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Javad Nurbakhsh (10 December 1926 - 10 October 2008) was the Master (pir) of the NimatullahiSufi Order from 1953 until his death. He was also a psychiatrist and a successful writer in the fields of both psychiatry and Sufi mysticism.
Nurbakhsh was born in the city of Kerman, Iran on 10 December 1926. He was initiated into the Nimatullahi Sufi order at the age of sixteen and appointed its sheikh at twenty. Nurbakhsh studied at University of Tehran's medical school, receiving his doctorate in psychiatry in 1952, from the Sorbonne. He began his professional career as a medical doctor at the age of 26 when he became head of a local hospital in the southeastern town of Bam, Iran. In the following year he succeeded his master, Mo'nes 'Ali Shah Zo'r-Riyasateyn, as master of the Nimatullahi, taking the Sufi sobriquet of Nur 'Ali Shah.
As well as his revival of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order and his many written works, Nurbakhsh became one of Iran's foremost psychiatrists. Nurbakhsh believed that all are equal in love. According to his obituary in Payvan's Iran news, he "promoted the creed of fraternity and equality of all human beings, regardless of gender, race, nationality and religion."
Emigrating to the West
Nurbakhsh left Iran following the Iranian revolution in 1979, first for the United States, where he established several Sufi centers known as khanaqahs, then moved to Britain in 1983 and settled there. Dr. Nurbakhsh's work in reviving and organizing Sufism through the Nimatullahi order continued until his death in Britain in 2008.
He produced 37 scientific works in the field of psychiatry, as author, editor and translator, along with many articles in scientific journals and a compendium of instructional brochures for the use of researchers, professors and students.
According to the Islamic scholar Henry Corbin, Nurbakhsh was known for his "prodigious activity" in the publication of classical Sufi texts. By 1979, when he left Iran, he had published some eighty books.
He wrote the two part article What is Sufism? Sufism and Psychoanalysis, published in The International Journal of Social Psychiatry, which fall into the category of Sufi psychology, bringing together his twin interests in the fields of Sufism and psychiatry.
Prior to 1979, according to biographical material on the Order's web site, "he established 70 Sufi centres in most of the major cities and towns of Iran, all set up as charitable organisations according to civil and Islamic law. A great number of these have since been expropriated under the current regime." The first of the Order's Sufi centres outside Iran was set up in San Francisco in 1975. Many more were set up outside Iran after his flight into exile in 1979.
Death and succession
Nurbakhsh died in his retreat in the English countryside near the town of Banbury, Oxfordshire, where he spent his final years, and is buried there.
He has been succeeded by his son, Alireza Nurbakhsh, a doctor in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin and a practising lawyer in London. His Sufi sobriquet is Reza 'Ali Shah.
He is survived by his widow, Parvaneh Daneshvar Nurbakhsh, three sons, and two daughters.
Selected Statements by Nurbakhsh on Sufism
The basis of Sufism is consideration of the hearts and feelings of others. If you haven't the will to gladden someone's heart, then at least beware lest you hurt someone's heart, for on our path, no sin exists but this.
Sufism is a path towards the Truth where there are no provisions except Love. Its method is to look solely in one direction, and its objective is God.
True lovers prefer the Beloved's desires to their own, being content with whatever the Beloved desires - 'be it cure or pain, union or separation.'
... if you encounter a human being who claims to be a Sufi and behaves contrary to the human code of ethics, do not ask, "What kind of Sufi is this?" Rather, it would be better to ask, "What kind of person would this have been had he not been a Sufi?
The capital of the Path is, in truth, nothing other than sincerity. Sincerity has been defined as `showing yourself as you really are' and `being inwardly what you show yourself to be'.