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Biography, Autobiography, Journal and Anecdotes

Part I - Biography

Rahmat Khan (1843-1910)

[According to an old manuscript probably by a member of the family, he died aged 80, which would make his birthdate 1830.]

Rahmat Khan, Inayat's father, came from a family of musicians and poets, in which, according to a family tradition, in every generation there was one mystic. His father, Bahadur Khan, had been known for a bravery that matched his name. Bahadur Khan's father, Nyamat Khan, was a musician. His brother was revered in Punjab as a great saint, mystic and ascetic, possessor of great spiritual power. Rahmat Khan became a pupil of the greatest composer of Punjab, one recognized as a holy man. Saint Alias, by whom he was trained in the ancient, classical music of India. This saint was a Sufi and led the life of an ascetic.

Saint Alias had not more than five things in his hut: a mat, a brick that served as a pillow, a walking stick, an earthen bowl for water and a broom. His habit was that every offering brought to him by friends or pupils was used on the same day, that nothing of the world might be left for the morrow. And when he did not receive any offering, he would go without meals, but would never ask anyone for food.

Once a Maharaja of Kashmere paid him a visit and left as an offering a large sum of money and when he went away his disciples asked him: "What may be done with this money?" Saint Alias said: "Use it as usual." "But," they said, "this is so large a sum, it will last for the whole year." He said: "Not one penny of this must be kept overnight; call the poor of the neighboring villages and let us all have a feast to finish it."

The saint's character brought Rahmat Khan to a deeper understanding of life and this gave him a regard for every soul, in whatever garb it might be.

Rahmat Khan, leaving his home, set out on his travels. His mother, when she had no news of him for some length of time, traveling being at that time difficult and unsafe, grew distressed and anxious and thus drew death nearer; her only wish was to find her son. The elder son, Jafar Khan, went in search of his brother and not knowing where to search for him, he being a visionary and mystically minded, went first to the tomb of a saint, a place of pilgrimage, and there asked the saint's guidance. He had a dream that night and next morning he found Rahmat Khan, who returned with him. Before they could reach their home, however, the mother had died and this was a wound to Rahmat Khan's heart that troubled him all through his life. In pain and trouble only one word would come to his lips, "Mother".

He then left Punjab, undecided where to go. As he was passing by a place where a saint was standing and had stood for many years, untiring, unprotected from sun and rain, save for a roof which the state had lately caused to be built over him, it came to Rahmat Khan's mind to ask the saint where he should go. He did so and he saw the saint wave his hand in a certain direction. Rahmat Khan went in the direction in which that movement seemed to point and so he came to Baroda.

There he met Maula Bakhsh, who took a liking to him. A friendship was formed which in time became a close one, and Maula Bakhsh married his eldest daughter, Fatima Bibi, to Rahmat Khan and after her death gave him his second daughter, Khadija Bibi, in marriage.

Rahmat Khan helped Maula Bakhsh in his work at the Academy of Music and was the great musician's staunchest support and defender. He himself was the greatest singer of the classical music, dhurpad, and highly esteemed by those who understood the music, though never in a general sense popular. He gave the true image of ragas, so much sought after in India and so hard to be found. He guarded his knowledge as a treasure, had few pupils and barely taught his music even to Inayat, whose attention in his childhood was so riveted upon the brilliant music and fascinating personality of his grandfather that he scarcely thought of his father until after the latter's death. Rahmat Khan proved himself throughout his life self-sacrificing, diligent and utterly devoted. He was by temperament austere, strict, expecting others to be as he was; with his children he was strict to the point of severity although most loving and kind, always granting their wishes at whatever sacrifice. He was unassuming, honest and sincere and it is no exaggeration to say that he never in his life told a lie. He was a philosopher with little love for book-learning. Kind actions and courtesy he held to be the chief thing in life and he took pains and every care to spare the feelings of others.

What Inayat learned from his father in philosophy, became the foundation of his whole life. Inayat received it gratefully. Rahmat Khan lived a long life, was a true friend and a help to students of music. He died in 1910 at the age of eighty.

He saw in a dream in his last days on earth Ali's funeral passing on a camel's back, a great many people with it and he saw himself among the spectators who were standing on both sides of the way. To his great surprise the door of the coffin was opened and Ali raised his head from it and said: "Come along, without any fear or anxiety, for this is the way for every soul born on earth." Next morning as he arose he called Mehr Bakhsh, his son-in-law, and told him not to trouble more about his cure but to prepare for his departure from this earth, for he had heard the call.