Thy light hath illuminated the dark chambers of my mind; Thy love is rooted in the depths of my heart; Thine own eyes are the light of my soul; Thy power worketh behind my action; Thy peace alone is my life’s repose; Thy will is behind my every impulse; Thy voice is audible in the words I speak; Thine own image is my countenance. My body is but a cover over Thy soul; my life is Thy very breath, my Beloved, and my self is Thine own being. – Inayat Khan, Ragas
Urs (from Arabic: عرس, literally “wedding”) is the death anniversary of a Sufi saint in South Asia, usually held at the saint’s dargah (shrine or tomb). In most Sufi orders such as Chishtiyya, Qadiriyya, etc. the concept of Urs exists and is celebrated with enthusiasm. The devotees refer to their saints as lovers of God, the beloved. The death of a Sufi saint is regarded as visal (union with the beloved), and the death anniversary is celebrated as a wedding anniversary. – from Wikipedia
Those of us who have been following this Inayati Sufi path have been celebrating the Urs for as long as we have been initiates. Thus, it can no longer be said that the Urs of Hazrat Inayat Khan is primarily celebrated in South Asia, for now it has spread to wherever his followers come from, and is no longer always celebrated at his dargah, but wherever his students are.
As well, the Urs of other Sufi teachers are celebrated: The Urs of Moinuddin Chishti, for instance, attracts thousands of followers every year. The concept sounds a bit somber, doesn’t it? One remembers, however, that the death of a soul on earth is a coronation and a wedding in the heavens, if it is so wished. Inayat Khan said that the soul creates its own afterlife:
The afterlife is like a gramophone; man’s mind brings the records; if they are harsh the instrument produces harsh notes, if beautiful then it will sing beautiful songs. It will produce the same records that man has experienced in this life. – Hazrat Inayat Khan
If one dies in a state of fear, then that will be creative of one’s afterlife. If one dies in a state of divine love, so be it. Perhaps this is why the Urs is so important: the followers of this teacher experienced him as the embodiment of divine love, and so his wedding–his Urs–is a particularly holy time. Sufis from all over the world are at the tomb–the dargah— of Hazrat Inayat Khan in India, in Delhi, giving thanks for that life, and hoping for the boon of partaking of that realization.
Recently, this person who is writing, has been thinking very deeply about this business of what we of the sixties called “the guru trip”: there is a growing realization that organizations and –isms, philosophies and religions, are traps that keep the soul from reaching its own authenticity. Why then, do I experience this particular being and this particular urs as a time of power, of resonance, of prayerfulness? Perhaps it is because on the way to my own wedding, I passed through the being of the Rasul, the Christ, and have the great good fortune to have interiorized them on my journey, a stage typical of the Sufi’s journey, and of the mystics of all religions, no matter what label they give themselves or are given.
The belief in Christ is in the Church, the book of Christ is with the clergy, the spirit of Christ is in the illuminated soul.
The spirit of Christ can be traced in Christ’s own words where he said, ‘I am Alpha and Omega,’ I am first and last. By this he meant, ‘I was before Jesus was born, and I shall be after Jesus has gone.’
‘I am Christ’ means ‘I am now, and I shall be till the end.’ In this the Master identifies himself with that light of which we read in the Vedanta, and which existed thousands of years before Christ, the divine light which is recognized by the Sufis as the Spirit of Guidance, and which is also mentioned in the Quran. This light of Christ is symbolized by the lantern in the story of Aladdin, in the Thousand and One Nights. And it is this same light which the Hindu legend speaks of when it says that there exists a cobra with a light in its head, and when it searches for food it takes that light in its mouth and by its illumination it can go about in the forest. It is the light of life of all men and all beings, seen and unseen. In reality it is the essence of light. – Inayat Khan
It is the Christ, the Rasul, who fulfills the divine Message: what a sacrifice! These great beings work in all spheres of life, representing the one Guide, the Spirit of Truth, in the various forms of the prophets, the rasuls, the Christ, each coming for the age and in the form for which that one Spirit is drawn:
The principal work of the Prophet is to glorify the Name of God, and to raise humanity from the denseness of the earth, to open the doors of the human heart to the divine beauty which is everywhere manifested, and to illuminate souls which are groping in darkness for years. The Prophet brings the Message of the day, a reform for that particular period in which he is born. A claim of a prophet is nothing to the real Prophet. The being of the Prophet, the work of the Prophet, and the fulfillment of his task, is itself the proof of prophethood. – Inayat Khan
Please understand: in recounting, to some degree, my own experience, I do not make any claims; I have a long, long way to go, assuming that there is any ending to eventually come to, which I rather doubt, and passing through the being of the prophet on the way to the Absolute is inevitable and available to all. Yet it occurs to me that there is a difference in varieties of experience, of perception: there is the intellectual interpretation we give something that we see or find out, and there is the experience of the ineffable, beyond intelligence. Perhaps it is a matter of perceiving with the intelligence of the universe, as opposed to the conditioned, individual intelligence. This love I have for the teacher I found (and who found me) goes beyond my intellectual reasoning and further, it came to me through my own ability to perceive, not the journey that was laid out for me, although I’m sure that even Sufis are imbued with a set of conditionings.
Historically, these conditionings–teachings!–are passed down over the ages through what is called the Silsila, the chain of enlightened beings. Increasingly, the Sufi order in which I am initiated is being designated as “Universal Sufism.” This is because, even though our roots might seem to be in Islam, and like other Sufi orders we chant dhikr, in fact Sufism predates Islam and in some form, it emerges as the mystical adjunct to all religions. It is only the name and the language of love that causes it to seem to be Islamic. Yet the practice of tassawuf distinguishes it:
Sufism, it should be remembered first of all, is a neologism – a newly coined word. And I must say it’s not only a neologism but also a misnomer, a badly coined word, and that is because it contains an “ism” and the “ism” subverts the essential meaning of the word because an “ism” always suggests a closed community, an ideology, a doctrine — and Sufism, in essence, is none of those things.
So if we want to truly know what Sufism is it would be helpful to go back to the original word in Arabic which is “tasawwuf“. It’s not quite as easy to pronounce but it contains a more accurate meaning because it is a verbal noun, and so it refers to a process of becoming. It’s not static, but dynamic.
Tasawwuf literally means the process of becoming a Sufi. So from the outset one understands that it is not a club to which you belong or do not belong, it is a transformative experience. – Pir Zia Inayat Khan, current head of the Inayati Order
So on the one hand, I have a deepening sense that one must guard against any tendency toward following. Yet I feel myself to be part of a long tradition that has brought me to an ineffable reality. Tonight, the Urs, is a Night of Power, as the Quran terms it in describing the moment when revelation was given to the Prophet Muhammad. Traditionally, one is given, on this night if on no other, the blessing of the soul-perception of this particular incarnation of the one Spirit of Guidance. And I am a believer: this is the one who I was meant to find on my journey homewards, and who protects me from myself and shows me the way. He–in whatever form–is still as real now as ever, and I am endlessly grateful for that.
The one whom I have called God, whose personality I have recognized, and whose pleasure or displeasure I have sought, has been seeing His life through my eyes, has been hearing through my ears. It was His breath that came through my breathing, His impulse which I felt, and therefore I know that this body which I had thought to be my own is really the true temple of God. I did not realize that this body was the shrine of God. –Inayat Khan