Naqshbandiya Foundation for Islamic Education

The Naqshbandiya Foundation for Islamic Education (NFIE) is a non-profit, tax exempt, religious and educational organization dedicated to serve Islam with a special focus on Tasawwuf(Sufism),

Saturday, November 21, 2020

The Qadiriyya and the lineages of Qadiri shaykhs in Kurdistan - Martin van Bruinessen

The Qadiriyya and the lineages of Qadiri shaykhs in Kurdistan - Martin van Bruinessen 

The observer of the Qadiriyya in Kurdistan is struck by two traits that clearly distinguish it from the only other order that presently has numerous Kurdish adherents, the Naqshbandiyya, as well as from the branches of the Qadiriyya elsewhere that have been studied thus far. The first is the fact that the order is, at least in southern and eastern Kurdistan, virtually monopolised by two (formerly by four) large families of hereditary shaykhs, who also control considerable economic resources, the Barzinjis and the Talabanis. Whereas the Naqshbandiyya-Khalidiyya rapidly spread across all of Kurdistan in the 19th century due to the practice of appointing locally influential `ulama as khalîfa, the networks of the Qadiri shaykhs (especially the Barzinjis) remained family networks, with branches of the family established in different places acting as the chief spiritual authorities and with few or no outsiders in positions of importance. The second striking aspect of Kurdish Qadiri practices is the use of percussion instruments accompanying the recitation of mystical poetry as well as the dhikr, the ecstatic nature of the dhikr, and (especially with the Barzinji branches) the practice of cutting oneself with sharp objects (tîghbâzî), licking red-hot iron, eating glass and poison, in which some of the participants in the Qadiri majlis engage. The latter practices are commonly associated with the Rifa`iyya, not with the Qadiriyya.1 The Kurdish Qadiriyya majlis appears to represent a local synthesis of devotional and mystical exercises.2

Barzanji Shaykhs.The two families of shaykhs that have dominated the Qadiriyya in southern and eastern Kurdistan for the past century and a half are the Barzinji, with their major centres in the the city of Sulaymaniyya and a number of villages in the districts around it, and the Talabani, with their central takiya in Kirkuk. Previously, two large and influential families of sayyids in central Kurdistan, based in Nehri in Shemdinan and in Arvas near Moks respectively, were also affiliated with the Qadiriyya but the leading shaykhs of both adopted the NaqshbandiyyaKhalidiyya in the 19th century and appear to have completely given up their Qadiri affiliations.3 The Barzinji are the most influential and powerful family of `ulama and shaykhs in Kurdistan. They trace their origins to a certain Sayyid `Isa who in the mid-15th century came, together with his brother Musa, from Hamadan and settled in Kurdistan at a spot named Barzinja, where they established a mosque. Family chronicles make `Isa and Musa the sons of `Ali Hamadani and brothers of Sayyid Muhammad Nurbakhsh, who, according to the same chronicles, personally spread the Nurbakhshiyya in Kurdistan; Sayyid `Isa himself is also sometimes named `Isa Nurbakhsh.4 This suggests that at least at one stage the family was affiliated with the Nurbakhshiyya order. `Ali Hamadani (d. 786/1385) was a well-known mystic affiliated with the Kubrawiyya, who established himself in Kashmir; Muhammad Nurbakhsh (d. 869/1465) was a second-generation disciple of `Ali Hamadani, who declared himself the mahdi and for whom the Nurbakhshiyya, a distinct branch of the Kubrawiyya, is named. The presence of the Nurbakhshiyya in 15th-century Kurdistan is also attested by other sources.5

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