Love is the Wine: Talks with a Sufi Master in America
By Sheikh Muzaffer Ozak
Edited by Sheikh Ragip Frager
Publisher: Prescott, AZ: Hohm Press, 2009.
Sheikh Muzaffer Ozak, who died in 1985, was the nineteenth Grand Sheikh of the Halveti-Jerrahi Order of Dervishes (followers of the Sufi path). Founded in the 1600’s in Turkey, the Halveti-Jerrahi Order is a branch of the Halveti Order which dates back to the 1300’s. In this book of informal talks, Sheikh Muzaffer gives the reader a glimpse into Sufism as a living tradition in today’s world.
He says, “The path of Sufism is the elimination of any intermediaries between the individual and God. The goal is to act as an extension of God, not to be a barrier.” Because God is love, acting as an extension of God means feeling compassion for your fellow human being and acting on that compassion. Thus, the Halveti-Jerrahi Order engages in various relief projects. The sheikh says, “To be a dervish is to serve and to help others, not just to sit and pray. To be a real dervish is to lift up those who have fallen, to wipe the tears of the suffering, to caress the friendless and the orphaned.”
The sheikh describes the stages in the spiritual transformation of an individual:
The lowest state is that of being completely dominated by your wants and desires. The next state is to struggle with yourself … A much higher state is to be satisfied with whatever God provides for you … The highest level of the soul, the pure soul, is not a part of the creation … The pure soul is a part of the Infinite.
The result will be that we enter into the realm of love. “Love is to see what is good and beautiful in everything.” The sheikh goes on to explain:
Love is a special pleasurable pain. Whoever has this in their heart will know the secret. They will see that everything is Truth and that everything leads to Truth. There is nothing but Truth. In the realization of that they will be overcome. They will sink into the sea of Truth.
This is the goal of all human beings. “You can get there by yourself,” he says, “but that is the hard way.” In the passage from which the title of the book is taken, he says, “The sheikhs are the pourers of the wine and the dervish is the glass. Love is the wine. By the hand of the wine pourer, the glass – the dervish – is filled. This is the short way. Love could be offered to one by other hands. This is the short way.”
The editor of this book is well-known in the field of psychology, having founded the first institute granting graduate degrees in Transpersonal Psychology. It may be less well-known that he is also a sheikh in the Halveti-Jerrahi Order. To create this book, Frager compiled and edited transcripts from meetings, dinner conversations and lectures. He “struggled to retain Sheikh Muzaffer’s wisdom, warmth and humour” as he organized these rich, oral teachings into chapters on such topics as Love, Faith, Self-Knowledge, and Submission.
Like many other Sufi teachers, Sheikh Muzaffer would rarely teach in a linear fashion. He would typically approach a topic from a variety of viewpoints and liberally insert stories and parables to illustrate his points. Often one story would lead to another, or a reference in one story would call up another story that became ‘nested’ within the first.
The reader will enjoy not only the sheikh’s deep spiritual insights, but also his typical Sufi style of teaching and his humour. One humorous story he tells concerns the devil, who was complaining that people blame him for everything. He claimed, “I am innocent!” and set about proving it. He loosened the stake to which a powerful ram was tied, then folded his arms and sat back, doing nothing more. The ram broke loose, charged into the house and broke an expensive mirror. So the mistress of the house killed the ram, but her husband got so angry about this that he divorced her. Then the woman’s brothers came to fight the husband, who gathered his relatives, and soon there was a vast feud and many people died. “You see?” said the devil. “Why should I be responsible for all the awful things they did to each other? I just loosened the stake.” Sheikh Muzaffer concludes, “Watch your stakes.”
He illustrates many points with stories from the Qur’an. For example, he tells the story of Zulaikha who fell so madly in love with Joseph, the most beautiful of all prophets. Zulaikha loses everything because of her love – wealth, power, position and even her reason. Yet, through this intense love she realizes the Truth. Years later, when she is an old, ragged beggar, Joseph offers to marry her, but she says, “No, Joseph. My great love for you was but a veil between me and the Beloved. I have torn that veil aside.” As Sheikh Muzaffer concludes, “Through her great love for Joseph, Zulaikha found what we are all seeking, the source of love.”
The chapter on Dervish Education weaves together many stories about Ibrahim Ad’ham, the king of Balkh. These stories depict the gradual process of a wealthy and powerful king turning toward spirituality. For example, lying in his bed, the king hears noises on his roof. When he realizes that someone is trying to plow a field on the roof, he thinks they are idiotic. But a voice from the rooftop answers, “Well, if you think that you can find God in your silken sheets and in bed, why not plow on the roof of the palace?” As Sheikh Muzaffer points out, this disturbing incident was an ‘invitation’ from God. Each of a series of anecdotes demonstrates other invitations from God, but Ibrahim Ad’ham had to become ready to respond to those invitations:
At our level, we often don’t accept God’s invitation immediately. We wait. We consider and contemplate. Ibrahim Ad’ham had considerations also. He wanted to be a dervish and to devote his life to find himself and to find God, but he had a lot to give up. He had to give up a whole kingdom, and give up the state of a sultan.