There are many orders of Sufism, but only one, the Naqshbandi, which traces its origins back to Abu Bakr, the first caliph. Thus the Naqshbandi are one of the few Sunni oriented Sufi orders, and possibly the most important and influential religious institution in Central Asia. The order’s founder was Baha Al-Din Al-Naqshbandi, who stands out as one of the greatest Muslim philosophers and mystics of the Middle Ages in Central Asia. His ideas and influence would later spread as far beyond Uzbekistan. The Tomb of Baha Al-Din is located in the small village of Qasr-I-Arifan just outside of Bukhara, and is considered that city’s most important religious shrine. It is without doubt the most visited pilgrimage destination in Bukhara.
Baha Al-Din was the great Sufi mystic of Central Asia in the 14th century. Founder of the Nagshbandi Sufi school, his influence in Islamic theology in Central Asia continues to be felt to the present day. Because he refused to allow his followers to record his biography, little is known about his life. He was born and buried in Qasr-I-Hinduvan and spent most of his time as a scholar and teacher in Bukhara. Most of his travels were local, and he is known to have made only two long journeys, both to Mecca.
A student of Baba Muhamad Sammasi and Amir Kulal, Baha Al-Din helped to introduce Sufism to Central Asia, one of the last major Muslim regions exposed to the mystic philosophical teachings. At some point in the mid-14th century, Baha Al-Din’s teachings began to diverge from Amir Kulal’s, and though the two remained on good terms, their teachings evolved into two separate schools. However, Baha Al-Din’s more fundamental philosophies had greater appeal to the local poplace, and by the time Amir Kulal died, Baha Al-Din had become the dominant Sufi discipline in Central Asia.
Sufism had already been around for hundreds of years before it arrived in Central Asia in the 14th century. Having originated for the most part in Persia, Sufism in its earlier days had largely been an outgrowth of Shi’ite Islam, with an historical focus on the personages of Ali and the other Imams. However, Baha Al-Din, who had apparently been influenced by the predominantly Sunni practices of the Turks, adopted Abu Bakr as the Rashidun patron of his teachings. Thus the Naqshbandi is the most prominent Sufi order that is not of Shi’ite origin.
After his death, Naqshbandi Sufism spread throughout Central Asia, reaching into what is now Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and beyond. Although it is now decentralized into more than a half a dozen smaller orders, Naqshbandi is the predominant school of Sufism between India to the east and Iran and Turkey to the west. Most branches of the Naqshbandi, however, regard Baha Al-Din as their spiritual founder, and many make pilgrimages to his tomb in Bukhara as part of their commitment to his teachings and legacy.
The Shrine of Baha Al-Din Al-Naqshbandi is located in the suburb of Qasr-I-Arifan, approximately 8 miles northeast of the city center of Bukhara and 130 miles west of Samarkhand. As of this writing no other visitor information was available. Web: http://welcomeuzbekistan.uz/en (official tourism website of Uzbekistan)
Bukhara is one of the great Islamic cities of Central Asia (along with Samarkhand and Tashkent), and has an impressive legacy of historic Muslim sites, many of which are part of the Historic Center of Bukhara UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city’s most famous landmark is the Masjid Kalyan, home to one of the world’s most architecturally unique, and sinister, minarets. Also in Bukhara is the Mir-I Arab Madrassa; the Samanid Mausoleum (where Ismail, founder of the Samanid dynasty, is buried); and a spring known as Job’s Well, attributed to the Biblical prophet Job.