Background of Wessex Jamaat
Wessex Shia Ithna Asheri Jamaat (Wessex Jamaat) was formed in 1982 and became a registered charity in the United Kingdom (Registered Charity Number 1010076) on 25 March 1992. It is also a member of the Council of European Jamaats (CoEJ).
History of Wessex Jamaat
Wessex Shia Ithna Asheri Jamaat (Wessex Jamaat) is a Shia Muslim organization based in the South of England whose membership extends from Brighton in the east to Weymouth in the West. It was formally formed in 1982 by a group of Shia Muslims who had settled in Portsmouth who had originally come to this area from Tanzania as students to study at the Portsmouth Polytechnic.
These students began to settle in the area in 1965 when J M Jaffer, a popular figure in Tanzania, emigrated to England and took residence in Portsmouth. The family that founded Mehfil-e-Khorassan in Zanzibar began to hold regular majaalis (religious gathering) at their residence. These majaalis continued in Portsmouth by members of the Jaffer and Versi families under the leadership of two enterprising ladies, Mrs. Sherbanu-bai A Jaffer and Mrs. Laila-bai Versi.
As the Shia Muslim population of students grew they formed The Portsmouth Islamic Society in 1978 under the leadership of Roshan Gangji and Ahmed Versi. In 1982, the community decided to formalize its existence by the formation of the Wessex Shia Ithna Asheri Jamaat. With the formation of Wessex Jamaat, Mohamed Iqbal Somji donated to the community a five year lease for a flat in Portsmouth to be used as the community center.
In 1988 Wessex Jamaat appointed Mulla Bashir Rahim to be its first Resident Alim/Imam. He served the community until his demise in 1999.
In August 1992, Wessex Jamaat launched the AL MAHDI Project and under the aegis of the World Federation of The Khoja Shia Ithna Asheri Muslim Communities solicited financial assistance from members of the community throughout the world. This assistance was generously provided and in due course a property was purchased in Fareham, Hampshire. Appropriately, the center was named AL MAHDI. The building was altered and renovated to provide facilities for a gents hall, a ladies hall, Madrasah classrooms and an aalim's flat. The official opening of AL MAHDI took place on the 12th of September 1993 (25th Rabi-ul- Awwal 1414 AH).
In 1994 Wessex Jamaat held two important seminars: "How To Raise Children Islamically in the United Kingdom" and "Azadaari: Its Form and Substance". Seminar generated strategies are being implemented by the Jamaat.
In 1995, Wessex Jamaat was granted permission to register marriages at AL MAHDI. The Jamaat also managed to get the Fareham Borough Council to allocate 102 burial plots for Muslims at the Fareham cemetery.
The Jamaat now comprises of over 75 families and the tradition of holding regular Majaalis continues. Wessex Jamaat has a well-organized Madrasah for the 80 community children. The Ladies also hold their own classes to discuss matters pertaining to fiqh and other issues.
Wessex Jamaat has been served by Resident Alim/Imam such as Sheikh Mujaheedali Sheriff, Sheikh Mohamedali Ismail and the current Resident Alim/Imam, Sheikh Fazle Abbas Datoo.
The Jamaat has also begun to construct a new purpose built center in Fontley which is nearing completion and will be available for use InshaAllah from the end of Summer 2012. (For more information on this Project, please visit old.almahdi.org.uk/almahdiproject)
Governance and Wessex Jamaat
The Wessex Jamaat is a registered charity with the Charity Commission. It has a governing document that has been approved by the Community and was last amended in 2008. The managing trustees are legally responsible for the governance and management of the charity. The managing trustees are elected for a two-year term and are responsible for setting strategies and policies. The annual general meeting sets the objectives for the organisation. The Executive Committee is responsible for ensuring these objectives are implemented and monitored. These are then evaluated regularly by the Executive Committee on a regular basis. If the objective does not get delivered, it goes onto the risk register with a corresponding action plan.
Wessex Jamaat has policies in place for equal opportunities, racial and religious harassment and health and safety. These policies are also available on its website and available for all members to access these. It also undertakes regular monitoring of policies such as compliance health and safety, hygiene, fire prevention, childcare protection and disabilities.
Wessex Jamaat also maintains an up-to-date risk register. There is also an assurance framework to ensure that the governance arrangements that are in place are followed through.
Wessex Jamaat undertakes Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks on all volunteers and staff that have access to members of the community in the normal course of their duties. There is a named individual responsible for ensuring this has taken place. The organization has also appointed a Safeguarding Officer who ensures all policies are adhered to and who is also the first port of call with all safeguarding matters.
Training and Development
Wessex Jamaat provides training and supervision to all its members of the Executive Committee and the Imam of the community. The Imam and three other members of the community have attended the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) Leadership Development Programme. Over six members of the community have attended the World Federation / Council of European Jamaats Leadership Development Programme. The organization also provides training for their madrasah teachers. It also provides access to training for all its volunteers. Training is provided in the following:
- Attendance on Food Hygiene and Safety
- Attendance on Health and safety
- Attendance on Minute Writing and Governance Workshop
- Continuous Professional Development for the Imam
- Audiovisual training and mentoring
- Media training
Involvement of the Youth and Women
Wessex Jamaat has one person under the age of 30 on its Management Committee. It is also giving shadowing opportunities to over 20 youth from the community. Youth can become associate members of the Jamaat and can become full member when they turn 18. The constitution is such that the associate members have the same privileges as the full member except the right to vote. There are also opportunities for training on leadership through these programmes on budget management, motivation and others. The media activities and the website of the organization are managed by the youth. Youth have also organized lecturers from outside the community who come regularly. The needs of the women in the community are met through a variety of approaches. There is a Ladies Committee chaired by a lady. The chair is appointed by the President who then appoints a team to work with her. Women have their own prayer facilities and wudu area. Women also organize their own programmes and invite learned women scholars to provide them with Islamic training and development.
Wessex Jamaat and Civic Responsibility
The Wessex Jamaat has held many programmes on Islam. There are regular lectures on Islam and Friday Prayers sermons which promote the message of peace in Islam. Various schools visit the center and the Imam goes to various schools locally to share the faith of Islam. The organization has close links with the religious education teachers from a local university who come to the mosque and the madrasah as part of their training and development programme. The students from the madrasah visit a local university to share their knowledge of Islam as part of the curriculum enrichment programme. The Jamaat is linked closely with the local interfaith forum and a local community umbrella organization. It has also held programme of “Good Neighbour” with the local church as part of its community development initiative. It has also invited a local Sunni Imam to give a lecture on important occasions. The Imam also participates in various local interfaith networks. The organization has initiated a get together whereby the local Muslim community gather together with the local Christian community at the local cathedral to celebrate the birth of Jesus (peace be upon him). The Imam has also participated in the local Remembrance Day. The Jamaat also volunteers at a local youth drop in sessions organized by the local Parish Council. It also participates in the local hospital trust board meeting. The Resident Alim/Imam is also the local hospital’s chaplains assistant.