Sufism and Sufi Orders: God’s Spiritual Paths Adaptation and Renewal in the Context of Modernization by Hassan Abu Hanieh –
SUFISM AND SUFI ORDERS: GOD’S SPIRITUAL PATHS ADAPTATION AND RENEWAL IN THE CONTEXT OF MODERNIZATION
Sufism is considered to be one of the components that constitute the Jordanian identity, as it is one of the major spiritual manifestations of Islam.
This is especially the case as Sufism represents a current that intersects with the tenets and the fundamentals embraced by all religions. Certainly, it is a practice that has imprinted itself on the folds of human experience.
During the earlier period of Islam’s inception, Sufism emerged as a spiritual revolution that aimed at reforming the nafs1 (the appetitive soul, corporeal self), disciplining it and purifying it of its vices and imbuing it with virtues in order to attain complete iman (faith) and the rank of ihsan3, and working towards the spiritual requirements of the Hereafter.
It was a religious movement whose legitimacy was grounded in its religiosity and in its derivation from the fundamental and founding Islamic references, the Holy Qur’an and the Prophet’s Sunna4, which call for zuhd5 (asceticism) in the corporeal world, piety in one’s devotion to God and salvation in His worship.
The circumstances surrounding the birth of Sufism were not merely religious but rather included certain political, social, and cultural factors.
Historically, Sufism would evolve within an environment rife with the chaos, discord, strife, and internal wars suffered by dar al-Islam6 in its earlier periods.
The prevailing state of affairs led to spiritual crises, social injustices, and obscene disparities in wealth between classes which, in turn, inspired individuals to seek out the development and the nurturing of a spirit of piety and asceticism.
Thus, in its infancy, or at the turn of the 7th century AD, Islamic Sufism would emerge as a phenomenon characterized by an individual, unique and elitist nature.
It would later evolve into a more popular, social manifestation in the 11th century AD with Sufi turuq (orders) taking root amongst the masses during the 17th century AD, or during the reign of the Ottoman state, which internalized and adopted Sufism ideologically.
Indeed, it would never have been possible for Sufism to flourish the way it did without the support and patronage of the governing authorities, and the reign and stability of the ruling elite could not have been maintained and preserved without the support of Sufism, with a formula of “loyalty/patronage” generally governing the relationship between the two sides.
However, during different periods in history, this formula was not always sustainable and the political conduct of Sufi orders would fluctuate between postures of opposition and of loyalty.
Nevertheless, and despite these political fluctuations, Sufism would never become embroiled in conflict or take on a tradition of confrontation with the ruling authorities.
As was the case with all the other areas in the Arab and Islamic worlds, Jordan would also experience the widespread proliferation of Sufi orders and Sufi zawaya7.
Indeed, the fluidity and freedom of movement during the reign of the Ottoman state allowed for different Sufi groups and practicing Sufi families to move from area to area, with many of these from Iraq, Syria, Palestine, and Anatolia settling in Jordan, including the Rifa’i, Zughbi, ‘Amri, Rababa’a, Mustarihi, Mulqawi, Samadi, Kilani and Ja’aifirah groups, and families, amongst others.
With the advent of the 19th century AD, certain religiosity and religious patterns took root amongst the popular masses in Jordan, which would evolve in the context of the transformations which were affecting the region and the religion of Islam.
These transformations were partially brought forth by the many literal, interpretive, traditional, and normative readings that prevailed with regard to religion, at that time, and were exacerbated by the disintegration of the Ottoman state and its subsequent collapse.
This state of affairs was followed by the rise of the colonialist era, which further contributed to the weakening of traditional structures in Arab and Islamic societies. Finally, with the emergence of the modern nation-state, traditional structures would continue to suffer a lengthy and extensive dismantling process under the impact of modernization policies.
When the Emirate of Jordan was established in 1921 by Prince Abdullah Bin Hussein (later King Abdullah I), the state continued the process of neutralizing traditional and religious structures and institutions, despite the fact that Prince Abdullah belonged to the (Hashemite) lineage of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him [PBUH]).
Indeed, the prince chose to adopt a liberal, nationalist ideology for the new emirate based on modern and secular principles. Subsequently, the state would focus its efforts on acquiring exclusive jurisdiction over religion, and neutralized traditional religious institutions by establishing the Ministry of Awqaf (Religious Endowments) and Religious Affairs, a formal, state-run fatwa8 institution (Dar al-Ifta9) and the Department of the Supreme (Islamic) Justice.
And, despite the fact that Islam was designated as the official religion of the state, it was considered to be only one facet of the collective Jordanian identity and not the central axis of either the national identity or the state.
Finally, in line with this strategy, the majority of official religious posts were held by persons who displayed moderate Sufi tendencies of a particularly centrist socio-religious nature.
During the period in which the emirate was established, religious Islamic movements in Jordan were not organized.
Up until the era of independence, Sufi orders and popular forms of Sufi religiosity dominated the religious scene, with other Islamic movements and groups beginning to emerge only later as branches of other groups already established outside the boundaries of the Hashemite Kingdom.
In 1946, Jordan would witness the first formation of an organized Islamic movement with the declaration of the establishment of the Organization of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The establishment of the Muslim Brotherhood was followed in 1952 by the establishment of Hizb ut-Tahrir (the Islamic Party of Liberation)10 followed, in 1964, by Jamaa’at al-Da’wa11 wal Tabligh12, a group that historically belongs to a school of Sufism that prevailed in and hailed from the Indian Subcontinent.
At the beginning of the 1980s, Jordan would also witness the birth of Traditional Salafism and later, in the early 1990s, the emergence of Jihadi-Salafism13.
Meanwhile, Sufi orders in Jordan were to face profound pressures, challenges, and difficulties in maintaining their identity and presence in Jordan due to modernizations policies, on the one hand, and competition posed by the rise and spread of Islamist da’wa, political and Jihadi movements, on the other.
Sufism was subjected to a widespread smear campaign and heinous accusations that attributed the vices of ignorance, superstition, heresy, stagnation, and backwardness to that doctrine.
In addition to the latter, Sufis were also accused of toting the banner of loyalty to the colonialists or imperialists.
Nonetheless and in general, Sufism has proven that it is capable of adapting, resisting, and renewing itself. It has proven its ability to survive and endure.
And, it has defied modernist expectations that Sufism would find its demise in the modern world and that it would become extinct as a manifestation of the traditional, magical, mystical, and fantastical world.
Instead, the vast majority of rational milieus, communities, and societies in a world infused by modernity and secularism have witnessed a return to the sacred religious, individually and collectively, as a counter-reaction to
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