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date: 26 May 2018

The Medieval Khwājagān and the Early Naqshbandīyya

Summary and Keywords

The Khwājagān (lit. “Masters”) were a constellation of Ṣūfīs in 13th- to 16th-century Mawara an-Nahr and Khurasan. The Naqshbandīyya were Ṣūfīs from among the Khwājagān who followed the teachings of their shaykh, or Ṣūfī master, Khwāja Bahāʾ ad-Dīn Naqshband (1318–1389). Given the eventual emergence of a more centrally organized Naqshbandī order among the otherwise unorganized Khwājagānī tradition by the mid-15th century, later Naqshbandī hagiographers have retroactively combined the development of both traditions under a single linear narrative. While such hagiographies from the 16th century onward portray the Khwājagān as a monolithic group, united in beliefs and rituals, and tracing its silsila (lit. “chain”) or spiritual lineage back to the first caliph Abū Bakr (r. 632–634), there is little evidence from the 13th and 14th centuries to buttress these claims. A study of earlier sources from this time period instead suggests that there was considerable variation among the attitudes and beliefs espoused by individual Khwājagānī Ṣūfī masters and that a loosely defined common identity among the Khwājagān grew out of aversion to the practices of more established Ṣūfī traditions that included ascribing particular importance to spiritual lineages and public displays of devotion. Thus, this Khwājagānī current spread across Central Asia in the form of local Ṣūfī communities, which sought to challenge traditional understandings of Sufism. Part of the Khwājagānī aversion to ostentatious modes of worship by more traditional forms of Sufism led to an increased preference for silent forms of dhikr (lit. remembrance) or the ritualistic recitation of sacred names and phrases, as opposed to more vocal and public forms. By the 15th century, this proclivity toward silent dhikr had become a hallmark of the Khwājagānī-Naqshbandī tradition.

The term Khwājagān is the plural of the Persian word khwāja, which literally means “master” and often reserved for persons of distinction. As an honorific term, originally reserved as a title of prestige for prominent members of Persianate societies, Ṣūfī murīds or disciples used the title “khwāja” to refer to their masters or teachers with respect. In Naqshbandī sources written from the 16th century onward, hagiographers such as ʿAlī b. Ḥusayn Kāshifī Ṣafī have consistently referred to all members of the Khwājagānī and the Naqshbandī tradition by the epithet “khwāja.” Consequently, these Naqshbandī hagiographers have used the term Silsila-ye Khwājagān or the Chain of the Khwājas to refer to both the Naqshbandī silsila and its predecessors among the Ṣūfī masters of 12th-, 13th-, and 14th-century Central Asia.

Keywords: Khwajagan, Naqshbandi, Sufism, Ghijduvani, Khoja Ahrar, Khurasan, Mawarannahr, Central Asia

The Chain of the Khwājas: A Brief History of Important Figures

Given the lack of any centralized organization within the Khwājagān, the history of the Khwājagān is an agglomeration of the lives and careers of individual Ṣūfī shaykhs. Although this nebulous collective history begins with Khwāja ʿAbd al-Khāliq Ghijduvānī (d. 1220), an influential shaykh who is commonly considered the founder of the Khwājagānī tradition, several silsilas have retrospectively connected Ghijduvānī to Khwāja Yūsuf Ḥamadānī, a Ṣūfī shaykh from the 12th century.1 For this reason, later Naqshbandi hagiographies from the late-15th century onward often trace their spiritual descent from Ḥamadānī. Despite attempts to trace the origins of the Khwājagān to Ḥamadānī, the Khwājagānī tradition observably grew out of the career and teachings of its founder, Ghijduvānī. A native of Mawara an-Nahr, Ghijduvānī was born in the town of Ghijduvan near Bukhara. During his career as shaykh, Ghijduvānī laid down eight rules for his own followers and disciples. While these rules concerned various aspects of mystical ritual and conduct, all had a particular focus on training murīds or disciples to mindfully focus on The Divine. Given Ghijduvānī’s own proclivity toward the practice of silent dhikr, these rules helped murīds stay focused on their spiritual pursuits, while engaging in more material activities such as commerce or politics. These eight rules were as follows:2

  1. 1. Hūsh dar Dam (Awareness in Breath)

  2. 2. Naẓar bar Qadam (Watching One’s Step)

  3. 3. Safar dar Vaṭan (Journey in the Homeland)

  4. 4. Khalvat dar Anjuman (Solitude in the Crowd)

  5. 5. Yād Kard (Remembrance)

  6. 6. Bāz Gasht (Return)

  7. 7. Nigāh Dāsht (Precaution)

  8. 8. Yād Dāsht (Recollection)

Although these eight points were initially restricted to certain students of Ghijduvānī, adherence to them became popular among successive Khwājagānī communities in Central Asia.3 Despite Ghijduvānī’s career of preparing the ground for a flowering of Khwājagānī communities after his death, there is evidence of a schismatic disagreement over the proper method of performing dhikr; some Khwājagān preferred loud recitation, while others performed dhikr silently. This difference was not completely reconciled even by the 16th century, but a movement toward the uniform adoption of silent dhikr started with the career of Khwāja Bahāʾ ad-Dīn Naqshband (1318–1389). Naqshband was born in the town of Qasr-e-Hinduvan near Bukhara in the early 14th century. In addition to this silsila which connected him to Ghijduvānī, some primary sources also add a metaphysical dimension to Naqshband’s connection to Ghijduvānī and other deceased shaykhs by claiming that Naqshband was an uvaisī Ṣūfī whose status as a Ṣūfī was confirmed in a meeting with the spirits of these deceased Khwājagān.4 In traditional Ṣūfī hagiography, uvaisī Ṣūfīs were those who became murīds through metaphysical meetings with the spirit of a deceased shaykh. These particular accounts about Naqshband’s metaphysical experiences reveal his pivotal role in defining established practices for the Naqshbandī- Khwājagānī current, as the spirits of departed shaykhs approved of Naqshband’s own preference for silent dhikr.

Naqshband was the disciple of Khwāja Amīr Kulāl (d. 1370), who espoused a preference for vocal dhikr and drew his silsila back through a succession of at least four shaykhs to ʿĀrif Rīvgaravī, a disciple of Ghijduvānī’s who practiced vocal dhikr. By diverging from the tradition of his Khwājagānī group, with the purported blessing of Ghijduvānī and other deceased shaykhs, Naqshband emphasized not only his own role as a Khwājagānī shaykh but also the importance of silent dhikr. Khwāja Naqshband’s career was pivotal to the future of the Naqshbandī current, which can be seen in the eventual adoption of his name by his disciples by the 16th century. As part of his career as a shaykh, Khwāja Naqshband added three more rules to Khwāja Ghijduvānī’s eight, thus creating the eleven principles associated with the Naqshbandī tradition. His three rules were:5

  1. 1. Wuqūf Zamānī (Awareness of Time)

  2. 2. Wuqūf ʿAdadī (Awareness of Number)

  3. 3. Wuqūf Qalbī (Awareness of the Heart)

Naqshband’s teachings were spread by his khalīfas and murīds, ʿAlā ad-Dīn ʿAṭṭār, Khwāja Pārsā, and Yaqūb Charkhī, who brought them to prominence among other Khwājagānī Ṣūfī in Herat and other parts of Khurasan, including Balkh, Badakhshan, and Hisar.6 By the mid-15th century, several small Naqshbandī communities existed across Mawara an-Nahr and Khurasan. The early Naqshbandī period ends when Khwāja ʿUbayd Allāh Aḥrār of Tashkent moved to Samarqand with Sulṭān Abū Saʿīd.7 In addition to wielding a staggeringly high level of influence over the Timurid court, Aḥrār was able to bring some of the various Naqshbandī groups scattered around Central Asia under his leadership. This centralization marked a new phase in the history of this Ṣūfī tradition as it spread its regional influence, effectively functioning as an extension of the Timurid state, dispatching khalīfas to distant regions such as Anatolia, and creating a vast transregional network of economic assets.

Rituals and Beliefs

The greater Khwājagānī Ṣūfī tradition observed across Persianate Central Asia in the 13th and 14th centuries was loosely based on a silsila drawn by various shaykhs to Ghijduvānī and lacked any central organization. Consequently, there was a fair degree of variation among various Khwājagānī circles regarding rituals, beliefs and practices.

As the early Khwājagānī period was defined by the absence of any unanimity on rituals and beliefs, there was significant variation in the positions of individual Khwājagān. In this light, several prominent Khwājagān made an active effort to critique ṭarīqa-based Sufism in order to distance themselves and their followers from more established Ṣūfī norms.8 Consequently, early Khwājagānī sources criticize other Ṣūfīs for raqs and samāʾ or ritual dancing, the establishment of khānaqās or Ṣūfī lodges, and the use of silsilas to derive authority. The Khwājagān were not unanimous in their denunciation, and primary sources describe various khwājas engaging in some of these activities themselves.9

The Naqshbandī order actively differentiated itself from the broader Khwājagānī tradition through its insistence on silent dhikr and its denunciation of vocal dhikr. Despite the split that was observed in the wake of Ghijduvānī’s death, which led to the emergence of two different groups focusing on different forms of dhikr, Naqshband’s departure from the method used by his own immediate predecessors marked a more intense stress on silent recitation.10 Although later sources emphasize Naqshband’s role in making silent dhikr a cornerstone of Naqshbandī practice, this adherence to silent dhikr, among other practices, may also have harkened back to earlier practices observed among the Malāmatī religious tradition in Central Asia.11

With a focus on silent dhikr and an aversion to ostentatious displays of piety, the eleven rules of the Naqshbandī Ṣūfī tradition guided Ṣūfī followers toward the cultivation of a mindfulness necessary for inward reflection and unassuming ritual practice. Adherence to these rules helped murīds concentrate on their inward spiritual goals even while engaging in a social or commercial activity like trade. The principle of hūsh dar dam, for example, helped murīds concentrate on their breathing, ensuring that they remembered God with each breath, while nigāh dāsht helped individuals avoid any worldly distractions.12

The principle of khalvat dar anjuman, however, became the mainstay of Naqshbandī Sufism, as it afforded its adherents a greater degree of social agency than other Ṣūfī traditions could.13 This principle clearly pressed Ṣūfīs to conduct their silent dhikr activities and maintain their focus on their spiritual goals while occupied with more material engagements. In this regard, Naqshbandī Ṣūfīs stressed that a complete aversion to the material world and worldly activities was not mandatory for Ṣūfīs and that asceticism does not entail a physical withdrawal from social, economic, and political activities. Khwāja Baha ad-Din Naqshband described khalvat dar anjuman as the “basic principle of the spiritual path.”14 He defined it as “being outwardly with your fellow creatures, but inwardly with the Lord of Truth (Exalted is He).”15 This idea of engaging in ritual practices despite an active engagement with society is not only deemed permissible, but rather is encouraged as something beneficial for society. Elaborating on this concept, Naqshband stated that “[t]he basic principle of our spiritual path is fellowship. Aloofness from other people involves the desire for celebrity, and disaster resides in celebrity. Goodness resides in society, and society in fellowship.”16 In light of such views, this sense of responsibility toward society pushed some Naqshbandī Ṣūfī masters toward greater social and political involvement, as was observed in the careers of several shaykhs.

Another rule central to the Naqshbandī ethos is that of the safar dar vaṭan, or “travel in the homeland.” In Khwājagānī and Naqshbandī hagiographical sources, the term safar or travel refers to both physical travel between two places or a more spiritual travel symbolizing a return to Allah. Within this second definition, the vaṭan or homeland refers not just to the actual native homeland of various Ṣūfīs, but a state of immense closeness to the Divine. Hagiographers have explained this term as the “original homeland, which is the abode of good qualities and angelic attributes.”17 In this context, Khwājagānī and Naqshbandī Ṣūfī lives are characterized by a journey to the homeland or a purer spiritual state, reinforced by the other rules laid down by Ghijduvānī and Naqshband. In addition to this symbolic definition of the vaṭan, the more literal meaning of safar aided Naqshbandī Ṣūfīs in being geographically mobile. This rule thus helped make the ṭarīqa popular not only among merchants but also among murīds in remote areas far removed from urban Naqshbandī centers such as Bukhara. The principle of safar dar vaṭan allowed Ṣūfīs not only to travel in search of esoteric knowledge and find suitable shaykhs to fulfill their spiritual needs but also to travel in search of a lawful income.18

A ṭarīqa of the bāzār: Khwājagānī and Early Naqshbandī Attitudes Toward Trade, Commerce, and Wealth

Within an intellectual milieu defined by significant doctrinal variation, attitudes toward economic activity varied considerably among the Khwājagān. Various primary sources have therefore presented contrasting examples of both the patronage and eschewal of trade and commerce by different shaykhs. Some of the Khwājagān, such as ʿAbd al-Khāliq Ghijduvānī, not only censured the acquisition of wealth but also warned their followers from socializing with affluent members of society, citing the distraction from more spiritual pursuits posed by a love for worldly riches.19 Some of the Khwājagān, such as Amīr Kulāl, built their reputations on their avoidance of the bazār (lit. “marketplace”) symbolizing commercial activity.20

Conversely, other Khwājagān were supportive of economic activity. As a sizeable part of their followers and disciples were merchants, their commercial ventures were often justified as kasb or lawful earning, allowing for Ṣūfīs to be financially independent and hence free from the influence of non- Khwājagān patrons.21 Khwāja Ramitānī, for example, argued that all Ṣūfīs should practice some form of trade.22 In addition to this popularity of trade and commerce among murīds, sources also mention shaykhs who were known for being merchants. One such shaykh, Khwāja Shahāb ad-Dīn Shāshī, is mentioned in primary sources.

The venerable Khwāja was endowed with great charisma. He enjoyed the company of eccentrics and ecstatics. He sometimes engaged in agriculture and sometimes in commerce. When traveling for the purpose of trade, he would set out on the spur of the moment, taking no companions with him. If he encountered brigands along the road, he would call out in a loud voice, summoning his familiar ecstatics to come to his aid.23

Some Khwājagān went beyond justifying commerce or craftsmanship as a means of financial independence and argued that the acquisition of wealth was not inherently wrong. Such worldly behavior was problematic only if it served as a distraction from spiritual exercise or if it involved illegal activity. A sense of this attitude toward wealth and luxury may be seen in the following account:

For breakfast the venerable Khwāja (ʿAlaʾ ad-Dīn ʿAṭṭār)’s domestic servants would cook dishes of plump chicken and lamb and provide every kind of hospitality. The venerable Mawlāna Bahāʾ ad-Dīn Andarānī would also be present at the meeting. One morning when such elaborate food was set before him, Mawlāna thought to himself, “This involves a lot of trouble and ceremony. How do such elaborate things benefit someone who is a dervish?” The venerable Khwāja disclosed Mawlāna’s private thought, saying, “Mawlāna Bahāʾ ad-Dīn, eat the food that is coming, for, since it is lawful, there is no harm in it.”24

In contrast to ambivalent Khwājagānī attitudes concerning economic activity and wealth, the eleven Naqshbandī principles and a stress on earning lawful income kept the Naqshbandī tradition observably popular with traders. This association between the ṭarīqa and merchants did not go unnoticed as Khwāja Aḥrār described his journey to Herat, which ultimately led to his first meeting with his teacher, Khwāja Yāʿqūb Charkhī, in the town of Halghatu. Passing through Herat, Aḥrār noted the throngs of merchants in a Naqshbandī khānaqāh and characterized the Naqshbandīyya as the “ṭarīqa of the people of the market and of merchants.”25 Similarly, Mawlāna Pīr ʿAlī, a disciple of the Naqhsbandī Khwāja Saʿd ad-Dīn Kashgharī, mentions his occupation as the proprietor of a garment shop that sold kaftans in the city of Herat.26

The popularity of the Naqshbandī tradition within urban mercantile circles was also nurtured by an emphasis on maintaining a connection with the Divine while engaging in economic activity. Utterances of Bahāʾ ad-Dīn Naqshband, used by later economically and politically influential Naqshbandī hagiographers, reveal how silent dhikr conducted in a busy marketplace was a sign of spiritual fortitude:

In Mecca, I saw two people. One was at the extreme of high effort and the other at the extreme of low effort. The one displaying low effort, the one whom I saw during my circumambulation (of the Kaʿba), had clutched in his hand the ring-shaped knocker to the door of the Kaʿba (in a public display of piety) and therefore in that noble place and at that time wanted something (material) from the Almighty. And the one with great effort was the one who was in the marketplace and who had bought and sold (goods worth) around fifteen thousand dinars, and at that time his heart was not unaware of the Almighty even for a moment. From the zeal of this youth my blood rushed to my skin.27

This account is echoed in other utterances from Khwāja Naqshband: “the heart should be with God and the hand with some piece of work” and “the heart should be with God and the body in the market.”28 Like his position on silent dhikr, Naqshband’s favorable opinion of lawful commercial activity, helped create a communal identity for Naqshbandi Ṣūfīs over the coming century. Unlike the differences of opinion on trade observed in early Khwājagān, the Naqshbandīyya were visibly present in markets and actively presented themselves as merchant-Ṣūfīs. In this manner, the Naqshbandīyya used the public space of the marketplace to establish themselves as a particular Ṣūfī tradition over the course of the 14th and 15th centuries.

The Khwājagān, the Early Naqshbandīs and Central Asian Politics

Like their attitudes toward core beliefs, rituals, organization, and economic activity, the early Khwājagān were also divided in their opinion of political activism and the permissibility of holding public office. Accounts and examples from the lives of different shaykhs display both an aversion to and an involvement with Central Asian politics. In many of these cases, the degree of political involvement allowed by each shaykh was dependent on the situation each had to face. Despite this earlier ambiguity toward political activity, by the mid-15th century, the Naqshbandiyya under Khwāja Aḥrār became increasingly politically active, and they justified their agency as part of their responsibility to ensure the protection of people in Perso-Islamic Central Asia from the depredations of Turco-Mongol ruling elite.

In several cases, an opposition to the assumption of political roles by the Khwājagān was part of an effort to prevent any worldly distractions. ʿAbd al-Khāliq Ghijduvānī is reported to have said: “Pray a lot, day and night, and pray in common, but do not take over the office of imam or muezzin,” where the latter two offices are presented as positions of authority.29 The company of rulers, like the company of the rich and wealthy, is also criticized.30

In contrast, there are also instances when Khwājagān did not hold formal political office but commanded their followers to obey their rulers. Khwājagānī authors quote the example of Yūsuf Ḥamadānī, who says that he “obeyed” the ruler.31 Other accounts refer to him receiving patronage from the Seljuq Sulṭān Sanjar, who funded his khānaqāh complex.32 Although Khwāja Ḥamadānī kept his distance from the Seljuq court, for instance, by refusing to accept any political office, he had no qualms about accepting state patronage. The Khwājagān are seen as the successors of Ghijduvānī, but Khwājagānī authors sometimes retrospectively looked toward the earlier figure of Ḥamadānī as an important link in the Khwājagānī silsila, and especially in the later period, traced their existence back to his career as a shaykh. While Ḥamadānī was not a part of the Khwājagānī current emerging from the career of Ghijduvānī, later Khwājagān used his example to reveal the diverse views on political involvement that may have existed before the 16th century. In this manner, these authors also justified their own political activism, which had become quite prevalent following Khwāja Aḥrār’s own precedent at the Timurid court. Naqshband generally eschewed political involvement.33 A reading of earlier sources from the 14th century shows that Naqshband was not as politically active as later writings claim; At one point in his career, he refused to accompany a delegation of people of Bukhara when they wanted to present the ruler with a list of their demands.34

Early Naqshbandī shaykhs who succeeded Naqshband and migrated to Herat, Balkh, and Badakhshan in Khurasan also maintained this distance from political activism at a time when the Turco-Mongol rulers of Central Asia sought the patronage of Ṣūfī leaders.35 While some of Naqshband’s disciples were employed as diplomats and mediators, such placements to political office were not common. Khwājagānī-Naqshbandī political involvement, however, became more pronounced following the rise of Khwāja Aḥrār who, being associated with the Timurid court in Samarqand, was eventually able to project his political power in the Khurasanian city of Herat through local intermediaries like Mīr Alī Shīr Navāi, who despite being a Naqshbandī Ṣūfī was also an influential member of the Timurid court there.36

Primary Sources

There are a few available sources on the life and teachings of ʿAbd al-Khāliq Ghijduvānī. A very important source penned by an anonymous Khwājagānī Ṣūfī, which has contributed greatly to scholarship on the Khwājagān, is the Maslak al- ʿĀrifīn. Dating from the 14th century, Maslak manuscripts exist in the form of differently redacted copies dating between the 16th and 19th centuries.37 Around thirty known copies of Maslak exist in manuscript form. Not counting uncatalogued copies, six manuscripts can be found in Tashkent. Five are kept at the Abu Rayhon Al Beruni Insitute for Oriental Manuscripts (Ms IVANRUz 2180 [Inv. No. 515/I, fol. 1b-205a]; Ms IVANRUz 2181 [Inv. No. 1676/I, fol. 9b-106b]; Ms IVANRUz 2182 [Inv. No.1546/I, fol. 1b-212a]; Ms IVANRUz 6928 [Inv. No. 11284/I, fol. 1b-135b]; No. 81/221 [Inv. No. 188734]) and one at the Tashkent State University (No. 81/221 [Inv. No. 188734]).38 Two copies can be found in Bukhara at the Abu Ali bin Sina Library (No. 25 [Inv. No. 135]; No. 31 [Inv No. 149/III, fol. 13a-218a]).39 Two copies of the manuscript can be found at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of Tajikistan (Inv no. 3184) and one copy at the State Public Library (Inv No. 1006).40 In Russia, a manuscript copy may be found in Kazan (MS Kazan University, No. F-81 [614, fols. 1b-102a]) and four at the Institute for Oriental Manuscripts in St. Petersburg (Ms StPOIVAN i. 546, Nos 4048–4051; Ms StPOIVAN B3026 [No.4049]; Ms StPOIVAN B3686 [No. 4050]; Ms StPOIVAN B4305 [No. 4051, fols. 1b-116b]).41 Four manuscript copies are listed in the Union Catalogue of Persian Manuscripts in Pakistan: Title No. 3506 and Ms Nos. 10424–10427.42 One copy is also kept in Berlin (No. 260 [MS Petermann II, 339]), while another is at the British Library (MS British Library. Or. 6490).43

Another source relevant to research on Ghijduvānī is the Maqāmāt-i ʿAbd al-Khāliq Ghijduvānī va ʿĀrif Rivāgīrī. Although this work was clearly composed to extoll the virtues of Rivāgīrī and, alternatively in some copies, Khwāja Awliya, in a bid to portray them as worthy disciples to Ghijduvānī’s legacy, it has also described some of Ghijduvānī’s life and opinions.44 Several manuscript copies exist in collections around the world.45 Two known copies exist in London: one at the India Office Library (Ms India Office Ethé, [Ethé, I, col.1072] fols. 1b-16b) and another at the British Museum (Ms British Museum Add. 26294 [Rieu II. 862–3], fols. 2b-18a).46 Along with another manuscript located in Leiden (Ms Leiden Cod. 1051), these copies have ignored any discussion of Rivāgīrī in favor of Awliya. Conversely, three other manuscripts found at the Al Beruni Institute in Tashkent focus on Rivāgīrī: Ms IVANRUz 8667/I [Inv. No. 4133]; Ms IVANRUz 9013/III [Inv. No. 5925]; Ms IVANRUz 10330/1 [Inv. No. 6957].47

Hagiographical works concerning the lives of other Khwājagān are also present in manuscript form. The Maqāmāt-i Amīr Kulāl about Amīr Kulāl was written by his great grandson Shihāb ad-Dīn in 1440. A copy can be found in Tashkent: Ms IVANRUz 7222/II. A lithograph of this work was also published in Bukhara in the early 20th century.48 Additionally, the Manāqib of ʿAlī ʿAzīzān-i Ramītanī, composed by his own son, exists in the form of eight manuscripts.49 Five manuscripts may be found at the Al Beruni Instute for Oriental Manuscripts in Tashkent: Ms IVANRUz no. 2287 [Inv. No. 858/I, fols 1b-128a]; Ms IVANRUz no. 2288 [Inv. No. 399/I, fols. 1b—119a]; Ms IVANRUz no.2289 [Inv.No. 1332]; Ms IVANRUz No. 5970 [Inv. No. 8743/II, fols. 167b-259a]; Ms IVANRUz No. 5971 [Inv. No. 5433]. Three can be found in St. Petersburg at the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts of the Russian Academy of Sciences: Ms StPOIVAN No.4283 [Inv. No. B2385, fols. 9b-74a]; Ms StPOIVAN No. 4284 [Inv. No. C1415]; and Ms StPOIVAN No.4285 [Inv. No. C1804, fols. 3b-93b].

Bahāʾ ad-Dīn Naqshband, who was not known to compile his own teachings in risalas (lit. “manual”), left no primary sources of his own.50 The most relevant primary sources are the maqāmāt works composed by his own disciples. The Anīs aṭ-Ṭālibīn¸ a work of hagiography dating from the early 15th century, is perhaps the most important source on the life of Naqshband. Several manuscripts of the Anīs aṭ-Ṭālibīn exist:51 the Khuda Bakhsh Library, Patna (Ms Patna, Khuda Bakhsh 1376), the India Office Library, London (Ms India Office Ethé 1851), and the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris (Ms Paris Supp. pers. 968). Another redaction of the same work can be found at the Al Beruni Institute, Tashkent (Ms IVANRUz 2520), Bodleian Library, Oxford (MS Oxford, Bodleian Pers. e 37, fols. 44b-144b) and at the Aligarh Muslim University (Ms Aligarh, Subhanallah no. 297.7/5).

The Ṣūfīs who succeeded Bahāʾ ad-Dīn Naqshband contributed with works of their own. Khwāja Pārsā composed Risāla-yi Qudsīya, Risāla-yi Maḥbūbīya and the Risāla-yi Kashfīya.52 The Risāla-yi Qudsīya has two published editions. He composed the Sharḥ-i Fuṣūṣ al-Ḥikām, the latter a commentary on Ibn Arabi.53 Pārsā is particularly known for Faṣl al Khiṭāb, which has also been published.54 Likewise, Yaʿqūb Charkhī composed Risāla-yi Unsīya and Risāla-yi Abdāliya, both of which have also been published.55

Scholars interested in conducting further research on the Khwājagān and early Naqshbandī shaykhs are also encouraged to view the easily accessible list of relevant sources compiled by Vika Gardner.

Scholarship and Historiography

Early scholarship on the history of the Khwājagān and early Naqshbandī Ṣūfīs only mentioned these traditions as one part of a broader study of Sufism. J. Spencer Trimingham, for example, made no distinction between the Khwājagān and the Naqshbandīyya. Instead he noted the importance of Khwāja Bahāʾ ad-Dīn Naqshband as the person who gave “shape and form” to the Khwājagān.56 Annemarie Schimmel likewise wrote about Naqshbandī Ṣūfīs in her seminal volume on Sufism but went into little detail other than briefly mentioning Naqshbandī “political involvement” and classifying the ṭarīqa as a “sober order” acknowledging their relatively austere and unostentatious ritual practices.57 In both of these works, the career of Bahāʾ ad-Dīn Naqshband is viewed as a pivotal moment leading to the creation of a group identity among the Khwājagān.

Over the past few decades, there has been a proliferation of scholarship on the Naqshbandīyya. Most of this scholarship, however, analyzes the Naqshbandī ṭarīqa in non-Central Asian contexts, that is, in the period following the expansion of the ṭarīqa into other regions such as 15th-century Anatolia and 16th-century India.58 Such works briefly mention the Khwājagān and early Naqshbandī Ṣūfīs to provide some context for their respective monographs. A few scholars have, however, chosen to focus their research on the constellation of medieval Central Asian Khwājagān. Moving away from Trimingham and Schimmel’s foundational work on Sufism, these relatively recent studies have also been more nuanced in the treatment of this tradition and have challenged existing frameworks of inquiry toward Sufism. While some of the earlier works sought to view Sufism solely through the lens of religious studies, more recent works have studied the Khwājagān and the Naqshbandīyya as social and political movements. Other works have similarly tried to eschew teleological paradigms by refusing to view the Khwājagān as just a stage within the linear development of the Naqshbandī ṭarīqa.

Current scholarship on the Khwājagān either sees the Khwājagān as the proto-Naqshbandiyya or as a tradition defying attempts at definition. Taking the first scholarly approach, Hamid Algar has authored a broad and yet comprehensive survey about Naqshbandī Sufism. As this work summarizes most of Naqshbandī history, it describes the Khwājagānī movement as a context and precondition for Bahāʾ ad-Dīn Naqshband’s Ṣūfī movement. As such, Algar does not see Bahāʾ ad-Dīn Naqshband as one shaykh among a multitude of contemporary Khwājagān but rather as a pioneer who creates a tradition of his own. Similarly, Itzchak Weismann studies the ways in which the Naqshbandī rejection of vocal dhikr catalyzed the creation of distinct identity for Naqshbandī Ṣūfīs as they increasingly limited their social association to only those Ṣūfīs who did dhikr silently. Weismann also believes that the connection between shaykhs and murīds was strengthened by close personal interactions, defined by the practices of rābiṭa and ṣuḥbat emphasized in Naqshbandī tradition.

Such scholars focused on the broader history of the Khwājagān, and the Naqshbandīs have not adequately critiqued 16th-century Naqshbandī sources. Later Naqshbandī sources like Rashaḥāt ʿAin al-Ḥayāt exaggerate doctrinal conformity among the Khwājagān and use a singular silsila, leading founding member to emphasize the linear development of a ṭarīqa. Another trend noted in this area of scholarship is the tendency to present political activism among the Khwājagān as the norm and not as a matter of individual circumstance.

Other scholars have relied on Khwājagānī sources to critique the late Naqshbandī narrative. In this vein, Jürgen Paul, moving beyond his earlier focus on the political and economic influence of the Naqshbandīyya in Khwaja Aḥrār’s time, has also written about the Khwājagān. Paul’s work attempts to define the Khwājagān not with regard to the monolithic nature of their beliefs, ritual, or organization but rather to its ambivalence over the same. Paul has also argued against the later Naqshbandi stance espousing a single silsila and a common origin for all Naqshbandīs. Devin DeWeese also aggressively demolishes the illusion of doctrinal and organizational unity among the Khwājagān found in the writings of 16th-century Naqshbandī Ṣūfīs. He argues that silsilas only became normative by the 16th century, with the inclusion of a retroactively appointed founding saint.59 His work has also cast doubt about the later Naqshbandī appropriation of the Yasavī ṭarīqa and has shed light on the schism within the Ghijduvānī’s own disciples caused by disagreements over dhikr.60 He also appraises Naqshbandi claims of Bahāʾ ad-Dīn Naqshband’s uvaisī status and presents it as one of many modes of legitimation used by shaykhs in a post-Mongol Central Asia experiencing different degrees of Islamization.

Further Reading

Algar, Hamid. “The Naqshbandī Order: A Preliminary Survey of Its History and Significance.” Studia Islamica 44 (1976): 123–152.Find this resource:

Algar, Hamid. “Political Aspects of Naqshbandī History.” Naqshbandīs: Naqshbandīs: cheminements et situation actuelle d’un ordre mystique musulman = historical developments and present situation of a Muslim mystical order: actes de la table ronde de Sèvres = 2–4 mai, 1985 = proceedings of the Sèvres round table, 2–4 May. Edited by Marc Gaborieau and Alexandre Popovic, 123–152. Istanbul: Les Editions Isis, 1990.Find this resource:

DeWeese, Devin A. An “Uvaysī” Sufi in Timūrid Mawarannahr: Notes on Hagiography and the Taxonomy of Sanctity in the Religious History of Central Asia. Bloomington: Indiana University, Research Institute for Inner Asian Studies, 1993.Find this resource:

DeWeese, Devin A. “Intercessory Claims of Ṣūfī Communities during the 14th and 15th Centuries: ‘Messianic’ Legitimizing Strategies on the Spectrum of Normativity.” In Islamic History of Civilization: Studies and Texts Vol. 105. Edited by Hinrich Biesterfeldt, Sebastian Günther, and Wadad Kadi, 197–219. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2014.Find this resource:

DeWeese, Devin A. “Khojagānī Origins and the Critique of Sufism: The Rhetoric of Communal Uniqueness in the Manāqib of Khoja ʻAlī ʻAzīzān Rāmītanī.” In Islamic Mysticism Contested: Thirteen Centuries of Controversies and Polemics. Edited by Frederick De Jong and Bernd Radtke, 492–519. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1999.Find this resource:

DeWeese, Devin A. “The Legitimation of Baha ad-Din Naqshband.” Asiatische Studien: Zeitschrift Der Schweizerischen Gesellschaft Für Asienkunde = Etudes Asiatiques: Revue de la Société Suisse d’études Asiatiques 60, no. 2 (2006): 261–305.Find this resource:

DeWeese, Devin A. “The Masha’ikh-i Turk and the Khojagan: Rethinking the Links between the Yasavi and Naqshbandī Sufi traditions.” Journal of Islamic Studies 7, no. 2 (1996): 180–207.Find this resource:

DeWeese, Devin A. “Succession Protocols and the Early Khwājagāni Schism in the Maslak al-ʿĀrifīn.” Journal of Islamic Studies 22, no. 1 (2011): 1–35.Find this resource:

Madelung, Wilfred. “Yūsuf al-Ḥamadānī and Naqsbandiyya.” Quaderni di Studi Arabi, 5–6 (1987–1988): 499–509.Find this resource:

Papas, Alexandre. “Shaykh Succession in the Classical Naqshbandīyya: Spirituality, Heredity and the Question of Body.” Asian and African Area Studies 7, no. 1 (2007): 36–49.Find this resource:

Papas, Alexandre. “Solitude within Society: Early Khwājagānī Attitudes toward Spiritual and Social Life.” In Sufism and Politics: The Power of Spirituality. Edited by Paul L. Heck, 137–163. Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener Publishers, 2007.Find this resource:

Paul, Jürgen. Die politische und soziale Bedeutung der Naqšbandiyya. Berlin: W. de Gruyter, 1991.Find this resource:

Paul, Jürgen. Doctrine and Organization: The Khwājagān/Naqshbandīya in the First Generation after Bahā’uddīn. Berlin: Das Arabische Buch, 1998.Find this resource:

Paul, Jürgen. “Maslak al-ʿĀrifin Ein Dokument zur frühen Geschichte der Ḫwāǧagān-Naqsbandiya.” Hallesche Beiträge zur Orientwissenschaft 25 (1998): 172–185.Find this resource:

ter Haar, Johan. “The Importance of the Spiritual Guide in the Naqshbandī Order.” In The Legacy of Medieval Persian Sufism (1150–1500). Edited by Leonard Lewisohn, 311–322. London: Khaniqahi-Nimatullahī Publications, 1992.Find this resource:

Togan, Isenbike. “The Khafī, Jahrī Controversy in Central Asia Revisited.” Naqshbandīs in Western and Central Asia: Change and Continuity: Papers read at a conference held at the Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul, June 9–11, 1997. Edited by Elisabeth Özdalga. Istanbul: Swedish Research Inst, 1999.Find this resource:

Weismann, Itzchak. The Naqshbandiyya: Orthodoxy and Activism in a Worldwide Sufi Tradition. London: Routledge, 2007.Find this resource:


(1.) The link between Ḥamadānī and Ghijduvānī is a fabrication by later hagiographers. See Devin DeWeese, “Succession Protocols and the Early Khwājagāni Schism in the Maslak al ʿArifin,” Journal of Islamic Studies 22, no. 1 (2011): 1–35; DeWeese, “Khojagānī Origins,” 505; DeWeese, “The Masha’ikh-i Turk and the Khojagan,”189; and Wilfred Madelung, “Yūsuf al-Hamadānī and Naqsbandiyya,” Quaderni di Studi Arabi 5–6 (1987–1988): 499–509.

The phenomenon of a uniform silsila applied retroactively by later hagiographers to create the illusion of a monolithic Khwājagānī-Naqshbandī identity in the early Khwājagānī period has been explored in recent historiography. See Devin DeWeese, “The Legitimation of Baha ad-Din Naqshband,” Asiatische Studien : Zeitschrift Der Schweizerischen Gesellschaft Für Asienkunde = Etudes Asiatiques : Revue De La Société Suisse D’études Asiatiques 60, no. 2 (2006): 261; Idem, “Khojagānī Origins and the Critique of Sufism: the Rhetoric of Communal Uniqueness in the Manāqib of Khoja ʻAlī ʻAzīzān Rāmītanī,” in Frederick De Jong and Bernd Radtke, eds., Islamic Mysticism Contested: Thirteen Centuries of Controversies and Polemics (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1999), 492–519; Idem, “The Masha’ikh-i Turk and the Khojagan: Rethinking the Links Between the Yasavi and Naqshbandī Sufi traditions,” Journal of Islamic Studies 7, no.2 (1996): 180–207; Alexandre Papas, “Shaykh Succession in the Classical Naqshbandīyya: Spirituality, Heredity and the Question of Body,” Asian and African Area Studies 7, no.1 (2007): 36–49; Jürgen Paul, Doctrine and Organization: the Khwājagān/Naqshbandīya in the First Generation after Bahā’uddīn (Berlin: Das Arabische Buch, 1998).

(2.) ʿAlī ibn Ḥusayn Kāshifī Ṣafī, Beads of Dew: From the Source of Life : Histories of the Khwājagān, the Masters of Wisdom = Rashaḥāt ʿAin al-Ḥayāt, trans. Muhtar Holland (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida: Al-Baz Publishing, 2001) 17.

(3.) DeWeese argues that this schism can be seen in the primary source, Maslak al-ʿArifin. See DeWeese, “The Legitimation of Baha ad-Din Naqshband,” 268–271.

(4.) These claims have been analyzed in recent historiography. The Anīs at-Tālibīn, in contrast to other works, seeks to distance Naqshband from uvaisiyat and presents an alternate model of this phenomenon where he does not take the spirits of deceased shaykhs as guides but views them as models. DeWeese argues that this helped Naqshband derive legitimacy in an environment populated by numerous other Khwājagān but also experiencing varying degrees of Islamization. See DeWeese, “The Legitimation of Baha ad-Din Naqshband,” 264–266, 300–302.

(5.) Ṣafī, Beads of Dew, 17.

(6.) Jürgen Paul, “The Rise of the Khwājagān-Naqshbandīyya Sufi Order in Timurid Herat” in Afghanistan’s Islam: From Conversion to the Taliban, ed. Nile Green, 75–77. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2017).

(7.) There is a significant body of scholarship on the efforts of Khwāja ʿUbayd Allāh Aḥrār to create a centralized ṭarīqa. See Jo-Ann Gross, “A Central Asian Waqf of the Naqshbandī Sufi Master Khwaja Ahrar,” in Windows on the House of Islam: Muslim Sources on Spirituality and Religious Life, ed. John Renard, 231–235 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998); Jo-Ann Gross, “The Economic Status of a Timurid Sufi Shaykh: A Matter of Conflict or Perception?” Iranian Studies 21, no. 2 (1988): 84–104; Jürgen Paul, “Forming a Faction: The Ḥimāyat System of Khwaja Ahrar,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 23, no. 4 (1991): 533–548; Jürgen Paul, Die politische und soziale Bedeutung der Naqšbandiyya (Berlin: W. d Gruyter, 1991); and Ali Gibran Siddiqui, “The Naqshbandīyya after Khwāja Aḥrār: Networks of Trade in Central and South Asia” (PhD diss., The Ohio State University, 2016).

(8.) For a detailed study, see DeWeese, “Khojagānī Origins,” 492–519.

(9.) DeWeese, “Khojagānī Origins.”

(10.) See endnote 17.

(11.) A religious tradition from 9th-century Khurasan that espoused malāmat or “self-blame” as a means of achieving spiritual fulfillment. Malāmatī figures were therefore known to hide their religiosity, often through silent dhikr. Some of the Khwājagān, like Khwāja ʿUbayd Allāh Aḥrār, saw themselves as the successors to the Malāmatīi tradition. Others, like Khwāja Pārsā, distanced themselves from the Malāmatīyya. See Hamid Algar, “Elements de provenance malamati dans la tradition primitive Naqshbandī,” Melamis-Bayramis. Etudes sur trois ordres mystiques musulmans, eds. Nathalie Clayer et al., 27–36 (Istanbul: Les Editions Isis, 1998); and Jürgen Paul, “Solitude within Society: Early Khwājagānī Attitudes toward Spiritual and Social Life,” in Sufism and Politics: The Power of Spirituality, ed. Paul L. Heck, 152–154 (Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener, 2007).

(12.) Ṣafi, Beads of Dew, 21–22.

(13.) A point repeated in secondary literature focused on the later Naqshbandīs. See Itzchak Weismann, The Naqshbandīyya: Orthodoxy and Activism in a Worldwide Sufi Tradition (London: Routledge, 2007).

(14.) Ṣafi, Beads of Dew, 18–19.

(15.) Ṣafi, Beads of Dew.

(16.) Ṣafi, Beads of Dew.

(17.) Ṣafi, Beads of Dew, 18.

(18.) Lawful earning or kasb was stressed in Islamic tradition. Some of the Khwājagān also emphasized its importance. See Paul, “Solitude within Society,” 147–149.

(19.) Khunji. MS Beyazit, 133a; Maslak, MS Berlin. 2a, Waṣiyatnama. Quoted in Paul, “Solitude within Society,” 146.

(20.) Maqāmāt-i Amīr Kulāl,7. Quoted in Paul, “Solitude within Society,” 146.

(21.) Paul quotes a primary source: “Working for one’s livelihood (kasb) is obligatory, and honest work is faith.” See ṣāḥibīyya, 90. Quoted in Paul, “Solitude within Society,” 147.

(22.) Zarcone, Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed., s.v. “Ḵh̲wāḏj̲agān.”

(23.) Ṣafī, Beads of Dew, 243.

(24.) Mavlana Muḣammad Qazi, Silsilat al-ʻĀrifīn va Taẕkirat al-Ṣiddīqīn: Dar Sharḥ-i Aḥvāl-i Khvājah ʿUbayd Allāh Aḥrār, ed. Iḥsān Allāh Shukr Allāhī, 128 (Tihrān: Kitābkhānah, Mūzih va Markaz-i Asnād-i Shūrā-yi Islāmī, 2009).

(25.) MS IVANRUz 516 iv, Malfūẓāt Aḥrārī, fol. 116a.

(26.) “I used to own a shop where I dealt in the kaftan trade. One day, a tax collector came to my shop. After spending a long time examining the books of account, he asked me to pay a sum that was quite beyond my means. I told him so, but he did not listen and he began to curse and swear.” See Ṣafī, Beads of Dew, 156.

(27.) Ṣafī, Beads of Dew, 277.

(28.) Zarcone, Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed., s.v. “Ḵh̲wāḏj̲agān.”

(29.) Paul, “Solitude within Society,” 141.

(30.) Paul, “Solitude within Society.” Paul links this to a quietist and a fatalist position embodying sabr or patience, where any form of political activism would be seen as impatience with divine providence.

(31.) This was probably the Seljuq Sultan Sanjar. For the quote, see Paul, “Solitude within Society,” 143.

(32.) Zarcone, Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed., s.v. “Ḵh̲wāḏj̲agān.”

(33.) See endnote 36.

(34.) Paul, “Solitude within Society,”143.

(35.) Paul gives the example of Saʿd ad-Dīn Kashgharī, who stayed away from politics. See Paul, “The Rise of the Khwājagān-Naqshbandīyya,” 82. On the derivation of political legitimacy through the patronage of ṭarīqas, see Beatrice Manz, Power, Politics and Religion in Timūrid Iran (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007); Lawrence G. Potter, “Sufis and Sultans in Post-Mongol Iran,” Iranian Studies 27, no. 4 (1994): 77–102; and Maria Subtelny, Timurids in Transition: Turko-Persian Politics and Acculturation in Medieval Iran (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2007).

(36.) Paul, “The Rise of the Khwājagān-Naqshbandīyya,” 83–84. Also see Jo-Ann Gross and Asom Urunbaev, The Letters of Khwāja ʿUbayd Allāh Aḥrār and his Associates (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2002).

(37.) DeWeese, “Succession Protocols,” 1–2.

(38.) DeWeese, “Succession Protocols,” 5–6.

(39.) DeWeese, “Succession Protocols,” 6.

(40.) DeWeese, “Succession Protocols.”

(41.) DeWeese, “Succession Protocols,” 7.

(42.) DeWeese, “Succession Protocols”; and Ahmed Munzavi, Fihrist-i mushtarak-i- nuskha-ha-yi khattiyi farsi-ye Pakistan, vol. 3 (Islamabad, Pakistan: IPIPS, 1984).

(43.) DeWeese, “Succession Protocols”; and Ahmed Munzavi, Fihrist-i.

(44.) ʿĀrif Rivāgīrī is only mentioned in the “rural” manuscript; the “urban” manuscript instead focuses on the other Khwājagān of Bukhara. Paul, “Solitude within Society,” 139.

(45.) DeWeese, “The Masha’ikh-i Turk,” 190–191.

(46.) DeWeese, “The Masha’ikh-i Turk.”

(47.) DeWeese, “The Masha’ikh-i Turk.”

(48.) Lithographed edition (Bukhara, 1328/1909); and Paul, “Solitude within Society,” footnote 18.

(49.) DeWeese, “Khojagani Origins,” 497; and Paul, Doctrine and Organization, 9.

(50.) Paul, Doctrine and Organization, 5.

(51.) DeWeese, “The Legitimation of Baha ad-Din Naqshband,” 274.

(52.) Muḥammad Pārsā, Risālah-i qudsīyah-yi ṭarīqat-i ṣiddīqān: yāzdah sayr dar qalamraw-i lāhūtī-i ʻālam-i maʻná ‘hūwa’, Bahman Gāzurpū, ed. (Tihrān: Intishārāt-i Ḥurūfīyah, 2005); and Muḥammad Pārsā, Risālah-ʼi qudsīyah, ed. Malik Muḥammad Iqbāl (Rāwalpindī: Intishārāt-i Markaz-i Taḥqīqāt-i Fārsī-i Ῑ‎rān va Pākistān, 1975).

Rislila-yi kashifya, ms Tashkent, IVARUz, 502lIII, fol. 18b-28b; IDS Bursa, Eski Eserler

Kiitiiphanesi, Genel 1437/1, fol. 1b-12b; Risala-yi ma!}biiblya, ms Bursa, Eski

Eserier Kiitiiphanesi, Genel 1605NII, fol. 57b-60b; Paul, Doctrine and Organization, 7.

(53.) Muḥammad Pārsā, Sharḥ-i Fuṣūṣ al-ḥikam, ed. Jalīl Misgarnizhād (Tihrān: Markaz-i Nashr-i Dānishgāhī, 1987); and Paul, Doctrine and Organization, 7.

(54.) Muḥammad Pārsā, Faṣl al-khiṭāb, Jalīl Misgarnizhād, ed. (Tehran, Iran: Markaz-i Nashr-i Dānishgāhī, 2002). Muḥammad Pārsā, Risālah-yi unsiyyah (Islāmābād, Pākistān: Markaz-i Taḥqīqāt-i Fārsī-i Ῑ‎rān va Pākistān, 1983). Vienna ms, Cod. Vindobonensis N.F. 335; Paul, Doctrine and Organization, 7.

(55.) Yaqūb Charkhī, Risālah-yi abdālīyah, Muḥammad Naẕīr Rānjhā, ed. (Islāmābād]: Markaz-i Taḥqīqāt-i Fārsī-i Ῑ‎rān va Pākistān, 1978). Paul, Doctrine and Organization, 6–7.

(56.) John Spencer Trimingham, The Sufi Orders in Islam (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 55.

(57.) Annemarie Schimmel, Mystical Dimensions of Islam (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011), 363.

(58.) For example, see Arthur Buehler, Sufi Heirs of the Prophet: The Indian Naqshbandiyya and the Rise of the Mediating Sufi Shaykh (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1980; and Dina Le Gall A Culture of Sufism: Naqshbandīs in the Ottoman World, 1450–1700 (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2005).

(59.) Devin DeWeese, “Intercessory Claims of Ṣūfī Communities during the 14th and 15th Centuries: ‘Messianic’ Legitimizing Strategies on the Spectrum of Normativity,” in Islamic History of Civilization: Studies and Texts, eds. Hinrich Biesterfeldt et al., Vol. 105, 197–219 (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2014).

(60.) An observation challenging 16th-century claims that Ghijduvānī’s adoption of silent dhikr was instantly accepted by all of his followers and directly led to the creation of a Naqshbandī tradition. See DeWeese, “Succession Protocols and the Early Khwājagāni Schism in the Maslak al ʿArifin,” 20–26.