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Speech by

Hazrat Moulānā Safī ‘ Alī Shah II

Pīr of the Ne‘matollahi Safialishahi Sufi Order

in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and Isfahan, Iran.

 

God is the High, the Most High – Huwa’l-‘Alīyu’l-A‘lā

 

“In the name of God, the Creator of all Beauty and Love. In the name of Love.

In the name of all Messengers (the Prophets) of His Love and Beauty.

In the name of the Pīr[1] of Pīrs, the Pīr of all lovers and Sufis, Hazrat Moulā ‘Alī.[2].

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, good evening.

 

I heartily welcome and congratulate each and every one of you on the birthday of ‘Alī. I also want to thank the people of the Wereldmuseum for letting us use this magnificent space, and I thank all those whose help and efforts have made this festive celebration of the Day of Love possible.

 

All Sufis of the Ne‘matollahi Safialishahi Sufi Order, including our Sufis in Iran, feel deeply honoured that we can celebrate this feast in the Netherlands for the tenth time. We all hope that you will have a beautiful and pleasant evening.

 

This evening the subject of my lecture is “Love”. It will deal with love between people and with Love that transcends reason. For all Sufis around the world, the first Sufi and the Pīr of Pīrs, Moulā ‘Alī, represents and symbolizes divine Love; Love that surpasses reason.

 

The texts of the lectures of the past three years have now been compiled in a booklet. You can obtain this booklet for a small sum of money, here this evening, or else via our Khaneghah[3]. The texts of the lectures are in Dutch and in English.

 

Love

 

This evening’s lecture treats the following subjects:

 

- A few fragments from the Holy Scriptures, which deal specifically with this evening’s subject.

- The different forms of love.

- And finally, a brief analysis on the subject of Love from the views of Hazrat Moulana Jalaluddin Rumi[4] and the other great Persian poet and mystic, Hafez Shirazi[5].

 

To found my elaboration on these subjects I have used, amongst other things, a number of quotes from Rumi’s Masnawi[6] and the works of Hafez.

 

As Sufism or mysticism – which incidentally is the same thing – deals with universal Love, I would like to read to you some quotes from the Sacred Scriptures which speak of this Love.

 

The quotes from the Qur’ān might raise the impression that this is not so, and that only the way of the Qur’ān is the right way. In essence this is true, but such a statement requires an explanation as to the real meaning of the word “Islām”.

 

Everywhere in the Qur’an, the word “Islām” is followed by the words ‘surrender to God” between brackets. This is because the literal translation of the Arabic word “Islām” is “unconditional surrender to God”. This always means surrendering to Love and Unity, to Peace and Beauty, all of which represent God. This, and only this, is the true meaning of the word “Islām”.

Tradition has it that the final message of God, which the Prophet Muhammad had to deliver to mankind, was ‘Islām”. This did not mean that from then on, Islām would have to be the only form of world religion that could lead to spiritual liberation or redemption – lead to God. Because someone with a Muslim’s attitude towards life - in the purest sense - could equally well be a Christian, a Hindu, a Buddhist or belong to any other religious denomination. “Muslim” means “a person who unconditionally surrenders himself or herself to God”, and such people can be be found anywhere. There even are a lot of people who don’t profess any world religion at all and have no knowledge of them, but who do possess pure hearts and live accordingly, and who, above all, in their selfless service to their fellow men, fully surrender themselves to God as His servants. They too could rightfully be called “Muslims”.

 

A Zen saying

To understand God means to listen. Listening to Jesus and Muhammad and Buddha, without getting caught up the names. Listen to what lies hidden behind this; listen to God’s breath.

 

The Sacred Scriptures

 

The Qur’ān[7]

Sura 3 (Āl Imrān; “The People of Imrān”), verse 19: The religion before God is Islam (surrender to God).

 

Sura 2 (Al-Baqara; “The Cow”), verse 165: Yet there are men who take (for worship) others besides God, as equal (with God): they love them as they should love God, but those of faith are overflowing in their love for God.

 

Sūra 5 (Al-Mā’ida, “The Table Spread”), last section of verse 3: This day I have perfected your religion for you, completed my favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islām (“surrender to God”) as your religion.

 

The Dhammapada of Buddha[8]

Chapter 1 –“The Pairs”, verse 3: Hate is not overcome by hate; by Love alone is hate appeased. This is an eternal law.

 

The Bible, Old Testament

Solomon’s Song of Songs, 8:6, 7: Love is a fire, a fire of the Lord. Many waters themselves are not able to extinguish Love, nor can rivers themselves wash it away.

 

The Bible, New Testament, from the Gospels:[9]

The Gospel of Matthew, 22:37: And Jesus said to him: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”.

 

The Gospel of John, 15:12, 13: This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this that someone lays down his life for his friends.

 

The first epistle of John, 4:7, 8: God is Love. Dearly Beloved, let us love one another, for Love is from God. And every one who loves is born of God and knows God. He, who does not love God, does not know God: for God is Love.

 

The epistle to the Colossians, 3:14: And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

 

The first epistle to the Corinthians 16:14: Let all that you do be done in Love.

 

The first epistle to the Corinthians 13:1:13: If I speak in the tongue of men and angels, but have not Love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not Love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not Love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; Love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is Love.

 

The Different Forms of Love[10]

 

According to the mystics there are two kinds of love; “Real Love” and “apparent love”. This “apparent love” in turn is to be divided into two forms of love. Mystics consider “apparent love” as a mere shadow of “Real Love”.

 

Apparent love

The first form of apparent love is the form of “to love” or “major interest’ and “loyalty”, and is generally related to one’s immediate environment: parents, children, grandparents and other relatives and friends. It also relates to the love or passion for art and culture, for plants and animals or for music. All these forms of love follow fluctuating patterns. From time to time they may increase, and from time to time they may decrease, but they may also vanish altogether. This is because the power of this love is not constant and is transient in nature. This form of love is also called “philia”. [11]

 

The second form of apparent love concerns the love between the two sexes and is called “Eros”: this is the form of love that is based on the power of attraction. We usually encounter this form of love in steady, long-lasting or temporary partner-relationships. To all of us this is a common and well-known form of love. It usually begins when eyes meet each other. Later on a period of being in love and romance develops, and this often leads to physical intimacy.

We all need this form of love in our lives. It contributes to our growth and development and it helps us to get to know ourselves and others better. It also teaches us to enjoy one another and to taste the flavour of life. But this form of love too is not enduring. Perhaps some of us have regrettably had to experience its lack of constancy. The cause of this is the human ego, which blinds us.

 

To illustrate my point I would like to tell you a little story:

After a period of getting to know each other and being in love, a man and a woman got married. A few months later the man and the woman were sitting at a table, and all of a sudden the man noticed a small black spot in his wife’s eye. He said: “O dear, my love, there’s something black in your eye”. The woman replied: “Sweet darling, that little black spot has been in my eye since the day I was born, but you never noticed it before because you were so in love with me in the beginning”.

 

Apparent love as “stepping-stone” to Real Love

In mystical literature, “the idol” is a manifestation of God, as it has been conceived and shaped by people, or is perceived by them in natural phenomena (e.g. a tree). For them, such an idol can certainly represent the unity of the True One.

 

Rumi, the Masnawi, volume I

111: Whether love be from this (earthly) side or from that (heavenly) side, in the end it leads us yonder.[12]

 

Hafez

I said to him, “Don’t worship that idol, but be with Samad[13].”

He replied, “On the Path of Love, both ways are effective.”

 

So apparent love can also be a stepping-stone leading up to the ladder of Real Love. There are people for whom apparent love is not fulfilling enough. Their spirits and their spiritual hearts are so thirsty that this thirst cannot be quenched. These people are constantly seeking a form of love that goes deeper and higher, and that eventually will lead them to the Most High. This form of love is also called “agapè”.[14]

 

True Love

In Sufism too, Pīrs are confronted with such people. Restlessly and bemused, they search for something higher, something more beautiful, something that will quench their thirst.

In Sufism this first stage of Love on the mystical Path is called “talab”.

A person does not know and cannot determine beforehand how, where or when he or she will fall in love. I.e. in Sufism the pupil doesn’t choose his Master, but the Master chooses his pupil.

 

At a single glance, a true Pīr recognizes this thirsty seeker, his inner state and conditions. He will reach out his hand to him and help him on, because he knows the remedy for this pain and unrest. But the Pīr can only quench the seeker’s thirst if he or she is an unconditional and constant state of being in love and feels an incessant desire. For if we are not really in love, we will never be able to bear the pain and the grief of desire, which are necessary to be able to eventually taste the sweet flavour of Love, the real Love.

 

Hazrat Manzur Ali Shah[15]on his own being in love:

With a single glance you made me fall in love, and robbed me of my faith and my heart. I maintain silence and let no one know that I am in love.

 

The mystics sometimes compare Real Love to the effect of a twining plant on another plant. The twining plant of Real Love grows higher and higher, and the plant around which it has twined itself, selfishness, slowly dies from lack of nourishment and moisture.

 

For a person to be able to feel Love, it is necessary that he or she has reached a certain inner level. On this level, the true lover has merged into the Beloved, and thus the way to immortality and eternity has been cleared.

 

Wahdat-e Kermanshahi[16]described it as follows:

When the seeker, the One who is Sought after and the seeking converge, the time of union has arrived, and thus the search comes at an end.

 

It is impossible for man to fully express Love in words, in writing or by any other means. This is because True Love comes from God; the means that man has at his disposal are always confined to human measures, and therefore they are always inadequate.

 

Rumi, the Masnawi, volume I

112: Whatsoever I say in exposition and explanation of Love, when I come to Love (itself) I am ashamed of that (explanation).

 

113: Although the commentary of the tongue makes (all) clear, yet tongueless love is clearer.

 

114: Whilst the pen was making haste in writing, it split upon itself as soon as it came to Love.

 

Love in the Vision of Rumi and Hafez – A Brief Analysis

 

Using a wide range of angles, Rumi and Hafez have described the theme of “Love” in a most subtle and mystical way. In their works, Love is the central theme, and they treat all its aspects: the lover, the Beloved, Love, the pain of Love, being cut off from Love and union with the Beloved.

 

I will mention but a few points, as time doesn’t allow us now to discuss the matter in depth and in detail.

 

In Persian mystical literature, Love always goes hand in hand with desire, pain and sorrow. But at the same time this sorrow is considered as the only remedy for the lover. The cure for this suffering is in the hands of the Pīr. He is the one who possesses the divine qualities necessary to deliver the lover from his sorrow, pain and desire.

 

Hafez

The tale of the sorrow of Love is invariably one and the same,

Even though I hear this tale many times from so many people.[17]

 

The Physician of Love is merciful and possesses the Breath of the Messiah.

But how can the Physician cure you if you don’t know the pain of Love?[18]

 

No one has fallen in love, otherwise the Beloved would have ogled at someone,

O Sir, no one here suffers pain, otherwise there would be a Physician here.[19]

 

Rumi, the Masnawi, volume I

109: Being in love is made manifest by soreness of heart: there is no sickness like heart-sickness.

 

110: The lover’s ailment is separate from all other ailments: love is the astrolabe of the mysteries of God.[20]

 

Hafez

Who can heal our pain with a single glance?

Only You, and it would be unfair if You don’t do so.[21]

Many say that sometimes You can be wicked,

But that is their way of thinking; to me, You are simply the Magnanimous.[22]

 

Rumi, in his preface to Masnawi II, writes:

Someone asked, “What is Love?” I answered, “You will know when you become (lost in) me”.[23]

 

Hafez

Love is like a precious pearl,

I am the diver,

And the wine-house [24]is the sea,

I dive into it, not knowing where I will end up.[25]

 

It is the opinion of both these great mystics that it is inappropriate for lovers on the Path of Love to complain about the difficulties they are inevitably bound to encounter. The true lover accepts everything that comes from the Beloved with gratitude, and without comment or asking for an explanation. The quality attributed to this stage is “contentment” (rizā). When the seeker or wayfarer (sālik) has reached this stage, he or she can live according to this insight.

 

Hafez

On the one hand the lover claims to be in love, on the other hand he laments about Love.

Such sham lovers rightfully deserve to be cut off from the Beloved. [26]

 

Rumi, the Masnawi, volume I

1570: I am exceedingly enamoured of his violence and his gentleness: ‘t is marvellous (that) I (am) in love with both these contraries.

 

Hafez believes that through the power of divine Love, the true lover will live forever. Those who have no knowledge of the magistral workings of divine Love, he describes ‘as if they were dead, even though they continue to live on the material plane’. To Hafez, when a mystic sheds his or her mortal body, it means that he or she returns to his or her origin: the Beloved (God).

 

In the vision of both Hafez and Rumi, the mystic will thereupon reach the stage of immortality (baqā billāh), and will eventually merge completely into the Beloved (fanā fillāh). Thus all traces of the lover will disappear, as he or she has now become the Beloved Himself.

 

Hafez

The one whose heart has been reborn through Love, never dies.

In the book of existence our name is written as eternally living.[27]

Whoever in this company doesn’t live in and through Love,

I ask you, pray for him as though he were deceased.[28]

 

In the tradition of Rumi and Hafez Love is considered as God’s greatest and most beautiful gift to mankind. Because this Love can lead man to consciousness and perfection. The power of this Love leads to understanding existence – one’s own existence and existence in general – and to intuitive knowledge (gnosis). These qualities may help fellow human beings and be of service to them.

 

In the Qur’ān, Sūra 33 (Al-Ahzāb, “The Combined Forces”) it says in verse 72: “We offered the trust to heaven and earth, and to the mountains too, yet they refused to carry it, and shrank back from it. However man accepted it: he has been unfair [to himself], ignorant!”[29]

 

Both Rumi and Hafez understand this trust to be Love, and this Qur’ānic verse inspired them to write the following verses:

 

Hafez

The heavens could not carry this burden,

I, man, was chosen to put this Love into practice.[30]

 

Rumi, the Masnawi, volume I

1017: (But) into the blood-drop (core) of the heart there fell a jewel which He (God) gave not to the seas and skies.

 

Rumi, the Masnawi, volume II

1770: The Religion of Love is apart from all religions: for lovers, the (only) religion and creed is – God.

 

The religion of Sufis and dervishes too is Love. That Love is their daily calling. In order to fulfil this calling, they must free themselves from all prejudice and disfavour, and live accordingly. Therefore it is the task of every Sufi pupil to live in peace, harmony and brotherhood with all things and all people, and to treat every human being with Love, patience, helpfulness and compassion at all times, without ever expecting a reward or favour in return. This is the only way for them to develop the qualities which are necessary to be able to see and experience the whole of Creation – including themselves – in the way God intended it and as it has been laid down in the Scriptures.

 

Pīrs possess these divine qualities of Love, and this enables them to guide and instruct their pupils in them.

 

A Master once taught me that the true Sufi is he who offends no one. But he also told me that the true Sufi is someone who, when he himself is offended, will never blame another for it.

 

Sheikh Baha’i[31]

Only the knowledge of Love is true knowledge,

All the rest is but illusion and delusion.

 

Sheikh Baha’i means that all science and knowledge that man has at his disposal, can only be of service to mankind if this knowledge derives its effect from the power of Love.

 

I would like to conclude this lecture on Love by reading an ode (ghazal) to you from Hazrat Moulana Rumi. After that you will have the opportunity to enjoy beautiful mystical music that conveys the message of Love to mankind. And finally, I want to ask you, all who are present: love everyone, and live in peace with all things and all people. Because we can save our World only through love. The Beloved is with you, therefore try to be with the Beloved yourselves.”

 

Diwan-e Shams

 

It was late and I was afraid,

I apologized to my Beloved

 

The Beloved said: “O you sly one, at an earlier hour,

Then too did I follow your movements.”

 

I said, “O my love, with all that you have seen,

Act as though you saw nothing of me.”

 

The Beloved said, “That which you don’t want to be seen,

Is equally beautiful to me, and has my approval.”

 

I said, “I feel sorry, because I failed gravely,

Yet my love for you has remained unchanged in my heart.”

 

The Beloved said, “That I am still in your heart,

That too is due to me.”

 

I said, “It is being separated from each other

That wrecks and torments me.”

 

The Beloved said, “That by which you are fettered,

That too is due to my kindness, thát is the snare.”

 

“Just like Joseph who, with a ruse, retrieved Benjamin from the enemy,

You were accused by them, but I stole the cup.[32]

 

I said, “It is late and the road ahead is still long.”

The Beloved said, “Go, and watch me,

Do not watch the road, because I already travelled it before you.”

 

Even if the intellectual capacities of all beings were brought together,

They could never fathom the secret of our kindness.

Then who can? Only the one whom I have chosen.[33]

 

 

 

 

Yā ‘Alī Madad.[34]

 

Rotterdam, 5th August 2006



[1]The Persian or Fārsī word for “Spiritual Master” or "Sufi Master”.

[2]Moulā ‘Alī (often the honorific “Moulā” is also transliterated as “Mawlā”) was the nephew and son-in law of the Prophet Muhammad. From early childhood on, ‘Alī grew up at Muhammad’s side. Muhammad explained the mystical meanings of the texts of the Qur’ān to ‘Alī . In front of an enormous gathering, Muhammad declared: “I am the City of Knowledge [or Gnosis] and ‘Alī is the gate to this [the City of Knowledge].” Moulā ‘Alī was born on Friday the 13th of the month Rajab (according to the Islamic lunar calendar) in 600 CE (according to the Western solar calendar) in the Ka‘ba in Mecca (in present-day Saudi Arabia) and died at the age of 63 in the city of Kufa (in present-day Iraq) at the hands of an extremist while performing his morning prayers. His tomb is in Najaf, near the city of Kufa, also in present-day Iraq.

[3]Sufi Centre, Sufi Gathering House.

[4]Born in 1207 CE in Balkh, Khorasan (in the North of present-day Afghanistan), passed away in 1273 CE in Konya (in present-day Turkey).

[5]Born in 1325 CE in Shiraz, died in 1388 or 1389 CE in Shiraz, Khorasan (present-day Iran).

[6]The Masnawi covers six volumes and is a poem in Farsi of over 25,000 lines. For the Dutch translation the original Farsi edition has been used, along with the English translation (from the original Farsi) by Reynold. A. Nicholson. Sufis generally consider the Masnawi as “the inside” or “the core” of the Qur’ān. Put differently, the Qur’ān shows the peel and the Masnawi uncovers the mystical underlying meanings of the Qur’ān.

[7]The Glorious Kur’ān, translation and commentary by Abdallah Yusuf Ali, third edition, Lahore, 1934.

[8]Dhammapada, Wisdom of the Buddha, translated from the original Pali by Harischandra Kaviratna, 1980, Theosophical University Press.

[9]Taken from the English Standard Version of the Bible (www.gospelhall.com).

[10]For clarity’s sake, the translators have chosen to begin certain words with capitals, whereas nowadays these words would usually be written with small initials, e.g. in the Bible and certain poetry. The words beginning with a capital are words which denote divine qualities or persons possessing such qualities.

[11]Derived from the Greek verb “philiō”, meaning ‘to love’. In scientific writings “Apparent Love” (‘Ishq-e Majāzī) is also rendered as “Metaphorical Love”. It is opposed to “Real Love” (‘Ishq-e Haqīqī).

[12]Masnawi I, verse 111; the poet explains that what has been said about love in the preceding verse (110), applies to all situations. Whether its aim be in the human plane or the divine, whether it be real or temporary in nature, eventually Love will lead to knowledge of God and unification with Him. All earthly beauty is but a reflection of Heavenly Beauty, and when the reflection disappears, we turn our eyes towards the Light, the Light whence it had come. (Masnawi VII (I) – Commentaries Nicholson)

[13]In Christianity we only speak of “God”. In Islām the general name for God is “Allāh”. But Islām also has hundreds of others names for Allāh. All these names represent the specific qualities of Allah. Thus, “As-Samad” means: “the Everlasting’, “He Who has no needs but on Whom all depend’ and “the Unassailable”.

[14]Derived from the Greek verb “agapō”, which means “to love”.

[15]Born in Isfahan, Iran, on 20-03-1919 CE, and passed away there on 10th October 1987 CE.

[16]No further information available.

[17]Ode 39, verse 5.

[18]Ode 187, verse 4 from the “Diwan-e Hafez”.

[19]Ode 63, verse 5 from the “Diwan-e Hafez”.

[20]Ancient instrument for measuring degrees.

[21]Ode 480, verse 3.

[22]Ode 480, verse 5.

[23]In the Farsi edition of the Masnawi it says here: “This you will know when you, like us, have fallen in love”.

[24]I.e. the House of Love (Khāneghāh or Sufi Gathering House), where the saliks gather and drink the Wine of Love. During the ceremony of Zikr and Samā‘ they experience the ecstasy of Love, i.e. they experience Love.

[25]Ode 346, verse 3.

[26]Ode 193, verse 7.

[27]Ode 11, verse 3.

[28]Ode 244, verse 7.

[29]Taken from the English translation by T.B. Irving (The Qur’ān: First American Version, T.B. Irving, Amana Books, 1985).

[30]Ode 184, verse 3.

[31]Born in 1546 CE, died in 1622 CE in Isfahan, Iran. His tomb is in Mashhad, Iran.

[32]The Bible, Old Testament, Genesis 44, Joseph’s silver cup; the Qur’ān, Sūra 12 (Yūsuf), verses 69-81.

[33]Moulana Rumi, ode 1424.

[34]This greeting literally means “O Ali, Help”. Its true meanings is “May Love help you”.

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