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The Concept of jadhb and the Image of majdhūb in Sufi Teachings and Life in the Period between the Fourth/Tenth and the Tenth/Sixteenth Centuries


This paper discusses the theoretical basis of the Sufi term jadhb (the effortless attraction of man by God), and examines the different approaches towards the figure of majdhūb as developed and presented in Sufi compendia and both Sufi and non-Sufi biographies of the period between the fourth/tenth and the tenth/sixteenth centuries. It suggests that there are three major phases in the development of the theoretical basis of jadhb. The first stage covers the period between the fourth/tenth century and the first half of the sixth/twelfth century. Jadhb during this stage was not discussed as a separate technical term, and its early foundations were embedded particularly in the early discussions of tawba (repentance) beside other expressions such as ghayba and fanā’. The period that began with the late part of the sixth/twelfth century and reached the early part of the seventh/thirteenth century was distinguished by attempts of later Sufi authors to moderate the problematic aspects of jadhb and to integrate it with the detailed discussions of mashyakha (sheikh status). In light of the increasing antinomian appearances of the majdhūbs and the anarchistic qalandariyya in Muslim landscapes, the period following the early part of the seventh/thirteenth century up to the tenth/sixteenth century witnessed the popularity of majdhūb Sufis whose antinomian approach towards social codes and religious rituals came to be freely presented in the sources. Jadhb became separated from the institutionalised doctrinal system of mashyakha, although some attempts were made to integrate jadhb with sulūk and, thus, to maintain the majdhūb’s ability to act as a spiritual guide.

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1 See ʿAlī al-Tahānawī, Muḥammad Aʿlā b., Kashshāf iṣṭilāḥāt al-funūn wa l-ʿulūm, (ed.) Daḥdūḥ, ʿAlī, translated Persian into Arabic by ʿAbd Allāh al-Khālidī (Beirut, 1996), vol. 1, p. 554 .

2 Sulūk, according to Leonard Lewisohn's entry in Encyclopaedia of Islam, could be seen from the standpoint of comparative religion as the Islamic version of the archetypal motif of the ‘journey’ described by the mystics of different religions as including various steps that should be taken to reach the union with God. See Leonard Lewisohn, “Sulūk”, EI2, Brill Online,

(accessed 14 October 2016)

3 See Gramlich, Richard, Die Schiitischen Derwischorden Persiens (Wiesbaden, 1976), vol. 2, pp. 189194 .

4 Ibid., p. 182.

5 See Richard Gramlich, “Madjdhūb”, EI2, vol. 5, p. 1029.

6 See al-Qushayrī, Abū al-Qāsim, al-Risāla al-qushayriyya (Cairo, 1940), p. 38 (for jamʿ), p. 40 (for ḥuḍūr), p. 43 (for mushāhada). Cf. al-Ṭūsī, Abū Naṣr al-Sarrāj, Kitāb al-luma ʿ, (ed.) Nicholson, Reynold A. (Leiden, 1914), p. 355 (for maḥw and ṭams).

7 See e.g., Qushayrī, Risāla, p. 34.

8 Ibid., p. 40.

9 See al-Iṣfahānī, Abū Nuʿaym, Ḥilyat al-awliyāʾ wa-ṭabaqāt al-aṣfiyāʾ (Cairo and Beirut, 1996), vol. 10, p. 367 ; al-Mulaqqin, Ibn, Ṭabaqāt al-awliyāʾ, (ed.) Sharība, Nūr al-Dīn (Beirut, 1973), p. 211 .

10 See al-Sulamī, Abū ʿAbd al-Raḥmān, Ṭabaqāt al-ṣūfiyya, (ed.) Pedersen, Johannes (Leiden, 1960), p. 514 .

11 al-Kharrāz, Abū Saʿīd, Rasāʾil al-Kharrāz, (ed.) al-Sāmirrāʾī, Qāsim (Baghdad, 1967), p. 29 .

12 Sarrāj, Lumaʿ, p. 368, lines 3-15.

13 Abū ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Sulamī, Ḥaqāʾiq al-tafsīr, Ms. British Museum, Oriental, 9433, 287a. Cf. Laury Silvers, “Theoretical Sufism in the Early Period: With an Introduction to the Thought of Abū Bakr al-Wāsiṭī (d. ca 320/928) on the Interrelationship between Theoretical and the Practical Sufism”, Studia Islamica 98/99 (2004), p. 82.

14 The verbal form appears in: Abū Bakr Muḥammad al-Kalābādhī, Kitāb al-taʿarruf li-madhhab ahl al-taṣawwuf, (eds.)ʿAbd al-Ḥalīm Maḥmūd and Ṭāhā Surūr (Cairo, 1960), pp. 63, 140. The nominal form appears in ibid., pp. 78, 119, 140, 141.

15 Ibid., p. 78.

16 Ibid., p. 140.

17 Ibid., pp. 140–141.

18 Böwering refers to the most famous anecdotes of this type in his article on early Sufism between persecution and heresy. See Böwering, Gerhard, “Early Sufism between Persecution and Heresy”, in Islamic Mysticism Contested: Thirteen Centuries of Controversies and Polemics, (eds.) Jong, Frederick De and Radtke, Bernd (Leiden, 1999), pp. 4567 .

19 Except for one place in which the author indicates that both verbal forms ‘jadhaba’ and ‘jabadha’ suggest the same meaning (in the chapter of fear): Qushayrī, Risāla, p. 65.

20 On this rhetorical structure of Qushayrī’s chapters in his Risāla, see, e.g., Snir, Reuven, “ Bāb al-Maḥabba (The Chapter on Love) in al-Risāla al-Qushayriyya: Rhetorical and Thematic Structure”, Israel Oriental Studies 19 (1999), pp. 131159 .

21 See Qushayrī, Risāla, p. 50.

22 Ibid.

23 See e.g., one of the famous statements of the renowned female mystic, Rābiʿa al-ʿAdawiyya of Baṣra (d. 185/801) who is reported to have said: “It is only when God grants you the ability to repent, then you repent” (“law tāba ʿalayka la-tubta”) (Qushayrī, Risāla, p. 52).

24 See Salamah-Qudsi, A., “The Everlasting Sufi: Achieving the Final Destination of the Path (intihāʾ) in the Sufi Teachings of ʿUmar al-Suhrawardī (d. 632/1234)”, Journal of Islamic Studies 22, 3 (2011), pp. 330331 .

25 al-Yāfiʿī, ʿAbd Allāh b. Asʿad Abū al-Saʿādāt, Rawḍ al-rayāḥīn fī ḥikāyāt al-ṣāliḥīn, (ed.) Rabbihi, Muḥammad al-Jādir and ʿAdnān ʿAbd (Damascus, 1995), p. 480 .

26 Ibid., p. 481.

27 See Jāmī, ʿAbd al-Raḥmān, Nafaḥāt al-uns, (ed.) Pūr, Mahdī (Tehran, 1918), p. 581 . Jāmī does not indicate al-Kurdī’s date of death.

28 See Kathīr, Abū al-Fidāʾ Ismāʿīl ibn, al-Bidāya wa-l-nihāya, (ed.) al-Lādhiqī, ʿAbd al-Raḥmān and Bayḍūn, Muḥammad (Beirut, 1999), vol. 13, p. 127 .

29 See al-Ghazzī, Najm al-Dīn Muḥammad b. Muḥammad, al-Kawākib al-sāʾira bi-aʿyān al-miʾa al-ʿāshira, (ed.) al-Manṣūr, Khalīl (Beirut, 1997), vol. 1, p. 284 .

30 Ibid., vol. 1, p. 63.

31 See Yāfiʿī, Rawḍ al-rayāḥīn, pp. 482–483.

32 See Karamustafa, Ahmet T., God's Unruly Friends: Dervish Groups in the Islamic Later Middle Period 1200-1550 (Salt Lake City, 1994), pp. 3436 .

33 Karamustafa mentions an early work which is attributed to Bābā Ṭāhir ʿAryān who died in the first half of the fifth/eleventh century. Since the word qalandar appears in this work, it might be possible to assume that qalandarī teachings entered Persian literature in the course of the late fourth/tenth century, that is before the work of Anṣārī. See Karamustafa, God's Unruly Friends, pp. 32–33.

34 See Aflākī, Shams al-Dīn Aḥmad, Manāqib al-ʿārifīn, (ed.) Yāzajī, Taḥsīn (Ankara, 1959-1961), vol. 2, p. 596 .

35 Ibid., pp. 14–17.

36 See al-Suhrawardī, Abū Ḥafṣ, ʿAwārif al-maʿārif, in al-Ghazālī, Abū Ḥāmid, Iḥyāʾ ʿulūm al-dīn (Cairo, 1967), vol. 5, p. 100 .

37 al-Jawzī, ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Ibn, Talbīs Iblīs, (eds.) al-Ḥarastānī, ʿIṣām and al-Zughlī, Muḥammad (Beirut, 1994), p. 478 .

38 al-Jawzī, Ibn, Kitāb al-mawḍūʿāt, (ed.) ʿUthmān, ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Muḥammad (Al-Madīna al-Munawwara, 1386–8/1966–8), vol. 1, p. 32 . The English translation of this quotation was made by Brown, Jonathan A. C. in his article “Even If It's Not True It's True: Using Unreliable Ḥadīths in Sunnī Islam”, Islamic Law and Society 18 (2011), p. 20 .

39 al-Kubrā, Najm al-Dīn, Die Fawāʾiḥ al-Ğamāl wa-Fawātiḥ al-Ğalāl des Naĝm ad-Dīn al-Kubrā: Eine Darstellung Mystischer Erfahrungen in Islam aus der Zeit um 1200 N. Chr., (ed.) and translated Fritz Meier (Wiesbaden, 1957), p. 91 .

40 See Gramlich, Derwischorden, vol. 2, p. 191. Kubrā’s doctrinal system in reference to the two categories of sālik and majdhūb could be deduced from his Risālat al-uṣūl al-ʿashara (“ahl al-maḥabba al-sālikīn bi-l-jadhba”): Najm al-Dīn al-Kubrā, Risālat al-uṣūl al-ʿashara, MS. Rāghib Bāshā, 1453, fol. 276b; also MS. Leiden, Or. 1294, fol. 104b. In another treatise, Risāla ilā al-hāʾim, Kubrā points out that majdhūb should not be qualified for sheikh status. See Kubrā, Fawāʾiḥ, Meier's Introduction, p. 95 referring to idem, Risāla ilā al-hāʾim, MS. Ayā Ṣūfyā, 2052, fol. 70b.

41 For Suhrawardī’s differentiation between muḥibb and maḥbūb, see also his untitled treatise, MS. Jagiellońska, 3994, fols. 45a-45b. On the terms murīd and murād, see e.g., Kalābādhī, Taʿarruf, pp. 107–108; Sarrāj, Lumaʿ, pp. 341–342.

42 Qushayrī, Risāla, p. 102.

43 ʿUmar al-Suhrawardī, Risālat al-sayr wa-l-ṭayr, MS. Jagiellońska, 3304, fols. 58b-61b; ʿAbd Allāh b. Muḥammad Najm al-Dīn Rāzī Dāya, Mirṣād al-ʿibād min al-mabdaʾ ilā l-maʿād, (ed.) Ḥusayn al-Ḥusaynī al-Niʿmatullāhī known as Shams al-ʿUrafāʾ (n.p.: Majlis, 1312 shamsī), pp. 135–136.

44 See al-Zayyāt, Yūsuf b. Yaḥyā al-Tādilī Ibn, Kitāb al-Tashawwuf ilā rijāl al-taṣawwuf wa-akhbār Abī al-ʿAbbās al-Sabtī, (ed.) al-Tawfīq, Aḥmad (Casablanca, 1997), p. 175 .

45 Ibid., p. 419. Cf. ibid, pp. 175, 229, 311, 305, 365.

46 Ibid., p. 131.

47 Ibid., p. 234.

48 Ibid., p. 354.

49 See Dols, Michael, Majnūn: The Madman in Medieval Islamic Society, (ed.) Immisch, Diana E. (Oxford, 1992), p. 376 .

50 See al-Jawzī, Abū al-Faraj ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Ibn, Ṣifat al-ṣafwa (Ḥaydarābād al-Dukn India, 1969), vol. 2, pp. 112113 .

51 According to Badeen, Edward, the editor of al-Bidlīsī’s Bahjat al-ṭāʾifa wa-ṣawm al-qalb [Zwei Mystische Schriften des ʿAmmār al-Bidlīsī] , (Beirut, 1999), the editor's introduction, p. 6.

52 Ibid., pp. 76–79.

53 Ibid., pp. 132–133.

54 See Najm al-Dīn Rāzī Dāya, Mirṣād al-ʿibāb, p. 130–131.

55 See Kathīr, Abū al-Fidāʾ Ibn, al-Bidāya wa-l-nihāya (Beirut, 1990), vol. 13, p. 196 .

56 See Karamustafa, God's Unruly Friends, p. 3.

57 See al-Turkmānī, Idrīs b. Baydakīn, al-Lumaʿ fī al-ḥawādith wa-l-bidaʿ, (ed.) Labīb, Ṣubḥī (Cairo, 1986), vol. 1, pp. 191193 .

58 See al-Zarkashī, Badr al-Dīn, Zahr al-ʿarīsh fī taḥrīm al-ḥashīsh, (ed.) Faraj, Sayyid Aḥmad (Al-Manṣūra, 1990), p. 89 .

59 See al-Maqrīzī, Taqī al-Dīn Aḥmad b. ʿAlī, Kitāb al-mawāʿiẓ wa-l-iʿtibār bi-dhikr al-khuṭaṭ wa-l-āthār (Cairo, 1987), vol. 2, p. 126 .

60 See al-Dimashqī, ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Nuʿaymī, al-Dāris fī tārīkh al-madāris, (ed.) al-Dīn, Ibrāhīm Shams (Beirut, 1990), vol. 2, p. 165 .

61 See Kāshānī, ʿIzz al-Dīn Maḥmūd, Miṣbāḥ al-hidāya wa-miftāḥ al-kifya, (ed.) Humāyī, Jalāl al-Dīn (Tehran, 2002), pp. 107114 .

62 See, for example, Shīrāzī, Muʿīn al-Dīn Abū al-Qāsim Junayd, Shadd al-izār fī ḥaṭṭ al-awzār ʿan zuwwār al-mazār, (ed.) Qazwīnī, Muḥammad and Iqbāl, ʿAbbās (Tehran, 1328 shamsī), pp. 75, 156, 189, 160.

63 Ibid., p. 75.

64 Ibid., p. 156.

65 See Jāmī, Nafaḥāt al-uns, p. 579.

66 Ibid., pp. 496–497.

67 Ibid., p. 479.

68 Ibid., p. 477.

69 See Ghazzī, Kawākib, vol. 1, p. 83.

70 Ibid., pp. 122–123.

71 Ibid., p. 163.

72 Ibid., pp. 121–122.

73 See Tahānawī, Kashshāf iṣṭilāḥāt, vol. 1, p. 970.

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