Reviews some of the founders of Sufism in Egypt.

08 June 2012

Abul Hassan al-Shazli:

Abul Hassan al-Shazli, founder of the Shazlia order. Born in Morocco in 395 AH, al-Shazli was known for his piety and supernatural powers. One of his famous quotes is: "My mentor taught me that if you focus the vision of faith you can see God in everything, on everything, through everything, close to everything, surrounding everything…." Al-Shazli's quest for Sufi knowledge took him from Morocco to Tunisia, to Iraq, then to the little village of Shazla (hence the name) in Africa, and then to Egypt where he died and was buried on the old Muslim pilgrimage route to Mecca, between Qena and al-Qoseir in 657 AH. The al-Shazlia Sufi order is said to be the route of all Sufi orders in Egypt.

Abul Abbas Al-Mursi:

Al-Mursi was born in the town of Marsia (hence the name) in Andalusia in 616 AH (AD 1219) Known for his intelligence and wit as a child, as an adult he helped his father, who was a merchant. This is all that is known about his upbringing before 640 AH (AD 1242). During that year, he and his brother joined their parents on a pilgrimage to Mecca. Unfortunately there was a shipwreck and al-Mursi and his brother were the only survivals. His brother continued to be a merchant while al-Mursi chose to teach people how to read and write and the principals of the Quran. In Tunisia he met Abul Hassan al-Shazli and became his successor. After burying al-Shazli, al-Mursi lived in Alexandria and continued to call people to the path of God in his famous mosque in el-Attarin district, until he died and was buried there in 685 AH (AD 1287).

Khaja Bahaudin Naqshaband
Founder of the Naqshabandi order

The dervish school Khajagan (Masters) gained prominence in central Asia and greatly influenced the development of the Indian and Turkish empires. The order gave rise to many specialist schools, which adopted individual names. Many authorities regard this as the earliest of all the mystical "chains of transmission". Khaja Bahaudin Naqshaband (who died in AD 1389) is one of the greatest personages of this school. After his time, it was known as the Naqshabandi Chain: the Designers, or Masters of the Design. Bahaudin spent seven years as a courtier, seven looking after animals, and seven building roads. He studied under the re-doubtable Baab el-Shamasi, and is credited with having returned to the original principles and practices of Sufism.

Jalal al-Din al-Roumi

Al-Roumi (AD 1207-1273) was the founder of the Mawlawia or the Whirling Dervishes order, a Sufi and Persian poet who was known for his refined spiritualities and original poetry. In AD 1231 he started teach his Sufi thinking and was greatly influenced by the teachings of Sufi master Shams al-Tabrizi. In his perception of the truth, he wrote: "The Prophet said that Truth has declared:

'I am not hidden in what is high or low
Nor in the earth nor skies nor throne.
This is certainty, O beloved:
I am hidden in the heart of the faithful.
If you seek me, seek in these hearts.'

Ahmed al-Rifaai
Founder of Al-Rifaaia order, al-Rifaai lived all his life (AD 1106-1282) in the city of Basra, Iraq. He never left Basra except when he made a pilgrimage. However his order found its way to Egypt through his family members and disciples. He was quite charismatic and that made his order the most popular in Egypt. He was also known to be the descendent of al-Hassan and al-Hussien, cousins of the prophet Mohamed (pbuh). His disciples had super powers as did their sheikh, powers that were publicly demonstrated at mulids (carnivals of faith), such as controlling snakes and scorpions. The mulids usually start from al-Rifaai mosque in Islamic Cairo.

Al-Said Ahmed al-Badawi

Al-Badawi is the founder of al-Ahmedia Order. Often referred to as Sheikh al-Arab, was born in Fas in AD 1199, and lived in the Gulf area during his childhood where he learnt horsemanship and religion in his thirties. He also joined the Rifaai order there and was proclaimed the presenter of the Rifaai order in Egypt, where he settled in Tanta. He lived a life of modesty and self discipline and was seen sitting for hours on his rooftop staring at the sun. He was also known for his numerous miracles. Al-Badawi died in the year AD 1278.


By Amira el-Noshokaty, *The way of the Sufis* - Al Masry Al Youm - Cairo, Egypt