On July 5, 1882, in Baroda India, 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. Inayat quickly showed great musical talent, and before he was twenty years old he was singing and playing the vina in royal courts throughout India. From a set of recordings Inayat made at the age of twenty-seven, some modern musicologists have said that his vocal skill and musical understanding remain 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 13, 1910, Inayat sailed from Bombay to America, “from the world of lyric and poetry to the world of industry and commerce” (as he wrote in his autobiography). Then he travelled to Europe. Companions on that journey were his brothers Maheboob Khan, Ali Khan, and Musharaff Khan. These four young men gave many concerts of classical Indian music, which was hardly known in the West.
In America, he met the woman destined to become his wife and companion, Ora Ray Baker. Their first child, Noor Inayat Khan, the renowned heroine of the French Resistance in World War II, was born in Moscow; and three more children, Vilayat, Hidayat, and Claire, were born in England.
In the early 1920s, the family settled in Suresnes, France, and here annual Summer Schools were held for the growing number of interested students. During the next sixteen years Inayat Khan, who was addressed as Pir-o-Murshid (an esoteric title held by the head of the Esoteric Inner School) traveled widely from the United States to Russia, inspiring many and teaching the Sufi Message. He was able to express traditional Sufi teachings in universal language, making them available to Western people. He created a school of spiritual training which integrated ancient mystical practices into 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 these teachings expresses the depth of humanity’s spiritual challenges in the current world, emphasizing the deep need for understanding, tolerance, and acceptance of all people since we all share this planet Earth.
In 1926, Inayat returned to India for a visit. After a brief illness, he passed away in New Delhi on February 5, 1927, at the age of 44. His Dargah (tomb) is a place of pilgrimage for Sufis from all over the world. There are now several organizations and individual Sufi teachers who spread the Sufi Message and offer esoteric initiations in the Inner School. His teachings and lectures have been collected in 14 volumes, entitled The Sufi Message of Hazrat Inayat Khan