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 Attar, Hujwiri, Jami 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.
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.