The Crown of Creation

An essay on the terms “Khalif” and “Farmer” in the works of Hazrat Inayat Khan

by Firos Holterman ten Hove, spring 2016


(quotations from the collected works of Hazrat Inayat Khan in italics)


The perfection of God's manifestation is man. When man reaches perfection His manifestation is perfect and without man's perfection God's manifestation would not be perfect. Perfection is reached when man becomes altogether human.

United Nature: Agriculture

In the modern ecological movement we find a common understanding, that Christianity played an important role in the destructive impact of western civilization on our natural resources worldwide by allowing mankind in the name of God to rule over creation and subdue it:  “And God blessed them, and God said to them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis)


The result of this misunderstood allowance becomes more and more clear. Mankind does multiply in an incredible speed und does not hesitate to subdue all creation to its purposes. The result is destruction and climatic catastrophes.


The more sensitive people turn for this reason towards defending the last rests of valuable minerals, plants and animals against exploitation by organizing nature reserves. The results are modest. Or they organize defensive actions as those of Greenpeace, always just reacting to the latest ecological disasters, never able to really change the ways of industry and politics.


So it is no wonder  that many of our friends, seeing the destruction caused by mankind on our planet, turn away from christian spirituality and decide that man cannot possibly be the crown of creation but must be some kind of anomanology.


And those that orientate  themselves toward Sufism and in its train are confronted with Islam, find the same ideology in another guise. In al-Baqara 30, the Qur´an refers to God creating humanity as his khalifa on Earth.


Caliph of the whole creation

Hazrat Inayat Khan refers to this sura:  “In every scripture it is mentioned that man is the ideal of creation. In the Quran it is said, "We have made man the Caliph of the whole creation", in other words, the master of creation.

Lately the world experiences under the flag of the so called islamic state a revival of the title “caliph”. It stands for a religious warlord who ruthlessly conquers any unprotected lands. He takes in the name of God whatever he can get without consideration for cultural or religious differences. He attracts and misuses young man to fight for a “holy” cause, which is nothing else than destruction. He enslaves woman, kills children, ruins the lands that he occupies and lives himself in luxury.


That´s the picture which we get here in the West about the phenomenon of the “caliph”. We look at the middle east and are abhorred by what we see.  


But, if we are honest, the horror of this so called caliphat is just an extreme form of the attitude of mankind in general towards creation.  Man destroys nature on a gigantic scale. Man misuses his fellow man on a global level like never before. Man grabs whatever he can, without any consideration. He devours life on the cost of innumerable minerals, plants, animals and fellow men. 


Is this the caliph of creation as God has meant man to be? If so, Christianity, Quran and Murshid failed in their  vision of the purpose of the human being.  More so , God Him/Herself made a mistake. He/She created a monster.


Hurt and Harm

Hazrat Inayat Khan: “Is man born to cause all the falsehood, deceit, treachery and harshness that he inflicts upon others? The answer is that, no doubt, he makes life easy for himself by falsehood and by doing harm to others, but at the same time he often is very miserable and cannot avoid the result of everything he does. All the hurt and harm he causes to others must return to him some time or other a thousandfold.”


The destruction caused by the terrorism of the caliphate in the cities of our western world is just the return of all the hurt and harm we caused bringing our so called “civilization” to the middle east. Mankind today reached an unprecedented level of greed and hate. Unprecedented because never before in history human existence on the planet was so much in danger. It seems to me that hurt and harm themselves did not change much through the centuries but our ways to express greed and cruelty became much more effective by the enormous technical progress. The price for our greediness will be very high. Not just in terms of hate from the oppressed fellow humans,  but on a global scale the whole nature responds to the avarice of mankind with the so called climate crisis. When I talk with people there is a common understanding of what is going on in the world: “This cannot be right, this whole thing must end up in a catastrophe.”


In the early 20th century Hazrat Inayat Khan saw these developments in their beginnings and warned humanity  against both bigotry and materialism. He was deeply absorbed in the prophetic presence of the Spirit of Guidance and in this attunement he announced a new cycle in the development of mankind.


He foresaw the pitfalls and suffering ahead and at the same time was full of optimism and hope. In his point of view mankind was about to wake up to the realization of divinity in man and in nature. He envisioned a new attitude in us, which would make humans out of us: The deeper we study life the clearer we see that life, under all its aspects, under all its names and forms, is constantly working towards the plane of the human being, helping the human being in his life's purpose which is to become God's instrument.


How can we find out the qualities which may be considered human qualities? They will be apart from the angelic, devilish and animal qualities, and there chiefly is one which can be called a distinct quality of man: sympathy.


So we see here, that the human state of “Caliph of the whole creation” did not manifest till now in mankind as a whole. It is envisioned to come. The present appearance of rulers calling themselves caliph is showing in all ugliness what happens if man falls into the trap of both angelic and devilish deformations. No trace of sympathy whatsoever! The present so called caliphs show in an extreme form, what happens if man falls into two traps at the same time. 


The angelic danger
One of two big dangers for mankind, the angelic one, is religious fanaticism and bigotry. Hazrat Inayat Khan saw as one of the most urgent necessities for mankind to start to acknowledge the  possibility of truth in the religion of our neighbors. For this he installed the Universal Worship. But he challenged us to scrutinise critically our own spiritual attitude.  The so-called spiritual person can become incredibly arrogant. He warned us that spirituality can be in the service of the ego: “Man's greatest enemy is his ego which manifests itself in selfishness. Even in his doing good, in his kind actions, selfishness is sometimes at work. When he does good with the thought that one day it may return to him and that he may share in the good, he sells his pearls for a price.”


The materialistic danger
The other danger is materialism. Never before in history there was such an accumulation of individual richness and luxury on the cost of others. Hazrat Inayat Khan calls this the devilish trap.  We are so much busy in collecting material richness, that “by our absorption we are robbed of the knowledge of God's perfection and greatness.”


Human civilization got rid of any consideration for the holiness of creation. Moreover, holiness as such is no longer part of our view of life. Divinity is successfully thrown out of matter and by this we feel free to do whatever we want with the world. This way we enabled ourselves to develop an incredible technical  development. But to what price?


Since the times of Hazrat Inayat Khan the technological revolution has been taking place in an ever higher speed. And at the same time violence and hunger dominate the world at a rate never seen before.  In the beginning of the last century the master saw a split occurring which today became even more evident. It seems that that mankind is divided into two groups: There seem to be some who seeing the comfort and convenience of modern life together with its new inventions and wonderful researches, admire evolution. There are others who praise the past saying how great were the past ancestors who were so high in their morals and ideals and who had such a comfort and peace in their natural life, until gradually everything became so degenerated that all virtues have become a prey to the selfishness and artificiality of so-called civilization.


Still the dominant group is idealizing technology and free enterprise. The voice against is till now a secondary movement. But as the master says: A certain direction of life develops for a certain period and before it has fallen back another direction of life begins to evolve.


The Sufi-Message is a declaration of a new civilization coming. It leads us out of the dichotomy between being in favor or being against current developments. Hazrat Inayat Khan:  The Masters of humanity have prescribed only one remedy to remove this darkness and that is by charity, by the practice of which a person's sympathy is broadened from his own self to the whole world. He then becomes the friend of all.


As our teacher Pir Vilayat announced, we are standing at the verge of a worldwide paradigm change. All of nature is working towards this purpose. The development of man is in the center of the focus of creation.  Saadi says, "The sun, the moon, the planets, the air, the water and the earth are all serving you, aiding life's purpose and preparing for your food. Yet you regard all this unthankfully, absorbed in your own little troubles which are as nothing before the great forces of nature, always working, night and day".


The animalistic absorption
We saw above, that Murshid sees three basic aspects to the stalemate in which man is stuck. The angelic and the devilish we already mentioned. The third aspect is the “animalistic quality”. Man is in his/her present state of development exploring and expressing the way of the animal. We take and devour as much as we can get without consideration of the world around us. But after this animalistic state, so we can find in the teachings of Hazrat Inayat Khan, we move to the plant quality. In “The Sufi Message of Spiritual Liberty” we find a clear description of the general laws of manifestation according to Sufism. In our path towards the source we will shift from the animalistic quality towards the plant quality. This is the law of nature and this will happen. Plants are friendly beings. They are grateful for what they get. They endure what has to be and they are with their whole being sympathizing with their surroundings.  We humans will enter into a stage where we are sympathizing with the whole.  This is true for mankind as a whole as much as for individual man/woman.  Our problem is that we have no idea about the time involved in this process. Are we talking about now, today, these days, the time we are living in? Hazrat Inayat Khan was full of hope, that after the suffering of the first world war mankind would be ripe to wake up to divinity in man/man in divinity. Was he mistaken?


“We measure the time by ourselves. Because we are limited within a hundred years, we count a hundred years, and a thousand years, and we cannot easily count much more. We cannot count the great cycles…. The journey may take very, very many years, and yet it has not been a long time, because it was not felt to be long.”


Time does not matter, it is trust that matters. Man is meant to be the caliph of the whole creation. That is the message, which has been repeatedly given by all messengers of God. And so we will be caliphs!


In our first quotation we saw that for Hazrat Inayat Khan the definition of caliph is both “master of the universe” and “instrument of God”. How do these two quite different descriptions fit together?


In Wikipedia we find about the etymology of the word: “The term caliph derives from the Arabic word khalīfah which means "successor", "steward", or "deputy" and has traditionally been considered a shortening of either the term khalifat Allah ("successor to God") or khalifat rasul Allah ("successor of the messenger of God]"). However, studies of pre-Islamic texts suggest that the original meaning of the phrase was "successor selected by God".”


Khalifat Allah
First of all  the Message of Hazrat Inayat Khan states that in the coming new age man will rediscover the religion, which was meant by all Saints and Prophets, no matter in what time or continent they lived. So we are talking about khalifat Allah and not about khalifat rasul Allah in the narrow sense of a ruler who claims to represent the Prophet Muhammed and in His name blows up Buddha-statues or kills people belonging to other religions. The monotheistic  phenomenon of intolerance is not in accordance to Murshid´s  ideal of caliph.


The successor
Moreover it is man who may rightly be called the seed of God, for in him alone intelligence develops so perfectly that he not only appreciates God's works and worships Him, but he is even enabled to attain self-sufficiency and all-pervading consciousness of the everlasting life of God. Man realizes his perfection in God, and God realizes His perfection in man.


In the eyes of Murshid man has the capacity of becoming the successor of God.  Pir Vilayat was often teaching about conquering our inheritance as one of the basics on the Sufi-Path. It seems to me, that the meaning of successor is not as we would think. To be the heir of Allah, the caliph cannot be a ruler, who does as he wants. He is not a man of absolute power, who ruthlessly reigns as he likes. The etymological root of the word heir is "to be empty, left behind". The attitude towards power in case of the caliph is that he misses something and is in search inside himself of the qualities, which were typical of his Predecessor. In His footsteps he wants to go.