Khwaja Ubaydullah al-Ahrar a master of the Naqshbandi Sufi Order
What distinguishes the Naqshbandi Sufi Way from other Sufi orders was the fact that it took its foundations and principles from the teachings and example of five bright stars in the firmament of the Prophet (s). These great figures were Abu Bakr as-Siddiq, Salman al-Farsi, Bayazid al-Bistami, Abdul Khaliq al-Ghujdawani and Muhammad Bahauddin Uwaysi al-Bukhari, better known as Shah Naqshband--the eponymous Imam of the tariqat.
Behind the word Naqshband stand two ideas: naqsh which means "engraving" and suggests engraving the name of God in the heart, and band which means "bond" and indicates the link between the individual and his Creator. This means that the Naqshbandi Sufi initiate practices her or his prayers and obligations according to the Divine Revelations and Inspirations, and keeps to the Traditions and Perfect Moral Character of the Prophets and their Saintly Disciples and Companions, striving to keep the presence and love of God alive in her or his heart through a direct personal experience of the link between herself or himself and his Lord.
But who besides Abu Bakr as-Siddiq are these stars in the firmament of the Messenger of God? One of them was Salman al-Farsi. His origin was Ispahan in Persia and he was the one who advised the Community to dig a trench in the battle of Ahzab, to avoid casualties and bring about a situation conducive to peace. After the passing away of the Holy Messenger, he moved to al-Madain, the capital city of Persia, where he was made Prince and governor of that city and remained there until his death.
This doctrine, which consisted of five elements: to keep their obligations according to Divine Revelations and Inspirations and the Traditional Path of the Messenger, to always speak the truth, to keep the heart from hatred, to avoid harmful food, and to shun innovation.
Bayazid said that the ultimate goal of the Sufis is to see God in the Hereafter. To that effect he added:
Yet another star in the firmament of the Prophet (s), was Abdul Khaliq al-Ghujduvani, who was born in the village of Ghujduvan, near Bukhara in present-day Uzbekistan. He was raised and buried there. He studied Divine Scripture, Exegesis (tafsir), Jurisprudence fiqh and the Science of the Traditions (hadith) with Shaykh Sadruddin. Having mastered the sciences of Divinity (shariah, he moved on to Spiritual Warriorship (jihad an-nafs ) combatting his lower self until he reached a high station of purity and sincerity. He then traveled to Damascus where he established a school from which many students graduated. Each became the masters of Divinity and Tradition as well as spirituality in their time, both in the regions of Central Asia and in the Middle East.
Abdul Khaliq continued the work of his predecessors by formulating the dhikr (remembrance of God) passed down from the Prophet (s) according to the Sunnah. In his letters he set down the code of conduct (adab) that the students of the Naqshbandiyya were expected to follow. We quote from his sayings:
The students of Shaykh Amir Kulal used to make zikr aloud when sitting together in association, and silent zikr when alone. Concerning this he says,
Shah Naqshband performed Hajj three times, after which he resided in Merv and Bukhara. Towards the end of his life he went back to settle in his native city of Qasr al-Arifin. His teachings became quoted everywhere and his name was on every tongue. Visitors from far and wide came to see him and to seek his advice. They received teaching in his school and mosque, a complex which at one time accommodated more than five thousand people. This school is the largest Islamic center of learning in Central Asia and still exists in our day. It was recently renovated and reopened after surviving seventy years of Communist rule.
Shah Naqshband's teachings changed the hearts of seekers from darkness to light. He continued to teach his students the knowledge of the Oneness of God in which his precedessors had specialized, emphasizing the realization of the state of excellent character (ihsan) for his followers according to the hadith of the Prophet (s),
When Shah Naqshband entered his final illness he locked himself up into his room. Wave after wave of his followers began to visit him, and he gave to each of them hat the needed. At one point he ordered them to the Chapter of Quran known as surat Ya Sin. When they finished reading the sura, Shah Naqshband raised his hands in supplication to God. Then he raised his right finger to say the testimony of Oneness. As soon as he finished saying this testimony, his soul returned to God. He died on a Monday night in 1388. He was buried in his garden as he requested. The succeeding Kings of Bukhara took care of his school and mosque, expanding them and increasing their religious endowments (awqaaf).
Succeeding shaykhs of the Distinguished Naqshbandi Sufi Order wrote many biographies of Shah Naqshband. Among them are Masoud al-Bukhari and Sharif al-Jarjani, who composed the Risala Bahaiyya which describes his and his life's works including his legal decisions (fatawa). Shaykh Muhammad Parsa, who died in Madina in 1419 wrote Risala Qudsiyya in which he talks of Shah Naqshband's life his virtues and his teachings.
Shah Naqshband's literary legacy included many books. Among them are al-Awrad al-Bahaiyya, the Devotions of Shah Naqshband." Another book is Tanbih al-Ghafilin. A third book is Maslakul Anwar. A fourth is Hadiyyatus Salikin wa Tuhfat at-Talibeen. He left many noble expressions praising the Prophet and he wrote many fatawa (legal rulings). One of his opinions was that all the different acts and kinds of worship, whether obligatory or voluntary, were permitted for the seeker in order to reach reality. Prayer, fasting, charity, remembrance by chanting and invoking the Names of the Divine, striving against the ego's desire (mujahadat) and self-denial zuhd were emphasized as ways to reach God Almighty. (See the Eleven Principles of the Naqshbandi Way.)
Shaykh Nazim al-Haqqani, current leader of the Naqshbandi Sufi Order at the grave of Shah Naqshband.
The mufti of Uzebkistan is handing him a
cup of water drawn from Shah Naqshband's well.
Shah Naqshband built his school on the renewal of the teachings of the Islamic religion. He insisted on the necessity of keeping to the Revelations of God and the teachings of the Path of the Blessed Messenger. When they asked him,
Shah Naqshband's self-denial made him live a harsh and austere life. He was extremely concerned with acquiring only the halal (permitted) livelihood. He used to eat bread made from barley that he planted and reaped himself in his garden. He loved the poor and needy and he used to cook and serve them himself as well as visit them when they were sick. He was very wealthy and he used his money to spend in the way of God, not for himself and his family. Because of that, everyone loved him and acknowledged his generosity.
Shah Naqshband said: