The Sufi Ruhaniat International is part of the Chisti Order of Sufism. Its Silsila calls back several hundreds of years. This page contains a brief introduction to the most recently influential spiritual leaders of our lineage.
Hazrat Inayat Khan, 1882-1927
Adapted from the article “Hazrat Inayat Khan” on ruhaniat.org. The full text can be read here.
Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan brought the Chisti lineage of Sufism to the West in the early 20th century. A lifelong mystic and trained Indian classical musician – famous for his captivating singing voice and mastery of the vina – he traveled to North America to cultivate spiritual harmony between East and West.
Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan was born in Baroda, India in 1882, into a family of musicians. “Music and mysticism,” he says, “were my heritage from both my paternal and maternal grandparents.”
Even as a child his interest in spirituality was as profound as his love for music, and he would often absent himself from meals to seek out dervishes, fakirs, sadhus and mystics.
In 1904 Inayat Khan took initiation in the Chisti Order, a Sufi school which finds its greatest inspiration in music. He studied with his murshid, Mohammed Abu Hashim Madani, for four years, calling this the most beautiful time of his life. Before passing away, Abu Hashim Madani placed his hands upon Inayat’s head in blessing and said, “Fare forth into the world, my child, and harmonize the East and West with the harmony of thy music. Spread the wisdom of Sufism abroad, for to this end art thou gifted by God.”
On September 13, 1910 he sailed for America
At first, Inayat Khan was bewildered by the fast pace of the West, but, being a Sufi, he soon adjusted. He wanted to teach through music, but this was early in the century and the West had not yet developed the interest in Indian music it has today. However, in due time the way opened. He began lecturing at major American universities, and later traveled to England and other European countries. He married Ora Ray Baker, an American woman from New Mexico, and they had two daughters and two sons. The family settled in Suresnes, near Paris. Everywhere he traveled, he found people profoundly moved by his spiritual teachings, many of whom asked for initiation. He made it quite clear that he was not propagating a new religion, but was bringing the eternal Message of the essential divinity of humanity, a Message of spiritual liberty, free of separatism or dogma.
“The Sufi,” says Inayat Khan, “sees the truth in every religion.” If invited to offer prayers in a Christian church, the Sufi is ready to do so. The Sufi will go the synagogue and pray as the Jews do; will offer Salat with Muslims; and in the Hindu temple worships the same God. Yet the Sufi’s true temple, the true mosque, is the human heart, in which the divine Beloved lives. Sufism is a religion if one wants to learn religion from it; it is a philosophy if one wants to learn wisdom from it; it is mysticism if one wants to be guided by it in the unfoldment of the soul; and yet it is beyond all these things. It is the light of life which is the sustenance of every soul. It is the Message of Love, Harmony, and Beauty.
In 1926, his mission in the Western world fulfilled, Hazrat Inayat Khan returned to India. A fatal pneumonia caused the end of his earthly life and he passed away on February 5, 1927. His body was laid to rest near the Dargah Sharif of Hazrat Khwaja Nizam-ud-din Auliya in New Delhi.
Murshid Samuel L Lewis, Sufi Ahmed Murad Chishti, 1896-1971
Adapted from Murshid Wali Ali Meyer’s paper “Murshid Samuel L Lewis.” The full text is a rich and intimate history of his early life, read it here.
Murshid Samuel Lewis, Sufi Ahmed Murad Chisti, is a mystic and the founder of the Dances of Universal Peace. Throughout the course of his life he had many spiritual teachers – including Nyogen Senzaki, Ruth St. Dennis and Hazrat Inayat Khan. Many of his students and disciples have built the Ruhaniat into what we know today.
Samuel Leonard Lewis was born on October 18, 1896, to Jacob Lewis, a vice-president of the Levi Strauss Company, and Harriet Rothschild, of the international banking family.
This introverted and deeply studious young man, with his memories of previous lives and his mystical inclinations, graduated from San Francisco’s top high school, Lowell, with the highest grades in its history to that point. But his well-to-do family refused to send him to college. During the last few years of his life, he told his students on several occasions that it was his own family rejection which made him naturally sympathetic to the young people who came to him with similar problems. It was one of the ways God prepared him to be of help to others, he later came to believe.
Samuel’s study of religion took a much deeper turn in November of 1919 in the form of a chance meeting with Inayat Khan’s senior disciple Murshida Rabia Martin, and then later his formal entry into the study of Zen with Rinzai Zen master Nyogen Senzaki.
Then, in June of 1923, he had a vision of the arrival of Hazrat Inayat Khan and an experience of mystical mergence with him. The next day at noon, the summer solstice, he was summoned to meet the Pir-o-Murshid. Samuel walked into the room, only to see a tremendous light. “Come, don’t be afraid,” said the Murshid. He took initiation, and was loyal to his teacher through thick and thin for the rest of his life: “Inayat Khan was the first person to ever touch my heart.”
In 1956, Samuel made his first trip to Asia where he was recognized by spiritual teachers of all schools. After this, he took up many world projects. In 1961, he made his second trip abroad. He studied and taught Sufism in the East. Among other recognitions, he was made a Murshid in the Chisti Order of Sufis, the parent school of Hazrat Inayat Khan.
In 1966, he began to attract a few young disciples. The following year he landed flat on his back in the hospital where according to his repeated report, God came to him and appointed him “Spiritual Leader of the Hippies.” This was something he did not expect, but soon young people began to flock to his door.
In 1968, he joined forces with Pir Vilayat Khan, the eldest son of his first teacher, and there followed a great flowering of the Sufi work in the United States. Murshid Sufi Ahmed Murad Chisti, as Samuel is now known, appointed his own spiritual successor, Moineddin Jablonski, from among his disciples, and named several Sheikhs and Khalifs. In December 1970, a fall down the stairs of his San Francisco home gave him a brain concussion, and after two and a half weeks in the hospital he died on January 15, 1971. His work is carried on and spread by his energetic and devoted disciples.
“For years,” Samuel said about himself, “I followed a Gandhian attitude, always yielding, and got nothing for it. When once I was able to be firm and take the path of the master, everything came my way.” The events of the last years of Murshid Sam’s life were so full they deserve a chronicle all their own. This brief biographical sketch focuses on less-known periods of his early life. At the end, all the seeds of his earlier efforts and experiences came to fruition. Not knowing how to face all this abundance, he received the Divine instruction: “Harvest what you can, and leave the rest to Me.”
Pir Moineddin Jablonski, 1942-2001
Excerpted from ruhaniat.org. Read the full article here.
Pir Moineddin assumed leadership of the Ruhaniat in 1971 upon the death of Murshid Samuel Lewis, after the latter designated him as his spiritual successor. Continuing his teacher’s vision, Pir Moineddin oversaw the spread of the Sufi Message of Love, Harmony, and Beauty through spiritual practice, the Dances of Universal Peace, the Healing work, SoulWork counseling, and conscious community involvement. The Ruhaniat grew from some 150 people to a worldwide network of Sufi communities throughout forty-two states, the United Kingdom, Canada, Russia, Norway, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Japan, Kuwait, The Philippines, Brazil, Australia, and New Zealand.
During his tenure as spiritual director of the Ruhaniat, Moineddin met a number of challenges faced not only by the Ruhaniat but also by other spiritual organizations that came out of the 1960s and 70s. Read More …
Pir Shabda Kahn
Excerpted from ruhaniat.org. Read the full article here.
Shabda Kahn has been a disciple of Sufism since 1969. He is a direct disciple of Murshid Samuel L. Lewis (Sufi Ahmed Murad Chisti), and he worked closely with the great American mystic Joe Miller. Shabda is currently the Pir (spiritual director) of the Sufi Ruhaniat International and the director of the Chisti Sabri School of Music.
After living in community with Baba Ram Dass in the East Coast, Shabda met Murshid Sam and moved to San Francisco in 1969. In the fall of 1970, Shabda had the good fortune to travel with Murshid Sam for five weeks as his personal assistant on the East Coast, which helped deepen his relationship with his teacher and the Path. Read More …
Learn more about other influential people in the Ruhaniat Lineage.