The birthday of the Holy Master, Maulana Shah Maghsoud, is a day of joyful celebration. Students spend the day in remembrance, reading his writings and thinking of the many ways that this magnanimous person contributed to the advancement of humanity and enriched the lives of so many. After a day of reflection on his life and teachings, we come from all over to the home of our teachers for a birthday celebration where a great feast is enjoyed.
We arrive at the Uwaiysi Tariqat center in Northern California with bouquets of flowers in honor of the birthday of Hazrat Shah Maghsoud. Bowing to the holy Masters, each student takes a seat until the various rooms of the khaneghah are entirely full. The evening begins with a lecture from our holy teachers Shah Nazar Seyed Dr. Ali Kianfar, the beloved student of Hazrat Shah Maghsoud, and Seyedeh Dr. Nahid Angha, the eldest child and first student of Hazrat Shah Maghsoud. Their enlightend words shine through our hearts, illuminated by the divine message brought forth by Hazrat Shah Maghsoud through his two dedicated disciples. Students may also be invited to share stories, read the Holy master’s poems, or share reflections in commemoration of the day. The formal gathering ends with a reading from the Holy Qur’an and tafsir (commentary) by the living master. This is followed a group Zekr (remembrance service) and special prayers of the Uwaiysi Tariqat.
As each person returns to inner contemplation, several designated servers rise and leave the gathering to prepare the feast. In the Persian Sufi tradition, several hand made sofrehs (meal cloths) made especially for Hazrat Shah Maghsoud and inscribed with Qur’anic verses, the names of the Holy Prophet and Holy Masters of the Uwaiysi Tariqat, are neatly spread on the floor. Careful not to step on the sofreh, the servers set plates and utensils in front of their teachers and each guest.
As we take a moment to savor the feast held in honor of our Holy Master, everyone waits until the Master gives the signal for the Sheikh to recite the Fatiha and the meal begins. As plates are passed around and filled with delicious food, we settle down to the meal, enjoying the good food and company of our teachers and brothers and sisters. After eating our full, the meal ends with recitation of the Fatiha, followed by special prayers and dua from the Uwaiysi tradition, saluting the original human being Adam, Prophets Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Hazrat Muhammad, Hazrat Ali, Hazrat Fatima, and our Holy Master Maulana Shah Maghsoud. As the servers rise and take the dishes and leftovers into the kitchen, the group relaxes and waits for tea. As tea is served, we listen intently to the parting words of our Masters before heading into the night. As we leave the Uwaiysi Center, bodies and minds fully sated, we head home and once again return to our private remembrance of our beloved Holy Master Maulana Shah Maghsoud.
Reading Hazrat Moulana Shah Maghsoud’s words, I ask myself what is the meaning of “solitude”? What are the qualities of solitude? In recent weeks, I have been attempting to follow the instructions of our wise teacher Seyedeh Dr. Angha for meditation. When she first gave these instructions she talked about isolation and solitude — being alone — feeling loneliness. This is the way to hear your heart beat – to “find your heart.”
In Principles of Sufism, Seyedeh Dr. Nahid Angha, Moulana Shah Maghsoud’s eldest child, defines solitude for us: “Inward solitude expresses the Sufi’s freedom from the preoccupation with the future. He asks for nothing except God. He empties his mind and heart of all else. He is the seeker of reality, and reality alone is what he searches for.”
I am often asked the question, how did I become a student of Sufism. I am still not completely sure how and why. But the more I study the teachings of Hazrat Moulana Shah Maghsoud and this school, I hear the message of solitude and realize how I am attracted to that message – and how I have my whole life increasingly become attracted to this message. I realize that somehow along my way, the Divine has at least given me this opportunity.
In all honesty, I am not sure if I have really fully experienced this message, the state of solitude, but for me the teachings of Hazrat Moulana Shah Maghsoud and his students, our teachers, Seyedeh Dr. Angha and Shah Nazar Seyed Dr. Kianfar continually remind us of the importance of solitude — how we must carry this practice and principle always – in every moment – in every breath.
Yet in solitude I don’t necessarily see myself as “separate” from everyone else. To the contrary, in solitude there is only God but if God is everywhere, then the reality of the Existence is the unity of everything with God. We do not turn our back on the world – rather we recognize and strive for awareness and lift the veils of illusion to see that there is nothing but God.
I see this message in the life of Hazrat Moulana Shah Maghsoud, a unique human being for his time – who maintained the quality of solitude in every moment yet, like the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), spent his whole life teaching the Divine message. From his solitude came his inspiration for the service of God and humanity. As Seyedeh Dr. Angha stressed at the working retreat last week, if you have knowledge you have a personal responsibility to share that knowledge. You have to serve humanity. For us, Hazrat Moulana Shah Maghsoud, as do our teachers, embodies solitude and service.
We return again to Dr. Angha’s instruction and to the essence of Moulana Shah Maghsoud’s teaching. The starting point for all Divine messages including the message of solitude is the center of the heart – in our heartbeat which belongs to no one but ourselves. The heartbeat is the symbol of the opportunity the Divine has given us to know and serve Him. The heartbeat is the “pure melody of truth.” Allah.
On this special day, we should again listen to the teaching of Hazrat Moulana Shah Maghsoud:
If the human power is concentrated at one point and in that moment one is not disturbed by any subject or thing, the concentration of his obtained power would be the granting principle that he has been bestowed by the universal, existence, God or whatever you may call it.
“And Serve thy Lord until there come unto thee the hour that is certain.”
Qur’an: Sura 15, Aya 99
This ayat is very apropos for this day of celebration of the life Hazrate Shah Maghsoud. For, when one looks at the life of Maulana Shah Maghsoud, we see that he was successful in many fields of study, was a prolific writer and great Sufi teacher. However, we can summarize all of his endeavors under the title “servant of Allah.”
If we look at human history it is safe to say that being a servant of Allah is the highest calling that a human being can engage in, why? The only goal of the servant of Allah is to point people in the direction of Allah. On the other hand, the servant of the world helps one live and prosper in the world, and as we know, the world is a place of limitation and change. Allah says in the Qur’an, “everything will fade, except my face which is eternal.”
Maulana Shah Maghsoud in the language of his teaching says:
Whatever is open to the influence of corruption, destruction, and eradication fosters anger, greed, fear, hopelessness, sickness, sorrow, and old age. There are the agents of death that have been born with man.
Many times in this gathering we have heard that Maulana Shah Maghsoud’s mission was to once again go back and clean up the face of religion; a face that had been sullied by those who failed to understand the meaning of the teachings of the holy prophets (peace and blessings upon them). In his book Payam-e-Del, he says:
The names of God are read to the hearts in truth. But those who do not know will not discover the truth behind the words, yet believe in the holiness of the meaningless image of the unknown.
Least we forget, this was similar to the work of the Holy Prophet (s) during his lifetime. Imam Ali continued this legacy after the death of the Holy Prophet (s) and the Holy Imams sacrificed their lives to uphold the integrity of this message.
The holy prophets and holy masters come only to serve humanity. I would like to share a few thoughts on service from Maulana Shah Maghsoud that we heard on the night of his remembrance, November 17, l999. He said that the halat is a cloak of service and whoever receives it has to be in service to those who need to understand Islam. One important point is that in introducing Islam to the people, do so without introducing anything of your own teaching. Maulana Shah Maghsoud in Psalms of Gods says:
The wise person knows that he does no know, but the ignorant does not realize his own ignorance.
Porters carry unknown loads along long roads and yet are proud of bearing what they do not possess.
White clothes are a reminder of the teaching of Islam, not for reward or payment, just for the betterment of humankind. When you put on the clothes of the believer, it is an appointment for service and nothing else. Guidance is from Allah and Allah only. Don’t call on people, call on Allah and keep calling.
Sometimes when invited to do service, the ego gets in the way, and from the ego comes fear, doubt and hesitation, all enemies of a believer. When this happens Allah instructs us “when you meet a force, stand firm and call on Allah.”
Maulana Shah Maghsoud, the prophet of our time teaches us in his words:
Higher souls eject strangers from their domains and do not allow them to stubbornly remain there. Divine dignity does not permit any rule other than that of peace and tranquility, and so anxiety and distraction have no foundation for survival.
The holy masters teach us that service comes only after receiving. Before that one is only sharing that of which one has no knowledge. Maulana Shah Maghsoud says:
Vision comes from the heart, or else one will be blind in this life and the afterlife …
And the Holy Qur’an teaches: “Don’t follow that of which you have no knowledge.”
In closing, we have been blessed with a great opportunity to come and sit in this circle. How can we repay Allah for this wonderful blessing and all of the blessings, barakat and mercy that has flowed our way since coming here? Our holy master through his life’s work and example gives us a clear answer. Serve the people and invite them to the truth. Al hamdulillah, through the teachings and barakat of the holy master, we have been given the tools necessary to carry out whatever mission we are called to do. Let me leave you with one more thought of encouragement from our holy master. He says:
The light of heavens purge fear and sorrow from sacred souls.
He also admonishes us that “time is short and the Day of Judgment is near.”
I want to honor Moulana Shah Maghsoud Sadegh Angha today for what he is to me – An American Hero. Although his ancestry goes back to a line of one of Iran’s noblest families – he has done a great service for this country and I want to thank him for that.
When I say “Hero”, I mean someone who is an impeccable example of how to live life to the fullest. He gave humanity an example of how wise, knowledgeable and powerful a human being CAN BE.
Moulana Shah Maghsoud introduced the Holy Prophet to this country in the best light at a time when we really need to understand Islam – totally separated from culture and prejudice.
And by doing this, he actually introduced the universal culture that unites the best in all of us throughout the world. He separated the great message and invitation of the Prophets from the dubious religion of orthodoxy and made the meaning of religion clear.
He left two perfect examples of his message to continue his work: Seyedeh Dr. Nahid Angha and Shah Nazar Seyed Dr. Ali Kianfar. They continue to educate and inspire people here in America and through out the world. Gradually, we as students are beginning to understand that we are not small, limited beings. The whole universe is wrapped in us and each of us can bring forth marvelous things and tap untold power if we but try.
Moulana Shah Maghsoud showed us the foundation of religion as a system that demonstrates the larger world of spirituality and its goals as something undeniable and immediate, not something shaky or doubtful. Everyone of us has had some introduction to true spiritual experience. We’ve seen an opening to a larger world that most people, scholars, philosophers and theologians have to leave to argument and hypothesis. We have experience. AND WITH EXPERIENCE COMES RESPONSIBILITY.
This is the legacy MSM has left for us in this school. Few others in the world in history could achieve such a thing and it is the least that we can do to mention his name in reverence and awe and thank him for what he did.
But isn’t there more we can do? Isn’t there more we should do? What can we do to show our appreciation?
Most people are coming to America, the land of opportunity, to do nothing but take. Here is an example of someone who only came to give – a perfect gift – no strings attached: a perfect religion free of all the distractions of politics, culture, ceremony and so many things … his gift is complete to America for America. And, as Americans, it is your property. SUFISM FOR AMERICA!
This is an enormous fortune…enough to last many generations…
And it only comes with one condition: you have to go and get it.
Nothing of value is easily obtained and Moulana Shah Maghsoud’s treasure is an Eternal treasure that you never have to give back.
We have to remember that this path he left for us is not the task of a day, a month or a year. It is the task of a life.
We should review the strength of our convictions and our aspirations.
The best we can do, if we really want to honor Moulana Shah Maghsoud is to honor his path.
One last time, we should decide if we are in or if we are out. This decision isn’t about stress or pressure. It is about honesty, am I really a person interested to continue on this path and see what knowledge and portion it has for me. We should search deeply, to the depths of our being and decide one last time.
And if we see that “Yes, I am a person for this path” then we must do one thing and never, never, never let ourselves falter.
We have to commit ourselves completely to this path and see it straight through to its depths and never allow anything, especially ourselves, to hold us back again. Every day we should take one step forward and not surrender one step back.
We have the best of everything. He gave it to us. This path lacks nothing.
If your mind objects to progress, leave your mind behind.
To honor Moulana Shah Maghsoud’s birthday, and I hope that you will join me, I promise from this day forward I will increase my efforts and leave doubt, negativity and hesitation behind.
When I come to a point where my mind objects and creates problems for me, I promise to trust in Allah, call for Allah’s help and remember my teachers in my heart. They will help me and they are enough to help.
I WILL PUSH FORWARD AND NOT LOOK BACK.
This is the best way, I can think of, to honor our grand Master.