Sufi Order Ināyati

Sufi Order Ināyati refers to a contemporary Sufi order and related groups that are derived from or connected to the teachings of Inayat Khan. It is commonly referred to in the literature as "Universal Sufism".[1] However, from the perspective of many traditional Sufi orders and groups, the Inayati Order is in fact another sub-branch of the main Chishti Order of South Asia, adapted to broader Western contexts.[2]


Chishti origins

Traditional Sufism is seen as a branch of Islam that provides a more personal and mystical connection to its enlightenment or “divine love”.[3] It arose in Central Asia, the Middle East, and North East Africa as a facet of Islamic practice that internalized Islamic beliefs around personal mystical experience. Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan was a representative of the Chishti tradition[4] and was the first visible Sufi teacher in the West.[5] The Order he founded is now known as the Sufi Order Ināyati and is led by his grandson, Zia Inayat Khan.[6][7]

Inayat Khan

Inayat was born and raised in India in 1887. He studied many sacred texts and soon went to the shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, the founder of the Chishti order in India where he decided to follow the Chishti Sufi path and find a guide, or murshid, to teach him Sufi beliefs. For four years his mentor, Syed Mohammed Abu Hashim Madani,Chishti, guided Inayat down the Sufi path.[8] Before his death, Inayat's mentor gave him a message to unite the East and West with the “music” of Sufism. Shortly after, Inayat traveled to America and began spreading the Sufi teachings.[9] The spread of Sufism in the West began with Khan’s immigration to America where he first founded the Sufi Order.[5] As he began to spread the Sufi teachings he did so with significant adaptions to the needs of Western seekers and gave women the most prominent leadership positions in his organizations.

The Sufi Order

Inayat Khan died in 1927. Leadership of the Sufi Order he had founded first passed to his brother, Shaikh Maheboob Khan; then in 1948 to his cousin Ali Khan; then in 1956 to his youngest brother, Musharaff Khan; and then in 1968 to his grandson, Pir Fazal Inayat-Khan. In 1985 Pir Fazal accommodated differing trends within the movement by proposing the creation of three separate groups: 1) The International Sufi Movement, associated with Inayat Khans' original message, 2) The Sufi Order, associated with the teaching of Khan's son (and his uncle) Vilayat Khan, and 3) The Sufi Way, based on his own eclectic synthesis.[10] In 1988 Pir Fazals' father Hidayat Inayat Khan became Pir-o-Murshid of the Inner School of the International Sufi Movement.[11] Following the death in 1990 of Pir Fazal, his group The Sufi Way was led by the first woman leader of the Tariqah (Sufi path), Pirani Sitara Brutnell. She died in 2004, naming Pir Elias Amidon as her successor.

The aforementioned three groups work in ways roughly parallel to what Sufi writer Idries Shah calls the three components or departments of Sufi study, respectively: 1) Studies in Sufism refer to being in a Sufi school, carrying out those activities prescribed by the teacher as part of a training, and this can take many forms which do not necessarily fit into the preconceived notion of a "mystical school". 2) Studies of Sufism include institutions and activities, such as lectures and seminars, which provide information about Sufism and act as a cultural liaison between the Sufis and the public. Finally, 3) Studies for Sufism lead people towards Sufism and include the promotion of knowledge which might be lacking in the culture and needs to be restored and spread, such as an understanding of social conditioning and brainwashing, the difference between the rational and intuitive modes of thought, and other activities so that people's minds could become more free and wide-ranging.[12]

Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, the son of Inayat Khan, was a leader of the Sufi Order for over 50 years, until his death in 2004. He was an avid student of many religious and spiritual traditions and incorporated the rich mystical heritage of East and West into his teachings, adding to it the scholarship of the West in music, science, and psychology. He travelled widely, wrote several accessible books on Sufism, including Awakening: A Sufi Experience (Tracher, 2000) and founded The Abode of the Message, a retreat center that is also used by other Sufi orders and interfaith gatherings.[13]

His order was renamed Sufi Order Ināyati in 2016 and is currently led by Pir Zia Inayat Khan, the grandson of Hazrat Inayat Khan and son of Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan.[6] [7]

Its activities, in keeping with the vision of Hazrat Inayat Khan, are contained within five concentrations — the Esoteric School, the Healing Order, the Universal Worship, Kinship Activity, and Ziraat. Each concentration is headed by a senior member of the Order appointed by the Pir.

There are centres throughout the world, where people may take classes, learn about practices and find fellowship with other seekers. Some choose to work with a guide who has been trained in the lineage of Murshid Inayat Khan, Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, and Pir Zia Inayat Khan (and ultimately through the Chisti order in India).

Sufism Reoriented

Murshida Rabia Martin was initiated by Inayat Khan in 1911, and was designated spiritual head or Murshida of Sufism in America since 1927.[14] She recognized Meher Baba as the Avatar of the age and her line of work continues with Sufism Reoriented, a separate entity .

Sufi Ruhaniat International

One of Murshida Martins' disciples was Samuel Lewis, who rose to prominence in the late 1960s and is well known as the creator of the Dances of Universal Peace. In this role he organized the Sufi Islamia Ruhaniat Society (often referred to as S.I.R.S.), later renamed the Sufi Ruhaniat International. The Sufi Ruhaniat International recognizes a distinct line of spiritual transmission from Hazrat Inayat Khan through Murshid Sufi Ahmed Murad Chishti (i.e. Samuel Lewis). The current head of the Sufi Ruhaniat International is Pir Shabda Khan.[15]

At various times during the 20th century there have been disputes among Inayat Khan's and his successors' mureeds about who should most rightfully be the next leader of the Sufi Order. However, recent years have brought considerable healing and reconciliation. In fact, the Urs of Inayat Khan (the celebration of the anniversary of his passing from this world) is now jointly celebrated at his dargah (tomb) in India by the Sufi Order Ināyati, Sufi Ruhaniat International, and the International Sufi Movement


Common practices


In Universal Sufism there are several prayers which were written by Hazrat Inayat Khan and are recited on specific occasions. Universal Sufism encourages one to pray for peace (Hazrat Inayat Khan's "Prayer for Peace being particularly useful), meditate upon the Divine Peace using the Wazifa "Ya Salaam", courageously and compassionately confront and transform the sources of fear and hostility within oneself, embody peace (which, of course, is not the same as laxity) in all of relationships, and reflect the essential unity of the human family in all of dealings.

Individual prayers include:


Universal Sufism maintains a policy of political non-involvement which is codified in its constitution.[22] Hazrat Inayat Khan considered this necessary and not simply a legality. Pir Zia Inayat-Khan stated that this policy should not discourage Universal Sufis from acting on their convictions, but that as an entity the Universal Sufi orders are apolitical.[23]


Universal Sufism offers an option to undergo "Initiation". Initiation into a Universal Sufi order demonstrates one's sincerity in entering the Sufi path, strengthens one's powers to do so, and confers a blessing upon the pupil which enables progress. This initiation is the linking of the individual Sufi student with the chain of masters and teachers stretching back through the ages. The link so formed is of lifetime duration and forges a solemn bond, similar to the practice of baptism.

Initiation only means a step forward, a step which should be taken with hope and courage, for without courage and hope it would be most difficult to take any forward step. - Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan

One may be initiated into a Universal Sufi Order by one of its Representatives. Those interested in initiation are encouraged to select a Representative with whom they feel a deep trust and respect, for those qualities are necessary to facilitate the training offered. The Initiate receives spiritual practices from her/his initiator which are designed to promote spiritual realization, facilitate the unfoldment of his/her being and assist in meeting life's challenges and demands. The practices are not compulsory, but are given as a gift.

An initiate in a Universal Sufi order is called a murid. Initiation is non-exclusive, and a murid (initiate) may be initiated into or to participate in other traditions, however, it is advised that a student receive his/her daily practices from only one guide and consult their Universal Sufi guide about practices he/she is doing from other Orders or traditions. The intention is to safeguard the well being of the student, so he/she is not confused by mixing practices that may not be complementary.[24]

Spirit of Guidance

The Holy Spirit is referred to in terms of the Spirit of Guidance. This spirit is particularly manifest in the prophets of the world's religions as well as being manifest in all beings. This belief has parallels in Quakerism (that of God in everyone and the Inner Light) and the concept of Buddha nature.[25]

In the Hadiths the Islamic prophet Muhammad stated that believers should "Seek knowledge even unto China" and this dictum is specifically followed by Universal Sufis who do not limit their source of spiritual knowledge to one particular area or tradition.

Therefore, most historical figures, including both founders of great world religions as well as secular individuals, are considered to be important teachers, worthy of respect. Zia Inayat-Khan, the Pir of the Sufi Order Ināyati was, during his training, a student of the Dalai Lama as well as an initiate in the Chishti Sufi order. Pir Shabda Kahn, the Pir of the Sufi Ruhaniat International and also an initiate in the Chishti Sufi order includes the 12th Tai Situpa Rinpoche among his direct teachers.

"Winged Heart" symbol

The symbol of Universal Sufism is the Tughra Inayati or the "Winged Heart", designed by the dervish Hafizullah in honor of Inayat Khan. The winged heart is an old Sufi symbol, and was chosen by Inayat Khan as the seal of the 'Sufi Order of the West' at its founding in 1910. The original rendering of this winged heart calligraphy was presented to Pir Vilayat Khan on the occasion of his 73rd birthday.

The Arabic script of the wings (in mirror image of each other) reads: "Ya Hazrati Inayat", with ya meaning "O" (an invocation, an invitation), and hazrati meaning "presence; a respectful title similar to your majesty". It may also be interesting to note that the word 'Inayat means "guarding, preserving, taking care of; concern, care; a gift, a present".

The Arabic script of the heart reads: "qaddasa Allahu sirrahu", which is a traditional phrase used when mentioning the name of a deceased Sufi saint. The word qaddas means: "sanctify, hallow, glorify, venerate, revere". The word sirr means: "secret, mystery, something concealed; secret thought, innermost thought", or, as the masterful lexicon of E. W. Lane says, "private knowledge; something inserted in the interior; a pleasure, or delight, and dilation of the heart, of which there is no external sign". The Sufis often use the word sirr to describe the divine wonder discovered in the depths of the un-veiled heart.

The phrase exoterically means "may Allah sanctify his secret" or esoterically "may his message spread", or "whose inner thought Allah made holy", or "whose heart Allah has made pure".

The shape of the tughra symbolises that the heart desires heaven. The crescent in the heart suggests the responsiveness and potential of the heart. The crescent represents the responsiveness of the crescent moon to the light of the sun, for naturally it receives the light and develops into a full moon. The explanation of the five-pointed star is that it represents the divine light. For when the light comes, it has five points. It is the divine light which is represented by the five-pointed star, and the star is reflected in the heart which is responsive to the divine light. The heart which by its response has received the divine light is liberated, as the wings show. In brief, the meaning of the symbol is that the heart responsive to the light of God is liberated.[26]


Traditional Sufis have criticized the movement as being contrary to the actual teachings of Sufism. The views expressed by the Universal movement are deemed as contrary to the beliefs and practices of historical Sufi personalities (i.e., Jalaluddin Rumi, Mansur Al-Hallaj, Bayazid Bastami, etc.). Critics believe that this movement is not a legitimate Sufi movement and believe its teachings and philosophy are contrary to real Sufism. According to William Chittick, Sufism is based upon Islam.[27] Traditional Sufis believe that in order to call yourself a Sufi you need to be a Muslim. Traditional Sufi Saadi Shirazi said: "He who chooses a path contrary to that of the prophet [Muhammad], shall never reach the destination. O Saadi, do not think that one can treat that way of purity except in the wake of the chosen one [Muhammad]." Shirazi reiterates what is at the foundation of traditional and historical Sufism, which is Islam.[28]


Universel Murad Hassil

There are five temples called "Universels" currently in use, and one called the Sufi Temple:


Being "universalist", Universal Sufism encourages observing festivals as determined by the local culture and personal taste. There are also a number of festivals peculiar to Universal Sufism:

See also


  1. Universal Sufism, by Johan Witteveen; see also the commentary by Ken Shaw
  2. Hazrat Khwaja Khaled Siddiqui, Chishti-Nizami-Ishq-Nuri, Sufism in the West: Three lectures, Lahore: Zulfikar Book Publishers, 1989, pp 102-103.
  3. Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. "Sufism", Harper's Encyclopedia of Mystical and Paranormal Experience. 2nd. 1. P. 580-583. New York City: Harper Collins, 1994. 18 Feb. 2010.
  4. Brief biography of Inayat Khan
  5. 1 2 "Our New Name". Retrieved 2016-08-17.
  6. 1 2 "The Inayati Order". Retrieved 2016-08-15.
  7. 1 2 Dr. Godlas. “Sufism, the West, and Modernity”, Islam and Islamic Studies Resources. The University of Georgia. 2008. 4 Feb. 2010
  8. "Hazrat Inayat Khan". Retrieved 2016-08-17.
  9. Shelquist, Wahiduddin. “Brief Biography of Hazrat Inayat Khan”, The Spiritual Message of Hazrat Inayat Khan. Wahiduddin’s Web. 18 Feb. 2010.
  10. For an in-depth description of this history written by Murshid Fazal – read “Western Sufism: The Sufi Movement, The Sufi Order International, and The Sufi Way”."Western Sufism: The Sufi Movement, The Sufi Order International, and the Sufi Way". 1987-03-10. Retrieved 2011-01-02.
  11. Religions of the World: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Beliefs and Practices by J. Gordon Melton, Martin Baumann, bublished by ABC-CLIO, 2002 vol. 4 pp. 1227–1228
  12. Shah, Idries (1977). "An Advanced Psychology of the East" (audio). ISHK. Retrieved 22 September 2012.
  13. Whilden, Megan (9 September 2004). "The Abode of the Message: A gentle center for a 'religion of the heart'". Berkshires Week magazine in The Berkshire Eagle. Pittsfield, MA. OCLC 61313402. Retrieved 9 August 2010. Extensive coverage of the Abode and its activities.
  14. Murshida Rabia Ada Martin
  15. Pir Shabda Kahn
  16. "Sufi Movement International of the USA - Universal Worship Ray". Retrieved 2011-01-02.
  17. The Federation of the Sufi Message
  18. "Independent Universal Sufism". Retrieved 2010-08-13.
  19. "Attunement to the prophets of Judaism by Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan". Retrieved 2011-01-02.
  20. "Practice of Ziraat". Retrieved 2011-01-02.
  21. Excerpt from "The War in Iraq: A Message from Pir Zia" (broken link "If a bombing campaign does commence, I suggest maintaining a daily fast (i.e., abstaining from food and drink from sunrise to sunset) throughout the course of the bombing, as I plan to do. In Sufism fasting is described as a form of death. Yes, it is very small in comparison with the large-scale real death that would result from military action, but it is a significant somatic pneumatic device to help us stay aware of the victims of war."
  22. 1923 Constitution (article 5, line 2): "[the Sufi Movement] denies itself all interference in politics, internal or foreign."
  23. Excerpt from "The War in Iraq: A Message from Pir Zia" (broken link "I hope it is understood that the apolitical orientation of the Sufi Order does not imply that mureeds are discouraged from acting on their convictions. On the contrary, in the spirit of spiritual liberty, the work of the Sufi Order is to support mureeds in their inner unfoldment, culminating in the full flowering of the human personality, in which wisdom and willpower move in perfect synchronicity."
  24. Pir Zia Inayat-Khan,
  25. "The Christ-spirit cannot be explained in words. The omnipresent intelligence, which is in the rock, in the tree, and in the animal, shows its gradual unfoldment in man. This is a fact accepted by both science and metaphysics. The intelligence shows its culmination in the complete development of human personality, such as the personality, which was recognized in Jesus Christ by his followers." According to The Sufi Message of Hazrat Inayat Khan, Volume 9.
  26. Hidayat Inayat Khan, The Meaning of the Flying Heart,
  27. William C. Chittick (2008), Sufism - Beginners Guide, p. 11
  28. Gholamreza Aavani, Glorification of the Prophet Muhammad in the Poems of Sa'adi, p. 4
  29. "Universel homepage". Retrieved 2011-01-02.
  30. Sirkar Sufi Centre


External links

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