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Hazrat Inayat Khan created the ceremony of ‘Universal Worship’ to pay respect to all religions and to celebrate the universality of the message of God. It encourages humanity to look beyond the restrictions of one path, and to honour all paths that take seekers toward the divine. The ceremony was presented for the first time in London on 7 May 1921. It is open to all.
The Universal Worship has three parts, and is conducted by three ‘cherags’ (lamps) or ‘sirajs’ (torches) who have been trained in the ceremony.
Every Universal Worship will have a given topic: for example, gratitude, hope, love or the Divine Ideal. Readings from the scriptures of different sacred traditions, as well as the homily, focus on this topic.
For the Universal Worship, an altar is set with candles, one representing the divine light of God, already burning before the start of the ceremony, and with smaller candles representing the religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. There is also a candle that represents the light of the Spirit of Guidance, which is present in all names and forms, known and unknown to the world. Before each candle lie books containing the sacred scriptures of the religion in question.
Although the ceremony explicitly mentions six religions, its purpose is to honour all sacred traditions ‘known and unknown to the world’. These six religions are all ‘prophetic,’ being based on the teachings of a particular prophet, and they stand for the light of the Spirit of Guidance that flows through all spiritual forms.
In the first part of the ceremony, one cherag lights a taper from the candle symbolizing the divine light, and then kindles the candles representing the different sacred traditions. The cherag finishes this part with a prayer (given by Hazrat Inayat Khan) called ‘Saum’.
Another cherag conducts the second part of the ceremony, reading short passages on the chosen topic from each of the scriptures. This section concludes with the prayer ‘Salat’.
In the final part of the ceremony, a third cherag delivers a homily (short sermon) on the given topic. The service concludes with the prayer ‘Khatum’, after which the cherag blesses the congregation.
The Universal Worship can be very moving. As each of the sacred traditions is honoured, the peaceful and reverent atmosphere fills the hearts of the participants.
The Universal Worship reminds us that all human beings are ultimately united as children of God, whatever our individual beliefs and methods of worship. In a world that often strives to divide, it is an activity that brings people together. It is a ceremony that embodies the qualities of the divine: love, harmony and beauty.