Fate would have it that I be so grateful. The experience of entering the **Shams-i tomb and mosque was divinely orchestrated at the same moment that all the lights of the Shams-i tomb district and pre occupation with sound and mechanics were devoid.
To write of this experience is an act almost tantamount to blasphemy. And so it is at this time that I ask for your forgiveness. Born and raised a Christian, I was so filled with the spirit during this experience that one of the handful of unknown women inside the mosque turned to me with a genuine concern and stated the obvious, ” You are crying.”
I ask for your pardon because as I sit to recreate this experience I am once again filled with that spirit and so my writing will not attempt to follow the rules of structure or discourse.
I must simply be… free.
I struggled to remove my laced boots. To the people who had entered a few minutes before, this act was accomplished in one felt swish of both feet. I did not possess the dexterity or the familiarity with this act. It was an awkward looking scene.
Placing the boots on the shoe rack provided, I, quickly with a free hand, covered my hair with the hood of my jacket. I don’t think it was the best material used, but it was what I had in that moment.
The mosque with no lights, which was as a result of that area’s electricity being shut off just twenty minutes before, was profoundly serene.
One generator powered lamp stood in the corner at the foot of the wooden post that cordoned off Shams-i’s tomb.
Aware that a foreigner was in their midst, someone from the mosque, turned the lamp towards the tomb which was covered in an emerald green gem stone encrusted kaleidoscope velvet fabric.
I refused the almost reflex impulse to take out my camera and start filming.
I really do believe that God was challenging me at that moment not to document but to experience.
About ten people: men but mostly women, stood at the wooden fence post and just stared.
This is the moment that touched me so damn deeply.
They had entered a few minutes before I did. I had seen them walking ahead of me in the distance as I was making my way to the mosque. All of them were Turkish and looked like they had just come from work or from running some errands.
This was not a tourist stop on a list of things to do for them. Rather, it seemed that it was something that they did on any given day when they wanted to meditate and think. Ponder.
Let me explain. I know it is a mosque so obviously muslims go there five times a day. But at the site of Shams-i’s tomb which was directly opposite the entrance of the mosque, it was not located in a place in the mosque that one would be inclined to just pass by and stand in reverence.
It was situated in a way that if you entered the mosque, you were either going for prayers to the left or going to see Shams-i straight ahead. Again, of course I am sure that people did both.
But the handful of women that were there, having entered a few minutes before me, stood there hands held in a stance of reverence and just stared in deep meditation and respect.
I am so sorry that I cannot describe this particular scene with the level of description that it deserves.
They truly appeared touched: deeply, profoundly. What was so strongly felt was that I knew that this was not the first or the last time that they had come to the mosque and stood at the foot of Shams-i’s tomb. And yet I do feel that with every visit they were profoundly touched and grateful.
I can only compare it to what I could imagine an experience of visiting the grave of Nelson Mandela or the home of Gandhi would be like. Still that description falls short. Painfully.
But I feel that that is the way it should be. It was to be a personal experience that I can’t or shouldn’t recount because the use of words would deny and have denied the potency of this very esoteric experience.
*This is the English spelling of his name. In Turkish it is Sems-i Tebrizi
**Shams-i Tabrezi was was the beloved master of Rumi better known as Mevlana in the Islamic world and for his poetry in the West. Shams-i and Rumi enjoyed a profound friendship and under his tutelage Mevlana became the man for which he is renowned. As a result, many believe that if it were not for Shams-i, there would never have been a Mevlana as well as his poetry and teachings for the world to enjoy and become enlightened.