Submitted by Hamida Verlinden, 2006
Ora Ray Amina Begum Inayat-Khan

There are many stories about the early times and the Wife and the Companions are mostly only mentioned in sentences like: "the boys" (here is meant: the Companions), or "Murshid was sitting on the first row amidst his wife and children", or "Musharaff Khan opened the door and I asked him if I could see Murshid". It is intriguing.

Amina Begum gave birth to four children that apparently everyone doted upon, but she is hardly visible. Who was she? How did Amina Begum meet with the hardships of being married to a dervish? For according to Wil van Beek (see footnote) she was told before marriage that marrying him would mean being married to a dervish and she was not to come between Inayat and his Brothers. Was she only the mother of Inayat's children? Was Amina a help to Inayat? Did this married couple manage to bridge the gap of differences in nationality and culture and customs? Were Inayat Khan and Amina Begum friends with each other?

Looking at the photos of the London period one can see a radiant spirited young lady, sitting amidst a group of persons, who is feeling at ease in her situation. When looking at "the film" (13th September 1926) one can see a lady in white walking most graciously to the headstone: it is Amina Begum. Who is this lady? We know some of her poems which have been published in "Once upon a time….", by Hidayat Inayat-Khan; poems which were written by his mother, the bereaved widow of Hazrat Inayat Khan. She writes about her four golden jewels, her four children, and about the constant longing of her heart. What is best, to leave her in the shadows of anonymity or to honor her as the radiant young woman who had the courage and perseverance - against custom, against the wishes of her family, with the enormous differences in race, in cultural and social concepts - to become Inayat Khan's life partner, the mother of their children, and the companion of her husband's companions?
I prefer the honor.

I started looking in the biography of Hazrat Inayat Khan. Much is said about "the furtherance of the Sufi Movement"; in between the lines one can read how difficult it all was, but never is there a moment of self pity, never a complaint, and whenever life was difficult Inayat Khan made use of the knowledge he gained through this experience. Here and there one can find an observation which is personal; like about his constant and deep longing for "the rising of the sun in my land, the full moon in the clear sky, the peace of the midsummer night…" (Inayat Khan, Personal Account, p.182), or about his brothers who were "such a great consolation for my longing soul because they represented India for me".

The name and birth of each child is mentioned: Noorunissa or Babuli, born on January 1, 1914; Vilayat or Bhaijan, born on June 19, 1916; Hidayat or Bhayajan, born on August 6, 1917; Khairunnisa or Mamuli, born on June 3, 1919 and Amina Begum is acknowledged as a friend through joy and sorrow.

“During my stay in America for more than two years there was not much done in the furtherance of the Sufi Movement. From my stay in America I began to learn the psychology of the people in the West and the way in which my mission should be set to work.
If I can recall any great achievement in America, it was to have found the soul who was destined to be my life's partner”. (Inayat Khan, autobiography, p. 126)

“In spite of the vast difference of race and nationality and custom Amina Begum proved to be a friend through joy and sorrow, proving the idea, which I always believed, that outer differences do not matter when the spirit is in atonement. The tests that my life was destined to go through were not of a small character, and were not a small trial for her… If I had not been helped by her, my life, laden with a heavy responsibility, would have never enabled me to devote myself entirely to the Order as I have. It is by this continual sacrifice that she has shown her devotion to the Cause".(Inayat Khan, Personal Account, page 183)

We are always speaking about Murshid devoting his very life to the Sufi Message; and the Companions who forsake beautiful careers, also devoting their lives to the Cause. This report shows that it was also Amina Begum who devoted herself completely to her husband, their children, the companions, and therefore to the Cause, so dear to the heart of her husband.

It is interesting to see how much Hazrat Inayat Khan understood the Western mind and one wonders whether Inayat Khan was referring to his mureeds looking with lack of understanding to the marriage of their beloved teacher:

“The Christian faith for long ages has made such a deep impression upon the people in the West, that they cannot see a spiritual teacher with a family setting, knowing Christ in his exclusive being. Even the nearness of a woman seemed strange in their eyes”. (Hazrat Inayat Khan, Personal Account, p.189)

One can find a glimpse of how family life was in the Soefi Gedachte of June 1970 where Hidayat Inayat-Khan shows us the idealized picture of his youth:

“My father used to go with my mother for long walks at night. A beautiful atmosphere of happiness and peace prevailed when our father came home again, and I cannot describe the intense joy which was then conveyed to us when father and mother poured out upon us their radiant love and animation”.

Maybe some will say that looking back means idealizing and making the picture of one's youth more beautiful than was the case. But it is a natural thing. Murshid himself recognized how he was still kind of asleep until his Mother died, realizing then and only then, and more even later on, how important she had been in his life, the deep bond that was between them.

In the biography written by Wil van Beek (Hazrat Inayat Khan, Master of Life, Modern Sufi Mystic) one can find highly interesting information concerning Inayat Khan's life and his family. Not really very much can be shown about Amina Begum, but maybe the above has pictured the image of a woman who had the rare combination of American independence and unassuming self-sacrifice. It is honor we owe her. And love.
click an image to enlarge
Amina Begum
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Pirani Amina Begum
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Pirani Amina Begum
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Amina Begum with Vina
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Pirani Amina Begum
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