Recently a question was posted about the term so central to the teaching of Hazrat Inayat Khan: the Message. Sometimes it is spoken of as ‘the Message of God,’ sometimes ‘the Message of Spiritual Liberty’ or of ‘Love, Harmony and Beauty’; sometimes it is the ‘the Sufi Message’—not because it belongs to the Sufis, but because Hazrat Inayat said it was the responsibility of the Sufis now to spread the Message to the world. But, to paraphrase the question, what exactly is the Message?
The simple word ‘message’ comes from a root meaning ‘something sent.’ Since very ancient times we have examples of this human behaviour of speaking across distances. Kings sent messages to far-flung outposts of their kingdoms, giving instructions to military commanders or demanding payment of tribute. With the establishment of postal services, letter-writing became an art knitting society together, an art sometimes practiced with great skill and delicacy. Modern technology has given the world a kind of message intoxication, with millions of messages flying through the air every moment, sometimes communications destined for someone sitting in the same room as the sender. We think we know what a ‘message’ is, but from a Sufi point of view, a ‘message’ is really a trinity composed of the sender, that which is sent, and the one who receives it.
Some messages appear to be straightforward and easily understood. Suppose, for example, a message appears upon one’s phone: ‘Thunder and lightning expected.’ One might conclude that rain is forecast and there is a need for one’s umbrella. But what if the message were sent from one’s friend who lives on another continent? In that case, perhaps it is the friend who needs the umbrella. Or what if it came from an acquaintance with a poetic turn of mind, and refers to some anticipated, difficult meeting? Knowing who sent the message, in other words, helps to reveal the meaning. To give another example, suppose that a package arrives, filled with things, some that we like and some that we don’t, but with no written note. We might say, ‘Why is there no message?” but of course the package itself is a message. If we know it comes from a loved one, we will see the package in one way; if it comes from someone we regard with suspicion, we will look at it differently. We cannot view a message as a freestanding set of words or thoughts; its meaning exists in the relationship between the one who sends it and the one who receives it. No doubt those who are familiar with some aspects of Sufi teaching will have already spotted the parallel thought, “God is love, lover and beloved;’ love, like the message, does not exist in isolation but is the arrow from the bow uniting the hunter and the hunted. (And in a beautiful symbol, the Indian God of Love fires arrows, just as the western Cupid does, but the arrows are tipped with flowers.)
Looking now at the ‘Message of God,’ we can see why it is impossible to sum it up in a few words; it will touch each person, and each aspect of life, in a different way. In the recent post, ‘What the Message Brings,’ Hazrat Inayat said, “It brings intuition to the world of science, harmony to the world of art, unity to the social world, and the divine in man to the world of religion.” The Divine Voice is speaking everywhere, in all circumstances, and, as Jesus said, ‘those who have ears will hear.’
How we hear that Voice, what we hear from it, will depend upon our understanding of the Sender, our relationship with that perfect Source. If our image of God is One who is distant, uncaring or critical, we may think either that there is no message at all, or that the message is probably berating us for our shortcomings (and like letters from a bill-collector, we may prefer to leave the messages unopened). If our image of the Real is of a parent Who created us out of unconditional love, we will feel the message in another way.
Therefore, it would not be accurate to say that the Sufis have the task of delivering the Message of God; it comes, as it always has and always will, by itself; but the need is to urge the world to listen, to reflect upon what God might want to say to each of us individually: to ask ourselves, “What does the Perfection of Love, Harmony and Beauty wish me to hear?”