Hazrat Inayat Khan on Religious Unity and Uniformity

First posted June 05, 2013

‘All through the ages, the different religions, which have been given to man for his spiritual development with the sole idea of unity, have gradually become a kind of community or nationality. Many people who belong to a Church accept its dogmas, claim a certain name for their religion, and consider all other children of God as separate; by doing so, they lose the very seed of wisdom for whose development that religion was given. This error has existed from the beginning, so that instead of touching the true spirit, people have lost reality by seeking a false objective.

Religious differences have caused endless wars and disasters for the human race. The reason of this is that the spirit of unity has not been recognized, while undue regard has been paid to uniformity. In the present age, when the spirit of religion is at its lowest ebb […], divisions of classes and discords of all kinds spring up; one party, one class against another, the spirit of rivalry, jealousy, and destruction everywhere. The effect of this has been to keep man away from the consciousness of God. Very few indeed recognize Him; all humanity is laboring under a great unrest; and yet man thinks he is progressing, while all the time he only progresses towards still greater unrest.

There can never be true progress when nations and kingdoms and peoples are divided […] The same spirit of destruction is at work all the time, and even families become separated. Unity seems to be rooted out from the hearts of men. Examples are not necessary; those who will notice it can see this state of humanity, this condition of life, all over the world.

[…] The scripture given to the Jews, the Muslims, Parsis, Hindus, Buddhists, all have as their central truth the message of unity, but man has been so interested and absorbed in the poetry of these scriptures that he has forgotten their inner voice.

If only we would recognize the inner voice, we would see that the different scriptures all contain words spoken by one and the same voice. Some hear the voice, others only hear the words, just as in nature some see only the branches and others the roots of the tree; but all these different scriptures and ways of worship and of contemplating God are given for one purpose: the realization of unity. In unity resides the happiness and illumination of man, and his guidance in life. We all know unity by name, but most of us think of it as uniformity. The Vedanta, for thousands of years in all its prayers and mantrams, voiced this central theme: unity, the oneness of all. The Quran with all its warnings expresses in one essential sura the Being of God: that not only in the unseen, but in all that is seen there is one underlying current; and the Bible says that we live and move and have our being in God.

Of all the millions of believers in God perhaps only one makes God a reality, and that is because the picture man makes of God is as limited as himself. The knowledge of God is beyond man’s reason. Man only perceives things he is capable of perceiving. He cannot raise his imagination above what he is used to, and he cannot reach beyond his imagination to where the being of God is. The secret of God is hidden in the knowledge of unity. Man thinks, ‘What can unity give me? Can it bring me happiness? What is there in it?’ He can get the answer by observing and studying life more closely. See what an atmosphere the harmony of ten people can create; the power of love and the influence created by ten people is much greater than that created by one. Think then what would be the blessing for humanity if nations, races, and communities were united!

No doubt uniformity can teach the lesson of unity, but its purpose must not be for worldly gain; then it is destructive. The wise in all ages have dived deep into life in order to attain unity in themselves, and in order to spread unity. In the life of the world every man has some complaint to make. He lacks something; he is troubled by something. But this is only the external reason; the real truth is that he is not in unity with his own soul, for when there is disharmony in ourselves how can we spread harmony? When mind and body are at war the soul wants something else, and soul and mind are pulled by the body, or the body and mind by the soul; and so there is disharmony. When a man is in harmony with himself, he is in harmony with all; he produces harmony and gives harmony to all; he gives it out all the time.

This is a question that can be answered by understanding our relationship with God. The innermost being of man is the real being of God; man is always linked with God. If he could only realize it, it is by finding harmony in his own soul that he finds communion with God. All meditation and contemplation are taught with this purpose: to harmonize one’s innermost being with God, so that He is seeing, hearing, thinking through us, and our being is a ray of His light. In that way, we are even closer to God than the fishes are to the ocean in which they have their being. It is mostly interest in worldly things that unites one man with another in order that they can make profit. How great would be this power if man would unite in true brotherhood! […]

True life cannot be ours until unity is achieved. It is the work of religion to promote the spirit of unity, in the knowledge and love of God to whom all devotion belongs. […] The only studies which are worth accomplishing are those which lead to the realization of God, and of unity, first with God and then with the self, and so with all. It is not necessary for us to be told that we have progressed; we ourselves will know when our hearts go forward; and by loving, forgiving, and serving, our whole life becomes one single vision of the sublime beauty of God..’ 

[Extracted from Hazrat Inayat Khan, The Unity of Religious Ideals (The Sufi Message Vol IX)]

Hazrat Inayat Khan was born in Vadodara, Gujarat, in 1882. An accomplished Indian classical musician, he received initiation in the Nizamiyya sub-branch of the Chishti Sufi order from Shaikh Muhammad Abu Hashim Madani (who is buried in Hyderabad).  With his Master’s encouragement, he left India in 1910 for the West, traveling first as a musician and then as a teacher of Sufism.

His message of divine unity (tawhid) focused on the themes of universal love, harmony and beauty.  In 1926, he returned to India, and there chose the site of his tomb, near the dargah of the noted Sufi Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, in Delhi. Shortly after, on February 5, 1927, he passed away.

Hazrat Inayat Khan set forth ten principles that formed the foundational principles of his Universal Sufism:

1.    There is one God; the Eternal, the Only Being; None exists save He.

2.    There is one master; the guiding spirit of all souls that constantly leads all followers toward the light.

3.    There is one holy book; the sacred manuscript of nature, the only Scripture that can enlighten the reader.

4.    There is one religion; unswerving progress in the right direction toward the Ideal, which fulfills every soul’s life purpose.

5.    There is one law; the law of reciprocity, which can be observed by a selfless conscience, together with a sense of awakened justice.

6.    There is one brotherhood; the human brotherhood which unites the children of earth indiscriminately in the fatherhood of God. This was later adapted by followers to; “There is one Family, the Human Family, which unites the Children of Earth indiscriminately in the Parenthood of God.”

7.    There is one moral; the love which springs forth from self-denial and blooms in deeds of beneficence. … (later alternative; “which springs forth from a willing heart, surrendered in service to God and Humanity, and which blooms in deeds of beneficence”).

8.    There is one object of praise; the beauty which uplifts the heart of its worshipper through all aspects from the seen to the unseen.

9.    There is one truth; true knowledge of our being, within and without, which is the essence of Wisdom.

10.  There is one path; annihilation of the false ego in the real (later alternative; “the effacement of the limited self in the Unlimited”), which raises the mortal to immortality, in which resides all perfection.

Many discourses of Hazrat Inayat Khan and other related materials can be accessed online on