The Sufi Order*
Beloved ones of God, I wish to speak a few words this evening on the Sufi Order and its work in the world. In the first place, people often wonder if it is a mission from the East. I answer that neither is it from the East nor from the West, it is from Above. It is for the work of God and the service of humanity, in which people of the East and the West, of the North and the South, have all joined together as their sacred task.
The word Sufi is eastern as well as western; it comes from the Greek word Sophia, and in the Persian language is Sufia, so the word should be acceptable both in the East and in the West. It is not the name of a certain sect or religion, but it is the name used for the essence of all religions.
No doubt very often people confuse the word wisdom with the word intellect, but in point of fact wisdom is something springing out of the heart of man. The source of wisdom is God Himself, while intellect is knowledge gained in the world, the knowledge of names and forms; worldly cleverness cannot be compared with wisdom. Many are clever, but are they wise? Their wisdom lasts for moments or days and ends in nothingness. All success acquired by worldly cleverness is limited, and when the limited time has passed, it comes to an end. True wisdom is the divine essence hidden deep in the heart of man, and which every man is seeking, some consciously, others unconsciously.
Sophia or Sufism is the name for the real wisdom, springing from the heart of man as a divine stream. In all ages those who have realised this divine spring, which is the heritage of every soul, have called it Sophia or Wisdom. It has been known by other names, such as Vedanta, Bible or Scripture, but wisdom in all its forms and at whatever time it has been given to the world is in fact Sufism. No doubt […] the people who belonged to [Sufi groups] were the first, whenever a Divine Messenger came, in whatever country, to sympathise and to understand. Their hearts were broad enough to receive the new Message, and they were the great supports of all the Messengers.
If we study the tradition of religious wars, we shall find that everywhere and in every period there has always been opposition to the message which has been given as an inspiration to men, people fighting against one another and saying, “Our God is different to your God; our Church is different; the Messenger whom you esteem is different.” But to the Sufis in all ages differences do not exist; the one thing they fought against and opposed was that which divided humanity into so many sects and creeds, that the nations should fight one another instead of harmonising with and understanding one another by the help of religion. No prophet, no Messenger, has ever brought the message to the world with the idea that his followers should be exclusive, that they should look on the followers and disciples of other faiths with hatred and contempt, or that they should say that theirs was the only true message. How many wars and battles in the history of the world have been caused by religious differences? That was not the will of God, nor the motive of the prophets, nor of religion; it was the abuse of religion, made by the authorities of religion for the sake of their own power and control over the followers of the faith.…
*An extract from a leaflet issued by the Book Depot for Sufi Literature in England sometime in the early 1920’s. As a historical footnote, a copy of the leaflet was recently found in the collection of the University of Bergen library in Norway, catalogued on November 24th, 1924, approximately two weeks after Inayat Khan gave a pair of lectures in Bergen. As it is intended as a piece of introductory publicity, the tone of the leaflet is more general than in lectures given to mureeds, but the lessons are very relevant to our time.