We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more Shādhilīyah - Oxford Islamic Studies Online
Select Translation What is This? Selections include: The Koran Interpreted, a translation by A.J. Arberry, first published 1955; The Qur'an, translated by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem, published 2004; or side-by-side comparison view
Chapter: verse lookup What is This? Select one or both translations, then enter a chapter and verse number in the boxes, and click "Go."
  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Look It Up What is This? Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Next Result


J. E. A. Johansen
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World What is This? Provides comprehensive scholarly coverage of the full geographical and historical extent of Islam


Together with the Rifāʿīyah, Qādirīyah, and Aḥmadīyah, the Shādhilīyah is one of the four oldest ṭarīqahs (Ṣūfī orders) in the Muslim world. It takes its name from the Moroccan-born Abū al-Ḥasan ʿAlī al-Shādhilī, whose chain of initiation (silsilah) is traced through Shaykh ʿAbd al-Salām ibn Mashīsh to Abū Madyan al-Ghawth (d. 1126), the patron saint of Tlemcen. Sīdī Abū al-Ḥasan (as al-Shādhilī is generally known) traveled extensively in North Africa—he was for a time imprisoned in Tunis by a jealous ʿālim—before establishing a zāwiyah (sūfī lodge) in Alexandria. He died at Ḥumaytharah (in the present-day Governorate of Aswan) on his way to the ḥajj in 1258 c.e. He left no scholarly works but passed down a number of enduringly popular collections (aḥzāb), one of which, Ḥizb al-baḥr, was widely used as a prayer for safety at sea. The aḥzāb have been compiled (with transliterations and translations) in volume 1 of The School of Shadhdhuliyyah by A. N. Durkee (Alexandria, 1991).

It was not until the ṭarīqah passed into the hands of its third shaykh, Aḥmad ibn ʿAṭāʿ Allāh al-Iskandarī (d. 1309) that its doctrines were systematized, and the biographies of Sīdī Abū al-Ḥasan and his successor Sīdī Abū al-ʿAbbās al-Mursī (d. 1287) were recorded. Ibn ʿAṭāʿ Allāh's Ḥikam (Aphorisms) guaranteed the popularity of the Shādhilīyah; they are spoken of as “undisputedly the last Ṣūfī miracle performed on the banks of the Nile … and … one of the instruments for the [Shādhilīyah 's] expansion” (P. Nwyia, Ibn ʿAtaʿ Allah et la naissance de la confrèrie šadilite, Beirut, 1972, p. 35). An English translation of the Ḥikam was published by Victor Danner under the title Ibn ʿAṭāʿillah 's Ṣūfī Aphorisms (Kitāb al-ḥikam) (Leiden, 1973).

The ṭarīqah, which represents what Annemarie Schimmel (1986, p. 251)  calls the “Baghdadian” school of Sufism, is known for a pragmatic approach to worldly comforts; for the Shādhilīs, wealth per se does not exclude one from the community of fuqarāʿ (lit., “the poor in God”). Sīdī Abū al-Ḥasan is also said to have preferred the grateful rich to the patient poor. This subtle distinction informed the discrepancy between the outlooks of the Shādhilīyah and the Qādirīyah in seventeenth-century Sudan (Grandin, 1986, pp. 170–171) and is used to explain the ṭarīqah 's high profile in contemporary reformist Sufism, particularly in Egypt.

The Shādhilīyah is spread over a large part of the Muslim world. It is represented in North Africa mainly by the Fāsīyah and Darqāwīyah branches and has a large presence in Egypt, where fourteen branches were officially recognized in 1985. It continues to be active in Sudan, where it was overwhelmingly popular (along with the Qādirīyah) between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, before the advent of the more reformist Idrīsī orders. It is also represented in sub-Saharan and East Africa, and it is the majority ṭarīqah of the Comoro Islands.

During the Ottoman period the Shādhilīyah was active in Turkey and may well have received royal patronage from Sultan Abdülhamid II. The ṭarīqah also spread into southeastern Europe, where it was represented in Bulgaria, Romania, and the former Yugoslavia, including Kosovo and Macedonia. The Fāsīyah branch was introduced into Sri Lanka in the mid-twentieth century, and other branches are reported to have been active in parts of China. The ṭarīqah was also represented in Yemen in late medieval times and is credited with the introduction of the use of coffee to facilitate long sessions of invocation (dhikr). In the twentieth century, the Fāsīyah Shādhilīyah were persecuted by the Zaydī imams Yaḥyā (1904–1948) and Aḥmad (1948–1962).

The Burhānīyah Disūqīyah branch, which originated in Sudan under Shaykh Muḥammad ʿUthmān ʿAbduh (d. 1983), became widely popular in Egypt in the 1960s and spread to Syria in 1968. The orthodoxy of this branch became the subject of debate in Egypt in the 1970s and 1980s; however, despite the reservations of the ʿulamāʿ, the Burhānīyah Disūqīyah is more popular in the twenty-first century than ever.

Three other branches of the ṭarīqah stand out in Egypt. The Ḥāmidīyah, founded by Sīdī Salāmah al-Rāḍī (d. 1939), is credited with being one of the first ṭarīqahs to face the problems of anti-Ṣūfī criticism and diminishing membership by compiling a rule (qānūn) defining correct behavior for its members (Michael Gilsenan, Saint and Ṣūfī in Modern Egypt, Oxford, 1973, pp. 92–128). This branch, whose main ḥaḍrah (congregational invocation) is held at the mosque of al-Sayyidah Zaynab in Cairo, has acquired a reputation for the careful organization and control of its public rituals.

The ʿAzamīyah Shādhilīyah was founded in 1915 in the Sudan by Muḥammad Māḍī Abū al-ʿAzāʿ. Currently headed by his grandson ʿIzz al Dīn, this branch has campaigned actively for reform of Ṣūfī practices. It is also critical of what it views as Jamāʿat al-Islāmīyah 's Khārijī tendencies and emphasizes the necessarily Ṣūfī nature of any “Islamic solution.”

The ʿAshīrah Muḥammadīyah (Muḥammadan Family) is a registered friendly society with a core of initiates known as the Muḥammadīyah Shādhilīyah. The ʿAshīrah was officially recognized in 1951, although its present shaykh, Muḥammad Zakī Ibrāhīm, was ousted from the Ṣūfī Council (majlis) for challenging the status quo. He took legal action and was reinstated in January 1956. Since then, this branch of the ṭarīqah has devoted itself to reforming Sufism and defending it against hostile critics. It also claims responsibility for the introduction of the 1976 Ṣūfī Ordinance (lāʿiḥah) that regulates the disciplinary and financial matters of the Egyptian ṭarīqahs.


  • Douglas, Elmer H.The Mystical Teachings of al-Shādhilī: Including His Life, Prayers, Letters, and Followers: a Translation from the Arabic of Ibn al-Sabbagh 's Durrat al-asrar wa tuhfat al-abrar. Edited by Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabiʿ. Albany, N.Y., 1993.
  • Grandin, Nicole. “Les turuq au Soudan, dans la Corne de l ’Afrique, et en Afrique orientale.” In Les ordres mystiques dan l ’Islam: Cheminements et situation actuelle, edited by Alexandre Popovic and Gilles Veinstein, pp. 165–204. Paris, 1986.
  • Ibn ʿAṭāʿ Allāh, Aḥmad ibn Muḥammad. Laṭāʿif al-Minan fī manāqib Abūal-ʿAbbās al-Mursīwa-shaykhihi al-ShādhilīAbū al-Ḥasan. Edited by ʿAbd al-Halim Mahmūd, Cairo, 1974. English translation: The Subtle Blessings in the Saintly Lives of ʿAbu al-Abbas al-Mursi and His Master Abu al-Hasan. Translated by Nancy Roberts. Louisville, 2005.
  • Kugle, Scott. Rebel Between Spirit and Law: Ahmad Zarruq, Sainthood, and Authority in Islam. Bloomington, 2006.
  • Lings, Martin. A Ṣūfī Saint of the Twentieth Century: Shaikh Aḥmad al-ʿAlawī: His Spiritual Heritage and Legacy. 3d ed.Cambridge, 1993.
  • Luizard, Pierre-Jean. “Le rôle des confrères soufies dans le système politique égyptien.”Monde Arabe Maghreb-Machreq131 (January–March 1991): 26–53.
  • Maḥmūd, ʿAbd al-Ḥalīm. Al-madrasah al-Shādhilīyah al-ḥadīthah wa-imāmuhā Abū al-Ḥasan al-Shādhilī. Cairo, c.1968.
  • Schimmel, Annemarie. Mystical Dimensions of Islam. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1975.
  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Look It Up What is This? Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Next Result
Oxford University Press

© 2021. All Rights Reserved. Cookie Policy | Privacy Policy | Legal Notice