Noor-un-Nisa Inayat Khan, d. Dachow, Poland, 1944
This information is taken from the Sufi Order International Website (www.sufiorder.org)
Noor-un-nisa Inayat Khan was the first child of Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan and his American wife, Amina Begum (nee Ora Ray Baker). With the genetic heritage of Eastern and Western Mystics, Noor was a child of destiny. She deeply affected the hearts of all those she encountered, from her childhood meeting with her father’s disciples, to the Nazi interrogators who destroyed her body, but could not break her spirit.
Pir Vilayat writes:
She so greatly gained the affection of her school pals that they elected her for the prize of “good comradeship.” When she was twelve years old, after her father’s death, she became a little mother to her brothers and sister, as her mother became committed to bed for years, suffering from the physical symptoms of a broken heart. All those who knew her had a deep respect for her whilst being moved by some endearing feature of her being. Was it because she so deeply cared for all those she came across—even her jailers?
Noor, who espoused the Gandhian principles of non-violence, was outraged by the depredations of the Nazis. She felt called to take part in the work of liberating Europe, but was dismayed by the paradox of killing to prevent violence. She reconciled these irreconcilables by voluntarily putting herself in the greatest peril, as a radio operator behind enemy lines in occupied France.
Her unique qualities touched the hearts of the cynical British spymasters who trained her. Even while they disparaged her father for filling her head with “mystical rubbish,” they were deeply touched by her gentleness and compassion. In fact they were loath to send such a refined being into such deadly risk, but Noor persisted, and her perseverance eventually overcame all objections. She returned to France as “Madeleine,” agent of the resistance.
The German forces in Europe had the technology to trace the origin of radio transmissions, so the task of radio operators was hazardous in the extreme. There was also the constant danger of betrayal by Nazi sympathizers or collaborators out for their own private gain. By the time of the countdown to the Normandy invasion Noor was the last radio operator active in France. She declined the option of returning to England, choosing instead to continue to provide the last link between the French underground and the Allied headquarters. The Gestapo, who had her description and knew her code name, made massive efforts to find her and sever the last link between the resistance and London.
In the end, she was betrayed, sold for money to the Nazis by the sister of a friend. She was subjected to continual interrogation, and since her own principles would not allow her to lie, she refused to give any information at all. She was subjected to torture, starvation, repeated beatings, and humiliation for nearly a year, until finally she was taken to the concentration camp at Dachau, where she was shot and consigned to the crematorium. Her last word: “Liberté”. A mere days later, Dachau was in the hands of the Allied forces.
The Intelligence officer who trained Noor in London and his opposite number, who oversaw her interrogation in Paris, may never have met, but they are in agreement on at least one thing. They have both gone on record stating that Noor was the most remarkable human being either of them had ever met.
There is a wall in the museum that now stands on the grounds of the Dachau camp, which commemorates Noor’s martyrdom. The temple of the Universel built at Suresnes is also dedicated to her memory, Khankah Noor Inayat, the Southwest Sufi community’s residential village has been named in her honor. Most of all, wherever individual freedom is endangered by the encroachment of tyrants, the voice of Noor-un-nisa, along with all those who have held aloft the light of truth amid the darkness of human ignorance, cries, “Vive la liberté.”
Salon reports that Britain unveiled a bronze bust of Noor Inayat Khan, celebrating the nation’s only female Muslim war hero.
Khan’s family moved from London to Paris when she was young, but in 1940, after the Nazis occupied Paris, Khan returned to London and volunteered for the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. She was recruited by the elite spy organization Special Operations Executive in 1942, and sent to Paris in 1943 under the code name “Madeleine.” Although many of Khan’s peers were arrested, she stayed in France and continued to send dispatches to London at the risk of being captured. Eventually, Khan was betrayed and turned over to the Gestapo, who tortured her and sent her to the infamous Dachau concentration camp. At Dachau, still refusing to cooperate, however, she was executed by a firing squad at the age of 30.
It is said that her last word before her death on Sept. 13, 1944, was “liberté.”
Muslims Who Fought Against the ‘Real’ Fascists, Sheila Musaji http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/muslims_who_fought_against_the_real_fascists
Muslim Voices Promoting Islamic Non Violent Solutions http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/promoting_islamic_non_violent_solutions
Originally published 9/2011