'i Marufi order is the sponsorship of the annual Rumi Festival of Chapel Hill. (Fixed, July, 2004.) The Rifa'i Marufi order can be contacted at (919) 933-0772. See also Rodrigro Dorfman's Garden of the Sufis website, which contains a dhikr led by Sherif Baba as well as a few of his discourses (sohbet) and a variety of other mutli-media presentations pertinent to Sufism as it is being practiced in Chapel Hill, NC.

    Non-Islamic Sufi Organizations and Schools in the West

    In addition to the various Islamic Sufi orders that now have centers in the West, a number of non-Islamic Sufi organizations have arisen in the West. These groups teach various Sufi doctrines and practices but -- in contrast to nearly all Sufi orders in the Muslim world -- have disconnected their teachings from Islam. Hence followers of these groups are generally not Muslims. Adherents of such schools often assert that Sufism pre-dates Islam and thus in prinicipal is universal and independent of it. The following Sufi groups and teachers have a non-Islamic view of Sufism:
  • Sufi Order International, formerly the Sufi Order in the West, founded by Hazrat Inayat Khan, who was succeeded by his son Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan (link fixed 22 Sept. 2005), who has recently been succeeded by his son, Pir Zia Inayat Khan. An essay in which he expresses his perspective on Sufism in contrast to the more traditional Islamic orms is The Paradox of "Universal Sufism". See the short biographies of each of the shaykhs of the Sufi Order International (the above links were fixed on August 20, 2002). Visit the Shrine of Hazrat Inayat Khan as well as the shrine ofNizam al-Din Awliya, which is in the same area in New Delhi, India. (Link fixed 5 November 2007). See as well the online collected works of Hazrat Inayat Khan (fixed 5 November 2007).
  • International Sufi Movement (formerly described at International Sufi Movement (link fixed 20 August, 2005)) is also derived from Inayat Khan and is headed by another of his sons, Hidayat Inayat Khan. Somewhat more detailed is the biography of Hidayat Inayat Khan. (Link fixed, November 23, 2001.)
  • Sufi Ruhaniat International (originally named "The Sufi Islamia Ruhaniat Society" (SIRS) was established by Murshid Samuel Lewis (1896 - 1971), a disciple of Hazrat Inayat Khan. Murshid Sam, who was particularly active in San Francisco during the height of the "hippie era," created the Dances of Universal Peace, which became popularly known as "Sufi Dancing." (Links fixed Oct. 12, 1999 and Nov. 23, 2001)
  • Mevlevi Order of America, founded by Jelaluddin Loras, son of the main force behind the spread of the Mevlevi Order in the West, Suleiman Hayati Dede.
  • Idries Shah was a Sufi teacher and prolific author who passed away in 1996 [the biographical material at the previous link was apparently much of the basis of the Obituary of Idries Shah (apparently offline October 22, 2002) published in the London Telegraph (December 7, 1996). See also the brief but illuminating remarks about Shah by Doris Lessing the well-known writer and student of Shah]. Through his writings, Idries Shah was arguably the single most important influence in popularizing Sufism (in a non-Islamic form) in the West. See the brief discussions of some of his works at ISHK Books (Fixed, October 10, 1999) and Doris Lessing's Review of Shah's book The Commanding Self (The London Times, May 5, 1994) as well Lessing's more comprehensive and hypertext linked The Sufis and Idries Shah People familiar with his work maintain the site Sufi Studies Today.
  • Omar Ali-Shah is a Sufi teacher and writer similar in orientation to his late brother Idries Shah. (Link fixed, February 6, 2001.)
  • The Golden Sufi Center was established in various cities in the U.S. and around the world in order to disseminate the teachings of the Naqshbandiya-Mujaddidiyya Sufi Order (in a non-Islamic form) as taught by Irina Tweedie and Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee.
  • Sufi Foundation of America (link fixed November 23, 2001, offline for a while, then online October 12, 2003) is centered in New Mexico (U.S.) and headed by Adnan Sarhan, a Sufi originally from Baghdad, who is a master of drumming and Middle Eastern dance. Healing various addictions is a major aspect of his work.
  • Sufism Reoriented is a non-Islamic Sufi organization that takes Meher Baba as its focus and regards him as the avatar (God in human form). This article deals with its current spiritual leader (murshida) Carol Weyland Conner, who succeeded Dr. James MacKie as the organization's head. (Written by Nivedita Sharma and online at, but published originally by Women's Feature Service, March 31, 2003.) David Berry, a devotee of Meher Baba, provides a "Baba lover's" view of Sufism in his article What is Sufism?.

    Organizations or Schools Related to Sufism or Sufi Orders

  • Islamic Studies and Research Association (ISRA) is a US based international organization of Muslims aspiring to revive Islam, primarily through reviving its spiritual dimension, Sufism. Its membership is comprised of both Muslims having a variety of Sufi affiliations as well as Muslims who simply love God, who love the Prophet Muhammad, and who love all those dear to God and the Prophet.
  • International Association of Sufism, was established in the U.S. by Seyedeh Nahid Angha, Ph. D. (the daughter of Shah Maghsoud Sadegh Angha) and her husband, Shah Nazar Ali Kianfar, Ph. D. Among its many activities is the sponsorship of an annual conference in which both Islamic and non-Islamic Sufis take part. This year's conference, the Ninth Annual Sufism Symposium, to be held May 24-27, is titled Sufism: Practicing Harmony The IAS also publishes an online journal, Sufism: An Inquiry. (Updated, March 4, 2001 and August 3, 2001)
  • American Sufi Muslim Association (ASMA Society) founded by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, centered in New York City (link fixed 20 August, 2005).
  • The Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi Society, established in both the U.S. and England, in both locations organizes annual conferences on the work of Ibn 'Arabi (d. 1240) and publishes a scholarly journal. Both Muslim and non-Muslim scholars present papers at their conferences.
  • The Naqshbandi Foundation for Islamic Education (NFIE), although not a Sufi order, is an Islamic Sufi related organization comprised largely (but not limited to) followers of various branches of the Naqshbandi order. Its two main activities are (1) a yearly celebration of the Milad al-Nabi (birthday of the Prophet Muhammad), at which Sufis and scholars with a variety of Sufi affiliations give presentations, and (2) the publication of a scholarly journal, Sufi Illuminations.
  • Australian Centre for Sufism, not affiliated with any particular Sufi order, was founded by clinical psychologist and initiated Sufi teacher, Fleur Nassery Bonnin. She believes in the necessity of doing both psychological and spiritual work.
  • The Beshara School of Intensive Esoteric Education was founded in the England and the U.S. by a Turkish gentleman, Bulent Rauf (d. 1987), who had a strong interest in Sufism, especially the writings of Ibn 'Arabi and Rumi. Beshara regards itself as a school for realizing esoteric truth, a school that is independent of religion. (Link fixed 3/21/99)
  • SUBUD was established originally in Indonesia by Bapak Subuh (link fixed 20 August, 2005) (d. 1987), who in his youth was a Sufi. There are now many centers throughout the world. An excellect summary of Subud is found at Subud: Its Origin and Aim. Bapak encouraged members of Subud to practice the religion of their choice. Hence some followers of Subud are Muslims and others are affiliated with other religions, while some do not have a religion. For a comparative study see Subud and Sufism by Dirk Campbell. Especially useful is Campbell's comparisons of Idries Shah's assessments of Subud with Pak Subuh's own remarks.

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