The role of Sufis in the Syrian uprising

Over the past few centuries, the Sufi sense of Islam firmly established in Syria and has gained a strong position in the Syrian society. Sufism represents traditional the direction of Islam in Syria and had a wide network of supporters in the community. Sufis have successfully spread their teachings and religious traditions in the country. They had their own well-known and recognized by the sheikhs, preachers in mosques, religious schools and even Islamic own lyrics.

In general, the Sufis good get along with the government and to some extent represent the official political Islam, is closely associated with the regime. Even after coming to power of the Baath Party Sufis have not lost their positions in society. Some units of the Sufi movement even managed to adapt to the law of the State of Emergency (PE) and features of Baath Party rule.

In many respects, this was achieved due to the fact that at some time they were forced to withdraw from active politics, but continued to conduct community service and religious propaganda among the people. Indeed, the Sufis are not positioned themselves as some special ideological, religious or political group or party. Rather, they were a religious, doctrinal and intellectual movement. Thus, far from being a homogenous movement, Sufism in Syria was represented by a number of individual groups and organizations that were on different intellectual and political positions. In general, the Syrian Sufis is neither politically nor socially organized force, except when any group close to the Sufi movement began to engage in political activity.

For example, the organization of the Syrian “Muslim Brotherhood” included a number of representatives of the Sufi and Salafi sects of Islam. Despite their differences in theological matters, they have a common position with the “brothers” in a number of ideological and political aspects of the development of Syria.

After a bitter conflict between the regime and the “brothers” in the events of the 1980s in Syria felt some ideological vacuum created by the departure of many of the sheikhs of the “brothers”. The Sufi movement and, above all, its representatives, is closely associated with the regime, could not take advantage of this circumstance. There is a new religious elite was largely due to the power and served the interests of the religious institutions of the regime. This elite has helped legitimize the regime in the face of criticism from his religious opponents.

Among the representatives of the religious establishment were Keftaru Ahmed, his school and followers, and Mohammad Said Ramadan al-Buti. These could also include the current Mufti of Syria Ahmad Hassouna and a number of religious figures such as the Mufti of Aleppo Mahmoud Ocampo (Aleppo).

At the same time, long before the beginning of the revolutionary events in the SAR in the Sufi movement was noted the emergence of several groups whose members profess different ideological views different from the official Sufi persuasion. They are quite active in the public sphere, and sought to take an active part in the political changes that took place in Syria. Among them were such groups as “Al-Zaid” and Company “Al-Kubeysat” which, nevertheless, could not be described as a political party or organization.

These groups have their own views on the Syrian uprising and otherwise treated which began March 15, 2011 events in Syria. Some of them are completely separated the official position of the authorities. Others, such as society, “Al-Kubeysat”, preferred to remain silent. And still others, like Jamaat “Al-Zaid” supported the revolution. At the same time, they all share the fact that they did not actually participate in the activities of the armed Syrian opposition. A number of individual representatives of the Sufi youth – students of famous Sufi Ulema took part in an armed uprising, but they acted on an individual basis and not as official representatives of the Sufi movement.

This common characteristic of all the Syrian Sufi movement is their rootedness in the Syrian civil society and a strong position on its lower levels. Most followers of Sufism lived in large metropolitan centers such as Damascus and Aleppo. They had strong positions in local government and at some point could easily be involved in the armed struggle against the regime. Their weak presence on the battlefield was partly due to the fact that the armed movements were born in the province, while the major urban centers such as Damascus and Aleppo, until recently were under the tight control of local security forces.

Sheikh Ahmed Keftaro (1915-2004) – an ethnic Kurd, was in the last decade one of the most prominent representatives of the religious establishment Syria. He got a very strict Sufi education and belonged to one of the known tarikats (Naqshbandi). He began his career as a teacher in a religious school fatwas in Quneitra. In 1946 he founded the Institute “Al-Ansar” (12-year-old school), and in 1951 he became the Mufti (Shafi naprvleniya) Damascus. He created a network of educational and religious and welfare centers.

In 1971, he founded the religious complex of Abu Nur. Using his good personal relations with Hafez al-Assad, he expanded a complex and created on its basis a number of specialized schools and training centers for the study of Sharia. In 1974, he became the Mufti of Syria, and has further strengthened its relationship with H.Asadom. His school and teachings spread rapidly across the country, filling the vacuum left after the defeat of the “brothers”. In the 1990s there were also other religious leaders from among his followers. They also received a strict upbringing and Sufi stood on pragmatic stance against the ruling regime. The last years of his life were marked by A.Keftaro growing factionalism within his group, especially among the higher clergy. So, Sheikh refused to approve the nomination of his son-Muhammad al-Habash in parliamentary elections. He even published a special about this establishment. Despite this, Mohammed Al-Habash won the election and took place in the Parliament. In his parliamentary activities Mohammed Al-Habash has established itself as a clear supporter of the regime. At the same time he tried to pursue a policy of moderate, enlightened Islam. After the revolution, he gradually began to deviate from the regime. In the beginning he tried to follow the “middle of the road”, as he called it, opting for a third way. And then he began to criticize the Syrian regime and support the Syrian revolution. Eventually, he was forced to leave Syria.

Periodically there are differences of opinion among senior Sufi clergy gave rise to many problems. Keftaro sons and Mahmud Salah was arrested and charged with spying for foreign powers. Complex Abu Nur was put under the control of the Ministry of Awqaf.

Despite the fact that the new head of the complex of Abu Noor Rajab Deeb backed regime during the revolution, there were different mood within the group itself. Among the students of Abu Nur has several groups supporting the revolution, who began to call themselves “mudzhamaa Ahrar al-Nur”.

Among the other prominent religious figures who have played a role in strengthening relations with the regime of Sufism was Ramad Sheikh al-Buti. He was one of the most respected Sufi leaders and served as a professor at Damascus University in the faculty of religion. Ever since the 1980s, he supported the regime in its struggle with the “brothers”. In the 1990s he became one of the closest to the people and H.Asadu prominent religious figure.

During the beginning of the protest movement he made in Damascus Umayyad Mosque, condemned the actions of the Protestants. In March 2013, he was killed by his opponents during a lecture at Al-Iman. R. Al-Buti was one of the main defenders of the religious regime and a staunch opponent of the Salafis.

The Mufti of Aleppo Mahmoud Ocampo was also one of the representatives of the religious establishment regime. He received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy at the Sorbonne. It has introduced a number of innovations in the development of modern interpretations of fiqh. Mr. Oki has also been on the side of the regime and opposed the revolution.

After the death of Ahmed Keftaro Mufti of Syria Ahmad became Badreddin Hassoun. He was born in Aleppo in 1949 and received a doctorate in Islamic law (fiqh). In March 2012, the Syrian IFTA Board headed by Ahmed Hassoun, issued a fatwa according to which the Syrian regime was given the right to jihad to protect Syria. Saraya His son was killed in a shootout in October 2011. In early 2012, the head of the press service of the Council of IFTA Abdel Jalil al-Said defected and fled to Syria.

Jamaat “Al-Zaid” was considered one of the most prominent Sufi groups in Syria, with its long history since its founding Abdulkarimom Sheikh Al-Rifai (1901-1973). The group gained notoriety thanks to the activities of the as a preacher and a public figure. It had its adherents in various mosques, as well as among the students and followers of Sheikh.

The name of the group received the name of one of the friends and supporters of the Prophet Zaid bin Thabit, as well as a similar name of the mosque, where he began to preach for the first time Group avoided direct involvement in political activity. Instead, she focused on the educational mission in sermons and lectures in mosques. Particular emphasis was placed on the ethical and spiritual education. It is within this group originated the idea of turning universities and mosques in the establishment of an alternative Islamic society through the call for education.

In 1973, the place of the deceased Sheikh took his son Osama. The Group continued to follow the same orientation in their activities. has never shown any interest in politics, he refused to participate in any political activities and from public office. Although it began in the 70 years the struggle between the Syrian regime and the “Muslim Brotherhood” has had an impact on the number of group members, some of which appeared to be involved in an armed struggle against the authorities. In the early 1980s, the regime dealt a severe blow to the group. Most of its followers, especially those of them who was in “combat vanguard” “brothers” – were arrested and killed. Himself Osama al-Rifai was forced to go outside of Syria.

As a result, a group within the 1980-1990-ies was actually forced to curtail their activities. Later, when Hafez Assad headed for the promotion of his son Bashar in power, he needed to establish good relations with Sunni groups in the country, as well as to enlist the support of the middle strata of the urban population, especially from among the representatives of the commercial bourgeoisie, who considered his Sheikh. And in the mid-1990s allowed H.Asad to return to Syria. returned to Syria when the group lost most of their positions in public institutions and mosques. However, her spiritual heritage has helped her in a few years to recover the missionary, evangelistic, educational and charitable activities, and even to increase its influence in Syria. She was able to create a network of new public and charities and organize obschesiriyskie event. In the activities of “Al-Zaid” is not traced any political context.

In 2002, Bashar al-Assad made a surprise visit to the home of Sheikh Some ulema saw in this desire of the Syrian president to enlist the support of Sunni sheiks through friendship with This visit gave confidence and strength of the group, which with renewed activity became involved in preaching and research activities in Syria. They even began to discuss a number of political issues in this case, however, trying to scrupulously avoid involvement in political activities. In practice, these discussions were limited to those plants, which he brought Sheikh based on the idea that may be contrary to Islamic values.

Until the beginning of the revolutionary events of the group followed in line with the policies of the regime’s strategic line. At the same time, the group never openly praised and supported the regime, as did the others. At the same time, the group periodically sends positive signals to the regime, which gave her the opportunity not only to continue its activities, but also to expand it outside of Damascus and in the provinces.

Since the beginning of the revolution strategy group has undergone some changes. The sheiks did not criticize people’s protests, and urged people to go home. Moreover, in his sermons, they were subjected to sharp criticism of the regime, especially its military actions to suppress peaceful demonstrations. They also supported the demands of reform and called for a change (from the top) in the official policy of the authorities. In August 2011, police broke into the mosque where he preached, Osama al-Rifai and attacked him and the audience. As a result, Sheikh received the support of Damascus mosques, and its popularity among the masses of protesters only grew. However, his mosque was closed and he was forced to leave Syria.

Later, Osama, his brother Saryah and other sheikhs were openly in support of the revolution and assist. Website of Sada Zaid, the majority of its publications devoted support of the revolution. In Syria itself, many members of this group and its supporters came armed, including jihadist groups to fight against the regime. A number of them were killed, others arrested. Today, the group is in a state of open confrontation with the regime. These sheikhs groups like Osama, Saryah, Muhammad Naeem Argus among the religious leaders, who most actively supported the revolution from abroad. Sheikh Osama, took part in the conference “Muslim ulema”, which was held in Cairo in June 2013 in support of the Syrian revolution.

The roots of the company “Al-Kubeysat” leaves in 1960. Then Munir al-Kubeysi (born in 1933) began actively to spread Islamic Call. She was a teacher of biology at one of the schools. But then she began to teach religion at a university.

In fact, “Al-Kubeysat” is a feminine feminist movement, which is especially active in the environment of the middle strata of the population, and in recent years began to get supporters among the well-off city dwellers of Damascus and other cities. This movement works exclusively with women through well-established network of home ties and religious schools. In its work, it is focusing on the religious, spiritual, moral and ethical training. It was not involved in politics. The Company is very well perceived abroad. The movement had its offices in Jordan, Lebanon and other countries, where it could create their schools on the basis of Sufi teachings.

Despite the fact that the movement has been focused solely on women, his discourse was associated not only with women’s rights, many focused on religious matters. Movement is widely attracted its supporters and took a strong position among the affluent population of Syria. This was achieved due to the fact that in its propaganda “Al-Kubeysat” focuses on the religious and fiqh, which allowed the wealthy strata of finding a compromise between the spiritual life and the nature of their everyday life.

In recent decades, Munir al-Kubeysi tried to be non-public person, and avoided the media. She was alone and completely gave himself to prayer and religious issues. Characteristically, the majority of the members of its society have never seen it. Due to the fact that the movement did not participate in the political life of the country and its relations with the authorities were of friendly nature. The motion was supported sheikhs close to the regime, such as Keftaro Ahmed and Ramadan al-Buti.

After the outbreak of the revolution society does not prove himself as a supporter or opponent of the revolution. However, many women who were part of this movement was supported by the Syrian revolution. At the same time the role of movement in the Syrian events was very small and imperceptible.

The Sufi movement as an organized force, almost did not participate in the armed struggle. However, many students sheikhs, especially those who belonged to the school “Al-Zaid,” mainly young people of Damascus, Aleppo and Homs, have joined the armed units Islamist orientation. The most notable of these units were battalions of “As-Sahaba”, led by Abu Tayseer Abu Islam, as well as the division “Ahvad ar-Rasul” in SFA’ve Abu Mahusom al-Agha, “Aleppo Al Habous”, “Deer Dimashqi “battalions” Furqan “,” Magavir al-Sham. ”

Most members of these groups were damaskintsami or come from Damascus suburbs. With the exception of “Magavir al-Sham”, they, along with the “Liwa al-Islam” and “Hamza bin Abulmutalib” formed in August 2012 association “Ansar al-Islam.” The official representative of this group became Mahus Abu al-Agha. “Ansar al-Islam” wanted to combine the armed forces under the banner of the Islamic opposition PAS. However, due to differences in December 2012 from the association went “Liwa al-Islam” and “Hamza bin Abulmutalib”. Controversy arose after “Liwa al-Islam” has joined the Syrian Liberation Front.

Squad named “Lib Magavir Sham al-Rasul” under the patronage “Magavir al-Sham” was formed in April 2013. It consists of 4 battalions, which combined are the most significant fighting forces as “Bayyarik al-Sham”, “Al-Nasser Saladin”, “Saraya al-Hasan”, “Katib Dimashqi”, “Katib Ansar al-Quran”, ” Katib al-Imam al-Shatbit “,” Katib al-Imam Muhammad al-Fateh “,” Usuda Katib al-Islam. ”

Despite its limited participation in the armed struggle, the Sufi movement played a major role in the peaceful stage protests, as well as in the provision of care and social support to the population. In fact, the Sufis do not pay more attention to the political and social aspects of the uprising. They also engaged in many issues of education and charity, prayers and proselytizing. Of course, they had internal differences between them on the structure of the future political system. Despite their low participation in the armed struggle and the internal fragmentation on a number of key issues of the revolution, the Sufis have kept a strong presence in the regions of Aleppo and Damascus.

Today, the priority for them is the so-called civilized or moderate Islam, the establishment of which they hope to achieve due to the presence of strong and extensive links between the various sheikhs, led by their education, charities, different mosques, on the one hand and the middle strata of the population, especially the commercial bourgeoisie, with another.

The above circumstances suggest that after the crisis and establish peace in Syria Sufi society can take an active part in the political struggle in order to influence the ideological and political choices of the future of Syria.

Source: March 28, 2015 | Author: Vladimir Akhmedov |

About the Author : MoscowArabist-Vostokoved( PhD).,worked Arab countries author12 books,300 articles Mideast politics,army,Islam