Ibn Taymiyya, and the Occult Origins of the Salafi Movement

Despite the horrors associated with “Shariah,” those instances represent aberrations perpetrated by radical factions of the religion created specifically to malign the reputation of Islam. With the increase of her power through her colonial possessions, Britain sought to undermine the great power of the time, the Islamic empire of the Ottoman Turks. To pursue their infamous strategy of Divide and Conquer, by creating rivalries within the Empire, the British needed the opportunity to rewrite the laws of Islam in order to create competing interpretations.

However, due to a process known as the Closing of the Doors of Ijtihad, the outstanding achievement of Islamic law, which was formulated as a communal project over three centuries, was cordoned off from corruption. Four major schools of interpretation had been established, known as Maddhabs. Each Muslim was required to follow one of these four schools, a practice known as Taqlid, and it was no longer permitted to re-open the debate, known as Ijtihad, as all pressing questions were unanimously deemed to have been settled.

Therefore, after a thousand years of remaining unchallenged, the sanctity of Ijtihad was challenged for the first time, beginning in the seventeenth century, by a legion of “Revivalist” Islamic reformers. All had in common, like the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia, secret ties with the British and an emphasis on the precedent of a controversial thirteenth century scholar named Ibn Taymiyyah, in support of their innovations.

Since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, the Wahhabis and Revivalists have managed to commandeer Islam, such that the traditions of classical tradition, represented by Maddhabs, have been nearly entirely forgotten, and Ibn Taymiyyah (1263 – 1328) is now regarded as one of the great scholars of Islamic history and has gone on to inspire the most wayward distortions of Islam in our time.

Despite his current reputation, Ibn Taymiyyah spent much of his career in prison, put there by the scholars of his time for repeated charges of heresy. Opinions about Ibn Taymiyyah during his lifetime varied widely. One of his opponents, who had the most success in refuting his views, was Taqi al Din Al Subki who was eventually appointed chief judge of Damascus. Of him Ibn Taymiyyah admitted, “no jurist has refuted me except al Subki.”[1] Al Subki was nevertheless ready to concede to Ibn Taymiyyah’s virtues: “personally, my admiration is even greater for the asceticism, piety, and religiosity with which God has endowed him, for his selfless championship of the truth, his adherence to the path of our forbearers, his pursuit of perfection, the wonder of his example, unrivalled in our time and in times past.”[2] And yet, al Subki remarked, "his learning exceeded his intelligence."[3]

It was for his typical intemperance that the famous traveller Ibn Battuta declared that Ibn Taymiyyah had a “screw loose.”[4] Among the contemporary scholars who also confronted him, Al Safadi said: “he wasted his time refuting the Christians and the Rafida, or whoever objected to the religion or contradicted it, but if he had devoted himself to explaining al Bukhari or the Noble Quran, he would have placed the garland of his well-ordered speech on the necks of the people of knowledge.”[5] And al Nabahani said: “He refuted the Christians, the Shia, the logicians, then the Asharis and Ahl al Sunna (Sunnis), in short, sparing no one whether Muslim or non-Muslim, Sunni or otherwise.”[6] He was chided by one of his own students, the famous historian and scholar, al Dhahabi, who said, “blessed is he whose fault diverts him from the faults of others! Damned is he whom others divert from his own faults! How long will you look at the motes in the eyes of your brother, forgetting the stumps in your own?”[7] Other former admirers who became critical of him were the Qadi al Zamalkani, Jalal al Din al Qazwini, al-Qunawi, al Jariri.

After three centuries of his views being scrutinized by the leading scholars of the time, like al Subki and others, a Fatwa was finally pronounced in the sixteenth century by Ibn Hajar al Haytami, who represents the foremost resource for legal opinion in the entire late Shafi Madhhab, who declared:

Ibn Taymiyyah is a servant whom God forsook, misguided, blinded, deafened, and debased. That is the declaration of the imams who have exposed the corruption of his positions and the mendacity of his sayings. Whoever wishes to pursue this must read the words of the Mujtahid Imam Abu al Hasan al Subki, of his son Taj al Din Subki, of the Imam al Izz ibn Jama and others of the Shafi, Maliki, and Hanafi scholars... It must be considered that he is a misguided and misguiding innovator and an ignorant who brought evil whom God treated with His justice. May He protect us from the likes of his path, doctrine, and actions.[8]

The Wahhabis, in particular, have inherited a vociferous hatred of Sufism from Ibn Taymiyyah, who is widely considered the leading exponent of the kinds of attacks on Sufism that were thought characteristic of the Hanbali school. In our time, Muslims are beset with a new Divide and Conquer strategy where, as in the US, citizens are forced to choose between Democrats and Republicans, Muslims are now presented with either Sufism or Wahhabism as the only true representatives of Islamic tradition. Both camps are savvy at exposing each other’s corruption, but each also offer deviations of their own.

In our time, the most astute opponents of Wahhabism are the Sufis. However, despite their claims otherwise, the Sufis often represent heretical traditions. According to Ibn Khaldun, (1332–1406), considered one of the fathers of modern historiography, and as one of the greatest philosophers of the Muslim world, in his Muqaddima:

The path of the so-called Sufis (mutasawwifa) comprises two paths. The first is the path of the Sunna, the path of their forefathers (salaf), according to the Book and Sunna, imitating their righteous forefathers among the Companions (of the Prophet) and the Followers.

The second path, which is contaminated by (heretical) innovations, is the way of a group among the recent thinkers (muta’akhkhirun) who make the first path a means to the removal (kashf) of the veil of sensation, because that is one of its results. Now among these self-styled Sufis are Ibn ‘Arabi, Ibn Sab‘in, Ibn Barrajan and their followers among those who traveled their way and worshipped according to their (heretical) sect (nihla). They have many works filled with pure unbelief and vile innovations, as well as corresponding interpretations of the outward forms (of scripture and practice) in the most bizarre, unfounded and reprehensible ways—such that one who examines them will be astounded at their being related to religion (al-milla) or being considered part of the Sharia.[9]

Sufism had been in conflict with Islamic orthodoxy since the ninth century culminating in the execution of al-Husayn ibn Mansur al Hallaj. It is generally accepted that the first exponent of Sufi doctrine was the Egyptian or Nubian, Dhun Nun, of the ninth century AD, whose teaching was recorded and systematized by al Junayd. The doctrines expressed by al Junayd were then boldly preached by his pupil, ash-Shibli of Khurasan in the tenth century. A fellow-student of ash-Shibli, was al Hallaj whose thought demonstrated some clearly heretical elements, such as reincarnation, incarnation, and so on. He was ultimately put to death for declaring “I am the truth,” identifying himself with God. However, later Sufi writers nevertheless regard him as a saint and martyr, who suffered because he disclosed the great secret of the mystical union of man and God.

The Sufis reinterpret the ancient magical practices of mystical union with the “divine” as Hulul, or the incarnation of God in the human body. While Tawheed, the “oneness” of God, typically refers to the monotheistic creed of Islam, for the Sufis it refers to this mystical union with God. According to al Hallaj, for example, man is essentially divine because he was created by God in his own image, and that is why he claimed that in the Quran God commands the angels to bow down in “worship” to Adam. As De Lacy O’Leary described, in Arabic Thought and its Place in History:

This is an extremely interesting illustration of the fusion of oriental and Hellenistic elements in Sufism, and shows that the theoretical doctrines of Sufism, whatever they may have borrowed from Persia and India, receive their interpretative hypotheses from neo-Platonism. It is interesting also as showing in the person of al-Hallaj a meeting-point between the Sufi and the philosopher of the Isma‘ilian school.[10]

An important source of ancient mystical teachings like Neoplatonism in Sufism were the Epistles of the Ikhwan al Saffa wa Khullan al Wafa, or of “The Brethren of Sincerity and Loyal Friends,” a brotherhood that flourished in the city of Basra in Iraq. It is also generally agreed that the Epistles were composed by leading proponents of the Ismailis, a heretical sect of the Shiah.[11] These Epistles were a philosophical and religious encyclopedia, which scholars regard as reflecting elements of Pythagorean, Neoplatonic and Zoroastrian traditions drawn up in the tenth century AD. Though the Epistles drew on multiple traditions, they attributed to them a common origin, echoing Aristobulus in tracing Greek philosophy to Jewish roots.18

The Epistles also boasted that, along with representatives of all walks of society, their order also consisted of “philosophers, sages, geometers, astronomers, naturalists, physicians, diviners, soothsayers, casters of spells and enchantments, interpreters of dreams, alchemists, astrologers, and many other sorts, too many to mention”[12] The Epistles, which contributed to the popularization of Neoplatonism in the Arabic world, had a great influence on Islamic mysticism and philosophy, such as that of the renowned Sufi, Ibn Arabi, and was transmitted as far as Al-Andalus, or Moorish Spain, where they would have a profound influence of Jewish Kabbalah.

Mystical tradition also purports that the Zohar, the most important Kabbalistic text, written in the thirteenth century, was based on an earlier “Arabic Kabbalah” of the Brethren of Sincerity. Isaac the Blind, a pivotal figure among the thirteenth century Kabbalists of the Languedoc, studied not only Jewish, but also early Greek, and Christian Gnostic writings, as well as the Brethren of Sincerity. The Brethren of Sincerity and other Sufi mystics were widely studied by later Jewish mystics, such as Abraham Ibn Ezra, Moses Maimonides, Judah Halevi, Bahya Ibn Pakuda, Ibn Gabirol.

The philosopher who most personified the interweaving of Judaism and Islam was the eleventh century Spanish Jew, Ibn Gabirol, who assimilated ideas from the Brethren of Sincerity to such an extent that it was his primary source of inspiration after the Bible. He also followed the teachings of the tenth century Sufi mystic Mohammed Ibn Masarra (883–931 AD), who had introduced Sufism to Spain.[13] Ibn Gabirol, along with Ibn Arabi, was considered one of the two great followers of Ibn Masarra. Ibn Arabi, who was heavily influenced by the Epistles of the Brethren of Sincerity, formulated many of the ideas that became central to the Zohar. For example, his theory of the mystical import of language, the concept that man was a complete microcosm of the macrocosmic God, and specific interpretations of grammar and prayer all became central to the Kabbalah.[14]

In the eleventh century, however, a famous Islamic philosopher by the name of al Ghazali had proposed a reconciliation of orthodox Islam with Sufism which apparently ended much of the controversy. Nevertheless, there remained bitter debates led primarily by the leaders of the Hanbali Maddhab. However, as George Makdisi has shown, while leading Hanbali scholars showed opposition to certain Sufi practices, a large number of them nevertheless often belonged to Sufi orders. The claim is reinforced by Ibn Rajab (1335-1393) in his Dhail, where more than a hundred leading Hanbali scholars are referred to as “Sufis,” accounting for one sixth of the Hanbalis he discussed.

Despite their rabid denunciations of Sufism, Henri Laoust has written of Ibn Taymiyyah’s affinities with it, and commented that one would search in vain to find in his works the least condemnation of Sufism.[15] Ibn Taymiyyah showed admiration for the works of prominent Sufis like al Junayd, Abdul Qadir al Gilani and Abu Hafs as-Suhrawardi (1145-1234). Suhrawardi had expanded the Sufi order of Suhrawardiyya that was created by his uncle Abu al-Najib al-Suhrawardi. The order traced its spiritual genealogy to the son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed, Ali ibn Abi Talib, through al Junayd Baghdadi and al-Ghazali. It played an important role in the formation of trade-guilds and youth clubs, particularly in Baghdad, where some of its usages, according to occult scholar Idries Shah, resemble those of Freemasonry.[16]

In a Hanbali work on the wearing of the Sufi cloak or mantle (Khirqa), preserved in a unique manuscript in Princeton, by Yusuf ibn Abd al Hadi (d. 909/1503) who was also a Hanbali, Ibn Taymiyyah and his famous pupil Ibn al Qayyim are listed in a Sufi genealogy with well-known Hanbali scholars, all of whom except one, Abdul Qadir al Gilani, were till then unknown as Sufis.[17] Abdul Qadir al Gilani (1077–1166) was the founder of the Qadiriyya Sufi order, which is particularly venerated in the Western occult tradition, where it is seen by some as the origin of the Rosicrucian movement. Gilani was a pupil of Ibn Aqil (d. 1119), who had been required by other Hanbalis to denounce his heretical tendencies and retract a work which he had written glorifying al Hallaj, the notorious Sufi who was executed in 922 AD for declaring himself God. However, Hanbali scholar Ibn Qudama (d. 1223), in his Censure of Speculative Theology, doubted the sincerity of his retraction and George Makdisi concurs, suggesting that Ibn Aqil practiced prudent dissimulation (taqiyya). Gilani himself, according to Ibn Rajab, was condemned for harboring heretical works in his school, particularly the writings of the Brethren of Sincerity.[18]

The legend of Jilani’s life and career were largely embellished by his successors. For example, his pedigree was traced on his father’s side in the direct line to Hasan, grandson of the Prophet. But the pedigree was shown to be a fabrication of his grandson the Abu Salih Nasr, to whom numerous fictions can be traced.[19] The list of his performed miracles began at the earliest while only a child, when he was to have begun a fast by refusing the breast of his mother. He was believed to be able to punish distant sinners and assist the oppressed in a miraculous manner, walk on water and move through air. Angels and Jinn, “people of the hidden world” and even the Prophet Muhammed himself, it was said, would appear at his meetings and express their appreciation. According to David Margoliouth, al Jilani’s fame among his followers in some cases nearly displaced that of the Prophet Muhammed, and he is regularly styled the Sultan of the Saints.[20] His reputation attracted numerous pupils from all parts of the Islamic world, and his persuasive rhetoric is said to have converted many Jews and Christians to Islam.

Like Ibn Arabi, Jilani also claimed to have come into contact with the mysterious figure of al Khidr, revered by the Sufis, three times over the course of his life. While pagan mysticism typically aspires to union with a “god,” a practice which would otherwise be acknowledged in Islam as communication with Jinn, the Sufis avoid all associations by claiming to make contact with the mysterious figure of al Khidr, meaning‎ "the Green One." Though not mentioned by that name in the Quran, al Khidr is identified with a figure met by Moses. He is referred to as the “Servant of God” and as "one from among Our friends whom We had granted mercy from Us [God] and whom We had taught knowledge from Ourselves.” In the Quran, Moses asks for permission to accompany him that he may learn "right knowledge of what [he has] been taught.”[21] But the name Khidr is found only in Hadith literature, such as the case narrated by Imam Ahmad in Al-Zuhd, whereby the Prophet Muhammad is said to have stated that Elijah and Khidr meet every year and spend the month of Ramadan in Jerusalem, and another narrated by Yaqub ibn Sufyan from Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz, whereby a man he was seen walking with was actually Khidr.

However, to the Sufis, Khidr acquired a number of occult associations and, we have to assume, was the disguise assumed by demonic apparitions. The figure of Khidr originated most likely from Jewish legends and is associated with the Muslim Mahdi, in the same way that the prophet Elijah is associated with the Jewish Messiah.[22] According to the Book of Kings, Elijah defended the worship of the one God over that of the Phoenician god Baal. Elijah, like Enoch, did not die but is believed to have ascended directly to heaven. Some of the earliest sources on Sandalphon, an archangel in Jewish and Christian writings, refer to him as the prophet Elijah transfigured and elevated to angelic status. Other sources, mainly from the Midrashic period, describe Sandalphon as the "twin brother" of Metatron, whose human origin as Enoch was similar to the human origin of Sandalphon. In Kabbalah, Sandalphon is the angel who represents the Sephiroth of Malkhut and overlaps, or is confounded with, the angel Metatron. Elijah is an important figure of the Kabbalah, where numerous leading Kabbalists claimed to preach a higher knowledge of the Torah directly inspired by the prophet through a "revelation of Elijah" (gilluy 'eliyahu).

Khidr also shows certain affinities with the ancient dying-god by also representing fertility, which is offered as the reason for his association with the color green. Likewise, Elijah’s association with fertility and rain production is widespread in Biblical and rabbinic literature.[23] Khidr is recognized as associated with the Green Man motif, which is often related to fertility deities found in different cultures throughout the world, such as the Celtic god Cernunnos, Green George, Jack in the green, John Barleycorn, Robin Goodfellow, Puck, and the Green Knight of Grail legend. A more modern version is found in Peter Pan, who enters the civilized world from Neverland, clothed in green leaves. Wicca claims, despite the obvious associations, not to worship the devil but as merely being a fertility cult that worships the Green Man, who has often been used as a representation of the Horned God.

The figure of al Khidr has its equivalent in the cult of Saint George, shared by Christian, Jews as well as Muslims. There is a tradition in the Holy Land of Christians and Muslims going to an Eastern Orthodox shrine of Saint George at Beith Jala, with Jews also attending the site in the belief that the prophet Elijah was buried there. These Muslims worshipped this same Saint George or Elijah as the Sufi figure of al Khidr, a tradition which was found throughout the Middle East, from Egypt to Asia Minor.[24]

Historians note that the origin of Saint George is in Cappadocia and is similar to the ancient god named Dionysus-Sabazios, who was usually depicted riding on horseback. Dionysus-Sabazios was one of the many gods that the Romans nominally adopted from other cultures, such as the Egyptian Isis, the Persian Mysteries of Mithras, Thracian/Phrygian Sabazius, and Phrygian Cybele. The rites of Dionysus, known as Dionysus-Sabazios, were the same as those performed in Asia Minor in honor of Cybele, known as the Magna Mater, which was taken over from the Persian worship of Anahita in Cappadocia, now east-central Turkey. He was originally Attis, named after the Phrygian name for goat. His consort was the Magna Mater, the Great Mother, Cybele, identified with Venus and worshipped as the goddess of fertility.

In Phrygia, where numerous Jewish colonies were established, Attis was assimilated to Dionysus-Sabazios, which an etymology that dates back to the Hellenistic period equates with Yahweh Zebaoth, the Biblical Lord of Hosts.[25] Cumont maintained: “undoubtedly he belonged to a Jewish-pagan sect that admitted neophytes of every race to its mystic ceremonies.”[26] According to Lydus, a Byzantine astrologer of the sixth century AD, “the Chaldeans call the god Dionysus (or Bacchus), Iao [Yahweh] in the Phoenician tongue (instead of the Intelligible Light), and he is also called Sabaoth, signifying that he is above the seven poles, that is the Demiurgos.”[27]  In the first century AD, Cornelius Labeo, equated Iao with Dionysus, from the following Oracle of Apollo of Claros:

Those who have learned the mysteries should hide the unsearchable secrets, but, if their understanding is small and the mind weak, then ponder this: that Iao is the supreme god of all gods; in winter, Hades; at spring’s beginning, Zeus; the Sun in summer; and in autumn, the splendid Iao.[28]

 There has been a tendency among modern apologists of the occult to suggest that the Ancient Mysteries were unfairly maligned by Christian authors who equated their gods with the devil of the Bible. However, similar complaints about the barbarity of these mysteries were made by pagan critics as well. In 186 BC a scandal over the Bacchanalia, the Latin name for the Dionysian Mysteries, so upset the Romans that a decree of the Senate prohibited them throughout Italy, except in certain special cases. Livy, the Roman historian who lived at the turn of the first millennium, described the Dionysian rites as they had come to light in the controversy:

When wine had inflamed their feelings, and night and the mingling of the sexes and of different ages had extinguished all power of moral judgment, all sorts of corruption began to be practiced, since each person had ready to hand the chance of gratifying the particular desire to which he was naturally inclined.  The corruption was not confined to one kind of evil, the promiscuous violation of free men and women; the cult was also a source of supply of false witnesses, forged documents and wills, and perjured evidence, dealing also in poisons and in wholesale murders among devotees, and sometimes ensuring that not even the bodies were found for burial.  Many such outrages were committed by craft, and even more by violence; and the violence was concealed because no cries for help could be heard against the shriekings, the banging of drums and the clashing of cymbals in the scene of debauchery and bloodshed.[29]

George’s mother was from Lydda, Palestine, but he was a Cappadocian born in Cilicia, the heartland of the Mithraic Mysteries during Hellenistic times, and its capital city of Tarsus was the birthplace as well of the apostle Paul. Saint George is also the origin of the knightly tale of rescuing a maiden from a dragon. The legend is not a Christian story at all, but is a Christian adaptation of the typical duel of the Middle Eastern dying-god, like Baal, against the Sea-Dragon, or Zeus against Typhon the Titan.

A further identification with the dying-god and the Kabbalistic concept of the Primordial Adam, or Adam Kadmon, and later Metatron, is found in al Khidr’s identification in Sufism with the concept of the Qutb, meaning “pole” or “axis” and with Hermes. Jilani also spoke of the related notion of the “perfect saint” which became prominent in Sufism. To Jilani, the perfect saint represents a microcosm as his intellect encompasses all, or because his existence comprises all things. This idea of the perfect man among the Sufis is recognized by scholars as dating back to ancient Magian and Gnostic sources, and the notion is traced by Gilles Quispel to Kabbalistic conceptions concerning the primordial Adam.[30] The Epistles of the Brethren of Sincerity define a perfect man as "of East Persian derivation, of Arabic faith, of Iraqi, that is Babylonian, in education, Hebrew in astuteness, a disciple of Christ in conduct, as pious as a Syrian monk, a Greek in natural sciences, an Indian in the interpretation of mysteries and, above all a Sufi or a mystic in his whole spiritual outlook."[31] The fact that Gilani regarded himself as the perfect saint is suggested in a saying attributed to him: “my foot is on the neck of every saint of God,” thus laying claim to the highest rank and as having obtained the consent of all the saints of the epoch.[32] Similarly, in the works of Ibn Arabi, al Gilani is mentioned as a just man, the Qutb of his time.[33]

Nevertheless, Ibn Taymiyyah referred to al Jilani as Sheikhuna, “our Sheikh,” a title which he doesn’t proffer on anyone else in all of his works. In his own words, Ibn Taymiyyah confessed in his work al-Masala at-Tabriziya: "I wore the blessed Sufi cloak of Abdul Qadir (al Gilani), there being between him and me two (Sufi Sheikhs)."[34] In a lost work titled Itfa hurqat al-hauba bi-ilbas khirqat at-tauba, by Ibn Nasir ad-Din, Ibn Taymiyyah is quoted as affirming having belonged to more than one Sufi order and praising that of al Jilani as the greatest of all. The Bahdjat al-asrar contains the narrative of many miracles performed by al Jilani, corroborated by chains of witnesses, which Ibn Taymiyyah declared credible, despite the fact that others, namely al Dhahabi, condemned the book as containing frivolous tales.[34

One of the most damming clues for the possible reasons for the resucitataion of Ibn aymiyyah’s reputation was the fact that al Jilani’s Qadiriyya was considered the source for the occult teachings of a notorious sixteenth century secret society, known as the Rosicrucians.vAccording to occult historians, the Rosicrucians acquired their symbol of the rose from the Sufis. Idries Shah, secretary and companion to Gerald Gardner, the founder of the modern religion of witchcraft known as Wicca, and close associate of the godfather of twentieth century Satanism, Aleister Crowley, claimed the Rosicrucians derived from the influence of the Qadiriyya Sufi order, to which Ibn Taymiyyah belonged. Christian Rosenkreutz would have supposedly come into contact with the Qadiriyya during his travels in the Middle East. Gilani, the founder of the Qadiriyya, was known as the “Rose of Baghdad.” The rose became the symbol of his order and a rose of green and white cloth with a six-pointed star in the middle is traditionally worn in the cap of Qadiriyya dervishes. According to Idries Shah:

Ignorance of this background is responsible for much useless speculation about such entities as the Rosicrucians who merely repeated in their claims the possession of the ancient teaching which is contained in the parallel development called alchemy, and which was also announced by Friar Bacon [Francis Bacon], himself claimed as a Rosicrucian and alchemist and illuminate. The origins of all these societies in Sufism is the answer to the question as to which of them did Bacon belong, and what the secret doctrine really was. Much other Rosicrucian symbolism is Sufic.[36]

The origin of the Kabbalistic notions of the Rosicrucians in the Middle East are acknowledged in the Manifestos. As recounted in the Fama Fraternitatis, a mystic known as Christian Rosenkreutz supposedly founded the Rosy Cross brotherhood as early as the 1300s after studying in the Middle East under various masters. Rosenkreuz was said to have traveled to Egypt, and upon his return to Europe, to have established a secret “House of the Holy Spirit,” modeled on the Ismaili “House of Wisdom” in Cairo.[37] A hundred and twenty years after Rosenkreutz’ burial, the text relates, his vault was discovered by one of the brethren, which they took as a signal for them to declare themselves and invite the learned of Europe to join. As Christopher McIntosh explained, the image of the vault occurs in a book called the Aim of the Sage, which was circulated among the Brethren of Sincerity, who would have been active around the time that Christian Rosenkreutz was supposed to have made his journey to that region.[38]

The Rosicrucians would go on to form the Freemasons, and shape the legends of Scottish Rite Freemasonry, which purported that the Knights Templar had come into contact with certain “Eastern Mystics,” who are identified with the Brethren of Sincerity. This legend became the basis of the association of numerous prominent occultists of the late nineteenth century with a mysterious order known as the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, an important member of which was the pre-eminent Revivalist of the period, as well and a British agent and Grand Master of the Egyptian lodges, Jamal ud Din al Afghani (1838/1839 – 1897). Although he claimed to be an Afghan, Afghanai was a Shiah. Tellingly, Afghani and his Masonic brethren would refer to themselves as “ikhwan al saffa wa khullan al wafa,” in deliberate reference to the full name of original Brethren of Sincerity, who derived from Ismaili influences.[39] Additionally, on his many trips to India, Afghani, under the assumed name of Jamal Effendi, would visit the Agha Khan who was living there at the time.[40]

Jamal Afghani, in essence, is a prime example to help us understand how subsequent impostors like them, such as the Ayatollah Khomeini or Osama bin Laden, could expound so vociferously against "the West,” but at the same time being secretly in their service. In Afghani’s own words, as cited in Elie Kedourie, Afghani and Abduh: An Essay on Religious Unbelief and Political Activism in Modern Islam:

We do not cut off the head of religion except with the sword of religion. Therefore, if you were to see us now, you would see ascetics and worshipers, kneeling and genuflecting, never disobeying God’s commands and doing all that they are ordered to do.[41]

Afghani is recognized as the founder of the Salafi reform movement, whose mission was to call for the adaptation of Islam to modern times, by calling for a reopening of the Doors of Ijtihad. Through his influence were founded the Muslim Brotherhood, the primary arm of CIA interference in the Middle East, and his movement eventually merged with Wahhabism through the influence of another Freemason, Rashid Rida, such that the two are now largely indistinguishable.


[this article has been corrected to remove the assertion that al Hallaj was put to death by the son of Saladin. The author mistook that incident with the execution of Suhrawardi. Thank you to an anonymous commenter below for pointing out the error]

[1] Al Safadi, A’yan al ‘Asr, vol. 111, 1196, quoted from The Mamluks in Egyptian and Syrian Politics and Society, ed. Michael Winter and Amalia Levanoni, Leiden: Brill, 2004, p. 207.

[2] Little, "Did Ibn Taymiyyah Have a Screw Loose,” Studia Islamica xli (1975) p. 100.

[3] Ahmad ibn al-Naqib al-Misri, Reliance of the Traveller:  A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law.

[4] Little, "Did Ibn Taymiyyah Have a Screw Loose,” p. 95.

[5] Reproduced by Ibn Rajab in Dhayl Tabaqat al-Hanabila (2:392) and Ibn Hajar in al-Durar al-Kamina (1:159).

[6] Shawahid al Haqq.

[7] al Nasiha al Dhahabiyya li Ibn Taymiyyah, quoted from Little, "Did Ibn Taymiyyah Have a Screw Loose,” p. 100.

[8] Fatawa al Hadithiyyah p. 105, Published by Maktaba Mishkaat al Islamiyyah.

[9] Reprinted at the end of M. al-Tanji's edition of the Shifa' al-Sa’il fi Tahdhib al-Masa’il, (Istanbul, 1958), pp. 110-11.

[10] p. 194.

[11] Livingstone, The Dying God, p. 111.

[12] Rasail 21st., p. 166.

[13] Tom Block, “Towards an Understanding of the Jewish/Sufi,” Speech to the Jewish Community Relations Council, Ratner Museum, May 2, 2007.

[14] Ibid.

[15] H. Laoust, Essai sur les idées sociales et politiques d’Ibn Taimîya (Le Caire: Publications de L'Institut Français Archéologie Orientale, 1939), 89 et passim; cited in Georges Makdisi "The Hanbali School and Sufism" Actas IV Congresso de Estudos Arabes e Islamicos (Leiden 1971) p. 121.

[16] Idries Shah, The Sufis, (NY, Doubleday and Co., 1964).

[17] G Makdisi "The Hanbali School and Sufism" Actas IV Congresso de Estudos Arabes e Islamicos (Leiden 1971). p. 122.

[18] Ibn Rajab, Dhayl (i. 415-20). Laoust, H.. "Ibn al-Dhawzi,” Encyclopedia of Islam. Brill Online, 2012.

[19] Margoliouth, D. S., " ʿAbd al-Ḳādir." Encyclopaedia of Islam, First Edition (1913-1936). Brill Online , 2012. Reference.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Quran, “Al-Kahf,” 18:66.

[22] Abraham Elqayam, Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam.

[23] Brannon Wheeler, Moses in the Qur'an and Islamic Exegesis (London: Routledge/Curzon, 2002), p. 24.

[24] Richard G. Hovannisian and Georges Sabagh, Religion and Culture in Medieval Islam. (Cambridge University Press, 200) pp 109-110.

[25] Franz Cumont, Oriental Religions in Roman Paganism, (Montana: Kessinger Publishing Company, 1911), p. 64

[26] Ibid.

[27] De Mensibus, 83 T.

[28] Saturnalia, Book I, 18, 20

[29] Livy, History of Rome, 39.8

[30] Joel L. Kraemer, Philosophy in the Renaissance of Islam: Abū Sulaymān Al-Sijistānī and His Circle. (Leiden, Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 1986), p. 301 n. 85.

[31] Seyyed Hossein Nasr, An Introduction to Islamic Cosmological Doctrines, p 31–33

[32] Braune, W., " Abd al-Qadir al-jilani." Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Brill Online , 2012. Reference. <http://www.paulyonline.brill.nl/entries/encyclopaedia-of-islam-2/abd-al-kadir-al-djilani-SIM_0095>

[33] Meccan revelations, i. 262; cited in Margoliouth, D. S.. " ʿAbd al-Ḳādir." Encyclopaedia of Islam, First Edition (1913-1936). Brill Online , 2012. Reference.

[34] G Makdisi "The Hanbali School and Sufism" Actas IV Congresso de Estudos Arabes e Islamicos (Leiden 1971). p. 123.

[35] Margoliouth, D. S.. " ʿAbd al-Ḳādir."

[36] Idries Shah, The Sufis, p. 390.

[37] Life Science Fellowship. “Secret Tradition of Islam.”

[38] The Rosicrucians: The History, Mythology, and Rituals of an Esoteric Order, p. 25.

[39] Samir Raafat, “Freemasonry in Egypt: Is it still around?Insight Magazine, (March 1, 1999).

[40] Livingstone, Terrorism and the Illuminati, p. 164

[41] (New York: The Humanities Press, 1966), p. 45.



David after researching your

David after researching your article many times i hav understood that whatever conclusions you draw about shaikh abdul qadir jilani rehmatullahialeh are based off sources that themselves put his teachings in a manner that fit thier own agenda.....my advice to would be to kindly consult both islamic and wester n resources on occult....thst way your get proper perspective?....also read the blessed shaykhs books and commenteries on them....your understanding will change inshallah....

Abdul Qadir al Jilani was Jewish

Since your comment, I have found some very incriminating informtion on al Jilani, which i have written about here:

Sufism and the Kabbalah

Some historical inaccuracies in your article about Sufism

' It is generally accepted that the first exponent of Sufi doctrine was the Egyptian or Nubian, Dhun Nun, of the ninth century AD"

- Zun Nun Misri was not the first exponent, according to most Islamic history books. I have read it was most likely Hasan Al Basri. There are other names as well like Ibrahim bin Adham, Fudayl ibn Iyyad, Abdullah ibn Mubarak (all students of imam Abu Hanifa) and others in the first century of Islam. Will provide some of the names of these books soon.

'A fellow-student of ash-Shibli, was al Hallaj whose thought demonstrated some clearly heretical elements, such as reincarnation, incarnation, and so on'

- This is the opinion of some scholars regarding him, but many scholars say that he was reprimanded because his ecstatic state was going beyond his control. He used to pray and follow sharia and people will make fum of him saying that if you are 'the truth' then why do you worship like us, his response will be to say that he knows his worth better then them. This is a long topic will recommend a few books to read for another side of the story of Al Hallaj.

'He was ultimately put to death by the son of Saladin, the great Muslim leader who recaptured Palestine from the Crusaders'

-Hallaj was punished in the ninth century and Saladin came in the 12th century, so how can the son of Saladin punish Hallaj. Also Junaid himself signed the killing of Hallaj with other scholars of the time even though Hallaj was his disciple. According to many scholars the only mistake of Hallaj was to utter words like 'Ana al Haq' in public. The interpretation that I have come across is that he only meant that his beloved Lord is in him, he wanted nothing except Allah and his commands. The concept of hulul, black magic and other stuff is considered to be fabricated. Islam has been corrupted throughout our history, Tasawwuf or ihsan is just a branch of it, it has also been corrupted by many people.

You also say that Al Ghazali reformed tasawwuf and brought it closer Sharia, but one needs to remember Imam Ghazali choose Sufism after refuting Baatnites, philosophers and their ilk. He did not reform it as such but became an avid supporter of people of Sufism (those who did not have innovatios in them). Moreover, Ibn Arabi came 50 years after Al Ghazali, he was well versed in Islamic sciences and all school of thoughts. Sadly he came up with a very controversial concept of wahdatul wujood, again something which has been interpreted differently by many scholars. But there's no doubt that the misunderstanding of his theory led many astray.

Brother David I enjoy your readings a lot! But kindly look for the actual meaning of Tasawwuf defined by those who never left Sharia and always chose Quran and Sunnah as yardstick to define sufism. Anything else is not sufism and i know there are many fabricated miracles as well.

Some scholars on this topic to be read are Sheikh Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi. Sheikh Zakaria Kandlewi, Sheikh Ashraf Ali Thanwi and many others

Sufism and Heresy

Thank you for pointing out my error with regards to the execution of al Hallaj. I was mistaking that incident with the death of Suhrawardi.

But your other corrections are of no consequence. I merely presented the early history of Sufism for some context, not as proof of heresy. I think most scholars agree that there were two stages of Sufism. The first as a reaction against the excessive materialism of the Umayyad dynasty, and the later evolution towards more overtly heretical elements. Al Hallaj represents that departure.

And I didn't implicate Ghazali in any of this. I was merey pointing to the evolution of Sufism, and it's partial acceptance in Sunni orthodoxy.

As for me, I haven't found anything legitimate with Sufism, but on the contrary, see that it clearly represents the adoption of non-Muslim mysticism into Islam.

That convergence is particularly evident in Ibn Arabi, who was almost universally denounced by the leading scholars of Islam. And he is the primary character I am concerned with, particularly since he seems to be the focus of most modern "Sufism." Especially the so-called Akbariyya secret society, founded by Ivan Agueli, which was the source of Guenon's Traditionalism, and the backbone of much interaction of Sufism with Western intelligence agencies and fascist trends.

Ibn Khaldun, for example, issued a Fatwa that Ibn Arabi's books should be burned. Here is an excellent article that explores his denunciation of Ibn Arabi.

Morris - An Arab Machiavelli? Rhetoric, Philosophy and Politics in Ibn Khaldun’s Critique of Sufism

Thank you for kind response.

Thank you for kind response. I will read the article you posted.

You are correct to say that Sufism (or Tasawwuf or Quranic name Tazkiya or Hadith name Ihsan) has been defined in different ways. But I find that it's origin was not from outside of Islam, however some people did deviate from it by being influenced by non-Islamic sources. Surely you would have come across where Islamic scholars mention that Fiqh, Hadith, Tafseer and Tasawwuf are all branches of Islamic sciences. It is incorrect to say that all sufi practices are influenced by non-Islamic mysticism! In fact majority Ulema/Scholars of Islam have in one way or another been connected with Tasawwuf. I am only for the true sufism, which is an important part of our Islamic science. For example meditation or seclusion for sometime in sufism is not taken from yogis and other religious mystics, it is proven from Prophet Muhammad's (pbuh) seclusion in cave of hira, Prophet Musa's story in Quran, prophet Sulaiman story from Quran. Again this seclusion should take place while completing all Islamic duties. Sadly some historians have said that all these practices originated from non-Islamic sources. This is just one example, there are many more.

- Junaid al Baghdadi said " all paths besides the strict following of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) are closed to mankind"
- Moinuddin Chishti said " he who adheres to the Sharia, obeys its commands, and refrains from transgression, progresses in spiritual rank: all progress is depends upon adherence to Sharia.

If the life history of these people is read we find that most of them were also Islamic scholars of repute. Rest assured I am against all practices whether sufi or salafi or any other which have no source from Quran and Sunnah. So I agree with you that there has been a departure from real tasawwuf by some or many.

Also regarding Hallaj please do read:

Hallaj (rah) has nothing to do with the Hulul doctrine, there were thousands of followers of Hallaj (rah) who cursed the believers of the Hulul aqeedah (at first even I held al Hallaj as deviant because I had not read anything in support of him being proper follower of Sharia, alhumdulillah I didn't have to dig deep to find these details). Ali bin Uthman al Hujwiri mentions Hallaj and the deviation of the Hululis in his famous book Kashf al Mahjub. I think one should also consult this and other such books before talking about past scholars and personalities, as it's very dangerous to do takfeer of Hallaj or Ibn Arabi or others.

I think I am asking you to do the same as you have proposed, to keep reading and improving our knowledge of past as best as we can.


Thanks to you as well for the constructive discussion.

But seclusion was practiced by the Prophet prior to the revelation of Islam. And the Quran eventually says, "today I have perfected your religion," and nowhere is seclusion prescribed as a religious practice.

The problem with Sufism is it is a fraudulent interpretation of Islam, which teaches self-purification as an end in itself. We have to purify ourselves, but Islam doesn't prescribe any particular practices for that type of self-purification. Rather, the religion works as a whole to develop the human being, and through him, the society. Self-purification is achieved through fear of God, and obeying the Shariah.

A Musim purifies himself by avoiding the Harram and seeking justice and the betterment of society. Those actions cannot be separated into a distinct set of practices which the Sufis prescribe. But calling it "self-purification" is a way of taking non-Islamic practices and disguising them as having a religious purpose.

I agree with the opinion of Ibn Khaldun, as summarized by Morris in the article I referenced. Ibn Khaldun denounced the other-worldliness of Sufi aspirations, which he regarded as a departure from addressing the pressing needs of the here and now exemplified by the earliest generations of Muslims. According to Morris:

...the much more and down-to-earth consequences of diverting substantial societal and human resources to the pointless, imaginary distractions and pastimes of such large groups of "simpletons," and the perhaps even more debilitating long-range consequences of their attempting to lead a moral and religious life somehow separate from what they allegedly viewed as the "corrupting" sphere of political and military power and authority.[i]

[i] James W. Morris, "An Arab “Machiavelli”?: Rhetoric, Philosophy and Politics in Ibn Khaldun’s Critique of 'Sufism',” (Proceedings of the Harvard Ibn Khaldun Conference, ed. Roy Mottahedeh, Cambridge, Harvard, 2003).


regarding sufism

a`udhu billah mina 'sh-shaytani 'r-rajeem
Bismillahi 'r-Rahmani 'r-Raheem

You state:
But seclusion was practiced by the Prophet prior to the revelation of Islam. And the Quran eventually says, "today I have perfected your religion," and nowhere is seclusion prescribed as a religious practice.

First of all this is incorrect, for Islam was revealed to the Prophet (s) DURING the state of seclusion, which is sufficient refutation for your claim.

Other proofs:

See the verse:
"Relate in the Book (the story of) Mary, when she withdrew from her family to a place in the East. " (19:16)

Imam Suyuti in his Tafsir al-Jalalayn says: اعتزلت في مكان نحو الشرق من الدار
"Separated/secluded in a place east of her home"

Regarding Sayyida Maryam's near constant seclusion:
“Whenever Zakariya visited her in her SECLUSION he found with her provision. He said, ‘O Maryam, whence hast thou this?’ She replied, ‘It is from Allah. Surely, Allah gives to whomsoever He pleases without measure.’” (Ali Imran, 37)..." (3:37)

وبنى لها غرفة في المسجد بسلم لا يصعد إليها غيره فأخذها وكان يأتيها بأكلها وشربها ودهنها فيجد عندها فاكهة الصيف في الشتاء وفاكهة الشتاء في الصيف

Here Imam Suyuti (and many other Sunni commentators) say that her uncle and prophet Zakariya took charge of her as a devotee of the Mosque, as her mother had vowed, and he built for her a separate room inside the Mosque reachable only by ladder, where no one could enter but himself, and he would bring her provision. However he would find fruits out of season already provided to her, coming from heaven" as a miracle and proof of her pure state.

Allah said in the Qur’an, in Surat al-Kahf mentions with praise, the Companions of the Cave, when they were ordered, “Betake yourself to the Cave: your Lord will shower His mercies on you and dispose of your affair towards comfort and ease.” (18:16)

Similary, seclusion has a proof in the Sunnah. Imam Bukhari reports that Sayyida `Ayesha (ra) said, “The Prophet (s) loved to make seclusion. And he was secluding himself in the Cave of Hira.”

Shaykh `Abul Qadir Jilani (whose holy state you so casually desecrate) said, “From the cave of Hira, where the Prophet (s) used to make seclusion, the light emanated, the dawn shone forth, and sunrise came. The first sparks of the luminescence of Islamic Sufism were struck. Never did the Prophet (s) leave his seclusion, even when he left the cave of Hira. All his life he was making seclusion, in the last ten days of Ramadan every year.”

These evidences are sufficient.

Mateen Siddiqui
as-Sunnah Foundation of America

The Reality of ibn Taymiyya

A website featuring quotations from scholars refuting Ibn Taymiyyah:

The Reality of ibn Taymiyya

Any info on shias, are they like sunnis?

hi david, i jut wanted to know what about the shias, you mention salafis,sufis,wahabbis, any info on them?

I don't want to fuel any

I don't want to fuel any Shia/Sunni controversy, because Sunnis and Shia have lived side by side for centuries, without much conflict. But it is part of another Divide and Conquer strategy to create it now. And the Wahhabis are a key component in that strategy, tending too often to pronounce them "Unbelievers." This is the kind of controversy that only feeds into the hands of Islam's enemies, so I don't want to condone that kind of animosity.

But, according to the Jewish Encyclopedia, the Shia sect was founded by a Yemeni Jew named Abdallah ibn Saba who embraced Islam. When Mohammed’s son-in-law Ali became Caliph, Abdallah ascribed divine honors to him whereupon Ali banished him. After Ali’s assassination, Abdallah is said to have taught that Ali was not dead but alive, that a part of the Deity was hidden in him and that after a certain time he would return to fill the earth with justice. Until then, the divine character of Ali was to remain hidden in the Imams, who temporarily filled his place. As the Jewish Encyclopedia notes, “It is easy to see that the whole idea rests on that of the Messiah in combination with the legend of Elijah the prophet."

Shia & Jews

Shia has nothing to with Judaism. I'm a shia and I don't believe in any of these stories. If it was true we should have seen a close relation between Iran and Israeli regime. on the contrary Iran and Israeli regime are eternal enemies. the original and the biggest disagreement between shia and sunni is on the concept of 'Imam'. We believe there's a higher position than being a prophet and that's being and Imam. We believe that both prophet Mohammad and prophet Ibrahim promoted to be an Imam. there's a difference between being an Imam and being a caliph. In fact I thinks Jewish encyclopedia is right. Bad Jews have been infiltrating in all religions and sects like they infiltrated in christianity through Paul. and made a God out of Jesus. This is what they do, giving divine personalization to prophets and imams and trying to manipulate other religion which is exactly what Lucifer wants. It's a long story that I can't explain here especially in English !

Shia & Jews

I have done a quick research and I learned that both shia and sunni believe that Imam Ali has killed Abdallah ibn Saba after what he did (giving divine personalization to Imam Ali).

Shia & Jews

Shia has nothing to with Judaism. I'm a shia and I don't believe in any of these stories. If it was true we should have seen a close relation between Iran and Israeli regime. on the contrary Iran and Israeli regime are eternal enemies. the original and the biggest disagreement between shia and sunni is on the concept of 'Imam'. We believe there's a higher position than being a prophet and that's being and Imam. We believe that both prophet Mohammad and prophet Ibrahim promoted to be an Imam. there's a difference between being an Imam and being a caliph. It's a long story that I can't explain here especially in English !

please use simple language

to the writer of this article and all commenters,
please use simple language as many of usare unable to follow exactly what youre saying

im sure that you can say the same thing but in such a way that even those with only high school education can clearly understand you.

who knows, we might even reply with some useful comments of our own.

It's complicated

Sorry Mohammed. I'm certainly not trying to over complicate the subject. But it is not a simple matter. I dread that it involves terms and issues that are very obscure for most readers.But there is no way to get around it. These are essential matters of history, which we need to know to understand our times. But they have been largely buried for centuries, so they will seem new to most, and will require a bit of learning to start to understand them.

Clarification on Ibn Taymiyyah

it should be noted that Ibn Taymiyyah regarded the Epistles of the Brethren of Sincerity as representing the "refuse of philosoph." And he believed they contradicted not only Islam, but also Christianity and Judaism. He did note however that not everything in the Epistles was condemnable, as some subjects:

Concerning mathematics, physics, some [parts] of logic, divinalia, and the sciences of ethics, politics, and domestic economy, there are in these [epistles] things that are not to be rejected.

According to Michot, in "Misled and Misleading… Yet Central in their Influence: Ibn Taymiyya’s Views on the Ikhwān al-Safā’", in The Ikhwān al-Safā’ and their Rasā’il. An Introduction, edited by Nader El-Bizri:

Unfavourable though he was to them, the theologian's opinion of the Ikhwan [Brethren of Sincerity] indirectly demonstrates that he acknowledged the centrality of the Risa'il [Epistles] in the development of philosophy and spirituality in the classical period of Islam, to the point that he maintained that they influenced two major representatives: Ibn Sina and al-Ghazali. Even today, some analysts would still be reluctant to give so prominent an intellectual role to the Ikhwan, Ismaili esotericists and other Qarmati heretics in the history of mainstream Islamic thought. Did Ibn Taymiyya in some way overstate the Ikwhan's intellectual importance? This possibility cannot be dismissed, as it is clear that he had his own agenda when talking about the Ikhwan, and perhaps he made them into bugbears for the purpose of his wider and strictly anti-philosophical undertakings. This being so, two questions, which could not be addressed here, still deserve attention at some point: (1) What is the real relevance of the convergences detected, or of the connections established, by Ibn Taymiyya, between the Ikhwan and other Muslim thinkers or movements of thought? And (2) How did the Damascene theologian's [Ibn Taymiyya's] views on the Ikhwan influence the reception of their Rasa'il in later Islamic thought?

It sounds like Ibn Taymiyya "doth protest too much."

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