The Kinship Activity is one of seven activities within the Inayatiyya. This activity was created by Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan in 1923 to help disseminate the Sufi Message of divine unity—of all peoples, all religions, and all existence—and the religion of the awakened heart. The Kinship Activity was designed to bring inspiration and peace to societies distraught by a lack of an ideal and an absence of understanding. Kinship is open to all.
Murshid Inayat Khan inspired the formation of Brotherhood meetings (now Kinship Circles) in the beginning of the 20th century. These groups were open to all people where they could discuss issues that were important to their lives in a safe way. Topics included social reforms (moral, not political) and comparative religion (without any criticism of any religion). The meetings were to be free of jargon, and to include the reading of the Three Objectives of the Sufi Movement:
- To realize and spread the knowledge of unity, the religion of love and wisdom, so that the bias of faiths and beliefs may of itself fall away, the human heart may overflow with love, and all hatred caused by distinctions and differences may be rooted out.
- To discover the light and power latent in the human being, the secret of all religion, the power of mysticism, and the essence of philosophy, without interfering with customs or beliefs.
- To help bring the world’s two opposite poles, East and West, close together by the interchange of thoughts and ideals, that the universal brotherhood-sisterhood may form of itself, and people may meet beyond the narrow national and racial boundaries.
Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan took up the mantle of Kinship in several ways. In the 1970s he encouraged murids to be involved in Amnesty International, seeing a direct connection between the freedoms that organization works for and the freedom his sister, Noor-un-Nisa Inayat Khan, sacrificed her life for during the Second World War. In addition Pir Vilayat spent years collecting funds to support the creation and expansion of The Hope Project adjacent to Murshid Inayat Khan’s dargah in the Basti Hazrat Nizamuddin in Delhi, India. The Hope Project, now an independent NGO, strives to provide people, especially the poor and vulnerable, with opportunities and resources, so that they can realize their hidden potential and determine their own future.
“In America, no doubt, I found that there is one thing which appeals to an American, whatever be his occupation or position, and that is the idea of brotherhood, it being a place where in this ideal the national constitution has been built. Any other problem might divide their intentions, but in the idea of brotherhood they will unite.”
– Hazrat Inayat Khan
Pir Zia Inayat Khan, President
Pir Zia, familiarly known as Sarafil Bawa, is a teacher of Sufism in the lineage of his grandfather, Hazrat Inayat Khan. He received his Ph.D. in Religion from Duke University. His books include Saracen Chivalry: Counsels on Valor, Generosity, and the Mystical Quest and Mingled Waters: Sufism and the Mystical Unity of Religions. Pir Zia is president of the Inayatiyya, an organization devoted to awakening the reality that we are all one family, united in the parenthood of God, and founder of Suluk Academy. He is also, as president of the Order, President of the Kinship. Now based in Richmond, Virginia, Pir Zia travels frequently. His schedule can be found at pirzia.org/calendar.
Rabia Deborah Povich, Vice President
Rabia has been a student of the universal Sufi path for over 40 years. She leads a local Inayatiyya center in Charlottesville, VA where she studies mystical teachings and guides retreats. Motivated to advance the ideals of justice and equity with compassion and understanding, Rabia is engaged in her local community with an interfaith clergy group to help reconcile the divisions caused by systemic racism. Her professional background spanned 25 years in public policy, where she utilized advocacy, research, communication, and organizational development skills to reduce poverty and injustice and increase opportunity. Rabia promotes using our spiritual training in service in the world. She is currently the Vice President for the Kinship Activity.
Mikail Davenport, Prison Project Coordinator
Mikail has been a servant-leader in the Inayatiyya Sufi path for over 30 years as a Reverend Cherag (minister), Healing Conductor, and Representative. He is the focalizer of the Prison Book Project that sends requested books on spirituality to inmates. He is also the Mentor Training Director of the Prisoner Interaction Project and currently counsels and spiritually directs 25 inmates from various faiths around the country.
Nur Azad Jack Mangold, Member Emeritus
Nur Azad, along with his wife, Zarifah Kadian, is a co-director of the Baraka Center of Washington, DC. The Center offers teachings on Sufi principles and practices, meditation for individuals and groups and he participates as a Reverend Cherag during the regular offering of the Universal Worship, a celebration of the world’s great religious traditions.
He is also a psychotherapist in private practice in Bethesda , MD. His primary work is with couples, families in crisis and young men and women who lack a clear and purposeful direction in life. He works closely with parents developing effective parenting styles.
Until recently, Nur Azad taught Couple and Family Therapy and Advanced Asian Mediation at Johns Hopkins Graduate School of Education for 10 years. He also enjoys the birds, animals and plants in his backyard and loves to participate with his grown children in sprint triathlons.
Shams Kairys, Member Emeritus
Shams has been a student and guide in the Inayatiyya for 45 years. He served as coordinator of the Kinship activity in the North America region for 20 years, advancing the core themes of friendship, community, outreach, and service with colleagues who collaborated on many initiatives: fostering awareness of Kinship as integral to the work of the esoteric school; broadcasting good works of individuals and groups in the broader community; maintaining warm relations with kindred Sufi orders and other faith communities; honoring individuals who exemplify kinship values; and establishing a fund to assist members facing urgent financial hardship.
Shams has worked with many innovative organizations and projects dedicated to helping heal the world, including Berkeley Area Interfaith Council, Meeting of the Ways, Creating Our Future, Seva Foundation, Reaching Out Project, EarthSave International, Youth for Environmental Sanity (YES!), and Seven Pillars House of Wisdom. He is currently focused on shedding light upon the profound challenges of our global environmental crisis.
Wali Via, Council Member
Wali’s primary work, that bears relationship to Kinship, lies in creating reverent and healing relationships with the Earth and between each other. Several ways this has manifested are:
Developing a prayerful Healing for the Earth ceremony done extensively with farmers around North America.
Providing many tons of food to the local food bank and to a program to assist women and children escaping domestic violence.
Founding “Spiritual Conversations”, an activity of the Eugene Sufi Community, open to everyone, that serves to strengthen relationships through earnest sharing. He has recently retired after over 40 years of farming biodynamically.
Zakir Amin Povich, Council Member
Zakir Amin became engaged in Kinship work shortly after his initiation into the Inayatiyya in 1975 when Pir Vilayat affirmed that his path was one of service. This service included working as a social worker for over 40 years, coordinating an interfaith “kinship circle”; (i.e., a United Religions Initiative affiliate in Virginia,) for 10 years, participating as a member of the (Inayatiyya Order) Kinship Council for 7 years, and a variety of volunteer positions oriented toward bringing people together in harmonious collaboration. For fun, he hosts a world music radio program on WTJU in Charlottesville, VA.
Batina Sheets, Council Member
Drawn to the welfare of others is a natural for Batina while, as a child, she witnessed her father’s ministerial care for numerous congregations. That awareness for others took the form of a thirty-year career in Child Protective Services, Inayatiyya center leader, retreat guide, and Suluk graduate. She previously served on the Kinship Council for a number of years before leaving to concentrate on the Mureed Emergency Relief Fund. Along with Shams Khairys and Rabia Povich, she has helped to manage relief grants since the Fund’s inception in 2011. Currently a member of the Inayatiyya Esoteric Training Committee, her other interests revolve in large part to her husband, Wahhab, their three children, and five grandchildren. We welcome her back to the Council!
Amir Bisio, Council Member
Amir has been involved with the Inayatiyya since 2008 and joined the Kinship council in 2020. For Amir, Kinship is a reflection of both the social fabric of our Order and the threads which weave our spiritual tradition into the larger tapestry of our times. Of particular interest to Amir is developing a better understanding of the elements which create effective centers at the local level.