41 Tariqas


Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem:

As-Salaamu ‘Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh,

1.What are the names of the 41 different tariqas and who are the Imams of each of those tariqas? I would be really grateful if this information could be provided.

2.Also,are there any tariqas that trace their line through Sayyidina Umar and Sayyidina Uthman (Radiyallahu Anhum)?

3.Is Imam Mahdi going to be the inheritor of all 41 tariqas and is this only for him (Qs) or are there other Awliya who will also be inheritors of all 41 tariqas?



Wa `alaykum as-Salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.

The names that you seek of the 41 tariqahs comprise the leaves of a tree in a remarkable example reproduced in The Book of Certainty by Abu Bakr Siraj ed-Din. In this example, the Most Praised name of the singular source of all these orders – peace and blessings be upon him – appears at the trunk, and only the 41st order – in this case the Sanusi – is placed in an axial position in relation to the trunk at the crown of the tree. The special rank accorded to the Sanusi order here is simply explained by this order being in all likelihood the source of the depiction. Of course, the tariqahs are usually and quite obviously named after their Imams.

Yet the number 40 has an obvious qualitative as well as quantitative significance. 40 days signal the completion of a period of seclusion, and 40 orders similarly represent a completion of possibilities. In reality, no fewer than 161 orders were recognized by the Imperial Board of Dervishes in Ottoman Constantinople. On the other hand, some sources simplify the matter by claiming no more than 4 main orders, with all others ending in the chains of these 4. No doubt 4 is the essential number in all these examples; after all, 160 is 40 multiplied by 4. However, the numbers to be considered are really 40 and 1, or 160 and 1, or simply 4 and 1; this last example returns to the subject of the “Spiritual Arkan” previously addressed in this forum.

As Shaykh `Abdul-Wahid Yahya has rightly observed, the role of the Rukn al-Arkan belongs to the Holy Prophet – peace and blessings be upon him – in relation to his Four Caliphs, may Allah be pleased with them all. Although rarely expressed in these terms, it is not unheard of for the 4 main orders mentioned above to be associated with each of the Four Caliphs, since such an association is symbolically valid, at least. From Hammer-Purgstall’s translation of Evliya Efendi:

…and Abubekr, choosing voluntary poverty, became the first of the Dervishes Nakshbendi. He was followed in the obeisance (Beia’t) paid to the Prophet by Omar, the chief of warlike Dervishes. Osman in the same way became the head of the Unitarians, and Ali of the Khalvetis.

In relation to their origin, the 4 proceed from a singular source; from another point of view, that of a completion of possibilities, one order has a singular rank in relation to the other 40. Of course, in relation to the myriad orders traced to Sayyidina `Ali – may Allah ennoble his face – the Naqshbandi order is singled out for its descent from Sayyidina Abu Bakr as-Siddiq, may Allah be pleased with him. It may also be observed that, as in the example of the tree described above, the “highest” order is identified through its axial position as having a special relationship with the Muhammadan source itself: the Rukn al-Arkan. This significance is expressed in the formula tariqat an-Naqshbaniyyat al-`aliyah. Just as the paths on the sides of a mountain are all known from its summit, so are the ways of all orders known from this central and highest rank.

Consider that the Imam al-Mahdi – peace be upon him – is the Caliph of Allah, and that his understanding of the law is above the partial legal perspectives of the 4 Schools that similarly proceeded from their singular source. His authority is not other than the Muhammadan Reality, and so it is instructive to consider the saying of the Naqshbandi master Imam Rabbani – may Allah sanctify his secret – that “Al-Mahdi `alayhis-Salam will be one of the followers of this way.”

Mahmoud Shelton

About Ustadh Mahmoud Shelton

Mahmoud Shelton studied at the University of Edinburgh before taking a degree in Medieval Studies at Stanford University. Shelton is the author of Alchemy in Middle Earth: The Significance of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, The Balance of George Lucas' Star Wars, and numerous articles. He is also a contributor to The Royal Book of Spiritual Chivalry and The Sufi Science of Self-Realization. Contributions by Mahmoud Shelton * Chivalry of the Night and Day * Alchemy in Middle Earth * contributor, The Royal Book of Spiritual Chivalry
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