Sufism and Modernity: A Comparative Study of Contemporary Social Movements In Turkey, Syria and Egypt
· Written by Arwa Ibrahim
During the 20th century, a combination of the unprecedented challenges- secularized authoritarian state structures, a Western-inspired rationalist discourse and Islamic fundamentalist critique since the second half of the 19th century- led to a decline in traditional forms of Sufism. Sufi orders needed to adapt their traditions to the new circumstances, otherwise they would become moribund. Some Sufi orders transformed into new forms of collective action such as cultural and educational associations, social movements and political parties. At the same time, they developed strategies to face the challenges of modernity which normally involved collaboration with one of the dominant forces of the age: the nation state and its elitist class, Islamic modernism and fundamentalism, Western culture and globalization. The most prominent social movements today are those which have been able to collaborate with contemporary forces and to adapt to a changing environment. The transformation of Sufism as reflected in the Gülen Movement in Turkey, the Kuftariyya Order in Syria and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt reflects the changes in various aspects of spiritual and activist Sufi tradition in a modern context.
   
   
From the time of the Prophet, there were persons who paid attention to their souls; they tried to harmonize their internal experiences with the external observances of their faith by means of renunciation of the world and asceticism. From the 2nd/8th century what became known as a Sufi renounced the world, devoted himself to the service of God and aimed at doing away with the impulses of the self through self-training and exercise. Sufism was merely a philosophy adopted by individuals but it had no organized form yet. The which branches off from another path, that of the law – shari‘a, refers to the Sufi quest to realize the Divine or truth (aqiqa). The focus of this research is on orders which emphasize that the follower (murid), must adhere to the injunctions of the shari‘a since the inner relationship between the shari’a, , and aqiqa cannot be ignored. For them, “the and shari‘a necessitate each other, since the path to God consists of an external aspect and an internal aspect. Its externality is the shari’a and the and its internality is the aqiqa; the aim of the three is to fulfil the servitude of God”. Sufis distinguish themselves by their interpretation of the Qur’an through ta’wil, an effort to reveal the inner (esoteric) dimensions of spiritual life and their challenge of the rigid, formal interpretations of Islam.
During post-classical Sufism dated from 5th-6th/11th-12th centuries, mystic life was increasingly cultivated in orders. In the 10th and 11th centuries, the small, private groups of spiritual masters turned into more formal associations; each brotherhood elaborated distinct spiritual methods and disciplinary practices in lodges (). The Sufi lodges developed a multiplicity of spheres and activities; they were at once schools, commercial and social focal points, law courts, banks, storehouses, poor houses, burial grounds and the source and channel for connection with the Divine. The term extended from the inner spiritual path to include an externalized, institutionalized and popularized socio-religious organization. Therefore, the Islamic term denoting a Sufi order united under a master is . The shaykh is thought to be connected by a chain of grace, blessing, or blood to a founding saint and the order’s affiliation (silsila) is traced back from the present shaykh to the time of the Prophet Muhammad.
By the end of the 18th century, innovations had become fully integrated and the spirit and aims of the different orders had become stereotypical of one another. The main attributes of 18th century Sufi orders remained for the most part, reflective of traditional Sufism in the subsequent centuries. The main features of Sufi orders came to include a developed hierarchical organization of a generally uniform character, an initiatory principle for adherents to join the organization, veneration for the shaykh/murshid of the and utter subjection to his authority. The murshid typically led his followers towards emulating the Prophetic way of life, both outwardly and inwardly. The spiritual aspirant (murid) was directed by the shaykh through different stages (maqamat) on the journey to God. The main instrument for advancement on the mystical path is dhikr – the constant recollection of God –along with adhering to certain protocols (adb) such as avoiding deceit and pride. The disciplinary principles may have also included solitude, vigils, fasting and collective dhikr in coordination with musical rhythm, breath-control and physical exercises. The association of a saint (), dead or alive, with the qualities and properties embraced by the termskarama (miracles/grace acts) and baraka (spiritual power) were also important features.
At the same time however, shaykhs began to vie with one another to demonstrate their loyalty and subservience to the shari‘a. This change was partly due to the rising conflict between exoteric and esoteric doctrines of Islam which set the stage for the 19th century revivalist Sufi movements across the Islamic world. Advocating adherence to ‘ilm (knowledge) and (Sufism) and strict observance of the shari‘a and sunna, became a strong trend among Sufi orders. Although not all orders (uruq)adopt this principle, the uruq and the social movements in our study relate in varying degrees to this trend. This research does not assume that there is a single form of ‘authentic’ Sufism. Hence, we will not attempt to discern or evaluate whether or not this trend is orthodox Sufism or true as related to the Islamic faith and the forefathers of Sufism. The reality of Sufi orders’ social, political, economic and spiritual roles as we mentioned earlier, makes it apparent that Sufism entails a variety of religious groupings, meanings and social, economic and political functions that have varied from place to another. Since a Sufi order is not a sociological classification that defines certain characteristics or a distinct social entity, it would therefore be inaccurate to limit the meaning of Sufism within a specific definition. Therefore, our analysis of the Naqshbandiyya and Shadhiliyya as forms of traditional Sufism is not an attempt to create a single characterization of ‘traditional’ Sufism during the 19th century. It is merely to illustrate one form of traditional Sufism to use as reference.
The Naqshbandiyya was introduced in western Asia during the process of Ottoman state building and the search for an orthodox alternative to the unruly dervish fraternities. During the 17th and 18th centuries the Mujaddidi tradition (an offshoot of the original Naqshbandiyya) was transmitted and institutionalized in Damascus and Istanbul. The impact of the Mujaddidiyya in Istanbul peaked in the second half of the 18th century when its leaders became involved in the reform politics of the Ottoman Empire. Shaykh Diya’ al-Din Khalid, who had been initiated into the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya in India, founded in the 1820s the Khalidiyya offshoot. In the 19th century, the Naqshbandiyya offshoots developed strategies to cope with new realities of modernity: the impact of the West, the spread of rationalist thought, the consolidation of colonial rule and subsequent authoritarian states, and the rise of Islamic modernism and fundamentalism.
The Khalidiyya brotherhood was committed to two foundations: its socio-political activism and commitment to orthodoxy by ensuring the subservience of the highly mystical path of the to the shari‘a and the Prophet’s sunna. These aims as fundamental principles of the movement are a clear adaptation to the environment. The brotherhood had to strike a balance between its emphatic orthodox outlook and to its activist legacy. The Naqshbandiyya and its offshoots in Istanbul and Damascus joined a modernist-fundamentalist camp which moved towards imagining Islam in light of modern ideals. The modernist side emphasized Western ideas and values while the fundamentalist aspect sought to ground these borrowings in the Muslim faith.
 The Naqshbandi-Mujaddidi-Khalidi order became characterized by familial succession, incorporation of the saints’ descendents into imperial and local elites and cooperation with the original Naqshbandiyya. . In 1826, the Khalidiyya encouraged the ‘ulama’ and senior bureaucracy to approve the elimination of the moribund Janissary corps which stood in the way of Ottoman modernization. In turn, the Ottoman Empire gave the Khalidiyya independence and space to spread their spiritual teachings, as opposed to its abolishment of the heterodox Bektashi brotherhood. These changes lead to a general mood of orthodoxy that prevailed among the elite of Istanbul. 1909, 
   
Shaykh Khalid paid special attention to the organizational dimension of his order; his innovations were designed to turn the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya-Khalidiyya into an effective socio-religious movement in the service of an orthodox Muslim community. Three organizational innovations of Khalid included the khalwa -where he referred initial instruction of disciples to his deputies who would give them concentrated training for forty days, the rabita - which replaced accompaniment by instructing his disciples to concentrate in their imagination on his figure, and ghalq al-bab – a practise translated into ‘closing the door’ to non-members during dhikr sessions which gave the the character of an exclusive social movement. However, although innovations within the mystical sphere remained a vibrant aspect of the Naqshbandiyya offshoots, the Naqshbandiyya had an early contribution to the formation of the Islamic reformist trend. Sufi reformist movements were a significant aspect of the greater 18thand 19th centuries’ revivalist movements.
Since the 17th century, Naqshbandi masters started a movement against what was regarded as deviations from the path of the Qur’an and the Prophet’s sunna.  As the Wahhabi movement intensified its fight against Sufism, a revival movement within the orders was also taking place. The Naqshbandiyya was among the most notable orders in this movement; it articulated criticism of unorthodox practices associated with popular Sufism. Deviation from the shari’a was seen as one of the reasons behind the defeat and degeneration of the Ottoman Empire. They responded to the challenge presented by seeking to preserve the inner (bātinī) aspect of Islam along with full acceptance of the outward (ẓāhirī) aspect and condemned the accretions which had debased the orders.
Many Naqshbandi traditions were already aligned with the principles of the Sufi reform movement. In fact, the leaders of this movement were committed to the Naqshbandi tradition as they drew their inspiration from the orthodox thrust of the Naqshbandiyya and its abhorrence of practices transgressing the shari‘a. The Naqshbandiyya reform was also characterized by an emphasis on the study of hadith, a shift from the pantheistic interpretation of Ibn ‘Arabi’s teachings to an interest in the transcendental approach of al-Ghazzali, stricter compliance with the precepts of the shari’a, greater involvement in politics and society and consolidation of the structural organization of the orders.  Hence, popular Sufi practices like music and dance during dhikr was a target for elimination by the revivalist Sufi movement and the Naqshbandiyya. Other targets of the revivalist movement such as the elimination of all of Ibn ‘Arabi’s teachings and the prohibition of tomb visits, were however inconsistent with the Naqshbandiyya which still maintained such practices.
After the death of Khalid in 1827, ‘Isa al-Kurdi took leadership of the Khalidiyya in Damascus, while Gümüşhanevi became his contemporary in Istanbul. With the ascendance of these two adepts to the Khalidiyya, a split occurs in the development of Sufism in Syria and Turkey. Gümüşhanevi’s acceptance of Ibn ‘Arabi’s doctrine of wadat al-wujud and his authorization of vocaldhikr, brought the Khalidiyya in Istanbul closer to popular Sufism. On the other hand, while ‘Isa appreciated the mystical writings of Gümüşhanevi, he clung to the Naqshbandi stress on shari‘a and denounced Sufi practices that contravened it. He was not extremely subservient to the emergent Salafi trend however; he still approved visiting saints’ and tombs. At that time, the Khalidiyya in Syria began to move away from the Naqshbandi tradition of focusing its efforts on the community’s elite and upper-class. Instead, ‘Isa required his deputies to conceal their path from outsiders, to keep a close connection between them, and to centre their efforts on the urban lower class and countryside. This conservative populism paved the way for the transformation of the Khalidiyya into its contemporary Kuftariyya offshoot which we will discuss later.
  
  
  
  
    
In Turkey, the Khalidiyya’s activity was hampered by the establishment of the Turkish secular state. The ban imposed on Sufi activity by Ataturk’s regime in 1925 along with intensified persecution in the aftermath of the Menemen Rebellion of 1930, caused the Naqshbandiyya and its offshoots to go underground. When state inspection relaxed in the 1970s, the Naqshbandiyya resurfaced and developed strategies to face the challenges posed by modernity and a repressive state. These strategies have normally involved collaboration with one of the dominant forces of the age: the nation state and its elitist class, Islamic modernism and fundamentalism, Western culture and globalization. At the same time, the Naqshbandiyya offshoots transformed gradually from being strictly religious associations into various new forms of a religious underpinning. New forms of collective action included competing educational and cultural associations, social movements and political parties. Thus, the Naqshbandiyya’s transformation offered a high degree of social mobility both horizontally due to its production of society-centric Islamic movements; and vertically with its state-centric political parties.
Said Nursi (d. 1960), a modernist adept of the Khalidiyya founded the Nurcu movement which gave birth to his successor who links closely to his ideology, Fethullah Gülen (b. 1938). Today, the neo-Nurcu Gülen Movement, founded and lead by Gülen, is the most outstanding of the Nurcu circles. While modern affiliates of the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya-Khalidiyya, most notably Gülen himself, continue to successfully voice their vision of Islam in the national and global spheres, they have done so at the price of major modifications to their modes of operation and their commitment to the orthodoxy of the brotherhood.
 Gülen’s message is designed to substitute the Sufi mode of religiosity which he found to be obsolete. He became convinced of the need to enlighten the masses in the various fields of learning and to demonstrate the truths of religion in the face of modernity. 
shari‘a  shari‘a shari‘a  in the Muslim world. Therefore, 
Since the Naqshbandi tradition is characterized by , Gülen considers his new and adapted practices and ideas, a renewal of the Islamic tradition within its contemporary context. Gülen’s    He has appropriated the reading and debating of his writings to replace the guidance of Sufi masters; reminiscent of a devotional formula, his to his followers how they can incorporate Sufi ideals into their daily lives.
The   dhikr in its congregational form as practised by Sufi orders has been abandoned in the Gülen Movement altogether, Gülen still emphasizes the importance of dhikr for his followers and they are committed to reading zikirler (a compilation of dhikr) on a daily basis. Gülen
 Just like his predecessor Nursi, Gülen’s message which combines faith with science provides his followers with a doctrine that allows them to be good Muslims as well as followers of the secular sciences. Several of Gülen’s writings reflect an emphasis on the significance of knowledge and learning in all of its fields. In his book, Gülen begins with the discussion of the purpose of knowledge and learning. For Gülen, true knowledge is that which is in coordination with scientific proofs and information.
Sufi networks in the contemporary world are no longer confined to a spiritual practice but they also constitute powerful transnational economic, political and social entities. While most Naqshbandi-related groupings transformed themselves from purely religious networks to informal educational and cultural associations they still remained within the Naqshbandi tradition. On the other hand, the Nurcu Movement and its offshoots, most notably the Gülen Movement, transcended it. 
 The Gülen Movement incorporates an intricate network of businesses which helps it build a strong educational enterprise with several universities and colleges and a vast communication empire. 
Gülen’s realization of the importance of print culture and the media is a reflection of his engagement with a globalizing world. Such engagement has had a vital role in making his group into a mass religious social movement. Today, Gülen’s followers have founded a media network; they are the proprietors of the daily newspaper, Zaman, several radio channel called Radyo Nur . The Gülen Movement also established the Turkish Teachers’ Foundation which publishes a monthly journal and two academic journals and organises symposia, panel discussions and conferences. Such Gülen’s ideas on subjects such as
. The Gülen-established Journalists’ and Writers’ Foundation specifically promotes and acts in accordance to this message Although Gülen links the importance of interfaith dialogue to Sufism, the Naqshbandi tradition has not reflected such a tendency. Gülen’s emphasis on interfaith dialogue could be considered his and renewal of the spiritual teachings of the faith. Gülen’s engagement with globalization is also apparent in his substitution of personal contact between master and disciple with advanced mass means of communication such as the internet. The number of internet websites that are dedicated to his ideas and writings are extremely abundant and available in several languages.
Relationship with the State
Gülen’s relationship with the state is different to the relationship of the Naqshbandi tradition. Although the Naqshbandi tradition was founded on cooperation with the state as exemplified in the previous chapter, many historical occasions of confrontation with the state, show that the Naqshbandiyya’s cooperation and appropriation of government support was only to a limit. For example,  Furthermore, 
is critical of this confrontational approach and opposed to most political Islamic parties. Gülen propagates an ethic of co-operation and peaceful activism. He takes a low profile vis-à-vis politics and his approach reflects much greater cooperation with the secular state. Gülen cooperation influence over politics through his media outlets, businesses and Islamic banking, and his educational empire. His activity in the educational and financial sector brings him into contact with political figures. His schools in Turkic states make him an unofficial part of the government initiative to expand Turkish influence in Turkic states. Furthermore, Gülen’s visit to the Vatican in 1998, where he was received by Pope John Paul II who conveyed his satisfaction with Gülen’s activism in interfaith dialogue, is an example of Gülen global significance. Therefore, although Gülen is not directly involved in politics through a political party for example, his role in the Turkish society is highly politicized.
In Syria, the Naqshbandiyya-Khalidiyya has played an important role since the rise of the Ba’th to power in 1964. Ahmad Kuftaru (d. 2004), Grand Mufti of Syria for more than forty years, founded in the 1970s the Khalidiyya-Kuftariyya, one of the largest Sufi organizations in Syria. The 19th century Naqshbandiyya advocated a return to religion as a resolution for the fragmented state of the Ottoman Empire. Likewise, the Kuftariyya preaches the creation of a truly Islamic society to resolve the anomalies of the modern world. This order claims to represent a stable tradition by reinterpreting Islam in a changing world. The Kuftariyya is an example of an informal social movement within an authoritarian state. The Sufi-inspired organizational model has no formal structure and bases its action entirely on spiritual bonds, informal circles and daily lessons in the mosque. The Kuftariyya has replaced many traditional Naqshbandi practices with new innovations to collaborate with Western culture, globalization, a dominating secular state and a strong opposing Salafi trend in contemporary Syria. Adaptations have also lead to the transformation of the Kuftariyya into a socio-economic association with religious and political underpinnings.
The Kuftariyya: The
Kuftariyya’s maintenance of the form of organization may make it seem to be the most adherent of Sufi tradition of our three social movements, we will realize however that the formation is relegated a secondary role within the Kuftariyya. T  The hierarchal relationship between the master and murid which is pivotal to Naqshbandi tradition is still a fundamental aspect of the Kuftariyya. Fundamental Sufi beliefs are still maintained within the Kuftariyya such as the concepts of baraka and karama which the followers link to the shaykh of the Kuftariyya, especially its founder Ahmad Kuftaru. Dhikr as a core practise is emphasized within the Kuftariyya as vital  Although dhikr is still practised within the Kuftariyya circles (alaqt), it is more commonly practised as a sober religious lesson. Within its spiritual realm, transformations within the Kuftariyya are mainly an effect of the influence of the Salafiyya, Western culture and a rationalist discourse.
While some Naqshbandi traditions remain fundamental to the practices of the Kuftariyya, other Sufi traditions have been eliminated. The Kuftariyya abandoned the Sufi lodge () and practices its activities in mosques. Also, the practise ofsuba and khalwa where the murshid stays in close companionship of his disciples has been replaced by religious lectures or preaching directed by the master at a group of followers. As a spiritual leader, Kuftaru carried out a dars (sermon) every Friday at his mosque in the Abu al-Nur complex which we will elaborate on in the following section. He discussed a variety of subjects including: meanings of Qur’anic verses, the relationship between religions especially Islam and Christianity and the attitude Muslims should take towards natural sciences. Friday is a day when the most important congregational activities take place; the sermons (now given by two other shaykhs) represent a form of interaction between the shaykh and his members.Reference to Qur’anic verses and the discussion of science during the weekly sermons reflected a keenness to associate the Kuftariyya with the wider Islamic and global community.
The Kuftariyya is committed to the Naqshbandi tradition of adhering to shari‘a and sunna; it propagates a learned and discreet form of Sufism based on the Qur’an and Prophet’s sunna. Adherence to shari‘a and sunna has protected the Kuftariyya from Salafi attacks. It is also faithful to the reformist tradition of the Naqshbandiyya; a fundamental principle of the Kuftariyya lies upon the idea of which translates into interpreting religion according to current times. According to this principle, the historical persons within the Naqshbandi tradition are relegated to less influential positions. They become sources of inspiration in moral and ethical issues, while their interpretations and teachings are not necessarily followed closely. The practise of renewal of Naqshbandi teachings, allows the Kuftariyya to potentially interpret religion in a way that is conformant to any powerful trends, notably the Salafiyya.
The Kuftariyya illustrates a willingness to adapt to influential Salafi trend. Some adaptations have been made to its mystic polemic and terminology so as to avoid the possibility of impending conflicts with the Salafi trend. This is reflected in its use of Islamic terminology which has become general to the Muslim community, both Salafi and Sufi. For example, Kuftaru’s sermons revolved around fundamental Sufi meanings; however he used the word tazkiyya (purification) instead of . According to Kuftaru the meaning of tazkiyya is the original term that refers to what we know as Sufism today. Using an alternative to is an example of the acculturation of the Sufi tradition to a fundamentalist Salafi. At the same time however, the Kuftariyya’s emphasis on textual references and a mystic reform through is also a reaction to changing religious sensibilities. The increasingly literate Syrian society seeks the truth in modern texts and intellectual authority. Because its mystical dimension is framed by the doctrine of the Koran and shari’a law, the Kuftariyya has spread Sufism in the urban middle and upper classes. The Kuftariyya’s adapted mysticism thus reflects a type of Sufism that has transformed to suit a rationalist culture modern context where science and reason are the most reliable references for truth and credibility.
In terms of structure, some changes have also been made to suit modern times. The Kuftariyya is arranged in a hierarchy of circles (alaqt) and each circle contains an internal hierarchy. Higher members in the hierarchy are responsible for controlling, advising and inspiring the younger members of the order. In some cases they also act as mediators where conflicts arise between leaders of the various circles. Although Sufi rituals such as dhikr may still be practised within each circle, the division of the order into smaller sub-circles is a modern innovation made to absorb a larger number of followers. The consequence of this adaptation however is less interaction, within the spiritual sphere, between the follower and the head of the order. Likewise spiritual interaction with other members outside of the individual’s circle is only carried out during sermons at the mosque or few congregational events that may bring the different circles together.
The fundamental legitimization of an order in traditional Sufism is maintained through the silsila. Kuftaru showed keenness to appear committed to this Sufi tradition by linking his branch to the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya-Khalidiyya. However, the historiography of the order is deliberately unclear on the fact that the establishment of the order was done independently by Kuftaru. This intentional lack of clarity was an attempt by Kuftaru to give legitimacy to his order by making it appear that there is a continuous silsila which links his branch to the Naqshbandiyya. At the same time however, this lack of clarity does not seem to cause a problem for his followers. Spiritual loyalty to Kuftaru and the legitimacy of his branch was not justified with thesilsila, but with modern concepts of reason and education. It was Kuftaru’s discussions and teachings, reflective of deep knowledge and understanding, which gave him legitimacy in the eyes of his followers. This not only reflects a transformation in the principles of legitimacy from traditional methods to more scientific terms, but it also reflects less emphasis on the accuracy of once vitally significant issues within Naqshbandi tradition. Even though this lack of clarity in the silsila may have terminated the credibility of a shaykh during more historic times, the ambiguity in Kuftaru’s silsila, does not seem to have caused him or his followers much distress.
The Educational Sphere
The Kuftariyya has adapted many of the Naqshbandiyya’s traditional ways and makes use of technology and modern education tools to adapt to a globalized 20th century context. Accordingly, the Kuftariyya puts special emphasis on social, economic and political activities as opposed to the traditional Sufi emphasis on spirituality. The Kuftariyya has well-established and developing role in the field of education. The Abu al-Nur Islamic Centre (ANIC), aspires to become an established and recognized centre for Islamic learning in Syria. The Abu al-Nur complex extends over an area of 18,000 meters squared and includes a mosque, library, dorms and conference halls. It houses 7,000-12,000 students from all around the globe and has developed connections with different universities in Lebanon, Sudan, Pakistan, Egypt and North America. Students at the foundation are mostly Syrian from various social strata; their families may be affiliated with the order or not. At the same time, many international students come to learn religious education and Arabic at the foundation.
The global aspect of the order plays an important role in spreading its message and giving it credibility on worldwide. Abu al-Nur has signed several bilateral treaties with Islamic centres abroad and opened a branch of ANIC in Baltimore Maryland.There is a growing presence of foreign diplomats, journalists, researchers, and tourist at ANIC. The da‘wa department in the organization, responsible for spreading Islam, is active through the organization’s international activity. Thus the participation of the Kuftariyya in such activities has played a significant role in making this movement part of the global community. The Kuftariyya’s message has taken the form of a global inter-faith dialogue which makes it depart from propagating a message limited to Muslims only. As part of Kuftaru’s renewal which takes him away form Naqshbandi tradition; his sermons included many references to Biblical stories an he referred to the three monotheistic religions as derivatives of a common origin. Thus the Kuftariyya tried to addresses all the Abrahamic faiths, especially the Christian. They do however reflect a continually modernizing doctrine to fit the surrounding environment. Indeed, through the preaching of this peaceful, ecumenical interpretation of Islam, the Kuftariyya has become an influential organization internationally.
The Kuftariyya also provides its members with a socio-economic network which plays a significant role in the spread of its message. Like the Gülen Movement, the Kuftariyya stresses the importance of piety for the individual as well as the need for modern education.  The Kuftariyya chooses to finance modern, professional education such as dentistry, engineering, and medicine which is designed to create a network of highly educated individuals who belong to the branch and who will also play a role in influencing the Syrian society.  The Kuftariyya also provides direct economic aid to support poor families in the neighbourhood as a way to strengthen its links with its followers.
Furthermore, the Kuftariyya uses modern tools such as the internet to spread its ideas. Ahmad Kuftaru was a leading shaykh in his use of internet websites to promote his thoughts, and expand his school’s networks. The educational sphere in the Kuftariyya thus acts as a channel to spread its message in Syria by providing its members with a socio-economic community. This sphere as we have seen has also played a significant role in spreading the Kuftariyya’s message globally.
Political Ideology and Collaboration with the State
Although Syria is constitutionally a parliamentary democracy, politics is practised through informal networks as parties are virtually non-existent in the Syrian context. Therefore, as an influential social movement, the Kuftariyya acts as a channel of political and economic action. Islamic networks’ decision to cooperate, oppose or coexist with the state regime is dependant on the leader of the network. Ahmad Kuftaru, and later his son following in the same steps, concluded that the only solution to safeguarding the Islamic faith is through servile loyalty to the Ba‘th, despite the sectarian-heterodox provenance of its leaders. The case of the Kuftriyya is a prime example of a Sufi network whose leader decided to cooperate with the political authority.
From afar, the Kuftariyya may be seen as apolitical or controlled by the government. However, Kuftaru’s ecumenical interpretation of Islam is that of a very talented political figure which was reflected in Kuftaru’s cooperation with the Alawi regime. In his double role as Grand Mufti and shaykh of a Sufi order, Kuftaru wielded political influence. Therefore, while Kuftaru may seem to have been salient and subservient to the government, his position as the highest religious authority allowed him to play a significant role in influencing people, especially his followers. Without Kuftaru, the government would have had more dilemmas in establishing its authority and passing controversial decisions without causing the aversion of the Syrian population. Indeed, the regime has relied on the co-optation of such figures and their support to maintain legitimacy among the Syrian peoples.
In return, cooperation with the authoritarian regime facilitates the implementation of certain crucial aspects of the Kuftriyya’s activity. Through cooperating with the Asad regime, Kuftaru was awarded a free hand in securing Islamic education in Syria and preaching a global inter-faith dialogue. Because Kuftaru and later his son Salah al-Din have been keen on maintaining a good relationship with the state, the Kuftariyya has remained to date one of the main providers of Islamic teaching in the country. While the Naqshbandi tradition has been marked with consideration of worldly materialism, the extent of the materialistic attitude adopted by Kuftaru and his followers seems to transcend much further beyond the innovations of the Naqshbandi tradition. Kuftaru and his followers adopt an attitude which entails that the material success of their Sufi order is as important as their spiritual advancement on the path to God. Cooperation with the state made the expansion of Abu al-Nur successful; it now contains Islamic schools, four universities and headquarters for a charitable organization called Ansar. The Naqshbandi tradition of influencing the government and the elite class of the society is apparent the Kuftariyya’s practices. A number of the Syrian officials in the Ministry of Islamic Endowments carry masters and doctoral degrees from Kuftariyya-affiliated universities. Muhammad Habash, the son in law of Kuftaru and formerly an influential member in the organization, is a member of parliament and is a prominent personality in Syrian and global media. Although Habash was later expelled from the Kuftariyya due his liberal position on women’s status and inter-faith relations, his example illustrates the close alliance between the Kuftariyya and the Syrian authorities.
Nonetheless, the Kuftriyya’s cooperation with the Syrian regime, has gained it the aversion of the Sunni community. The Kuftariyya’s cooperation with the state has helped limit the influence of Sunni Islam (especially the activist Muslim Brotherhood) in Syria. The Kuftariyya seems to prioritize its agenda above maintaining Sunni ties. This collaboration resembles the Naqshbandiyya’s cooperation with the Ottoman state in its fight against the Bektashi order. Yet, the Kuftariyya’s collaboration with a Shi’i regime departs from the Naqshbandi traditional role in the expanding orthodox Sunni Islam. Furthermore, Kuftaru’s cooperation with Iranian Shi’a, who participate in some of ANIC’s activities and attend Friday prayer with the Kuftariyya members, shows that the Kuftariyya have reinterpreted classical anti-Shi’i Naqshbandi doctrine. Even if such rapprochement between the Kuftariyya and the Shi’i Islam is superficial, it reflects the Kuftariyya’s willingness to compromise Naqshbandi tradition to satisfy the demands of renewed Sufi agenda.
 ẓ      
    
        
The Muslim Brotherhood is a mass movement that attracts membership from all socio-economic classes of the Egyptian society. Al-Banna made public health an important part of his social reform program as a means to tackle vast national health problems. The members of the Society were among the first to bring medical care to the countryside. As a grassroots movement, the Brotherhood later established educational and healthcare facilities which act as an alternative to those provided by the state. The Brotherhood’s social welfare activities are a reflection of its spiritual activist philosophy. These institutions have enabled the Brotherhood to disperse its ideology among a large sector of the middle and lower classes of Egyptian society. At the same time, the Brotherhood includes wealthier members who own business enterprises help support and fund the organization. In the 1980s, eight of the eighteen families who dominated Egypt’s private sector, were affiliated with the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood has also developed a media network which helps spread the Brotherhood’s ideas and respond to its criticisms. These roles illustrate that the Muslim Brotherhood has expanded much farther beyond a mere religious movement. In fact, it is this expansion into various facets of the Egyptian society, which has kept the Muslim Brotherhood alive in a modernizing Egyptian context which includes severe state opposition.
The Brotherhood’s utilization of modern means of communication to spread its message across a globalizing world reflects the Society’s collaboration with globalization. The second general conference held in 1933, was dedicated to the discussion of advertising and instructional propaganda. The conference members authorized a small company for the establishment of a press outlet for the Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood makes extensive use of print and oral means of communication to spread its message among its own members and the whole of the Egyptian community. The Brotherhood began publishing a weekly magazine called Majallat al-Ikhwan al-Muslimin (the Newspaper of the Muslim Brothers) in1933. This paper was followed by a political weekly, al-Nadhir (the Warner) in 1938 and a daily newspaper called Jaridat al-Ikhwan al-Muslimin (the Muslim Brothers) in 1946 which exemplify the Brotherhood’s keenness on taking advantage of modern communication means. The Brotherhood’s use of modern communication means has also played a vital role in spreading al-Banna’s teachings. A committee was responsible for collecting, systemizing and republishing a major part of al-Banna’s written works, especially al-Rasa’il which are a vital reference for the members of the Brotherhood. Today, the Brotherhood has official English and Arabic websites which address the global community. These websites continuously update the Brotherhood’s members and the general Egyptian public with the organization’s news and opinions on a variety of issues including politics and education.
It would be beyond the limitations of this research to expound on each aspect of the Brotherhood’s socio-economic activism. It is however clear at this point that unlike traditional Sufi orders which depended on cooperation with the state, it is the Muslim Brotherhood’s social activism in all facets of life which has contributed to the expansion of the organization’s influence and membership. Indeed, the Brotherhood’s educational and socio-economic roles along with its use of modern communication means have allowed it to become a global movement.
   
The three contemporary social movements – the Gülen Movement, the Kuftariyya and the Muslim Brotherhood, reflect the way Sufism has transformed during the 20th century. A common feature shared among the three social movements is that they have each transformed in form and structure and transcended the social, economic and political functions of a traditional Sufi order during the 19th century. Each of these movements has either abandoned the formation or relegated it to a secondary role. The dominance of social, economic, political and educational roles, which have been suited to each movement’s priorities and national contexts, reflects the transformation of their spheres of influence.
Because the Naqshbandiyya reflected a unique ability to adapt continuously to the changes in its environment, the two social movements linked to it, the Gülen Movement and the Kuftariyya, reflect more commonalities with traditional Sufism than the similarities we see between the Shadhiliyya branches and the Muslim Brotherhood. In fact, the Muslim Brotherhood reflects closer affiliation with the Naqshbandiyya than it does with the Shadhiliyya for two main reasons. For one, traditional Sufism as exemplified by most Shadhiliyya branches were not as seen as committed to ‘ilm, shari‘a and sunna. Secondly, traditional Sufism in 19th century Egypt took on a passive, apolitical role. Because the Naqshbandiyya was generally committed to adhering to shari‘a, sunna and approaching through ‘ilm, the mystical aspects of the three social movements are similar to the Naqshbandi tradition in that sense. At the same time, the Naqshbandiyya’s activism is also a feature that is fundamental to the contemporary social movements who have translated this principle into more defined social, economic, educational and political roles.
The influence of modern forces – secular, authoritarian states, globalization, a Western-inspired rationalist discourse and the Salafiyya, is the underlying reason for the transformation of traditional Sufism in the directions we found. As exemplified in our three social movements each of them adapted, in varying degrees, to each of these forces. While some aspects of a traditional Sufi order were eliminated during this process of acculturation, other aspects were strengthened and developed. The political role of the Muslim Brotherhood and its relationship with the state is its most distinguishing feature; it places the Brotherhood apart from the other two movements who do not assume a clear political role and choose to either cooperate (the Gülen Movement) or create an alliance (the Kuftariyya) with the state. This political role also links the Brotherhood more deeply than its contemporaries with the revolutionary character of the Naqshbandiyya.
Another point that became apparent through our research is the convergence between activism and asceticism, politics and spirituality and fundamentalism and mysticism within the traditional context and even more so in the modern context of the Islamic World. Each of our social movements represented an example of the combination of commonly presumed incompatible trends. The Gülen Movement, the Kuftariyya and the Muslim Brotherhood are clear examples of a union between activism and asceticism. They each have a spiritual and political role. At the same time, each movement is to some extent or other, a reflection of the links between Sufism and the fundamentalist Salafiyya.
The three social movements have illustrated a revolution in their means of communication and methods of expansion. The global context has offered each the social movements modern means of communication and the ability to disperse their ideas globally through media networks, the establishment of educational institutions and the expansion their social, economic and political functions beyond their national borders. Modernity has thus been an opportunity and not just a challenge for these movements. At the same time however, modernity threatens to erase the remaining aspects of traditional Sufism within the contemporary movements. As their non-spiritual roles may potentially become even more central to the movements, the significance of the spiritual dimension is likely to diminish. Furthermore, modernity may continue to transform the very nature of the various faculties and characteristics (spiritual and non-spiritual) of the social movements which link them to traditional Sufism.
Ernst, Carl W. The Shambhala Guide to Sufism: An Essential Introduction to the Philosophy and Practice of Mystical Tradition of Islam. (Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1997).
Fethullah Gülen: Understanding and Respect.
Subhan, John A. Sufism: Its Saints and Shrines. (New Delhi: Cosmo Publication, 1999).
Trimingham, J. Spencer. The Sufi Orders in Islam. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971).
Wiktorowicz, Quintan. ‘Introduction’ in Quintan Wiktorowicz (ed)
___. ‘Islamic Activism and Social Movement Theory: A New Direction for Research’,
Mediterranean Politics 7: 3 (2002), 187-211.
___. The Management of Islamic Activism: Salafis, the Muslim Brotherhood, and State Power in Jordan (New York: State University of New York Press, 2001).
Weismann, Itzchak. The Naqshbandiyya: Orthodoxy and Activism in a Worldwide Sufi Tradition. (New York: Routledge, 2007).
 Carl W. Ernst, The Shambhala Guide to Sufism: An Essential Introduction to the Philosophy and Practice of Mystical Tradition of Islam (Boston 1997), 15-16.
 Islamic Activism and Social Movement Theory: A New Direction for Research’, Mediterranean Politics 7: 3 (2000)
 The Management of Islamic Activism: Salafis, the Muslim Brotherhood and State Power in Jordan (New York 2001),
 also known as the ‘Urabi Revolution, was an uprising in in 1879-82 against the and influence in the country. It was led by and named after Colonel .
 t is interesting to note that the same message is preached by the fundamentalist Islamists today. This shows the commonalities between Sufism and fundamentalist Islam.
 It is important to note that this specific term, tazkiyya is a widely discussed subject in the Muslim world as we later explain in reference to Said Hawwa, a Syrian member of the Muslim Brotherhood who has written extensively in the field of Sufism. He represents an example of the convergence of the Salafi trend and Sufism.