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Ethics Policy

Please see below for Ethical Guidelines & Procedures approved by the Inayati Order Board of Trustees on August 19, 2019. These are provisional guidelines as we collaborate on a modified version to be approved in 2020. Please see Pir Zia Inayat Khan’s statement about the approval of these guidelines for additional details.

Esoteric School of the Inayati Order in North America

Ethical Values of the Inayati Order

We respect the human rights and dignity of all Students. We believe in acting in the best interests of Students.

We respect the integrity of the Teacher – Student relationship, aiming to build trust and confidence.

Core Ethical Principles of the Inayati Order

Being Trustworthy: Honoring the trust placed in the Teachers and guides

Autonomy: Respect for Students’ right to make their own decisions

Beneficence: A commitment to promoting the Students’ wellbeing

Harmlessness: A commitment to avoiding harm to Students

Self-respect: Fostering self-knowledge, integrity and self-care

Personal qualities that support ethical behavior:

The Teacher’s personal and relational moral qualities are of the utmost importance. Their perceived presence or absence will have a strong influence on how relationships with Students and colleagues develop and whether they are of sufficient quality and resilience to support the work.

Key personal qualities required are:

Humility: The ability to assess accurately and acknowledge one’s own strengths and weaknesses

Identity: Sense of self in relationship to others that forms the basis of responsibility, resilience and motivation

Integrity: Commitment to being moral in dealings with others, including personal straightforwardness, honesty and coherence

Resilience: The capacity to work with the Students’ concerns objectively and compassionately

Respect: Showing appropriate esteem for others and their understanding of themselves

No statement of ethics can eliminate the difficulty of making judgments in circumstances that may be constantly changing and full of uncertainties. By accepting this statement of ethics, Teachers of the Inayati Order are committing themselves to engaging with the challenge of striving to be ethical, even when doing so involves making difficult decisions or acting courageously.


Financial ethical guidelines will be added to this document during the modification process.


Ethics is at the heart of the Inayati Order. Proper ethical conduct is essential to protect and preserve the message of the Order, and to allow it to be a continuing positive influence on the hearts and minds of today, and of generations to come. When one takes up the mantle of leadership within our Order, a sacred trust and spirit of adab is paramount.

The following Ethical Guidelines are an elaboration and updated version of guidelines that have existed in our Order for many years. As the understanding of ethics evolves culturally with respect to power dynamics and appropriate behavior within Student/Teacher relationships, it is imperative that our Order’s policies stay current. We are a spiritual organization, and we are also mindful of legal requirements. Therefore, the spirit of the guidelines is as important as the details. The intention of these guidelines is to protect Students, Teachers and the Order itself. As such, they are guidelines, not legal rules, created with the recognition that every situation is different and requires a nuanced approach, inquiry, and sensitivity.

It is hoped that the Ethics Committee may be perceived not only as an enforcement body, but also as a venue for assistance before issues rise to the need for a complaint, as well as a resource when ethical questions arise. The Ethics Committee is intended as a resource for education and focused discussion for our Order as it adapts to an ever-changing social and cultural milieu.


As used in these Guidelines:

  1. Teacher means anyone, including the Pir, who has been officially authorized by the Inayati Order to function as a Representative, Guide, Coordinator, Retreat Guide, or Mentor, or a person in training for one of these positions. They have a sacred relationship to Students a whether leading or participating in Inayati Order activities, and to the teachings they are communicating.
  2. Student means an initiate of the Inayati Order, a member of the Esoteric School of the Inayati Order, or any participant in a class, seminar, retreat or other event offered by the Inayati Order, whether the participation is in-person or through electronic media, including online forums sponsored by the Inayati Order. The ethical guidelines apply to Students as well as their Teachers.

Scope of Function

Teachers serve Students by giving teachings, spiritual guidance, encouragement and inspiration. Teachers may function only within the parameters of their authorization in Inayati Order Activities. As the Inayati Order recognizes and honors all spiritual traditions rooted in Divine Guidance, Teachers sometimes include teachings and practices from other traditions. When doing so, it is important that the Teacher identify the source of those practices and teachings.

Ethical Guidelines

A Teacher of the Inayati Order realizes the sacred trust involved in guiding the spiritual development of another human being. With that trust goes the responsibility of honoring the following ethical guidelines.

  1. Teachers offer practices to Students but never require them. Teachers do not prescribe behavior or make decisions for Students.
  2. Teachers do not engage in dual relationships with Students, such as acting as a guide and also as the Student’s health care professional or psychotherapist. Teachers are very cautious about entering into any financial relationship with a Student, such as employing or contracting with a Student in any type of business or professional relationship, or seeking investments from Students for personal gain. The more constant and common the participation of a Student in our offerings, the more caution we take, e.g., Students who are initiates in our Order or who regularly participate in the Order’s offerings or local Center activities.
  3. Teachers do not present their professional activities as official functions of the Inayati Order.
  4. Teachers do not use the authority and power of their position to exploit Students for material, emotional, or personal gain.
  5. As part of guarding this sacred trust, Teachers are aware of and take responsibility for the inherent power differential that exists in the Student/Teacher relationship by virtue of their position in the Order, recognizing that this relationship requires heightened consideration and personal constraint. As a Teacher within the Order, particularly stringent boundaries and standards of behavior must be maintained.As such:
    • It is the responsibility of a Teacher to be aware of any feelings toward his or her own Students that fall outside the Student/Teacher relationship. Teachers exercise exemplary restraint when a Student has sexual feelings towards them. Acting upon romantic or sexual feelings goes beyond the appropriate boundaries of the relationship. When such feelings arise, the Teacher consults with his/her guide, a senior leader within his/her activity, another peer, or a member of the Ethics Committee, and if indicated, terminates the relationship with the Student.
    • Because good judgment is often obscured by romantic feelings; because sexual intimacies with a former Student are so frequently harmful to the Student; and because such intimacies undermine public confidence in the Teacher/Student role; Teachers do not engage in romantic relationship or sexual intimacies with former Students, except in the most unusual circumstances. Teachers are encouraged to refrain from entering into a romantic relationship or sexual intimacies with a former Student for at least six months after the Student/Teacher relationship has ended. The Teacher who engages in such activity after the end of the Teacher/Student relationship bears the burden of demonstrating that there has been no exploitation, in light of all relevant factors, including (1) the amount of time that has passed since the Teacher/Student relationship ended, (2) the likelihood of adverse impact on the Student and others, and (3) any statements or actions made by the Teacher during the course of the Teacher/Student relationship suggesting or inviting the possibility of a post-termination sexual or romantic relationship with the Student.
  1. A Teacher does not engage in any behavior towards his/her Student that constitutes sexual solicitation, physical advances, sexual harassment or verbal/nonverbal conduct that is sexual in nature, is unwelcome, offensive, or creates a hostile environment, and/or is sufficiently severe or intense to be perceived as harassment by a reasonable person. A simple rule to follow is: “if in doubt, don’t do it.”

For the purposes of these Guidelines, “sexual harassment” means offensive or inappropriate behavior. Conduct which could be viewed as sexual harassment, includes, but is not limited to: unwelcome sexual advances; requests for sexual acts or favors; other verbal or physical conduct of a harassing nature; and public display of sexually offensive pictures, objects or the like.

  1. A Teacher does not engage in any other kind of harassing behavior. Harassing behavior, separate from sexual harassment, is any unwelcome, offensive or inappropriate behavior that continues after a request has been made that it stop.
  2. In their role as an Inayati Order Teacher, a Teacher does not engage in any behavior or take any action that creates barriers for any particular social group based on bias regarding gender, gender identification, age, neuro-diversity, sexual preference, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, disability, socioeconomic status, or religious preference.
  3. A Teacher does not engage in any behavior or take any action that is retaliatory or discriminatory toward a Student who raises concerns or makes a complaint regarding an ethics violation or who is the subject of an ethics violation complaint. However, maliciously false accusations will be treated appropriately.
  4. All Teachers are responsible for being familiar with Inayati Order Ethics Policies and Procedures, and for being aware of how to respond appropriately when a Student raises a concern or complaint regarding a potential ethics violation. Teachers seek to improve their understanding of ethics in their role, for example, by taking ethics training offered periodically by the Inayati Order.
  5. Visiting and guest Teachers participating in local center, regional, and national programs, and those interacting with Inayati Students on behalf of the Order follow the same ethical guidelines as appointed Inayati Order Teachers. Visiting and guest Teachers will be asked to review, agree to, and sign an ethics statement specific to short-term teaching assignments.
  6. For the protection of Students, the public, and the Inayati Order,
    • a Teacher who witnesses an Ethics violation or otherwise becomes aware of a credible complaint of an Ethics violation reports it pursuant to the Inayati Order’s procedures. To the extent possible, the privacy of the complaining party and the person accused of the violation will be respected, consistent with the need to fairly investigate and take appropriate action.
    • a Teacher notifies the Ethics Committee regarding concerns about behaviors unbecoming of another Teacher of the Inayati Order, such as showing signs of substance abuse or psychological impairment, even if the behaviors do not rise to the level of an ethics violation.
  1. Except as specified in #12, when a Teacher has concerns about the behaviors of another Teacher, s/he is encouraged to first inform that Teacher of the concerns and see if the issue can be resolved informally, if appropriate. If an issue is resolved informally and then occurs again, the Ethics Committee must be contacted immediately.
  2. Teachers collaborate respectfully with other Teachers and never denigrate another Teacher.
  3. These ethical guidelines apply to a Teacher’s use of social media.
  4. A Teacher needs to be aware, and advises a Student to seek other assistance, if the Student has a problem that requires a different type of assistance than can be offered in the role of Teacher. Examples:
    • A Student with physical problems will be advised to seek proper health care treatment.
    • A Student with serious psychological problems, such as severe depression, anxiety, psychosis, or personality disorder, will be advised to seek a licensed mental health professional.
    • A Student with a drug or alcohol problem will be advised to seek an appropriate substance abuse treatment resource.
  1. Teachers are aware and take responsibility for all those present in their offerings, and consider the benefit or possible harm of Students’ participation. Students may be asked not to participate if indicated.
  2. If a Student is aware of having a significant physical or psychological problem, the Student informs the Teacher of the problem. A Teacher may elect to not give spiritual training to such a Student.
  3. If a Teacher is unable to function effectively with a Student, due to factors such as personality conflicts or other conflicts of interest, as previously outlined, the Teacher terminates the Student/Teacher relationship. If termination is indicated, it is handled sensitively and cautiously due to the dynamics present between both parties. A Student is always free to choose to transfer to another Teacher at any time.
  4. If a Teacher realizes that s/he is unable to function effectively in the Teacher role at any particular time, due to factors such as burnout, financial problems, substance abuse, or relationship problems, the Teacher consults with his/her guide, consultant and/or peer group. If the Teacher decides to become inactive or reduce responsibilities, he/she notifies the Executive Director and the Head of the relevant Activities.
  5. A trainee, or other person who has not been officially authorized by the Inayati Order to function as a Representative, Guide, Coordinator, or Retreat Guide, may lead a retreat, seminar, or other program in the name of the Inayati Order only with permission from an officially authorized person within the relevant Activity.
  6. Teachers inform each Student that all communication between the Student and Teacher arising during the course of spiritual guidance is confidential, and the Teacher maintains that confidentiality, unless a specific agreement to share certain information is made with the Student. Students keep confidential the teachings they receive. However, there is an exception to this confidentiality requirement when a Teacher learns something that requires disclosure in order to protect the Student or identified others from serious and foreseeable harm, when there are other legal requirements, or when consistent with the need to fairly investigate and correct any alleged violations of this policy.
  7. All Teachers cooperate with the Ethics Committee in any investigation or other aspect of proceedings regarding an alleged ethics violation.

The Ethics Committee is a resource for informal resolution efforts. When the Ethics Committee is contacted for this purpose, it will make an effort to have the issue resolved without a formal complaint, whenever appropriate. If informal resolution is not possible or indicated, when a report of alleged lack of compliance with one or more of the ethical guidelines is received, the Ethics Committee Procedures are followed.

Anyone who has any questions concerning these standards may contact the Ethics Committee at

(Ethical Procedures)

The Ethics Committee is not intended as only an enforcement body, but “as a venue for assistance before issues rise to the need for a complaint, as well as a resource when ethical questions arise.” It is intended as “a resource for education and focused discussion for our Order as it adapts to an ever-changing social and cultural milieu.”

Within this context, the Ethics Committee is entrusted with the profound responsibility of addressing and thoroughly investigating ethics concerns with compassion, wisdom and empathy for all concerned, a sacred trust and service to the Order to which the members of the Committee must bring their hearts and souls and discerning minds.

The work of the Ethics Committee requires a capacity for deep reflection and deliberation to take into consideration the complexities of our human lives and many diverse viewpoints, along with the nuances of the situations that might come to it. When facing the difficult responsibility of recommending sanctions, or rarely, the possibility that a Teacher would no longer be authorized to work under the aegis of the Inayati Order, it is imperative that the hearts and minds of the members be fully present and engaged in order to fulfill this task with empathy, compassion and dignity.

Taking into consideration that the members of the Ethics Committee are, of course, also human, with their own points of view, the structure and function of the Committee provide safeguards to address this reality:

  1. The Ethics Committee is optimally comprised of four members at a time, but at least three, ideally two women and two men, but at least one woman and one man, amongst three to four members of the Committee at all times. All ethics concerns and complaints are directly processed by at least two to three members, never by one member alone, though one member may be the lead communicator. The different viewpoints of the various members involved help to provide a counter check on one another to ensure a balanced, deeply considered approach to each unique situation that comes to it.
  2. All members of the Ethics Committee are required to be committed members of the Inayati Order and deeply rooted in its teachings.
  3. A strong background in psychotherapy, or a closely related field, is optimal for members of the Ethics Committee in order to address the at times intense psychological issues and situations that arise. To this end, members of the Committee need to be able to notice and acknowledge their own counter-transference as it might arise and affect their view, and to step back (recuse themselves) from an investigation that might involve someone or a situation too closely related personally or emotionally.
  4. The task of the Ethics Committee is to thoroughly investigate concerns and complaints and to act as an advisory body to the Pir.
    • The Pir is apprised of all concerns and complaints. If the grievances brought to the Ethics are revealed to be concerning enough to suggest that sanctions or even dismissal of the Teacher might be a consideration, the Pir of the Order is advised of this situation as quickly as possible and is regularly updated as the investigation proceeds through direct and written communication, including direct review of relevant correspondence, as well as summary reports. The Pir has the final word in the conclusion arrived at in consultation with the Ethics.
    • All those in leadership positions in the Inayati Order, including Representatives, Coordinators, Teachers, guides, leaders, and retreat guides, Farmers, Healing Conductors, Knights, mentors and in other official capacities in the Inayati Order, such as functioning as members of the Ethics Committee, serve at the pleasure of the Pir, who has the profound responsibility and prerogative to determine who may represent the Inayati Order at any time.



When an ethics complaint is made about a Teacher, the Teacher is required to work cooperatively, in good faith with the Ethics Committee to resolve the issue. Failure to do so may result in suspension of the Teacher or even dismissal.

Many complaints have been resolved through mediation and an agreed upon plan for remediation and prevention of further harm, with a report back to the Ethics Committee of all involved.

The investigation of some complaints has resulted in the recommendation of sanctions. A sanction is a reasonable required course of action that offers a Teacher the opportunity to reflect upon and correct behavior that has resulted in harm toward a Student. Sanctions may, for example, involve a requirement that the Teacher-in-question pursue an intensive course of education (for instance, in financial ethics), or engage in psychotherapy for a required period of time (usually one or two years) while working intensely with their guide and/or mentor on the issues involved, or to take corrective action in relationship to a Student (such as immediately paying back money owed, or offering an apology if the Student is willing to receive it).

In some cases, depending on the nature of the complaint, a Teacher has been allowed to fulfill sanctions while continuing to function in their role as Teacher. In other cases, due to the nature of the complaint, a Teacher has been required to suspend their functioning while fulfilling sanctions, after which the Teacher may apply for reinstatement. When there have been previously processed complaints about a Teacher and another complaint is received about this same Teacher, the Teacher may be asked to suspend functioning until the investigation process is complete.

On rare occasions when the facts and circumstances have so warranted, the ethics process resulted in a Teacher no longer being authorized to work under the aegis of the Sufi / Inayati Order.

The Pir of the Order is apprised of all ethics complaints. In cases that might call for sanctions, or possibly even dismissal, the Pir is fully informed of the investigation as it unfolds, receiving direct and written updates, including review, as wished for, of correspondence with complainants and the Teacher-in- question, and ultimately a summary report, provided through direct discussion and in writing. The Pir has the final word in the conclusions arrived at in consultation with the Ethics Committee.

The following is a summary of the basic procedures of the Ethics Committee that have been followed since its inception:

  • A complaint or expression of concern is received. Every effort is made to contact the complainant immediately after the Committee has been made aware of the complaint.
  • The complainant is contacted directly by phone. The basic nature of the complaint is discussed. If the situation is such that there is any possibility of ongoing psychological or emotional, or even physical harm for anyone involved (including the complained-about-Teacher), a safety plan is made and available support is assessed and addressed.
  • The complainant is requested to submit the complaint in a written, signed letter.
  • As soon as possible, after the initial contact with the complainant, the Teacher-in-question is made aware of the complaint by the Ethics Committee through direct communication by phone and is requested to respond to the complaint in writing. The Teacher’s safety and need for support is also evaluated and addressed.
  • All involved are reminded of the importance of maintaining confidentiality to support a respectful process and to reduce the possibility of further harm. They are reminded that the Ethics Committee will maintain confidentiality, but cannot control gossip in a community and are asked to do what they can by not responding to such gossip.
  • The Ethics Committee deeply considers the complainant’s and Teacher’s written responses. If it appears that the issue is such that it can be resolved through mediation and both parties agree they can meet face-to-face without causing undue harm, this avenue is pursued. A mutually acceptable plan for remediation and prevention of further harm is developed with a report back to the Ethics Committee after period of time which is acceptable to all involved. This process may involve others in the community who can be supportive of this agreement, and of both the complainant and Teacher. All must agree that this process has resolved the issue; otherwise the formal complaint process is pursued further.
  • The Ethics Committee invites, receives and considers letters of support on behalf of the Teacher- in-question, as well as the complainant, as they wish to present these.
  • The Ethics Committee ensures reasonable support to complainant(s) and Teacher as needed; for instance, encouraging and checking that the complainant and/or Teacher has accessed therapeutic support if this is felt to be needed and desired.
  • The complainant and Teacher are kept posted about the progress of the investigation since an investigation can take some time, in order to ensure as fair and thorough a process as possible.
  • In very complex cases involving multiple complaints and people, the Ethics Committee may use a formal hearing process to gain further information and insight into the situation.
  • A Teacher-in-question, as well as the complainant(s), is given every opportunity to fully present his/her perceptions of the situation and to submit any and all support and evidence for their point of view.
  • The Ethics Committee speaks with or corresponds with the Teacher and complainant(s) as much as needed until the issue has been thoroughly explored.
  • The findings of the investigation are shared with the Pir. In the case of situations that the Ethics Committee feels might require sanctions or possibly even dismissal, the Pir is updated throughout the investigation, both through direct discussion and in writing, as indicated, and ultimately receives a written summary.
  • The conclusions of the ethics process are shared with the Teacher-in-question and the complainants. Unless the conclusion of this process is that the Teacher is no longer authorized to teach under the aegis of the Inayati Order, the conclusions are kept confidential. This includes if a Teacher is required to fulfill sanctions.
  • If the Teacher may no longer represent the Inayati Order, a simple formal announcement of this fact is made to the Jamiat Am and is otherwise shared on a need-to-know basis. For instance, the Students of that Teacher would be informed that his/her work no longer comes under the aegis of the Inayati Order so they can make an informed decision about whether to continue to work with the Teacher or to seek the guidance of another Teacher in the Order. The Regional Representative for the area in which the Teacher resides is also informed, in order to address local issues resulting from this decision.

Appeal Process 

A substantive finding of the Ethics Committee may be appealed by the “Teacher” (respondent) or the complainant within 180 days of the finding. Such requests must be made in writing to the Executive Committee of the Inayati Order Board of Trustees (Executive Committee).

The Executive Committee will determine the merit of going forward with an appeal, reviewing the following:

  1. If procedures of the original investigation were properly followed.
  2. If new information is available to inform the case. (Only if new details are materially significant to the case.)

If the Executive Committee finds merit in the appeal request, in cases where Inayati Teachers and/or spiritual guides have been removed from representing the Order, the Executive Committee will appoint an appeal committee consisting of three people who previously have not heard the case to consider the appeal. This appeal committee shall deliver a recommendation to the Executive Committee that will render a final decision by majority vote within two months of the appeal.

The Appeal Committee will serve on a case-by-case basis, and shall not exist as a standing group. The Appeal Committee shall consist of experienced guides at least one of whom will have a background in psychological issues. Diversity of gender representation will be included. The Appeal Committee will observe confidentiality of all material and will assure that all parties interviewed have the emotional support needed.

The appeal process will not be a re-litigation of the case but will review all of the case material and will include:

  1. A review of whether the Ethics procedures were followed.
  2. A review of the case material.
  3. Taking in of any new information. The Appeal Committee will receive new information in writing via US Postal Mail. The Appeal Committee has the discretion to determine how such material will be taken, including the number and length of submissions, and if interviews are necessary. All new material shall be included in the written record.
  4. Additional investigation as deemed necessary.
  5. The Appeal Committee may consult with experts while maintaining the confidentiality of all parties.

The findings of the Appeal Committee will be made in a timely manner (within two months) and any recommendations will be sent to the Executive Committee. The Executive Committee will be the final arbiter of the appeal process. All parties to the Ethics appeal, including the Ethics Committee, will be informed of the final appeal. After this step, all decisions are final.

The existence of this appeals process shall in no way be construed to limit the powers granted to the Permanent Member in the Bylaws to appoint and remove representatives of the Order in the Permanent Member’s sole discretion.

If you have questions about our Ethical Procedures or would like to submit a complaint for review, initially write and the Chair of the Ethics Committee will be in touch with you with further details. Please do not send details about the complaint via email.  If you have questions about the appeal process or would like to request an appeal, please write