The Past Two Years


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.

Learning new skills

Learning new skills is not something that I would look forward to in the past. As a child I was very introverted, preferring my own company to that of others, even refusing to wear new clothes much to the exasperation of my parents.


That would change however thanks to my Sheykh and the Murids at the Osmanli Dergahi. As a young man searching for some purpose I stumbled across the Osmanli Dergahi YouTube channel and fell in love with the teachings. A year later I found myself at the Osmanli Dergahi and my first job was to go to the barn with Haji Bilal, one of the very special Murids of Sahibul Saif and Sheykh Lokman Ef\fendi. I explained to him I didn’t know anything about barn work, I had never worked on a farm, didn’t know what I was doing, and in many ways, was more afraid than the sheep I was caring for them!


Haji Bilal just smiled and said “I’ll teach you” and after a few weeks much to my amazement he had taught me so much. He taught me how to feed and water the sheep and how to look out for them. It was a truly amazing experience. Every Prophet was a shepherd and with the blessings of my Sheykh I was following their way. I saw how difficult it was to care and look after a flock and tend to their problems and ailments. At one point a yew rejected her lamb so we had to tend to it and feed it milk multiple times a daily and during the night as well. Despite Haji Bilal’s best efforts, “Strong” as we affectionately named him, didn’t survive; as rejected yews rarely do. But he left an indelible mark on me and I still remember his happy face so many years later.


Other things I learnt was how to clean the horse stalls and how to gather eggs whilst moving angry hens away from their protected treasure. One of the harder things I had to do was herd a group of boisterous goats and walk them across from the barn to a field and back again at the end of the day. They were truly a difficult group to manage and would constantly refuse to go the way I wanted them too. They had a mischievous charm about them and on saying good-bye to them one of them headbutted my knee in response.


One skill I learnt that I was amazed by was how to not be afraid of dogs. Feeding the dogs was a frightening experience- they were big and energetic and would tangle your legs with their chain if you weren’t careful. Initially they weren’t too friendly but after a couple of days they were so happy to see me and would run tail wagging towards their food.


This is just a taste of what is really special about this place. If you apply yourself no matter your experience you will learn new skills and you will get better.


Our Sheykh Sahib el-Seyf Sheykh Abdul Kerim Al-Kibrisi ar-Rabbani (KS) says “Where there is movement there is blessing there, where there is love there is mercy there” and this is something we try to incorporate into our daily life at the Dergah.


Elhamdulillah, thanks to Sheykh Lokman Efendi and Haji Bilal it was something I experienced when I first visited the Osmanli Dergahi.

Are you my Hussein?

I remember staring blankly ahead, as I passed the cars on the dual carriageway. The trip to Luton, from London, was not a long one, ninety minutes at most.  The time was moderate. But spiritually, mentally, and emotionally, the journey seemed much longer.

My family was excited- for years my children had been brought up hearing the sweet words of our teacher, Sheykh Lokman Efendi Hz, on our wi-fi, tablet, phone and computer. Now for the first time they would see their parents’ teacher, face-to-face. Their mother kept asking them, throughout the journey.

“Are you looking forward to seeing Sheykh Efendi? What are you going to say when you first see Sheykh Efendi?”

I could both hear and feel the love and excitement in their voices. It was the first time, in years, that we as a family were travelling somewhere, outside London. The moment seemed perfect and my family was embracing the feeling- but not me.

Five years previously, I had taken beyat with Sheykh Lokman Efendi Hz. In all those years I could count the number of times I had called the Dergah on one hand. As I was clocking up the miles, the voice in my head kept repeating on a loop, ‘How can you show your face there- the disrespect?!’. I was nervous, scared and ashamed. The progress I had made, since my beyat, was nothing. In fact, I felt I had gone backwards. I remembered the broadcasts I had failed to watch, convincing myself I would catch up with them.

In the few conversations I had with my Sheykh, one instruction was clear- stay in touch. I had not even done that. I now found myself driving to meet the one I had disrespected. The thoughts were so relentless that my family had to keep reminding me that I was speeding.

When we finally got to Luton, I had the chance to meet the other murids from England. I could not enjoy any of the embracing or conversing, because the voice in my mind would not stop. As we walked to the location where Sheykh Efendi would be arriving, my mind felt like it was under water. I could hear voices and sounds but none of it was coherent. My heart was beating faster and I felt hot, but the voice…the voice was still constant…unwavering.

I remember seeing the SUV pull up, into the residential car park. As Sheykh Efendi stepped out, wearing his beautiful purple garment, the voice was close to breaking my mind.

As we all sat in the large white tent, looking up from the ground, our Sheykh looked over us, with warm eyes. He was speaking to those on my left, gradually making his way to me. Some of the mureeds Sheykh Lokman recognised, others gave their names.

Eventually, Sheykh Lokman looked at me, with a neutral expression and then smiled.


“Selam Aleykum, Sheykh,” I said nervously.

The voice was now a fire, I felt so ashamed to be there. Not only had I failed my Sheykh, but I had let my health deteriorate as well as fallen into stress with other worldly matters.

“Aleykum Selam…what is your name?” asked Sheykh Efendi, softly.

“Hussein,” Sheykh Efendi paused for a moment.

“Kashmiri?” asked Sheykh Efendi, to which one of the other brothers said I was Turkish and from London. At that moment Sheykh Efendi’s eyes widened and stared at me.

“Are you my Hussein?”

The voice in my head stopped dead. I could not speak, I simply nodded and smiled.

There is no fonder memory I have in my life, then this one. With one question, Sheykh took that fire out of my head. I wish I could write what else was shared, that day, but that would be too difficult for me, ish’Allah, maybe when I’m stronger.

From that moment, I felt a security and a love that I had not felt in a very long time. It’s a feeling that is overwhelming, one that I do not deserve, but Sheykh Efendi still showed me that love…to this day. I will never be able to repay a fraction of that.

Whenever I think of the word ‘love’, that is the memory that comes to mind.