Libmonster ID: IN-1233
Author(s) of the publication: A. A. SUVOROV


Doctor of Philology Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences

Keywords: Nur Inayat Khan, World War II, fight against fascism, British intelligence, French Resistance, Indian Sufism

In November 2012, in the center of London, on Gordon Square, the daughter of Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Anne, inaugurated a new monument-a bronze bust of a young woman. In the UK, this woman is known as radio intelligence officer Nora Baker. In France, she is known as Madeleine, the heroine of the French Resistance. In fact, she was the daughter of an Indian and an American Muslim woman named Nurunnisa Inayat Khan (1914-1944). At the beginning of the war with Germany, Nur, as her relatives called her, joined the British army, and in 1943 was abandoned as a radio operator in occupied France. Her dangerous mission did not last long, and three months later Nour was captured by the Gestapo. Not only did she refuse to cooperate with the Nazis, but she didn't even give up her real name. She was tortured for a long time and then sent to Dachau concentration camp, where she died in 1944. Her last word before being shot was Liberie1.

The short tragic life of Nur Inayat Khan is a ready-made plot for a novel or movie. Her fate clearly demonstrates how the struggle against fascism in Europe united people of different races, nationalities, social origin and views. Everything we know about the environment in which Nur grew up, and the character and interests of this shy and dreamy Muslim girl, who lives in a world of mystical poetry and music, did not foreshadow the desperate fearlessness and willingness to die for an idea that she showed in the last years of her life.


Nur's father Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882-1927), an Indian musician, philosopher and preacher of Sufism in Western countries, had a decisive influence on the formation of her personality. Author of numerous theoretical works and literary works.-

The article was prepared with the support of RGNF in the framework of project N 14 - 03 - 00014 -"Heiresses of Asian Democracies: gender and Political Dynasties in South Asian countries".

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translated into various languages of the world, he became famous for being the first to introduce the Western world to the philosophy and spiritual practices of Indian Sufism in the adapted form and specific "presentation" that was acceptable to the Western public at the turn of the XIX-XX centuries, who were fascinated by Eastern "spirituality" and spiritualism.

Inayat Khan created his spiritual teaching "Universal Sufism", which, like most modern religious and mystical movements of Eastern origin, is an eclectic mixture of elements of Muslim and Christian mysticism with anthroposophy and yoga. This teaching formed the basis of the activities of the "International Sufi Order", which has branches in different countries of the world and is especially popular in the Netherlands, France, Germany, the USA and pre-revolutionary Russia.

Inayat Khan was descended from the legendary Tipu Sultan, the Muslim ruler of the South Indian principality of Mysore, who in the 18th century led the armed resistance to the expansion of the British colonialists. Today, Indian Muslims and Pakistanis consider Tipu Sultan a national hero in the struggle for freedom and independence of India. Inayat Khan's family was proud of their illustrious ancestor not only because of claims to a high aristocratic origin-the musician and his children believed that they inherited from the "Lion of Mysore", as Tipu Sultan was called, the indomitable spirit of freedom. The main work of Inayat Khan is called "The Sufi Message on the Freedom of the Spirit" 2.

In 1910. Inayat Khan, who already had a reputation as a well-known musician and spiritual mentor in his homeland, is going to the West to bring the" light of Eastern wisdom " to Europeans. Its mission developed in line with the neoorientalism fashionable at the turn of the century, which tried to adapt Eastern traditions to Western cultural realities. India was the origin of all the most famous "teachers of life" who conquered Europe at that time, in particular, Swami Vivekananda and Jiddu Krishnamurti.

Inayat Khan went on the journey accompanied by two younger brothers, also practicing Sufis. In 1912, he married an American woman, Ora Baker, a follower of his, who converted to Islam and took the name Amina Begum. Ora also came from a family of spiritualists, though with a somewhat dubious reputation. Her half-brother, Pierre Bernard, became infamous for promoting erotic tantric practices in America, and her cousin Mary Baker Eddy is known as the creator of the quack sect "Christian Science".

In 1913. Inayat Khan, along with his wife and younger brothers, came to Russia, where he spent more than six months. His unusual music for the Russian ear, picturesque exotic appearance, charm of a man with "secret" esoteric knowledge-all this attracted many representatives of the artistic elite to him, including the poet Vyacheslav Ivanov, the composer A. N. Scriabin and the musicologist S. L. Tolstoy (the eldest son of the writer L. N. Tolstoy). According to the memoirs of contemporaries, even the all-powerful Rasputin 3 became interested in Inayat Khan. In addition to his musical activities: lectures and concerts at the Polytechnic Museum, Inayat Khan preaches the teachings of Sufism. Around him in Moscow, and then in St. Petersburg, a circle of those who are attracted by mystical revelations gathers. It was then that the first Sufis appeared in Russia.

In Moscow, Inayat Khan secretly meets with Orthodox clergymen, which he later told about: "To this day, I have never met such understanding minds, which contained everything that concerned wisdom and truth. They were very surprised that there was also perfect truth outside of their church... I left them, taking their friendship and sympathy with me."4. It is in Russia that the first edition of the Sufi Message is published.

Inayat Khan's name is associated with another significant event in the cultural life of Russia in the 1910s. He composes music for the symbolic mystery "Sakuntala" ("Shakuntala") based on the play by the ancient Indian playwright Kalidasa, which was directed by the outstanding director Alexander Tairov. The premiere of this historic performance was opened by the Chamber Theater in December 1914, with the great actress Alice Koonen in the title role.

On January 1, 1914, the eldest daughter of Inayat Khan and Amina Begum-Nurunnisa was born on the territory of the Vysokopetrovsky Monastery in Moscow, in a monastic cell adapted for an apartment. Soon after her birth, the family left Russia forever.


Nur's early childhood was spent in London, and the first language she spoke was English. The family lived in a small rented apartment in Bloomsbury, the traditional center of the capital's intellectual life, and as a child Noor often played in the same Gordon Square where her monument now stands. She grew up as a quiet, shy and sensitive girl who loved music more than anything else in the world. Her father began to develop a musical talent in her at an early age.

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It was her ear that taught her to play the sitar. Inayat Khan's family grew rapidly: in five years, two sons were born - Wilayat and Hidayat, and a younger daughter, Khairunnisa. The London flat became crowded.

In 1920, one of Inayat Khan's admirers and students gave him a house in Suresnes, a suburb of Paris, and the family moved to France. The years in Suresnes were the happiest of Nur's life, although the family lived more than modestly on donations from her father's students. The house, called Fazal manzil (Urdu for Abode of Wisdom), was spacious but dilapidated. The children enjoyed complete freedom and spent most of their time on their own, playing in the old, overgrown garden and walking in the surrounding fields. In the evenings, my father would tell them intricate Sufi parables and sing Indian raga tunes.

This serene childhood ended abruptly when Inayat Khan, under the influence of a mystical "insight" or "call" in 1926, decided to return to India, leaving his wife and children in France in the care of his brothers and students.

In Delhi, he spent his days meditating and playing music in the mausoleum of the great Indian saint Nizamuddin Auliya (d. 1325), who was once the head of the Chishtiya Sufi order. As a young man, Inayat Khan was initiated into this order and never broke spiritual ties with it. In the same place, next to the tomb of the saint, he was buried after his sudden death in 1927. It is now the headquarters of the International Sufi Order.

After receiving the news of her husband's death, Amina Begum fell into a deep depression and stopped caring for the house and children. All the worries about her brothers and sister, as well as household chores, fell on the shoulders of 13-year-old Nur. The orphaned family barely made ends meet, living on the meager funds raised from the activities of the" International Sufi Order", which was headed by Inayat Khan's brothers.

Despite the difficult financial situation of the family, Nur managed to get a first-class education. She studied child psychology at the Sorbonne for a while, and then entered the Paris Conservatory, where she graduated in composition under the guidance of the famous pianist and music teacher Nadia Boulanger. Boulanger's brother Noor, Wilayat, was also a disciple.

Despite her excellent professional training, Noor did not become either a composer or a performer. She was shy of the audience and the stage, played music only in the family circle, playing the harp and sitar, and earned a living as a children's writer, writing fairy tales and children's stories "from Indian life" for magazines and radio. In 1939, her book "Twenty Stories from the Jatakas" was published in London, based on the monuments of narrative literature of Buddhism-the jatakas, stories about previous rebirths of the Buddha. Obviously, the book was popular, as it is still being reprinted today.5

Although Inayat Khan's early death left his children essentially fatherless, he remained their unquestionable authority and role model. Inayat Khan's brothers and numerous disciples continued to preach his ideas of peace, pacifism, freedom of the spirit, and spiritual harmony around the world, and Noor, now an adult young woman, still lived in an ideal imaginary world that had nothing to do with harsh reality.

Despite the cult of nonviolence and freedom of the spirit that prevailed in the Sufi family, Nur's mother and uncles treated her strictly, as is customary in a traditional Muslim home. She rarely left the house alone, did not interact with strange men, and her rare romantic hobbies were purely platonic in nature. This patriarchal order was destroyed by the outbreak of war.


On June 14, 1940, German troops entered Paris without a fight. France surrendered on humiliating terms: 60% of its territory was occupied, part of the land was annexed by Germany and Italy, the rest was ruled by a puppet government. A week before the surrender, Inayat Khan's family, known for their anti-war beliefs and rejection of any violence, managed to escape to Bordeaux, and from there to England.

Despite being raised in the spirit of pacifism, Noor decided to join the army from the very beginning of the war in order to contribute to the fight against fascism, which, in her opinion, was in the interests of India, which she had never seen, but always considered her homeland. In one of her letters, she wrote:: "I would like the Indians to prove themselves in this war and be awarded the highest military awards. If we could contribute to the Allied struggle, which is widely admired, it would help build bridges between the British and the Indians. " 6

In November 1940, Noor joined the Women's Auxiliary Service of the British Air Force (WAAF), where she trained as a radio transmitter operator. At the same time, she and her brother Wilayat came to the attention of the Office of Special Operations (SOE), a secret service created during the war, which was called the " Secret ar-

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mia Churchill". The task of the Directorate was to collect intelligence, conduct reconnaissance, organize sabotage, and support resistance movements in German-occupied European countries. Churchill had high hopes for the new service, ordering its agents to "set Europe on fire." 7

In 1942, Noor became an SOE agent, using a slightly modified version of her mother's name, Nora Baker. The fact that Nur was equally fluent in English and French made it possible to use her in intelligence activities on the territory of France. Therefore, she was assigned to the " Department F (France)", which served mainly Englishmen and immigrants from the British colonies. During the war years, this department deployed about 400 agents to France, half of whom were women, but only two dozen of them survived the Allied victory.8

In the intelligence school, where Nur was trained to work in the occupied territory, the authorities were not happy with her. SOE reports said that she was "not burdened with brains" and "will not be able to work in the specialty"9In numerous interviews that she conducted at the intelligence school, everyone was shocked by her answer to the question of what she would do after the war. Noor replied that she would fight for the freedom of her homeland India, but only when Nazism was destroyed.10

Perhaps, this desire for freedom, absorbed from childhood, decided the fate of Nur, because in June 1943, she was landed on the territory of France and joined the underground group of Major Francis Sattil ("Prosper"). When she reached Paris, she began to maintain uninterrupted radio contact with the English center under the code name and call signs "Madeleine".

The Prosper group was unlucky: after just a month and a half of operation, all the transmitters were captured, the British agents who were sent to France were discovered, and for a while Nur was the only active Resistance radio operator in the entire Paris region. The head of "Division F" wrote about her in a report: "Now she has the most responsible and most dangerous mission in our entire network." 11

For the time being, Nur managed to evade Gestapo persecution. So that it did not have time to be tracked, it conducted a radio communication session for no longer than 20 minutes. So she spent her days circling Paris with a heavy suitcase that contained a walkie-talkie. From time to time she was stopped by patrols, but a thin, modestly dressed girl who explained that she was a provincial looking for an apartment did not arouse their suspicions. More than once, the patrolmen suggested that she bring her suitcase to the metro station.

Meanwhile, the intelligence center in London came to the conclusion that the failure of "Prosper" was not accidental and the group was infiltrated by a Nazi agent who knows the codes and call signs of all radio operators. There was a serious threat that Nur was about to be arrested by the Gestapo. Despite the fact that the command ordered her to return to England, she refused and for three months personally coordinated the work of the entire network in Paris, regularly changing her appearance and the location of radio sessions.

However, in October 1943, Nur Inayat Khan was arrested and initially placed in the infamous SD headquarters on Avenue Foch, where many Resistance heroes, in particular the Russian nun Mother Maria (Ye. Kuzmina-Karavaeva). During the air raid on Paris, Noor escaped from the prison by crossing the roofs of houses, but was overtaken by a chase. For refusing to sign a document stating that she would no longer attempt to escape, she was awarded the status of "dangerous enemy of the Reich". She was then sent to Germany's Pforzheim prison, where she was held in solitary confinement for ten months, shackled to a wall.


Noor's months in prison were a living hell, as she was repeatedly beaten and starved to confess. People in nearby cells could hear her sobbing at night. Although Noor insisted that she was an Englishwoman, Nora Baker, her pronounced Asian appearance - dark skin, thick dark hair, and eyebrows-made it possible to suspect her of being "non-Aryan", which also explained the harsh treatment of her captors. Nur managed to scrawl her name and address on an iron bowl, and a few months later this last message finally reached her family.

Since no information about British agents could be obtained from Nur, there was no point in keeping her in prison any longer. September 11, 1944, its and

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Three other female SOE agents were transferred to Dachau concentration camp. A few days later, they were shot right in the crematorium building, and their bodies were immediately burned. A memorial plaque on the wall of crematorium 12 says this.

Many years after the end of the war, in 1958, a Dutch Sufi who was a former Dachau prisoner went to Wilayat Inayat Khan, who by then had become the head of the International Sufi Order, and told him that his sister had shouted the French word "Freedom!"before she died.

In 1946, Nur Inayat Khan was posthumously awarded the highest military awards of both countries - the British George Cross and the French Croix de guerre. As military archives opened and secret documents were published, the incredible story of Nur's life and death began to attract the interest of historians and literary and artistic figures. Dozens of journalistic studies and several novels have been written about her, as well as feature films and documentaries: "The Man called Fearless", "Under the code name Madeleine "and"Enemy of the Reich" 13.

In 2011, as a result of a charity campaign in which representatives of the Indian and Pakistani diasporas actively participated, 100 thousand pounds were collected for the production of the bust and its installation in Gordon Square. This is the first monument to a Muslim woman erected in the UK. In France, which has never forgotten its "Madeleine", two monuments in her honor have already been erected.

Opening one of them, General de Gaulle's niece, Genevieve de Gaulle-Antonioz, herself a former member of the Resistance movement, said of Noor: "Neither her background, nor her faith, nor the traditions of her family obliged her to fight, much less sacrifice herself for our victory. But she chose our struggle and freedom and served them to the end with admirable bravery. " 14

The fate of Noor reminds us that during the Second World War, two and a half million Indians fought against Nazi Germany and its allies. As part of the British armed forces, they fought in the Middle East theater of operations, participated in battles in Burma, Malaya, Singapore and against militaristic Japan. Nur Inayat Khan, who contributed to the victory over fascism ,is part of this story.

A new surge of interest in the personality of Nur Inayat Khan today is associated with the collapse of the policy of multiculturalism in Western countries, including in the UK and France. The life of the "spy princess", as journalists like to call her, shows a perfect example of the adaptation of ethnic diasporas to the interests of the titular nation, complete loyalty even to self-sacrifice. Films and books, honors and monuments to the Indian Muslim woman who fell in the struggle for the victory of the allied countries, directly or indirectly indicate the expectations of Europeans regarding their new citizens, immigrants from Asia. However, it is obvious that the motivations that motivated peoples and individuals during the great war against Nazism cannot be repeated in peacetime.

Basu Shrabani. 1 Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan, New York: Omega Publications, 2007.

Inayat Khan. 2 Introduction to Sufism. Sufi Message on the Freedom of the Spirit, Moscow, Amrita, 2012.

Fuller Jean Overton. 3 Noor-un-nisa Inayat Khan: Madeleine. London, East-West Publications, 1988, p. 145.

Elisabeth Keesing. 4 Inayat Khan: A Biography. London. East-West Publications, 1974, p. 95 - 98.

Inayat Khan Noor. 5 Twenty Jataka Tales. London, Inner Traditions, 1985.

Rozina Visram. 6 Ayahs, Lascars and Princes: The Story of Indians in Britain 1700 - 1947. London, Pluto Press, 1986, p. 142.

Helm Sarah. 7 A Life in Secrets: The Story of Vera Atkins and the Lost Agents of SOE. New York, Abacus, 2005, p. 87.

Binney Marcus. 8 The Women Who Lived For Danger: The Women Agents of SOE in the Second World War. London, Coronet Books, 2003, p. 196.

Basu Shrabani. 9 Op. cit., p. 169.

10 Ibid., p. 171.

Binney Marcus. 11 Op. cit., p. 211.

Hamilton Alan. 12 Exotic British spy who defied Gestapo brutality to the end // The Times, 13 May 2006.

13" A Man Called Intrepid "(1979), as Noor Inayat Khan - Barbara Hashley; "Codename: Madeleine" (2013); " Enemy of the Reich: The Noor Inayat Khan Story (2014), starring Grace Srinivasan.

Tonkin Boyd. 14 Noor Inayat Khan: The Princess Who Became A Spy // The Independent, 20.02.2006.


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