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Posted on Tue, 2014-12-09 10:27
We took off our shoes…..
Wessex Shia Ithna Asheri Jamaat hosted participants of the Diocesan Inspire Course at Al Mahdi Centre for a round table conversation. The Co-ordinator Marion Syms has penned the following report of this visit:
To quote from Canon Max Warren, “Our first task when approaching another people, another culture, another religion, is to take off our shoes – for the place we are approaching is Holy Ground.”
That was certainly the experience of members of the Diocesan Inspire Course during their recent visit to the new and beautiful Al Mahdi Mosque in Fareham, an eco-friendly centre for spirituality, reflection, peace, harmony and community. An evening of round-table conversation held earlier this year for the joint Muslim /Christian Christmas get together, at the Cathedral, on the experience of personal prayer within our two faiths had left both Inspire and Al Mahdi people wanting to continue the sharing. Inspire members gladly responded to the invitation from the Imam, Sheikh Fazle Abbas, for a follow-up visit to the Al Mahdi Centre.
What a privilege it was to be invited to be present for their time of Mid-day Prayer. A young persons’ leaflet ‘Keep Calm and Pray On’ helped us understand the time of formal prayer and the recitations which accompanied the various bodily prayer positions. Lunch followed together with the opportunity for more conversation in both small and larger groups.
We were given a wonderful insight into the spiritual practice of our Muslim friends and were struck by the openness and gentleness, warmth and hospitality of the people at Wessex Shia Ithna Asheri Community, and by the charm, grace and faith commitment of the young people present. We were reminded that the intention for prayer should be simply to ‘seek closeness to the Almighty’ and that the Quran repeatedly encourages stillness and contemplation. We learned more of the spiritual significance and challenge of fasting in the month of Ramadhan. Further the stereotypical views with regard to the place of women were shattered.
It was good to share our experience of what it means to encounter God, to rejoice in the similarities as well as the differences and to journey together to a better understanding of each other.
Before concluding the session with prayers Sheikh Fazle Abbas invited all to reflect on the question ‘what now?’ “Could there be a continuing dialogue to enable the much-needed general widening of understanding between our two faith traditions?”
As I sat back and reflected on this course, a million thoughts came to my mind. Now that I start writing this, I find it so difficult to gather my thoughts to put them into words. Mainly because no words would do justice to what this course does for an individual.
Updated 4 December 2013
Having been on the Madinah al-Ilm course in 2010, I decided that this year I would like to be a mentor on the course. Compared to being a participant, attending the course as a mentor was a completely different experience for me. It has definitely helped me in my spiritual and personal development and has equipped me with some key skills that will be beneficial to me in the future.