Imam Haddad and Neo-Sufism – Dr Hisham A. Hellyer

Dr. Hisham A. Hellyer starts with an excellent testimony to the collections of Al-Imam Al Haddad in this video. Beginning with the specific supplication of intention that Imam al-Haddad formulated, the stage is set for the introduction of this great Yemeni scholar who left behind a strong spiritual legacy for generations to come.


The Question of Neo-Sufism

 Within some academic circles, there was a term created called “Neo-Sufism”. The idea of Neo-Sufism was said to be elicited as a direct response to normative Sunni Islam. In this assessment, it was stated that were things in Sufism that were not Orthodox.

Dr. Hellyer brings up a few different topics that some authors allege against the Sufi tradition, such as the unique relationship between the teacher and the seeker or the notion that Sufism essentially cloaked itself in orthodoxy to better blend in. He takes these points, among others, and carefully discusses them with his audience.

Before Imam Haddad, Dr. Hellyer states, there was not a lot of codifying the tariqa in writing.

Imam Haddad helped codify and recognise the different levels of relationships between the murid and the tariqa. Dr. Hellyer believes that Imam Haddad ultimately helped the tariqa become more accessible too. He asserts repeatedly that the notion of the tariqa more generally – and not simply Imam al-Haddad’s tariqa – is not “neo” or new as some claim, but a very established part of Islamic history.

Dr Hellyer also brings to our attention a new book that he has co-authored with two khulafa’ of a pre-eminent 20th century scholar and sage, Sayyid Muhammad b. Alawi al-Maliki, entitled, “A Sublime Way: the Sufi Way of the Makkan Sages”, which promises to expound on a number of these points. The work is due to be released in October of this year.

Shaykh Dr Hisham A. Hellyer

Born to an English father and to an Egyptian mother of ʿAbbāsī-Sudanese & asanī-Moroccan heritage, Shaykh Dr Hisham A. Hellyer was raised between England and different parts of the Arab world, before becoming educated at Sheffield and Warwick universities to post-doctoral levels in law and the social sciences.

Shaykh Hisham studied – and studies – the Islamic tradition in the UK, Egypt, South Africa, the Gambia, Malaysia, Singapore, and elsewhere, keeping the company of traditionally trained scholars. These included the contemporary polymath, Tan Sri Professor Sayyid M. Naquib al-Attas, who mentored him in Malaysia, and Shaykh Seraj Hendricks, the South African sage and khalifa of the Makkan exemplar, Sayyid Muhammad b. Alawi al-Maliki.

This was alongside Dr Hellyer’s research and academic career in institutions including the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Brookings Institution, the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Islamic Studies, Harvard University, and the Royal Institute (RUSI). His published books include “A Sublime Way: the Sufi Path of the Makkan Sages”, “A Revolution Undone: Egypt’s Road Beyond Revolt”, “The Islamic Tradition and the Human Rights Discourse”, and “Muslims of Europe: the ‘Other’ Europeans”.

A member of the Council of the British Board of Scholars and Imams, he was appointed as the only Senior Scholar of Azzawia Institute in South Africa by Shaykh Seraj Hendricks, and the first professorial fellow in Islamic Studies at Cambridge Muslim College of Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad/Dr. Timothy J. Winter. In 2020, he was selected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in recognition of achievements to social change. @hahellyer

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