On 5th May 2018 the “Imam Mahdi” Islamic Centre of Rome officially began its religious and cultural activities. The Opening ceremony started in the early afternoon with a conference on the “Role and Responsibility of Islamic Centres in Italy”. After a brief introduction by Salman Di Cola, one of the founders and an active member of its Central Committee, who spoke on the history and the activities of the Association since 2005, four honourable guests each delivered speeches to an audience who positively interacted with the speakers.
The first speaker, journalist and writer Pietrangelo Buttafuoco, pointed to the fact that Islam and Italian culture are not as distant as they may seem.
Shaykh Ibrahim Iungo, Sunni scholar and Islamic teacher, followed, underlining the importance of mosques and religious places for prayer where the name of God is mentioned. Shaykh Iungo thanked the Islamic Association for the opportunity and prayed that we all may persevere to walk together in God’s path.
The ceremony was followed by a talk by Father Haddad, a Syrian Catholic Priest. He praised the founders of new Islamic Centre and stressed the necessity of tolerance and respect amongst all faiths. Father Haddad has already cooperated with “Imam Mahdi” Islamic Association in various conferences in churches and other public gatherings.
Finally, Shaykh Abbas Di Palma, president of “Imam Mahdi” Association, concluded by saying that a place of worship should be the essence and the centre of social life so that people may live with more blessings and a bigger aim in their daily routines.
A video clip was also shown highlighting the activities of the “Imam Mahdi” Islamic Association since 2005. The audience, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, was amazed at how a small group of Italian converts initially met on the streets or in each other’s’ houses when no place was available to them and only after years of patience and sacrifice were they able to rent a small garage in Rome. With God’s grace and after twelve years, they succeeded in purchasing the new building.
The conference hall was so crowded that many people had to stand outside the building. The day was a success for a small Shi‘a community in the heart of Rome.
In the evening an illuminating occasion was created through supplications and worship to remember the spiritual benefits of the month of Sha‘ban and celebrating the birth of the 12th Imam.
Believers from different parts of Italy attended the programme; amongst them Ammar De Martino, a veteran pioneer in spreading Shi‘a Islam amongst the youth. In his speech he said that finding the teachings of Ahl al-Bayt was the greatest achievement in his life. It was a touching moment for the whole Shi‘a Italian Community to meet him again in Rome bearing witness to the fact that “what is done for God will bring its fruits”.
People and delegations from London, India, Madagascar, France and Austria attended this very intense day, an event of joy for the believers who opened the first Islamic Shi‘a Centre in Rome, in the capital of one of the most historical lands of Europe and close to the Vatican, the cradle of Catholic Christianity. Amongst the most honoured guests, was the Molou family of Madagascar, especially Fazle Molou who, in collaboration with Shaykh Mustafa Jaffer of Orison Charitable Trust in London – represented in Rome by Shaykh Mujahid Ali Sheriff for the occasion-, significantly helped and made possible the final purchase of the Centre.
One of the peculiarities of the Italian new Islamic Centre is the different spaces allocated for worship and cultural activities. The conference hall, also functions as a multi-language library and it is often visited by Muslims and non-Muslims alike to study and research Islam. Books are mainly in Italian, Arabic, English, Persian, Urdu, French and Spanish. There are variety of books on Islam and other religions and philosophies. Books like the Bible, Dante’s Divine Comedy or Plato and Aristotle’s works are easily accessible for students and researchers of all ages. The prayer hall offers a sanctuary for the believers to practise their faith while the in-house Alim (clergy) provides counselling and family services such as marriage and divorce.
The ‘Imam Mahdi Islamic Association’ is a religious independent organisation supported by the efforts of it parishioners. Despite suffering from financial strain, it has always been able to face the problems without compromising its independence.
The core of this Italian project is about the teachings of the Qur’an and the Ahl al-Bayt. Even the cultural affairs are seen as an extension of such teachings if carried out in a correct manner. Since the very beginning, the publication of books has been seen as a religious effort for the betterment of the community rather than an act of proselytism.
At the end of the evening a meal was served. A mention is due to all the brothers and sisters who helped out in providing the meal, something that is often seen as a less rewarding job in the eyes of the public but is certainly not so in the eyes of the Almighty.
After the programme, people stayed on in the centre through the night, taking the opportunity to strengthen their bonds of brotherhood. Believers prayed the mid-nightly prayer (salat al-layl), a supererogatory act of worship that is done before the Morning Prayer, enjoying the experience of “peace until the rising of the dawn” (97:5).