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.
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 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 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.
The Jamaat has also relocated to a new purpose built center in Fontley which has been available for use from the end of Summer 2012. (For more information on this Project, please visit almahdi.org.uk/almahdiproject
Involvement of the Youth and Women
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.
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.