Hazrat Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan
The Life and Teachings of Hazrat Inayat Khan
Inayat Khan was born in Baroda, India on July 5, 1882. As a youth, Inayat was brilliant in poetry and music, yet his deepest inner calling was in spiritual matters.
As a youth, one day as Inayat was praying, he thought to himself that there had not been an answer yet to all the prayers he had offered to God and he did not know where God was to hear his prayers and he could not reconcile himself to going on praying to the God whom he knew not. He went fearlessly to his father and said: "I do not think I will continue my prayers any longer, for it does not fit in with my reason. I do not know how I can go on praying to a God I do not know." His father, taken aback, did not become cross lest he might turn Inayat's beliefs sour by forcing them upon him without satisfying his reason and he was glad on the other hand to see that, although it was irreverent on the child's part, yet it was frank, and he knew that the lad really hungered after Truth and was ready to learn now, what many could not learn in their whole life.
He said to him: "God is in you and you are in God. As the bubble is in the ocean and the bubble is a part of the ocean and yet not separate from the ocean. For a moment it has appeared as a bubble, then it will return to that from which it has risen. So is the relation between man and God. The Prophet has said that God is closer to you than the jugular vein, which in reality means that your own body is farther from you than God is. If this be rightly interpreted, it will mean that God is the very depth of your own being." This moment to Inayat was his very great initiation, as if a switch had turned in him, and from that moment onward his whole life Inayat busied himself, and his whole being became engaged in witnessing in life what he knew and believed, by this one great Truth.
Inayat's early life primarily revolved around music, and he was given many awards and medals of honor for his magnificent singing. In 1903 Inayat published a Hindustani collection of some 75 songs as Professor 'Inâyat Khân Rahmât Khân Pathân.
Following a vision of meeting a Sufi teacher, he met Muhammad Abu Hashim Madani who trained him in the ways of the Chishti, Naqshbandi, Qadiri, and Suhrawardi Sufi orders.
An incident of an amusing nature occurred as for the first time in his life Inayat heard his Murshid's words on metaphysics. He became so keenly interested and filled with enthusiasm about what was being said that he took a note-book from his pocket, intending to take notes of it. But as soon as the Murshid saw the pencil and note-book in his hand, he instantly began to speak of an altogether different subject. Inayat realized by this that his Murshid meant that his words must be engraved on the soul, they were not to be written with a pencil on the pages of a note-book.
He would return home silent and remain speechless for hours, pondering over the words which had fallen upon his ears. His friends began to wonder what could have happened to him in such a short time, that his whole life should be so changed. He had now become quite a different person in his speech, actions, ways, expression, in his attitude and in his atmosphere. In all these, he showed a marked and definite change. It seemed to them as if, while a traveler walking at a certain rate of speed should have journeyed a mile, Inayat had suddenly made such an advance as to cover a hundred miles in the same space of time.
His Murshid used to wear shoes embroidered with gold. One day, when Inayat's eyes strayed to these shoes, a thought arose in his mind: why Murshid with all his simplicity should wear such costly shoes? At once his conscience pricked him, he felt so guilty that such a thought of one who was above question should have entered his mind, that instantly his face turned pale. But the Murshid knew all about it and only said with a smile: "The wealth of this earth is only worth being at my feet."
In looking back on those days with his teacher, Inayat said: I remember my murshid giving me, in blessing me, this wish, 'May your faith be strengthened.' Being a young man, I thought, 'Is that all he is saying to me?' - not, 'May you be inspired, or illuminated, or prosperous,' or something else? But when I think of it now I know that in that blessing there was all. When belief is strengthened, then there is everything. All that we lack in life is mostly because of our lack of belief. But again, it is not something that one can learn or teach or that one can give to anybody. This comes from the grace of God.
Inayat began a tour of the sacred sites across India, and early in that adventure, he met the son of Guru Manek Prabhu who asked:
"What has brought you here?" said he and Inayat replied: "I have heard that the home of Manek Prabhu is not only a religious temple, but a centre of music also and as I have taken this tour to pay homage to the holy men living on the soil of India, I first chose to visit this place." "But I am very surprised that you have chosen our place, instead of choosing the place of some Muslim Saint," remarked the astonished youth. To this Inayat replied: "Muslim or Hindu are only outward distinctions, the Truth is one, God is one, life is one. To me there is no such thing as two. Two is only one plus one."
"Mukti (liberation) is the ideal of life; it is the rising above the various births and deaths, rather than being involved in the eternal wheel of births and deaths, which is continually running by the ever changing battery of karma (action)."
After touring widely in India and briefly settling in Calcutta, Inayat began to realize that the time had come for him to begin a new phase of life.
Inayat lived in Calcutta for several years and there received the news of the death of his beloved father, which was to him a blow inexpressible in words, though thus his life became free from any duty binding him as a sacred tie, as he had felt his duty toward his parents to be. Soon after this another misfortune befell him, namely the loss of his medals. In a moment of abstraction the case of medals was left in a car, which could not be traced despite all his efforts. But in place of the disappointment which at first oppressed him, a revelation from God touched the hidden chords of his mind and opened his eyes to the truth. He said to himself: "It matters not how much time you have spent to gain that which never belonged to you, but which you called your own; today you comprehend it is yours no longer. And it is the same with all you possess in life, your property, friends, relations, even your own body and mind. All which you call 'my', not being your true property, will leave you; and only what you name 'I', which is absolutely disconnected with all that is called 'my', will remain." He knelt down and thanked God for the loss of his medals, crying: "Let all be lost from my imperfect vision, but Thy true Self, ya Allah!"
Shortly before the death of his beloved teacher, Inayat had been instructed:
"Fare forth into the world, my child, and harmonize the East and the West with the harmony of thy music. Spread the wisdom of Sufism abroad, for to this end art thou gifted by Allah, the most merciful and compassionate."
To fulfill that mission, Inayat along with his cousin and brother sailed from India to America on September 13, 1910. In his autobiography, Inayat wrote of that voyage:
I was transported by destiny from the world of lyric and poetry to the world of industry and commerce on the 13th of September 1910. I bade farewell to my motherland, the soil of India, the land of the sun, for America the land of my future, wondering: "perhaps I shall return some day", and yet I did not know how long it would be before I should return. The ocean that I had to cross seemed to me a gulf between the life that was passed and the life which was to begin. I spent my moments on the ship looking at the rising and falling of the waves and realizing in this rise and fall the picture of life reflected, the life of individuals, of nations, of races, and of the world.
I tried to think where I was going, why I was going, what I was going to do, what was in store for me. "How shall I set to work? Will the people be favorable or unfavorable to The Message which I am taking from one end of the world to the other?" It seemed my mind moved curiously on these questions, but my heart refused to ponder upon them even for a moment, answering apart one constant voice I always heard coming from within, urging me constantly onward to my task, saying: "Thou art sent on Our service, and it is We Who will make thy way clear." This alone was my consolation.