Biography, Autobiography, Journal and Anecdotes
Urs Commemoration by Claire un Nisa Khan
Claire un Nisa is the youngest of Murshid Inayat Khan's children. What follows are her memories of Inayat Khan's death in India on February 5,1927, written especially for the commemoration of his urs.
In the month of September 1926, during the Summer School, our Father called his Mureeds to arrange for a ceremony to be held at the Temple's Foundation Stone which was standing in the center of the Sufi garden. A great formality was to be observed: having summoned Vilayat, our Father bestowed upon him the Medal of the Confraternity in the presence of Hidayat and the dignitaries of the Sufi Movement.
Prior to this ritual our Father asked our Mother to make a yellow robe for Vilayat. Our Mother's heart told her that our Father would never return: handing over the Sufi robe was a gesture of heritage. It is for this reason that our Mother refused. Our Father had mentioned his plan to journey to India and our Mother felt that this was a confirmation of his never returning. Many a tear did she shed throughout that Summer School; however our Father departed for India in September.
In February of the following year, our Mother received a telegram from the person who had accompanied our Father informing her that he was ill. The very next day a second telegram announced the tragic news of his passing. This news caused a great upheaval in Fazal Manzil: my Mother was in a very sorry state and needed help. Noor took charge of us and we children began to consider her our "Little Mother".
A few months later we, the family, left for India for three months in the month of September, the coolest time of the year in the East. Our Mother, Noor, Vilayat, Hidayat and I were going together with the three uncles, "Bawa", meaning uncle, "Taya", also meaning uncle and "ChaCha", meaning young uncle. The brother "Bawa" was also called by our Father and Mother "Piromia", probably meaning brother of the Pir, "Taya" was Ali Khan and "Cha Cha" was Musharaff. We children called our Mother "Amma" which was the equivalent of Mamma. We had called our Father "Abba". The reason we were journeying to India was to visit the grave of our Father. It involved a great deal of preparation. Being so young and busy with my own little world, I did not really tune in so well with helping to pack for the journey. I knew that something different was going to happen. Our ship was named "Rawalpindi". It was a beautiful vessel, very large and majestic belonging to Cunard Lines, Ltd. It was painted black and bordered by a long red stripe. Its three stacks were of mustard yellow. We sailed from England, I believe, if not, perhaps we boarded in Marseilles. Once settled in our cabin and the night was falling, our Mother pointed out how low the moon lay, hanging in the sky like a lantern. Never had we seen the stars this big, they appeared to be twice their usual size.
Our first stop was at Aden (British Protectorate in Saudi Arabia) where we just stayed on deck and watched the port. We were very glad to see land again and outside activities. My next recollection is when we arrived in New Delhi by train. I followed the family into a large hotel room with several large beds, covered with mosquito netting. They all looked very white and clean and cool. I did not know what mosquito netting was but soon found out by asking. Barely had we arrived and put our clothes on the chairs and whatever was available for lack of closets, when all of a sudden our Mother became very upset and cried bitterly. She had opened a table drawer in our room and had found the passport of our Father. Why was it there? Who had put it there? Had our Father stayed at this hotel when he was sick and died? Great questions still unsolved! The atmosphere was very tense. We were all very tired and scared. I suppose my poor Mother cried all night. We children must have finally fallen asleep.
The next morning we went by car to a certain place. I was unaware of the nature of our destination until we finally arrived there. That place was meant to be the site of our Father's grave. The atmosphere increased in density with each passing minute. Gathering around the grave of our Father was more than fearful, more than awesome, it was dreadful. Our frail Mother dropped to the ground crying. She was wearing a black sari and like a dark cloud was showering tears of utter despair. I could not believe my Father's disappearance was possible, so I just did not believe it. Our Mother's grief was just too much for the human heart to bear. The whats and wheres and whys overcrowded my thinking. I was for me my only companion. Why did our Father have to go to India so quickly? There was no reason why he had to leave after being in the West for ten years spreading the Message.The grave was a mound of overturned soil, under which our Father was meant to be lying, unguarded, unknown, unidentified, not a name could be seen anywhere, not a flower, not a prayer in this bleak and dismal place.
My feeling was that of resignation, of accepting the situation as it was. I knew we had lost our Father indeed, and I was very sad, but did not know what to do. Later, as I grew older, I realized the loss more and more, rather than at the time. At that moment what affected me the most was our Mother's sorrow, and the fact that we were no longer happy. Looking down at the grave, Noor said, "He is not there." Our Mother believed her statement. Shocked and silent I followed the family to the car, feeling very lost. Noor was holding our Mother's arm at this time, and my brothers were deep in thought, possibly weighing the implications of Noor's declaration. I tucked my being into an imaginary cocoon which protected me from pain and sorrow. Added to this, the absence of communication made me my only companion. My thoughts repeated: "Why did our Father have to die and why so far away? Why did he have to go to India anyway? The person who went with him, why could she not take care of him properly so he would not die? Die of what and when? But nobody heard me; I did not expect answers. The world could have gone and come and I would still have been there wondering; turned into a statue. Somebody would have had to pinch me if they wanted me to blink. I felt as light as a feather and yet my feet were dragging on the ground following the family around. Only the song of a bird could have awakened me to reality. My thoughts were that something terrible had happened. I was angry. The past was buried in the present, there seemed not to be any future to hope for, to nourish or to dream of.
Whoever was watching over our Father will never tell, but one could think that some sort of watching was necessary to disclose the mystery of our Father's passing. Mystery will always remain because so many hypotheses have been suggested. Yet another one was evident. Pneumonia could be a plausible reason for life to succumb. Why not leave it at that? At his passing, it is said that the room was perfumed with the fragrance of roses when daytime came. Why? Where were the roses? In what room? At the hotel? Could it have been in the same hotel room where we were staying? But that was a room for four persons or five. The person who accompanied Murshid said that our Father had received the wrong treatment. He had been aware of this and said so. In agony he succumbed to the illness. She witnessed his passing over the threshold into the hereafter. What has been said could have been from the source of someone's imagination.
Before leaving for India our Father confided to his brother, Piromia, that if he returned he would change his way of spreading the message. He intended on spending more time at home with the family and on writing books, rather than traveling so extensively.
Some time after our visit to the grave, we stayed awhile at Murshid's family home in Baroda. One sunny morning our Mother distinctly heard our Father's singing voice rising up from the street. She said to us, "Children! That's Abba. Quickly go to him!" The others ran downstairs out onto the street but I stayed behind with my Mother. She looked over the balcony and whoever she saw glanced up at her and was gone. Not having found him, the others returned and our Mother said: "That was Abba!"
The soul, whence and whither? Was he still embodied? Or was he wandering into the sphere of freedom? Or, maybe, was his plan to go to India in response to a mission? It might be best to call his parting an absence. Only the Great Lord knows.