By. Sharifa Irhamni Azmatkhan Ba’alawi Al-Husaini
The Ni’matullāhī or Ne’matollāhī (Persian: نعمتاللهی) (also spelled as “Nimatollahi”, “Nematollahi” or “Ni’matallahi) is a Sufi order (or tariqa) originating in Iran. According to Moojan Momen, the number of Ni’matullāhī in Iran in 1980 was estimated to be between 50,000 and 350,000. Following the emigration of Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh and other dervishes after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the tariqa has attracted numerous followers outside Iran, mostly in Europe, West Africa and North America, although the first khaniqa outside of Iran was formed in San Francisco, California, United States in 1975, a few years before the revolution in Iran.
The order is named after its 14th century CE founder Shah Nimatullah (Nur ad-Din Ni’matullah Wali), who settled in and is buried in Mahan, Kerman Province, Iran, where his tomb is still an important pilgrimage site. Shah Ni’matallahi was a disciple of the Qadiri sufi ‘Abdallah Yafi’i: a chain of succession of masters (silsilah) has been claimed that extends back to Maruf Karkhi. Originally a Sunni order, the Ni’matullahi became Shia in the 16th century C.E. with the general conversion of Iran. The order has four main sub-orders;
* The Khaniqahi Ni’matullahi or Dhu’r-riyasateyn (Munis ‘Ali Shah) Ni’matullahiya, known in the West due to its former shaykh, Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh.
* The Safialishahi, named after Sheikh Safi ‘Ali Shah Isfahani (d. 1316AH/1899C.E.).
* The Khanekhah Maleknia Naseralishah, named after its Sheikh Pir Malikniya, known as Nasir Ali Shah (d.1998 C.E.).
* The Gonabadi or Bonyad Erfan Gonabadi, centered in Iran in the city of Gonabad, whose primary 20th century shaykh was Sultan Husayn Tabandah.
The last two, like many Qadiri orders, emphasise a way founded upon strict observance of sharia law.
Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh took the lead of the Ni’matullahi Order in 1953 upon the death of his predecessor Munis ‘Ali Shad Dhu al-Riyastain. Dr.Nurbakhsh undertook a major expansion of the order in Iran. In the 1970s visitiors from the United States joined the order while in Iran. In 1974 Dr. Nurbakhsh went to the United States and decided that there was a need to establish regular khaniqas there. In 1979 Dr.Nurbakhsh left Iran to flee the repressive government that did not appreciate alternate religious authorities. He lived in the United States until he moved to England in 1983. By the early 1990s there were nine Ni’matullahi khaniqas in the United States. The ones in the East Coast such as Boston, New York and Washington were almost completely attended by Americans, while the ones in California were about half American and half Iranian.
Today, the Order has expanded to places such as Mexico, Russia, Western Africa, and Spain.
The numerous publications of the order include the bi-annual SUFI journal. The Khaniqahi Nimatullahi also publish, in Persian, English and other languages, Dr. Nurbakhsh’s seven-volume treatment of the states and stations the Sufi path, his twelve-volume explanation of the meanings of Sufi mystical terminology and his many annotated biographies of the great historic masters of the path. Social activities of the present-day order include the establishment of clinics and medical centers in impoverished regions of West Africa, where the order has attracted numerous adherents.
* Masters of the Path: A History of the Masters of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order by Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, Khaniqahi Nimatullahi Publications, New York and London, 2nd Edition, 1993, ISBN 0933546033 and ISBN 978-0933546035
* Kings of Love – The History and Poetry of the Ni’matullahi Sufi Order by Nasrollah Pourjavady and Peter Lamborn Wilson, Imperial Iranian Academy of Philosophy, Tehran, 1978, ISBN 0-87773-733-9 and ISBN 0-500-97351-2
1. ^ Momen, Moojan, An Introduction to Shi’i Islam, Yale University Press, 1985, p.215
2. ^ Pourjavady and Wilson, Kings of Love, p. 252, Dr. Alam Godlas
3. ^ Liyakat Nathani Takim. Shi’ism in America. (New York: New York University Press, 2009) p. 43