Reminiscences of Murshid's Disciples—10/18/74
WALI ALI: I think what we ought to do is just to start out by asking everybody the same question, like "How do you remember Murshid when you first met him?"—trying to keep a focus on Murshid. I remember that when I first met Murshid it was a Sunday night meeting and it was packed in those days—that was before they split up and started having meetings in Marin county, and so everyone used to come over here and people were all the way into the doorway and were back into the room. It was quite packed with people. Vashti and Shibli used to sit right up in front of Murshid and a few others so I came in and I remember very well the first thing he said to me was "Don't block the doorway," as I sat down right in the doorway. He used to go into this rap all the time about "the fire-laws, we have to keep an open passageway." And he was talking; I think that night he read from "The Rejected Avatar," in any case I was very impressed, I could hear where he was coming from, a place of knowledge I had never heard before. He blew my mind, all the things he would say that would be positive, that you could really relate to and then so many things that you just couldn't possibly relate to, and you just didn't know how to take them, one way or the other, you were way out in left field with some of these things—like I remember him saying, "We have the answers to all the questions," or then remarks that he would make on the political sphere or whatever. He was talking about the professors of Oriental philosophy and how they thought that they were qualified to speak without ever training under anybody, this "PhD-ism; so I resolved then never to tell him that I had a Masters in Philosophy, because I was afraid he would kick me out.
SAUL: "Did you ever tell him?"
WALI ALI: Yeah, I think it was a year or so before I ever mentioned it. Actually that happened when Frank Tedesko came back who was at that time at Harvard, and Murshid would talk about him all the time, as "my disciple who is at Harvard. Then when Frank came back, after dropping out, then he would talk to me about a lot of things and he talked to Murshid about me in the intellectual spheres, so I couldn't keep it a secret. I could go on and on and on, but I think it is more interesting to get a lot of different impressions. Majid, what do you remember when you first met Murshid?
MAJID: I first met Murshid, not even looking for him at all, and we had stopped by the house where Yasmin was living, looking for an old friend of ours—we were all stoned on acid and we walked in and…
WALI ALI: I was still on acid when I first met Murshid, but I was coming down from my trip.
MAJID: … who was driving the car, looked up on the mantelpiece, and she said, "who is that picture of?" and she said, "that's my Murshid."
WALI ALI: Who said that?
MAJID: Yasmin. And she said, "Oh, that's my teacher, Samuel Lewis," and we said, Oh, that's Samuel Lewis, we've heard about Samuel Lewis, we've always wanted to meet Samuel Lewis. Yasmin said, "Tonight's the Wednesday night meeting at the Theological Center, why don't you all go?" We said, oh, we'd love to and we all hoped in the bus; we had these two younger 18-yr. old boys with us, who were like friends of a brother and a girl friend of mine, and they were really stoned. So we get into this meeting and I end up being partners with the brother, the younger brother, who is so spaced he can hardly walk, and Murshid is doing the Asalaam Aleikhum dance as we walk in, he says, "everybody up, and form a circle," we all got into a circle, these situations, it was just like a circus with those colors and that circle. I was tripping on that, and then all of a sudden we had to realize these dance steps and do them, and the music started. This kid starts rolling off, and Murshid starts yelling at him, and he says, "gotcha, gotcha," and he starts rolling off again, and Murshid is yelling at the top of his lungs, and I am trying to hide in the corner, at least raise my hands right to illustrate the dances, but I'm so stoned, and I swore I'd never go to another Sufi Dance again as long as I lived.
WALI ALI: Why, because you were scared?
MAJID: I was so embarrassed and scared and he was like nothing I have ever met before; I just really had no idea where he was at, and so for the rest of the night I hid off in this corner just kind of watching, because Ellen didn't want to go, and I had no way of knowing where I was so I could get out of there. It was incredible to watch this look of joy and ecstasy on Sam's older disciples' faces. Yasmin was just pregnant and she was just in ecstasy, and this look on her face, you could tell she wasn't bluffing. I remember her especially, and Basira and Shirin, and I couldn't understand that I'd never seen anything like it before, that I was till caught in my ego and still afraid, embarrassed, I never wanted to go again—but I kept running in to him in all these places after that and I'd end up holding his hand in the snake-dance with 500 people, I thought he was haunchy, I really did; I'd dream about him at night. I had dreams about being in a crowded room and bumping into him, and there he was, just saying things that I didn't understand—I never really understood anything that he ever said. He'd say these things, and I'd try to follow what he was talking about. He'd start out saying one thing and then he'd go off and bring it all back eventually.
WALI ALI: You had to flow with it somehow.
MAJID: I just couldn't flow with it. For the first six months I never understood a word that he said—once in a while a sentence or something would come back to me and I'd start to apply it, but it was his charisma or charm or something, it definitely wasn't anything that he said.
WALI ALI: How about you, Khadija?
KHADIJA: The first time I met Murshid was at Sheila USA's house.
WALI ALI: Is that when he was having the meetings there? At Sheila McKendricks?
KHADIJA: Yes, Buzz, he wasn't yet Dara then, Amina and Shirin from the ranch—let's see who else: Mary Sue, Miriam, Buzz—
WALI ALI: She wasn't Shirin then?
WALI ALI: Was that '67 would you say?
KHADIJA: It was right at the year the ranch began.
WALI ALI: I remember when that was, that was before '68.
KHADIJA: Yes. That was probably in March, '68, or somewhere around there. She was having meetings there. I went—
WALI ALI: Oh that's right, because I remember when Shirin got her name; that was when Vilayat came, that first meeting—
KHADIJA: At the ranch?
WALI ALI: No, here, because I remember when Pir Vilayat had just been saying something and Murshid said, "Stand up Marian," so he gave her the name Shirin, and you could see Pir Vilayat was visibly surprised.
KHADIJA: We went over and talked to him a little But there wasn't much talk at the ranch that I was in on—there was no particular talk—Buzz just asked me one time—we kind of liked each other a little bit—and he was on and off with Shirin—so he took me one time, and I walked in and there was Murshid. He was sitting there—there is a picture of him which was very much like my first impression of him. He had short hair, and he had on a gold robe, and he had big beads on, I think, and he had Sheila on one side of him and he was sitting on a couch with his legs crossed—Sheila on one side of him, it was all very formal compared to the ranch scene—and somebody else on the other side of him—several women, maybe Basira—
WALI ALI: No, I don't think she was around, maybe Nancy Silver—
KHADIJA: Several kind of Venusy women around him, you know what I mean? And then there was a row of kids in the front, lots of kids had came from the ranch that night just for this particular meeting. Anyway, I sat just behind the kids, and he was just talking, and I wasn't particularly listening. He said something to one of the kids, asked one of them to stand up; so I stood up because I thought he said for me to. He said, "Not you." And I was so embarrassed that I sat down again, and he said, "You're not ready yet, you should go downstairs," and he pointed me to where downstairs was. Amin was there, I remember Amin was there also that night. So Murshid made me go downstairs and wait in the room down in Sheila's house—the one that had drawings all over the wall—did you ever see that room? There's a room there that has drawings on the wall—trees and all this stuff—and they made me stay there during the whole meeting by myself. Apparently it was something they did with the disciples, and I wasn't a disciple, so I had to wait the whole meeting downstairs. After that meeting was over, I guess they let me come up-stairs, I just couldn't believe it, I just went downstairs and kind of blanked out, it was so humiliating. And so at some point they let me come back upstairs, and I sat way in the back, and after the meeting was over, I walked into the kitchen and Murshid was taking off his robe, and he had on a short-sleeved shirt. He was doing something at the table—fixing food or playing cards or something. He was just kind of hanging out in the kitchen. Sheila was in there and everybody was talking and stuff, and so I sat down at the table for a few minutes. The environment was too much, there was just too much energy; it made me feel uncomfortable, but I stayed for awhile—
WALI ALI: Then you didn't see him again for a long time, did you?
KHADIJA: No, I didn't see him again for—it kind of blew my mind—I would have probably come back if I wouldn't have had to be downstairs—and then I met him in New Mexico. That's really the first time I really met him, because I was able to hear him then.
WALI ALI: When was that?
SAUL: Did the soup story happen then?
KHADIJA: It happened the second night, the first night we went to the show, the second night—
WALI ALI: That was 1970, the first Arizona camp?
KHADIJA: That was a really long time afterwards, and I was in New Mexico and was living with people who considered themselves Sufis for a year in Arizona, and then I game back and went into this guy's shop—a kind of a jewelry shop and bookstore—and there was this sign that said, "Sam Lewis, Sufi dancing, Free University, Berkeley.
WALI ALI: Berkeley?
KHADIJA: No, I don't mean Berkeley, what's that school there? University of New Mexico. They had a free-university program, I said, "Oh, I know him, I think I'll go." So I walked in, and it was just instant rapport, and everything he said made absolute sense—you know how he went on those tales, and they all made sense. I just laughed throughout the whole meeting, the whole meeting was so much fun. And I don't know who was down from Lama that night. Were you down from Lama that first night of the teaching? No, you weren't, because he told me afterwards he was going to bring you down. And so at the very end of the meeting, I said, "Murshid, I knew you from Rancho Olompali, so he screamed out, "Isn't it terrible that the place burned down—absolute mess—they had a fire, they wouldn't listen to anything." And he went on a tirade about how horrible Rancho Olompali was, and here I thought I had messed myself up by mentioning I was so embarrassed. I thought he was mad at me for being from Rancho Olompali, but he wasn't. That was just the way he was. So I hung around and he wrote Wali Ali a letter that he'd met me and that I was really lonely. I really was lonely, so I just hung by him that night, and finally he—I guess he had to—I was around so much—he took me to a Chinese dinner with them. And he told me that they'd be back next week, and so that was really the first time I met him.
SAUL: The soup story?
KHADIJA: Oh, the soup story, that was later, that was a couple of days later, maybe a week later. I made him chicken soup and he had to—I asked him for dinner. I was staying at this guy's houses, I didn't have any money, so I asked them all to come over to dinner. So this guy was a real peculiar guy, and he'd been making soup for all day, so I figured it must be done. So later on Murshid and Mansur came, and Josh, remember Josh?—and his old lady. So they came, after waiting for me for a long time. Once I got there I got scared that I hadn't asked the guy who lived in the house. I was scared I would get in trouble, so I went and asked the guy that lived in the house, and asked him if it was alright, and he came back and said, "Yeah, it was alright." And so I told him I was going to serve the chicken soup, so I put it in a bowl and passed it around. This was after they had waited for 45 minutes for dinner. I gave them each a bowl of the chicken soup, and Murshid took one sip of it, and he said, "Now if I had something like this, I'd give it to my dog." It was so greasy; I didn't know you were supposed to take the top off the chicken soup, so all it was just grease—
WALI ALI: So talking about soup stories, what about the time, Majid when you made lunch? Do you remember that? I remember when Murshid came home—
MAJID: Saul and I had been living together for about a month—Murshid knew we were living together, so we decided to invite him to lunch, and Murshid accepted, so we set the date two weeks ahead of time, and Saul and I argued and discussed that meal for two full weeks, every single day as to what we were going to serve. I decided upon this incredibly elaborate meal: fruit salad and shrimp and something else and home-baked bread; oh it was incredible so I started early in the morning to prepare this meal; I made sure that there were walnuts, and I had this whole thing planned, even the things we were going to do—when he came—and I wasn't quite done with the fruit salad. So I asked Murshid if he'd like to crack the walnuts, because I thought he'd really like to crack the walnuts. And so he comes in the door, Saul had gone to greet him, and immediately he walks in and takes off his belt and starts playing with the cat. I was cracking walnuts, and I was just about to say, "Murshid, would you like to help me crack walnuts? "He said, "How long before lunch?" I said, "Oh, about 20 minutes." "Twenty minutes, that's a sin, even ten minutes; don't you know how busy I am? I'm writing a letter to so and so, and I'm doing this and that, and I'd be happy to come to lunch when you have it on time—goodbye!" And Saul said, "Murshid, can I walk you down the hill? "And so he walked him down the hill. And I just cried. I just cried; here was this incredibly beautiful meal sitting there on the table, and I just couldn't bear to eat a bit of it; and Saul came back and I was just sitting there crying when he came in and said, "Let's eat it." So we tried to eat it. I remember that evening when I came down to the meeting very embarrassed; I didn't want to go to the meeting, and Sheila USA was there, that was the first time I'd ever met her, and she was sitting next to him. She looked over at him and asked, "Murshid, can I sing a song?" And he said, "Alright." And so she sang this song, and it was about how everybody in the world wasn't loving anybody, and it was all terrible, and oh well, and all of a sudden he says, "You've been on the hot seat once today, what do you think of this song? Think that's true?" I said, "uh, uh, uh.. .yes," and he said, "Okay, it's true."
WALI ALI: I remember he said later, because he was just on this trip that day, he just didn't want to wait around, that he wasn't used to having long lunches and he just couldn't understand an elaborate lunch—but at some time later, he said, "She took that very well."
WALI ALI: How did you meet Murshid, Saul?
SAUL: I was living very quietly in Mount Shasta and pretty much hiding out from the world. These two girls came up from San Francisco and gave me this book called the "Rejected Avatar," and it answered all the questions I had at that time in my life. In looking back, reading the book now, it's almost a hard space to remember, but it literally did all those things at that time. And so I was released from what I was doing and came down to meet him, and it was the Thursday night meeting, the Gatha meeting at the Khankah. I arrived on a Wednesday totally blown out. It took me almost two weeks to recover from my trip, but I walked into the Thursday night meeting and I was welcomed; I didn't know it was a special closed meeting, And there was a point in the meeting when I was asked to leave, and sit in the kitchen, so I sat in the kitchen area, and it lasted about ten or fifteen minutes, and I was asked back in again. And we chanted and read things; it seemed very nice. I was told that I was supposed to meet my initiator and there were certain questions that I was supposed to ask him; I would know by his answers if this was the right one or not.
WALI ALI: Where did you hear this?
SAUL: Mother Mary told me this, and I had gone off from my path at various times meeting various teachers and asking them these questions and getting really weird answers. Obviously looking at these people and saying thank you but no thank you. After the meeting was over, Murshid didn't really conduct the meeting, Moineddin did—Murshid sort of popped in toward the end. I think his energy was almost a little shaky for me because he was like a Hercules, a short little Hercules, preaching almost against a wave of resistance. He just sort of whopped through things, and I wasn't released through that. And so I was a little taken aback by this. We sat down in the dining room and he had surrounded himself almost like a crescent with these beautiful girls—radiant, and even if they were ugly, they were beautiful. And when he looked at me he was radiantly beaming, and I was wearing my sunburst on my sleeve that I'd worn for years. He looked at me and he asked if that were a morning star, and I said, "No, it was a rainbow star." And he said, "Do you have any questions for me?" And I said, "Yes, did you ever hear of Jogad Bundu? And he said, "No, do you have any other questions?" That of course was one of those questions I was supposed to ask. And it just sort of clicked, and I realized that he was supposed to be my teacher. After ten years in college and five years of graduate, I can't explain it, it was obviously non-rational, but it felt very good.
WALI ALI: Oh Basira, we are telling about our first impression of Murshid—What about yours?
BASIRA: I saw him a few times, I had spent nine months on Mount Shasta; I came back to the City and was at Olompali Ranch and he came there a couple of times, and I went to a couple of his meetings. I was fascinated by the people who were around him being sort of half-asleep, but I decided I didn't want to live in the world anymore, and I was going back to a cave on the mountain. I had my back-pack on and it was seven o'clock in the morning; Murshid was staying at the Khankah in Novato three or four miles down the road. I'm walking out the door, and there he is standing in the doorway; he asked me where I was going, and I didn't even particularly feel that I knew this person, and so I was very surprised that he was standing in the doorway, so early in the morning. Mansur had driven him out there; he asked me where I was going, and he said, "First you have to take a walk with me," and we took a little walk, and before we ended, he said, "Oh, I have a new dance I want to show you," and I said, "Alright," and put my back pack down and did the Ram dance that he generally only does with men. He said, "I don't do this with women, but I'm going to do it with you." So we started going, "Ram, Ram," and bending our knees and then he sat me down and asked me if I knew what a Darshan was. He said, "I'm going to give you three Darshans." He proceeded to give me three Darshans, one of which was the Christ Darshan, and when he gave me that Darshan, I just knew that he was Christ, that here was a being really living this in everyday life—he was a real being. He said, "You have to come to the ground-breaking at the Khankah this afternoon, and I said, "Alright." He said, "Before you go to the mountain, you have to come." So I went to the ground-breaking and he asked me a question there in front of everyone. He said, "Have you ever sinned?" And I said, "Of course not!" He said, "Alright, fine." That was something. I went back to the mountain and consequently had so many visions that I felt like I was spending more time in San Francisco with this man, Murshid, than I was at the mountain, so I eventually came back to the City—this was in a period of three months.
WALI ALI: Ayub, I think you have an interesting story.
AYUB: I found it pretty interesting. It seems that everything broke down in Sausalito, and we were hanging out at the Art Center—no reason why—we just found ourselves there we were taking baths in the graphics room; we were cooking inside some of the classes, and I was just going past to take a bath in the graphics room and I saw a sign posted—Sufi Ahmad Murad Chisti. I'd read all the books on Sufism and I didn't have any particular reason for investigating further, so one Wednesday I was going up the stairs and it was just before eight o'clock. Everybody was waiting out in the hall and Murshid was on the stairs. I just found myself sitting there too for some reason and I asked this question of Murshid—oh I called him Mulla. "Mulla," I said, "Mulla, do you know what I'm supposed to be doing in life?" And Murshid just roared at me, "You haven't loved or suffered enough." And I just found myself walking into the meeting and Ceil Mulligan got up, or Sita, during the break, and she announced that they were opening up a commune in San Rafael and would initiates and candidates see her sometime during the break, she'd be over there. And I did, and we moved into the Bret Harte House.
WALI ALI: Did you ever meet Murshid, Mary?
MARY: The first time I met Murshid? Abdul Aziz, who was David then—we had just met—and he said to me, "Would you like to go dervish dancing tonight?" And I had been folk-dancing recently and said, "Yes, that sounds interesting." So what should I do? I didn't really know, but my friend Saul goes, so we trot over to the Mentorgarten and come up the stairs. The room is real crowded, and sitting right here is Murshid in his green robe, and with that bare light bulb that used to go out and Saul is sitting to his right in a very erect position with his eyes closed and his hands in a mudra position. I don't remember very much about it except he said all these things and I just didn't know what he was talking about. Every once in a while Saul would ask a question, and he'd yell at Saul—
WALI ALI: That's right—
MARY: He would always yell at Saul; I always felt sorry for Saul, and then we did the Sri Ram dance down the stairs and we went to the meeting room, and that cross just blew my mind. I'd just come from a Catholic school, it was just, it just did something—it really frightened me, and Murshid frightened me—he was so powerful and saying all those things, I just had no idea what he was talking about. So we danced; I guess we joined in the dancing, and then we went home. I just didn't know what to think, I'd never seen anything like that. And then I came to a few more meetings, but I kind of stayed far away from Murshid. I didn't approach him except one time to tell him about a dream. Instead of the priest being on the other side of the altar, Murshid was on the other side of the altar, and then that was about all. He said, "Oh, I like to be in good dreams."
WALI ALI: And he'd say, "I refuse to be in bad dreams."
BASIRA: I know, I'd have a cosmic vision and he'd say, "That's how you know me."
WALI ALI: Abdul Aziz, you haven't given yours.
ABDUL AZIZ: My story is much the same as Mary's.
WALI ALI: That was the first time you'd met Murshid?
ABDUL AZIZ: Yes, to go Dervish dancing, and I have a very clear impression of the atmosphere in the room that night, as if there was an awful lot of space. I was first struck by the attitude of the people that were there. I first tried to understand that and then gradually began to realize that that attitude of devotion, the energy that was coming from that—he was reading from Hazrat Inayat Khan and talking—I just felt a positivity from him that I'd never, that I'd obviously been looking for. It was my fifth attempt to get something out of college. It was that feeling that I got from him that night that I was looking for. He also answered a couple of questions. I happened to be reading Gurdjieff and Jung, and somebody asked a question about Jung. He said that Jung was an analysis of an analysis of an analysis, and that was why it was confusing. That answered my question, and then, then I found myself doing things that I would never have considered doing like the snake dance around the room and down the stairs and out into the street into the alley door, and into the room downstairs.
WALI ALI: That's a good topic to get into; how Murshid would get a person into a sort of awkward situation like that. I remember the time I—were you there the night he took the Saturday night dance class to his old folk-dance group?—I remember, for example, we would go to a restaurant; we went over to this Indonesian restaurant—were you there that night, David Hoffmaster's birthday?
SAUL: Yes. We all went there.
WALI ALI: At any case, I was going to tell about one time—what he would often do was to say, "Alright, now you have to sing for your supper?" There'd be these three or four guys, and they'd As Salaam Aleikhum, Subhan Allah, Alhamdulillah—and everyone in the restaurant would look at him, but that would be the test to be able to just do it. I remember this one time that we did that at that Indonesian restaurant over there and everybody just flipped. It was like we were the strangest people in the world and I just couldn't believe it. At about this time, out of the kitchen comes this old Indonesian man with tears running down his face.
SAUL: When we were on the road and travelling and would go into these small towns like Santa Barbara, we'd go into a restaurant and have lunch and Murshid would demand that we should sing and we would, Murshid would say, "Stand on your head; and it was very much like standing on your head, you'd just do it, and there were all these college students and I knew these people and they sort of knew me, and there I was standing up singing. It was very far out. We didn't have any little old men running out, but we got some wonderful looks!
BASIRA: The only restaurant I think I ever went to with him was the Chinese restaurant in New Mexico; we didn't sing there.
WALI ALI: No, we never sang in Chinese restaurants.
BASIRA: Is that right? Yes, the one in Novato, he used to take us there after Ladies dance class; no we didn't sing there either, that's right.
SAUL: Maybe because they had port chop rice?
WALI ALI: Do you remember any other stories like that?
BASIRA: What, restaurant stories?
WALI ALI: Just stories where you got put into embarrassing situations.
BASIRA: Amina got really put into one. Saadia, Murshid's God-daughter from Pakistan, was at the Garden of Allah, and they were going to have dinner for everyone. And Amina offered Murshid a glass of wine in front of Saadia, and he goes, "I never drink wine"; she almost dropped the glass, she was so freaked out (unclear for several lines).
MAJID: I got very angry going shopping with him, especially because he'd walk in the door and there would usually be two women with him. I was around, and I was always a lot taller than he was—and he walks in holding these two women—there were these black guys in there and they knew him. They said, "Here he comes."
WALI ALI: They used to call him the professor.
MAJID: He'd tell the whole story about the cats and the dogs, and "This is my housekeeper, and this is one of my dancing girls.” I was just so embarrassed—
WALI ALI: That sort of thing happened to a lot of people.
SAUL: He was wonderful to go shopping with; he'd go up to the check out people and tell them the whole history of what he was doing, and about his trip to Geneva, all the people he'd met and the letters he was writing, and about people who had written to him. And they'd sit there and go "uh-uh-uh-ah that will be $14.85 please and I'll see you next week, Mr. uh-uh-uh…." I think the only one that ever did really believe him was up at Franks Frank. I think it's pretty far out when a man comes up and says he has a letter from the President of Pakistan and everyone he was corresponding with like the Secretary of … and like he just came back from a World Conference of Religions and the ex-president of India was a personal friend of his, or—and he went on like this, and he's sitting there wearing almost rejects, Sears and Roebuck, he was just wonderful, and he was buying dented cans, of course.
WALI ALI: I remember what this place was like when he and Mr. Hunt used to live here.
BASIRA: Who was Mr. Hunt?
WALI ALI: When he originally moved in here, he lived here with Mr. Hunt, Ed Hunt, an old man, a few years older than Murshid. He was an artist and a friend of his. Murshid felt that this house was too big for him, so Mr. Hunt had the back room and also what is now the office. Gradually more and more young people would come over here and Mr. Hunt got more and more uptight about the whole thing. But this house was so filthy—even I noticed it—it was just amazing. And then Fatima used to talk about what it was like when he used to live down in the middle of, south of, Market, on Clementina St. But two old guys and Murshid was so busy. His office which was that room in there, which was Bismillah's room, you'd go in there and would just be stacks of paper—you think my desk is crowded. Whenever he found something it was a miracle. He would say, "It's a miracle, this paper has turned up." He was very reluctant to turn over any aspect of filing. Daniel Lomax was one of the first people to come over here and really work. He was given some sort of office stuff. He would get so tripped out; it would take him so long to do anything, but he was really one of the first people that ever did anything. He probably had the idea that you were supposed to somehow help your teacher in some way; and he gave me that idea for which I was very grateful.
KHADIJA: It's funny, we were talking about embarrassing things about Murshid, like there were certain things he did like singing in restaurants, that kind of thing. That's the kind of stuff my mother used to do when we were younger, like she'd have us perform "three little ducks," so I never felt like that was that weird. Sitara wasn't used to it at all, it would really blow her mind sometimes, but I think that he would just relate so absolutely straight-on with whoever he was talking to that that was the thing that made one turn on themselves a little bit, you know what I mean? You would see how he would react so clearly.
BASIRA: I'd find myself doing really embarrassing things; we had a meeting at the Garden of Allah in Corte Madera, and people would always kind of sit back from him—sometimes the room would be filled with people, and he'd say, "Come and sit closer, sit closer," and one night I found myself crawling on my hands and knees, I just scurried up beside him and got up right under his arm, and he said, "There's only one other girl who used to do that with me," and he asked me if I was afraid because of what happened to her. It was Vashti. She did that all the time before she got into that bike accident. And I'd say, No, but I would find myself there and I just felt like doing it.
MAJID: I could never understand when I first came around him why he always yelled at certain people all the time at every question they'd ever ask, and some people that I just had an incredible amount of intolerance for, like Greg Potemkin or someone like that, would ask him what I considered to be asinine questions, and he would answer them right from his heart. I just could never understand it.
WALI ALI: The people he used to yell at the most—
WALI ALI: He always would yell at Saul, and also Renee. Whenever Renee asked a question he would yell at her. He'd even yell the answer back.
BASIRA: Would he really answer her?
WALI ALI: He'd throw it right back at her.
MARY: Saul, can I tell the story, the one that Jelaluddin tells?
SAUL: About the car ride?
MARY: Yes, would you tell that? Some of your car stories.
SAUL: Okay, I'll at least tell my most embarrassing story—outside of being yelled at, because he yelled at me a lot; I should say that I got to take it as pure energy after a while, and I was just trying to just breathe it in.
WALI ALI: Did you do Zikr a lot?
SAUL: Yeah, we were in Canada going to see his uncle, and—
WALI ALI: Uncle Harry?
SAUL: Uncle Harry, who was an ex-railroad bandit, guerrilla, military cavalryman, and a general rake, and a feisty old man; I really liked him.
WALI ALI: I met him once; I think he was in his nineties.
SAUL: Yes, that's right, an old, old, old, old man. But I really liked him, he was really right there, and we went up to see him and we were looking for his house. We were driving through Vancouver which I'd only been to once before, and because I'd been there once, of course I was driving. Murshid said, "You've been here before, you drive." I told him I had only been here once, and it's a strange city, and he said, "That's alright." So I was driving, I was always driving too fast—
WALI ALI: Especially when you're looking for a parking place.
SAUL: That's right—or a turn—
WALI ALI: That was one of his things, and he'd say, "I can never understand why people whenever they're looking for a place to turn or park they speed up instead of slowing down."
SAUL: we are driving along this street at night and we're looking for an address, and he's screaming, "Slow down," so I slow down, and he says, "Slow down, and I slow down some more, and he says, "Slow Down." I said, Murshid, we are doing 5 miles an hour. He says, " Slow Down." So I stopped the car. He says again, " Slow Down!" So I turned the key off. " Slow Down!" And then I finally understood what he meant. And so I stopped! And he was very silent for about a minute and he looked at me and said, "Very good." It took at lot, and I was going 8 miles an hour or 8000 miles an hour, and the car was irrelevant. So I finally slowed down and he found the house.
WALI ALI: Oh that reminds me of one. I used to drive Murshid around I guess just as much or more than anybody. He used to say, "You are one of the few people I don't mind their driving—
SAUL: He had to say that—
WALI ALI: But anyway, once I borrowed Zeinob's VW and I was not used to driving VW's, and I'd never driven one. We went to visit the Rudolph Schaeffer school of art, way up on one of those hills on Potrero Hill— one of those real steep hills, and so we stopped and he went in there. I pulled the brake up. We came back to the car and I couldn't get the brake down. I didn't know how in the VW you have to—
BASIRA: Push the button?
WALI ALI: No, pushing the button I figured out; I didn't realize you had to pull it up in order to get it to go down. So there we were sitting there, I was trying to get the brake off; Murshid knew absolutely nothing about that sort of thing, so he said, "Watch your breath—get out and walk around the car," so I walked around the car a few times and he is playing with the brake, so the car starts rolling down the hill; I'm outside the ear walking around, and he's sitting there with this big smile on his face; he got the brake off; so I managed to jump in the car!
SAUL: I think Iqbal should tell his own stories, but just in the off-chance that he doesn't, before he was Jelauddin—in fact when he was Jonathon, he was driving Murshid around in this nice big Chevrolet convertible, the yellow one, beautiful car, and Murshid was always telling him where to go. Murshid had the habit of saying, "Turn right, turn left, so go three blocks, now turn right, go fast, slow down, right here/there," and after a while you stopped thinking, and so Murshid was doing this, for awhile with him, and saying, "Go here, go there, get off the freeway, go down this ramp, do this, go there," and he was just driving, driving, driving, and all of a sudden Murshid was silent. And he looked over and Murshid was sitting there looking out of the window like straight ahead—
WALI ALI: I heard this story—
SAUL: And Iqbal says, "I guess he knows where we're going, were going straight," So he's driving and time is going by, and he hasn't heard anything; he looks over and Murshid is sitting there looking out of the window, so he says, "I guess we're still going straight, "so he drives straight and he gets into a strange part of town he's never been in before, it's really weird. He looks at Murshid and Murshid is looking out the window, and he says, "I guess we're still going straight," and he keeps going and he goes up this strange turn and he's going straight, and pretty soon he realizes that the road is dirt and he's looking at Murshid and Murshid is still looking out the window, hasn't said a word, and he starts slowing down a little bit and looking around, frightened, and all of a sudden he is on a cow track, in the middle of San Francisco, he doesn't know where—
WALI ALI: That must have been in Marin county.
MAJID/SAUL: No it wasn't; it was in San Francisco.
SAUL: In San Francisco, a cow track! And the road dead-ended in this cow track in the middle of a field. And then Murshid came out, saying, ;#$%¢&*(@#, why can't you drive like Nancy Silver?"
MAJID: She always said, "Toward the One."
SAUL: He said, "I was doing "Toward the One'; I was driving straight." So of course he couldn't turn around, there was no place to turn around in, I asked Nancy Silver if Murshid ever got angry with her when she was driving him, and I asked her why she didn't drive like Jayanara did, and I asked Jayanara if Murshid ever got angry with her when she was driving, and asked why she didn't drive like somebody else drove, and I've not yet met anybody who—
WALI ALI: He never got mad at me when I was driving; of course I was real concentrated, and now when I drive I am not nearly as concentrated as I was when I used to drive Murshid around; I was just really concentrated.
BASIRA: Did he tell you where to go?
WALI ALI: He did sometimes, sometimes he didn't; he knew I knew how to get there. He liked to go different ways to get there and—
SAUL: Oh, we had an experience that we should relate about. You were there, and we were driving in San Francisco in the twin-peaks area. And we were lost, and he knew in the back of his mind that years ago before they put these housing developments in—the housing developments must have gone in in the twenties—that there was a street that would go through and would connect back. I drove a school bus in that area for a year and a half, and I knew that the only way to get back to where we had started from was to take the freeway. So I said, "Murshid listen, I know what I'm talking about." He looked at me and he said, "Saul, you're wrong." I said, "Alright, you're the Murshid, what do you want me to do?" And he said—you were in the car, remember—and we spent about 45 minutes driving up and down these streets and kept looking, and he kept saying "I'm lost, I know it, it was here." I remember we were coming back from somewhere—
WALI ALI: From the Sunday talks?
SAUL: No, we were way up over there on this side of, by Bosworth, on that side, the other side of the freeway. Anyway, all of a sudden—and I was getting stronger about my feeling, I said, "I'm sorry but you're lost; let's get back onto the freeway and get home." Finally he looked at me and said, "Alright, I give up, get me home." And we were in all these twisty narrow streets that keep dead-ending, and it was very far out, and he looked at me and all of a sudden, it was like those little lights that go "click,' like in cartoons, and he just lit up and he said, "Now I know where we are, I knew it, I knew it, I knew it, turn right here!" And there was the street that went all the way straight. And so of course I apologized. It was funny, it was like this funny released laugh that kept coming out, and I started laughing and it was very righteous to be wrong. I think that was one of the most righteous things that he taught me, that it was alright to be wrong.
KHADIJA: I remember that night he took—when I was staying over on 30th Street at the Women's liberation camp—
WALI ALI: He had me walk you home from here a few times.
KHADIJA: The first night I got into San Francisco, I called them and said, "Here I am." I'd just arrived from Taos, because I'd written them ahead of time. Did you ever know that?
WALI ALI: He was real excited about having met you in New Mexico. He really felt that was a wonderful, positive sign.
KHADIJA: Great. So anyway I told him I was here. I was real embarrassed I was staying at women's liberation house. I kept on bringing that up to him a whole lot, I didn't know what their trip was and I wanted to hear what he had to say about it. He didn't have too much nice to say about it. Anyway, he said, he had somebody call me from here, and we went over to the astrologers—
WALI ALI: Gavin Arthurs? Yeah, he wanted me to go that night but I didn't want to go.
KHADIJA: But somebody else went?
WALI ALI: Yes, that must have been Gwynne and David, or somebody else, or Marsha maybe or people that were living here.
KHADIJA: It might have been Majid that went—
WALI ALI: Or it could have been Leslie—
KHADIJA: So we went over and there was this blond lady there who was real kind of straight—
SAUL: Did you have an argument with him?
SAUL: It was me that went.
KHADIJA: That's what I thought, maybe that's why—Yeah, you were there—so I sat on one side of Murshid and everybody sat around and he started getting it on with this blond lady, and they just argued and argued, and she wouldn't have any part of it. He got real excited, do you remember? He was yelling and screaming, and he was holding my hand, and every few minutes, he'd hold my hand while he was yelling and screaming at them—and every few minutes he'd take my hand and put it on his pulse and then he'd go back and yell and scream—he was just making me feel his pulse. After she'd left he told us all, "See my blood pressure didn't go up a bit, my heart didn't beat any faster, I didn't get excited," It was just like this huge thing he had done. To put on to this lady that he wanted us all—I don't know, did he tell us all that?
WALI ALI: Yes, he did.
KHADIJA: He told us all that he hadn't really been the least bit excited. Well, it was true; I thought it was delightful, I had the best time sitting there—it was really funny; boy he was really getting her.
WALI ALI: That sort of thing would really make some people very nervous. Whenever Murshid would make any sort of public argument, or debate, talking about being right and being wrong, the most ironic story on that, to me, is the social-security story. What happened was that Abdul Rahman, or Daniel as he was called then, was Murshid's financial secretary, which job Halim inherited when he left. But Abdul Rahman and he had a whole number of tiffs about that. Murshid had this angry correspondence with the Diner's Club because he felt that they hadn't given him credit for a check that he had sent them. They kept billing him for this amount which he didn't owe them, and they were having this frightful correspondence which had gone on for months, and there was litigation pending and this and that—it hadn't ever gotten to that stage, but they were about to revoke his card, and this and that, and he wasn't about to back down. So Abdul Rahman got into the—he went back and he went through all the places where Murshid had his records, and he found that actually it was Murshid's error, the problem was that he had—
KHADIJA: I just saw the boxes downstairs that Abdul Rahman kept every receipt from the Mentorgarten—
WALI ALI: And it had been a natural error, for what had happened was that he had written a check for half of the amount and it was some strange figure like $113.12, so then when they billed him for it again for the sum of $113.12, he just figured that they hadn't gotten his check. But he had the toughest time convincing him that he was wrong. Finally he did and Murshid didn't like it one bit, and so then Abdul Rahman got the idea in his head that he was going to get Murshid social security. And Murshid said, "I don't qualify, you don't understand my past history and this and that; I don't qualify, you'd be wasting my time." So Abdul Rahman persisted and he made inquiries and he wrote off here and there. Finally Abdul Rahman, when he was going to Tucson—because Murshid was always complaining about not having enough money— Murshid would get in this big check at the first of the month from his inheritance and he would immediately start complaining that he didn't have any money. He would make a $100 contribution every month to the University of California for a scholarship fund, and he was getting something like at the most—like it had gone up at the end—he was getting something like $700 or $800 per month—so he would contribute $100 to the University of California Department of Near Eastern studies, and he would take people out to dinner and buy dresses for people and groceries for two households—he just spent it. And he'd say, "God wants me to spend money; I scrimped and saved my whole life." But then he would be without money. He would get crotchety about not having any money. There were a lot of people in the house, like David Hoffmaster. There were a lot of chips when he lived here, because he got in here when he was working, and then he no longer had a job and was living off of him. "He doesn't pay his rent on time," Murshid would say. And he would come to me and complain about everybody else.
WALI ALI: No I didn't, but it was okay because I worked the full time for him, but I never got anything, I just lived here; I just got my food taken care of and a place to sleep. So for this reason, Abdul Rahman was trying to get Murshid some extra money. He was investigating the social security. And when he was going to go to Tucson, he got me to promise him that I would stay on the trip, to get Murshid to follow through on the social security. He felt sure that he could get it, and so I said, "Okay," somewhat against my better judgment. I remembered the Diner's Club incident, and I figured, well, Abdul Rahman might be right. But the whole thing made Murshid kind of angry, but he was willing to go along with it, because he needed more money. So he called up his friend—he used to write letters all the time to Congressman Burton's office—so he called up this Burton's office and he talked to his chief legislative assistant, or whatever they call the chief. And he arranged an interview with him and he was to take up the question of social security, because apparently he was supposed to be an expert. So he went down there and they had a talk for a little while and they came out, and Murshid said, "I knew it, you wasted all this time," He was really angry. He said, "I can't get social security, and I'm so busy, and I have to waste my time going to these places," so I just took it, there was nothing else to do. But the ironic thing about it was that the week after Murshid died we got this notice from the Social Security people saying that, "You will get a check of so and so balance per month." And that really just put me back. Because one wonders about the various kinds of—I don't know how to describe it—but what happens in the outer-world, and what happens in the inner-world, how events are connected in strange ways. Yes, but this was the sort of thing where Murshid's conflicts with Daniel would often come, because Daniel would be sort of right, rationally or logically, but Murshid would be right intuitively. And they would just have these conflicts in these kind of things. Like Murshid knew intuitively that he wasn't supposed to get social security.
BASIRA: It didn't make sense to him either.
WALI ALI: He spoke to me after Daniel had gone to Tucson and Frank—Halim— had taken over the financial services. He was quite pleased that Halim had taken over. He was quite please with Frank; Frank didn't argue with him at all. He just let him do whatever he wanted to do. Daniel used to try to argue with him about being reasonable about this expenditure and that. He'd say, "I'm bringing in the money, why should I have to…." But he would get into these states; I don't know, sometimes he would take a person to a store—
BASIRA: "What do you want," he'd say, like "Just get anything you want." If you didn't speak up fast the opportunity was lost.
KHADIJA: I remember when he was with Sitara before their New York trip and he took her shopping a few times. For some reason they would always take me along with them. They'd go to Berkeley, that Indian store in Berkeley, where he got so many women dresses. And she couldn't decide what she wanted and he just grabbed it, the dress from the table, and then she'd get home and she wouldn't like it. She liked the other dress better. So she went—
WALI ALI: She's the perfect Gemini—
KHADIJA: Yes, and she got real scared, she talked to me about a whole bunch of things, "He won't know, maybe," so he went over there and she exchanged it and I can't remember what happened after that. But he got her a lot of clothes; he got everybody clothes.
WALI ALI: Not everybody, some people he did and some people he didn't.
SAUL: He got me books.
WALI ALI: Like some people he would take to Hagues for example. And he'd take Nancy or somebody there and he'd just say, "Get whatever you want." And then he would get really high in a certain way, he just couldn't say no, and he would just say yes to anything, especially about money. Then later some people would really take him up on it, like buy a hundred dollars worth of stuff.
KHADIJA: They would?
WALI ALI: I think Nancy did once, at Hagues.
MAJID: I believe it.
KHADIJA: Oh God.
WALI ALI: My relationship was different, he knew I didn't really want, I didn't care about material things. And he offered me that a couple of times but I just didn't want to spend anything. And also because I knew that later he would sometimes say, "And now I don't have any money, this person or that—they came and they spent everything."
KHADIJA: I was always scared to say yes to a dress so we, Fatima and Jayanara and I, fixed it up with Phillip when he came back from India. And he threw it at me—he gave it to me at the ladies dance class. He came in and he walked in the room and he saw me, and I knew he was coming at me with that dress and I didn't want to have to say anything. The space between where he was when I saw him and where I was was a real long way, so he walked over to me and he just threw it at me with both hands, he just took it and threw it.
BASIRA: Do you sew?
BASIRA: Oh, I bet it was getting real exciting at the end when there were so many women.
MAJID: That last Bazaar with that rug booth. Remember that first Whirling Dervish Bazaar and there was that man that came with all his oriental carpets and he had them all laid out in that booth—and Murshid laid down on the rugs and he had all these ladies with their babies sitting around—people walked in there and wondered what kind of display was this.
BASIRA: Actually he said something that night—remember the belly-dancing part? He went there and he laid down on the rugs and all of a sudden I was lying next to him and he said, "We don't have to watch the belly- dancing, we already know all about harems, right?"
WALI ALI: He hadn't been in favor of….
BASIRA: I just said, "Right," to everything from the bottom of my heart to anything he said; it didn't even strike me as funny most of the time, anything he said; it was just alright.
KHADIJA: He only approached me in a personal way once. Living at the Khankah the whole time he and I would never hardly talk at all. We'd just walk around and pass each other in the hall, and I would make his bed in the morning and I would always try to do it when he was in the bathroom so he wouldn't catch me doing it. And one morning he came out and caught he making it, and he said, "Oh, that's very nice," or something like that. I didn't say anything; he was so grateful for little things like that. You wouldn't think, you wouldn't want to do it for that reason, but he was really grateful. The only other thing real personal was one day I was talking on the steps and he said, "Yak, yak, yak.."
BASIRA: He used to go "Quack, quack, quack, quack, quack, " that thing from the….
WALI ALI: He used to turn on the radio, sometimes they'd play the Rogers & Hammerstein thing, and he would sing along with the whole score. Shirin's story was that when she first met Murshid he took her to see the opera, Iolante, the Rogers & Hammerstein thing, and he was singing along with them. I remember the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, the Mikado, and he took us to see it, and he started crying in the middle of it because Zeinob was with us. He knew that Zeinob had sung that role of Katija in the Mikado and she was such a forlorn creature. Zeinob was a pure waif when she rolled up on our doorstep, one of those real basket cases. She'll have to tell her story if she can remember it. It's funny to me to see people here talking about it; it's a different person talking than the person who was going through it. It's kind of difficult to put it in the context of some of the people that are sitting around, because I know where the people were at, at the time.
KHADIJA: I know I was broke when I came here, I came over every day, I just wanted to do stuff all the time. Leslie loved me because I washed the dishes without being asked. There was just that atmosphere that Murshid needed help so much and there was nobody able to do the stuff around. It's the thing we are trying to work out with the younger disciples, to give them that spirit, or something because that was so much here.
WALI ALI: He used to complain all the time that he didn't get enough help. In fact, when I first started coming around, he would make a threat every meeting or so, he'd say, "I'm going to close this whole thing up if I don't get enough help."
KHADIJA: "I don't need money, I need workers," he'd say.
SAUL: When I first showed up he made the call for help, and I moved into the city, and so I started coming here every day and doing everything I could. I had a split job and I had about 4 hours off in mid-day, and one day he looked at me and said, "Saul, don't do so much, save something for the other people who are coming." And I looked at him and I said, "I thought you really needed workers." "I don't need one worker, I need workers," he said.
BASIRA: I know when I came here, I wanted to help him so bad at the Khankah, I'd say, "I need something to do, here I am." And he'd set me out to hoeing the garden for about five minutes and he'd go, "Okay, that's enough, time to take a rest." I would always ask him—
KHADIJA: You would actually ask him what you could do?
BASIRA: Whoever was there: Jayanara or Fatima, he wasn't the only one there. He was out digging around the garden, and he'd say, "Okay," He used to take care of the children and—
KHADIJA: I used to go to one of his First Corinthian classes with him, either go to the class or cook lunch, one or the other. I remember the first day he had me cook lunch; boy was I scared it was going to be horrible. It turned out alright though.
BASIRA: He used to come to the Garden of Allah and he used to say—he'd sing these little songs whenever he came in the door—and one night he just sat down at the table and he went, "Oh the Murshid's coming to dinner tonight, everybody nice and proper, straight, everyone nice and proper, nice and straight," and we'd all sing it, and another song he used to sing was—he used to sing it to me and Amina—"When I go to the Khankah, it's gimme, gimme, gimme, and when I come to the Garden of Allah it's what can I do for you?" Oh, it was incredible.
KHADIJA: He used to complain about the people in the city when he went to the Khankah.
BASIRA: I betcha he just—
WALI ALI: And when he came here, he'd complain about the people in the Khankah.
KHADIJA: But he did things—like he told me when I moved in there that he didn't think my cat was going to make it, and then Nasima—the cat was named Nasima—the minute he left for New York, she disappeared. And about a day after he came back home—and that was a long trip—she came back. She had just left the whole time he was gone and then she re-appeared—it was a month or so that he was gone. And I found her under a tree.
SAUL: He adopted Wuta as his dog—there was a difference as to size there—he used to go into Gathas; he'd go into the same class, third year Gathas, and then when I went into fourth year, he went into fourth year Gathas. He would just like push open the door, walk in and sit down.
WALI ALI: I remember that.
KHADIJA: He would come into every class and he would sit behind the cross.
SAUL: Except the Gatha class when he would sit with the teacher in front, and look at the person reading.
KHADIJA: Going to the Mexican restaurant with Asa and Leslie while beating the forks and knives on the table—
WALI ALI: Murshid and the three kids—
KHADIJA: Then the waitress would come—
WALI ALI: We'd say, "We were just playing," but Lester got so humiliated, he refused to ever go back in there again—
BASIRA: I just never could understand Murshid, once he sat me down and was rubbing my feet. Whenever he would do things like that I just didn't know what on the earth was going on with him.
KHADIJA: I remember one Christmas I sat on his lap for three hours, it was absolute agony, was so uncomfortable, but I was scared to move—I can't remember exactly what he would say, I wish I could remember exactly what he would say, something like, "I don't every take a girl for myself that I don't offer the same opportunity for my disciples," or "I never kiss a girl and then say…." I can't remember, but it was something like "The night I kiss any of my ladies, any of my men can kiss one of my ladies." And they did it after—He was just trying to let us know that he wasn't going to come on sexually to any of the ladies, yes that's right. And Fatima and I thought this was so absurd, that anyone would even think that they would be interested in him. And now I realize that it would have been the simplest thing in the world, that if we'd had any feeling….