Sufism -- Sufis -- Sufi
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.
articles by Kinney and Bayman illustrate some general trends and issues:
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.
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
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
Islamic Sufi Orders in the West
Organizations or Orders
Organizations or Orders
Organizations or Schools
Related to Sufism or Sufi Orders
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.
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
Shadhili Order, the branches of which are as follows:
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-Shadhiliyah, (link fixed, Nov. 17, 2001) headed by
Haeri. He is represented in the U.S. by Hajj Mustafa Ali, an American convert to Islam.
Order, deriving from Shaykh al-'Alawi.
current fame in the West derives largely from Martin Lings' book, A Sufi
Saint of the Twentieth Century (link fixed 20 August, 2005).
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
and Modernity (July, 1998) (link fixed 20 Feb. 2008); 4) The fourth branch is connected to an
shaykh known as Sidi 'Alawi who in the West has a number of disciples,
in particular, in
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.
Burhaniya, while primarily in the Sudan, where the shaykh is Sheikh Mohamed
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.
established in the West by
Shaykh Nazim. Currently, his khalifa (representative) in the U.S.
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
Azad Rasool, (link fixed, Dec. 1, 2000) a Naqshbandi shaykh from New Dehli.
Chishti Order (link fixed 20 August, 2005)
established in the U.S. by an American Sufi, Shaykh Hakim Moinuddin
Albayli Branch of the Chishti Order (link fixed 20 August, 2005).
Shahi Branch of the Chishti Order, established by Dr. M. Qadeer Shah
Baig in Toronto, Canada. The current khalifa in Toronto is Syed
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
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
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)
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 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
establishment in Afghanistan. (New links added November 27, 2003.)
Nur Ashki Jerrahi Sufi
Order consider themselves to be within the Halveti-Jerrahi
the lineage and leadership of the Turkish Sheikh Muzaffer Ashki
(d. 1985) and the Westerners, Sheikh
Nur al-Jerrahi (Lex Hixon) (d. 1995)
and his successor (who is a woman), Sheikha Fariha (Friedrich)
See The Pavilion of
Light, which consists of an online
transcribed discussions with Shaykh Nur, as well as the link Teachings, which includes discourses of Shaykh Nur and
Nimatullahi order, although originally a Sunni order, became Shi'i in Iran
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
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.
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
that are very active in the West:
1) The Maktab
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
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 OrderKhidmatul 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.
Borhaniyya (or Burhamiya) order (link fixed 20 August, 2005), under the leadership of Murshid F. A.
Ali ElSenossi, has flourished in Australia since 1990.
In most of these organizations, although the shaykh himself or herself
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
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.
Fellowship (link fixed 20 August, 2005) established in the U.S. (Philadelphia) by His Holiness Bawa
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
A branch of the Turkish
Rifa'i Marufi order is led in the
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
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
pertinent to Sufism as it is being practiced in Chapel Hill, NC.
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.
Sufi groups and teachers have a non-Islamic view of Sufism:
Order International, formerly the Sufi Order
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".
the short biographies of each of the shaykhs
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,
Khan. Somewhat more detailed is
the biography of Hidayat
Inayat Khan. (Link fixed, November 23, 2001.)
Sufi Ruhaniat International
(originally named "The Sufi Islamia
Society" (SIRS) was established by Murshid Samuel
Lewis (1896 - 1971), a
disciple of Hazrat
Inayat Khan. Murshid
Sam, who was particularly active in San
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
Sarhan, a Sufi originally from Baghdad, who is a master of drumming
and Middle Eastern dance. Healing various addictions is a major aspect of
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
Boloji.com, but published
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?.
Islamic Studies and
Research Association (ISRA) is a US
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
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
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).
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
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
The Beshara School of Intensive
Esoteric Education was founded in the England and the U.S. by a
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
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
practice the religion of their
choice. Hence some followers of Subud
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.