Ṭarīqa ʿAliyya Qādiriyya Kasnazāniyya

The Arabic word “Ṭarīqa” means “way.” Technically, the term denotes the way to draw near to Allah, which He revealed to the Prophet Muḥammad (ṣallā Allah ʿalaihi wa sallam)[1] in the Qur’an and which the Sunna (Tradition) of the Prophet interpreted. “Ṭarīqa” as a technical term occurs in the Qur’an in the following verse: “And if they remain straight on the Ṭarīqa (Way), We will provide them water to drink in abundance” (72.16).

Ṭarīqa ʿAliyya Qādiriyya Kasnazāniyya is one of the largest Sufi Ṭarīqas in the world. It is named after three of the greatest Masters of Sufism: Imam ʿAlī bin Abī Ṭālib, Shaikh ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Gaylānī, and Shaikh ʿAbd al-Karīm Shah al-Kasnazān. The Kurdish title “Shah al-Kasnazān” means “the Sultan of the unseen.” Ṭarīqa Kasnazāniyya, as it is known in brief, has an unbroken chain of Shaikhs from the Prophet (ṣallā Allah ʿalaihi wa sallam) to the present Master Shaikh Muḥammad al-Kasnazan (born 15/4/1938) (may Allah sanctify their secrets). Each Shaikh received the mastership of the Ṭarīqa by hand from his predecessor.

The blessed Ṭarīqa was revealed to the Prophet (ṣallā Allah ʿalaihi wa sallam), who passed on his spiritual knowledge to the Master of the Ṭarīqa after him, Imam ʿAlī bin Abī Ṭālib. An unbroken chain of Shaikhs continued from Imam ʿAlī through two lines. The first line, which is that of the family of the Prophet (ṣallā Allah ʿalaihi wa sallam), starts with Imam Ḥussein, to Imam ʿAlī Zain al-ʿĀbidīn, to Imam Muḥammad al-Bāqir, to Imam Jaʿfar al-Ṣādiq, to Imam Mūsā al-Kāẓim, and to Imam ʿAlī al-Ridhā. Imam ʿAlī handed the Ṭarīqa through its second line to Shaikh Ḥasan al-Baṣrī, to Shaikh Ḥabīb al-ʿAjamī, to Shaikh Dā’ūd aṭ-Ṭā’ī, to Shaikh Maʿrūf al-Karkhī, who was also given the mastership of the Ṭarīqa by his other Master, Imam ʿAlī al-Ridhā.

The chain of Shaikhs of Ṭarīqa Kasnazāniyya continues from Shaikh Maʿrūf al-Karkhī, to Shaikh as-Sarī as-Saqaṭī, to Shaikh Junaid al-Baghdādī, to Shaikh Abī Bakr ash-Shiblī, to Shaikh ʿAbd al-Wāḥid al-Yamānī, to Shaikh Abī Faraj aṭ-Ṭarsūsī, to Shaikh ʿAlī al-Hagārī, to Shaikh Abī Saʿīd al-Makhzūmī, to Shaikh ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Gaylānī, to Shaikh ʿAbd ar-Razzāq al-Gaylānī, to Shaikh Dā’ūd aṭḥ-Ṭḥānī, to Shaikh Muḥammad Gharībullah, to Shaikh ʿAbd al-Fattāḥ as-Sayyāḥ, to Shaikh Muḥammad Qāsim, to Shaikh Muḥammad Ṣādiq, to Shaikh Ḥussein al-Baḥrānī, to Shaikh Aḥmad al-Iḥsā’ī, to Shaikh Ismāʿīl al-Wilyānī, to Shaikh Muḥyī ad-Dīn Karkūk, to Shaikh ʿAbd aṣ-Ṣamad Gala Zarda, to Shaikh Ḥussein Qāzān Qāya, to Shaikh ʿAbd al-Qādir Qāzān Qāya, to Shaikh ʿAbd al-Karīm Shah al-Kasnazān, to Shaikh ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Kasnazān, to Shaikh Ḥussein al-Kasnazān, to Shaikh ʿAbd al-Karīm al-Kasnazān, and to the present Master Shaikh Muḥammad al-Kasnazan.

Sayyid[2] Shaikh Muḥammad al-Kasnazan is a descendant of the Prophet (ṣallā Allah ʿalaihi wa sallam). He is the son of Sayyid ʿAbd al-Karīm al-Kasnazān, son of Sayyid ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Kasnazān, son of Sayyid ʿAbd al-Karīm Shah al-Kasnazān, son of Sayyid Ḥussein, son of Sayyid Ḥasan, son of Sayyid ʿAbd al-Karīm, son of Sayyid Ismāʿīl al-Wilyānī, son of Sayyid Muḥammad al-Nūdaihī, son of Sayyid Bābā ʿAlī al-Wandarīna, son of Sayyid Bābā Rasūl al-Kabīr, son of Sayyid ʿAbd al-Sayyid al-Thānī, son of Sayyid ʿAbd al-Rasūl, son of Sayyid Qalandar, son of Sayyid ʿAbd al-Sayyid, son of Sayyid ʿῙsā al-Aḥdab, son of Sayyid Ḥussein, son of Sayyid Bayazīd, son of Sayyid ʿAbd al-Karīm al-Awwal, son of Sayyid ʿῙsā al-Barazanjī, son of Sayyid Bābā ʿAlī al-Hamadānī, son of Sayyid Yūsuf al-Hamadānī (known as Shihāb ad-Dīn), son of Sayyid Muḥammad al-Manṣūr, son of Sayyid ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz, son of Sayyid ʿAbd Allah, son of Sayyid Ismāʿīl al-Muḥaddath, son of Imam Mūsā al-Kāẓim, son of Imam Jaʿfar al-Ṣādiq, son of Imam Muḥammad al-Bāqir, son of Imam ʿAlī Zain al-ʿĀbidīn, son of Imam Ḥussein, son of Imam ʿAlī bin Abī Ṭālib and Sayyida Fāṭima al-Zahrā’ the daughter of the Messenger of Allah and the last Prophet, our Master Muḥammad (ṣallā Allah ʿalaihi wa sallam).

The person who wants to follow the Sufi way of Ṭarīqa Kasnazāniyya must first take the baiʿa (pledge or covenant). The dervish-to-be puts his hand in the hand of one of the “caliphs” and recites after them certain statements in which he declares his repentance to God and pledges to follow the Shaikhs of the Ṭarīqa. A caliph is a dervish to whom the Master has given permission to initiate people on his behalf. When a male caliph gives the pledge to a female, she is asked to hold the beads of the caliph instead of his hand. The fact that the pledge should be by hand is an application of this verse which describes how the early Muslims pledged allegiance to the Prophet (ṣallā Allah ʿalaihi wa sallam): “Those who pledge allegiance to you are actually pledging allegiance to Allah, Allah’s hand is over their hands. Anyone who breaks his vow does so to his own detriment. As for anyone who fulfils his vow, Allah will give him a great reward” (48.10).

Ḥaḍrat[3] Shaikh Muḥammad al-Kasnazan calls the pledge the “spiritual touch,” referring to its deep spiritual significance despite its simple appearance. When the dervish-to-be puts his hand in the hand of the caliph it represents putting his hand in the hand of the present Shaikh. The hand of the present Shaikh is in the hand of his predecessor, and so all Shaikhs are connected in an unbroken chain to the Prophet (ṣallā Allah ʿalaihi wa sallam). This is why pledging allegiance to the present Shaikh of the Ṭarīqa represents taking the pledge with the Prophet (ṣallā Allah ʿalaihi wa sallam) himself.

Spiritual development in the Ṭarīqa consists of three consecutive stations of fanā’ that build on each other. Linguistically, “fanā’” means “vanishing,” but in Sufism it denotes the disappearance of the distinct self through the extinction of one’s will. The first station is fanā’ in the Shaikh. Attaining this station means achieving complete obedience to the Shaikh, in which case the Shaikh becomes permanently present in the seeker’s heart. The second station is fanā’ in the Prophet (ṣallā Allah ʿalaihi wa sallam), which would then lead to the ultimate goal of the Sufi way: fanā’ in Allah.

In addition to the obligatory duties of Sharīʿa, such as the daily prayers and the fasting of Ramadan, the Sufi way has further duties in the form of specific “dhikrs” (prayers of remembrance of Allah) that have great spiritual secrets. These dhikrs were revealed to the Shaikhs of Ṭarīqa Kasnazāniyya as a result of their sincere worship and total dedication to Allah. The dhikrs of the Ṭarīqa have immense benefits in cleansing the heart of the seeker of vagaries, arrogance, and all that Allah has forbidden. They help the dervish on the way of spiritual development that he has pledged to follow. They are the provision of the seeker on his journey on the Sufi way of Ṭarīqa Kasnazāniyya: “Take provision, and the best provision is piety” (2.197).

Each dhikr is performed in specific numbers. Some are read daily at certain times, whereas others can be done at any time. Ṭarīqa Kasnazāniyya also has a dhikr that the seekers perform collectively, in which they stand in concentric circles. This dhikr is accompanied by tambourines and drums. The drum of dhikr was introduced by ḥaḍrat Shaikh ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Gaylānī, and is hence known as “the drum of al-Gaylānī.”

This chapter is a short introduction to Ṭarīqa Kasnazāniyya, but the reader who is interested in more details may consult the books that have been published by the Ṭarīqa.

As a preface to the accounts of the karāmas, I next give a short introduction to the concept of “karāma” and its significance.


[1] This expression roughly means “prayer and peace from Allah be upon him.” It is usually mentioned after the name or title of the Prophet, as commanded in this Qur’anic verse: “Allah and His angels sends prayer on the Prophet. O you who believe! Send prayer on him and salute him with a salutation” (33.56).

[2] The title “Sayyid” has two different usages. It is the equivalent of “Mr” in English, but it also serves as an honorific title indicating that the person is a descendant of the Prophet Muḥammad (ṣallā Allah ʿalaihi wa sallam).

[3] This honorific title, which is used for religious and non-religious individuals, denotes the person’s elevated status. It is often used when referring to a Shaikh.

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