A visit by a worldwide Sufi leader, Shaykh Mehmet Adil, to our Unitarian Chapel in Padiham, Lancashire, on Friday evening, 11th March 2016, attracted a crowd of 250 people of different faiths, but overwhelmingly Sufi Muslim.
In his talk, Shaykh Mehmet paid tribute to the Unitarian community in Padiham for its role in promoting inter-faith understanding. He said the growing relationship between the Chapel and local Sufis of the Free Spiritual Centre in Nelson, was an example of how trust and unity could be built between faiths.
Rev Jim Corrigall welcomes Sufi leader Shaykh Mehmet Adil to the Chapel.
Chapel President Tony Cann and Minister Rev Jim Corrigall gave introductory addresses, and there was Sufi mystical chanting at several points during the evening. Afterwards, nearly 200 people enjoyed a shared meal in the Chapel hall downstairs (in two sittings), with the food prepared and served by young men of the Free Spiritual Centre.
Shaykh Mehmet Adil is based in Turkey, and was on a brief UK tour. He is head of the Naqshbandi Haqqani Sufi order, which has millions of followers worldwide, and which traces its lineage back to the great 13th century Sufi mystic and poet Jalaludin Rumi.
Shaykh Mehmet is the eldest son of the late Shaykh Muhammed Nazim Adil (leader of the Order until his death two years ago), who visited the Padiham Unitarian Chapel on a historic visit in 1995, when the Rev Andrew Rowley was minister.
Welcoming address given by Chapel President Tony Cann
As the leader of this congregation of Unitarians, it is my honour and pleasure to welcome you Shayk Mehmet Adil, and all of you here tonight, to Padiham. We are humbled by your visit. I remember well the visit to our Chapel of Sheik Nazim, 21 years ago, which followed a visit I made to meet him in London with our then minister Rev Andrew Rowley -- who incidentally, sends his good wishes to you all. The result of that visit was the formation of a Sufi community in this area with which we have close relations.
We are all travelling spiritually towards the one God. The paths we follow can be different and we have different guides. However if we believe that we travel towards the one God we should travel together for part of the way so we can learn from each other. Doing so will get us closer quicker to the one God. With different guides we can see the path better and can help each other so we have less chance of losing our way. We should not believe that there are many Gods, there is only one, though our God has many faces not just one.
To believe that there are many Gods is the way to chaos and destruction, particularly if we remember that the Universe is so big – we are but a speck of dust – and there may well be many communities in the many planets where the conditions for life exist.
Twenty one years ago Sheikh Nassim marvelled that he had come here, when he saw a modest chapel in a small industrial town. ‘Padiham, where is Padiham?’, he said in his address. Of course God is to be found in the big cities but also in the small places and in the hearts of individuals. As travellers along the road to the one God we need to worship together everywhere, but perhaps especially in this part of the world where we are lucky to have substantial communities following different paths. We therefore have less chance of losing our way.
We value our contact with the local Sufi community and with all spiritual communities. Thank you for coming here and thank you for your companionship on our journey towards the one God. We thank you.
Introductory address by Rev Jim Corrigall
In the Christian calendar, we are in Lent, a time in which we recall Jesus’ suffering in the wilderness, his fasting for 40 days and nights.
This evening, I want to focus on what Jesus did immediately after this. We are told in Scripture that – filled with the Spirit – Jesus returns to his home town of Nazareth – and there in the Synagogue on the Sabbath, reads from Scripture, from the great Jewish prophet Isaiah – the passage that tells of the Spirit anointing someone to bring ‘good news to the poor, release to the captives, healing to the blind and freedom to the oppressed’.
Then, we are told, Jesus sits and tells his audience: ‘Today this prophecy has been fulfilled in your presence’.
An astonishing claim … and the home crowd is suitably impressed by their articulate, bold home boy. But the mood soon changes … Jesus pointedly reminds them of two stories from Jewish scripture when God helped foreigners, a Sidonian widow and a Syrian, before helping needy Jews … this enrages the crowd … they chase Jesus out of the Synagogue and try to throw him over a cliff, but he escapes.
So Jesus is signalling from the start of his mission that his message is not just for Jews, or for one faith or group, but for everyone. And throughout his ministry, we see Jesus trying to break down divisions between people. In his famous Parable of the Good Samaritan, it is the despised outsider, the Samaritan, who comes to the aid of the injured man by the roadside, after others have passed him by.
Jesus was a Jewish Rabbi, a Teacher who drew from the great storehouse of Jewish wisdom, yet his teachings and example were to inspire a new religion, Christianity, 2,000 years ago. And 600 years later, another great religion grew from these two faiths – Islam.
These three great world religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam -- share a common spiritual heritage ... we are all children of Abraham. And Jesus has always been deeply revered by Muslims.
It is Jesus to whom I return. He showed how vital it is to break down barriers between different faiths and groups … In our world of today, his message is more relevant than ever … it is a message for our times.
Therefore it is a great pleasure and privilege for us at this Unitarian Chapel in Padiham to welcome Shaykh Mehmet Adil, the global spiritual leader of the Naqshbandi Haqqani Sufi Order, on a visit which follows the joint Nativity service we held with his Sufi followers here in this Chapel at Christmas – a historic service. Shaykh we look forward to hearing from you shortly.
Now to end with a prayer: God of us all, you know our hearts and our minds. We come together tonight to follow the path Jesus showed: the path of knowledge, understanding, and compassion. Help us follow your way, to build your kingdom here on earth, so it becomes a world freed from fear, division and hatred. Loving God, guide us on our journeys. We ask this in the name of Jesus and Mohammed, peace be upon them both. Amen.