Wednesday, April 15, 2009 By Maryam
Pir (Persian: (پیر) literally "old [person]") is a title for a Sufi master. They are also referred to as a Shaikh, which is Arabic for Old Man. The title is often translated into English as "saint". In Sufism Pir's role is to guide and instruct his disciples on the Sufi path. This is often done by general lessons (called Suhbas) and individual guidance. Other words that refer to a Pir include, Murshid (Arabic: مرشد, meaning "guide" or "teacher"), Sheikh and Sarkar (Persian/Hindi/Urdu word meaning Master, Lord).
The path of Sufism starts when a student takes an oath of allegiance with a teacher called Bai'ath or Bay'ah (Arabic word meaning Transaction). After that, the student is called a Murid (Arabic word meaning committed one).
A Pir usually has authorizations to be a teacher for one (or more) Tariqahs (paths). A Tariqah may have more than one Pir at a time. A Pir is accorded that status by his Shaikh by way of Khilafat or Khilafah (Arabic word meaning succession). Khilafat is the process in which a Shaikh identifies one of his disciples as his successor (khalifah). A Pir can have more than one khalifah.
On the image: Pir Zia Inayat-Khan.
Pir Zia is the son and successor to his father Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan. He is the present head of The Sufi Order of the West and the founder of Suluk Academy. He has studied comparative religion and oriental languages (Arabic Urdu and Persian) at London University and received his PhD from Duke University. Like his father he is a master of meditation and profound Sufi mysticism.