Inayat Khan

5 Jul 1882
5 Feb 1927
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Inayat Khan (July 5, 1882 – February 5, 1927) was the founder of The Sufi Order in the West in 1914 (London) and teacher of Universal Sufism. He initially came to the West as a Northern Indian classical musician, having received the honorific “Tansen” from the Nizam of Hyderabad, but he soon turned to the introduction and transmission of Sufi thought and practice. Later, in 1923, the Sufi Order of the London period was dissolved into a new organization, formed under Swiss law, called the “International Sufi Movement”. His message of divine unity (Tawhid) focused on the themes of love, harmony and beauty. He taught that blind adherence to any book rendered religion void of spirit. Branches of Inayat Khan’s movement can be found in the Netherlands, France, England, Germany, the United States, Canada, Russia and Australia.

Hazrat, whose full name was Inayat Khan Rehmat Khan Pathan, was born in Vadodara, Gujarat, to a noble family, as on his paternal side (made of mystics and poets) he descended from Pashtuns of Afghanistan initially settled in Sialkot, Punjab, and his maternal grandfather, Ustad Maula Bakhsh (1833 – 1896), called the ‘Beethoven of India’, founded, thanks to the local ruler Maharaja Sayajirao, Gayanshala, an academy of Indian music, and in fact the first of its kind in India, in Vadodara (nowadays serving as the Faculty of Performing Arts, Maharaja Sayajirao University) and whose wife (thus Inayat Khan’s maternal grandmother), Qasim Bi, was a granddaughter of Tipu Sultan, the famous eighteenth century ruler of Mysore.

Primarily he represented the Chishti Order of Sufism, having received initiation into the Nizamiyya sub-branch of that order from Shaykh Muhammed Abu Hashim Madani, but was also initiated into the Suhrawardiyya, Qadiriyya and Naqshbandi. His spiritual lineage (Silsila), as compiled by Pir Zia Inayat Khan, follows a traditional lineage from Ali ibn Abi Talib, through Abu Ishaq Shami (d. 940), the founder of the Chishti order, to Nasiruddin Chiragh Dehlavi (d. 1356).

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), a second-cousin of Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy and whose half-brother was the well-known Sanskrit scholar Pierre Bernard, from New Mexico, and they had had four children; Noor-un-Nisa (1914), Vilayat (1916), Hidayat (1917) and Khair-un-Nisa (1919). The family settled in Suresnes near Paris.

In 1922, during a summer school, Inayat Khan had a spiritual experience in the South Dunes in Katwijk, The Netherlands. He immediately told his students to meditate and proclaimed the place holy. In 1969 the Universal Sufi Temple was built there. 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 founder of the Nizami Chishtiyya, Shaykh Nizamuddin Auliya (died 1325), is buried. Khan died shortly after, on February 5, 1927.

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