In the realm of Sufism, the endeavors of Shah Nimatullah brought new respect for Sufism and the sufis, enriching the culture of Islam, particularly in Iran. In addition to guiding a large following of disciples, he engaged in farming, serving as a model to his disciples in pursuing a profession as the best form of self-discipline. He actively demonstrated that the way to purifying the heart and purging the self lay in service to society and kindness to other human beings. Under his guidance, disciples learned to occupy themselves with God while living in the midst of society, putting into practice the principle of ‘solitude in the company of others’. Following his example, his disciples abandoned seclusion and retreat as their primary spiritual mode and embraced lives of constructive occupation. Shah Nimatullah’s opposition to apathy and lethargy extended to his banning of the use of opium and hashish among his disciples at a time when these were commonly used by both ordinary people and sufis.
Another of Shah Nimatullah’s innovations, related to his instruction that his disciples should have an occupation, was his prohibition of the wearing in public of any particular costume, which would draw attention to them. It was his view that to develop inwardly, the sufi must be free of any kind of show or pretense; he should strive for ‘colorlessness’. For Shah Nimatullah nobility consisted in one’s becoming graced by Divine Attributes, not in attachment to a particular form of dress. Shah Nimatullah not only opened the door of his bounty to all seekers and aspirants, as well as to his own followers, but he also paid respect to all nations and peoples and to other sufi orders of his time, basing his actions on a code of purity and fidelity. Shah Nimatullahi followed his predecessors in not separating the tariquat (the spiritual path) form the shari’at (the Islamic law) because of his belief that the haqiqat (Reality) could be attained only through integration of the two.
After Shah Nimatullah, the masters of the Nimatullahi Order resided in India until the end of the 18th century A.D. (12th century A.H.). The center of the Nimatullahi Order was shifted back to Iran with the arrival of Sayyed Ma’sum ‘Ali Shah Dakkani to Iran in 1775 A.D. (1190 A.H.) Dr. Nurbakhsh became the Master of the Nimatullahi order in 1953, when his master, Munes ‘Ali Shah Dho’r-Riyasatain passed away. From that time, Dr. Nurbakhsh established more than a hundred khaniqahs and numerous libraries and museums throughout Iran. In the 1970’s, a number of Americans and Europeans came to Iran and were initiated into the Nimatullahi Order. On their return to their respective countries they needed a place to congregate. Accordingly, the first khaniqah outside Iran was founded in San Francisco in 1975. Since that time more than 30 additional khaniqahs have been established around the world. These spiritual centers are founded as non-profit charities and their financial affairs are inspected by the government agencies, which are responsible for such organizations. The financial needs of each khaniqah are handled by the sufis who live in them in such a way that the resident sufis make a monthly contribution, which is used to meet the expenses of the khaniqah. Whatever surplus may be accrued is used towards the establishment of new khaniqahs.