BAHĀʾ-AL-DĪN NAQŠBAND, ḴᵛĀJA MOḤAMMAD B. MOḤAMMAD BOḴĀRĪ (718-91/1318-91), eponym of the Naqšbandīya, one of the most vigorous and widespread Sufi orders. In the tradition of the order, especially in Turkey, he is known as Šāh-e Naqšband. The earliest Naqšbandī texts do not explain the meaning of the sobriquet Naqšband or how Bahāʾ-al-Dīn came to acquire it. It was later interpreted, quasi-unanimously, as referring to the imprint (naqš) of the Divine Name Allāh that is fixed in the heart through constant and silent invocation (see, for example, ʿAbd-al-Majīd Ḵānī, al-Ḥadāʾeq al-wardīya, Cairo, 1306/1888, p. 9). In the usage of Bukhara—the city of which he became virtually the patron saint—Bahāʾ-al-Dīn was often called Ḵᵛāja Balā-gardān (the averter of disaster), with reference to the protective powers bestowed on him by one of his preceptors, Bābā Moḥammad Sammāsī (Jāmī, Nafaḥāt, p. 385). Bahāʾ-al-Dīn was born in Moḥarram, 718/March, 1318, in the hamlet of Qaṣr-e Hendovān, one farsaḵ from Bukhara. Accounts that attribute to him descent from the Prophet, by way of Imam Jaʿfar al-Ṣādeq, are to be treated with reserve (see Ḡolām Sarvar Lāhūrī, Ḵazīnat al-aṣfīāʾ, Bombay, 1290/1873, I, p. 545). The earliest sources make no mention of such ancestry, although they too indicate that Amīr Kolāl, Bahāʾ-al-Dīn’s principal teacher on the path, was a Ḥosaynī sayyed (Faḵr-al-Dīn ʿAlī Ṣafī, Rašaḥāt ʿayn al-ḥayāt, Tashkent, 1329/1911, p. 43). It may be that Bahāʾ-al-Dīn’s initiatic selsela, which does include Jaʿfar al-Ṣādeq, was confused with his genealogy.

Three days after his birth, Bahāʾ-al-Dīn was adopted as spiritual progeny by Bābā Moḥammad Sammāsī, a master to whom his paternal grandfather owed allegiance. Sammāsī assigned his future training on the path to Amīr Kolāl, his most prominent disciple. The chronology of Bahāʾ-al-Dīn’s relations with Sammāsī and Amīr Kolāl is unclear, since the principal sources on his life are simple assemblages of anecdotes, unconnected by narrative thread. Bahāʾ-al-Dīn may not have seen Sammāsī again until it was time for him to marry, and his grandfather sent him to Sammāsī for the choice of bride to be ratified (Jāmī, Nafaḥāt, p. 381). As for Amīr Kolāl, it is said that Bahāʾ-al-Dīn had from him the link of companionship (nesbat-e ṣoḥbat), instruction in the customs of the path (taʿlīm-e ādāb-e ṭarīqat), and the inculcation of ḏekr (talqīn-e ḏekr) (Jāmī, Nafaḥāt, p. 382). Bahāʾ-al-Dīn spent many years with Amīr Kolāl, being often upbraided for complacency with his still imperfect state and assigned, by way of chastisement, to menial tasks such as fetching the water for his master’s ablutions (Mawlānā Šehāb-al-Dīn, Manāqeb-e Amīr Kolāl, ms. Zeytinoğlu [Tavşanlı] 169, ff. 40a-b, 49a).

It was during his association with Amīr Kolāl that Bahāʾ-al-Dīn had a vision resulting in a new and significant affiliation. The vision amounted to a second initiation, at the hands of the spiritual being (rūḥānīyat) of Ḵᵛāja ʿAbd-al-Ḵāleq Ḡojdawānī (d. 617/1220), thus earning Bahāʾ-al-Dīn the additional epithet of Owaysī, with reference to the remote but powerful link between the Prophet and his Yemeni companion, Oways Qaranī. Wandering among the graves of Bukhara, Bahāʾ-al-Dīn saw his predecessors in the selsela, from the recently deceased Bābā Moḥammad Sammāsī to Ḡojdavānī, Ḵᵛāja ʿAbd-al-Ḵāleq told him, with great emphasis, that he should adhere narrowly to the šarīʿa, avoiding roḵṣat (dispensation) in favor of rigorous obedience (ʿazīmat).

The chief consequence of this command was that Bahāʾ-al-Dīn began restricting himself to silent ḏekr (ḏekr-e ḵafī or ḵofya), withdrawing from the circle of Amīr Kolāl whenever the dervishes began engaging in vocal ḏekr (ḏekr-e jalī or jahrī) (Rašaḥāt, p. 55). This led to resentment among them, but Bahāʾ-al-Dīn continued to treat Amīr Kolāl with the utmost reverence and enjoyed his increasing favor. On the occasion of the building of a mosque in his native village of Sūḵārī, Amīr Kolāl rebuked his disciples for their hostility to Bahāʾ-al-Dīn and praised him as one whom God Himself had favored above the rest (Rašaḥāt, p. 55).

Bahāʾ-al-Dīn’s next association was with Mawlānā ʿĀref Dīkgarānī, another disciple of Amīr Kolāl, in whose company he sought out the practitioners of silent ḏekr (Rašaḥāt, p. 49). He then spent time with two Turkish masters, both belonging to the Yasawī order which had in common with the line of Sammāsī and Amīr Kolāl spiritual descent from Ḵᵛāja Yūsof Hamadānī. His association with the first of these two, Qoṯam Šayḵ, was relatively brief, but with the second, Ḵalīl Atā, he spent as much as twelve years. Ḵalīl Atā appears to be identical with a certain Qażān (or Ḡazān) Khan, who ruled over the Chaghatay Khanate from 735/1335 to 748/1347 (see Zeki Velidi Togan, Umumi türk tarihine giriş, Istanbul, 1981, p. 63). According to the Manāqeb-e Amīr Kolāl (ff. 34b-35a), Bahāʾ-al-Dīn acted as the executioner for this particularly savage ruler until he was overthrown by a military rebellion. One is tempted to see in this association an early instance of the Naqšbandī predilection for influencing rulers in the direction of implementing the šarīʿa, as has, indeed, been suggested by Togān (“Gazan-Han Halil ve Hoca Bahaeddin Nakşbend,” Necati Lugal armağanı, Ankara, 1968, pp. 775-84), but nothing in the evidence available permits such a conclusion. It seems rather that Bahāʾ-al-Dīn’s time with Qażān represented a hiatus in his spiritual career.

His prolonged and varied apprenticeship completed, Bahāʾ-al-Dīn began the training of his own disciples, residing again in his birthplace of Qaṣr-e Hendovān. He left the region of Bukhara only three times thereafter. Two of these journeys were undertaken to perform the ḥajj; on the second of them he stayed three days in Herat to visit Shaikh Zayn-al-Dīn Abū Bakr Ṭayyābādī (d. 791/1389). On the third journey he again visited Herat, this time at the invitation of its ruler, Moʿezz-al-Dīn Ḥosayn, to whom he explained the principles of his path while behaving with exemplary ascetic detachment (Jāmī, Nafaḥāt, p. 386).

Bahāʾ-al-Dīn Naqšband died on 3 Rabīʿ I 791/2 March 1389, in Qaṣr-e Hendovān, which was now renamed, out of deference to him, Qaṣr-e ʿĀrefān. At a later point that cannot be exactly determined, the place acquired its present designation of Bāvaddīn (Bahāʾ-al-Dīn according to the colloquial pronunciation of the Bukharans). As the Naqšbandī order grew and Bahāʾ-al-Dīn’s posthumous fame grew, a vast complex of buildings grew up around his tomb (K. Bendrikov, Ocherki po istorii narodnogo obrazovaniya v Turkestane, Moscow, 1960, p. 29). More generally, the spiritual presence of Bahāʾ-al-Dīn was a principal factor in Bukhara’s status as a center of learning and sanctity for all the Muslim regions of Inner Asia.

A number of poems and treatises have been attributed to Bahāʾ-al-Dīn Naqšband, almost certainly without justification. On the other hand, the litany that bears his name, Awrād-e bahāʾīya, may indeed have been composed by him, although there is no reference to it in the early Naqšbandī texts and its recitation has never been a pillar of regular Naqšbandī practice (there are numerous printings of the Awrād; see, for example, that in Aḥmad Żīāʾ-al-Dīn Kumušḵānawī, Majmūʿat al-aḥzāb, Istanbul, 1311/1893, II, pp. 2-14, with the commentary of Shaikh Moḥammad Saʿīd Ḵādemī). The verbal legacy of Bahāʾ-al-Dīn consists chiefly in the sayings recorded anecdotally in books of hagiography such as the Rašaḥāt, the Nafaḥāt, and Ṣalāḥ-al-Dīn Boḵārī’s Anīs al-ṭālebīn and, more fully and systematically, by Ḵᵛāja Moḥammad Pārsā, together with commentary and elucidation, in Resāla-ye qodsīya (numerous editions; the best is that of Aḥmad Ṭāherī-ʿErāqī, Tehran, 1354 Š./1975).

Pārsā (d. 822/1420), a leading scholar of Bukhara, was one of the principal successors of Bahāʾ-al-Dīn, and it seems even that he was designated as his main ḵalīfa during one of the pilgrimages to Mecca. According to certain accounts, Bahāʾ-al-Dīn confirmed this nomination on his deathbed (Rašaḥāt, p. 57), but it was Ḵᵛāja ʿAlāʾ-al-Dīn ʿAṭṭār Boḵārī, already favored by Bahāʾ-al-Dīn through being married to his daughter, that emerged in the end as the main successor. More significant for the perpetuation of the Naqšbandī line was, however, a third ḵalīfa, Mawlānā Yaʿqūb Čarḵī (d. 851/1448); he initiated Ḵᵛāja ʿObayd-Allāh Aḥrār, under whose auspices the Naqšbandīya became supreme among the Sufi orders of Central Asia and began its expansion in other areas of the Muslim world.

Precisely why Ḵᵛāja Bahāʾ-al-Dīn should be seen as a central link in the selsela of which he is a part, rather than figures preceding or following him, is difficult to establish. According to a retrospective periodization of the selsela, it was known from the time of Ḵᵛāja Yūsof Hamadānī until that of Bahāʾ-al-Dīn as ṭarīq-e ḵᵛājagān (the path of the masters), with reference to the title ḵᵛāja that Hamadānī and his successors bore; and from then on as ṭarīq-e naqšbandī (Moḥammad b. Solaymān Baḡdādī, al-Ḥadīqat al-nadīya fi’l-ṭarīqa al-naqšabandīya, n.p., n.d., p. 22). However, more than a century after the death of Bahāʾ-al-Dīn, ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Jāmī saw fit to entitle his brief treatise on the principles of the path Sar-rešta-ye ṭarīq-e ḵᵛājagān (ed. ʿA.-Ḥ. Ḥabībī, Kabul, 1343 Š./1964). In one sense, the origins of the Naqšbandī path are traceable to Ḵᵛāja ʿAbd-al-Ḵāleq Ḡojdawānī, who formulated its main principles in eight succinct Persian phrases known as kalemāt-e qodsīya (sacred words) and who is often referred to as sar-ḥalqa-ye selsela-ye ḵᵛājagān (the chief in the line of masters; Rašaḥāt, p. 20). Bahāʾ-al-Dīn’s Owaysī initiation at the hands of Ḡojdawānī serves, in fact, to confirm his pre-eminence. It appears to have been Bahāʾ-al-Dīn’s insistence on silent ḏekr—practiced only sporadically by earlier links in the selsela—that was crucial for the identity of the line descended from him and for the unique permanence of his imprint upon it. Later “renewers” of the Naqšbandīya such as Shaikh Aḥmad Serhendī (d. 1034/1624) and Mawlānā Ḵāled Baḡdādī (d. 1242/1827) were seen only as originating branches of the Naqšbandī order, not as founding new and autonomous orders.

Closely linked to Bahāʾ-al-Dīn’s exclusive observance of silent ḏekr was his repudiation of music (samāʿ) and retreat (ḵalwa) as means of spiritual progress (Jāmī, Nafaḥāt, p. 386). Likewise, his denial that adherence to a selsela is in itself meritorious; his deprecation of charismatic feats (karāmāt); his shunning of a distinctive form of dress for himself and his followers; his dislike for the practice of residing in a hospice (ḵānaqāh)—in short, his rejection of most of the customary appurtenances of Sufism—are all highly reminiscent of the Malāmatī movement of 4th/10th century Nīšāpūr. Pārsā claimed, indeed, that “whatever holds true of the Malāmatīs holds true of our masters (ḵᵛājagān) also” (Faṣl al-ḵeṭāb, quoted by Saʿīd Nafīsī, Sar-češma-ye taṣawwof dar Īrān, Tehran, 1345 Š./1964, p. 180). This permits us to identify Bahāʾ-al-Dīn Naqšband as an heir not only of the figures mentioned in his selsela but also, in a more diffuse sense, of the Malāmatīs.

The original Naqšbandīya has accordingly sometimes been described as specifically Iranian or Khorasanian in its orientation (see, for example, Fuad Köprülü, Türk edebiyatında ilk mutasavıflar, 2nd ed., Ankara, 1966, p. 93). This is justified in that the companions of Bahāʾ-al-Dīn were overwhelmingly Tajik-speaking urban dwellers, and the masters of the Yasawī order were contrastingly known as “the Turkish shaikhs” (mašāyeḵ-e Tork; see Zeki Velidi Togan, “Yeseviliğe dair bazı yeni malumat,” in Fuad Köprülü armağanı, Istanbul, 1953, p. 523). There was, however, a Yasawī—and hence Turkish—contribution to the spiritual formation of Bahāʾ-al-Dīn, and within three generations after his death the Naqšbandīya began spreading among the Turkish peoples of Central Asia, thereby demonstrating a universal appeal.

The hypothesis of Mahāyāna Buddhist influence on the origins of the Naqšbandīya (advanced by Aziz Ahmad, An Intellectual History of Islam in India, Edinburgh, 1969, p. 40) must be discounted for lack of evidence.



H. Algar, “The Naqshbandī Order: a Preliminary Survey of its History and Significance,” Stud. Isl. 44, 1976, pp. 123-52.

Ṣalāḥ-al-Dīn Boḵārī, Anīs al-ṭālebīn (unpublished; for information on mss., see “Anīs al-ṭālebīn,” EIr. II, pp. 76f.).

V. A. Gordlevskiĭ, “Bakhauddin Nakshbend Bukharskiĭ,” Izbrannye Sochineniya, Moscow, 1962, III, pp. 369-86. Jāmī, Nafaḥāt, pp. 384-88.

Abu’l-Ḥasan Moḥammad Bāqer b. Moḥammad ʿAlī, Maqāmāt-e Šāh-e Naqšband, Bukhara, 1327/1909.

M. Molé, “Autour du Daré Mansour: l’apprentissage mystique de Bahāʾ-al-Dīn Naqshband,” REI, 1959, pp. 35-66.

Naṣrullāh Efendi, Risāle-i bahāiye, Istanbul, 1328/1910.

Ḵᵛāja Moḥammad Pārsā, Resāla-ye qodsīya, ed. M.-Ṭ. ʿErāqī, Tehran, 1354 Š./1975.

Moḥammad al-Raḵāwī, al-Anwār al-qodsīya fī manāqeb sādāt al-naqšabandīya, Cairo, 1344/1925, pp. 126-42.

Faḵr-al-Dīn ʿAlī Ṣafī, Rašaḥāt ʿAyn al-ḥayāt, Tashkent, 1329/1911, pp. 54-58.

Zeki Velidi Togan, “Gazan-Han Halil ve Hoca Bahaeddin Nakşbend,” Necati Lugal armağani, Ankara, 1968, pp. 775-84.

Tahsin Yazıcı, “Nakşbend,” in İA.

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 بهاءالدین نقشبند baha al din naghshband  baha aldin naghshband baha ol din naghshband
bahaa oldin naghshband      

(H. Algar)

Originally Published: December 15, 1988

Last Updated: August 23, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. III, Fasc. 4, pp. 433-435

Cite this entry:

H. Algar, “BAHĀʾ-AL-DĪN NAQŠBAND,” Encyclopaedia Iranica, III/4, pp. 433-435, available online at (accessed on 30 December 2012).