Zia Inayat Khan
Zia Inayat Khan (Urdu: ضياء عنایت خان ) (often referred to as Pir Zia) is the Pir or spiritual leader of the Sufi Order International, a universalist Sufi order, and the founder of the Suluk Academy and Seven Pillars House of Wisdom.
Khan is the son and successor to Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan as leader of the Sufi Order International, and grandson of Hazrat Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan, the founder of the order. Like his predecessors, he carries forward the message of universal Sufism, with a particular sensitivity to both contemporary ecological concerns as well as the esoteric heritage of classical Indian Sufism.
In addition to the interfaith mystical training he has received from his father, Khan has studied Buddhism under the auspices of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and Sufism in the classical Indian tradition of the Chisti Order. Khan is editor of A Pearl in Wine: Essays on the Life, Music, and Sufism of Hazrat Inayat Khan (Omega Publications, 2001). He holds a doctorate in Religion from Duke University.
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Continuing in the tradition of his father and grandfather, Khan offers seminars and trainings across North America, Europe, and India, as well as in a newly established school of esoteric studies, the Suluk Academy. Khan’s teaching is characterized by the sober and masterful transmission of transformative theosophy; it is profoundly attuned to the post-denominational "new dispensation" of universal Sufism in our time as articulated by Hazrat Inayat Khan.
Planetary Prophetology and Interreligious Reconciliation
Following in the tradition of Sufi masters such as Ibn al-Arabi, Shihabuddin Suhrawardi, Dara Shikoh, the Indian Emperor Akbar, and Hazrat Inayat Khan, Khan upholds the idea of prophetic continuity, i.e. the idea that a single and universal force of divine guidance manifests throughout particular prophetic instantiations in time, space, and culture. While according full respect to the particularities and distinctions of different religions and revelations, this view also holds that all religions and revelations epiphanize the universal, perennial, and ongoing disclosure of the Divine. Khan affirms, however, that prophetic continuity and unity does not equal uniformity. The myriad manifestations of revelation in its distinctions and differences are an inherent and thus sacred expression of the whole. In his 2007 webcast, Khan explains this using the metaphor of DNA:
No religion serves the function of another, and yet, religions are not essentially different, although they are differentiated in function... [O]rgans are made of tissues, tissues of cells, and cells contain DNA, and every cell contains the DNA of the whole body -- so every organ contains in itself the total truth without anything absent. It is all fully present in each part, and yet that total truth is modulated, is customized by the cell so that each cell can contribute to the working of the whole, a whole that is not inorganic and homogeneous but is organic and differentiated, and so each cell needs to customize its divine dispensation to work cooperatively within the field of the whole, to contribute its part to the divine wisdom... This is a brilliant model for understanding the relationships of the divinely revealed religions, and the real possibility of imagining, conceiving, and making real the total religion that is the summation of all dispensations.
In this view prophetic revelation is a birthright shared by all humanity, and as such offers a source for genuine interreligious reconciliation. While remaining firmly within one’s own cultural and religious location, one can behold with full respect the Divine guidance as revealed in other traditions. Extending beyond interfaith dialogue, planetary prophetology supports the late Wayne Teasdale’s concept of interspirituality, that is, the active, shared practice amongst followers of different religions. In this regard, Khan has hosted and participated in a number of “interspiritual” and Abrahamic gatherings, in addition to conferences of different Sufi masters.
According to Khan, the mystical and esoteric currents of the worlds’ religions in particular support this interpretation of universal Divine guidance, and play a critical role in the emergence of a new planetary consciousness. Mystical traditions, in their acknowledgement of a universal and ongoing force of divine guidance and revelation, provide the transformative foundations for a positive global civilization characterized by interreligious reconciliation.
Spiritual Response to Ecological Crisis & Green Hermeticism
Khan has stated that a unique and compelling factor in contemporary mysticism is the current ecological crisis, which is a spiritual crisis as well as environmental, social, etc. Therefore, a spiritual response is warranted, and much of Khan’s teaching focuses on acknowledging the intelligence and sacredness of the natural environment, as well as achieving states of prayerful communion therewith. For example, in his The Holy Mysteries of the Five Elements Khan draws from the purification practices of the Chishti tradition to emphasize how embodied spiritual practice brings one into direct contact with the five elements (earth, water, fire, air, ether), and in seminars offers practices in the contemplation of the natural world.
Mazhab-e Ishq & the Chishti heritage
While wholeheartedly affirming the universalist message of Hazrat Inayat Khan, Khan has also made efforts in reconnecting to an Islamic heritage, especially the classical tradition of Mazhab-e Ishq, the “Path of Love” in Sufism attributed to figures like Bayazid Bistami, Jelaluddin Rumi, Ayn al-Quzat Hamadani, as well as such theosophical masters as Ibn al-Arabi and Shihabuddin Suhrawardi. Khan lifts up this Sufi tradition as a post-denominational, mystical alternative to the extremes of religious fundamentalism and secular materialism, and a viable contemporary path of personal transformation.
Focussing also on the specific Chishti contributions to the Mazhab-e Ishq, Khan has also cultivated a profound intimacy with classical Chishti manuals of Sufism, and reinvigorated interest in the Chishti silsila (or chain of transmission) amongst his mureeds (Persian for ‘students’). Khan has delivered a series of lectures on the subject, as well as published a small handbook about the figures of the silsila based on research in Arabic and Indo-Persian sources.
Training and Initiatic Transmission
Khan was trained in the universal mysticism of his father, Vilayat Khan, as well as the classical Sufi teachings of the Chishtiyya order. In his youth he also studied Buddhism under the auspices of His Holiness the Dalai Lama while living in Dharamsala, India.
Khan was invested with spiritual authority by his father and Pir, Vilayat Khan, in the year 2000, making him a Pir in the lineage of Hazrat Inayat Khan. This lineage includes transmission from four major Sufi orders of India, but the primary transmission is through the Chishti-Nizami silsila. (Chishti-Nizami refers to a branch of the Chishti order, founded in the 13th century C.E. by Moinuddin Chishti. Silsila, or chain, refers to the chain of transmission of baraka, the spiritual power and blessing of a Sufi order.) Khan is the thirty-ninth human link in this chain of transmission.
Education and Publications
He has published a number of instructional materials through Omega Publications and the Sufi Order International, as well as editing A Pearl in Wine, a book of essays about Hazrat Inayat Khan. He has written prefaces for the 1994 reprint of Henry Corbin’s The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism and the 1996 reprint of Gelpke’s translation of The Story of Layla and Majnun; an article entitled "Illuminative Presence" in Hart, Nelson, & Puhakka (Eds.) 2001 volume Transpersonal Knowing; and edits the biannual magazine Elixir. He has also translated several unpublished Indo-Persian Chishti poems and texts used in seminars and classes.
- "Illuminative Presence", in Transpersonal Knowing, Exploring the Horizon of Consciousness, Hart, Nelson, & Puhakka (Eds.), State University of New York Press, Albany, NY: 2000.
- A Pearl in Wine, Essays on the Life, Music, and Sufism of Hazrat Inayat Khan, Omega Publications, New Lebanon, NY: 2001.
- The Chishti Silsila of Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan, Sufi Order International, New Lebanon, NY: 2001.
- The Holy Mysteries of the Five Elements, an Eco-Sufi Vade Mecum, Sufi Order International, New Lebanon, NY: 2004.
- An idea often referred to as verus propheta in Christian esotericism.
- See webcast.
- See webcast
- See 2006 Sufi Conference
- Safi, Omid, "The Path of Love in Iran and India," in A Pearl in Wine... ed. Zia Inayat-Khan, Omega Publications, 2001.
- See audio webcast
- For example, the Wujud al-Ashekin of Gizu Daraz, and the Kashkul-i-Kalimi of Kalim Allah Jahanabadi
- Both are produced by the Sufi Order International.
- See Pir Zia's biography by the Sufi Order International.
- See the Sufi Order International's silsila.
- Omega Publications website
- Corbin, Henry, Man of Light in Iranian Sufism, Omega Publications, New Lebanon, NY: 1994.
- Nizami, The Story of Layla and Majnun, Omega Publications, New Lebanon, NY: 1994.