About Uzbekistan

Sufism in Uzbekistan
14 October 2017
Sufism in Uzbekistan

Sufism or tasawwuf is defined by its adherents as the inner, mystical dimension of Islam. A practitioner of this tradition is generally known as a sufi. They belong to different turuq or "orders"—congregations formed around a master — which meet for spiritual sessions (majlis), in meeting places known as zawiyahs, Khanqahs, or tekke. Sufi turuq/orders may be either Sunni, Shia, or mixed in doctrine and may trace many of their original precepts from the Islamic Prophet Muhammad (SAV) through his cousin and son-in-law Ali, with the notable exception of the Naqshbandi who trace their origins through the first Caliph, Abu Bakr.

Sufis believe they are practicing ihsan (perfection of worship) as revealed by Gabriel to Muhammad: "Worship and serve Allah as you are seeing Him and while you see Him not yet truly He sees you." Sufis consider themselves as the original true proponents of this pure original form of Islam.

Classical Sufi scholars have defined Sufism as "a science whose objective is the reparation of the heart and turning it away from all else but God".

Muslims and mainstream scholars of Islam define Sufism as simply the name for the inner or esoteric dimension of Islam which is supported and complemented by outward or exoteric practices of Islam, such as Islamic law. In this view, "it is absolutely necessary to be a Muslim" to be a true Sufi, because Sufism's "methods are inoperative without" Muslim "affiliation". Some schools of Sufism in Western countries allow non-Muslims to receive "instructions on following the Sufi path". Some Muslim opponents of Sufism also consider it outside the sphere of Islam.

Classical Sufis were characterised by their attachment to dhikr, (a practice of repeating the names of God, often performed after prayers) and asceticism. Sufism gained adherents among a number of Muslims as a reaction against the worldliness of the early Umayyad Caliphate. Sufis have spanned several continents and cultures over a millennium, originally expressing their beliefs in Arabic, before spreading into Persian, Turkish and a dozen other languages.

Sufism in Uzbekistan: History of Development, Trends, Leaders

When Sufism became spreading over the Arab world many Muslims were only paying attention to material values and following the rules of the Shariah, not caring much of their spiritual life. This caused many scholars to appeal to come back to simple values and start struggling with inner enemy – envy, arrogance, parsimony, laziness. This gave birth to the development of a new trend – “tasawwuf” – which means “Sufism”.

The formation of Sufism as the Islam religion itself was taking place in every individual region in interaction with more ancient religions. By the time of propagation and establishment of Islam in the countries conquered by the Arabs, the traditions of pre-Islamic ideology were still alive and were extremely conservative and naturally were inherited by the youngest religion of the world. Central Asian Sufism in particular was formed under the influence of the local forms of Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, Nestorianism and other eastern Iranian and religious sects of Mawarannahr existed in pre-Islamic Central Asia.

The origin of the world Sufism is interpreted differently, from Arabian “suf” - wool and Greek “sofna” - a monk, Persian “sof” – sincerity, open-heartedness, naivete' and Turkic – 'sufa' - a sitting place. The most diffused opinion is that the term “Sufism” originated from “suf” – wool, coarse clothes of fleece worn by Sufis in the early period of this sect.

The path of any Sufis is divided into four stages: shariah –obeying the Islamic law, tariqah– postulancy, ma’rifah – meditation and perception of God, haqiqah – full attainment of truth. The people who wish to enter upon the path of Sufi are called murids (which means “thirsty”), as well as saliks, ahl e dils, mutassavives. They have to work their path up under auspices of their counselors, teachers called as Sheikhs, Murshids, Pirs, Khojas, Ishons, Mavlons, Makhdums who in their turn received permission from their counselors. Thus Islam has a kind of system of succession with Sufi sheikhs as its main elements. The Sufi Sheikhs are counselors whose family line descends to the very source of Islam.

Over the period of its existence Sufism went through several stages of its development and transformation, determined by the changes in the socio-economic and political situations, ideological trends, dogmatics, Sufi philosophy and geography of its propagation. Figuratively, the development of Sufism can be divided into several stages - the VIII- X, XI – end of the XII, XIII-XV and XVI-XVII centuries.

The early forms of Sufism (pronounced mysticism, asceticism, celibate and reclusion) caused a negative attitude of canonical Islam to it. Sufism at the first stage of its existence was declared heresy and it was repugnant for the Sunni clergy up to the XI century. Gradually approximately from the XI century Sufism transformed to a more suitable and tolerant form for all levels of the population - to so-called “moderate Sufism”; a gradual reconciliation of Sunni and Sufi theologies was taking place. From that time Sufism began spreading widely causing not only poor servants but also rich seigniors to join its fratry. To be Sufi was considered honorable and good style.

At the beginning of the XII century there formed three large orders in Central Asia – the Kubrawiya (in Khorezm), Kadyriya chapter (in Fergana) and Turkic fraternity of Yassawiya founded on the basis of Yusuf al-Hamadani’s teachings by Akhmad Yassawy in Turkestan (the south of Kazakhstan). Various Sufi unions – tariqah were leading a fight for greater impact on believers, which sometimes took a desperate form.

A lot of Sufi monuments and mansions have preserved in Uzbekistan up to day. It is the memorial complex of Bakhauddin Nakshbandi in Bukhara suburb. They are the Khoja Akhrar Mosque and Tomb, Gur Emir Mausoleum, Ruhabad Mausoleum and others in Samarkand. It is the Sheikh Zainutdin bobo Mausoleum, referred to the Sukhravardiya Order in Tashkent. There also the Shaikhantaur Mausoleum and Mausoleum of Kaffal Shashi in the capital. And in its suburb there is the Zangiata Mausoleum.

Furthermore several female Sufi mansions where women could only join were established in the territory of Central Asia. The Kiz Bibi complex was the most prominent among them. All these places are holy for Sufis and possess healthfulness. People from far off countries are coming there to find healing and wisdom, well, as a Sufi sentence runs, “Seek for wisdom while you have strength, otherwise you can lose strength while having found no wisdom”.

Sufism represented an organic whole neither in its teachings nor in cultic and institutional practice. The Orders like the Christian monasteries drew up their own consuetudinary and developed specific rituals – rejoicing: chanting “sama” and dancing dervish “raks” - different in various Sufi fratries and dating back to the depths of unrecorded time. Sufism did not become a well-shaped, expressly formulated, strictly defined system of views at any stage of its development. Sufism is not a concise ideological system; it is rather a number of sects, schools and trends united only in the field of practical Sufism - ceremonial practice where by way of ecstasy and insight Sufis attained a spiritual and intuitive cognition of God.

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Did you know?

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It is Uzbek tradition that the most respected guest be seated farthest from the house’s entrance.

Tashkent’s metro features chandeliers, marble pillars and ceilings, granite, and engraved metal. It has been called one of the most beautiful train stations in the world.

The Uzbek master chef is able to cook in just one caldron enough plov to serve a thousand men.

When you are a host to someone, it is your duty to fill their cups with for the whole time they are with you.  What you must not do, however, is to fill their cup more than half-full.  If you do that as a mistake, say it is a mistake immediately.  Doing it means you want them to leave.  Wow!  Amazing, right?

To Uzbeks, respect means a whole lot.  For this reason they love it if, even as foreigners, you endeavour to add the respectful suffix opa after a woman's name; and aka after a man's.  Example: Linda-opa and David-aka.  You could also use hon and jon respectively.

Having been an historic crossroads for centuries as part of various ancient empires, Uzbekistan’s food is very eclectic. It has its roots in Iranian, Arab, Indian, Russian and Chinese cuisine.

Though identified with the Persia, the Zoroastrism probably originated in Bactria or Sogdiana. Many distinguished scholars share an opinion that Zoroastrianism had originated in the ancient Khorezm. Indeed, today in the world there were found 63 Zoroastrian monuments, including those in Iran, India, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Thirty-eight of them are in Uzbekistan, whereas 17 of these monuments are located in Khorezm.

One of Islam's most sacred relics - the world's oldest Koran that was compiled in Medina by Othman, the third caliph or Muslim leader, is kept in Tashkent. It was completed in the year 651, only 19 years after Muhammad's death. 

Tashkent is the only megapolis in the world where public transport is totally comprised of Mercedes buses. And due to low urban air polution it is one of the few cities where one can still see the stars in the sky.

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Uzbekistan has been ranked one of the safest countries in the world, according to a new global poll. The annual Gallup Global Law and Order asked if people felt safe walking at night and whether they had been victims of crime. The survey placed Uzbekistan 5th out of 135 countries, while the UK was 21st and the US 35th. Top five safest countries:

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