Nesrin Aleskerova, Ph.D. (Hist.), associate professor at the History Department of Baku State University (Baku, Azerbaijan).



This article highlights one of the multifaceted and vivid manifestations of IslamMuslim mysticism-Sufismor, to be more precise, presents a brief history of Sufism in Azerbaijan beginning from the time it spread, that is, traces this phenomenon from its early days to the present. It should be added, however, that the article sheds light on only a few pages of the history of Sufism in Azerbaijan.


Description of Muslim Mysticism

One of the special features of Islam is its ability to adapt to local conditions. In different historical-cultural regions, Islam acquired particular characteristics that distinguished one regional form of its being from another. The blending of normative Islam with the local spiritual substrate of different cultures led to the development of the regional forms of its being which relied on general Islamic principles.1

One of the regional forms of Islam that was widespread in Central Asia and the Caucasus, particularly in Azerbaijan, was Islamic mysticismSufism (tasawwuf in the original).

Note that at-TasawwufIslamic mysticismattracted, keeps on attracting, and, in my opinion, will long continue to attract the attention of researchers of Islam as one of the best manifestations having a decisive influence on the spiritual development of the Islamic religion and primarily as one of the main forms of Islam in different historical-cultural regions.

Islamic mysticism has passed through several stages in its development.

The first stage is the period of early tasawwuf, when Sufism came into being in the heart of Islam (end of the 8th-end of the 10th centuries). At this time, Sufism was based on the individual mystical experience of individual isolated ascetics, which was confirmed in the Quran, Hadith, and Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad. They gradually united into communities of like-minded followers and, after taking up residence in hermitages, passed on their spiritual knowledge and mystical experience to each other. They formulated the general principles which constituted the foundation of Sufism.2

Second development period is the classical period. The academic Sufis of this time successfully codified the ideas of their early predecessors, systematized the theory and practice of at-tasawwuf, wrote the most interesting Sufi didactic and doctrinal essays, biographies, and practical guides on Sufism, and streamlined the system of Sufi terms that reveal the very essence of Sufism as a philosophy of mans moral self-perfection and mystic cognition of God. Abu-Talib al-Makki (died in 996), Abu-Nars as-Saraj at-Tusi (died in 988), Abu 'l-Qasim al-Qushairi (died in 1072), and Abu-Bakr ad-Darbandi (died in 1145) wrote encyclopedic essays that testified to the birth of mystic science (ilm at-tasawwuf). The name Abu-Hamid al-Gazali at-Tusi (died in 1111) is associated with the maturity of Sufi scienceits ultimate formulation appeared in the 12th century.3

The third period is the late period of Sufism, the emergence of the organized forms of at-tasawwuf, and the era of the formation, development, and flourishing of the Sufi brotherhoods. This is the main stage in the development of Sufism. The Sufi brotherhoods were based on the relations between the murid (pupil) and the murshid (mentor). The founders and leaders of these organizations, sheikh-murshids, practiced doctrinal and didactic methods founded by the Sufi-Encyclopedists during the classical period. Along with this, they also created their own ways to achieve moral perfection and cognition of God. In short, the representatives of these relatively organized structures chose their own Way to an understanding of GodTruth and Beauty. So during the late period of the development of Sufism (from the 12th century and the entire subsequent period), these communities were called Tariqah (the way) (Arabic, sing.; turuk (the ways)plu.). All the previous stages in the evolution of Sufism also paved the way to the formation of these brotherhoods, which according to the date of 1939 numbered 300-400 throughout the world.4 They helped Sufism to become part of the state organization regulating the political, socioeconomic and spiritual life of Muslim society.5 Sufism stayed this way for a long time, and in some countries is still this way today.

Early and Classical at-Tasawwuf in Azerbaijan

Sufism became widespread in Azerbaijan at the early stage of the classical period. The names of a multitude of Muslim mystics who functioned in Northern and Southern Azerbaijan feature in the hagiographical literatureAbu Husain Dundari Shirazi (died in 964), Husain b. Yazdinyar, Abu Hasan, Abu Zurr (died in 1024), Abu Abbas, Ahi Faraj Zanjani (died in 1065), and Hwaja Muhammad Hoshnam (lived in the 11th century).6

The most well-known representatives of Islamic mysticism of the classical period in Shirvan were Ali ibn Muhammad ibn Abd-Allah Baquwi (died in 1050-1051) and al-Husain al-Gadairi (died in 1071). These well-known sheikhs were distant relatives and came from the famous Derbent Shiite family of al-Gadairi, al-Husain al-Gadairi, who was well known in Azerbaijan as Pir Husain Shirvani, the founder of the Sufi Hanaka on the Pirsagat River in Shirvan, 127 km from Baku. Pir Husain Shirvani promulgated the ideas of Abu Sayyid ibn Abil-Hair al-Mayhani (died in 1049), who was the founder of the Horasan school of Sufism. Pir Husain Shirvani continued the family of the famous Derbent Shiite theologians of al-Gadairi in Shirvan.7

Beginning in the 11th century, intellectual-mystical gnosticismIrfan or Shiite Sufismspread and is still practiced to this day in Azerbaijan thanks to the activity of the followers of the Horasan school of Sufism, and mystics and poets Ayn-al-Qudata al-Hamadani (killed in 1131) and Baba Kuhi Baquya (died in 1050-1051). This idea was subsequently taken up and developed by the followers of the large Sufi brotherhoods that sprang up in Azerbaijan in the 13th-15th centuriesSuhrawardiyya, Halwatiyya, Safaviyya, as well as by the representatives of the Shiite-Sufi community of Hurufiyya, who headed the major social movements in Iran, Azerbaijan, and the Ottoman Empire.

Organizational Forms of at-Tasawwuf in Azerbaijan in the Middle Ages

The founder of the Safaviyya brotherhood, sheikh Safi Ardabili, and of the Halwatiyya brotherhood, Ahi Muhammad ibn Nuru al-Halwati (died in 1317), were murids of the famous medieval mystic-Shiite Ibrahim Zahid Gilani (1218-1300). The latter was a key link in the chain of spiritual succession (silsila) of the greatest mystic school of Suhrawardiyya and related his genealogy to the seventh Shiite imam, Musa ibn Jafar al-Qasim (died in prison in Baghdad in 799). He was also the founder of the Suhrawardiyya brotherhoods offspring, Sahidiyya-yi Abhariba.8 Qarim-ad-Din Muhammad Halwati, or Ahi Muhammad ibn Nuru al-Halwati, became the pupil (murid) and legal successor (caliph) of Ibrahim Zahid Gilani. And he in turn taught his nephew, Abu-Abd-Allahs Siraj-ad-Din Gilani al-Halwati (Pir Umar-i Halwati) (the second half of the 14th century), the actual founder of the Halwatiyya brotherhood, the name of which comes from the Arab word halwaseclusion (Sufi halwaa way of retiring or withdrawing from secular life for mystic communion with God). According to legend, murids found Pir Umar-i Halwati in the hollow of a tree when he, while living in seclusion for forty days, was performing the ritual of secluded dhikr.9 According to tradition, Halwatiyya is a Turkic Sufi brotherhood that became widespread in Southern Azerbaijan during the dominance of the Turkic-tribal state unions of Kara-Koyunlu and Ak-Koyunlu, as well as among the Turkic majority of the indigenous population of the present-day Azerbaijan Republic (Shirvan, Arran, Karabakh, and so on), in particular, in the state of the Shirvanshahs from the Shiite dynasty of Derbendi (1382-1417).

The historical development of the Halwatiyya brotherhood is divided into two periods. The first began from the second half of the 14th century and lasted until the second half of the 17th century. This was the time the brotherhood sprang up in the southern regions of Northern Azerbaijan (now the Astara and Liankiaran districts) and spread in Northern and Southern Azerbaijan, throughout Iran, as well as in the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century. The second period began at the end of the 18th century and lasted until the middle of the 19th century. It was characterized by the widespread activity of Halwatiyya itself and its various branches in the Ottoman Empire, whereby both in the European domains of the country and in the Arab countries, including in Africa.

After the Sufi-Ardebil dynasty of the Safavids (1501-1732) came to power in Iran and Azerbaijan and conquered Baku and Tabriz, its ideological and political rival (the Halwatiyya brotherhood) was ousted from this territory. As a result, the representatives of the brotherhood were forced to move to the Ottoman Empire where Halwatiyya became one of the influential Sufi communities that retained Shiism in secret form.10 In the 16th century, the moderate Shiite interpretation of Islam in the form of isnaashariyya (that is, the cult of the twelve imamsit was also called imamite-jafarit) was declared the state religion. The founder of this Azerbaijani state, great poet Shah Ismail Hatai, was one of the vibrant representatives of intellectual-mystic gnosticism and the first to raise Irfan Sufism to the rank of a state ideology.

The largest Sufi brotherhoods of Yasaviyya (the Turkic school of Sufism that arose in the 12th century) and Naqshbandiyya (14th century) also had their supporters in Azerbaijan. The first adherent of Yasaviyya in medieval Azerbaijan was Afshar Baba, whose grave is still a place of public worship to this day. Naqshbandiyya became widespread thanks to Neman-Allah Nakhichevani and Haji Najm-ad-Din Bargbafū (15th century), who were caliphs of the famous Naqshbandi sheikh Hwaji Muhammad Pars (died in 1420). Abu Sayyid Sunullah, a member of the Naqshbandi-Hwajagan brotherhood represented this community in Azerbaijan in the 16th century. Aziz Mahmud Urmawi was a well-known follower of Naqshbandiyya, who lived in the 17th century.11 The Bektashiyya brotherhood (which arose in the 13th century) also became very widespread in Azerbaijan thanks to the associated community Baba Samit darwishlyari.12 The latter had immense influence on the state of the ShirvanshahsDerbendi. In the Sabirabad District of the Azerbaijan Republic in the village of Shykhlar, the people pay homage to the shrine of Pir Baba Samit. He was the founder of this Sufi community and related his genealogy to the seventh Shiite imam Musa al-Qasim. The memorials erected on the graves of the representatives of the Baba Samit darwishlyari community in Azerbaijan were found and studied by corresponding member of the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences Mashadihanum Neymat. For example, in the village of Buzovna on the Absheron Peninsula, a pir where the followers of caliph Baba Samit are buried still serves as a place of public worship. Another such memorial is located in the same place in the village of Ramanya. Their distinguishing feature is the fact that the words of the main dhikr of the representatives of this society are etched on themNadi Aliyyan, glorifying famous imam Ali (died in 661) and summoning him. Another testimony to the fact that there were many representatives of the Bektashiyya brotherhood in Azerbaijan is the Dadagyunyash Piri shrine located in the Shamakha District (Pir-i Sultan Dadagyunyash).13


Intellectual-mystical gnosticism (Irfan Sufism) was the traditional form of Islamic mysticism in Azerbaijan. For example, the Shiite Sufi community of al-Hurufiyya, which also acted in medieval Azerbaijan, was closely associated with the Bektashiyya brotherhood. I will take a closer look at the activity of this community, since it played a significant role in the public and spiritual life of Azerbaijan. The community was founded by Sufi Fazlallah Naimi Astrabadi (1340-1394) at the end of the 14th century. From childhood, Naimi showed an inclination for mystics and asceticism and could interpret dreams. At a young age, he made a pilgrimage to Mecca and when he returned, he began living in Tabriz where he developed the theory and practice of Hurufism.14

In 1386-1387, when Astrabadi presumably lived in Baku, he began promulgating his teaching. The mystic significance of the Arabic letters (huruf), which are mystic symbols embodying speech and reason, is the main distinguishing feature of the teaching of the Hurufites. The essence of the doctrine is the idea of the manifestation of divine origin in man. The universe is eternal, its movement and the entire history of mankind go through repetitive time cycles, the beginning of each of which is marked by the appearance of Adam and the end with the Day of Judgment. Divine manifestation subsequently assumes forms of prophecy, holiness, and God incarnation. Muhammad was the seal of the prophets, the stage of holiness (wilaya) was more perfect compared with prophecy. The first of the saints is considered to be Ali ibn abu Talib and the last, the 11th Shiite imam, al-Hasan-al-Askari. The period of manifestation (zuhur) begins with Fazlallah Astrabadi, a perfect man and the first incarnated God. The intellectual-mystical gnosticism developed by the Hurufites preached the idea of mans self-perfection, his acquiring divine qualities, and combating various moral defectsmalice, envy, arrogance, lust, hatred, and hypocrisy.15 Divine origin is reflected in man, even in his face, for he was created in the likeness of God. Fazlallahs famous formula I am Allah! later became extremely widespread throughout the whole of the Middle East. The Hurufites severely criticized the tyranny of the powers that be, in so doing drawing members of different social strata into their ranks. Fazlallah Astrabadis first pupils were members of the urban intellectual elite and craftsmen. In this way, Hurufism acquired a broad social base. Astrabadi also tried to attract the Timurids and their vassals, the Shirvanshahs, to this teaching. The Shirvanshahs were secret advocates of the Hurufites, protected Fazlallah Astrabadi, and only under pressure from the Timurids surrendered Fazlallah to Miranshah Timurid. The representatives of normative Islam, the Samarkand ulama, worried about a public protest from the supporters of the Hurufites, accused Astrabadi of severe sins against the faith and the state. He was incarcerated in the Alinja fortress in Nakhchyvan and in 1394 sentenced to death. The fortress where Fazlallah was condemned to death has become a site of annual pilgrimage for his followers. He set forth his entire teaching in the poetic work Jawidan-name.16

At the beginning of the 15th century, Hurufiyya spread throughout the whole of Azerbaijan, Iran, and Asia Minor. The numerous representatives of this community, for example, Ahmad Lor and Mir Sharif, promulgated the ideas of Fazlallah. But the most outstanding follower of Fazlallah Astrabadi was great Azerbaijani poet, a native of Shamakha, Imad-ad-Din Nasimi (1369-1417), who spread the ideas of Hurufism far beyond Asia Minor to Syria and other Arab countries. In his works, Nasimi upheld the freedom of the human spirit and sang the praises of the human racethe beauty of the perfect manGod.17 Thanks to this great poet, intellectual-mystical gnosticism became the philosophy of our people and is retained to this day.

The representatives of the Noqtaviyya sect, which came into being in the 14th century, continued the ideology of Hurufism. Mahmud Pasihani Gilani (died in 1427) was the founder of its ideology. This movement was widespread in the Safavid state, where the prominent representatives of this brotherhood were Hosrov Qazvini, dervish Kamal Aglidi, dervish Berain, Budagbek Ustajlu, Suleiman Sawaji, and Mir-Sayyid Ahmad Qashi. The representatives of Noqtaviyya were the political rivals of the Safavids and, during the time of Shah Abbas I in 1594, an edict was issued that called for seizing all the Noqtavites and people suspected of Noqtavism. As a result of this, Mir-Sayyid Ahmad Qashi was sentenced to death. But the activity of the Noqtavites in Iran and Azerbaijan continued right up until the 19th century.18

Sufism in Azerbaijan in the 19th Century

One of the large Sufi brotherhoods well known in the world is the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya brotherhood (the Indian branch of Naqshbandiyya). It became widespread in Iraq, Syria, and Kurdistan at the beginning of the 19th century. The activity of Mujaddidiyya was associated with Halid-al-Baghdadi (1776-1827), a Kurd from Suleimania. This sheikh founded a new branch of Mujaddidiyya and named it after himselfHalidiyya. The Halidiyya brotherhood began to penetrate the Caucasus in the 19th century as a result of the activity of Kurdamir sheikh, Ismail Siraj-ad-Din Shirvani. At first, the Halidiyya led armed uprisings aimed at achieving national independence for the Kurds. In the Caucasus, the Halidiyyas teaching became the ideology of muridismthe anti-colonial movement of the Caucasian mountain-dwellers, both Northern and Southern (the western and northwestern regions of Azerbaijan) under the guidance of Shamil, who declared a gazawat (war against the infidels) against the Russian imperial authorities. After muridism was repressed, some of sheikh Ismail Siraj-ad-Dins and Shamils followers were exiled by the czarist government to Siberia, the rest were able to make it through Turkey and settle in the city of Amasia, while some were forced to go underground.19

Some Information on Sufism in Azerbaijan Today

In the Soviet period, the activity of the Sufi brotherhoods, like other religious sects and communities, was prohibited in Central Asia and the Caucasus, which was not only due to the fact that atheism became the main communist ideology and policy. Soviet power primarily did not like the fact that most of the Sufi group had a well-organized structure based on unconditional subordination of the murid to the murshid. It frequently supported the formation of well-organized and disciplined combat groups capable to armed resistance. It was officially reported that there were no Sufi communities in the Southern Caucasus, particularly in Azerbaijan. Apparently, the representatives of the Sufi brotherhoods functioning in the western and northwestern regions moved abroad or had already gone deep underground. But national Islam never died, it remained the traditional form of its being in Azerbaijan from time immemorial. Since there were essentially no intelligent religious (charismatic) figures, visiting the holy places (pirs), of which there were more than 500 in the republic, was one of the ways to meet religious needs.20 Representatives of intellectual-mystical gnosticism (Irfan) could still be found in Azerbaijan during Soviet times too. They were dervish-rouzehans, marsiyahans, or maddahs (who worshipped the Prophet Muhammad and the Shiite imams). Over the next two centuries, eighty dervish-rouzehans changed hands in Northern Azerbaijan.21 On the whole, these Shiite Sufi-gnostics lived in villages on the Absheron PeninsulaBuzovna, Mashtaga, Nardaran, Mardakyan, Kurdakhany, Zirya, and Turkyan. Dervish-rouzehans could also be found in the Masalla, Liankiaran, and Sabirabad districts of the Azerbaijan Republic. They have beautiful voices, are composers, and perform Azerbaijani mugams written to the poems of the classics of Sufi poetryImad-ad-Din Nasimi, Muhammad Fizuli, contemporary poet Ali-aga Wahid, and others. They write religious songs themselvesilahs or madhiyaodes of praise in which they glorify God, the Prophet Muhammad, ahli-beit (that is, his family), and the twelve Shiite imams, which they perform at various functions (each of them has its own name) held during the mourning month of Muharram, during the Muslim fast in the month of Ramazan, and during the Id-al-fitr celebration (Ramazan-bairam or Orujlug-bairam), which completes this month, as well as during the celebration of sacrificial offering (Kurban-bairam). Dervish-rouzehans also take part in religious weddings to which they are invited (they are called dervish weddings [dervish toyu]). There are usually a large number of Muslims at such functions. In their musical sermons, they declare their love for God, their Homeland, parents, family, children, and for everything beautiful created by the Almighty. The performances of the dervish-rouzehans play a large part in societys moral upbringing and even in strengthening statehood.

One of names worth mentioning among the contemporary Azerbaijani Islamic mystics of the dervish-rouzehans is Haji-Mashadi Yashar Hasan-ogly Jahid Nardarani (born in 1956), a maddah-dervish-rouzehan and the creator of the dervish Ahli Beit group. Residents of the villages of Mardakyan and Turkyan, Haji-Mashadi Agil (born in 1952) and Haji Nazir, are also among its members. A large number of dervish-rouzehans live in Buzovna. Their murshids were Husein Ibadallah, Kurdakhany Ali Sukhbat, Dervish Haji Arz Allah, and Haji Safa from Mashtag. In Azerbaijan, the dervish-rouzehans are the composers of religious and mugam music, that is, the founders of religious mystical musical art.

The members of the Ahli Beit group have won prizes for three years in a row now at the festival of mystical music held on the initiative of the Ministry of Culture of the Turkish Republic. Dervish-rouzehans were and still are under the absolute protection of official Islam and do not interfere in politics. Their skills are passed down from generation to generation and do not die, primarily because they go back to folk traditions, and intellectual-mystical gnosticism is one of the forms of regional Islam along with adoration of the saints.


Thus, Azerbaijan in the Middle Ages was an area where Islam was represented in the form of Sufism. Islamic mysticism began to spread there from as early as the 10th century, when in Northern and Southern Azerbaijan isolated Sufis began to promulgate the mystical ideas of their illustrious murshid Abu Sayyid ibn Abil-Hair al-Mayhani, the founder of the Horasan school of Sufism. After this, different areas of Azerbaijan became centers of Sufism, where communities of representatives of intellectual mystical gnosticism began functioning. This was the community of Pir Husain Shirvani (who came from the well-known Derbent family of Shiite theologians of al-Gagairi) and the community of murdered sheikh Ain al-Quzat al-Miyanaji (who came from a family from Hamadan).22 (He faced the same fate as al-Hallaj and was sentenced to death by members of normative Islam for making denunciatory statements about them.)

Large Sufi brotherhoods sprang up in Azerbaijan, the activity of which had a great influence on the sociopolitical and spiritual life of the people of the Near and Middle East. These were the Suhrawardiyya, Safaviyya, Halwatiyya brotherhoods, and the al-Hurufiyya community. These Sufi brotherhoods functioned during the peak of prosperity of the medieval Azerbaijani states, Ak-Koyunlu and Kara-Koyunlu and of the state of Shirvanshahs, and the ideas of the sheikh brotherhoods had an impact on the formation of the state ideology of these states.

The great Azerbaijani state of the Safavids arose as a result of the activity of the largest brotherhood of Safaviyya, where Sufism was officially raised to the rank of a state ideology. In this way, intellectual-mystical gnosticism is the main component of the spiritual culture of our people. It was precisely in this form that Sufism reached us today, and its main promulgators at present are the many Azerbaijani dervish-rouzehans. The promulgators of Sunni Sufism are todays representatives of the large Sufi brotherhoods of Naqshbandiyya and Qadiriyya.

Another form of Sufism in Azerbaijan is the cult of Muslim saints. After Islam spread in Azerbaijan, most of the pre-Islamic places of worship also acquired an Islamic legend. For example, the holy places of worship, so-called Nardaran Piri and Bibi-Eibat Piri, located on the Absheron Peninsula of Azerbaijan, are associated with Shiism.

They are all waqfs belonging to the Sufi sheikhs. The new political sects are coming up against representatives of traditional Islam, which is giving rise to opposition between them. Recently, as the result of successful propaganda, the representatives of regional Islam and Sufism have gained a much stronger stand. The interest in so-called destructive sects has slackened off somewhat. The representatives of traditional Islam and Sufism are in favor of legalizing and democratizing society, against war and violence, against a split in society, and in favor of unity of faith and the nation.

1 See: Islam na territorii byvshei Rossiiskoi imperii, Encyclopedic Dictionary, Issue I, ed. by S.M. Prozorov, Moscow, 1998, p. 4. Back to text
2 See: A.A. Khismatullin, Sufizm, St. Petersburg, 1999, pp. 18-147. Back to text
3 See: A.D. Knysh, Musulmanskiy mistitsizm, Moscow, St. Petersburg, 2004, pp. 130-135, 138-140, 146-149, 158. Back to text
4 See: V.A. Drozdov, Islamskiy mistitsizm i ego vliianie na naselenie SNG, St. Petersburg, 1995, p. 8. Back to text
5 See: Sufiiskie bratstva: slozhniy uzel problem, Foreword by O.F. Akimushkin to the book: J.S. Trimingham, Sufiiskie ordeny v islame, Moscow, 2002, pp. 3-22. Back to text
6 See: M. Rykhtym, Sayyid Yakhya Baquwi i Halwatiyya, Baku, 2005, pp. 75-76 (in Azeri). Back to text
7 For more on him, see: A.K. Alikberov, Epokha klassicheskogo islama na Kavkaze, Moscow, 2003, p. 246. Back to text
8 See: Sheikh Safi Tazkirasy. (Turkic translation of Safwat-as-Safya done in the 16th century. Prepared for print in Latin graphic by artist Muhsin Nagysoilu [Baku, 2006, p. 13, in Azeri].) Ibrahim Zahid Gilani died somewhere in the southern part of Northern Azerbaijan and according to legend was buried in the village of Shihakaran of the Liankiaran District of the Azerbaijan Republic in the Sheikh Zahid Tyurbesi hermitage. This holy place is a pilgrimage site for local residents. Back to text
9 See: Mahmud Jamal-ad-Din al-Hulwi Lamazat-i Hulwiyye-az-Lamazati Ulwiyye, Istanbul, 1993, pp. 345-347 (in Turkish). According to the hagiography of al-Hulwi, his homeland was the village of Lahiji in Shirvan (now this village is in the Ismail District of the Azerbaijan Republic and the Persian-speaking ethnic minority of Tats lives here, who moved there presumably from Iranian Lahijan). Back to text
10 For more on this, see, for example, Wird i Sattar Sherkhi Sherkheden Prezrinli Markhallaj-zade Suleiman. B. Rustam Efendi, Istanbul, 1988, pp. 97-99 (in Turkish). Back to text
11 See: M. Rykhtym, op. cit., pp. 79-82 (in Azeri). Back to text
12 See: M. Neymat, Pirs (holy elders) in Azerbaijan, Baku, 1992, pp. 57-65, 68-69 (in Azeri). Back to text
13 Ibid., pp. 68-69. Back to text
14 See: Islam. Encyclopedic Dictionary (hereafter IED), Moscow, 1991, pp. 284-285; S. Ashurbeili, Istoria goroda Baku, Baku, 1992, p. 180. Back to text
15 See: IED, pp. 284-285; S. Ashurbeili, op. cit., pp. 180-181. Back to text
16 See: IED, pp. 284-285. Back to text
17 See: S. Ashurbeili, op. cit., pp. 181-183. Back to text
18 See: Ibid., pp. 183; IED, pp. 284-285. Back to text
19 See: M.S. Neymat, Korpus epigraficheskikh pamiatnikov Azerbaidzhana, Part II, Baku, 2001, pp. 31-51. M. Jalil, F. Halili, Mawlana Ismail Siraj-ad-Din Shirvani, Baku, 2003, pp. 45-48 (in Azeri). Back to text
20 During the Islamization of Azerbaijan in the 7th-8th centuries, most pre-Islamic places of worship immediately acquired an Islamic, and precisely Shiite, legend. For example, the holy places of worship, the so-called Nardaran Piri and Bibi-Eibat Piri, located on the Absheron Peninsula of Azerbaijan, were associated with Shiism. According to legend, in each of these holy places, the sisters of the Shiite imams who fled from the persecution of the Caliph authorities, are buried. Hanaka (Sufi hermitages) existed at both shrines, which were more than 600-700 years old. During the time of the Safavids, the position of these Sufi Hanaka significantly strengthened. The sheikhs who were in charge of the affairs of the mazar and headed the community of dervishes were appointed to their posts by a shah from the same family (see: S. Ashurbeili, op. cit., p. 265). Back to text
21 For more about the dervish-rouzehans, see: Ahund Hajmi Kerbalayi Soltan Alizade, Azerbaijani Dervish-Rouzehans, Baku, 1995 (in Azeri). Back to text
22 Nisba (name) Miyanaji comes from Miyan, a city in Southern Azerbaijan (the Iranian Islamic Republic), which is between Tabriz and Maraga. Back to text

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