Fana or Tassawuri

This cropped photo of Moineddin appears on page 318 in Chapter 19 of the book Murshid, by Mansur Johnson

P.S. What the hell is “mere fana Inayat”??? Moineddin wrote.

The postscript above is from Moineddin’s postcard dated August 21, 1979.

I’ll break precedent here and include the relevant part of Mansur’s answer to Moineddin’s question, followed by Moineddin’s answer (September 12, 1979) to Mansur.

The theme that is explored is the difference between fana and tassawuri.

In the glossary to Murshid, I did not really distinguish between fana and tassawuri, because I considered the terms interchangeable. (The meaning of fana is given as: assimilation or effacement, and I cited the scholar R.A. Nicholson, the translator of Kashf al-Mahjub, as the source. The meaning given for tassawuri from my own experience is: an expression of outward attunement and effacement.)

Moineddin, as you can read, tries to distinguish between the two.

Khankah S.A.M. East

The Einstein Academy

34 Manomet Avenue

September 8, 1979

Hull, Mass. 02045

Dear Moineddin,

Thanks for responding with all the requests in re: Murshid’s biography. Thanks also for the question, “What the hell is ‘mere fana Inayat’”? To answer, you know, is the deepest thing. I think first one must say that to presume one has attained anything or station is folly. Yet, no doubt, on the road, we proceed in accordance with the guidelines of “The Unity of Religious Ideals” and begin, consciously or unconsciously, step by step to create our ideal.

Have you ever wondered about Murshid’s various realizations? We heard him speak about spending 3 days at Anandashram and, after waking up for 3 days feeling like he was Papa Ramdas, said to him, “Papa, it’s time to go.” We know this was preceded by experiences of unity with Hazrat Inayat Khan. Deep experiences in Japan, satoris or what have you. And when we met him, he told us about his “training” when he was acting meek and mild, saintly, taking all the criticism and abuse the “old ladies” in Fairfax could vent on him. Perhaps, you, like me, felt he was doing tassawuri Murshid [Hazrat Inayat Khan] at the time.

And then, but then, the Murshid we saw, who was he? Suddenly, he didn’t necessarily remind us of Papa or Hazrat, or Nyogen or anyone in particular, he was just Murshid, and if anything, a unique composite of all his teachers and influences.

This is more or less introduction to my story. When I came to Boston, I felt absolutely in tassawuri Murshid. But at the same time, I was following a guideline from one of Murshid’s last letters to me, in which he stated, “If there are any Sufis close to Pir Vilayat and you do not feel so close to him, I wish you only to feel close to God-Allah.” May I tell you that I considered this as an instruction to practice fana-fi-Allah?

Indeed, as I told you in my last letter, a retreat experience of assimilation in Hazrat Inayat Khan I equated in some way to Murshid’s experience with Papa at Anandashram. My constant companion for 10 years as a traveling teacher has been the Gayan, Vadan, Nirtan. The result of this concentration was frequently (as I mentioned last letter) sayings, inspired sayings a la Hazrat Inayat Khan. And, as I told you, there was ecstasy, but the feeling was, even in the being of Hazrat Inayat Khan, one of limitation. Like a painter, say, who can reproduce Van Gogh’s perfectly.

Hence for me fana Inayat is a stage, perhaps, for everyone on the way to God. Because for me the ideal and end of all this is the perfection of every human being. I was troubled when Pir Vilayat spoke in this vein, “There is one teacher in the Sufi Order, and it is Hazrat Inayat Khan.” The day before Puran stated before all the leaders, “I tell people, there is one teacher in the Sufi Order and he is Pir Vilayat.” Someone in fact, repeated that to me in Bloomington, Indiana. I said, “”Excuse me, but I would say, ‘There is one teacher, and He is God.’” When I told Pir what Puran said, he said, “I would say there is one teacher and he is Hazrat Inayat Khan.” And I said, then I would have to suggest that it is God. And the next day he amended what Puran said.

But my realization on this matter which takes me further is this. Realization is one thing, being that realization is another.

My judgment is this: it is certainly beautiful the story Pir tells about seeing a man walking in Delhi, who looks like Hazrat Inayat Khan. When he introduced himself, what did he find? That this man was his [HIK’s] disciple. That is really beautiful. But my judgment is that it would be more beautiful if this disciple could go beyond his teacher and make a name for himself, incorporating as Murshid did Hazrat Inayat Khan’s realization and being and becoming his own perfection named whatever he is named.

May I say, in conclusion, that I think the beauty of Murshid’s teaching is that he started everyone in fana-fi-Allah. That in a sense may explain why we are so independent. He put us in touch with our guiding Spirit and trained us to listen to the Spirit….

All love and blessings to you and Fatima,