by John L. Caughey
In the 1970s, the Sufi teacher, Syed Mumtaz Hussain Shah, Shah Jii, and his small band of followers spent most of their time at their mountain shrine in the Margalla Hills of Pakistan high above the Indus Plain. In this sacred space, the meditation place of the Sufi Saint Buri Imam (1617-1705), they pursued their mystical practices and received the pilgrims who came up to worship and to seek help or guidance.
One sunny day when many pilgrims, men, women, and children were visiting the mountain shrine, Shah Jii was sitting at his place in the shallow cave and receiving visitors. Some presented problems such as financial, health, and spiritual concerns. But some of the pilgrims came with invitations. One sunny day, a young pilgrim, a teenage girl in a colorful shalvar kameez, approached Shah Jii. She placed a dish of sweets down before him and smilingly said, “Shah Jii! My mother conveys her respects (salam) and says that now that the urs rituals are over you must come to visit our home.” Shah Jii reached out and gently and lovingly embraced her. Addressing her as if she were kin he said, “Daughter! I feel your sincerity. I will come whenever my murshid wishes that it be so.” This request stayed in Shah Jii’s mind both as a memory and as an anticipation, a future plan to make a visit to this family at their nearby home. This internal anticipation became another part of the array of current responsibilities he felt to his extended spiritual family including worldly followers (dunnia kii murriid) like this daughter and her mother who were living in the world, i.e., away from the shrine in the local villages and the city of Rawalpindi. As he indicated in this conversation however, he expected to be called to make this particular visit by his murshid , one of his no longer living teachers or the spirit of a saint. That is, he would only make this trip in reality when he received guidance from his murshid through a spiritual intuition, an inclination or indication, or a waking dream. This mix of creative imagination and face-to-face relations with teachers, companions, and students was a pervasive and important aspect of this Sufi social world.
PHOTO © JOHN L. CAUGHEY