Wednesday, April 21, 2004 was the opening of the Federation Retreat in Katwijk aan Zee, Netherlands, close to Amsterdam. Wednesday and Thursday were supposed to be rainy days and we were pleasantly surprised to see the sun even with moderately cold temperature. Ominously, the sky stayed clear during that first day. Inside the Temple Murad Hassil, built in a place where Hazrat Inayat Khan had profound meditation experiences, old and new friends meet in a warm atmosphere of unity and sympathy, as brothers and sisters. All records of kissing and hugging must have been broken that day. This year was the Sufi Movement's turn to host the retreat.
Hidayat Inayat-Khan opened with prayers and a few words of welcome, and Karimbakhsh Witteveen added his welcome to everybody. Jami Klein (Sufi Order International), Michael Schouwenaar (Sufi Contact) with Hannah (Ruhaniat's mureed) whom he met at the Federation's meeting in Kansas City, Dahan Bakker (Sufi Way), Moinuddin Clarke (Fraternity of Light centered around Columbus, Ohio), and Shabda Kahn (Sufi Ruhaniat International) represented with many others the branches that sprouted from the message of Love, Harmony and Beauty of Hazrat Inayat Khan. They all gave messages of unity and peace.
Pir Shabda Khan quoted Hazrat Samuel Lewis: "I'd like to go to a peace demonstration where the demonstrators demonstrate peace." All of us are praying repeatedly "Toward the One". This makes it clear that we must endeavor ourselves to practice this prayer to move in the direction of towards the One and towards unity amongst all of us.
The Sufi Ruhaniat International had the honor of presenting the first program. Pir Shabda Khan, Murshid Saul Barodofsky (Virginia), Murshid Saadi Neil Douglas-Klotz & Kamae Miller (Scotland), Firdousi Wyrick, Vakil Forest Shomer, Abraham & Halima Sussman (Boston), Jean-Pierre & Monick David (New York City), Attar Boudewijn (Oregon), Farunnissa Rosa (North Carolina), Noor-un-Nisa Karyn Wyse (Florida & Colorado), Munir Peter Reynolds (Montana), Gita Onnen (Germany), Brita Kuegelgen and Hauke Sturm (Germany), Karin & Suleyman Fourier (Germany), Illona Vorslav and Natalia Safonova (Russia), etc… where among the many faces representing the Ruhaniat. Of course there were dances, Zikar and plenty of laughing. The Ruhaniat was compared to some "troubadour group" of the Federation of the Sufi Message.
The second day Hidayat remarked that "rules are made to be broken" during breakfast. He said it in jest and in French, referring to May 68 in Paris when the students wrote that phrase on government walls. Shabda told us that he expected an email confirming his meeting with Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan retracting his 1978 edict that had caused the Ruhaniat and the Sufi Order to follow their own ways.
The small group meetings of the morning allowed personal networking among attendees and presented a great venue to deepen bonds among members of the different branches of the Federation. The order of the day was to attempt to put abstract ideas into symbols. We all did it and all responded with great creativity to the challenge. This is a great group practice to exemplify concentration, meditation and creativity as a team.
The Sufi Way and the Fraternity of Light shared the afternoon presentations. The Sufi Way, followers of Murshid Fazl Inayat Khan, had a beautiful program with little talk but with singing practices, which created a deepening atmosphere. The Fraternity of Light showed their way of devotion in integrating Murshid's message into their lives and community.
The evening was reserved for the dances of universal peace that made people move, sing and be joyful with deep focus and concentration on the presence of the One. That day the sky stayed clear and the sun warmed us of his presence and compassion.
Friday was the most beautiful and warm day of all. After prayers the small groups had to create stories from sentences given them. Sufis are known for story telling, so we were asked to step in line with this tradition and compose our own stories. We heard stories about monkeys and a bird with blue wings, an elephant who adored roses, white bicycles (trust in God and do not forget to attach your camel "in this case bicycle that is appropriate to Holland"), etc...
Sufi Contact showed their way of following the path, with a strong concentration on Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan, single-minded and deep.
Then, the Sufi Order International turn came on. They had a message from Pir Vilayat for the Sufi Ruhaniat which confirmed that the 1978 edict was rescinded and that opened the way for reconciliation of differing point of views. Most importantly it will facilitate the work of unity to happen wholeheartedly at the local level among people of different branches. Pir Zia sent a message wishing all of us good luck and mentioning what had befallen at the Sanctuary that is at The Abode in New York State. It was an afternoon of sharing the deep sorrow expressed by Taj now that the Sufi Order Pir is so ill.
Krishna de Caluwé's "Noorunissa" was played in the evening by a fantastic cast including Nawab, Saul, Monick and Rani Katleen (who is a shaika in the International Sufi Movement). Noor's story is well documented in many books; however, this show gave such human poignant dimension to it that many could only let some tears go by.It is a moving presentation that was played in front of a deeply appreciative and impressed audience.
Pir Shabda concluded the evening with ragas and classical Indian music.
The morning sky was cloudy that Saturday but the afternoon was gorgeous again. It seemed that all the elements were conspiring in the celebration of our coming together in harmony. The walk from the Savoy hotel to the Temple takes thirty minutes along the beach and presents the best opportunity for physical exercise in the day.
The morning was spent with small groups again sharing our own practices. The afternoon was reserved for the presentation by the International Sufi Movement. The Sufi Movement showed some practices including the chromatic Zikar and the Universal Worship.
In the evening was a presentation of the new CD with the voice of Hazrat Inayat Khan (re-edited in close cooperation with Pir-O-Murshid Hidayat Inayat Khan) and memories and reminiscences of the times of Hazrat Inayat Khan and his Companions, his brothers, who for years have led the Sufi Movement as Representative General: Maheboob Khan, Mohammed Ali Khan, Musharaff Khan, all of them a great inspiration because of their deep devotion to Hazrat Inayat Khan and also their deep spirituality.
A dance led all the participants into farewell until next year at The Abode of the Message in New York State.
Sunday morning saw the meeting of the Federation Council, which ended in harmony and with many "till next times". Present were representatives of the organizations: Sufi Way, Sufi Contact, Sufi Order International, Sufi Ruhaniat International and International Sufi Movement. Hidayat insisted to keep the name of "Federation of the Sufi Message". Shabda noted that the Ruhaniat would maintain its noted style of practices.
As we left at the airport to go back to New York, Pir Shabda on his way to Dulles, DC and Natalia Safovona on her way to Moscow, Russia, showed up at the same time. Pir Shabda shared his account of the meeting with Pir Vilayat Khan in Paris and we are most happy of such resolution after so many years that caused so much confusion for many. He can only remind one of the words of our godmother Reverend Master Jiyu-Kennett "to always place harmony and love before principles," when she accepted a glass of wine at Saul's house at the dismay of the six contemplatives Buddhist student monks present. Murshid Wali Ali had expressed our dilemma so beautifully in his letter published in the Ruhaniat mureed's manual: "how can a teacher after taking hand reject a mureed in the name of rules?" That bond, that love, that friendship between a teacher and the mureed is forever, does not matter what, as Hazrat Inayat Khan said and Hazrat Samuel Lewis remarked in his commentary on the Path of Initiation and Discipleship (Chapter IV, page 64).
Love and blessings