Sufism is a form of Islamic mysticism that transcends the Sunni/Shia sectarian divide. Sufis (named ‘wool-wearers’ after the traditional garb of the ascetic) can trace their origins back to a recoiling amongst devout Muslims against the worldliness and opulence of the imperial caliphates established by Islamic conquest. The precepts of Sufism were first codified by Al-Junaid in Baghdad around 900 CE. In the 12th century the forms of observance began to coalesce into distinct orders, each founded by an Islamic ‘saint’. Some of the most vibrant orders, or tariqa, formed on the outskirts of Islamic rule: the Chishtiyya in India; Yasawiyya in Turkestan, and Shuaibiyya in Morocco. Sufism was both the intellectual engine of the empire, and the vanguard of proselytization. The Qadiriyya school spread from its base in Konya to the Balkans, Chishtiyya from Ajmer throughout South Asia, and the Shadiliyya south to sub–Saharan Africa.
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