Eulogies for Murshida Sharifa Goodenough
Memorial of Murshida Sharifa Goodenough
Elise Schamhart et Michel Guillaume
Few among those who really knew Murshida Sharifa have written about her, even though she helped many, inspired many, and lightened up "life's puzzling ways" for them, and that she guided some towards self-discovery. As the written word completes, bit by bit, the image left by this great soul, we will devote a generous part part of this Memorial to their words.
We knew certain of these men and women, and many were, in spite of the age differences, our friends. Among them were instructors on the Sufi path. We do not doubt their sincerity.
"It is difficult to find words to describe the loss which Murshida Goodenough's death represents for the Sufi Movement. It is beyond question that the loss is great and occurred at a time when the Movement would have had the greatest need of the qualities and the strengths of this personality.
"By personal observations over many years I acquired the conviction that no one was ever in closer communion of thought and objective with Inayat Khan. When I came into contact with the Movement, this closeness was so to speak perfect. I saw in a public meeting when she hesitated in her translation of Murshid's words, how a simple look from Murshid enabled her find the perfect translation of his word. Reciprocally, I was once at a committee meeting where Murshida spoke softly to Inayat Khan, in Persian, and that this led to a new situation in the meeting.
"Many know of her complete devotion to Murshid during the first difficult years of missionary work in several countries. But I fear that only a few realise the extent to which we are indebted to her for the expressions of the Message. In truth I am convinced that without her and her extraordinary capacities which she placed in the service of the Cause, the vast field of words and thoughts of Inayat Khan which came to light since he left us would have been neglected. I discreetly suggested to her once that she alone would be able to provide the interpretation and to find the desired expression to that which must have struck everyone as having the appearance of a shapeless pile of notes and transcriptions. Her immediate retort: 'Each sentence, each word left by the Murshid is perfect in form'. By this answer she gave a magnificent example of her loyalty. Nonetheless, I stand by my opinion.
"This exalted sentiment of loyalty once gave me the occasion to observe during a meeting, with admiration, her only direct, crushing attack, but always remaining within the limits imposed by her so admirable intelligence and her perfect manners. I myself was the victim of this attack. She believed that I had taken liberties with 'the sacred word'. But what I had done was with the agreement and approval of Murshid.
"Alas! How this so admirably developed spirit and manner will be missed at the future meetings of the Movement! The serenity with which she attended, often while she was under attacks which were as ridiculous as they were unforgivably vulgar in form, was a lesson which showed the degree of perfection which can be attained by a disciplined intelligence and a spirit which has mastered itself.
"Her mind was one of the finest I ever had the privilege of meeting. I saw once how, without preparation, she repeated the terms of the minutes which had gone astray of a meeting held a year previously. When the official minutes were found and compared to Murshida's account, this was found to be rigorously accurate. Yet at each such meeting she could give the impression of being far away, as if detached from the subject under discussion. This fact can serve as a visible illustration that the methods of mystics result in making more powerful and sharpening the instruments God has given us to use on this terrestrial plane of existence.
"My own limitations, my personal lack of experience of the conduct of mystics, our differing conceptions as to that which produces results in the life of this world, meant that our co-operation on a was not always to be easy. But what I can affirm with equal candour, is that no one held her qualities in greater esteem than I did. She became for me, in a certain way, the touchstone within the Sufi Movement, which enabled me to discern alloy from pure gold. Surely no one who hears of her passing will do so without a experiencing a feeling of sorrow for the Sufi Movement."
Antoinette Schamhart-Scholte, moved by her love and her inexhaustible wisdom:
"In writing these few lines to the memory of her for whom I had infinite love, I see again the calm and sober room where I was privileged to spend so many happy moments with her. The simplicity of her attitude was in such harmony with this atmosphere where everything spoke of perfect peace and harmony. She was a source of wisdom, a wisdom which she communicated in words and in silence, for her silence sometimes revealed more than words can, expressing things which are too subtle, too fragile for words. She was not only the Master, but besides that and especially, the friend on whom one could count in all circumstance, the friend who knew before a complaint was put into words, the friend who understood without explanation. She gave in a torrent of infinite love. She dedicated herself to the work of the Master, becoming more and more the instrument through which the Message was spreading. She was devoted to this sacred work, continuously, in spite of all the difficulties she had to endure, endlessly giving her love and her inexhaustible wisdom.
"She lives on in the memory of all those who loved her and in the lectures she left - these lectures bear witness of an inner knowledge and an inner intelligence which are not of this world. Her death was, for many among us, an irreparable loss. Yet somehow from this apparent loss arose an intimate connection which gives rise to the certainty that in reality there is no separation.
"Towards Her who showed us the path to follow by her example, walking in the footsteps of the Master, our affectionate thoughts go when we read the following lines:
"May your foot on the ground leave a noble print
We take the following passage from the eulogy of Louis Hoyack:
"She lived and died unnoticed by the eyes of many, who were unaware of the heights of her spirituality. Exquisite beings and things find few admirers in this mediocre world. But those who discovered the radiance of her spiritual evolution and who won the tender friendship of her loving heart, will feel connected with her forever..
And this last souvenir of Olga Chayés:
“She never imposed herself… She was somewhere in the depth of my life. When I lacked will or courage, miraculously her strength was there to put things right.
"She never imposed herself. It was enough to come to her and remain in her silence. And so sometimes I came, feeling unbearable grief and revolt, and went away galvanised by a current so powerful that it made me giddy, and insensitive to private pain.
"Of her I knew little; but she has done more for me, a stranger, than any close friend. I saw also that her self-control was faultless, and never throughout the five years I knew her, I heard her express a single word against anyone.
"She still remains in the secret garden of my life. And my greatest wish is that she will always be there. For this bit of herself which she left me, showering on me her goodness, her sympathy and her light, remains an intangible element which I take care not to desecrate by any act with which she would not agree.”