Questions and Answers about Sufism

What is Sufism?

Inayat Khan says: "If one asks what Sufism is, what kind of 'religion' it is, the answer is that Sufism is the religion of the heart, the religion in which the thing of primary importance is to seek God in the heart of humanity.

There are three ways of seeking God in the human heart. The first way is to recognize the divine in everyone and to be considerate toward every person with whom we come in contact, in our thought, speech and action. Human personality is very delicate. The more living the heart, the more sensitive it is; but that which causes sensitiveness is the love element in the heart, and love is God. The person whose heart is not sensitive is without feeling. Their heart is not living; it is dead. In that case the Divine Spirit is buried in their heart. The one who takes notice of the feeling of another person with whom s/he comes in contact practices the first essential moral of Sufism.

The next way of practicing this religion is to think of the feeling of someone who is not with one at the moment. One may feel for those who are present, but one often neglects to feel for someone who is out of sight. One speaks well of someone to his face, but it is better to speak well of him/her when s/he is absent. One sympathizes with the trouble of someone who is with one at the moment, but it is more praiseworthy to sympathize with one who is far away.

The third way of realizing the Sufi principle is to recognize in one's own feeling the feeling of God, to realize every impulse of love that rises in one's heart as a direction from God, to realize that love is a divine spark in one's heart, to blow that spark until a flame may rise to illuminate the path of one's life." – Hazrat Inayat Khan


What is a Sufi?

From the perspective of The Inayati Order, this question may be answered in several ways. Essentially a Sufi is one who recognizes that an aspect of truth is contained in all the authentic religious traditions. Therefore the various spiritual teachers of humanity are equally respected by one who lives from this belief. Hazrat Inayat Khan envisioned the Sufi as a person who appreciates the beautiful diversity celebrated in the various paths while discerning in them an underlying unity. The Sufi's way of life is to continually seek to recognize the divinity contained in all human beings and the inherent sacred oneness of life.

There are, of course, many who live according to this essential definition of a Sufi, who have never heard of the name but who are a living expression of this spirit. According to Hazrat Inayat Khan, the Sufis have no official date or place of origin, for in essence they represent those mystics who have sought the truth in all ages. However at a certain time in history the name became associated with various orders which developed spiritual disciplines.

The Inayati Order accents the note of universal spirituality found in the teachings of many of the Sufi masters of the past while seeking to make the teachings and practices of the past relevant to the needs and consciousness of our time. Our universal perspective goes beyond traditional Sufi orders as exemplified in our inclusion of spiritual practices gleaned from various traditions. Our prayers and Universal Worship service are a new expression of a vision of unity so necessary now as humanity begins to awaken to a planetary consciousness. In sharing a message of love, harmony and beauty, The Inayati Order hopes to foster a vision of one human family.


Is The Inayati Order a new religion?

No, the purpose of our work is to "help bring together the different organs of one body which are meant to be united and not thrown apart. How do we bring about such reconciliation? By realizing in ourselves that the essence of all religions is one, is wisdom, and by considering that wisdom to be our religion, regardless of our form." – Hazrat Inayat Khan


What is the objective of The Inayati Order?

"The objective of The Inayati Order is the uniting of life and religion, which so far seems to have been kept apart. When a person goes to church once a week and devotes all the other days of the week to their business, how can they benefit by religion? Therefore, the teaching of Sufism is to transform everyday life into a religion so that every action may bear some spiritual fruit." – Hazrat Inayat Khan


What is the moral principal which guides the work of The Inayati Order?

"If there is any moral principle it is this: that the whole of humanity is like one body, and any organ of that body which is hurt or troubled can indirectly cause damage to the whole body. And as the health of the whole body depends upon the health of each part. So the health of the whole of humanity depends upon the health of every nation." – Hazrat Inayat Khan


Can a person continue to be a member of a religious tradition and become a member of The Inayati Order?

Absolutely, yes; as a matter of fact we encourage this. The Inayati Order is not concerned with converting or saving others. Our hope is that a person's involvement in the teachings may deepen and expand his/her understanding of the tradition with which s/he is affiliated.

"The Sufi Message does not call a person away from a belief or church; it calls one to live it." – Hazrat Inayat Khan


Isn't The Inayati Order oriented toward Islam?

No. Although there are Sufi roots in Islam, The Inayati Order aligns itself with no particular religion, but rather honors all religions as coming from the One Divine Source at different times throughout history, in answer to the call of humanity. We seek the thread of Truth which is woven among all religions. We honor the Divine in all Its Names and Forms.


What is the attitude of The Inayati Order towards women?

Hazrat Inayat Khan, founder of The Inayati Order, offered this insight in the early part of this century: "The hour is coming when women will lead humanity to a higher evolution." Women have always functioned in all roles of spiritual leadership within the Order. Spiritual practices and service are fully integrated and initial attempts have been made to update the language of the teaching to include the feminine. Several of the women teachers in the Order have made rich contributions by developing practices that facilitate an awareness of, and a deeper identification with, the feminine aspect of the divine. For more information on this aspect of The Inayati Order, please contact Dakini Marlowe.


May the blessings of God rest upon you, may God's peace abide with you, and may God's presence illuminate your heart!

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