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Biography, Autobiography, Journal and Anecdotes

Part I - Biography


From earliest childhood Inayat showed great gentleness of disposition and nobility of character. He found the greatest joy in sharing every cake or sweet he had with his brothers or playmates, however little it might be he had. When he received any fruits or flowers, his greatest joy was to offer the gift to his mother.

In the family of Inayat there was not much belief in superstition and yet the idea of the evil eye still existed. Whenever little Inayat was indisposed, his mother would prepare a cotton wick.

One day Inayat was bitten by a scorpion. His limb became swollen and discolored and the pain increased frightfully as the poison spread. His father carried him to a doctor and on the way, greatly alarmed and distressed at the sight of his suffering child, asked him if he were in great pain. Inayat, seeing his father so troubled, could not bear to be the cause of such distress and though suffering intense pain, restrained his moans and replied: "Not much father."

On one occasion his elder sister, Jena Bibi, was playing with several dolls and Inayat picked up one of them, tucked it under his arm and ran off with it. His sister ran after him, caught him and gripped his arm, making him cry with pain. His father, hearing the cry, called Inayat and asked the cause. On being told he said: "Well, fetch your sister and I'll scold her." When she came, her father said: "Did you hurt your brother?" Inayat, thinking she would be punished, answered quickly: "No, she did not!"

Once, while ill, when a bitter and most nauseous medicine was given him, again and again he refused to take it, until at last someone present said: "Drink it, Inayat, for brave boys never refuse to take any medicine, however bitter." He only asked: "Is it brave to drink bitter medicine?" They said: "Yes." He said: "I will drink it and be brave," and then drank it without hesitation and without making a wry face. From that time he never hesitated to take any medicine given him, however bitter or distasteful.

One of Inayat's favorite occupations was to gather together all his toys and, giving a certain personification to each, to arrange them in the order of a grand procession, each toy occupying its own appointed place.

It was a pleasure to Inayat to obey his parents in spite of all inclination to playfulness. However, he would not keep away from those things that he was told not to do. One thing was climbing the guava tree. He would venture even if he saw one pear ripe. His father asked him to remain in his room studying at noon when the sun burns and scorches in the zenith and the fiery wind blows through the summer day. But often he was found on a tree in the garden, on the guava tree, a kind of pear-tree, the pear of which is called amrut, the fruit of life. What would alarm his parents most was his love for walking through the streams and canals when the country was flooded after a heavy rain. He most loved to jump from great heights and to do all sorts of acrobatics.

Frequently Inayat would play at circus. Assembling as many children as he could, he made each represent some animal, which was to jump high or low, walk, trot, run or stand still, as occasion required. Whip in hand he would stand in the midst and direct the movement of each child most accurately by the dexterous use of his whip.

He was always pleased to buckle on a boy-sword and to drill a group of boys. When once someone asked: "Whose head are you going to cut off with this sword ?" "No one's," he said, "rather than cutting off another person's head, I would cut off my own."

Inayat often took the part of a doctor. He would get a few glasses and any kind of white powder and mix a dose and then invite the sick of the household to come and be cured. And often it happened that some of the simple maids and servants in the house were cured instantly.

On one occasion Inayat visited the house of an old man, a Hindu. Here he saw a picture representing a most beautiful man and woman. This attracted him greatly, for the two seemed to be playing a game he had often seen children play, in which two stand facing each other, their toes meeting, their hands tightly clasped and then leaning back as far as possible, spin round and round, their heads describing a circle. Inayat, being curious, asked about the picture. "That is Krishna," said the old man. "Krishna, Krishna, who is he?" inquired the child. "Krishna is our God," replied the Brahman. "Your God? Has your God a playmate?" "Yes." "And does your God dance?" continued Inayat. "Oh, yes," came the reply. Inayat gazed at the picture, thought for a moment and then said: "I like your God."

Inayat and some companions were one day playing on an open space, where there was a pond round which were placed many Hindu idols. The boys who were Muslims, felt little regard for these objects, sacred to the Hindus. They began to jump on them and to play about them. "Do not do that!" called out Inayat. "What does it matter?" cried they, "they are not our Gods." "No," replied he, "but they are somebody's Gods."

Inayat loved listening to stories of heroes, of men of great ideals and virtues. He never tired of listening to the same stories no matter how often told him. As he had a remarkably good memory, he would repeat these stories to other people, never failing to make the account interesting.

Inayat as a child was great friends with his father, and every evening he used to ask his father to tell him some story. His father after finishing all the stories he knew, had to read in order to tell him more. But the demand was greater than the supply. In the end his father began to make up stories to tell him and such stories that would be an education for Inayat in his life. Inayat was not satisfied by hearing these stories only, but would want an explanation of different points in the story. Sometimes he would argue so much that his father would say: "Please keep it until tomorrow." Inayat would not forget and next day he would raise the same point and would not be satisfied until it had been made clear. In all this Inayat's father found in his little son a great thirst for knowledge and a deep understanding which gave him great satisfaction. Inayat, under his father's training was told many things that made an everlasting impression upon him.

Inayat once saw a boy among his companions treating his mother very insolently. [An older version has it that one day Inayat saw a boy fighting with his mother, and that he beat and kicked her till she cried.] He was shocked at it and said to the boy: "You have treated your mother so insolently! Now, remember, you will never be happy and you must meet with a bad end!" This prophecy came true, for the boy to whom he had said this came to a terrible end.

Inayat was an extraordinarily sensitive child and this manifested not only in his love of beauty and refinement of thought, but also in his great sympathy with the sorrows and woes of the people around him. He was wide awake to see the conditions of his surroundings and always inclined to sympathize with the weak and sorrowful. He was a keen observer of human nature and he saw in life more pain than pleasure and more falsehood than truth. This would sometimes work intensely in his thoughts and even as a child he would go into solitude and be there by himself, silent, doing nothing, just pondering over things, sitting in a restful attitude with a serious expression on his face.

At the age of five Inayat was sent to school. There was a discussion in his family to which school he should be sent, whether to the school for Muslim boys or to the Hindu school. As the Hindu boys are less playful, it was decided he should go to the Hindu school and there he began his schooling in the Marathi language. The system of education at that time and the way the teachers drove everyone with the same cane, was somehow against Inayat's nature and he would rather be playing in the open and give freedom to his imagination and the thoughts that came to him, than sitting amongst children of his age, in a school where the teacher ruled all with the cane. Inayat used to be depressed in the school and often would be caught drawing pictures on a slate, when everybody was supposed to be learning lessons. After being much scolded and often whipped on his bare legs, he would be most thankful to leave the school in the evening and come home. He was promoted as he grew from one class to another, although he did not always pass his examinations.

Once Inayat's father visited his school, enquiring the reason of his being backward in his studies. The teacher said: "In no way does he lack intelligence, yet he is playful and neglects his studies." After some talk on the subject they found that in mathematics, history, geography and grammar Inayat was placed last, but in poetry and its interpretation or in composition he was first, to the surprise of the whole class, as that seemed an unusual place for him. This teacher was wise. He said: "There is something wonderful in him, he has expression and gives out what is in him. He is, by nature, not a pupil but a teacher." – This was the one teacher who refrained from whipping him for not learning his lessons, but used to talk to him, so that he would feel ashamed of himself. All the teacher's efforts were in vain, for Inayat would not give his thoughts to the studies he did not care for and only gave thought to the subjects which interested him.

For his parents, Inayat was the greatest problem. Inayat wakened to sympathy, ready to be friends with anybody, willing to take interest in everything that attracted his curiosity, emotional, besides with love of beauty in form and color and everything that attracted him, was open to all influences. Therefore, his parents' responsibility increased, together with their anxiety, with his growth.

The ordinary games of other children had but little attraction for him and he much preferred donkey-riding.

The first drama that Inayat saw in his life was a most ancient play of India: Harish Chandra, the drama of renunciation, which brings out the moral of keeping one's honor. It made such an impression on young Inayat that for years he craved to see the drama. He saw it three times, but it was never enough; then, he enacted it himself at home.

Many times Inayat would make up a play and get the other children to act it. To each child he would give a part and teach him how to perform it. When the time came for giving the play, the children would forget; but as often as one forgot and could not think how to act, Inayat would stand behind, speak the words and tell the player how to act. So in reality the whole play was performed by himself.

One day late in the evening, Inayat had not yet come home and everyone became anxious and people were sent out in search of him. In the end he was found at a lecture given by Jinsi Wali, a great social reformer. Inayat was so absorbed in what Jinsi Wali said, that he had lost all idea of time. Seeing his interest in things of learning, his parents excused the fault of his not being at home when he ought to have been.

His parents wondered at times what could be the matter with the child. Thinking that he did not act always as a child, they did everything to satisfy his fancies; gave him ponies and other playthings and tried their utmost to provide him with everything, but nothing would keep him continually interested. Very often in the midst of great activity or excitement, among his relations and friends, Inayat would be quite tranquil and he would seem above all things around him. Some people or conditions or subjects which he noticed would give him the inclination to scrutinize them deeply within himself. So in this way he was a mystery to his parents.

Inayat's father taught him many wise things; he produced in him, even in childhood, a spirit of self-respect. He taught him not to show too great enthusiasm or excitement on seeing things beautiful or rich, to retire when he saw friends or even relations enjoying or amusing themselves, that he might not, uninvited, intrude on enjoyment of others, or even desire to share it. He taught him not to go where he was not wanted, never to frequent a place where he was not welcome, not to visit anyone too often, but only to see friends when it was proper, not to intrude upon anybody's time, nor to interfere with anybody's privacy, not to be very friendly to those who don't care to reciprocate. He said: "Do not pursue friends who like to avoid you. Do not seek association with those who prefer being left alone. Do not make yourself a burden upon anyone. Rather starve and die a death in pride than live a life of humiliation."

He taught him to refrain from desiring comforts that could only be obtained at the expense of the comfort of others, to renounce a comfort father than obtain it by asking a favor of another, to restrain or rather to crush every desire that would bring humiliation upon him.

This teaching became so natural to Inayat that it seemed as if he were told just what he himself innately desired.

He was taught to sit quietly among elder people, to greet others first and if others greeted him first, to be sorry to have lost the opportunity; not to belittle the talk of others, however simple it might be; to avoid all inquisitiveness and to withdraw without being asked, if he felt a conversation taking place was private; to keep his own secret and those of others; not to interrupt, but to wait until a talk was finished; to avoid anything rude, rough or abrupt in thought, speech and action; not to contradict his elders, even if he thought what was said was not true, for, he was told, it was not the words only that count but the time and conditions which caused the necessity for saying a certain thing, which, even if not true from one point of view, might be true from another. And he was taught never to speak boastfully, nor presumptuously.

To Inayat, with his inborn love of beauty, beauty of manner appealed so much that he never found it difficult to abide by the principles taught him by his father. But this opened up to him the reason why he liked some people and did not like others. He always recalled a saying: "Ba adab ba nasib; be adab be nasib," which means: "Good manner, good fortune; ill manner, ill fortune."

Inayat's father taught him to offer the better seat to an elder person. Not to retort in speech with people; not to show annoyance by word or frown or by looking cross. He told him not to ask his parents for anything they could not provide and not to ask in the presence of others, which would embarrass them, if they could not provide what he asked and also lest it should give to the others any suggestion of getting it for him, which would be just as bad.

He was told not to excite himself in laughter or crying and to have full control over these emotions. He was told not to give too much expression to his affections, that affection was in the heart, not in touching, or embracing or kissing. And he was told not to speak disrespectfully about religion, the Prophet and the God-ideal, but always to have the most respectful tendency toward all that is sacred and holy.

Inayat's father believed in the influence of the presence of the Majzubs, Yogis and sages and used to take him to them for their blessing.