By Dr Muhammad Maroof Shah
25 Jan 2018
Reading Bayman’s Tribute to the Grand Master of Sufism
Saints and sages we have around us and we don’t bother to meet them or at least read them to taste something of their Presence. Saints constitute irrefutable proof of religion and mysticism. They convert by presence. They conquer hearts and sages conquer minds as well. They have beyond words richness of being to share and that is a treasure that benefits everyone including atheist who enters into a dialogue or relationship with them. A Superman is so high above average humanity that Nietzsche despaired of seeing one in his lifetime. He cried that it was so sweet to follow but where is the Master. But there are such Masters, Iqbal retorted. And in our midst today. If you doubt, know the grand Master Kahyan as reported by one of the gifted writers and students of Sufism Bayman in his classic essay paying tribute to him and his classic The Teachings of a Perfect Master: An Islamic Saint for the Third Millennium (to be read along with another classic A Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century by Martin Lings to better comprehend certain doctrinal issues and debates surrounding Sufism). A few excerpts:
"Having met the Master, I don't wonder that his disciples confused Jesus with God or the Son of God. No man can be God, of course, and yet I can well understand their difficulty in groping for a label. What is amazing is that someone like the Master, who should ordinarily belong to the Age of the Prophets, could be found and encountered in the second half of the 20th century.”
The Master impressed a Canadian journalist so much that he said to the Master: "Let me publicize you. To the Jews, let me go and say: 'If you're looking for Moses, here he is.' To the Christians, let me pronounce: 'I've discovered Jesus.'" Bayman reports further that “The Master refused, and the journalist respected him enough to comply with his wish to remain unexposed. He could have become world-famous, had he so wished.”
Indeed, “The highest point of achievement, the Station of Praise which belongs only to the Prophet, is achieving perfection in being a humble servant of God.” The Master advocated following the Prophet as the most universal way of achieving perfection. He observed Salat, performed Hajj and asked everyone to refrain from illicit gain and illicit sex as conditions for spiritual progress. His own pamphlets on world peace “aroused favourable responses from a former French president, from the Pope, and from both the then-president and prime minister of Israel.”
"Like Rumi, he embraced all sinners." “With him there was no distinction between Moslem, Christian, Jew, or Buddhist. He was far beyond drawing distinctions in the ordinary manner. For him there were only human beings, and to all he counseled the same teaching: God exists, and God is One. Abide by the Divine Law. Work for the establishment of peace on earth, love one another, and devote yourself to serving your fellow-(wo)men. Feel compassion for all creatures, for even a fly.” “He was the most ethical person of the highest morality I have ever known. And that, he disclosed to me, was the difference that made the difference.” “Even an atheist can benefit from this advice, provided he heeds it.”
Bayman reports that in fifteen years he was with the Master he saw him really angry only once, and “his only response was the softly spoken word, ‘Quiet.’ Those are the ‘worst-case characteristics.’”
Bayman asks to “bring together all the admirable traits you have ever seen in any human being. Next, multiply the sum by a thousand fold. That, approximately, will give you what people lovingly referred to as ‘Effendi.’”
Kahyan recalls St. Francis who treated everyone as a king and attended to every little detail of their lives: “Even if you were an ant, he would treat you like a king. Pleasantries would be exchanged over a cup of tea.”The Master said that “everyone calls me a ‘Master”’but everyone who enters through this door is my Master.”
“If you continued your visits, you would learn many things you had never known before. And finally, you would come to realize that here was the most lovable, the most adorable, absolutely the most wonderful person on earth.
The long and short of it is, the Master was squarely at the centre of the highest expression of traditional Islamic Sufism, in the line of the Samini Branch of the Naqshbandi Order. Yet at the same time, there was no one more modern or more open-minded than he. (I must again stress that this is not simply my personal opinion. Rather, I am quoting from a follower, this time a modern-minded lady.)”
He “was beyond all orders, sects, or schools. And though he was a devout Moslem, he embraced people of all religions.”
“In Effendi, the exoteric and the esoteric were a single whole--Sufism was Islam and Islam was Sufism. In no other person have I seen the two so seamlessly fused.” This illustrates the Greatest Master’s famous saying “sha’ria is haqiqa.” However, it also needs to be noted that “The Master took pure Sufism, like democracy, with a pinch of salt. His preferred term was Muhammdenhood, i.e., living a Muhammadan way.”
A visitor said to him, 'Dear Effendi, when I come into your presence I feel as if all of my cares and troubles have been lifted from me and left at your door!' He smiled (that indescribably beautiful smile that seemed to light the whole room!) and said affectionately, knowing full well that she had voiced what the majority of the people in that crowded apartment on a busy Saturday morning were experiencing, 'Yes, you are right, my dear, but how much better it would have been if you had left your self at the door.'
Bayman reports from a devotee “He is our [President]. Our electricity comes from him, from that great power station in Ankara."
A saint is himself a miracle that will ever perplex rational philosophy and science. And miracles around him were so numerous that we need not mention them except a summarizing remark of Bayman “When an event is sufficiently out of the ordinary that it stands in a class by itself, we call that event "miraculous." What, then, are we going to call that situation where miraculous events keep going on day after day, month after month, year after year? In other words, what are we to call that condition where the non-ordinary becomes ordinary?
"Sceptics will call it impossible. Others will call it highly doubtful. I call it the perfect flowering of Mohammedan sainthood.”
And a more important caveat “….The focus should be, not on the miraculous, but on the ethical.”
Bayman reports from what a disciple understood his teaching "Law and justice exist," he said, "because of conscience, and conscience exists because of love. If you love someone, you cannot violate that person's rights. And that's what the Divine Law is all about. It gives you the guidelines of how to behave as you would if you loved that person.”
“Although he was in the Naqshbandi line of descent, there were no dervish convents (Takkas), no ceremonies, no special rituals, and no formalities. The convents had been disbanded in 1928 by the newly-formed Turkish Republic, but with the Master I learned that there was no need of them.” “People found him irresistible, and the more everyone saw of him, the more they wanted to see.”
“If one spent sufficient time with the Master, one might have come to the conclusion that he possessed a closely-guarded secret…And perhaps none could figure it. It went with him to the grave.”
“What caused university professors to be the humble students of this unschooled man? He was not rich, so the reason was not economic. He was not a politician, so the reason was not political. Yet he knew things no one else knew, saw things no one else saw.”
“The existence of a person like Ahmet Kayhan forced those who knew him to reconsider and redefine what it means to be human. Just as a single white elephant is enough to prove that not all elephants are gray, the existence of a human being like Effendi forces us to stop the presses and rewrite the books.”
To the request that one wanted to meet Khizr, he replied after narrating a story that “Try to love and understand the people you see and admire. A saint, a Wali is with Khizr every moment.”
To those who wonder why we need to pray we may suggest considering what Mansoor said when he was asked why he prayed if he says “I am the Truth.” He replied to the effect that the Self within him is so lofty that one can’t help prostrating to It. Kahyan similarly quotes a saying that there is a secret in man that makes him so valuable that if one knew one would prostrate before it.
Note this suggestion for all of us lesser mortals: “If we can shake off the hibernation that has us in its grip, we will realize that a more magnificent destiny can be ours than are dreamt of in our philosophies. Perhaps not everyone can achieve it to an equal degree, just as not everyone can win the Olympic medal. But everyone can do something better than where they're at. If we've spent our lives in suspended animation to this day, at least from now on let us try to wake up.”