(4) The Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah Factor
The ahl al-sunnah wa al-jama’ah factor also played a prominent role in instituting and advancing the Sufism and Sufi institutions phenomena. However, if the contributions of the previous three factors targeted both Sufism and Sufi institutions in equal measure, the contributions of the ahl al-sunnah wa al-jama’ah factor, it seems, aimed more at the Sufi establishments, as a palpable institutional evidence of the supremacy of Sunnism over the rest, than at Sufism as sets of doctrines and as a lifestyle. That could be the case because the scope of the ahl al-sunnah wa al-jama’ah factor in relation to the growth of Sufism and its institutions became crystallized only after the roles of the Turkish, Persian and Shi’ah factors were clearly defined, following which generating their expected impacts went into full swing. Moreover, such was the nature of the ahl al-sunnah wa al-jama’ah factor, and such were the circumstances in which it was formulated and in which it became fully operational insofar as Sufism and its institutions were concerned, that there was little time or space left for prolonged dealings with fluid and open-ended abstract and conceptual subject matters. What was needed most urgently was to strategize and regulate the orb of Sunnism in the face of both politically and ideologically assertive opponents by means of an out-and-out institutionalization of all of the religious, socio-political and educational facets and features of Sunnism. The preeminence of Sunnism was thus to be fully brought down from a world of ideas, principles and sentiments to a more concrete world of regulatory policies, systems and institutional organizations, with Sufism having been no exception. Unmistakable demarcating lines at both conceptual and practical levels were thus to be drawn between mainstream Sunnism and the rest of nonconformist ideologies and movements. Hitherto unheard of, the scheme was set to encompass all the governmental macro institutions and bodies, whence it was projected to cascade down to the micro level and have an effect on the rest of establishments and bodies. Prior to this far-reaching initiative, which was spearheaded by the Saljuqs and whose exemplar was later followed by the Ayyubids, the Mamluks, the Ottomans and many others, Sufi institutions belonged to the micro level establishments and bodies, but after that, commencing with the Saljuqs, when numerous Sufi institutions became state-owned, Sufi institutions became well represented at macro and micro levels alike. They belonged to and were utilized by both the government and the common herd of Muslims. Just as Sufism became almost an official state canon, many Sufi institutions likewise became virtually of a nationalized character.
(1)The Turkish Factor
The Turkish factor played an important role in making Sufism and its institutions a ubiquitous phenomenon in Islamic society. Soon after they had been introduced in the early 3rd AH/ 9th CE century as Turkish soldiers in the army of the Abbasid caliphs, the Turkish populace set out to etch its undeletable place and significance on the Muslim scene. In slightly more than a century later, Turkish soldiers started emerging as the de facto rulers of several sections of the Muslim world, especially of the Muslim Middle East. Some of the prominent Turkish, or Turkish influence dominated, Muslim dynasties were the Tulunids in Egypt and Syria (254-293 AH/ 868-905 CE). “The Tulunid dynasty was the earliest manifestation of a political crystallization in the unruly and heretofore inarticulate Turkish element in the heart of the (Abbasid) caliphate. Other and more important Turkish dynasties were soon to follow.” There were also the Ikhshidids (4th AH/ 10th century CE), as a quasi-independent state in Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Makkah and Madinah; Ghaznawids (4th-6th AH/ 10th-12th centuries CE) in Afghanistan, India and Khorosan; the Saljuqs (5th-7th AH/ 11th-13th centuries CE) in Anatolia, parts of the Arabian peninsula, Iran, Iraq and Transoxania; and finally the Ottomans (7th-14th AH/ 13th-20th centuries CE) who ruled most of the Muslim world.
Read more: Main Reasons for the Rise of Sufism and Sufi Institutions (Part Two)
In this chapter, the main reasons which caused and sustained the continuous existence of Sufism and Sufi institutions will be discussed. The chapter is divided into two parts. Firstly, the rise of Sufism and Sufi institutions between spontaneity and planning will be deliberated. That will be followed by expounding the main factors which were most responsible for the proliferation of Sufism and Sufi institutions. Four factors will be dwelled on, namely, the Turkish factor, the Persian factor, the Shi’ah factor, and the ahl al-sunnah wa al-jama’ah factor.Read more: Main Reasons for the Rise of Sufism and Sufi Institutions (Part One)
When completed, the form of the Prophet’s mosque in Madinah was extremely simple. It consisted of an unpaved enclosure with walls made of mud bricks and an arcade on the qiblah side (towards Makkah) made of palm-trunks used as columns to support a roof of palm-leaves and mud. There were initially three entrances which pierced the eastern, western and southern walls. The northern wall was the qiblah side facing al-Masjid al-Aqsa – which was the first qiblah for about one year and a few months. However, as the qiblah was changed to face south towards Makkah, the southern entrance was subsequently bricked up and a wall on the northern side was pierced. Before the qiblah change, there was, in all likelihood, no roofed area in the mosque (some still believe there was) but after the qiblah change, an arcade on the southern side facing Makkah was created. There was no decoration of any kind within or without the mosque.Read more: The Form of the Prophet’s Mosque