Masters of Wisdom of Central Asia

Teachings from the Sufi Path of Liberation

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About The Book

Almost one thousand years ago a new and powerful nexus of spiritual transmission emerged in Central Asia and lasted for five centuries, reaching its culmination in the work of the Khwajagan or "Masters of Wisdom." Like the much earlier Rishi Pantha of India, these masters of the Naqshbandi lineage of Turkish Sufism were not renunciates but advocated maintaining an active connection with the world, including raising a family or running a business. They exerted a remarkable influence on the destiny of Central Asia, yet their chief significance lies in their almost unparalleled depth of spiritual perfection.

Based on primary Persian and Turkish sources, the same texts used by the Sufi authority Idries Shah in his many books, Masters of Wisdom of Central Asia explores the entire lineage of teachers in the Naqshbandi order of Turkish Sufism. Author Hasan Shushud provides brief biographies of each teacher, such as Yusuf Hamdani, the first recognized Khwajagan; Ahmad al-Yasavi, the father of Turkish Sufism; and Baha' al-Din Naqshband, from whom the Naqshbandi order of Sufis took its name. He examines their spiritual journeys, their writings and teachings, and their most famous sayings, incorporating occasional parables to illustrate their wisdom.

Shushud reveals how this spiritual path focuses on expanding awareness of the heart and how heart awareness is a prerequisite for divine contemplation and God-consciousness, for the heart is the manuscript within the body on which the infinite mysteries of the Godhead are recorded.

An essential guide for understanding Itlak Yolu, the Sufi path of Absolute Liberation, and fana', Annihilation in God, this book is an indispensable work for anyone interested in Sufism or the spiritual history of Central Asia.

Excerpt

Khwāja ‘Abd al-Khaliq al-Ghujdawani
Fourth Deputy of Khwāja Yūsuf al-Hamadānī

The name Khwāja ‘Abd al-Khāliq al-Ghujdawani heads the list in the biographies of the Masters of Wisdom, for he is the chief and top link of this chain of transmission. One of the great shaikhs of Turkestan, he was the fourth deputy of Khwāja Yūsuf al-Hamadānī and one of the eleven who accompanied Khwāja Yūsuf from Hamadān to Samarqand. He is said to have bestowed his spiritual influence on the venerable Khwāja Bahā’ al-Dīn Naqshband.

He was born in Ghujdawān and his tomb is in the same place. He was studying in Bukhārā when, by his own account, “I was twenty years of age when the Master of the righteous, the venerable Khiḍr, on him be peace, commended me to the great Shaikh Khwāja Yūsuf al-Hamadānī and advised him to give me instruction. I served as his novice as long as he was in Transoxiana, to my practical and spiritual benefit.”

When Khwāja Yūsuf al-Hamadānī went back to Khurāsān, Khwāja ‘Abd al-Khāliq engaged in ascetic practices, which he followed in a private manner. His saintliness and charismatic powers were outstanding. According to the Rashaḥāt, “He gained many disciples in the province of Damascus and a dervish convent and center were established in his name.”

Khwāja ‘Abd al-Khāliq’s Letter of Counsel

The following instructions appear in a letter of counsel, which he wrote for his third deputy, Khwāja Awlīyā’ Kabīr.

Thoroughly imbue yourself with knowledge, self-discipline and piety. Make a profound study of the Islamic classics. Learn jurisprudence and the Prophetic traditions. Steer clear of ignorant zealots. . . .

Treat everyone kindly and look down on no one. Do not embellish your outward appearance, for ornament is a mark of inner poverty. Do not get into quarrels. Ask favors of none and do not let yourself become a burden to others.

Place no trust in this world and do not rely on worldly people. Let your heart be filled with melancholy and disillusion; let your body suffer and your eyes weep. Let your conduct be upright and your prayers sincere. Wear old clothes and choose a poor man as your companion. Let your home be a house of worship and let the Exalted Truth be your most intimate friend.

The Principles of the Way of the Masters


The following aphorisms, composed by Khwāja ‘Abd al-Khāliq, are considered to be the principles of the Way of the Masters.

1. Conscious breathing (hō sh dar dam): Remain attentive with every breath. According to Sa‘d al-Dīn Kāshgharī: “Be conscious and heedful of God, Glorified and Exalted is He, with every breath you take.” In this context Shaikh Najm al-Dīn al-Kubrā said:

The “h” in the divine name Allāh is the very sound we make with every breath. The other letters (in the Arabic spelling: alif and reduplicated lām) represent an intensified definite article (serving to emphasize the Uniqueness of God). The essential part of the divine name is therefore that “h,” which automatically accompanies our every breath. All life depends on the constant utterance of that noble name.

The venerable Makhdūmī (Mawlānā Jāmī) was obviously alluding to Loss of Separate Identity (ghaib al-huwī ya) in his stanza:

Your alphabet I’m sure you know
We lose ourselves in “h” with every breath we blow
Utter it carefully and be awake:
That is no ordinary sound you make!


In Sufi terminology “Loss of Separate Identity” is an expression for non-individualization [lā ta‘ayyun], referring to the indefinable essence of the Glorified and Exalted Truth.

2. Watch your step! (nazar bar qadam): Direct yourself constantly toward your goal.

3. Journey homeward (safar dar watan): Pass from the world of potentiality to the world of realization.

4. Solitude in the crowd (khalwat dar anjuman): Be free from limitation in the midst of limitations. When Khwāja Naqshband was asked to state the basic principle of spiritual development, he said: “Solitude in the crowd; that is being outwardly with people, but inwardly with God, Exalted is He.” According to Khwāja Awlīyā’ Kabīr, it means that one should reach the stage where one is so constantly and completely absorbed in divine remembrance that “one could walk through the market-place without hearing a sound.”

5. Remembrance (yād kard): Remember with the heart at the same time as mentioning with the tongue--or transforming dhikr of the tongue into dhikr of the heart. According to Khwāja ‘Ubaidallāh al-Aḥrār, “the real meaning of dhikr is inward awareness of God, Exalted is He. The purpose of dhikr is to attain this consciousness.”

6. Returning (bāz gasht): Single-minded pursuit of divine Truth. According to Khwāja Aḥrār, it means the return to God.

7. Attentiveness (nigāh dāsht): Keeping out worldly thoughts by vigilant control of one’s attention.

8. Recollection (yād dāsht): Constant awareness in the blissful presence of God, Exalted is He. “The complete experience of divine contemplation, achieved through the action of objective Love.”

9. Awareness of time (wuqūf zamānī): Watching one’s composure and checking one’s tendency to heedlessness. According to the venerable Ya‘qūb Charkhī, Khwāja Naqshband explained this as “seeking forgiveness when in a state of spiritual constriction and expressing gratitude when in a state of expansion.”

10. Awareness of number (wuqūf ‘adadī): Observing the exact number of repetitions in dhikr. Khwāja ‘Alā’ al-Dīn al-‘Aṭṭār said: “The important thing is not the number of repetitions but rather the composure and awareness with which one makes them.” According to Khwāja Bahā’ al-Dīn Naqshband, numerical awareness is the first stage of esoteric knowledge.

11. Awareness of the heart (wuqūf qalbī): Equivalent to Recollection (as in 8, above). Khwāja Aḥrār says it means that the heart becomes aware of God, Glorified and Exalted is He. The heart is the comprehensive human entity within which all other organs and faculties are contained. “It is the divine manuscript on which infinite mysteries are recorded.”

About The Author

Hasan Lutfi Shushud (1902-1988) was born near Izmir in Anatolia, Turkey. A renowned Sufi saint and master, he was perhaps best known for his role as final guide to Gurdjieff’s disciple J. G. Bennett.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Inner Traditions (September 2014)
  • Length: 192 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781620553619

Raves and Reviews

“Interspersed in this history of the early Sufi teachers of Itlak, the path of great liberation, are gems of wisdom as well as a rich explanation of complex terms particular to Sufism. A must read for the serious student of Sufism who wants to know where the teachings have come from and where they might be leading.”

– Will Johnson, author of Forbidden Rumi

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