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Najmuddin Kubra

Najmuddīn-e Kubrā (Persian: نجم‌الدین کبری‎‎) or Najm al-Din Kubra, (Shaykh Abū al-Jannāb Ahmad ibn ‘Umar) was a 13th-century Persian Sufi from Khwarezmia, the founder of the Kubrawiyya or Kubraviyah Sufi order, influential in the Ilkhanid and Timurid. His method, exemplary of a "golden age" of Sufi metaphysics, was related to the Illuminationism of Shahab al-Din Suhrawardi as well as to Rumi's Shams Tabrizi.[1] Kubra was born in 540/1145 and died in 618/1221.[2]


  • Biography 1
  • His Work 2
  • The Kubraviyah (His Order) 3
  • His Disciples 4
  • Future Evidence 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7


Born in 540/1145, in Konye-Urgench, al-din Kubra began his career as a scholar of hadith and kalam. His interest in Sufism began in Egypt where he became a murid of Shaykh Ruzbihan Baghli Shirazi, who was an initiate of the Oveisy order. After years of study, he abandoned his exploration of the religious sciences and devoted himself entirely to the Sufi way of life. Sufi shaikh Zia-Al-Din-'Ammar Bītlīsî was Kubra's teacher, who tried to present Sufi thought in a new way to provide contemplation and influence for the reader.[3] After receiving his khirka, Kubra gained a large following of gnostics and writers on Sufism.[4] Because his followers are predominantly Sufi writers and gnostics, Kubra was given the title "manufacturer of saints" and his order was named the Kubraviyah.[4] Kubra's main body of works concerns the analysis of the visionary experience. He wrote numerous important works discussing the visionary experience, including a Sufi commentary on the Qu'ran that he was unable to complete due to his death in 618/1221. Kubra died during the Mongol conquest and genocide after refusing to leave his city, where he fought in hand-to-hand combat against the Mongols.[4] Overall, Kubra is remembered as a pioneer of the Sufi tradition and explanation of spiritual visionary experiences. Kubra's work spread throughout the Middle East and Central Asia where it flourished for many years, until it gradually was taken over by other similar more popular ideologies and Sufi leaders. Another version of his death was narrated by Tarikh-e-Soheili ""The master was old and half blind but he refused the grant of Mongols for his own life only and asked the invaders to leave, when the Mongols entered the city he was standing in the main square and had stones in his lap while throwing them on Mongols"

His Work

In addition to his work centering around the Sufi commentary of the Qu'ran, Kubra wrote other important treatises including:[4]

  • Fawa'ih al-djamal wa-fawatih al-djalal
  • Usul al- 'ashara
  • Risalat al-kha'if al-ha'im min lawmat al-la'im

His works discuss the analysis of dreams and visions, such as the "significance of dreams and visions, the degrees of luminous epiphany that are manifested to the mystic, the different classes of concept and image that engage his attention, and the nature and interrelations of man's 'subtle centres.'"[4] The interpretation and understanding of dreams was important because Muhammad had developed the Islamic faith based on dreams and visions, so the Qu'ran was seen as a visionary text. The Kubraviya order were avid practitioners of seeking the meaning of visions through ritual performances and meditation. Kubra, being the manufacturer of saints, led him to analyze popular dream episodes from Muslim hagiographical works, and his disciples would follow in his analysis of these well known and important works.[5]

The Kubraviyah (His Order)

The Kubraviya was Kubra's Sufi order, focusing on explaining the visionary experience. The influence of the Kubraviya can be seen on the Islamic world as a whole because of its relationship to the strong influence of Shi'ism in Iran.[6] The Kubraviya was not largely popular until after Kubra's death in the 13th century. The Kubraviya found great development outside of Central Asia, but its influence and presence only lasted till the 15th/16th century, when it was overshadowed by the Naqshbandiya (another, more attractive Sufi group) during the Ottoman Empire, though a nominal following continued on. Before this occurred, the order split after the leadership of Isḥāḳ al-Khuttalānī (d. 1423) into the Nurbakshiyya and the Dhahabiyya. The former were eventually persecuted under the Safavids in the later 16th century, whereas the latter survives presently with Shiraz as its centre.[7]

The Kubraviya's influence in Central Asia established many political, social, and economic activities there, but the Naqshbandiyah developed these ideas to their fullest potential. The Kubraviya's main teaching was a "well-developed mystical psychology based on the analysis of the visionary experience."[8] They focused on explaining the spiritual visionary experiences that Sufis underwent in everyday life. Their largest concern was the total focus on the zikr as a means of allowing for the perception of spiritual visions.[8] Today, the Kubraviyah is almost non-existent, but groups such as the Naqshbandiyyah and Yasawiyyah continue to practice similar Sufi rituals and ideas about analyzing spiritual visions.

His Disciples

Among his twelve students one can mention Najmeddin Razi, Sayfeddin Bakhezri, Majd al-Dīn Baghdādī, Ali ibn lala ghznavi[9] and Baha'uddin Walad, father of Jalaluddin Rumi. However, one of his most well-known and influential disciples though was Sa'd al-Din Hamuwayi. Kubra informed Hamuwayi to leave the city in which they resided with the impending Mongol invasion on the horizon. However, Hamuwayi stayed with Kubra and received his ijaza from him, which shows his favorable reputation with the Sufi Master, as not only a student, but as a friend. Hamuwayi wrote over thirty important manuscripts and other works concerning the work of Kubra, and the influence of the Kubraviyah.[10]

Future Evidence

Today, the practices of the Kubrawiyya are similar to certain Tibetan Sufi yoga rituals, which allow the practitioners to focus on prayer, fasting, seclusion, and entry into visionary states. The focus on visionary states allows the practice of yoga to be attributed to the influence of the Kubraviyah. The concentration attributed to yoga is a way to connect to the divine in a spiritual way, and Kubra himself said "the mystical traveller will similarly sense the generation of lights from the whole of his body and the veil will possibly be withdrawn from the entire selfhood, so that with all of the body you will see the All!"[11] The physical action of yoga will help one to see the All (God) through dreams, visions, and experiences. In a modern attempt to explain the connection of the divine through yoga, they attribute another quote of Kubra saying "The light that is derived from God's lights and witnessed by the heart serves to make God known to the heart: He makes Himself known by means of Himself."[11] These two groups show similar spiritual experiences such as total isolation which invokes a connection with the divine seen in accounts by both parties.[11] Overall, the connection between these two groups can largely be attributed to the spread of the Kubraviyah's ideologies in the 15th century, and Tibetan yoga practices attest to the widespread nature of the Kubraviyah, and therefore the teachings of Kubra himself.

See also


  1. ^ Henry Corbin, "History of Islamic Philosophy" and "En Islam Iranien".
  2. ^ See Algar, Hamid, the Encyclopedia of Islam, 2nd Edition, Brill
  3. ^ Badeen, Edward (1989). Auszuge aus "Ammar al-Bidlisis Bahgat at-ta'ifa und Sawm al-qalb. Basel. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Algar, Hamid (2011). Kubra, Shaykh Abu 'l-Djannab Ahmad b. 'Umar Nadjm al-Din. Brill Online. 
  5. ^ Green, Nile (November 2003). "The Religious and Cultural Roles of Dreams and Visions in Islam". Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 13 (3): 287–313.  
  6. ^ Algar, Hamid (Winter–Spring 1974). "Some Observations on Religion in Safavid Persia". Iranian Studies 7 (1/2): 287–293.  
  7. ^ Algar, H. "Kubra". Encyclopaedia of Islam. Retrieved 2013-04-26. 
  8. ^ a b DeWeese, Devin (1988). "The Eclipse of the Kubraviya in Central Asia". Iranian Studies 21 (1/2): 45–83.  
  9. ^ Asool-e-ashra
  10. ^ Elias, Jamal J. (1994). "The Sufi Lords of Bahrahab: Sa'd al-Din and Sadr al-Din Hamuwayi". Iranian Studies 27 (1/4): 53–75.  
  11. ^ a b c Mayer, Toby (April–July 2010). "Yogic-Sufi Homologies: The Case of the "Six Principles" Yoga of Naropa and the Kubrawiyya". The Muslim World 100: 268–286.  
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