We are writing to share with you news of great importance for our community and our work. This is news of a decision that is rooted in both reason and guidance; a decision that, we believe, will clarify the work that is ours to do in the world.
As you know, Hazrat Inayat Khan, our Murshid, brought the wisdom of Sufism to the Western world in 1910. He founded The Sufi Order in London in 1918 and The Sufi Movement in Geneva in 1923.
The word “Order” was, and remains, the standard English rendering of the Arabic word tariqa, referring to a Sufi path. The word “Movement” was a familiar designation in the early twentieth century for international spiritual organizations.
After Murshid’s death, his brothers and cousin successively led The Sufi Movement. To distinguish his own lineage and circle of mureeds, Murshid’s elder son Pir Vilayat revived the name “The Sufi Order” in 1968 (later updated as The Sufi Order International).
“The Sufi Order” is a nonspecific name: it refers to Sufism in general, but to no one tradition of Sufism in particular. When Murshid established his Order in the West, no other Sufi Orders were active in Western Europe or North America. A more specific name was therefore unnecessary and, in fact, would likely have caused confusion. This was still largely the case in 1968.
Today the situation is just the opposite: there are many Sufi Orders in the West—not to mention in Asia, where our Order is also spreading—and a nonspecific name is therefore a source of misunderstandings in the current environment.
In the history of Sufism, Orders have traditionally adopted the name of their founder in the decades following the founder’s death. Murshid understandably did not name his Order after himself, but long-established Sufi custom renders it natural and proper for us, who follow in his footsteps, to honor his memory and confirm our allegiance to his spiritual message by taking his name as the rubric of our work.
In consideration of these facts, and moved by a deep sense that the time has come, on this first day of the year 2016, we announce that The Sufi Order International will henceforth be known as The Inayati Order.
As a fuller designation the Order will be introduced as The Inayati Order: A Sufi Path of Spiritual Liberty. The name Inayatiyya will be considered a welcome synonym.
The Boards of the various national organizations have been informed in advance of this change. The trademark has been obtained, and we have acquired a number of relevant website addresses. It will, of course, still take some time to update all of our documents and printed and electronic materials in various languages throughout the world.
In adopting this name, we make no claim of exclusivity in representing Murshid’s Sufi Message of Spiritual Liberty. Indeed, we affirm all lineages, communities, and organizations linked to Murshid through initiation and devotion as our esteemed friends and allies in the Sufi cause.
The name Inayat means lovingkindness. May the name of our Order remind us always of this vitally important quality of being as we follow the path of service to God and humanity, amin.