In Family’s Footsteps
Mahmood khan Youskine: His Life and Reflections on Sufism
by Wali van der Zwan
Born in 1927, Shaikh al-Mashaik Mahmood Khan has lived through most of the history of Sufism in the West. As he grew up in the family that made this history, his story is not only a fascinating one, it also offers many details yet unknown. Mahmood grew up in an Indian-style joint family in the Hague (the Netherlands). His childhood was immersed in the atmosphere of the Indian Sufism of his father Maheboob Khan and his uncle Ali Khan, and through them, of his late uncle Hazrat Inayat Khan.
Mahmood became convinced that the teachings of Hazrat Inayat Khan can only be fully understood through the biographical and historical circumstances Inayat Khan grew up in – the Indian Hindu and Muslim world of the 1890s. Thus, Mahmood made it his life’s aim to emphasize this approach.
Walking in his family’s footsteps was his inspiration – his dharma as it is understood in India – and his joy. His spiritual as well as scientific-historical approach to Sufism is unique. It offers insights that may surprise readers who are familiar with Sufism in the West as it often has been understood. At times, Mahmood puts an axe to presumed historical certainties. For readers not familiar with the Sufi path, Mahmood offers a full scale introduction to mysticism. This book follows Mahmood’s footsteps, discovering and deepening the heritage of his family, leading to his ripened views on Sufism in the West for the present and the future.
“Shaikh-al-Mashaik Mahmood Khan has a mystique that is hard to define. To meet him is to stand before a dapper and eloquent nonagenarian with sparkling eyes who seems to have just arrived by train from another world. From which world did he come? In this highly readable book, Wali van der Zwan gives the answer. To know Shaikh al-Mashaik is to love and adore him, and so In Family’s Footsteps is a veritable textbook of the Sufi ‘School of Love.’”
—Pir Zia Inayat Khan, Sajjanishin of the Dargah and Khankah of Hazrat Inayat Khan, President of the Inayatiyya and the International Sufi Centre
“Mahmood khan Youskine was of invaluable help to me when I was researching my biography of his cousin and World War II heroine, Noor Inayat Khan. With his amazing memory and sense of humour, he brought Noor to life before my eyes. It was an honour to welcome Mahmood to London when the bust of Noor Inayat Khan was unveiled by Princess Anne. In Family’s Footsteps provides a wonderful insight into the birth and growth of the Sufi movement in the west by Hazrat Inayat Khan and his brothers, from the man who witnessed so much of it himself. Mahmood represents the best of Indian and Dutch traditions and culture, and this book is a valuable archive of life in Europe through war and upheaval and family strife. Through it all, Mahmood never fails to bring hope and a positive message of peace and harmony. It is an honour and privilege to know him.”
–Shrabani Basu, Author, journalist and historian
“If I have succeeded, it is only because I have been blessed with unlimited access to the matchless expertise of Shaikh-al-Mashaik Mahmood Khan, the thinking man’s guide to the land of the Sufis.”
—Hendrik J. Horn, Author, historian
“Mahmood rescues the Sufism he has known his entire life from myths and fables that have accrued to it. With remarkable clarity and power, he delivers truths which can shape lives and nourish souls. Mahmood’s uncle, Hazrat Inayat Khan, said, ‘What is given in love is beyond price.’ Mahmood’s gift is priceless. Let us embrace it.”
—Arthur J. Magida, Author, journalist