Yaqub Charkhi, a great scholar who grew up in Central Asia in the 15th century, is the third great leader of the Naqshbandi order after Shah-i Naqshband. Yaqub Charkhi assumed his duty in a period when the Naqshbandi movement became widespread in Central Asia. Charkhi , who executed his duty in the midst of the Timurid period, a period in which the Islamic culture and civilization began to flourish and where the country began to recover from the destruction caused by the Mongol invasion, focused on the areas where people were not yet familiar with Islam or who failed to understand Islam correctly and where there was a strong Hindu and Buddhist influence, and carried out activities of guidance in these areas. He spent a large part of his life occupied for this cause and obtained extremely fruitful results. Charkhi contributed greatly to the Tajiks becoming familiar with a true and correct understanding of Islam with his services.
Period in Which He Lived, His Family and Education
Yaqub Charkhi was born in Charkh, a village in the Logar province near Ghazni. Charkh, which is a crossing zone between Marwarau-n nahr, Kandahar and Kabul, portrayed a cosmopolitan appearance in ethnical terms. The Turks, Arabs, Tajiks, Afghans, Sarts, Hazaras, Peshaphians and the Perharis lived there together. Charkh was the largest village in this crossing zone and had very fertile lands. This also made the region a center of attention. Charkhi grew up in this rich and fertile land with a rich perception and a wide perspective in an environment where different cultures and languages were intertwined. According to sources of the period, Yaqub Charkhi, whose father and grandfather also had a Sufi background, began his journey in knowledge in Herat. 1
Charkhi, came to Herat and stayed in the Herat Mosque for a certain period of time, but later he began to stay in a historic 11th century lodge, the Abdullah Ansari lodge. Herat was a place where Muslims hesitated to live because the social life there did not comply with Islamic principles. For this reason, Muslims had reservations about Herat.2. Nevertheless, Charkhi bravely decided to travel to Herat and began to study here.
Yaqub Charkhi then went to Egypt, which was an important center of knowledge of the Islamic world and a place that was of great interest for scholars, in order to learn the general sciences.3He stayed here for a long time, and received lessons from important scholars of the period such as Mawlana Shihabud-Din Shirwani and Sheikh Zaynuddin Hafi. 4Charkhi remained in Cairo until Hijri 782 (1380-81), then he left Cairo and went to Bukhara. He continued his education there for a while then he returned to Turkistan after completing his education. After this point, as in the case of many Islamic scholars Yaqub Charkhi began to receive teachings in Sufism. According to his exegesis, he was around twenty-five years old when he came to Bukhara. 5
His Tendency to Sufism and Meeting with Shah-i Naqshband Hazrat
This was the beginning of a new era for Charkhi, who had come into contact with the most important scholars of that period, Shah-i Naqshband Hazrat and Alauddin Attar. After his meeting with Bahauddin Naqshbandi in Bukhara, Charkhi was influenced by him and wanted to become a member of his teachings on Sufism. However, the Shah-i Naqshband did not respond to this request at first, but later accepted Charkhi’s request. Although there is no direct information on this in sources, we can assume that Shah-i Naqshband Hazrat kept Charkhi distant from himself for a while due to the possibility that Charkhi would discover the spiritual pleasure of Sufism and then abandon the path of knowledge. He left Bukhara as a student of Shah-i Naqshband’ and returned to Charkh as a Sufi scholar. Thus, he became the third great leader of the Naqshbandi order.
Sources report that the Sufi order that Naqhsbandi is connected with evolved through three phases until Shah-i Naqshband. The first is the formation phase which started with Hz. Abu-Bakr (r.a.) and ended with Haja Abu Ali Farmadi (478-79/1085-86); the second is the era that determined the unique methodology of guidance with its principles and practices, the third began with Yusuf Hamadani (440-441/1048-49-50), and ended with Haja Amir Sayyid Kulal (772/1371) and which is also known as Hajagan.
The last period that began with Bahauddin Shah-i Naqshbandi is the period in which Naqshbandi turned into a powerful Sufi order by incorporating many of the Sufi schools within its structure, including Yaswism which was influential in the region. 6Yaqub Charkhi increased his knowledge significantly with the education he received in Cairo and Bukhara after completing his studies in the distinguished madrasas of Turkestan. It can also be said that he continues to teach in madrasas with the work that he wrote facilitates the teachings of Arabic. However, the area where he was most productive and beneficial was undoubtedly the field of Sufism. After the 15th century, Charkhi played an active role in the formation and spreading of the Naqshbandi order in the Islamic world, especially in Central Asia.
Yaqub Charkhi not only produced works, but he also trained students who were to continue his mission. The Naqshbandi order, which Yaqub Charkhi was also a member, had become a representative of Yasawism, a powerful Sufi school in Central Asia, by incorporating it within its own structure. The main caliphs he trained were; his son Yusuf Charkhi, Shihabuddin Amr Sayyid, Yusuf Bayquli, Muhammad Kuhistani and of course Ubaydullah Ahrar, who was one of the most important caliphs; the Naqshbandi order was to show the most progress in the Islamic world during this period. 7
Works and Activities
Yaqub Charkhi, whose works were written in Arabic and Persian, produced many books. Charkhi preferred Persian mainly because of the region he lived and the Tajik Muslims he was involved with were a population that mainly read and wrote in the Persian language. 8
Nay Nama al-Mawlana is one of Charkhi’s most prominent works. This work consists of the first eighteen poems from the Masnavi of Mawlana and the commentary of some of his stories. It is not a result of a simple choice of Yaqub Charkhi to choose Mawlana's work to write a exegesis. Although Mawlana Jalallad-Din Rumi wrote this work in Anatolia, he was originally from Balkh. Therefore, the place where Charkhi was to continue his activities, where there was a large population of Tajiks and Sarts was the neighborhood where Mawlana was born. Naturally, the works of Mawlana, who was a Sufi and who grew up internalizing the cultural characteristics of this neighborhood, addressed the people of these neighborhoods and further increased the depth, comprehensibility and influence of expression there. This is important in terms of revealing his interest in historical and cultural characteristics of the audience and the place he live when he was conveying Islam.
Although he says that in his work he began writing upon the request of those around him,9 is not difficult to understand that the expression ‘upon requests’ is figurative, and that the actual purpose was that there was a great need for the influence that the Masnawi was to arouse. One aspect that stands out here is that while he was expounding the stories and narratives in Masnawi, that he intervened in some expressions, and eliminated some of the metaphorical expressions which could be misunderstood in terms of belief according to the changing times and geography conditions. This is an important example in revealing the sensitivity and uncompromisingness of the Naqshibandi order in terms of faith in the eyes of Charkhi.
Another work by Charkhi is Risala Unsiyya. This work introduces the Naqshbandi order, moreover, it is also a work that reveals parts of the life of the Shah-i Naqshbandi and his good morals.
Risala Abdaliyya is another of his works. He explains some of the concepts of Sufism in this work, which begins by conveying the exemplary behavior of prophets and great scholars. The work was published in 1978 by the Ministry of Culture of Pakistan.
Another work of Charkhi is Jamaliyya Hawrahiyya Shar-I Rubai Abu Sa’id Abu al-Hayr that he wrote by enriching the poems of Abu Sa’id Abu al-Hayr with his own poems. . It is also known that Charkhi wrote a commentary of Asma al-Husna called Sharh Al-Asma al-Husna.
In addition to these, it is known that there is a tafsir called Tafsir al- Yaqub Charkhi by Charkhi written in the Isari (allegoric) method. This Tafsir, which has many copies, was published in Lahore in 1913. This tafsir was published in Turkey in 1991.
His Death and Effects
The grave of Yaqub Charkhi, who died on Saturday, 1447, is located in the village of Halfetu (Hulgatu) near Hisar-Shadman, five kilometers from Dushanba, the capital of Tajikistan. Even though there is not much left of this historic town, the tomb of Charkhi has become one of the important places to visit in Tajikistan.
The period in which the Yaqub Charkhi lived was a period of transformation and reconstruction for the Islamic world. In the second half of the 14th century, there was great political instability in the Middle East firstly because the Mongol states accepted Islam and then the region experienced a political dissolution. During this period, it is seen that Muslims living under the pressure of the destruction of the Mongol invasion began to turn to Sufism, the source of spiritual dynamism. It is accepted that the Charkhi, who made great contributions to the process of scientific enlightenment and informing the immigrant masses in the revival of the Islamic culture that began with the Timurs in Turkestan, was one of the most important architects of the intellectual change in the 15th century.
Yaqub Charkhi, the third name in the Naqshbandi chain, was active in, and in the vicinity of Herat, in other words the places populated by the Tajiks, and played an important role in the maturation of the Islamic perception among the Tajik society. The acceptance and spread of the Naqshbandi order among the Tajiks is the result of Charkhi’s activities in this region.
Perception of Sufism
We see that Charkhi, who lived in a period where the life of science, art and mysticism life were considerably influential, grew up in a well-educated family with a Sufi background. After Junaid al-Baghdadi, the tendency of entering the Sufi order on completing education, which had almost become a tradition, is manifested in Charkhi. Although he was raised in an environment dominated by the Sufi culture, he became a member of the Sufi order after completing his education.
As one of the leading scholars of the period, in this period, Cherhi accepts the imagination and inspiration as a method among the means of knowledge. He accepted that not everyone from all groups will understand this style of tafsir written in the school of Ishari (allegoric). According to him, the best way to duly understand the works produced in the development process of Sufism is by the reader experiencing the same spiritual state as the author. In addition to the difficulty of understanding, there are also obstacles for the Sufis explaining their own spiritual states. Charkhi explains that these kinds of concepts are difficult to relate by giving examples such as fana (annihilation), sakr (spiritual intoxication), tafrika (separation), sama (listening) and wajd (ecstasy) saying that even a rich language such as Arabic is inadequate to convey the state of Sufis. However, according to him, he and other Sufis used symbolic expressions both because of the inadequacy of the language had to be overcome, and the secrets of the truth were hidden from those who were not competent.
In terms of determining the character and temperament of Charkhi, in addition to his own works, the figures he influences and included in his works are also important. As in the case of all Sufis of that period, the influence of Ibn al-Arabi in his works on the topic of disposition and the universe are apparent. However, he adopts the vision of unity (shududi tawhid) in terms of existence. Charkhi , who divides Tawhid into three; taqlidi (imitation/blind adherence) burhani (evidential) and shududi (vision) explains that the vision of unity (shududi tawhid) is the most superior tawhid. In view of his position, it can be said that Charkhi was the pioneer of the Unity of Witness that is also explained in the Unity of Being introduced as a systematic conception by Imam Rabbani.
The search for meaning, according to Charkhi, is an essential aspect of human existence, while at the same time it is the main characteristic that distinguishes it from other living things. At this point, Sufism is a system that offers solution suggestions within its own methods in giving meaning to human existence. The individual who has reached the degree of a perfect human will attain the qualities of becoming the caliph of Allah in the true sense. Reaching such a level is possible by eliminating unfavorable attributes and gaining favorable qualities. Therefore, the spiritual journey (spiritual development) does not only involve a person's inner world, but includes every moment in which he lives in accordance with the purpose of creation. Humans can reach the status of caliph as mentioned in the Quran by reflecting the attributes of Allah within himself. To achieve this, a person must purify his heart from human ties, avoid the urges and desires of the soul and the delusions of the satan. The fundamental condition for this is complying with the orders of religion in every situation.
In the process of institutionalization of the Islamic understanding in Central Asia, the Naqshbandi order became more institutionalized by correcting some of the deficiencies and corrupted elements of the nomads of the previous nomadic people, and became a representative and advocate of a practicable and sustainable religious understanding that regulates every aspect of life. In this way, some western elements that were trying to infiltrate the religious conception and opposed the fundamental rules of religion were being cleansed by the Naqshbandi order in Central Asia. Yaqub Charkhi was one of the most prominent names during this process. In this period, Charkhi systematically formed and institutionalized the already existing perceptions he inherited.
1. Ahmet Cahid Haksever, Yakub-ı Çerhî hayatı Eserleri ve Tasavvuf Anlayışı, İstanbul 2009, s.42.
2. İsmail Aka, Timur ve Devleti, 136.
3. Hamid Algar, Nakşibendilik, s.517
4. Ahmet Cahid Haksever, Yakûb-ı Çerhî, s.36
5. Ahmet Cahid Haksever, Yakûb-ı Çerhî, s.47.
6. Ahmet Cahid Haksever, Yakûb-ı Çerhî,s.61.
7. Necdet Tosun, Bahaeddin Nakşibend, İstanbul 2015, s. 154.
8. Hamid Algar, Nakşibendîlik, s. 518.
9. Çerhî, Neynâme, s.143’ten aktaran, Ahmet Cahit Haksever, age, s.97
10. Ayrıntılı bilgi için bkz; Ahmet Cahit Haksever, Yakûb-ı Çerhî, s.107- 111.
11. Tefsir-i Yakûb-ı Çerhi, Yıldız Matbaası, İstanbul 1991.
12. Ahmet Cahit Haksever, Yakûb-ı Çerhî, s.289.
13. Ahmet Cahit Haksever, Yakûb-ı Çerhî, 391.