Turkish Sufi Master Ahmet Kayhan

An Impossible Task

“I have been asked to describe the late Sufi Master, Ahmet Kayhan. This leaves me in something of a quandary. I, who am rarely at a loss for words, am this time muted into agonizing silence–agonizing because, as I tell the truth, I shall strain people’s credulity and may be accused of exaggeration.

How shall I begin to tell the story of a man who literally defies description? If there is one thing all the thousands of people–from the most diverse backgrounds–who have been graced with his presence would probably agree upon, it is that the Master (“Effendi,” in Turkish) is indescribable. I have consulted some friends who knew him, and they all shook their heads sadly, knowing that the attempt was impossible.

The reason is that all language presupposes a common base of human experience. Suppose I tell you, for instance, that I have drunk the juice of a South American fruit, guanabana. If you have drunk it, too, you will immediately know what I am talking about. But suppose you haven’t, and I’m trying to describe it to you. “It’s sweet,” I say. Now that’s nice, it gives you something to work on. But cookies are sweet too, and so is candy. “Its color and texture resemble those of milk,” I next add. That gives you some further clues. And I can keep on elaborating details until you have a pretty good approximate idea of what guanabana tastes like. But unless you have actually tasted it, you will never really know what I’m talking about.

And the same thing goes with Effendi. The reason is that he was unique–one of a kind, even among Sufi masters–and so, incomparable. Having rushed in where angels fear to tread, I find myself saddled with the thankless job of describing him to a world scarcely equipped with the tools necessary for an adequate comprehension of such a person. Many will say my description is too good to be true, and with them I sympathize entirely–in their shoes, not having seen what we all saw, I too would have found such an account unbelievable.”

I first came across this article on the Turkish Sufi Master Ahmet Kayhan some years ago and it struck a chord with me. The reason was for this was that the writer Henry Bayman had painted a picture of a saint (his Master) that was very familiar to me from experience. I revisited this article again recently and again could not help seeing the many similarities between Ahmet Kayhan Dede and Hz Khadim-e-Mohabbat. In fact whilst reading through this article I felt that Henry Bayman had described our shaykh from Pakistan rather than his from Turkey. To me this is a mark of the authenticity of his portrait.

This is a beautiful tribute to a great human being and a genuine sufi master. Please do take the time to read through it at your leisure.

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