Naqshbandi Haqqani Sufi Order

Naqshbandi Haqqani Sufi Order

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The Haqqaniya is a comparatively new branch of the Naqshbandiya, an influential Sufi order (tariqa). Sufism (tasawwuf) is a form of Islamic mysticism which has had a broad impact on popular Muslim religiosity. Since its beginnings in the fourteenth century (its genuine spiritual roots reach much deeper), the Naqshbandiya has played a unique role in Islamic history.

On the multicoloured scale of Sufi religiosity, the Naqshbandi sheikhs always distinguished themselves by their loyalty to Islamic orthodoxy and their emphasis on unostentatious piousness. In this regard, the Naqshbandis are representatives of the so-called ‘mysticism of sobriety’ (tasawwuf as-sahw), a form of Sufism denying that a mystical experience can be understood as an excuse for a violation of Islamic norms.

Unlike the majority of Sufi orders, the Naqshbandis declined the spiritual heritage of the greatest mystical scholar in Islam, Muhyiddīn ibn (al-) ʻArabī, commonly (yet improperly) denoted as wahdat al-wujud (‘the unity of being’), instead of which their eminent scholar Ahmad Sirhindi (1564–1624), nicknamed Imam Rabbani (‘the divine leader’), has elaborated a doctrine called wahdat al-shuhud (‘the unity of testimony’). By doing this, the Naqshbandiya ranked themselves among the purist and most purifying streams of the Sufi movement. In the course of history, the Naqshbandis have heavily criticised extravagant (so-called ‘intoxicated’) Sufis for their allegedly non-Islamic deeds or thoughts, and their religious restraint has thus made them unshakeable guardians of the Sharia.

Like all great Sufi orders, the Naqshbandiya has split into many branches and sub-branches, taking its institutional shape within various regions and periods of the ‘world of Islam,’ some Medieval and others quite recent. The Haqqaniya, which will be the focus of our further attention in this entry, belongs among its very modern offshoots.

The following interpretation will argue that the insistence of the masters of the order that the signs of the Last Days expected in Islam are beginning just now makes the Haqqaniya a shining example of contemporary Islamic apocalypticism. As we will see, due to their emphasis on approaching destruction and a sudden change into a new era that will become utopian after a short transitional stage, their apocalyptic teaching can be categorised as millennialist. The Haqqaniya, as an example of ‘transnational Sufism,’ has already attracted the attention of several Western scholars (e.g., Nielsen, Draper, and Yemelianova 2017, 103–14). Due to its renown, the Haqqaniya could be called, with some exaggeration, the ‘flagship of Sufi millennialism.’

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The Naqshbandiya-Haqqaniya

The comparatively short history of the Naqshbandi-Haqqani (recently renamed the Naqshbandi-Nazimi) Sufi order is inseparably bound up with the personalities of its three key mystical leaders: sheikh ʻAbdullah Faʼizi (al-)Daghestani (1891–1973), who laid the spiritual foundations of the tariqa; sheikh Muhammad Nazim ʽAdil al-Haqqani (1922–2014), whose name is often stated in its original Turkish form (Şeyh Nazım) and who was responsible for the establishment of the order and its considerable spread; and, finally, sheikh Hisham Kabbani (1945–), who is currently the most well-known representative of the brotherhood and, as such, plays an important role in its ambitious missionary activities. The following interpretation will focus almost exclusively on the apocalyptic aspects of their spiritual heritage, since they were all strongly attracted to the Last Days agenda and the apocalypse was among the most frequently occurring topics of their speeches.

Sheikh (al-)Daghestani, commonly known as sheikh ʻAbdullah, was born in the Caucasian region of Daghestan, a then underdeveloped colony of the Russian Empire. In late 1890 his family emigrated to the Ottoman Empire. There, he was trained by his maternal uncle, Sufi sheikh Sharafuddin Daghestani (1875–1936), who granted him a licence (ijaza) to become an independent Naqshbandi master. The Arabic attribute ‘al-Haqqani,’ from which the order gained its designation, is an honorific name given by sheikh Daghestani to one of his most important followers, sheikh Muhammad Nazim, who is commonly regarded as the genuine founder of the tariqa. The name of sheikh ʻAbdullah is stated here in its usual Arabicized form. Despite the fact that he was not of Arab origin, he spent the first half of his life in the Ottoman Empire/Turkey and he never learnt Arabic well. However, in the second half of his life he moved to Syria, where, in 1943, he settled in a house on Mount Qasioun in Damascus. He organised his ambitious missionary activities from this house, and his name thus became known in its Arabicized form.

The chief point to be noted here is that traces of millennialism can be found at the very roots of the order since sheikh ʻAbdullah himself continuously taught that we are living in the last days of history. According to Daphne Habibis, this had been confirmed to him in a vision of the Prophet Muhammad that he had after the Second World War (Habibis 1985, 80). In this vision he was told that the Mahdi (an Islamic Redeemer) had been born in 1941 and would soon announce his arrival. Sheikh ʻAbdullah’s publicly declared revelations about the approach of the apocalyptic times and the imminent return of the Mahdi gained him some attention; however, finally, in Habibi’s succinct words, ‘when the Mahdi failed to appear over successive years, disillusionment and derision set in’ (Habibis 1985, 76). This would not be the last time the prophecy of a Haqqani spiritual authority would fail.

Some of his apocalyptic predictions have been neatly summarised by sheikh Hisham Kabbani, who has outlined in his book The Naqshbandi Sufi Way that sheikh ʻAbdullah foretold a number of crucial moments in the contemporary history of the Middle East, including the Six-Day War in 1967, the Yom Kippur War in 1973, and the civil war in Lebanon in 1975. Of those of his prophecies which have yet to be fulfilled, Kabbani has listed the following items: England will convert to Islam, with a member of a royal family in Europe supporting Islam; China will be under the authority of a great saint who ‘will be one of the greatest saints in the time of Mahdi and Jesus’ and who will influence the brokering of peace between China and the West; a non-Arab Middle East country will attack the Persian Gulf; Cairo will sink under water and Mount Olympus near Bursa will erupt; there will be a war in the Gulf area, where ‘a huge fire will arise and involve the rest of the world’; Germany and England will lead the whole of Europe and a hidden saint will develop the spirituality of the people of Europe; there will be peace between the Arabs and Israel, brokered by America; Communism will collapse, splintering the Russian empire, leaving America as the sole world power, and peace will spread throughout the world; Turkey will be attacked leading to ‘a great disaster on earth and a horrible war’; the Mahdi will rise, Jesus will return, and ‘love and happiness and peace will fill this earth’ (Kabbani 2004, 456–57).

The independent existence of the Haqqaniya with its current institutional framework starts after 1973, when sheikh Nazim was appointed by his teacher sheikh Daghestani as his successor. Afterwards Nazim commenced his ambitious religious mission both in the Middle East and in the West, to which he paid special attention. Results of his Western orientation came rapidly, since it is in the West where we find, in terms of the vitality of the order, the key communities, even though the spiritual centre remains in Lefke in Northern Cyprus, where Nazim lived. Under his charismatic leadership, the Haqqaniya has become one of the most dynamic and successful Sufi missions, since the order has extended its influence across many different regions.

This is the reason why Haqqanis are so often labelled as an example of ‘transnational Sufism.’ At present, there are thousands of active converts in the United States and Western Europe, and communities in Argentina, Malaysia, and Indonesia are also important (Křížek 2013, 184). The Haqqaniya often used to be presented as a successful combination of a traditional message with modern technologies. In fact, they were pioneers among Sufis in using the internet for their missionary and educational activities. Nonetheless, the authorities of the tariqa commonly emphasise that the Haqqaniya (both as a teaching and as a social formation) represents the traditional or orthodox interpretation of Islam, firmly based on the foundation of strict observance of Sharia and prophetic Sunnah.

What might have been highlighted as the main feature of Haqqani apocalypticism is the fact that all three of the leaders mentioned above complemented each other in creating a consistent and meaningful ‘scenario’ related to the portents of the Hour (al-saʻa), which is what Muslims poetically call the end of the daily world (al-dunya) and the beginning of the eschatological era (al-akhira). Meanwhile, sheikh Daghestani announced a set of impressive yet still fragmentary End-time prophecies and sheikh Nazim (whose apocalypticism will be discussed in the following section) elaborated a ‘travel map’ of the Last Days, including all the key components of the traditional Muslim apocalyptic arsenal.

Later, sheikh Kabbani (as we shall see) further enriched Nazim’s interpretations by his own accentuation of some particular aspects, due to which we can justly speak, in his particular case, about an ‘apocalypse as battlefield.’ This is because his instrumentalization of the End-time prophecies also involves his resistance to extremism in Islam, particularly his fierce rhetoric against Salafists. So, we could preliminarily conclude that in the case of the Haqqaniya, we are dealing not only with some partial apocalyptic aspects of its spiritual mentors but with an apocalyptic teaching in the real meaning of this phrase.

In the Haqqani self-presentation, apocalypse is, quite surprisingly, regarded as an inseparable part of the order’s traditionalist image. As David Damrel has aptly summarised in his pioneering article A Sufi Apocalypse:

the Naqshbandi-Haqqani order is virtually alone among contemporary Sunni groups in its accent on the Mahdi, the signs of the Hour and the End of this world. By virtue of their mystical visions, status and insights, the Haqqani sheikhs claim deep insight into the unfolding events of the imminent last days. (…) For the Haqqani sheikhs, however, mystical illumination allows no confusion about the proper understanding of the traditional Sunni sources – the Dajjal [i.e., the rival of the Mahdi and Jesus in the Islamic Eschatology, the Muslim Antichrist] and the Mahdi are presently alive, Armageddon is imminent, and vast, profound changes loom in the world. In 1992, sheikh Hisham assured his listeners: ‘We are the only group expecting Mahdi and Jesus coming very soon. We are on the right track. We have met them.’ Moreover, the sheikhs maintain a visionary spiritual connection with the two figures. ‘What I am telling you is according to true vision, not vague or imagined. Mahdi and Jesus are among you.’ (Damrel 1999, 1)

In her unpublished PhD thesis devoted to the End-time heritage of sheikh Nazim, Rhiannon Conner characterised the legitimacy of the apocalyptic teachings in the Haqqaniya as:

built on appeals to a complex web of authorities including the hadith, Ibn Arabi, the Mahdi, sheikh Daghestani, and sheikh Nazim’s own visionary experience. However, the appeal to these authorities is only made possible because of the authority of the charismatic sheikh, established outside of the apocalyptic teachings, particularly the belief sheikh Nazim has special knowledge to interpret, insight into the future, and the power to meet with hidden authorities. The Haqqaniyya thus present an example of authority in apocalypticism that is neither entirely charismatic nor entirely routinized. Nazim draws on traditional, respected sources, but the key to making them relevant is in his charisma. (Conner 2015, 258)

To summarise, millennialism is a theme that shines through the Haqqani teachings of the last four decades. The order’s consistent interest in the Mahdi, and the ‘Signs of the Hour’ (ʻalamat al-saʻa), i.e., the portents of the End, is exceptional among contemporary Sunni mystical brotherhoods, as has already been noted by a number of Western scholars (see Current State of Research). Moreover, within the Western context, the order has been able to unite traditional Sunni ideas related to the Last Days with the millennial expectations of a new generation of European and American converts to Islam associated with Western religious imaginations.

Simply put, millennialism thus remains a signature theme for the order and the Haqqani masters profess deep understanding of the imminent ‘Last days of the world’ (Nielsen, Draper, and Yemelianova 2017, 121).

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Sheikh Nazim and His ‘Apocalyptic Travel Map’

Before we outline sheikh Nazim’s apocalyptic teachings, a brief biographical remark is required. His full name was Muhammad (or Mehmet, in Turkish) Nazim ʻAdil al-Qubrusi al-Haqqani al-Naqshbandi. Born in April 1922 in Larnaca, Cyprus (Qubrus, in Arabic), to a family with a significant Sufi heritage, he was active in both Turkish and Arabic language contexts. In 1940 he moved to Istanbul, where he studied Chemical Engineering. After his degree, Nazim became a disciple of sheikh Daghestani in Damascus in 1945. Seven years later, he returned to Damascus and married a daughter of his teacher, Hajja Amina ʻAdil. Shortly before sheikh Daghestani’s death in 1974, Nazim was appointed as his successor and was instructed to go to England to propagate his religious message. From there, his spiritual influence spread to other parts of Europe, especially after 1990 when he instructed his son-in-law sheikh Kabbani to expand the Haqqani presence in the United States. In the final years of his long life, sheikh Nazim based himself in Lefke (north Cyprus), with Hisham Kabbani taking over the role of the ‘travelling sheikh.’ Sheikh Nazim died in 2014.

As already indicated, within the contemporary Sufi context Nazim’s intensive engagement in apocalyptic speculation in general and his repeated attempts to date the Mahdi’s redemptive coming in particular have become a noticeably pioneering approach and, as such, have attracted the attention of Muslim observers as well as non-Muslim scholars. Apocalyptic elements manifest themselves in his various writings and speeches (see Further Reading below). For instance, in his collected lectures delivered during his stay in Switzerland entitled Mystical Secrets of the Last Days, Nazim extensively discusses Armageddon, the Antichrist and, above all, the coming of the Mahdi and the return of Jesus (ʻIsa). By ‘Armageddon,’ he understands a devastating global war between East and West, in which the East will finally be defeated. The Antichrist is, in his opinion, already physically present on the earth, albeit imprisoned on an unknown island. The alleged purpose of Armageddon is ‘to separate the chaff from the wheat, since those denying the existence of the Creator and cruel or envious people will pass away. Meanwhile, genuine believers and good-doers will survive’ (Nazim 1994, 53).

Nazim’s considerations about the final war include particular geopolitical expectations related to the Middle East and succinctly depicted in his apocalyptic visions:

The Mahdi is going to appear after 101 hindrances. (…) Now only two of them are remaining. (…) One of them was that the red-coloured people came to Afghanistan. They will then go to Pakistan and then to Turkey. They must come to Turkey. They will come up to Amuq [correctly (al-)Aʻmaq, literally ‘depths,’ a locality of crucial importance in the classical Muslim apocalyptic traditions] near Aleppo at the west of Aleppo. The plain of Amuq will be the place of the great slaughter. So that is the first sign, Russians coming to Turkey. (…) After this, World War III will come. It is impossible for the end of the world to come until the whole world will be in two big camps. It will be eastern and western military camps and there will be the greatest fighting between them. (Nazim 1994, 126–27)

Clearly, as Nazim foretold that the coming of the Mahdi would take place sometime in the two-year period following 1990 (Nazim 1994, 127), his vision now has to be regarded as an illustrative example of a failed prophecy (neither the first nor the last).

In fact, sheikhs Nazim and Hisham both attempted to count down to the End (which is, in Islam, generally considered a deplorable practice) several times, always according to the Gregorian (and not the Hijri) calendar, and they also offered (and afterwards revised) several starting dates for their ‘Last Days’—in 1987, 1989, 1991, 1993, and 2000. The last one was the most widely discussed. However, Nazim’s chief contribution to the Sufi ‘apocalyptic treasury’ has been not his dating of the End, but his linkage of specific geopolitical expectations with the End-time context. In this respect, he has significantly contributed to the creation of what could figuratively be called an ‘ecumenical apocalypse’ since he has employed broadly shared apocalyptic vocabulary, including the redemptory descent of Jesus, in order to emphasise how Islam can be, in Damrel’s apt words, ‘vital to the lives of even their non-Muslim listeners’ (Damrel 1999, 1).

As the dating of the End according to a Christian calendar has already indicated, the chief point to be made here is that Nazim’s millennial scenario consists not only of the traditional (i.e., Muslim) apocalyptic predictions and expectations but also of numerous Western (i.e., non-Islamic) ‘borrowings.’ This significant aspect of Nazim’s imagination became fully manifested in his rhetoric preceding the year 2000 CE, which made no reference to Islam. Dealing with ‘Western aspects’ in Nazim’s End-time expectations, perhaps one of the most interesting elements is his conviction that technology will be removed. This is, of course, not present in classical Islamic apocalypticism, but currently it is relevant to popular Muslim apocalypses.

Instead of the scattered visions and fragmentary predictions of his mentor, Nazim was able to offer a coherent ‘apocalyptic scenario,’ connecting otherwise heterogeneous End-time events and motives into a meaningful ‘travel map to the future.’ Incidentally, Nazim’s interpretation includes, among other things, remarkable details related to the Mahdi’s arrival that have been succinctly summarised by Daphne Habibis. The Mahdi should appear in the Muslim month of Muharram in Qadam in Syria together with imam ʻAli, 12,000 of his descendants, and Nazim’s deceased teacher sheikh Daghestani. Then the world will enter a new era in which supernatural events will be commonplace. The Mahdi will make the call to prayer and as a result the war will miraculously end because the instruments of war will cease to function. At the same time, all those who believe in God will find themselves gathered in Damascus whilst all unbelievers will be filled with tremendous fear. At this time, Nazim himself, according to his own statements, will simultaneously stand in three places at once: Nelson’s Column in London, the Statue of Liberty in New York, and the Kremlin in Moscow, where he will make the call to prayer (Habibis 1989, 225–27).

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Hisham Kabbani and His ‘Apocalyptic Battlefield’

The apocalyptic fervour of the Haqqaniya survived not only the failed prophecies related to the year 2000 but also the death of sheikh Nazim in 2014. In fact, his apocalypticism has been developed and considerably enriched by his successor, Muhammad Hisham Kabbani. Born in 1945, Kabbani is an influential Lebanese-American Sufi scholar, currently based in Fenton (Michigan), who has been responsible for the spreading of the Haqqaniya in the West. Apart from his preoccupation with apocalypse, he has become renowned mainly for his struggle against extremist tendencies within Islam.

In his tireless combat against Muslim radicalism, Kabbani has also employed an ‘apocalyptic weapon.’ In his book The Approach of Armageddon? he used End-time prophecies as proof of the soundness of his own interpretation of Islam as well as the heresy of his rivals. The chief point to be made here concerning the ‘apocalypse as battlefield’ is that the very phenomenon of what could be called ‘Sufi Mahdism’ might be, at least in part, simply a reaction to Salafism, as Timothy Furnish has suggested (Furnish 2015, 203).

Essentially, the rivalry between Sufis and Salafists constitutes one of the most dramatic aspects of today’s Islamic discourse. The resistance of sheikh Kabbani to Wahhabism, projected onto his particular visions of the approaching End, is just one of many examples. This sort of Islamic purism belongs—according to him—among those minor portents of the Hour that are currently being fulfilled as part of the destruction of Islamic pluralism. Today’s Salafists are thus interpreted as the fulfilment of prophecies about appearance of the khawarij (dissenters), whose most distinguishing feature, as highlighted by Kabbani, will be, in fact, their takfirism (takfir refers to the act of declaring another Muslim to be a non-believer, kafir).

Of course, the comparison between these historic groups, Wahhabites and Kharijites, has had a long tradition within Sunni discourse over the last two centuries and sheikh Kabbani was definitely not the first to utilise it. Kabbani’s original contribution, however, was to shift the propagandistic attacks against Wahhabis into an ‘apocalyptic arena,’ using allegedly fulfilled portents of the End as irreversible proof of his anti-Wahhabi mission.

Many extracts from his book clearly demonstrate the extent of his anti-Wahhabi apocalyptic preoccupation. For example:

The Khawarij of today are the followers of the Wahhabi/“Salafi” sect. They are actively promoting the falsehood of their cult with [a] massive propaganda campaign whether by speakers in mosques, via the Internet, on television, or through the massive distribution of videos, newspapers, books, magazines, and pamphlets. All the while they are suppressing and concealing the truths of mainstream classical Islamic teaching, conspiring to silence anyone who speaks against their extremism. (Kabbani 2003, 163–64)

From Kabbani’s perspective, those Muslims who firmly adhere to the Tradition will be, during the final phase of history, condemned because of their allegedly non-Islamic innovations. The converse is also true—namely, that the innovators and charlatans will be praised as the genuine protectors of the faith. Such a period, according to Kabbani, has already arrived. A Wahhabi presence, in his opinion, can also be detected in other apocalyptic signs—for example, the prophecy regarding the destruction of Medina (deliberately referred to by its original pre-Islamic name, Yathrib). In his interpretation, the city’s hasty modernisation, which has recently been undertaken by the Saudi authorities without regard for its traditional values, should be read as its devastation (Kabbani 2003, 171).

However, Islam, as Kabbani often highlights, was perfect at the time it was revealed, and there should thus be no reason to work for its ‘improvement.’ The supposed ‘purification of the original spirit of Islam,’ so loudly proclaimed by Wahhabi propaganda, would actually entail the destruction of genuine Islamic scholarship, i.e., its reductionist misinterpretation.

The devastating impact of the Wahhabis was, once again, addressed in Kabbani’s exegesis on the ‘spiritual dismantlement of the Kaʽba.’ The corresponding tradition narrates that the soldiers of al-Habashi (the Abyssinian), an apocalyptic warrior, will capture the Kaʽba and remove it stone by stone in order to throw it into the Red Sea. Then, the religion of Islam is expected to cease to exist. Kabbani suggests this reading: ‘The Kaʽba is the focal point from whence Islam originated. Unfortunately, the physical structure of the building is all that remains today from that time. (…) The Wahhabi sect has also dismantled the ideological foundations of Islam and destroyed the Kaʽba’s essence, which is the authentic understanding and teaching of Islam’ (Kabbani 2003, 249).

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Concluding Remarks

The fundamental features of the apocalypticism of the Haqqani leaders can now be summarised. To start from the most general diagnosis, Nazim’s apocalyptic narratives fit a classical definition of millenarianism as defined by Norman Cohn in his seminal book The Pursuit of the Millennium. This means that Nazim’s apocalypse foresees a complete reordering of the world (making it ‘total’), that nobody will be exempt from judgement (making it ‘collective’), that it will happen on earth more or less in this mode of history (making it ‘terrestrial’), and that it is, as far as we can tell from the literature and his disciples, to happen soon.

The high proportion of non-Islamic segments in the Haqqani End-time narratives, which is their second distinguishing characteristic, led to the admonishment of the Haqqani sheiks by some Islamic authorities. Ignoring such criticism of their prophecies, the sheikhs continue to selectively share their foreknowledge of coming events and mix Muslim eschatological motifs with their own interpretations, including many ‘Western borrowings.’

The ability to draw eternal meaning from the chaos of the ephemeral world may be the most powerful lure of their apocalypticism. Both Nazim and Kabbani speak easily of Armageddon and World War III, the Antichrist and the Saviour, in their discussions with Muslims and non-Muslims in the West. Although all the points they mention could have an Islamic provenance, they are also familiar to Western audiences. This can make the apocalyptic message, which remains an important part of Haqqani teaching even after the turn of the millennium, more convincing.

However, there are sufficient reasons to believe that the boom of the apocalyptic ethos spread by the Haqqaniya is past its prime. The impact of millennialism on the supporters of the order is generally seen as problematic. Meanwhile, in some regions, the succession of failed prophecies has led to disillusionment and disappointment—specifically in Lebanon, according to field research conducted by Daphne Habibis (Habibis 1989, 221–40). Elsewhere, Haqqani millennialism has acted as ‘social cement’ and provided an appropriate lens through which a complicated world can be perceived. This is particularly true of Indonesia, where—according to research conducted by Lutfi Makhasin—‘millennialism is becoming an integral part of the Islamic resurgence’ (Makhasin 2018, 14).

In any case, the ‘End-time issues’ have still not disappeared from the public presentations of the Haqqani spiritual leaders, which might lead us to the conclusion that the final chapter of their apocalypticism has yet to be written.

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Current State of Research and Further Reading

When briefly sketching out the current state of research, we should first note that the Naqshbandiya-Haqqaniya is one of the most researched Sufi orders in the West. The End-time aspects of sheikh Nazim’s teaching have been elaborated not only by Muslim observers but also by a number of scholars, among them David Damrel (“Aspects of the Naqshbandi-Haqqani Order in North America”; “A Sufi Apocalypse”), Ron Geaves (“The Haqqani Naqshbandis: A Study of Apocalyptic Millennialism within Islam”), Daphne Habibis (“Mahdism in a Branch of a Contemporary Naqshbandi Order in Lebanon”), and Jorgen Nielsen, Mustafa Draper, and Galina Yemelianova (“Transnational Sufism: The Haqqaniyya”). Dealing with Nazim’s apocalypticism, the unpublished PhD thesis of Rhiannon Conner, “From Amuq to Glastonbury: Situating the Apocalypticism of Shaykh Nazim and the Naqshbandi-Haqqaniyya,” should be noted here for its impressive scope as well as its effort to achieve a deeper contextualisation of the movement.

For an up-to-date introduction, see Weismann’s The Naqhshbandiyya: Orthodoxy and Activism in a Worldwide Sufi Tradition, which extends to the contemporary period and includes an extensive bibliography. Indeed, the scholarly literature in this field is so vast that producing a comprehensive review would be a project in itself. There have been numerous articles and books dedicated to the order and its various local branches—for example, Naqshbandis in Western and Central Asia (Ozdalga). The exploration of charisma and sainthood is also a popular topic in Naqshbandi studies, as may be seen, for example, in Pilgrims of Love (Werbner).

It should be unnecessary to add that no serious study of Haqqani apocalypticism is possible without the Haqqani primary sources, including the books of sheikhs Nazim and Kabbani or miscellaneous records of their lectures, suhbats, some of which are available in written form and others as audio-recordings. Moreover, the Haqqaniya is highly visible on the internet. Besides official webpages, there are many unofficial Haqqani websites devoted to Nazim’s teaching. For example, presents transcriptions of his public speeches in English and German and electronic copies of a number of the Haqqani publications, which are also available in print.

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Conner, Rhiannon. 2015. “From Amuq to Glastonbury: Situating the Apocalypticism of Shaykh Nazim and the Naqshbandi-Haqqaniyya.” PhD thesis, University of Exeter.

Damrel, David. 1999. “A Sufi Apocalypse.” SIM Newsletter 1 (4): 1–4. Retrieved from

Damrel, David W. 2017. “Aspects of the Naqshbandi-Haqqani Order in North America.” In Sufism in the West, edited by Jamal Malik and John Hinnels, 115–26. London: Routledge.

Furnish, Timothy. 2015. Ten Years’ Captivation with the Mahdi’s Camps: Essays on Muslim Eschatology, 2005–2015. n.p.: Timothy Furnish.

Geaves, Ron. 2001. “The Haqqani Naqshbandis: A Study of Apocalyptic Millennialism within Islam.” In Faith in the Millennium, Roehampton Papers, No. 7, edited by Stanley Porter, Michael Hayes and David Tombs, 215-231 215-231. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.

Habibis, Daphne. 1985. “A Comparative Study of the Workings of a Branch of the Naqshbandi Sufi Order in Lebanon and the UK.” PhD thesis, University of London.

Habibis, Daphne. 1989. “Millenarianism and Mahdism in Lebanon.” European Journal of Sociology 30 (2): 221–40.

Habibis, Daphne. 1990. “Mahdism in a Branch of a Contemporary Naqshbandi Order in Lebanon.” In Naqshbandis, edited by Marc Gaborieau, Alexandre Popovic, and Thierry Zarcone, 597–614. Istanbul: Edition Isis.

Kabbani, Hisham. 2003. The Approach of Armageddon? An Islamic Perspective. Fenton: Islamic Supreme Council of America.

Kabbani, Hisham. 2004. The Naqshbandi Sufi Way: History and Guidebook of the Saints of the Golden Chain. Chicago: Kazi Publications.

Křížek, Daniel. 2013. “Millennialism in Sufi Perspective: The Case of Naqshbandiyya Haqqaniyya.” In Millennialism: Expecting the End of the World in the Past and Present, edited by Zdeněk Vojtíšek, 183–94. Prague: Dingir.

Makhasin, Lutfi. 2018. “Millenarianism and Islamic Resurgence: Exploring the Intertwining of Religious Belief and Politics in Contemporary Indonesia.” Review of Islam in Southeast Asia 1 (1): 1–16.

Nazim, Muhammad. 1994. Mystical Secrets of the Last Days. Chicago: Kazi Publications.

Nielsen, Jorgen, Mustafa Draper, and Galina Yemelianova. 2017. “Transnational Sufism: The Haqqaniyya.” In Sufism in the West, edited by Jamal Malik and John Hinnels, 103–14. London: Routledge.

Ozdalga, Elisabeth. Naqshbandis in Western and Central Asia. London: Routledge.

Weismann, Itzchak. 2007. The Naqhshbandiyya: Orthodoxy and Activism in a Worldwide Sufi Tradition. London: Routledge.

Werbner, Pnina. 2004. Pilgrims of Love: The Anthropology of a Global Sufi Cult. London: Hurst.

© Bronislav Ostřanský 2021

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Bronislav Ostřanský. 2021. "Naqshbandi Haqqani Sufi Order." In James Crossley and Alastair Lockhart (eds.) Critical Dictionary of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements. 4 November 2021. Retrieved from

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144,000 refers to a belief in an elect group, often at end times or in an imminent transformation of the world. The usage typically derives from the book of Revelation. In Revelation 7:1–8, 144,000 refers to the twelve tribes of Israel who have the seal of God on their foreheads. They are also presented as virgins, blameless, ‘redeemed from the earth’, and expected to sing a new song at Mount Zion (Revelation 14:1–5).


In popular usage, 'apocalypticism' refers to a belief in the likely or impending destruction of the world (or a general global catastrophe), usually associated with upheaval in the social, political, and religious order of human society—often referred to as an/the 'apocalypse'. Historically, the term has had religious connotations and the great destruction has traditionally been seen as part of a divine scheme, though it is increasingly used in secular contexts. See the Apocalypticism article for a more detailed discussion.


In popular use, ‘Armageddon’ involves ideas of great cataclysmic events or conflict. The term has long been used to refer to a future battle or ongoing war at the end of time or civilization, whether understood generally as a cataclysmic final battle or specifically as a battle at a place called Megiddo (a location in modern Israel), or a more flexible understanding of Megiddo as a coded reference to an alternative location. ‘Armageddon’ derives from the book of Revelation where it appears just once (Revelation 16:16) with reference to the location of a great cosmic battle associated with the end times. See the Armageddon article for a more detailed discussion.

Beast of the Apocalypse

In popular terms, the 'Beast' or the 'Beast of the Apocalypse' refer generally to a violent and destructive creature that emerges at end times. Such understandings of an end-time beast or beasts derive from the book of Revelation (also called the The Apocalypse) and its long and varied history of interpretation. Revelation refers to 'beasts' on different occasions, including beasts in opposition to God: one emerging from the sea or a pit (Revelation 11:7; 13:1; 17:8; cf. Daniel 7), one from the earth (Revelation 13:11), and another scarlet in colour (Revelation 17:3). The beast from the earth is also associated with the number 666 (alternatively: 616) (Revelation 13:18) and Revelation 19:20 claims that the beast will 'thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur' (New Revised Standard Version).


‘Eschatology’ concerns the study of end times and is derived from the Greek term ἔσχατος (eschatos), meaning ‘final, ‘last’, ‘end’, etc. Eschatology is a label that can incorporate a cluster of related beliefs which differ according to tradition (e.g., end of the world, resurrection, regeneration, Day of Judgment, Antichrist).

Kingdom of God

In the Bible, the ‘Kingdom of God’ (sometimes synonymous with the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’) refers to notions of ruling and kingship which are often understood to have a spatial or territorial dimension, whether in heaven or on earth. According to the book of Daniel, such ‘kingdom’ language is used to describe the claim that God rules the universe eternally (Daniel 4:34) but will also intervene in human history to establish a kingdom for his people (Daniel 2:44). According to the Gospels, Jesus predicted the coming Kingdom of God or Heaven and these predictions have been influential in the history of speculations about end times or the benefits of the kingdom being experienced in a present time and place. Across different traditions, such language has also been used to describe communities deemed holy or places deemed sacred, as well as being understood with reference to personal or ‘spiritual’ transformation.


Messianism refers to ideas about a redeemer figure or figures who transform the fortunes of a given people or the world as a whole. The term ‘Messiah’ is derived from the Hebrew משיח (mashiach), meaning ‘anointed one’. In the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, it is a term used to denote people such as kings, priests and prophets anointed to carry out their duties on behalf of God. In early Judaism, the term took on a more precise meaning as a future redeemer figure, including a king in the line of David. New Testament texts made such clams about Jesus where a Greek equivalent of the Hebrew, Χριστός (christos), became part of his name: Jesus Christ.


In popular and academic use, the term ‘millenarianism’ is often synonymous with the related terms ‘millennialism’, ‘chiliasm’ and ‘millenarism’. They refer to an end-times Golden Age of peace, on earth, for a long period, preceding a final cataclysm and judgement—sometimes referred to as the 'millennium'. The terms are used to describe both millenarian belief and the persons or social groups for whom that belief is central. ‘Millennialism’ or ‘chiliasm’ are chronological terms derived from the Latin and Greek words for ‘thousand’. They are commonly used to refer to a thousand-year period envisaged in the book of Revelation (20:4–6) during which Christ and resurrected martyrs reign prior to the final judgment. More recently the terms have been used to refer to secular formulas of salvation, from political visions of social transformation to UFO movements anticipating globally transformative extra-terrestrial intervention. See the Millenarianism article for a more detailed discussion.


‘Prophecy’ can be broadly understood as a cross-cultural phenomenon involving claims of supernatural or inspired knowledge transmitted or interpreted by an authoritative recipient, intermediary, or interpreter labelled a ‘prophet’. The term is also used in a more general and secular way to refer to individuals who simply predict or prognosticate future events, or those leading principled causes or in pursuit of a particular social or political vision without any special association with inspired or supernatural insight. The language of ‘prophet’ and ‘prophecy’ in English derives from the Greek προφητης (prophētēs) found in the Greek translations of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and in the New Testament. See the Prophets and Prophecy article for a more detailed discussion.

Son of Man

‘Son of man’ simply means ‘man’ in biblical Hebrew and Aramaic and is a title for Jesus in the Greek New Testament. While the ancient idiom is gendered, some scholars prefer to bring out the generic implications and reflect inclusive language today in their English translations (e.g., 'son of a human being', 'son of humanity'). The phrase sometimes took on a more titular function before Jesus because of the book of Daniel. In Daniel 7, Daniel is said to have had a vision of four destructive beasts representing four kingdoms and who stand in contrast to a human-like figure—‘one like a son of man’. The ‘Ancient of Days’ then takes away the power of the beasts and Daniel sees ‘one like a son of man’ approaching, ‘coming with the clouds of heaven’ (Daniel 7:13; New International Version). Daniel 7 claims that this ‘son of man’ figure will be given ‘authority, glory and sovereign power’, ‘all peoples’ will worship him, and his kingdom will be everlasting. The precise identification of the ‘one like a son of man’ in Daniel 7:13 is not made explicit and there has been a long history of identification with a variety of candidates in apocalyptic and millenarian movements, sometimes without reference to the book of Daniel.


‘Zion’ is an alternative name for Jerusalem and the ‘city of David’ (2 Samuel 5:7; 1 Kings 8:1; 1 Chronicles 11:5; 2 Chronicles 5:2), though it is also used with reference to Israel. Zion can also refer to ‘Mount Zion’, a hill located in Jerusalem which was the site of the Jewish Temple (destroyed 70 CE) and is the site of the al-Aqsa Mosque. Zion and Mount Zion are sometimes interpreted as coded references to an alternative geographical location or to something ‘spiritual’ and otherworldly. In some religious traditions, Zion plays a central role in expectations about end times or the benefits associated with end times being fulfilled in the present.