Submitted by Halim Bruno Knobel, VP Kinship Europe (Switzerland)
Basira Hela Hasemann (Germany)
It is part of the tradition of the Kinship branch of the European countries in our Inayatiyya family to hold a meeting every two years in Suresnes, a city on the outskirts of Paris. This is the location of the former home of Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan, Fazal Manzil, the House of Blessings.
The pilgrimage focuses less on traveling—this is a matter for each participant in an individual way—but rather on creating a space where we meet, where we sing, make music, tell stories, and report on the work from the respective countries.
The special thing about this meeting is the place, with all the still perceptible vibrations: Fazal Manzil offers the Khanqah, a meeting room for all kinds of activities. On the first floor, you will find the legendary Oriental Room, the spiritual heart of the house and the favorite room of Murshid, where he had meditated, and gave initiations and blessings; and, where important meetings had taken place. On the second floor, the visitor can sense the atmosphere of the music room, the room where the children of Murshid and Amina Begum—Noor-un-Nisa, Vilayat, Hidayat, and Khair-un-Nisa played in their house orchestra. Outside in the garden, just opposite the Khanqah, you will find the Universel, a temple that stands as a symbol for all different religions and cultures, and a place of celebration, meditation, and prayers. In this setting, our 2021 pilgrimage was planned, as it turned out, during this time of aggravating conditions of Covid. We had to opt for a hybrid event: the moderation took place in the Oriental Room of Fazal Manzil, and the Khanqah was open to up to twenty participants. All other active contributors and participants joined via Zoom. Events via Zoom require completely different preparations and skills than we were used to, so as novices in digital event organization, we were often on the verge of being overwhelmed.
The whole process was deeply an act of Kinship: we considered how we dealt with all the unplanned events, with the shortcomings and misunderstandings from person to person, and how we had included technology as arguably the most important partner. With the new possibility of including the entire globe with Zoom, we had to deal with different times zones. The Council was unanimous in its opinion that we would respect the tradition of having a European event and consequently using European time as a basis. We wanted to give people in the near and far East the opportunity to participate in the same way as friends from the West.
From the circle of organizers, lecturers, and musicians, a total of 15 people were involved. We offered simultaneous translations in French, Turkish and English. With this endeavor, we were completely at the mercy of the technology: we had to count on an intact and powerful Internet connection. We had to expose ourselves to the Zoom communication software, and largely also surrender ourselves. We had to burden contributors beyond the limit of what was reasonable: contributions from Chile and the USA came from the earliest hours of the morning! Uncertainties, delays in establishing a connection, a computer crash – more and more the planned and orchestrated weekend became unpredictable: our trust in other powers was tested! And yet, this was little noticed by the participants, which was wonderful. Both of us facilitators, Basira and Halim sat in the Oriental Room. With Murshid behind us, we got good support. All the other active contributors used the web for their contributions.
To explain the term Kinship (in his time: “Brotherhood”) Murshid often used the image of the flocks of birds: Kinship has to do with getting involved with a larger whole, and deferring one’s personal interests. In this understanding, all participants harmonized wonderfully: an unforgettable meeting unfolded by the grace of the One.
The contributions were of great value, and at a high level. We were gifted by Sarafil Bawa with offering key teachings from the Social Gathekas. Shaik-al-Mashaik Mahmood Khan, in his usual eloquent manner, provided remarks on coexistence in political and religious societies, and comments on democracy. Rabia Povich shared with us Murshid’s teaching about the five stages of Kinship: respect, sympathy, forgiveness, tolerance, and unity, adding a sixth stage which she called “service”. We were able to learn from the various frontline work being offered in our European countries, and about the different challenges. Hayat told us about her work in Greenland working with indigenous people on social challenges, and how she was able to spread the idea of Kinship; Basira told us about the various projects running in Germany; Anna Latifa spoke about the Nayaz project and her work dedicated to prisoners of conscience; Mary-Aman reported about her grass-roots work in Great Britain; and, for the first time, Mehrunnisa told us about the projects in Turkey, especially about the suffering of bees and how we can protect them. We were gifted with oriental sounds by the musicians Mehmet, Ali and Jabir Ungen and with songs and prayers by Joy Azima. We had several meditations and we were allowed to dive into the wisdom of interconnectedness, inseparability, inherent togetherness, enhanced by a Sufi story.
A major goal of this pilgrimage was to support Fazal Manzil, which is in urgent need of renovation. So we decided that all active participants would waive compensation for their services, that expenses would be minimal, and that we would donate all profits to the renovation. We were all happy to have been able to contribute a substantial amount, and most grateful for all the activists!
We also are thankful for all the participants who contributed, whether in the form of a ticket or a donation.
May Fazal Manzil soon shine in new splendor, and host countless other events including our next pilgrimage in Suresnes!