Welcoming You!

The purpose of the International Sufi Movement is to work towards unity, [the ideal of Universal Sufism and the Religion of the Heart]. Its main object is to bring humanity, divided as it is into so many different sections, closer together in the deeper understanding of life.

100 Years and Beyond

From the Jubilee Edition of the Dutch Journal titled Soefi Gedachte

Jaya Bakker

‘Companions of Hazrat Inayat Khan? I’ve never heard of.’ Many new mureeds hardly ever heard of the three brothers of Hazrat Inayat Khan: Shaik-ul-Mashaik Maheboob Khan, Murshid Ali Khan and Murshid Musharaff Khan. That is remarkable, for they have led the Sufi Movement from 1927 until 1968 one after the other. Which atmosphere surrounded them?

We as mureeds sang, among other places, in Katwijk, in the Murad Hassil, songs for which Maheboob Khan composed the music on lyrics of Inayat Khan and gradually it dawned on me that the brothers, the companions, had played an utmost important part in the continuity of the body of thought which Inayat Khan brought to the West. And whoever, as mureed, as a member of the Brotherhood or as an interested person, has committed oneself to the ideals of Inayat Khan, owes them gratefulness. In the Sufi Darbar, the The Hague Centre at the Banstraat, the brothers were commemorated on their birthdays and on the day of their death. And thereby the thoughts of them remained living.

Within our movement there are some mureeds who have known and witnessed one or more of the brothers. It is important that Karin Jironet has written a historic treatise on these three Murshids. Her book has to an important degree the nature of a historiography of heights and lows of those times. While reading it those who have witnessed that time can include their own precious memories. Those for whom this period is unknown will be curious after the experience of the association with the companions and the atmosphere which surrounded them. At any rate, that is how it was for me. In order to know more about the companions I contacted some mureeds who could tell about those times at first hand. In italic words I refer to what they have said, not only about their experience of those days with the companions but how, from that background, they think about the Sufi Movement right now and how they see the future.
It was surprising – each one of them told something no one had ever mentioned before. Two mureeds sighed that they were heard at last. It would be useful to develop a way of working in which listening to the ideas and suggestions of mureeds would become accepted.
In those interviews more than once it was mentioned that Murshida Shahzadi should be always be bracketed together with the companions. She was responsible for the progress, formed a bridge to the present day. She played a great role in the Sufi Movement, first as wife and support of Musharaff Khan and after his passing away as one of the leaders of the Sufi Movement and guide of many mureeds. She was part of the special atmosphere of the brothers. The one who has witnessed her in the Banstraat or somewhere else has been connected to that atmosphere and hopefully still is. 

Not everyone in the immediate surroundings of the brothers experienced the same. For example, the widow of Inayat Khan. In a letter Ameen Begum begged Ali Khan, her brother in law, to come and visit the children’s party of the children.(1) It has to be stated that Shaik-ul-Mashaik, who was the guardian to the children, never visited her in her home after feeling not welcome on one occasion. Ameen Begum did not want to part with the guardianship. As a result the children did not see their uncle at their home anymore, at Fazal Manzil. Obviously, none of the children has received spiritual guidance from the companions in the Sufi tradition of Inayat Khan.

Inayat Khan and his brothers came to the West as musicians. They were mystics, healers and seers. They supported themselves by giving concerts. The significance of the companions to mureeds is hard to express in words. There is hardly someone who has known and experienced Shaik-ul-Mashaik. A few have known Ali Khan and most of the persons I have interviewed cherish warm memories of Musharaff Khan. The stories told about the three of them were very respectful. They, the brothers, followed the tradition of Inayat Khan with the exception of giving ‘collective interviews’. The Summer Schools were sources of inspiration. Though, more than once it was stated that they were immigrants and that this has complicated their work. For example, they did not speak Dutch but only English to mureeds. Murshida Shaszadi always accompanied Musharaff Khan and, if necessary, translated the interviews of her husband with mureeds. That language barrier made some mureeds shy and timid. Among other things Ali Khan and Musharaff Khan also gave physical practices. They were keen on being healthy. I have the idea that nowadays this does not take place within the Sufi training. Those who have known all three of them were very young when they came into touch with Sufism. Shaik-ul-Mashaik was only mentioned by those who were born in a Sufi family and saw him from a distance. The beautiful songs, the ‘Sufi songs’, we owe to him. He composed the music to texts of Inayat Khan. His clairvoyance was illustrated, among other things, by an event during WOII. After a bombardment he was told which building had been flattened. ‘No’, he said, ‘it was a building at the big road.’ That proved to be right.
Ali Khan has been described in quite an opposite experience. An imposing presence under dramatic and oppressive conditions. A formidable human being, a strong leader. Because of that many people deserted. Those who had contact with him in private do understand that some people were a little bit afraid of him. They themselves call him: my soul guardian and referred to his loving attitude, his pleasant manner with other people, his sense of humor. His presence and silences have left an everlasting impression on the mureeds. Sometimes he cooked for his hosts when he stayed with them. He loved to sing with the whole family, sometimes in Chinese with words as spaghetti. If he laughed it was as if a whole mountain was laughing. He was rather corpulent and the average Dutchman did not expect this from a spiritual man. But soon his radiance was perceptible. He learned to ride a bicycle and that was not very easy for him. The person who told this thought this was very funny. Ali Khan was considered a man who could do everything and having a hard time in learning to ride a bicycle did not fit in.
His healing voice has permeated many people deeply and a great number of people have experienced his healing themselves. It is a pity I did not ask him more questions, someone sighed.
Those who did not have contact with him in private but only knew him as an initiator and a guide, a Pir-o-Murshid, told in awe about his authority, wisdom and power. He always was reserved, all dignity. Whatever deviated from that dignity was not good. Games within the Youth Brotherhood (Sufi youngsters) he thought beneath our dignity. You’d better not mention a campfire. ‘If I had no questions, he sang to me’, a mureed said.
In Karen Jironet’s book I read that he has been engaged for a little while and that he broke this friendship twice because one of the women accompanied a male violinist and the other woman had an animated conversation with a male co-mureed. For him that meant infidelity. To me it invoked a great compassion. I noticed how important it is that an initiator and a guide speaks the language and understands the culture in which he is working. In essence that goes for different communities and environments in the Netherlands too.
About Musharaff Khan all of my conversation partners consented that he was a man without any distance, either as an initiator and a guide or as a Pir-o-Murshid. Contact with him was like a tea party. But when one left, one felt that something had happened. The superlatives stated seem limitless: a radiant personality, kind, ‘When I met him it was as if I stood before a clear crystal’, one person said. Two other persons, ‘when I think of him, I experience a deep calmness’ and, ‘when I think of him, I see the sun in the parlor’. The relationships with him were characterized by friendship, a friend in the highest sense, remarkably happy, always amiable, a radiant personality, a great reconciler; he extinguished domestic fires before they could burst into flames. He did not talk much, was humble, but was experienced as being a counselor, a guide, an inspiring example of devotion and solidarity’. The words ‘Come and follow me’, which I had already learned from Jesus, I could apply to my Murshid in the truest sense’, a mureed wrote. In his presence difficulties disappeared. The words ‘smiling forehead’, introduced by Inayat Khan, did apply to him par excellence. ‘Looking back I have experienced Musharaff Khan as a guide, friend and father. It felt as family, warm, that is what we miss nowadays’, is told to me melancholically. Often he visited the weekends of the Sufi youngsters at the Hoornboeg and stayed there. ‘If he asked about what we would talk and out of shyness I hesitated, he began talking about what I dearly wanted to talk about’, was said more than once. A remarkable oneliner of his is, ‘All is well and all will be well’. A son of a mureed, who had been initiated by Inayat Khan, called his resemblance with Inayat Khan striking.

It is remarkable that the succession within the Sufi Movement is not clear to this very day, as well as concerning the leadership of the Movement as for most of the leaders of the Sufi centers. Only Ali Khan left a will in that sense, but with an ambiguous condition. There are no wills found of Inayat Khan, Shaikh-ul-Mashaikh and Musharaff Khan. It is said that Inayat Khan trusted his will to a mureed, who probably burnt it at home after his death in a mental breakdown. My first impulse was ‘Weren’t there any notaries at that time?’ After Inayat Khan’s passing away this uncertainty made some mureeds claim that they were the true successor because they had understood it that way.
From this several fractions originated. One mureed with whom I talked said sadly, ‘then someone died and a new fraction originated’. We can derive from this repetitively ambiguity that clarity is needed and that agreements should be recorded where they belong.
In 1968 Fazal Inayat-Khan, a son of Murshid Hidayat, a grandson of Inayat Khan, then 24 years old, has written a clear statement concerning the question of the succession within the Sufi Movement: ‘Statement on succession’. In short, he wrote, ‘one cannot succeed a Prophet’. Murshid Hidayat again and again characterized our time as a time in which we have to deal with followers of the followers of the followers etc. Fazal, ‘The Sufi Movement has been established for two reasons: to preserve and to spread this message. This is a twofold task. The spiritual and the organizational. For all Sufis all around the world the spiritual task goes. In the organizational sense it is a task for all Sufis who want to serve the message with their talents.’ If we can support this vision and take it seriously, we can face the future with joy, with the accompanying changes. The lesson we can learn from it is: think continuously of the best way of succession, prepare persons to it and include them into the whole at an earlier stage. In this, a sound grasp of the qualities of mureeds is essential.
It would be helpful if an age limit would be introduced for leadership of the Sufi Movement and the various activities. Introducing a limited duration for functions could also be considered. This is for the sake of the Sufi Movement. In this way everyone can remain aware of the need of paying attention to succession. Taking over functions unexpectedly usually ends in conflicts.
When attention and energy are given to the increase and the settlement of conflicts, they cannot be directed towards the preservation and the spread of the precious body of ideas of Inayat Khan. Therefore, a strong, clear organization is needed: an organization/a movement which indicates what is important and what is not important for this pursuit. We have to bear in mind that various activities which do not fit in this twofold aim of the Sufi Movement, can silt up.

Within the Sufi Movement it is striking that mureeds are often involved in various activities at the same time. One says ‘yes’ to perform a certain task and soon it so happens that that same task grows into an assignment of which it is no longer possible to have an overall view. From my interviews it shows that the companions were mainly involved in the spiritual guidance of mureeds and that the organization did hardly come on screen. Concerning this question lots of suggestions were made. One person suggested that the spiritual leaders would show up best if they could focus on guidance and would not be unnecessarily hindered by organizational questions. Some suggested to appointing an organizational leader next to a spiritual leader, who leads the Sufi Movement organizationally in good consultation with the spiritual leader. The financial aspect also belongs to this. From the beginning the Sufi Movement has been dependent upon persons who are ‘well to do’. Karin Jironet mentions this in her book. In a situation like that whoever pays, decides. The Sufi Movement should be able to support itself by membership fees, donations, the publication of books, lectures outside of our own circle, rental of owned buildings etc.

In most cases the Universal Worship Service is a settled and regular weekly or monthly gathering. In some places other gatherings have been added or have replaced them. The cherags convey the message by kindling the candles, reading from the Holy Scriptures of the world and giving a lecture. The atmosphere accounts for the rest.
I remember very well that, when I became a mureed, Murshida Shahzadi said clearly during the ordination that we do not evangelize from Sufism. That seems to contradict with the term spreading, but that is not the case. Spreading occurs more or less of itself by the attitude one has acquired and when people have questions about Sufism a short and clear answer is appropriate. But my conversation partners experienced mixed feelings about the degree to which we succeed in this. The unity of religious ideals is the main thing: love, harmony and beauty. Our time needs this very much. Brotherhood was mentioned, ‘but that has not been realized within the Sufi Movement. How do I treat people? That always has to be with respect, that is what it is all about. But keep your feet on the ground.’
‘What I see in the Sufi Movement: it is all very beautiful, but when it comes to the crunch, it fails quite often. We are talking beautifully, but do we practice it at all? Friendship and enmity are hardly mentioned in the classes. People are looking for a kind of safety. Threats are less pleasant. The danger is that one escapes into all sorts of things. One has to come to the point where one sees that one is escaping. We have a Sufi Movement and that means that is has to flow, otherwise it does not have any life in it’, someone explains to me.
A few mureeds told me that they did not talk much and had not been involved in spreading the message. As a reaction one person said that he spreads out the altar, in which the unity of religious ideals takes shape. ‘The prayers are alive to me and arise spontaneously’. Another person thinks back in nostalgia of the circle in which the mureeds were sitting during memorials, ‘Now we are sitting in rows and receive pies. At Murshida Shaszadi’s we received little pieces of cake, made by Rahman, with a little glass of rosewater, as it were, a little bit of holy water, a ritual. At that moment the essence is unity, peace, friendship and brotherhood’. ‘The love I got from the companions and what Inayat Khan writes, that music is a divine art, I have never experienced so strongly as during the singing of Ali Khan and Musharaff Khan. The songs of Shaikh-ul-Mashaikh decided me to go to the conservatory in order to make his music known as a professional musician’, an older mureed said.
Someone else wants ‘to spread the understanding of the divinity of the soul and how it affects the issues of today, such as life, death, education, training and the tone of debate. If you see what is going on in the world, the Sufi way of thinking has been spread throughout the world; the more authenticable human beings are the better. The Sufi Message spreads of itself.
More clarity about the true meaning of hierarchy would be useful. One of the respondents mentioned this and Ratan Witteveen writes about this in the last chapter of the book of Karen Jironet, ‘Hierarchy can be misinterpreted. It should not be based upon strict rules’.

We should go more public and be not too modest about it, but find a way through our attitude, wherever we are, at the workplace, in the neighborhood, in the family. Not only the spreading is important, but it is our task. We are not allowed to keep it to ourselves and the source does not have to be mentioned. Let’s focus more on social discussions, discussions groups, writing, more planned actions in virgin territory and countries. It would be good if the lectures were not being given by the same persons over and over again. Mureeds can be encouraged and prepared. That requires an understanding of the qualities of the mureeds. A study of the Holy Scriptures belongs to this preparation and understanding what the original message was like. Reading the Sufi texts of Inayat Khan intensely, so that one emerges in them. And we should focus on the youth explicitly.
Our PR needs expansion. That means making optimal use of the Internet nowadays, selling books in stores and not only on the book tables of the Sufi centers, maintaining a good relation with the tape and record library, writing in magazines and journals.

And all of this without evangelizing!

In review of the above-mentioned the mureeds have made concrete remarks and remarks focused on actions, based upon their deep experience, about the present day and the future, remarks that are in accordance with what Inayat Khan has said, namely that we have to take care of the Movement and that the Movement takes care of itself.
What is the most important of the Sufism to create in one’s own life? As an answer I would like to refer to a quote one of the mureeds gave to me during our conversation and which motivates him in his life:
‘Therefore for the Sufi there is one principle which is most essential to be remembered and that is consideration for human feeling. If one practices in his life this one principle he need not learn much more, he need not trouble about philosophy, he need not to follow an old, or a new religion, for this principle in itself is the essence of all religions. God is love, but where does God dwell? He abides in the heart of man’.(2)

(1) Letter from the archive of the Sufi Movement.
(2) Sangatha, page 30.

I give thanks to Hamida Verlinden, who provided me with information from the archive of the Sufi Movement. Furthermore I have referred to:
* Fourteen mureeds. With ten of them I had a conversation by phone based upon questions I had sent to them. Four persons sent a written answer.
* Dr. Karin Jironet: Sufi Mysticism into the West: Life and Leadership of Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Brothers. 1927 – 1967. Publisher Peeters 2009 Leuven Belgium.
* Wali van Lohuizen: Some comments on the book of Sitara Jironet on the Brothers of Hazrat Inayat Khan. July 2007/January 2010.
* Shahzadi Musharaff Khan-de Koningh: Pages of a life with a Sufi, without date, not published.
* Walia van Lohuizen: lecture on Treasury of Sufism, October 2009.
* Musharaff Khan: Pages in the life of a Sufi, Miranda, Wassenaar, 1982, ISBN 90 62716628.
* Nasiban Xhrouet: Memories of Murshid Musharaff Khan. March 16, 1994.
* Fazal Inayat-Khan: Statement on succession, Deventer, August 29, 1968.

100 Years of Universal Sufism: Between Holy Mist and Mythological Jungle

Be a Part of It! *Join Our Next Online Broadcast*Message Class ArchivesBrotherhood/Sisterhood Activity

From the Jubilee Edition of the Dutch Journal titled Soefi Gedachte

An Interview with Shaikh-ul-Mashaikh Mahmood Khan about the context of Message and Messenger.

Kariem Maas

Is it a matter of the Message or of the Messenger? Hazrat Inayat Khan completely emphasized on the first. He effaced himself and he also adjusted the words he chose in order to convey the Message to his audience. But this attunement to the circumstances and audience is problematic for us, the readers who nowadays read the lectures which were once improvised lectures. We can’t take the words literally just like that, but in fact we must always pay attention to the circumstances in which they have been spoken. And that concerns also the practices, forms and rituals – in order to understand their purposes we must know the context in which they have been used. And that leads us from the Message to the Messenger. Although Inayat Khan tried to highlight the Message as hard as he could and to ‘vanish’ behind it, we must know his person, life and manner to be able to probe the meaning of his Message. A paradox that is right down Mahmood Khan’s alley, a nephew of Inayat Khan. Cause to enter into conversation with him about this.

Shaik al-Mashaik Mahmood Khan is the son of Inayat Khan’s brother Maheboob. After the death of Inayat in 1927, Maheboob Khan was his successor until his own death in 1948. So Mahmood has grown up within what one could call the epicenter of the Universal Sufism. He was born in the year Inayat Khan died and his title ‘Shaik al-Mashaik’ – which means ‘Patriarch of the Seniors’- signifies that he has won his spurs within the Sufi Movement. Among other things Mahmood has partaken in the ‘joined leadership’ from 1982 until 1993 and since 1948 he is a member of the ‘executive committee’. He wrote a ‘biographic perspective’ for the standard book ‘A pearl in wine – essays on the life, music and Sufism of Hazrat Inayat Khan’ (Omega Publications, 2001). In it he states the above mentioned ‘delightful paradox’. He emphasizes that Inayat Khan as a musician was only used to improvise and attune to his audience. ‘Stay close to what the central theme is about. Improvise on it, constructively, competently, artistically, with a sense of tact…’, thus Mahmood cites instructions Inayat Khan gave. In his lectures Mahmood always emphasizes also that the manner of Inayat Khan is in its nature very much a product of his time. With certain touchiness he responds to every suggestion that it is an ‘established teaching’ – it is music and poetry!
His slightly ironical putting into perspective of what others consider as eternal ordinances or expressions of which nothing is allowed to be altered, are not always being thanked for. Understandable, for how do we keep the nucleus of the Message living, what do we have to hold, of what can we let go or what do we have to adjust? How do we know when we are throwing away the baby with the bathwater? Down to earthly Mahmood records, ‘That is a quest’. And he thinks there is a real danger that we get lost with it.

When we look at the past we can get lost in ‘a mist of holiness’. Looking ahead Mahmood sees the danger arising of a ‘jungle of mythologizing’. A metaphor he used during a recent lecture on ‘100 years of Sufism’ at the Sufi Contact at Haarlem. He showed his concern for all kinds of mythologizing, which only make it needlessly complicated to penetrate to the nucleus of Hazrat’s Sufism.

So in order to not get lost we have to go deeply into the Message ánd the Messenger. This means, speaking with the words of Mahmood, ‘Mysticism, philosophy of the world and of life on one side, history and biography on the other side.’ Concerning texts, Mahmood considers the edition on which the Nekbakth foundation is working as the fundament. This follows as conscientious as possible how, where, by whom and with what corrections Inayat Khan’s lectures and oral lessons have been put into writing. This original text enables one to form an opinion in detail about what has been said, put in the context of the whole. Including all contradictions which are in it. According to Mahmood those show that Inayat Khan – deliberately – seldom acted systematically. One has to know all his sayings on a theme in order to approach his vision. Concerning the Messenger Mahmood tells that in India Hazrat Inayat Khan was a modern Indian for that period in time (1897 – 1910), dressed in European style. He saw the western culture approaching India, not as a threat but as a positive power which could bring progress. Inayat Khan focused on the promises of the western development. Mahmood, ‘For Inayat Khan the secular character of that western culture was the great challenge. For the West was lacking the obvious mystical dimension of spirituality, which in his time still characterized India. With Sufi methods – a combination of contemplative philosophy and an esoteric system of practical and theoretical practices, such as are also known in yoga – Inayat Khan wanted to assure a renewed mysticism in the world dominated by the West, and thus by it make the West acceptable.’

Mahmood, ‘India has always been able to integrate all kinds of new movements. Since thousand years India has known the merging of the monotheistic Islam and the polytheistic Hinduism. Only in the past century an irreconcilable difference has grown between the two by political and ideological developments.’ Mahmood considers Indian mysticism as the common spiritual legacy of the Ganges and the Mediterranean: of Hinduism and Islamic Sufism. And for its part the latter was open to, for example, hermetic Egyptian sources, neo Platonism, Manichaeism, and to other more ancient traditions. That such different religions could live together for centuries is also owing to the Indian mysticism. In this mysticism there was a sense that in the ‘superstructure’ there was talk of a unity in spiritual, mystical experience, despite all differences ‘on the ground.’ Mahmood, ‘In religions there is talk of (mostly) a revelation of the Divine Source, an enlightened person, a doctrine, crystallized in forms that give shape to the religious experience in life, in moral and a certain popularization. That is the horizontal movement that eventually always has a ‘diagonal’ dimension, a fulfillment after death. The religiously reasoned out goal thereby is lying outside of the world. In mysticism the central question is if the human being can experience some of that eventual reality in this life. The answer is yes, provided the human being is able to work up a certain discipline and attitude.’

From this background the unity of religious ideals was obvious for Inayat Khan. But to the western human being this was something that was unknown. Except for some small groups, those were searching for new spirituality, such as the theosophists. They have played a valuable ‘mediating’ role. They were receptive to the ideas of Inayat Khan. On the other side, Mahmood records, they have also had a great influence on his manner. Therefore on how his Sufism took shape and was interpreted. To be able to interpret that first he goes more deeply into Inayat’s mysticism. That mysticism was in a way – even though that sounds like a difference – a ‘secular mysticism.’

The nucleus of much mysticism is immanence – the awareness that despite all limitations of this life in the depths of it there is a divine impulse to be found. Religion is just immanent to a limited degree, it is rather transcendent – the divine is outside the outer reality, and in as far as religions also seek social dominance they have the tendency to grow fixed into ideologies. Mahmood explains that there were two ways of old to attain to the depth, the immanence of the mysticism, that impulse or sparkle. The way of practices, for example yoga, and the way of knowledge, contemplation. Hazrat Inayat Khan’s original contribution is that he added a third way to it: experiencing beauty. ‘Thát has been one of his greatest contributions,’ Mahmood thinks. ‘It was a secular way to mysticism. A way that helped to attain to a purity of religious forms fixed into ideologies.’ With it Inayat Khan gave a new twist to Persian Sufism, in which the beauty of the poetry was an important way. He united this way with the most abstract of all forms of art, music. In India music of old had been counted a holy art and had been connected with the mystic side of religion. And Inayat considered music and beauty as the most attractive doorways to concentration; as a first step to contemplation and meditation in which the awareness of unity can be attained. A pragmatic approach, Mahmood decides. ‘After all one can concentrate much easier on something that fascinates, that absorbs the mind.’ ‘But beauty is not something which is sentimental. It is a form of mastery to be able to continue to see beauty in this world even though it is often so miserable and limited. Likewise to be able to continue to see harmony and love. Thereupon it is a matter of deepening this experience of beauty. One can attain to internalization by forgetting oneself in the beauty of sound, which withdraws from all forms. Then one lives in a different dimension of one’s being. Just like prayer which can deepen as contemplation on God, beyond the question of fulfillment of some need. Art – in that experience – leaves the nufs, the empirical ego, behind: there only the presence of God is.’

A hundred years ago when Inayat Khan came to the West with his music, he was faced with a problem. Not many people could understand that exotic music yet. According to Mahmood, there was some interest in America, France and Russia, but in England, where he had to stay during WOI, his music was experienced at the most as a curious museum piece. Inayat had to find other ways to convey his mysticism. Because it was mainly theosophists who were receptive to him, he attuned his performance to them. That could be more or less spontaneous, because theosophists worked with Indian imaginations. Mahmood states emphatically that he doesn’t want to be bantering about it. It has been very important that English theosophists have enabled Inayat Khan to do his work. At the same time one has to recognize that it was in some respects an unequal trade: Inayat Khan and his three brothers had given up their allowances of Baroda, he had to support his wife and four children and the theosophists were immensely rich – which sometimes casted a cloud upon the relationships. According to Mahmood clearly there has been a exchange. From time to time the theosophists came out with ideas and rituals, to which Inayat Khan gave further meaning. In that way he maintained his connection with things that were going on amongst his devotees. Mahmood cites the Universal Worship as the best known example of this, the Universal Worship which is now one of the five official ‘activities’ for the spreading of the Sufi Message. Mahmood protests grumbling against the wording in itself, ‘That expression in itself – ‘Message’ – in fact that is an irresponsible religious accent! Superfluous sacralization. At the time co-workers shaped those activities. But we certainly do not have to interpret them as limiting, as if only these five, and in this way, can express Inayat Khan’s Sufism. They are a guideline. We have to think open mindedly about clearing them up or adjusting them if necessary’.

Mahmood, ‘Many of the theosophists were old Victorians, Christians who did not wait anymore for the promised return of the Messiah, but found in the incarnations of avatars a kind of periodical return of the world teacher by the Hindus. Think of Krishnamurti. That world teacher stood by a new religion. The seventh candle in the Universal Worship also got the same connotation, whether or not interpreted. Even though Inayat Khan was after mysticism, that seventh candle got a predominant religious connotation. But Inayat Khan did not care for a new religion, as the theosophists wanted to, but he cared for mysticism for the modern human being. The Universal Worship is a lesson in divine immanence – in every religion there is a divine impulse. The theosophists too knew this partly, but never so consequently worked out. Therefore the Universal Worship was an important but often wrongly interpreted step.’ Mahmood tells about its origin, ‘During the week Inayat Khan gave practices and lectures and on Sunday there was a ‘prayer meeting’ for the mureeds at London. A short lecture of fifteen to twenty minutes alternated with hymns and short excerpts read by mureeds. Ordinary people of the audience who told what they had chosen. With little pretensions. At a certain moment devotees have transformed these ‘prayer meetings’ into Universal Worship without Inayat Khan’s knowledge. Being confronted with it, Inayat Khan has sanctioned this form.’ ‘It is a beautiful kind of service and it has played an important role in the notice of a turning point of Sufism. I am glad that there is still a great interest for it in the Netherlands; in other countries that is somewhat different. There people have for example exuberant catholic or orthodox messes they do not want to set aside for it. For them is has stayed as it was meant: an occasional order ceremony, a suggestive performance of mystical thought spiritual legacy in religious design. It is a significant and beautiful ritual. Extremely evocative. But at the seventh scripture it would be better if one should announce that there will be read from the world literature of the mysticism, thus that one does not have the pretension of a new religion – as the theosophists wanted – but that it concerns the mystical schooling as such. Then there are more pure proportions. Then the silence between the first six candles and the seventh candle is the difference between the religions and the mysticism. But alas: one is afraid to fumble at it. One thinks he is interfering in forms that have been wanted and installed by Hazrat Inayat Khan himself. But then that is based on a misunderstanding.’

In such a way Mahmood signals more misunderstandings, which could arise because one was blind for the relation between the real intention and the development in the historical context. He mentions the initiations and the prayers. ‘Sufism has three sides: the Sufi Order (the so called inner school), the Universal Worship and a few smaller external activities. The initiation at the inner school is sometimes considered a kind of sacred sacrament. But it isn’t. One has to see it in the Indian tradition that it is an agreement between a teacher and a student, rather feudal, a handshake. The hierarchy in initiations has been added later on and has been worked out rather solemnly by co-workers in the 20’s of the last century. It was much more simple. Gawery Voûte, who has been at the basis of Sufi Contact was right that there was only óne initiation and grade: that is it a question of ‘stepping into the circle’. Thus was the initiation in the London time.’ ‘Besides, with this kind of criticism on solemnity we must not fault the theosophists. Their interventions are justified when they give satisfaction and inspiration, if only óne person gets satisfaction out of it. It is also understandable that it could come about in a period when there were hardly any publications of Inayat Khan’s lectures. But one must not say that hereby Hazrat Inayat Khan himself has given shape to his teaching. That is an unjustified limitation. And it runs the risk of ritualisation. Through the publications of the original texts we now know more and we can interpret better what was essential to Inayat Khan.’ ‘The same applies to the prayers. Saum has been based on verses of an old Indian song. Salat has been borrowed from the Islamic tradition of reciting names of a number of prophets. Inayat Khan has added Hindu names. These two prayers were the first practices for initiates, together with simple breath practices. These two prayers bridge to the mystical experience in the perspective of God’s immanence. Much more mystical than the first verses of Saum – Omni-present, All-pervading, the only Being – one cannot become! After that follows up to three times a reference to the experience of beauty, and then the experience of unity. The prayer is thus also a practice to learn to see love, harmony and beauty in our limited world.’ ‘Salat comes from the classic Islamic Sufism. In it the ‘Nur-e Mohammadi’ plays an important role, as ‘light of guidance.’ That became ‘spirit of guidance’, maybe to suggest a relation with the Christian trinity. In ‘Nur-e Mohammadi’ the immanence reveals itself, as in the expression ‘illuminated souls’, with which not only the light of the great prophets but the personal light of smaller mystics and the spark of soul in all human beings is suggested. This light mainly reveals itself where the human being means something for someone else in a love that goes beyond his self, as in the love, kindness, innocence, help, inspiration mentioned in the prayer. An unselfish manner as the beginning of the ‘light of guidance’, loving transference of unselfish assistance or responsiveness.’ These prayers are embedded in a tradition that forms the essence of Inayat Khan’s mysticism. The remainder of the prayers Mahmood calls ‘custom-made goods’, because they have been drawn up on request for certain occasions.

Hazrat Inayat Khan wanted to show the way to a personal spiritual experience. The shaping of the human being is the central point. Mahmood tells the characteristic of it is the division in three parts of body, mind and soul instead of the division in two of body and mind which was common in the West. The empirical ‘I’ consists of the body plus the surface (thoughts, emotions) of what Inayat Khan calls ‘mind’, spirit and heart. This ego is formed in exchange with the outside world. It is crucial to undergo this forming very consciously as enrichment, instead of opposing it, being hardened without the slightest consideration. The ego is not an empty cover, but it grows. A plane deeper there is the spirit, the heart, with the typical feature of the capacity to love, beauty and intuition. The third plane is the soul, the life of the soul. Mahmood, ‘For us it is normal that we know a shifting between body and mind. Sometimes we are for the most part occupied with the one, then again with the other. For example, when we are reading a book, we don’t hear what is going on around us. Our perception of the outside world is dimmed at that moment. Where it comes down to is to notice that consciously. If one is occupied physically, concentrate to it to the fullest. With a deeper sense of love or of beauty the physical body and the mental mind withdraw; then it is the heart which is speaking, the depth of the mind is predominant. See it!
In their daily groove people pass over their souls. Thus in the absence of attention and food the awareness of it shrinks. Unless one develops the life of the soul by ‘esoteric’ practices. That is the central practice on the mystical path: to be conscious of that life of the soul, intensively, of the joy and peace which together form serenity. The attachment to the limitations withdraws. It is intense without being something.’

‘The books are forming the nucleus of what Hazrat Inayat Khan wanted to teach us. All texts were lectures and in order to make them readable maybe editorial transcription is needed. The ‘Nekbakht’ books with all the exact sources next to them are for the lovers and investigators who want to know the original wording. But in fact all of the complete work is contemplation and poetry. The first phase is that one reads it as poetry. The second phase is reflection on that poetry, on the basic ideas of it. For that knowledge of the context is necessary.’ ‘One should put the texts also in Inayat Khan’s real association with his mureeds, their spirituals needs. That puts the texts into perspective, changes the conclusions, between that time and the present time. In the answers Hazrat Inayat Khan gave to questions from his audience he appears as an inspired enthusiastic personality and not as a saint who is dangling intangibly somewhere in the sky, as Elisabeth Keesing records disapprovingly in her book “Golven vanwaar komt de wind”. Therefore we must, if we look at the past, guard against a mist of holiness. Looking at the future, we must realize that our knowledge of the life of Hazrat Inayat Khan is limited and that thereby a next generation, which will be still further away from the knowledge at first hand, can arrive at a jungle of mythologizing. At the moment we are exactly in the middle of ‘mist’ and ‘jungle.’ It is our task to prepare a passable way. In order to be able to do that we have to go back to what Hazrat Inayat Khan has said and has had in mind and to the knowledge of the context of his life and performance.’

When asked about the role of the Sufi Movement and the Universal Sufism concerning the preparation of the way, Mahmood responds very critically.
Mahmood, ‘In fact the term Universal Sufism is double, because according to Hazrat Inayat Khan real mysticism of itself is universal, without regard to a possible confessional principle. The designation is propagated as opposed to Muslim orders which make Islamizing the condition to being admitted. Yet, leading Indian Sufi Orders no longer do that anymore. So our ‘paindeluxe-roll’ is a little bit stale. I myself prefer ‘Indian’ or ‘secular’ Sufism; in the English language people have been experimenting with ‘Inayatian Sufism.’
‘After the war the Dutch Calvinistic way of thinking has marked the course of events within the Sufi Movement in an outspoken dogmatic way. Also concerning hierarchy; the practically exclusion of Boards, co-workers and devotees is definitely sad. Previous generations could cope playfully with the hierarchy introduced by them, because for them it was nothing special and a romantic reminder of the catholic Middle Ages.
But after the 50’s of the last century the understanding of devotion has been petrified into a mental bureaucracy; a restraint on all spontaneous expression or personal forming of thoughts. With increasing risk of mental metal fatigue. A group of which the members have to keep silent unless to say how beautiful or good everything is, has no future.’ Do all critical comments about the adjustments which have been made in order to make Sufism fit for the West mean that these are ‘distortions’ of the original? That the best we can do is to return to the original?
Mahmood, ‘No, back to square one would be utterly wrong. Murshid’s lifework is both an independent mental work, a height originated from the total Indian philosophical and practical mysticism (including the Hindu dimension) and a completely updating culmination of the whole Sufi mysticism throughout the centuries. Hazrat Inayat Khan did not want to do religion and so did not want to be a prophet. He was a mystical re-creator of an ancient, all-embracing Indian tradition.’

Western Sufism: The Sufi Movement, The Sufi Order International and The Sufi Way

Be a Part of It! *Join Our Next Online Broadcast*Message Class ArchivesBrotherhood/Sisterhood Activity

From the Jubilee Edition of the Dutch Journal titled Soefi Gedachte

by Pir-o-Murshid Fazal Inayat-Khan

The vast majority of Sufis today, (over 50 million), are primarily Muslim Sufis who live almost everywhere Islam can be found. There may well be over 100 active Sufi orders in the Islamic geographical area with hundreds of smaller orders, dervish groups, Qalandari sub orders or sects. The enormous variety of Sufis in the world and amongst Muslims is a testimony of its rich inner tradition and continually resurging spiritual energy. One can see Sufism as a major continuous fountain of spiritual growth in the world over centuries.

In the West at present there are three main groupings which together form the main body of Western Sufism. All three are succeeding organizations of The Sufi Movement founded originally by Inayat Khan in the 1920's in the West. These three main groupings are: ‘The Sufi Movement’, ‘The Sufi Order International’ and ‘The Sufi Way’ (1). This Western Sufism is non-Islamic as seen from the perspective of orthodox Muslim thought.

Certainly there are other organizations in the West such as Sufism Reoriented, and the various North American dancing dervish groups, etc. I do not consider these groups as part of Western Sufism today, because their Sil Silae (chain of spiritual succession) is not clearly defined and/or they no longer follow a succinct initiatic tradition. Nevertheless, such groups may have much merit and each in their own way certainly make a welcome and positive contribution to the totality of human consciousness on earth as well as to the wider body of Sufism in the world.

There are also active Islamic Sufi orders functioning in the West. Their existence is outside the scope of this article.

If one traces Sufism historically to the ancient Pythagorean orders, it becomes clear that Sufism is a spiritual cultural force throughout civilized history. Interestingly, one can conclude in historical perspective that the cause of Sufism's resurgent, adaptive and changing permanency as a feature of human, spiritual thought and practice is its ability to decentralize and evolve its body of thought among a great variety of leaders. So it remains continuously in a flux of spiritual searching, responding to the present human condition at any particular time.

I therefore define Sufism as remaining ever the same by always changing.

Western Sufism can also be understood in this manner. At first, there was The Sufi Movement as founded by Inayat Khan himself. Then in the 1950s, the Order emerged out of The Sufi Movement as the founder's son Pir Vilayat began to give a new and somewhat more contemporary vision and interpretation of the teachings and practices left by his father.

It is interesting to note that the differences between The Sufi Movement and the Order are quite comparable with the variations of the Orthodox and Catholic wings of the Christian faith, or the Sunni and Shia divergence in Islam and scores of other divisions, schisms and resurgences which one finds where human beings are deeply committed and involved with purposive and/or idealistic actualization.

Various different approaches developed over time and this was possibly unavoidable. The historical development of the three Sufi groups is a result of generational differences and the spiritual/cultural focus of people. Once upon a time Inayat Khan, as a young vital man, left his established environment as a reformer to bring Sufism to the West. One has to see this in the context of the existence of the Theosophical Society, The Order of the White Star, the Arcane School, etc., in the West. It was primarily from among these groups that Inayat Khan gained his followers and they helped him to organize, shape and develop his movement and activities. When he died at a relatively young age, his brothers continued to lead this Movement. Many at that time could not accept their succession to his spiritual leadership. While World War II came and went, The Sufi Movement continued on quietly under the spiritual tutelage of the younger brothers of the founder. Much infighting and tension existed in the Movement during this time as well as an emerging long term conflict with Pir Vilayat. Various breakaway groups emerged with each succession.

There was a period during which I was close to my uncle and greatly sympathised, as I do now, with Pir Vilayat's quest to fulfill his father's hope and become the head of The Sufi Movement. Family misunderstandings and natural resistance to change caused disaffection between various Sufi groups at that time. Eventually my uncle Vilayat went ahead and made his own order in the 1950s. Indeed he has fulfilled this calling in that he has risen to become the better known leader of the larger Sufi group at present.

When my great uncle and Murshid, Musharaff Khan passed away in 1967, I was appointed by him as his spiritual successor and so duly elected to head The Sufi Movement in 1968. Soon there emerged opposition from various groups, who felt that I should not take an independent line, but follow scrupulously the words and instructions given by the founder. Many elder Sufis felt great sympathy with this point of view and I began to realize that I did not want to encourage ever increasing conflict. Also I felt a symbolic struggle of people's questions with changes in the world in a larger sense.

Feeling that unity and harmony was my real aim rather than strife and intolerance, I resigned as exoteric head of The Sufi Movement in 1982 (the hundred year anniversary of the founder) and installed a Collective Consultative Council of the leadership of that Movement, in which the various interested and conflicting parties could together give advice under the chairmanship of my uncle. The original structure of The Sufi Movement was based on a hierarchical fusion of esoteric and exoteric Leadership. The actual present leader of the Movement, whom I nominated, is Dr. H. J. Witteveen.

I also founded the new Way which I consider as an esoteric continuation of ‘The Sufi Order’ (2), because I continue my spiritual mandate as successor to my teacher in my Sil Silae.

In the Council's deliberations I took the initiative to request Pir Vilayat to develop a plan for greater unity of the various factions under his stewardship. Eventually in December, 1985 and May, 1986 it became evident that such a move cannot come about. Therefore I see as the present option to proceed with a steady separate evolution of my own Sil Silae (initiatic branch) because of the sincerity and earnestness with which I have always practiced my spiritual vision.

While one can recognize these developments as strongly interlinked with family and personal conflicts, it is not in my opinion the only or primary cause. Rather, those personal tensions are the symbolic focus for tendencies in the human collective. Each generation of Sufi leaders emerges from the past finding its own hue and style in the present (and in the future).

Many people have asked me and discussed among themselves what the differences between the present organizations actually are. This is a subject for much debate and possible disagreement. I wish to give my view of these differences and hence the reason for this article.

The Movement today concentrates on spiritual growth and realization through the application of the words, practices and instructions of Hazrat Inayat Khan himself as he gave these during his lifetime in the West between 1910 and 1926.

The Order, through the deeply personal and inspiring leadership of Pir Vilayat, is a contemporary esoteric school which appeals to the spiritual community of today and especially to the North American ethic, which is egalitarian and characterized by the hope and vision of the new and dominant ‘nation identity’ of its youthful and vigorous population. The Movement is far more European in character, thus valuing spiritual tradition, cultural appreciation, low profile, subtle depth and conflict reduction, as evident in the contemporary West European culture in general.

The Way began to emerge from The Sufi Movement in the early 1970s and can be seen as culturally and philosophically positioned to the "left" of the Order which is clearly the larger and ‘middle of the road’ Sufi organization. In this way of speaking, the Movement would be identified as being on the ‘right’ of the Order.

By left, middle of the road and right I am not in any way indicating a political orientation. It is a simplified way of indicating a greater or lesser degree of reform orientation. In my opinion all three groups are very sincere in the endeavor to follow the original teachings of Inayat Khan and their differences are the natural result of a variation in focus of the integration of these original teachings. For me, the original teachings can be interpreted widely and I shall return to this further on.

The cultural base of the Way reflects modern Western thought, including high technology as well as Eastern classical mysticism, the significance of a balance of faith and intelligence, the use of both love and will is emphasized, etc.

As the Way emerges presently, it appears to be more radical than the two other groups and to adhere to a philosophical and spiritual approach which includes substantial cross-fertilization with the ideas and methodology of Humanistic and Transpersonal Psychology, classical Islamic Sufism and many other teachings. While the Movement and the Order speak the language as used in the past and present spiritual community in the free western world in general, the Way speaks a modern transformational language. We search for a reconnection with our ancient, oriental roots within the context of our future-oriented transformational language.

The Way does not view itself as an appointed vehicle for spreading the right approach or the greater truth nor even the ‘real message’. It sees itself simply as a vehicle of Sufic continuity with emphasis on the future and on the potential of becoming at any one instant. Becoming, (re-becoming), is understood as a mystical state of consciousness of the self. This is possible by transformation of the present being. Having become brings about self- realization and a new self-concept. Re-becoming is an ongoing process. Self-realization as approached by the Way is reached through the ‘way of mastery’, i.e. through effort and competition as well as love and renunciation. And by discovering further than whatever one has accepted as dependable and good at any one particular time. Thus this present description of the Way may change; even its name may change.

As founder and spiritual leader of the Way, I see the significance that The Sufi Movement has as its symbolic leader the ‘father’ (grandfather), the Order has the ‘son’ (father) and the Way has the ‘grandson’ (son). Three generations of spiritual leaders all of one family and yet somehow following the same spiritual inspiration in different and divergent ways. The spiritual leadership of Inayat Khan obviously links these in some archetypal way and obviously various meaningful interpretations of this can be made, as indeed I also make myself. My own father, Hidayat Inayat-Khan, brother of Pir Vilayat, is an active leader in the Consultative Council of the Movement and its vice-president. I also deeply value him as loyal advisor and protector of the Sufi Tradition of his father.

I also see that the existence of these three groupings in a wider sense represents a triad of Sufic essence - purity, expansion and freedom; and that all three groupings have each in their own way something valuable to bring to those who wish to partake of them. Naturally there may be more rigid interpretations by various devotees in these groupings, who could be of the opinion that their own particular group is the only real, true Sufi group and the only original tradition of Sufi Inayat Khan. I hope that my leadership has succeeded in inspiring my adherents with the self-identity that we do neither wish to be the best Sufi group nor the only real Sufi teaching. I feel we should simply aim to be who we are and to actualize Sufism today in a natural way. It may well be that the Movement is purer or that the Order carries more spiritual expansion. Or it may not be! To judge such things is not a valuable realization to me. If we ‘compete’ as three Sufi groupings it seems to me only worthwhile to strive towards guiding and developing our different initiates in the best way we can, to help them to a realization of their greatest potential, freedom and independence.

In this guiding and developing one can see great diversity between the three groups. The Movement adheres to a stricter selection of esoteric practices, which are built up around a core of practices derived from the Chistia Muslim Sufis of Southern India as they practiced these forms of meditations in the late 1800s. ‘New’ practices are allowed only in the sense of building up further from this original core or meditative style and further refinement or changes cannot be easily assimilated. Devotion and faith in the original teachings is very deep. Most mantric meditations are primarily in foreign words (Urdu or Arabic or Sanskrit) and so one sees a succinct focus on an esoteric tradition and rituals which Inayat Khan gave his disciples in the 1920s. The Order, with the creative leadership of Pir Vilayat, incorporates this same body of meditative practices and rituals, but includes greater freedom and variety of methodology and execution as well as allows ‘new’ or changed or adapted rituals to be included in its repertoire. The use of English and other languages and cross-fertilization with Bhakti, Hatha Yoga as well as meditations from a wide variety of other sources, has been introduced. Most of these were not in use or even known in The Sufi Movement before World War II. Since my resignation, the Movement's collective leadership seems to have begun to try to find a way out of this dilemma of change versus continuity.

I have not had much exposure to the current methods used by the Order. There may well be aspects to its spiritual practices I have not mentioned. When I lived at Fazal Manzil (3) in Suresnes, France, as a young man, my uncle included many mental exercises and symbolic conceptualization in his practices. I have been given to understand by mutual friends that this is still the case presently. Contemporary psychology would characterize such practices as ‘mental concentrations’ in my view.

The Way does not consider any one particular technique or methodology of meditation or ritual experience as obligatorily neither included nor excluded in its assortment of practices. It expands its usage of spiritual exercises by including aspects of modern psychology etc. in the widest sense, as well as all traditional methods used anywhere, to bring about transformational effervescence in consciousness found among Sufis and sages of all ages. For instance, we would include competitive games, classical zikrs as well as trance states through guided imagery as valid means of reaching higher states of consciousness. In general, we would not advocate that being spiritual necessitates meditation or any other practice. Of course it does not exclude these either. But we see meditation as a state of being which can naturally occur at any time and is not to the exclusion of the reality of living in the world. We see any kind of higher consciousness as having a biological basis in the human being and particularly in the functioning of the non-dominant cerebral hemisphere.

When I was guiding The Sufi Movement, the initiates were primarily concentrating on relatively long unstructured silences and regular repetitive chants or phrases or breathing exercises. I presently often use musical meditations to bring about such states and also accept that mental concentrations bring forth (evoke) valuable thought evolution. The ability to enter into ecstasy or ecstatic states of trance is also promoted.

One of the important mental aspects of the Way is the inclusion of doubt as a means of growth and self-realization. Doubt and faith need to go paired in harmony. Doubt brings about freedom and vitality to conceive further and let go beyond the boundaries of one’s present realization. Doubt in anything as well as in oneself: doubt in the illusionary as well as the apparent real. Faith, on the other hand, one also needs. Faith to amalgamate and approach new boundaries. Faith in oneself, one’s illusions and one’s reality apperception; God. With faith one attains and realizes peace and harmony. With doubt one destroys and gains freedom to move untoward.

Apart from differences in meditative practices and ideology, there is also a difference regarding the written teachings called the Sufi Message. The Movement conceives the written word of Hazrat Inayat Khan as the spiritual message of the day. The Order also conceives the Sufi Message as such, but possibly interprets the written words more freely and creatively. The Way approaches this somewhat differently and here we see wider divergence.

I am well aware of the highly controversial aspects of our point of view and especially the feelings of ‘devaluation of the prophet and the prophetic message’ which devotees may feel.

The very manner in which divine inspiration is conceived is different in the Way. Origination is not in question at all, but rather what to do with it. The prophetic nature of the Sufi Message and the teachings of Inayat Khan are accepted by all three organizations. In the Way, such ‘inspired’ teaching is seen as a vehicle to convey the very inspiration itself and being in contact with this prophetic meaning.

In my view the new spiritual direction of the present and the future is self-actualization and individual growth, rather than mass group development as in the past. This is also why I strongly advocate that spiritual leadership in the present context should aim to foster independence and self-sufficiency rather than discipleship in the context of the past. I also highly value the criteria that a spiritual teacher in today’s world lives a normal life in society, rather than be an object of wonderment or adulation as in the past. The future spiritual teacher is the friend; the real friend. The Way teaches that spiritual leadership which does not aim to foster independence and self-sufficiency in the context of society, knowledge and education, is a leadership which brings about sects, groups, cults and other forms of exclusion. This sectarianism is viewed by me as an aspect of the spiritual impulse of the past. I try to avoid it and feel that the spiritual leadership of today must emphasize universality, networking and the actualization of spiritual consciousness in the world here and now on an individual basis. I view this as the idea of brotherhood and sisterhood in the real sense of today.

So in my opinion all three groups find their base in the same ‘teachings’ and as such form together Western Sufism. Over the next few years the three groups could develop separately and independently or they may merge or federate. Obviously it is confusing for someone trying to find the organization of Hazrat Inayat Khan to discover that several exist. Indeed very often people discover by chance only one of these three and then after having, joined or rejected that one, they find out that there are one or two others (or more). There is a natural process among humans: tribal identification. One would wish, and obviously I do so, that these tribes may be in harmony with each other. Sometimes this harmony is there and sometimes it is not; that is also the human process. The Way teaches its adherents that there is much good to be experienced everywhere and that God's guidance is in all things. The expansive consciousness goes beyond all existing boundaries of self; even the one of being a Sufi or of being spiritual or becoming anything! I hope that in writing this I may have given you some valuable understanding of how I think of the triadic Western Sufism and especially that if you are an adherent to the Movement or Order, that the Way is not in enmity with your spiritual leadership. We simply are different yet also human and sincere.

March 10, 1987

For simplification I shall refer to the various groupings as follows:
The Sufi Movement founded by Hazrat Inayat Khan as The Sufi Movement;
The Sufi Order International founded by Vilayat Inayat-Khan as the Order;
The Sufi Way founded by Fazal Inayat~Khan as the Way;
The present Sufi Movement represented by Dr. H.J. Witteveen as the Movement.

(1) The agglomeration of all the above in a single concept as Western Sufism.

(2) The Sufi Order which was originally founded as an esoteric school as an activity within The Sufi Movement by Hazrat Inayat Khan and having at present one branch in the Movement and one branch in the Way, as ‘The Sufi Order’. There is also such an esoteric school in the Sufi Order International.

(3) Fazal Manzil is the ‘ancestral’ house in which Sufi Inayat Khan lived from 1923 and which I consider as one of my spiritual abodes. Presently my aunt, uncle and father reside there.

To read this article on the Sufi Way website please visit: http://www.sufiway.org/history/texts/western_sufism.php

The Meaning of the Sufi Message and the Work of the Sufi Movement

Be a Part of It! *Join Our Next Online Broadcast*Message Class ArchivesBrotherhood/Sisterhood Activity

From the Jubilee Edition of the Dutch Journal titled Soefi Gedachte

by Murshid Ameen Carp

Hazrat Inayat Khan has talked about ‘the Message’ time and again. What did he mean by it? The explanation to this we find interpreted most clearly in the lectures he gave to the cherags, persons who, after an education, have been ordained to light the candles, read from the holy scriptures or to give a lecture during the Universal Worship services.

Until recently these lectures have not been published, but were included in the newly published last volume of The Complete Works of Hazrat Inayat Khan, 1924-2.

In it we read,
‘In the first place it is our holy task to awaken the spirit of tolerance towards religion, the holy scripture and the devotional ideal of our fellowman in those persons who are near to us and in those persons we can reach. Our next task is to make our fellowman understand the human beings of different nations, races and communities and also the human beings of different social classes’.

‘Hereby we do not want all races and nations to become one and that all classes have to become one, but we want to consider it our holy task to be of service to one another, whatever the religion, nation, race or class of the other person. This we consider as our service to God. We have to create a spirit of solidarity among persons of different races, nations, classes and communities, for the happiness, the well-being and the prosperity of every person depend upon the happiness, well-being and prosperity of all of us’.

‘Besides, the central theme of the Sufi Message is very simple and yet very difficult and that is to awaken human beings to the divinity of the human soul. This has not happened until today, because the time was not yet ripe for it. The main thing the Message has to bring in this time is to be aware of the divine spark within each soul, so that each human being can realize the divine spark within oneself according to his spiritual development. This is the task we have to accomplish’.

In the lecture to the cherags of August 13, 1923 it says,
‘Now you may ask, what is the Message? The Message is this: that the whole humanity is as one single body and all nations and communities and races as the different organs, and the happiness and well-being of them is the happiness and well-being of the whole body. If there is one organ of the body in pain, the whole body has to sustain a share of the strain of it’.

‘That by this Message mankind may begin to think his welfare and his well-being is not in looking after himself, but it is in looking after others, and when in all there will be reciprocity, love and goodness towards another, the better time will come.’

In the lecture of August 20, 1923 Hazrat Inayat Khan says,
‘Remember that the Message, which is being given just now, is the real interpretation of all scriptures, many of which by various versions and translations and for very many reasons, have not remained the same, therefore the receiving and the preserving of the Message, which is now being given and the spreading of it, is like giving the Message of all the Prophets and the teaching of all religions’.

The lecture continues with:
‘…if I have anything more to say, it is for you to have a firm belief in the thought, that it is the Message of God, and that it cannot but spread and nothing in the world will hinder it from spreading and it will be fulfilled as the promise of God’.

In the lecture of September 2, 1923, he goes more deeply into the role of the Movement,
‘Our Movement, therefore, is busy rendering our service to God and humanity in this direction, without any intention of forming an exclusive community, but to unite in this service the people of all different religions. This Movement, in its infancy, is commencing its work, but its culmination will be in a world Movement’.

‘This is not only a church, but this is a school for us to learn, to learn the lesson of tolerance, a lesson for us to learn to adhere to all teachers and to respect all scriptures. A lesson which teaches us that we need not give up our religion, but we must embrace all religions, in order to make the sacredness of religion perfect’.

In the Religious Gatheka number 47, 1923, he adds,
‘If it is a religious movement, it is not a movement to make propaganda for a particular creed. It is a religious movement in this sense that this Movement is meant to bring about peace between the followers of all religions. It is a religious movement in this sense that we all may learn, whatever be our belief of faith, whatever be the faith of our ancestors, that we may learn to respect the religion of another. That eventually by doing so we may rise to that state of understanding, when to our mind comes one religion as the sum total of all religions’.

‘God is one, the Truth is one; how can there be two religions? There is one religion, the only religion’.

‘Yes, we are living in different lands, but under one sky; so, we have many churches, but one God, many scriptures, but one wisdom; many souls, but one spirit, the only spirit of God’.

‘It is to understand this ideal that we have this Movement. And we have several different ways in which we study and in which we practice this idea’.

The Sufi Movement - an eventful history

Be a Part of It! *Join Our Next Online Broadcast*Message Class ArchivesBrotherhood/Sisterhood Activity

From the Jubilee Edition of the Dutch Journal titled Soefi Gedachte

Karimbakhsh Witteveen (1)

The history of the Sufi Movement has been stirring. This could come as a surprise because the Sufi Message is aimed at harmony and unity. But, apart from light and beauty there have been tensions and conflicts. In order to be able to understand this, we have to be aware of the fact that the Message also brought with it essential elements concerning spiritual discipleship and hierarchy, which did not easily fit into the western individualistic, rationalistic and democratic culture. In that sense it was also a revolutionary and renewing Message.

The work of Hazrat Inayat Khan for the Sufi Movement began to unfold strongly during the summer schools which were held during three months in Wissous (1921) and Katwijk (1922) respectively and after that always in Suresnes near Paris (1923-1926). Murshida Fazal May Egeling bought a beautiful house for him in which he could live with her and his family. The open field across was bought by the Sufi Movement and on it a little lecture building was built. Those summer schools became a phenomenon where the Message started to manifest in a divine current. Many lectures were worked up and published in books. Innumerable interviews solved questions and problems like magic, sometimes in just a few minutes’ time. The meditative evenings, the sung Zikr and the khilwat silences were of a fathomless depth. Mureeds who have attended to these unforgettable summer schools, witness of an atmosphere that was so light that many of them felt as if raised above themselves. They lived in a heavenly intoxication. Here the Sufi Message really grew wings.

Yet, even then in this clear sky there were some clouds. In 1925 the resistance he faced during meetings of the board on organization, financing and the right to vote in the Movement was a deep disappointment for the Master. He was hurt because this attitude was so different from the devotion the disciples of the East mostly showed. This was a common problem too. In his autobiography he complains that it was so difficult to bring his western disciples to that point where a disciple in the East often begins. The biggest disappointment was that his mureeds did not manage to build on the territory of Suresnes the Universal Temple of which he dreamt. This would be paid for dramatically later on.

Of course, the greatest blow came when Hazrat Inayat Khan died unexpectedly in India on February 5 1927, where he had searched for rest and inspiration. Whereas his mureeds fell back on earth shocked and dazed. His will, in which he had designated his successor and which he had entrusted to Murshida Sharifa Goodenough, turned out to be burnt by her in a fit of mental confusion. That was a heavy blow which would make itself felt for a long time. Why did this happen? Maybe the marvelous light of the Message attracted a dark opposing force which tested the confused Sufi community that was without a leader now.

Fortunately, there were indications that the Master had thought of his eldest brother Maheboob. The other two ‘companions’, Mohammed Ali Khan and Musharaf Khan, completely backed up the choice for Maheboob. Maheboob himself waited modestly; but his deep mystic power, his attunement to Inayat Khan and an inner vision gradually melted the opposition and insecurity. Though some leaders dissociated from the Movement – in the United States and in the Netherlands, Sirdar van Tuyll, who had been the secretary of Inayat Khan - a new phase in the development of the Sufi Movement could start.


Maheboob did not use the title Pir-o-Murshid because by many it was strongly associated with Hazrat Inayat Khan, but he used the equivalent designation of Shaikh-ul-Mashaikh. His leadership was characterized by pursuing harmony. He was careful and tactful. And that was exactly what was needed in this period of differences in processing the Message.

The summer schools in Suresnes went on regularly from 1927 until 1939. A great inspiration remained in the study of Inayat Khan’s lectures and in the meditation evenings there was a strong atmosphere. There was joy and humor. Friends were being made and friendships were being deepened. The work of publishing and translating the volumes which contained lectures of Inayat Khan more and more primed. And many Sufis returned to their countries to spread the Message there.

Yet, gradually Shaikh-ul-Mashaikh and a number of the leaders who were rather gifted in a worldly sense drifted apart in a certain way. Maheboob often said that it was of little use to try and spread the Sufi Message when the inner qualities of the worker would not first be improved.(2) Therefore he focused himself primarily on inner deepening. He reserved much time of the day – often together with Mohammed Ali Khan – for meditation. Thus he continually gathered the inner strength and inspiration which enabled him to do his work and which also radiated more and more into the Movement. At the same time he insisted upon the maintenance of the Sufi Message in its pure form.

Unfortunately not all leaders, who had been initiated and inspired by Hazrat Inayat Khan in person, opened their mind to that inner guidance of Shaikh-ul-Mashaikh. They had the feeling they had received so much of Inayat Khan that they wanted to devote themselves to the spreading of the Message. The drifting apart that originated in this way was understandable psychologically, but was a serious threat for the unity of the Movement.

During the Second World War the German occupier prohibited the Sufi Movement, so that the work was at a standstill. Shaikh-ul-Mashaikh and Murshid Ali Khan were interned.


Maheboob Khan died quite unexpectedly in 1948. He had not designated a successor, so the executive committee of the Sufi Movement had to choose a new leader. It was commonly agreed that Mohammed Ali Khan with his great warmth, power and mystic realization was the right person for taking over the leadership.

Vilayat, the oldest son of Hazrat Inayat Khan, whom many considered to be the future leader, wrote to the executive committee that he wholeheartedly supported the appointment of Mohammed Ali Khan, but hoped that he would be trained by Mohammed Ali Khan for his future leadership. But when Vilayat visited Murshid Ali Khan to talk about his training, Murshid Ali Khan said, ‘You must first give up your claim!’ He considered the inner letting go of that claim as the essence of mystic training. Vilayat did not agree. Thus the training never primed.

In the meantime Mohammed Ali Khan developed into a very special leader. He possessed a great purity and with it was always strongly focused on God. With his beautiful deeply passionate singing he touched many Sufis to tears and he performed amazing spiritual healings, in which he forgot himself completely and became a pure channel of the Divine healing power. Outwardly he experienced more and more trouble in seeing, but inwardly he was clairvoyant and he saw that the dangerous separation of some mureeds from the spiritual guidance asked for healing.

This separation of a group of Sufi's crystallized in Suresnes, where the local council wanted to disown the Sufi territory for house-building. A discord aroused about the possibilities to prevent this disowning completely or for a small part. Both efforts failed. The emotions of the ‘Suresnes group’ rose so high and were directed so much against the leadership of the Sufi Movement that it splintered off. Vilayat, who lived in Suresnes, completely supported the Suresnes group and declared that he wanted to take over the leadership of the Sufi Movement. This was not accepted by Pir-o-Murshid Ali Khan and the executive committee of the Sufi Movement. A group around Gâweri Voûte united in Sufi Contact but did not follow Vilayat. Vilayat Khan established the Sufi Order. The majority of the Sufis remained faithful to Murshid Ali Khan.

This was the most painful and shocking experience in the whole history of the Sufi Movement. But with his inner strength and faith in God Mohammed Ali Khan had guided the Movement through this crisis and had affirmed the hierarchy and the spiritual leadership. When the task had been fulfilled he died in 1958 after a short illness.


Mohammed Ali Khan did leave a will in which Mahmood Khan was designated as successor, but this would be so ‘when he has finished his studies and is ready for it. Murshid Musharaff Khan should take full charge’ until that moment. According to this the executive committee appointed Murshid Musharaff Khan the new leader of the Sufi Movement. Mahmood Khan reconciled himself to it.

Musharaff Khan came at the right moment. With his warm personality he focused on restoring the harmony within the shocked Movement. He had a talent to put people at ease and thus exercise great influence.

In this way he brought about unity.(3) Salima van Braam, the leader of the Amsterdam Sufi Center, who had kept aloof from the leadership, returned and friendly contacts originated with the Center in the Anna Paulownastraat, which had splintered off in 1931 under the guidance of Sirdar van Tuyll. Later on, that would bear fruit, so that the unity would restore here too.

Musharaff was the first leader to give an important role to his wife Shahzadi, whom he initiated as Murshida and to whom he thus gave an esoteric task. At several domains he received special help from her. Thus there came more peace in the Movement and the sustained wounds could heal.

In 1967 Musharaff wanted to go to India because he longed for his native country. But on the morning shortly before his departure he did not feel well. He had to lie down and silently and unexpected fell asleep forever.


Murshid Musharaff had not stated his thoughts about his succession in a will. He only had told Shahzadi a few things of which she had made notes. He wanted Fazal Inayat Khan, the grandson of Hazrat Inayat Khan, with whom he had made deep contact during an American journey, to be his successor. Therefore the executive committee invited Fazal to take the heavy task of leadership upon him, despite the protest of Mahmood Khan who, without success for that matter, referred to the earlier will of Murshid Ali Khan.

Fazal Inayat Khan had built a beautiful life in America with his wife and two children and rather wanted to stay there, so that I had to take much trouble to convince him that he had to make this sacrifice for the Sufi Message. Pir-o-Murshid Fazal came and from the very start he devoted himself completely to the Sufi Movement. He brought revolutionary changes. He attracted many younger mureeds whom he wanted to give deep experiences, free from the traditional ties and limitations of their parental milieu.

He moved into the house Four Winds, in South England, which two English mureeds gave to him. He named it Abadan Abat ‘from everlasting to everlasting’ and gave the freedom of it to many of his young followers. The meetings he organized became quite different and characteristic in nature than the usual gatha and study classes. They were more focused on experience, with music, singing, tambura and harmonium and sometimes periods of fasting. Deep friendships originated.

Shortly after his appointment the building of the Universel Murad Hasil in Katwijk was finished. Also at this site special meetings were organized: ‘work camps’, with activities that were often a challenge to the ego, with meditation evenings, for example, the ‘communal invocation’ where each participant received a personal practice which he or she had to continue without being disturbed by others. This provided a great concentration and a very deep atmosphere.

His work for the improvement of the Dargah, the tomb of Inayat Khan in India, was also important. He lived in Delhi for a while so that he came to know the Muslims who lived around the tomb. We were able to buy the land around it little by little and to make a beautiful memorial building. Especially Wali and Walia van Lohuizen have contributed to this.

As a personal training he gave difficult assignments (chillahs) which often gave what one needed psychologically. He was very intuitive and creative in all of this, but for some he went too far. Murshida Shahzadi established a tariqa for them, a circle where she gave inspiring guidance, more according to the earlier lines. Mostly younger mureeds gathered round Fazal, like a family.

In some respects Fazal began to deviate gradually from the Sufi Message. At a certain point he went off to Germany; he left to take over the management of the factory of Ulma’s father – Ulma was a mureed with whom he had a deep, intimate affair and so he had to help her. In that way he could hardly lead the Sufi Movement anymore. So I went to Germany to discuss this with him. There he told me I had to take over the leadership of the Sufi Movement as Representative General. He wanted to keep the leadership of the Sufi activities to himself. That would be difficult for me; I would have to talk it through with him.

But then an important initiative of unity came about: Pir Vilayat and Murshid Hidayat wanted to gather the various Sufi groups in order to come to a unity. In that way the 100th anniversary of Hazrat Inayat Khan’s birthday would be celebrated.


It soon turned out that the unity that had been pursued enthusiastically did not work. Eventually a board of leaders remained consisting of Murshida Shahzadi, Murshid Hidayat, Shaikh-ul-Mashaikh Mahmood Khan, who also had a circle of mureeds of his own, me as Representative General and my wife Ratan. Murshid Fazal withdrew in order to make the cooperation easier. Now and then he participated in a meeting of the board of leaders. Later, at the instigation of his younger mureeds, he established a separate organization: the Sufi Way.
The board of leaders has worked very well. Thus Murshid Hidayat was able to get acquainted with the work of the Sufi Movement and infuse it with his inspiration. When the desire aroused in 1992 to return to a leadership of one person I handed the function of Representative General over to him. That was the beginning of a very close cooperation between the both of us.

Until now – so a very long time - Pir-o-Murshid has led and in doing so has made a few valuable contributions. As a musician and composer he brought deep inspiration in the zikr-meditation by the accompaniment he made to Inayat Khan’s melody, so that it became easier for all mureeds to sing along. The zikr was performed in four parts. That provided a very strong atmosphere. He also wrote the music for wazifa’s and he worked a lot with breathing practices, to which he added a few practices from the yoga tradition. This was all a great stimulant for the Inner School.

Furthermore, Pir-o-Murshid established a warm contact with the Sufi Ruhaniat Order in the United States, which had developed from the work of Murshida Rabia Martin and Samuel Lewis after the passing away of Hazrat Inayat. In 1997 this led to the establishment of the ‘Federation of the Sufi Message’ that was focused on working together on a friendly footing. In it the separate organizations would be free in their work and would not impose anything upon the others.

In 2004, after the passing away of Pir Vilayat, the attempt to come to unity with the International Sufi Order eventually led to reconciliation with his successor, Pir Zia. At that moment we could recognize from both sides that especially psychological differences had been the basis of the former conflicts and we could recognize each others’ spiritual leaders.
The International Sufi Order has now joined the Federation of the Sufi Message, just like Soefi Contact and Fraternity of Light, so that we can celebrate together the 100th anniversary of the Sufi message in 2010.


For the future it is important that Murshid Hidayat Khan has given up the title Pir-o-Murshid and infused it into a Pir-o-Murshid Council, which brings together the different leaders of the five Sufi activities and the Representative General in order to, in attunement to Hazrat Inayat Khan, consider important ideas and decisions. In that way more Sufi leaders were being involved more intensely in the leadership of the Movement – a more democratic element. The problems concerning succession which bothered the Sufi Movement so much in the past can thus be solved easier in the future.

With it, after an eventful history, the path seems open for a harmonious cooperation between the different Sufi organizations. We can be very thankful for that, but at the same time we have to remain aware that this harmony which is gained in such a troublesome way has to be cherished again and again in the future.

(1) Karimbakhsh Witteveen (1921) is born in a Sufi family and has been initiated when he was eighteen years old. Since more than fifty years he is holding office on the committee in the Sufi Movement. At this moment he is, next to Murshid Hidayat Khan, co-representative general. A more elaborated version of this history, written by him at the request of the editorial staff, is to be found in the archive of the Sufi Movement at the Banstraat in The Hague.

(2) Sufi Mysticism into the West. Dr. Karin Jironet, p. 70. Interview with Mahmood Khan. Peeters 2009.

(3) Sufi Mysticism into the West. Dr. Karin Jironet, p. 152 – 156. Peeters 2009.

Stories told by Hidayat Inayat-Khan

Be a Part of It! *Join Our Next Online Broadcast*Message Class ArchivesBrotherhood/Sisterhood Activity

From the Jubilee Edition of the Dutch Journal titled Soefi Gedachte

The Initiation of Pirani Ameena Begum One day our Father called our Mother, asking her to come to the Oriental Room, together with us four children. At that special occasion our Father gave our Mother the blessing saying; “As of this day you are the Perini.” And he added: “Without your unceasing help, day and night, it never would have been possible to have brought the Sufi Message to the Western world.”

Then, while holding our Mother’s hand, our Father said to us children, with so much tenderness in his loving voice, “Children, do congratulate your Amma (Mother) on this very special occasion. I want you, as well as the future generations, to know that your Amma is the first and the only Pirani of your Abba’s Sufi Message of Love, Harmony and Beauty. You are never to forget that as long as you live, and it is your most sacred duty to make sure that this historical ceremony to which you have assisted shall never ever be forgotten.”

After we had all hugged our Father and Mother, with our hearts beating with happiness, our Father wrote down on paper the word Pirani, and explained to us that it is the feminine equivalent of the Pir-o-Murshid, only to be used by the Begum of the Bringer of the Message.

(This document is available in the Sufi Museum in The Hague)

A Jug of Cool Water
Each day we children were given a particular subject of concentration, such as for instance, Patience, Tolerance, forgiveness, Kindness, Politeness, Nobility, Humility….. And in the evenings we came to our Father, telling him whether or not we had really truly concentrated on the chosen subject.

One day, the subject of concentration was ‘Courage’. In the evening on that same day, a dinner party had been arranged, on which occasion special guests had been invited; this being of course quite a problem for our Mother, specially on some very hot days, during the Summer School in Suresnes. In those days, running water from the tap came out almost as warm as the sun outside. Besides, there was no such thing as a refrigerator, and consequently cool drinks could just not possibly be served.

As soon as the guests had been seated at the very beautifully decorated dinner table, our Father asked, “Who shall go to fetch cool water in the cellar?”

Each one present looked at each other, hoping that the other one would do it, but nothing happened. Then, remembering all of a sudden that ‘Courage’ had been the subject of concentration that day, I jumped up and ran right down into the dark cellar, while screaming to the top of my voice in order to cover up my fright of the mice, the spiders, the bugs, and the imaginary phantoms.

After a lot of searching I finally found the magic tap, out of which cool water was flowing fro from under the ground; and when I came back with the jug of cool water in my trembling hands, my Father took it tenderly from me, and said, “This shall be a blessing for you during your whole life, Bhayajan Guru, Mera Beta”. And my Father added, “that terrifying experience shall remain in your memory as the happiest remembrance in your life, because at that very moment you have wanted to vanquish your fright, with the strength of your will-power, for the sake of an ideal, the ideal of Courage, which was the subject of concentration this day”.

Yes, indeed, I could really not think on any happier moment than the great joy experienced in having had the privilege of being able to have done just only that much for my Beloved Father.