The prayer Salat gives us a number of practical examples in which we may recognise the Spirit of Guidance. It begins with the mother, the father, the child and the friend, everyday human relationships from which we have all learned something. If we think we have never learned anything from our parents or from our children, then we have had a difficult life indeed.
The prayer then goes on to name a number of figures – call them Masters or Prophets or Avatars, the name does not matter – from whom the world has received guidance. Not many prayers give such a catalog; the great prayers that have helped the world through the ages have generally focused on one single tradition, simply to avoid confusion. Now, the world is able, sometimes, to see beyond the boundaries of race and culture, and Salat encourages us in this direction.
When we say the names of these Teachers, though, what occurs within us? Perhaps not much, if we have little knowledge of the traditions we are touching upon; or perhaps we feel a sort of smugness (which would more or less nullify the ability of the prayer to uplift us) that we are able to honour EVERYone, while the followers of those traditions are too stuck in the past to have our wide point of view.
Or perhaps we feel we make a genuine connection with the illuminated soul being named. Murshid Hidayat once suggested it might help to have an image in mind for each prophet; focusing our attention in this way puts life in the words, and helps save them from being a simply mechanical repetition.
Thinking of the series of teachings from Hazrat Inayat Khan on friendship, we could also look to each great soul as an inspiring and helpful friend. No doubt each gave a specific vibration that was needed by the people of that time and place, but none of them wished to be deified or worshipped; they would feel they had fulfilled their divine task if they could be seen by the faithful as an example and a friend.
If we have some awareness of the real duties of friendship, we might pause, at this point. It is not easy to maintain any friendship – and what could it mean to be a friend of an illuminated soul? No doubt it would be a great challenge – but surely there would also be great reward.