A unique event took place on Friday 21 December at the Mosque in Oxford, where the Imam, Dr. Taj Hargey, invited my friend the Georgian (Baptist) Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili to present the Friday sermon (khutbah).
Here is the message I have received from the Archbishop:
You will be glad to know how did my khutba go at the MECO Mosque in Oxford. Many thanks to all of you for your support. Your prayers, your encouragement and support has meant a lot to me.
The service was an unforgettable experience. I had to make considerable preparations: lerned Arabic alphabet, I studied and memorized all the Friday prayers in Arabic, familiarized myself with some basic principles of Muslim liturgy and theology. In other words the preparation for the khutbah was a fascinating experience.
Yesterday the service was attended by Muslims, young and old, from various parts of the country. There were some prominent Muslim scholars attending the service. Muneer Alqahtalani, a young doctoral student from Durham Univesrity told me that when he heard about the service with a Christian Archbishop giving the khutbah he had immediately decided to come for the service. Another young academic brought her mother and brother from London to have them listen to a ‘Christian Imam’. The Friday prayer was also attended by very good friends of mine Paul and Joan Rimmers, whom I had not seen for some time. Paul is a priest of the Church of England. Both him and his wife spent several years serving the church in India. Their presence at the mosque was very inspiring.
After the service, Imam Dr. Taj Hargey presented me with a copy of a reformist English translation of the Quran with a dedication in it: ‘to Archbishop Malkhaz as a token of our appreciation for delivering the Friday Prayers at MECO.’ I am going to treasure this gift.
Today I have received a letter from the secretary of the Imam Dr. Taj. This is which she wrote:
‘Dr Taj wishes to thank you for sermon yesterday. It was a most moving and inspirational moment when you spoke to our congregation and he is deeply appreciative of your participation in our Friday prayers. He trusts that you experienced a warm reception from all those who heard you yesterday. Dr. Taj was particularly impressed by your eloquent rendition of Surah al-Fatihah. For our records, can you kindly forward a transcript of your sermon so that we can forward it to all those who was not able to attend.’
Let me thank you again for your encouragement. At the same time let me wish you happy Christmas and many blessings in 2013. Ala joins me in sending her greetings to you.
Please find enclosed a script of the khutbah and some picture from the service.
Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili
Regent’s Park College
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I attach below the text of the sermon. I assure you it is really worth reading.