The Hand of the Workman

August 6th is the birthday of Murshid Hidayat Inayat-Khan; on this day he turns 99 years of age. Today is also the day on which a message has been sent to the members of the International Council that Murshid Hidayat has officially stepped down from his position of Joint General Representative of the Sufi Movement, effective as of the 5th of July, a date he chose intentionally for its symbolism.

It is not possible to put into a few words the profound effect that Murshid Hidayat has had on the Sufi Movement; he is a strong and complex person, a demanding and fastidious musician and composer with a sensitive, deeply mystical nature, overwhelmingly committed to the Message taught by his Father; he served as the leader of this organisation for many years, making enormous changes and confronting difficulties of every kind.  What is more, although no one knows for certain, it may be that Murshid Hidayat is the last person remaining who actually knew Hazrat Inayat Khan as a living person. All the other members of the immediate family have since passed away. Perhaps in the decades to come, we will begin to understand what he has given through his service.

Today, it seems appropriate to put before you one of the recollections from ‘Once Upon a Time,’ a little booklet of stories about a very magical childhood that Murshid Hidayat put on paper in the late 1980’s, and that was first published by Sufis in Vancouver.

A Workman Digging in the Street

One day, while Murshid was going out through the gate of Fazal Manzi, holding my hand tight so that I would not run wildly across the road, as I so often did, he was most astonished to see a workman digging a deep ditch just in front of the house, under pouring rain, and with hands and clothes covered with mud.

Murshid walked toward the workman and gently took off his hat to him; and then, while shaking hands, Murshid said, “Bonjour, Monsieur.”  But obviously the poor workman was absolutely spellbound at the thought of being greeted by the ‘King’ [as the neighbourhood of Sureness took Murshid Inayat Khan to be] in such a most friendly way, and he stood there for a while, completely panic-struck, till Murshid walked a few steps away down the road, where some mureeds were waiting, and had seen what had happened.

Surprisingly enough, instead of showing their feelings of understanding for the precious example of sympathy, kindness and humility which Murshid had so beautifully illustrated, those who had just seen Murshid’s friendly approach, said to him as he came toward them, “But Murshid, you just can’t do that here in the West.  Don’t you know that you are not supposed to shake hands with a workman?”

Murshid became of course very sad, and with deep emotion in his voice, he just only said to them, “Are we not all children of one and the same Father?” After which, all walked away in silence.

Many years later, while I was walking up that same road, an elderly man came running behind me, all out of breath, asking, “Who was that King who lived in the large house just there, up the road?” And while pointing to the house, he told me that years and years ago, he had been digging in a ditch; when suddenly the King came out of the gate, and, “Although he had never seen me, he shook hands with so very much compassion, while also lifting even his hat in a most noble way. And,” he added, “although I am just a workman, and have never learned to read or write, nor did I ever believe in God, yet at that moment I really felt as though Heaven was being offered to me by the grace of that kind King. There were flashes of light in his eyes, which I still always see so clearly ever since, even after so many years.  The mysterious magic which that King performed on me that day has protected me during my whole life, and has given me the strength and the courage to endure all the cruel hardships in this world; but more than anything else, those moments have been the happiest that I have experienced.”

Then, with tears in his eyes, he asked me, “Who was that King? Do you perhaps know who he was and where he is?”

“Yes,” I said,, “he certainly was a King; perhaps a heavenly King, and now, from out of Heaven he constantly sends us sparks of heavenly light, shining as flashes of blessings, always present in our hearts, whenever we open our hearts to his loving guidance.”

Then I told him that I was the little boy who was holding my Father’s hand while we came out of the gate together; and I retold him the whole story with all the details which he himself had experienced; after which we both fell in each other’s arms with tears rolling down our cheeks.

8 Replies to “The Hand of the Workman”

  1. Huma

    Happy Birthday and blessings to Murshid Hidayat! I had the great priviledge to meet him in Holland at summer school.The impression he made on me has never left me ever since and as a seed in fertile ground sprouts when tha rain falls so the impression of such a personality like Murshid Hidayat continue to grow inside me : a real blessing. As this chain of pearls continues through you beloved Murshid Nawab, i thank you from the depth of my heart for carrying on the torch of light as your mureed,and on this day we shall celebrate this great priviledge: to have met with living examples of the Message.I hope to do the best I can to continue the work , making the message a reality within me ,in my everyday life ,the best i can as an act of gratitude and a responsibility towards this sacred gift .Love and blessings !

  2. Walia Esperanza Holguin

    Gracias Md. Nawab, por tan bella anecdota.
    Murshid Hidayat, el hijo de un gran Rey, cumple hoy sus 99 años, bendiciones con amor y gratitud en su celebración. Siempre en mi corazón la tierna y picara sonrisa de Murshid Hidayat y su fraternal abrazo, cuando le conocí en el Murad Hassil.
    Al dejar oficialmente su cargo como Corepresentante del Movimiento Sufí, solo amor y gratitud siento por su entrega de amor, armonía y sabiduría.

  3. Zubin Shore

    Congratulations Murshid Hidayat, for sharing stories of your family, showing us the way to live the Sufi Message, inspiring us during your visits to Australia in the early 90s, and through many decades of loving correspondence, challenges, encouragement and music. Alhumdulillah!

  4. Bhakti Parkhurst

    When we first met Murshid Hidayat and Aziza, we were invited to a concert given in their honour. When we arrived at the concert, one of the organisers told us that it was a private concert and suggested that we wouldn’t have been on the invitation list. We moved to the back of the hall and tried to look inconspicuous. When the guests of honour entered (Murshid and Aziza) they espied us at the back and immediately said, ‘What are you doing sitting down here? Come down and sit with us.’ We were so deeply touched and continue to be touched by that consideration and love, which is a hallmark of both true democracy of spirit and true nobility of spirit. The words ‘we fell into each other’s arms’ so much conveys that openness of heart, which is characteristic of them both. The title too – the Hand of the Workman is very appropriate. Murshid Hidayat has toiled tirelessly for the Message. Thank you Nawab for sharing the story and for also accepting your new task. May the Message of Love, Harmony and Beauty spread far and wide.

  5. Azim Smith

    Congratulations and Best Wishes to our Pir – O Murshid Hidayat.
    At Summer School in Holland a few years ago , some Australian mureeds had a group interview with Murshid..
    A question arose ‘What is Spiritual progress ?’
    ‘My Father used to say that the first sign of spiritual progress is politeness ‘ answered Murshid.
    The beautiful simplicity of this message and the manner in which it was spoken left a deep impression.
    Similar feelings are evoked by the story of ‘The hand of the Workman ‘
    Thank you , Nawab
    With Gratitude
    Azim Smith

  6. Nur al-Alam

    Thank you, Nawab, my dear and loving Murshid, for posting this great story. I read it and heard it few times in the past, but I read it again this morning. It brought lots of tears in my eyes.

    This is the story you told us in the retreat in 2013 in Melbourne, Australia when I asked you about our Great Musrhid Hazrat Inayat Khan. My question was that yes, heard lots of his teachings, but do you have any living example of him, where we can see how much he lived by his own teachings. Then you told us about this story. It brought me into tears then, and I did not waste any more time, but asked Nuria to arrange my initiation with Nawab. Since then I never looked back. I feel Murshid Inayat Khan’s presence, whenever I called him. Even on that night of initiation, I heard his voice. He told me about the guide of Ibn Arabi, who couldn’t read. He told me, “It’s not the guide who guides you. Its God Himself and His Rasul, i.e. the Spirit of Guidance, guides you”.

    Many thanks again for reminding us about living on the Path by example.


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