Mr. Niktab’s Journey

January 13, 2013

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

One day many year ago, when Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, Master of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order still lived in Iran, he sent for Mr. Niktab, who had been made a Shaykh recently, and instructed him to go to a remote khaniqah in another province. It was a three day journey by bus, so Mr. Niktab set out to go at once, and walked to the door of the khaniqah.

“Wait, where is your suitcase?” the Master asked.

“I don’t need a suitcase. A darvish travels light and trusts in God” Mr. Niktab said.

“Take a change of clothes,” the Master said.

“Really, Master, I will be fine,” Mr. Niktab insisted.

The Master shook his head and walked away. “Nafs!” he said.

And so Mr. Niktab began his journey. It was mid-summer and a long and dusty journey in an old rickety bus without air-conditioning. Finally, after three days of travel, getting off the bus feeling very hot and sweaty, he began the five mile walk through the desert-like countryside to the khaniqah.

About a mile from the khaniqah, he came upon a grove of trees and large pond fed by a nearby stream. Since the area was deserted, he decided to take a swim and cool off before walking the rest of the way to the khaniqah. He took off all his clothes and waded into the water, uttering a sigh of relief at the coolness, and washed off the sweat from the long journey.

Just then he heard the voices of women coming up the road.  He swam to a nearby reedbed to hide himself, and heard the women stop and talk among themselves.

“Look, someone has left clothes by the water,” one said.  They looked around, and Mr. Niktab had to duck under the water so as not to be seen.

Eventually, the women, who were dervishes on their way to the khaniqah, could not find the owner, and decided to take the clothes with them in case they had dropped out of someone’s luggage.

As they walked off, Mr. Niktab came out of hiding and stood in the center of the pond, naked and alone.  “I’m sorry, Master! Forgive me, Master!” he cried.

He broke off a few branches with leaves to cover himself, and stood waiting behind a tree for a long time, until finally a young man came walking down the path. He recognized him as a darvish, and he called him over.

The young man was astonished to find Mr. Niktab, whom they were all expecting, naked and hiding behind a tree. “What happened?” he asked?

“Nafs!” was all Mr. Niktab would say. He told him to run to the khaniqah and bring back clothes for him to wear.

As the boy disappeared down the road, Mr. Niktab sighed, shaking his head at the lesson the Master had taught him.

When the Master tells you to do something, do it.

Ya Haqq!

NOTE:  It has been suggested by brother Ruslan in the comments that if Mr. Niktab had taken a suitcase, the women would also have taken it. I repeat  that I am certain that if Mr. Niktab had taken a suitcase, no women would have come by. The Master’s lessons are designed in the most succinct way, and always for what is necessary at that moment.

For example, read the post on the Miracle of the Angel, which is also a true story.

http://darvish.wordpress.com/2012/05/20/miracle-of-the-angel/

And Allah knows best :)


“Miracle” of the Angel

May 20, 2012

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Hagiographic literature is the biographical genre devoted to the lives and works of saints and holy men. Scholars of course object to this genre as an uncritical and exaggerated telling of the supposed wonders and miracles of the saints, usually written by the later disciples of their own Orders. I have always thought that the unvarnished lives of the saints did not need exaggeration, that their works of kindness and generosity and their words of insight, compassion and love were reason enough to cause us who follow after to emulate them as best we are able.

As much as the imagination wants to believe every word, I too had a problem with the supposed miracles portrayed in AttarHujwiriJami and the numerous biographies of saints.

And I have always considered myself a man of reason, as far as reason goes, so I do not know if I should even tell this tale, but since I had a part to play in what I can only call a miraculous event, I have asked for and received permission from the Master, Dr. Alireza Nurbakhsh, to relate it. He said that it may inspire those in search of the miraculous.

Of course, our late Master, Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order, also had no taste for the exaggerated or miraculous, or for pretense in general. Even in his own biography, Bestower of Light, there appears no mention of extraordinary powers, only the charisma and attraction of the advanced Sufi, which is a form of Divine energy working through a darvish, of which he or she is only the agent.

Perhaps the real problem is with the word “miracle” itself, which for the rational mind is either logically explainable or impossible. For those on a spiritual path, however, life itself is a miracle without compare.

In fact, in his discourse on Constancy, he quoted Abu Ali Jauzjani, who said, “Practice constancy; don’t go looking for miracles, for it is your nafs that want miracles, while God wants constancy from you.” This constancy or steadfastness means to step out of yourself and stand firm in way of God on the Path of Love.

In the hope that this true story will aid in that journey, I pray that God bears witness to the truth of what I relate, and guides us all on the straight path. Amin.

And so…

1995 – The Toronto khaniqah was purchased and a Deeg Joosh, a special Sufi gathering was announced to celebrate the new khaniqah. Darvishes from all over the US were invited. I was living in Chicago at the time, and made arrangements to fly to Toronto. Taking a taxi from the airport, I gave the address and off we went. I was not certain which house was the right address on Lawrence Avenue, and I thought we had already passed it. I had the driver turn around and stop in front of a church on the other side of the street, thinking to walk across the street and find the house. When the cab left I looked around at the neighborhood and was struck by the huge statue of what appeared to be the archangel Michael in front of the church. It was bronze, I think, at least it had the color of burnished bronze, with a large pedestal. I could just reach up and touch the large foot of the angel, who stood with great arms outstretched and massive wings half open.

How appropriate, I thought smiling, that the khaniqah is watched over by an angel. And the khaniqah itself was lovely; the first thing one noticed was that the foyer ceiling was vaulted, resembling the inside of a taj, the conical hat worn on special occasions by darvishes of service. And the Deeg Joosh was a wonderful affair. I met many new darvishes, and went home happy.

2003 - I had moved to New York in 2000, and in 2003 I took my first trip to Banbury England to take part in another Deeg Joosh, which is held there every year around the summer solstice. The Russian translation of Master of the Jinn had just been published, and I was full of my own self-importance. What happened there to deflate my ego has already been related in a story entitled Meeting the Master, which you can read HERE.

However, during the days leading up to the Deeg Joosh, I happened to be sitting in the open area besides the kitchen, talking to a young darvish I had just met who mentioned that he was from Toronto.

“Ah, Toronto, I was there for the Deeg Joosh in 1995, when it first opened,” I said. “I remember the big statue of the angel across the street in front of the church. What a great place to have a khaniqah.

“Ha, that is actually how we found the khaniqah,” he said, and proceeded to tell the story. “Once Master had decided to buy a khaniqah in Toronto, he sent a group of us out every day looking in every neighborhood for a suitable house. It had to meet a number of criteria, including being close to public transportation, in a good, but not expensive neighborhood, and it had to have an open floor plan to allow for meetings and a possible Deeg Joosh if called for. We had a terrible time finding one. Every day we would look in different neighborhoods, and every night Master would call and ask, “Did you find a house?” We would say, “Not yet,” and he would say, “Keep looking.” This went on every day for many weeks. Each night we had to say we didn’t find anything, and each night he would tell us to keep looking.

“Finally, after five or six weeks, we dejectedly told Master that we had looked in every neighborhood in Toronto and had found nothing that was suitable for a khaniqah. He just said, “Keep looking. It is under the angel’s wings.” That was all. We just looked at each other and shrugged, but the very next day we somehow took a wrong turn and came upon a house for sale,  and of course saw this big angel statue across the street in front of a church. We called the real estate agent listed on the For Sale sign and he quickly came over show it. The house was perfect, and we immediately put down a deposit. Alhamdulillah!”

I loved this story of persistence and Master’s prescience. No one doubted Master had seen that the perfect house was waiting to be discovered. I have related another story of such ability in A Stop in the Desert, which can be read HERE. After years on the path it was rather taken for granted and not discussed among us that a spiritually advanced Sufi Master would have such a gift.

2007 - A few years later, on a visit back to Chicago, I told this story to a darvish in the Chicago khaniqah, and he looked at me in wide eyed wonder. “That is exactly what happened to me in Koln, Germany.” And he told a very similar tale, only the angel was a small stone cherub in the backyard. “We looked for weeks for a khaniqah, and after every week’s failure, Master would say ‘Keep looking.’ until finally, after many weeks, Master said, ‘Keep looking. It is under the angel’s wings.’ We found the house that is now the khaniqah the next day.”

I have related this story also, in Under the Angel’s Wings, which you can read HERE.

Both amazing stories that fill the heart with love for the Master, and even for such an esoteric concept as the grand design of the universe.

2010 - Now I happen to tell the story to Patricia, my beloved, who was initiated as a darvish a few years ago. She is very curious about the statue in Toronto, which to her as a Catholic seems out of place in front of a church.

“We can go there sometime and you can see it for yourself,” I said.

“Or, we can use Google Earth and see it right now in real time on the computer,” she says, and I love the idea. The statue’s size and magnificence has stayed with me, and I wanted to see it again.

She opened Google Earth and I gave her the address of the Toronto khaniqah, which we found after a few minutes. She panned the camera across the street and there was the church… but there was no statue. We looked all around the property, but found only a small statue of the Virgin Mary on the right side of the church.

“How weird is that!” I said. “There is no statue! Maybe they moved it.”

So I looked up the name of the church and called the listed office number. A woman answered, and I asked what happened to the big statue of the angel in front of the church.

“What statue?” she asked?

“The angel statue. It is of the Archangel Michael I think, about 20 feet high. You can’t miss it,” I chuckled. “Was it moved?”

“No, there has never been a statue like that in front of this church,” she said seriously.

“Hmm, well, I was there in 1995, so it was 15 years ago. Maybe it was before your time. How long have you worked there?”

“No sir, I have been a lay secretary here since the church opened in 1990. There has never been any statue like that in front of this church. Catholic churches never have statues of angels in front of them.”

She hung up, and I sat there with the phone in my hand and my mouth open, literally speechless. “This is crazy,” I said to Patricia. “I saw it myself. I touched it.. It was huge!

“Well, you were a darvish and you saw what you were supposed to see,” she said.

“But other people saw it too, the darvishes that found the khaniqah, the ones who visited it for the Deeg Joosh. We talked about it for years afterwards,” I said.

“The Master said the khaniqah was under the angel’s wings. So of course the angel appeared for the darvishes. Why is that so suprising?”

She was right. I felt the strangest tingling sensation creeping up my spine, and for the first time in my life knew the feeling of awe. And I have no explanation for it to this day, except to wonder if the literature of saints and holy men were really that exaggerated after all. I know only that our late Master was the soul of loving-kindness.

Perhaps love itself is the only miracle.

God knows the truth.

Ya Haqq!


Love is the Answer to Every Question – In Memory of Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh

December 10, 2011

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

December 10th, would have been the 85th birthday of Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh (12/10/1926 – 10/10/2008), the late and beloved Master of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order.  In his memory, this poem is dedicated.

Love is the answer
to every question

An ocean emerging
from a drop

This you taught us, by your
every action, every word,

The revealed science
of the heart, the key

to every door that is
never locked to anyone

To serve the One,
serve all, you said,

Eat but a little,
Feed the soul instead

As long as life
remains, and then

The drop returns
again to the Ocean of

Love, of love, of love
Ya Pir! Ya Haqq!


The Sufi’s Heaven

September 12, 2011

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

“The Sufi’s heaven is closeness to God… and the Sufi’s hell is distance from Him… Hell is in the world of the ego, the nafs… when you are liberated from it, everywhere is heaven.”

- Nur Ali Shah (Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh)

Ya Haqq!

Note:  See also the earlier post, Heaven and Hell.


The Sufi Question

June 16, 2011

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

It is related that one day in New York City in the mid 1980s, while Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, Master of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order, was visiting the khaniqah, someone asked him this question: “Why do so many spiritual orders that have costumes and dancing, and public performances of chanting, etc, have so many followers, and our order does none of these things and does not have as many followers?”

Dr. Nurbakhsh replied, “Because most people are after the color and smell of Sufism, and in our order, the costume is to be colorless.”

Ya Haqq!


Sufi Masters and Disciples of Imagination

May 26, 2011

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

A man came to Sufi Master Bahaudin Shah Naqshband and said: “First I followed this teacher and then that one. Next I studied these books and then those. I feel that although I know nothing of you and your teachings, this experience has been slowly preparing me to learn from you.”

Bahaudin Shah said: “Nothing you have learned in the past will help you here. If you are to stay with us, you’ll have to abandon all pride in the past. That is a form of self-congratulation.”

This is true of any mystical path, and almost every initiate, and is a product of their subjective thinking and ego-centered imagination, the very habits the Master strives to cure them of.  As my own late Master, Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, noted in one of this lectures, Sufis Who Are Disciples of Their Own Imaginations:

Most people who are drawn to the path of Sufism and become disciples of a master have, in fact, an image of the master in their minds, expecting the master to act according to this subjective image of theirs. If, after a while, they come to conclude that the master is not acting according to their mental image, they decide to leave this master, because, from their point of view, the master has not performed according to their expectations, and in point of fact they expect the master to be the disciple of their own mental image, otherwise they conclude that he or she is not a good master.

For ages the saying has been “The master’s infidelity is the disciple’s faith,” meaning that if the master says something contrary to the disciple’s beliefs, or does something against the disciple’s wishes, and the disciple remains loyal to him, it is proof that the disciple truly has faith in the master. There are very few disciples in the school of Sufism who love their master as he is and not as they would like him to be. For this reason, a true Sufi is a rare thing in this world. Most come through their imagination, and leave through their imagination.

- Edited from Discourses on the Sufi Path, by Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh.

Ya Haqq!


“Under the Angel’s Wings!”

January 21, 2011

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

It is related that many years ago, Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, Master of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order, decided it was time to establish a khaniqah, a Sufi meeting house, in Koln, Germany. The dervishes had grown sufficiently in number, and had been holding their majlis, the twice weekly zekr, in the apartment of one of them. And so the Master directed the dervishes to begin the search for a suitable house that the Order could purchase.

They began the search the very next day. The house had to meet certain requirements of interior size and amenities; and was very difficult to find. The dervishes designated to conduct the search drove each day through the neighborhoods of Koln, and each day they looked at many house and found nothing suitable. And each night the Master would call them from England and ask, “Did you find the khaniqah?”  The dervishes would have to answer that they had not, and Dr. Nurbakhsh would say, “Keep looking!”

This went on for days, then weeks, and each night the Master would call, inquire of their progress, and tell them to keep looking.

Finally, one night when Dr. Nurbakhsh called, the darvishes were tired and disheartened after a long day of searching, and said, “Master, we have looked in every neighborhood, and can’t find anything.”

The Master said, “Keep looking! It is under the angel’s wings.”

They did not know what to make of that pronouncement, but the very next day as they were once again driving through neighborhoods, they saw a For Sale sign on a house in a good area, close to public transportation, and immediately called the broker listed on the sign. He came to meet them shortly thereafter and showed them the house. There were two large rooms on the first floor suitable for serving tea and holding the zekr, and large bedrooms on the second floor for living quarters. And there was an expansive yard that with work could be turned into a garden. It fit all the requirements of a khaniqah.

They made plans with the real estate agent to come to his office the next day and begin the process of negotiating the contract. As they were doing a final walk-through, and congratulating themselves on finding a suitable house, one of them noticed that in one corner of the garden, set on a three foot plaster pillar, was the figure of a angel, a stone cherubim, with wings outspread. The dervishes looked at each other in disbelief.

“Alhamdulillah!” They shouted.  All praise belongs to God alone, who has given to their Master the foresight of His true friends. Ya Ali! Ya Pir!

Ya Haqq!


Mr. Niktab and the Lights

January 6, 2011

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

This is a true story that happened many years ago. Mr. Niktab, the Shaykh of Shaykhs, was making his yearly trip to the US in order to visit the many khaniqahs,  initiate new darvishes, and bring through his person the love of the Master, Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order. At one khaniqah, he participated in the Sunday zekr (one of the twice weekly meetings during which the dervishes sit in a circle in a darkened room and meditate, sometimes silently, sometimes to music).

A few of the darvishes brought their children with them to meet and receive the blessings of the Shaykh, and they sat quietly in the next room with their sons and daughters. Upon this occasion, as the story is told, a three year-old boy was sitting with his mother behind the curtain that separates the tea room from the meeting room.  The boy peeked through the curtain, then suddenly got up and ran into the zekr,. Before his mother could get up to fetch him, he came running back beside her.

“Why did you do that?” the mother whispered. “You know you aren’t supposed to go in until the meeting is over.”

“The lights!”

“What lights? What are you talking about?”

“How come the people have little lights coming out of their heads, but Mr. Niktab’s light goes all the way to the ceiling?” the boy asked.

The mother looked at her son in astonishment and quickly glanced through the curtain. She did not see the lights, but she hugged her son and kissed his cheek.

“Alhamdulillah!” she whispered, and praised God for the unclouded eyes of children.

Ya Haqq!


Gladdening Hearts

December 13, 2010

Salaam and Greetings of Peace

It is related that in the late 1970s, there was a young man from Southern California who was seeking spiritual knowledge. He had lived in communes and sought, as the young in every generation do, the answers to life in ancient wisdom and eternal truths. Perhaps partly because of this, he was also estranged from his wealthy and conservative father.

The young man decided to go to India to seek enlightenment and find a teacher, and while traveling a roundabout way through Iran, found himself in Tehran.  By fortune or fate, which is another way of saying by God’s will, one of the various people he met there was a darvish, who, upon learning of his desire for spiritual attainment, took him to the Nimatullahi Sufi khaniqh and introduced him to the Master, Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh.

The young man had heard of Sufism, but of course had never met a Sufi Master, especially one of such a loving nature and humor and strength of personality.  He spoke at length with the Master on several occasions, and after some consideration, became initiated. He afterwards spent some time in Tehran with Dr. Nurbakhsh, and happily considered that his spiritual quest for a teacher had been fulfilled. Eventually, he expressed his wish to go back to California, and the Master gave him permission, but also commanded that he reconcile with his father.

The young man, now on the Path of Love, knew that this was the right thing to do, and wanted to bring back a present for his parents. He decided on a Persian red and blue rug from city of Kerman (Kirman), because he had heard that their rugs were famous for their rich, blue color.  It was said that the blue of the sky in Kerman was the truest, most beautiful cerulean blue, because of the quality of the light there. Dr. Nurbakhsh, who was himself born there, was delighted to hear of it, and personally contacted Nimatullahi dervishes in Kerman who dealt in rugs, and arranged for the young man to purchase a high quality Kermani rug at a fair price.

Some time passed, and the young man, once again living in his parents house, received word that Dr. Nurbakhsh was arriving in Los Angeles to visit the just purchased khaniqah there. The young man was very happy to hear it, and his parents, to thank the Master for bringing back their prodigal son, invited Dr. Nurbakhsh and the dervishes traveling with him to tea on their arrival.

The Master was jet-lagged and very tired, but he accepted the invitation, and they made the long drive to the parent’s large and palatial home.

The father answered the door in shorts and a Polo shirt, and shook hands with the Master. “Hi! Glad to meet you!” he said, looking somewhat suspiciously at the foreign-looking gentleman and his entourage. The Master shook his hand warmly, and through an interpreter, expressed his thanks for the kind invitation. The dervishes, however, were nonplussed that this American man treated their Master so casually, instead of with the awe and respect they were used to, but the Master thought nothing of it, and just smiled and put them all at ease.

As tea was being served, out of the picture window overlooking the back deck, they watched the sun setting over the Pacific ocean. The slanted light was particularly lovely on the blue of the Kermani rug at their feet. The young man sat with the dervishes, smiling at his parents, who wholeheartedly thanked the Master for all he had done to bring them back together.

Finally, as they said their goodbyes, and the Master got into the car for the long ride back to the new khaniqah, he looked very tired after the long day, having used the last reserves of his energy for the ride to pay his respects to the young man’s parents. Some of the dervishes could not help but wonder why he went through so much trouble.

As if in answer, he suddenly said, “Alhamdulillah! We have gladdened one heart today. That is all that we do. We gladden hearts.”

And so it is.

 

Ya Haqq!


“Go to Los Angeles!”

October 8, 2010

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

It is related that many years ago, while Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, Master of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order, was staying in the New York khaniqah, he came out of his room one morning and walked over to where Mr. Niktab, his closest disciple and the Shaykh of Shaykhs of the Order, was conversing with two young dervishes.

They were sitting cross-legged on the Persian rugs that covered the floor and were about to rise when they saw the Master approach, but he motioned for them to remain seated and said to Mr. Niktab:

“Go to Los Angeles!”

He then turned and walked away.

Mr. Niktab said nothing; the other two dervishes looked at each other questioningly. There was no khaniqah in Los Angeles and it was three thousand miles away. Mr. Niktab asked the two if they knew anyone there. “My cousin lives there,” one of them said. “I think you can stay with him.”

“He meant all of us,” Mr. Niktab said. “Get ready.”

They packed a few things quickly and hurried to the airport, took the next available flight, and arrived in Los Angeles just after 4pm.

When the Master says go, you go.

When they arrived at their destination, it was just past 5:00 pm, and the cousin was yet home from work. The young darvish who suggested it confessed that he could not reach his cousin, so the visit was going to be a surprise. Mr. Niktab didn’t seem concerned, and led them to the small, fenced backyard where they found lawn chairs to sit on.

Mr. Niktab meditated for a while, and then began singing one of Master’s poems in Persian, and the other two joined in, clapping out the rhythm.

Soon an elderly man next door heard the singing and glimpsed the three swarthy strangers over the fence that divided the property. He came to the fence and asked:  “Who are you people?”

Mr. Niktab smiled at the old man. He did not speak English, but told the young darvish to translate, and tell him they were waiting for his cousin to arrive, and apologized for disturbing him.  The old man just nodded and went back inside.

When the cousin finally arrived, he was delighted to find his unexpected visitors, and that Mr. Niktab himself had come. He begged them to make themselves comfortable while he made tea.

One of the young darvishes was a good cook, and made a delicious dinner for them all, after which they sang and recited Master’s poetry, having an impromptu zekr.  Mr. Niktab told the cousin to invite the gentleman next door, and the old man gladly agreed, having been listening to the music through the open windows.

He sat next to Mr. Niktab, who through an interpreter chatted with him amiably, and explained about the Sufi path and its dedication to love and service. The old man listened politely, drank the tea, ate one of the offered sweets, and went home sometime later.

The next afternoon, one of the dervishes asked Mr. Niktab what they were supposed to be doing.

“We are supposed to obey Master,” he said. “And be patient.”

The next night, many more Iranians appeared, the cousin telling his friends that a Sufi Shaykh was visiting his home. And this time Mr. Niktab politely invited the old man for dinner.  The food and music and poetry, even in a language he did not understand, seemed to please the old man and put him at ease.

Mr. Niktab also told him that the next might, Sunday, was their majlis, their twice weekly spiritual gathering, and that although he was welcome to attend, he would have to listen from the next room, as only darvishes, those already initiated, were admitted into the circle of the Friend.

“Then will you initiate me?” he asked without hesitation. Mr. Niktab smiled and said that he would be delighted to do so, and instructed one of the darvishes to help him obtain the items needed, and explain the details of initiation.

And so it was that on the third day, the old man was initiated as a darvish of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order; he was given his zekr, and formally gave his heart to God and his head to the Master. And he was happily welcomed into the circle of Lovers.

After the meeting was over and everyone had departed, Mr. Niktab spoke to the two dervishes who had traveled with him.

“Tomorrow we can go home,” he said.  “The old man was the reason the Master sent us to Los Angeles.”

Ya Haqq!

Note: This is a true story, and it was also said that the old man completed the entire Sufi path in one year, which is truly unheard of, except as God wills.

PS: Sunday, October 10th, is the second anniversary of the passing of Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, (12/10/1926 – 10/10/2008) who was for fifty-five years the Master of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order.


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