Hazrat Inayat Khan now begins to consider what a Sufi believes, or in other words if there is any belief that is specific to Sufism. The previous post in the series is here.
Is Sufism a religion? It should be clear from the above explanation [i.e. in previous posts] that the religion of the Sufi is not separate from the religions of the world. People have fought in vain about the names and lives of their saviors, and have named their religions after the name of their savior, instead of uniting with each other in the truth that is taught. This truth can be traced in all religions, whether one community calls another pagan or infidel or heathen. Such persons claim that theirs is the only scripture, and their place of worship the only abode of God. Sufism is a name applied to a certain philosophy by those who do not accept the philosophy; hence it cannot really be described as a religion; it contains a religion but is not itself a religion. Sufism is a religion if one wishes to learn religion from it. But it is beyond religion, for it is the light, the sustenance of every soul, raising the mortal being to immortality.
As matters stand today, each one claims his own religion to be the best, and he has his own religion. The Sufi tolerates all, and considers them all his; therefore he does not belong to a religion but all religions belong to him. He can see all the religions like so many forms in a school: some are in one form, others are in higher forms, that is, some study life more deeply. And in each class in the school there are pupils who like to play.
To say, ‘You are not of my religion; my religion alone is true,’ is as reasonable as to say, ‘You are not a lawyer, a merchant, a scholar; your way of carrying on life is false; you must become as I.’ To say, ‘All who are in my religion are saved’ is as reasonable as to say, ‘Every lawyer, merchant, scholar (as the case may be) is earnest, and performs his work perfectly.’ Some speak of ‘nominal’ Christians, and ‘true’ Christians; this is only another way of saying that some persons are earnest about their work and others play.
Is Sufism a belief? What do we mean by the word ‘belief?’ It is the nature of mind to believe, and disbelief comes after. No unbeliever was born an unbeliever; for if a soul disbelieved from childhood he would never learn to speak. All the knowledge that man possesses he has acquired by belief. When he strengthens his belief by knowledge then comes disbelief in things that his knowledge cannot cope with, and in things that his reason cannot justify. He then disbelieves things that he once believed in. An unbeliever is one who has changed his belief to disbelief; disbelief often darkens the soul, but sometimes it illuminates it. There is a Persian saying, ‘Until belief has changed to disbelief, and, again, the disbelief into a belief, a man does not become a real Muslim.’ But when disbelief becomes a wall and stands against the further penetration of mind into life, then it darkens the soul, for there is no chance of further progress, and man’s pride and satisfaction in what he knows limit the scope of his vision.
To be continued…