The Teaching of Hazrat Inayat Khan      

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Social Gathekas

Religious Gathekas

The Message Papers

The Healing Papers

Vol. 1, The Way of Illumination

Vol. 1, The Inner Life

Vol. 1, The Soul, Whence And Whither?

Vol. 1, The Purpose of Life

Vol. 2, The Mysticism of Sound and Music

Vol. 2, The Mysticism of Sound

Vol. 2, Cosmic Language

Vol. 2, The Power of the Word

Vol. 3, Education

Vol. 3, Life's Creative Forces: Rasa Shastra

Vol. 3, Character and Personality

Vol. 4, Healing And The Mind World

Vol. 4, Mental Purification

Vol. 4, The Mind-World

Vol. 5, A Sufi Message Of Spiritual Liberty

Vol. 5, Aqibat, Life After Death

Vol. 5, The Phenomenon of the Soul

Vol. 5, Love, Human and Divine

Vol. 5, Pearls from the Ocean Unseen

Vol. 5, Metaphysics, The Experience of the Soul Through the Different Planes of Existence

Vol. 6, The Alchemy of Happiness

Vol. 7, In an Eastern Rose Garden

Vol. 8, Health and Order of Body and Mind

Vol. 8, The Privilege of Being Human

Vol. 8a, Sufi Teachings

Vol. 9, The Unity of Religious Ideals

Vol. 10, Sufi Mysticism

Vol. 10, The Path of Initiation and Discipleship

Vol. 10, Sufi Poetry

Vol. 10, Art: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Vol. 10, The Problem of the Day

Vol. 11, Philosophy

Vol. 11, Psychology

Vol. 11, Mysticism in Life

Vol. 12, The Vision of God and Man

Vol. 12, Confessions: Autobiographical Essays of Hazat Inayat Khan

Vol. 12, Four Plays

Vol. 13, Gathas

Vol. 14, The Smiling Forehead

By Date



Unity and Uniformity


The Sufi's Religion

The Aspects of Religion

How to Attain to Truth by Religion

Five Desires Answered by Religion


Aspects of the Law of Religion


The Effect of Prayer

The God Ideal

The Spiritual Hierarchy

The Master, the Saint, the Prophet

Prophets and Religions

The Symbology of Religious Ideas

The Message and the Messenger


The Spirit of Sufism

The Sufi's Aim in Life

The Ideal of the Sufi

The Sufi Movement

The Universal Worship



1. The Concept of God

2. The Ideal of the Teacher

3. Form of Worship

4. The Morals

5. The Shrines

Vol. 9, The Unity of Religious Ideals

The Aspects of Religion

1. The Concept of God

And now, coming to the idea of what religion consists of. The first thing in religion is the idea of God. What is God? Some say that "my idea of God is that He is in the highest Heaven, that He is the Creator, that He is the Judge of the Last Day, that He is the Forgiver." And there is another one who says: "My idea is that God is all, God is abstract, all is God, and if anyone believes in a personal God, I do not believe it." Both are right and yet both are wrong. They are right if they see the other point of view and they are wrong if they see their own point of view. Both see the God-ideal with one eye. One sees it with the right eye and the other with the left eye. If they see with both eyes, then the vision is complete.

It is indeed an error on the part of man to limit God in the idea of a Personal Being, and is wrong in the person who believes in the Absolute God to efface the Being of God from his conception of it. As they say: "To explain God is to dethrone God." To say that God is abstract is like saying: "God is space, God is time." Can you love space? Can you love time? There is nothing there to love. A beautiful flower would attract you more than space. And nice music will attract you more than time. Therefore the believer in the abstract God has only his belief, but he is not benefited by it. He may just as well believe in no God as in an abstract God. Yet he is not wrong. He is uselessly right.

The most advisable thing for the believer of God is to first make his own conception of God. Naturally man cannot make a conception of something he does not know. For instance, if I told you to imagine a bird that you have never seen, which is unlike any bird you have ever seen, you would first attach to the bird wings, then you might see the head of a cow, and then perhaps you would imagine the feet of a horse and a peacock's tail. But you cannot imagine any form which you have not seen, which you have not known. You have to embody from your mind a form which you already know. You cannot make a conception which you have never seen or known before. Besides, it is the easiest thing and it is the most natural thing for man to conceive of any being in his own form.

When man thinks of fairies or angels he sees them in human form, and therefore if a person conceives of the God-ideal, even the highest and best way of conceiving will be in the highest and best human personality. There is nothing wrong about it. That is all that man can do. God is greater than man's conception, but man cannot conceive Him higher than he can. Therefore, any man's God is in his own conception. It is useless, therefore, to argue and to discuss and to urge one's own conception upon another. For the best way a person can think of God is in the way he is capable of thinking of God.

2. The Ideal of the Teacher

And then the next aspect of religion is the ideal of the Teacher. One says that: "My teacher is the Savior of the world, the Savior of humanity. My Teacher is divine, my Teacher is God Himself." And there is another who is ready to oppose it, saying that it is not true, no man can be called divine and no one can save the world, each one has to save himself. But if you look at it from the Sufi's point of view, the Sufi says: "What does it matter if a man sees in someone he adores and worships and idealizes, God Himself?. After all, this whole manifestation is God's manifestation.

If he says that in that particular Teacher he sees the Divine, there is nothing wrong about it. Let him call his Teacher Divinity. I am sorry for the one who does not call his Teacher the Savior." Besides that, we each have an effect of our deeds on the whole cosmos and if a high soul was called by someone "the Savior of the World," it is not an exaggeration. One wicked soul can cause such harm to the whole cosmos, and one holy soul by his life on earth can do so much good, directly and indirectly, to each being in the world, because each soul is connected with the whole cosmos. But for the Sufi there is no dispute about it.

If a Buddhist says: "Buddha is my Savior," if a Christian says that Christ is divine, if a Muslim says that Muhammed was the Seal of the Prophets, if a Hindu says that Krishna was the expression of God, the Sufi says: "You are all justified; you each have your name, individually or collectively. You are calling my Ideal. All these names are the name of my Ideal. You each have your own ideals. I have all these names as the name of my Ideal. I call my Beloved: Krishna, Buddha, Christ, Muhammed. Therefore all your ideals I love, because my ideal is one and the same."

3. Form of Worship

And now comes the third idea in religion, and that is the idea of the form of worship. Perhaps in one religion there are candles lighted and there is a form of worship. And there is another religion where even a song is not allowed to be sung in the church.

In another religion they call out the name of God and pray the Lord with movements. In another religion they have put a statue of Buddha on the altar as the sign of peace. These are different expressions of devotion. Just as in the Western countries by nodding and in the Eastern countries by raising their hands, they salute one another. It is the same feeling, but the action is different. What does it matter if one greets in this way or in that way; is it not all a greeting? The Sufi says, so long as there is real devotion, it does not matter in what way it is expressed. For him it is the same.

Once I was traveling from England to the United States, and on the ship on Sunday there was a Protestant service, which I attended, and everyone thought I was a Protestant. Then there was a Catholic service, and when I went to the Catholic service, people began to look at me, doubting if I was a Catholic or a Protestant. After that, there was a Jewish service, and when I went, they began to think that, if I was a Rabbi, why did I go to all these services? To me every one of these services was an expression of devotion; for me they were not different.

The form makes no difference, it is our feeling. When our feeling is right, if we are in the church or in the marketplace or in simple nature or in our own house, we always will express our sincere devotion. Therefore a Sufi's form of prayer is all forms of prayer, and in every form he feels that exaltation which is the principal thing to experience in religious life.

4. The Morals

There is another aspect of religion, which is what is forbidden and what is allowed, the moral and ethical conception. One religion says, this is forbidden and this is allowed; another religion says another thing and another religion still another thing. But what is this law? Where does it come from? This law comes from the conception of the Prophets or law-givers which they have gotten from the need of the community. And therefore, perhaps, one law-giver was born in Syria, another in Arabia, another in India, another in China, and each one saw a different need for the people of that time.

And therefore if we gather together the laws the religious inspirers have given, they naturally will differ if we dispute over them, saying that my religion is better and yours is worse because its laws are better and yours are worse. It is a foolish thing to do. If one nation says, "Our law is better than your law and your law is worse than ours," there is no meaning in it, because nations make their laws according to their needs. The needs of every race and community and nation, sometimes, are different.

Nevertheless, the fundamental principle is one and the same. To have consideration for another is the root of all the religious laws. To feel, "I am in the same position as another; if I act unjustly to another, the other is also entitled to act unjustly to me. I am exposed to the same thing." When this thought is awakened in man and sympathy is awakened for his fellow men, he need not trouble and argue and discuss about the different laws.

Friends, love is a great inspirer of law, and the one who has not love, he may read a thousand books of law, he will always accuse others of their faults and he will never know his own faults. But if love has wakened in your heart, then you do not need to study law, for you know the best law, for all law has come from love and still love stands above law.

People say that there will be justice in the hereafter and we shall all have to show the accounts of our deeds. In the first place, we ourselves do not know the account of our deeds. Besides, if God is so exacting as to ask you of every little evil everyone has committed, then God must be worse than man, because even a fine man overlooks his friend's faults, a kind man forgives a person's faults. If God is so exacting as that, He must be an autocratic God. It is not true; God is not Law, God is Love. Law is the law of nature, but God's Being is not Law, God's Being is Love. And therefore the right conception of life and insight into right and wrong, good and bad, is not learned and taught by book-study. As the Sufi says: all virtues manifest by themselves once the heart is wakened to love and kindness.

5. The Shrines

Another aspect of religion is the sacred shrines, the importance that one attaches to the church or priest or clergyman or to a certain house of prayer, to the temple, pagoda, mosque or synagogue. For the Sufi, it is not the place that is holy, but it is our faith that makes it so; and if a person has faith that this place, this synagogue, temple or church is holy, he will be benefited by it. But, at the same time, the holiness is not in the house, the holiness is in his own belief. But what we have to learn from religion is one thing, and that is the knowledge of Truth. At the same time, Truth cannot be spoken in words. Truth is something that is discovered, not learned and taught. The great mistake is that people confuse fact and Truth; therefore, they neither know about Truth nor about fact.

Besides, there are many who are so sure of their truth that they hammer that truth upon another. They say: "I do not mind if you are hurt or if you are vexed, I just tell you the truth." Such hammered truth cannot be the Truth. It is a hammer. Truth is too delicate, too tender, too beautiful. Can Truth hurt anyone? If Truth was so dense and gross, sharp and hurtful, it could not be Truth. Truth stands above words. Words are too rigid to express Truth. Even such fine feelings as tenderness, gentleness, sympathy, love, gratitude, Truth is above them. Truth cannot be explained. Truth is above all emotion, above all passion. Truth is a realization, a realization which cannot be put into words because language has no words to express it. What are facts? Facts are the shadows of Truth. They give an illusion of Truth. And people dispute over facts, and in the end they find nothing.