Champions of orthodoxy might scorn the theological purity (or lack there of) of Sufi Movement but the original purpose of ‘Sufi Kirk (Church)’ also known as ‘Dutch Sufis’ was to bring different (and often opposing) theological and cultural traditions together through realisation that the basis of all the religions is the ‘common good’ preached by the prophets and the saints of the world.
Why would Qudrat-ullah Shahab who was a celebrated civil servant, a confidant and aide to many military dictators of Pakistan and a self-proclaimed Pan-Islamist, dedicate a couple of chapters of his autobiography Shahab –Nama (a masterpiece of modern Urdu language) to Hazrat Inayat Khan and his Dutch Sufi Kirk?
Mr. Shahab considered the unorthodox religious views of the Sufis as an ‘anomaly’ in Islam but despite his visible disdain at their ‘free mixing’ of all the religions (especially White Dutch Mureeds, Jewish and Hindus) at the communal worship, was respectful towards the memory of Hazrat Inayat Khan and recalled his time at Pakistan embassy in Netherlands with fondness.
In 1965, at the outbreak of the Indo-Pak War Pir Valiyat Khan(Son of Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan) came to console Mr. Shahab at the hour of national crisis. Mr. Shahab also recalled how the ‘White European’ Mureeds (with influential positions in various European governments) were instrumental in ‘secretly’ helping Pakistan in the hour of crisis. Pakistan’s then foreign minister and future Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto converted these ‘one –time helpers’ into long term friendships and support for Pakistan in European corridors of Power.
Qudratullah Shahab , in spite of his orthodox views was still partisan in favour of Pakistan with all its cultural and religious diversity. Ironically Qudratullah Shahab himself became a Sufi in the last years before his death in 1986.He dedicated the last chapter of Shahab Nama to a mystic ‘Ninety’ (a supernatural being) who used to write letters to Mr. Shahab foretelling future events. Was that a fragment of Mr. Shahab’s imagination, we will never know?
Quotes are taken from Wikipedia and ISM website in order to maintain objectivity.Sufi Inayat Khan was born in 1882 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, traveling 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.
Today active branches of Inayat Khan’s lineage can be found in the Netherlands, France, England, Germany, 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.”
“The man, who tries to prove his belief superior to the faith of another, does not know the meaning of religion.”
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.
The work of a mystical teacher is not to teach, but to tune, to tune the pupil so that he may become the instrument of God. For the mystical teacher is not the player of the instrument; he is the tuner. When he has tuned it, he gives it into the hands of the Player whose instrument it is to play. The duty of the mystical teacher is his service as a tuner.
Inayat Khan set forth ten thoughts that form the foundational principles of Universal Sufism.
1. There is One God, the Eternal, the Only Being; None exists save He.
2. There is One Master, the Guiding Spirit of all souls, Who constantly leads all followers toward the Light.
3. There is One Holy Book, the Sacred Manuscript of Nature, the only Scripture that can enlighten the reader.
4. There is One Religion, the unswerving progress in the right direction toward the Ideal, which fulfills the life’s purpose of every soul.
5. There is One Law, the Law of Reciprocity, which can be observed by a selfless conscience, together with a sense of awakened justice.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. There is One Object of Praise, the Beauty which uplifts the heart of its worshipper through all aspects from the seen to the unseen.
9. There is One Truth, the true knowledge of our being, within and without, which is the essence of Wisdom.
10. 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.”
• “Sleep is comfortable, but awakening is interesting.”
• “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.”
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.
According to International Sufi Movement’s website
Brotherhood & Sisterhood Activity
The religious bonds show a still higher ideal in man; but it has caused diverse sects which have opposed and despised each other for thousand of years, and have caused so many splits and divisions among men. Even in such a wide scope of brotherhood the germ of separation exists. And however widespread the brotherhood may be, as long as it is separated man from man, it cannot be a perfect brotherhood.
The Sufi realizing this, frees himself from national, racial, and religious boundaries, uniting in the human brotherhood, which is devoid of the differences and distinctions of class, caste, creed, race, nation or religion and unites mankind in the universal Brotherhood.
When the congregation enters the place of worship, a light is already burning, suspended above the altar, representing the Divine Presence, the source of all light.
On the altar, as well as flowers and incense, there are candles and scriptures representing six of the world’s religions (Hindu, Buddhist, Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian and Islamic) as well as a candle representing all those, whether known or unknown, who have held aloft the light of Truth through the darkness of human ignorance. Therefore, none are excluded; all faiths are respected in this service.
The service is conducted by three Cheraghs (‘light bearers’) wearing simple robes of muted brown as a sign of self-effacement in service.
The candles are lit, with the sincere feeling that the light which has given rise to each faith has once again been kindled.
The scriptures are read with devotion, whereupon gratitude, homage and respect are offered to the Divine source of each.
In the course of the service, an invocation and three prayers are recited. These sacred formulations, given by Hazrat Inayat Khan, clearly express the unity of all religious ideals.
Following the reading of the scriptures, a Cheragh gives a sermon on the theme of this day’s service.
After a closing prayer, a Cheragh blesses all those present, and the Cheraghs depart.
This service has also been formulated for such special occasions as weddings, the blessing of infants, the ordination of Cheraghs, and the passing away of a soul from earth.
Champions of orthodoxy might scorn the theological purity (or lack thereof) of Sufi Movement but the original purpose of ‘Sufi Kirk (Church)’ also known as ‘Dutch Sufis’ was to bring different (and often opposing) theological and cultural traditions together through realisation that the basis of all the religions is the ‘common good’ preached by the prophets and the saints of the world.
Some readers might be tempted to think tha we at PTH have ‘lost our marbles’ in promoting such an ‘out-dated’ philosophy? Really? Well PTH strongly believes in freedom of expression and allowing new ideas for promoting cultural and religious pluralism for an intellectual discourse.
The question remains, what can we learn from Sufi Inayat Khan’s philosophy and is that tradition of Sufism still relevant in today’s world of terrorism? PTH would welcome comments, rebuttals and debate.