by Syyed Tariq Mahmood

Is a Sufi-Orthodox Synthesis Possible where Terrorism is totally Unacceptable?

Defining Islamic Orthodoxy for the Twenty First Century:


To even the educated Westerner, Islam represents an uncommon ambiguity, between personal interchanges with moderate Muslims and the headlines from Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Tunisia, etc. Some Muslims then respond in that those people are not real Muslims, a response that is inadequate as such militant groups can point to varietal passages from the Quran to justify their actions. Now, there are also certain elements of the Old and New Testament, where passages totally beyond the Age of Enlightenment can be found, but most Christian and Jewish communities have gone past them.

The purpose of this short monograph is to identify the minimalist historical precedents that can be utilized by orthodox Muslims to establish the case for civilized and enlightened Islam that already exists for most Muslims. Such an Islam incorporates some level of engagement with Sufi perspectives that have to be also demarcated for useful elements without becoming entangled in esoteric rhetorical flourishes that are meant to be mysterious. Then how have various scholarly Sufis distinguished themselves in becoming actively involved in the life of the community, politically, economically and even theologically, and how can that perspective be utilized to eviscerate extreme literal militancy that undermines Muslim civilization today.

The Orthodox, the Falasafa, and Sufi Theological Foundations

The Quran and Islam in general, can be interpreted literally, as by militants in extreme form sometimes beyond Salafi perspectives, or esotericallym such as the Futuhat Al Makkiya of Ibn Al Arabi, while others attempted to utilize Greek logic to establish its foundations (the Mutazalite, the Falasafa perspective of Ibn Rushd, Al Farabi, Ibn Sina, etc.). Each of these three strands, the literal, the esoteric, and the Hellenistic-logical elements has a rich history. Some schools of Islam incorporate multiple such strands.

At the time of Al Ghazali (c. 1058 – 18 December 1111) it was assumed that once a century a great mind would evolve to provide guidance to the Ummah (Mujaddid), and he clearly thought of himself in that manner. Many reformers have risen to the task in the intervening period to clarify the dynamics of the literal, the esoteric and the necessities of defining an Islam for modern times, as Al Ghazali’s, EpistemologicalTuhafat Al Falasifa as an earlier form of the Critique of Human Reason (Kritik der Reinen Vernunft) of Immanuel Kant made Hellenistic-logical foundations much more difficult to sustain and Al Azhar University dissolved its philosophy department for inadequate reasons. 

From a personal perspective, Al Ghazali interpreted Islam in a unique manner in the duality of the study of logic and its limitations and Sufism, that provides for a very moderne importance in that modern science incorporates practical logic and hypothesis testing, while Sufi poetry provides a non-logical understanding of a meta-spirituality often beyond any one religion.

As another example, Allama Iqbal, with his Ph.D. in Philosophy from Munich, legal training in the U.K., and his critical role in the creation of Pakistan, in his famous work The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam (1930) probably saw himself as continuing the work of similar pioneers including Sir Syed Ahmed (also a progressive Sufi Reformer), and many others in other Muslim countries. 

Thus Aligarh University celebrates the progressive Sufi heritage of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (he is buried there) with its anthem or school song by one of its undergraduates (Mejazi Lakhnavi) and thus it is not useful to compare it toRumi or Nizami Ganjavi, where Women were admitted by 1906:

This is my garden, Mine own garden And I am its 'Bulbul', Drunk am I on the look Of the narcissus

Bound by the tresses Of the 'sumbul'.
This is my garden
Mine own garden
Indeed, my very own garden And I am its 'bulbul'.
The light on the arch
Of the sanctum
Is lit here as well.
In every corner of the desert
The spring of life wells up
This is the wilderness of passion
The area of faith of the covenanted
The city of serenades by romantics
Sublime heaven of desires.
Nature has taught us flight and descent
We have sung the songs of the faith, struck the 
lute of
passion Here.
This is my garden
Mine own garden
And I am its 'bulbul'.
We have drawn the swords here
Smashed the goblets
Laid out our waiting
Effected union of hearts Every evening is 'Sham-
I-Misr' here Every night 'Shab-I-Shiraz'
The music of whole world is here
As is its entire musicality.
A hundred times has the sky
Bowed down to kiss the ground here.
With our own eyes have we witnessed
The defeat and unmasking of falsehood
This is my garden
Mine own garden
And I am its 'bulbul'.
This is my garden
Mine own garden
Indeed, my very own garden
And I am its 'bulbul'
The cloud rising up from here
Will rain down on the whole world
It will rain on every rivulet and stream
And on every mountain heavyset
It will rain down on every cypress
And jasmine
And on every wilderness
It will rain down on its own garden
And on the garden of others
It will strike its own note
Of thunder, on every city of musical notes. It will 
write its own script
Of lightning, on every deficient score. This cloud 
has always rained down.
This cloud will always rain down.
This cloud has always rained down.
This cloud will always rain down.
This cloud has always rained down.
This cloud will always rain down.
Rain down, rain down, rain down.

As a continuation of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, and other progressive reformers, we have Sir Muhammed Iqbal, a multi-faceted scholar with contributions to theology, philosophy sometimes reminiscent of Soren Kierkegaard, but foremost a Sufi poet, who purposely imitated Rumi, as a continuation of the rich heritage of Sufi poetry as a continuation of Hakim Senai, of Farid Ud Din Attar, of Mahmud Shabisteri, and of course Jalal Ud Din Rumi, involved in interests similar to those of this brief monograph. But his distinction then also lay in his political commitment and effectiveness, documented below.

Thus we have extracts from Dr. Muhammad Iqbal’s Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam (1930):

  • To have a succession of identical thoughts and feelings is to have no thoughts and feelings at all. Such is the lot of most Muslim countries today. They are mechanically repeating old values...
  • Space, time, and matter are interpretations which thought puts on the free creative energy of God.
  • If the aim of religion is the spiritualisation of the heart, then it must penetrate the soul of man, and it can best penetrate the inner man . . . We find that when Muhammad Ibn Tumart—the Mahdi of Muslim Spain—who was Berber by nationality, came to power and established the pontifical rule of the Muwahhidun, he ordered for the sake of the illiterate Berbers that the Quran should be translated and read in the Berber language and that the call to prayer should be given in Berber.
  • Such is the attitude of the modern Turk, inspired as he is by the realities of experience, and not by the scholastic reasoning of jurists who lived and thought under different conditions of life. To my mind these arguments, if rightly appreciated, indicate the birth of an International ideal, which forming the very essence of Islam, has been hitherto overshadowed or rather displaced by Arabian Imperialism of the earlier centuries in Islam.
  • The republican form of government is not only thoroughly consistent with the spirit of Islam, but has also become a necessity in view of the new forces that were set free in the world of Islam.
  • The more genuine schools of Sufism have, no doubt, done good work in shaping and directing the evolution of religious experience in Islam; but their latter-day representatives, owing to their ignorance of the modern mind, have become absolutely incapable of receiving any fresh inspiration from modern thought and experience. They are perpetuating methods which were created for generations possessing a cultural outlook differing, in important respects, from our own

Hard his lot and frail his being, like a rose leaf, yet no form of reality is so powerful, so inspiring, and so beautiful as the spirit of man.

In the last bolded statement, his self-confessed Sufi heritage cannot be denied. There is no overt hostility to the Mullah, or the related political and social infrastructure that supports the Ummah, but the necessity of understanding the core spiritual values of Islam, the minimization of dogma, and an understanding of the political economy Ijtihad necessary for a progressive engagement with the twentieth century in his time. Thus this was a progressive politically active Sufi poet-philosopher, beyond polemics, whose poetry purposely imitated Rumi, beyond pure contemplation, and one recalls the condolences offered by Muhammed Ali Jinnah on news of his death:

Message of condolence on the death of Sir Muhammad Iqbal, Calcutta, April 21, 1938 The Star of India, April 22, 1938

Mr. M. A. Jinnah issued the following condolence message on the death of Allama Iqbal: ‘I am extremely sorry to hear the sad news of the death of Sir Muhammad Iqbal. He was a remarkable poet of worldwide fame and his work will live forever. His services to his country and the Muslims are so numerous that his record can be compared with that of the greatest Indian that ever lived. He was an ex-President of the All-India Muslim League and a President of the Provincial Muslim League of the Punjab till the very recent time when his unforeseen illness compelled him to resign. But he was the staunchest and the most loyal champion of the policy and programme of the All-India Muslim League. To me he was a friend, guide and philosopher and during the darkest moments through which the Muslim League had to go, he stood like a rock and never flinched one single moment and as a result just only three days ago he must have read of been informed of the complete unity that was achieved in Calcutta of the Muslim leaders of the Punjab and today I can say with pride that the Muslims of Punjab are wholeheartedly with the League and have come under the flag of the All-India Muslim League, which must have been a matter of greatest satisfaction to him. In the achievement of this unity Sir Muhammad Iqbal played a most signal part. My sincerest and deepest sympathy go out to his family at this moment in their bereavement in losing him, and it is a terrible loss to India and the Muslims particularly at this juncture.’

Without such lofty objectives, we will attempt to demarcate a minimalist set of traditions and legal documents that can assist orthodox Muslims to participate progressively in the twenty first century.

The Additional Precedence’s & Principles (Usulaat) of a Progressive Islam:

While it is generally acknowledged that Islam was more progressive than some other religions, such as the property rights of women, relations with other religions, etc., there are other antecedents that are critical to its role in the twenty first century, that need to be brought to the forefront in a globalized world quite different from the global world of the Middle East in the Seventh Century (the spice trade, the earlier trade of Frankincense, and Myrrh for Roman funeral piers from Yemen, the import of iron from Africa, etc., where the integration of diversity to develop political economies one desires to enter rather than run from.

  1. The Prophet Muhammad’s uncle Abu Talib ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib (also the father of Ali, the fourth Khalifa of Islam) never converted to Islam, and yet was an ally in protecting his family from Meccan pagan tribes. Muslims could not raise their hands against his Paganism. Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s grandfather was a Hindu, and he would also not have allowed him to be persecuted in any manner in his Pakistan. But then, why other Hindus without violating the qanun, which applies to all? Or of the Shia by the Sunni? Or vice versa as an usul?
  2. The Second Khalifa of Islam (less recognized by the Shia who interpret that Ali Ibn Talib should have been chosen, albeit they themselves do not choose their Supreme Leaders that way anymore as the Transmission of Knowledge does not have to be as personal anymore), Umar bin Khattab travelled to Jerusalem in 637 A.D. to establish the pact on the peaceful coexistence of Muslims, Jews and Christians under Muslim leadership where both Jews and Christians would be protected minorities (People of the Book, also extended to the Sabeans). He did not step into the Church of the Holy Sepulcher even though invited to do so by the Byzantine Prelate Sophronius, who knew that to Muslims, Jesus was a prophet of Islam, and thus he could pray with him. Omar’s well-known reason was that he feared it would be turned into a mosque with multi-generational conflict likely. Thus Biblical Jews entered the land of Canaan with God’s covenant and killed any opposition or enslaved it, somewhat like ISIL today, while Omar respected the peaceful nature of Jerusalem thousands of years later, and built the mosque on the Temple Mount as a continuation of the temple of Solomon, also a prophet of Islam. When the Omarriya was violated by an Egyptian ruler, albeit the church hastily rebuilt after that, the pretext for the First Crusade was established and over 5,000 Muslims and Jews were killed when the crusaders invaded Jerusalem during the First Crusade. The current political form of the United Arab Emirate can be viewed as a far more liberal form of the Omarriya, as people of all faiths (except perhaps the Ahmedi) can build their houses of worship and enter into business with approximately equal rights, limited as they may be by Western political economy standards. Then the Israeli-Palestinian peace requires both equality of power and freedom of religion for all parties, and the role of Palestinian Christians should not be defined as a protected minority in a Muslim state, but as co-equal members of a Palestinian democracy.
  3. When Muslims conquered Damascus under Khalid bin Walid (one of the greatest light cavalry commanders in history), the former large Temple to Jupiter under the Romans had been usurped and converted into a church. In spite of the bloody battles that preceded the conquest of Damascus, the Ummah arranged to pray at one corner, while the Christians prayed at the other corner. Once the Muslim congregation increased, they purchased the church, built the Great Mosque of Damascus, and the Christians used the proceeds to build a new church, still standing in Damascus. Then how can a church be bombed in Pakistan and Christians killed, or Shia shrines or mosques destroyed in Iraq as an Usul?
  4. At the time of Al Ghazali, interpretations of Islam were running rife from the Mutazalite to the Falasafa School, etc., and his Tahafut Al Falasafa gained him the name of “Proof of Islam”. But he was also a Sufi, and for some matters believed in seeking truth from introspection and defended Samaa (Kitaab Addabas Samaae Wal Wajd) while maintaining faith in tautological mathematics, and we argue for its uses in science, where say Al Biruni could call himself a mathematical scientist (and claimed the Koran does not interject itself into the study of science) while the case for the acquisition of ilm even if one has to go to China is preserved.As a mathematical scientist, he was involved in hypotheses defined by mathematics to be tested and be modified either in belief or in alternatives, similar to Ibn Al Haytham of Basra and Cairo. So some forms of Sufism are incorporated into the orthodoxy corpus, if you accept the critical role of Al Ghazali to Muslim orthodox theology. Then the issue is what form of Sufism can be incorporated into Muslim orthodoxy continuing the tradition of Abu’s-Qasim al-Junayd and Abu Talib al-Makki, now extended by Al Ghazali’s deep study of logic (mostly Aristotelian) of over two years and his polemical attack, while the Platonic School was integrated by Al Farabi, and other Greek-Roman Muslim integrations by ibn Rushd, and ibn Sina, and deeply impacted St. Thomas Aquinas in Sicily.
  5. In legal discourse across cultures and political economies, one must follow the path of justice, but also the appearance of justice must be preserved in a transparent manner as even the perception of a deliberate violation of being treated unjustly, can undermine the value of a just society. But then why should Sufis court suspicions with practices like Shan Bazi, or any other practice that provides for even apparent violation of virtue, as an usul? While clearly the use of wine as a form of communication of the jihad-ul-Nafs or of the relationship between the concept of intoxication and Fan’a in poetry does not violate thisusul.
  6. Every Muslim community has a right to a grievance procedure, where it is formalized in a democracy. But other forms of grievance, where non-violent representation of aggrieved citizens can be provided for as a right under the usul. Then a Muslim community under such rights could demand some attempt at mediation by its own representative or some recognized third party amenable to the government and the citizen group. Thus one has strict Muslim Republics and Muslim countries where secular forms of government are often imposed (e.g., the Ba’ath Party for Iraq and Syria). Then a useful grievance procedure that determined how various religions of each country could be incorporated into local institutions without altering the focus on economic development could have saved trillions of dollars. Then how say schools while maintaining the focus on providing loyal citizens that become part of economic development but also can be provided Christian, Sunni, Shia, or other faith based education beyond the standard curriculum could be accommodated. Then locally how inheritance laws should be differentiated also have to evolve. Only by providing such rights in Muslim countries, can their citizens if they migrate abroad, strive for similar local choices.
  7. The above issues can in theory be resolved by proportional representation. Issues arise on how the local district boundaries are set. Thus for two districts, one with say Shia majority, say 65 percent of a population of 100,000 and another district with say a 55 percent majority Sunni in population of 200,000, the Sunni can be marginalized if district boundaries are drawn such that the Shia majority area integrates say 12 percent of the Sunni in the 200,000 district (24,000) and the Shia majority falls to 52.4% in the first district now with a total population of 124,000, while in the second district the Shia are now also in majority as the total population is 176,000, and their percentage is 51%. This is known as gerrymandering in the American political economy context. Secondly the power of larger population districts in the allocation of government funds, contingent on some usul utilized grows, and proportionate representation of delegates increases. In some countries this is offset with a separate assembly (bicameral legislature) where regions or states have equal representation. This can also be dangerous, as the greater power of agricultural states with small populations, means we have over two trillion dollars of agricultural subsidies during periods of higher agricultural prices, over the next ten years in the U.S. context. Thus if Egypt and Libya were to unite, the population differentiations would marginalize Libyans as there percentage of the population is much smaller and how oil revenue is allocated become extremely contentious. But in the Upper House, Libyan delegates and Egyptian delegates could be equal in number and partially offset the population differential. Then the number of Libyan provinces could also partially mitigate the issue, and provincially elected governors also lead to greater local political choice to assist in Arabic Spring issues. In other cases a percentage of the combined cabinet could also be Libyan.
  8. If Sharia is truly to be a modern useful guide to the Muslim there are modern issues that are neither Islamic or unislamic that that have to be resolved, such as the issue of intellectual property (e.g., patents and trademarks), and its treatment. Then how do inheritance laws as one of the core issues of Sharia get resolved also part of the discussion. Anthropogenic climate change is another such issue, as the usual interpretation of the Quran is that God has created nature for your consumption, when the limits of population and implications for environmental destruction globally were not known. Then a determination needs to be made if the Sharia is consistent with the modern principle of complete contingent contracts.

While these are the usulaat, there are other issues that are useful to consider from a modern progressive focus:

There is literally tens of billions of dollars of capital incorporated into mosques around the world. Their occupancy rates vary by country and by the days of the week, where of course Friday prayers have the highest attendance. Progressive Islam needs to also incorporate more efficient capital utilization for religious institutions. For public capital like roads, bridges, parks, etc., where there is no sense of profitability, large public use of the facilities (ideally just below congestion, or for maintenance of gardens, etc.) is an indicator of successful outlay in most cases. But then how do successful mosques get measured for success, and how can they also provide additional uses, some of which are already in place.

  1. Different regions and countries have differing emergency response scenarios. Typhoons in Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia. Earthquakes also around the “Ring of Fire” and related tsunamis found in Indonesia and Malaysia. If mosques are better constructed then other structures, then say the water tanks utilized for ablution can be made much larger, and naturally circulate the water for the wuduu before prayers. Then for Emergency Response situations, people would have an emergency supply of clean fresh water (other water storage has to be preserved with small doses of chemicals). Solar cells would serve usual electricity consumption choices but also emergency response backup, and the surrounding congregations would come to recharge their phones to maintain communications or for first aid and triage medical centers. Batteries would extend the services into the night. This suggests that new mosques should be built to be such Emergency Response Shelter standards, and survive earthquakes, typhoons, tsunamis, etc., even better. Then Emergency Rations of food would also be stored there, along with medical supplies.
  2. In poorer countries mosques already allow the homeless to stay overnight provided they wake up for the morning prayers, and this can be readily extended, and donations for a morning breakfast an option for the langar that has been part of mosques in various countries.
  3. Another measure of efficient capital utilization is the size of the congregation. Currently women are not allowed for the Friday sermon and namaz. Local congregations could choose to include them, or allow them separate women’s sermon and namaz, before or after the men’s sermon and namaz. Then local committees around childcare and related issues usually in the hands of women (they need not be) could emanate from such Women Fridays.
  4. There are a few non-denominational mosques in the Muslim world and more should be encouraged to seek unity rather than disunity.

The Sufi-Orthodox Syntheses for a Progressive Islam:

Clearly Allama Iqbal perceived himself to be a Sufi, as did Muhammad Ali Jinnah, but in a differentiated manner than the Malamati Sufi Culture, where Dara Shikoh, the legal heir to Shah Jahan could wrote,

‘Paradise is a place where no mullah can be found:
Mullahs’ frenzy and mullahs’ fury there are not heard
Let the world be free of mullahs’ furore
So no one need to ever hear there hysteric fatwas!
Whatever city in which the mullah makes his home,
There you’ll never find one single seer, one single sage …

The Persian Sufi poets who raised aloft the flag of this malāmatī Sufi counter-culture typically glorified their “heresy” and filled their verse with invectives against the Judge (qāḍī), Preacher (wā‘iẓ), Puritan (zāhid) and Jurisprudent (faqīh), while overtly courting public blame, pursuing notoriety and vaunting their ill-fame (bad-nāmī)’.

(Leonard Lewishone (2016) The Malāmatī Sufi Counterculture: Anti-clericalism in Persian Poetry from Nizārī to Jāmī)

Similar references can be clearly found in the poetry of Hafiz, Hakim Sanai of Ghazni, etc., and indirectly also in the poetry of Bulleh Shah, who with his Indian integrations still professed his devotion to Abdel Qadir Jelani, etc., and people frustrated with empty ritual are drawn to them, while not demanding the dismantling of the Islamic Infrastructure that the qadi, the faqih, and the Zahid represent.

Islam in origins did not establish boundaries respected by the Ummah. Thus, three of the four Khalifa of Islam were assassinated (Omar, Othman, and Ali) and Karbala occurred after that. The end of the Umayyad Dynasty at the hands of the Abbasids was also abhorrent to name a few signal cases of abandonment of boundaries in conflict resolution that still plague Islam today, while similar tendencies were also rife in other civilizations (e.g., the First Inquisition against Cather Christians in Southern France in the late 12th century, followed by the one against the Jews and Muslims in Spain), they seem to have become better rooted in a more progressive tradition after the Age of Enlightenment.

While the Five Pillars of Islam are well known, they do not clarify the cause of the ultra-orthodox militant of the Pakistanis Taliban, the Boko Haram, ISIL, etc., from that of the progressive Muslim today as both categories of parties profess adherence to them. The Five Pillars are:

  1. Faith in the One God, with Muhammad as the  last prophet
  2. Salat, or ritualized prayer five times a day
  3. Fasting during the appointed lunar month of Ramadan
  4. The Hajj or Pilgrimage to Mecca, Medina
  5. Zakat, as mandatory diversified charity. Thus there is the one fortieth of wealth tax each year, but one also encourages the poor by small significant acts. A small poor trader is bargained with fairly and not maximally, as one example, since the intent is egalitarianism and not an enforced class structure.

We have attempted to identify recognized antecedents by recognized Khalifa (certainly for the Sunni, where most such militant adherents belong anyway), or of choices of the prophet Muhammed (Peace Be Upon Him and some of his alleged adherents), or in religious Methodenstreit, where a Civilized Progressive Islam is definable, with minimal integration of the hadith.

Thus we argue that Allama Iqbal and Muhammed Ali Jinnah, along with Sir Syed Ahmed Khan were a continuation of the tradition of the Shafi’ite-Ash’arite Sufi scholars, where the Lisan al-ishara or ‘Language of Symbolic Allusion’, or the needs of Sufi Masters with Tarikas, or Taqqiya, were not required, where at an earlier time Ibn Al Arabi claimed that Mansur Al Hallaj faced martyrdom because he revealed too much. Thus we argue Allama Iqbal, and in a differentiated manner, Muhammed Ali Jinnah, represented the continuation of the Sufism of Al Ghazali, of Abu’s-Qasim Al-Junayd, Abu Talib al-Makki, etc., with the clear distinction that they became active participants in altering political economies beyond the cloistered monk or Sufi with his or her Tariqa and disciples.

If the Precedence’s and Principles of Civilized Islam are added to the Five Pillars of Islam, the widespread dysfunctional, nihilistic tendencies of Islam would not find fertile ground among the literal interpreters of Islam.

Thus current tensions between Iran and the Arab, mostly Sunni Muslim countries are somewhat in the Iranian favor for greater inclusivity (e.g., the generally upheld agreement between Khomeini and the Persian Jews, but not for the Bahai, etc.), which did not get fully appreciated in the Iranian-Israeli rhetorical flourishes, while at one time the stock market in Egypt used to close on Yom Kippur, and certainly not after the 1956 integration of Israel into the European colonial cause (the Anglo-French colonial policy West of Suez where for the former Malaysia, Hong Kong, Kenya, etc., were still British, and Indo-China for the French) after the nationalization of the Suez Canal by Gamal Abdel Nasser on top of the unresolved First Al Naqba of 1948.

Then Syria and Iraq become conundrums for the ultra-orthodox Sunni as how the political economy can be inclusive for a broader set of religions and of interpretations of Islam has been better defined by the likes of Sunni Sufis like Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Sir Muhammad Iqbal, somewhat neglected in the country they were instrumental in creating, where even Faiz Ahmed Faiz while accepting the Lenin Prize for literature could clarify that in his communism, the Sufi heritage precluded the possibility of the Gulag.

Thus we have many strands in Islam, where two strands are especially critical, one of Hassan Al Bana where resistance to the West is a continuation of the Crusades, the Napoleonic invasion of Egypt, the British control of Egypt, the Sykes-Picot mess, and you have the knighted Sufi reformers with their commitments to democracy, where Islam is also critical and nihilistic militancy is totally rejected, and the latter ones are the ones that point to the future rather than becoming victims of the past and the focus on the precedence’s and usulat becomes useful.

We have clear cases where a useful coexistence of Sufis and the Ulema has arisen, as Devin DeWeese in his book, When the Paradigm Breaks: Sufis and the ʻUlamā in Seventeenth-Century Central Asia’, has pointed out:

For a good part of its history in the Islamic era, Central Asia offers a distinctive contrast to the pattern of antagonism and hostility that often existed between Sufis and the ʻulamā; it would be misleading to suggest that these two groups had, instead, a symbiotic relationship, or simply amicable relations, because for much of the 16th, 17th, and even 18th centuries, the Sufis were the ʻulamā, and vice-versa. This pattern, indeed, can be traced somewhat earlier, and persists with only partly altered circumstances during the early 19th century. The reasons for this ‘coincidence’ of Sufi and juridical identities are not altogether clear; they may lie in the shared response, generally, of Sufis and jurists alike to the challenges of the Mongol conquest and the ideology of Chinggisid rule— which began a half-century earlier in Central Asia than elsewhere in the Muslim world, and extended far later (at least to the middle of the 18th century), or in the specific contrasts in the ways particular Sufi communities responded to Mongol rule (which served to ‘internalize’ the Sufi-ʻulamā tension within the world of Sufi groups more broadly—i.e., the tension between the Yasavī and Naqshbandī traditions—and thus ensured that criticism of particular Sufi views or practices came chiefly from other Sufis), or in internal patterns of training and organization that favored initiatic and instructional continuities within social networks framed chiefly in familial terms. What is clear, however, is that despite earlier patterns of hostility between Sufis and the ʻulamā (e.g., Sufi reactions to the persistence of Muʻtazilī strength in at least one region of Central Asia, down to the 14th century), and despite the emergence of hostility toward certain practices linked with Sufism among some learned circles in Central Asia during the 18th and 19th centuries, the often antagonistic relationship between Sufis and juridical scholars encountered elsewhere in the Muslim world is largely absent from Central Asia during the 16th and 17th centuries; it is difficult to find, during the 16th and 17th centuries, active participants in the enterprise of the ʻulamā in Central Asia who were not also linked initiatically with one (or more) of the three major Sufi orders active in the region—the Naqshbandī, Yasavī, and Kubravī ṭarīqas.

There are clear cases where literal interpretations of the Sharia have led to the stoning of men and women to death for adultery, or genital mutilation of women (which should always be a personal choice for an adult woman), where Sufi interpretations might have provided more humane alternatives, and similar other horrific sentences that are better moderated with broader Sufi understandings. Perhaps more importantly for our times, how sentences around non-violent political protests are to remediated are far easier handled by a

Sufi inclined Qadi. Thus for an adultery conviction one needs four witnesses, while a conviction for blasphemy can require one or two, and logically more rapists will get away than supposed blasphemers, undermining the supposed great protection provided to women in Islam as the ultra-orthodox Islam claim, while Sufi imperatives can incorporate the full 99 names of god, the merciful, the wahab, etc., and the underlying intent of the Sharia.