The Princess Spy:
Noor-un-nisa Inayat Khan


Noor's family and early life

A.  Noor's siblings

Noor was born in Moscow on January 2, 1914.  She became the oldest of four children born to Hazrat and Begum Inayat Khan.  It was a time of trouble in Moscow.  The Czar would soon be overthrowed.  Hazrat recognized the signs of revolution and moved his wife and young daughter to London where he founded the Sufi Order in England.  Soon Noor's brother, Vilayat, was born on June 19, 1916.  A second brother, Hidayat, was born during 1917.  A sister, Khair-un-nisa or Claire, was born during 1918.  
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Hazrat with his children: Noor, Claire, Vilayat, and Hidayat
Another view of Hazrat's family
The gentlemen behind the family are brothers of Hazrat.



B.  Early Life

The family moved several times during Noor's childhood.  She was familiar with London, Paris, the Hague in Holland.  In 1921 the family settled at a place in Surenes, France, not far from Paris.  Hazrat called this place 'Fazal Manzil' or 'House of Blessing.'  The building was to be more that just a house.  It was a school for followers of the Sufi traditions.

Fazal Manzil
Fazal Manzil

Noor clearly had fond memories of this house.  It was this house that the family would later need to abandon when they escaped to England in 1940.  Once Noor became an SOE agent and was stationed back in Paris, she would risk a dangerous journey back to Fazal Manzil in the Surenes just to see the place.

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A fairly young Noor

Noor's early days were marked by school, College Moderne de Filles, Surenes, where she learned to write poetry and create stories.  She met Raymonde Prenat at this school.  The two girls would remain friends throughout their lives.  Raymonde was one of the friends Noor would risk everything just to go see her.


Tragedy struck when Noor was 13.  Hazrat Inayat Khan passed away at the age of 44.  He was away from the family at the time of his death.  Ms. Fuller tells a story about how Noor dreamed of her father's death the day before the cable arrived announcing his death.  Begum Inayat Khan was unconsoleable.  Noor assumed many of the household duties after this point in her life.


C.  Life in Paris

Noor studied music and played several instruments included the harp and the sitar.  In April 1931, Noor became a student at the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris.  She even met her first fiancee at the college.  He was a paino player, but they were never married.

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Noor playing a musical instrument

While in Paris, Noor wrote her first and only book.  It was a book for children, and she retold twenty different childhood tales in the text.  The book was called Twenty Jataka Tales.  The tales typically tell stories about the different lives of the Buddha and each story contains a lesson for readers.  Following the book, Noor began to publish a newspaper called Bel Age for children.  The book was published in 1939.  The newspaper appeared around the same year.

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Twenty Jataka Tales
Retold by Noor Inayat Khan

Of course, Noor's life was about to change.  In 1940, the Germans stormed across the France taking control of most of the country in one form or another.


D. War comes to France and the family flees for England

As a result of the German occupation of France in 1940, Noor, Begum, Vilayat, and Clair all escaped to England.  Hidayat was married with children by this time.  He stayed with his family in France.  The journey to England was dangerous and the family was nearly separated trying to cross the English Channel.  Noor met Jean Overton Fuller, the lady who would eventually write a biography about Noor, as the family had moved to England.  Ms. Fuller helped the Inayat Khan family settle in England.  Being a British citizen, Viliyat signed up for the Royal Air Force.  Noor decided to follow in her brother's footsteps and joined the Women's Auxillary Air Force (WAAF).  Noor trained to be a wireless radio operator.  Eventually she was eventually recruited into the Special Operations Executive (SOE) because of her French background and she could speak fluent French.



Next Topic: Noor trains for the SOE

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