Sufi Jihad
By Andrew G. Bostom

Danish translation: Sufi-jihad
Source: American Thinker, May 15, 2005
Published on March 2, 2012

The Sufi branch of Islam has enjoyed spectacularly good press in the West. Hailed as peaceful mystics who believe jihad is a spiritual quest, nothing violent or unpleasant, Sufism has attracted favorable attention and converts from all sorts of Westerners, from new agers in Marin County, California, to East Coast intellectuals. But Sufis are not necessarily all peace-loving meditative seekers of the divine.

The formation of the 'The Sufi Jihadi Squadrons of Shaykh 'Abd al—Qadir al—Gilani' in Iraq was recently announcedat the jihadist website, 'Jihad Unspun'. The Al—Gilani (d.1166) after whom they are named was in fact a Hanbali Sufi.

Sufi jihadists'(?)—a 'Hanbali Sufi'(??)—haven't we been lectured at great length about the singular evils of 'Wahhabism' —rooted in the Hanbali school of Muslim jurisprudence, epitomized by Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328)—versus its Islamic 'antithesis', the ecumenical tradition of mystical Sufism???

Notwithstanding the musings of a Muslim journalist and neo—convert from Bolshevism to Sufi Islam, Sufism has been linked integrally to the Muslim institution of jihad war since the 11th century C.E.

Consistent with this nexus between Sufism and orthodox Islam, Sufis have supported (fervently) the corollary institution of dhimmitude, replete with all its oppressive and humiliating regulations for non-Muslims. It is also important to highlight, in contrast, the very flimsy theological foundation of the much ballyhooed Sufi notion of the so—called 'greater' spiritual jihad. Even the Islamophilic scholar Reuven Firestone has acknowledged the dubious nature of the hadith ostensibly outlining this potential interpretation of jihad: [1]

Its source is not usually given, and it is in fact nowhere to be found in the canonical collections [of hadith]

Of course devout Muslims, and influential 20th century scholars of Islam like the Shi'ite leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (d. 1989), or the brilliant Sunni ideologue Sayyid Qutb (d. 1966), always recognized the marginal Islamic foundations of this putative Sufi construction in their seminal writings and lectures, and dismissed it outright. [2]

But what have the most important Sufi theologians and jurists written on the uniquely Islamic institution of jihad war, and its corollary institution, dhimmitude, from the Medieval era, through the present? Also, what has been the role of prominent Sufis or Sufi movements vis a vis jihad war, and the implementation of dhimmitude?

Al—Ghazali, Medieval Sufism, Jihad and Dhimmitude

Let us begin with a towering figure in Muslim intellectual history, Al—Ghazali (1058—1111), who was born at Tus in Khurasan, near modern Meshed, Iran, and became a renowned theologian, jurist, and mystic. Al—Ghazali's early training was as a jurist, and he continued to have an interest in jurisprudence throughout his career, writing a work the Wadjiz, dated 1101, i.e., in the last decade of his life. The eminent Islamic scholar W.M. Watt stresses Al—Ghazali's Muslim orthodoxy. Watt maintains that Al—Ghazali was [3]

...acclaimed in both the East and West as the greatest Muslim after Muhammad, and he is by no means unworthy of that dignity...He brought orthodoxy and mysticism into closer contact...the theologians became more ready to accept the mystics as respectable, while the mystics were more careful to remain within the bounds of orthodoxy.

Al—Ghazali, a Sufi orthodox Muslim, and follower of the Shafi'i school of Islamic jurisprudence, wrote this about jihad war and the treatment of the vanquished non—Muslim dhimmi peoples, in the Wadjiz: [4]

[O]ne must go on jihad (i.e., warlike razzias or raids) at least once a may use a catapult against them [non-Muslims] when they are in a fortress, even if among them are women and children. One may set fire to them and/or drown them...If a person of the Ahl al—Kitab [People of The Book — primarily Jews and Christians] is enslaved, his marriage is [automatically] revoked...One may cut down their trees...One must destroy their useless books. Jihadists may take as booty whatever they decide...they may steal as much food as they need...
[T]he dhimmi is obliged not to mention Allah or His Apostle...Jews, Christians, and Majians must pay the jizya [poll tax on non—Muslims]...on offering up the jizya, the dhimmi must hang his head while the official takes hold of his beard and hits [the dhimmi] on the protruberant bone beneath his ear [i.e., the mandible]... They are not permitted to ostentatiously display their wine or church bells...their houses may not be higher than the Muslim's, no matter how low that is. The dhimmi may not ride an elegant horse or mule; he may ride a donkey only if the saddle [—work] is of wood. He may not walk on the good part of the road. They [the dhimmis] have to wear [an identifying] patch [on their clothing], even women, and even in the [public] baths...[dhimmis] must hold their tongue....

Compare Al—Ghazali's writings, above, to the statements below by two later, prominent Hanbali jurists, Ibn Qudama (d. 1223), and the much demonized Ibn Taymiyya (d.1328). First Ibn Qudama: [5]

Legal war (jihad) is an obligatory social duty (fard—kifaya); when one group of Moslems guarantees that it is being carried out in a satisfactory manner, the others are exempted.
The jihad becomes a strictly binding personal duty (fard—'ain) for all Moslems who are enlisted or whose country has been [invaded] by the enemy. It is obligatory only for free men who have reached puberty, are endowed with reason and capable of fighting. Jihad is the best of the works of supererogation. Abu Huraira relates that 'The Prophet, when asked what was the best of all works, replied: Belief in God [and in His Prophet].— And then? someone asked him. — War for God's cause, then a pious pilgrimage.' Abu Sa'id reports also that the Prophet, when asked who was the best of all men, replied, 'He who fights for God's cause, personally and with his goods.'... It is permitted to surprise the infidels under cover of night, to bombard them with mangonels [an engine that hurls missiles] and to attack them without declaring battle (du'a'). The Prophet attacked the Banu Mustaliq unexpectedly, while their animals were still at the watering—place; he killed the men who had fought against him and carried off the children into captivity. It is forbidden to kill children, madmen, women, priests, impotent old men, the infirm, the blind, the weak—minded, unless they have taken part in the combat.
The chief of State decides on the fate of the men who are taken as prisoners; he can have them put to death, reduce them to slavery, free them in return for a ransom or grant them their freedom as a gift. He must choose the solution most in keeping with the common good of the Moslems.
The jizya can be demanded only from the Peoples of the Book (Ahl—al—Kitab) and from Zoroastrians (Magus), who pledge to pay it and submit to the laws of the community. The Peoples of the Book are understood to mean the Jews and those who follow the religion of the Torah, as well as the Christians and those who follow the religion of the Gospel. When People of the Book or Zoroastrians ask to pay the jizya and to submit to the laws of the community, one must grant their request, and it is forbidden to fight them. The jizya is collected at the beginning of each year. It is set at 48 dirhems for a rich man, at 24 dirhems for a man of moderate means, and at 12 dirhems for a man of lowly estate. It cannot be demanded from children who have not reached the age of puberty, from women, helpless old men, the sick, the blind, or slaves, nor from poor people who are unable to pay it. An infidel subject to the jizya who converts to Islam is free of this obligation. When an infidel dies, his heirs are responsible for the jizya.

Ibn Taymiyya: [6]

Since lawful warfare is essentially jihad and since its aim is that the religion is God's entirely and God's word is uppermost, therefore according to all Muslims, those who stand in the way of this aim must be fought. As for those who cannot offer resistance or cannot fight, such as women, children, monks, old people, the blind, handicapped and their likes, they shall not be killed unless they actually fight with words (e.g. by propaganda) and acts (e.g. by spying or otherwise assisting in the warfare).
As for the People of the Book and the Zoroastrians (Majus), they are to be fought until they become Muslims or pay the tribute (jizya) out of hand and have been humbled.

Any fair, objective comparison must conclude that relative to the Hanbali jurists Ibn Qudama and Ibn Taymiyya, Al—Ghazali is at least as bellicose in his pronouncements on jihad war, and more bigoted and oppressive in his stated guidelines for the treatment of the vanquished non—Muslim dhimmis. Furthermore, Al Ghazali's views regarding non—Muslim dhimmis—which were typical of the prevailing written opinions of Muslim theologians and jurists during the Abbasid—Baghdadian Caliphate—resulted in tangible acts of dhimmi persecution, as recorded, for example, in this contemporary chronicle from Baghdad by Obadyah the Proselyte, in 1100 C.E.: [7]

...the Caliph of Baghdad, al—Muqtadi [1075—1094], had given power to his vizier, Abu Shuja... [who] imposed that each male Jew should wear a yellow badge on his headgear. This was one distinctive sign on the head and the other was on the neck— a piece of lead of the weight of a silver dinar hanging round the neck of every Jew and inscribed with the word dhimmi to signify that the Jew had to pay poll—tax. Jews also had to wear girdles round their wastes. Abu Shuja further imposed two signs on Jewish women. They had to wear a black and a red shoe, and each woman had to have a small brass bell on her neck or shoe, which would tinkle and thus announce the separation of Jewish from Gentile [Muslim] women. He assigned cruel Muslim men to spy upon Jewish women, in order to oppress them with all kinds of curses, humiliation, and spite. The Gentile population used to mock all the Jews, and the mob and their children used to beat up the Jews in all the streets of Baghdad...When a Jew died, who had not paid up the poll—tax [jizya] to the full and was in debt for a small or large amount, the Gentiles did not permit burial until the poll—tax was paid. If the deceased left nothing of value, the Gentiles demanded that other Jews should, with their own money, meet the debt owed by the deceased in poll—tax; otherwise they [threatened] they would burn the body.

Finally, in the spirit of Al Ghazali's teachings on jihad war, the Seljuk and Ottoman jihad campaigns which ravaged neighboring Asia Minor from the 11th through 15th centuries, were spearheaded by 'Ghazi' (from the word ghazwa or 'razzia') movements, 'Warriors of the Faith', brought together under the banner of Islam to fight infidels, and obtain booty. Incited by pious Muslim theologians—most prominently, Sufi dervishes—these ghazis were at the vanguard of both the Seljuk and Ottoman jihad conquests. A.E. Vacalopoulos highlights the role of these dervishes during the Ottoman campaigns: [8]

...fanatical dervishes and other devout Muslim leaders...constantly toiled for the dissemination of Islam. They had done so from the very beginning of the Ottoman state and had played an important part in the consolidation and extension of Islam. These dervishes were particularly active in the uninhabited frontier regions of the east. Here they settled down with their families, attracted other settlers, and thus became the virtual founders of whole new villages, whose inhabitants invariably exhibited the same qualities of deep religious fervor. From places such as these, the dervishes or their agents would emerge to take part in new military enterprises for the extension of the Islamic state. In return, the state granted them land and privileges under a generous prescription which required only that the land be cultivated and communications secured.

Sufi Ideologues in Pre-Modern India

The Sufism practiced on the Indian subcontinent was quite intolerant of Hinduism, during both the late Delhi Sultanate and early Mughal periods, as documented by K. S. Lal, a pre—eminent 20th century Indian scholar of Islam. Lal [9] focuses on the writings of the influential Sufi cleric Abdul Quddus Gangoh (~1456—1537):

The Muslim Mushaikh [Sufi spiritual leaders] were as keen on conversions as the Ulama, and contrary to general belief, in place of being kind to the Hindus as saints would, they too wished the Hindus to be accorded a second class citizenship if they were not converted. Only one instance, that of Shaikh Abdul Quddus Gangoh, need be cited because he belonged to the Chishtia Silsila considered to be the most tolerant of all Sufi groups. He wrote letters to the Sultan Sikandar Lodi, Babur, and Humayun to re—invigorate the Shariat [Sharia] and reduce the Hindus to payers of land tax and jizya. To Babur he wrote, 'Extend utmost patronage and protection to theologians and mystics... that they should be maintained and subsidized by the state... No non—Muslim should be given any office or employment in the Diwan of Islam... Furthermore, in conformity with the principles of the Shariat they should be subjected to all types of indignities and humiliations. They should be made to pay the jizya...They should be disallowed from donning the dress of the Muslims and should be forced to keep their Kufr [infidelity] concealed and not to perform the ceremonies of their Kufr openly and freely... They should not be allowed to consider themselves the equal to the Muslims.'

Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi (1564—1624) was an eminent Sufi mystic, connected with several Sufi orders (including the Naqshbandi order), who contributed greatly toward the revival of orthodox Islam, following the heterodox experiments of Akbar's reign (1556—1605). Sirhindi published a number of tracts and letters promoting his views, which condemned the ecumenism Akbar had promulgated towards Hindus, in particular. As opposed to his bigoted views of the Hindus, Sirhindi's ad hominem attack on Jews must reflect a theological (i.e., Muslim) Judenhass [Jew—hatred], as it is unlikely he would have had any direct contact with the minute and remote Jewish communities in pre—modern India.

Shariat can be fostered through the sword....Kufr and Islam are opposed to each other. The progress of one is possible only at the expense of the other and co—existence between these two contradictory faiths is unthinkable....The honor of Islam lies in insulting kufr and kafirs. One who respects kafirs, dishonors the Muslims. To respect them does not merely mean honoring them and assigning them a seat of honor in any assembly, but it also implies keeping company with them or showing considerations to them. They should be kept at an arm's length like dogs....If some worldly business cannot be performed without them, in that case only a minimum of contact should be established with them but without taking them into confidence. The highest Islamic sentiment asserts that it is better to forego that worldly business and that no relationship should be established with the kafirs... The real purpose in levying jizya on them [the non—Muslims] is to humiliate then to such an extent that, on account of fear of jizya , they may not be able to dress well and to live in grandeur. They should constantly remain terrified and trembling. It in intended to hold them under contempt and to uphold the honor and might of Islam...Cow—sacrifice in India is the noblest of Islamic practices. The kafirs may probably agree to pay jizya but they shall never concede to cow—sacrifice...The execution of the accursed kafir of Gobindwal [a Sikh who lead an uprising against the oppressive Muslim rule of his community] is an important achievement and is the cause of great defeat of the accursed Hindus... Whatever might have been the motive behind the execution, the dishonor of the kafirs is an act of highest grace for the Muslims. Before the execution of the kafirs I had seen in a vision that the Emperor had destroyed the crown of the head of Shirk. Verily he was the chief of the Mushriks and the leader of the kafirs...Whenever a Jew is killed, it is for the benefit of Islam. [10]

Yohanan Friedmann offers this summary assessment of Sirhindi's attitudes towards the Hindus: [11]

Sirhindi follows up his utter rejection of the beliefs and practices of Hinduism with an equally outspoken statement of his attitude regarding the position of the Hindus in the Mughul empire. The honour of Islam demands the humiliation of the infidels and their false religion. To achieve this objective, jizyah should be mercilessly levied upon them, and they should be treated like dogs. Cows should be slaughtered to demonstrate the supremacy of Islam. The performance of this rite is, in India, the most important symbol of Islamic domination. One should refrain from dealing with the infidels unless absolutely necessary, and even then treat then with contempt. Islam and infidelity are two irreconcilable opposites. One thrives upon the degradation of the other. Sirhindi's deep—seated hatred of the non—Muslims can be best illustrated by his rejoicing at the execution in 1606 of Arjun, the fifth guru of the Sikhs.

Shah Aladihlawi Wali—Allah (1703—1762), was a theologian, pioneering Persian translator of the Qur'an, Sufi traditionalist, and political activist. Shah Wali—Allah's letters to Afghan ruler Ahmad Shah Abdali (Durrani), as well as prominent local Muslim leaders urging them to cooperate with Durrani in undertaking a jihad against the (Hindu) Marathas and Jats, reveal his persistent efforts to establish a (foreign, if necessary) and more militant Muslim dynasty within India. Shah Wali—Allah was thus not only an inspiration for Durrani's invasions of 1756—57 and 1760—61, he was also responsible for helping to organize a confederacy of Muslim powers against the (Hindu) Marathas in Northern India.

It has become clear to my mind that the kingdom of heaven has predestined that kafirs should be reduced to a state of humiliation and treated with utter contempt. Should that repository of majesty and dauntless courage [Nizam al—Maluk] gird his loins and direct his attention to such a task he can conquer the world. Thus the faith will become more popular and his own power strengthened; a little effort would be profoundly rewarded. Should he make no effort, they [the Marathas] would inevitably be weakened and annihilated through celestial calamities and in such an event he would gain no credit...As I have learnt this unequivocally [from the divine] I spontaneously write to draw your attention to the great opportunity laid before you. You should therefore not be negligent in fighting jihad...Oh Kings! Mala a'la urges you to draw your swords and not put them back in their sheaths again until Allah has separated the Muslims from the polytheists and the rebellious kafirs and the sinners are made absolutely feeble and helpless.'
In his testament to [subsequent Caliph] Umar, [then Caliph] Abu Bakr had informed him that if he feared God, the entire world would be frightened of him ['Umar]. Sages and declared that the world resembled a shadow. If a man ran after his shadow it would pursue him, and if he took flight from the shadow it would still pursue him. God has chosen you as the protector of the Sunnis as there is no—one else to perform this duty, and it is crucial that at all times you consider your role as obligatory. By taking up the sword to make Islam supreme and by subordinating your own persona needs to this cause, you will reap vast benefits.
We beseech you [Durrani, a Muslim ruler] in the name of the Prophet to fight a jihad against the infidels of this region. This would entitle you to great rewards before God the Most High and your name would be included in the list of those who fought jihad for His sake. As far as worldly gains are concerned, incalculable booty would fall into the hands of the Islamic ghazis and the Muslims would be liberated from their bonds. The invasion of Nadir Shah who destroyed the Muslims left the Marathas and Jats secure and prosperous. This resulted in the infidels regaining their strength and in the reduction of the Muslim leaders of Delhi to mere puppets.
When the conquering army arrives in an area with a mixed Muslim—Hindu population, the imperial guards should transfer the Muslims from their villages to the towns and at the same time care for their property. Financial assistance should be given by governments to the deprived and the poor as well as to Sayyids and the 'ulama. Their generosity would then become famous with prompt prayers for their victories. Each town would eagerly await the arrival of the Islamic army ('that paragon of bounty'). Moreover, wherever there was even the slightest fear of a Muslim defeat, the Islamic army should be there to disperse infidels to all corners of the earth. Jihad should be their first priority, thereby ensuring the security of every Muslim. [12]

S.A.A. Rizvi's detailed analysis of Shah Wali—Allah doctrine of jihad concludes: [13]

According to Shah Wali—Allah the mark of the perfect implementation of the Shari'a was the performance of jihad. He compared the duties of Muslims in relation to the law to those of a favourite slave who administered bitter medicine to other slaves in a household. If this was done forcefully it was quite legitimate but if someone mixed it with kindness it was even better. However, there were people, said the Shah who indulged in their lower natures by following their ancestral religion, ignoring the advice and commands of the Prophet Muhammad. If one chose to explain Islam to such people like this it was to do then a disservice. Force, said the Shah, was the much better course — Islam should be forced down their throats like bitter medicine to a child. This, however, was only possible if the leaders of the non—Muslim communities who failed to accept Islam were killed; the strength of the community was reduced, their property confiscated and a situation was created which led to their followers and descendants willingly accepting Islam. The Shah pleaded that the universal domination of Islam was not possible without jihad and by holding on to the tails of cows.

Shi'ite Sufism and Dhimmitude in Contemporary Iran

Sultanhussein Tabandeh, a modern Shi'ite Sufi leader, wrote an entire treatise in 1966 decrying various elements of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that are incompatible with Islamic law: an 'Islamic perspective' on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. [14] According to Professor Eliz Sanasarian of the University of Southern California, who has analyzed the plight of religious minorities in the Islamic Republic, Tabandeh's tract became 'the core ideological work upon which the Iranian government...based its non—Muslim policy.' His views on non—Muslims, says Sanasarian, were implemented 'almost verbatim in the Islamic Republic of Iran.' [15]

Tabandeh begins his discussion by lauding Shah Ismail I (1502—1524), the repressive and bigoted founder of the Safavid dynasty, [16] as a champion 'of the oppressed.' He then reaffirms the traditional inferiority of non—Muslims to Muslims, as sacralized by the Shari'a: [17]

Thus if [a] Muslim commits adultery his punishment is 100 lashes, the shaving of his head, and one year of banishment. But if the man is not a Muslim and commits adultery with a Muslim woman his penalty is execution...Similarly if a Muslim deliberately murders another Muslim he falls under the law of retaliation and must by law be put to death by the next of kin. But if a non—Muslim who dies at the hand of a Muslim has by lifelong habit been a non—Muslim, the penalty of death is not valid. Instead the Muslim murderer must pay a fine and be punished with the lash. Since Islam regards non—Muslims as on a lower level of belief and conviction, if a Muslim kills a non—Muslim...then his punishment must not be the retaliatory death, since the faith and conviction he possesses is loftier than that of the man slain... Again, the penalties of a non—Muslim guilty of fornication with a Muslim woman are augmented because, in addition to the crime against morality, social duty and religion, he has committed sacrilege, in that he has disgraced a Muslim and thereby cast scorn upon the Muslims in general, and so must be executed.
Islam and its peoples must be above the infidels, and never permit non—Muslims to acquire lordship over them. Since the marriage of a Muslim woman to an infidel husband (in accordance with the verse quoted: 'Men are guardians form women') means her subordination to an infidel, that fact makes the marriage void, because it does not obey the conditions laid down to make a contract valid. As the Sura ('The Woman to be Examined', LX v. 10) says: 'Turn them not back to infidels: for they are not lawful unto infidels nor are infidels lawful unto them (i.e., in wedlock).

Sufi Jihad in the Pre—Modern and Modern Northern Caucasus

Daghestan was originally Islamized during the 7th and 8th centuries by the Arab Muslim jihad conquests of the Umayyads and Abassids. Several centuries later, a wave of invasions by nomadic Turco—Mongol tribes from the east, and their imposition of (or mass conversion to) Islam extended the Muslim population in the northern Caucasus. [18] By the mid—16th century, Russian Cossacks began to settle the sparsely populated Chechen lowlands (the slopes of the Terek Range, and the Terek Valley). These Russian settlers became subjects of Ivan the Terrible in order to gain protection from ongoing razzias launched by the Crimean Tatars and Turks. [19] Imperial Russia advanced actively into the Northern Caucasus and Transcaucasus in 1781, precipitating the anti—Russian jihad of the Naqshbandi Sufi Sheikh Mansur Ushurma. [20] Following his destruction of an entire Russian brigade during the battle of the Sunzha River in 1785, Sheikh Mansur, [21]

...called the mountaineers to holy war against the encroaching infidels and for some years unified practically the whole of North Caucasus, from the Chechen territory in the west to the Kumyk steppes in the east. His appeal—at least what we know of it—sounds very much like the appeals to jihad by Naqshbandi murshids [masters; leaders of Sufi Brotherhoods] of later date...

From this watershed late 18th century jihad, through the present era, the Naqshbandi tariqat [Brotherhood] has played a critical role defending and expanding Muslim dominion, in the face of encroachments by both Czarist and Soviet Russia. Transforming 'half pagan mountaineers into strict orthodox Muslims', the Naqshbandiya extended Islam into the animist regions of upper Chechnya and the western Caucasus. [22] Moreover, iron—disciplined and dedicated Naqshbandi followers provided such prolonged, heroic resistance to Czarist Russian conquest, that Bennigsen and Wimbush argue, quite plausibly,

It can said that the nearly fifty—year—long [19th century] Caucasian wars made an important contribution to the material and moral ruin of the Tsarist empire and hastened the downfall of the Romanov monarchy. [23]

During the tragic violence of the revolutionary years of 1917—1921, which were particularly sanguinary in the northeastern Caucasus, the Sufi brotherhoods, especially the Naqshbandiya, once again played a pivotal role. Their ultimate goals in resisting the Communists were consistent with precepts of jihad, as both a defensive and expansionist ideology: [24] restore a theocratic monarchy governed by the Shari'yat law, the expulsion of Russians, and the liquidation of 'bad Muslims' who had committed themselves to the infidel rulers. The following was one of the sayings of the Naqshbandi Sheikh, Uzun Haji, one of the leaders of the brotherhood: 'If so God wills, we shall construct a Shari'yat monarchy, for in a Muslim land there can be no republic. Were we to accept a republic, we would thereby renounce the Calife, which would be paramount of [sic] renouncing the Prophet and finally God himself'. And somewhat more to the point: 'I am weaving a rope to hang engineers, students and in general all those who write from left to right'

Despite relentless persecution throughout the Soviet era, which included a massive, brutal deportation of over a million North Caucasian Muslims to Siberia and Kazakhstan in February, 1944, Soviet specialists in anti—Islamic propaganda conceded that they had failed to contain the expansion of Sufi organizations, which emerged even after World War II, [25]

...more powerful and influential than before the War, probably even than before 1917. V.G. Pivovarov, a leading Soviet sociologist, wrote in 1975: 'More than half of the Muslim believers of the Checheno—Ingush Autonomous Republic are members of a murid [disciple] brotherhood'

Presently, a Sufi Naqshbandi leader , Shamil Basayev, who envisions himself to be in the mold of legendary 19th century Naqshbandi North Caucasus jihadists, such as his namesake Imam Shamil, plays a key role in the ongoing Chechen jihad against the post—Soviet Russian government. Basayev, it should be noted, not only appears to have Caliphate dreams , he orchestrated the brutal Beslan massacre of at least 331 schoolchildren in North Ossetia, September 3, 2004.


Sufism is not an ideological penicillin (let alone a modern, efficacious therapy given evolving drug resistance!) for what a neo—convert Sufi Muslim journalist terms the 'syphilis' of Wahhabism , nor is the much maligned Hanbali jurist Ibn Taymiyya the 'index case' of Wahhabism, which itself is deeply and broadly rooted in orthodox Islam. In a very sympathetic, but informed analysis of Sufism in the former Soviet Union, Benningsen and Wimbush provided these valid assessments: [26]

Sufism is not a sect, nor is it a heretical or schismatic movement; it is an integral part of orthodox Islam. [emphasis added] Western analysts in particular are prone to lose sight of this fact, frequently alluding to Sufism instead as something foreign to Islam, indeed something aberrant...the heritage of Sufism [includes] not only in its cultural, intellectual and mystical aspects, but also...its militant holy war [i.e., jihad] tradition, symbolized by the Caucasian Naqshbandiya...[emphasis added]

Benningsen and Wimbush further warned, with distressingly ignored prescience (i.e., circa 1985)—seen now in light of the brutal actions of the Sufi jihadist Shamil Basayev—of the crucial need, begin to understand the Sufi phenomena in the Soviet Union before events leave us groping for explanations. [27]

Throughout the 20th century, and at present, Sufi ideologues and mass movements (especially the Naqshbandiya) have been engaged in defensive—offensive jihad campaigns designed not only to expel real (or perceived) 'colonial powers', but also to create supra—national (regional) shari'a states, or even a frank Caliphate (i.e., a single unified global shari'a state). The restored Shi'ite theocracy in Iran, whose contemporary shari'a—based system of dhimmitude was drafted by a leading Sufi—Sultanhussein Tabandeh—provides a sobering example of what 'Sufi ecumenism' towards non—Muslims means in practice.

In his hagiography of 'the enlightened traditions of Sufism,' which, he claims 'stress ... respect for all believers, whether Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, or other,' as well as a 'commitment to mutual civility, interaction, and cooperation among believers, regardless of sect,' an aforementioned Muslim journalist simply ignores all of the data presented here on the living legacy of Sufi jihad and dhimmitude. Regardless of whether his misleading characterizations are deliberately disingenuous, or just grossly uninformed, their effect is corrosive at a time when global jihad movements, and the sacralized, manichean bigotry which motivates them, remain the most profound existential threat to free and open societies.


[1] Reuven Firestone. Jihad—The Origin of Holy War in Islam, Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 139—140, note 19.

[2] Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. "Islam is not a Religion of Pacifists (1942)", "Speech at Feyziyeh Theological School (August 24, 1979)", and "On the Nature of the Islamic State (September 8, 1979)", English translations in Barry Rubin and Judith Colp Rubin, Anti—American Terrorism and the Middle East, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2002, pp. 29, 32—36.; Sayyid Qutb. Chapter 4, "Jihaad in the cause of God", in Milestones, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, The Mother Mosque Foundation, 1993, pp. 53—76.

[3] W. M. Watt. [Translator]. The Faith and Practice of Al—Ghazali, Oxford, England, 1953, p. 13.

[4] Al—Ghazali (d. 1111). Kitab al—Wagiz fi fiqh madhab al—imam al—Safi'i, Beirut, 1979, pp. 186, 190—91; 199—200; 202—203. [English translation by Dr. Michael Schub.]

[5] Ibn Qudama. Le précis de droit d'Ibn Qudama, jurisconsulte musulman d'école hanbalite né à Jérusalem en 541/1146, mort à Damas en 620/1223, (Livre XX— 'La Guerre Legale'), translated from Arabic into French by Henri Laoust, Beyrouth (Beirut), 1950, pp.273—276, 281. ['Legal War', chapter 20, The Summary of Law by Ibn Qudama]. English translation by Michael J. Miller.

[6] Ibn Taymiyya, from al—Siyasa al—shariyya, translated by Rudolph Peters in Jihad in classical and modern Islam, Princeton, NJ, Markus Wiener, 1996, pp. 44—54.

[7] A. Scheiber. 'The Origins of Obadyah, the Norman Proselyte' Journal of Jewish Studies (Oxford), Vol. 5, 1954, p. 37. Obadyah the Proselyte was born in Oppido (Lucano, southern Italy). He became a priest, and later converted to Judaism around 1102 A.D., living in Constantinople, Baghdad, Aleppo, and Egypt.

[8] A. E. Vacalopoulos. Origins of the Greek Nation— 1204—1461 The Byzantine Period, Rutgers University Press, 1970, p. 66.

[9] K. S. Lal. The Legacy of Muslim Rule in India, New Delhi, Aditya Prakashan, 1992, p. 237

[10] Saiyid Athar Abbas Rizvi, Muslim revivalist movements in northern India in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Agra, Lucknow: Agra University, Balkrishna Book Co, 1965, pp. 247—50; Yohanan Friedmann, Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi: an outline of his thought and a study of his image in the eyes of posterity. Montreal, McGill University, Institute of Islamic Studies, 1971, p.74.

[11] Friedmann. Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi: an outline of his thought.

[12] Saiyid Athar Abbas Rizvi. Shah Wali—Allah and his times. Canberra, Australia, Ma'rifat Publishing House, 1980, pp. 294—296, 299, 301, 305.

[13] Rizvi. Shah Wali—Allah and his times, pp. 285—286.

[14] Sultanhussein Tabandeh. A Muslim Commentary on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, English translation by F. J. Goulding, London, 1970.

[15] Eliz Sanasarian. Religious Minorities in Iran, Cambridge University Press, 2000, pp. 25, 173, footnote

[16] Tome Pires, Suma Oriental (1512—1515) Haklyut Society Publications, Vol. I (London, 1944), p. 27.; Raphael du Mans, Estat de la Perse, 1660, ed. Schefer (Paris, 1890), pp. 193—194; cited in, W.J. Fischel, 'The Jews in Medieval Iran from the 16th to the 18th centuries: Political, Economic, and Communal aspects', Irano—Judaica, Jerusalem, 1982, p. 266; C.N. Seddon (translator), A Chronicle of the Early Safawis [Being the Ahsanu't—Tawarikh of Hasan—i—Rumlu], 1934, Vol. II, p. xiv.

[17] Tabandeh, A Muslim Commentary on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, pp. 4, 17—19,37

[18] Atlas of Islamic history, compiled by Harry W. Hazard; maps executed by H. Lester Cooke, Jr., and J. McA. Smiley. Princeton, N.J., Princeton University Press, 1951, pp. 6,8,10,18,22,24.

[19] Y. V. Nikolaev. The Chechen Tragedy. Mineola, NY, Nova Science Publishers, 1996, p. 7.

[20] Nikolaev. The Chechen Tragedy, p. 7; A. Bennigsen, S. E. Wimbush. Mystics and Commisars. Sufism in the Soviet Union. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1985, p. 18.

[21] Bennigsen og Wimbush. Mystics and Commisars, p. 18.

[22] Bennigsen og Wimbush. Mystics and Commisars, p. 19.

[23] Bennigsen og Wimbush. Mystics and Commisars, p. 19.

[24] Bennigsen og Wimbush. Mystics and Commisars, p. 24.

[25] Bennigsen og Wimbush. Mystics and Commisars, p. 31.

[26] Bennigsen og Wimbush. Mystics and Commisars, pp. 4,159.

[27] Bennigsen og Wimbush. Mystics and Commisars, p. 164.

Andrew G. Bostom, MD, MS, is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Brown University Medical School.
He is the author of:
The Legacy of Jihad, Prometheus Books (2005),
The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, Prometheus Books (2008),
Sharia Versus Freedom. The Legacy of Islamic Totalitarianism, Prometheus Books (2012),
The Mufti's Islamic Jew Hatred. What the Nazis Learned From the 'Muslim Pope', Bravura Books (2013), and
Iran's Final Solution for Israel. The Legacy of Jihad and Shi'ite Islamic Jew-Hatred in Iran, Bravura Books (2014).