Hazrat Inayat: Law

The recent post of a passage by Sharafuddin Maneri said that the first step of the spiritual path is ‘the Law.’  Hazrat Inayat Khan also talked about law in various contexts; here is a lecture in which he relates social law to the spiritual foundation from which it should arise.


“I have not come to give a new law, I have come to fulfill the law,” said Christ. This suggests two things. One is that to give a law is one of the principal objects of the coming of the Messenger. In the traditions of the past we see that it was what is called the divine law that governed the nations. And even now the law is necessarily based on a religious principle, which shows us that even in earthly things the divine guidance has always been considered most necessary. The worldly-wise do not know spiritual things, whereas the spiritually-wise are wise in earthly things also. And Christ, whose life was free from earthly thought, withdrawn from the world even, it is He who has given to the people of His time the divine law. Krishna, with all His philosophical and mystical ideas, speaks of the law of worldly life.

Today a Muslim follows most respectfully the law given by his Prophet, and recognizes with pride that his Prophet had in his life military service and political responsibilities, and that his Prophet was at the same time a man of the world and a man of God. To whatever extent the world may evolve, a thoughtful man will never be able to deny the fact that it is not for everyone, for every mind, to touch the depths of thought. Whether there be aristocracy or democracy, there will always be a few souls who will have influence over many. We see that all men are different, each has his own way to follow, and no one can fill the place of another.

If it happens that in worldly affairs there is what is called the man of the moment, then even in spiritual affairs there may be the soul of the age. The Messengers who have brought the law, have been the Messengers of their time, but, since today man knows only the earthly affairs, he concerns himself little with the affairs of the soul. As he concerns himself little with this question, he is very little aware of what happens in spiritual conditions; nevertheless the work of God and of creation pursues its course just the same. The Spirit, which is called Alpha and Omega, is always present and is always doing its work, recognized or unrecognized.

We can see the law in five aspects. First, the institution of marriage and of divorce is the first thing necessary for the peace of the world. This law is necessary to safeguard in life the rights of woman, whose position is more delicate than that of man. The recognition given to marriage by the law makes an impression upon the two persons, pointing out that they are connected by law and by religion. The necessity of divorce, a thing that is sometimes necessary to put an end to the captivity of two persons who cannot agree in living together, also is a part of the law. If there were not a religious influence–if one had not the impression, ‘Our marriage is made before God’–it would very much lessen the seriousness with which marriage is viewed. For instance, today there is a way of marrying which has nothing to do with religion, and often marriage becomes simply a matter of the law courts. One can imagine how man considers this question when it is a question that can be settled in the court. Nothing in the world can take the place, in marriage, of what religion gives to marriage.

The second aspect is the division of property and the manner of safeguarding property. The law of religion, with the justice of God, teaches man to regard the rights of others as well as his own rights. Besides, religion teaches what one may rightfully call one’s own, and what ought not to belong to us. It teaches also how one should earn money, and how one should spend it. The serious aspect of religion, the thought of God and of Truth which is behind all this, creates in life that spirit of honesty which religion is meant to create.

Third, there are birth and death. At the coming of the child, the thought of spiritual illumination in some form or other, to welcome him on earth–this necessarily makes a foundation for spiritual development in the life of the infant; and, in the family in which the child arrives, the feeling that he has come as a gift from God, the thought that: “We, the parents, are not alone responsible for this child’s life; behind there is God, Who shares our responsibility.”

At the death of a person, a religious ceremony performed gives strength to the one who is passing from this world into another world, and it is also a consolation to those who think of him with love. For it brings the thought that the dead one is called towards the Source whence he has come. And, besides, added to the thought which comes with death, the religious ceremony creates also in the minds of those present the thought: “We are not here permanently. Life is like a caravan. All have to go along the same road. One goes first; the others follow in their turn.” Think what a virtue this thought brings us! It makes the fact of this illusory world pale, which yet keeps so many engaged day and night in its pursuit. It offers man an opportunity to be still for a moment and consider life, man who is always absorbed in the affairs of this world of illusion.

The fourth aspect that the law of religion represents is social life. People meeting in a church, at a meeting for a service or a religious ceremony, naturally gives the opportunity of joining together in the thought of God and of religion. Places of pilgrimage and sacred places, all this unites humanity in the love of God and in unity. Think of people gathered together at an exhibition, a fair; the feeling that animates them all is gain, to get the best of the bargain. What an incomparable difference when one meets in a sacred and religious thought!

The fifth institution is the political institution of the religious law, all that concerns the community or the country; a law which, with divine justice, concerns itself with the affairs of the community and the affairs of the country. A problem, which cannot be solved otherwise, can be solved by spiritual enlightenment. Man is naturally selfish, and justice cannot exist in the heart in which there is the thought of self. That one alone can look at things from a just point of view whose heart reflects God absolutely–God, Who is above nation, race, caste, creed, or religion.

No doubt where there is truth there is also untruth, where there is day there is also night. It is natural that often the religious authorities have abused the law. When a spiritual man concerns himself with the things of the world, it is extremely difficult for him not to allow the things of the world to throw their shadow on his heart. Men, revolted by the abuse of religion, have often given up religion itself, and it is this that has made man ignorant of the divine source of the law that rules the affairs of the world. Today man thinks that to make laws is the work of intellectual people. This brings constant disappointments both to nations and to communities. The lack of order and peace throughout the world today, one may say, is caused by the want of the law which must come from God, from the divine source. Man is too small to be able to find the solution of the problems of this world. That is the work of the perfect wisdom which is found in a Personality without limitations, with which human personality cannot be compared, as one cannot compare a drop with the ocean.

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