Kasnazaniya / Casnazaniyyah
1 - SUFISM
Since the very first moments of His creation of man, Allah Almighty looked after, protected and guided man. One of the innumerable aspects of this divine care is sending prophets and messengers to teach people the life they should lead and to guide them to the right way that lends to Allah Almighty's satisfaction. This divine mercy then culminated in Allah Almighty's sending of the Prophet Muhammad whom He described in the Holy Qur'an (21:107) as being mercy for "al-'alameen", a word that includes all people and covers all times. Elsewhere in the Holy Qur'an (72, 46:29-32) Allah Almighty informs us that the Prophet Muhammad is His messenger not only to the human beings but even to the jinn, a kind of non-human, subliminal creatures.
It was Allah Almighty's Will that Islam, the great religion, spread everywhere, and it was this Divine Will which decreed that the message of the Prophet Muhammad remains intact to guide people always and everywhere. This message was carried after the Prophet Muhammad by sincere followers who followed on his steps and exemplified his sayings and deeds. These followers are the Shaikhs of Sufism, in whom Allah Almighty put the Light of the Prophet (5:15) and through whom He passed it on to the world till the Day of Judgment. Through the Holy Qur'an and the continuous existence of the Sufi Shaikhs Allah Almighty kept the essence of Islam live and thus the message of the Prophet remained as Allah Almighty has decreed in the Holy Qur'an, a carrier of good tidings and a warner to people (5:19).
Allah Almighty has revealed Islam to elevate man from living in slavery to instincts, such as eating, sleeping, and reproducing, to a noble pattern of living, pondering the creation, worshipping the Creator, fulfilling the goal behind his creation which Allah Almighty has revealed in the Holy Qur'an (51:56). The proper and perfect worshipping of Allah Almighty is represented by obeying the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad and setting his deeds as the example to follow. And from the tradition of the Prophet which states that "the Shariah is my sayings and the Tariqa is my deeds" one could easily recognize the great importance of Sufism, for which the word Tariqa [way] is a synonym.
The aforementioned Prophetic tradition expounds that Sufism is the Way of the Prophet. In fact, many Shaikhs have talked and written praising Sufism. As an example, Shaikh Zaruq described the position of Sufism in Islam saying: "Sufism for religion is just like the spirit for the body"; i.e., religion without Sufism is simply a dead body. The Sufis themselves have also been described by the most beautiful words. Shaikh Junaid al-Baghdadi says: "The Sufi is like the land where all bad things are thrown and all good things grow". Similarly, Shaikh Abu Bakr ash-Shibli said: "The Sufi is detached from people, attached to Allah Almighty" (20:41).
Since Sufism is the following upon the traces of the Prophet Muhammad, therefore, following the guidance of a Shaikh who has the perfect knowledge about the Way of the Prophet is the essence of the Sufi Way. Shaikh 'Abdu 'l-Qadir al-Gaylani has described following the guidance of a knowledgeable Shaikh by this magnificent piece of poetry:
If destiny took you to a righteous Then work for his satisfaction and follow his Never object to what you don't understand The Story of the honorable al-Khidhr suffices But when the morning lit the secret's night Moses understood the feat of al-Khidhr Shaikh who is knowledgeable of Truth will and leave behind all you were busy with of his matters for objecting is opposing as he killed a boy while Moses arguing and draw a sword that would cut the darkness and so is the Knowledge of Sufis contains Novelties
This stanza refers to a story that was related by Allah Almighty in the Holy Qur'an (18:60-82) and shows that the Divine Knowledge that Allah Almighty reveals to some of his servants could well be concealed even from great prophets. The poem emphasizes the importance of total obedience in Sufism where the followers have no access to and have no idea of the Divine Knowledge that their guide has been granted.
In contrary to the belief of many, even the four knowledgeable men of Fiqh, ash-Shafi'ai, Malik, Abu Hanifa, and Ibn Hanbal have all praised and practiced Sufism. For instance, Malik has said: "Whoever studied Sufism without Fiqh is a heretic; whoever studied Fiqh without Sufism is corrupted; and whoever studied Sufism and Fiqh has found and reached the Truth of Islam. They were all followers of Sufis. Ash-Shafi'ai followed Shayban ar-Ra'i; the Sufi teacher of Ibn Hanbal was Bishr al- Hafi; and both Malik and Abu Hanifa were students in the Sufi school of al-Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq. The importance of practicing Sufism is incorporated in a well-known saying of Abu Hanifa in which he refers to his practicing of Sufism under the guidance of al-Imam Ja'far as- Sadiq: "If not for the last two years of my life, my afterlife would have been destroyed".
Sufis have given exceptional importance to spreading Islam because the Prophet himself has affirmed that guiding people to Islam is the main duty of every Muslim. One of the Prophet's traditions concerning the importance of guidance is that: "guidance is the greatest worship in Islam". Therefore, Sufis dedicated much efforts to spreading the message of the Prophet through the guiding campaigns of different Sufi Turuq [plural of Tariqa], all of which have branched out of the same great origin, the Prophet Muhammad. In fact, the history of Islam attests to the fact that spreading the light of this great religion to different parts of the world was mainly due to great efforts and deeds of Shaikhs of Sufism. One of the Sufi Turuq that played and plays a distinct role in spreading and teaching the message of the Prophet Muhammad and defending Islam is Tariqa 'Aliyya Qadiriyyah Casnazaniyyah.
2 - TARIQA 'ALIYYAH QADIRIYYAH CASNAZANIYYAH
This Tariqa is known by this name after three of the greatest Sufi Masters, al-Imam 'Ali bin Abi Talib, Shaikh 'Abdu 'l-Qadir al-Gaylani, and Shaikh 'Abdu 'l-Carim Shaikh al-Casnazani. Tariga Casnazaniyyah (as usually called) has a continuous chain of Shaikhs that starts with the Prophet Muhammad and ends with the present Master Shaikh Muhammad al-Casnazani. Each one of these Shaikhs received the Masterhood from his predecessor. The life of each of these great Shaikhs reveals ideal sincerity and complete dedication and devotion to the Way of the Prophet. The number of dervishes of this Tariqa is estimated to be a few millions. They are spread, mainly, in Iraq, Jordan, west of Iran, and south of Turkey.
The present Master of Tariqa Casnazaniyyah, Shaikh Muhammad al- Casnazani, is a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. The grand grandfathers of this noble family had emigrated to the very north of the Islamic countries after the persecution they faced from authorities in several places of the Islamic world during the reign of the 'Abbasid dynasty, which was just a continuation of the pervious Umayyad persecution of the lineage of the Prophet. Among those noble descendants who left the Arab peninsula and emigrated to the north is Abu Yusif who was later known as al-Hamadani (The Hamadanian) because he settled in Hamadan, now west of Iran. Abu Yusif Al-Hamadani's son Baba' Ali also lived in Hamadan, but the two sons of Baba'Ali, Musa and 'Isa, both moved to north of Iraq and lived in a village known as Barzinja, now in a city known as Sulaymaniyyah. Therefore, Musa and 'Isa both carried the title "al-Barzinji". Musa had no lineage whereas 'Isa al-Barzinji is the grandfather of all the Barzinjians who are descendants of the Prophet Muhammad, including the noble al-Casnazani family.
As mentioned earlier, Tariqa Casnazaniyyah has acquired its name from Shaikh 'Abdu 'l-Carim Shah al-Casnazani (born in 1819) who retreated in mountains north of Iraq when his uncle, Shaikh 'Abdu 'l-Qadir Qazan Qaya, was the Master of Tariqa 'Aliyyah Qadiriyyah. During his two- years disappearance people lost contact with him and could not even know whether he was alive or not. Therefore people used to refer to Shaikh'Abdu 'l-Carim by the Kurdish term "Casnazan" which means "the secret that no one knows". This is the exoteric etiology of Shaikh 'Abdu 'l-Carim's carrying the title Casnazan. Upon his return from the retreat his Uncle Shaikh 'Abdu'l-Qadir Qazan Qaya handed him the Masterhood of Tariqa 'Ayyah Qadiriyyah. Shaikh 'Abdu 'l-Carim Shah al-Casnazani then moved to a far and uninhibited mountainy area, also in north of Iraq, took abode there and built many Takaya (plural of Takya which is the place where the Sufi worship is conducted: Thus, Carbichna (as the village was called) became the destination of seekers of Truth from everywhere. This great Sufi Shaikh passed away in 1899, after he handed the Masterhood of Tariqa Casnazaniyyah to his son, Shaikh 'Abdu 'l-Qadir al-Casnazani.
Shaikh 'Abdu 'l-Qadir al-Casnazani is reputed as "a Shaikh whose life was full of wonders. Wonders could be observed wherever he was", as his grandson Shaikh Muhammad al-Casnazani describes him. He resisted and fought the British army which entered Iraq during the first world war and caused the enemy gross losses. The British authorities then reacted by sending an army of twenty thousand soldiers which besieged Carbichna and burnt it, but after Shaikh 'Abdu 'l-Qadir had left it with his family and dervishes to a nearby mountain and then to the west of Iran. He remained in Iran until his demise in 1919, and therefore, he is known as "ash-Shaikh al-muhajir" [the emigrant Shaikh: Before his demise, Shaikh 'Abdu 'l-Qadir handed the Masterhood of Tariqa Casnazaniyyah to his son Shaikh Hussein al Casnazani.
Shaikh Hussein participated with his father Shaikh Abdu 'l-Qadir in resisting the British army in north of Iraq. This great Shaikh, who is called "Sultan aj-Jibal" Sultan of the mountains: was an unmatched ascetic that he was in permanent fasting in the last years of his life. Before his demise in 1939, Shaikh Hussein appointed his brother Shaikh 'Abdu 'l-Carim as the Master of Tariga Casnazaniyyah. Like his father, Shaikh Abdu 'l-Carim (born in 1915 in Carbichna) also emigrated to Iran where he led great guiding campaigns that attracted a large number of people to Tariqa Casnazaniyyah. He appointed his son Shaikh Muhammad al Casnazani (born in Carbichna in 15/April/1938) as the Master of Tariqa Casnazaniyyah before he passed away on Sunday afternoon 5/February/1978.
Allah Almighty has granted the Sufi Masters abilities to perform wonders that attract people to the Sufi way and help them follow it. These wonders are in fact a continuation of the miracles of the Prophet Muhammad whose light was destined by Allah Almighty to shine everywhere till the Day of Judgment. These wonders had a powerful role in spreading the message of Islam in various parts of the world through the campaigns of guidance that were prepared by Sufi Masters and which were the main, and sometimes even the only, factor in spreading Islam in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Wonders of the Sufi Masters went to wherever they sent their campaigns of guidance, supported the preaching of the guides, and satisfied the hearts of people with the teachings of Sufism. The history of the Masters of Tariqa Casnazaniyyah includes innumerable wonders that their Takaya became the destination of those who have certain needs such as terminally ill people and those with chronic diseases.
Among the wonders of the Masters of Tariqa Casnazaniyyah are extraordinary feats that they have permitted the dervishes to perform to show the spiritual power of Tariqa Casnazaniyyah, and thus, to guide people to this path. These feats of the dervishes include inserting spikes and other sharp objects in various parts of their body, chewing and swallowing glass and sharp razor blades, exposing themselves to bites of poisonous snakes and scorpions, exposing themselves to electrical shocks and handling fire with impunity. In all of these feats there is no pain, bleeding, or infection, and moreover, the wounds heal in seconds.
TAKING PLEDGE IN TARIQA CASNAZANIYYAH
Any person who wants to follow the Sufi Way of Tariqa Casnazaniyyah must first "take the pledge". To do so, the neophyte is asked to put his hand in the hand of one of the califas - who are dervishes whom the Master has permitted to initiate people on his behalf - and recite alter the califa certain statements of pledge. In the case of a female initiate, she is asked to hold the rosary of the califa instead of his hand. The necessity of the pledge and that it should be by hand is an application of a verse of the Holy Qur'an (48:10) which describes early Muslims who plighted their fealty to the Prophet Muhammad by hand in the Pledge of ar-Radhwan.
Although this pledge seems a very simple ritual, in fact, it carries great spiritual secrets, and therefore, it is called the "spiritual touch". It is through this spiritual touch that the spirit of the dervish becomes "attached" to the spirit of the present Master of Tariqa, who is spiritually attached to his predecessor and so on through the spiritual chain of Masters of the Tariqa to the Prophet Muhammad who is the means to reach Allah Almighty. The Sufi pledge is thus the means for attaching the spirit of the dervish to the Greatest Spirit, Allah Almighty, through the Prophet and the Masters of the Tariqa, and hence, Sufism is known as the spirit of Islam.
Taking the pledge of the Tariqa is the first step for the dervish on the Sufi Way whose first rank is repentance. As obvious from the text of the pledge, the first duties that this sacred pledge puts on the dervish's shoulders are abandoning evildoing and disobedience, and following the Sira (sayings and deeds) of the Prophet. As the great Master Shaikh 'Abdu 'l Qadir al-Gaylani said in his above mentioned poem, obedience and following the Shaikh with sincerity are the main pillars of the dervish's success on the Sufi Way.
The spiritual promotion in Sufism consists of three successive stages. These stages are the extinction in the Shaikh, the extinction in the Prophet, and the extinction in Allah Almighty. Extinction in Sufism means the absence of the soul of the dervish accompanied with permanent presence of the goal of extinction in the heart of the dervish. Thus, the dervish should first kill his ego and attain the permanent presence of the Shaikh in his heart before he can attain the second station of the spiritual path which is the permanent presence of the Prophet in his heart. And he must extinct himself in the Prophet before reaching the ultimate aim which is the attainment of permanent presence of Allah Almighty in the heart.
In addition to the compulsory duties of Shariah, such as prayer and fasting, the Sufi Way imposes on the dervish additional compulsory worship that consists of special athkar (singular: thikr, meaning remembrance: the Masters of Sufism orders the dervishes to recite these athkar (sometimes called awrad, plural of wird) after the spiritual secrets of these awrad have been revealed to the Shaikhs due to their spiritual positions and the spiritual knowledge that Allah Almighty has given them. These athkar have great benefits in purifying the heart of the dervish from the desires of the self and all that Allah Almighty has prohibited. Thus, the athkar assist the dervish and are his nourishment in his long trip on the Sufi Way that he committed himself to follow.
THE ATHKAR OF TARIQA CASNAZANIYYAH
The Masters of Tariga Casnazaniyyah, who are known of their hard and lengthy worshipping and retreats, have many athkar that are of great spiritual benefits for the dervish. These athkar could be divided into three main categories:
1 - Daily awrad: there are eight awrad that the dervish should recite every day; five are recited after the five prayers; one is one hour before the sunset prayer and known as wird al- 'Asr [wird of afternoon; the Surat of al-Fatiha is recited one hundred times; and a certain prayer on the Prophet is recited one thousand times. While reciting "Astaghfiru Allah" and the Surat of al-Fatiha, and praying on the Prophet are performed by the dervishes individually, the rest of the awrad are performed collectively by the dervishes who are available in the Takya at the times of these awrad.
2 - Permanent awrad: there are nineteen permanent awrad that the dervish recites individually. Each of these awrad should be recited one hundred thousand times. When finishing the last of these awrad, La murad illa Allah, the dervish restarts reciting the first wird, La ilaha illa Allah, and so on. The dervish is free to recite the permanent awrad at any time except Thursday sunset to Friday sunset (corresponds to Friday in the Arabic calendar) which is dedicated to reciting prayers on the Prophet.
3 - Thikr With the Tabla of al-Gaylani: this collective thikr is performed daily in the Takaya of Tariqa Casnazaniyyah after conducting the night prayer and wird. This thikr is performed on special rhythms of tambourines and a tabla , which is a special drum that has been introduced to associate the athkar by Shaikh 'Abdu' l-Qadir al-Gaylani and therefore known as the tabla of al-Baz which is one of the tiltes of Shaik 'Abdu 'l- Qadir al-Gaylani. The dervishes stand in concentric circles and recite athkar that concentrate on two of the Holy Names of Allah Almighty, Hay and Da'im. On Monday and Thursday nights this thikr becomes part of a longer thikr that is known as the Formal Thikr. After the thikr there is chanting of madaeeh (Sufi songs that praise the Prophet and the Shaikhs of Tariqa).
In addition to these athkar, Tariqa Casnazaniyyah exceptionally celebrates the birth of the Prophet Muhammad and some other religious events and festivals by performing the formal thikr and reciting madaeeh.
This article gives a brief representation of a great Sufi school the Shaikhs of which have inherited and developed a complete method for leading every sincere seeker for Allah Almighty.