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Hadhrat Mawlânâ Khâlid-i Baghdâdî (1779–1827) was the founder of a significant branch of the Naqshbandi Sufi order - named Khaledi after him - that has had a profound impact not only on his native Kurdistan but also on many other regions of the western Islamic world. Mawlana Khalid acquired the nesba Baghdadi through his frequent stays in Baghdad, for it was in the Kurdish town of Qaradagh, about 5 miles from Sulaymaniyah, that he was born in 1779. His father was a Qaderi Sufi who was popularly known as Pir Mika'il Shesh-angosht, and his mother also came from a celebrated Sufi family in Kurdistan.


Early life

For many years Mawlana Khalid's interests were focused exclusively on the formal traditions of Islamic learning, and his later, somewhat abrupt, turning to Sufism is highly reminiscent of the patterns in many a classic Sufi biography.

He began his studies in Qaradagh, with Qur'an memorization, Shafi fiqh, and elementary logic. He then traveled to other centers of religious study in Kurdistan, concentrating on logic and kalam. Next he came to Baghdad, where he astounded the established ulema with his learning and bested them in debates on many topics. Such was his mastery of the religious sciences that the governor of Baban proposed him a post as modarres, but he modestly refused. However, when Abd al-Karim Barzanki died of the plague in 1799, Mawlana Khalid assumed the responsibility for the madrasa in Sulaymaniyah he had founded. He remained there for about seven years, distinguished as yet only by his great learning and a high degree of asceticism that caused him to shun the company of secular authority.

Awakening to Sufism

In 1805 Mawlana Khalid decided to perform hajj, and the journey he undertook as a result turned his aspirations to Sufism. On his way he stopped in Medina for a few days and encountered an anonymous saintly Yemeni, who prophetically warned not to condemn hastily anything he might see in Mecca apparently contradicting the sharia. Once in Mecca, he went to the Kaaba where he saw a man sitting with his back to the sacred structure and facing him. Forgetting his admonition, he inwardly reproved the man, who said "do you not know that the worth of the believer is greater in Allah's eyes than the worth of the Kaaba?" Penitent and overwhelmed, Mawlana Khalid asked for forgiveness and begged the stranger to accept him as a disciple. He refused, telling him that his master awaited him in India. After the hajj he returned to Solaymaniya and his duties at the madrasa but was inwardly agitated by the desire to find his destined master. Finally, in 1809, an Indian dervish by the name of Mirza Rahim-Allah 'Azimabadi visited Sulaymaniyah and recommended that Mawlana Khalid travel to India and seek initiation from a Naqshbandi sheikh of Delhi, Shah Abdullah Dehlavi. Mawlana Khalid departed immediately.

He reached Delhi in about a year and was initiated into the Naqshbandi order by Shah Abdullah. In five months he completeed all stages of spiritual wayfaring as required by the Naqshbandi's and that in a year he attained the highest degree of sainthood (al-welaya al-kobra). He was then sent back to Sulaymaniyah by Shah Abdullah, will full authority to act as his khalifa in western Asia and to grant initiation not only in the Naqshbandi but also in the Qaderi, Sohrawardi, Kobrawi and Chishti orders.

After enduring hostilities from rival sheikhs in Solaymaniya, he travelled to Baghdad and Damascus where he preached the Naqshbandi way with considerable success. He remained in Damascus for the remainder of his life, appointing Sheikh Ismail Anarani as his chief khalifa before he died in June 1827. He was buried on one of the foothills of Jabal Qasiyun, on the edge of the Kurdish quarter of Damascus. Later a building was erected over the tomb, comprising a zawia and a library which are still frequented.

Achievements and Legacy

Mawlana Khalid is credited with establishing the Khalidi, a new branch of the Naqshbandi order. Much of his significance lies in his giving renewed emphasis to traditional tennets and practices of the Naqshbandi, notably adherence to the sharia and sunnah and avoidance of vocal dhikr in preference of silent performance. Some elements of his teachings were controversial, even among other Naqshbandi, foremost being his interpretation of the practice of rabeta - the linking, in the imagination, of the heart of the Murid with that of the preceptor. He proclaimed that rabeta was to be practiced exclusively with reference to himself, even after his death.

Proportionally important for the identity of the Khalidi branch was its political orientation. It was characterised by a pronounced loyalty to the Ottoman state as an object of Muslim unity and cohesion, and a concomitant hostility to the imperialist nations of Europe. Almost everywhere the Khalidiya went, from Daghestan to Sumatra, its members could be identified for their militant attitudes and activities.

The spread of his following was vast, reaching from the Balkans and the Crimea to South East Asia just one generation after his death. His primary following was in the Islamic heartlands - the Arab, Turkish, and Kurdish provinces of the Ottoman empire and the Kurdish areas of Iran. Nearly everywhere in Anatolia the Khalidi branch of the Naqshbandi came to supersede branches of senior origin.

Mawlana Khalid had a pronounced impact on the religious life of his native Kurdistan. For the Kurds, Islamic practice was traditionally connected with membership in a Sufi brotherhood, and the Qaderi order had predominated in most Kurdish areas. With the emergence of the Khalidiya, the Qadiriyyah lost their preeminence to the Naqshbandi. Kurdish identity became associated with the Khalidi branch of the Naqshbandi, and this, coupled with the hereditary nature of leadership of the order in Kurdistan, accounts for the prominence of various Naqshbandi families in Kurdistan to the present.


  • E.F. Haydari, Al-Majd al-taled fi manaqeb al-sheikh Khalid, Istanbul 1874
  • S.M. Stern, Islamic Philosophy & the Classical Tradition, Oxford 1972
  • Hamid Algar, The Naqshbandi Order, Studia Islamica 1976

External links

See also



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