Spiritual Lineage of the Tariqa

In Sufism, as in any serious Islamic discipline such as jurisprudence (fiqh), Koranic recital (tajwid), and hadith, a disciple must have a master or ‘sheikh’ from whom to take the knowledge, one who has himself taken it from a master, and so on, in a continuous chain of masters back to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) who is the source of all Islamic knowledge. In Sufi tradition, this means not only that the present sheikh has met and taken the way from a master, but that the master during his life­time has explicitly and verifiably invested the disciple—whether in writing or in front of a number of witnesses—to teach the spiritual path as a fully authorized master (murshid ma’dhun) to succeeding generations of disciples.

Such transmission (silsila) from an unbroken line of masters is one criterion that distinguishes a true or ‘con­nected’ Sufi path (tariqa muttasila), from an inauthentic or ‘dissevered’ path, (tariqa munqati‘a). The leader of a dissevered path may claim to be a sheikh on the basis of an authorization given by a master in private or other unverifi­able circumstance, or by a figure already passed from this world such as one of the righteous or the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), or in a dream, or so on. These, as our sheikh notes, “warm the heart” (yusta’nasu biha) but none meets Sufism’s condition that a sheikh must have a clear authorization connecting him with the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), one that is verified by others than himself. Many lies are told by people, and without publicly verifiable authorizations, the tariqa would be com­promised by them.

Our Shadhili tariqa has come from its prophetic origin through such a series of formal investitures, from master to master down to Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman, who has inherited Sheikh Ahmad al-‘Alawi’s written authorization to Sheikh Muhammad al-Hashimi, witnessed with many others al-Hashimi’s authorization to Sheikh Muhammad Sa‘id al-Kurdi, as well as having Sheikh al-Kurdi’s written au­thorization to himself. Sheikh al-‘Alawi says, by way of introducing his own sanad or ‘initiatic chain’ in a work printed by one of his disciples some thirteen years before his death:
Since the school of the Folk (may Allah’s grace be upon them) is the most painstaking of all schools in realization, and highest of ascending paths in exactitude, it is obligatory for every person who belongs to them to make sure of his initiatic chain in the path in the fullest way. For higher spiri­tual realities (haqa’iq) are not taken from just anyone who makes claims, but only after establishing in the thoroughest manner possible his lineal chain of authorization—as you shall see (Allah willing) from this con­tiguous initiatic chain of trans­mission, the last having taken it from the first in unbroken succession back to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace)—without the slightest doubt or sugges­tion of a doubt in a single pearl of its strand. For whoever holds fast to the offshoot has take hold of the parent stock whenever lineal connection is estab­lished.

Because some of our sheikhs’ path was not completed without having met two or more sheikhs, we have noted whom they took as a second sheikh in numbered footnotes, as best we knew, and so [have also detailed in subfootnotes the chains of those in the main footnotes who joined between two or more preceding spiritual lines] back to the beginning. We have sepa­rated each level with lines drawn between them to perfect the benefit and seek the best way possible. We must realize that most tariqas overlap and depend upon each other’s lines.

Whoever seeks brevity may confine himself to the chain at the top of the page, because it is easier to memorize and preserve, and is the main reliance of our tariqa, as has reached us and as we have taken it from the peak of its glory and fruit of its cultivation, him of pleasing character and astounding secrets, our liegelord and master Muhammad ibn al-Habib al-Buzidi, the noble prophetic scion from Mostaganem—may Allah beautify his resting place and make the exalted presence his dwelling and refuge—for it is from him that we have taken, and he taught us, and he authorized us, may Allah reward him as he truly deserves. And he took it from his teacher Abul Mawahib, our master Muhammad ibn Qaddur al-Wakili, who took it from our master Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Basha and from Abu Ya‘za al-Mahaji, who both took it from Mawlay al-‘Arabi ibn Ahmad al-Darqawi . . . (al-Qadiri: Irshad al-raghibin, 40).

This lengthy passage has been quoted in full for two reasons. The first is Sheikh al-‘Alawi’s uncompromising insistence in the first paragraph on the importance of the connectedness of the initiatic chain through authorized sheikhs. Our sheikh relates that when Sheikh al-‘Alawi authorized Sheikh al-Hashimi in Damascus, he had the authorization stamped and certified by various government no­taries in order that there should be no mistake as to its authenticity.

The second reason is that in our times a popular bi­ography of Sheikh al-‘Alawi has apparently confused the issue of al-Buzidi’s disciples consulting with one another after his death as to who should succeed him as their sheikh, with the issue of there being anyone authorized as a sheikh by him at all, be it Sheikh al-‘Alawi or anyone else. The book overlooks al-Buzidi’s other autho­rizations to Algerian disciples that were public knowledge. Another whom al-Buzidi authorized besides Sheikh al-‘Alawi, for example, was Sheikh Muhammad ibn Yallas of Tlemcen (Tarikh ‘ulama’ Dimashq, 1.428). His authorization and that of Sheikh al-‘Alawi were known to, among others, Sheikh al-Hashimi, who had met Sheikh al-Buzidi as a child, and who moved to Damascus in 1911 with Ibn Yallas, whom he relied upon as his own murshid in the tariqa.

These men had too much respect for tradition, and too much knowledge of the path, to imagine that anyone could be a sheikh without authorization from a master. And if al-Buzidi did not name a particular sheikh as his successor for the brethren in the West, the suggestion that al-‘Alawi was “elected” as a murshid of the tariqa by popular consensus of disciples not only makes a lie of the spirit and the letter of his own words above (“he authorized us”), but contra­dicts the system of ijazas in Islam from begin­ning to end. It is a rather sweeping claim. Sheikh al-Hashimi has said:
Whoever dares to be a sheikh without an authorization is afflicted, deluded, and deceived, and it is to be feared that he will finish life outside of Islam (yukhsha ‘alayhi su’ al-khatima). The Knower of Allah [Ibn al-‘Arabi] has said this, as quoted by [‘Abd al-Rahman ibn ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Fasi] in Ibtihaj al-qulub. This is because of the insolence to Allah it entails, and pretending to mediate be­tween Allah and His servants, and to be a successor of His messengers in guidance and instruction (Shitranj al-‘arifin, 48).

If all this is familiar enough to initiates, it is somewhat foreign to the modern mentality, and some authors, Islamic and orientalist, have claimed that certain links of the Sufi chain of initiation, particularly early ones, are not con­tiguous, to which the hadith expert Sheikh Ahmad al-Ghumari has replied in considerable detail in his ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib Imam al-‘arifin [‘Ali ibn Abi Talib: Imam of Those of Gnosis], establishing that the Shadhili-Darqawi line is fully authenticated, from al-‘Arabi al-‘Darqawi back to its prophetic origins, sheikh by sheikh.

The order’s spiritual line is thus from Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Shaghouri, from Muhammad Sa‘id al-Kurdi, from Muhammad al-Hashimi, from Ahmad al-‘Alawi, from Muhammad al-Buzidi, from Muhammad Qaddur al-Wakili, from Abu Ya‘za al-Mahaji and Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Qadir, from al-Arabi al-Darqawi, from ‘Ali al-Jamal, from al-‘Arabi ibn ‘Abdullah, from Ahmad ibn ‘Abdullah, from Qasim al-Khassasi, from Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullah, from ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Fasi, from Yusuf al-Fasi, from ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Majdhub, from ‘Ali al-Sanhaji al-Dawwar, from Ibrahim al-Fahham, from Ahmad Zarruq, from Ahmad al-Hadrami, from Yahya al-Qadiri, from ‘Ali ibn Wafa, from Muhammad Wafa Bahr al-Safa, from Dawud al-Bakhili, from Ahmad ibn ‘Ata' Illah al-Iskandari, from Abul ‘Abbas al-Mursi, from Abul Hasan al-Shadhili, from ‘Abd al-Salam ibn Mashish, from ‘Abd al-Rahman al-‘Attar al-Zayyat, from al-Ghawth Abu Madyan, [from this point only one of the chains has been quoted:] from ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jaylani, from Sa‘id al-Mubarak, from Abul Hasan ibn ‘Ali Yusuf, from Abul Faraj al-Tartusi, from Abu Faraj ‘Abd al-Wahhab al-Tamimi, from Abu Bakr al-Shibli, from Abul Qasim al-Junayd, from Sari al-Saqati, from Ma‘ruf al-Karkhi, from Dawud al-Ta’i, from Habib al-‘Ajami, from Hasan al-Basri, from ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, from Muhammad the Messenger of Allah (May Allah bless him and give him peace).

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