In compliance to requests made by a numbers of key members of the council, the…
In the Name Allah the All-Beneficent the All-Merciful
The Closing Statement of:
The 16th Annual Conference of The Council of Shia Muslim Scholars in North America
In the spirit of the Quranic verse “From within every group in their midst, some shall refrain from going forth, and shall devote themselves [instead] to acquiring a deeper knowledge of the Faith. and [thus be able to] teach their home-coming brethren, so that these [too] might guard themselves against evil” the 16th Annual Conference of the Council of Shia Muslim Scholars of North America commenced in Dearborn, Michigan. A group of scholars, preachers and imams of Islamic centers from across the United States and Canada gathered from March 27-29, 2017 to discuss the most pressing issues facing Shia Muslims, and in particular those residing in the West, during a meeting titled “The Religious Authority (Marjaeya): Current State of Affairs, Ongoing Challenges, and Future Concerns”. The focus of the meeting was to address the ongoing challenges, vulnerabilities and hazards impacting Shia Muslims, which strike at the core of our faith and destabilize the bond and connection that exists between our 12th Imam (may God Almighty hasten his appearance) and our community of believers across this continent. Furthermore, the honorable attendees unanimously voiced a sincere and compassionate concern for the Shia Muslim youth. Therefore a significant portion of the discourse centered on their future and the development of a concerted strategy, which until now was lacking in several respects, to provide them with the guidance and support they need to fortify their faith and morals.
The attendees participated in general discussions involving the entire council as well as focused small-group “brain-storming” sessions. The objective of the former, among other things, was to provide each attendee with an opportunity to update those gathered on the current state of their community and describe how they envisioned the council could address and resolve not only the ongoing challenges they face but the ones encountered by others as well. On the other hand, the goal of the latter sessions was to discuss and refine the broad array of topics introduced in the main gathering, pare down to the most important issues, and then devise a concrete and implementable plan of action. As such, the following crucial resolutions were agreed upon:
- The need for preachers, religious speakers and imams of centers to put greater effort in exhorting all believers living in the West to turn to the religious authorities or marjaeya in the age of occultation and remind them of the practical necessity and benefit of seeking their guidance, not only for each individual person but for the whole community as well. This is because the marjaeya has defended and protected the religion from assault and corruption for over 1000 years and in doing so ensured the security and preservation of our societies. It is the beacon of faith and righteousness which has saved people from going astray and so it is a trust which must be upheld by each and every believer, especially the scholars and those tasked with serving the religion.
- The importance of community cohesion among the believers and a common approach by which a united front resists and prevents the introduction of false principles and notions which have no basis in Islam, righteousness or morality. Furthermore, this drive towards solidarity should prevent us from slipping into sectarian, partisan, ethnic or national strife in matters related to who believers choose to emulate as the religious authority. Rather, we must espouse a dependence upon the knowledgeable, wise and experienced specialists of the religious seminaries, who are whole-heartedly trusted by the believers, to clarify the circumstances and provide a clear-cut recommendation. The council should lead and be at the forefront of this effort due to its respected standing in the eyes of the western community as well as the religious seminaries not to mention its role as a bridge between the two. This is imperative because the council must strive to fulfill its responsibilities towards its constituent communities and serve their religious interests.
- After consulting with experts in the respective fields, the council will develop a series of “white papers”, or authoritative reports which provide religious information and edicts on specific issues which may be new or unique to the West (e.g. medicine, finance, banking, food/drink, societal trends, etc). These reports will be presented to the grand scholars and authorities of the religious seminaries for review and final approval so that a more robust standard of practice becomes available to the believers residing in North America.
- An improvement and refinement in the preaching activities which are focused on the youth and young people. The council recognized that Shia Muslims growing up in the West sometimes have a different approach to learning than those in the East. Thus, the need for progressive methods in relaying religious information was determined to be very important. For instance, short video clips on oft-encountered problems and their solutions, blogs describing how to face common social challenges like peer-pressure, or open-forum discussions via a webinar. An interim committee was formed to develop these ideas and produce a course of action for its fulfillment.
- The activities of the council shall be organized and administered by Imam Mahdi Association of Marjaeya (I.M.A.M.). In turn, the council shall act as an advisory body and take the role of providing advice, guidance, support and accountability to I.M.A.M. in its position as a subsidiary, representative and legitimate agent of the supreme religious authority. Furthermore, this resolution is in accordance and full conformity with what was already agreed upon in principle at the 15th Annual Conference.
The honorable attendees concluded the conference by expressing their gratitude to I.M.A.M. and its staff for sponsoring, organizing and managing the conference and providing all the necessary facilities, which they have done since 2004. Finally, they prayed to God Almighty to prolong the lives of our great maraji, especially His Eminence the Supreme Authority Grand Ayatollah Sayyid al-Sistani, and hasten the reappearance of the Imam of our time, peace be upon him, to fill the world with justice and equity.
Bidding all of you peace, mercy and the blessings of God.
On behalf of the council
Syed Tilmiz al-Hasanain Rizvi