The Majlis Ulama-e-Shi‘a (Europe) a London based organisation of Muslim scholars of South-Asian origins celebrated its 25th anniversary at the Islamic Centre of England.
The events, attended by dozens of scholars and members of the community, commemorated the achievement of this organisation which has been serving the religious needs of the community since it was founded in 1993.
Among those to address the conference was Hujjat al-Islam Dr Mohammad Ali Shomali, Head of the Islamic Centre of England. In his speech Dr Shomali underlined certain priorities in working to develop the Muslim community. He identified three major areas where works need to be done; education, organisation and public relations. Using the analogy of the construction of a building Dr Shomali stressed the need for Islamic organisations and Islamic communities to have a well-conceived and properly designed structure that can endure challenges and also look attractive from the outside.
He identified education as fundamental to make each individual’s faith strong enough to cope with the challenges of this materialistic world. Dr Shomali stressed the point that education and the formation of believers are different from only giving information. He praised all those scholars and organisations that are already working in this field and emphasised that more should be done to teach the young generation that Islam is a well-structured system rooted in faith and rational argumentation. In terms of designing a community he spelled out the necessity of having an organisation that serves and organises the community with a well-defined hierarchy.
The egocentric mentality does not serve the interests of the community, said Dr Shomali.
He also emphasised the need for a strong leadership which works within a well defined system. The formation or emergence of people who all want to be leaders is counterproductive to the needs of the community added Dr Shomali. He said that the community also needs disciples.
In a community all roles are important, and disputes within members and leadership are not beneficial for the community nor do they serve the Imam of Our Time. Being outspoken when speaking is not always fine said Dr Shomali.
A wise person might be silent for many years. He gave the example of Imam Ali(a) and how he was silent for many years and when he finally spoke his words became the ‘Peak of Eloquence’.
Dr Shomali expressed hope that Majlis Ulama-e-Shi‘a will be able to implement such guidelines and wished it success.
He concluded by addressing the third point, the importance of public relations. He stressed how important it is for people to come to know Muslims both as a community and individuals and exhorted Muslims to become more visible so that we can interact with others to help to remove suspicion and hostility. He stressed that the community must be able to present itself in a way that is well understood and to do so you need to publicise ourselves more in our own terms before others define us.
Dr Shomali also stressed the need to reach out to our brothers and sisters in faith from the Sunni school of thought, those who believe in God and those who are people of good will because if we claimed that we are serving God and humanity we have to be serving all of humanity.