Sub-Order or Sub-Path or Sub-Ṭarīqa and Silsilah (Chain, plural, Salāsil)


• Mark A. Foster, Ph.D.
• Definitions

An order, path, way, or method (of Ṣūfīs) is, in Arabic, ṭarīqa. A sub-ṭarīqa (sub-order, sub-path, etc.) is an extension or branch of a ṭarīqa. “Sub-order,” usually without the hyphen, was most common in the academic literature which I reviewed.

Naqshbandis of Hawraman (by Farhad Shakely)
• Sufi News and Sufism World Report
• Dr. Alan Godlas and Marina Montanaro

... they [Naqshbandis of Hawraman] still identify themselves as Khalidis and Mujaddidis, and never invented, or claimed to have invented, a new sub-order.

Islām and Sūfism
• Timothy Conway, Ph.D.

Many sub-orders arose, like the austere, orthodox Darqāwīyya (flourishing in Morocco and Algeria the last two centuries), and Isawīya (with its sword-slashing ritual)....

... The Sufi Islamia Ruhaniat Society of America [now Sufi Ruhaniat International] is a kind of non-Muslim suborder of the Chishti movement.

Sufism (Chapter 12)
• Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group

A very prominent shaykh may give rise to a suborder ....

• Architecture
• The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture
• Jonathan M. Bloom and Sheila S. Blair (editors)

... a madrasa [Arabic, madrasah, school] was built by a member of the Ataʿi sub-order on the east ....

• Sufism
• The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World
• William C. Chittick, John O. Voll, Kazuo Ohtsuka
• Oxford University Press

This process of creating independent suborders continues to the present and can be seen in the variety of relatively new tariqahs in the traditions of the early orders, often identified with compound names, such as the Ḥāmidīyah Shādhilīyah of contemporary Egypt.

• Sufism
• The Islamic World: Past and Present
• John L. Esposito
• Oxford University Press

The process of creating suborders continues today.

Shaykh Taoshobuddha
• Maraqba-i-Naqshbandi

Out of each path many enlightened ones came into existence. Also evolved as a tributaries are Naqshbandiyah Owaishiya, Naqshbandi Tahiri, Naqshbandiya Tahini Tauheedia Naqshbandia, and Naqshbandia-Mujaddadi-wa Mazaharia. Each sub path is associated with a sheik.

Islam: A Brief History
• Tamara Sonn

Sometimes local practices and customs came to dominate a tariqa’s [order’s or path’s] practice in a particular region so that they generated a sub-tariqa with a unique identity.

• Silsilah
• Sufi Doctrine
• Titus Burckhardt

In Sufism, denotes the continuity of spiritual descent from the Prophet.

• Silsilah
• Homayra Ziad
• The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World
• John L. Esposito, editor

Silsilah literally means “chain.” It is a key term in the vocabulary of Sufism and Ṣūfī orders (ṭuruq, sing. ṭarīqah), designating a spiritual lineage and chain of transmission of both mystical knowledge and authority. This chain connects an individual who studies under a particular Ṣūfī master to his spiritual forefathers and to the eponymous founders of the order, and then further on to Prophet Muhammad....

A lineage is not bound by time or space, and there can be initiatory linkages between individuals who were not alive at the same time. In the Ṣūfī tradition, spiritual initiation can occur through the spirits of earlier masters or through the figure of al-Khaḍir (al-Khiḍr), the legendary “green man” who serves as a spiritual guide in the Muslim exegetical and literary tradition. Initiation that transcends historical and physical boundaries is known as Uwaysī, named after Uways al-Qaranī, a legendary or semi-legendary figure of the time of the Prophet who was initiated by him through a dream. Uwaysīs often claim to have been initiated directly by the Prophet himself, and one can even find references to entire Uwaysī lineages....

... Distance in time from the Prophet does not necessarily mean a diminishing of spiritual power; in fact, the longer the chain, the greater the blessings accrued by the lineage....

Ṣūfī masters usually invested spiritual authority in more than one successor; thus, each Ṣūfī order is made up of several lineages and sub-lineages, which indicates an openness to and acceptance of multiple chains of authority.

• Silsilah
• The Oxford Dictionary of Islam
• John L. Esposito, editor

Formal chain of spiritual descent in Islamic mysticism (Sufism); the process of transmission of ritual from original teacher to students. The origin is usually traced from Muhammad through the founder of the order to the present student. Linking to the chain is believed to occur when the student is initiated into the tariqah, swearing an oath of allegiance to the founder and to the founder's current earthly deputy, and receiving the order's secret litany (wird), which transmits the spiritual power of the chain. Silsilah also is used to determine leadership within some orders, as well as spiritual seniority. It reflects the rise of the more formal organization of Sufi orders and the greater authority of shaykhs over disciples.