Serving the Guest: A Sufi Cookbook
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Servant of Allah
Detail from Yusuf Entertained in Court Before His Marriage to Zuleikha. Persian, 16th century. Click for complete painting.

The birthday of the Holy Master, Maulana Shah Maghsoud, is a day of joyful celebration. Students spend the day in remembrance, reading his writings and thinking of the many ways that this magnanimous person contributed to the advancement of humanity and enriched the lives of so many. After a day of reflection on his life and teachings, we come from all over to the home of our teachers for a birthday celebration where a great feast is enjoyed.

We arrive at the home of our teachers with bouquets of flowers in honor of the birthday of Hazrate Shah Maghsoud. Bowing to the holy Masters, each student takes a seat until the two rooms are entirely full. The evening begins with a lecture from one or both of our teachers that highlights some aspect of the life of the Shah Maghsoud. Students may also be invited to share stories, read the Holy master's poems, or share reflections in commemoration of the day. The formal gathering ends with a reading from the Holy Qur'an and tafsir (commentary) by the living master. This is followed a group Zekr (remembrance service) and special prayers of the Shah Maghsoudi School.

As each person returns to inner contemplation, several designated servers rise and leave the gathering to prepare the feast. In the Persian Sufi tradition, several hand made sofrehs (meal cloths) made especially for Hazrate Shah Maghsoud and inscribed with Qur'anic verses, the names of the Holy Prophet and Holy Masters of the Ovessi-Shah Maghsoudi School, are neatly spread on the floor. Careful not to step on the sofreh, the servers set plates and utensils in front of their teachers and each guest.

Detail from Majnun Eavesdrops on Layla's Camp. Persian, 16th century. Click for complete picture.

Gradually, large steaming aromatic platters of hot rice emerge from the bustling kitchen: saffron, Sheved-Baghali (dill lima rice), tahzdig (bottom of the pot), and Zereshk Polo (barberry rice) are spread around the two rooms. American favorites such as quiche, mixed vegetables, oven-baked chicken, green salad and vegetarian dishes are served alongside such traditional Persian dishes as Fessen Joon (chicken with pomegranate walnut sauce), Kuku (pan baked crustless quiche), Mast-o Khyar (yogurt-cucumber dip), Qormeh Sabzi (lamb and herb stew), and lots of fresh herbs to aid digestion. One by one, savory dishes prepared by teachers and students fill the two rooms till they overflow with food.

As we take a moment to savor the feast held in honor of our Holy Master, everyone waits until the Master gives me the signal to recite the Fatiha and the meal begins. The spirit of love and cooperation is evident as students serve teacher and teachers serve students. As plates are passed around and filled with delicious food, we settle down to the meal, enjoying the good food and company of our teachers and brothers and sisters. After eating our fill, the meal ends with recitation of the Fatiha, followed by special prayers and dua for our order, saluting the original human being Adam, Prophets Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Hazrate Muhammad, Hazrate Ali, Hazrate Fatima, and our Holy Master Maulana Shah Maghsoud. As the servers rise and take the dishes and leftovers into the kitchen, the group relaxes and waits for tea. As tea is served, we listen intently to the parting words of our Master before heading into the night. As we leave the home of our beloved teachers, bodies and minds fully sated, we head home and once again return to our private remembrance of our beloved Holy Master Maulana Shah Maghsoud.