ATĀʾĪYA ORDER, a branch of the Yasavīya Sufi brotherhood especially active in Ḵᵛārazm from the 8th/14th century. The Turkish title Atā (father) was given to most of the early successors of Aḥmad Yasavī (d. 562/1166), but the Khwarazmian Atāʾīya stems in particular from Sayyed Atā, the second successor (ḵalīfa) of Zangī Atā, himself a disciple of the famous Ḥakīm Atā (Solaymān Baqerḡanī), who was in turn a ḵalīfa of Aḥmad Yasavī.

Despite the chronological difficulties presented by the Yasavī selsela, which places only two shaikhs between Sayyed Atā and the 12th-century founder Aḥmad Yasavī, it seems certain that Sayyed Atā lived in the last quarter of the 7th/13th and the first quarter of the 8th/14th century. 9th/15th-century Naqšbandī work, Maqāmāt-e Amīr Kolāl, places him in Bukhara in 683/1284 (Miklukho-Maklaĭ, Opisanie II, p. 154), and he is said to have been a contemporary of the Ḵᵛāǰagānī shaikh ʿAlī Rāmīṯānī (d. 721/1321), with whom he carried on a correspondence, and of the Kobravī shaikh ʿAlāʾ-al-dawla Semnānī (d. 736/1336; see Kāšefī, Rašaḥāt, p. 26; Maqāmāt-e Sayyed Atāʾī, f. 15b). The anonymous history Šaǰarat al-atrāk, composed in the early 10th/16th century ascribes to Sayyed Atā the conversion to Islam of Uzbek Khan, ruler of the Golden Horde (r. 1314-41), in 720/1320, and states that this conversion is described in detail in the Maqāmāt-e Sayyed Atā (Sbornik materialov, pp. 206, 266). This work has not survived; however, although earlier sources described Uzbek Khan as a Muslim already at the time of his accession to the throne, the Islamization of the Turkic tribes of the Dašt-e Qepčāq was traditionally associated with Sayyed Atā. An early 11th/17th-century hagiography mentions that Sayyed Atā went to “the farthest reaches of the Dašt-e Qepčāq and to the frontiers of the Mangit and Tātār,” and was responsible for converting “most of the Uzbek khans” to Islam (Maqāmāt-e Sayyed Atāʾī, ff. 16a-b).

Since Sayyed Atā’s shaikh, Zangī Atā, lived in Tashkent, and since the Yasavī hagiographies name successors of Sayyed Atā in the same area, it may be assumed that he lived for a while in the Tashkent region before beginning his missionary activity among the steppe nomads, which in turn preceded his settling in Ḵᵛārazm. There he is said to have served as the custodian of the tomb of Ḥakīm Atā in Baqerḡan (Zaleman, “Legenda,” pp. 120-21), where he himself was eventually buried. His followers remained in Ḵᵛārazm and maintained relations with the nomads of the Dašt-e Qepčāq. The Montaḵab al-tawārīk² (p. 91) of Moʿīn-al-dīn Naṭanzī (comp. in 817/1414) mentions a follower of Sayyed Atā who in the 760s/1360s induced (albeit temporarily) a certain ʿAzīz Khan, a prince of the eastern half of the Jöchid ulus who ruled briefly from Saray on the lower Volga, to repent of his evil habits and adhere to Islam; the shaikh was given the prince’s daughter in marriage (see also Sbornik materialov, pp. 130, 235; cf. Bartol’d, Sochineniya V, pp. 142-43). The 13th/19th-century Khivan historian Moʾnes writes that following Uzbek Khan’s conversion, one of the khan’s amirs, Naḡdāy of the tribe of Qongrāt, went to Ḵᵛārazm with Sayyed Atā and there served the shaikh (Ferdaws al-eqbāl, ff. 95b-96a); Naḡdāy, known to earlier sources as Nangdāy, was the father of the first three rulers of the so-called “Qongrāt Sufi” dynasty of Ḵᵛārazm who in the second half of the 8th/14th century repeatedly defied Tīmūr, and it seems likely that the title “Sufi” adopted by these Qongrāt rulers reflected their adherence to Sayyed Atā’s order (cf. Vainberg, “K istorii,” p. 105).

The Khivan khan Abu’l-Ḡāzī (r. 1054-74/1644-63) records in his Šaǰara-ye tork two examples of the Atāʾīya order’s influence both in Ḵᵛārazm and among the steppe nomads. In the first, the leading citizens of the Khwarezmian town of Vazīr, occupied by Persian troops following the defeat of the Uzbek Šaybānī Khan in 916/1510, approached one of Sayyed Atā’s successors, a certain Ḥosām-al-dīn Qatāl, and proposed to him that he become ruler and drive out the Qezelbāš; the shaikh, citing the vagaries of popular support, declined, but proposed instead the Uzbek prince Ilbars, whom the shaikh had met during his travels among the Uzbeks to collect pious offerings. The townsmen sent a delegation to Ilbars, who thereupon became the first khan of the Khwarezmian Uzbek dynasty (Abu’l-Ḡāzī, pp. 196-97, tr. pp. 211-12). In the second instance, Naẓar Ḵᵛāǰa, another descendant of Sayyed Atā, incited the Uzbek tribes to revolt against Esfandīār Khan, the ʿArabšāhī Khan of Ḵᵛārazm, in 1622, telling them that the khan would have them all killed and their wives sold into slavery among the Turkmen (Abu’l-Ḡāzī, text pp. 288-89, tr. pp. 309-10).

The tomb of Sayyed Atā in Baqerḡan was an important pilgrimage site in Ḵᵛārazm. The Ottoman admiral Saydī ʿAlī Raʾīs visited the tomb around 962/1555 (Vambery, Travels, p. 79), and Moʾnes records a special pilgrimage by the Khivan khan Moḥammad Raḥīm (r. 1806-25; Ferdaws al-eqbāl, ff. 397a-b). According to recent Soviet sources, a “cult” of Sayyed Atā survives in Khanqah in southern Ḵᵛārazm, where one may find inhabitants who claim to be his descendants (Snesarev, Relikty, p. 289).



For references to Sayyed Atā in historical sources, see: Sbornik materialov otnosyashchikhsya k istorii Zolotoĭ Ordy II. Izvlecheniya iz persidskikh sochineniĭ, sobrannye V. G. Tizengauzenom, ed. A. A. Romaskevich and S. A. Volin, Moscow and Leningrad, 1941, pp. 130, 235.

Moʿīn-al-din Naṭanzī, Montaḵab al-tawārīḵ-e moʿīnī, ed. J. Aubin, Tehran, 1336 Š./1957.

A. Vambery, tr., The Travels and Adventures of the Turkish Admiral Sidi Ali Raïs, London, 1899, p. 71 .

Abu’l-Ḡāzī, Šaǰara-ye tork, ed. and tr. P. I. Desmaisons, Histoire des Mongols et des Tatares par Aboul-Ghâzi Béhâdour Khan, St. Petersburg, 1871-74, repr. Amsterdam, 1970, I (tr.), pp. 55, 77, 211-12, 309-10; II (text), pp. 53, 72, 196-97, 288-89.

Moʾnes, Ferdows al-eqbāl, Leningrad Branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR ( = LOIV) MS C571, fols. 95b-96a, 397a-b; see Yu. Bregel, “Tribal Tradition and Dynastic History: The Early Rulers of the Qongrats According to Munis,” Asian and African Studies (Journal of the Israel Oriental Society) 16, 1982, pp, 357-98, esp. pp. 369-71.

Cf. also V. V. Bartol’d, Sochineniya II/1, Moscow, 1963, pp. 251, 273, 606; V, Moscow, 1968, pp. 142-43.

B. I. Vainberg, “K istorii kungratskikh sufi,” Materialy Khorezmskoĭ Ekspeditsii IV, Moscow, 1960, pp. 104-14.

Hagiographical sources on Sayyed Atā and his successors outside Ḵᵛārazm include: Ḥosayn Wāʿez Kāšefī, Rašaḥāt-e ʿayn al-ḥayāt, ed. ʿA. A. Moʿīnīān, Tehran, 2536 = 1356 Š./1977, I, pp. 25-29.

C. Brockelmann, “Newa’is Biographien türkischer und zeitgenössischer Mystiker,” Documenta Islamica Inedita, ed. J. Fück, Berlin, 1952, pp. 223, 226-27.

Moḥammad Šarīf ʿAlawī Boḵārī, Ḥoǰǰat al-ḏākerīn, LOIV MS B3787, ff. 152b-53a.

See also M. Fuad Köprülü, Türk edebiyatında ilk mutasavvıflar, 2nd ed., Istanbul, 1966, pp. 78-81.

A. Samoilovich, “Materialy po sredneaziatsko-turetskoĭ literature, IV, Chagataĭskiĭ poet XV veka Atai,” Zapiski Kollegii Vostokovedov II/2, 1926, pp. 258-60.

H. F. Hofman, Turkish Literature: A Bio-Bibliographical Survey, Utrecht, 1969, II, pp. 124-27.

Interesting hagiographical material on Sayyed Atā’s life in Ḵᵛārazm was published in K. G. Zaleman, “Legenda pro Khakim-Ata,” Izvestiya Imperatorskoĭ Akademii Nauk 9/2, 1898, pp. 105-50, for Sayyed Atā see pp. 106, 120-21, 140-41 (excerpts from the Rašaḥāt). A late (12th/18th-cent.) work, described by N. D. Miklukho-Maklaĭ, Opisanie tadzhikskikh i persidskikh rukopiseĭ Instituta Narodov Azii II, Moscow, 1961, pp. 153-55, further complicates the chronological problem by placing Sayyed Atā in the town of Torkestān in the 750s/1350s and describing the correspondence and meeting between Sayyed Atā and Kamāl Ḵoǰandī (d. 803/1400). The Maqāmāt-e Sayyed Atāʾī (MS India Office Pers. Ethé 644) is a valuable source on the life of Jamāl-al-dīn Ḵᵛāǰa Dīvāna Sayyed Atāʾī (d. 1016/1607) of Ḵᵛārazm, and contains useful material on the earlier history of the order; cf. the description in H. Ethé, Cat. Ind. Off. I, cols. 268-70. 

For more recent times, see G. P. Snesarev, Relikty domusul’manskikh verovaniĭ i obryadov u uzbekov Khorezma, Moscow, 1969, p. 289.

For Turkmen legends on Sayyed Atā, see S. M. Demidov, Turkmenskie Ovlyady, Ashkhabad, 1976, pp. 88-91.

See also idem, Sufizm v Turkmenii, Ashkhabad, 1978, pp. 32, 41-46, 55-57.

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(D. DeWeese)

Originally Published: December 15, 1987

Last Updated: August 17, 2011

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Vol. II, Fasc. 8, pp. 904-905