This article by was originally published in The Oxford Dictionary of Islam, 2004.
Persian. Place where the meal cloth is spread. Term for Sufi meetinghouse. Al-Maqrizi (d. 1461) wrote that khanaqahs first appeared in the tenth century and these buildings were ‘exclusively dedicated to the worship of God almighty,’ although other reports refer to their existence as early as the ninth century. Some of the earliest recorded khanaqahs in Persia were established by Muhammad ibn Karram (d. 839), the founder of the Karrami sect, for his followers. Abu Said ibn Abil-Khayr (d. 1049) was the first to codify and record rules for Sufi novices in the khanaqah. Early classical Persian Sufi sources employ five different terms khanaqah , ribat, sumaa, tekke, and zawiyah practically interchangeably to denote the meetinghouse of the first Sufi fraternities.