Pir Vilayat made it clear to Zia at an early age that he wished him to continue his lineage. He prepared him by instructing him in meditation, and at times guiding him in spiritual retreat—once in his cave in the Alps of Chamonix.
When Zia was 13, Pir Vilayat sent him to Dharamsala, India, to study under the auspices of his friend His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Sufism, however, was the central theme of the training Pir Vilayat passed on to his son. Pir Vilayat urged him to study Persian and Urdu at the London School of Oriental and African Studies, which he did, earning a B.A. (Honors) in Persian Literature. He went on to pursue graduate research in Islamic Studies, eventually earning a Ph.D. in Religion from Duke University.
With his father’s blessing, Zia undertook a period of seclusion at the Chishti Khanqah in Ahmedabad, India, and received spiritual transmission from Pir Rashid-ul-Hasan Jili Kalimi in Hyderabad.
In 2000 Pir Vilayat held a turban-tying (dastar-bandi) ceremony in Delhi, initiating Zia to the rank of Pir and confirming him as his spiritual successor (Sajjada-nishin). Pir Vilayat passed away three years later—may God keep him.
Since 2004 Pir Zia has served as Head of the Inayati Order, guiding Sufi communities in the North America, South America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and the South Pacific.
To provide opportunities for intensive Sufi study, Pir Zia founded the Suluk Academy. Based at the Abode of the Message in upstate New York, the Suluk Academy currently offers courses for Sufi initiates in New York, California, and France.
Outside the Sufi sphere, Pir Zia has taken part in numerous interreligious and interdisciplinary gatherings. To encourage such conversations and collaborations, he founded Seven Pillars House of Wisdom. Pir Zia is also a Fellow of the Lindisfarne Association, and an Advisor to the Contemplative Alliance.
He lives with his wife Pirani Sartaj and children Rasulan and Ravanbakhsh in Richmond, VA and travels frequently.
Pir-o-Murshid of the Inayati Order
President of the Inayati Order’s Five Activities:
Sajjada-Nishin of the Dargah of Hazrat Inayat Khan, New Delhi
Chairman of the Board of the Hope Project, New Delhi
Joint Grand Master of the Knighthood of Purity of the Hazrati Order
President of the Suluk Academy
President of Seven Pillars House of Wisdom