The Origins of Sufi Thought and Practice
What is Sufism? When did it begin? These questions have as many answers as the many sufis, schools and practitioners that exist, proving the truth of an old saying that "There is no Sufism, only sufis." Is sufism, as the dictionary suggests, " a mystical expression within the religion of Islam,' or does sufi wisdom stretch back to Greek and Egyptian and Persian mysteries, influencing all the religions of Beni Israel (Judaism, Christian and Islam) and later incorporating Vedic and Buddhist thought?

While deeply respecting all religions and beliefs, the Sufism expressed by the Sufi Movement, its teachers, leaders and participants, is drawn from the teachings of Hazrat Inayat Khan, who had this to say about it:
"Sufism has never, in any period of history, been a religion or a certain creed. It has always been considered as the essence of every religion and all religions. Thus when it was given to the world of Islam, it was presented by the great Sufis in Muslim terminology. Whenever the Sufi ideal was presented to a certain people, it was presented in such a way as to make it intelligible to those people. Sufism is neither a dogma nor a doctrine; it is neither a form nor a ceremony. This does not mean that a Sufi does not make use of a doctrine, a dogma, a ritual, or ceremony. A Sufi makes use of them at the same time remaining free from them. It is neither dogma, doctrine, ceremony, nor ritual that makes a Sufi a Sufi; it is wisdom alone which is the Sufi's property, and all other things are used for convenience, for benefit. But a Sufi is not against any creed, doctrine, dogma, ritual, or ceremony; not even against someone who has no belief in God or Spirit, for a Sufi has a great respect for humanity.
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Inayat Khan with Vina

The Journey to the Goal
"We have the tendency to expect in our spiritual journey experiences akin to those of the earth. If we had these, then only could we believe that are journeying. But on this journey there is at each step less to be seen until we arrive at the highest state, where there is nothing before our sight, that is, neither before the eyes, the mind, the heart, nor before the soul. Although the faculty of seeing is there, there is no object to be seen. There is the consciousness alone, the pure intelligence, in its own essence". (GNT)*

Inayat Khan

Inayat Khan
As a young man, Inayat Khan was one of the most famous musicians in India. When he came to the West, it was on the instruction of his teacher, Sayyad Abu Hashim Madani, who said, "Fare forth into the world, my child and harmonize the East and West with the harmony of your music. Spread the wisdom of Sufism abroad, for to this end you are gifted by Allah, the most Merciful and Compassionate".
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Inayat Khan

A Sufi Story
It is difficult to say anything about Sufism as this Sufi story from Inayat Khan explains:
"There is a well known Eastern legend giving the idea of a soul who had found truth. There was a wall of laughter and of smiles. This wall existed for ages and many tried to climb it, but few succeeded.

Those who had climbed upon it saw something beyond, and so interested were they that they smiled, climbed over the wall and never returned. The people of the town began to wonder what magic could there be and what attraction, that whoever climbed the wall never returned. So they called it the wall of mystery. Then they said, 'We must make an enquiry and send someone who can reach the top, but we must tie them with a rope to hold them back.' When the person they had thus sent reached the top of the wall, they smiled and tried to jump over it, but the people pulled them back. Still they smiled, and when eagerly asked, 'what did you see there?' they did not answer, they only smiled.

This is the condition of the seer. The one who in the shrine of their heart has seen the vision of God, the one who has the realization of truth, can only smile, for words can never really explain what truth means".
The Word Sufi
This unpublished lecture by Inayat Khan on Sufism is from the Nekbakht Foundation Archives and originally appeared in "The Sufi" magazine in 1920.
Sufism Examined
In this article, Hidayat Inayat-Khan, the youngest son of Inayat Khan, writes about Sufism.

* (GNT) indicates Gender Neutral Translation
Revised 2021.01.31
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