On July 5th, 1882, in Baroda, India, a child named Inayat Khan was born into one of the most musical families in the country. Inayat’s grandfather, Maula Bakhsh, known as the ‘Beethoven of India’, had become a master of the music of both North and South India. Maula Bakhsh drew about him many people of culture and refinement. Inayat quickly showed great musical talent, and before he was twenty he was singing and playing the vina in the courts of royalty all over the subcontinent. Indeed, from a set of recordings Inayat made at the age of 27, some modern musicologists have said that his vocal skill and musical understanding remains unequalled. However when he met his Murshid, Sayyed Muhammad Abu Hashim Madani, he entered the Sufi path. At the end of Abu Hashim Madani’s life, his Murshid gave Inayat a mission saying, “Fare forth into the world, my child, and harmonize the East and 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.”
On September 13th, 1910, Inayat sailed from Bombay to America, “from the world of lyric and poetry to the world of industry and commerce,” (as he said in his autobiography) and then he traveled to Europe. Companions on that journey were his brothers Maheboob Khan and Ali Khan, who left auspicious careers in India to share his hardships and his work. Within a year they were joined by Inayat’s youngest brother, Musharaff Khan. These four young men gave many concerts of classical Indian music, hardly known in the West at that time.
During the next sixteen years, Inayat founded the International Sufi Movement and travelled widely, inspiring many and teaching the Sufi Message from California to Moscow. In America, he met the woman destined to become his wife and companion, Ora Ray Baker. Their first child was born in Russia, and three more children were born in England, where they all remained during the First World War.
In the early 1920’s, the family settled in Suresnes, a quiet suburb of Paris, and here Summer Schools were held for the growing number of students. Hazrat Inayat Khan, who was called Pir-0-Murshid (an esoteric title signifying that he was the head of the Esoteric Inner School) traveled continually in Europe and the United States, first learning about Western culture, and then conveying the traditional Sufi teachings in a more and more universal form. The lectures given here and elsewhere have subsequently been published under such titles as “The Unity of Religious Ideals,” “In an Eastern Rose Garden,” “The Mysticism of Sound,” “Love, Human and Divine,” and “Health, Mental Purification and the Mind World.” During only sixteen years in the West, he created a school of spiritual training which integrated traditional Sufi teachings and a profound vision of the unity of religious ideals. He spoke of the coming awakening of the human spirit to its inherent divinity. The prophetic nature of his teachings reflected on the depth of humanity’s spiritual challenges in the 20th century and offered guidance accessible to people of all faiths. Known as “the Sufi Message”, these teachings have been collected in 14 volumes of prose and prayers and are a continual source of inspiration for students of the Sufi Way.
As a vehicle to ensure the continuity of the Message and to provide opportunity for those wishing deeper realization of its significance, Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan founded an initiatic Inner School. In this esoteric school the student (mureed) is offered a sacred welcome and blessing. The mureed’s path, as well as the Inner School itself, are understood to be part of a sacred stream of blessing that runs through history.
In 1926, Inayat returned for a visit to India, leaving his family in the West. After a brief illness, he passed away in Tilak Lodge, New Delhi on February 5th, 1927, at the age of 44. His Dargah or tomb, located near that of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, is now a place of pilgrimage for Sufis from all over the world. The spreading of the Sufi Message of Spiritual Liberty and the Unity of Religious Ideals is continued by several organizations that have been inspired by the Message, and by individual Sufi teachers throughout the world.