About Us

The Ināyati Order (formerly the Sufi Order International) has affiliate centers active throughout the United States and Canada as well as in Europe, Turkey, India, Pakistan, Australia and New Zealand. Our lineage of Sufism is an inter-religious/inter-spiritual order introduced to the Western world in 1910, first in the U.K., and then in the United States, by Hazrat Inayat Khan (below). His work was carried forward by his son and successor, Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan. Pir Zia Inayat-Khan, grandson of Hazrat Inayat Khan, is the current head of the Ināyati Order. While we identify primarily as a branch of the parent Order known as the Chishtīyya, we also carry transmission from the Naqshbandīyya, Qādirīyya, and Suhrawardīyya going back several hundred years.

When Hazrat Inayat Khan came to the West — from his perspective we might call it “the mysterious West” — in 1910, he brought with him the traditions of the Sufi schools of India and Central Asia. He came with the intention of bringing harmony, and even as the methods he was to teach were all but unknown to a Eurocentric, post-Victorian society, so was the ground in which his seeds were to be sown a world unknown to him.

He became a new kind of missionary, attempting neither to proselytize nor to convert, asking no one to change his or her religious beliefs. He transmitted the wisdom of Sufism while emphasizing its compatibility with all of the world’s wisdom-traditions. He gave all of his teachings in English, and his first book was entitled A Sufi Message of Spiritual Liberty, in which he defines Sufism as “a religious philosophy of Love, Harmony, and Beauty.” He also introduced the idea of spiritual guidance — an idea little-known in the western world outside Christian monasteries. His genius was in adapting the traditional practices and methods to the needs people whose life experience and mentality was vastly different from the those in India.

Implicit within the teaching brought by Inayat Khan was the vision of what he initially called the “Sufi Message,” an inner awakening of consciousness and conscience that brings the individual to a realization of the need for the awakening of the whole of humanity, “to know the divine character to be found in the innermost nature of (hu)man(kind).” As this vision became more clearly defined, the language in which it was expressed became more universal, the descriptive term “Sufi” being used less frequently, with the “Sufi Message” becoming more frequently referred to as simply “the Message.”

Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan (1916–2004, left) was Inayat Khan’s successor and during his fifty years as head of the Ināyati Order, became an internationally-recognized spiritual teacher and master of meditation. 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 initiated dozens of international inter-religious conferences as well as engaging spiritual and scientific leaders in public dialogues. He founded the Abode of the Message, a spiritual community in the Berkshires since the early 1970s, and Omega Institute, a flourishing learning center.  He published many books on aspects of meditation and realization. His last book, In Search of the Hidden Treasure (Omega Publications, 2003), is an imagined congress of classic Sufi mystics commenting on contemporary and universal themes.

Pir Zia Inayat-Khan, the current head of the Ināyati Order, is the grandson of Hazrat Inayat Khan and was born and educated in America. In addition to the interfaith mystical training he has received from his father, Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan.  Pir Zia has studied Buddhism under the auspices of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and Sufism in the classical Indian tradition of the Chishtīyya. Pir Zia is editor of A Pearl in Wine: Essays on the Life, Music, and Sufism of Hazrat Inayat Khan (Omega Publications, 2001).  He holds a doctorate degree in Religion from Duke University and is a recipient of the U Thant Peace Award.

You can view video discourses of Pir Zia here

 The Ināyati Order and Islam 

We are often asked whether we are Muslims or whether Sufism is, as one might read in the dictionary, “the mystical branch of Islam.” Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan had the following to offer in this regard:

“The idea that Sufism sprang from Islam or from any other religion, is not necessarily true.” —Vol. 5, A Sufi Message of Spiritual Liberty, “Sufis”

“Those who know Sufism from superficial writings, and, sometimes, from translations of the Arabic or Persian literature, are apt to think that Sufism is the mystical side of Islam. In reality, it is not true. Sufism existed before Mohammed, before Jesus Christ, before Abraham. It is true that the mystics in the world of Islam are Sufis, but that does not mean that ‘Sufi’ means the mystic of Islam.” —Sangatha I, “Wasīyyat: The Work of the Movement”

“Modern writers have often made mistakes by writing of Sufism as a Persian philosophy or the esoteric side of Islam. Some have erroneously believed it to be a borrowed influence of Vedanta or Buddhism upon Islam. Some Oriental writers have patriotically called it an outcome of Islam in order to secure the credit for their own religion, while some Occidental writers have attempted to win it for Christianity. In fact, according to the sacred history which the Sufis have inherited from one another, it is clear that Sufism has never been owned by any race or religion for differences and distinctions are the very delusions from which Sufis purify themselves. It might appear that Sufism must have been formed of the different elements of various religions which are prominent today, but it is not so, for Sufism itself is the essence of all the religions as well as the spirit of Islam.” —Gathekas

Hazrat Inayat Khan inherited from his spiritual predecessors in the Chishtīyya a form of ‘universal” Sufi practice that began in India over 800 years ago with the custom of Hazrat Khwaja Mu‘īnuddīn Chishtī of offering the Sufi spiritual training to all worthy seekers regardless of their religious practice; his custom became official policy with Hazrat Khwaja Nizāmuddīn Auliya (d. 1325) and has remained so. Our lineage views “sufism” as a practice rather than a religion or a branch of any particular religion, and this practice can be done inside any religion — or no religion at all.

© Copyright 2014 Sufi Order Inayati — Seattle