However, it is vital for Shīʿah Muslims to recognize the significance of unity within their communities. A disunited community cannot effectively support and galvanize the mission of Imām Muḥammad al-Mahdī (ʿaj). Let us strive to create a united and inclusive community that provides the Imām with a platform for success.
Here are five ideas.
Embracing an Open Mosque
To foster unity, Shīʿah mosques should aim to be open to all Shīʿah Muslims, regardless of their race or ethnic background.
Currently, most mosques claim to be inclusive, but let us work towards a state where a Khoja can become a member of an Arab-run mosque, or a Nigerian can become a member of a Khoja-run mosque.
When Imām Mahdī (ʿaj) reappears, he will judge us based on faith and actions, not external attributes echoing the teachings of his grandfather, Prophet Muḥammad (ṣ) who said:
“Surely all of mankind – from the time of Adam until our time – are like the teeth of a comb (all equal to one another) and there is no greatness for an ‘Arab over a non-’Arab and no greatness for a red-skinned person over a black-skinned person, except due to one’s consciousness of Allah (taqwa).”1
While achieving fully open mosques may take time, we can take steps towards inclusivity.
The first step could be to establish inter-mosque collaborations and joint initiatives. This can involve organizing joint events, educational programs, and social gatherings where Shīʿah Muslims from various backgrounds can come together, fostering a sense of unity and shared purpose. By breaking down cultural and ethnic barriers within our communities, we create an environment in which believers, especially our youth, can flourish, while also creating a stronger foundation for preparing for the arrival of Imām al-Mahdī (ʿaj).
Unity amongst Shīʿah Muslims strengthens us as a community and provides vital support to the believers as a whole. More importantly, it is crucial for the success of Imām al-Mahdī (ʿaj). Think back to the Imāmate/caliphate of Imām ‘Ali (ʿa) and Imām Hasan (ʿa) – they found it challenging to reach their objectives and build a harmonious society because the Muslims were disunited. They had limited success in challenging the oppressors of their time, due to this reason.
By doing this, we would be enacting out the following verse of The Noble Qurʾān:
“Human beings, We created you all from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another. Verily the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most God-fearing of you.”2
Maintaining one’s identity and roots is crucial, but should not come at the expense of discriminating against others.
Such behavior is contradictory to the purpose of a masjid, Husayniyyah, or wherever Muslims gather.
We gather to nurture God-conscious within ourselves, while wanting the same for our believing brothers and sisters.
To make a fellow believer or individual who is striving on the right path or struggling to stay on the right path feel unwelcome in a place of worship can have very far reaching consequences for us as a people; consequences which can affect generations and many times impact those who choose to close themselves off from others.
Embracing that open mosque concept can simply be a matter of wanting good for one’s fellow brother/sister in faith.
In this regard, Imām ʿAlī (ʿa) said:
“Brotherhood for the sake of Allah is based on advising each other for the sake of Allah, contributing for His sake, helping each other to obey His commands, forbidding each other from disobeying Him, assisting each other for His sake and sincere affection.3
Addressing Communal Challenges
Imām al-Mahdī (ʿaj) aims to establish a just society where everyone receives their rightful due. Our communities should strive to recreate the Imām’s vision to the best of their abilities.
Each mosque should identify the challenges faced by their community and work towards raising awareness, finding solutions, and involving the community in their implementation.
Significant occasions like the sacred month of Ramaḍān and the month of Muḥarram, when large crowds gather, provide an ideal platform to raise critical issues from the pulpit. These can be followed by smaller seminars and discussion circles to progress towards practical solutions.
Moreover, mosques can establish dedicated committees or task forces that focus on addressing communal challenges.
Here are some common examples of issues facing Shīʿah communities worldwide:
- Finding a spouse
- Maintaining a western identity without sacrificing Islamic norms and principles
- Youth involvement and engagement
- Welcoming reverts
These committees can conduct thorough needs assessments, collaborate with local organizations and professionals, and develop strategic plans to tackle issues facing the believers.
By actively engaging with the wider community and leveraging available resources, mosques can play a crucial role in creating positive change and building a just society in anticipation of Imām al-Mahdī’s reappearance.
Investing in the Tarbiyah of Youth
It is crucial to ensure that the religious upbringing of our youth continues beyond their years in madrasah (Islamic weekend school). While parents play a primary role, mosques must also actively engage with the youth, recognizing that they are the future.
While not everyone will become a scholar, it is important to ensure that our youth carry a strong faith and unwavering belief in the core tenets of their faith. Mosques can provide programs and initiatives to support the ongoing spiritual growth of the youth, regardless of their chosen paths in life.
This can include organizing youth camps, workshops, and programs that focus on nurturing Islamic values, moral ethics, and developing a sound understanding of foundational beliefs (ʿaqāʾid), law, history, and other important Islamic modules.
Mosques can also facilitate educational sessions and dialogues that address contemporary challenges faced by young Shīʿah Muslims, empowering them to navigate their identities while maintaining a Shīʿah-centric world-view. By investing in the tarbiyah (nurturing) of our youth, we prepare a generation that is well-equipped to contribute to the mission of Imām al-Mahdī (ʿaj).
Khums is money owed to the Imām (ʿa). One portion goes to the sādāt [descendants of Prophet Muḥammad (ṣ)], while the other portion is “entrusted to a fully qualified jurist to be used for authorized purposes”.4
Let us ensure that the second portion of our khums is distributed equitably according to the needs of the community. For instance, if a particular community faces an epidemic of drug use, could khums funds be utilized to support rehabilitation programs that can help individuals rebuild their lives? While it is essential to continue supporting the poor and homeless, let us think creatively and find innovative ways to utilize khums funds to address various community needs.
Mosques can establish transparent and accountable processes for collecting and distributing khums funds, involving community members in decision-making to ensure their contributions are utilized effectively. This can involve consulting with experts, scholars, and community leaders to identify pressing issues and explore impactful initiatives that align with the teachings of Imām al-Mahdī (ʿaj).
By reassessing the use of khums, we can maximize its potential to create positive change and serve the community’s diverse needs.
It is worth considering whether multiple Shīʿah mosques should exist within 5km, or if multiple Shīʿah-led charities should serve the same geographical areas.
Identifying opportunities for consolidation allows us to maximize our resources and create a more significant impact. By bringing our efforts together and avoiding unnecessary duplication, we can optimize our outreach and better serve the community.
This can involve establishing partnerships to coordinate activities, pool resources, and collectively address community needs.
It may also entail exploring opportunities for shared spaces or joint initiatives that promote collaboration and efficient resource allocation. By consolidating efforts, we can amplify our impact, enhance community engagement, and work towards building a cohesive and united community that is well-prepared for the arrival of Imām Muḥammad al-Mahdī (ʿaj).
Preparing for the arrival of Imām al-Mahdī (ʿaj) requires Shīʿah Muslim communities to prioritize unity, inclusivity, and social responsibility. By embracing an open mosque culture, addressing communal challenges, investing in the youth, reassessing the use of khums, and consolidating efforts, we can create stronger communities that provide a solid foundation for the Imām’s success.
Let us strive to build communities that embody the ideals and teachings of Imām al-Mahdī (ʿaj) and, together, create a just and harmonious world under his guidance.
- Ikhtisas, Volume 341
- Noble Qurʾān, Sūrah Hujarat (49, Verse 13)
- Ghurar al-Ḥikam, Ḥadīth #1305