On May 7th, 1921, fresh flowers were arranged, candles were lit and scriptures from different traditions were read with reverence at a ceremony in a house in London. It was the very first presentation of the Universal Worship, a form that was revealed to Hazrat Inayat Khan as a way to draw humanity together, to help raise the world above distinctions and differences.
Many decades later, Murshid Hidayat would talk with deep feeling about the morning that his Father received this vision. Although he would only have been around four or five years old at the time, ‘Murshidzade,’ as he was called in the family, could clearly recall how the children were told to be very quiet, as their Father had had a profound experience, he had seen something special. They learned later it was the Universal Worship.
Religion, as the word implies, for it has a root that means to tie or to bind, is intended to unite, but throughout the history of the world it has also been the source of division and conflict. This is not from a flaw in religion itself, but from the limited way that people understand it. It is easy to disagree about forms, but the essence of religion is not found in the form, but rather in the spirit. As Hazrat Inayat says at the conclusion of this post, in the house of God it is not asked to which church or temple you belong, but only how sincere you were in your prayer.
We see numerous religious forms in the world; one could even say there are as many religions as there are people, for each person, even the one who believes him or herself to be a non-believer, has their own way. And yet, when we look beyond these variations, we can see that religion in truth is one, as we hear in the Sufi thoughts – “There is one Religion, the unswerving progress in the right direction towards the ideal, which fulfils the life’s purpose of every soul.”
Hazrat Inayat Khan was sure that the Universal Worship was destined to spread throughout the world. In his last visit to New York, hundreds of people came to a service, so many that they were forced to move the ceremony to a larger hall. He foresaw that some day in the future, there would be numerous services across cities, both in private homes and public spaces.
Today, celebrating this anniversary, perhaps we can offer our own small portion of reverence, homage and gratitude to this light which is now spreading around the world. May we fulfil the purpose of our soul – and help the Universal Worship to fulfil its purpose.