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Hazrat Inayat Khan

Posted by seq13 on July 1, 2009


Inayat Khan was born into a noble Muslim Indian family (his mother was a descendant of the uncle of Tipu Sultan, the famous eighteenth century ruler of Mysore). He was initiated into the Suhrawardiyya, Qadiriyya and Naqshbandi orders of Sufism but his primary initiation was from Shaykh Muhammed Abu Hashim Madani into the Nizamiyya sub-branch of the Chishti Order. He was also indebted to the philosophical Vedanta/Shankara spirituality of Hinduism.

With the Shaykh’s encouragement he left India in 1910 to come to the West, travelling first as a touring musician and then as a teacher of Sufism, visiting three continents. Eventually he married Ora Ray Baker (Pirani Ameena Begum) from New Mexico and they had had four children: Noor-un-Nisa (1913), Vilayat (1916), Hidayat(1917) and Khair-un-Nisa (1919). The family settled in Suresnes, near Paris.

Khan returned to India at the end of 1926 and there chose the site of his tomb, the Nizamuddin Dargah complex in Delhi, where the eponymous founder of the Nizami Chishtiyya, Shaykh Nizamuddin Auliya (died 1325), is buried. Khan died shortly after, on February 5, 1927.

Hazrat Inayat KhanToday active branches of Inayat Khan’s lineage can be found in France, England, Germany, the Netherlands, the United States, Canada, and Russia. He left behind a rich legacy of English literature infused with his vision of the unity of religious ideals, which calls humanity to awaken to the “Truth of Divine Guidance and Love.”

He was aware of the Euro-American prejudice against Islam in his time and therefore made the controversial decision to present Sufism without focusing on its connection to Islam. In his autobiography he stated:

“Among the existing religions of the world Islam is the only one which can answer the demand of Western life, but owing to political reasons a prejudice against Islam has existed in the West for a long time. Also, the Christian missionaries, knowing that Islam is the only religion which can succeed their faith, have done everything within their power to prejudice the minds of Western people against it. Therefore there is little chance of Islam being accepted in the West. However, those seekers after religious ideals have more or less regard for the religions of the East and those who seek after truth show a desire to investigate Eastern thought.”[1]

He also stated:
“if the following of Islam is understood to mean the obligatory adherence to a certain rite; if being a Muslim means conforming to certain restrictions, how can the Sufi be placed in that category, seeing that the Sufi is beyond all limitations of this kind?”[2]

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s emphasis on spiritual liberty led many contemporary Westerners to understand that Sufism and Islam are not inherently intertwined, although his followers continue to perform (Dhikr). There is a historic precedent of certain Chishti masters (and masters of other orders) not requiring their non-Muslim followers to convert to Islam. The numbers of non-Muslim Sufis before the twentieth century, however, were relatively few.[3]

Sufi temple
In 1922, during a summer school, Inayat Khan had a ‘spiritual experience’ in the South Dunes in Katwijk. He immediately told his students to meditate and proclaimed the place where he was on that moment holy. In 1969, the Universal Sufi Templea temple was built there. Every year a Sufi summer school takes place in this temple and many Sufis from around the world visit.

Although Hazrat Inayat Khan’s son, Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan did not specifically identify with the Islamic tradition, his grandson Pir Zia Inayat Khan, the current head of the Sufi Order International, is an observant Muslim, a scholar of Islam. His daughter Noor-un-Nisa served with British military intelligence during the Second World War but was captured by the Nazis in France and executed at Dachau concentration camp in 1944.

Hazrat Inayat Khan set forth ten thoughts that form the foundational principles of Universal Sufism[4]:

There is One God, the Eternal, the Only Being; None exists save He.
There is One Master, the Guiding Spirit of all souls, Who constantly leads all followers toward the Light.
There is One Holy Book, the Sacred Manuscript of Nature, the only Scripture that can enlighten the reader.
There is One Religion, the unswerving progress in the right direction toward the Ideal, which fulfills the life’s purpose of every soul.
There is One Law, the Law of Reciprocity, which can be observed by a selfless conscience, together with a sense of awakened justice.
There is One Brotherhood, the human brotherhood which unites the children of earth indiscriminately in the fatherhood of God. … (later adapted by followers) There is one Family, the Human Family, which unites the Children of Earth indiscriminately in the Parenthood of God.
There is One Moral, the Love which springs forth from self-denial and blooms in deeds of beneficence. … (alternative, source unknown) There is one Moral Principle, the Love which springs forth from a willing heart, surrendered in service to God and Humanity, and which blooms in deeds of beneficence.
There is One Object of Praise, the Beauty which uplifts the heart of its worshipper through all aspects from the seen to the unseen.
There is One Truth, the true knowledge of our being, within and without, which is the essence of Wisdom.
There is One Path, the annihilation of the false ego in the real, which raises the mortal to immortality, in which resides all perfection. … (alternative, source unknown) There is One Path, the effacement of the limited self in the Unlimited, which raises the mortal to immortality, in which resides all Perfection.

Some of Inayat Khan’s most famous sayings are:
“Shatter your ideals on the rock of Truth.”
“There is nothing valuable except what we value in life.”
“In a small affair or in a big affair, first consult yourself and find out if there is any conflict in your own being about anything you want to do. And when you find no conflict there, then feel sure that a path is already made for you. You have but to open your eyes and take a step forward, and the other step will be led by God.”
“The difference between the divine and the human will is like the difference between the trunk of a tree and its branches. As from the boughs other twigs and branches spring, so the will of one powerful individual has branches going through the will of other individuals. So there are the powerful beings, the masters of humanity. Their will is God’s will, their word is God’s word, and yet they are branches, because the trunk is the will of the Almighty. Whether the branch be large or small, every branch has the same origin and the same root as the stem.”
“The more one studies the harmony of music, and then studies human nature, how people agree and how they disagree, how there is attraction and repulsion, the more one will see that it is all music.”
“Reason is the illusion of reality.”


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