History of The World Federation of KSIMC
In 1976, the World Federation was established, unifying the disparate jamaats of the Khoja Shia Ithna Asheri community worldwide under its headship. Preceded by the East Africa Federation formed in 1946, the new World Federation stemmed from the needs and growth of Khoja Shia communities in the USA, Canada, UK, UAE, Far East and elsewhere. In attending to the community’s financial, spiritual and educational needs globally ever since, the World Federation has passionately followed its motto ‘We exist to serve’. Recognised as a registered charity in the UK and world renowned for its efficient and well-organised humanitarian and religious contribution to the Shia world, the World Federation’s achievements are a dynamic tribute to the selfless dedication of its members.
While the scope and achievements of the WF have been dramatically extended over the years, the objectives remain the same. These include:
• promoting the Shia faith worldwide
• alleviating poverty, disease and dependence
• educating community members
• facilitating, funding and supporting communal endeavours
• rising to the assistance of Shia communities internationally within its capacity
From the start, the World Federation has been an organisation based on democratic process and constitutional values. The World Federation was born by unanimous assent at the 1976 Constitutional Conference in London. Thereafter, its constitution, previously drafted by a sub-committee, was accepted by majority accord. This was then followed by the election of office-bearers.
Today, the World Federation continues to operate under this constitution and is run by an elected President and his appointed Executive Council that oversees the activities of the Secretariat. The Secretariat, led by the Secretary General, comprises of full and part time staff from jamaats all over the world. This team of volunteers coordinate their activities through specialised Boards and Desks. Catering to specific areas of need, the five boards are The Islamic Education Board (IEB), the Medical Advisory Board (MAB), the Careers Education and Training Advisory Board (CETAB), Zainabiyya Child Sponsorship Scheme (ZCSS) and the Seniors Advisory Board (SAB). Running parallel are the Women’s Desk (WD), Youth Network Desk (YND), External Liason Desk, IT and Media Desk and Research and Development Desk. While these Boards and Desks function independently, each is represented at World Federation triennial conferences in which new policies and resolutions are passed. Press releases of the conferences are available to the public as are issues of ‘Shia World’ Magazine, published since 1976 to keep the public informed of the WF’s activities.
From East Africa Federation to the World Federation
‘Let me begin at the beginning. The concept of the World Federation dawned upon us by the events in Uganda.’ So began Marhum Mulla Asgherali M.M. Jaffer’s inaugural address at the First Constitutional Conference of the World Federation (1976).
In his book, The History of Khojas, Mulla shares how the World Federation historically evolved. Going back in time, dhows carrying the first Khojas docked on the shores of Zanzibar in 1840. Primarily from Cutch and Kathiawad, regions of India fraught with famine and poverty, these young Indians braved their way through foreign territories to explore new opportunities and seek their livelihood. These pioneers formed a closely knit support system based on mutual trust and dependability that helped these settlers establish home far from India. Most of the Khojas landed in Zanzibar and then moved into the interiors. Known for their reliability, the Khojas flourished and grew, contributing greatly to the overall economy of their countries. Forming communities called ‘jamaats’, these jamaats represented their Muslim identity and cultural connection with others of similar origin and circumstance. They were established with constitutions based on democratic principles, uniting people within self-governing communities.
As communities grew in sizes, dispersion became a concern. In the early 1930s, writers began to propagate the idea of a centralized organization to which all these Jamaats would be affiliated. In 1946, the East Africa Federation was established. Its leaders in the years that followed were visionary, self-sacrificing, and courageous, establishing strong foundations for centralisation of Khoja jamaats. In 1961, other Jamaats joined this central organisation, expanding the scope of the central organisation, and hence, establishing The Africa Federation. The Africa Federation played a crucial role in guiding the Shia Ithna Asheri communities of Africa, especially in finding its place in the world where rapid changes were taking effect - technologically, scientifically and politically.
In 1964, The African Federation addressed the challenges of the revolution in Zanzibar. It assumed the unprecedented role of assisting displaced members of the community in the face of political upheaval. In 1972, the Federation faced another challenge stemming from the exodus from Uganda. Evicted from their homes under Idi Amin’s racist regime, scores of families had no choice but to migrate. In the years following this mass exodus, Khojas continued to shift and resettle, for various reasons, to England, USA, Canada and other European countries.
With resilience and God’s mercy, these families settled into new lands but their ties with the Federation of Africa weakened under the strain of new demands and geographical distance. Amazingly though, no sooner had the displaced families settled back into a routine of sorts, they began to organise themselves into Jamaats as they had in Africa. Very soon, mosques were built, centers established and the same sense of community that had brought Khojas together when they faced a new life in Africa appeared to draw together the displaced members of the community in their new lands. Hence, the Khoja identity was sustained and flourished, offering comfort and hope to those who had lost so much.
The need to centralise and renew connections between communities in the East and West began to be felt globally. In 1976, following a meeting convened to bring together all the Khojas of the world, The World Federation was established. The experienced Khoja leaders from Africa contributed greatly to the establishment and growth of The World Federation, nurturing and guiding the WF through its infancy to establish stability and reputation as a global central organization for Khoja Shia Ithna Asheri members of the world.
The Formative Years: 1976 - 1985
Once established, the World Federation faced two immediate, if ambitious, tasks. One was to raise the balance of funds from zero. Along with Khums monies, donations were the primary source of revenue in the first term, with £90 000 received by 1979. Secondly, requests received from areas as far off as Vancouver, the Bahamas and Bangkok had to be met. The first step was to assess each particular situation and to this effect Maulana Syed Amir Husain Naqvi was appointed to tour the jamaats in America, Europe, Canada and the Far East and produce a detailed report of each area. Thereafter, with limited funds, the unenviable job of prioritising requests began.
On balance, the WF’s first two terms (1976-79, 1979-1982) were dedicated to alleviating the abject poverty of the East. Removing disease, poverty and illiteracy within India was the pressing priority. To work more effectively, the central body of the WF coordinated its activities with representative bodies on the ground. In conjunction with the Masoomeen Trust of Bombay, housing complexes, madrassahs, masjids, imambarghas and medical treatment camps were funded and run. After attempts to create an All-India Federation floundered, the Gujarat Federation was set up in 1979 with the unified objective to uplift the Shias of Kutch and Khatiawad. Initial temporary relief in the form of handouts soon made way for capital schemes of investment in housing, education, agriculture and job creation. Under its leadership, the Zainabiyya Child Sponsorship Scheme was launched in 1981 to sponsor the poor to educate themselves out of dependence. Sponsoring 9 children at the cost of 50 cents per child/day in 1981, the number of students rose to 610 by 1984. The scheme now sponsors thousands of children in Bangladesh, India and Thailand.
To counter poverty in its more insidious yet subtle form, the WF initiated ‘Samuh Lagna’ in 1978. Weddings in a culture steeped in Indian tradition were a crippling burden on poor families and at hence, at times prevented marriage altogether. The WF and Gujarat Federation therefore organised ‘Samuh Lagna’ – an event to host multiple weddings simultaneously at little cost to the wedding parties. The success of this project from its inception is evident in the smooth running of as many as 80 weddings at a time during its early years.
In attending to the cry of wretchedness in India, calls for spiritual upliftment elsewhere were not wholly abandoned. In spite of limited resources and no regular income, donations were given to fund imambargha projects in the West. More imminent in the West was the need to disseminate Islamic education to the youth. Hence, the Islamic Education subcommittee sprouted soon after the WF was born, extending in breadth and scope to become the Islamic Education Board by 1980. Its brief was to enhance Islamic learning in the west through the provision of Islamic literature, correspondence courses, training of aalims and teachers, reviewing of teaching techniques in madrassahs and the utilising of audio-visual aids. While an extensive record of publications, audio-visual resources, madrassah tools and syllabi, Islamic courses and learning schemes can now be accredited to the IEB, the initial steps in this direction were boldly taken in the IEB’s formative years.
Another invaluable brainchild of the WF, the Medical Advisory Board was formed in 1979 to cater to the communities’ medical needs. Complementing the IEB’s efforts to renew spiritual health, the MAB provided various services including the supply of drugs and tools to perform heart surgery, providing preventative medicines, organising health education classes and introducing screening programmes. Liaising through an organised network of medical subcommittees, the MAB worked efficiently round the globe in spite of experiential and resource constraints. By 1984, treatment/assistance had been provided for over a hundred medical cases ranging from kypho-scoliosis to cerebral palsy. The Hajj Medical Mission was set up in 1976 comprising of two doctors and limited supplies in service of hujjaj. By the early 1980’s, although facilities continued to be few, organisation was improving and treatment not merely of throat/chest infection and heat exhaustion, but diabetes, heart problems, asthma and other serious conditions was also provided.
Era of Entrenchment : 1985-1995
Neither did the end of the first decade of World Federation service close an old chapter nor did the second herald a distinctly new one; rather, one passed seamlessly into the other, the same zeal and selfless dedication persisting.
The same boards and committees continued to serve; yet a decade of experience and growth was subtly making its mark. By 1990 the number of students sponsored under ZCSS had risen to 1700. In a setting where children as young as seven were recruited to labour in the mines, cotton mills or in the streets selling bidis, educating these children provided immense benefits - both immediate and long-term. In the 1980’s, education for poor children took on a new dimension with the WF paying for the freedom of children sold into debt slavery and then sponsoring their schooling. Fighting poverty on other fronts, the WF continued its assistance of Gujarat Federation projects. In addition, working in India alongside the Imam Zamana Mission, Masomeen Trust, and other local bodies, schemes of housing, education, religious training, agriculture etc. continued to expand, with particular focus on the slums of Govandi, the shantytowns of Bihar and the filthy hamlets of Qayamnagar (Hyderabad) amongst others. With the birth of the Kutch Federation in 1990, rejuvenation projects were accelerated in Kutch, particularly housing schemes in Bhuj. The WF also was quick to respond in crisis, with emergency aid provided in 1991 in coordination with local organisations, to repair housing damage due to heavy rains in Alipur.
Healthcare continued to be a prime concern. MAB volunteers worked selflessly in spite of huge costs of £10 000 per annum. Amongst it’s achievements were the improvements in the Hajj Medical Mission. Beginning with only two doctors, overseas medical supplies and no base forcing doctors to treat as they travelled, the Hajj Medical Mission by 1990 incorporated 5 doctors (along with a list of volunteers on a waiting list), local and overseas supplies, and an independent base of operation from which each doctor saw up to 300 patients a day. Later, as hajj groups multiplied, expanded and were better organised, the Hajj Medical Mission outlived its medical function and in 1993, sensibly altered its role to become an advisory body assisting hajj groups through leaflets, videos, books, seminars etc.
With the onset of the WF’s third term and beyond, perhaps the greatest bend in the road of service was the increased focus given to the needs of the West. It was now that tens of thousands of pounds were pumped into imambargha projects in Birmingham, Trollhatten, Los Angeles, Edmonton, Leeds, Peterborough and London. Properties were being purchased and new Shia’ jamaat centres emerged throughout the West. Amongst the greatest long-term investments was a property in Wood Lane, Stanmore, opened in 1989 as the Hujjat Islamic Centre, soon also becoming the central base of the WF secretariat and hub of WF organisation and activity.
Keen attention was also given to the growing need of youth in the west for education, one enhanced by the change in lingua franca from Gujerati/Urdu to English. The WF’s response was two-pronged: while it struggled to preserve the mother tongue via seminars, articles, and Gujerati classes in madrassahs, it adapted its mode of instruction to accommodate a language shift that would not be reversed. For many years, the youth had little more Islamic reading in English than literal translations of basic Gujarati and Urdu literature published by Pir Muhammad Trust. By the early 1990s, due to the IEB’s extensive efforts, the doors to a greater breadth and depth of literature were opened with works such as ‘The Collection and Preservation of Quran’ by Ayatullah Al-Khui and ‘Philosophy of Tauheed’ by Marhoom Jafferali Aseer now available in English. Moreover guidebooks on Hajj, Marriage, Salaat, and other principal subjects as well as dua’ translations including that of Saheefa Sajjadiyya, also in English, were now being published by the WF. While there remained gaping voids in Islamic literature for youth, definite progress was being made.
These publications comprised part of a whole new approach of the WF to engage and educate the youth. At the World Federation Conference in London in October 1991 and the IEB seminar preceding, it was recognised that the mode and message from one of the primary ports of education- the pulpit - needed revisiting. ‘The public…had been far from being satisfied with the quality of the sermons being delivered in most cases’(Shia World, March 1992), largely due to cultural and language distances between the zakir and young audiences. During the seminar, participants recommended ways of enhancing effectiveness of sermons, primarily by training zakireen in the long term. Advanced religious training in the west, had to some extent, already begun with institutions such as the Madrassah El Khui, established at Husseini Islamic Centre in 1988. At the October Conference, it was agreed that in easing into a change in the preaching medium for youth, books of majalis in English should be published, tailoring to various age groups and identifying with contemporary issues. Hence, in the midst of shifting cultures and attitudes, the World Federation proved itself to be far-sighted and dynamic – wisely open to alternative methods where historic and traditional ways began to falter.
In the early 1990’s challenges also rose unexpectedly from far-off quarters. The last days of the Gulf War brought untold persecution and difficulties to the civilians in Iraq. As the Allied forces joined the fray to rescue the Kuwaitis, Saddam retaliated with a scorched earth policy devastating to civilians combined with renewed brutality towards the Shias. He also began destroying the haram of Imam Husein, madrassahs and libraries. Moreover, Ayatullah Sayyid Al Khoei and his family were arrested and imprisoned. The WF responded on multiple levels. By April 1991, £3 500 worth of medical supplies and £22 000 cash for food, clothing, medicines and shelter were sent to Iraq. Regular despatches were sent by the MAB via the Red Crescent in Tehran comprising medicines to treat victims of chemical warfare, nerve gas, wounds, burns, etc. Simultaneously, the WF and khoja communities deployed all means to pressurise the media and governments to work for the end of Saddam’s atrocities and release of the Sayed al Khoei and his noble family. Donations and demonstrations were made by communities from Vancouver to Madagascar. Vast sums of money were also channelled by the WF towards the plight of millions of dislocated Iraqis homeless in bordering countries. Aiding Iraqis was a long-term mission with £ 1 000 000 worth of medicines sent by 2000. While the extent of aid required eluded the WF’s limited means, the Iraq tragedy spurred a WF emergency response unprecedented in its generousity and scale.
The scale of this emergency relief effort can only be matched perhaps by the courage and heroism of the emergency seaborne evacuation of community members from war-rife Mogadishu, Somalia in January 1991. Arranged and led by the Chairman of the K.S.I. Jamaat of Mombasa, Haji Sajjad M. Rashid, and supported and funded by the jamaats of Mombasa and Kenya, the perilous journey to Mombasa to Mogadishu and back to Kilindini Harbour, was successful. Of the 1053 rescued evacuees, 783 were community members.
So passed the second decade of WF history, a rich tapestry of humble, continual service occasioned by extraordinary effort in the face of crisis.
Rising International Service and Stature: 1995-2006
Having spent a mere £10 000 in its first year, by 1996, the WF’s bill for communal welfare had risen to $43 million over 20 years. Over two decades, the various boards and desks also had expanded and refined their roles. Moreover, the World Federation had extended the geographic scope of its services to areas as disparate as Kuala Lumpur, Tataristan (Russia), Guyana and Bosnia.
Entering into middle-age, the IEB of the World Federation, stepped up its efforts of tabligh in these far-flung corners. In 1992, during the Bosnian crisis, the WF had recognised the Bosnian need for a better understanding of Islam. By 1993, the IEB had already published basic Islamic literature including a first-course in Islam and a Bosnian translation of the Holy Qur’an. From 1997-2002, regular issues of ‘Muslimanski zivot’ provided bite-sized guidance. A correspondence course on Islam was also set up to operate via the Bosnian desk, with 1200 students enrolled by 2000. During this period also, as Albanian Muslims suffered persecution and war in nearby Kosovo, the WF not only provided relief aid but launched a tabligh programme based on the Bosnian template. Under the IEB, 5 000 copies of an Albanian translation of the Qur’an, ‘The Roots of Religion’ and other basic works translated into Albanian were distributed. On another continent, the World Federation in conjunction with the Bilal Muslim Mission of the Americas continued its tabligh work in Central and South America including the Caribbean Islands. As the BMMA established madrassahs and mosques in Trinidad and Guyana and furthered Islamic awareness in the Solomon Islands and Columbia, the WF extended its assistance whenever required.
As the IEB’s tabligh operation chartered new lands, it did not abandon the needs of its more established member jamaats. In 1999, Marhum Mulla Asgher opened the Dar al Tabligh in New York, a pivotal step in the IEB’s tabligh work in North America. Similar to its counterpart in the UK, the Dar al Tabligh in New York was established to be a resource centre from which books, audio and videos and multimedia CDs could be distributed widely as well as retained for reference as part of a resource-rich library for the Muslim and wider public. Six years on, the Dar al Tabligh organises seminars and courses, disseminates Islamic knowledge, and plays a leading role in Islamic research in North America.
A library more universally accessible but content specific was also set up by the IEB. Launching the website, www.quran.org.uk, the aim was to provide a comprehensive Qur’an research base on line. This website complements the Qur’an Library and Research Centre at Dar al-Tabligh in Harefield, a library with an impressive collection including more than 200 English books on the Qur’an, Iranian university theses’ on the Qur’an in Farsi, over a 1000 articles on the Qur’an in English, and Qur’an translations in over 30 languages. Ever since its inception, the website is being updated and improved, the result being a continual rise in world-wide viewership.
The IEB also advanced its tabligh efforts through other media resources. Radio programmes were launched by the IEB; they continue to be a reverberating success with listening audiences of approximately 70 000 people every morning. Radio programmes can also be heard online via the IEB portal (ieb.world-federation.org). Furthermore, the IEB also obtained a slot on Humanity TV for airing of a religious series in Muharram. To coordinate and centralise these diverse educational programmes via television and radio, the IEB has established a Media and Radio team and a digital Media Centre. The realisation of future objectives, including the securing of national and mainstream television slots, will reflect dynamic steps forward.
To cater for the more specific needs of Khoja students studying Persian and Islamic studies in Qom seminaries, the WF established the Islamic Education Board Qom Office in September 2004. The IEB-QO has provided a direct liaising channel between the IEB and Qum organisations such as the Jamia’ al-Zahra, Imam Khomeini Education and Research Institute, Porch of Wisdom Cultural Institute and Imam Sadiq Institute. It coordinates various activities for the 60 Khoja students studying in Qom and recently signed an agreement with the International Centre for Islamic Studies, the authority in charge of non-Iranian students in the Qom hawza, whereby various accommodations for students were made including fast-track admission, flexibility in studies and facilitative measures to meet the peculiar course needs of non-Iranians attending on long-term and short-term basis.
As the World Federation makes great strides in enhancing the spiritual welfare of its members, humanitarian appeals have continued to stretch WF resources and volunteers to their utmost. When a massive earthquake hit Gujarat in January 2001, killing and displacing thousands, the WF mobilised all efforts to help affected communities in Mariya, Kutch, Bhuj, Nagalpur, Kera and Mundra. In coordination with the Council of Gujarat, phase one whereby immediate relief ie. shelter, water, medicine and food was supplied was followed by the next phase of providing income support and temporary housing. Finally, the WF concentrated its efforts on economic upliftment and financial loans for businesses, completing this project in October 2001 and beginning phase 4 of rebuilding permanent housing and Islamic centres thereafter. In the wake of the Bam (Iran) earthquake in December 2003, a more experienced WF again raised, organised and deployed by 2004 £400 000 towards the Bam cause for immediate relief, resettlement and redevelopment. Moreover, plans were initiated for the building of a hawza in the devastated area, particularly to fill the vacuum left by the numerous deaths of learned scholars within the area; the target date for completion was set for June 2005.
More recently, in response to the Asian tsunami disaster that devastated the coastlines of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand, the WF produced a six-phase action plan, focusing its funds on long-term resettlement. While £75 000 had been raised by the Executive Council Meeting in January 2005, funds were still being collected and organised. As the community world-wide organised fairs, cake sales, appeals, marathons, sponsored activities etc. to raise money, the WF meticulously exacted its task of coordinating, collating and channelling funds for the most suitable purposes in deprived areas.
Appeals for assistance also came from the Middle East as the devastation of the American invasion of Iraq was borne by the Iraqi people. Globally, Khoja Shia communities responded by organising madrassah charity days, competitions, clothing collections, etc to collect funds. The WF focused these monies on various aid initiatives including orphan education and welfare, settlement of displaced refugees, and the setting up of Aeinullah eye clinic in Sadr City. Organised by the MAB and WF Youth Network Desk, 250 youth participated in the London street collection in over 40 tube stations throughout London, raising a phenomenal £16 000 towards the Iraq orphan relief fund. To meet the WF target of raising £70 000 to provide 300 orphans in Iraq with food, medicine and education for one year, the cry of ‘help Iraqi orphans’ resonated in jamaat functions and fund-raising events throughout the world. While this target has been met, efforts to raise the £40 000 required to build the desperately needed eye clinic in Sadr city and relocate refugees continue. As the world is rocked by natural and man-made tragedies, the WF in Iraq and elsewhere continues to be a force of humanitarian service.
In recent years, the consistent struggle to eliminate poverty and disease in India and the developing world also has not abated. The Zainabiyya Child Sponsorship Scheme continues to increase in number and expand geographically; not only does it cover students from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Thailand, since the year 2000 African students from the Bilal Muslim Mission of Kenya have also been incorporated. Moreover, the scheme has been enhanced to include a graduate scheme since 1997; beginning with merely 20 students, by 2000 the scheme supported 500 students pursuing higher education in universities and colleges. Through Zainabiyya, various schools have also been established – in Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Alipur, Karnataka, Baltistan and other areas – an achievement which according to former ZCSS chairman, is ‘the one that has had the most success’ of all schemes under ZCSS.
To break the circle of illiteracy, poverty and dependence in the developing world, not only is the WF sponsoring education projects but also health schemes and centres. Aware that where poverty is common, disease is also rife, the WF has opened various clinics in impoverished areas to provide basic health care for the masses, the clinics in Bihar, Bangalore and Govandi being cases in point. In the Bihar clinic for example, 12 000 patients are treated each year. Eye camps have been arranged in various areas to check and treat people en masse, the Bihar clinic, for example, providing cataract surgery and preventing blindness for 300 people through a single eye camp. Under the MAB, specialised eye clinics have also been established in Lucknow, Bangalore and Patna. Provision of such health facilities has recently been extended from its primarily Indian subcontinent base to other regions such as Iraq, with preliminary work for the most recent clinic project in Sadr City underway.
Over the years, the World Federation has matured, evolved and expanded in breadth, depth and scope. Yet, in ever-extending itself to greater and wider service, the WF, admirably, has not unravelled in focus or organisation from within. Towards its objective of providing educational, spiritual and humanitarian service globally it has worked in ripple fashion – focusing on the immediate Khoja Shia community yet diffusing its services to wider Shia’ and Muslim circles as well as humanity as a whole.
A WF board only recently established is SAB, the Seniors Advisory Board. First established as a Desk in 2002 and then receiving Board status in 2003, its mission is to address the medical, financial, social, spiritual and other needs of our seniors, so as to preserve their quality of life and dignity. SAB has achieved great strides in keeping with the teachings of our 6th Imam who stated that ‘Respecting and valuing the elderly is truly respecting and honoring the Almighty’.
SAB’s aim is to uphold the position of every senior as one representing “courage, wisdom and tradition” and to undertake their needs as a moral obligation. Medically, SAB has promoted preventive medicine through programs such as the annual Flu Advisory and Vaccination. Furthermore, SAB has joined hands with MAB to implement a 3-Point Action Plan to establish a Medical Screening Program, Flu Vaccination Awareness and an Islamic Medical Ethics Network.
Loneliness is a sad reality for many of our seniors globally and in recognizing this debilitating challenge, SAB has encouraged, motivated and spearheaded efforts to establish Senior Groups and/or forums for seniors to identify with one other, share needs and ideas and benefit from programs/projects specifically geared to them.
SAB is also committed to ensuring that our seniors have the basic necessities that facilitate survival. The Hadith-e-Kisa Blanket Drive sought to alleviate the dire situation of some seniors who battle the bitter cold without adequate protection in many parts of the world. In 2004, SAB raised funds to provide hundreds of seniors in Bihar, India with wool blankets, and later in the year, 3000 blankets to seniors in Lukhnow, India and Gilgeet, Pakistan. In 2005, SAB gifted about 10,000 more seniors in the Gilgeet and Skardu regions of Pakistan.
SAB has also focused efforts in providing seniors with adequate housing through various housing projects and meeting other needs through programs like ‘Al-Qaim Sponsor Our Seniors (SOS) Program’ which offers financial aid either monthly or one-time, to impoverished seniors who need assistance with provision of healthy meals, accommodation, clothing, medicine, etc. Through donors’ generosity, SAB is currently sponsoring 150 seniors through this program.
SAB’s efforts extend to providing opportunities for our seniors’ spiritual and educational growth through tools such as seminars, CDs, audio and video presentations, newsletters, etc. In 2004, SAB presented the Hajj Niyabah Program which facilitated wajib or sunnat Hajj by proxy, enabling seniors to complete their obligations and/or fulfill their desire for Hajj. SAB is also greatly committed to raising awareness of the importance of our seniors and their contribution to society. Embarking upon creative means to achieve this aim, SAB published ‘The E-Book of Personalities’ in 2006 to identify 12 seniors who have made a significant impact through their life choices. SAB also introduced the ‘Senior of the Month’ concept to draw attention to seniors who have positively contributed to the communities at large. SAB, in its continuing quest to honor seniors, declared the 10th of Shawwal, the day our 12th Imam entered into major occultation, as ‘Grandparents Day’, a day to honor, and more importantly, remind ourselves of the duty prescribed upon us towards our elders.
Another integral new addition to the WF infrastructure is the Women’s Desk, the need for which was established at the Women’s Convention in Milton Keynes in 2002. Endeavouring to address the needs of Khoja Shia’ women globally, the Women’s Desk has planned and achieved various projects to this end. Amongst its various successes, the WD has organized several seminars on diverse issues from Khoja culture and effective parenting to marriage guidance. Having recognised the need to improve avenues to facilitate spouse selection, the WD launched the internet facility of Khojamatch. To respond to other marital concerns raised at various workshops and the ‘The Marriage Forum’ in Dubai, the WD is also rejuvenating the latent Marriage Advisory Council of the WF by initiating marriage training programmes, training programmes for marriage-educators and extending madressah syllabi by adding modules on topics such as spouse selection. Currently, it is also working on the onerous but critical project of creating a database of Khoja Shia women worldwide.
Steadfastly responding to the Prophet’s calling to seek education and complementing the IEB’s integral role of spiritual education, is the WF’s Career, Education and Training Advisory Board, CETAB. Firmly rooted in “creating awareness where opportunities exist”, CETAB is dedicated to making available quality primary and secondary education and preparing and placing students in institutions of higher education. Over the years, CETAB has persisted in providing various tools and means to KSI students globally to help them achieve academic progress. From periodically offering detailed overviews on careers and professions together with detailed descriptions and requirements, to assistance with loans and accommodation, CETAB aims to cover the necessary ground that will facilitate the successful education. CETAB offers guidance on career choices, navigating education systems in different countries, scholarship opportunities and CV/resume preparation. CETAB also disseminates information on various seminars, workshops, fairs, training programs, recruitment events, discussion groups and information centers, to ensure a constant flow of information exchange. CETAB links our students to websites/programs that offer loans, internship opportunities, online career counseling and global studying opportunities.
In 2002, CETAB launched the Student Support Network, SSN. The aim of SSN is to offer a wide range of services to the student body within our communities across all jamaats. SSN addresses student needs and offers guidance on all aspects and challenges that face a student seeking education or employment upon completion of studies. SSN has also introduced mailing groups to facilitate easier exchange of information on these issues. In a further effort to link students with each other, SSN also created an Online Student Directory.
CETAB frequently offers profiles on community members who have achieved great advancement in the field of academia. These serve as a source of inspiration and a means to recognize individual effort and dedication. CETAB also features profiles on students who offer an insight into their education, sharing personal experiences that help others gain a better understanding of different courses and systems. Still others share their studying experiences in different countries, opening up the choices available to the knowledge seekers of our community at large. CETAB has made an impressive contribution to our community, and continues to seek better ways and means to create greater opportunities in the search for knowledge.
Through its dynamic and multifaceted approach, the WF has maintained a harmonious balance in improving the welfare of the mind, body and spirit of the Ummah. The WF’s persistent success can only accredited to the hard work of its volunteers. At the heart of this team of volunteers has been the vision and leadership of Marhum Mulla Asgher, the pivot around which the WF organised itself and revolved in fluent motion. President of the WF from 1976 until his sad demise in 2001, Marhum Mulla Asgher’s leadership, guidance and unreserved commitment ensured that the WF grew from a struggling, communal venture to a world-renowned organisation of international clout and consequence. It is in his noble footsteps and those of all dedicated volunteers, that the WF continues to selflessly serve and strive.
Moving Ever Forward: 2006-2009
The World Federation’s 10th Triennial Conference in Dubai in 2006 marked a new progression in its history and organisation. As leaders celebrated 30 years of service to Islam and humanity, they also searched for ways to enhance future achievements. In line with this dynamism, the WF also sharpened the thrust of its focus to create the following new vision and mission statements:
'The World Federation exists to achieve the pleasure of Allah SWT by developing spiritual and vibrant communities serving humanity.'
'The World Federation enables its member institutions to promote the values and practices of the Islamic Shia Ithna Asheri Faith for the spiritual and material well being of humanity at large.'
During the conference, The President of The World Federation candidly noted that there was no ‘clear demarcation of responsibilities’ between the jamaats, regional federations and called for a ‘need to mark the next stage in the development of our community institutions.’ Upon discussion, an historic resolution was passed, authorising the Executive Council to demarcate a clear and detailed framework of roles and responsibilities.
Having started the ball rolling, the Executive Council then approved the restructuring of the organisation in February 2007. This proceeded from a discussion with leaders of all the regional federations through a Regional Summit. The Memorandum of Understandings to which leaders of all the regional federations agreed, served to create a platform for the delineation of roles between the WF and regional bodies to prevent work duplication. It also clarified the focus of the WF as a strategic body responsible for policy making and the role of regional federations to deliver projects in line with policy. Leaders at the following day’s Executive Council meeting then approved a new structure in which the Secretariat of the WF would appoint assistant secretary generals to lead five general departments:
• Family Affairs
• Relief and Economic Development
The aim of this new structure was to make the relationship between The World Federation and regional federations more coherent, while allocating the lion’s share of responsibility and autonomy in project management to the regional federations.
The above reflects a commitment to adapting strategies to changing times and needs, while upholding core principles - a salient feature of The World Federation’s success. Moreover, a strong sense of accountability enables the WF to continually introspect and improve itself.
The attainment of NGO status with the United Nations on 21 July 2007 was another historic and momentous event in the history of The World Federation. September 2007 was yet another important time for our community, where vision realised in 2003 came into action, with the single most important project in the history of the Khoja Shia Ithna Asheri Community coming to reality. The first students arrived to study at The Islamic Institute for Postgraduate Studies in Damascus, Syria. As soon as the community leaders at the Dubai Conference in October 2006 gave the go ahead for the launch of The Muballigheen Training Programme (MTP), Team MTP swung into action, and less than 12 months later, the first group of students began studying at the institute. The need for this milestone project stemmed from the Strategic Plan in 2003, in which surveys suggested that whilst the demand for Islamic Education was strong, the perceived effectiveness of current efforts to impart Islamic Education was seen as relatively ineffective by the community. Subsequently, in 2005, the Islamic Education Board facilitated a Weekend Retreat held in London, to seek input from Muballigheen and Ulema, aimed at formulating an action plan to enhance the level of Islamic Guidance. Participants from this retreat unanimously resolved that our community is in need of such an institute.
In realizing its mission, the WF continues to march forward, its momentum and enthusiasm unabated. In all areas – from Health to Education, Tableegh to Development - the WF continues to extend and improve its services. The Zainabiyya Child Sponsorship Scheme (ZCSS), for example, after 25 years of tirelessly striving ‘To Eradicate Poverty through Literacy’ is now focusing on Higher Education as its priority for the next three years. The CoEJ Health Improvement Board is recognising the need to support member with disabilities within communities and cater to this unconsciously ignored and long-neglected part of the community. The innovative Mubaligheen Training Programme has progressed in giant strides, with the 2nd year curriculum prepared for the current students to embark on. Alhamdulillah, after three decades of diligent struggle, the WF has matured into a far-reaching, effective force of universal humanitarian and religious service.
Expanding Horizons 2009-2015
The year 2009 was a ‘annus horribilis’ for The World Federation. Errors in the election process of the election of the President had surfaced followed by the absence of the Electoral Commissioner at the beginning of the conference and his failure to submit his report to the 2009 Conference. Thus the 2009 Conference was an unusual one because it was the first conference without a President Elect in place. This anomaly had to be resolved and hours of deliberations took place. The unity, rationale and the democracy within the organization prevailed and the Conference resolved that the tasks of the Electoral Commissioner to be absolved and recommended that the next Executive Council undertake a study into the past election process (2009) and report within a year to the Executive Council. It also resolved that a constitutional conference to be convened in December 2010 in the UK to amend The WF presidential election method and processes. The Conference then elected an Electoral commissioner to complete the term 2006-2009. The election for the posts of the President, Vice President, Hon. Treasurer and Five elected Executive Councillors and the Electoral Commissioner then took place.
The turbulent times continued within the community but once again the unity prevailed and it resolved to move forward in an organized way. The Extraordinary Conference held in May 2010 after reviewing the elections of the term 2009-2012 determined that fresh elections be held after effecting any amendments necessary to The Constitution relating to the processes and conduct of elections. At the same Conference, The Council of Gujrat resigned as a Regional Member of The World Federation. In October 2010, The Federation of Khoja Shia Isna Asheri Jamaats of Pakistan (Pakistan Federation) became a Regional Member of The World Federation.
The 2010 Constitutional Conference held in December amended the Standard Operating Procedure for Electing the President of The World Federation from being first pass the post to an Electoral College system. The revised SOP remains to be tested as there was only one nomination for the post of the president for the term 2011-2014.
The turbulent times for the organization were over and it returned to even keel to serve the community in earnest. The aspirations of the Muballigheen Training Programme (MTP) were dented with costs overruns and lack of student registration due to its application rigidness and requirements. With the increase in political upheaval in Syria, the MTP was eventually laid to rest once the students enrolled, had completed their studies.
The second decade of the 21st century saw the shrinking of the world to a global village through the expansion in social media. In addition, political upheavals, terrorism and extremism throughout the world spiralled out of control. The marginalization and target killings of followers of Muslims of Shia faith also escalated. The intervention by foreign governments in the Middle Eastern countries in their quest for democracy resulted in destabilising the entire region. It saw masses of refugees fleeing their countries by sea to reach the shores of Europe desperate for new beginnings. The WF sent volunteers and aids to help some refugees arriving in Greece. The war and the persecution of Muslims of Shia faith in Yemen resulted in The WF at the request of Aden Jamaat in evacuating almost the entire Khoja community to Djibouti where they were registered and classified as ‘prime facie’ refugees under the UNHRC. The WF ensured that their dignity was maintained by providing them suitable accommodation and meals. Realising that Europe was dealing with the influx of refugees and there was almost no scope of Khoja refugees to be accepted even though of their skills and professions, The WF started the process of resettling the Khoja refugees in Djibouti to different African countries, India, Pakistan and Malaysia. The process slow and steady but expensive is still going on.
The noticeable erosion of faith based values spurred the organization in to launching of two separate special projects to reiterate one of its objectives i.e. ‘to promote the Shia Ithna-Asheri faith throughout the world’. The first was the establishment of the state of art The Mulla Asgher Memorial Library and Resource Centre (MARC). Situated within the Jaffari Community Centre of Islamic Ithna Asheri Jamaat of Toronto, Canada, it is a beacon of tremendous Tableegh potential for our Community in North America. Its vision is ‘To be a premier state of the art Islamic resource centre in North America providing research and learning facilities to Muslims as well as non-Muslims’. It opened its doors to wider public to view its exhibitions and use of its resource facilities thereby providing a platform for interfaith and intra-faith discussions.
The second initiative was the establishment of Madrasah Centre of Excellence (MCE), a structure that was formed in 2011 to deliver and maintain the strategies for the Madrasah programme. The MCE’s focus is on how to attain harmony amongst Madaris and by coordinating the four work streams namely Curriculum Development, Teacher Training, Learning Resources and Assessment & Evaluation.
The Leadership Development Programme and the Capacity Building Programmes are now firmly embedded in Africa, Europe and North America and has transformed the lives of the participants both in their social and business environments. The Executive Council’s decision to eradicate poverty through microfinance projects and housing continues to bring benefit to the community. The regional membership has started to implement the recommendations of the Women’s Needs Assessment, a Conference initiative.
The WF continues to provide its core services in Education, Health, Tableegh and Relief in a more professional and economic way. The Madinah and Bab summer courses held annually have enjoyed resounding successes and are now one of the most sought after courses for the youths of the community. The implementation of a state of art software by the Zainabiya Child Sponsorship Scheme (ZCSS) enables it to track each individual student’s progress under its scheme and when it is fully implemented and integrated it will allow the sponsors to view on-line the progress of its sponsored child/children.
The Executive Council also launched an ambitious The World Federation Foundation Fund for investment income to meet the administrative costs. Another aspiring project it launched was the Khoja Heritage and Khoja Wikipedia; together both eventually will chart out the history of Khoja diaspora from India to the rest of the world. In addition, it is in the process of launching a Khoja Business and Professionals Directory.
The WF tries to stay in sync with the tech savvy generations by proving them with apps to meet their religious obligations, the first of which launched was the Khums Calculator.
The WF now has Regional Members in six out seven geographical regions as defined in its Constitution following the successful application of Membership by The Federation of Australasian Communities INC. and Council of All KSI Jamats (India Federation) in 2015.