Secret Societies of All Ages - Charles Heckethorn

V. The Dervishes

165. Dervishes.—Also called Fakirs, and a monastic order of Islamism. Mahomet prohibited the introduction of monks into his religious system; but thirty years after the death of the Prophet, monks made their appearance, and it is supposed that there are now seventy-two orders of them. But twelve of them are undoubtedly older than Islamism.

The four chief orders are: 1. The Rifajeh, who carry black flags and wear black or dark-brown turbans. They practise jugglers' tricks, such as swallowing daggers, eating fire, charming serpents, etc. 2. The Kaderijeh, with white flags and turbans; they are chiefly fishermen. 3. The Said Bidani, whose founder is the greatest saint of the Egyptian Moslems, Said Achmed El Bidani. Their colours are red and white, and they are divided into several sects. They wear an absurd costume and act as buffoons. 4. The Said Ibrahim, with green flags, and turbans. All that is known of them is that they have a monastery at Alexandria.

166. Shiites and Sunnites.—The Dervishes are, moreover, divided into two grand bodies, named as above, the former being Egyptian, the latter Turkish Dervishes. These latter are our great enemies in India. The pilgrims from that country propagate at Constantinople antagonism to our rule, and return to India strengthened with the sympathies of the Mussulman world. It is a remarkable circumstance, that though the Ulema are opposed to the Dervishes, they being looked upon as heterodox, men of great intellect, orthodox in their principles, and occupying high positions in the state, should enroll themselves in the order. The only explanation may be found in their study of the Persian Soofee poets, whose doctrine, which is that of the Dervishes, is that form of spiritualism which ends in Pantheism, teaching that God is, or may enter into, all things spiritual, and which approximates to that materialism of which Buddhism is the exponent.

167. Doctrines.—The Dervishes have their "Paths," which are generally governed by twelve officers, the oldest "Court" superintending the others by right of seniority. The master of the Court is called Sheik, and he has his deputies, caliphs, or successors, of which there may be many. The order is divided into four "columns" or degrees. The first is that of "Humanity," which supposes "annihilation in the Sheik;" the second is that of the "Path," in which the "murid," or disciple, attains spiritual powers and self-annihilation into the "Peer," or founder of the Path. The third stage is called "Knowledge," and the maurid is supposed to become inspired, which is called "annihilation into the Prophet." The fourth degree leads him even to God, when he becomes part of the Deity, and sees him in all things. After this, the Sheik confers on him the grade of "Caliph," or "Honorary Master," for, in their mythical language, "the man must die before the saint can be born, and when born, he is but a useless and despicable animal."

There is a widespread belief in the East that the Freemasons are in secret connection with the Dervishes; but the idea is foolish and unlikely. It was, however, always suspected that whenever mischief against our rule is astir among the Mussulman population, especially in India, the Dervishes are at the bottom of it. It is not quite certain to what order the Dervishes we have to fight in Africa belong, but it is clear that, unlike their brethren in Asia, they pursue political ends, and are instigated by fierce fanaticism; and as every Mohammedan can belong to a religious order without any outward indication of it, and as such connection is always kept secret, Great Britain does not really know the number of her enemies in Africa.