The Sufi Movement In Canada
A Personal Experience of
the Sufi Movement In Canada
by Jelaluddin Gary Sill
A Personal Experience of the Sufi Movement In Canada | Jelaluddin Gary Sill
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Shamcher Bryn Beorse
Shamcher Bryn Beorse
Shamcher was very keen that the Canadians should meet Hidayat Inayat-Khan, the youngest son of Inayat Khan, who was then “Pir” or head of the International Sufi Movement. So it was that in 1979 we who were living in Edmonton at the time invited Hidayat to visit us. He agreed.

The arrangement was that my wife Sufia and I would pick him up at the airport. In those days Edmonton had two airports; the Municipal Airport in the city itself and another, Edmonton International Airport, which was some distance from the city. We went to the wrong airport. Eventually Hidayat realized that no one was coming to give him a ride and he hired a taxi to take him to our townhouse in an older, sleepy part of the city called Riverdale.
Only 2 degrees of latitude separate Edmonton from Moscow and it was January. The temperature was well below freezing when the man who would become our dear friend and mentor emerged from a taxi with his many suitcases and bags.

Sitting in the warmth of our living room, he remarked that Canada was a very modern country since the cars were electric, as evidenced by the extension cords running from houses to cars parked in front of them. Living in a warmer clime, this was the first time he had seen the electrical connections to block heaters which keep the engines of frozen Canadian vehicles warm enough to start.
In 1980, with encouragement from Shamcher, the Western Canadian Sufis decided to create an annual retreat at Lake O’Hara Lodge, a wilderness resort on the Alberta and British Columbia border in the high Rocky Mountains. Shamcher was to lead the inaugural camp but on April 29, at the age of 84, he passed away. The loss was deeply felt and left the nascent young Sufis somewhat adrift. Shamcher's free-wheeling spirit and forthright view of the world certainly gave us a role model but we lacked the experience needed to take these ideas into the future. We still needed a guide and Shahabuddin David Less kindly accepted our invitation to lead the gathering. His gentle and good-humoured presence guided the group for two years; 1980 and 81.
The Sufi Movement In Canada was incorporated in 1983. Previous to that we had existed as an unincorporated body called the Federation of the Message, which interestingly enough is now the name of the umbrella organization that aims to re-connect various branches of the Sufi family of Hazrat Inayat Khan which have formed over the last 50 years.
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Shahabuddin David Less
Shahabuddin David Less
The Sufi Movement In Canada was incorporated in 1983. Previous to that we had existed as an unincorporated body called the Federation of the Message, which interestingly enough is now the name of the umbrella organization that aims to re-connect various branches of the Sufi family of Hazrat Inayat Khan which have formed over the last 50 years.
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Aziza & Hidayat
Murshid Hidayat and his wife Murshida Aziza agreed to attend the 3rd annual Rocky Mountain Sufi Camp in 1982, sharing the leadership with Shahabuddin. From the following year to 2001 it was Hidayat who did the tremendous work of teaching, training and demonstrating the ideal of Spiritual Liberty by his living example. Rocky Mountain Sufi Camp became the source of spiritual development and community renewal for a period of 21 years. Many international Sufis travelled to Lake O'Hara from Europe, the USA, South America, Australia, as well as from across Canada for this unique annual event.
During the two decades of Rocky Mountain Sufi Camp we also had contact with Murshid Hidayat through letters, then emails and eventually online video phone calls. Centres were established by Akbar Kieken and Sharda Murray-Kieken in Calgary, David Murray in Edmonton, Kuan Yin Pujos-Michel in Banff, and Maharaj and Padmani Smokorowski in Toronto. In British Columbia, Nirtan Carol Ann Sokoloff and Shams Richard Olafson established a centre in Victoria and published books by Hidayat through their literary publishing house, Ekstasis Editions.

I had the privilege of working with Hidayat to help realize the “Singing Wazifas” project. Wazifas are short phrases in Arabic that address specific aspects of the Divine and are traditionally either chanted or recited. Murshid Hidayat composed melodies and arrangements for each of 21 Wazifas. These vocal miniatures combine meaning, purpose and atmosphere and include a focus on one of five spiritual elements; Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether. Being a musician and sound engineer, I was able to perform the music and create the recordings Hidayat needed for each Wazifa. Begun in 1994, the set of 21 Wazifas was completed in early 2017.
Murshid Hidayat passed away in Munich on September 11, 2017. Those of us who had the good fortune and privilege to work with him on his life’s sole mission, the spreading of his father’s Sufi Message, have felt not just sadness at the loss of a dear friend but also a sense of responsibility to continue the work. A Sufi in South Africa once told me that “we are doing the most important work in the world” and I know that Hidayat would not hesitate to agree. Nor would I for that matter.

Jelaluddin Gary Sill
Secretary
The Sufi Movement In Canada
2017.12.18
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Hidayat & Aziza Inayat-Khan, Vancouver, 2007