It is important to realize that Sufism, with other names, existed since the beginning of the life of man on this planet, and that through the Prophets, the knowledge of man´s possible evolution has been transmitted to Initiates during all the history of Mankind.
Islamic Sufism was born in the time of the Prophet Muhammad and the first Orders were started by the first and fourth Khalifs of Islam : Abu-Bakr and Ali.
For example silence is the tendency of the Orders born through Abu-Bakr. Exercises and techniques are developed, which are based on silence. Sound is a tendency of the Orders which were formed by Ali. The human voice and music are used more in their exercises and techniques.
The Objective of all the Orders is the same : The Spiritual Development of the Human Being, enabling him or her to be One with the Radiance of Reality.
There are more than a hundred Islamic Sufi Orders, and there is a great deal of material written for those who are in need of a historic study of Sufism.
Normally the Orders have the name of their founder. The Major Orders are :
The Naqshbandi – Hadrat Bahaudin Naqshaband – from Qasr Arifin near Bokhara.
The Qadiri – Hadrat Abdul Qadir Gilani – from Nif near the Caspian Sea.
The Suhrawardi – Sh. Ziaudin Jahib Suhrawardi.
The Chishti – Khwaja Abu Ishak Chishti – originating in Chisht-Khorasan.
All of the Sufi Orders up to the twentieth century have been related to Islam. All the Orders are intimately related and propelled by the Baraka (Grace) of their founders and the Prophet Muhammad and his descendants up to our days; although some of those schools were born and have operated in the West.
In the West, in the twentieth century, a great need is born, with more force than ever, in search of the meaning of Life, and a True Inner Development. Schools are born with Western characteristics, where the Islamic context is less or non-existent.