Shah Maghsoud Sadiq Angha
Shah Maghsoud Saqid Angha (1916-1980) was a pre-eminent Iranian Sufi Master, poet, and scholar of the Uwaiysi tariqat (spiritual order). His ancestry is traced back to the Safavids, the Sufi dynasty that ruled Iran and larger regions of the Middle East from 1501-1722. He wrote extensively about law, science (particularly physics), and spiritual understanding. Today, he remains one of the greatest masters of Persian Literature, who transformed theories into practice, explained the spiritual mysteries of revelation by rendering them into the language of reason that allowed human beings to claim their highest possible understanding and declare their own importance in this universal and cosmological design of space and time.
Shah Maghsoud Sadiq Angha (1916–1980) was a preeminent Iranian Sufi master, poet, and scholar of the Uwaiysi tariqat (Sufi order). He was born in Tehran, Iran on February 4, 1916 (Bahman 15, 1294 of the Persian calendar). He began his elementary school around the age of five, and continued his higher education at Dar al-Funun (a polytechnic institute). He formally studied law and political science, and began working at the Iranian Parliament after graduation. It is during this time that he met and married Mah Tal‘at Etemad Moghadam, who was a descendent of a prominent aristocratic family of the Qajar dynasty. They had three children: Nahid, Nader and Tannaz.
Shah Maghsoud devoted much time to exploring Eastern and Western philosophies, mathematics, physics, cosmology, numerology, and literature extensively, thus he was well versed and knowledgeable about Eastern and Western philosophies and mysticism, and his library was abundant with books of many philosophers, spiritual masters and scientific inquirers. A polymath, he remains as one of the prominent Sufi philosophers of the Muslim world. His doctrines address the questions of creation, the universe, God, the infinite/finite, ethics and morality, existence (wujud), essence and quiddity (māhiyat), and the relationship of human beings with the greater universe; and, like his predecessors, he employs the most complex and sophisticated language in explaining his doctrines.
Shah Maghsoud studied spirituality under the guidance of his father, Mir Ghotbeddin Muhammad Angha (d. 1962), a Sufi master of the Uwaiysi tariqah. Shah Maghsoud’s school of the Uwaiysi tariqah was the result of years of teachings, of daily and nightly labor by this great master, as he endeavored over the decades to construct a bridge between spirituality and science, using scientific analysis in his writings to establish and clarify religious understandings.
Shah Maghsoud’s khaniqah was located in Sufi Abad, north of Tehran, Iran. The construction of the buildings and residences at Sufi Abad estate was gradual, extending from 1964 to 1976. The foundation of his khaniqah was laid in the summer of 1966, and over that time the observatory, laboratory, museum, library, and houses were built on the estate. The khaniqah was built with extreme care, especially the mirror work, plaster, tiles, hand-carved doors and windows, and calligraphy created by prominent Iranian artists, every detail of which was supervised by Shah Maghsoud himself. Many of Shah Maghsoud’s students participated and took part in the construction of these buildings. The foundation of the Shah Maghsoudi museum was laid on May 10, 1975 (May 10 coincides with Mir Ghotbeddin’s birth date).
Sufi Abad remained a gathering place until the Iranian Revolution of 1978–79. Even though there was no threat to his khaniqah, Shah Maghsoud restricted the numbers of gatherings and people coming there. Shah Maghsoud and his entire family gradually migrated to the US around 1978; it is during that time that Shah Maghsoud’s health began to decline. He passed away on Monday, November 17, 1980 (26 Aban 1359 Jalali solar calendar, 9 Muharram 1401 Islamic lunar calendar). With his death, those magnificent gatherings of peaceful and inspiring togetherness came to an end.
Books and Published Works
Shah Maghsoud wrote and published across his life, including (see IAS Publications for available books):
Kukab-i adab (lit. Star of Literature), a 50-page book of poetry that he wrote when he was in his teens (Tehran: The Iranian Department of Education, 1932).
Padidihay-i fikr (lit. Manifestations of Thought), a 75-page book of eight chapters written when he was in his mid- to late thirties, at a time when he was deeply engaged in scientific and philosophical studies. The book was published independently and also in one volume compendium: Nirvan, Avaz-i-khudayan, Payam-i-del, Padidihay-i fikr ((Tehran: Amin Publications, 1963; and Tehran: Maktab-e-tariqat-e-Oveyssi Shah Maghsoudi). Nahid Angha’s commentary on this work was published as: Negah: Tahshi’-i bar Padidihay-i fikr (A Glimpse: An Annotation to the Manifestations of Thought; Tehran: Maktab-e-tariqat-e-Oveyssi Shah Maghsoudi, 1979), and the calligraphy on the cover is Shah Maghsoud’s handwritten inscription. Nahid Angha translated this book into English: (trans. with commentary) Padidihay-i fikr: Manifestations of Thought (San Rafael, California: Educational Testing & Research Institute, 1980; and San Rafael, California: IAS Publications, 2022)
Mathnawi mazamir-i haqq va Golzar-i omid (lit. Mathnawi of Psalms of Truth and the Garden of Hope; Tehran: Kitab-Furushi Zavaar Publications, 1963). These manuscripts, written in both prose and poetry, were published together in one volume. The first manuscript, Mathnawi mazamir-i haqq, is a 124-page book, compiled with an introduction by Mahmud Oveysian, one of Mir Ghotbeddin’s disciples, and with a preface by Mehrdad Avesta, a well-known Persian poet. Mathnawi Golzar-i omid, the second manuscript, is a 26-page work that Shah Maghsoud wrote in forty days. It is a complex book with a focus on the science of jafr (the numerical symbolism of the letters of the Arabic alphabet). Shah Maghsoud gave these two books to his daughter Nahid Angha, in 1963 with his handwritten tribute.
Avaz-i khudayan (Psalms of Gods), an eight-page poetic manuscript written in the literary style of rhythmic prose (saj‘), has five distinct sections. Ardeshir Dadsetan (d. 2017), a disciple of Shah Maghsoud, wrote a beautiful preface to this work that begins:
I have asked the master: what virtue opens the door of God’s sacred heaven to the heart of a human being, guides one’s life toward such direction, and helps a human harvest what s/he has sowed? How is it that light rises from the depth of darkness and life from death; and that light hides behind darkness and what is alive dies? So the master recalls Avaz-i khudayan to explain what is praiseworthy and what is not.
This book is one of his most beautiful literary works written in the literary style of rhythmic prose, with a puzzling question of “gods” in plural form. He so masterfully explains this plurality where every spiritual traveler, every being, even with his limitations and physical dimensions, is like a “song,” a “psalm” praising the divine presence in both its manifestations and essence, in dimensions and in the abstract; where Lordship (rububiyya) resides at the very heart of the servanthood (‘ubudiyyat), as the hadith of the Prophet relates. Nahid Angha (trans. with commentary), Psalms of Gods (California: International Association of Sufism Publications, 1991).
Chante: Jahan-i ‘Arif (lit. Chante: The Universe of the Knower; Tehran: Misbahi Publishers, 1965) was written in 1946 when Shah Maghsoud was in his late twenties. Chante is a 333-page book with twelve chapters and a short introduction; it is written in a poetic style of mathnawi-mustazad and includes commentaries in both prose and poetry. The opening poems are in quatrains, except for chapter 1, which is written in mathnawi-mustazad and is a poem of praise to the Divine. The book also includes ghazals (sonnets), ruba’is (quatrains), and mathnawis.
Payam-i dil (lit. Message of the Heart) is a 15-page book written in 1968 at the request of Shah Maghsoud’s disciples in Abadan (a city in southwestern Iran). The book begins with an introduction by Fereydun Saleki (Emdad ‘Ali-Uwaiysi), a disciple of Shah Maghsoud and a district attorney in Tehran. Payam-i dil has twelve distinct sections that include instructions and teachings for seekers of a spiritual journey, and contains references to his notion of ‘uqdah-i hayati (locus of life), an exclusive concept that became his signature doctrine. Nahid Angha (trans. with commentary), A Meditation: Payam-i dil (San Rafael, California: IAS Publications, 1991).
Zavaya-i makhfi-i hayati (Hidden Angles of Life; Tehran: Amin Publishers, 1975) is a 114-page book focused on Shah Maghsoud’s responses to questions proposed by Ronald Grisell, an interdisciplinary American scholar, who had sent Shah Maghsoud a number of philosophical and scientific queries in 1973. Shah Maghsoud’s responses were translated into English by a group of his disciples. The English version was published as Hidden Angles of Life (Pomona, California: Multidisciplinary Publications, 1975).
Ozan va-mizan (lit. Weights and Balances; Tehran: Amin Publications, 1975) is a book on the nature of metals, numbers, weights, and balances; it is a 171-page book with forty-four sections. In this work, Shah Maghsoud writes about the ism-i ‘azam (the supreme/greatest Name) and hajar-i mukaram (the blessed stone) and refers to many Qur’anic verses.
Nirvan is a 9-page manuscript, which expands to 14 pages if we include the preface and introduction. It begins with a preface by Zabihullah Behjat, one of Shah Maghsoud’s disciples and a publisher. Behjat writes:
Preserving the masterpieces of great teachers and writers is an honorable responsibility of human beings. These valuable teachings can sometimes be captured in a few pages, but the teachings themselves are beyond page limitations. I am blessed to be able to offer this service to humanity, to be able to preserve and publish this literary masterpiece, the valuable teachings of my Sufi master. This is an offering to my fellow travelers and friends, for our wonderful and most loving memories on this path of spiritual journey…
Nirvan has seven sections, corresponding to the six days of the creation story, along with the seventh day when Nirvan, the aware and enlightened human being, settles in the house of infinity; he hears the herald of hope echoing within infinite existence declaring that there is no non-existence and that existence is the One and Only. Ultimately, Nirvan, whose finite being is dissolved into the infinite, is released from the dust (limitations of physicality), and reclaims his tranquility. Nahid Angha (trans. with commentary), Nirvan (San Rafael, California: International Association of Sufism Publications, 1992; second edition, 2021).
Hamaseh-i hayat (lit. The Epic of Life; Abadan: Journal of the Literary Society of Abadan, 1970; Tehran: Amin Publications, 1974) is a 139-page poetic masterpiece that explains the notions of ultimate unity and finite dimensions in the world of possibilities and predicts sixty years (1967–2027) of scientific discoveries. Shah Maghsoud explains the stations of the heart, and the lights associated with these stations, in this book.
Sahar (Dawn), (Tehran: Maktab-e-tariqat-e-Oveyssi Shah Maghsoudi, 1977) is a 73-page work that is a compilation of questions posed by Dr. Yoshimichi Maeda, who was a Japanese biologist as well as a Zen priest. He proposed questions on the reality of the self and Self, humans and God, and how mysticism relates to religion.
Tib-i sunnati (Traditional Medicine; Tehran: Maktab-e-tariqat-e-Oveyssi Shah Maghsoudi, 1978) is a 482-page book of Shah Maghsoud’s works in the field of traditional medicine. It has two sections: the first has eleven chapters and the second has two; this book covers questions that embrace the meaning of science and its future, including predictions of many recent (twenty-first century) developments in genetic engineering and their applications to medicine. Traditional Medicine gives an overview of the “nature of elements,” and examines the natures and humors (hot, cold, moist, and dry) and their relationship to the four elements (fire, air, water, earth), noting that every particle necessarily contains these attributes.
Al-Rasa’il (lit. Treatises; Tehran: Maktab-e-tariqat-e-Oveyssi Shah Maghsoudi, 1978) is a four-section treatise, and includes the stages and stations of the spiritual journey and prayers; it was originally written in Arabic and translated into Persian by one of my father’s disciples. One of the sections in the compilation is dedicated to the Islamic prayer, or salat(namaz in Persian), wherein Shah Maghsoud analyzes the significance of each element of every prescribed movement. He explains that each movement in the Islamic prayer represents a letter; each letter has a shape; and the shape of each one of those movements make the alphabetical shape of la ilaha illa allah, the declaration of unity in Islam.
Mathnawi shahid va-mashud and Mathnavi seyr-sa’ir va-tayr-i nadir (San Rafael, California: MTO Shahmaghsoudi Publications, 1983) is a compilation of two manuscripts published in one volume, printed after Shah Maghsoud’s death. This compilation includes Sufi stories and words of advice, written in the poetic style of a mathnawi.
Sayr al-hajar (Secret of the Stone; San Rafael, California: MTO Shahmaghsoudi Publications, 1983) is a short treatise written in early 1970 in Tehran, and published in 1983, after Shah Maghsoud’s death. The book brings the science of letters and numbers into discussion. Sections of this book had been included in his Ozan va-mizan.
Diwan-i ghazal (The Book of Sonnets, San Rafael, California: International Association of Sufism Publications, 1984)is Shah Maghsoud’s last published work, published after his death. He compiled this book of his sonnets and quatrains in 1979 and dedicated the book to his daughter Nahid Angha. This book of 135 pages begins with a heartfelt sonnet to the Absolute Reality, the Beloved.
Shah Maghsoud’s poems have been translated and included in: Nahid Angha Selections: Poems of Khayyam, Rumi, Hafiz and Shah Maghsoud (San Rafael, California: International Association of Sufism, 1991); Ecstasy: The World of Sufi Poetry and Prayers (San Rafael, California: International Association of Sufism, 2007).
Shah Maghsoud’s Unpublished Works
Several of Shah Maghsoud’s handwritten works remain unpublished, including:
Danishmandan-i zar-i bini (Microscopic Scientists) is a short manuscript written around 1960, on the life and functions of physical cells, including the functions of brain cells, nerve cells, neural circuits, etc. He included a few passages of this manuscript in his Payam-i dil and Hamaseh-i hayat.
Ahan (Iron), a short manuscript that was written around 1960, concerns iron and its use in alchemy. He included portions of this book in his Ozan va-mizan as well as in Nirvan.
‘Ishq va-sarnevesht (Love and Destiny), a ten-page manuscript written in 1962, is an analytical study on the subjects of life, death, love, and destiny. His scientific explanations on electromagnetic energies, the essential functions of the physical and spiritual heart, balance, and equilibrium are written in poetic language. He predicts that at some point science will pay more attention to these fields of the magnetic silhouette of the human system.
It is said that the Islamic arts are closely tied to the Qur’an, and one of these arts is calligraphy. There are several styles of calligraphy, which involves great calculations of form, length, design, and combinations of words and letters. Nast‘liqis a script that is predominantly used in Persian calligraphy. It was developed by Mir Ali Tabrizi (a Persian calligrapher, d. 1502) from the calligraphic styles of ta‘liq and naskhi.
Shah Maghsoud, who strove to create everything in perfection, taught himself different styles of calligraphy, and created his handwritten collections of masterpieces in different styles of calligraphy In the mid-1970s he invited a master Persian calligrapher to further develop his calligraphy; this is, perhaps, why we may see minor changes in his calligraphy and handwriting over time. Shah Maghsoud wrote for and gave many of his handwritten calligraphies to the members of his family, devoted great numbers to his wife: Mah Tal‘at; and also gave to several of his students. Mah Tal‘at had a collection of those calligraphies.
Shah Maghsoud: Life and Legacy
For complete information on Shah Maghsoud’s biography and his works, see Nahid Angha, Shah Maghsoud: Life and Legacy (San Rafael, California: International Association of Sufism Publications, 2021).
“Nahid Angha provides the first complete biography of Shah Maghsoud, whose life was intermingled with the circumstances of his time, culture, upbringing, aspirations, and the legacy he left behind. She has masterfully woven the statues of Shah Maghsoud’s life with the Persian masterpieces he has created, explaining his notion of ‘uqdah-i-hayati (“locus of life”), the role of electromagnetic energies in spiritual ascension, the stations of the heart, and the experience of light and colors related to each level.”