Wazifa (Universal Sufism)

Universal Sufism

Universal Sufism is a spiritual and universalist movement founded by Hazrat Inayat Khan in the early 20th century. The philosophy of Universal Sufism is based on unity of all people and religions, and the presence of spiritual guidance in all people, places and things.

Universal Sufism is one of the forms of Sufism that has its root in, but does not exist within the traditional framework of Islam. Universal Sufism is characterised by its respect for other devotional traditions and for spiritual liberty. Universal Sufis come from all the major religions and often continue to practice their original root religion concurrently with Universal Sufism.

Universal Sufism is sometimes alternatively named the "Chishtiya Inayati" Order in honour of its origins in the Chishti Sufi Order.

Faith symbol

The symbol of Universal Sufism is the Tughra Inayati or the "Winged Heart".

Sufi orders frequently have a tughra (an Arabic word meaning finely ornamented writing), which is emblematic calligraphy formed using the name of the founding patron saint of the order, often in a unique shape related to the traditions of that order. The dervish Hafizullah created this beautiful winged-heart calligraphy in honor of Inayat Khan. The winged heart is an old Sufi symbol, and was chosen by Inayat Khan as the seal of the 'Sufi Order of the West' at its founding in 1910. The original rendering of this winged heart calligraphy was presented to Vilayat Inayat Khan on the occasion of his 73rd birthday.

The Arabic script of the wings (in mirror image of each other) reads: "Ya Hazrati Inayat", with ya meaning "O" (an invocation, an invitation), and hazrati meaning "presence; a respectful title similar to your majesty". It may also be interesting to note that the word 'Inayat means "guarding, preserving, taking care of; concern, care; a gift, a present".

The Arabic script of the heart reads: "qaddasa Allahu sirrahu", which is a traditional phrase used when mentioning the name of a deceased Sufi saint. The word qaddas means: "sanctify, hallow, glorify, venerate, revere". The word sirr means: "secret, mystery, something concealed; secret thought, innermost thought", or, as the masterful lexicon of E. W. Lane says, "private knowledge; something inserted in the interior; a pleasure, or delight, and dilation of the heart, of which there is no external sign". The Sufis often use the word sirr to describe the divine wonder discovered in the depths of the un-veiled heart.

The phrase exoterically mean "may Allah sanctify his secret" or esoterically "may his message spread", or "whose inner thought Allah made holy", or "whose heart Allah has made pure".

The shape of the tughra symbolises that the heart desires heaven. The crescent in the heart suggests the responsiveness and potential of the heart. The crescent represents the responsiveness of the crescent moon to the light of the sun, for naturally it receives the light and develops into a full moon. The explanation of the five-pointed star is that it represents the divine light. For when the light comes, it has five points. It is the divine light which is represented by the five-pointed star, and the star is reflected in the heart which is responsive to the divine light. The heart which by its response has received the divine light is liberated, as the wings show. In brief, the meaning of the symbol is that the heart responsive to the light of God is liberated.


Hazrat Inayat Khan is the founder of Universal Sufism, which he established while traveling throughout the West between 1910 and 1926. His eldest son Vilayat Khan, second son Hidayat Khan, and grandsons, Fazal Inayat-Khan, and Zia Khan are commonly regarded as his successors. Hazrat Inayat Khan was originally a member of the Chishti Sufi order, and some Universal Sufis still trace their Silsila (lineage) to the Chishti order.

Orders and leadership

Hazrat Inayat Khan died in 1927. Leadership of the Sufi Movement he had founded first passed to his brother, Shaikh-ul-Mashaikh Maheboob Khan; in 1948 to his cousin, Pir-o-Murshid Ali Khan; in 1956 to his youngest brother, Pir-o-Murshid Musharaff Khan; and in 1968 to his grandson, Pir-o-Murshid Fazal Inayat-Khan.

In the 1980s Murshid Fazal proposed a bifurcation between Sufi Movement and the Sufi Way, which became a specific branch of Inayat Khan’s lineage founded by Murshid Fazal in 1985. For an in-depth description of this history written by Murshid Fazal – read “Western Sufism: The Sufi Movement, The Sufi Order International, and The Sufi Way” )

Following the death in 1990 of Murshid Fazal, he was succeeded by the first woman leader of the tariqah (path), Pirani Sitara Brutnell. She died in 2004, naming Pir Elias Amidon as her successor.

In 1988 Hidayat Khan assumed the role of Representative General of the International Sufi Movement, and Pir of its spiritual school.

At various times during the 20th century there were other disputes among Inayat Khan’s mureeds about who should most rightfully be the next leader of the Sufi Movement. Inayat Khan’s eldest son, Vilayat Inayat Khan, contended for many years that it was his right, culminating in his establishing his own order, the Sufi Order International. His son Zia Inayat-Khan assumed the role of leader of the Sufi Order International on 5 February 2000 following his father's death.

An American mureed of Hazrat Inayat Khan’s, Samuel Lewis, rose to prominence in the late 1960’s. A fellow mureed and protector of Hazrat Inayat Khan's designated spiritual successor, Murshida Rabia Martin, Samuel Lewis served as a Murshid in the lineage of Inayat Khan. In this role he organized the Sufi Islamia Ruhaniat Society (often referred to as S.I.R.S.), later renamed the Sufi Ruhaniat International. The Sufi Order International and Sufi Ruhaniat International recognize a distinct line of spiritual transmission from Hazrat Inayat Khan through Murshid Sufi Ahmed Murad Chishti (Sam Lewis).

The richness and variety of teachings within the western Sufi tradition inspired by Inayat Khan is a sign of its vitality.


The word Sufi, according to Greek and Arabic etymologies, means 'wisdom' for the one, and 'purity' for the other. However both concepts clearly suggest one and the same Truth. Wisdom is only there when the mind is purified of preconceived ideas, the burdens of dogma and an unrestful conscience. As to the origins of Sufism, one could say that it is also just as ancient as the concepts of wisdom and purity, which have always been the inspiration of devotional worship all down the ages. In reality, Sufism is the essence of all religious ideals and has even been appropriated during different periods of history by large cultural and religious streams, without ever losing its own universal identity.


Hazrat Inayat Khan set forth three goals that he hoped Universal Sufis would strive to achieve. These are as follows:

  • To realize and spread the knowledge of Unity, the religion of Love, and Wisdom, so that the biases and prejudices of faiths and beliefs may, of themselves, fall away, the human heart overflow with love, and all hatred caused by distinctions and differences be rooted out.
  • To discover the light and power latent in Humanity, the secret of all Religion, the power of Mysticism, and the essence of Philosophy, without interfering with customs and beliefs.
  • To help to bring the world's two opposite poles, East and West, close together by the interchange of thought and ideals; that the Universal Family may form of itself, and people meet with people beyond the narrow national and racial boundaries.


  • Universal Sufis believe in Wahdat-ul-Wujood or Panentheism.
  • Universal Sufis believe in esotericism, that everything has a hidden or "batini" reality complimented by an apparent or "zahiri" reality.
  • God is also understood as Universal Intelligence. The common Sufi term is Aql-i Kulli (العقل الكلي) .
  • Hazrat Inayat Khan termed God as Nur-Zahoor (light made manifest), he said that this universe is nothing but a manifestation of the divine.
  • The Universal Intelligence manifests in the human consciousness as the Spirit of guidance, which is equated with the "Word of God, the Logos." Through meditation one can listen to this.
  • Prophetic continuity: 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.
  • Universal Sufis believe in an essential unity of the great religions of the world. However, this does not mean they believe the various religious creeds and doctrines are identical. Rather, they view all religions as having sprung from the same spiritual source. The social and outer forms of different religions vary due to the circumstances at the time that they were founded. Other differences in doctrine and belief can be attributed to later accretions, after the death of the founder.
  • Universal Sufism is a Universalist faith, as it believes that everyone will eventually be "saved" or achieve union with God.
  • The Coming World Religion - There is no one religious belief which is true for all people at all times, attempting to create new religions is like saying "I wish to teach you new wisdom," Wisdom is simply Wisdom. The person who is conscious of honour, morality, sincerity, who is sympathetic and shows devotion is the one who is "religious." The future religion would be one in which people do not "believe" but live.
  • The Soul - Hazrat Inayat Khan stated that the Soul is the Universal Intelligence being "caught" by the mind and body, therefore Soul and Intellect are not two things, but One. He also likened the soul to a tree; the same essence that gives life to the trunk also animates the branches, the leaves and the seeds. The concept of the soul is similar to the Hindu term Atman.
  • Heaven and Hell - creations of the mind, Heaven being Nirvana - and thus peace, and Hell being ignorance. The Sufi practices teach one to realise oneself in this lifetime (this concept is linked to that of Sach Khand in Sikhism and Jeevan Moksha in Hinduism).
  • Differences Between Religions - The differences between religions and how they relate to different people at different times can be explained allegorically using a quote from Layla and Majnun:
    When someone said to Majnun, "Layla is not so beautiful as you think," he said "My Layla must be seen with my eyes, if you wish to see how beautiful Layla is, you must borrow my eyes."'
  • Karma - Inayat Khan did not speak of the term Karma, but he did refer to it using the terms "Law of Reciprocity" (see Creedal Statement number 5). It can be explained thus:
    • Right and Wrong depend upon the attitude and situation, not upon the action itself. None are innate but we have the ultimate choice between them.
    • Our actions echo back to us in the same form. Therefore Reciprocity is likened to a dome. In order to have a good echo one emits good sound, and to have evil one gives evil.
    • Because we "Live, Move and Have Our Being in God" everything we do must be in awareness of this and therefore it is our duty to refresh the world and help to rid it of negative action and rebound. This is why it is said that humans have free-will. If we blame God for the evil in the world, and say that he is responsible, in truth it is us who are responsible because through us God has his experience, through us God's will is done.
    • Hazrat Inayat Khan said "If you wish to be happy, think of the happiness of your fellow human being"
  • Ignorance - The state of the mind when it is in darkness. When mental vibrations flow into the astral plane, without conscious direction, it is called imagination; when they do so under conscious direction, it is called thought. When the imagination is experienced during sleep it is called a dream.

Spirit of Guidance

The Holy Spirit is referred to in terms of the Spirit of Guidance. This spirit is particularly manifest in the prophets of the world's religions as well as being manifest in all beings. This belief has parallels in Quakerism (That of God in everyone, and the Inner Light) and the concept of Buddha Nature.

In the Hadiths the Islamic prophet Muhammad stated that believers should 'Seek knowledge even unto China,' and this is specifically followed by Universal Sufis who do not limit there source of spiritual knowledge to one particular area or tradition.

Therefore most historical figures, including both founders of great world religions as well as secular individuals, are considered to be important teachers, worthy of respect. Zia Inayat-Khan, the Pir of the Sufi Order International was, during his training, a student of the Dalai Lama as well as an initiate in the Chishti Sufi order.


As Universal Sufism has a large Islamic influence, it is necessary to clarify its position on Muhammad, the prophet of Islam.

The historical Muhammad is seen as a person. However, the inner light or Noor and the Spirit of Guidance which is present in all beings is viewed as the essence of all prophets and divine beings. Therefore he is considered as being of the same status as all other prophets, past and present. To quote from the writings of Hazrat Inayat Khan,

Hazrat Ali said, 'The secret of God can be studied in His nature.' Every traveller on foot as a rule lights his torch at the approach of night. So also this heavenly traveller. Seeing darkness overwhelming Him in the lower spheres on His path, He lights a torch. It is the light of this torch, which is called in the Qur'an, Noor Muhammadi, that has guided Him to the surface, whence He could clearly discern and find His path back. To the knower's eye, this Nur, this light, is the real Mohammed. This light it is which has beamed forth through all the Masters of humanity and is known as the Light of Guidance. It is the nature of every luminous object to shed light all around, and yet a particular beam of light coming forth from it gives more illumination than light spread all around. This may be seen in the light of the sun. The souls which happen to be in the zone of that beam of the Light of Guidance, whether by intention or accident, have been known to the world as the chosen ones of God. They saw God sooner, they heard Him more quickly than others, they have been nearer to Him than others. They may be called the elect of God as it is said in the Song to the Soul of the Saint:

Before the righteous soul, Servant of God, even the angels bend; His lotus feet the long-desired goal Where weary pilgrims find their journeys end In pardon for their sin. Thus, as the saint God comes, and man is healed, And fortunate that happy one, within Whose heart the mystic vision is revealed.


Hazrat Inayat Khan set forth ten thoughts, which form the basic creed of Universal Sufism:

  • There is one God the Eternal, the Only Being, None exists save God
  • There is one Master the Guiding Spirit of all souls, who constantly leads all followers toward the Light
  • There is one Holy Book the Sacred Manuscript of Nature, the only Scripture that can enlighten the reader
  • There is one Religion the unswerving progress in the right direction, toward the Ideal, which fulfills the life's purpose of every soul
  • There is one Law the Law of Reciprocity, which can be observed by a selfless conscience together with a sense of awakened justice
  • There is one Family, the Human Family, which unites the Children of Earth indiscriminately in the Parenthood of God
  • There is one Moral Principle the Love which springs forth from a willing heart, surrendered in service to God and Humanity, and which blooms in deeds of beneficence
  • There is one Object of Praise, the Beauty which uplifts the heart of its worshipper through all aspects, from the seen to the unseen
  • There is one Truth the true knowledge of our being, within and without, which is the essence of Wisdom
  • There is one Path the effacement of the limited self in the Unlimited, which raises the mortal to immortality, in which resides all Perfection


  • A Universal Sufi initiate has an association with a spiritual teacher, or guide , who prescribes individual spiritual practices for the intiate. From time to time, the Pir (head of the Order) may prescribe practices for the Mureed (students) to do as well.
  • There are Universal Sufi centers throughout America and other parts of the world, with Center Representatives who provide classes and group practices. These are often open to the public, not just initiates.
  • The clergy are called Cherags, 'Cherag' means Light Bearer in Persian, and it is their function to help initiates to move towards enlightenment.
  • A Seraj is appointed to oversee the training of and to ordain Cherags.
  • The Universal Worship Service honors the world's spiritual traditions with readings from the holy books of different religions. Cherags take a class in learning about the different religions and the spiritual essence of these traditions.
  • Universal Sufis who have joined a movement are grouped into three different orders, some of whose leaders are the children or grandchildren of Hazrat Inayat Khan.
  • The Federation of the Sufi Message, an association formed in 1997 is a non-hierarchical umbrella organization of Sufi Orders united in their devotion to the spiritual lineage of Hazrat Inayat Khan and the Sufi Message. It includes: The Sufi Order International, The International Sufi Movement, The Sufi Ruhaniat International, and smaller organizations such as Sufism Reoriented and the Sufi Way.
  • There are also various groups who do not adhere to any particular order, but who are dedicated to the teachings of Hazrat Inayat Khan, these often meet together but are not affiliated to any organised form of Universal Sufism.
  • Sufi Order teachers undergo a rigorous and lengthy training and mentoring before being authorized to teach by the Pir, and ongoing training and supervision is a mandatory part of the function of a teacher in this Order.
  • “Representatives and Guides” are authorized to initiate into the Order, give classes, and to give and guide the spiritual practices of initiates.
  • “Coordinators” give classes and perform other honored and valued service in the activities of the Order. Coordinators are teachers-in-training but are not authorized to give spiritual practices or initiations.
  • A “Retreat Guide” is someone specially-trained in guiding the process and practices of individual and/or group Sufi spiritual retreat.
  • “Healing Conductors” are ordained and empowered to conduct a Healing Circle in which they offer prayers for those who have requested healing.

Sufi Initiates, and also those as yet just exploring the Path, are encouraged to connect with an authorized teacher to receive individualized guidance and instruction in the teachings and practices of the Order.

Universal Sufi Silsila

Universal Sufism has its own Silsila as do all Sufi orders.


Some of Inayat Khan's most famous sayings are:

  • "Shatter your ideals on the rock of Truth."
  • "There is nothing valuable except what we value in life."
  • "In a small affair or in a big affair, first consult yourself and find out if there is any conflict in your own being about anything you want to do. And when you find no conflict there, then feel sure that a path is already made for you. You have but to open your eyes and take a step forward, and the other step will be led by God."
  • "The difference between the divine and the human will is like the difference between the trunk of a tree and its branches. As from the boughs other twigs and branches spring, so the will of one powerful individual has branches going through the will of other individuals. So there are the powerful beings, the masters of humanity. Their will is God's will, their word is God's word, and yet they are branches, because the trunk is the will of the Almighty. Whether the branch be large or small, every branch has the same origin and the same root as the stem."
  • "The more one studies the harmony of music, and then studies human nature, how people agree and how they disagree, how there is attraction and repulsion, the more one will see that it is all music."
  • "Reason is the illusion of reality."

Common practices

The religious life of a Universal Sufi values the worth of one's family culture and no conversion is required to become a Universal Sufi, merely a dedication to its teachings.

Upon initiation, members do not consume drugs and are expected to lead a healthy life and keep a healthy diet, although drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco are matters of the individual Sufi's personal choice.

  • Prayer - Universal sufis can pray at any time, in any state, place, aloud or silent, communally or privately and there is no set prayer. The Confraternity Prayers are normally read daily at sunrise, midday and sunset.
  • Universal Worship - Interfaith prayer and meditation service.
  • Zikr - Remembrance of the spiritual in daily life.
  • Wazifa - Evocation of qualities of the divine.
  • Muraqaba - Sufi Meditation.
  • Dances of Universal Peace - Spiritual dance.
  • Ryazat - Universal Sufi mindfulness of breath technique.
  • Attunement - Meditation on beings of a highly development spirituality.
  • Ziraat - Initiatic meditation tool using the symbolism of agriculture.
  • Fasting - There is no set period of fasting, but the act of fasting is utilised as a spiritual tool.

Dress code

There are no mandates governing specific dress code. One is free to use one's own intellect and moral judgment concerning dress.

Dietary requirements

Regarding which foods to eat or not, as with all things, Universal Sufi teachings enable the individual to choose for themselves using their own intellect.


Universal Sufism maintains a policy of political non-involvement which is codified in its constitution.

Hazrat Inayat Khan considered this necessary and not simply a legality.

Pir Zia Inayat-Khan stated that this policy should not discourage Universal Sufis from acting on their convictions, but that as an entity the Universal Sufi orders are apolitical.

Universal Sufism encourages one to pray for peace (Hazrat Inayat Khan's "Prayer for Peace being particularly useful), meditate upon the Divine Peace using the Wazifa "Ya Salaam", courageously and compassionately confront and transform the sources of fear and hostility within oneself, embody peace (which, of course, is not the same as laxity) in all of relationships, and reflect the essential unity of the human family in all of dealings.


Initiation on a spiritual path signifies one's desire to undergo a spiritual training. Those who do not elect to make this formal commitment, however, are fully welcome to participate in the teachings and programs offered by the Universal Sufi Orders. Those who choose to mark their commitment by initiation are known as mureeds (students).

Initiation only means a step forward, a step which should be taken with hope and courage, for without courage and hope it would be most difficult to take any forward step. - Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan

Initiation into a Universal Sufi order demonstrates one's sincerity in entering the Sufi path, strengthens one's powers to do so, and confers a blessing upon the pupil which enables progress. This initiation is the linking of the individual Sufi student with the chain of masters and teachers stretching back through the ages. The link so formed is of lifetime duration and forges a solemn bond, similar to the practice of baptism.

One may be initiated into a Universal Sufi Order by one of its Representatives. Those interested in initiation are encouraged to select a Representative with whom they feel a deep trust and respect, for those qualities are necessary to facilitate the training offered. The Initiate receives spiritual practices from her/his initiator which are designed to promote spiritual realization, facilitate the unfoldment of his/her being and assist in meeting life's challenges and demands. The practices are not compulsory, but are given as a gift.

An initiate in a Universal Sufi order is called a Mureed. A 'mureed' is welcome to be initiated into or to participate in other traditions, however, it is advised that a student receive his/her daily practices from only one guide and consult their Universal Sufi guide about practices he/she is doing from other Orders or traditions. The intention is to safeguard the well being of the student, so he/she is not confused by mixing practices that may not be complementary.


A Universal Sufi Temple functions in much the same way as a Bahá'í House of Worship.

There are two currently in use:


For Universal Sufis all days are holy, and the local culture and personal taste determines which festivals are celebrated at home. Universal Sufis communally celebrate several festivals:

  • February 5th: Urs of Hazrat Inayat Khan.
  • July 5th: Viladat Day, Hazrat Inayat Khan's birthday.
  • 13 September: Hejirat Day, the date Hazrat Inayat Khan left his native India to bring Sufism to the West.

Members of the Sufi Order International also mark:

  • June 17th: Urs of Vilayat Inayat Khan.

Sacred texts

Universal Sufis accept as sacred all the world scriptures, seeing them as steps that guide toward the Ocean of Being. The scriptures are read in the Universal Worship Service, with accompanying meditations. The scriptures of the world religions are not viewed as directly the "word of God" but are seen as "inspired" by the Spirit of Guidance.

Universal Sufis do have several volumes, written by Inayat Khan, which are used in services, the Universal Sufi Prayers are drawn from them, and they are used in personal reflection. They include: (books within volumes listed below volume titles in bullets)


  • The Way of Illumination
  • The Inner Life
  • The Soul Whence and Whither?
  • The Purpose of Life


  • Music
  • Aphorisms
  • The Mysticism of Sound
  • Cosmic Language
  • The Power of the Word


  • Education
  • Life's Creative Forces: Rasa Shastra
  • Character and Personality
  • Moral Culture


  • Health
  • Healing
  • Mental Purification
  • The Mind World


  • A Sufi Message of Spiritual Liberty
  • Aquibat, Life After Death
  • Love, Human and Divine
  • Pearls from the Ocean Unseen
  • Metaphysics




  • Healing and Order of Body and Mind
  • The Privilege of Being Human


  • Religion
  • The Spiritual Hierarchy
  • Prophets and Religions
  • The Message and the Messenger
  • The Sufi Movement


  • Sufi Mysticism
  • The Path of Initiation and Discipleship
  • Sufi Poetry
  • Art: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
  • The Problem of the Day


  • Philosophy
  • Psychology
  • Mysticism in Life


  • The Vision of God and Man
  • Confessions: Autobiographical Essays of Hazat Inayat Khan




  • Gayan
  • Vadan
  • Nirtan
  • Aphorisms
  • Bowl of Saki

Quote from magazine

Universal Sufism is described in an article in the magazine Rays from the Rose Cross, in November 1917, entitled The Sufi Mystics. The author introduces this article by saying that the reports of those who have studied them [the Sufis] all laud their transcendent spirituality. "They are not Rosicrucian, but they have Wisdom, for all that", and he states the reader will undoubtedly profit from reading about these wise men. He adds: There is a striking analogy between the Sufis in their relation to Mohammedanism and the medieval Alchemists in their relation to the then dominant church. Both Sufis and the Alchemists had the leaven of truth and both were forced to hide it under symbols and signs.




  • Universal Sufism, H.J. Witteveen ISBN 1-86204-093-1, Element Books Ltd (September 1997)
  • Biography of Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan, East-West Publications, 1979
  • A Pearl in Wine: Essays on the Life, Music and Sufism of Hazrat Inayat Khan, Omega, 2001
  • http://wahiduddin.net/hik/hik_origins.htm, a brief biography of Hazrat Inayat Khan
  • The Mysticism of Sound and Music, Hazrat Inayat Khan, Shambhala Dragon Editions. ISBN 1-57062-231-0, Revised September 3, 1996
  • Wisdom of Sufism - Sacred Readings from the Gathas, Hazrat Inayat Khan, Houghton Mifflin (P); Revised edition, ISBN 1-86204-700-6, May 2000
  • http://www.iis.ac.uk/glossary_list.asp?f=a&t=c&l=en
  • Murshid Samuel Lewis's' commentaries on the Gathas: Pasi Anfas Series
  • Biography of Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan, p.221-222. Online reference found at: The Sufi Message of Hazrat Inayat Khan: Part III - Journal and Anecdotes
  • Carl Ernst and Bruce Lawrence, Sufi Martyrs of Love, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002, p.142. ISBN 1-4039-6027-5.

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