INTRODUCTION:

General Considerations

 Hazrat Seyed Nourod-din Shah Nematollah Vali is considered the greatest Sufi master and one of the most elequent Iranian poets of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries A.D. In Sufism he belonged to the Ma’rufi Order and was a disciple of Sheikh Abdullah Yafei, who died in Mecca in 768 A.H. (1362 A.D.).

        The Ma’rufi Order is traced back through Sheikh Ma’ruf Karkhi to Imam Reza, the eighth Shi’ite Imam, and from the latter to Imam Ali (peace be with him). The Sufi instructions and teachings of Shah Nematollah Vali were wellcomed at a time when some people called themselves Sufis whithout knowing the truth about Sufism. Therefore, with the advent of Shah Nematollah Vali the Ma’rufi Order came to be widely recognized and accepted in Iran and many Islamic countries of those days, and many became his disciples. That is why thereafter the Ma’rufi Order became known as “Nematollahi.”

        In addition to having reached the highest levels on the Sufi path, Shah Nematollah Vali is among the greatest scholars and poets of Iran. From the point of view of the quantity of his published writhings,he is rare among the masters of Sufism. The number of his articles and papers, most of which are on Sufism, has been estimated to be about five hundred. His collection of poetry consists of 12,000 verses in which mystic concepts have been written in a symbolic form.

        In the later years of his life, Shah Nematollah Vali established a large Khaneqah in Mahan, near Kerman, in the South of Iran, in which he instructed and enlightened the seekers of knowledge. He died in the same place in the 834 A.H. The Khaneqah was expanded by his followers during the centuries that followed and today it is regarded as one of the most beautiful and magnificent historical mausoleums of Iran.

       After Shah Nematollah’s death,his son, Shah Khalilollah who was his successor, moved to Dakan in India where the Order thrived for more than three centuries, when the current master, Rida, Ali Shah Dakani sent two of his authorized sheikhs to Iran, after which the Order continued there.

       During the period of Hajj Mulla Sultan Mohammad Gonabadi known as “Sultan’ Ali Shah”(born in Gonabad, Khorasan 1251 A.H./1835 A.D.), the Nematollahi order regained its prominence and today is referred to as the Nematollahi Gonabadi or Sultan’ Ali Shahi’it is the largest and most popular of the Sufi orders and schools of though in Iran.

      In spite of Hazart Shah Nematollah Vali’s extensive reputation and poularity in Iran and India, Western nations know very little about him and his teachings. For this reason a number of his dedicated followers created a foundation in the United States in 2002 in order to fully introduce this great mystic master and his works and teachings to the American public.

     One of the first actions of the foundation was the decision to organize a number of symposia on Shah Nematollah Vali, the first of which was initiated by Dr.Seyed Mostafa Azmayesh in cooperation with San Jose University, and was held from 11 to 12 October 2002.

       The symposium was attended by interested scholars and thinkers from various countries of the world. Unfortunately, however, because of entry visa problems several Iranian scholars were unable to participate.

        In addition to lectures and workshops, the symposium’s program included a performance of music,a slide show and a film entitled”From Mahan to Gonabad”that had been specifically prepared for this gathering. The meeting began with an inaugural address sent by the present Master of the Nematollahi Gonabadi order, Dr.Nour “Ali Tabandeh, known as “Majzoob Ali shah,” and was concluded after two days of activity.

     This book consists of a collection of selected articles, papers and lectures presented at the symposium. It is appropriate at this point to express our gratitude to all the speakers who addressed the syposium. We are also greatly thankful to the head of San Jose University group and professor Chris Jochim.

                                                                                      Simorgh Sufi Society

                                                                                       New York, May 2003