It was with great pleasure that Shaykh Hisham Kabbani hosted His Royal Highness, Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales as his very very important guest in The Manchester Suite at Manchester United Football Grounds in Old Trafford on the afternoon of Thursday 4th February 2010.
As well as His Royal Highness, Shaykh Hisham had invited leaders from the wide spectrum of communities that represent the united colours of the Muslim community:
• A Kosovan delegation, led by Shaykh Zimmer Salihi, a Kosovan Imam with his own community mosque. Our Kosovan guests discussed the initial migration of their community to the UK and how it was the Sufi community that has helped them settle, find a welcoming place to pray, housed refugees during the war, etc… They also said that the practice of Sufism is the version of Islam closest to what is practiced “back home” in Kosovo.
• People of British origin who have converted to Islam spoke about how they were “rehabilitated” from a life of crime and/or violence or decadence and discussed the appeal of traditional Sufi skills such as art, music and silat in reforming their behaviours. Others in this group told His Royal Highness about their personal experience with Sufism in the search for spirituality and deeper meaning in life.
• A group of global dignitaries, including Baron Lorn Thyssen- Bornemisza of Switzerland and the Lord Charles Pelham - Earl of Yarborough, both of whom are avid supporters of Sufism and long time students of Naqshbandi World Leader, His Holiness Shaykh Mohammed Nazim Adil al-Haqqani spoke with His Royal Highness about the impact their education in the Sufi way has had and how it has supported them.
• The Somalian delegates discussed current difficulties facing the Somali community in the UK and the West where vulnerable young adults are being recruited into terrorist and extremists groups. They expressed how traditional Somali Islam utilises the Sufi principles of social harmony and how those traditional roots help them rehabilitate and build resilience amongst their vulnerable members.
• A delegation of very senior Pakistani Scholars were also invited by Shaykh Hisham, including Minhaj-ul-Quran – who have been staunch supporters and advocates of Shaykh Hisham’s initiatives to educate the silent majority on the broader aspects of Islam and provide grass roots initiatives to deter them from being attracted by extremist organisations. Present at our celebration of “Spirituality in Action” were other leaders from this community, including: Shaykh Syed Irfan Shah Mashadi, leading Sufi and Islamic scholar of in the UK; Shaykh Muhammad Rasool Bakhsh Sa'eedi, President of Jamah Ahlu Sunnah UK and Shaykh Rabbani Afghani who holds the post of General Secretary to Jamat Ahlusunnah UK.
The event was also graced by senior guests from other civic and religious institutions such as The Mayor and Mayoress of Manchester, the Lord Lieutenant of Manchester, The Bishop of Middleton, The Rt Reverend Mark Davies and Reverend Hugh Griffiths, The Christian Chaplain at Stockport College. Also attending was June Jacobs, from the Jewish faith who received a CBE in last year’s honour’s list for services to human rights and interfaith relations. June travelled up from London for the event and was struck by how little is known about the Sufi community who represent at least 50% of the UK Muslim population!
Senior Members of Parliament attending the event included Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, who said she wanted to understand more about the Sufi approach and Hazel Blears – long time champion of the Sufi way.
His Royal Highness was welcomed to the event by Shaykh Mohammed Hisham Kabbani, Deputy Leader of the Naqshbandi Haqqani Sufi Order, together with: Dr Hedieh Mirahmadi, Co-Founder of Centre for Spirituality and Cultural Advancement UK; Doug Gray, Head of Naqshbandi Haqqani Sufi Order - Australian Branch; Mr Shokat Malik, Executive Director of the Sufi Muslim Council and Mrs. Farzana Dean, Director of the Sufi Muslim Council.
Upon entering the Manchester Suite, His Royal Highness was presented with a gift from Shaykh Hisham of a traditional cloak from Uzbekistan worn by Sufi Shaykhs of old. Our world renowned artists also presented gifts to our honoured guest. Shahida Ahmed, a local inspirational artist whose work has been displayed in exhibitions all over the UK spoke about her inspiration to work with clay as a medium given that Allah created man from clay. She presented His Royal Highness with a phrase from the Quran made of clay embossed on a clay mount. Sabah Arbilli, winner of calligraphy competitions internationally gifted one of his pieces to His Royal Highness and Samia Tossio gifted a piece of silk embroidered calligraphy designed and created by her in partnership with her sister Hannah.
The Royal Party, having met these delegations and artists, were serenaded by Moroccan musicians as they moved on to the large auditorium to enjoy musical performances by The Naqshbandi Ensemble, The Moroccan Burdah Ensemble and UK favourites, Aashiq-ul-Rasul, who entertained the 500+ audience to the accompaniment of traditional whirlers.
Shaykh Hisham closed the event with an emotional keynote speech (copied below) that moved many in the audience to tears, and His Royal Highness departed to loud cheers and chants of “Long live our Prince of Wales” from the delighted audience.
Keynote Address of Mawlana Shaykh Hisham Kabbani
As-salaamu `alaykum wa rahmatullahi ta`ala wa barakaatuh. Your Royal Highness, thank you very much for coming. It is a day for us that we are going to discuss it for hundreds of years; we will tell our grandchildren about it. It is such a magnificent day that our tongues are frozen to say anything, but I will defrost it a little bit in order to deliver a small message.
First of all, I am sending greetings from my shaykh, who is in this picture, Shaykh Nazim Adil, may Allah give him long life, and on behalf of all shuyookh and on behalf of everyone here, to say something to keep in ourselves that happy event. It is my honor to introduce this distinguished and diverse audience from different faiths to your esteemed personage,Your Royal Highness, Prince of Wales, without counting the faiths, not only the Sufi faith but many faiths are present here, composed of people from different walks of life and from as many nations and origins.
This gathering is like a magnificent garden of flowers abounding with an array of indescribable colors, above which shines the gleaming rainbow of Your Royal Highness, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales. Such gatherings that you have attended, Your Highness, are the hope of humanity, because you are of royal blood and everyone likes to look at royal blood. The Royal Family always throughout history is in the hearts of people. And you are in our hearts, you and your mother, the Queen, and your family. They are a source of light, they are the beacons of every seeker, they are oasis in every desert, they are waves in the sea, they are the spring of every river we drink from, they are the crystal of every gem that we wear as necklaces around our necks, they are the heavenly dew in every leaf, they are the life-blood of animated beings, they are the stars, suns and moons in every firmament, they are the super-powers that swim in the universe of knowledge, beliefs, philosophy and traditions. You are that and your kingdom is that, and we hope that your kingdom will live forever, and that God gives life for generations after generations, enjoying this country!
Rumi said in his poetry, "We have a way from this visible world to the Unseen, there is a way. This is the way of the Sufis, the way of the knowledgeable people, the wise man and the wise woman who do their best through their hearts. They work with good intentions, for we are the companions of religions' messengers: Jesus, Moses, Muhammad, Noah, Abraham, and those who came before. They gave us the message of all beliefs, even to secularists. They are human beings. We love them and they love us. We accept everyone." As Rumi said and Imaam Chishti just mentioned that poem, "We have a way from the house to the garden. We are the neighbours of cypress and jasmine."
Everyday we come to the garden, and we are coming to your garden, Your Royal Highness, to see a hundred blossoms; your presence gives blossoms to everyone's hearts. These people came from everywhere to see you and see that royalty that is within you, in order to scatter these blossoms among the lovers. We fill our robes; my robe is full of them, your robe is full of them, and every robe is full of them, overflowing. "Behold our words," Rumi said. "They are the fragrance of those roses. We are the rose bush of certainty's rose garden."
O our esteemed royal guest, God said in the Holy Qur`an and in the Bible and the Torah:
'Innaa khalaqnaakum min dhakarin wa 'untha wa ja`alnaakum shu`oobaan wa qabaa'ila lita`aarafoo 'Inna 'akramakum `inda Allahi 'Atqaakum.
We have created you from male and female, and We have made you into nations and tribes in order that you can know each other. And the best among you are the most pious, (the most spiritual). (49:13)
And this gathering, like many gatherings around England and around the world, are gatherings of wisdom and happiness. May God bless you with happiness. May God bless you with His love. May God bless you in every possible way. I am an ant; in respect to you, I'm nothing. I'm a normal person coming in your presence to address you. That is a great pleasure for me and everyone in this audience to thank you very much for coming. May God bless us, bless everyone here, and bless you. Thank you very much. I will end with a prayer; I hope I'm on time!
Bismillahi ‘r-Rahmaani ‘r-Raheem. Alhamdulillahi Rabbi 'l-`Alameen, was-salaat was-salaam `ala ashraf al-mursaleen, Sayyidina wa Nabiyina Muhammadin wa `ala `aalihi was-sahbihi ajma`een. Allahumma aj'al awwal liqa-ina hadtha salahan, wa awsatahu falahan wa akhirahu najahan. Allahumma aj`al awwalihu rahmatan wa awsatahu ni`matan wa akhirahu takrimatan wa maghfirah. Alhamdulillah alathi tawada`u kull shay-in li `Adhamatih, wa dalla kull shay-in li `Izzati, wa khad`a kull shay-in li Mulkih, wastaslama kull shay-in li Qudratih, wal-hamdulillah alathi sakana kull shay-in le Haybati wa adh-hara kull shay-in bi Hikmati wa tasaghara kull shay-in li Kibriyaee. Allahumma aqithna fee ahab as-sa`at ilayka yaa Wadud. Rabbana taqabbal minna w`afu `anna waghfir lana warhamna wahdina ila al-Haqq wa ila tareeq al-mustaqeem. Subhaanaka Rabbi 'l-`Izzati `amma yusifoon wa salaamoon `ala al-mursaleen wal-hamdulillahi Rabbi 'l-`Alameen. Fatihah.
At the end I would like to say that I whispered in the ear of His Royal Highness that we are looking forward to the second event, so we will see! Thank you very much.