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



Sufi Thoughts

Some Aspects of Sufism

The Sufi



The Purpose of Life

Life In This World



The Masters

The Spirit Of Prophecy

Some Esoteric Terms


Suma, the Music of the Sufis

Vol. 1, The Way of Illumination

Some Aspects of Sufism

Suma, the Music of the Sufis

It is very well known to all who have any knowledge of Sufis and Sufism, that music plays a great part in their spiritual attainment. The Chishtis, a particular school of Sufis, take a special interest in music. They call it Ghiz-i-ruh, the food of the soul, and they listen to the Qawwali, the special songs sung at their Suma, the contemplative musical assembly. It seems as if some potent life were there which is rarely met with elsewhere.

The atmosphere is charged with magnetism, harmony, and peace which are emitted by the illuminated souls present. The Shaikh, the teacher, sits in the midst, and the other Sufis sit around him, and invoke one after the other the sacred names of God, and repeat suras of the Qur'an turn by turn. This is an introduction which tunes the heart of each one present to its proper pitch, the hearts that are already prepared by Zikr, the esoteric contemplation.

Their way of contemplation sets the heart in rhythm, which makes even the circulation of the blood regular, and the pulsation and the whole mechanism of the body become rhythmic. When the mind is also set in rhythm by its awakened response to tone, the Sufi's whole being becomes musical. This is why the Sufi can harmonize with each and all. Music makes all things in the world living to him and makes him alive to all things, and he begins to realize how life is dead to many in the world, and how many are dead to life.

There are different grades of progress, and the verses that are sung by the Qawwals are also of different kinds.

  • Some verses are in praise of the beauty of the ideal which Sufis in the grade of Fana-fi-Shaikh enjoy. In this grade are those who see the divine immanence as the ideal, walking on earth.

  • There are verses which speak about the high merits of the "ideal-in-name-and-not-in-form," which appeals to those who are in the grade of Fana-fi-Rasul. These have not seen the ideal, neither have they heard its voice, but they have known and loved that ideal which alone exists as far as they know.

  • Then there are verses which speak of the ideal beyond name and form. To these verses those respond who are in the grade of Fana-fi-Allah; these are conscious of their ideal as beyond name and form, qualities and merits, which cannot even be confined in knowledge, being beyond all limitations.

  • Sometimes the coming of the ideal is pictured in verses which describe the sweetness of voice, the beauty of countenance, the grace of movement, the praise, the merits, the qualities, and the winning ways of the ideal.

  • There are verses also in which are pictured the lover in love, his agony in separation, his caution in the presence of the beloved, his humility, his envy and rivalry, and all the natural vicissitudes of a lover.

It is poetry, music, and art combined. It is not a simple song; it creates the whole vision in the realm of music before the mind of the Sufi who is capable of visualizing it against positive environments. In other words the Sufi produces his ideal vision in his imagination, by the help of music.

In the Qawwali the nature of love, lover, and beloved is expressed. In this the poetry of the Sufi excels the love poems known to the world, for in it is revealed the secret of love, lover and beloved, the three in one. Apart from the philosophy of the whole being, one can see the delicacy and complexity of their poems, rich with conventions and adorned with metaphor. Hafiz, Rumi, Jami, and many others among the Sufi poets, have expressed the secret of the inner and outer being in the terminology of love.

The Qawwals, the singers, sing these verses distinctly; so that every word may become clear to the hearers, that the music may not hide the poetry; and the tabla players who accompany the singers emphasize the accents and keep the rhythm even, so that the being of the Sufi, already set to music, joins with the rhythm and harmony of the music. On these occasions the condition of the Sufi becomes different. His emotional nature at this time has its full play; his joy and feeling cannot be explained and language is inadequate to express them. This state is termed Hal or Wajad, the sacred ecstasy, and is regarded with respect by all present in the assembly. Wajad means "presence", Hal means "condition."

This state of ecstasy is not different from the natural condition of man when touched on hearing a kind word spoken, or moved to tears either on separation from the one he loves, or on the departure of his object of love, or when overjoyed on the arrival of his long-expected beloved. In the case of a Sufi the same feeling becomes sacred, his ideal being higher.

A pilgrimage is the same as an ordinary journey, the only difference being in the aim; in a journey the aim is earthly, whereas the pilgrimage is made for a sacred purpose. Sometimes on hearing music, the Sufi is seen to be deeply touched, sometimes his feeling finds vent in tears, sometimes his whole being, filled with music and joy, expresses itself in motion, which in Sufi terms is called Raqs.

When man analyses the objective world and realizes the inner being, what he learns first and last is that this whole vision of life is created of love; love itself being life, all will in time be absorbed in it.

It is the lover of God whose heart is filled with devotion, who can commune with God; not the one who makes an effort with his intellect to analyze God. In other words, it is the lover of God who can commune with Him, not the student of His nature. It is the "I" and "you" which divide, and yet it is "I" and "you" which are the necessary conditions of love. Although "I" and "you" divide the one life into two, it is love that connects them by the current which is established between them; and it is this current which is called communion, which runs between man and God.

To the question, "What is God?" and "What is man?" the answer is that the soul, conscious of its limited existence, is "man", and the soul reflected by the vision of the unlimited, is "God." In plain words man's self-consciousness is man, and man's consciousness of his highest ideal is God. By communion between these two, in time both become one, as in reality they are already one. And yet the joy of communion is even greater than the joy of at-one-ment, for all joy of life lies in the thought of "I" and "you."

All that man considers beautiful, precious and good, is not necessarily in the thing or the being; it is in his ideal; the thing or being causes him to create the beauty, value and goodness in his own mind. Man believes in God by making Him an ideal of his worship, so that he can commune with someone whom he can look up to; in whom he can lay his absolute trust, believing Him to be above the unreliable world; on whose mercy he can depend, seeing selfishness all round him. It is this ideal when made of a stone, and placed in a shrine, which is called an idol of God; and when the same ideal is raised to the higher plane and placed in the shrine of the heart, it becomes the ideal of God with whom the believer communes and in whose vision he lives most happily, as happily as could be, in the company of the sovereign of the whole universe.

When this ideal is raised still higher it breaks into the real, and the real light manifests to the godly; the one who was once a believer now becomes the realizer of God.