Sufism has considerable influence in Afghanistan, in both rural
and urban settings, especially among the middle classes of larger
villages, town and cities.
Three Sufi orders are prominent: the Naqshbandiya founded in
Bokhara, the Qadiriya founded in Baghdad, and the Cheshtiya located
at Chesht-i-Sharif east of Herat. Among the Naqshbani, Ahmad al
Faruqi Kabuli, born north of Kabul, acquired renown for his teachings
in India during the reign of the Moghul Emperor Akbar in the sixteenth
century. Sometime during the nineteenth century members of this
family moved back to Kabul where they established a madrassa
and a khanaqah in Shor Bazar which became a center of
religious and political influence. Many Afghan Naqshbandi are
linked with the Mujaddedi family. Sibghatullah Mujaddedi, leader
of the mujahidin Jabha-i Nejat-i Melli party, became
the head of this order when his predecessor, along with 79 male
members of the family, were executed in Kabul by the Taraki-Amin
government in January 1979. He served for two months as the first
acting president of the Islamic State of Afghanistan established
in April 1992.
Hazrat Naqib Sahib, father of Sayyid Ahmad Gailani Effendi, the
present pir of the Qadiriya, established the family seat in Afghanistan
on the outskirts of Jalalabad during the 1920s. Pir Ahmad Gailani
is the leader of the mujahidin Mahaz-i Melli Islami party.
The leadership of both the Naqshbandiya and Qadiriya orders derive
from heredity rather than religious scholarship.
The Cheshtiya order was founded by Mawdid al-Cheshti who was
born in the twelfth century and later taught in India. The Cheshtiya
brotherhood, concentrated in the Hari Rud valley around Obe, Karukh
and Chehst-i-Sharif, is very strong locally and maintains madrasas
with fine libraries. Traditionally the Cheshtiya have kept aloof
from politics, although they were effectively active during the
resistance within their own organizations and in their own areas.
Herat and its environs has the largest number and greatest diversity
of Sufi branches, many of which are connected with local tombs
of pir (ziarat). Other Sufi groups are found
all across the north, with important centers in Maimana, Faryab
Province, and in Kunduz. The brotherhoods in Kabul and around
Mazar-i-Sharif are mostly associated with the Naqshbandiya. The
Qadiriya are found mainly among the eastern Pushtun of Wardak,
Paktya and Ningrahar, including many Ghilzai nomadic groups. Other
smaller groups are settled in Kandahar and in Shindand, Farah
Province. The Cheshtiya are centered in the Hari Rud Valley. There
are no formal Sufi orders among the Shia in the central Hazarajat,
although some of the concepts are associated with Sayyids, descendants
of the Prophet Mohammad, who are especially venerated among the
Afghanistan is unique in that there is little hostility between
the ulama and the Sufi orders. Numbers of Sufi leaders
are considered as ulama, and many ulama closely
associate with Sufi brotherhoods. The general populace accords
Sufis respect for their learning and for possessing karamat,
the psychic spiritual power conferred upon them by God that enables
pirs to perform acts of generosity and bestow blessings (barakat).
Sufism therefore is an effective popular force. In addition, since
Sufi leaders distance themselves from the mundane, they are at
times turned to as more disinterested mediators in tribal disputes
in preference to mullahs who are reputed to escalate minor secular
issues into volatile confrontations couched in Islamic rhetoric.
Data as of 1997