Kawthar Learning Circle’s first annual summer retreat with Dr. Mohammad Ali Shomali took place this August at an outdoor facility located in northern Ontario. This retreat brought together the Kawthar Learning Circle students from all over Canada, namely the Greater Toronto Area, Montreal, Ottawa, Winnipeg, and Vancouver, and allowed them to reinforce and strengthen their relationship of wilayah amongst one another. Other seekers of knowledge from diverse backgrounds also attended the retreat, which resulted in approximately 60 participants, including children. The three-day, two-night programme included three lectures on social wilayah, two interactive Quranic tafsir discussions, two segments on the importance of spiritual tools, and two interactive question and answer sessions. The sisters were also blessed to have Sister Israa Safiedine from Dearborn, Michigan amongst them as she led a number of interactive and inspiring discussions and answered their questions with great care and detail. Sr. Israa is a writer, teacher, and educational consultant who specialises in Islamic instruction. From September 2016, she will be teaching at the Hawza Ilmiyya of England.
The first lecture on social wilayah focused on its definition whilst underlining that it is the core of every religion. Sheikh Shomali began by expressing how much this crucial concept has been neglected, despite the central role it can play in building strong fraternal bonds in all faith-based communities. The positive response the Sheikh has received from past initiatives encouraged him to continue to propagate and spread the message of social wilayah.
By surveying several verses of the Holy Qur’an based on wilayah (2:166; 9:71; 10:62), he presented the horizontal and vertical dimensions of such relationships as multi-directional associations that contribute to the formation of two distinct camps, namely haqq (truth) and one of batil (falsehood). In an effort to define wilayah, Sheikh Shomali explored its intrinsic qualities of ma’rifa (knowledge), ta’a (obedience) and mahabba (love), with a description of the multi-dimensional manifestation of each quality in both camps.
Having set the theoretical backdrop of social wilayah through its qualities, he approached the definition of wilayah by considering the relationship between both camps and exploring its opposing concept, namely ‘adawa (enmity). Citing various narrations and excerpts from ziyarat, he established ‘adawa as a party or group committed to intercepting the opposing group’s success. On the other hand, wilayah is defined as a party committed to a shared goal and destiny that sees the success of one member as a shared success, and the loss of one member as a shared loss.
Finally, the Sheikh explained that there are two camps but three types of people: Awliya Allah (Friends of God), Awliya Al-Shaytan (Friends of Shaytan) and Mudhabdhabeen bayna Dhalik (neither here nor there, with no clear aims or objectives; unfortunately, many times the majority of people fall in this camp). The third group are not organised and do not actively and consciously pursue any common goals. Members of the camp of the truth should not think that everyone who is not with them is against them. They should try to communicate to others especially those who are undecided and stand in between two camps. Of course, this should happen whilst remaining unwavering to one’s loyalty to the truth.
The second lecture addressed common misconceptions of wilayah and explored its practical side. Sheikh Shomali explained that wilayah is not simply a belief or doctrine; rather it is something that needs to be practised and actualised to the full extent. Furthermore, as indicated in the first lecture, wilayah is not limited to the relation between one person and his Master; rather it connects all members with each other as well as their leader.
To further elucidate this concept, Sheikh Shomali drew on a number of ahadith and a multitude of passages from ziyarat and duas, namely Ziyarat Ashura, Ziyarat Ameenullah, Dua Ahad, Dua Iftitah, and Dua Nudba. From this collection of references, he concluded that wilayah is not only about one’s relationship with God or Imam Mahdi (a); rather, it is the way that one has defined one’s position in this world by associating with certain people and disassociating from the opposite group, leading to the development of intimate bonds of brotherhood with people who share the same mentality and understanding. For this, one must be ready to sacrifice one’s comfort and pleasure, even to the extent of giving up one’s life. This is truly social wilayah. Sheikh Shomali then dedicated some time to underlining the significance of loving for the sake of God as well as developing trust among the faithful in order to achieve social wilayah. The lecture concluded with an interactive discussion with the participants on how to love purely for the sake of God and how to overcome some of the challenges of achieving social wilayah.
The third and final lecture continued in emphasising the various directions of the relationship of social wilayah and how one’s love for God can be measured by one’s love of others for the sake of God. The concept of the appearance of comradeship (ja’at al muzamala) is introduced along with an exploration of how the unity of Shias and the establishment of social wilayah amongst each other is intimately linked to the reappearance of Imam Mahdi(a). Sheikh Shomali then explored one’s role in paving the way for the Imam by first putting into practice social wilayah, establishing unity amongst each other and in the communities, and resolving internal affairs and conflicts. Through exploration of hadiths, Sheikh Shomali acknowledged that determination is a necessary quality of the companions of Imam Mahdi(a) and he underlined that without unity, one’s iman (faith) is incomplete. In closing, Sheikh Shomali interactively explored the practical considerations and steps that can be taken to start the pursuit of unity and social wilayah.