We feature Safiya Virji, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend to many and a multi-faceted professional and discuss the importance of the role that women are playing in the community and beyond. Read more here.
14. MCE – an Update
The meeting began with a recitation from the Holy Qur’an by 8 year old Jameel Mohamed-Hussain. Jameel has visual impairment and autism and has already had two bone marrow transplants in his young age. He reads and writes in Braille and has recently started learning Braille Qur’an. He also enjoys memorising the Holy Qur’an and took part in the Lady Fizza Qur’an Competition 2019 where he surprised the judges and attendees with his recitation. We were very moved by his recitation at ExCo.
The President of Birmingham Jamaat, Gulamraza Datoo, gave his address to the attendees where he welcomed everyone to Birmingham. He told the delegation about some of the recent work done by Birmingham Jamaat including opening a senior citizens housing complex nearby, opening a new library for children and holding various events such as the Mulla Asghar Memorial Tournament (MAMT) and the Lady Fizza Qur’an Competition.
He also informed the delegation that Birmingham Madrasah will be adopting the MCE curriculum this Sunday inshallah and thanked The World Federation and the Federation of Australasian Communities (FAC) for sharing their resources.
He played a short video for the attendees to watch, which showed some pictures and video clips of some of Birmingham Jamaat’s projects and initiatives. The Jamaat has been working on expanding their centre and have begun working on their new Ghusl Khana. He invited the delegation to the bricklaying ceremony after the ExCo closes.
Alhaj Dr Akbar Mohammedali, President of CoEJ, followed with his address. He told the delegation about the recent work of CoEJ and how they have been working together with The World Federation and various regional federations. He thanked The World Federation for their support towards three capital projects in Europe, including the Al Abbasi Centre in Birmingham. He personally invited everyone present to attend the CoEJ AGM, which is taking place in Birmingham on Sunday inshallah.
Africa Federation Chairman, Shabir Najafi, led the tributes for Marhum Alhaj Anvarali Valimohammed Walji (Mulla Anu), a long-serving and dedicated volunteer at Africa Federation and the community as a whole. Many councillors and Office Bearers also paid their respects, remembering his passion for community work and his jovial spirit. His two sons were present and Mustafa, his younger son, spoke of their father’s love for the community and the community’s love for him.
Alhaj Anwarali Dharamsi, President of The World Federation, began his keynote address by paying his own tribute to Marhum Mulla Anu.
He offered his solemn tribute to all our brothers, sisters and the youth of our community in all parts of the world who have participated in the commemoration of the great Martyrdom of Seyyedush Shohadah Aba Abdillahil Hussain (AS) and the 72 Martyrs of Kerbala during the two months of Muharram and Safar.
He went on to note that this ExCo is the last one for the term 2017-2020 and the team will be preparing for the forthcoming Triennial Conference, which will see the culmination of the current term.
After expressing his gratitude to Alhaj Dr Akbar Mohammedali and Alhaj Gulamraza Datoo for hosting the meeting in Birmingham, he spoke about the importance of ExCo as a platform for interaction and deliberation on various matters of importance concerning our activities, programs and reviewing progress. It’s also a platform for councillors to provide their input on various important issues for the benefit of our global community. He said "our common goal is to build a vibrant, proactive and stronger world body, and to uplift our community to higher levels of performance and growth".
Alhaj noted the big shift in geo-political and economic order of recent years, such as the violent demonstrations and protests in many part of the world, including in Muslim countries. He spoke about the awful man-made humanitarian disasters, particularly in Yemen and Syria, where hundreds of thousands of displaced families have fled their homes and are seeing refuge elsewhere. The delegations prayed for lasting peach, security and tranquillity in these countries and all over the world.
Speaking about his three years as President of The World Federation, Alhaj Anwarali thanked Allah (swt) for giving the opportunity to serve his community and do his bit in helping to elevate The World Federation to the higher level of development and progress. He said that during ExCo, there will be presentations of reports and analysis of the financial status of The World Federation.
He took this as an opportunity to talk about the regional federations and our work with them for the betterment of our community. Calling the regional federations the ‘backbone of The World Federation’, he said that cooperation and coordination are vital for our success. Speaking about each of the regions, he listed some of the work we do together:
AFRICA FEDERATION: we work in close collaboration and in partnership in some projects towards uplifting our Khoja community, including housing, economic Development and MCE. The WF Councillor from London, Alhaj Ahmed Daya, was mentioned as someone who is doing a lot of work towards these projects. We are also running the ‘Loans for Life’ campaign being managed by WF Councillor Sibtein Asaraia, which will inshallah make a big difference.
CoEJ: we share areas of common interest with CoEJ and work together on projects which impact our communities. We also have the partnership in KSI Investments. He spoke about the Birmingham Al Abbas Islamic Centre capital project, which still requires the financial support of the global community. He asked for community members to come forward in support for the completion of this noble project.
FAC (Federation of Australasian Communities): Alhaj Anwarali said that we are happy with the cooperation of FAC and are looking into new opportunities and avenues to work in collaboration.
INDIA FEDERATION: we continue to collaborate and focus on Khoja Upliftment with India Federation, as well as housing and Higher Education. He mentioned the Higher Education loan scheme run by AFED, which could be replicated in India.
NASIMCO: NASIMCO’s new team has now settled in and our team are working very closely with them on various topics and issues. NASIMCO has also supported MCE and has implemented the Tarbiyya Curriculum and Teacher Training, which he thanked them for.
PAKISTAN: we have continued to support projects for our Khoja community in Pakistan. Pakistan Federation President, Alhaj Anver Rajpar has made some excellent recommendations and inshallah more projects will be worked on together for the benefit of our community in Pakistan.
Alhaj Anwarali gave updates on a few projects, including Khoja Hertiage, which is tracing the footprints of the Khojas going back over one century ago. He thanked Alhaj Raza Ali Hiridjee of Madagascar and his family for their great support towards Khoja Heritage and MARC (Mulla Asgher Resource Centre) and the team effort and dedication towards promoting Khoja Heritage in our community.
Speaking about social media, Alhaj Anwarali remarked at the speed and ease at which messages are shared. He expressed his concern at the potential damage social media can cause.
Reiterating his messages from previous ExCos, he spoke about the importance of the Madrassah and Pulpit (Mimber), these are the foundation of our faith, and we must put strong emphasis and protect them from misuse. Each one of us has the responsibility to protect our faith and our rituals that are within the bounds of our Shariah. Our bedrock as a community is our faith, and this is an area where we cannot compromise.
Preachers, Lecturers and Zakirs who visits our Jamaats must exercise extra caution in their lectures, speeches and Majlises not to intimidate any community, faiths or sects. We must always preach love and compassion.
I wish to remind our community to build bridges of friendship, goodwill and cooperation with other religions and sects whereby collectively we can achieve a lot of goodwill. Our Marja-e-Taqleed, Ayatollah Al Uzma Al Seyed Ali Al Sistani has repeatedly emphasised on the importance of maintaining cordial relationships and unity with our Sunni brothers and other communities.
Alhaj reminded the attendees that the Unity Games in Dubai will be held from 24th to 29th December 2019. Many of our member Jamaats are participating in the Games, which will attract huge number of sportsmen and sportswomen. Such gathering would bring about goodwill and build new bridges of relationships amongst participants and their families.
He concluded by thanking the leadership of the Regional Federations for their support and guidance, and to all the Elected and Nominated WF Councillors. He thanked the WF team and the Secretariat staff for their efforts and commitment to deliver the plan we have put in place for this term.
Following the keynote address by Alhaj Anwarali Dharamsi, there were some observations from the floor.
Councillor Saeeda Jiwa remarked on the comments about social media and spoke about the impact it has on young people. She said this is something the community needs to be proactive on, which WF Secretary General, Shan E Abbas Hassam agreed with and said this is something that they will inshallah be talking about during the upcoming conference.
The next item on the agenda was the adoption of the minutes from the last ExCo held in Toronto in June 2019. After some deliberation and discussions, these were adopted.
Mohamedkazim Bhaloo, Honorary Treasurer of The World Federation presented the treasury report to the attendees. He updated the delegates about The World Federation accounts and donations and answered questions on his presentation. Sister Malika Alibhai, WF’s Risk and Compliance Officer, talked about our charity structure and in particular, on considering the option to incorporate the charity.
WF Councillor and WF-AID Advisory Committee Member Sibtein Asaria gave the delegation an update on the project regarding the economic upliftment of the community. He said that The World Federation’s mission to ensure the economic upliftment of the Khoja community has broken exciting new ground in the last year. He spoke about a number of projects, including:
- the small business loan program in Pakistan, which helps to bring families out of poverty in a sustainable way
- Code Girls, which helps to empower girls and women with computer coding and business skills
- Loans for Life, which is run with Africa Federation and provides small business loans and education loans
Sibtein said we all have one common goal and as we work together, we will make a difference – ‘Khojas united against poverty!’.
To help the delegation refresh after a packed few hours, Dr Mahmood Mawjee gave one of his famous motivational speeches about becoming extra ordinary and great leaders. He spoke about setting goals, believing in your cause and taking action towards your cause. This was a welcome break for the councillors and attendees and got everyone ready to restart!
After a break for salaat, the delegation went over the Standard Operating Procedures for the Election of The President of The World Federation. Mujtaba Datoo, Chair of the Electoral Commission, detailed the processes and potential various situations relating to candidacy. He went through the responsibilities of each Regional Federation in the event of an election, including appointing a returning officer. He took some questions from the floor, to clarify various parts of the process.
An important part of the ExCo is The World Federation Awards ceremony, where awards are presented to members of the local community. In Birmingham, these were presented to:
AL-NUR AWARD – RAZA HUSSEIN MOHMEDALI MOTI
Raza Hussein Mohamedali Moti has been a member of the Ghusal and Kafan committee since the mid-seventies, overseeing many changes in that time. He has provided guidance and ground support to bereaved families, regardless of time, day and night.
Raza Hussein Mohamedali Moti was presented with the Al-Nur award for philanthropy.
AL-QAMAR AWARD – RUBAB BAI MASTER
Rubab bai Master has been a Qur’an teacher for over forty years, starting off in Dar-es-Salaam Madrasah before moving to Birmingham, teaching both students and training to teachers in the UK and internationally. As well as encouraging others to learn and grow, she has also been following this advice, enrolling in Damascus university to extend her Arabic language skills. She has authored three books on Qur’anic recitation, which are used worldwide as a manual and model for teaching Qur’anic recitation and rules of tajweed.
She has a long history of dedicating her time to teaching and inspiring the youth within the community, serving as a teacher at CoEJ summer camps and judging various Qur’an competitions. She is also the head of the Madrasah Qur’an department, Head of the Ghusl/Kafan committee, and as a senior member of the matrimonial committee.
She has delivered majalis in various communities in Europe, including in the UK, Sweden, Portugal and France and has trained others to write and deliver eulogies and lamentations about Imam Husayn (as).
Rubab bai was the first Khoja woman to be invited by the Iranian Government to Iran’s Annual Qur’an Conference to display her books and in 2012, became the first Khoja woman to have a documentary made about her life by the Iranian television channel, IRIB. The documentary was later dubbed in French, Spanish, Turkish, and Arabic and shown on various channels such as Hispan TV and the Lebanese channel, Al-Manar. Her story of contribution and commitment to Islam and the Ahlulbayt (a.s.) was also aired on Hidayat TV in July 2016
Rubab bai Master was presented with the Al-Qamar award for philanthropy.
AL-NUR AWARD – ZEHRA BAI PREMJI
Zehra bai Premji started her volunteering journey in 1995 as part of the treasury team, before becoming the head of the kitchen team, ensuring the tabarruk and nyaz are served in a timely manner at each programme. She carries out her volunteering tasks with love and enthusiasm for the community.
Zehra bai Bhanji was presented with the Al-Nur award for philanthropy.
AL-QAMAR AWARD – MUMTAZ BAI MOTI
Mumtaz bai Moti has been part of the Birmingham Jamaat since the 1980s and has been a volunteer at the Muhammadi Nursery, the welfare committee and as chair of the Senior’s Ladies Section. In her roles, she has visited the sick and elderly and arranged weekly programmes for senior citizens, which is often the only means of socialising they have.
Mumtaz bai Moti was presented with the Al-Qamar award for volunteering and philanthropy.
AL-NUR AWARD – SUKAINA BAI BHANJI
Sukaina bai Bhanji has been serving the community for around forty years, assisting in various aspects including washing up, cleaning up after the events and subsequently being appointed as head of the ladies volunteers, which brought many new tasks such as overseeing programmes.
Sukaina bai Bhanji was presented with the Al-Nur award for philanthropy.
AL-SHAMS AWARD – MARHUM AFZAL HUSSEIN SHERIFF VELJI
Marhum Afzal Hussein Sheriff Velji was born in 1958 in Mombasa and moved to Birmingham in 1971. He joined Birmingham City Council in its Treasury Department after completing school and served as a cashier for almost 15 years, during which time he and his brother started their own businesses.
Marhum has a friendly nature and his presence brought radiance to gatherings in which he took part. He travelled widely and participated actively in meetings and functions of the community, and his presence is still craved at these events two years after his passing.
Marhum’s philanthropy and charitable work knew no bounds. Examples abound of large sums that he donated towards community and religious projects. Birmingham Jamaat was a key beneficiary of his support whenever required, including a £400,000 donation towards refurbishment of the Jamaat’s nursing home property. The Jamaat will forever be indebted to him. In his last year, he travelled to Kashmir in a trip organised by the Lady Sumayya Humanitarian Aid Foundation Limited, where he joined sponsored Samu Lagna (mass marriage ceremonies) of couples from poor families. Seeing the squalid conditions in which people were living, he was moved to commit towards the building of several homes at significant cost. These are just two examples of his acts of good that continue to reward him today.
Marhum Afzal Hussein Sheriff Velji was bestowed posthumously with the Al-Shams award for voluntary contribution to wider society.
Bricklaying Ceremony at the Birmingham Ghusl Khana
The attendees were all invited by Birmingham jamaat to attend the bricklaying ceremony for their new Ghusl Khana. Birmingham jamaat were given a generous donation from Mohsin and Fauzia Jaffer Foundation, where we had the honour to see their son Ali Jaffer to lay the first brick as well as the WF President, Office Bearers, Regional Presidents alongside holy recitations by Shaykh Azhar Nasser, Shaykh Mohammed Ali Ismail, Shaykh Murtadha Alidina, Shaykh Nuru Mohammed.
Shabbar Dhala, Vice President of WF, provided an update to the attendees. He gave two critical updates:
In Jan 2020, we will be hosting the MCE retreat and the invitations have been sent out to everyone – please ensure you RSVP. During this retreat, the plan is to review the current learning process and take some lessons from the successes so far and understand what will happen next. We will have a discussion on sustainability and its future.
The next is Digitalisation – so far the adaption of this process has been slow, as many steps were involved. Now, we are at the stage of transferring all lessons to become digitalised. This is a major project which is being assisted by FAC Secretary General, Abbas Aly. We are honoured to have him on board as he has invested a lot of his time in this project.
He personally volunteered to oversee this project from start to finish and not only is he doing an outstanding job in getting this done, but he also contributed to two thirds of the cost of this project. We are grateful for all his efforts and his generous donations. These books, once ready, will be available to anyone interested in Shia Islam, from our big communities in London to rural places in Nepal. We look forward to the completion of this project and the collaboration on this project.
Councillor Saeeda Jiwa presented an update on the census project, which was a progress report following her presentation in Toronto during the last ExCo.
The Census has been piloted in Peterborough, Wessex and Sydney. This took place during Muharram and the team collected data, which is of good quality. The aim of the pilot was to see the uptake from the community and see the quality of data that comes through, both of which have been positive. The team also received a lot of feedback from the grassroots members, which has been incredibly valuable. Some of the constructive feedback the team received were surrounding the currency conversion and the number of mandatory questions, which the team are looking at adjusting.
Saeeda Jiwa also spoke about the marketing plans for the next round of the pilot in the three jamaats, which will launch in the middle of December inshallah. The findings will be presented at the Conference. She went into detail about the marketing plan, informing the delegation of the strategy we have in place for this, including videos, speeches and a social media push.
Sister Sabira Lakha gave a presentation on the democratisation of women’s role in our community. This is a topic of extreme importance to The World Federation, its regional federations and grassroots members. Sabira has been working hard on this and she spoke about the importance of standing up for social justice, especially as Shia Muslims. She spoke about some of the barriers, such as people not being ready for women to be leaders. She said there is a higher threshold for women to participate in the community than there is for men, which shouldn’t be the case.
Sister Sabira Lakha pointed out that the mindset needs to change. When a delegation visits a Jamaat, they should make a point to meet the female leaders of the community. The change needs to come from the leaders.
Speaking about Islam’s view on the rights of women, she said that discrimination is condemned in Islam and pointed out that it is because of Sayyida Zaynab (as)’s transmission that we are Shia Muslims today. She also spoke about the view of Ayatullah Sistani on the issue, who has repeatedly said that women have the right to vote, to be leaders and to have legal status.
Sister Esmat Jiwa, who was attending ExCo, thanked Sister Sabira Lakha for speaking eloquently on an issue which not only affects women in the room, but Khoja women around the world. AFED Chairman, Shabir Najafi, echoed these remarks and said that there needs to be a resolution to this issue urgently.
There were comments from a number of councillors and attendees, all of whom agreed that the presentation given by Sister Sabira was articulated very well.
A number of suggestions were made on how to best encourage giving women the right to vote and allowing them to take part in leadership positions.
It was concluded that practical solutions be tabled at conference on getting more women involved and how the Jamaats and grassroots can actively have women at leadership positions.
DATE AND VENUE OF THE SIXTEENTH ORDINARY CONFERENCE
The delegation discussed potential dates for the sixteenth ordinary conference. The dates, unanimously agreed by all were decided as the 13th, 14th and 15th of March 2020.
The venue was next to be decided. A formal invitation was offered by Africa Federation, with the conference to be hosted in Mombasa. This was confirmed as the location for the conference.
The delegation read through the draft agenda for the sixteenth ordinary conference, and this was approved by the councillors. Members are entitled to add items to the agenda until 45 days before the conference.
Shabbar Dhalla discussed how Education plays a pivotal role in our life, be it School, Higher Education or Madrasah. The Office Bearers have recently been working closely with Cambridge University on the Lady Khadija fellowship for Shia Studies. It was announced that Shaykh Nuru is the chair of this unique course. Shaykh Nuru states how he looks forward to taking on this role and seeing how it can influence our community further.
Dr Payam Mohseni, who is Project Director and Lecturer at Harvard University, gave a presentation on the project on Shi'ism and Global Affairs. This is Harvard University's leading initiative for producing interdisciplinary and objective knowledge on all aspects of Shi'ism. He spoke about how important it is to have a course on Shi'ism and told us how it addresses contemporary affairs on a global scale.
Dr Akbar Mohamedali led the vote of thanks, starting with Birmingham Jamaat committee and volunteers, who were incredible hosts and were helpful and accommodating for the duration of the meeting.
Shaykh Mohammed Al-Hilli takes us on a journey of discovery as he visits one of the holiest sites in Islam, the shrine of Imam Ali (as). Click here to watch our latest documentary on Imam Ali's (a) shrine.
Read about the Question Time event with WF and Regional Leadership teams held in Toronto.