Hazrat Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan a brilliant Indian musician, came to the West in 1910 at the behest of his Sufi teacher, Sayyed Muhammad Abu Hashim Madani, who charged him with a mission: to harmonize East and West with the music of his soul.
He had dedicated his early life to the mastery of the subtle intricacies of classical Indian music under the tutelege of his grandfather Moula Baksh, a musical giant who had integrated the Hindustani and Karnatic musical traditions of Northern and Southern India. While barely in his twenties, Inayat Khan received the highest recognition and honors for his artistic accomplishments.
He was initiated by Shaykh al-Masha’ikh Sayyid Muhammad Abu Hashim Madani in the four main Sufi lineages in India, though his primary connection was with the Chishti Order.
On September 13, 1910 he began an odyssey which would encompass three continents and transform thousands of lives. He traveled continually in Europe and the United States, first learning about Western culture and mentality, and then conveying the traditional Sufi teachings in a more and more universel form. He eventually settled in Suresnes, a suburb of Paris, where he held annual summer schools. During only sixteen years in the West, he created a school of spiritual training based upon the traditional teachings of the Chishtiyya and infused with a revolutionary vision of the unity of religious ideals and the coming awakening of the human spirit to its inherent divinity.
Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan was his father’s successor and during his fifty years as head of the Sufi Order International 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 interreligious conferences as well as convening spiritual and scientific leaders for public dialogues. He founded the Abode of the Message, a spiritual community in the Berkshires for over thirty years, 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 (2003), is an imagined congress of classic Sufi mystics commenting on contemporary and universal themes. Pir Vilayat died on June 17, 2004.
Pir Zia Inayat-Khan is the first son of Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan and Taj Begum Inayat, born in 1971 in Novato, California. He grew up in California, New York, and New Mexico. Pir Vilayat made it clear to Zia at an early age that he wished him to continue his lineage. He prepared him by instructing him in meditation, and at times guiding him in spiritual retreat—once in his cave in the Alps of Chamonix. When Zia was 13, Pir Vilayat sent him to Dharamsala, India, to study under the auspices of his friend His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Sufism, however, was the central theme of the training Pir Vilayat passed on to his son. Pir Vilayat urged him to study Persian and Urdu at the London School of Oriental and African Studies, which he did, earning a B.A. (Honors) in Persian Literature. He went on to pursue graduate research in Islamic Studies, eventually earning a Ph.D. in Religion from Duke University.
With his father’s blessing, Zia undertook a period of seclusion at the Chishti Khanqah in Ahmedabad, India, and received spiritual transmission (khilafat) from Pir Rashid-ul-Hasan Jili Kalimi in Hyderabad.
In 2000 Pir Vilayat held a turban-tying (dastar-bandi) ceremony in Delhi, initiating Zia to the rank of Pir and confirming him as his spiritual successor (Sajjada-nishin). Pir Vilayat passed away three years later—may God keep him.
Since 2004 Pir Zia has served as Head of the Sufi Order International, guiding Sufi communities in the North America, South America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and the South Pacific.
To provide opportunities for intensive Sufi study, Pir Zia founded the Suluk Academy. Based at the Abode of the Message in upstate New York, the Suluk Academy currently offers courses for Sufi initiates in New York, California, and France.
Outside the Sufi sphere, Pir Zia has taken part in numerous interreligious and interdisciplinary gatherings. To encourage such conversations and collaborations, he founded Seven Pillars House of Wisdom. Pir Zia is also a Fellow of the Lindisfarne Association, and an Advisor to the Contemplative Alliance.
Pir Zia is editor of A Pearl in Wine (Omega, 2001) and Caravan of Souls (Suluk Press, forthcoming), and author of Saracen Chivalry (Suluk Press, 2012).
He lives with his wife Pirani Sartaj and children Rasulan and Ravanbakhsh at the Abode of the Message in New Lebanon, New York, and at Fazal Manzil in Suresnes, France.