“Although for the last eight hundred years Sufism has been characterized by Sufi orders (tariqah) under the guidance of Sufi shaykhs, during the formative period (from the eighth to the eleventh centuries C.E.) the orders did not yet exist… The second major period of Sufism’s history was when the Sufi orders were formed, based upon intitiatic chains of transmission from master to disciple. One of the most important of these orders was (and continues to be) the Naqshbandi Order, which inherited the tradition of the Khwajagan of Turkestan, the heirs of the Malamati of Nishapur (in Khorasan), and became the dominant Sufi order in Transoxiana as early as the fourteen century.
Well-known teachers among the Khwajagan included the founder, Khawajah Abu al Hasan al Khharquani (d. 1033), and Yusuf Hamadani (d. 1140). Whereas some mystics of this era emphasized love for and union with God, the Khwajagan also stressed the overcoming of self. Yusuf Hamadani said, “All people know that love is the Supreme Power that unites the human being and God, but no one who is not free from self is capable of love.”
His successor, Khwajah ‘Abd al-Khaliq Ghujduwani (d. 1179), refined the order’s methods of spiritual education, and through his teachings the principles of the order became accessible to a widespread public.
Khwajah Baha’uddin Naqushband (d.1389) was central to the further spread of the order throughout Turkestan. He reformed the practices with an eye toward making them more efficacious. The technique he employed is known as indiraj an-nihayah fi’l-bidayah -“the embodiment of the end in the beginning”- which in this case refers to his alteration of the sequence in which practices were assigned. Rather than concentrating first on the self, aspirants were directed to concentrate on the heart (qalb). Baha’uddin Naqshaband and his successors believed that being attentive to the heart increased receptivity to the presence of God and that an influx of divine love could in turn transform the self. Baha’uddin Naqshband’s central role within the order is evidenced by the fact that from him it took the name by which it is known today.”
Excerpted from the Preface, “Turning Toward the Heart, Awakening to the Sufi Way” by Shaykh al–Tariqat Hazrat Azad Rasool. Copyright 2002