From Amuq to Glastonbury: Situating the apocalypticism of Shaykh Nazim and the Naqshbandi-Haqqaniyya
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
The thesis contains interviews with members of a small, close community. While anonymised, the participants may be identifiable to those who know the community very well.
The Naqshbandi-Haqqaniyya are one of the most well known and researched tariqas in the West. Until May 2014 the leader of the tariqa was Shaykh Nazim Adil al-Qubrusi al-Haqqani (1922-1914) who somewhat unusually among modern Sunni Sufi shaykhs taught consistently that the world is in its last days and approaching a global apocalyptic change. It is these apocalyptic teachings, primarily articulated by Shaykh Nazim, that are the focus of this thesis. While an element of Shaykh Nazim’s teachings that has been noted by a number of scholars, there has been little in the way of comprehensive research on the apocalyptic teachings past the year 2000 or on how Shaykh Nazim’s apocalypse compares to those found either in wider Islamic thought or other religious traditions. By utilising sources produced until Shaykh Nazim’s death in 2014 this thesis thus aims to make a distinct contribution to the knowledge by identifying what characterises the apocalypticism of Shaykh Nazim and the Naqshbandi-Haqqaniyya, how this compares to other Muslim apocalypses, whether its form can be accounted for, and how murids in one branch of the tariqa interpret teachings in the post-millennial period. This thesis argues that it is important we come to a better understanding of Shaykh Nazim’s apocalypse not just to further our understanding the Naqshbandiyya, but to address an imbalance in contemporary apocalyptic studies on how Islamic apocalyptic belief is presented. The thesis presents a new phenomenological dimensional approach to apocalyptic belief which forms the structure of the investigation. It begins by outlining broad trends in Islamic apocalyptic thought in order to provide a comparative base for the rest of the work. This is followed by an examination of where Shaykh Nazim’s apocalypse converges and diverges from these broad trends. The following chapters seek to account for the distinctive form of Shaykh Nazim’s apocalypse by discussing firstly whether they might be presented to appeal to Westerners, whether they might be seen as a way of addressing modernity, and if they act as a theodicy. These chapters are then followed by a discussion on authorities used to legitimise the apocalyptic teachings and how they are interpreted by a small group of murids in the Glastonbury branch of the tariqa. This thesis concludes by arguing Shaykh Nazim’s apocalypse is distinctive in many respects, particularly in regards his absolute millenarian vision. Ultimately this millenarian vision is made necessary by a need to cleanse the world of satanic influence in a way not possible by reform. It also argues the apocalyptic teachings remained an important part of Shaykh Nazim’s teachings post the millennium and that there are a number of strategies employed by murids to make sense of living in the end of times. It argues future research should monitor changes in apocalyptic emphasis given the new leadership of the tariqa and wider attention be paid to apocalyptic belief in Islam in general.
University of Exeter School of Social Sciences and International Studies
PhD Arab and Islamic Studies