riyada in arabic means "training" or "discipline". It was used by the arabs in relation to horse taming. Sufis refer to their discipline as "riyadat an-nafs": disciplining the soul / training the ego. Today, the word riyada has come to mean "sports". There is an Arabic proverb that says: "The purpose of sports (riyada) is not to win cups, but to discipline the soul". This blog is here to help me discipline my soul and train my body.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Al-Tariqa al-Muhammadiyya and Sha'rani's Circle

At around the 19th century, four major Sufi tariqas, all connected, called themselves the Tariqa Muhammadiyya. These, under their later names, were the Sammaniyya, Tijaniyya, Muhammadiyya-Naqshbandiyya, and the Ahmadiyya Muhammadiyya, each of which branched off into other similar tariqas. The movement itself began more than 50 years, if not up to a century, earlier, but without the name itself. The article "The Origins of the Tariqa Muhammadiyya traced the evolution of some of the most distinctive elements that are to be found in these future tariqas, until we saw most of the elements of Ahmad Ibn Idris' tariqa in the thought of Ibn Taymiyya's friend and colleague, Ahmad al-Wasiti (d. 1311). We ended our discussion with Abd al-Karim al-Jili, who was a famous commentator on Ibn Arabi during the late 14th and early 15th century (d. 1408).

We now continue to the end of the 15th and beginning of the 16th century, with a group of Sufis living in Egypt in the circle of the famous Abd al-Wahhab al-Sha'rani (1493-1565), who explained and popularized the ideas of Ibn Arabi to the masses. Now it is important to note that here again, we are not talking about the Tariqa Muhammadiyya in its most complete form as it emerged in the 18th and 19th centuries. Sha'rani and his master Ali al-Khawwas, for example, had greatly different views on the madhaahib than for example Ahmad ibn Idris and his followers. But what we see here are two important features of the Muhammadan ways: 1) Constant tasliya on the Prophet as a means to see him, peace and blessings be upon him, and 2) Turning only to the Prophet for help and not for any wali, so that one depends only on Allah and his Messenger (pbuh).

Wrote al-Sha'rani,

So work my brother on polishing the mirror of your heart from rust and dust, and on purifying yourself of all impurities, so that there is not left in you a single trait that would keep you from entering the presence of Allah exalted be He, or the presence of the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him. For if you do a large amount of salaat and salaam on him, peace be upon him, then perhaps you will reach the station of witnessing him. And this is the way of shaykh Noor al-Deen al-Shooni, shaykh Ahmad al-Zawawi, shaykh Muhammad ibn Dawood al-Manzilawi, and a group of shaykhs from Yemen, for one of them does not stop praying upon the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him and doing it abundantly until he is purified of all sins and comes to meet him while awake whenever he wanted. And he to whom this meeting does not happen has not done a large amount of sending prayers and greetings upon the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him, the amount large enough for him to reach this station.

And I heard my master Ali al-Khawwas, may God have mercy on him, say: The servant does not reach perfection in the station of gnosis until he can meet with the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him whenever he wants.[1]

The above-mentioned Ahmad al-Zawawi (d. 1517) would recite the tasliya 40,000 times a day. He said to al-Sha'rani,

We recite the tasliya on behalf of the Prophet so often that he then sits with us while we are in a waking state (hattaa yaseera yujaalisunaa yaqzatan) and we keep company with him like the sahaaba did (nashabuhu). Then we question him about matters of our religion and about hadiths which are held to be weak in the opinion of our religious scholars. Subsequently we base our behaviour on his words. [2]

And as for the above-mentioned Noor al-Deen al-Shooni, he is believed to have been the first person to bring people together for the sole purpose of doing the tasliya over the Prophet. Before him, each person would have their own awrad (plural of wird) on the tasliya which they would do on their own. But al-Shooni created gatherings in which people came together to do this, and from him these gatherings spread to the Hijaz, the bilad al-Sham, Egypt, the Muslim West, and West Africa. Al-Shooni's daily wird consisted of saying the tasliya 10,000 times every morning and another 10,000 every evening, beside leading group gatherings in which they would pray over the Messenger peace be upon him for several hours. [3]

Ahmad ibn Idris used to say,

Each Prophet has an answered prayer, and each wali has with his Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, a granted request. When its time came, I asked him peace and blessings be upon him to guard my companions and grant them spiritual support from his own essence. So he said: "He who associates himself with you, I will not have anyone else be his guardian or guarantor, for I am his guardian and his guarantor."

And based on this granted request Ibn Idris would say to his followers, "We have transferred you to him who is better than us, since the assignment has been accepted. So turn to him and show your questions and needs to him." [4]

This is similar to the saying of al-Khawwas,

"All the doors of the awliya have been shut, and nothing now remains open except the door of the Messenger of God peace and blessings be upon him. So bring all your needs and problems to him, peace and blessings be upon him."

Al-Khawwas also said,

"The faqir is not completed in the door of the following of the Messenger of Allah peace and blessings be upon him until he becomes witnessed by him in every act and asks his permission in all his affairs from eating and clothing and coming and going, for he who does that has participated in companionship in the real meaning of companionship (sahaaba)."

And similar to that is the saying of al-Shadhili (d. 1258), may God be pleased with him: "The truth of following (ittibaa') is to witness he who is being followed at every word and act." [5]

Thus the goal, and method, of making the Messenger of Allah one's guide and shaykh instead of any other figure, and of following him in every act and saying, and even of requesting his permission for every act and saying, can be seen with many awliya at the time of Abd al-Wahhab al-Sha'rani and his masters in the late 15th and early 16th centuries.

We now arrive through this line at Ahmad Muhammad al-Dajani al-Qushashi (d. 1661), who took many chains of transmission that go back to al-Sha'rani, there being only two persons between them. And all the future Tariqa Muhammadiyya movements mentioned at the start of this article will be connected, in one way or another (and sometimes in multiple ways), to this Qushashi.

We end with this chain of intitation of the Tariqa Muhammadiyya as mentioned by Muhammad ibn Ali al-Sanusi:

And [I took the Tariqa Muhammadiyya] from each of my shaykh al-Jamal al-Ujaymi and al-Jamal and al-Attar from the grandfather of the first one, Abul Baqaa [al-Ujaymi] who said, "I was told of it by al-Safiyy al-Qushashi from his shaykh Ahmad ibn Ali al-Shinnawi from his uncle Abd al-Wahhab bin Abd al-Quddus from the shaykh al-Khawwas, may God be pleased with them, from the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him". I also took it with the above mentioned chain to the shaykh Ahmad ibn Ali al-Shinnawi from shaykh Abd al-Wahhab al-Sha'rani from shaykh al-Khawwas from shaykh Ibrahim al-Matbooli and he took from the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him, as mentioned by al-Sha'rani.[6]

1. http://www.aljamaa.info/ar/detail_khabar.asp?id=4894&IdRub=22
2. Lawaqih al-anwar al-qudsiyya fi bayan al-'uhud al-muhammadiyya, Cairo 1321, 116. Taken from The Exoteric Ahmad ibn Idris, pg 17.
3. http://www.allah.com/download/ArabicDalail.doc
4. Saleh al-Jaafari. Al-Muntaqa al-Nafees, Dar Jawaami' al-Kalim, pg 86-87.
5. Ibid.
6. Muhammad bin Ali al-Sanusi, al-Manhal al-Rawiyy al-Rai'q, al-Majmu'a al-Mukhtara, Manchester: 1990, pg 50.


Anonymous True Life said...

Asalamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullah

Interesting... I think you find nice soul food on my Blog, too. Give it a try...

Was Salam
True Life

February 21, 2007 at 9:28 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The article was enlightening and educative.But I feel that printing the shijrah of the tariqa would make it more `enlightening.

May 3, 2008 at 8:29 PM


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