Are sufi schools equally divided amongst the two major branches of Islam - Shia & Sunni, or are they primarily associated with Shia Islam?

  • 2
    There are all kinds of Sufe schools: sunni, shia, non-islamic etc.
    – Yahia
    Commented Aug 17, 2013 at 13:42
  • @Yahia: I thought all sufi schools were at least Islamic? Commented Aug 17, 2013 at 13:44
  • That was perhaps so in the very far past but these days there are Sufi orders saysing Islam is "optional" for Sufism...
    – Yahia
    Commented Aug 17, 2013 at 13:50
  • @Yahia: Can you give me the names of some of these Sufi orders that are disclaiming association from Islam? Commented Aug 17, 2013 at 13:55
  • 5
    here you can find a list of islamic and non-islamic sufi orders/organisations...
    – Yahia
    Commented Aug 17, 2013 at 14:51

6 Answers 6


Actually the famous Sufi groups and organizations are Sunni not Shia. There is a sensitivity and negative attitude towards them among other Sunni Muslims like some followers of Salafi movement for various reasons that I will not go into in this answer, still Sufi orders have developed mainly among Sunni not Shia.

As far as I know, among mainstream Shia Muslims we don't have similar Sufi organizations and Tarighats. Thoughts similar to Sufi thoughts exist among Shia Muslims. However, it has not turned into similar organizations partly because of the role and the importance of fiqh for Shia. There are famous Shia scholars who practice what is called irfan but all famous ones that I am know of consider only paths within the confines of Islamic Sharia and focuses mostly on how to better perform Sharia. I haven't heard them being referred to as Sufi, the common word to refer to them is Aaref. One of Irfan's main point is the perspective that the laws in Sharia are not goals in themselves but are means to walk towards and get closer to God and obtain light (still there are other Shia scholars who find such thoughts even within the confines of Islamic Sharia problematic).

As far as I understand, in the view of these Shia Aarefs, each person should walk on a path (طریقة) towards God and obtain light (as stated several times in Quran, search for words like walking, path, light, etc., e.g. see verses 1:6, 57:9, 57:12-14, 57:28, 14:1, 6:122) but the best way to walk towards God is following the Sharia (شریعة). In fact, Sharia has a similar meaning to Tarighat: شارع is from root شرع which means street in Arabic.

I think a major point of irfan is to remind one that simply following the appearance of Islamic Sharia is not enough if it does not lead one to obtaining light and walking towards God. If you are performing a part of Islamic Sharia and it is not bringing you closer to God then you are not performing it as it should be performed, e.g. people who think they are praying correctly and according to Sharia but during the prayer their thoughts are not with God but somewhere else, or they performs prayers but also do shameful acts, that means the person is not really upholding prayer, since according to Quran upholding prayer should restrain one from committing sins (see verse 29:45).

Here is an analogy I have heard about their perspective and found useful: if the other paths suggested by Sufi Tarighats are fine and makes one closer to God (which is debatable) Sharia is like a high way compared to them which can take one much faster toward God.

This is to the best of my knowledge, if there is an inaccuracy or problem with the answer I would be happy to hear about it.


Sufism is more of a denominator for a specific approach to Islam. This approach can be found in the teachings of Sunni as well as Shia. Check the site of the Halal Monk for conversations with different spiritual leaders and artists of the Muslim world. Some of them are rooted in the Sufi tradition but sometimes they're Sunni, sometimes they're Shia.


You should remember that your affiliation to one of the four mazhaabs makes you a sunni. But their name is normally known as ahlul sunna wal jama at. If the sufis have any affiliation to one of those mazahibs that means they are sunnis. It should be noted that Islam gives emphasis to only ibada noting else. To be a sunni or a shite does not qualify you to get into paradise direct except with iman and ibada.
please brothers and sisters shism and sunnism are all ideologies .the most important thing is ibada.
I myself speaking i am affiliated to maliki ideology but i know shites are also Muslims. Only that they have some wrong ideology.so the difference between us should not cause any trouble .
every one should face himself and do his ibada accordingly.
Allah says:

inna akramakum indallah atqakum (49:13)
Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you.

innallazina amanu wa amilussalihati falahum ajrun gaira mamnun (95:6)
Except for those who believe and do righteous deeds, for they will have a reward uninterrupted.

  • Salam and welcome to Islam SE the Q&A site about Islam. I strongly recommend you to take our tour and check our help center to learn more about our site and model. This doesn't really answer the question however it gives some kind of explanation please also consider taking a good look and read How to Answer and try to edit your post and elaborate a better answer.
    – Medi1Saif
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 6:26
  • I don't actually understand the answer. Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 21:48

Nearly all Sufi schools trace their ancestry to Imam Ali a.s., as their genetic father by their masters or as their master in teachings through the holy 12 Imams, most Sufi schools are therefore Shia, but the biggest Sufi school is a Sunni school (Naks-i Bendiyye), but also started as a Shia school of teachings. Therefore they trace their ancestry to Imam Ali a.s., but some claim also ancestry to Ebu Bekir.

Here is a ancestry-line of a worldwide well-known Islamic master: Seyyid Abdülkadir Geylani (k.s.a):

  1. Hz. Muhammed Mustafa (S.A.V.) (--- through his daughter Fatima a.s. ---)

*2. Hz. Ali (R.A.) [IMAM ALI] *

  1. Hz.Hüseyin (R.A.), Hasan-ı Basri(R.A.)

  2. Zeynel Abidin (R.A.), Habibul Acemi(K.S.A.)

  3. Muhammed Bakır (.R.A.), Şeyh Davud-u Tai(K.S.)

  4. Cafer-i Sadık (R.A.) Maruf-u Kerhi(K.S.)

  5. Musa Kazım(R.A.)

  6. Ali Rıza(R.A.)

  7. Maruf-u Kerhi(K.S.)

  8. Sırrı Sakati (KS.)

  9. Cüneyd-i Bağdadi(K.S.)

  10. Ebu Bekir Şibli(K.S.)

  11. Abdulaziz et Temimi(K.S.)

  12. Ebul Ferec Yusuf et Tarsusi(K.S.)

  13. Ebul Hasan Aliyyübnü Muhammed b.el Kureyşli(K.S.)

  14. Ebu Said el Manzumi(K.S.)

  15. Seyyid Abdülkadir-i Geylani(K.S.)

  • 1
    I would suggest that you read the Wikipedia articles about Shia and Sunni to understand what people mean when they say someone is Shia or Sunni. The minimal criteria is their attitude towards who was the rightful successor to the prophet: a Shia believes it was Ali (PBUH), a Sunni believes Abu Bakr and Omar and Othman were rightful successors. (This is not just of historical significance as the actions of rightful successors are bases for derivation of Islamic laws.)
    – Kaveh
    Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 6:29
  • 2
    Revering Shia Imams or claiming to follow them does not make one Shia. Many Sufi orders are influenced by teachings of Shia Imams but that does not make them Shia more that it makes the founders of Sunni schools like Abu Hanifa or Malik ibn Anas (who were extensively influenced by 6th Shia Imam Jafar ibn Mohammad (PBUH)) Shia.
    – Kaveh
    Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 6:30
  • Sunni schools were primarly non-Islamic, until in ~ 18. century the four major Sunni schools were elected, where it has been told that Abu Hanifa and Malik ibn Anas' school are also more righteous, this is because they were teached by 6th Shia Imam Cafer-i Sadik (Jafar) pbuh. Also Abu Hanifa is known for betraying 6th Shia Imam Cafer-i Sadik (Jafar) pbuh and to have said curses to him. This is mainly an indicator for their non-Islamic Sunni background. I have never heard of any Sufi school that is not devoted Imam Ali. Never! Commented Aug 29, 2013 at 11:56
  • If you know any Sufi school that is not devoted to Imam Ali, please write it down here. Commented Aug 29, 2013 at 11:57
  • 1
    @Erdinc Ay, off course all schools will be devoted to Hazrat Ali, regardless of their sect...He is respected as an important Islamic figure in both Sunni and Shia sect...
    – blackfyre
    Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 17:10

Sufism is derived from Sunni Islam. Almost every Sufi order traces their linage to Hazrat Ali R.A and most of the sufi factions were establsihed by the followers of hanibal,hanafi and maliki school of thoughts.

  • 1
    the answer is low quality, please provide references for your claims. Commented Jul 13, 2014 at 6:33

No no brother, Sufism is something that's related with Islam, Shia Sunni Wahabi they are nothing to deal with this. In fact the sufis never relate themselves as being a Sunni or Shia. They love their creator and work for him. They preach the religion, write poems and help people. They have nothing to do with this.

The Shia, are the main decendants of Holy Prophet; Sayyeds. That's why you might be asking this. But no! Sufi schools are not related to any of this system.

  • please provide some references and do not just give an opinion so it can follow after and can be better answer. Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 12:10

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