As the greater Shia community began to expand across the United States of America and Canada, the number of Islamic centers grew correspondingly. The need for a greater number of Shia Muslim scholars, preachers and Imams of congregational prayer, also increased. Another necessity that came about was the importance of communication between these personalities in order to facilitate a convergence of views, as well as an exchange of experiences and skills. This type of networking would aim at better quality work and a clear plan that extended to all Shia communities in the various states. This was particularly important because all of those living their lives in these countries are interconnected and compliment one another.
Consequently, there were a number of initiatives here and there, from this religious scholar, that preacher or Imam of an Islamic center, in this state or that. Then the steps progressed until “The Council of Shia Muslim Scholars in North America” came about through the efforts of a number of scholars. At the forefront of these scholars were the Honorable Shaykh Fāḍil al-Sahlānī, Imam of the Imam Al-Khoei Foundation in New York , and the late Honorable Sayyid Muḥammad Zakī al-Suwayj, Imam of the al-Rasūl center (IPF) in Houston. The initial, formal and congregational appearance of the Council was in the founding, first, conference that took place with the attendance of 14 personalities, at the Bayt al-Qāʾim center in New Jersey on the 29th-30th of October 1994. However, there were some prior meetings in this state or that. With the conference, the Council began its journey in the midst of many challenges, until the second conference was held with the attendance of 22 personalities on the 30th-31st of March 1996. This was followed by the third conference on the 8th-10th of March 1998. Unfortunately, it then stopped [due to] technical and financial [reasons].
REACTIVATION OF THE COUNCIL After the founding of the Imam Mahdi Association of Marjaeya (I.M.A.M.) to be a key liaison office connecting Shia Muslims in the United States to their Supreme Religious Authority, one of I.M.A.M.’s priorities and objectives was to focus its attention on the scholars, preachers, Islamic centers, preaching activities, and taking care of the believers in doing so. To this aim, the Honorable Sayyid Muḥammad Bāqir al-Kashmīrī, the Vice Chairman of I.M.A.M., made shuttling tours to a number of cities and states, coordinating with the honorable scholars in an effort to reboot the Council’s activity. With God Almighty’s blessings, the first preliminary meeting between some of the executive committee members and a number of the newly active preachers took place on the 27th-28th of July 2004 in Dallas, Texas. From that meeting, it was agreed that continuing the work and complimenting the efforts put forth in the past was a necessity. Invitations were then sent out to all the scholars, preachers, Imams of congregational prayer, and those interested in religious and preaching affairs in the United States of America and Canada, in order to hold the fourth conference on the 16th-18th of November 2004, in New Jersey.
VISION Support the Shia Muslim communities in North America in matters of spirituality, religion, guidance, and leadership. The aim in doing so is to guarantee the preservation of their religious identity alongside an appreciation of their noble traditions and the need to promote citizenship.
MISSION Working to support Shia Muslim communities in North America; Accomplishing desired objectives by exchanging skills and experiences among scholars and preachers; Offering direction and advice in order to reinforce the standing of the Shia Muslim community in its coexistence with other communities by taking all possible measures, using model mechanisms and advanced means, and cooperating with all qualified organizations and entities to that end.
GOALS & OBJECTIVES
- Sponsoring and supporting all that unites and bolsters the standing of the Shia communities in North America through the cooperation and unity of Shia Muslim scholars.
- Serving Islam and the school of Ahl al-Bayt, peace be upon them, by working to introduce it to others and disseminate it in its [naturally] befitting, rational, and tolerant form.
- Entrenching the concept of the Grand Religious Authority (al-Marjaʿiyyah) in the Shia community and working to reinforce the connection with that authority.
- Helping in any matter requiring the effort of scholars and preachers
- Using and investing in any means that can accomplish the aforementioned objectives
A LETTER FROM THE GRAND AYATULLAH SAYYID SISTANI
Statement of His Eminence Ḥujjat al-Islām Sayyid Murtaḍa al-Kashmīrī, representative of His Eminence the Supreme Religious Authority Sayyid al-Sīstānī, long may he live, On the Occasion of Rebooting the Council’s Activity
In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful
May the peace, mercy and blessings of God be upon my brothers, the honorable scholars …
I would first like to congratulate you for the joyous occasion of the blessed ʿEid al-Fiṭr. I ask God Almighty to bestow the ʿEid upon you and all the faithful again with goodness and blessings. With every coming year, may you always be well.
I would also like to congratulate you for holding your honorable conference on this continent. This continent so direly needs such meetings and conferences and the attendance of this number of active scholars and preachers aware of the pertinent issues on the ground. The likes of you are needed in order to diagnose the ailment and prescribe the remedy, doing it all for the sake of God Almighty and in service of Ahl al-Bayt’s school of thought, according to the commandments and etiquettes they gave us.
Dear brothers, this will not come except through honest intention, sincerity in action, harmony of hearts, cooperation amongst one another and abandoning selfishness and selfish interests. One must turn away from loving the worldly life with its desires and pleasures. One must commit to the path of the true leadership representing [the Twelfth Imam] in our age, the age of the major occultation. In this age, we hope to be among those paving the way for his appearance, may God bring him hastened relief.
My dears, the Islamic world today, especially your part of it, is bustling with many heated issues that require study and discussion followed by presenting them to the Supreme Religious Authority in the holy city of Najaf such that they may give us the ideal solution, God-willing. Some examples of these issues are: uniting the crescent [sightings for Islamic calendar months]; family issues, especially matters of divorce by the Religious Authority (al-ḥākim al-sharʿī); preaching, preachers, and sending them to places of need; how to raise the upcoming generations of the community according to moderns approaches that attract them and keep them away from places of corruption and deviance; and following up on the affairs of the community, as well as their social and ethical issues; following up with the Islamic centers and finding out their needs. All of these issues and others demand a sufficient amount of time and effort from you, but it is my belief that your unwavering motivation will move mountains.
With this conference of yours, I have hope that you will reach constructive, beneficial and practically fruitful decisions to solve these issues and others. My hope is also that these solutions come in a form harmonious with the aspirations and expectations of the Muslim community in those vast lands.
Honorable brothers, I had previously made all the arrangements to come, attend and participate along with you in person. However, some overwhelming circumstances have prevented me from doing so. [As the supplication goes,] “…And perhaps that which has been slow to come to me is better for me…” Nonetheless, I am confident and certain that your presence, attendance, and harmony on this day, along with your constructive decisions and the recommendations that will be released by the conference, God-willing, will make up for it many times over.
Before I relay to you the statement of the Grand Religious Authority, I find it necessary to thank my brother, the honorable scholar, the Sayyid, al-Bāqir [who reveals knowledge], and all those who have endured the difficulty and exhaustion to hold this conference. On my own behalf, and on behalf of my master and chief, His Eminence Grand Ayatollah Sayyid al-Sīstānī, long may he live, I offer them abundant thanks and beautiful praise for preparing these spiritual and faithful atmospheres in these lands. May the peace, mercy and blessings of God be upon you.
3 Shawwāl 1425 AH
Transcript of the Statement by the Office of the Supreme Religious Authority, Grand Ayatollah Sayyid al-Sīstānī, long may he live, in the holy city of Najaf
In the Name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful
All praise belongs to God, Lord of the Worlds. May the peace and blessings of God shower upon the best of God’s creatures, Muhammad and his progeny, the pure and [Divinely] guided guides.
May the peace, mercy and blessings of God be upon the honorable attendees…
In the beginning, we relay to you the greetings of His Eminence, the Sayyid – long may he live – and his congratulations to you on the occasion of the joyous ʿEid al-Fiṭr. We ask God Almighty to make this ʿEid one of goodness and mercy for all Muslims and to bestow the ʿEid upon them all again while donning the garbs of glory and honor. Indeed, God hears and answers [one’s prayers].
His Eminence also congratulates you on this meeting of yours. He values your kind efforts and endeavors in the way of disseminating the faith and serving the faithful. He wishes you further success and support in doing so.
In these difficult conditions that encompass the greater Islamic community, there are a number of important matters that must be addressed and have solutions offered for them by those of expertise and insight. However, the most important of such issues is the issue of the individual Muslim’s spiritual build. That build has been subject to a terrifying sabotage operation whose effects have not been limited to one group or another, or one sect or another, but rather have extended to all. Consequently, Islam has lost many of its stations in the daily life of the Muslim individual. Moreover, there has been a great increase of movements deviant from the true principles, in the very midst of the Muslims. Furthermore, there has been an increased desire for [heedless] amusement and [forbidden] pleasures in many of their hearts…
From this perspective comes into focus the role of the sincere callers [to the faith] and the preachers upholding the message, with hearts bursting with faith and piety. Their hearts are unmixed with the love of the worldly life, which is the head of every sin. They are the ones whose behavior is a representation of the true values and principles. Their actions testify to the truth of their words and what they call people toward. Indeed, they are the ones whom one can depend on to straighten the crookedness in the path taken by the Muslims and to reform their corrupted affairs.
This is our hope in you. We also hope that this meeting of yours convenes with unity, love, enjoining one another to follow the truth, and serious work in the way of entrenching the principles and values planted by the pure Imams, peace be upon them. [We hope this will be done] in such a way as to fulfill the aspirations and wishes of the believers, and to pave the way for the relief of our master, the Master of the Age [Imam al-Mahdī], may our souls be his ransom.
We ask God Almighty to take you by the hand toward that which holds the wellbeing of the believers and the interest of their faith as well as their life in this world. May the peace, mercy and blessings of God be upon you.
The Office of Sayyid al-Sīstānī
29 Blessed Ramadan 1425, The Holy City of Najaf
A list of the names and contact information of the scholars, preachers, Islamic center Imams, and those actively taking care of religious services in North America
- This list is merely intended to provide the contact information of those actively taking care of social religious services. This list definitely does not necessarily mean an endorsement of the [listed person’s] knowledge, piety or qualifications, even if the list does contain esteemed names that are in no need of an introduction at all.
- This list definitely does not have all the names. Therefore, whoever does not find his name and contact information listed here can message us and provide the information through this form.
- To the one who directs admonition and blame due to listing some of the names on this website, supposing or believing that this or that name is unqualified or has committed that which rids him of the right to be on this list, we say: One must provide convincing religious proof such that we may conduct an investigation and inquiry. For it has been reported in the noble tradition, “Indeed, the sanctity of the believer is greater than the sanctity of the Kaʿbah.” [If that is the case regarding a believer in general,] then what if the believer is also serving the faith and dressed in the garbs of the honorable and scholarly?
For the Conference of the Shia Muslim Scholars and Preachers in North America
16-18 November 2003, Holiday Inn, Edison, New Jersey
In the Name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful
Guided by the holy verse, “Those who deliver the messages of Allah and fear Him, and do not fear any one but Allah; and Allah is sufficient to take account,” [33:39] and with a fatherly, sponsoring statement from the office of His Eminence the Supreme Religious Authority Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali al-Ḥusaynī al-Sīstānī, long may he live, the conference of the honorable scholars and preachers convened in the city of Edison, New Jersey during the joyous ʿEid al-Fiṭr of 1425 AH, between the 16th-18th of November, 2004 CE. A little over forty scholars, preachers, Islamic center Imams, and active caretakers [of religious services] were in attendance. They discussed a number of important matters dealing with the common good. Considering the deteriorating conditions that the world is going through presently, especially those which are related to the greater Islamic community, the conferees emphasized the condemnation of violence in all of its inhuman forms. They also emphasized the condemnation of the sectarian massacres that are sometimes camouflaged in the guise of religion. They especially condemn that which targets the followers of Ahl al-Bayt’s school of thought, peace be upon them. Moreover, the conferees emphasized their denunciation of apostasy-accusation (takfīr) logic. This logic is coming from suspicious sources that increase divisions amongst Muslims. Furthermore, the conferees commended the Supreme Religious Authority’s wise positions. The Supreme Religious Authority has been facing all of the [challenges] with the utmost of reason, awareness, and care for all without exception. The conferees also demanded that the believers increase their [commitment] to follow the directives of the Grand Religious Authority, and to move forward in light of its guidance, as their highest interest dictates it.
The conference has made the following decisions:
First, the following have been elected as members of the board of trustees, Their Eminences: Shaykh Fāḍil al-Sahlānī, Sayyid Muḥammad Raḍawī, and Sayyid Tilmīdh al-Ḥasan Radawī
Second, the executive committee has been elected as follows:
- The Honorable Sayyid Rafīq Ḥasan Naqawī, responsible for External Public Relations in America
- The Honorable Sayyid Nabīl ʿAbbas, responsible for External Public Relations in Canada
- The Honorable Sayyid Maḥbūb Mahdī ʿAbidī, responsible for Internal Public Relations
- The Honorable Shaykh Muhammad al-Ali al-Ḥalabī, responsible for the Preaching Committee
- The Honorable Shaykh Ṣafdar Raḍī ʿAli, responsible for the Media Committee
- The Honorable Shaykh Muḥammad Nadīm al-Ṭāʾī, responsible for the Financial Committee
- The Honorable Sayyid Muḥammad Bāqir al-Kashmīrī, responsible for the Follow-up Committee
Furthermore, the following were elected as official spokesmen for the Council,the Honorable:
- Sayyid Nabīl ʿAbbas of Canada
- Sayyid Rafīq Ḥasan Naqawī
- Sayyid Muḥammad Bāqir al-Kashmīrī of America
Third, a number of sensitive and significant points related to the interest of Muslims in North America overall, and the interest of the followers of Ahl al-Bayt (pbut) specifically, were discussed. An annual agenda was set in order to activate the proposals and projects that were agreed upon.
Fourth, it has been decided that the conference will be held next year in the city of St. Louis, Missouri, between the 11th and the 14th of November, 2005 CE, which will be the second week of the month of Shawwāl, 1426 AH.
The conferees commend the efforts of all the brothers who participated in arranging and preparing for this blessed conference. They would like to especially mention the Honorable Sayyid Muḥammad Bāqir al-Kashmīrī and the Honorable Sayyid ʿAli Ḥaydar ʿAbidī for their blessed efforts to make the conference a success.
Finally, the conferees would like to extend the most eminent signs of congratulations for the joyous ʿEid al-Fiṭr to all Muslims. They pray to God in supplication for their unity and success in that which their wellbeing and interest reside. They [look forward] with hope that a shining reality for humans [will come about] under the banner of the one who will fill [the Earth] with fairness and justice, [that is Imam al-Mahdī]. Indeed, God hears and answers [one’s prayer].
The Executive Committee
18 November 2004 CE
The Means for Advancement: Preaching, Scholars, and the Youth (Dearborn, MI)
The conference intends to research and analyze the challenges facing the religious preaching methods, to advance and modernize preaching means, to discuss the challenges and difficulties facing the youth, and to study the effects of all of the above factors on the future of the Islamic Centers and communities in North America.
Sectarian Violence: Roots, Outcome and Solutions (Washington, D.C.)
The 13th Annual Conference of the Council of Shi'a Muslim Scholars in North America entitled: "Sectarian Violence: Roots, Outcome & Solutions"