The Origin of the Sacred Place Murad Hassil

«Now after six days Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John and led them alone up a high mountain privately. He was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiantly white. There also appeared before them Elijah and Moses, and they were talking with Jesus.
Then a cloud surrounded them, and a voice came from the cloud, » This is my one dear Son. Listen to him!" Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more except Jesus. "
This text from Mark 9 comes to mind in reading the story by Sophia Saintsbury Green in her book «Memories of Inayat Khan.» She writes of when Pir-O-Murshid Inayat Khan in 1922 asked two of his mureeds to accompany him for a walk.
From the book:
The scene: a little village on the coast of Holland, then but a collection of fisherman’s huts at one end of the beach, and at the other a few hotels, open for summer visitors, but at that season closed and silent. The Master is staying at the house of one of his disciples, and the writer of these memories is also there. The wide windows of the studio in which he taught look west across the grey autumn sea, and, all around, the wastes of sand dunes catch and hold the eye with their suggestion of distance from civilization and its important desires.
Peace. Silence. With the ocean awash at its gates, the ordered rhythm that was his atmosphere and in which he tuned the broken human chords to harmony with God — all this and more formed as it were a web of mystery and beauty in which his pupils moved, as in a dream, throughout the tranquil stillness of the fading year. Always his serenity was the setting of their days, his calm the benison that touched their nights with peace; his humour, like the sun upon the sea, playing with all their passing waves of thought.

And then — a day when, without warning, that most wonderful rhythm trembled upon itself and broke. A strange restlessness took its place, and during breakfast the Master neither spoke nor touched the food upon his plate. The morning passed as usual, but those grouped around him saw that his thoughts were far away. His sentences were left unfinished, his movements showed a restlessness altogether new to them. At lunch, again he neither spoke nor ate; but on rising from the table he asked his host and the disciple who writes to accompany him for a walk. They hasten to fetch their coats, but, quick as they are, his impatience is evident, he is waiting at the door, and, as they appear, walks hurriedly inland toward the wastes of sand.
Faster he walks, with a gait so unlike his measured steps that they glance at one another in surprise; and soon it is only by almost running that they are able to keep close to him as he goes. After some ten minutes walk they reach the dunes and there the Master stops; imperiously, and in a voice they scarcely know, he bids them wait till he returns, and, awestruck by his manner, they obey in silence.
The spot in which he leaves them is a little mound on which a flagstaff has been fixed; and from it the two who wait can see the Master’s figure as he walks rapidly, in long strides, planting his stick before him in the shifting sand. He is bare-headed, and his hair, usually so expressive of his love of beauty, is all disheveled and streams out upon the wind. His garment, a long black cassock and overcloak, adds to the impression of some Prophet of old, and involuntarily the disciples utter the same word: «Elijah!» How is it that we know he looked like that?
His haste does not impair the sense of majesty and power that comes to them as they watch that figure while it seems to grow larger instead of smaller in the distance, until some quarter of a mile away it disappears among the further dunes. For perhaps three-quarters of an hour they wait in silence which is like a prayer, and then they see him come, not by the path by which he went in urgent haste, but slowly and with measured steps, his aspect of such beauty that they catch their breath.
Gently he treads the narrow sandy way, and as he comes he stoops to gather flowers, the wild and hardy poppies of the sea, the thistle and the yellow spikes of gorse. His form is slender now and full of grace, his hair is smooth upon his brow; he smiles the heavenly smile that wins their hearts, and, bending, lays the flowers in the pupil’s hands. He talks of usual matters on the homeward way, and lightly touches each in humorous vein; no word is said, no question asked that can refer to that strange hour; and so, their hearts alight with joy, they reach the house. Only at supper, which is always a sacrament of peace, he speaks of what has passed. His host is asked if he can find the spot, a tiny basin green and fresh with grass, behind the mount near which the Master disappeared. «For from today it shall be given the name Murad Hassil, the Mount of Blessing, and those who pray for blessings there shall have their wish granted.» So spoke the Master, and no more; but in their hearts the two disciples thought: «It is the place of tryst; he kept it there — with Whom?»
The above mentioned house is a villa, belonging to Sirdar and Saida van Tuyll van Serooskerken, where Murshid Inayat Khan stayed and where a second summer school was held in September 1922. The first summer school was held in the summer of 1922 in Suresnes, Murshid’s home. Among the participants were several Dutch mureeds, among them Baron and Baroness van Tuyll van Serooskeren, as well as Salima van Braam. The van Tuylls asked Pir-O-Murshid to come to Holland and give lectures, and offered their home at the Van Melskade (presently Zuidboulevard, or South Boulevard).
On September first Pir-O-Murshid began his lecture series. This meant an additional two week long summer school. In the afternoons Murshid spoke about «The problem of the day» and in the evenings about «The Inner Life.» Sirdar van Tuyll also had arranged for the presence of two mureeds who were familiar with stenography: Marya Khushi Cushing (originally from New York) and Edgar Shabaz Mitchell from Southampton. The evening lectures were published that same year (1922) under the same name by the Sufi Book Depot in Southampton.
Today it is difficult to imagine the route Murshid took that afternoon with his two mureeds through the dunes. Not only does the house no longer exist, but the whole area of the village Katwijk that bordered the sea, was demolished in 1944 during the german occupation. Only the damaged white church remained in the otherwise abandoned dunes. However, research at the local and the provincial land registry brought to light many interesting details.
The stretch of the Boulevard south of the church was named the «Van Melskade.» In those days there were only rather large freestanding villas; now all houses are attached. The van Tuyll’s house was the next to last before the dunes, and had the name «Honk» (old Dutch for home). According to the registry, the house was bought on June 12, 1922, and sold again in 1926. The van Tuylls had already moved in 1923 to an abandoned tram station of the steam tram line The Hague-Scheveningen on the Anna Paulowna Street. Murshid stayed in this house many times, and gave lectures there. The present meeting room behind this house was build in 1929, designed by Mussavir Piet Kramer.
The maps illustrate the old and new situations. It shows that one only had to pass the house on the corner to enter the dunes which at that time were freely accessible. Murshid easily found the place that from that day on was named «Murad Hassil.» The distance was about 1 kilometer.
The atmosphere during Murshid’s stay in Katwijk was also movingly described by Salima van Braam, who later became the leader of the center in Amsterdam:
«During September 1922 Murshid stayed a couple of weeks in Katwijk for a summer school. It was a beautiful time. It was endlessly glorious. Sometimes I walked next to Murshid along the ocean. I will never forget it. On one side the cadence of the sea, on the other the rhythm of that man of eternity. The fisherman who saw Murshid pass by showed respect and reverence for this majestic being. I once saw a fisherman take off his cap for him and with his cap in hand stood respectfully and bowed his head.
At the end of my time in Katwijk, after Murshid had blessed his mureeds, I felt so elevated, that it would not matter any more what my life would bring. ’What does it matter if I am lonely and have difficulties’, I thought, «I no longer live on earth, but above it.»
After this event the place became sacred ground for mureeds, and they went there if possible every year, usually accompanied by one of the brothers of Murshid, or his nephew. The idea to save the site for the Sufi Movement was natural. Murshid’s plans to build a Universel (the first stone had been laid on September 13, 1926) in Suresnes at the location where summer school was held every year had failed because the local government had dispossessed the land to build houses and apartments. That Katwijk would fall to the same fate was impossible to imagine. But the site «Murad Hassil» had been used in earlier days for military exercises and for drink water supply, and therefore was not available. Nevertheless, after the war, efforts continued to this effect. In 1950 the Ministry of Finance agreed to lease the site to the International Sufi Movement. The agreement required an enclosure «existing of an impenetrable hedge of thorn-bushes with one door.» It was not until 1955 that a 3.5 acre parcel was officially leased to the Foundation Murad Hassil, although with the condition that many (expensive) facilities would be provided.
Pir-O-Murshid Ali Khan officially opened the fenced and newly planted site in 1956. In his speech he made the wish that a Universel would be build here. It would have die name «Universel Murad Hassil.»
It took many years of work. In that time substantial capital was collected in the Founda tion, in part from a Mela Tela (auction). Work was also done on an architectural design for the Universel. Contact was made with professor S. J. van Embden from Delft. He undertook the task to design a building that would show the main lines given by Pir-O-Murshid Inayat Khan: A square building with a round dome, that would fit in the surrounding dune landscape, and that would satisfy the esthetic and practical demands from the authorities. A plan developed that would make the building suited for a summer school, annual celebrations and other gatherings.
The first stone for the Universel was laid on March 21, 1969, and on July 5, 1970, Viladat Day (the birthday of Hazrat Inayat Khan), the Universel was officially opened.

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