Sufism has considerable influence in Afghanistan, in both rural and urbansettings, especially among the middle classes of larger villages, town andcities.

Three Sufi orders are prominent: the Naqshbandiya founded in Bokhara, theQadiriya founded in Baghdad, and the Cheshtiya located at Chesht-i-Sharif eastof Herat. Among the Naqshbani, Ahmad al Faruqi Kabuli, born north of Kabul,acquired renown for his teachings in India during the reign of the MoghulEmperor Akbar in the sixteenth century. Sometime during the nineteenth centurymembers of this family moved back to Kabul where they established a madrassaand a khanaqah in Shor Bazar which became a center of religious andpolitical influence. Many Afghan Naqshbandi are linked with the Mujaddedifamily. Sibghatullah Mujaddedi, leader of the mujahidin Jabha-i Nejat-iMelli party, became the head of this order when his predecessor, along with 79male members of the family, were executed in Kabul by the Taraki-Amin governmentin January 1979. He served for two months as the first acting president of theIslamic State of Afghanistan established in April 1992.

Hazrat Naqib Sahib, father of Sayyid Ahmad Gailani Effendi, the present pirof the Qadiriya, established the family seat in Afghanistan on the outskirts ofJalalabad during the 1920s. Pir Ahmad Gailani is the leader of the mujahidinMahaz-i Melli Islami party. The leadership of both the Naqshbandiya and Qadiriyaorders derive from heredity rather than religious scholarship.

The Cheshtiya order was founded by Mawdid al-Cheshti who was born in thetwelfth century and later taught in India. The Cheshtiya brotherhood,concentrated in the Hari Rud valley around Obe, Karukh and Chehst-i-Sharif, isvery strong locally and maintains madrasas with fine libraries.Traditionally the Cheshtiya have kept aloof from politics, although they wereeffectively active during the resistance within their own organizations and intheir own areas.

Herat and its environs has the largest number and greatest diversity of Sufibranches, many of which are connected with local tombs of pir (ziarat).Other Sufi groups are found all across the north, with important centers inMaimana, Faryab Province, and in Kunduz. The brotherhoods in Kabul and aroundMazar-i-Sharif are mostly associated with the Naqshbandiya. The Qadiriya arefound mainly among the eastern Pushtun of Wardak, Paktya and Ningrahar,including many Ghilzai nomadic groups. Other smaller groups are settled inKandahar and in Shindand, Farah Province. The Cheshtiya are centered in the HariRud Valley. There are no formal Sufi orders among the Shia in the centralHazarajat, although some of the concepts are associated with Sayyids,descendants of the Prophet Mohammad, who are especially venerated among theShia.

Afghanistan is unique in that there is little hostility between the ulamaand the Sufi orders. Numbers of Sufi leaders are considered as ulama,and many ulama closely associate with Sufi brotherhoods. The generalpopulace accords Sufis respect for their learning and for possessing karamat,the psychic spiritual power conferred upon them by God that enables pirs toperform acts of generosity and bestow blessings (barakat). Sufismtherefore is an effective popular force. In addition, since Sufi leadersdistance themselves from the mundane, they are at times turned to as moredisinterested mediators in tribal disputes in preference to mullahs who arereputed to escalate minor secular issues into volatile confrontations couched inIslamic rhetoric.

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