It’s been a while since I’ve written about my experiences with Osmanli Dergah. Most people know me through the photos that I have published on my Flickr page – though even that has been put on hiatus over the past two years.
With the COVID pandemic came a disruption in everyone’s daily lives and routines – and as a murid living hundreds of miles away from the Osmanli Dergah, I was no exception.
For the first year of the pandemic, I do not think I visited the Dergah at all. It felt imprisoning to be away from my Sheykh, my teacher, my mentor for so long. I witnessed a decline in my spiritual and mental health and began to see the virus for what it was – a small taste of Divine punishment for the people of the End of Times (Ahir zaman).
During the second year of the pandemic, I forged a resolve to make the journey upstate and once again sit in the association of my Sheykh. Taking every precaution to protect myself, and more importantly, the community members there, I scheduled all the necessary tests and sent my results to the medical staff before heading out.
When I arrived, the first thing I noticed was how much I missed the mountain air. It is difficult to describe but think of the feeling you have when you are finally able to remove your face mask after coming home from a long day of work. It felt like I was breathing for the first time. Funny how you take the smallest things for granted until they are removed from you.
It was not just the air. There was something different about the Dergah. Something that I could not put my finger on, but it did not seem to be the same place.
Over the year I made several more trips upstate, and with each one, the feeling grew; this was not the same Dergah that I had been going to since my early twenties – something was different. The most recent visit that I just returned from was during this past Eid el-Fitr. It was this visit that helped me understand what changed.
Sheykh Lokman Efendi often warns us not to be a robot – not to fall into mindless routines. It was not the Dergah that had changed – it was my perception of it, more specifically, the value that I gave to it.
Prior to the pandemic, I spent years traveling upstate regularly for all the official zikr events and every major Islamic holiday. Somewhere along the line I fell into the mindset of viewing these visits as just another routine in my life. Work was one component of life, family was another, hobbies served their purpose, and the Dergah became its own component. I visited once a month because that’s just what murids who live close enough are expected to do.
Humans tend to take the blessings in their life for granted until they are stripped away. Covid, with all the pain and suffering it brought, came with a hidden blessing – a silver lining. It helped me lift the veil I had placed over my eyes. It helped me see the Dergah for the enormous blessing that it is.
Being away from my Sheykh and community for so long forced me to witness and experience all the darkness, corruption, and hopelessness that is rampant in the world. Only upon returning after a year that I understand the beacon of hope which this community is – a protest against the corruption, and a place where people are free to practice their religion in a manner pleasing to Allah and His Prophet (AS).
It all started with the dream of Sheykh Abdul Kerim – and that mantle has been lifted and carried forward beautifully by our Sheykh Lokman Efendi. Elhamdulilah it took two years to realize, but I now see the Dergah for what it truly is – an Ark like Noah’s to provide safety against the ocean of darkness that this world is drowning in.