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Political Ambitions Turn Sufis into Militants As Is Evident From the Behaviour of the Sufi Groups and Individuals of Middle East and Indian Subcontinent

By S. Arshad, New Age Islam

26 October 2021

Mumtaz Qadri and Abbasi Siddiquee Are the Modern Face of Militant Sufism

Main Points:

1.    Sufis are known for tolerance, peace and harmony

2.    In 21st century, Islamic nationalism had impact on Sufism

3.    During 2003 and 2006, some Sufi militant organizations came into being.

4.    Naqshbandi Army of Iraq was a Sufi militant organization during 2003-2006



Mumtaz Qadri


Sufis are known for their tolerant and pluralist behaviour all over the world. They preach peace, non-violence, tolerance, peaceful co-existence. They have an all-embracing outlook towards the society. Religion to them is a means for attaining spiritual enlightenment. They renounce the worldly luxuries and are immersed in the remembrance of God through their waking hours. Even during sleep, their heart remains awake.

Contrary to the common belief, the Sufis of the middle ages did not spend all their life in monasteries though they spend most of their time in Zikr (remembrance). They wandered across continents in quest of knowledge and only after acquiring sufficient knowledge of Islam, they settled in some city and preached religion. Since in those days religious schools or centres of education were few and far between, the Sufis travelled long distances in search of a murshid who would satiate their hunger for knowledge and thirst for spiritual enlightenment. Almost all of the Sufis travelled the initial part of their life in quest of a murshid-e-kamil (a perfect teacher) and for centres of religious education.

For example, the famous Sufi, Hussayn bin Mansur Hallaj who was killed for proclaiming that he was the Truth and that Ma fi jubbati illallah (God is in my cloak) was born in Fars but travelled to Basra, Makkah and India for gaining knowledge and for performing mandatory religious rituals.

The greatest Indian Sufi, Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti who is also known as Khwaja Gharib Nawaz also travelled far and wide for education and spiritual attainment. He was born in Sistan (a region spread from Iran and Afghanistan) and travelled to Bukhara and Samarkand to study Islam and travelled to Iraq, Lahore and Delhi before finally settling in Ajmer.

Another Sufi Bahram Bukhari Saqqa who was a earlier a commander in the army of the Mughal Emperor Humayun also travelled to Iran, Iraq, Najd, Makkah, Madina after leaving Humayun’s army and then came back to India. He lived in Agra and then travelled to Bengal and died in Bardhhaman. He assumed the title Saqqa (water-carrier) because he would carry a water sack on his shoulder and offer water to the thirsty. He was free of worldly desires and had devoted his life for preaching Deen and offer water to the thirsty.

Yet another Sufi of the subcontinent Ali Hujweri was born in Ghazni but lived in Iraq before settling in Lahore.

The great Indian Sufi Khawaja Nizamuddin Aulia was born ini Badyaun in India but travelled to Pak Pattan in Pakistan to acquire spiritual training from Baba Farid. He then came back to India and settled in Delhi.

All these Sufis preached love, tolerance, service to mankind and promoted harmony in the society. They brought the people of different religions and cultures together and contributed to the formation of the multicultural secular fabric of India.

These Sufis practiced the injunctions of the Quran ‘Seeru Fil Ardh” (travel in the land) for expanding their intellectual horizons, for preaching peaceful message of Islam and for acquiring religious and spiritual education.

After spending a great part of their life in acquiring knowledge and spiritual insight, they settled in their monasteries and served the common people.


Abbas Siddiqui later released a video on Facebook and demanded strict punishment to those who attacked Durga Puja Pandals in Bangladesh. (File photo)


In the 21th century, the Sufis and their monasteries became the target of militant and extremist ideological sects within Islam because they thought Sufis and their monasteries and Dargahs promoted un-Islamic beliefs and shirk (setting up partners with God). The militant and extremist groups attacked the Dargahs and those Muslims visiting the Dargahs.

However, under the influence of politics and Islamic nationalism in the 20th and 21st century, Sufism also underwent ideological changes. Political ambitions made seats of Sufism centres of political manipulation. Islamic nationalism also influenced Sufism and some violent Sufi sects came into being under political influence.  Rafid Fadhil Ali in his article Sufi Insurgent Groups in Iraq writes that a number of Sufi militant groups had came into existence during anti-US insurgency in Iraq between 2003 and 2006. Some of the Sufi militant groups are:

The Sufi Squadron of Sheikh Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (2005)

Katibat al-Sheikh Abd al-Qadir al-Jilanin Al-Jihadia (The Jihadi Battalion of Sheikh Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani) (August 2006.)

Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqa al-Naqshbandia (the Men of the Army of al-Naqshbandia Order” (JRTN) (2006,) 

All these Sufi militant groups had come into existence with the purpose of fighting the US occupation and at some occasions they also fought along with Al Qaida.

Fadhil Ali writes:

 “After the fall of the Baathist regime in April 2003 and the development of a large-scale Sunni insurgency, none of the leading Sufi groups called for violence during the first years of the occupation. Sufis watched the insurgency being dominated by their historical opponents, the Salafis. Militant groups affiliated to al-Qaeda have attacked Sufis and their sacred places—including the demolition of tombs of Sufi saints—but on one remarkable occasion Sufis and Salafis fought together in the battles for Fallujah in 2004. The insurgents were under the leadership of Sheikh Abdullah al-Janabi, who is an adherent of a minor Sufi order called al-Nabhania. Al-Janabi was the head of the Mujahideen Shura Council, which controlled the Sunni city until December 2004. The Council was an umbrella organization of Salafi, Sufi and Baathi groups.”

The JRTN or the Naqshbandi Army aimed at re-establishing the Baath government. Therefore, it is evident that some Sufi sects of Iraq got involved in political process of the country and thus justified violence.

Fadhil Ali further writes:

“On the same day as the hanging of Saddam Hussein on December 30, 2006, Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqa al-Naqshbandia (the Men of the Army of al-Naqshbandia Order” (JRTN) announced their formation. The JRTN is clearly the most organized of the three aforementioned groups. In a sign typical of Baathist and Arab nationalism—but one that contradicts the pan-ethnic nature of Sufism—the main page of the JRTN’s website is headed by a map of the Arab homeland of 22 countries stretching from the Middle East to North Africa. The terminology used on the website also indicates that the JRTN is a Baathist-dominated organization that reflects a growing trend within the party towards Islamism since the early 1990s.”

This provided the US with the opportunity to malign Sufism on which the anti-militancy Muslim masses took pride and used Sufism as a shield against Islam. The US tried to paint the entire Sufi arena black and started campaigning against Sufism describing it a new threat to the world. In a news report in web magazine npr, US Brigadier General Craig Nixon had been quoted as saying:

"There's clearly a different ideology between al-Qaida and Jaysh al-Naqshbandi," said Nixon. "We've seen some local-level tactical commingling of the pipe-swingers, if you will, but the Jaysh al-Naqshbandi is clearly a nationalist element with a view to go back to the former Baath leadership."

According to the report, “The group was founded by an ex-Iraqi army non-commissioned officer named Abdurahman Naqshbandi, who hails from the Lake Hamrin area of northeastern Diyala province — now one of the few pockets in Iraq where the insurgency has resisted U.S. and Iraqi control. Solid information about the group is elusive, but Brig. Gen. Craig Nixon says it started with a call for jihad against America in 2003.”

Though these Sufi militant groups are not heard of now, which gives relief to the lovers of Sufism but in India and Pakistan we see some fringe Sufi elements who show aggression and violent behaviour which is anathema to the teachings of great Sufis of Islam.

For example, a self-proclaimed Sufi of the Qadiriya order, Mumtaz Qadri killed a politician for demanding repeal of the blasphemy laws of Pakistan. He was sentenced to death by the court of law and his grave has been turned into a revered place. Thus his Dargah has become a symbol of aggressive Sufism.

 In India, a self-proclaimed Sufi of Bengal, Abbas Siddiquee issues hate speeches against the majority community now and then. He recently said he would slit the throat of those who desecrate the Quran. He is the Pirzada of the Dargah of a Sufi saint at Furfura Sharif.

The corruption of Sufis has come as fallout of politicization of Sufi centres. These centres serve as power bases for the politically ambitious Sufis who want to climb the power ladder with the help of their status as Sufis. This trend of aggressive Sufism will not augur well for the Muslims of the subcontinent and will also tarnish the image of Islam in the world. Therefore, such ambitious, imprudent and opportunistic Sufis should not be allowed to sit in the Dargahs of Sufis.



1. Sufi Insurgent Groups in Iraq

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 2

By: Rafid Fadhil Ali

January 25, 2008 09:58 PM Age: 14 years

2. U.S. Sees New Threat In Iraq From Sufi Sect


S. Arshad is a columnist with


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