Moulana Shah Maghsoud
“It is for us to open the gateway of knowledge to the human being, and so make knowledge the light of the way and understanding the light of the aware heart.” – Moulana Shah Maghsoud
Moulana Shah Maghsoud, was a philosopher, scientist and poet, and one of the great Sufis of the 20th century, was born in Teheran, Iran, on February 4th, 1916. His father, Hazrat Mir Ghotbeddin Mohammad, was also one of the great Sufis and scholars of his generation. His mother was Khorshid a descendant of one of the distinguished old Persian families. His family represented the culmination of centuries of cultivation and intellectual attainment. Shah Maghsoud is the last of the long lineage descended from Oveyse Gharan whose way of spiritual travelling was directly approved by the Prophet Mohammad.
Poetry from a young age
Moulana Shah Maghsoud wrote his first book when he was fourteen, a volume of poetry that was published by the Iranian Department of Education. He gave his own copy to his daughter, Seyyedeh Dr. Nahid Angha, who remains the sole translator of his work. In later time, he also dedicated his entire book of poetry, Divan-e-Ghazal to her. This first book of poetry was only the first of many works of poetry that he had composed, even while he simultaneously pursued his scientific and philosophical investigations.
The sun’s radiance in her face is in
the heart of every particle,
and I am like a wave
glimpsing into every cell.
Through her parting elixir of alchemy
my face becomes golden,
and so I could plunge the heart
of the universe into red fire.
From Ecstasy, and translated by Dr. Seyyedeh Nahid Angha
Education with law, and a family lineage of spiritual knowledge
Shah Maghsoud studied law at the University of Teheran, Iran, and studied spirituality under the guidance of his father, the noted Sufi Hazrat Mir Ghotbeddin, whose spiritual path his son was both to follow and extend. In his autobiographical notes to his daughter, Seyyedeh Dr. Nahid Angha, he wrote:
|ne who is interested in spirituality must learn about its well-springs, about the reasons why a traveler begins upon the path of spirituality, what his/her intentions and goals are – in a word, what is it that s/he wants to accomplish. In this way one begins to become familiar with the path of Sufism, but this process is not the same as traveling on the path itself. Just as learning grammar and the disciplines honored in literature will not make a person a poet, and memorizing the names of different illnesses and treatments cannot make an individual a physician, so likewise learning the rules of spirituality and studying the biographies of the masters are not the keys to gain knowledge of the abstractedness of the inner path. Learning the words and teachings of the great masters represents a level of studying very different from that of being a traveler. Of course, this fact should not discourage a student from such study, since the inward quality that helps one to learn, as well as the quality of being a person of insight, are both characteristics provided by the existence for any human being. …the student must become aware of the path that he or she is taking, and so undertake this path with strong and confident steps. My essential fellow traveler and savior in the course of my inner journey was the essential inward truthfulness in my heart, and that was born with me…
|graduated from school and emerged with the customary body of education, but that education did not make me knowledgeable. Even then, I understood that words could not transfer the essence of their meanings from one individual to another, and that the human storage of memory was not a library of knowledge, even though I had learned many sayings, ideas, and beliefs of great people of all times, those were not my knowledge, but only quotations, narration.|
Both a scientist and a spiritual leader
Moulana Shah Maghsoud was one of the most intelligent and open minded scientists and spiritual leaders, without the dogmatism that even great scholars sometimes fall into. He would frequently quote the verses in the Koran that say, “Do not follow whatever you have not knowledge of” – thus he insisted that a human being should strive to find knowledge, a knowledge of his own, a knowledge in its true and perfect meaning.
Shah Maghsoud taught for forty years, he worked daily and nightly over the decades to construct the bridge between spirituality and science, using scientific analysis in his writings to establish and clarify the truthful religious understanding.
|he teacher of such knowledge is a perfect human being, one who is free from personal likes and dislikes, the one who does not ask people to provide him with his living, do you see anyone like that? Are the so called teachers in our society like that, those teachers who are supposedly opening the door of knowledge toward its truest meaning? If you find such a teacher, honor his/her teachings. If you cannot find such a teacher, at least leave the counterfeit teachers behind and do not place any hope in their teachings. Instead, rely on God and leave your heart open to Him, so that He will guide you to your path and show you the reality, the reality that is not perceivable by the limited mind.|
Khaneghah, a place for people of the heart
Moulana Shah Maghsoud’s Khaneghah, in Sufi Abaad, was the gathering place of people of the heart. Sufi Abaad, itself a complex of buildings, was built in the sixties, and the foundation of his Khaneghah as well as his museum, library, and observatory were laid in the early seventies. The estate of Sufi Abaad was built, under the supervision of Moulana Shah Maghsoud, with extreme care. The mirror work, plaster, tiles, hand-carved doors and windows, and calligraphy, were all works of prominent Iranian artists.
Everything from the design of the museum, Khaneghah, laboratory, observatory, library, and the whole small village of Sufi Abaad with his house where he lived with his wife, and his children’s houses were designed by him. Such artistic beauty had added another book to the books of the great mystics of our times.
Niaz, a special night of gathering
The first Thursday night of each month was the night of Niaz, or need, and a gathering was held in the Khaneghah of Sufi Abaad that every member of this school would attend. Each month they would come from Teheran and all the other cities in Iran to attend the night of Niaz. Every member wore special clothing. Men had white long sleeved shirts and trousers, white socks, a belt of gold and black cotton strings twisted with knots, and the women were dressed similarly, except that they wore modest skirts instead of trousers. It was in one of his gatherings that he honored over three hundred of his students, men and women, by giving them the “robe” of servitude in a ceremony, a black robe edged with gold.
The teaching of Moulana Shah Maghsoud is spread throughout the world by his many dedicated students. The Khaneghah of Moulana Shah Maghsoud was a spacious two story building. It was carefully designed so that men would gather on the first floor and women on a balcony on the second, all facing the seat of the Master, Moulana Shah Maghsoud. Everyone was given an individual place, and all would sit in arranged rows. Lectures would begin at seven, and last about two hours, and then Moulana Shah Maghsoud would permit the zekr, the Sufi chanting of la ellaha illa Allah.
After the zekr, those who had attended were served supper. Before midnight, Moulana Shah Maghsoud excused everyone, and the evening came to a close. He gave a one day lecture for women and a one day lecture for men every week other than those gatherings.
In the nights of Niaz, many people from the neighborhood would come to the Khaneghah to dine, and for those who could not attend and who were in need, food would be taken to them. Thousands of people were fed outside of the Khaneghah in the nights of Niaz, regardless of who they were or what they believed.
Moulana Shah Maghsoud traveled outside of Iran for scholarly purposes, visiting countries such as Iraq, the United States, England, Switzerland, and Egypt at the request of educational institutes and organizations to give lectures. In one of his journeys to the United States, Professor Brown, a philosophy professor at Missouri, was so influenced by his lecture that he likened him to Plato in a treatise that he sent to Moulana Shah Maghsoud.
His visits to Egypt and lectures there to a group of Al-Azhar University professors resulted in the book Al-Rasael, containing four treatises on the stages of the spiritual journey.
Sala’at, movement and prayer
One of his many interesting books is Sala’at, a treatise on Muslim prayers. For many centuries the question of why there are special bodily movements in the course of praying had remained unanswered, despite its importance.
Scientists have repeatedly attempted to solve this mystery with reasoned arguments, but without much convincing logic. Moulana Shah Maghsoud solved this enigma by analyzing the significance of each element of every prescribed movement, and so opened a new door to the understanding of Islam.
Genetics, science and medicine
Moulana Shah Maghsoud’s works in the field of scientific inquiry likewise range over questions that embrace the meaning of science and its future. In one of his books, Traditional Medicine, he described the future of science from the 1960’s up to the year 2000, as well as forecasting many recent developments in genetic engineering and its applications to medicine.
From physics to poetry
The list of Moulana Shah Maghsoud’s books is a long one, and longer still when one includes the many that have been translated into the different languages of the world. His daughter, Seyyedeh Dr. Nahid Angha, is the major translator of his works.
What is perhaps most characteristic of his literary corpus is its unity; the reader who enters into the world of his thought will gain insights from one work that complement knowledge contained in apparently unrelated writings. This is all the more remarkable since the breadth of Moulana Shah Maghsoud’s intellectual literary efforts ranges from poetry to physics.
As interest in his thought grows in the West, the bridge that his works provide between science and spirituality will open new doors of understanding, and inspire physicists and poets alike. His idea give life to the realm of spirituality and reveal mysteries that have been hidden for many centuries. Moulana Shah Maghsoud gives careful, scientific explanations within the language of his poems, each one of which is much like his own personality – a scientist, a Sufi who explains the cognitive locus of the heart.
Moulana Shah Maghsoud passed away at 5:25 on the morning of Monday, November 17, 1980. Shah Magsoud’s work is continued through the work of his many dedicated students, yet he remains the unique Master of generations. The present school is the result of forty years teaching, of daily and nightly labor by this great teacher, as he labored over the decades to construct the bridge between spirituality and science.