Manchester United Football Club, Old Trafford
4 February 2010 Manchester, UK
Recitation of Holy Qur'an.
JazakAllah khayr, ahsant, barakAllahu feek. My lords, ladies and gentleman, as-salaamu `alaykum wa rahmatullahi ta`ala wa barakaatuh. Today, we're all gathered here at the invitation of His Eminence, Shaykh Hisham al-Kabbani, qaddas Allahu il `Ali, who is a great Sufi Master, as you all know. ... I would like to welcome right at the beginning, an imaam who has been recognized by the Royal Household and has been given an honor by the queen herself, one of the most active Sufi imaams in the UK who has been working tirelessly for the unification of Muslims throughout the UK. Prior to the guest's arrival, we have a video of His Eminence, Shaykh Nazim Adil al-Haqqani, for all the attendees and the guests to hear. I would like the technical team to prepare for the airing of the video and I'm sure each and every one of you will listen attentively to the message that the grandshaykh gives today.
Message from Sultan al-Awliya Mawlana Shaykh Nazim al-Haqqani (recorded):
O our beloved and respected attendees! We are coming to speak some words for this assembly for this management. (...inaudible...) thinking a good thing about such a weak servant, and that is an honor granted from you to such a weak servant. But you are giving respect to me and I am asking from my Lord to grant to you heavenly respect. There is a hadith, a holy saying from Holy Prophet, the Seal of Prophets, Sayyidina Rasoolullah (s), man lam yashkuri 'n-naas, lam yashkurillah, "Those who are not thanking people are not thanking their Lord." It is an order if a person does something well, to say for him, "Thank you, shukran." And here, this assembly through the efforts of His Highness, Prince Charles, thanks to him also. May Allah (swt) grant him much honor for here and Hereafter.
If I was able to go there with my physical being, I would be running, but now I am reaching up to 90 years old; therefore, I am apologizing to His Highness that I am not able to come for such a respected assembly. May Allah grant them high stations through heavens! I am nothing, but if the Lord of Heavens wants to grant someone something, He may do that. I can't come with my physical being, but I don't say that my spiritual being is not there, for it must be with you; only with my material being it is difficult for me to be with you. I am thanking you that you invited me! I am asking forgiveness for me and for you. SubhaanAllah, Absolute Glory is for our Lord. Thank you for listening. If you are sending some halwa (sweets), I am ready to eat also! (laughter) As-salaamu`alaykum!
Mashaa-Allah. We would like to pray for the long life of His Eminence, Shaykh Nazim Adil al-Haqqani (q). Ladies and gentlemen, jazaakAllah, please be seated, thank you. I would now like to invite on the stage one of the most active Sufi imaams in the UK, whose tireless work has been recognized by the Royal Household. Initially, as a young student he studied Arabic Islamic Studies at al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt. He was awarded "Member of the British Empire" for his many services to the Muslim community, in January 2008. He runs his own supplementary school for young British Muslims. He also holds the post of Director of Engagement. Imaam Chisti is a very active person in interfaith work and was recently appointed Chair of the Rochdale Multi-Faith Partnership. I would like to invite him on stage and address the gathering with his speech. Thank you.
Imaam Irfan Chisti:
My lords, ladies and gentlemen, distinguished shuyukh, scholars, brothers and sisters, friends of all communities, of faith communities and of no faith. I welcome you to this very auspicious event. In fact, I'm extremely honored and feel privileged to offer you this opening welcome, and my warmest welcome to all of you at this auspicious and landmark event, let alone landmark venue, the Manchester United Football Club of Trafford. Today's event celebrates the positive impact of spirituality on Muslims worldwide, but particularly highlights the contributions of Sufi Muslims who settled in the UK and who have been settled here for over 100 years. We have over 600 mosques in the UK that have Sufi roots. However, we can trace back UK Sufi heritage to 1894, when Abdullah Quilliam was granted the title, "Shaykh ul-Islam of the United British Isles" by the Ottoman khalifah, Sultan Abdul-Hameed II. He established the first mawlid, the birthday celebrations of the blessed Prophet Muhammad (s) in Liverpool in 1894. Such celebrations that have continued throughout the UK to this very day, and may I add also that the very engagement of mawlid has become a contentious issue for some. As many of you may know, the first purpose-built mosque in the United Kingdom was the beautiful Shah Jahan Mosque of Woking in Surrey, built in 1889. However, you may be surprised to learn that the great Sufi known as "Shair-e-Mashriq," (Poet of the East), Hazrati `Allama Muhammad Iqbal rahmatullah `alayh, visited this beautiful mosque. During the gathering he granted one pound each, and you can imagine the value of a British pound in 1889 as one pound sterling today, to a young 8-year-old boy and girl who were both engaged in praising God Almighty and praising the blessed Prophet Muhammad (s) in a mawlid celebration.
Moving to current times, we see many mosques have been established by Sufi masters and their followers with no external funding. The grand, enormous and beautiful Central Jamia Masjid, Ghamkol Sharif in Birmingham is reputably the largest mosque in the whole of Europe and is a testimony of the strength, spirit and resolve displayed by the Sufi communities. In addition to the mosques, the Sufi communities of the UK also strove to establish seminaries of higher education and schools and colleges that aimed to give a holistic education to nurture the future generations of Muslim leadership. And over the last ten years this world has witnessed enormous natural disasters and calamities of all kinds that have befallen many nations. Sufi communities in the UK established their own charities to rally the support of this silent majority, to mobilize their wealth to help and support all victims and those that suffer.
We are extremely honored, privileged, and indeed grateful to His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales, for accepting the invitation of our host today, Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, who will be delivering his keynote speech towards the conclusion of the program. We have various artists both from the UK and across the globe who will not only be entertaining you, but hopefully will share with you the power they have felt of spiritual transformation through music and art. As a teacher of the classroom, we learned that it is always important to set some objectives for any classroom activity, so I want to set the objectives today for ourselves; I'll let you be the judge of whether or not we achieved those objectives by the end of the day. Firstly, we are gathered here to highlight the impact of spirituality on young people's lives. We hope to show examples of positive rehabilitation through spiritual experiences, and to present an insight into the power of spiritual transformation through music and art. I hope and I pray that you not only enjoy today's event, but that you will take away a very memorable occasion. I thank you for attending. Once again, our warmest welcome and heartfelt thanks for your attendance today. JazakumAllah khayr. Was-salamu `alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuh!
(Transcript of second part of event, which includes address of Shaykh Hisham Kabbani, is posted with video of Part 2.)